Friday, April 29, 2016

Travel views from the guest room. . . . . . . . . .

 It was rather late last night when I took these photos in the guest room.
In fact, I was lounging on the bed with my phone close by, looking about
 and thinking of all I'd done during the day to prepare for our upcoming trip.
 I'd brought out the trusty collapsible clothes rack, set it up and hung clothes
 I'd like to take but gradually editing. Actually very few clothes for this journey
 because I'm limited to one small piece of luggage and a backpack.
 I then did a dry run to see if, for this casual but lengthy trip, I could get
 everything into a small 21" (carryon size) suitcase! 
Yikes, it won't be easy, but it will be much better when it comes to traveling
 the length and breadth of IRELAND's countryside. . . . . on trains, buses, 
or with a private driver, for three long weeks!
Car rental in Ireland is not kind - or even available to some travelers for those
 of us who have reached the golden years - and driving those narrow winding
 roads on the wrong other side is something we no longer enjoy.

I rarely take photos with my phone. For some reason these came out
surprisingly clear even under chandelier lighting, so I thought I'd use them to
get started and share my journey back across the pond yet again.

Love this vintage secretary purchased several years ago, already painted,
 from SuzAnna's Antiques. . . . . .it stores a lot of my travel odds and ends.

Here's 'the rack', my favorite way to organize packing. . . . . . later I'll share better
 photos of the actual really minuscule pile of clothes I'm taking. Don't be shocked by the
 jeans you can just see hanging here. I never travel with jeans however this time
 I will, and I'll tell you why!

Close to midnight on the clock! Must away and forget the consternation  
of packing. There may have to be several dry runs for this trip. 
I'll update later - we leave in less than two weeks.
Travel to green, gorgeous, and often wet IRELAND - my first time there.
A challenge for sure, but very worthwhile I hope.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Empty Nesters. . . . . . . .

I had a feeling that today would be the day!
Yesterday evening we relaxed with a glass of wine on the front porch, 
admiring our gardening efforts, and watching the parent chickadees
 feeding their offspring above our heads. 

As mentioned before, Carolina chickadees are such amazing tiny
birds who are extremely attentive parents. Not knowing how many 
babies were there, but thinking there had to be several keeping them
working on non-stop food distribution, we just hoped we'd see the 
excitement of the fledging young, but realized it would be a hit or miss 

Today, waking just before 7AM to brilliant sunshine, and birdsong, I dashed
 to the dining room windows, camera at the ready, to check the nest box. 
At first thought this bird was a parent bringing breakfast, then I realized it
 was a baby chickadee probably thinking about moving out and leaving home!

After watching it pop in and out for about 5 minutes. . . . . . . . 

. . . . . . . . . little claws appeared, first one . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . then the other, and in one whoosh it flew right out of the box at lightning
 speed toward a tree in the side garden.
And there I was, for the past week, worrying and wondering how in the
 world those tiny birds would get out of the box and, when they did, would
 they fall down onto to spiky hydrangea bushes and be injured! Who knew
they fly so well immediately. 

Hearing more excited chirping from the box, I knew there were siblings, so woke
Bob and he joined me on the porch. . . . . . . and for next 45 minutes we sipped 
our wake-up coffees, and me poised with the camera until my shoulders ached. 
I took 89 pix of birds sticking their heads out the hole etc!!!

In between fledging babies, one of the parents came back and forth with small
 bits of suet from our feeder, offered a quick taste then flew off with some still
 in its beak - must have been tempting the baby to follow. The other parent was
 probably waiting somewhere in the trees where the babies seemed to be headed. 

I noted that the first bird to leave took the longest to make up its
 mind - "should I stay or should I go?"
The next THREE, oh yes there were FOUR total stuffed in what must have
 become a very crowed and hot box by yesterday (the temperature outside
 reached the mid-80's here), made their moves quickly. Two more headed 
to the trees, but the last one flew up on our roof, bobbed all the way up the
shingles to the crest, and then flew to the trees to join the others.

This has really been a busy week in our garden for birds. We've also had 
four baby Carolina wrens appear - don't know where the parents put their
 nest this year, but they were teaching the cutest babies to look for
food and fly from branch to branch on the fig tree (wrens apparently hop
 about for a while before really flying any distance). The only birds remaining
 close to the cottage we're hoping to see fledge, are the nuthatch family in
 our large birdhouse, and with this very warm weather I'm sure they will be
 moving out any day also.

We do feel blessed to be sharing our garden with so many beautiful birds. . . . 
and now a new generation will be arriving at our feeders.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Healthy Orange Glow. . . . . . . . . . . .

I picked up a bag of really juicy oranges at Aldi this past weekend - eight perfect 
lovelies for a total of $1.98, a true bargain. 
Can you imagine all the work involved to get these citrus fruits to my kitchen.
 The TLC given the trees in Florida and California, praying for good growing
 conditions over many months, harvesting, sorting, packing, shipping hundreds
 of highway miles before displaying them in the retail store . . . . . all for me, or you,
 to enjoy at such a low price!

Bringing home real oranges sometimes requires spending a little time
 squeezing because there's just nothing better than a glass of fresh juice.
  I never drink the juices in bottles or cartons but indulge myself when
 fresh oranges look as good as these.
A huge thank you to citrus growers everywhere, you are appreciated for
all your hard work to bring us beautiful fruit.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Freshening up with the Eastern Bluebird. . . . . . . .

The birdbaths were cleaned and refilled by me before the rain arrived
 on Friday afternoon - then later they were topped up by nature in some
 really heavy downpours on and off during the night.
I love watching birds bathe, they seem to truly enjoy plunging in, flapping
 their wings, sitting on the rim for a few seconds then hopping back in and
 repeating their showering in wild abandon. Then it's up on a tree branch to
 dry off and preen those precious feathers. 
Some of our larger garden birds are real bathers, especially the American Robin
 and Brown Thrasher, in fact the robins will often show up as soon as they hear
 the water from the garden hose.
On this day, after I filled all the baths, who did I catch enjoying the waters?
  A little female Eastern Bluebird splashing merrily, then flying up to a branch
 looking rather damp and bedraggled, but probably feeling much cleaner.
Although I've yet to see bluebirds nest in the box on the potting shed wall
 (they apparently don't like that spot), I like to think she has a nest and a family
 hidden somewhere in my garden - I have seen her with her mate often - and 
perhaps on this particular afternoon was taking some much needed personal
 time to freshen up during her busy parental chores.

As long as there are bluebirds, there will be miracles and
 a way to find happiness ~ Shirl Brunnell 1934-2005 author of "I Hear Bluebirds" 

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