What to bring to the picnic table.

Not pineapple.

I gave the squirrels one of those tubes of pineapple that might have hung out in the fridge for just a little too long for my taste. They were not impressed.

I had envisioned squirrels running amok, jacked up on natural pineapple sugars, but what I got was some nibbles and then one morning it was just gone. I think someone just chucked it over the fence, creating a mystery find for one of my neighbors.

As an apology, I created this somewhat phallic apple and corn on the cob combo. It led to some suggestive squirrel images, but culinary results were not much better until I begrudgingly went out and sliced the apple up.

I’m your private dancer, a dancer for corn kernels….

My audience was not thrilled. “Hey, lady!! Dried field corn! That’s all we want. Maybe an  amuse bouche of sunflower seeds.”

Trash Panda visited and gave the selection maybe three stars. I love the stealthy approach and that he or she looks like a giant bear in comparison to the table’s size. While the raccoon did make some night time visits, it showed up more often in the early morning around 7:30 or 8 and in the early evening around 9 pm. I guess I need to pay better attention when I look out my windows.

Much as I would love them to eat the tomatoes that aren’t going to make it on the vine, old apples, and whatever aged exotic fruits I have on hand, they really just want dry corn, sunflower seeds, and peanuts. Peanuts are amazing! (I’m told)

I discovered that I can pretty easily throw a bunch of images together into a time lapse sequence. Here are the squirrels? A squirrel? tearing through their favorite treat.

MomBert vs ALL the Animals

Based on what shows up in MomBert’s yard, it seems like she might live in the middle of nowhere. However she only lives on the edge of town backed up to a strip of woods that has more houses on the other side of it. Yet everything from foxes who need a nap to five foot long black snakes blocking the route to the mailbox come to hang out.

So it wasn’t too surprising , but very “SQUEEEE” worthy when fawns showed up in her garden.

I think I would have been the idiot touching it at this point.

Unfortunately, the arrival of fawns coincided with a story my aunt shared about a local woman and her dog being attacked by a protective mother deer.

Meanwhile my sister clearly has bigger problems at her house.

MomBert has outwitted the auto-correct function that tries to save me from swearing by just using an efficient “F.”

Me trying to address my sister’s wax emergency.

Boobs solve the problem. Since then the fawns have returned for additional naps and trapped MomBert in the house at least once by suddenly appearing in the driveway with their mother to eat the branches MomBert had just taken a break from trimming.

However deer in the driveway were not nearly as worrisome as the next visitor.

Yes, that is a bobcat taking a stroll up MomBert’s driveway.

They are native to Ohio and have made enough of a comeback to be off the endangered list. MomBert lives in one of the counties with the most sightings. We all learned that you are supposed to report a sighting online for tracking and/or call the game warden.

This element has been added to the adventure that is walking up her hilly driveway for basic things like the mail, newspaper or the reccycling.

Do not attempt to cuddle bobcats…. or deer…probably.

Hot Times at the Birdbath

We’ve officially hit the 90’s and it’s hot, hot, hot. I’ve seen many more blue jays this summer than I have in the past, and they love the birdbath.

I just want to do a little brag here on the water droplets. So entertained.

I watched as the birdbath hogging robin dive bombed the blue jay enjoying its bath and then jealously watched from the sidelines.

Squirrel Trends

The squirrels don’t know it, but they are on trend right now. Or at least it feels like they’re trendy because ads for tiny picnic tables keep popping up in all my social media feeds. Even @chunk_the_groundhog now has a tiny picnic table. (He also has a family of 3 babies!)

Adventure Buddy’s husband decided he could craft tiny picnic tables rather than buy them from Lowes, and was nice enough to gift me with one. It took my squirrelly crew two days to find the table, but they are now nibbling at it one kernel at a time, then freaking out and leaping away.

It reminds me of this video that a friend shared with me. Yes, it’s 21 minutes long; but if you are fascinated by squirrels’ antics and leaping abilities, it’s worth the watch. Clearly this guy used his quarantine time much more productively than I did.

Your Moment of Chipmunk Zen

MomBert has been out in her studio making stained glass goodness to keep herself busy.

She was FaceTiming with me when she announced that the chipmunk was back and was drinking from a crack in the concrete. I, of course, chided her for such shoddy chipmunk accommodations. My yard wildlife have heated baths and ground level bowls to sip from and quench their tiny thirsts.

The next day, I got a chipmunk update.

That’s pretty cute, but I asked for more: “Can you get the chipmunk a tiny table and table cloth with place setting?”

The next day. Chipmunk Zen.

Stay at Home Highlight

This squirrel.

Seeing this squirrel “swimming” laps in my yard was probably the highlight of my day. This is just another indicator that the “stay at home” order has not significantly altered my lifestyle. I would have been excited of this squirrel in any scenario.

While MomBert and my sister suggested that the squirrel was doing this because his NUTS were itchy (NUTS, it’s a squirrel! They’re so funny.), the internet suggested that it probably just felt nice and cool on his belly.

Willing them to grow

I’ve been failing at this for a couple of years now. I do not find the seeds I need and get them started early enough to have big enough tomato plants to produce tomatoes in the summer.

Miles is helping.

Specifically these are Granny Smith Tomatoes. The mature tomatoes are bright green like a Granny Smith apple and very firm making them perfect for fried green tomatoes! I learned about them after finding the plants at a greenhouse one spring. After that I have only come across the seeds.

On this very sunny morning, I set my greenhouse out for more direct sunlight. Hopefully Miles willing the plants to grow will help production and I won’t have to rely on immature green tomatoes for my fried fix!

Grow I say!

What are these caterpillars thinking?!

I’ve been holding off on this post because there was the real possibility that I would murder these five innocent yet obstinate swallowtail caterpillars. Their collective attitude makes monarchs seem simple and angelic. As of this writing, (November 26- this will probably publish later) everyone is in chrysalis and seem safe.

Everything I read about swallowtails indicated that they would form their chrysalis and overwinter. I was in the habit of getting out of my car and taking a caterpillar head count before even going in the house after work every day. However as we edged into the end of October and actual ice in our rain on Halloween night, these guys showed no sign of decamping the fennel plant for their winter homes. October20198

I fully panicked  on November 2, when I came home to find two of them heading inside dead leaves in the grass. Two more were still hunkered down at the base of the fennel where they had been days before; and for the love of Pete, IT WAS COLD!

I found a shallow styrofoam tray in the recycling, dug up a clump of curled parsley, and some un-frosted dill. Yes, we had had at least one frost by this time. What are these caterpillars doing?!

I bundled everybody up with the plants in the pop-up environment and relocated them to my unheated garage. I was afraid that the heat in the house would further mess with their tiny crawly instincts. Additionally, I could not find an article that would clearly tell me how to proceed. Heated house? Cold garage? Stop messing with shit? Who knew.

At any rate, everybody ramped up their activity level within an hour of being in the garage. I really thought one in the leaf was dead.

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November 2

However this arrangement lead to idiotic situations where I “needed to take my caterpillars for a walk.” I couldn’t just leave them in a dark, windowless garage all day! Plus the live plants needed the light as well. I would set them out in the sun and hope for the best before going to work every morning. There was one day where it turned extremely cold and rainy before I got home, and I found two of them curled up on the floor of the tent as if they had fallen.

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Miles gets it.

However the longer this went on, the more I worried about their time frame. I now theorize that reason that elementary classes use monarchs to raise and watch in the classroom is that monarchs follow a predictable timetable whereas apparently swallowtails do whatever the fuck they want. I’m not the boss of them!

Finally, I decided that maybe this was more about time than temperature. Everyone’s activity had slowed. One little guy had been in the same spot under the egg carton for days. Another had assumed what I considered the pre-pupal J position, but was not moving forward. I could see the anchoring silks near all of their heads and bums. Around November 10, I decided to bring them into the house to see if warmer environment helped to speed things along. Again, I could not find helpful articles that really spelled out what to do so this was just me rolling the dice. (Potential murderess  here!)

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Success came on November 16 and 17. One by one, I discovered them in chrysalis. The one on the stick was the first to go. However this is where I cut our ties. Some articles suggested keeping the chrysalis in unheated garages and even your refrigerator, but they also said that some swallowtails have stayed in chrysalis for over a year! I cannot maintain this level of stress or caterpillars in my fridge for over a  year. Also between climate change and Ohio’s multiple personality weather patterns, who knows what these guys will decide to do.

The one on a stick is firmly planted in a bush where I can see it. The other four are sheltered in a styrofoam and egg carton “hut” that gives some ventilation and an exit strategy if they decide to emerge on one of our freaky high 50’s “winter” days. Hopefully, predators and weather will let all five survive until late spring. Keep ya’ posted!

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November 16- 17