Fall sure was fleeting; in fact it seems that if you blinked you missed it, thanks to a bully named Winter that intruded mightily. It seems like just yesterday I was melting away in the hot and humid temps …
… and just like (snapping fingers) we plunged into the deep freeze. Check out my neighbor’s thermometer earlier this week, and …
… his icicles. Yikes! Those are lethal. Also note the squirrels’ nests in the bare trees a few backyards away.
Happily we hit the freezing mark yesterday and will creep up to 36F/0C today – woo hoo!
I am a notorious weather worrier, no matter the season, and I like to plan ahead. Since I’m no fan of Winter driving, having taken the bus for decades when I worked in downtown Detroit thus never honed my Winter driving skills, I try to take care of all my errands before the snow flies. It’s unlikely you’ll see me slippin’ and slidin’ in my buggy on a Winter day as it is tucked inside the garage. I am more likely to venture out on two feet than four wheels.
Also, as long-time followers are aware, I am like the squirrels who gather their nut treasures to sock away for the long Winter ahead, as I spend several days every October, scurrying around gathering pantry items to have on hand until Spring’s arrival – yes, that many months in advance. It is an annual chore, but unless I’ve forgotten anything, I just pick up refrigerated food and some produce on good weather days until April. My mom did this ritual for years too. That doesn’t mean I will embrace the Winter – that is far from the truth. I despise this season and am not happy that this snow and brutal cold have left walking conditions icy and dicey.
But, all was not lost as I have a Plan B because I have many more miles to meet my goal and this is no time to be a slacker – four days off this week was a long enough respite. More on my Plan B later.
Not to toot my own horn, but ever since I was young, I was always thinking ahead, even before “forward thinking” became vogue. Perhaps that was a quality instilled in me by Mom, or maybe those years I was a Brownie. Yep, I was a card-carrying Brownie until my membership was cut short after we moved here from Canada in July 1966. This photo was taken in the Spring of ’66 – I was a Sprite, which was our Brownie pack Circle Group emblem.
Because I am a “saver” and not a “thrower” I still have my Brownie record and membership card that I carried in my pouch on my belt as part of the uniform – those treasures were embedded in a scrapbook of childhood memories that my mom collected for me. No I didn’t save the uniform, nor that spiffy beret where my Sprite emblem was sewn on.
Check out the motto on the card, which I have enlarged and highlighted below.
Planning ahead doesn’t ALWAYS work out so great though.
On a beautiful October day I was packing peanuts and my camera and headed off for a long trek at Council Point Park. As I pulled into the parking lot, so did the truck with the crew of grass cutters. Well that was a bummer, as the bold and brazen squirrels and usually fearless jays disappeared into their respective nests once the roar of the lawn cutting machines invaded their territory.
Well, that was a boring walk as I dodged those men in their machines and had zero interaction with the Council Point Park critters; so how was I going to let them know I was thinking of them? The squirrels were still intense with burying their nuts for Winter, so I made “droppings” around the Park, where the lawn cutters would not go near and they still got their treats, to be enjoyed after I left.
And for good measure, I left a passel of nuts on the picnic tables in the pavilion area.
The Call of the Wild.
At the beginning of October, Grady the Gray Squirrel appeared out of the blue. He is a savvy squirrel who might have rebuffed me in the Summertime, but as the days grew shorter and cooler, he remembered his ol’ benefactor from last Winter and started showing up when I returned from my walks, sitting on haunches near the porch and swishing his tail furiously. I was willing to give Grady and his friends a peanut or two on the porch – I delighted in seeing the cardinals, jays, and black and gray squirrels gather on my porch throughout last Winter. Then, you may recall, a large Fox Squirrel came along and was piggy, sitting on the peanuts and chasing the other squirrels away and into the street. So, I decided to give this venture another try. Over a few days I got Grady to follow me into the backyard to feed him there. It worked – he was a quick learner as you read in this recent post.
Fast forward a few weeks and I was out in the backyard and very dismayed to find scat all around the grass. I do not have a dog and I do have a fenced-in yard, so when I got inside, I sent a message to my neighbor:
“I may not have ever had a cat, nor do I have a cat now, so why do I have cat poop all over my backyard? I have a fence, so unless a dog climbed the fence, it is a cat – why can’t it poop in the garden like other cats (not that I want that either)!? No words!”
His response was immediate: “yes, we have two cats going between our yards, and a raccoon – a big one!” Whereupon he proceeded to describe the size of its derriere.
“Wait … what?!” I fired back at the speed of sound.
It seems that as of October 30th, the date of our messages, there were two black cats roaming about, and not just for Halloween … plus a huge raccoon. We don’t live in a rural area either.
That didn’t make my day. I next Googled “do raccoons eat peanuts?” Grady finished them off right away, but I had to cover my bases. Yes, they like peanuts. Well, that figured, so I had to re-educate Grady that breakfast would now be served on the front porch like last year. That little squirrel caught on quickly, as did the jays, cardinals and sparrows. The sparrows?
The furry and feathered critters fight for first dibs as soon as soon as the peanuts hit the porch and cement ledge. We don’t need a dinner bell at this house.
Of course a rogue Fox Squirrel interjected himself into the scenario, just like last year:
When this Fox Squirrel is not monopolizing the treats, he, like Grady, his much-smaller counterpart, awaits The Peanut Lady to open the door and tender peanuts. Then they each scramble down from their respective trees where they were peering out of their nests. I watch the scenario from the living room through the screen door, either by zooming in with the camera, or sometimes with the binoculars. The gentle tweet of the male and female Northern Cardinals in the barberry bush tells me they, too, are in standby mode. They will fly onto the cement ledge and hop along daintily to reach the peanuts. The Blue Jay, high up in the maple tree, now stripped bare of its leaves, is revealed as he anxiously awaits me to line up the peanuts on the cement ledge for an easy-peasy fly-by. The screech of the Jay alerts friends and family where he is and peanut delivery is imminent so get here ASAP!
There is a gentle twitter as sparrows line up on the ledge, their tiny brown bodies angled to zoom down onto the porch. Surprisingly the sparrows, are in tune with this routine too. While I stood there shivering on the city sidewalk, trying to get some outside shots of the munch bunch, I saw a sparrow fly down from the ledge and grab a petite peanut in the shell from the porch. First he analyzed his capabilities versus this peanut in the shell …
… “Me too” is what he decided and picked one out just his size and off he went. That’ll feed him and the wife and kids too. Who knew sparrows could crack open peanuts and eat ’em? Unless of course he returned to the nest and his mate said “really Sam – you need a nutcracker for that!”
Unfortunately, this time the bigger birds stayed at bay, reluctant to gather while I stood there with the camera in tow and with freezing fingers I might add. Oh, we watched each other warily, but they waited for me to go into the house … my job was done there and they were eager to dispense with me. I get no respect sometimes, but there will be other photo ops as time marches on. This week’s premature brutal cold and record snowfall sounded the death knell for foraging by my little friends for awhile, and likely until next Spring in my opinion.
I have invoked Plan B for walking.
The past two days I headed a few blocks over to Memorial Park to walk. There is no pathway, it is merely walking laps around the equivalent of three City blocks. The snow has melted a bit due to the sun, so I am not tromping through 8.8 inches/22.3 cms of snow. However, ice still plagues the parking lot, so I am only walking on the grass for now.
The park is divided into two sections, one where the memorial area and bandshell are located (one city block) …
… and the other side of the cross street, which is a small playground and a large grassy area encompassing two city blocks.
It is a little boring, but works to rack up the steps – I did three miles Friday; four miles Saturday. The squirrels at Memorial Park see me, freak out a little and head up the nearest tree because, with the exception of special events like concerts, parades and Cruisin’ Downriver in the Spring and Summer, they don’t see many humans and likely see me as an intrusion in their territory and lives. Maybe I ought to take peanuts? Nope, I’m not starting that routine in a third venue! I will head back to Council Point Park as soon as the ice melts, hopefully today.
[Snoopy’s Plan B courtesy of Pinterest]