Thursday, November 1, 2018

Groundhog Summer

In the years past, we had gotten accustomed to seeing a groundhog wander the far end of our lot, munching on assorted wildflowers in the neighbor's  and our unmanicured lawns. It would occasionally slip under our low deck, and I would try to go out and stomp around a bit, having read somewhere that groundhogs dislike noise. I was trying to discourage it from settling there, even if it rarely amounted to more than a half-hearted attempt to scare it away. I feared for my kitchen garden, convinced that it was responsible for some of the eaten up plants, until I once caught a chipmunk nibbling on those.
As this spring moved into summer, with little ado, and a great many thunderstorms, we noticed a new denizen on the lawn patch. Or two, really. A small ratlike figure, and another. Two baby groundhogs, one slightly smaller than the other.
But where was the mother? Was that the groundhog that I had tried to scare away last year? My husband reported seeing a dead groundhog further up the hill, precariously close to the road's edge- maybe it was the mother, and her luck had run out. So she had probably left two orphaned babies.
Late every morning, the two would venture out for a round of munching clover, and vanish back under the deck sometime later. This continued for several weeks until the two stopped coming.
Maybe they had moved to fresh feeding grounds, or closer to water, I thought.
Late summer, and just as our chili plants were beginning to flower, they were bitten down to the bare stems.  Shocking but not unexpected, especially with no fence to guard them from any local wildlife. The next day, keeping a sharp eye out for possible culprits, it was the Return of the Groundhog. One of the two had come back to his or her old feeding grounds, and promptly settled in the old homestead under our deck.
And the battle for the beans and chilis began in earnest. I would try to jump out and scare the
By LadyCamera [CC BY-SA 4.0  (], from Wikimedia Commons
Photo credit :LadyCamera , Wikimedia Commons
groundhog away, the moment I spotted its nose peeking through the deck railings. It would dig a deeper exit hole from under the deck, which I promptly tried to block with assorted heavy pots.I moved the chili plants in, it would try to munch on the bean leaves instead, or the okra.
Summer's end, and having harvested as several handfuls of beans, a few pitiful tomatoes, an abundance of basil, and zero okra or chilis, I would watch as the groundhog came out in the afternoons of the longish and unseasonably (for September) warm days, not bother to go out and chase it away.
The groundhog had grown fat and was building up the blubber to survive the winter.
So, till next year, Groundhog, and let the war resume next spring.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Empty Nest

It started early this spring. Tiny cheeps emanated from the chimney as we sat watching TV and eating our dinners.
'Oh, we have a bird's nest in the chimney! What should we do about it?"
"Just leave it be. The babies will eventually grow and fly away."
So we sat, each evening, listening to the tiny peeps and cheeps.
Mid-summer, and the sound started getting louder and more raucous. It got so bad that we had to bang on the old railway tie that serves as a mantelpiece over the fireplace. That seemed to command their attention and quiet for a few minutes. Then the chittering would start all over again.
M texted me in a panic one evening, when we had gone somewhere, leaving her to her own devices, since she didn't want to come with us. "The birds in the chimney are making a huge racket. It sounds really scary, what should I do?"
I didn't have much advice for her, beyond the usual suggestion to bang on the mantelpiece. Predictably, it failed to work for longer than a few minutes.
A few weeks later, and we no longer cared to listen for the ever-present chitters and cheeps, figuring that this year's brood was just taking a longer than average time to fledge. We were busy too, getting ready to pack M off to her new dorm at her university.
Finally, the big day came. We loaded up the van with suitcases, mini-fridge, microwave, etc. and spent a good part of the morning setting up M's room. After lunch, we left her to acclimatize to her new space, and came home tired in the evening.
That evening as we put on the TV, there was something missing. The loud chorus of cheeps, that always accompanied the sound of the talking heads on TV, was gone. The birds had fledged, and the nest was empty.
The chimney swifts, just like M, were gone with the summer.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Flowers and Clouds

It was a stormy afternoon. Rain poured down in sheets from as the threatening dark clouds passed over the neighborhood. When the rain stopped, the whole place was bathed in a strange yellow light, that drew me outside in an attempt to capture its strange effects. The flowers appeared a hyper pink in this light, and looking up, there was a literal garland of pearls in the skies, beyond beautiful mammatous cloud formations.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Perils of Reconnection

Reconnecting with old classmates from 30+ years ago is always good, or so I thought till recently.

After a long break, an old classmate of mine, who had been in my class all the way from kindergarten through college, contacted me via Whatsapp to mention that the old schoolmates from 10th standard were trying to get in touch with me to add my name to their group. Apparently, I had been out of the loop for over 30 years, while they had managed to keep in touch, willy-nilly, through snail mail, then email, then the social media in recent years.

It was a big thrill to go back and see the enthusiastic Hellos and how are you doing, what happened to you in the intervening years welcome posts. For a while. Then it started to go back to what happened to just about every other Whatsapp group that I am a member of: Birthday posts, accomplishments of kids/photos, vacation photos, etc. etc.

And then it struck me. I am not a sharing person. I don't like to post photos of my kids or activities or vacations. The only people I would do that to are close members of my family. I wouldn't hesitate to share photos one-on-one in person, but over the internet, it is a line that I don't want to cross,which may be odd, because I share a lot about myself in these blog posts. But you won't see any personally identifiable photos of me or my family.

So, in the hubbub of reconnection with old schoolmates, when an 'inspirational' post was put up by some girl (or woman now) that I faintly remembered as ever-smiling J, something about a minister advising a youngster by handing him a rosebud and asking him to make it unfurl into a flower. The young man tries hard to do so delicately with his hands, but gives up on the task as impossible to accomplish without damaging the flower. The older minister pontificates on how God makes these bloom in good time etc. as the Prime Mover of the world, which is the moral of the story.

Except that I had to jump in with a semi-snarky comment "Why didn't the young fellow just place the bud in a vase with water and wait a day or so?" It was meant in good humor.

J must have been a little miffed at my spoiling the 'inspirational moment' that she was trying to share. She jumped back with a snarkier comment about my being able to use the brains that God had given me to good effect. And I, in all innocence, compounded the offense by saying it was just plain common sense and that simple observation of cut flowers that was all that was needed.

'You must have plenty of time to observe that, no such luck here', she zinged back.

Oh dear, back to high school again. I didn't know if  I wanted to revisit those days again. So much for the charms of reconnection; the perils were looming larger now.

It struck me how little I knew of my classmates from that time. I think that I was always a bit of an oddball, with intense friendships with maybe one or two girls who were in my class, and a general disregard for the rest, no more than a cursory friendliness. But they had retained strong bonds over the years, mine were much weaker and at this point of time, practically non-existent. They were a bunch of strangers to me, and I wasn't going to do much more than pay lip-service to staying in touch with them.

Sad to say, but that is exactly the approach that all this flurry of wishing to reconnect generates in me these days. Let bygones be bygones, and onward into a future without reference to a distant past.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Dawn Chorus

'Ranoranilac" or "Ranilac" (Serbo-Croat for 'early riser') was a topic of discussion on Facebook recently, with a friend of mine. She was talking of sightings of the moon in daylight hours, but to my mind, it was a perfect one-word description of the birds of the summer, and myself.

At the first hint of light in the east,the tweets and chirps start up. By the time I step outside for a pre-dawn walk, the chorus of the birds is in full swing. No need for earbuds and music when one has serenading singers all around.

I looked up the phenomenon and found this link, which explains why birds like to sing so early.
 The dawn chorus occurs when birds sing at the start of a new day. In temperate countries this is most noticeable in spring when the birds are either defending a breeding territory, trying to attract a mate, or calling in the flock. In a given location, it is common for different species to do their dawn singing at different times.
There is even an example audio of the dawn chorus at the link, a recording made in the UK. But it pales in loudness and vigor in comparison with the loud suburban cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, robins, mourning doves and other birds in this part of the world.

I had read elsewhere that birds in urban and (presumably, by extension, the suburbs)  are louder than their forest counterparts, maybe because they need to make themselves heard above the usual sounds of motor vehicles, lawn mowers, blowers and such. Or it could also be that the birds were in better physical shape, feeding at the bounteous birdfeeders that dot the area. Or a combination thereof.

Here is an audio sample of the dawn chorus:

And now, for no particular reason, except cuteness galore, a photo of a baby robin from near my office. We engaged in a staring match for a few minutes, till my attempt to move in for a close range photo spooked it and it mustered the requisite skill to fly away.