Category Archives: Nature

How Do They Do That?

I have mentioned before that we order a fresh Christmas tree every year from Williams-Sonoma.  I consider it a Christmas present to ourselves. It is always a Frasier Fir from North Carolina,  and it is delivered by UPS.  Ben, in the past,  has wondered how this is possible. Well, the tree arrived yesterday and I will now show the Baboons how this works.

I ordered an 8-9 foot tree this year. Last year’s tree was only 7 feet tall, and it wasn’t big enough in height or diameter for the ornaments I like to hang every year.  The tree arrived Tuesday in this box:

At about 12:00 Wednesday, Husband opened it up with a box cutter. The tree wasn’t tied or secured in any way in the box.

The tree always has a really straight trunk, but some trimming is usually necessary.  We took off about 5 inches at the bottom.

Then,  Husband dragged it into the living room:

I had to cut off about 4 inches from the very top of the tree, or else it would scrape the ceiling. By 12:30, we put it in the tree stand, and we waited for it to relax.  Our Tortie tried to help.

By 3:00 pm, it started to look pretty good.

We will let it relax for the next day or so, turn it so that its best side is facing forward, and decorate it on Friday.

How do you think they got  that tree into that box? Tell about some interesting experiences you have had with shippers and boxes. What has amazed you lately?

Our Companions

As I clicking around yesterday, I found a list of the best breeds for each astrological sign.  If you can get past the idea that all of humanity can be dumped into just twelve categories, based on the month in which they were born, can you get past the idea that all people born in a certain month will all be suited to the same dog? 

  • Aquarius – Siberian Husky
  • Pisces – Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Aries – Labrador Retriever
  • Taurus – German Shepherd
  • Gemini – American Pit Bull Terrier
  • Cancer – Old English Sheep Dog
  • Leo – Border Collie
  • Virgo – Dachshund
  • Libra – Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Scorpio – Rhodesian Ridgeback
  • Sagittarius – French Bulldog

Even if you CAN get past both these problems, this list is seriously flawed.  First off, it’s missing the best two dogs on the planet – the Irish Setter and the Samoyed.  I’m guessing that a few other baboons will think there are others missing – English setters, terriers, bassets.  My mother would absolutely dispute the choice for her sign – only the Golden Retriever would make her list.  Then there’s the problem of all the fabulous dogs whose pedigrees are unknown.

For me, I’m not sure the Border Collie represents me well.  Although I certainly like to keep busy, I don’t think of myself as particularly driven and pandemic has made it clear that I have big-time couch potato tendencies.

Do you think there’s a perfect pet to match your personality?

Invent Your Own Covid Test

Last Friday I was on a MS Teams meeting in a weekly group supervision session I participate in with staff from another Human Service Center. The clinical director of that agency was really amused by the ingenuity of  one staff member and the young adult child of another staff member, both of whom accurately self- diagnosed themselves with Covid.

The staff member was suspicious of some symptoms,  and took a couple swigs of lemon juice, couldn’t taste it, and went for a formal test at the doctor and tested positive.  The young adult was out with friends drinking shots of Fireball whiskey, realized she couldn’t taste it, and went for a test and was positive.

The clinical director wryly suggested that perhaps we all needed to drink shots of Fireball whiskey throughout the day to self-monitor for Covid.  Cinnamon flavored whiskey isn’t my drink of choice, but I could think of other strong tasting things I wouldn’t mind monitoring with.

Make up your own Covid test.

Crunch Time

This has been a great week to enjoy the leaves.  Everywhere I walk with the dog, there are leaves gathered up along edges of sidewalks and in many places folks have been raking so there are little piles all over.  Since it’s been dry for at least a week, it is marvelous to crunch through them as we walk.

During my first autumn at Carleton, one Saturday a bunch of us cut through the wooded area behind the library on the way to the football field.  There was a hollow that was completely filled up with leaves and on a lark, we jumped into the leaves and threw them around for a bit.  The following fall, three of us met up and created another leaf pile on the “bald spot” on campus.  That started a tradition that has continued through the years.  A few friends get together, make a big pile of leave and then jump in.  Normally YA and I scout out locations that morning and then afterwards, everybody adjourns to our house for potluck.  If the weather is bad (or has been bad and leaves are wet), then we skip the pile and go straight to the potluck.  There have only been a couple of years when my travel schedule has kept us from gathering. It’s almost a much fun at this dog has:


Of course, this year there was no leaf pile and no potluck (although YA still wants me to make my chili and leaf cookies) so I’m having to get as much enjoyment from walking through leaves with the dog!

Any spontaneous, impromptu gatherings in your past?


I was impressed a while back when Margaret wrote of ordering a turkey leg quarter that weighed seven pounds. That must have been a really big bird.  A local grocery store here  sells boned, skinned, split  chicken breasts, and each half of the breast weighs  a pound. I would be afraid to run into a chicken with a chest that large.

It must be the season for supersizing. The following photo is of a leaf off of our August-planted spinach. I stationed my glasses in the photo to give a sense of how big that leaf is. There were many leaves this big in this fall crop.

I never grew spinach this big before. It was the same variety I tried in the Spring with disappointing results. I attribute the success to planting it in August in the trenches the peas had grown in, so that the soil was warm and full of nitrogen, the nights were cool, and the days weren’t too hot. I doubt I will plant spinach in the Spring again, as it just bolts to seed.

We don’t have a Costco or a Sam’s Cub in our town. The nearest are in Bismarck,  and I have never ever been in one. I know that people here love to go to those stores, but they just don’t appeal to me. I would worry that I would go off the rails and buy supersize lots of too many things that we don’t have storage for.  It is hard enough to figure out what to do with gargantuan spinach leaves and scary chicken breasts.

What are your favorite supersize and supersmall stores?



The Importance of Pals

I was tickled to see the New York Times article last week about the benefits of baboon friendships.  Researchers have studied the friendship patterns of baboons in Kenya since 1971.  They noticed early on that female baboons with lots of gal pals lived longer than those with fewer friends. Male baboons have been harder to follow and study, but the evidence is now in that male baboons’ life spans are longer the more  platonic female friendships they have.  Female baboons groom both  their male and female buddies, thus decreasing parasites and strengthening bonds that reduce conflict.  The same lifespan and  platonic friendship associations  are noted in many social species from horses to dolphins to humans.  Let’s give thanks for our friends!

Who have been your best male and female friends?

Artistic Differences

Our church has a large garden space meant for contemplation as well as growing vegetables for the local food pantry.  Yesterday was the Sunday we spend every fall engaging in community improvement projects instead of worshipping.  Husband and I and several other volunteers spent the morning getting the garden ready for winter.

Our pastor’s husband was instrumental in planning the layout of the garden and planting the flowers, shrubs, and trees when the garden was started five years ago. He helped clean up the garden today.  Mike is a  school administrator, but spent the early years of his marriage running a landscaping and tree service to support his wife through seminary.  He told me he is happiest climbing trees.  I realized today that he and I have very different ideas about gardens, as he is most concerned  about aesthetics, while I am far more practical.  He feels a garden should look beautiful even in the winter.  I just want everything trimmed so it looks neat and tidy and there isn’t so much cleanup needed in the spring

Mike  planted everbearing strawberries in garden when it was new. They bear nicely and the children love searching for strawberries after Sunday services.  Husband and his girl scout gardening sidekick gave lots to the domestic violence shelter all summer.  Mike was in a quandary today, as the strawberries are growing all over the place amongst the flowers and shrubs, and don’t look as neat as when they were first planted. He wanted to trim them all up and cut them back. I thought we should leave them so we could continue to have enough for the children and for the shelter.  We compromised by his trimming back the messiest ones and leaving the rest spread free and unfettered.

I am a firm believer in trimming irises and day lilies in the fall. Mike knew they had to be trimmed but lamented that the daylily foliage still looked so nice, and it was a shame to cut it down. I reminded him how disgusting and slimey the foliage was when it froze and rotted.  We both agreed that the Monarda should be left untrimmed.  I like to leave it so the stems catch snow for moisture.  He likes to leave it because the dried flower heads are pretty in a winter garden. Same result, different philosophies.

When we were all done, the garden was cleaned up for winter. We all agreed it looks quite nice.  Many of the shrubs are turning red and the Michaelmas Daisies are blooming  profusely.  Children were finding lots of strawberries to eat. It was a good day.

How do you coexist with those with whom you have artistic or philosophical differences?

Who Dunnit?

Today’s post comes from Jacque.

What a week for dog drama and a Who Dunnit.

Lucky, our 8 year old Beagle/Terrier mix, had been ill for about 9 months with a tumor in her bladder.  We noticed the problem last January in AZ when we walked her during the day.  We pursued treatment for an infection, but then an ultrasound showed a mass in her bladder.  We knew for some time how this would end, but it became clear that my soft-hearted husband was struggling with the decision.  This caused conflict between the two of us.   Lucky’s illness  progressed, she was not feeling well and her behavior was getting irritable.  Several times she got a bit aggressive with our other dog, Bootsy (Corgi mix).  But it was only growling and barking.

Our neighbor, with whom we have had a very good relationship, was caring for her sister’s three large, movie star dogs (the  neighbor had two for a total of 5).  They are the dogs, a black Airedale and a part wolf dog, in the dog food commercial in which a dog leaps, then turns from an Airedale into a wolf.  These dogs have been escaping lately.  They have ordered a fence, but it was a long waiting list, so the dogs kept escaping despite their best efforts.  Meanwhile, coyotes have been hanging out in our yards and have been getting bold, sometimes showing up midday.

Tuesday afternoon something/someone, the coyotes, our sick dog, or the neighbor dog, mauled our other dog, Bootsy.  She was injured very badly, requiring surgery.  Lou had the girls outside with him in the yard, but he did not see anything happen.  Later, back in the house he noticed she was hiding and would not eat.  I looked around, finding her in the kennel.  Then I found patches of blood on our bed, in the kennel, and two guest beds which she visited looking for comfort. Lou had not seen the blood which left me incredulous.   We rushed her to the emergency vet.  Finally, at 1 am she was sent home from surgery with an external drain, many stitches, and a mesh cover over her torso.

Wednesday evening, Lou let Lucky out and stood at the door.  The neighbor’s dogs got out again, rushed into our yard, and Lucky yipped.  The neighbor texted me apologizing for the dogs getting away from her and scaring our dogs.  But one of those dogs had bitten Lucky on the shoulder.  It was superficial, so we did not even find the bite until the morning.

Friday morning Gentle Pet Vet came out and euthanized Lucky.  It was peaceful and actually, a very sweet experience.  We had a good cry, then buried her in the yard with her beloved squirrels which she loved to chase.  Bootsy is recovering very well.    Now we are still wondering, who mauled Bootsy?   Lucky?  The bite marks appear too big.  Coyotes?  A real possibility.  The neighbor dogs?  That is my theory.

Have you had any mystery or drama lately?  What is your theory of my mystery.

Bird Stuff that happens while we sleep

I really don’t know where and when I got interested in birds. I don’t consider myself a “birder” who has a list to check off of birds I’ve seen, though I do sometimes write down if I see a new one. And I try to identify the songs for as many as I can, with the help of the internet, and a book that contains a tiny tape recorder:  The Backyard Birdsong Guide.

I also like reading about birds – What the Robin Knows, H is for Hawk; Suburban Safari; One Wild Bird at a Time… (OK, I haven’t finished them all, but they’re under my roof.)

A friend has alerted me that end of September is an extremely good time to hear migrating birds flying (way) overhead at night:

Migration alert: high intensity migration predicted for the night of 28-29 September 2020

To quote from this 9/28 article by Andrew Farnsworth:

“We estimate that 594 million birds will take flight tonight across the contiguous. And there will be additional, similarly large flights, in the coming nights! This will likely represent one of the largest series of migration nights of the year for this contiguous US.

For those in areas under heavy migration advisories, this will be a great opportunity to experience nocturnal migration by listening at night to vocal birds in flight, or by observing the following morning for new arrival and departures. In the highly urbanized areas, especially cities in the central and southern US, it is also particularly important to turn off lights at night to avoid attracting birds into hazardous conditions in which they can collide with buildings and other structures.”

And here, in 24 seconds, you can see Nocturnal Migration Flows from January – December… it’s quite dramatic:

And from Colorado State University’s Aeroeco Lab, are US maps of migration forecasts for the next several nights:

“Aeroecology is the study of airborne organisms and their utilization of the lower atmosphere (i.e. aerosphere).”

What connection/interest, if any, do you have with birds?

Is there a bird that you would go out of your way to see? … or get out of your bed to hear?

But You Were Supposed to Read My Mind!

Today’s post comes to us from Jacque.

Last week VS and I arranged for pick up or delivery of some plants for Anna’s memorial garden for her late husband, Tom.    We arranged for 10-ish on Sunday morning.  Things in my world have been moving kind of fast, despite COVID restrictions, so I read VS’ email to everyone about donating plants, contacted her VS about my donations, and did not read the details closely.

So at 10-ish on Sunday morning, I pulled into her driveway and called her.  She picked up immediately and said, “I’m just turning on to Scenic Heights.  I’ll be there in a second.”

To which I said, “Great.  I just pulled into your driveway.”

We both started laughing.

“This is meant for a blog post.”  I told her, adding, “I guess I did not read the email closely enough.”

“I said in the initial email I could come pick them up but didn’t reiterate it in our back and forths” she said.

And I replied, “You were supposed to read my mind.”  I needed to get out of the house to go somewhere, anywhere, and just assumed….well you know.

Tell about a memorable miscommunication or assumption you might have checked more closely.