Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Project

On Christmas Day, Grandpére and LittleBirder put together a bird feeder. This is a very cool Christmas present.

The hammer is a present for LittleBirder as well; it came with the kit that Grandpére made.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Beloved Orca

Orca, my Berner, is 11½ years old. She loves the snow as much as ever. In the winter, we call her "Orca Icebiter"

Sunday, December 09, 2007


I spotted a kingfisher midafternoon today, on our way to get a Christmas tree. It was perched on the branch of a young tree on the shore of the Huntington River, just where Main Road crosses the River, north of Jubilee Farm.

Seemed late in the year for it? But my sister (the Director of the Birds of Vermont Museum) says no, not necessarily. So cool.

Monday, December 03, 2007

snow for skis

LittleBirder has a snow day today. This rather threw my plans of working off, but we played outside in the snow instead. OK, I did chores: shovelling, bringing in wood. Then he got to try his skiis for the first time!

Things to do on the land...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

warm sweet home

The fire is going in the woodstove -- messages are checked -- the cat is cuddled -- pick up Orca tomrrow or so -- there have been baths -- LittleBirder is tucked into bed -- we've started the propane fireplace (just for extra) -- people have been called so they know we're home safe.

All is snug.

Monday, November 26, 2007

going traveling; the jays will watch the house no doubt

Tomorrow we leave, we TRAVEL. I love this. The act of the motion the changes the journays the process. Sometimes more in the abstract than the actual.

Back in a week or so

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

first snow...man

LittleBirder's First Snowman

LittleBirder and his Dadda built this fellow to watch over our woodpile.

I'm not sure whether I love the carrot nose or the hemlock beard more. Just wonderful.

This pic is a little blurry at this auto-resize; you might want to click to see the larger one.

Friday, November 16, 2007

first snow

First real snowfall... New warm winter boots (yesterday) and new snow as of this morning is irresistible. LittleBirder proceeds to attempt to dress himself in yesterday's clothes: sweatpants over jammies so he "can have long johns". Pulls on socks and boots mostly without help. Is sure he doesn't want breakfast first. He just wants to make "footyprints"!

Alright then, why not? I put on outdoor things and make sure he's got water resistant shells on top of sweats and sweater. We bring in wood -- mostly me of course though he helps -- I bring his toast with nut butter and cinnamon sugar out to him, one piece at a time. He eats snow too (just like the dog!).

I string up a tarp at the end of the woodshed -- it's blue, I wish it were green. Oh well; it works to protect the ends of the wood from most weather, I guess.

After finishing wood and tarps and toast we take Orca for a walk to LittleBirder can have her on a leash for a while. Pretty darn silly, as she could knock him over without thinking about it.

Not bad for it only being 9:30a.m.!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Strangely warm out today.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

wood for the winter

We finished stacking this year's today. I estimate: 4½ - 5 cord. Two rows is just under a cord; the shed holds 10 rows or nearly. Hope it's dry enough.

Saw a dozen or so chickadees, a titmouse, two or more blue jays.

Friday, November 09, 2007

migrate or not?

I saw a Mourning Dove on a Maple Tree today -- on a branch -- thought they migrated? Just a territory shift?

Friday, November 02, 2007


LittleBirder and I saw a shooting star tonight in the high NorthWest.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

reassurance of warmth

It's always amusing when you describe your old wood stove to someone who knows stoves, and he says, with respect, that you've got a work horse and it'll probably put out as much heat or more than the other one(s) you've been talking about.

Our stove is old. I've had it since I bought the deep camp this place used to be, and always assumed it was at least 5 if not 40 years old. I wonder if it is older than me. That'd be amusing too.

a toddler's approach to squirrels

LittleBirder went outside today with a bird book, notebook, and crayon. Came in to tell me of a "chipmunk" eating seed in the green feeder that is (in his mind) for chickadees. We talked about how he could scare away a red squirrel by going out and talking to it. In the back of my mind is the idea the squirrel might become habituated to him and he could eventually feed it. I wonder how likely that is? And I wonder if the uneven bit of fur on a red squirrel (the same one? A different one?) is a scar (thus earning it the name "Nibbles") or just a rain-soaked and temporary look.

I wonder where Stubbs is, and how -- whether he survived the summer.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Handy-Dandy Notebook

LittleBirder went outside with his notebook and crayon. I asked, "Is that your 'handy-dandy notebook?"

He replied quite solemnly, "No, Mama. A 'handy-dandy notebook' is for Blue's Clues. I have another one."

journal snippet: chickadee nape patchscrap of journal, quick rough sketch of chickadee nape

One of the 7" chickadees has a little pale patch at the nape of its neck, in the black hood. Some other one has an irregular hood instead of a smooth.

I love seeing little differences like this.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Same ol'

Same birds as yesterday except no hairy woodpecker, and six or more chickadees.

Sometime earlier this week, we managed to clean out the woodshed of stored cedar shakes and siding (on the new shelves in the tools shed and in the wood shed "ceiling" -- now that we put in braces to make such ceiling, respectively). And the ladder is now up under the woodshed roof, not under a leaky tarp, and not going to get thick with ice and snow. We even stacked some wood. I should do more of that today; it's great weather for it.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Birdly birds

LittleBirder and I started feeding the birds again last week, although he did it with Granddad a while back before that too (funny how right now I can't even remember when Granddad came up to visit... oh yeah, mid-September. I've not journaled much the past couple of months).

Today is very busy out there: between 8 and 9 a.m. we've seen a hairy woodpecker (possibly a female), a red squirrel who isn't Stubbs, a pair (or more) of juncos, two blue jays chasing each other, three or more chickadees, a titmouse, a white-breasted nuthatch. Nothing unusual, but pleasant.

We still have LittleBirder's pansies -- just 1 -- after 2 or 3 frosts. And sedum. And a few roses! The roses didn't do so well this year.

Friday, October 19, 2007

bed building

LittleBirder and I finally laid leaves, straw, and dirt in the shade perennial bed I'm trying to build around the well. I'm trying to create this bed as a buffer, for when I eventually start parking in the shade. My long term goal is to park farther from the house, in the shade of the woods, in a half-circle, and use the current parking area, which gets full sun, for garden. Raised beds, with some sealer layer underneath, because we've been parking cars there, but still, why waste full sun on the cars? This is still at least another year away (not counting that we don't have the money for a driveway surface, not even gravel).

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

colors of fall

crabapple or cheeries?

Decorative crabapple, I'm told .... they look a lot like cherries to me.


maple leaf

Maple leaf in our driveway... sugar maple? Red maple? I've got to learn these one of these days.


Rounds Road

Rounds Road, up towards the dead ends we go...


autumn thinkers

Thinking Autumn Thoughts under the sedum

chickadee vids

In which a chickadee proves its preference for black oil seeds.

I love my camera.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

natural and green architecture

Really want to browse through this Natural Architecture by Alessandro Ross (heard of through worldchanging). Maybe you do too? Not to mention maybe folks who are interested in green architecture and/or Andy Goldsworthy's art...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

garden decoration

Among other busy small happy things today, LittleBirder and I attached a trellis to the house. It was given to me as a Mother's Day present, and I love it. That's one of those things that's been waiting to be done for ages -- you know the sort. so nice to have it up! And just where I wanted a trellis too: in front of the propane tanks as you look at them from the drive and stairs.

Saturday, September 08, 2007


LittleBirder, R, and I added some crossbars (perhaps better-termed collar tie or rafter?) to the shed. We've now moved those planks and the ladder up onto them, tucked under the metal roof of the woodshed. Very nice. Pallettes are in. Gotta get the wood stacked!

Now if only I could get a side extension onto the garden shed for the bikes...

Friday, August 24, 2007

predation, round 2

Bug cat and Probable Fox had another growlfest tonight. Something's hungry for my white beast of doom, apparently.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


So there's this strange noise coming from... somewhere. Outside? Er.. yeah. Yeah! Is that the cat?

We scamper to the doors, R to the kitchen door, me to the living room door, a guest to the front door.

R and I see nothing, but we hear our guest shouting, and run back through. So does the cat.

Our guest tells us that the cat was on this old chunk of sauna tube footer concrete, which pins the edge of the flower garden (more or less, until someday I move it), grumbling and yowling. When he came out, he saw and shouted at a fox in the wood pile, which apparently had also been growling at the cat.

For the record, this cat is about 17 years old, all white (except for spots on her nose), has caught approximately 4 mice he entire life, and perhaps all of those were by accident. (I base this on the evidence of observing her and chipmunks and her and birds and her and the mice in the kitchen.) And yet, here she is, defending our home from the Forces of Foxery.

Well, no. I think she was just utterly terrfied. But I like the first version better!

Friday, July 27, 2007

bat rescue

We rescued five bats from our woodstove and its chimney tonight. Two we brought out by hand (in gloves, of course), and three by opening doors and shooing them. I think they were Little Brown Bats (Myotis lucifugus)—using Stokes Beginner's Guide to Bats for identification after the fact. Even after all that time in Carlsbad and with DR in Montana, I'd forgotten what to look for.

Big Brown Bat
Eptesicus fuscus
Length: 3.4 -5.4"
Wingspan: 13-16"
Weight: 0.4 - 0.8 oz
No fur on wings, tail, ears, nose, which are dark brown/black
Little Brown Bat
Myotis lucifugus
Length: 2.4 - 4.0"
Wingspan: 9-11""
Weight: 0.2 - 0.3 oz
Long hair on toes, small black ears

What we saw: medium brown fur, slightly ashy. Slighter darker ears, wings. Didn't look closely at their feet. Hairless wing membranes, naturally. They looked more like the little brown bat pictures, what with the proportion of eye size to head, nose not noticeably black.

We took some photos, but they were hopelessly inadequate. Oh well. Luckily, there's google.

Turns out the Montshire Museum did a week of "Montshire Minutes" on bats. And here's s brief natural history summary from Mass Audubon as well.

Two Two-Lined

Two-lined salamander (Eurycea binlineata): Starksboro, VermontTwo-lined Salamander
(Eurycea bislineata)
Starksboro, July 2007

We were moving some old tarps covering up some aging lumber and our extendable ladder, so we could put the boards and the ladder up on the rafters in the woodshed. This stuff was up on some sawhorses about 3 feet off the ground. Over the last couple of years (have I mentioned we move slowly on our projects?), leaves and moisture had collected along the tops of these things. And certain small critters were attracted to such habitat...

There were two salamanders, but only one got photographed. That ruler is awfully bright, isn't it?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Cooper's Hawks

We saw a whole family of Cooper's Hawks over our house today. I think there were four: 2 adults, 2 young. Very talkative, lots of cheeking sorts of sounds.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


Up here in dem boonies, we heats with wood.

Ok, enough of that dialect.

But yes, we heat with wood. We don't have enough land and time to harvest and split our own (although we do a little culling here and there, and will more next year). We buy it. Over the years, I've gotten pretty good at stacking it and covering it with tarps. On the other hand, over the years, the tarps have developed holes. In my wanna-be-irregular thriftiness, I don't replace the tarps perhaps as often as we'd find useful.

WoodshedWoodshed, about 6' x 14'. Using 4"x4" pressure-treated posts (would recommend cedar, however) and standing seam metal roofing, precast concrete footers, and 1"x4" pine for rafters and roof slats

So this year, we (by which I mostly mean my husband and brother-in-law) built a woodshed. This is a little taller than we'd intended (thanks to my brother-in-law's powers of persuasion). It is in fact (despite the picture) plumb, but as I'm often not, neither is the image... It'll hold about 5 cords, which is about what we burn in a winter, give or take.

It will have some pallets for flooring, presently, and eventually (this year?) we'll add slatted sides for better weather protection.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

more blue

I noticed two pairs of Indigo Buntings were at the feeder today. What a fantastically intense color. How lucky we are!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

quickie garden catalog

Not to post twice in the same day, but at home, there are some lovely colors...

Dragonfly spp. - Starksboro, Vermont, June 2007Dragonfly spp.

Blooming right now: yellow buttercups, pale pink geranium, purple columbine, red bleeding heart, purple lilac (but fading), white lilac.

Indigo Bunting, male - Starksboro, Vermont, Jun e2007Male Indigo Bunting on feeder with thistle seed

More color flutters about: several species of moths in various leafy browns, tiger swallowtails, more. One of these days I'll try to learn butterflies too. Not to mention this glorious dragonfly in gold and black, and the handsome Indigo Bunting.

High Pond, Low Pond

We took ourselves out for a walk today, LittleBirder and I. Near our home is a pair of ponds. In a fit of practicality, I dubbed them "High Pond" and "Low Pond", referring to their elevations with respect to dirt road that runs between them. (In the google map behind the link, High Pond is on the upper left; it is the larger of the two.) There's easy access to the ponds, even with the raspberries nearby (these are blooming white today).

Green Frog (Rana clamitans) - Starksboro, Vermont, June 2007Green Frog (Rana clamitans) - Starksboro, Vermont, June 2007

In High Pond, we saw an Eastern Newt. In both ponds, we saw fish—two species, although I don't know fish and can't tell you which ones. In Low Pond, we saw a frog with a brilliant yellow throat—a Green Frog (Rana clamitans). (I really should know my frogs, since I've worked for the Vermont Atlas of Reptiles and Amphibians as a field worker, and currently they are one of my clients. However, I had to look this up.)

Overhead, we saw at least two male Red-winged blackbirds and just down the road over the meadow, an American Robin—on a different wire this time, although for all I know it was the same bird as we saw last week. I spotted an Eastern Phoebe on a dead branch dropping low across the stream (there's a stream just to the north of the ponds, running roughly east; we saw the Phoebe from the bridge).

Four-leafed clover, Starksboro, Vermont
And for the first time in my life, I found a four-leafed clover.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

white-spotted sable, pansies, sedum

Pansies and Sedum

Blooming pansies and sedum
in a little bed on top of stone wall

I mentioned the other day that LittleBirder's pansies were blooming. Grandma gave us a sedum as well (and in an unexpected move, I planted it promptly). I understand this will bloom in the fall.

White-spotted Sable

White-spotted Sable
Starksboro, May 2007

I also was able to identify this little wee butterfly: a White-spotted Sable (I think). (Thanks to Google's image search that got me to the BugGuide.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

butterflies fly, lilacs don't move, and chickadees bite

Saw a Tiger Swallowtail at the white and purple lilacs, bumblebees on the ajuga, and the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird on the tall ash by the power lines.

Bumblebee and ajuga

Bumblebee at ajuga
Starksboro, Vermont, May 2007

We saw the road commissioner, and it may be possibly to straighten the road, giving the lilacs a little more verge from the plow. The verge has been steadily decreasing the whole time I've lived here, and I'm quite sure the lilacs haven't moved.

I was bitten by a chickadee, too. How silly!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

tricksy pix

How to make taking photos trickier:

  • have a moving subject
  • have a toddler play with an umbrella about 2 feet from you
  • let the target subject eat all the seed or bait the day before you try, and have no more to put out
  • take it through the glass window in the door, because you're trying not to scare the little critter

With that in mind, some neighbors of the day:

Stubbs, the red squirrelGray Squirrel
Chipping Sparrow
Eastern Chipmunk

Stubbs, the red squirrel
Gray Squirrrel (inverted)
Chipping Sparrow
Eastern Chipmunk (through glass)

Heard the ovenbird today; I don't think I've ever seen one. We've been hearing him daily, and well into the evening.

There are at least 5 chipmunks around and about, living in the stone wall or in tunnels out back under the hemlock roots.

By the way, we also saw an Indigo Bunting today. This was a male, on our mixed seed feeder. My sister tells me that this bird requires early successional habitat; we have that more or less because the power company has been clearing extensively under the power lines in the past few years.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

May is SUCH a happenin' month

LittleBirder and I put out more seed this evening. We watch. A chipmunk arrived. LittleBirder walks over slowly, carefully ... and 4 or 5 feet away, the chipmunk stops stuffing his face ... at 2 feet, the chipmunk leaves.

Bumblebees are happy in the purple-blooming ajuga under the lilacs, just loving it there.

I saw an American Robin up on the wires. I'd thought I'd heard it, but I'm still learning the differences between that and the Rose-Breasted Grosbeak.

We thought we'd heard a Ruby-throated hummingbird yesterday or the day before. Today we saw it on the bleeding-heart flowers and the first blooms of the crabapple.

The violets are fully in bloom now. And dandelions. And bluebells! Both the white and lavender lilacs have started this week. There's wild(ish) strawberry in bloom and I'm seeing birds on one of the geranium-type plants. LittleBirder's pansies that we bought are still blooming. Bedstraw (That's what I call it, anyway) is blooming white. Some weedy to-be-yellow things is coming into bloom.

Friday, May 25, 2007

not for grilling

Peromyscus maniculatus (Deer mouse, Vermont)Deer Mouse Mama (Peromyscus maniculatus) in grill, Starksboro, Vermont, May 2007

We knew there was a mouse nest in the grill; R found it a couple of weeks ago, before it was really warm enough to grill.

It was warm enough today...but when we opened it, it was not just a mouse nest, but mice! R called LittleBirder and me over to see them, and after a few minutes of mice peeking out at us and us talking quietly about them, we figured 4 (maybe 5) young ones and 1 mama. Mama was quite a bit larger and brown--a fawn color--with scars on her tail. The babies were about half her size and mole-grey.

My Audubon's Guide to Eastern Forest tells me they were either Deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) or White-footed (P. leucopus). Mama was about 5 inches long, with a bi-colored tail the whole length of it. Later I looked them up on Animal Diversity web, and now I'm pretty sure they are Deer mice.

Fabulous whiskers on the babies.

Friday, May 18, 2007

not a bear

I know I'm not supposed to feed the birds right now: the bears are waking up. And I know there are a goodly number of bears around. I "compromise" by not putting out suet and by having a 75-lb. dog. On the other hand, these are probably of no concern to a bear. On the third hand, I'm surrounded by steepness with trees, including beech; perhaps there is enough other food between us and the bear denning sites.

Well, I haven't seen one here myself.

Perhaps, like seeing the moose a few years back, and the deer this spring, it's only a matter of time...

early and on the porch

Have I mentioned I love sitting on the porch early in the morning with my coffee? I'm seeing 2 Mourning doves (I"d heard them before but not seen them yet), a Blue Jay, a Goldfinch or several, some chickadees. I can hear the Rose-Breasted Grosbeak again.

Stubbs and another Red Squirrel are hanging around, as is one of the Chipmunks. There's a Gray Squirrel as well. They all want to eat seeds on the big rocks, but if the Gray Squirrel wants 'em, he gets 'em, and the others duck out of the way. *chuckle*

Sunday, May 13, 2007

quick notes with LittleBirder

LittleBirder and I cleaned the windows and fed the birds. (More in his blog...)

Much later that day, we saw 2 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. And still later, we strolled down to 'High Pond' and saw 2 Red-Winged Blackbirds. All males.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

migrants in a very small space

We saw a Baltimore oriole and a White-crowned sparrow today! Very cool. The oriole is a summer resident, and we saw it fly across our lawn and then up in some tall maples. The white-crowned sparrow is just passing through; it stopped on our feeders for at least one meal. Very pleased to think that our small space is big enough to see birds like this...

Friday, May 11, 2007

early flowers

Toddler and Groundcover, May 2007, VermontToddler investigating pansy-like blooms on a spreading groundcover, May 2007

LittleBirder had a lovely time running about the yard this morning. Daffodils are blooming; leaves are budding; weather is warming...

This ground cover has a light purple and white pansy-like bloom, but it's only a centimeter or so across. I'd like to know what it is.

Both yellow and orange-centered daffodils are blooming. Some of these are old, old bulbs, so deeply buried under years and layers of adding to the garden bed that I cannot find the bulbs to move them. Some are much newer, thanks to a friends' "Drive-by crocussing" a few years ago.

The bluebells have their buds that are just about to open fully. These are leftovers from the previous owner, although I have moved them around the yard a bit as I slowly reshape the garden landscape. The violets are the same, except they're spreading under the crabapple on their own.

Spring is always a burst of journaling time, isn't it. My sister reports the same thing...


LittleBirder and I went outside around 6:30 this morning, letting the Dadda sleep a bit. We sat on the front stoop in our jammies, wrapped up in a fleece-lined workshirt. We opened our eyes, opened our ears, and kept company with our old cat.

From our house, the sun wasn't up yet; we are ringed by mountaintops. Doesn't that sound circular; that's not how it is; we live on one side of a skinny sloping, turning valley. At any rate, the clouds overhead were pale grey; the ones glimpsable to the east between new leaves were beginning to have the shallow gold tints of dawn. Water drops glimmered on the crabapple from last night's rain.

Our presence (mostly the cat's, who went out a bit before us) convinced a red squirrel to depart hastily. She'd been sitting on the exposed framing of the stoop, tucked up under the roof, thinking about raiding the bird feeder. We have at least 3 red squirrels on the property. One is clearly identifiable; it has a shortened tail. I'm trying to learn the slight distinguishing features of the others.

We watched a chipmunk climb up the smooth square post that holds the thistle feeder and green feed, over by the hydrangea. It had to make a leap to reach the green feeder (which has black oil sunflower seeds). The first time it tried, it missed, and tumbled to the ground about 3 feet below. Undaunted--those were black oil sunflower seeds, by golly!--it scrambled up again and succeeded.

There was lull in birdsong for a bit, as if the earliest birds had called off for the day, and the second shift hadn't quite begun. When it did, we hear "weecher weecher weecher!" from the trees across the road, and a few "ee-oh-lay"s from up to our left. A single male goldfinch laid claim to the thistle seed in the feeder, once the chipmunk had headed off towards storage. Three or so chickadees scuffled and chuckled over the various shrubs and feeders, and more sang "fee-bay!" from the forest.. One titmouse scolded the red squirrel. An unidentified sparrow poked about the rock border by the lilacs and the daffodils. Everyone fell silent when the blue jay hollered "jay! jay! jay!" ... and resumed when it stopped. Far above us, we saw a raven, or possibly a two. We quorked back to them.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Chipping Sparrow

Yesterday morning, LittleBirder and I saw a small sparrow poking around the violets (which are just up this week, I think). We watched it and I asked him questions: "Is it bigger than your hand?" "Yes!" "What color is the top of its head?" Red!"

I noted: russet crown, black eyeline, dark beak, two shades of brown on its back, two pale wing bars. LittleBirder wasn't too interested in looking it up in the book (hardly surprising!). After some flipping back and forth in the pages, I figured it was a chipping sparrow (Spizella passerina). I don't know that I've ever seen one before.

I recorded it in eBird. Turns out I have 20 birds on my lifelist there; who knew?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

It's a crabapple, not a cherry!

Pink-flowering crabapple, just coming into bloom, May 2005. Pink-flowering crabapple, just coming into bloom, May 2005.

So there's this tree that the previous owner planted. It's right off the front step, and lovely. I always thought that was a cherry, but nope. Our neighbor, who is an arborist, explained that it was likely a decorative variety of crabapple grafted onto the root stock of a hardier one. The stem that has grown swiftly in the last few years, overtaking the pink-flowering older one has grown off this stock. So we have a pink-flowering and white-flowering tree -- one tree, two varieties, two heights, different sizes and shapes of fruit.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Edge marks

Finally, some snow. MonkeyChild and I took two walks today to enjoy it properly.

Our afternoon walk took us up the road to the first old stone bridge. On the way, we passed the triangle point of the property. I pointed out the marble post and the Three Watchers. The 4" x 4" post has probably sunk into the soil and humus generated by the Three over time; we can see now only about 6 inches of slightly greyed and apparently evenly-textured marble. The edges don't seem all that worn, though. How fast does marble erode, even in a region with acid rain?

The Three themselves are hemlocks of different ages, yet each bears two blaze-scars, almost overgrown in back. There are still faint traces of the white paint used to mark them. For the ten years I've lived here (even the bit when I didn't), I've meant to re-cut those marks, to freshen them. I've never gotten around to it.