Kinda Focused

It’s still high peak Autumn here and the weather is still warm. Summertime warm and just a bit humid. I don’t know how long it will last, but I love it.


This week, Duke rejected a meal — which all the people in the house had happily eaten the previous day — because it had potatoes in it. Duke, who claims he is not a dog, does not like potatoes. Any potatoes. Not even salty, curly, spiced French Fries!  “But,” said my son, “ALL dogs love fries.” Not El Duque. He used to like potatoes, mind you. In fact, he used to beg for them. Now? He puts a fry in his mouth, carries it to a corner where he drops it, then comes back to beg for another. Because the new one might be better than the last.


Having him reject the same chicken stew we all loved was my final straw as a chef.

“It’s dog food for you,” I announced. How spoiled is your dog when he gets picky about human food? I had actually begun to carefully pick out the cooked peppers from food since Duke refuses to eat them. Clearly, a few weeks of dog food should clarify his position in the food chain. For the first time in recent memory, he didn’t get any leftovers last night. There really weren’t any leftovers anyhow, but I usually save my last bite or two for him because he’s a good boy. But good boys do NOT reject my chicken stew (which had actually been a pot-pie, but humans ate the crust).

I couldn’t help myself. I was insulted by my dog. As permanent full-time cook, his rejection of my chicken stew — good chicken stew — was more than I could handle. I am convinced before the week is out, Duke will start to recognize his doghood. He is not a person. He is a dog because he is eating dog food. Which is probably better for him anyway, though frankly, all that chicken with onions and mushrooms and tiny cut-up (by hand!) potatoes looked pretty good to me.


Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Outside Your Home or View

The autumn leaves are getting pale, though probably down by the river they are still bright. Here, though, they are pale. It’s definitely a result of the prolonged drought. I hope the drought is ending. We got a inch and a half of rain earlier in the week and we are supposed to get more over the weekend. We have a big water deficit to make up: about 9 inches in Boston and about 7 or 8 inches locally. I hope we are (finally) on our way!

These were taken by Garry and me between August and October 2020.

Cee's Black-White


I recently wrote a blog called “Things That Go Bump In The Night”, documenting our search for an invisible rodent making noises and leaving acorns in and around our bedroom.

Last night we saw him! He ran across the kitchen and I brought my husband, Tom in to help me look for him, to no avail. Then he suddenly ran across the family room while we were watching TV. When Tom, got up to look for him again, the little guy ran through the hallway and back into the kitchen. He was smaller than a squirrel but had a short, bushy tail. Poor guy must have been terrified. Was this the same guy who made noises all through the night a few weeks ago? We think it was.

We went to sleep and were awakened twice when the dogs went ballistic and raced from the bedroom into the hallway. We didn’t even bother to get up to check out whatever they might have heard. I fed the dogs at 6:00 AM without incident. When Tom got up, he went downstairs and found our nocturnal visitor dead at the bottom of the stairs. We had hoped to get him out of the house unscathed, but it looks like our hunting dog got to him before we could rescue him and release him into the wild.

RIP little guy!



Kind of square with feathers. A red-bellied woodpecker taking a break from debugging a tree for a yummy seed snack. The bugs must have had a really serious “go” at the trees this year because they have been very busy stripping the bark off various trees.

Red-bellied Woodpecker


Something like a red squirrel?

This is a mama red squirrel. I can tell because she has teats full of milk, so I guess these cute red squirrels are also breeding. They don’t come out as often as the big gray ones, but they do come when they are hungry. She’s a very pretty one!


I live in the woods so I’m no stranger to the little woodland creatures I share real estate with. So when I entered my bedroom the other night, I wasn’t totally surprised to see that something was off. A vase that is usually on a lamp table in the corner, was now on the floor. And next to it were two, fresh, green acorns. Something, or someone, was clearly afoot.

We’ve found squirrels scampering around other parts of the house before. It presents a problem because we don’t want to hurt the cute little guys but we definitely want them out of the house. Once my husband chased a baby squirrel out of our powder room and straight out the front door. Another time he caught one hiding in the fireplace in a large Tupperware container and deposited him outside, away from the house.

So we assumed we were looking for another squirrel. We searched the bedroom and hallway as well as the second floor laundry room. We found nothing. So we went to sleep.

Around 2:30 AM, we were startled awake by the two dogs leaping off the bed and charging down the hallway, shrieking at top volume. The dogs were in an unusual frenzy and we were on immediate squirrel alert. We turned on the lights and searched the whole second floor but again, found nothing out of the ordinary. So we got back into bed.


A few minutes later, we clearly heard scratching and scurrying and the dogs went crazy again. We got up and went through the squirrel search routine yet again to find the source of the animal noises we had heard. Nothing. By the third time this happened, we decided to stay in bed and leave the police work to the dogs. This went on for a solid hour. Just as we would start drifting off to sleep, we’d hear scratching and/or stereo dog hysteria in our ears.


I wish I had a satisfying ending for this story. But the next night, and every night since then, have been quiet, so maybe the dogs scared our nocturnal guest away and he’ll find another house in which to store acorns. I hope so, because I’m not looking forward to another episode of nighttime drama!

Our two dogs in a quiet moment together.


Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Pets and Farm Animals

Pets and farm animals, all in black and white. Well, it’s a pretty black & white world we seem to be living in, so why not?

Cee's Black-White


First there was the big male orange Cardinal. He was orange and he stayed orange. Then along came and orange lady Cardinal and together, they made a few orange baby Cardinals who are growing up. Orange. Now, what’s particularly interesting about this is that they have found other groups of orange Cardinals. They have found a group of them in North Carolina. Cornell University’s Ornithological Department has begun to research orange Cardinals. They are trying to figure out whether or not this is a genuine genetic alteration or has something to do with nutrition or air or water … or something else. Although we are dead broke and in debt and getting even more in debt, I decided to put my money where my mouth is and I signed up for a monthly contribution of $8.00 a month. Not exactly a huge contribution, but I can probably squeeze that much money out of our tiny little budget.

The thing is, more than a billion birds have disappeared over the past 12-years. Maybe more. Originally, it was assumed that the reason for the plunge in bird life was habitation destruction. But now, they are wondering if it isn’t something more than that. We nearly lost our Robins and Blue Jays to viruses and bacterial infections. Many finches have eye infections. Certainly destruction of habitat is a major problem, but it isn’t the only problem. If we don’t research our birds, we won’t have birds and I won’t get to listen to the morning song I hear every summer’s morning.


Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Horns

I live in a valley where horned animals also live. Cows and goats, mainly. I found one other kind of horn — in our jeep.That’s all the horns I could find.

Farm cows — with horns! Photo Garry Armstrong
Horn in a jeep
Goats on the farm

Cee's Black-White


I have recently gotten a new lens, an Olympus 12-200mm (24-400 in SLR terms). It overlaps the 100-300 long lens I have. Although I have always known that each lens and each optical design has its own characteristics, this is the first time I’ve so clearly seen the difference. Both lenses can clearly focus on the birds and on the 12-200 lens, the sweet spot is perfect for the location of the birds on the feeder. But there’s a huge visible difference between the two lenses both in the way they capture the birds and in how bright and sharp the background is compared to the birds.

Relaxed red squirrel

If you look, I bet you can tell which pictures were taken with which lens. I like the results from both lenses, but I have to make decisions on what “look” I want the pictures to have when I am taking them.


This blog is a departure from what I usually write about, which is how we live in an apocalyptic ’B’ movie that nobody would believe if it wasn’t actually happening. This is my favorite kind of story. A story about survival. About cheating death. The ultimate great escape, with poop jokes.  This is a story about …

Water Beetles. Specifically, the aquatic beetle Regimbartia attenuate.

This beetle is a favorite food source for the dark spotted frog Pelophylax nigromaculatus. Hi there!

“Ribbit” (“Hi there!”)

A report came out this week from the journal Current Biology and I found it amazing. They found that this species of beetle has a rather unique way of surviving being eaten by the spotted frog. At this point you are probably wondering “Wait. How do you survive getting eaten by a frog? For that matter how do you survive getting eaten by anything?” I’ve always pretty much taken it for granted that once you get eaten, that’s it.

Well, this is it!

But not for these little guys. They figured it out. When they get eaten by a frog, these brave little dudes just run like hell until they get to the frog’s ass. They then exit the frog to live to be eaten another day.


No, I am NOT making this up. I heard it on an episode of “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me.” I also looked it up. It’s real. The scientists found that 93% of the beetles ingested make a “back-door escape.”  Apparently, their shape and tiny size helps them. That and the fact that the frogs swallows them whole. If they ever learned to chew, those little guys would be screwed. This got me to wondering. What do the frogs think about this.

FROG 1: Hey Frank.

FROG 2: Hey Gary.

FROG 1: I got a question.

FROG 2: Shoot.

FROG 1: You ever eat those little water beetles?

FROG 2: Hell yes. I love those things. I can eat them all day.

FROG 1: Yeah, me too. But every time I eat a bunch, an hour later I’m hungry again. That ever happen to you?

FROG 2: Yeah, all the time. It’s like Chinese food. You know if you eat nothing but water beetles for a week, you lose weight.

FROG 1: Really? Thanks. I have to try that. I’ve been  putting on a few ounces.

It also got me to thinking about what the experience must be for the water beetles. What happens the first time a beetle gets swallowed? Do older more experienced beetles have to give younger beetles “The Talk?” What if an old beetle and a young beetle get swallowed together?


OLD BEETLE: Oh fuck. Not again. Calm down dude. We just got eaten by a dark spotted frog.

YOUNG BEETLE: Eaten??? We got eaten!!!! You mean I’m dying??? AHHH!!

OLD BEETLE: Oh, for Christ’s sake, calm down. You’re not going to die. Just follow me and keep walking.

YOUNG BEETLE: How is this possible?? We just got eaten! Why are we still alive???

OLD BEETLE: Well, first off, we didn’t technically get “eaten.” We were swallowed whole.

YOUNG BEETLE: So what? We’re still in a frogs stomach!! How are we not going to die??

OLD BEETLE: Simple. We’re going to walk out.

YOUNG BEETLE: Walk out? You can do that?

OLD BEETLE: Yup. Turns out frogs have a back door.


OLD BEETLE: An exit in the back of the frog. See that light up ahead? There it is. Keep walking.

YOUNG BEETLE: How do you know all this?

OLD BEETLE: It gets passed down from generation to generation. It was first discovered by an ancient beetle named Phil. He lived many thousands of years ago. Or maybe last month. We’re not very good with the concept of time.

YOUNG BEETLE: Ancient Phil? He must have been very brave.

OLD BEETLE: No, not really. He was coward. A total neurotic. He ran away from everything. They used to call him “Run Away Phil.”

YOUNG BEETLE: So how did he figure out how to escape?

OLD BEETLE: Dumb luck actually. Back then we all reacted like you did. We’d realize we just got swallowed by a frog and we’d just freak out and freeze in terror. Phil, on the other hand freaked out and did what he always did. He ran like hell. He kept running until he ran out the frog’s butt.


OLD BEETLE: Surprised the hell out of the beetles that saw him pop out. The rest is history. Oh, here’s the exit. After you.

The two beetles exit into the sunlight.

YOUNG BEETLE: Wow, that was intense.

OLD BEETLE: You get used to it. This is the third time I’ve gotten swallowed this week.

YOUNG BEETLE: Thanks for saving me.

OLD BEETLE: No problem dude. Just remember, don’t panic and just keep walking.

If only Jonah and Geppetto could have figured that out.