A WALK IN THE PARK – Marilyn Armstrong and Garry Armstrong

September 23, 2019 – Autumn Leaf

On one of the prettiest days of the month, we took our cameras and went to River Bend. We had hoped there would be some autumn foliage. There was a little bit. A few changing maple trees and hints of gold in the dark green leaves of late summer. But mostly, it was lovely but not especially autumnal.

Photo: Garry Armstrong
Photo: Garry Armstrong

Today the leaves began to fall. They haven’t changed color. They just started falling like a storm of leaves. Maybe it was the wind or maybe it’s going to be another year when instead of autumn, the leaves just curl up and fall to the ground.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

At least the weather has been lovely. Bright and clear and cool and night, warm by day. It is the first really nice weather we’ve had all season. Just in time for putting up the bird feeders.

Amber light in early fall
Black-Eyed Susans

We do have birds. They are still very shy and mostly, very small. Lots of nuthatches and titmice. And a few others I have not yet identified. They are in different feathers than they were in breeding feathers over the summer. I’ll get them all right yet.

Garry at River Bend

WISHFULLY THINKING – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Wishfully Thinking of Squirrels

The birds are back. Not as many as last year, but they have arrived. Woodpeckers and Titmice and something I haven’t identified yet, but it’s about the size of a Titmouse, but without the feather headdress. I’m pretty sure I saw a goldfinch and I’m sure there will be more.

So now is the time when I try to figure out what to do with the squirrels. My current state of mind is to set up a separate feeding station for them on the other side of the deck. As the add for some of the most amusing pieces of handmade, artistic stations for squirrels is “If you can’t fight’em, feed’em.”

Bird-proof-squirrel-feeder. If-you-can-t-beat-them,-feed-them

The problem is that squirrel feeing stations are expensive. They are handmade, usually of very hard cedar with a gallon glass jug on one end for peanuts of cracked corn and any number of weird places to stick corncobs. One farmer offered to sell me a ton (yes, a ton) of feeding corn for the squirrels. I passed. But we do have feed and grain stores around here because people do have chickens and other small farm critters — and some people enjoy the antics of the squirrels. I enjoy the antics of the squirrels. I just want them to play in their own garden and not try an take over the grain feeders for the birds.

The squirrel airplane!

They want the feeders to be at least 15 feet apart from each other. If our deck wasn’t a squire 12X12 feet, it would be easier. In theory, I could put the feeder for the furry ones off by the trees in the woods … but once it snows, I can’t get through the backyard, so they get would only get fed until the first snow and after that, the yards are socked in for the winter.

Owen and I finally decided to bring up the big glass and metal table and put (for now) the big flat feeder on it and throw ears of corn around the rest of the table. As long as we don’t get an invasion of raccoons and chipmunks, that is. Raccoons can do some serious damage and they have hands, too. Chipmunks are noisy and not shy about letting you know when they feel it’s feeding time again. They feel that it should always be feeding time.

Uncle Dunkels Backyard Squirrel Feeder One Gallon Glass Jar Entertaining Squirrel Feeder

So far, we haven’t seen any raccoons. We used to have a yard full of chipmunks, but the bobcats ate them, so we rarely see them anymore.

Anyone with serious experience in feeding squirrels? I’m assuming unhulled, raw peanuts and corn are the foods of choice? What can one use as a feed bin that they won’t chew to pieces? Something very hard in the way of wood (hard cedar?) or metal? I have an old, useless (as a yard tool) wheelbarrow, but I’m afraid it would get too full of water to be useful and become a squirrel-sized skating rink the rest of the winter.

It’s a BIG one!

Just when I think I’m making my life easier, I find some special new way to make it more difficult. On the other hand, I always did love a yard full of creatures, as long as they keep their legs fewer than six.

Also, the question is, will they finish off their food then try to take over the bird feeders too? I want them to guard their own feeder and not the bird feeder. By spring of last year, they were constantly guarding the feeders. I didn’t know you could have guard squirrels.

WANDERING IN THE DESERT – Marilyn Armstrong

WANDERING, BUT NOT LOST, IN
THE sOUTHWEST dESERT


Ironwood in the desert
Phoenix sunset – Photo: Garry Armstrong

For a woman raised in New York and living in Massachusetts, the desert is another world. The colors of the sky. The mountains jutting into the sky and giant cacti growing across the landscape. We have spent two vacations in Arizona and each has been glorious.

Sunset

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Another sunset

DORIEN SHOULD REALLY BE DARWIN – By TOM CURLEY

A quote from the weather bureau. A real quote. I am not making this up:


IDIOTS SHOULD BE WARNED NOT TO GO OUT INTO THE STORM.

I’m not sure why we name hurricanes. I have no idea how the names get picked. I could Google it and maybe find out, but I’m too lazy to bother right now.

Regardless, I think all hurricanes should be named Darwin. Why?

Because nothing weeds out the gene pool and brings out the stupid in people like a hurricane. The bigger they are, the dumber they get. As I’m writing this, Hurricane Dorian, or what I call it, Hurricane Darwin the 2nd (Irma was the 1st), having wreaked havoc on the Bahamas is approaching southern Florida.

The Weather Channel

The worst is yet to come.  I’m watching the coverage, which is the exactly the same on all the networks. An anchor, who makes millions of dollars a year, is sitting in a warm cozy network studio. (Except for Lester Holt who was out there in the wind and rain just like a real reporter.)

He’s talking to the poor schmuck who drew the short straw and is standing in the middle of the hurricane telling everybody how dangerous the hurricane is and how nobody should be out in it. Except of course for him and his crew.

Now, granted, I know that they aren’t in as much danger as it seems. I worked for CBS News for 40 years and I know they set up in safe spots outside the wind. They only need one shot where the wind is howling and it looks like they are hanging on for dear life. When the live shot is over they all go back inside, smoke cigarettes, have lunch, play Candy Crush on their phones and wait for the next live hit.

I know Garry is nodding and laughing right now. (Note from home: Garry is laughing because he isn’t the schmuck out there in the storm.)

The really stupidest are the people who think they can ride these things out. I watched a news report a few days ago where they interviewed two people who planned on riding out Dorian from a trailer park.

Excuse me? Did you just say A TRAILER PARK??? One guy said he already lost his mobile home two weeks ago in a run off the mill flood. They happen there all the time.  

His plan was to stay with a friend in another mobile home. They expected it to be destroyed too. What was their Plan B? To hang out in a temporary construction trailer! Mobile home lite!

I’m looking at the screen screaming “Are you nuts? Don’t you know hurricanes and tornadoes hate mobile homes?! A tornado will go around an entire town to get at just ONE TRAILER PARK!!”

To a hurricane, mobile homes are tasty little snacks! I know it’s much more complicated than this.  Some people can’t get out for valid reasons — lack of anywhere to go or no vehicle or destitution.

But, for the guy who goes surfing as the hurricane hits, and dies then dies, well …

And, the guy who is kite surfing as the hurricane hits  …

Oh Boy! I’m heading right toward the tornado! Cool!

And, the family on the beach with their kids taking videos of the guy kite surfing …

And, the poor schmuck interviewing them … who I should note has no choice because his idiot news director told him to do it or else …

I hope you all survive Hurricane Darwin the 2nd.

That wasn’t so bad.

I wish Mother Nature could come up with a less catastrophic method of weeding out the gene pool.

Seriously, folks — stay safe!

FEAR AND LOATHING BY THE RIVER – Marilyn Armstrong

Since we came to the Valley, trips to the river to take pictures has been part of our life, often the high point of our lives. Now, with the hidden lurking diseases brought by southern mosquitoes that are part of our ongoing climate change, everyone is just staying inside.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

It’s ironic. We’ve had horrible weather all through the spring and much of the summer. It has been much too hot and muggy to go anywhere … or it has been storming with falling trees and broken branches and periodic outages of cable and power.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Now, finally, the weather is lovely. Warm, bright, and comfortable. It’s the kind of weather that makes you feel like you don’t have weather. It just feels good. Or it would if we were afraid that one of our local poisonous mosquitoes might bite and infect us with Eastern Equine Encephalitis or West Nile Virus.

Blackstone River at the end of August

We didn’t have these diseases a decade ago but as the temperature has risen a little higher each year — this year being a record-breaker — the mosquitoes have moved up the coastline from the deep south to New England. We’ve had small batches of them before, but they never moved in the way they have this year. Usually, the winter is cold enough to kill off the larvae. Come spring, there are few living mosquitoes and they have to breed all over again.

That’s the way it’s supposed to be. But not this year. Winter wasn’t cold enough for long enough to kill off the larvae. And the summer, usually hot and dry, has been sodden and wet creating a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.

They are supposed to spray for mosquitoes tonight, depending on the weather. The Commonwealth will spray at least a couple of more nights.

That won’t really kill the mosquitoes completely. Only a long, killing frost will accomplish that. Will we have one? Or will it be, as it was last year, a stormy fall with almost no color? We never got the snap of cold that brings on color. The wind and rain blew the dying leaves off the trees before they had a chance to brighten.

It was a pathetic version of autumn. Winter was too warm with no snow until the middle of March. Just a couple of weeks followed by a long, sodden, chilly spring. An ugly spring.

All of this was insufficient to winterize our region. The river didn’t freeze. I’m sure there were hoards of depressed young hockey players who never got to hit a puck into a net.

So actually going out today made us both feel endangered. It was the kind of hidden danger I hate because you can really see the mosquitoes and being by the river is close to their favorite haunts. Garry was clearly nervous and while we shot some pictures, we didn’t shoot many and left early.

Climate change is going to eventually harm everyone, everywhere. It’s no myth and there’s no argument among scientists about its reality. The argument is among politicians and business people worried about how it will affect the short term economy. They aren’t thinking by ignoring it, they are setting us up for a permanently unlivable world.

They don’t care.

THE BATTLE FOR WHITIN’S POND – Marilyn Armstrong

There is an ongoing war between the Canada geese and the swans. It has, it seems, been going on forever and will go on forevermore.

Ducks get along with every other kind of waterfowl. Swans, geese, even herons will swim with ducks. No friction. It doesn’t matter what kind of duck, either. Any color, any shape duck will swim anywhere with any kind of fowl.

Between Canada geese — or maybe any geese — and swans, there’s an ongoing battle. You will see swans on a pond or you will see geese, but unless they are fighting, you won’t see both.

Why not? You’d have to ask the birds because I have no idea.

In the nest
In the reeds
Nesting

Swans have possession of Whitin’s pond. They swim there, eat there, nest there, raise their cygnets on those quiet waters before the small dam where the river continues. Really, Whitin’s pond is not a pond. It’s just a really wide part of the Blackstone and it is very shallow. This makes it particularly good as a nesting site.

This year, the geese decided to invade the swan’s nesting site. They cracked open the swans’ eggs and took over the site.

The battle is waged.
The battle is waged.

The swans fought back and ultimately, managed to drive the geese away. The geese are much more agile than swans, at least out of the water. In the water, though, swans are much bigger and a lot stronger than the geese.

There are usually more geese than swans, so by sheer number, the geese have an advantage, but the swans are very persistent in protecting their locations. And this part of the Blackstone belongs to the swans and has as long as we have lived here.

Attack mode!

As it happened, we showed up on the day of the first big battle of the geese and the swans. We didn’t know until a few weeks later who won the war, but there were the swans and their cygnets, so they are the victors. I have not seen any more geese on that part of the river.

Watching for the invaders.
Watching for the invaders.
Where were you while the battle was going on?
Where were you while the battle was going on?
Forgive? Will they build a new nest?
Forgiven? Will they build a new nest? They did and from it came cygnets, so all was not lost.

It’s hard to understand the battle. There are plenty of places to raise cygnets and goslings. It’s a big river and there are more than adequate ponds and lakes. Maybe there is more food on this part of the river.

Swan and nearly grown cygnets

Whatever the reason, this is where the battles begin and end.

THE LAST OF THE BLUE DAYS OF A SQUARE JULY – Garry Armstrong

LAST BLUE DAYS IN SQUARE JULY – Garry Armstrong
And I get the final blue evening by the river …