VERNAL EQUINOX

This past Sunday, on March 20th, our planet experienced the Vernal Equinox, a time when the sun is precisely above the Equator and the length of the day and night are equal. This is also a joyous event to us humans, the first day of Spring! I don’t know about you, but I am happy it is here at last, although there are only fleeting signs of it yet in Yakima. However, we have had a few days recently where the temperature actually got up into the 60’s during the day, so I will take that as a good sign.

WELCOMING SPRING!

One sure sign that Spring is here is when the daffodils start coming up. I looked out onto our patio the other day and was surprised to see several daffodils blooming, and a bunch more that were almost opened up. Linda put out our flamingo spinner the other day, too, so we now have some color to look at out the back sliding door.

DAFFODILS

Below is an poem to the beautiful daffodil by A.A.Milne:

She wore her yellow sun-bonnet
She wore her greenest gown;
She turned to the south wind
And curtsied up and down.
She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbour: “Winter is dead.”

A closer look at this daffodil reveals some tiny bugs on it. They almost look like fleas, but I think they are just some kind of small spider (we have yet to see a flea in Yakima).

DAFFODIL CLOSEUP

The daffodils have surrounded Linda’s garden sign. Her mother had a sign just like this, so Linda got one when we lived in Lumberton to carry on the tradition. When Mom passed, Wendy got her sign, so both her daughters now have this sweet reminder of their mother.

GARDEN SIGN

I don’t think this picture below is a sign of Spring, necessarily, but it sure is colorful and pretty. Linda saw this spare tire cover on the back of an RV on her walk the other day and took a picture of it.

FLAMINGO TIRE COVER

CHECK IN AT THE ARBORETUM

About a week and a half ago we took a walk down at the Yakima Arboretum to check out the bird blind and also to see what was starting to bloom. It was still pretty cold that morning when we got there, but the birdies were in the bushes around the blind just waiting for someone to come along and feed them. Within moments of Linda spreading out some seed the place was hopping.

We saw all of our usual favorites. There were tons of House Finches, and Sparrows of both the White-Crowned and Golden-Crowned variety. We also saw several Chickadees and Juncos, plus some Red-Winged Blackbirds. It is always a special treat when the California Quail show up in a group. And of course, the Song Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, and Spotted Towhee put in an appearance. There were even three squirrels there, munching on the sunflower seeds as fast as they could. A flock of Canada Geese flew over and I managed to catch the tail end of the “V” formation.

Most of the trees and flowers weren’t in bloom then, but I imagine it won’t be long before they are bursting out all over. We did manage to find one bush in bloom beside the visitors’ center.

WITCH HAZEL FLOWERS

THIS WHIMSICAL METAL SCULPTURE WAS AMONG THE PLANTS AT THE VISITORS’ CENTER

BACK AT THE HOUSE

With the advent of Spring and warmer weather comes the mating season for our birds. I have seen a lot of courting going on around the seed feeder. I don’t know if any of the birds have built nests yet, but if not it can’t be far off. I have noticed that my hummingbirds are not coming around as often as they were, so I am wondering if the females are busy building their nests. As is typical with a lot of species in the animal world, the male hummingbird is only around for the actual mating and then he leaves for parts unknown. The female is left to build the nest by herself, lay the eggs, sit on them until they hatch, then feed and fledge the babies when the time comes. But these feisty, hardy little female hummingbirds are up to the task!

Below is the latest video that I took of my hummingbirds over the past couple of weeks. I believe there have been at least three different hummers at my feeder. In this video, first a little female comes up and enjoys a long drink at the feeder. This is the female that has what appears to be a “beard” under her beak. Maybe it’s a juvenile male instead of a female, I don’t know for sure. It was quite windy that day and the light behind the feeder kept going from bright to dreary from clouds moving in and out. It was hard to keep the exposure balanced since the feeder is located in the shade and the light is behind it. I don’t know if it’s just me and wishful thinking, but this female looks a bit plumper than usual. I am wondering if she might be carrying some eggs.

After the little female leaves, a male shows up. He gets blown around a little bit by the gusting wind but he seems to enjoy the ride. If you look carefully, you can see a little bit of his colors on his gorget and the top of his head. When he is sitting in the tree, out in the full sun with the light hitting him just right, his entire head looks like it is on fire. He doesn’t stay still when he’s in the tree, so I haven’t been able to get a good picture of him perched there…yet. The male soon left the feeder and then the female came back. I have slowed down a portion of the video so you can see her movements. Even with the video slowed down by 50%, it still looks fast. You can see the tree in the background swaying in the wind, and a couple of times the hummer almost gets blown off the feeder. At one point she has to hang on by a tiny little toe before she manages to get a better grip on the perch. She leaves and then another female flies up a few minutes later to get a drink of nectar. After she leaves, the male comes back and takes his turn at the feeder. They seem to prefer this back-and-forth exchange and do not share the feeder at the same time.

PARTING SHOT

Summer Girl has been spending a lot more time outside, stretched out in the dirt of the back flower bed, basking in the sun. However, this morning she chose to take a nap on the big bed.

SLEEPING LIKE A BABY

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OUR FURRY FAMILY

Our furry family continues to add new members, despite the fact that we recently had to say a sad farewell to two of our family’s babies (rest in peace, Mimi and Tabby). My sister Manners and her partner Susan welcomed a new puppy into the family this past Friday. Meet Bonnie, our new fur-neice!

BONNIE

Just take a look at that sweet face! Bonnie is a Pomchi, which is a cross between a Pomeranian and Chihuahua, who was born on Christmas day 2021. She currently weighs in at 3.2 pounds, but will most likely stay small as her mother is only 7 pounds. Still, she is going to be a bit bigger than Mimi was. When we met Mimi in 2019, Linda and I could not believe how tiny she was because she looked bigger in pictures.

In the video below, Bonnie is checking out her new bed. It looks like a donut, so naturally she decides to try to eat it! My sister says that Bonnie is full of energy, very smart, and also very stubborn! Manners said she will fit right in, now that she lives in the “House of Stubbornness.” Bonnie is adjusting well to being alone in her playpen at night, so she isn’t interrupting their sleep much.

BONNIE IN FRONT OF THE ST. PATRICK’S DAY TREE

BONNIE IN THE CAR ON THE WAY TO HER FUREVER HOME

Our furry family also includes our fur-nephew, Zorro. He is a Labradoodle (a cross between a Labrador Retriever and a Standard Poodle) who lives with Linda’s sister Wendy and her husband Robin. They welcomed Zorro into their home a few months before the pandemic, so we have not been able to meet him yet. We hope to see them all before too much longer.

ZORRO

Zorro is an energetic fellow who loves to go for walks and play down at the Chambers Bay Dog Park in University Place (a city located next to Tacoma). He has lots of doggie-friends that he plays with on a regular basis. He does, however, know how to chill when the situation calls for it.

Z-MAN CHILLING OUT

Linda’s daughter Emily very recently said goodbye to her kitty Tabby, who shared her life for 17 years. But Emily still has the opportunity for some furbaby love. Just this past week she puppy-sat for one of her neighbors. This little cutie is named Hazey, and she is a Frenchie, a French Bulldog.

Hazey could very rightly say, “I’m all eyes and ears!” I am sure that Emily really enjoyed taking care of this “little slice of heaven,” as she put it.

HAZEY

Hazey has been accepted as an honorary member of our family since she will provide Emily with her puppy-fix from time to time.

EMILY & HAZEY

And everyone who reads this blog knows that my heart belongs to a Black Cat Ninja named Summer Girl. As you probably know, Summer Girl is a mischievous little furball who came up in our yard not long after we moved here, and has been firmly entrenched ever since. She has many talents, but the main ones are whining and lounging around.

SUMMER GIRL

IN HER FAVORITE SPOT ON THE BIG BED

I know I speak for the entire family when I say that our furbabies, past and present, have done a great deal to get us all through the pandemic thus far. I can’t imagine what it would have been like without them during what has been a very stressful two years (and counting, because we aren’t out of it yet). If you have a furbaby, be sure to give it an extra-big hug and say “thank you” for being there.

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IT’S COMING SOON!

If you are anything like me then you are desperately ready for Spring to arrive. There have been indications lately that it is on the way, although we have been fooled before. We’ve had some very nice weather for the past week, but a huge wind blew in Monday night and brought cooler temperatures with it. Linda went for a walk on Sunday, March 6th, and saw the first crocuses of the year. She promptly took a picture of them, and here they are below in all their glory.

FIRST SPRING FLOWERS

Yesterday I was looking out the living room side window and spied some greenery on the golden currant bushes. We have been looking at bare branches for so long, it was quite shocking to see green poking out here and there.

GREEN POPPING OUT!

I immediately went to look out the front window to check on the lilac bush. It did not fare well last summer when we had the actual temperature (not the “feel like” temperature) reach 115 degrees. All of the leaves got burned and turned brown and crispy, and at first glance we were afraid it might have died. But the twigs stayed green, and it was heartening when I looked at it yesterday to see green buds at the top of each branch.

THE LILAC BUSH

The birds have been hopping around with renewed energy lately. At least that’s what it looks like to me. I’ve been seeing a lot more of the towhees, but when I try to video them they are hard to keep in the frame. Even with the video slowed down, they still move fast.

MR. & MRS. TOWHEE

The hummers are still giving their feeder a fit. I have had to fill it more regularly than I did before. I still see a little male come to it every now and then, but he is very skittish. If he sees me at the window with the camera, he flies away. I am still trying to get some video of him, so hopefully I will be successful.

It makes me think of the bird blind that my Daddy built for me back in the 1970’s. I had just gotten a good 35mm SLR Minolta camera, and I wanted to take some closeup pictures of the beautiful birds coming to my Momma’s feeder. The only problem was I couldn’t get close enough to the feeder without the birds flying away. My Daddy decided that just wouldn’t do, so he built me a collapsible bird blind. He designed it with a four-sided wood frame, with the sides attached together using wing nuts so it would be easy to put up and take down. Over this frame was stretched a light green fabric. There was a hole cut in the fabric on one side to stick my camera lens through. It was a wonderful construction and I used it a lot. I was able to get some pretty good closeups of the Cardinals (my favorite) and other birds. My bird blind had one problem, though. The fabric was not very porous, so in the summertime, it was extremely hot inside the blind. And of course, that was when I wanted to use it the most. I mean, who wants to sit outside in a bird blind in the winter? Not me. Anyway, I thought it was beyond sweet for him to make this for me. I wish I had a picture of it to show you. Alas, back then I was only focused on taking bird pictures. But at least I have memories of it.

iMOVIE UPDATE

I didn’t post a blog last week because during the time I usually write it, I was on the phone once again with Apple. I do not believe the engineers are ever going to find a solution to my problem, but the Apple advisor I spoke to last week (the 6th one since I began this journey) was able to show me how to access all my media from the corrupted “library” that refuses to open. I am now able to make new videos and access all of the media I used to make previous videos, but I still cannot access the old videos themselves. However, since I uploaded most of them to YouTube, it really isn’t a problem. The good news is that I can make videos now, as evidenced above with the towhee video.

NEW RECIPE

I like to try making different foods from other countries. One thing I have been wanting to try making for a while now is Arepas, a South American corn cake that has been a staple mainly of Columbia and Venezuela for centuries. So this past week when I went to the grocery store, I found some P.A.N. Yellow Corn Meal, the main ingredient in making arepas. This is basically corn meal that has been pre-cooked and has no additives. Upon Googling “arepas” I found that everyone who has ever made them has their own recipe. They are very easy to make and also very quick, as the dough only has to rest for 10 minutes. I found a recipe on YouTube that had an excellent video showing how to make them. This lady even made three different versions. Her name is Anita Shepherd and she is the founder and CEO of Anita’s Yogurt. Below is a link to the video she made in collaboration with Food52 (which, by the way, is one of my favorite websites to get recipes).

VIDEO BY ANITA SHEPHERD ON MAKING AREPAS THREE DIFFERENT WAYS

Here is a link to the recipe on the Food52 website (link here). The thing I liked about her recipe is that it only makes 3 arepas. This way you can try it out to see if you like them without having a ton of them hanging around.

I was surprised at how easy these were to make, and how delicious they turned out. Linda and I both loved them, and I was wishing I had made more. But by making a small amount, I can get better at the forming technique like Anita states in her blog accompanying the recipe. I can tell you that this is going to be a recipe that I continue to make on a regular basis.

MY AREPAS!! (notice one is conspicuously absent)

PARTING SHOT

The warmer days that we had last week really got everyone in a Spring-like state of mind. Summer Girl was no exception. She took advantage of the sunshine every chance she got, and she delighted in wallowing in the dirt.

SUMMER GIRL TURNING INTO A GREY CAT

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WHAT WE THOUGHT…

Last week we had several days when the temperatures were up into the 50’s and even 60’s, and everyone was saying, “Oh yay, Spring is here…finally!” Well, that’s what we thought. Anyway, Mother Nature was having none of that and she decided to let us know who is the boss. Yesterday morning when I got up I was greeted with this…

(from The Weather Channel app)

It even snowed a little bit on Monday, and then again this morning, but none of it stuck. I guess at this point in my mind, that is a good thing.

SNOW 02/21/22

Despite the cold weather for the last couple of days, the hummingbirds have been very active at their feeder. They are eating the nectar so fast that I have had to add more to it a couple of times this week. Usually I clean the feeder and give them fresh nectar every 5 days, but I have been doing that every couple of days now. I think they instinctively know when the weather is going to be colder, so they load up on nectar. Last Friday a rare event occurred when I saw two hummingbirds at my feeder at the same time, and they were both sitting on it sipping nectar. Most of the time, if there are two at the feeder one is trying to run the other one off, but this time they both decided to play nice and sit quietly. I didn’t have my camera handy so I just enjoyed the moment by myself.

FEMALE HUMMER AT FEEDER

The little females have really been visiting the feeder. I have even seen a couple of males go to it. It is always nice to see the males because of their beautiful coloring, but the females have their good points as well.

MALE HUMMER AT FEEDER

During all this feeding frenzy from the hummers, the other birds have been following suit. The Sparrows, Finches, and Chickadees have been descending upon the seed feeder and the suet cakes like they are going out of style. They devour a suet cake in one day. I even saw two Magpies in our tree the other day. They have been scarce this winter, so it was nice to see them and their beautiful blue coloring. I read the other day that there are no actual “blue” birds, such as the Indigo Bunting, Blue Jay, Scrub Jay, Magpie, or Bluebird. What we perceive as blue feathers are actually not blue at all, it’s just that the feathers are reflecting light so that they look blue to us (go to this link here for more info).

BLACK-BILLED MAGPIE IN PLUM TREE

My blog is a day late today because I spent yesterday morning on the phone with Apple…and we actually made progress! No, they haven’t figured out why I can’t get my iMovie program to open, but we did figure out a work-around that I can use until (IF) they get my issue resolved. So yesterday I was finally able to get some video off of my camera and transfer it to YouTube. I made a compilation of all of the video that was on there and condensed it down to a couple of minutes. So here is that video for your enjoyment.

HUMMINGBIRD VIDEO

This video was taken last October, before I started having issues. You can tell it is not quite winter yet because our plum tree in the background still has leaves on it. There are a few things I would like to point out. Early on you will see a hummingbird on the feeder and it is almost dark. This little girl was loading up on nectar for the night because it was going to be pretty cold. Usually when they visit the feeder late like this they tend to stay for a while and sip a lot of nectar to get them through the night. At about :36 seconds into the video you will see a white flash. I did this to stop the video so you could see the one little fuchsia feather on the hummer’s left side of his throat. I think that is an indication this little guy is going to be a male. Next on this video you will see a fluffy little ball of cuteness sitting on the wire going to her heated feeder. She is so cute sitting there, but then you can see her bristle and fly off in pursuit of another hummer. We close out the video with another visit from a male hummer, and this one shows off his beautiful fuchsia and green feathers. I think there was another hummer nearby because he seems to raise the feathers on his head from time to time.

I hope you enjoyed watching the video as much as I enjoyed making it. I have missed being able to do that! My contact guy at Apple has directed me towards an online course for the iMovie program that I am seriously thinking of taking. It isn’t expensive and looks like it would be very helpful to me. I am basically self-taught on the computer so sometimes I feel like I don’t know what I am doing. This course will most likely help!

PARTING SHOT

Summer Girl has graciously relinquished her spot today so we can say our goodbyes to another one of our family furbabies that traveled over the Rainbow Bridge last night. It saddens me to report that Emily had to say goodbye to her sweet Tabitha (affectionately known as “Tabby”) yesterday. It is always so hard to say goodbye to them. They give us their unconditional love for their entire lives, and all they ask is that we take care of them as best we can. Emily certainly did that as little Tabby has had health problems for many years. But Emily did everything she could for her girl until it came to a point where veterinary science could do no more. When that happens we have to let them go. But we are all comforted by all of the good memories we have of wonderful times with our furry family. Linda and I are going to miss our little grand-kitty. Rest in peace, little one, and I am sure Oz was waiting for you at the Bridge. We love you, Tabby.

TABITHA “TABBY” McCOY

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GOING BACK AGAIN

I decided to take another trip back to our house in Lumberton this week to show you some more pictures that I took when we lived there. It is amazing how the quality of pictures has improved over the years because I look at these and they all look blurry to me. But back then I am sure they were just fine. Progress, I suppose.

The pictures below are ones I took of a Monarch butterfly on our buddleia bush (aka butterfly bush). We used to have them come every year, and more than one of them usually showed up. I have seen them a couple of times here in Yakima, but not in a recent year.

MONARCH BUTTERFLY

MONARCH BUTTERFLY

We also had bunnies come to our yard. They were always so sweet, but they did tend to eat up some of our plants. A bunny ate one of Linda’s beloved plants down to the ground, so she chased him out of the back yard with a hose. It didn’t hurt him, but he knew not to come back because he had worn out his welcome.

THE EASTER BUNNY

We had so many different critters visit our yard back in Lumberton. I remember that toads were everywhere and we always wanted them in our yard because they ate bugs. Lumberton was a very buggy place. One time Linda and I took a walk after it rained and gathered them up off the road so they wouldn’t get run over and squashed. We put them in a bucket and brought them back to our yard because we enjoyed them so much. Of course, they didn’t all stay in our yard, but we tried. This picture shows a toad enjoying a dip in our leaf birdbath that our friend Mike made for us. I have not seen any toads at all in Yakima, and I have only seen a little green tree frog a couple of times. Too dry here, I think.

TOAD

The birds also enjoyed our leaf birdbath. This picture below shows a group of Cedar Waxwings guzzling down some water. They must have been thirsty after eating some of our berries. They get the name “Waxwing” from the color at the tip of their wings and tails, which looks like the feathers were dipped in wax. We have Cedar Waxwings here in Yakima, although in the city they do not show up as often as they do out in the woods. We planted pyracantha bushes when we moved here so they would come to our yard, and we usually see some every fall when the berries are very ripe.

CEDAR WAXWINGS

Last week I talked about the bird feeder that I had rigged up with a baffle to keep the squirrel out. I found a picture of it so you can see what I was talking about. I wish I had taken a picture of the little rascal trying to get into it, but if I did I couldn’t find it. The feeder certainly was not pretty to look at, but it did the trick.

TUFTED TITMOUSE IS BAFFLED AT THIS FEEDER

The birds could still use it, though. Below you can see a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak perched on the feeder. This was one of the most beautiful birds we had come to our yard, and we nicknamed him “Pretty Boy“. We do not have them around here in Yakima.

ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK

Here’s a picture of the squirrel who was always trying to outwit me with the bird feeder situation. He was so cute and comical. Doesn’t he look like a mischievous little thing? I miss seeing these guys. We do see squirrels in Yakima, but I have only seen one in our yard a couple of times in the 14 years we have lived here.

MY LITTLE NEMESIS SQUIRREL

The birds we got back in North Carolina were so colorful. Here in Yakima most of the birds are brown, like the surrounding terrain. I am so thankful that we have the American Goldfinches here, which are very colorful in the spring and summer when they are dressed in their breeding colors. One of the most colorful birds we had come to our yard in NC was the Baltimore Oriole. They loved the suet feeder, and we often put out some jelly for them as well as an extra-special treat. We usually only saw them during the fall migration.

BALTIMORE ORIOLE (I think this is a female)

We used to have several feeders in our back yard because we got so many birds. We had one hanging from a branch off of a huge oak tree. This was our woodpecker suet feeder, but we also saw some other birds go to it, like this little White-Breasted Nuthatch. We see his cousin, the Red-Breasted Nuthatch, here in Yakima from time to time. This is the little fellow that we nicknamed the “Yank-Yank Bird” (from their call which sounds like yank-yank).

WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH

Who better to conclude this tour of our Lumberton bird friends but the wonderful Northern Cardinal. This is without a doubt my favorite bird of all. Both the male and female are beautifully, and differently, colored. You couldn’t ask for a prettier bird. Both the male and female like to sing and their song is clear, crisp, and loud. Whenever you hear their little “chip chip” call, you know that they are near. This picture below shows Daddy Cardinal feeding one of his babies. Sadly, we do not have any Cardinals in Yakima. Their range does not extend much farther west than the middle of the United States.

NORTHERN CARDINAL

PUZZLE UPDATE

We finished our last new puzzle that we got for Christmas, “Posy Patch“. It was extremely hard but so pretty when done. We didn’t quite get all of the black border done, but did manage to finish off all of the areas that had any flowers.

LATEST PUZZLE CONQUEST

PARTING SHOT

I caught Summer Girl asleep on the big bed again (what else is new). It’s hard to get a shot of her in a different position, I could just use the same picture here every week and it would be accurate. However, in honor of the Olympics concluding this week (never mind that this event isn’t in the Winter Olympics), here she is in her “High Dive” pose.

SUMMER GIRL SHOWING PERFECT FORM

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