Thursday, April 21, 2016


A few years ago this pond completely dried up during the cruel extended drought. It was dredged so that it would again hold water once it rained. I do not know if it has been restocked with fish. There have been ducks visiting overnight and a few Canadian geese this year. I think they were merely resting in the safety of the water - not eating. Geese are herbivores, but not ducks.

I hope the heron (or a heron) eventually returns to this pond because his solitary silhouette in the beautiful evening light always stirred something in my spirit. I think there will have to be some food source available before a heron would stay. Fish and frogs and maybe a few baby turtles would be the entire menu. And snakes! How could I forget snakes?!

Just the same, stopping for a brief moment in the evening to appreciate the view, even without the heron, is exceedingly nice.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The World Has Changed...

Rain finally made it's very slow way to my little corner of the world. It has been lightly raining since mid-afternoon, with the potential for some heavier rainfall within the next hour. None of my trees had leaves as of this morning. It only took a few drops of rain for the baby leaves to finally appear, and all the visible ground to burst into new green.

The red bud trees did not blossom this year due to the cold temperatures and the gale force winds and the lack of rain. Perhaps that is why they bloomed so spectacularly last spring - to balance the failed spring this year. And oh yes, here is the long awaited heavier rain - a proper rain you can hear on the roof.

There has not been a single thunderstorm so far this year. Oklahoma has claimed them all along with the tornadoes. I do miss those magnificent plains thunderstorms rolling in from the Rocky Mountains, shaking the house with enormous percussive force and the wicked electrical violence searing the black skies. It has been years since we have had "normal" Kansas weather and I miss those mighty thunderstorms. They are like dear old friends who gradually stopped calling.

I had to make a trip to Topeka yesterday to buy groceries because I was too tired and in too much pain to shop after work the entire week. Before hitting the highway toward home, I stopped for a "Flat White" at the local drive through Starbucks. This is a caffeinated delight made with only espresso and milk, but it is delicious to me. Starbucks first offered it at Christmas but each time I made a special trip to get one, they were out of the ingredients. That does not make sense to me! Are not coffee and milk their two main offerings?! It was sometime in January when I finally got to try it for the first time and I have been hooked on it since.

I do not stop to get a Flat White often. I want to continue to appreciate it as a special treat. Saturday when I pulled up to the window, much to my delight, the person in the car ahead had already paid for my order! It was the first time that has ever happened to me. Not only was it surprising, it made me amazingly and disproportionately happy. Of course, I paid for the people behind me and hoped they were as delighted as I was.

The world has changed. We have succeeded in disrupting the weather. The Dalai Lama says we did not know better but now that we do we must be responsible and fix it. The world has changed. Flat White has come to Kansas, of all places, and total strangers will pay for your coffee for no reason.

Some things never change, though. When I first placed my order, I asked for a Flat Black. What the hell?!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Brave Dutch Bantam Goes Free At Last!

The lone survivor of the notorious Spiritcreek Chicken Incarceration Facility has been set free from the outdated, decaying chicken facilities!

One mild evening some days ago, I waited patiently for the last little hen to go to roost at twilight. Once in her nest, I could easily catch her. She was going to a better home with my neighbors who maintain a small flock. I knew she would much rather be at the bottom of the pecking order in a flock than to continue her solitary and very lonely existence here.

It marks the end of an era that I will always fondly recall as The Chicken Years. It was so much fun building the coop and the pen, raising chickens, getting to know the true nature of the amazing little birds, the descendants of dinosaurs! However, it was one long tragedy of death and loss. Too many roosters. Mean roosters. Unexplained death and predation. Loss of my favorite characters to sad and premature death. Jake the Bad Dog. Snakes. Pack rats. It was just too much.

I was moping around - just a tiny bit - whenever I would realize the chicken pen was empty for good but I hoped the little hen was settling into her new home. She had never been given a proper name, (I think she was Medium girl), so when my neighbors said their grandchildren would have fun naming her, that made me happy.

A neighborly phone call this week delighted me. As it turns out, Babe as she is now known, is the favorite hen of the one and only Mr. Blackie, the chief rooster! My neighbors' dog is of the Good Dog Duke lineage, so their chickens enjoy freedom during the day to scratch in the dirt and leaves, to take dirt baths and to tend to their normal chicken business. That is the very best news.

It is a very happy and appropriate note on which to end The Chicken Years.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Improvements to the Portal to Hell

When I purchased this property 16 years ago, things were in tip-top shape. The man who sold the place was one of those great American jack-of-all-trade guys, always industriously working at something and producing excellent results. He had done so much carpentry work, plumbing, painting, and general sprucing up that the place was move-in ready. There were only two items that I should have used to negotiate a much better price: the roof on the house and the roof on the garage. There were several layers of shingles and it was obvious they would need to be replaced. Eventually I had to replace the roof on the house. I begrudged every penny spent because that roof was destined for a landfill when the new house was built. Such a waste! Once a roof begins to leak it accelerates right into decay and deterioration. I had no choice but to replace it.

The roof on the garage lasted another ten years but it too, at last, succumbed to the Second Law of Thermodynamics - all things tend toward disorder. Due to the new house there was no money for repairing that roof, so in dismay I have watched it fall into ugliness and decay. There was actually a round hole directly above the basement where the pressure tank of the well system resides, the tornado "shelter" - as if I would ever take shelter there! The entire building has fallen into disrepair, and any item "stored" in it is actually just waiting to be hauled to the landfill.

Until this week!!!!

I called for bids two weeks ago - received them in the mail on Monday, accepted one that night. There was no discussion of when it would happen but Wednesday I came home to a yard full of equipment and ALL the shingles off. I came home from work tonight, Friday, and the new roof was complete. I do not mind spending the money for such immediate and professional work.  What a relief to have this major problem resolved at last!

It surely is the nicest roof of any portal to hell any time, any where. I hope the whangdoodles appreciate it as much as I do.

Ugliness and an eyesore - and the winter portal to hell when I have to go in the basement to turn on the heater.

Still the portal to hell, but much nicer looking.

Post Script:
The reference to hell makes more sense if you recall the ordeal of descending into hell documented here: Portal To Hell

Monday, March 7, 2016

Assembly Instructions

Some months ago, I purchased a 9 cubic foot dump trailer to pull behind my lawn tractor. It was the alternative solution to carrying heavy buckets of water up the hill for the horses when it is too cold to use the garden hose to fill the water tank.

The trailer is ostensibly a Craftsman trailer, purchased at Sears for $115. I was thinking it was a GREAT bargain until I went to get it. It was in a long, impossibly narrow box. Some assembly required I correctly surmised. I was not worried. I built a Barbie Doll Dream House one Christmas eve. I have single-handedly assembled bicycles and swing sets and cheap furniture. I routinely make minor home repairs. I maintained my own Harley Davidson motorcycles. I can read assembly instructions like a boss because I was a professional technical draftsman for 20 years.

Thanks to a very warm winter, there were only a couple of times I had to carry water to the horses, so the box of unassembled pieces remained untouched in the garage until today, when I asked myself: Why not tackle that little project? I can use the trailer to haul rocks and limbs out of the yard before mowing this spring.

So... I tore open the box. Nothing looked too challenging and the assembly instructions were in well-translated English, always an auspicious beginning. I read: "Tools required - large flat screwdriver and 1/4" wrench or socket". What they REALLY meant was a Phillips screwdriver and a 10 mm wrench or socket. It went fairly smoothly after that but the instructions were not authentic Craftsman instructions. They were "Universal" instructions, apparently a generic brand of trailer. The trailer pictured did not show Craftsman on the side, but Universal. (No mention of THAT on the box, at Sears, or on the Sears web site!)

The instructions were for several different models but I figured it out because I am a goddamned American genius! That is what I told Jake when I had finished and stood back to admire the newly assembled little trailer.

Sunday, February 21, 2016


Lying awake this morning, just before dawn, a lone coyote raised a single howling note of mourning not far from my bedroom window. Expecting to hear the raucous chorus of his family joining in, I raised my head from the pillow when a different howl rose in the silence. It was Jake, answering his wild cousin, perhaps mourning from the deep genetic memory of the time when dogs were wolves - wild, and roaming with few enemies. Jake always answers the coyotes.

In our arrogance, we claim we domesticated the dog, the horse, the chicken and any other animal species that grace our lives with their help or their giveaway so we can live. I consider it a conscious decision on their part. They were here first, after all. They are our Elders.

Surely long ago the Animals saw the starving humans and took pity on us, with our limited senses and our two legs. At a great council, it was decided that the strange two-leggeds would need help or they should perish. The great Wolf chief agreed that some of his people should go live with the two-leggeds who, as all could see, were neither wise nor strong. The wolves would help them hunt, help protect their camps, teach them a true protector lays down his life for his family.

The bravest of the Wolves, in an act of selfless courage, came into the camps of the two-leggeds, trading away their freedom as mighty hunters and warriors with few enemies. They became the Dog, no longer wild and free, yet still mighty warriors, from the tiniest to the largest, even to Jake the Bad Dog.

The wolves of this world are hunted, trapped, poisoned and skinned. Their families destroyed. The coyotes are hunted with dogs who have entirely forgotten they were once wolf warriors. And dogs, their fate inextricably intertwined with ours, suffer with us - neither of us free, neither of us wild.

The coyotes howl for all of their kind who have been trapped, poisoned, shot, torn apart by dogs in the endless, merciless persecution by humans. Perhaps Jake howls for the senseless abuse and neglect his noble kind often suffer at the hands of men. Maybe they howl to honor those first wolves who came into the camps, changing the history of the world.

from Indian Country Today - George Monbiot
from Youtube - www.calxibe
Descendant of the Mighty Wolves - whose only gift he retains is how to howl like one.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Feeding the Wild Beasts

People rarely become addicted to anything overnight. It starts slowly and builds. That is how my addiction to feeding the birds came into being.

I can no longer recall the exact sequence of events. I do not know when I discovered the Wild Bird House store (my "dealer"), but it all started with a cheap hummingbird feeder that attached to the window by a suction cup. Living in a 1970's double-wide had its perks: the windows opened out and were easily accessible from the front porch. I could easily maintain the feeder with minimal effort, and I could sit comfortably in my living room enjoying a marvelous up-close-and-personal view of the birds.

That particular feeder had a serious design flaw that I repeatedly discovered. One of the hooks that held the entire thing together would inevitably break when I tried to reassemble it after cleaning. After paying for at least three of those models, it occurred to me to buy a different style. (I do not easily adapt.) By the third feeder, I am sure The Wild Bird House was getting my money.

The WBH is dedicated to the back yard bird enthusiast, selling high quality bird seed mixed for the various types of birds you wish to attract. The seed is fresh, clean, non-GMO and of the highest quality. The "house mix" smells good enough to eat, and that is not an exaggeration.

I graduated from hummingbirds in the summer to feeding the wild birds in the winter thanks to the WBH. At first I was only spreading the seed on the ground in front of my house. I could sit by the front windows and watch the birds for hours. It does not take long before word gets around the neighborhood. Everybody is coming in for a bite!

From my close vantage point, I learned to identify about a dozen new (to me) species of birds. I observed that the handsome little titmice, with a top knot just like the jays and cardinals, are as fearless as the hummingbirds. Whenever blue jays arrive for the cracked corn, everyone else clears out - except for the little titmice. They swoop down, grab a kernel right from under a jay, then zip to a tree where they hold the corn against the branch to peck it into smaller pieces. They are the cutest little fellows!

I saw for myself the reason why the dove is considered the bird of peace. Even if a group of blue jays is commandeering the feeding ground, when a dove arrives everyone calms down and shares both space and food as if by magic.

I think my favorites are the little round juncos. They always travel in a little flock and they are absolutely the most industrious of all the birds. They are the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave at night, coming and going all day. They thoroughly comb the entire area for every little speck of food. They make the most lyrical small whistling among themselves while waiting for me to refill the containers.

The next stage in my addiction came when I purchased a small, two-perch nyger seed feeder for the American goldfinches. It was a six-inch long clear tube that had to be refilled every single day. Addictions always escalate! Just this year I purchased a finch feeder that is about 24" long and have started filling it with nyger mixed with tiny pieces of sunflower seeds. The flurry of activity around that feeder every day is amazing!

I could write forever about the observations I have made but the point of this entry in my magnificent blog is to relate how I became a wild bird feeding junkie. As I say, it started with the hummingbirds and then became a small amount of mixed seeds tossed on the ground in winter. Eventually, I was buying 50 pound bags of bird seed, just like the feed for the horses and the chickens. Then I added the nyger seeds for the gold finches. When I noticed rabbits were coming in at night, I added cracked corn for them. Here is how I know I am a full blown junkie: I am deliberately feeding squirrels now. The WBH sells a mixture for the squirrels - peanuts in the shell, huge sunflower seeds, and large whole kernels of golden corn.

As you can imagine, none of this is exactly cheap. The worst part of it is that the trees (spared specifically to shelter the winter bird feeding activities) are actually too far from the house for me to even recognize the smaller birds, which is why I spend way too much money on those pesky squirrels. I can clearly see them from the front office windows.

I was buying cracked corn from the farm store for the rabbits and the blue jays. It was about $7 for 50 pounds of stale, dusty, and most likely GMO corn. If it is not GMO, it is surely grown in soil sprayed with tons of herbicides. The WBH knows its addicts! Yes, they also sell cracked corn - non-GMO, fresh, clean and in "designer" feed bags! It is $13 a bag, plus Topeka's 9% sales tax!!! (Oh my God!) None of that matters to an addict...

Designer feedbags!  Feedbags are a fact of life in Kansas but when have you seen any as fancy as this?

It is as clean as Orville Redenbacher's popcorn!