She’s Not A Bird Dog — She’s A Bird Monitor!

One of my favorite things about spring is filling the bird feeders. I know that it would probably make more sense to fill the bird feeders during winter when the birds are far less likely to have an abundance of food, but for selfish reasons I typically only feed them in the spring.

Spring is when I have time to sit and enjoy watching the birds at the feeder. There are feeders set up along the back of our house so that no matter where I’m sitting, whether it’s in the kitchen nook, the dining room, or at my desk in the great room, I have a view of a bird feeder. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the birds find the feeders even after months of them being empty. It takes less than an hour before the first sparrow visits.

Besides myself enjoying all the activity at the bird feeders, Bell enjoys it just as much. She will sit at the back door staring at the birds flying from feeder to feeder for hours. If it’s warm enough and I put her cushion out on the chair, she will sit there even longer.

One thing about Bell though, she is not a bird dog…she is a bird monitor. She lets me know when there are birds at the feeders, but has never tried to catch them. Just by the position of her ears, she tells me when there are or aren’t birds at the feeder.

If her ears are down, this means there aren’t any visitors. But when her ears go half way up, ahhh, then you know there’s activity.

Ears are getting perky – definitely activity at the bird feeder.

Bell has never chased any of the birds in our yard. In fact she’ll walk by the bird feeder and quite often the birds won’t even leave. She will walk within two feet of them, and they just keep on feeding.

When I fill the feeders, birds are not the only visitors we receive. Unfortunately there is an abundance of squirrels in our neighborhood and the minute those feeders are filled, the squirrels are determined to get their share. To their utter disappointment, however, Bell will have none of that. You see, as much as Bell is a bird monitor, she is even more so of a squirrel evictor.

When her ears perk up as high as her ears perk

and she stands on her hind legs to look out the door

This is when you know a squirrel is nearby. She runs to the sliding door and chases those squirrels out of our yard.

This goes on all day long. I have seen as many as three squirrels at one time in our little plum tree trying to get into the bird feeder, but the minute Bell bounds out the door, they scatter. Bell especially likes it when she traps a squirrel in the tree. She will pace around the tree, run up and down the patio, and try her hardest to climb up the tree trunk for however long it takes that squirrel to get up enough nerve to bolt out of the tree and over into the security of our neighbors fenced-in yard. One morning Hubby and I watched her happily keep a squirrel captive in the tree for 45 minutes before she finally walked far enough away from the tree for the squirrel to make its escape. She certainly slept good that afternoon.

This squirrel escaped to our neighbors roof and sat there growling at Bell for the longest…

Bell definitely has a job! She doesn’t bother the birds, but is sure to chase away those pesky squirrels. The fact that she’s a bird monitor rather than a bird dog is something I am truly – Simply Grateful for!

All clear – Just Bell and the birds!


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Fresh Air!

Three days ago at this time we were getting a snow storm! It began around 11 in the morning while Hubby and I were at the gym and didn’t let up all afternoon. Then it turned into freezing rain and things got really fun out on the roads.

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Where did that come from? It wasn’t in the forecast and with predictions for temperatures in the 70’s by the end of the coming week, who’d have thunk?

Well, that’s Michigan for you!

Anyway, after a few “too chilly to set foot in the garden” days, today I finally broke out of the house and headed to the garden to get my hands dirty. It was glorious. I spent nearly two hours planting a few bulbs, turning over the new designated pea garden, and watching as Bell rooted around every nook and cranny in the backyard as if she’d never been out there in her life.

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Bell rootin’ around.

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Everything seems new and exciting to Bell.

Hubby was at the gym with his man-friend, Zeb was at the gym with Gramps, and Grace was still at school. Finally — time to myself.

Those couple of hours out in the fresh air truly cleared the cobwebs from my head, reset my perspective, and improved my mood tenfold. The weather is only supposed to get better as the week progresses and I plan on making sure I get outside at least an hour each day — by myself. This might require getting up a little early, or perhaps sneaking out when no one is looking, but no matter what it takes, I’m outta here.

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The new pea garden in progress.

Hubby came home before I finished turning over the garden I was working in and wanted to know why I hadn’t waited for him. Okay, now I could have answered him in several ways, reminding him about how the garden is my “thing” and for the past two years I have done all the gardening by myself. Granted this wasn’t necessarily because I wanted to do it all by myself, but with him working pretty much 24/7 away from home, there was really very little time for him to dedicate to gardening. Plus, when he was home, I certainly didn’t want him to have to work. We had to spend some time together after all.

But, rather than bringing anything up that might make him feel bad I just smiled at him, gave him a kiss, and told him I was almost done, he could help me finish tomorrow and then I could plant the peas. Still, his guilt was palpable and this really bothers me. I don’t want him to feel guilty about me gardening or anything else that he wasn’t around to help with. I enjoy being outside with my hands in the dirt and know he really doesn’t. He thinks now that he’s quasi-retired, he should be doing all the things he was never able to do before. I keep telling him he doesn’t need to, but at the same time don’t want him to not have any purpose. Everyone needs to be needed.

This is just yet another bump-in-the-road on our journey as we adjust to his retirement. For so many years I’ve been responsible for everything here at home, asking for help only on the rarest of occasions. It was how things had to be. I didn’t always like it, but after 23 years of it, I had to come to terms with it or go crazy. I did the “going crazy” thing the first few years of our marriage and didn’t really like it, so I finally came to terms with it. Now I’ve got that same choice again.

I can either come to terms with Hubby needing/wanting to help out with things around here or I can go crazy. So, have I learned from past experience enough to forego the “crazy phase” and skip right to the “coming to terms” one?

Doubtful.

With the promise of warmer weather and lots of fresh air in my future though, maybe I won’t stick with the “going crazy” phase as long this time and perhaps transition into something like a “simply irritated” phase instead. But then again, this is the Simply Grateful blog, so that wouldn’t be very sporting of me, would it?

Anyway, it was beautiful here in Michigan today — the weather was perfect, the sun was shining, Hubby was home nearly all day — and for all these things I truly am Simply Grateful.

Celebrating Spring!

Near 70 degrees in Michigan for the past two days has really given everyone around here spring fever. The minute I heard the temps were going to be above 50, sunny, windy, and no chance of rain for two whole days, I set my everyday to do list aside and started a new one —

Spring Fever To Do List

  1. Hang laundry out. I hate not being able to hang bedding and clothes outside all winter. Not only does running the dryer cost money, but it never leaves the laundry smelling quite as good as the fresh air.
  2. Start seeds for spring planting. It’s the beginning of March and time to start planting the seeds for tomatoes and peppers. These seeds take the longest to grow and are the biggest crops in my garden. Last year winter never gave us a break so I moved my potting bench into the great room along with bags of dirt and worked on starting my seeds there. This break in the weather couldn’t have come at a better time. Now I won’t have to spend a day setting everything up in the house and can just work on the patio, outside in the sunshine.
  3. Take Bell for a walk — many walks. Although Bell does get an occasional walk during the winter months, especially if the temperatures are above 35 degrees, they tend to be few and far between. With the warm weather making every activity outside inviting, walking Bell is a welcome chore.
  4. Garden planning. Admittedly, planning the garden for 2016 has not been something I have wanted to do so far this year. Every once in a while, when we’d have a fairly nice day, I’d get the gardening itch, but within a day or so the cold and snow would return and chase the itch away. Now that I can actually go out and get in the gardens to pace out new additions and plan crop rotations, the time has truly come to take this seriously.

Well, maybe not the biggest list of all the to do lists I currently have running, but I am far more excited about this one than any other at the moment. The past two days have been spent checking off this list and I have enjoyed every moment. All the bedding in the house has been washed and hung out to dry,

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Bell has had more walks in the past two days than in the past two months, I’ve got my plan for the 2016 garden layout done, and today I finished planting all the tomato and pepper seeds I’ll need come May (check out my post at Simply Grateful Gardener Starting Seeds for the 2016 Garden).

This is Michigan so accepting that snow will more than likely bury us again before spring truly comes to stay is just how it is. Having this reprieve and taking total advantage of the gift — for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Garden Critters

Spring has sprung! Even if the weather doesn’t necessarily agree.

Yesterday while turning over one of my gardens, lo and behold I found two of the biggest, juiciest slugs you ever could find.

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My dilemma was whether I should kill them right then and there or face the possibility of having to drown them later with beer as I did last year when they infested my pepper plants (see my post Attack Of The Killer Slugs.)

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Trouble was there were no plants around for them to munch on, so killing them just couldn’t be justified. So, I did the next best thing, I relocated them to an area on the opposite end of the house where they won’t be near a single garden plant.  Of course, if they choose to crawl back to the fertile ground of the garden, they just might not be so lucky again.

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For now, they are happily burrowed deep under some mulch where it’s warm and cozy, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

A Taste of Spring Under A Sheet of White

Earlier this week I was seriously considering running amok with our snow blower and clearing away the snow in the gardens to get a head start on my gardening.  The day I had finally reached my breaking point, it snowed — AGAIN! This has got to end.

Although the snow is beautiful and all…

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I seriously considered bundling up and sitting out in my lounge chair this week. Being cooped up in the house all these months is really taking its toll on my better judgement.

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I’ll trade icicles for popsicles anyday!

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The garden has so much snow on top of it, you can barely see it at the back of our property.

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The plum tree looks so barren, it’s hard to believe that in a few very long months we’ll actually have flowers on it — I hope.

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If I do end up bundling up and heading out to my lounge chair, I’ll have to unbury the fire pit too!

I can’t say I am going to miss it when it’s gone.

Well, I didn’t snow blow the gardens, sit out in my lounge chair, or dig out the fire pit, but I did have Grace paint some pretty white daisy’s on my nails to remind me that spring is coming and made myself a fresh bowl of fruit salad. A combination of winter and summer fruits, was the perfect topper to a light lunch.  Banana, strawberry, grapes, clementine, and cantaloupe helped pull me out of my funk.

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Not exactly the spring I was hoping for, but for now, it will help me get through these lingering winter days, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

In Need Of Some Spring

The weather here in Michigan continues to be bitter, unrelenting, and completely disheartening. With the cold pounding at the windows and snow piled high against the house, I needed a bit of spring this afternoon.  For a few glorious moments, I basked in the beauty of spring’s past.

2013 096 2013 099 2013 110 2013 117I can’t wait for warmer weather, longer days, and budding flowers to fill the air with the sweet scent of spring.  For now, a moments reprieve from winter’s arctic blast will get me through the day, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Michigan Monday Morning

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature.” – Anne Frank

It is a perfect Michigan Monday morning. The temperature is around 63° at 10:00 and the sun is already high in the sky, beating down on me as I sit here on the patio enjoying a moment of peace before continuing on with the demands of the day.

The birds are singing, filling the yard with their song and soothing my mind as it races with all that needs to be done. Already there are sheets and a quilt on the line stretched across the yard drying, the dishwasher has been run and is waiting to be emptied, the kids have been dropped off at their respective schools, my hubby is off to work with his lunch packed and ready for him to heat up, dinner is planned, and the dog has been walked. Not much more that I want to get done today, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a ton of things to do.

Walking through the yard this morning I stopped off at the lilac bushes on the side of the house. After the snow we had the other day, I figured any chance of blooms this year were gone. To my surprise, the blooms hadn’t sprouted far enough from the protection of the leaves surrounding them and they are just now starting to poke through. It looks like the bushes will be covered in blooms by Mother’s Day and then I can fill the house with the delicate lavender flowers and enjoy the sweet smell for days.

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Most of the bulbs I planted last spring didn’t make it through the winter. I think the squirrels got the majority of them and those they didn’t, the snow took last week. There are just a couple under the plum tree that appear to have survived. Hopefully the snow will not make another unwelcome visit and maybe I’ll get to enjoy a few flowers before the weather is consistently warm enough to plant some annuals.

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The plum tree is still bare. This isn’t out of the ordinary. Typically it doesn’t start to show signs of life until May, and late-May at that. Last year it gave us more than 120 pounds of usable fruit (more than 100 pounds had to be thrown out). I’m not sure if plum trees produce fruit every year. It had been three or four years since we’d gotten any usable fruit because of brown-rot, so I’m not sure what this trees cycle is. It would certainly be nice to get a bumper crop again. Although if you’d asked me last year while I was canning the 120 pounds of plum, I probably wouldn’t have been all that receptive to ever harvesting another plum. Thank goodness time calibrates perspective.

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The grass is still spotted yellow, but some green has pushed its way through the matted down clippings left over from the final cutting of the season last October. The grass should probably be ready to cut in the next couple of weeks, well on its way to the thick plush lawn I love.

Today would be a perfect day to barbecue, but nothing sounded appealing when I was planning dinner for tonight. I finally settled on trying a new recipe for pepper steak. I have tried this meal several times in the past and have been left disappointed. Most of the time the steak is tasty, but nothing like the pepper steak served in Chinese restaurants. Thank God for the Internet because there are so many recipes out there to try I’m sure that one day I’ll get it right. So, although standing outside by the grill on such a beautiful day was tempting, I’ll just open all the windows in the kitchen and enjoy the fresh air as it streams through the screens.

I really should head inside to work on the unending chores that await me, but the slight breeze tickling my arms reminds me that sometimes taking a break is more important than getting a job done. When I finally do drag myself away from this beautiful morning and begrudgingly continue on with my To Do List, I will take with me the memory of this time. Life is what you make of the moments were given. Appreciating this perfect Michigan morning is one of those moments worth holding on to, savoring, locking away inside. Moments like this ground me and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

“I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least – and it is commonly more than that – sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.” –
Henry David Thoreau