THE ZOO ON THE DECK – Marilyn Armstrong

They announced on the news that another 2 or 3-degree rise in temperature will cost us about 3 million birds over the next year, especially sea birds like seagulls as well as eagles and hawks.

Growing chipmunk

I don’t want to think about it. I knew from the number of birds I’m NOT seeing this year that the weather is already killing them. They are here, but in greatly reduced numbers and many birds are missing.

Chipping Sparrow
Downy or Hairy? Could be either!

We have quite a little zoo going on out there. We have the usual birds. We have a couple of nervous squirrels (they will calm down and refuse to budge) and now, every day our little (but growing fast) chipmunk.

Carolina Wren
Titmouse in the Autumn leaves

Mostly, I’m seeing Rose and White-breasted Nuthatches and several kinds of woodpeckers. Also a few wrens, titmice, and Goldfinch. None of the little red finches have come back. No doves. I saw one Blue Jay. No Robins.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

We have lost 30 million birds over the past decade and stand to lose another 30 million during the next five if we don’t get the temperature down.

I feed them, but it’s not nearly enough. Please, if you have any room, put up feeders. The birds are not doing well and backyard feeders make a huge difference in the birds’ ability to survive, especially in colder climates!

BUT WHAT KIND OF BIRD IS THAT? – Marilyn Armstrong

We were up early yesterday (doctor) and early again today (dentist). This gave me the opportunity to get some pictures of the morning birds. I had been noticing unfamiliar birds this year. Birds I saw a lot of last year I haven’t seen at all this year … but there are birds this year I don’t recognize. They may be juveniles of birds I only know as mature birds, but I spent a lot of time going through the bird book and the only birds that look like what I’m seeing are rather rare birds.

With birds, the general rule is that if you see something rare, you’ve probably got the wrong bird. But whatever it is, it is some kind of sparrow.

It isn’t the Chipping Sparrow because they are quite a bit smaller than these. The only things these look like part of a group called “Grass Sparrows.” All of these birds look a lot alike. Some shade of golden brown with speckled or streaked wings. Some have a striped or speckled breast while others are solids. But all the juveniles look very much the same.

The only one of these sparrows considered “common” is the Savannah Sparrow. But there aren’t many of them in this part of the country. They do live here, but it isn’t one of their major regions. Mostly, they seem to be concentrated in the southern states.

Grasshopper Sparrow and a Hairy Woodpecker?
One more of the sparrows and a Woodpecker.

Climate change brings changes to all of our wildlife, so it’s possible that warmer weather in the north has brought more of them into our area. The bird looks rather more like a Grasshopper Sparrow. While these do live in this region, they are uncommon — possibly even scarce.

Take a look at the picture and let me know if you recognize it. Also, there’s another solid brown-orange bird that doesn’t look like anything I’ve seen before. It might be a Tennessee Warbler which can be common in this area. You’d think from its name they’d be from the south, but I sometimes am baffled by whoever named the birds. Or maybe birds just move around more than we think.

A very fat Chipping Sparrow? Rather an odd color …
Something new or just a juvenile of something more familiar?

I know that between the older bird book I had from the 1980s  and the new one I got last year, there’s a huge change in the location of many birds. There are also a lot fewer birds than there used to be. As we ruin our living environment, we’re killing off birds, fish, and many small mammals that were once very common.

Good look at tail feathers of the brown sparrow.

The only things we aren’t short of are bugs — plenty of THEM — mice and rats. Even rabbits who used to sun themselves on our lawns and the chipmunks who used to chitter at us as we went into our house have vanished. The robins, following their death by Monsanto’s RoundUp weedkiller never came back either.

What a sad world it would be without the birds to sing us awake with their cheery morning calls!

“NO” IS SOMETIMES THE PERFECT ANSWER! – Marilyn Armstrong

Remember how, many years ago in a galaxy far, far away — you know,  during the Reagan administration — our government decided the best anti-drug program was “JUST SAY NO!” Make every person 100% responsible for whatever happens to him or her. As history tells us, this anti-drug campaign was so successful, we no longer have drug problems in this country.

So I thought we might use this same highly successful approach to other major social issues.

NO!

Like health care. As we move from an era of medical insurance to “Good luck, buddy,”  we need new coping strategies. How about “Say no to sickness!”

If you feel like crap, just say NO. Cancer or heart disease got you down? Smile! A bright smile and a positive attitude coupled with a firm take-no-prisoners attitude to germs and chronic ailments will wipe away your tears.

Let a smile be your umbrella when your arthritis is throbbing. If you can’t breathe because you don’t have an inhaler? Say NO to wheezing. Everything will be right as rain.

Gun violence is another good example of a problem that wouldn’t exist if we each had a better attitude. Alternatively, if you are a devotee of second amendment rights, try getting a bigger weapon. When bullets start to fly, just say NO! Like magic, bullets will bounce right off you.

Would I lie to you?

There is no problem too complicated that magical thinking will not make it disappear. We can fix everything with firm resolve, a positive attitude, and denial.

Speaking of climate change (we weren’t but now we are), there’s no such thing. Nothing is going on. No need to seek higher ground. Well, what about water pollution? Nonsense! Funny-colored smelly water is merely chock full of extra nutrients. Yummy!

JUST SAY NO is the ultimate, cost-effective way to deal with pretty much everything. A few television advertisements and some billboards along the highway? Bob’s your uncle, the problem vanishes.

Maybe you can add some pamphlets. If these don’t quite do the job, you’ll probably die. In which case, it becomes someone else’s problem. We all know — at least those of us who have read Douglas Adams — that someone else’s problem, is invisible. If we can’t see it, it’s not there. (Phew. I was worried for a minute.)

It’s entirely up to you. Just say no. And keep saying it.

LONG, RAMBLING POLITICAL & ECOLOGICAL POST – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango —Anyone (Technically) Can Win

These last 2-1/2 years with El Trumpo Magnifico as our Fearless Leader has made politics a lot less fun than they used to be. I’ve always been a bit of a political junkie. I love watching elections, reading about who won which debate. I even love the long debates with silly rules and far too many people. Following elections, I am constantly charmed by how quickly every candidate will break each promise made on the campaign trail.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have pulled away from the pack in most national and early-state polls over the last month.

It should not be surprising that those three candidates have risen to the top of the field of more than 20: Biden, Sanders, and Warren are the three contenders who came to the race with a national political brand, and they have used their campaigns to hone their messages with a clarity that none of their competitors have. — Los Angeles Times

This time, it’s not nearly as much fun. There so much at stake. Literally, our life and death in this world — culturally, politically, and ecologically — is dizzily spinning on the edge of nothingness. If we get it wrong this time, I’m not sure there will be time to turn back.

I don’t mean only picking a candidate who can pulverize hizzoner at the polls, but a candidate who isn’t going to abandon every promise as soon as he or she is in office based on who has the swing vote or the big money. Or both.

It’s going to come down to Bernie, Biden, or Warren. It’s obviously going to be a three-candidate race. Even though I find the ideas from other candidates interesting, they should seriously be considering running for another office. How about SENATOR?

BERNARD SANDERS

I think Bernie, great ideas notwithstanding, looks like his heart is going to explode. If I was his mate, I’d be dragging him to a hospital for a serious physical. Garry thinks his head is going to blow up. I think he’s about ready for a massive heart attack.

I don’t think he can run this country, at least not long enough to accomplish much. Maybe if he picked the right (young and healthy) running mate? But we don’t vote for vice president. Overall, I think Bernie’s time came and went. He has grown old fighting the good fight, but he needs to let others take over. As a retiree, I can assure him that once he gets over his passion to fix the world, he’ll enjoy it. He can do what Garry does: sit in front of the television and yell at the guys now doing the job he used to do.

JOE BIDEN

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr., aka “Joe Biden,” certainly has the credentials. One of the reasons everyone picks on him is how long he has served and how many decisions he has had to make. Some of them may not have worked out the way he thought they would, but he has done surprisingly well for a long time.

Photo via Newscom

He has a record to attack, which is something most of the nominees don’t have. For good or ill, he has come through some pretty rough patches in life and he’s managed to come out of it a decent, thoughtful, intelligent human being. While he isn’t my personal pick for President, I would not be unhappy if he did become president. He’s a lot smarter than people think he is. He’s forgotten more about our political system than most of the erstwhile candidates ever learned.

He can do it well, especially if he picks a high-quality cabinet composed of capable people who he then allows to do the job for which they were hired. He has a lot of dedicated years as a man who cares. I don’t think he owes a lot to the big corporate groups. I hope not, anyway. This is information which is hard to unearth.


FACTOID TO REMEMBER: Yesterday, I got a call from what I assumed was our local cop shop looking for donations. At the end of the call after I explained we were too poor to be giving anything to anybody, he said he was part of a PAC and donations are NOT tax-deductible.

Watch out. They suddenly talk very fast when they get to this
part of the shpiel.


ELIZABETH WARREN

Finally, we get to my pick: Elizabeth Ann Warren. She has been our senator for some years now. I like her.

She’s a thinker and a planner. The reason she has answers for everything is that she has thought about the questions and found some answers.

Is everything on her agenda going to go exactly as planned? Of course not. No one’s “plans” are going to go exactly as stated. Because once you get into office, there are all these other people you need to work with to get the job done. No one gets it done alone — not counting our current moron-in-chief. He’s not getting anything done either, but he’s giving everyone high blood pressure while not getting it done.

I believe that within the realities of Washington D.C., Elizabeth Warren will get as much done as anybody could. It won’t be easy. It won’t be a quick fix. She will do the best she can with the people in Congress, the Senate, and lord help us, the Supreme Court. She’s got wonderful credentials including the ability to teach. I think that’s one of the reasons she makes such a good impression as a nominee. She explains information in a way that everybody can understand. She doesn’t make it simplistic or stupid. She doesn’t act like we are stupid. She simply cuts out the technobabble and uses words that anyone who isn’t stupid will understand.

Is she going to reach “Trump’s Base?” No one will reach them. They are not reachable. Personally, I thought Hillary Clinton’s “deplorable” was a pretty good description of those morons. But Fandango had a point. She should have just called them assholes. Fewer syllables are better — and wouldn’t it be great to see all those people walking around in T-shirts that say “I’M A REPUBLICAN ASSHOLE!” It would go well with their MAGA hats.


Make no mistake. This is not going to be an easy fight.

China and Russia are still working their butts off trying to skew our elections and I’m pretty sure our current administration is giving them all the help they need. Everyone — and I do mean EVERYONE — has to get out and vote. We need to show the world and prove to ourselves we care about this world and our place in it.

The problems we face are national, but also universal. Many of them we caused ourselves. We have never properly dealt with immigration and never taken our environment seriously. The information about what’s happening to our climate is not new. I was working on it when I lived in Israel and working at The University of Jerusalem’s Environmental Health Laboratory. Even in a little country like Israel, we couldn’t convince the kibbutzniks and other farmers to stop using nitrogen-based fertilizer.

It’s not that nitrogen per se is bad, but in an arid zone (Israel’s climate is very similar to Arizona), without heavy rain to “wash” the soil, nitrogen collects and seeps into the aquifer and ultimately poisons it.

Israel poisoned its aquifer while I lived there. It wasn’t a powerful aquifer. Most aquifers are fragile and you have to be careful what goes into it if you want to drink it — or even use it for watering crops.

I am told, though I have not seen them, that Israel is finally, building big desalinization plants, something David Ben Gurion had on his list of top 10 most important “issues to be dealt with” in Israel in 1948. It only took 50+ years to get to it.

Here, in Massachusetts, all our water come from an aquifer. The Blackstone watershed is a major player in our water supply. We’ve got a pretty healthy aquifer, but it’s one aquifer. When someone says (I have heard this too many times to count): “I can do what I like with my water because the well is on MY land,” he or she doesn’t get it.


The aquifer belongs to everyone. If you use too much water or weed killer or chemical fertilizer, you endanger the water we all need. Your water is my water. My neighbor’s water is your water and his neighbor’s water belongs to you, me and everyone else. 


We live and die together on this planet. Whether or not we personally hate each other, we still absolutely positively MUST cooperate in keeping our water drinkable, our air breathable, and our land free of poison.

Aquifer in action

Did you catch Trump explaining that we had to get rid of low-usage light bulbs because they make him look orange? Really. He said that. They don’t make me look orange, but he says they make everyone look orange. He really is a jackass.

INSTIGATE A PERSONAL SEARCH FOR WEATHER-RELATED HOME DAMAGE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Instigate

I don’t have much time today — heart doctor followup in a few hours.

This has been an exceptionally busy week with doctor appointments for either Garry or me for every day, not counting Labor Day. Plus, I’m still trying to figure out what to do with our house.

Damaged gutters from falling branches

As we drove to the doctor yesterday, I was looking at all the houses as we passed and realized that every vinyl-sided house appeared — on one or more walls — like ours. Even houses that began the year in near-perfect condition were obviously rain-damaged. Even cedar shakes are soaked through, dark and wet looking — which means the walls behind them are wet too.

The whole house looks kind of like this. The green mold is dampness and rain

We are not going to be alone trying to get our so-called insurance companies to pay for the damage. There has been a calamitous amount of storm damage this year. Are ALL the insurance companies going to claim it’s “just” normal wear and tear? Even homes that were normally perfectly maintained look beaten.

This looks exactly like our house. Same color vinyl and everything

From as far away as Alberta (Canada) to Arizona (where it doesn’t rain!), to parts of southern California, reports are coming in that this has been the rainiest period anyone can remember — and most of the people saying that are not kids. They are our age, a little more or less.

Foundations break apart from the never-ending rain

I got a letter from the insurance company promising to send an adjuster one day soon. Except the adjuster came and went last Friday. Good to know MAPFRE is right up to date! If they don’t even know they already sent an adjuster, I can be pretty sure they haven’t even looked at our claim, much less done anything with it.

When the trunks of the trees and the earth are wet enough, trees fall

The good news? The adjuster said that the damage is confined to just that wall and is NOT spreading to the rest of the house — and that he was able to measure for actual water which means damage is very recent.

For all of you who haven’t yet taken a good look at your houses, maybe this is a good time to do it. Instigate a family investigation of every part of your house, from the roof to foundation. Look closely at everything.

The weather isn’t going to improve and I wonder if any place is going to be safe after a while. When you get down to it, our houses are only permanent for as long as they want to be. If the weather keeps getting crazier, no one’s house is going to be secure unless it’s on top of a hill and built from natural stone. Even castles have rooves, siding, and foundations that can be water-damaged. Many already have been.

Then, there are plagues of insects that appear. We have never had a plague (two, actually) of lethal virus-bearing mosquitoes until this year. We’ve had a few bad ones that came up on vegetable trucks or cars, but not like this summer. They too are part of the changing climate.

When the trees get sufficiently soaked through trunk and root, they collapse. It’s all mud with nothing to hold them firmly in the ground. Crops won’t grow in mud, either.

Hard not to notice something bad is going on underneath, but insurance can’t see it

And now, as they track Dorian up the coast, so far they are predicting it will mangle parts of the Carolinas. With a little bit of luck, most of the worst of it will miss our area — except (naturally) a lot of rain, wind, thunder, and lightning. What a shock! We haven’t seen (sarcasm font start here) much of that.

Climate change.

Is it legal to yearn that Mara Lago will blowdown or sink during a category 5 hurricane? Can we at least hope that he who has brought so much trouble on us will reap the whirlwind? Surely something wet with howling wind is bound to hit him.

I get a little thrill merely thinking about it.

SHARING MY VERY DAMP WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your World 9-3-19

From Melanie: Wow. September. Where did the summer go?  I’m not at all sure…anyway.  This week finds us with some more questions, but this week they’re all ‘deep’ ones requiring a little thought. Enjoy!”

I know where MY summer went and I hope I can forget it ASAP.

Spring was long, nasty, cold, and full of hard-driving rainstorms with lots of wind. We didn’t get a real winter. No real snow at all, so we got our first blizzard (the only blizzard, actually) around my birthday in early March.

Finally, it started to warm up, but mostly, it rained. And rained. The wind howled and sometimes it was raining so hard and for so long the house sounded like a loud faucet was running somewhere. Now that Garry can hear, he was amazed at how loud rain can be. It reminded me why I didn’t spend the extra money on a steel roof … and why I wish I had — at the same time.

Raiin on the window

A steel roof is forever, or at least as close to forever as any roof can get. It’s also noisy. Rain, sleet, hale … it’s like a million little beasties racing madly around your roof. Not to mention that they cost at least four times what a standard asphalt roof costs. But they never leak and they don’t grow lichens or other greenery, either. Win some, lose some. You take your best guess and hope it works out.

As soon as it warmed up, we grew a million daylilies and that was great, but we’d get one day of sun or at least gray skies followed by three days of howling winds and torrential rain. It was mud city. You couldn’t even mow your lawn because it was sodden.

That was followed — finally — in August, with lovely, cool dry weather. And Eastern Equine Encephalitis mosquitoes and all the nice autumn fairs got canceled because the killer mosquitoes were out.

Aw, c’mon! Really?

This was approximately when I realized something was wrong on the south-west side of the house. All that rain, you know? The climate change that hasn’t arrived seems to indeed have arrived. At least here it has.

Now, we need to strip off the vinyl, remove the mush that’s underneath it, and replace the wall, or at least most of the lower level with a new wall. Get rid of the rotting door and replace it with a window (we never use the door anyway) and get a carpenter to repair the wooden doors to the shop.

Rainy morning squirrel shaking rain off his coat

I’m wishing we’d had time to powerwash the house because it’s green with mold. Did you know vinyl can grow green mold? It’s not lethal or poisonous. It actually looks like green pollen that got stuck. It just isn’t attractive.

It made me realize for all the years we’ve been paying insurance on our houses — since 1965 — they have yet to actually pay for any damage to any house in any state. Talk about being taken over by corporations. You know all those advertisements about how insurance companies are protecting you? They aren’t.

It’s a lie. The only thing they are protecting is the value of the property owned by the mortgage company. I can’t even calculate how many years we’ve paid home insurance and it never crossed my mind that they don’t cover anything except a tree falling on the house (unless they decide you should have taken down the tree in which case it’s your fault anyway), and fire. They might cover home invasion, but I’m not sure.

I’m still thinking about the post I will write about this, how we are forced — absolutely required — to pay for home insurance or we can’t get a mortgage. Why don’t we read all the little tiny print on the policy? Because we have to have insurance, so no matter what it says, we will sign it.

It’s just like accepting the terms of your operating system for your PC or Mac. Sign or don’t use your computer. There is no option to argue about the terms, so you sign. Nobody reads them.

The most common lie everyone everywhere tells is that they read and understand the terms of that contract. NO ONE reads it and if we did understand it, what difference would it make? We can’t NOT sign it.

And now, on to the questions.

QUESTIONS:

When you’re 90 years old, what do you suppose will matter most to you?

Breathing.

What’s the best way to spend a rainy afternoon?

Brooding on how we used to sometimes have sunshine and playing bridge on the computer.

What is one thing you don’t understand about yourself?

How I lived long enough to see the world change into this bizarre, hate-filled mess.

When was the last time you tried something to look ‘cool’ (hip), but it ended in utter embarrassment?  Details?

About a year ago, my granddaughter dyed my hair to get the yellow out of it. It wasn’t utter embarrassment. It actually looked pretty good.

We have a lot of iron in our well water and it turns everything pink or yellow — Including my white hair. I bought some more of the same dye. I hope I don’t make a total mess of the project.

A.B. NORMAL – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Abnormal

What is normal? It there such a thing? Does anyone lead a “normal life”?

This has been a week when it feels like I should not have gotten out of bed. Or, for that matter, gained consciousness. Every time a hint of consciousness appeared, I should have taken something that would put me back in a chemical coma.

Between the news about Bonnie and discovering one wall of my house is about to fall off (and there is no money with which to fix it) and the critical invasion of lethal Eastern Equine Encephalitis Mosquitoes — it has not been a good week. It hasn’t even been a bad week. It has been an atrocious, abnormal, messed up, disgusting, horror of a week.

Wolf spiders vary greatly in size. The smallest may measure only 3 millimeters in body length, while most lycosids are larger, reaching up to 30 millimeters. Many species live in burrows in the ground, and most are nocturnal. Most lycosids are brown, gray, black, pale orange, or cream. They often have stripes or speckles. The head region of the cephalothorax usually narrows. The legs, particularly the first two pairs, are often spiny to help the spiders hold their prey. And this is exactly what it looked like.

A coma seems my best possible choice. Or a long leap off a very tall bridge. My primary problem with long leaps off tall bridges is that I might not die. I might just get broken into many pieces and have to live with that, which probably would make things worse — although I figure at that point the powers-that-be might consider that we need to have a place to live. Or, who knows? Maybe they will just drop me by the side of the road and drive away.

Who needs all these “old people” cluttering up our world?

It’s all about climate change. The climate change we don’t have has been battering this house with endlessly pouring rain and raging wind storms. Apparently on at least one side of the house (the short side) has had the vinyl siding so ripped apart that not only is the wood beneath it soaked, but the actual vinyl is soaked. The door which the vinyl surrounds is black with mold from the endless wetness and for reasons that I cannot fathom, hordes of yellow jackets seem to be trying to make a nest on our deck.

There is nothing ON our deck. We removed everything when we repainted it. The only remaining things there are broken pieces of branches from the trees and one of the most enormous wolf spiders I’ve ever seen.

Mind you, I knew they lived in the woods, but this one wanted to climb in through our screen and I finally pulled out the really poisonous spider stuff and sprayed him to death. The first couple of time he sat on the screen and leered at me, I just knocked him off to (I assume) the deck below. The fourth time, I decided it was war.

I killed him. Through the screen. With spider poison spray. So his carcass — his rather enormous carcass — is stuck between the boards on the deck and between the huge dead spider and the hundreds of yellow jackets, I’m staying home.

And still trying to figure out how we can repair the house — it really looks like we should completely redo the vinyl siding and the gutters which have been battered by falling tree limbs so they don’t do anything useful.

But we have no more money. Any money we had has gone to fixing the well, replacing doors, replacing half the front of the house and putting in a new window. The deck is falling off the house.

I’ve been running through my possible ways “out” of this life, not because I expect to see heaven, but because this life just isn’t working out for me. People say that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, but these don’t seem particularly temporary. The house really needs work and we can’t do it. I’ve been trying every way I know and just winding up in enough debt to wonder if either Garry OR I will live to see the end of it.

He’s trying to find some work. I just want to leave all the details to anyone who wants them and slide into oblivion. NOT because I think oblivion would be nicer, but because I’m not going to try to live on the street. As a simple start, I’d last about three minutes and they wouldn’t be nice minutes and the other because frankly, I’ve had enough.

Every time I think I’ve found some solution that MIGHT work, I discover that there’s oh so much more that needs to be done.

I’ve looked for solutions, but there don’t seem to be any solutions. It may look like a solution but it’s really just another trap. A tar pit. Maybe we should go back to the caves, but I’m pretty sure it would be full of big spiders too.