Squirrels ruin it for everyone

Over the winter, we put one of those clear suction-cup bird feeders on a window behind the couch, and for months we’ve enjoyed seeing birds hang out practically in our family room. And not a single squirrel! It’s been great. Jack has learned not to rush to the couch shouting when he sees a bird, so we’ve gotten to see a bunch of them close up.

But then, just today, a squirrel figured it out. John came downstairs and rushed the couch (startling us) to knock sharply on the window and yell at the squirrel who had somehow managed to squeeze himself into the narrow shelf with the bird food. He jumped away.

A couple minutes later, I saw the butterfly bush shaking, and sure enough, there was the same well-fed squirrel clinging to the junction of two branches, staring at us through the window. He made another leap for the feeder. We yelled and knocked and he jumped back to the bush.

Two more times in less than five minutes, so now NOBODY gets the bird feeder. I took it down. Maybe the squirrel will forget about it. Or maybe he’ll bash his little brain out on the window. I’ve already heard a thump that I’m pretty sure was the squirrel bouncing off the window and falling.

I need to attach the feeder higher anyway to get the windows open as it warms up, so I’ll take the opportunity to put it on the other couch window, far away from the butterfly bush.

I don’t know if I’m going to win this fight or teach the squirrel to fly.

My apologies to A.A. Milne

Jack has a number of rubber duckies of various sizes, most of them classic. He has one ducky wearing a Winnie the Pooh costume (red shirt, bear ears). We call it Winnie the Pooh Duck.

(Thank you, eBay, for not making me go take a picture of ours.)

The other day, I was trying to find something for Jack to watch, and I came across the Winnie the Pooh cartoons. I showed him the pictures. “Jack, would you like to watch Winnie the Pooh?”

He looked. He thought. He said, “Winnie the Pooh is a duck, Mama, not a bear.”

We didn’t watch it.

Christmas is for the birds

I keep forgetting to tell this story. And then when I think about telling this story, I keep getting bogged down in the most boring way to tell it. I’m out of practice (although that assumes I wasn’t telling boring stories back when I was doing this regularly, and I’m not ready to make that assumption).

Let me give this a try.

Cast your mind back to Christmas, which already feels like several years ago instead of barely a month ago. We were able to bubble up with Emily, Sean, and the kids for the month of December because Sean’s school closed for the holidays (and the pandemic) right before Thanksgiving. It was great – the kids got to play together several times a week, for hours on end, inside both houses. It felt practically normal.

They came over to our house Christmas Day to have dinner (Italian catered – SO GOOD) and exchange presents and play. It was a really nice day, and then a bird flew into our house.

They were mostly in the car, heading out, and I was waving out the open back door when it happened. This bird swooped in the back door (by the driveway) with lots of flapping and took an immediate left up the back stairs. I shouted something along the lines of “HOLY FUCK A BIRD JUST FLEW IN THE HOUSE!” I slammed the door shut and chased it up the stairs. It landed on the baby gate at the top, then hopped to the floor. I carefully opened the gate, and it took off down the hallway. It flew the entire length of the house, straight down the hallway, and perched on the baby gate at the top of the front stairs, which is directly across from the front door. I shouted to John to open the front door, and while he was doing that, I crept down the hallway. Once it was open, I shooed at the bird with my hands. I may have muttered something to it about getting out of my damn house.

It listened. It flew down the stairs and straight out the front door. I was starting to feel sorry for the poor thing when I got back to the back stairs and realized there was bird shit on two of the risers and the wall. I suppose it was scared, but COME ON. Why are you flying in my house?

The thing is, this wasn’t even the first time. A few days earlier, also when Emily and Sean and the kids were leaving, a bird (same bird?) flew in as we opened the back door. It flew right back out that time. We think it might have been sitting on the super-fake, not remotely real, glitter-covered wreath. The wreath came down pretty soon after Christmas, and we haven’t had any bird sightings since.

It was like a cartoon

There is no possible way you will guess what happened to us this evening.  It’s so far out of the realm of normal – you just couldn’t guess.  So I’ll tell you.


LOTS of bees.

(Everyone is fine.)

Jack and I were in the front yard, near-ish the road, playing before dinner.  It was around 4:45 or so.  I was herding him in the direction of the back door when I happened to look over at the area in front of our front door.  I saw lots of flying bugs.  My first thought was that it was a huge cloud of gnats.  You know how gnats get.  But they looked bigger, and I thought I heard buzzing.  In retrospect, I’m surprised the buzzing was as quiet as it was.  I snatched Jack up, and we went inside.

Went up the back stairs, paused at the door to John’s office, “something is swarming out front,” heard a “what?”, and headed for the guest room windows.  Yeah, guys, it was a swarm of bees.  I googled “beekeepers near me” and found the Rhode Island Beekeepers Association.  Miracle of miracles: someone answered the phone.

“Um, there are a TON of bees, like, swarming in front of my house. What should we do?”

A calm voice said, “That’s very likely this time of year.  Swarming is exactly what they do, and they don’t sting when they’re doing it.”  Seriously, that’s the first thing he said.  He knows what he’s doing, this guy.  “Where are they?”

So I told him they’re on a branch in a tree in our front yard, we discussed how high up it is and if he needs a ladder or could cut down the branch, and then he said, “Text me your address and send me a picture. I’ll be there in half an hour.”

No delays!

He showed up right on time, Steve the Beekeeper (lawyer by day, beekeeper by free-time).  He put one of those hive boxes down the ground, cut the branch out of the tree, and with one firm shake of the branch, knocked all the bees from the branch to the ground, right in front of the box.  They wasted no time flooding into it.  He came back an hour later to collect it.

I asked him what he was going to do with them, and he said he’s just going to try to keep them alive.  ‘Tis the season for hives to split, so we were seeing half of an older hive looking for a new place to live.  They would likely have been gone by morning (that tree branch was only a stopover for the night), but if left to their own devices, they probably wouldn’t survive. Bees are apparently bad at surviving (see news about not enough bees in the world).

Want to see what ten thousand bees look like?  If you’re looking out our front door, this is the tree directly in front of you.  It’s right up against our front-yard neighbor’s garage.

And here’s Steve, holding the branch with the bees still on it.

The whole incident took maybe an hour and a half.  What a weird day.

I cannot be trusted

A quick search on my blog tells me that I have not told you the story about the time I let the neighbor’s sheep out of its pen.  I was reminded of it because I talked to that neighbor the other day.  I did NOT tell him this story.

Last summer, we met the neighbors who had recently moved in to the big house at the end of the lane behind us.  They’re super nice, and they happily gave us the use of the lane between their house and their barn so we could use it as a path through to the neighborhood on the other side.  They were putting up gates on either end of the path to prevent random traffic, but they assured me that I should feel free to go through them whenever.

I didn’t want to take advantage of this shortcut, but it was awfully convenient, and we used it happily for a few weeks.  And then they got two baby sheep.

They kept the sheep in the fenced area in front of the barn with the two gates, right where we would walk through, so I avoided going that way for a while.  I didn’t want to assume it was still okay since, you know, livestock.  The next time I saw them, maybe a few weeks later, they mentioned that we hadn’t been by lately, and I explained (sheep, gates, don’t want to assume), and they assured me it was fine (pish, tosh, nonsense, of course you can still walk through) – they really are very nice people.

I didn’t immediately take them up on their offer, but it wasn’t TOO long before we started using the path again.  Jack was always in the stroller, so I would park it close by one gate, open it just enough to get the stroller through, get him through as fast I could, and then hurry to close the gate.  Same drill on the other end, and then repeat on the way back.  Getting out was always a little harder than getting in because these were very friendly little lambs, rushing over as soon as we came in, butting at my knees, baaing.  (Jack paid no attention, but I thought it was cute.)  Still, for a good while I was able to get in and get out, going for the walk and coming back home, without mishap.

Then came the mishap.

Jack was sleeping soundly so we were heading home, and we got back in the fence without any issue.  It was getting out where we had a problem.  The only thing that saved me is that one of the sheep was less interested than the other.  Both were at the gate with me, and when I told them to go away (before I opened the gate), one of them listened (the bigger one, thank goodness).  The other did not, so I held him (her?) off with my knee, like you would a jumping dog, while I opened the gate just barely enough to get the stroller through.  I got through, too, and I was closing the gate when the littler sheep squeezed past.

I set the brake on the stroller as quickly as I could, shut the gate before the other sheep got out, and tried to somehow chase after the runaway sheep without spooking it.  It headed toward the house instead of toward the road (whew), not running (double whew), so I crept that way talking to it (here, little lamby-lamby, I’m not going to hurt you).  It gave me some crazy looks, teased me a couple of times by heading in my direction only to scamper off, and at one point completely freaked me out by dashing toward the driveway.  I only caught it because it stopped to eat some ivy, and I cannot say how grateful I am that it was still a baby (maybe knee-high) because I was able to pick it up and keep it restrained while I got the gate open again and shoved it back in.

No one was home to witness my misadventure except Jack, who was no longer napping (we were not exactly quiet).

We haven’t used their path as a shortcut since.

I wish I were Dr. Doolittle

We watched two cats confront each other, which I found hilarious, and I’ve just spent the better part of ten minutes trying to figure out how I wanted to describe it.  I was aiming for too grandiose, I think, so here’s the simplified version:

There was a white cat on the sidewalk and a black cat five or six steps above it on the walk to someone’s front door.  The white cat meowed at the black cat, but the black cat was having none of it.  It kept up a steady low warning growl while the white cat meowed piteously.  I can only assume the white cat was trying to apologize for something awful it did, and the black cat was like, no way, dude, you had your chance.  The white cat followed us a couple of houses down and then settled on the neighbor’s front stoop staring back in the direction of the black cat, literally claiming the high ground.

I wish I knew what they were saying.

Owning a cat

I made John watch the videos of The Bloggess putting her cats in this astronaut backpack thingy, and he was like, “Isn’t that kind of cruel, to force them into the backpack?”, and I was like, “Dude, that’s what you do when you have a cat.  You dress it up in clothes, you drape it around your neck like a stole, you sit it in your lap and pretend it’s a drummer, you laugh when it sits in the kitchen chair and looks like it’s ready to eat dinner with you, and you hope it doesn’t claw you when you try to scratch its tummy.”  That’s cat ownership in a nutshell.

Headline: I still have two feet

A horse stepped on me this weekend.  I’m fine (really fine – I ran this morning), but I was a little anxious for a couple of hours on Saturday.  I spent the day at a horse show just south of Portland.  Wendy was there with Tigger, Olive, Dobby (Tigger’s co-dependent pony friend), and Ava (the horse who stepped on me) because two of her 14-year-old students were riding in it.  Their events were first thing Saturday, so I got up early and drove up to watch them.

That part, the whole day really, minus the part where I got stepped on, was pretty cool.  I got to see my lesson horses compete and do more than I’ve asked them to do, and I got to watch a whole lot of really good riders on really big horses do really cool things.  The weather was beautiful (not a cloud in sight), and it was really neat to just hang out and watch all the riding and jumping.

The stepped on part: Wendy needed to clean out stalls, so Elaine (my friend who wrote the romance novel) and I volunteered to take Olive and Ava for a walk to give Wendy time.  Ava was anxious, even right next to Olive, and I couldn’t calm her down, so we headed back to the stalls.  We got separated (too many people), and Ava basically freaked out.  Then someone zipped by on a scooter, and a golf cart passed us, Ava spun around, and while I was trying to turn her the right direction to go home, she stepped on my right foot.  Like, STEPPED on with her full weight because she was walking.  It was…painful, and I may have yelled some things in front of some children, and then she stepped off and we made our way back over to Wendy.  Wendy wasn’t done with her stall, though, so I still had to deal with a giant* nervous horse.  I was letting her eat grass, but we were near a food truck and there was an extension cord, and she didn’t like me trying to move her away from the extension cord to keep her from eating it and she was still high-strung even being closer to her herdmates, whirling around every time a car went by, and I wasn’t super calm since my foot hurt and she was making me nervous and I’m sure I wasn’t successfully radiating serenity even though I was trying to, and it was a whole not-fun thing.  I was relieved to put her back in her stall.

*I’m not kidding about giant.  I mean, there are bigger horses, but she’s the biggest one I’ve had to do anything about.  She’s half thoroughbred and half shire (workhorse along the lines of a Clydesdale), and she’s 16.2 hands at her withers (top of her shoulder, a tad higher than the top of the base of her neck), which puts her withers at the top of my head (because if I did the math right, 16.2 hands is 66 inches – the .2 refers to two inches, not two-tenths of a hand – which is my height).  That’s big.

I was wearing my chucks that day, not boots, so basically no protection, and I spent the next several hours wiggling my toes and flexing my foot to make sure I still could.  The pain faded to an ache, and then that faded, too, and by the time I drove home, I was totally fine.  I have a fun bruise I keep poking at, but no lasting damage.  Until one day the front half of my foot falls off because it turns out I have a hairline fracture or something and I didn’t rest or treat it because it didn’t hurt, but eh – why borrow trouble?

Also, it’s dirty

I saw a snake today on the trail during my run.  I managed not to freak out (out loud), but I did give it a wide berth as it slithered off into the weeds.  It was…little, I guess, but snakes are snakes, and I don’t like them.  This is the problem I have with the outdoors.  I like being outside right up until I’m reminded of all the things that live outside.  Which reminds me: one afternoon a few weeks ago, right after work, I took my book and a bottle of water, and I hiked up to the top of Spencer Butte to read.

I sat there pretty comfortably for nearly two hours, reading my book, ignoring the chatter of the other people on the summit (it was a busy day for hikers), shifting occasionally because sitting on rocks is not that comfortable, and then out of nowhere I heard the a loud buzzing sound.  Like, LOTS of buzzing.  Like the sound of a beehive buzzing, a sound I’ve only heard in the movies and in cartoons.  I glanced to my left and there were a whole bunch of bees flying in a clump, hovering by a rock not one foot away from me.  I suppose that’s what swarming looks like.  I hope I never know for sure.  I got away (duh), and frankly, I’m a little amazed at how quickly and smoothly I moved.  I grabbed my stuff and was 20 feet away, looking over my shoulder the whole time.  I’m super glad they didn’t chase me because there were no lakes in sight.  Seriously, everything I know about swarms of bees comes from cartoons.  And My Girl.

Anyway, that was the end of my pleasant afternoon on a mountain top.  I hiked back down, and before I got in the car, I checked out the map on the information board.  The information board helpfully informed me that the indigenous rattlesnake population was rebounding and they can be found on and under the rocks, so hikers should be careful and definitely not reach under rocks.  Also, mountain lions hang out on the butte.  Well, hell.  I just spent two hours sitting on and among the rocks.  It’s amazing I survived the day.

So yeah – outside is pretty and all, but things that want to kill me live out there, and that’s not even counting spiders and UGH mosquitoes, so maybe I should just stay inside.


Rainbows, shmainbows.  Turkeys!  Baby turkeys!

So, before you ask, no, I don’t think that’s the turkey who spent the winter sleeping (and pooping) on our front porch.  I mean, what do I know from turkeys, but I know we had more than one adult turkey hanging around, and I don’t think this is the one who chose us.

They seem to spend most of their time in the neighbor’s yard behind us.  As we were walking by the other day, two of the neighbors were out trying to herd one of the baby turkeys back towards the house.  The mama turkey and the rest of the babies were on the roof of their house, and the last baby was cheeping and scurrying around their yard because it couldn’t fly quite high enough.

It was cute.  Baby turkeys are cute.

Pick a little, talk a little

After rubbing several layers of skin off on one spot on my right calf during Tuesday’s riding lesson (a spot I discovered hours later when hot water hit it in the shower and I shrieked in pain), I have decided it is finally time to shop for real riding clothes.  I need full seat breeches, a helmet of my own, and real riding boots.  I will probably get paddock boots, actually, and half chaps, instead of tall riding boots, since that’s what was recommended to me by two different people (Wendy being one of them).  Still, the half chaps will protect my calves.

Wendy suggested I go to this farm store to check out sizes for pants and boots and then order them online, but I finally went out there this afternoon and they had NOTHING.  They had a whole section for clothes and shoes, but it was all western.  No riding boots, just cowboy boots, and no breeches.  No chaps of any kind.  I tried another similar store, but they didn’t have anything, either, so now I have to shop online.

BUT wait!  Complaining about shopping online is not why I’m here tonight.  The shopping trip wasn’t a total bust because the first farm store had baby chickens!  Tanks and tanks of baby chickens!  I only took a picture of the bin with the fluffy yellow chicks, but they had all kinds and they were making adorable cheeping noises and IT WAS SO CUTE I didn’t want to leave.

But I did leave, and I’m glad I did (WITHOUT taking home any baby chicks) because the next store had harnesses.  For your chickens.

So you can walk your chicken on a leash, I guess?  Or maybe go bungee jumping with her?  They came in pink, red, and blue – all colors to suit your chicken-harnessing needs!

My life is richer for knowing people take their chickens on walks.

Spring has sprung

John and I were walking in the park this afternoon, chatting, enjoying ourselves, and then he nudged me hard in the upper arm.  I lost my balance and windmilled a bit to keep from landing in the muddy grass, and DUDE. I barely tapped you on the arm. Overreacting much? (or some such) went through my head.  I didn’t fall on the grass, I did get my feet under me on the sidewalk, and then John yelled, “No, SNAKE!”  You would have been SO impressed by my high-stepping prancing moves.  I leaped OVER the teeny tiny TERRIFYING snake that I was thisclose to stepping on and landed on the far side of the path.  Then I came back to look.  Now maybe it was more scared of me that I was of it, but if it had made any sudden movements I would have been up a tree.

I’d like to show you what it looked like, but I didn’t take a picture of it, and there’s no way in hell I’m googling snakes.  I don’t google bugs, either.  I don’t need those images in my brain.

I haven’t met any singing mice. Yet.

The wildlife in Oregon is straight out of a cartoon.  John and I both get distracted by squirrels peering in our office windows during the day, that damn turkey keeps showing up on our front porch like it wants to come in, and today I saw a gray squirrel and fat red robin having a conversation on top of a tree stump in the park.  I wasn’t fast enough to get a picture.  I saw them, they looked at me, I swear I heard “Cheese it, it’s the fuzz!”, and then the squirrel scampered off.  The robin stuck around and gave me the evil eye as I ran past.  Maybe slightly more Adult Swim than Disney Channel.


No.  Uh uh.  Not gonna do it.

Look, a puppy cam! Gosh, they’re cute. But now they’re napping.

Ooh! Donkey cam! That’s fun, but they’re not really doing anything.

Holy shit, penguin cam!

Maybe today’s not so bad after all.  For those of you not into live-streaming animals, have some random adorable pictures from the internet instead:

You’re welcome.

Moving on up

Guys, I jumped over 2 feet today! Well, the horse did, but I stayed on! Things are progressing on that front.

The jump looked like this, but not as fancy (there’s not much fancy at this place):

I have no idea if Tigger and I look like that horse and girl. We probably don’t look that cool. And actually, that might be higher than 2 feet, so you know? I probably don’t look anything like that.

I got a glimpse of my future today, too. I shared my lesson with Daisy, a 14-year-old who has been riding for half her life. (I don’t think becoming a 14-year-old is in my future.) We were basically doing the same things, but she was doing them better, faster, and then Wendy had her jump the same course WITHOUT STIRRUPS. What kind of leg muscles do you have to have to canter a course of eight 2-feet jumps without anything to brace your feet?


Learning quickly

My horseback riding lesson is the highlight of each week.  I started on Willow, learning to catch her, groom her, saddle her, etc.  Around week 4 or 5, I switched to Tigger, a younger and occasionally more difficult horse.  He has opinions, and I’m learning how to show his stubborn ass that I’m in charge.  I switched back and forth between the two for a few weeks, re-learning how to post, learning two-point (prep for jumping), and trotting courses through and around the jumps in the arena, with all the horizontal poles on the ground so I could get better at directing the horse where I want him to go.

All of that was going well, and I was really enjoying it.  Then one day, lesson #9 I think, I had just finished a course with the poles on the ground, and then Wilhemina (name changed to protect the innocent) set one of the jumps up to one foot and said, “How do you feel about jumping today?”

SUPER EXCITED was the answer.  So I did, and it was awesome.


The middle of that X is a foot off the ground.

From there, she set up all the jumps like that, and my courses around the arena have included LOTS of jumping, and I just can’t tell you how much fun it is.  (Hint: SO MUCH FUN!)

A couple of weeks ago (lesson #11, maybe), she had me pick up the speed a little so Tigger starts to canter when he lands the first jump, and the week after that (or maybe it was the end of that week?) I could canter the whole course (starting after the first jump).  It’s incredible.

So then this week, she was describing the course she wanted me to take, no different than the others that I noticed.  She had me going over two jumps straight down one long side of the area, making a wide turn, and then taking the jump at the far corner on the way back and angling diagonally across the arena to another jump, then stopping at her end.  It’s about half the course and pretty typical of what we’ve been doing.  I did the long side, took the one in the corner on the way back, and when I was about a horse-length in front of the last one, my brain went HOLY SHIT THAT ONE IS HIGHER.

It looked kind of like this one, except not nearly as picturesque.  No uprights on either side, just kind of a dirty white low wall.


The jump went fine, and weirdly, it didn’t feel any higher than the other jumps, which is the first thing I said after stopping.  She swears it’s 2 feet high, double the size of the jumps I’m used to.  So then I did it again, and THIS time, it felt higher, which is also the first thing I said when I stopped.  Turns out I’m not crazy or imagining things just because I knew it was higher.  Wilhemina said that the first time we went over it, the distance perfectly matched Tigger’s stride, so he just cantered over it.  The second time, the distance wasn’t perfect, so he jumped it, and yes, I actually went higher that time.

I’m jumping two feet!  Okay, Tigger is jumping two feet, but I’m not falling off!  It’s so cool.

Also, I’m riding Tigger all the time now because he loves to jump, and I guess Willow doesn’t.  It means I get more practice enforcing my will, which is something I really need to be better at.  There was one point last week where we took a jump because he wanted to, not because I wanted to.

This past week was lesson #13, and it’s wonderful, and I love it.

Pesky little rodents

I saw two little birds taking a bath in a puddle today.  It was adorable, of course, the way they hunker down and fluff up and shake all over.  I could watch for hours.

Not so cute are the squirrels digging up our yard.  It’s like we have dogs, only the holes are a little bit smaller.  I don’t know if they’re burying something or digging something up, but they’re ruining the sod in the backyard.  I don’t care so much for myself, but the landlords put fresh sod down right before we moved in.  They’ll probably notice if the yard is destroyed when we move out, and I don’t want to be responsible for replacing it.

Damn squirrels.  Get off my lawn!

Our fine feathered friend

So…this happened today.  (Apologies to those of you who saw this on Twitter already.)






I’ve been meaning to write about the turkey in our neighborhood.  We think it’s someone’s pet, but it seems to have the run of the block.  We’ve seen it in the alley in the middle of the block and on each of the four streets surrounding us.  And it’s definitely bigger than it used to be.

I hope it doesn’t turn into someone’s dinner.