Everyone needs a Project!

Every year around November after we’ve gotten all the beds mulched and the yard winter-ready, I start dreaming about next year’s Project. It’s one of my favorite winter activities – and it involves lots of research, note taking and seed catalogs. Each Project facilitates a certain goal – like attracting more hummingbirds. That was the first year we moved here. Then it was making an oasis for bumblebees, then attracting Monarchs and this year (as you’ve probably guessed) it was nighttime pollinators, like moths and bats.

A Cecropia moth – huge *and* cuddly looking

And of course once you’ve created a sanctuary for hummingbirds or an oasis for bumblebees, you can’t *not* do it the next year too. So my Projects are cumulative, which is a lot of fun for me, and a lot of work for Gene. But what am I supposed to do, disappoint an entire legion of bumblebees by telling them “Oh, sorry – you guys are just too 2019. I’ve moved on.” So obviously I recreate everything from years past, and put in my order for more raised beds to be built to accommodate all the new plants.

Unlike literally everything else I planted last year – the milkweed came back! Which didn’t stop me from getting more, just in case. Gene is always saying “One is none and two is one”… he should be proud of me.

I grow almost everything from seeds because I’m frugal* that way, although I did break the bank just a bit when I vastly underestimated just how much space my newly sprouted seeds would take once they’d been growing for a month or two and needed to be transplanted.

By the time June rolled around, I had a basement with a row of new grow lights hanging from the ceiling, a couple tables covered with a huge piece of plywood, and a grumbling husband who probably got a bit tired of being informed that he was “doing this for the bees – think of the beeeeeeees.”

At any rate, it was all worth it – we’ve attracted an amazing variety of moths. I chose plants that both host the caterpillars and bloom at night, and I love puttering around in the morning looking at them all. They hide in the leaves or bask in the sunshine, waiting for the dance party to start when Gene turns on the porch light after dark.

I’m having a hard time picking my favorite moth, each one is so cool in its own way. There’s this cheerful fellow, a Giant Tiger Moth, who looks like a rug from IKEA:

And then the Honey Locust Moth, who hangs about looking like a dead leaf:

And then there’s this one, that I’m still trying to identify – despite nerding out and getting three different identification guides, including one that’s laminated and folds out like a map. It’s aptly named “Moths In Your Pocket” and I won’t say that I take it everywhere, even though it’s totally true. But I digress. Check this out – he sleeps by curling up into a roll and clinging to a stem:

That level of dedication to napping should be applauded.

Peak moth season is already winding down, but hopefully I did my homework correctly and they’ll overwinter here – which means I’ll require a bigger deck to accommodate all the plants we’re going to need…

*I did the math – it’s way more frugal to buy 5 exotic morning glory seeds for $10 than it is to fly to Japan to get them. Another reason Gene should be proud of me – I saved us a ton of money!

I’m back!!!

Well, not like I actually went anywhere. But I do apologize for the egregiously long time period in between posts. In 3 days it would have been a year, which is shameful. And this time I can’t blame my long absence on a 2,000+ mile relocation!

What I can blame it on is Gene – work got crazy busy (being a one-woman department tends to have that effect) and in his words “we only have one computer in this house and you need to share it.” So after hogging the computer all day, *just* as I was about to start writing a post he’d shoo me away from the desk. But I’m focusing on work/life balance now – and have lots of news!

I figured I’d start right where I left off – busting out the Shop Vac and wreaking some havoc. This year’s crop of black jackets are wily. They’ll buzz all around the hose, but somehow avoid the vortex. So now I have to hold it steady, anticipate where they’re going to be, then jerk the hose suddenly in that direction. Sometimes it works… and sometimes I miss having petunias where petunias used to be.

But at least I’m not the only one with a wasp problem. I was helping out my parents in the city last weekend and figured I’d run by the big nursery to see if they had any replacement plastic flowers for the hummingbird feeders (Shoppie is a hungry beast), and there was another couple wandering the bird aisle. It’s not that big of an aisle, and after awhile our attempts to maintain a 6-foot distance whilst examining all the options got comical, and we started chatting. Turns out they were considering a $40 “guaranteed wasp proof” feeder, and I was all, “Oh no! There’s no need to spend that kind of money on a hummingbird feeder. What you do is, you get yourself an industrial strength Shop Vac… and then you lurk.” They ended up getting the feeder, but I’m pretty sure they were into the idea.

But wasps aside, this year’s Hummingbird Sanctuary was a resounding success. And thanks to all my nighttime pollinator research, we’ve managed to attract all different kinds of amazing moths with the night phlox, impatiens and white petunias I planted. Including – finally – one of my bucket list moths: the Luna.

That same weekend I was at my parent’s place Gene texted with news of another bucket list moth sighting: the Snowberry Clearwing. That pretty much made it official – I miss *all* the cool stuff. It seems like whenever he’s driving somewhere, he sees amazing wildlife, like moose and bears and wolves.

Just a half mile from our house! Not pictured – me.

Whenever I’m driving somewhere, I see skunks that have decided to take a nap disturbingly close to the center line and that’s about it. He says it would probably help if I left the house more. And he’s not wrong – I basically only leave to visit my parents twice a month or take one of the dogs to the vet (has anyone ever owned more high-maintenance pups? I submit to you they have not.) I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that the pandemic hasn’t changed our lives – apparently we only shop at essential stores, and we aren’t exactly known for socializing. Whenever the urge to see and be seen gets strong, I dust off my best hoodie and we head to the feed store. Just kidding – I don’t actually dust it off first.

But the pandemic did have one unexpected silver lining – amazing deals on riding lawn mowers. Our John Deere one broke (and I can’t imagine why, it’s not like my “eh, I bet I can mow over that” philosophy could ever backfire) and since it was getting progressively more difficult for me to steer it thanks to my wrists, Gene surprised me with a brand new Zero Turn mower for my birthday.

Life changing.

I can *finally* mow those cool lines into our lawn. Not that anyone apart from the UPS guy is ever around to appreciate such artistry, but still. Our lawn looks like a golf course. If a golf course used no weed prevention whatsoever and let chickens, geese, screeching guinea hens and the occasional escaped goat roam around. And best of all there’s no steering wheel – you drive it with two joystick type controls, and it feels like you’re cruising about in the world’s coolest lawn chair. At first I was a bit terrified of it, because video games have never been my strong suit and you’re sitting on a lot of power. But once I got a little more confident… I got a little cocky.

On the plus side, I managed to get it stuck right before it went in the creek – and I avoided mowing down the milkweeds I’d just transplanted by at least half an inch. Besides, Gene’s always looking for any excuse to bust out the tractor.

Say Hello To My Commercial Grade Friend

This past week my hummingbird sanctuary hasn’t been much of a sanctuary… more like a war zone, really. I’ve been faithfully refilling the feeders at least twice a day, and the black jacket wasps finally discovered them.

Bugs and I have a fairly broad “live and let live” agreement, so I initially let them be. The black jackets do have a purpose (beyond being nature’s jerks), and I hate killing anything when it’s outside. But then they started hogging the feeders and chasing the hummingbirds away, so Gene bought some wasp traps and set them out there. That seemed to control the problem… until today.

When I went out to do the evening refill – it was a literal population explosion. There were probably close to 100, fighting with the hummingbirds, fighting with each other, and when I stepped out onto the deck and recoiled in sheer horror once I noticed them all, they all stopped what they were doing to stare at me.

In what I honestly believe is my bravest moment to date, I snatched up the feeders one by one, which was hard to do given I’d pulled my hoody over my face. Then Gene refilled the wasp traps with nectar, but the wasps were too busy angrily buzzing around to notice them. And they were attacking the hummingbirds, which were doing the same thing. They say humans are 3 days from total societal breakdown when the food supply is disrupted… hummingbirds and wasps are apparently a mere 3 seconds.

I always feel bad when I take down the feeders to wash each week. All 12 hummingbirds buzz around in a panic where the sugar dispensers used to be, because god forbid they have to switch to the hundreds of actual flowers I grew just for them. Clearly they’d much rather pull up a chair to the buffet.

At any rate, I wasn’t going to deal with a porch full of upset hummingbirds and angry wasps, especially when Gene’s allergic and the internet said black jackets will “hunt you down” when they’re vexed. I decided sucking them out of the air with the shop vac would be the best solution, because that’s pretty much my solution to anything bad that happens outdoors.

Pictured: The moment right before things Got Real.

And it totally worked!!! Sure, I might have denuded one side of my Fuscia and skeletonized a few Salvia leaves. It also would have been really nice if I’d gotten to see that stem of my giant Nicotania bloom, because it probably would have been really beautiful and I’ve been waiting all month for it to finally do something cool.

And I learned the hard way that the shop vac will glom onto a feeder and suck out all the nectar if you’re not *really* careful where you’re waving it. But the important thing is the wasps either got Hoovered or moved on.

I also disturbed our giant Poplar moth, who was burrowed into his favorite petunias. He didn’t like the blow back from the shop vac motor, but as soon as we moved it to the other side of the porch he calmed down again.

The Hummingbird Sanctuary was worth every bit of the time and energy it took to grow everything from seed (plus adding all the ‘can’t live withouts’ Gene and I found at various nurseries.) All the flowers have drawn in all sorts of bees, dragonflies and moths of all kinds.

The farm critters are irked that we fenced it off, though. Every so often a guinea will fly up in the air and come crashing down on one of the pots, and the geese have taken to sitting right next to the fence on the porch stairs and complaining loudly to anyone who will listen.

It doesn’t help that Claire found an old pallet underneath the porch and decided to lay all her eggs where we couldn’t get to them. She’s now sitting on her nest, so I suppose at some point we (and by ‘we’ I mean Gene) will have to crawl under there to either retrieve some adorable goslings or some incredibly stinky eggs.

Guess I’m Not Quite Ready For The Big Leagues…

All things considered, it was a pretty incredible weekend around here. Not only did I see a few adorable baby animals (more on that in a minute!), I got to drive Craney!

I was tooling around on the lawn mower, since the grass was getting taller than Chupa. Gene went to move Craney from where he had parked it on the grass by the chicken coop so I could mow that section, and he waved me over and said he was going to take Craney for a spin. Then he asked if I wanted to try driving!

At first I said no, since history has shown that at times my lack of depth perception is rivaled only by lack of common sense. But I decided I’d at least go with him, since I’d never even sat in the cab while it was moving. After 10 miles or so of watching him change gears, and seeing as it was only 5 of them, I decided to give it a go.

I haven’t driven a standard transmission since around 2007, but it’s true what they say – once you’ve learned, you never forget. Gene stopped on a straight part of the highway, we changed spots, and I gave it a go! At one point I had a mini-freak out, since it felt like we were going way too fast. Then I looked down at the speedometer, and realized I was poking along at a grandmotherly 25 mph, a full 30 mph below the speed limit. But after awhile, I got a lot more comfortable, and even pulled it into our driveway! That part was a little terrifying, as there’s a ditch on both sides capable of swallowing a semi. For real – just ask the unfortunate fellow who drove the moving truck when we first got here.

At any rate, I was feeling pretty proud of myself, and started musing that perhaps the most important name had been left off the “Hunter’s Crane Service” business cards I had just ordered, and that from now on I could drive him to and from the work sites, but first we would need to install some sort of step ladder situation because the cab is a bit of a climb. Then I hopped back on the riding mower, and promptly ran it straight into the Geesie’s wading pool. The spigot we use to drain it got sheared in half, water started pouring everywhere, and I could practically hear my ego start to deflate. Then I managed to get the mower stuck on rocks no less than twice, which Gene had to come pull off and restart for me. The third time I bellowed, “Honeeeeeeeeey, something’s wrong with the mower!,” he suggested that perhaps I stick with writing, and leave the driving of 16,000 lb trucks to him.

In other news, my monarch eggs hatched! That of course necessitated a trip back to Jennifer’s so that I could dig up a larger milkweed plant for them to munch in the Sanctuary. Ironically, I ended up driving there at a stately speed of 25 mph even though I was in the Vermin Wagon, because drinking from a coffee cup is almost impossible given the state of our roads. But I wasn’t about to leave it behind.

Just as I turned onto the dirt road by their place, I spotted some movement in the tall grass. I stopped to see what it would turn out to be, and out waltzed a tiny baby skunk! It was only about 8 inches long, and beyond cute. Like stuffed animal/Disney movie level cute. I actually shut my hand in the car door, such was my haste to get out and shove a camera in its face.

He was actually fearless, surprising given his tiny size. He ran straight up to me, bounced around for a bit, and then started waddling off. Although his tail was straight up, he never turned his Southern end in my direction, so I figured he was just playing when he started jumping directly at my phone. And my shoes. All while making an adorable screeching noise. I was a little worried (but relieved at the same time) that mama skunk didn’t seem to be around. So I called Gene, and had barely even started to get out “So I found this baby skunk and there’s no mama anywhere – ” before he’s all, “No. Just no. No skunks! It’s mom will find him as soon as you walk away.” Sigh.

I Believe You’ve Made Your Point…

Apparently Mother Nature didn’t think yesterday’s global warming joke was funny, because it got down to a record-breaking 26 degrees last night – some serious frost. Thank goodness Gene checks the weather religiously!

We were outside at 10:30, hunting down tarps, covering plants, and moving as many flower pots as we could onto the porch where the space heater was running. Sigh. On the plus side, we only lost a single hot pepper plant. And it wasn’t due to the cold snap – it got demolished by 3 fat geese who managed to sneak up onto the back deck this morning. One of them stuck its head under the tarp and started snacking.

And I know it was them, because shortly after they did it, they started banging on the sliding door to the bedroom. Higgins still had clumps of potting soil stuck to his beak, and left a trail of pepper leaves in his wake. I fixed the baby gate, and now they’re back to pounding on the front door and leaving lots of evidence of their presence behind.

The hummingbirds weren’t too happy to find all their flowers covered either, and were only slightly consoled by the fact that I lined all their feeders up on the deck railing so they’d still get their 5 am sugar high. I figured it wouldn’t be back to the 40s until mid-morning, so I settled in at my desk to get some work done. I was shocked when I looked at the temperature gauge around 8 and saw it was already back to 70 degrees! So I had to rush around to get everything uncovered before they baked to death heating up under the tarp. Apparently Mother Nature careth not about calendars or my deadlines.

This afternoon, when I decided I needed an outside break (there’s only so long I can stare at a computer screen without getting twitchy), I figured I’d get a start on mucking out the barn. Not going to lie, that’s my least favorite of the spring chores. But I did come to the realization I’ve pretty much shed the last of my city girl vestiges. As I was hauling pitchforks loads of straw that were getting progressively heavier the deeper I dug, I was actually excited when one forkful weighed about 30 pounds and started to angrily buzz at me. Instead of being skeezed out, I told Gene we’d just struck compost gold!

So Many Distractions…

I know it’s been almost a month since I last posted (shameful), but believe me I’m full of good excuses! The issue isn’t my day job, although that’s been crazy busy. The problem is I usually set aside time in the early evening to devote to my blog, and tackle all my work deadlines during conventional office hours. But the problem is little emergencies keep popping up during the day, which means I’m finishing up work in the evening, and then… well, let’s face it. Law & Order isn’t going to watch itself. Plus Gene’s been calling me a computer hog lately, so I try not to be on it past 8.

What sort of emergencies you ask? Here’s a perfect example:

That right there is the first Monarch of the season, which I spotted out the window just a few days ago. We have plenty of flowers to offer them, about 75% of which are dandelions since the geese are seriously slacking off in the landscaping department. It doesn’t help that I can’t mow the lawn until Gene fixes the riding mower. I was stoked about the first mow of the year – if ever there was a sign summer has arrived, that’s it. I wasn’t even on it for 30 minutes before I managed to break it – a new record.

But back to the arrival of the Monarchs – it was an emergency because the milkweed I bought for them to deposit their eggs on was still in pots on the porch.

Being as committed to the plight of the Monarchs as I am, I figured I’d make my impending deadline Future Andie’s problem, and go out and plant the milkweed. And since I was already out there, I planted the rest of the flowers I’d brought back from the nursery by my parent’s house. I’m efficient like that.

Or here’s another emergency example, also Monarch related. Gene needed a ride over to Alan and Jennifer’s so he could pick up Craney – which, by the way, now has magnetic signage! It came in the mail today, and Gene insists on calling it “advertising” rather than “accessories”. Potato, Potahto. Craney looks amazing.

Jennifer and I got to talking, and we went over to check her milkweed for eggs – and found some!

So even though I had only anticipated a quick drop off/turn around/get back to work situation, we ended up harvesting eggs for the Monarch Sanctuary and digging up milkweed plants to grow in it. Then of course once I got home I had to get the eggs situated on the porch until they’re closer to hatching, plant the milkweed in pots, and set up the Sanctuary itself. Three hours later… back to work!

I am happy to report that so far the Hummingbird Sanctuary has been a success. The record is 8 so far, and they tend to swarm the feeders around dawn and dusk. I’ve been refilling the feeders at least twice a day, and they’re feasting on the flowers that have bloomed too. And we have at least one nest somewhere close! One of the hummingbirds was flying around with a huge wad of spider web, which is what they use as the ‘glue’ that holds their nests together. I can’t decide if that’s an incredible feat of ingenuity to marvel at or totally shady that they destroy a spider’s hard work to build their own house.

I’ve also managed to attract an assortment of Sphinx moths, which I’m super excited about.

The Big Poplar Sphinx Moth has been the largest so far – he was about the size of the palm of my hand and hung around for a few days. I can’t wait to see what the Nighttime Pollinator Station brings in once it starts blooming! It consists of all the moonflowers I started in the basement, then spent about an hour untangling all the vines so I could plant. There’s also a selection of white flowers that bloom in the evening, or will theoretically once it stops dropping into the 30s at night. (On a related note – it’s June, Mother Nature. Pay attention to the calendar. I’d also like to invite anyone who believes global warming is an imminent threat to come visit at night. Spoiler alert: pack your coat.)

The pigs are happy about the cooler temps though, it helps keeps the flies down. Once summer really kicks in gear – or I guess I should say “if,” we’ll move them further from the house. But for now, they absolutely love rampaging around the pasture. We up-sized both their food and water troughs, which they take full advantage of by lounging in.

So Much Momentous News!

All things considered, this has been an epic 10 days since I last posted. It finally stopped snowing (although apparently Gene’s weather app is taunting me with flurries in the forecast for Sunday), and the grass turned green basically overnight. After such a long winter, it almost doesn’t look natural – I still do a double take when I look out the window and see all that vibrant color.

But as awesome as an imminent need to break out the lawn mower is, that doesn’t even place in the top 5 cool things that have happened. Here they are, in no particular order:

#1: I saw a porcupine!

porcupine

Well, technically I’ve seen three of them in the last few days, but I only had my camera with me for one sighting. It was bumbling along the side of the ditch, so Gene stopped the truck and let me hop out to chase it. I discovered that even though I logically know they can’t launch their spines as a defense mechanism, no matter what I was told when I first moved here, it’s still an image I can’t get out of my head. So when it turned to glare at me, I instinctively jumped back about 5 feet and possibly screeched.

Despite the spiky demeanor, they actually have really cute faces. Plus, a mama and her babies are called a “Prickle,” and the babies themselves are called “Porcupettes”. How adorable is that?

#2: The hummingbirds have arrived!

Or at least two of them have. The first one showed up two days ago, and the second one yesterday. They’ve had a couple feeders out since May 1st, but actually seeing them was so exciting that I asked Gene to bring me some real flowers for them, since mine aren’t quite blooming yet. He brought back a fine selection of hummingbird favorites, like bright red Salvia and multi-colored petunias, which I promptly planted in pots that we now shuttle back onto the heated porch at night. Because despite the green grass, it’s still frosting at night, which is getting beyond old.

There’s another new arrival, too – a Baltimore Oriole. I saw a brilliant flash of orange up in the poplar trees, and ran to grab my bird book. Sure enough, that’s what he was – which necessitated another emergency trip into town so Gene could bring me some oranges. The Oriole has been happily camped out on the special citrus feeder we now have, going through orange halves at a somewhat astonishing rate.

oriole

#3: We need a bigger laundry basket!

Kitty

That’s not a small one, either. That’s the big, industrial, “we live on a farm and wreck pants with a quickness” sized hamper. Also pictured: Exhibit A for why literally everything we put on is covered in cat fur.

#4: We got up close to a wolf!

Granted it was while driving to Alan & Jennifer’s in the F150, and if Gene hadn’t been paying attention we would have splattered it all over the new brush guard. Good thing he’s got quick reflexes and dynamited the brakes. It must have been chasing something, because it didn’t even look at us when it dashed across the road. It was huge, and silver colored. It’s also likely the culprit for the ginormous pile of dookey I saw sitting in the exact middle of the end of the driveway a few days ago. Unfortunately I only noticed it literally as an older couple was turning into our driveway to buy some eggs, which I’m sure made a great first impression of our farm. When I say “ginormous”, I’m not exaggerating. It must have just eaten an entire deer or something. Quite frankly, I’m surprised their bumper cleared it, and they were driving an SUV. Gene said that’s the wolf’s way of claiming its territory, and basically taunting Ceri.

#5: The pigs are getting cuter!

Mario pig

And bigger, exponentially. We feed them four to five times a day, and pretty soon we’ll need to build them an actual trough. In a week or so we’ll be wrangling them down to the east pasture, as now that the weather is finally warming up we don’t want four pigs worth of flies that close to the house. Apparently I’m subconsciously fussing about it, because I had a nightmare that I was chasing flies around the house with the vacuum, and then when I went to throw the vacuum bag away it split open and all the flies came buzzing out again. But it was weird, because in real life I would have been racing out of the house while simultaneously screaming for Gene to get the shop vac, but in the dream I just stood there wondering why I bought a vacuum that still requires an actual bag.

It’s A Great Day For A Rampage

Yesterday we opened up the little side door so the pigs could venture outside for the first time in their lives, but all they would do is creep up to the opening, peek out, then scurry back to other side of the stall.

Not that I blame them, because it went from sleet to hail to snow all in the space of 5 minutes, despite the fact that it’s supposed to be SPRING. On the plus side, it got warm enough yesterday that none of it stuck around. And the passing storm made for a phenomenal sunset.

sunset

Today, it got just above 50, the sun was shining, and it was gorgeous. Gene and I decided the pigs needed to soak some of it up, so I held up a big sheet of plywood and he start to corral them toward the opening. It took some convincing, and a fair bit of squealing, but once one of them figured it out they all ventured outside. And it was glorious. Never have you seen happier pigs.

rampaging

They immediately started digging in the dirt, chomping on the grass that’s starting to come up, and chasing each other around. They introduced themselves to the goats, and seemed to genuinely enjoy following Ceri as she ran along the outside of the fence line. This was literally the first time they’d ever felt sunshine or wind, since they were raised inside, and it was really sweet to watch them experience it all.

goats

 

Mother Nature Missed A Memo

It should not snow, much less stick around all morning, in May. That’s so many kinds of wrong.

It’s spring! I’ve got flowers blooming in the basement that need warm air and sunshine with a quickness. While I admit perhaps I should have listened when Gene said, “Are you sure you should start those now – and start that many?” back in January, who would have thought it would still be snowing and 28 degrees in May???? Obviously not me.

So now I’ve got a guest bed turned planting station full of Moonflowers that are encircling the grow lights with vines, and we’re rapidly running out of space. Thank goodness we rarely have guests, because yes, right at this moment the plants that will be the stars of my night-time pollinator garden and attract the ultra-rare pink-banded Sphinx moths are more important and we’ve got a comfy barn if you’d like more space to stretch out.

Oh wait – there’s no room in the barn either! The sudden arrival of 4 pigs thanks to a screaming deal in Grand Rapids meant poor Gene had to undertake a massive renovation to the barn yesterday, despite fighting a bad cold. We moved all the goat’s belongings to one half, much to their annoyance, and installed the pigs in the slightly smaller side where they’ll get used to us and their new surroundings. In homage to the magnificent meals they’ll ultimately become, I’ve named them after celebrity chefs – Gordon, Mario, Paula and Giada.

Once it stops snowing, or raining, or both simultaneously, we’ll uncover the little door Gene cut in the side of the barn and they can roam around the enclosed pasture too. Then when summer finally comes, apparently around October, we’ll move them to the east pasture where they’ll have a few acres to till up.

Don’t worry – assuming the sun actually comes out tomorrow and we free the wee beasties to check out their temporary yard, lots more pictures will be forthcoming.

So Many Frogs!

One of my many favorite signs of spring is the very first time I hear the frogs start to sing. Their chorus started up two days ago – much to Gene’s annoyance. It’s not that he doesn’t like frogs, he just doesn’t like when I “scare the hell out of him” by banging on the bathroom door and telling him all about my latest discovery.

I’m supposed to wait until he’s had his first cup of coffee, but in my defense, this news couldn’t hold  – my Polly Rescue Project was a resounding success!!! If you’ll recall, Jennifer and I re-homed hundreds of tadpoles from their stock tank to a Tadpole Sanctuary that I created out of a huge bucket. It was well stocked with algae, aquatic plants, and tadpole pellets I got from the pet store. They literally wanted for nothing, except perhaps more positive affirmations from Gene (but he was adamant that only loonballs talk to tadpoles – proved him wrong!) When the weather started to turn in the fall, I released them into the pond where the plan was they’d hibernate over the winter by burrowing into the thick mud.

It worked impressively well – there are HUNDREDS of frogs now, and there were hardly any there last year. It’s a very Zen experience to watch them – they just hang out, waiting for a lady frog to fall under their melodic spell.

And that’s not the only place where romance is in the air. The last time Gene dragged me into WalMart, I noticed they had some Mystery Snails in what passes for their aquatic pet department. I figured they’d make a great addition to Yandu’s tank, and help out with the algae problem.

I had no idea snails were so magnificent. First off, they’re huge – especially the golden one, whom I’ve named Bentley. (Gucci and Ralph are both a pleasing shade of mahogany, which Gene insists on calling “brown”.) They’re surprisingly fast, and they LOVE to “snuggle”. Not that I stare at them, that’d be creepy. I’m just happy that they’re happy.

So signs of life, love, and spring are all over the place around here. For starters, I took the Christmas wreath down yesterday. I don’t care what Hallmark says – that’s the first Official Day Of Spring as far as I’m concerned.

Gene also brought out both the hose and the kiddie pool, which the geese were ecstatic about. Higgins took one look at what Gene was carrying and started to do a happy dance. They didn’t even wait until it was full to hop in and start splashing around.

And here’s incontrovertible proof winter is behind us – I saw 2019’s first butterfly. This year it was a Mourning Cloak, which is an absolutely terrible name for a butterfly. Whoever came up with that one should be fired. That’s like looking at a beautiful Monarch and being all, “hmmm… how about ‘Orange Death Shroud?’ That kinda fits…” Mourning Cloak indeed.

In other exciting news – I’m a legit logger now. What’s changed, you ask? I have now single handedly skidded a huge cedar tree out of the woods. Well, technically Alan cut it down, and Gene wrapped the line around it, but I’m the one that drove the tractor *and* pulled the string that made the winch reel it in. Ergo – legit logger.

I’ve skidded out over 10 trees now, and Gene only had to remind me once that real loggers don’t scream. Even when the tree gets hung up on other trees and the tractor gets yanked up onto one wheel, apparently. Personally I thought that if ever an occasion called for screaming, that was it. But thanks to my cat-like reflexes, I immediately disengaged the winch upon seeing what was transpiring. I know from a distance it probably looked like I quit pulling on the rope that runs the winch because I dropped it in sheer panic, but that totally wasn’t the case.

Besides, I didn’t scream today in a situation that would have made lesser loggers tremble in fear – a tree fell a mere 20 feet from my head. As I was preparing to pull the string, Gene was all – “Hey, look up to make sure a tree isn’t falling.” What he neglected to mention was what I should do if said tree falls toward me – since I’m perched on a tractor that’s attached to another tree. Like hitting the gas and zooming out of harm’s way is off the table, and let’s just say I’m not renown for my land speed. Sure enough, a tree fell and I calmly watched it come crashing down. That’s when I realized there’s a reason loggers wear helmets, and it’s not cuz they’re safety wusses. I’m kicking myself now – I can’t believe I missed a chance to accessorize. Gene needs to take me into town with a quickness, because I’m pretty sure helmets come in fluorescent pink.