IT’S SOOO COLD AND THE BIRDS WERE HUNGRY! – Marilyn Armstrong

The meteorologists said it was going to get super cold and it got super cold! I woke up early this morning. My back and I were having an unfortunate relationship. There was no point in fighting to sleep anymore.

I wasn’t going to sleep. I couldn’t find any comfortable position, so I gave up and got up.

It wasn’t all bad, though.

Our frozen woods

The early birds were up — the ones I usually miss because I’m asleep when they are around.

A Junco and the Cardinal

I finally got pictures of the Cardinal. I’ve seen him often but hadn’t gotten any recent shots of him. Cardinals seem to be early feeders and they move around a lot. He is easy to see, though — the brightest, reddest bird in New England!

Air battle – two juncos fighting over the feeder. Why when there’s more than enough room for both?
One more little battle. After that, they settled down. I think the boys don’t like each other. They are okay with other birds, not other male Juncos.

There were also a bunch of lady Cardinals lurking around, but they were too shy to come to the feeder and though they settled briefly on the railing, I couldn’t get them in focus fast enough. They are, in their own way, as pretty as the scarlet males. Bright green with a red tail and other markings. Otherwise, they look identical to their more loudly dressed boyfriends.

Cardinals are hard to miss in the winter!
Chickadee coming in for a landing!

Meanwhile, every branch in my woods was covered by a thin, shiny layer of ice. The woods were as shiny as a diamond. If I went outside to shoot it (and I’d probably wind up with frostbite as a result AND all the birds would fly away), the pictures would be better. I had to settle from shots through the glass, but I think you can see the gleaming branches.

Another bright red boy! You’ll never see two red ones together. They are very territorial and if they stray into the other one’s area, they fight in the air, like WW I fighter planes.
Shining like diamonds

Lots of shots of birds today. They were quite feisty about who got the feeder this morning, but they settled down after a while.

THE DAIRY FARM AROUND THE BLOCK – Marilyn Armstrong

As 2019’s first major winter storm closes in, memories of summer seemed in order, not to mention a recipe for one great and classic cake.


Garry wanted pound cake for which I needed eggs. Our half-and-half was going “off.” With pound cake, we obviously will want coffee, hence we need fresh half-and-half. I wanted new pictures; Garry needed a photo airing too.

We accomplished it in one fell swoop (click here for a history of fell swoop), merely by driving around the block.

fresh eggs at the farm

It’s a dairy farm. Milk, eggs. Sometimes local honey. Today they had homemade jams and organic lip balm. The eggs come from the chickens wandering around the yards and are often fertilized. The milk is from the happiest bunch of cows I’ve ever seen. They loll around the green pasture which lies along the Blackstone River.

farm an windmill

There are several pastures. The pasture further down the road has a small creek running through it. They take the cows there in very hot weather so they can wade in the cool stream and graze on the wildflowers and weeds along the banks. It’s shady there. The calves have a pasture of their own and graze together along a hillside on the other side of the barn.

The milk isn’t homogenized or pasteurized, which means it’s very close to half-and-half, but you have to shake it before using because the cream rises to the top.

cows in pasture on the farm

I splurged on a jar of homemade elderberry jam. They had fresh corn, but I don’t need corn today. Maybe I’ll go back Monday, get some corn then. We don’t eat a lot, so I try not to over-buy things that will spoil and end up getting thrown out.

elderberry jamAnd we got pictures. I haven’t downloaded most of them yet. These are the first batch.

Here’s my recipe for pound cake. I’ll be baking as soon as the butter softens.

  • 1 pound (3-1/3 cups) flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 4 sticks softened sweet butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (use the real thing)
  • 9 large eggs, lightly beaten.

It makes two cakes in standard loaf pans. I’ll freeze one. We will happily devour the other. I can feel my hips expanding as I write.

The elderberry jam is delicious. And 2 pound-cakes are baking in the oven. The smell is … wow.

READING THE SERIES AGAIN – Marilyn Armstrong

Many of my favorite authors aren’t writing much these days.

In some cases, like Jim Butcher, they seem to be trying to figure out where to go with the series. In others, they ended a series and haven’t quite found another that works. Yet.

And some of them are getting on in years and aren’t as prolific as they used to be. I can understand that. I’m not writing any books these days either.

Given that so many of my favorite authors haven’t been writing a lot recently, I’m rereading their existing series. It has been quite a while since I originally read the books in these series, so reading them again isn’t a big stretch. Although I remember the plot and how the story begins and ends, I’ve forgotten a lot of stuff that happened in the middle.

I’ve reread the “Lord of the Rings.”

I’ve reread Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series.

I’m rereading all of Jasper Fforde’s “Thursday Next” books, though not in order. To be fair, I didn’t read them in order the first time, either. I started in the middle and read backward and forward.

In between, I also reread Jodi Taylor’s “St. Mary’s” time travel series.

James Lee Burke, bless his heart just wrote a brand new Dave Robicheaux which I finished a couple of nights ago. It’s a good one, the best in a while. I always say that about his books, though because every book somehow seems better than the last. This probably means they are all great.

Finally, in two months, Jasper Fforde has a new book coming out. New characters, new plot. I hope I love it.

Gretchen Archer also has a new book coming out in March, right around my birthday. That will be the eighth Davis novel: “Double Agent.” She also thinks there will be one more by next November. You go, Gretchen!

My collection of Gretchen Archer’s books and cup, if you please

Jodi Taylor is prolific and I think she’ll have something soon. I wonder if she does anything but write? I don’t know how she can … and she does it so well.

Kim Harrison

Kim Harrison has a new one — new characters and story — just about ready for production. I’m reading it slowly and lovingly, a couple of chapters each night, but I’m also listening to Jasper Fforde’s “One Of Our Thursdays Is Missing.” Because listening is what helps me fall asleep. So I read Kim Harrison, then, I close the book and listen to Fforde.

What in the world would I do if I didn’t read?

WOODPECKERS: NAME THAT BIRD! – Marilyn Armstrong

I am not particularly great at identifying birds, especially since from watching them, I’m come to realize that books and websites notwithstanding they don’t necessarily look exactly like the picture on the computer or the book.

The black and white “laddering” may be complete, or askew, or have a white stripe where none of them has a white stripe. The head may have a BIG red patch, a little red patch, no red at all. A black back. A big white stripe down the back or a big black stripe down the back. Or a ladder-back.

They are all woodpeckers (or flickers, who really are woodpeckers by another name). These are all my woodpeckers. Anyone who cares to jump into the fray is free to tell me what they think this bird is.

The only thing we need to agree on is that they are woodpeckers of some kind. Some of bigger and some are smaller. A big downy and a small hairy woodpecker are essentially identical and the flickers just ruin your concentration. Somewhere in the woods is a big Pileated Woodpecker, but I don’t think he will ever get close enough for me to get a clear picture of him. He is not “human house” friendly and it’s possible he won’t eat seeds.

I don’t have suet because the squirrels would get it before the birds anyway AND I have no place to hang a third feeder. My backyard, once the snow falls, is impenetrable. I can get to the deck usually unless we’ve gotten a 2-foot blizzard.

Following last night’s snow — I think we might have gotten three inches, all told, it has begun to rain and if we don’t get that freeze tonight, the snow should magic itself away in a day or two. Meanwhile, I’m not going any further than the coffee machine in the kitchen — and the fall of yesterday is really hurting today.

I’m one of those funny people who feel fine the day of the accident and really hurts 24-hours later. I and my heating pad have had (ahem!) a warm relationship this morning.

MOURNING DOVES – Marilyn Armstrong

Although I appreciate the Doves — they are our major “clean up” birds — they have got to be the dullest birds in the wood. They stake out a claim on a branch and just sit there.

Occasionally, they turn their heads right or left. Every now and then, they lift a wing and stick their head under it.

Mostly, they sit. Like big, brown cushions, they relax on a thick branch which is their version of a recliner, I think. They seem to be waiting for something, but I have no idea what it might be.

One Mourning Dove
Almost looking at each other!
Notice that their heads moved

Sometimes, they look at each other. Usually, they just stare vacantly ahead. The good news is that they are pretty big and if you can find the right setting (on MY camera it’s “Setting” as primary), they make a pretty picture.

But they don’t do anything but sit on that branch and stare.

Oh wow! Looking at each other! So exciting!

FLAT EARTH VS. ROUND EARTH – Reblog

Just in case we were considering the earth might REALLY be flat.

ScienceSwitch

The Ancient Greeks concluded Earth was a sphere, and it has been validated by scientists ever since. Despite this, there are people that insist the Earth is flat.

Via – National Geographic

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MITIGATION? I SEEK IT! Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Mitigate

I went up the driveway to the car this morning. We are expecting a particularly ugly storm tomorrow and I needed to make sure the front of the car was well-wrapped. It is supposed to be snow followed by freezing rain and sleet. Then, a flash freeze.

All of my least favorite weather wrapped in one big mess.

The freeze means the ground will be covered by — as close as nature can come to it — frozen cement. We’ve parked the car at the top of the driveway so the plow can get through, assuming it’s deep enough to use a plow … and the plow doesn’t slide down the driveway and crash into the house.

Stranger events have been known to happen.

It’s also the day on which the Pats play the Chiefs in Kansas. That should be some kind of mitigation because they’ve been playing pretty well — but Kansas will have just gotten the same storm. The field will be bitterly cold and just icy enough to make staying upright problematic. Both teams are used to playing in bad weather so there’s no advantage for either side — and the Chiefs are the favored team. Usually, that just makes the Pats more competitive, but it’s the end of the season and everyone is damaged.

Football’s a rough game.

Our leaf-covered bunny slope — AKA our driveway.

I fell down on my way back down the driveway. Up is more difficult, but down is treacherous. Except — it wasn’t slippery. It’s the L.L.Bean boots I was wearing have a very hard sole which doesn’t grip the surface which is old and even in the summer is slippery. My feet came right out from under me.

For once, my back didn’t take the hit, but the back of my skull took a solid thwack. I’m still dizzy.

Meanwhile, to make this weird weekend even weirder, I discovered my dogs have ticks. How did they get ticks in January? I suppose the days warmed up just enough to make the ticks hungry … so I had to order tick collars for all of them  — a pretty penny for three dogs. Bonnie is the one on whom I found the ticks, but I have to assume where one dog has ticks, so do the other two.

Overall, I’m not seeing much mitigation to the complexities of life right now. It is what it is.

If we at least win the game tomorrow, that will help. A bit. I think I’ll go take some Tylenol. Drink more coffee. Eat a few cookies. If you can’t mitigate circumstances, have coffee and something crunchy which tastes strongly of cinnamon.