Friday, June 30, 2006

Piece of my past circa 1976

While at Mom's today, I saw this photo on her desk and scanned it. That's me in the middle, about 3 years old (check out my groovy pants!). My brother is the cute blond kid in the foreground. I am sitting between my father's parents.
They lived in a farm house just outside Western Hills, a suburb of Cincinnati. My grandpa was a farmer from a long line of farmers, and my grandma was from "better" family. She defied her mother and married my grandpa against her family's wishes. She was 25 and he was 24 when they were married, which at the time (1925) was pretty old to get hitched. They had five children (my Dad was the middle child) and eventually racked up thirteen grandchildren.
Grandpa died in 1981, and the things I remember about him is mint-flavored Chapstick in his front pocket and the barn swallows in "his" barn.
Grandma died in 1994 and she taught me loads of stuff about cooking (like how to make the perfect apple pie and the best homemade chicken noodle soup, from SCRATCH) and how to crochet. She was the quintessential American Grandma. They were already "old" when I was born in 1973, but the memories I hold that have their base in my grandparents has shaped me into the person I am today. And that carries over into the relationship with my Dad. He was so like his father, quiet, gentle as long as you were good (but scary as the dickens when you were disobedient), "uneducated" but smart as Hell, hardworking and just GOOD PEOPLE.
Everyone should have grandparents like I had.

Mish-mash of stuff from my Friday

While dropping Isabelle off at my Mom's for a sleepover, I checked the bluebird houses that dot Mom's property. She has also been blessed with four bluebird eggs. That's another nest for me to worry over.

If not for Phoebe, Julie Zickefoose's daughter, I would not have looked at this Cheeto twice. But when I pulled it out of the bag, it reminded me of a Y chromosome.

See? You never know what level of entertainment you will get here on

Susan Gets Native!

We have been hiding a dirty secret here at the Williams' manor. We have mice in the basement. As in where I sit every night to write this blog. That's why I have been absent for the past few days. We have live-caught two so far. The first one we released in the yard. But it may have returned. I read a study where scientists tagged mice, released them 3 miles away from where they were caught, and they returned within a week. So today, after catching the second, I decided that 3 miles wouldn't do it. I took them to my Mom's house...47.3 miles away (give or take a few miles for a side trip to Starbucks) I couldn't get a photo of the little guy, because he was VERY ready to go when I opened the trap in her garden. Enjoy country life, little vermin.

This is Dave Tennant, educator at RAPTOR. I will be observing/helping him with programs for the next few months to get my feet wet, and hopefully soon will be doing my own programs. He has been doing this for years, and it's a real treat to hear him talk about the birds. What a nice guy...It will be fun to shadow him.

(And I'm sure you recognize Lucy, the Peregrine Falcon, by now!)

***A photo to mess with Rita's mind***

Isabelle has a thing for pet carriers. She used to crawl into Roxy's carrier (that's my in-laws' dog) and today she realized that she fit into Bailey's carrier (that's my Mom's dog). It freaks Rita out to see one of her precious granddaughters in a cage. Please don't call Children's Services. We let her out. Eventually.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Roses, dogs and snakes

I decided to do something nice for myself. These roses were just shouting for me to pick them up. It didn't hurt that they were on sale for $2.00.


While Isabelle and I were checking nests and the corn and pumpkin plants, I happened to peek into the well for the basement window, and there was a nice little Eastern Brown snake. As I sit here and type this, the window that he is pressed against in right above my head. Ever get the feeling that you're being watched???

The newest library card holder

Meet the newest card-carrying member of the library set. Since Isabelle can write her name now (that's the only requirement), I thought it was time for her to have her own library card.

She is so proud of herself.
*I guess she needs a purse and wallet to carry her new card around.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Good news about Whooping Cranes

Geoff loves to search for animal/bird stories for me, and he came up with a very nice one about Whooping Cranes.

Susan Gets Native again!

The girls and I hit our local nursery to continue the work I have been doing on our property. I absolutely love Earthscapes. They recently opened their doors to the public and it's a great place to get locally grown, native plants (and everything else you could ever want) but it's unlike any other nursery I am used to. You sign in, get a MAP of the place because it's huge (20 + greenhouses) and take a wagon and go hunting for your plants. They have every plant they grow on a list, with the greenhouse number and the row that each plant is in. And they sell big, healthy established plants for WAY LESS than the typical "Home Depot" type of places. I got 6 big plants for less than $40.
Love it, love it, love it!

Note: These plants took a ride in my trunk, so they look a little lopsided)

I broke down and bought a Russian Sage, even though it's not even native to this continent. It's non-invasive and just too lovely to pass up. And it smells good.

This is a Salvia (can't remember the type). I got two of them.

Little Bluestem. A sweet little guy who will hopefully take over a problem corner.

Swamp Milkweed. Thanks, Laura, for the seed offer! But I like instant gratification if I can get it. It's going in the marsh/pond thingy I have going, but not until I am happy with the shape and depth of the marsh.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Happy Fledging Day!

The bee balm has finally started to bloom...just in time for the new hummingbirds that will be hatching soon.
The baby rats have started coming out of the nest box by themselves and playing.
Geoff has come up with two names that are perfect...Laverne and Shirley. One, he's a big time TV buff, and two, Laverne was played by Penny Marshall and Penny is their
"My" tree swallow chicks fledged today. It's awesome...instead of two swallows swooping around above the yard, we have seven.
I couldn't capture all of them on my camera, but there are three above, on the house, and one peeking out of the gourd. Happy life and blue skies, little ones!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Falconry 101

Okay. Not that you asked. Here's the lowdown on tethering a bird.
Falconer's knot. I'm rather proud of myself here. I just don't know any knots other than a square knot, but now I know how to tie a falconer's knot. It's basically a slip knot.

This is the swivel. One end is stationary and the other swivels. (Hence the name)

These are jesses. The straps are made of kangaroo leather. The loops on the end are placed around the bird's legs. The ends have slits where the swivel is fed through twice.

The lead is fed through the movable end of the swivel and
the leather at the end
of the lead stops at the swivel.

Completed jesses/swivel and lead.
Now you know!

Blood is thicker than spaghetti sauce

Today was the family reunion for Geoff's Italian side of the family. They are loud, fun, a little weird and they love to eat.
I wish I could have gotten some photos of the food spread, but trust me when I say it was massive.

Geoff was in charge of the games for the kids this year and he did a great job.
First came the Pinata...and Lorelei gave it her best shot.
(Yes, we used someones cane...and yes, the pinata was shaped like a bird)

Then it was time for water balloons. Tip on filling up water balloons: Fill them up all the way, or they will just bounce off and not break. Geoff and I both filled up half of the balloons each, and I am proud to say that MINE burst just fine. (Geoff's just hurt the kids.)

This is the ugliest Jesus (or other) statue I have ever seen. (and the general consensus is the same as mine...not too many people like it.)

It's at a church on I-75 near Middletown, and it just reeks. All of you who know me personally are aware that I don't subscribe to any religion, so I have no qualms in saying that this Jesus is awful. The story is that it started out much smaller, but this church doesn't do anything small. So it grew and grew. And now it's just obscene. It's not even artistically pleasing...the dimensions are unbalanced, like his hands are way too big, and his arms are grossly malformed. The cross in front of him is pitifully small compared to the rest of him. And to top it off, at night two yellow lights come on under the fountains and it looks for all the world like he is urinating.

(I can sense some of you pulling away...come on back.)

I appreciate a good Jesus statue as much as the next person. But this is not one of them.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

A day worth noting

Unbeknownst to me, Geoff did what we have been talking about doing for Isabelle.
He bought her first "big girl" bike.
It's so cool...I wish I was four. It's a Disney Princess bike, with sparkly streamers on the handlebars, big fancy sequins on the spokes and of course a matching lunch box. Sweet.

I actually felt a pang in my chest as I watched her ride down the driveway. My baby, on a real bike. Next it's going to be school and boys and prom and wedding and babies of her own.
Okay, there's lots of time for all that. But when you have kids, it seems like time has a mind of it's own, and it's going fast.

A bird in the hand...

Today was my second foray in bird handling. I was graduated from the kindergarten birds (screech owls) to some bigger and badder ones.

Male American Kestrel

Female American Kestrel

My favorite so far: Lucy, a Peregrine Falcon. You may recognize her from a previous post.

Now, the smaller birds are light and don't grip very tightly. This is how tightly Lucy grips: With one of your hands, grab your other arm and squeeze hard. That's a Lucy grip. And boy, was she heavy. A screech owl weighs about as much as a TV remote. Lucy feels like a big cat hanging on your arm. She is one of the easier birds to handle (so far) because I didn't have to chase her around the mew to get her on my glove. If you calmly approach her, she will step up onto your gloved hand. Looking at the above picture, you can see that my arm has dropped from the correct 45 degree angle to one that would encourage her to climb higher, as in up my arm, which is not protected. Guess I better hit the gym and do some weights.

This has been such a blast so far. I heart RAPTOR!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Gratuitous rat cuteness

I know that most of the folks who read this blog think rats are icky, but this post is mainly for Rachel, my maybe-soon-to-be sister-in-law. She's the one who set me on this road to ratness. She actually likes to hear about my rats.
The babies will be 2 weeks old tomorrow.

This one is grooming me...a big honor in the rat world.

And here they are giving each other a little rattie hug. Awwwww.

It's nearly impossible to tell these two apart, except that one is slightly darker than the other. Other than that, they are identical. They are also both girls.

They are so cute, I don't know if I will be able to come up with names to do them justice.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

What bird nest mites look like

I found this picture at the Purple Martin website. This is what was crawling on me yesterday

My Thursday

It was time for the girls to get haircuts. They were getting decidedly scruffy looking.
Lorelei after her trim. (Photo by Isabelle Williams)

I didn't realize I would get such a neat shot here. Far left, the mama TRES is removing a fecal sac from the nest. (A fecal sac is a tough membrane containing the waste material of the chicks. The parents remove them from the nest and carry them far away from the nesting site so as not to alert predators.) Directly to the left of the gourd is another tree swallow...but not the papa tree swallow. There was another pair checking out the gourd today. I can't believe that I got both of them on film.

When the sky looks like this, I look for tornadoes. Then I come to my senses and realize that I am standing in the middle of the yard near a very tall metal pole and go back inside.

I hate it when Blogger puts photos out of the order I choose. Here's Isabelle getting her hair cut. I had to hold Lorelei for her cut, but Isabelle made me so proud by getting into the chair by herself.

Mommy decided to get a trim, too. (Photo by Isabelle Williams.)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Why we do nest checks

I don't pull chicks out of their nest just for photo ops.
Thank goodness Isabelle wanted to look at the tree swallows tonight. I knew they were near their fledging day, so I told her that this was the last time we would take a peek. And we got more than we bargained for.
Lots of mites. As in crawling up both of my arms just by holding one chick.
(Following photos by Geoff Williams)

I took the chicks out and put them in the only bucket I could of the girl's Halloween candy buckets. The whole family looked around for dry grass for the new nest.
I rinsed all the mites out of the gourd.

Five tree swallow chicks. I kept counting them...were there 6 before? I couldn't remember how many eggs there had been. As I was emptying the old nest far away from the pole, I found number 6... it had been dead maybe a day or so. It was at the same level of development as the others, but smaller. No was too sad.

I put the new nesting material in the gourd as the girls kept watch over the bucket.

Here you can see the little black mites on the outside of the gourd.

The girls and I take one last look at our babies before placing them back in the nest.

In a wilder setting, maybe these chicks would have made it without intervention. And maybe not. As long as we put up nest boxes, we also are putting ourselves to the responsibility of intervening when needed. Obviously the smallest chick would succumb to mites first, but I'm not willing (or able) to sit back and see if the rest could survive.

After getting the nest raised, I hustled to the house, threw my clothes into the washer and took the hottest shower I could stand.

It's been about 2 hours and I'm still itchy.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Miscellaneous Tuesday

I have been trying to eradicate all the lilies that the previous owner of our house planted everywhere. But a few have held on, and I have to admit that they are lovely. Especially the tiger lilies near the fountain at the front door.

Nellie did NOT want a tiger lily behind her ear.

This is a non-sequitur...While driving through Old Montgomery today, I saw this moron in a Hummer. Every time I see a Hummer, I want to slap the person driving it. What are they thinking? As I passed it, I looked to see what kind of person drives a Hummer and it was a little woman who could hardly see over the steering wheel. What in the Hell does ANYONE outside the Army need with a %&*ing HUMMER???

Nellie is such a chicken. See her looking up in the air? The tree swallows were hunting, and "big dumb dog" burgers are on the menu.

Day Five of Project Bluebird Part Deux. 4 eggs. Maybe she's we wait for 12-14 days for them to hatch, and then another 2-3 weeks until they fledge. Anyone have any spare tranquilizers for me?