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Archive for the ‘fauna’ Category

41TErMtvHSLHow does a book like this even happen?

Sue Hubbell loves her Ozarks and the people who live there, loves her bees, and by all appearances has a thing going with words and the art of stringing them together. It seems that beekeepers now join flyfishers as unlikely creators of great writing.

Who knew?

Hubbell weaves her tales of bees and sweet countryside around the four seasons of her craft. This makes for four long chapters, perhaps the only defect in an otherwise enchanting read. Along the way we learn a fair piece about keeping bees (much of it in the ‘let them be bees’ category). We also taste and feel the Missouri seasons and warm to the spirit of a woman who has learned to live so well in her adopted countryside.

The result is a book worth reading at least twice. Then, after a rest, perhaps a third time.

Somehow the book’s simple title perfectly frames the easy lilt of its prose. Nothing is difficult here. Just beautiful.

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51uijBUz+-L._SS300_As this reader approaches the end of six decades and pauses to consider the rescued dogs and cats that have shared his home and made their bed in permanent corners of his and his family’s heart, I wonder if it was because my siblings and I devoured James Herriot’s veterinary tales early in life. (‘James Herriot’ was the pen name of the real Alfred ‘Al’ Wight.)

It wouldn’t surprise. Such was the uncanny ability of Alfred Wight’s eye to capture the immensely rich nuances of man and beast in the Yorkshire hills and dales of the earlier 20th century. Over a re-read that has lasted a year or two, I marvel at the patient and slightly awed love—I think that’s the word—which fuels the gentle, acute conversations that are sprinkled across every page of All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful, and All Things Wise and Wonderful.

I’m not sure whether you need to adore animals in order to delight in these books. Perhaps so, but maybe the short chapters work their way into readers’ hearts and turn them into animal lovers. And devoted readers.

I can think of only one tribute to these readable classics that comes even close to giving them their due: I’ll just have to start reading them all over again.

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This bird house is sized to attract, in my Midwestern American region at least, House Finches, Sparrows, and Chickadees.

91lrHPub0rL._SL1500_It’s made of a lightweight wood, as befits the modest price point. The front panel swings out at the bottom in order to give access for cleaning out the abandoned nest after the chicks have fledged. There are two holes for attaching the house to a post. One, at the top center of the rear panel, can be seen in the product photography. The other is in the center of the rear panel and can be accessed with a screwdriver when the front panel has been swung into its open position. (more…)

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After a positive experience and subsequent review of a different Gardirect insect hotel, the good folks at Gardirect contacted me and asked if I’d be willing to review a second product. With this full disclosure, I launch upon this review of the most recently arrived product.

I’m impressed. (more…)

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Our Midwest backyard is full of birds, bees, squirrels, and others of God’s great creatures, but we always want for more. I first saw this concept at an Amish store in upstate Indiana and—shortly after returning home to Indianapolis—sprang for the NiteangeL product.

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It’s so beautiful—I note more than one reviewer calling it ‘cute’—that my enterprising wife has coopted it for decorative purposes. It’s now cradled in a flower-filled space that used to be a bird bath (also coopted …), so I don’t know that we’ll get all the residents that can be expected to come to it when properly hung. Apropos to one reviewer’s note that there’s no nail or hook, mine does have an insert in the back from which the Insect Home can be hung from a nail.

The workmanship strikes me as everything that was promised. Given the creative purpose that our NiteangeL is now serving, I’m contemplating buying a second one for the bugs. So far, a satisfied customer.

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When our standard single-cake suet feeder mysteriously disappeared from our backyard (the crime remains unsolved), I took a chance on this nice roofed double-cake suet feeder. The results have been good.

41RY-gXSMiL._SL500_SS80_.jpgIt took our birds (house finches, various species of woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, cardinals) a while to figure out how to maneuver their way into the right stance for getting at the suet, probably because the roof and its overhang briefly confused them. But then it was open season. The advantage of stocking the feeder with two suet cakes seems to be in reducing the need to re-stock to roughly half as frequent a job as it was before. That is, having two rather than one suet cake doesn’t seem to attract more birds; it just means that roughly the same number of birds have more supply to work on, so it lasts longer.

The quality and workmanship are very good.

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As an avid birder and a bit of a skeptic about most marketing, I confess that I’m not sure that birds care that much which brand of suet they’re fed. We live in Indianapolis and have used many kinds of suet. The birds have not turned up their beaks at any one of them.
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So I typically order on price, taking into account that Amazon Prime membership eliminates the shipping cost.Heath Outdoor Products has been a hit with three kinds of woodpeckers, countless chickadees, nuthatches, tufted titmice, and a motley assortment of other birds.

Plus, its economical. We and our birds are satisfied customers and will continue to order this product at this price point.

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The thing with introducing a new dog to the pack is, you just don’t know what you’re going to get.

When the dog being introduced is a little black fur ball of uncertain origins and the anxiously awaiting family members are big Rhodesian Ridgebacks, one of whom has had his eyes surgically removed, you really don’t know what you’ll get. (more…)

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When I first met Rhea, I was lying on indoor-outdoor carpet under a table at the Lucky Dog Retreat, trying to coax the scared little girl and her puppy sister Asa to have something—anything!—to do with me.

Thing were not going well.

Robin, the proprietor of Lucky Dog Retreat, accompanies Indianapolis’ animal control officers into what are gingerly described as ‘bad situations’ in an effort to keep some of our city’s hapless animals from being destroyed. A dark look came across Robin’s face as I asked her about Rhea’s and Asa’s origins. ‘There were too many human beings and too many dogs in that apartment’, she responded, clearly not wanting to go any deeper into her description. Rhea and Asa, alone among a tribe of dogs, were to be saved. Their fear of this big stranger lying on the floor suddenly sounded entirely reasonable, at least as far as Puppy Logic goes.

Rhea was improbable from the start, one of just two survivors out of ‘too many dogs’.

Rhea’s tough beginnings—she was clearly not treated well in her first, chaotic home—haunt her still.

My fiancée was half a country away. I described Rhea on the phone, the scared little monster with wan hope of a future. It was impossible to make Rhea sound like the Ideal Dog. Nothing about this waif’s life has ever come close to ideal. Karen was not absolutely opposed to adding a dog with a past to our collection of two Rhodesian Ridgebacks in the new life we would soon share. If we went through with this, Rhea would join a sister who had been the runt of her own boiling, brown tribe back in Costa Rica and a blind and badly abused brother Ridgeback from northern Indiana. Yet Karen’s assent could not be described as enthusiastic.

I was to marry an adventurous bride amid a pack of rejected dogs.

After a few more visits to Lucky Dog, Rhea came home. Improbably. We would live to regret our decision. And then, eventually, to celebrate it. And her.

 

 

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Springtime in Indianapolis is like a resurrection.

Few cities I’ve known color their winters as gray as does our Indy. It’s one of the many things that make Indianapolis easy to underestimate.

Then comes the Spring.

The birds, on this resplendent Saturday between Good Friday and Easter, are busily nesting. Our feeders are busy, but so are the numerous bird houses scattered around our property. House finches are checking out the real estate, as are sparrows and chickadees. They move with the purpose of buyers in a sellers’ market. There are only so many bird houses to go around, you know. You snooze, you lose.

I admit, I’m a deeply sentimental man when it comes to places. An irrational nostalgia runs deep with regard to every place I’ve lived and a handful more where I’ve been.

Take Northern Wisconsin, for example.

My mother was born and raised there, my father pitched to Hank Aaron there, a whole youth worth of summer vacations made Lake Superior and the family who lived on its edges the destination of a long but never questioned drive from Pennsylvania.

When we Baers managed to gather there last Fall for the first time in many years, it was a coming home, a return to who we are, an understated migration to the stream of our origins.

I bought a bird house in Hayward. A knotty-pine Northwoods cabin of a bird house, a bit tacky if you’re from—let me pick a place—Virginia, but an icon of home if you have felt the Big Lakes’s breezes on your face.

May I detour for a moment in a technical direction?

The standard sources map out how important is the size of the hole in a bird house for the various species of backyard birds that lift our spirits and put our souls at ease in this Indianapolis space we call home. A chickadee family, you may be interested to learn, requires 1/8″ more of entrance clearance than does a wren.

My Northwoods knotty-pine bird house is made for wrens.

So it is that in these last few days a small drama has ensued just outside the windows which demarcate the human space from the delightfully kinetic animal space of our home.

A pair of chickadees has spied a log cabin that they would love to call home.

—Justin, it’s beautiful, honestly. But the doorway seems just a little small.

—Oh, Allison, I’m sure we can fit through. Look, just peer inside. OMG, it’s gorgeous in there. Can you imagine the kids?

—I know, Honey Man, I completely agree. I’m just not sure we can fit through that … um … that hole.

—Sure we can, Ally Baby, just watch. Ooh … Ouch … Oh my, this is a little tight. Here, let me peck at the edges of the hole for a while. I’m sure I can find us a sixteenth of an inch here. These things are not etched in stone, you know.

—Oh, Honey, you’re the sweetest. Knock yourself out. I’ll stand up here on the roof and watch.

—Ally, I think I can squeeze in. Ooh … ouch … HONEY, I’M IN … !!! Oh, Baby, it’s spacious in here. You wouldn’t believe it.

—But, Justin, when I’m with child? I mean, with eggs? Will I fit?

—Ally, Baby, we’ll get a gym membership. I’m sure it will work.

—OK, J-Dawgy, I really want to believe you. I’ll just sit out here on the wire for a while and peer longingly at our future home … I mean … what I hope will be our future home. You just keep pecking at that doorway. Do you think these feathers make me look fat?

This is as far as our drama has gone.

This afternoon has been a little quiet around the Old Log Cabin Bird House. Maybe a dream has died and our chickadee couple has found a little condo down the street. Or perhaps decisions have merely been postponed for another day.

Or maybe a pair of wrens is out looking …

You gotta’ move fast in a sellers’ market.

 

 

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