Friday, June 11, 2010


I don't need knee surgery!! While I'm a bit sorry to lose my air-tight excuse for lying on the couch and knitting for a week, I'm really relieved. I have a prescription for physical therapy, which I can do here in town, so I'll have to get that set up next week.

The doctor was running very late, but I had taken knitting with me, and managed to get clear to the heel, so time was not wasted. I thought it was also amusing that there's a coffee bar in a corner of the waiting room. It probably serves the entire building, but it was just kind of amusing. And it smelled really good.

I searched out the Wild Birds Unlimited store while I was there, and it's a very, very nice store--very attractive inside and absolutely stuffed with every kind of seed, feeder, gift, etc. you could possibly imagine. I was dazzled. The proprietor was really nice, willing to talk and share advice, and we wound up talking about dog training, since he trains puppies for service dog work. I'll definitely be going back. I bought a 20-pound bag of safflower seed, since I can only find 1-pound bags here, and the birds are emptying the feeder every 2 or 3 days.

Just a little while ago I saw 4 house finches on the safflower seed feeder, 2 house finches and a house sparrow on the nyjer seed feeder, and 3--count them, three!--birds in the suet cage. Obviously they're figuring out how to use it. It was pretty funny there for a while--they would perch on the outside cage and reach in as far as they could to reach the suet and overbalance and fall in. At first they'd fly right out, but after a while I noticed one--a female finch, I think--was going into the protective cage and clinging to the suet-holder to eat. I guess other birds have been watching and copying her.

The bird-store guy said I'm probably not getting goldfinches because they're shy and don't like to compete with other birds, so I'm thinking of putting another hanger with a feeder under the living room window. I can see the tops of the Casa Blanca lilies from the couch by the window, so surely I could see a feeder on a 6-foot pole. The other option would be to maybe hang one on the front porch, but I'm not sure they'd want to come onto the porch. He also suggested putting my hummingbird feeder back out in August--that a lot of times you might not see them in the spring but they'll show up in late summer/early fall.

We've had a substitute secretary in the department this past semester, and I've really enjoyed it--she's SO nice, very enthusiastic, always willing to go out of her way for people. She brought me asparagus from her garden, and most recently a jar of rubarb jam, and she made a coffee cake for my birthday. So I want to do something for her before she leaves, and my sister found this great site where you can play around with different colors of yarn and beads and order a kit. I ordered the dk weight, thinking it will knit up faster than the fingering, and I'm hoping it will arrive Monday. Then I'll have to knit like crazy to get it finished by the end of the month. I like knitting with beads; I just hope the colors are at least close to what I saw on my monitor!

Friday, June 4, 2010

stormy weather

It looks like for the moment the worst of the weather is off to our northeast, but it's been an evening of severe storm warnings and tornado watches, and radar shows another batch on its way across the river. Every time I think about taking the dogs out for a little exercise, it starts raining. We're under a severe thunderstorm watch until 11 tonight I think, and there's supposed to be rain tomorrow too.

I had 5 house finches on the safflower feeder this evening (in the rain), but none on the nyjer feeder. I'm going to have to see if the holes at the bottom got wet and clogged up, in which case I'll have to dump it out and clean it.

At noon today I saw the downy using the little sunflower feeder by the puppy pen. It was empty when I came home, though, and I suspect squirrels.

A couple of little birds have figured out how to go into the suet feeder. Yay! I'm so happy! The light hasn't been good enough for me to tell if it's house finches or English sparrows, or something else entirely, but I'm so pleased some of them are starting to figure out how to use it and not be afraid of it.

I'm thinking of trying the hummingbird feeder again. The first time I put it out I optimistically filled it all the way up, and then had to throw it all away. This time I think I'll just put a little bit in.

I was looking at pictures of available rescue GSDs--and NO, I'm NOT thinking of getting another dog; I have neither the room nor the finances, and if I were going to add a third animal it would be a cat. I was just looking. And despite all my protestations to the contrary--"No more long-hairs! Never again!"--my eye is immediately drawn to the long-coats. Maybe, years from now, when I'm looking for my next GSD, I'll be able to find one I like with a nice "plush" coat.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

if it's not one thing...

Honestly. I discouraged the squirrel with safflower seed, nyger, and a generous coating of vegetable oil spray on the pole. I discouraged the strlings with safflower seed and by not putting out fruit.

NOW I have this mourning dove that's learned to sit on the ledge of the safflower feeder. Mourning doves are supposed to be ground feeders right? Well, this guy has been studying up, and while he's not graceful, he's figured out how to cram himself onto this little ledge and stuff his crop until it's a wonder he doesn't barf. I've been watching him--he doesn't eat, like the finches and cardinal do--pick up one seed, manipulate it open, eat the kernel. No, this guy just picks them up and swallows them as fast as he can. My only hope is that he gets so heavy with all that food in his crop that he gets hit by a car. I wonder if mourning doves are heavier than cardinals? I may be driven to getting that spring-loaded feeder after all!

There's another mourning dove with white tail feathers. I know mourning doves have outer tail feathers that show white when they fly, but this one looks like someone painted the last half of his tail bright white. It's so white it practically glows. That one stays on the ground where he belongs.

The suet cakes in the new suet feeder look like they're being nibbled on, and I've seen both a house finche and an English sparrow leaning w-a-y in to snag a few beakfuls, so I'm hopeful they're figuring it out.

It looks like, if I wind up needing knee surgery, I'll be home at least one week and possibly two. I've been reading as much as I can find all over the web, and it's hard to get a good idea--everyone seems to react differently to it and also individual surgeons seem to have preferences for post-surgical care. One of them said stairs were easy--just sit down and go up backwards, pushing with your arms and good leg. I think that same site said you can drive whenever you're off pain meds and feel up to it. I'll be glad to meet with the surgeon and find out what she thinks and prefers so I can make some more stable plans and also stop wondering what to expect.

I've been paying attention to the dogs the past few days, and their sense of body space is very good. The only time they brush up against me is when they get excited about going out to play. When we go out to potty they line up and wait for me to put their collars on. At meal time, Taenzer lies down on the mat where I put her food and Timber sits in the back hall, and they wait until I put their dishes down. It probably helps that they're older and not quite as squirrely as when they were youngsters. But I don't expect they're going to be a problem. I am thinking of contacting the friend of a friend to maybe take them out to the puppy pen to play; two to three weeks is a long time to ask them to go without exercise.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Computers are such a pain

They make us change our passwords at work every 90 days, which is stupid--several studies have shown that changing passwords compulsively does nothing to prevent identity theft or hacking. At any rate, I changed it late last week, and upon returning to the office after 4 days, I couldn't remember what it was and succeeded in locking myself out. To reset it, it turns out I have to have my employee number (the university decided to stop using social security numbers, which is also dumb). I don't know what it is. You're supposed to have an ID card, which I don't have. I managed to look it up, jumped through the hoops, and got my password changed.

Well, I forgot that I had to change the stupid password on stupid Zimbra when I got home, so I stopped after 2 incorrect log-ins and went back to campus to get the piece of paper I'd written it down on. Brought it back, put it in, and got kicked out again. I don't quite understand it, since it took the password to get me online, but it won't take it for Zimbra. So apparently I'm going to have to look up my ID number again when I get to work tomorrow and change the stupid password again, write it down, and make sure I change it wherever it's supposed to changed on this computer. Maddening!!!

OTOH--I took Timber with me when I went back to campus. Put his regular collar with the tags on and a martingale collar, and hooked him up to a flexi lead, and he was wonderful. He listened to me, he came back to me when I asked him to, he didn't dash out and hit the end of the leash like a ton of bricks--I was so proud and happy I could hardly stand it. It was great. It would have been greater if my knees hadn't started to hurt.

Which reminds me--I surrender. On the way up the stairs in the building where I work, my right knee hurt a LOT and I wasn't sure I was going to make it. Not good. There is an elevator in the building, but no one uses it if they don't have to, and no one gets onto it unless they have a cell phone to call for help. I am not kidding. It's completely unreliable. But my point is that I now bow to the fact that okay, that knee probably does need surgery. *sigh*

Monday, May 31, 2010

A river runs through it

Or past it...

It rained most of the morning. There was some sun when I first got up, but it got darker and darker, until it was more like 8:30 p.m. than 8:30 a.m., and I had to turn on the light. Then it started to rain. Gently but steadily. Okay--it's been dry and we needed it. (After all that rain we had, I can't believe I'm saying, "it's been dry and we need rain"!) It rained most of the morning.

Then the sun came out. I took the dogs out--it wasn't too wet--but we came in after about half an hour because it was humid and buggy.

Later in the afternoon I was lying on the couch reading. I'd sort of noticed it was getting a little darker, but it suddenly broke through the words that I was hearing rain. So I ran outside to get my knitting and the cushion off the swing. It rained. And then it rained harder. Water ran down the side street. It looks flat, but it must slant slightly to the south, because the water ran fast and steadily, like a river. Then I heard a sound that made me think a car was coming, and I waited, and nothing appeared, and finally I realized I was hearing the rain, which had ratcheted up and was just pounding down. Then it eased up, and 5 minutes later the sun was out. Now it's overcast again.

I've put a couple of chunks of suet in the bottom of the new suet feeder, and a couple of birds have found it, including the downy, which I'm delighted to see back again. None of them have actually gone into the cage part, though--I think partly because they're all very alert and fly away whenever a vehicle drives by. I can see one going in for suet, a vehicle driving by, and the bird panicking and not being able to remember how to get out, so I'm not sure this will work for us. They are interested--they land on the outside of the cage and lean in as far as they can. I'll leave it up for a while and see.

I did a little clicker-training with the dogs this afternoon, since it was obvious we weren't going to get back outside. We worked on closing the kitchen cabinets. Timber pretty much has the idea; we just need to refine it. Taenzer, bless her heart, tries and keeps trying, but today we just got to the point where she was almost but not quite touching it with her nose. I wish I were better at this, I think she'd be more confident and get it sooner. There wasn't quite as much extraneous behavior, less walking around, than last time, so that's a good thing. I'm thinking, she knows how to nose-touch a sticky-note; maybe it would help her if I stuck one on the door.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday morning

Yesterday was a pretty nice day, and although Weather Underground says today is supposed to be like yesterday, I beg to differ. I was just out with the dogs, and I'd say it's hotter and more humid. I foresee a lot of lying on the couch, reading. I've got the shades drawn against the sun this morning.

Visitors to the feeders have fallen off. I'm guessing this is because there's more natural food available, i.e. more bugs. And some seeds--I saw a little finch the other day standing on its tiptoes to reach dandelion seeds. The first time since childhood that I've felt warm and fuzzy toward dandelions. So I suppose things will pick up again come fall.

I ordered some plants this year--which I haven't planted yet, and I'd better hop to it before everything dies--and one of the places sent me a "free bonus hardy fuschia." I have planted that, and it currently looks like it's dying. I think I'll snip it back about 2/3s and then just leave it alone except for keeping it watered.

This year the Casa Blanca lilies are taller than they've ever been, but the leaves are turning yellow from the bottom. This upsets me. I'm hoping it's because it's a little dry, and that watering will fix it. I'm hoping for lots of blossoms this year.

I saw my first fireflies last night. I remember last year I saw the first ones around the first of June, too. But it's quiet at night--frogs and toads must be finished mating, and the crickets and cicadas haven't started up yet.

Friday, May 28, 2010

knees and birds and knitting, oh my

Well, it seems I have a high-grade ACL tear in my right knee and may need surgery. The nearest specialist is a 2-hour drive, which distresses me, since it means I'll have to ask someone to drive me two hours, hang around for however long it takes to fix things (it's usually outpatient surgery, I read online), and then drive me two hours home. It seems like a lot to ask of someone who isn't family. I'm also inclined to protest, since my right knee doesn't actually bother me--it's the left knee that hurts when I'm going down stairs or trying to carry anything heavier than a bag of groceries.

I have an appt. with the specialist in a couple of weeks, so I'll talk it over with her.

Meanwhile, after a hot and humid week, it's cooled off considerably, and is much less humid, and sunny, praise be. A lovely day.

I finally got a suet feeder that I hope will be starling and squirrel-proof. It's your basic suet basket suspended inside a kind of cage. The idea is that small birds can go in, and big birds can't, nor can squirrels reach. The small birds don't seem to have figured out the going-in part yet, but I did see my little downy--whom I hadn't seen for a couple of weeks--hanging upside down from the bottom of the cage pecking at the strip of suet-cake I'd laid there to sort of advertise that there are goodies inside. I'm glad to see him again, and still hoping to see little birds inside feasting away.

And some of the finches have discovered the small sunflower-chip feeder I have up by the puppy pen. They sat on the fence while we were out this morning, not sure about using the feeder in the presence of the dogs, then finally took the plunge. That's exactly what I was hoping for, to have birds using the feeder while I sat on the swing when out with the dogs.

At last, my garage is completely painted! The son of one of our instructors did it. He's--let me see, he's a college sophomore, so he must be 19 or 20, and seems like a very sharp, reliable young man, who did a very neat job. Unfortunately the trim color is far more blue than I wanted, but at least it's painted. I'm thinking of nailing tin flashing around the bottom, where the paperboard is rotting out, and then putting clear latex caulking along the top of the strip of flashing to keep out water and critters. I asked him if he might be willing to help me with the windows, and he said yes, so that's a big load off my mind.

The garden looks fabulous this year, very lush and full. I've been taking pictures, just not posting them, since things look a lot like they did last year (except maybe the roses are better), and I haven't planted anything new. The blue spiderwort is particularly lovely this year, lots and lots of those beautiful blue blooms with the starry gold "eyes." I bought a few wave petunias for the driveway planter today, and may go out to the nursery this weekend to look for plants for the containers.

I have socks in process, and a lace scarf, but I wanted something a little less fussy to work on, so I found a handpainted worsted weight wool and have started another Ugly Shawl. This one is garter stitch, with increases worked on either side of the center stitch every other row. I have a solid blue I can work an edging with. This won't be very big because I don't have as much yarn as for the original Ugly Shawl, but it will be warm to throw over my shoulders on cold nights.

I'm reading Virginia Woolf. Lots of Virginia Woolf--I'm reading A Writer's Diary in the living room, Congenial Spirits (an edition of letters) in the bedroom, and Mrs. Dalloway outside with the dogs. I intend to also read To the Lighthouse and Orlando, along with the letters and diaries, and probably Quentin Bell's biography, and possibly The Waves. That is the most amazing book--it took me weeks to read it the first time because I would read a paragraph, or sometimes just a sentence, and have to put the book down to marvel at the writing. At the moment I'm wondering where my brain was the last time I read Mrs. Dalloway, since I'm finding all sorts of meanings and beautiful language that apparently missed all my brain cells last time. There are some books it pays to reread, because you always find something new and wonderful in them.