While sitting in my living room with my laptop and coffee this morning, I heard a bird squawk in the vicinity of my chimney. OH NO, I thought. Not again.
It’s been raining, just like it was two years ago when a bird fell into our chimney pipe.
I walked closer to the chimney pipe, but the bird’s steady squawks lasted less than a minute and there was no horrific, frantic scritching sound to indicate that it had fallen down the pipe. I stood there for a minute, then returned to my laptop.
northern flicker call
The top two sites were the ones I expected to see: whatbird.com (makers of the bitchin’ app that is the main reason I want an iPhone) and the All About Birds, the most totally awesome online bird guide from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that I’ve used quite a bit. It only took one sound bite to confirm that the visiting bird was indeed another Northen Flicker. Or maybe the same one, just dropping by to say hello? It was using the “kyeer” call that sounds really creepy when emanating unexpectedly from the chimney of my old, never used wood-burning (or is is coal-burning?) stove fireplace.
In any case, it’s been an hour and there have not been any other sounds. So the bird was probably just sitting at the top of the pipe, hopefully not using it as a port-o-potty or anything, before it flew off.
We should really get a cap on the top of that chimney…
*I should note that just about every time I’ve attempted to type “Flicker,” I initially spelled it “Flickr” like the photo-sharing site. Stupid companies being cool and jacking up my typing integrity.
Ben has amassed a fair collection of model trains since he was a kid, and he’s been (finally) talking more seriously about building a layout for them. We have the space set aside in our house, so now it’s idea time.
We jointly decided this morning, accompanied by our good friend COFFEE, that one section of the layout should be zombie-fied. Little bloody/guts-showing miniature figures set up on one part of town where a derailed train has been burned (or is on fire) and a few non-zombie miniature figures huddled in small groups with cricket bats and beer. The zombies will be headed toward the part of town that remains (for the time) unscathed.
And in that unscathed part of town, there will (at the very least) be a MirthMobile parked outside Stan Mikita’s donut shop.
I would also like to see a secondary layout that reflects the late 1800s, with steam engines and top hats. And a TARDIS.
Gods bless Sundays with strong coffee and Doctor Who on DVD. So say we all.
Utah’s weather has not been as unpredictable as Ohio, and yet this winter/spring/whatever has had more late-season snow than I’ve seen since moving here.
It was snowing on April 15, and I was all “ack!” Then it warmed up and was beautiful and reached 80 degrees last week. And now, today, the morning rain turned into “OMG is it SNOWING?!?”
So, like the sane person I am, I rushed out with my camera to take some photos. The tulips were all scrunched up tightly and I think I heard them saying “WTF is this shit all about?” I came back inside for an umbrella because the flakes were big and wet—and Ben offered to come out with me to hold the umbrella. How sweet!
Naturally, our neighbor drove by and stopped in front of our driveway to roll down his window. “Hi kids! How’s it going?” he asked. I’m sure we were a sight, with me in a winter coat and elephant pajama pants and Ben in a t-shirt holding the umbrella over me and the camera but not himself.
I took these photos around 3pm, and it did finally stop snowing after an hour or so. There’s a dusting of accumulation on the ground now. I guess we won’t be going to the local tulip festival after all today.
Green contemplations for the day:
- Utah is a state so red that even the grass is too intimidated to grow its natural color.
- My drive to be environmentally conscious is strengthened every day that I see [dickheads in] gas-guzzling vehicles in the majority on Utah roadways.
- If it wouldn’t be such a waste of paper, I would propaganda our conservative neighborhood with helpful suggestions for how to be more environmentally friendly, i.e. STOP LETTING YOUR CHILD DRIVE HIS FOUL AND NOISY DIRTBIKE UP AND DOWN YOUR DRIVEWAY FOR HOURS ON END. He will grow up to think it’s okay to selfishly waste precious natural resources by revving his 4-wheeler up and down the street and on the hill not far away. Oh wait, you’ve already set that example for him…
- Ben and I are in the minority of residents in our town who participate in household recycling. We have to pay $5 a month for the honor. Other residents in our town do not seem to have a problem filling their garbage bins with cardboard boxes and plastic.
- Hoo boy, this is turning into a rant. All I’m saying is that Utah has a long way to go in many areas—politically speaking, and as a result, environmentally speaking.
This week, Ben did something radically eco-friendly (for Utah, anyway): he ordered us a Scotts 20-Inch Classic Push Reel Lawn Mower. It’s retro*, but engineered to be a lot lighter and easier to use than the pre-1970s Gold Standard of manicured lawns. It’s also 100% pollution-free and the only maintenance required is to sharpen the blades.
Our first mower, which is a hand-me-down gas mower from my dad, is clunky, hard to push, and a general pain in the ass. We’ve been talking about buying a new one for some time.
I’ve been following @LighterFootstep on Twitter, and they recently linked to a 2008 blog post on their site by Chris Baskind featuring three gas-free and earth friendly lawn mowers. We have a small-ish flat lawn that doesn’t need to be mowed very often in Utah’s dry climate, so the solutions they provided were all reasonable for our situation. Read more…
This week has been all about nature, so why stop now? I now know the name(s) of the artichoke-like plant that’s growing near my maple tree, so here’s another front yard mystery plant identification challenge:
It’s a low-lying and semi-sprawling plant with fern-like leaves that flowers little 5-petal light purple blossoms in the spring. I live in a mountain/desert climate (Utah Valley) at about 4500 feet above sea level.
The previous homeowners planted tulips in the narrow section of yard that’s sandwiched by the road and the sidewalk, and these are also growing there. I honestly don’t know if these purple ferny plants are weeds or were planted on purpose. There are real weeds poking up throughout that whole patch of lawn. I’d really like to transplant the tulips and either xeriscape/rockscape that area or just maintain plain grass—which in theory will be easier to take care of than the current Cluster of Random Plant Growth.
(Ben and I have tried to make our thumbs more green, but they only turn into a sickly, yellowish color on the best of days.)
Can anyone help me identify the name of this perennial plant? It pokes itself out of the mulch at the base of our maple tree every spring.
It looks a little like an artichoke, but I’m pretty sure it’s not actually an artichoke. Though it kind of makes me want to tear off the leaves and dip them in garlic butter sauce. Just in case.
EDIT: Sweet succulents, Batman! Michelle pointed me right to the answer: Sempervivum tectorum, more commonly called a “houseleek” or “hens and chicks.” The latter nickname stems* from the fact that these little artichokes pop up from the ground, grow to a few inches in diameter, and then grow shoots that develop their own little artichokes. Apparently if you cut off the “chick” from the mother “hen” and just set it on soil, it will root pretty easily. Each rosette can flower once, but then it will die. I hope that ours don’t flower until we have a couple more offshoots. Eventually, I think they could replace the grass in the front yard.
* Bwahaha! I’m so punny!
The title is literal, not metaphoric. At least not intentionally.
You can browse through my Flickr photostream to see the other springtime snow photos I took this morning in my front yard after the sun was out, the skies were blue, and the snow started melting.
I was pelted repeatedly with wet, melty snow chunks that were falling off the trees while taking these photos. I hope you appreciate my sacrifice.
The green tree in a couple of the photos is the budding maple that is also in our front yard. These pink-blossomed trees are some sort of cherry or plum. They produce either huge cherries or under-watered plums, we’re not sure.
But it won’t be long until the birds start pooping purple on our sidewalk and driveway, I’m just sayin’.
I am delighted to announce that yesterday evening, completely unprovoked, Ben took our relationship to a new level. He invited me to organize our CD collection.
What’s the big deal, right? It’s just a ginormous pile of plastic and digital music files.
Okay, there are a couple things you need to understand before you can understand why this was such a big deal to me. When I was in elementary school—elementary school—I had a small bookshelf in my room where I kept my small collection of books in alphabetical order by title. My parents gave me a typesetting/rubber stamp set that I used to stamp my name in every book, as well as to make official-looking library cards for my family and visiting friends. And I kept index cards with the book titles and stamped due dates on them. I, uh, kind of really wanted to be a librarian when I grew up. (And also a veterinarian, a babysitter, and a writer, but that’s not really relevant to the story.)
By middle school, I switched to organizing my books alphabetically by author and then title. They stayed that way for many years through many moves. When Ben and I finally got bookshelves in our house a few years ago, I spent a very happy weekend pulling books out of boxes and shelving them in a loose Dewey Decimal order. Fiction is separated from non-fiction, which is grouped by subject and then alphabetically by author. It’s a little tricky because of the arrangement of the shelves. Ben understands my need to have my books organized, and doesn’t really care how I mix his in.
Now, about multimedia. Read more…
With the holiday season in full gear, I’ve been busy making side dishes for potlucks and sugary, calorie-laden goodies for friends and neighbors (though sometimes my procrastination causes me to present a decorative bag of red and green M&Ms and “cleverly” declare that they’re homemade, ha ha, let’s concentrate on how clever I am and not how lazy I am, okay?).
Cool-weather potlucks are easy because I fulfill my duty as a Midwesterner to make green bean casserole. Throw some green beans, cream of mushroom soup, milk, and some French’s fried onions together and heat until bubbly. Best served with loud discussion, poultry, and wine. And an extra can of those fried onions because who can eat just one (can)?
My new favorite sugary treat is also easy to make, but a little hard to share: Cranberry-Almond Ghirardelli Brownies. Mostly from a box.
My family never really baked from scratch, so I didn’t start out with a box full of secret family cookie and cake recipes. I started out with a box of Betty Crocker brownie mix.
I’m not a huge chocolate eater—something related to an overdose of fundraiser chocolate bars when I was eight— but having a box of brownies on hand for chocolate emergencies is standard protocol. So when I found a big 4-pack of Ghirardelli brownie mix at Sam’s Club, I decided to give the fancy mix a try. With the standard recipe, they’re really good. But if you add almonds and cranberries, they are AMAZING brownies.* And I don’t even really like cranberries.**
Would you like the recipe? I’ll walk you through step by step with some commentary (because I’m feeling clever). Let’s start with the ingredients. Read more…
When one has a digital camera, and certain felines are more than happy to pose in adorable and personality-infused poses, this is what happens.
I first give you Phoebe, who can usually be found wherever Loki is.
“THAT CAMERA IS SHINY WERE YOU AWARE OF THIS.”
She’s trying really hard to eat a lot so that she can balloon out like Loki (who didn’t wake up during the entire photo session).
And she strikes a pose for the camera. How does that not hurt her legs?
Later… Isis watches. She’s not interested in playing your reindeer games.
Later still… Isis turned around and “lazr kitteh” Loki tries to fit his dog-sized butt onto one stair.
Phoebe decides to practice for the Feline Olympics. She starts up the stairs, hugging the wall before jumping over her first hurdle.
She clears it, but then comes the hard part: Isis is not a hurdle, but she is a dangerous foe and may jump out at Phoebe if she gets too close, much like a chain chomp.
Phoebe clears the course and strikes another pose at the top of the stairs. She would like more cowbell in the next photo shoot.