27 November, 2012

Beguiling and Beautiful Autumn this year

Backyard at the Cottage ~ at my favorite time of year

 The most beautiful setting for reading today


And plenty to distract me from grading and lesson planning. That is okay...I can do that after dark. After I photograph the moon
These are a few of the joys for which I am thankful during this season of thanksgiving!

20 November, 2012

At the feeders :-)

 It has been a busy schoolyear, and I have noted my short quips and photos on FB and Twitter instead of the blog :-(. My apologies for neglecting this site! I think this is the first time since I began my online journal of sorts that I went so long without posting here.

So to make up for it, I will share today's visitor to the feeders. Our resident Coopers Hawk, looking for a pre-Thanksgiving meal.

(shot with a Canon using a 75-300mm lens and hand held. It would be even clearer, but we had the screen door on the patio at the time. Any opening of doors would have jolted this pretty away.
So you get this, which really is not so bad, considering!

What Nature Study critters have you all observed lately, with the changing of the seasons? I have noticed more of the migratory birds returning from the north, as well as seeing more hawks around and about this past week. This includes a female red-shouldered hawk on my in-laws pond bridge rail, two American Kestrels on the phone lines down the road, other red-shouldered hawks in our neighborhood trees, and our little sharp-shinned hawk that visits the yard from time to time. (probably more often than I see him!)

25 September, 2012

Yellow Headed Blackbird

I was surprised by this treat as I grabbed my camera to photograph the huge number of (slightly annoying) cowbirds at our fountain and feeders yesterday.
Oddly enough, I see him ever late summer/early fall. It makes me wonder if it is the same one. He doesn't stay long.

But you know that I am glad that I just happened to be at the door when he flew in this year!

He is so big.

Glad I didn't miss him.


17 September, 2012

Sir Walter Scott Novels Preserved

I've been working on this set for a very long time. I take that back...I have had this set to restore for a couple of years. When my Mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in late 2010, all work on this ceased for more than a year. Now that Mom has been enjoying a more normal year after cancer treatments, I was able to get re-focused on things in my own home and studio. I cannot tell you all how thrilled I am with how these turned out! I was not so sure there for a while, because the leather is so brittle on the spines. My deduction is that these were stored on a shelf by a sunny window, as the spines are much more faded than the rest of the parts of each book.

It's too bad that one of the books was already missing its spine when my client bought them. Since I don't have a nice, old letter press, complete with an interesting set of letters and shapes, I just had to leave it blank.

Onward and forward! I have more books to restore, and so little time...but I sure do love the work of my hands!



11 September, 2012

Last First Day of 'School'

(Our youngest, upon his first day of his Senior year)

We have had an eventful Summer as a family, transitioning yet again since the spring, really. Our grown kids, even a foster daughter, all came to visit from out of state, empty country fields are filling with homes, and hopefully new friends and walking partners. We sold older vehicles and replaced them with newer, more reliable ones. Gone is the navy blue, extended-cargo-space, Mom van!

It honestly was difficult to let her go when we first began talking about it last year. With just one son left in our homeschool, why keep the van around? Well, it is the most reliable van we'd ever had. It is large enough to carry wallboard, tiles, lots of dirt, and plants home from the home and garden store. It was great for transporting family and gear for many and many a hiking and camping trip from Colorado and New Mexico to New England and Maine.

But it was time. Tough transitions need to be marked by something victorious and happy. No, that is not why Hubby and I both got newer cars this year. That was already in the plan. But that it came during the summer of massive transition just seemed to punctuate our new chapter of life. We all put serious disappointments-deaths of relationships-behind us and are grateful and thrilled to have healthy kids (or siblings), both grown and those still at home. Not many things are more important than that. Loss stinks. But life, health, and boundaries are important. Making plans, encouraging and cherising one another, setting goals, and putting family, not self, first...fighting for and fighting alongside the one(s) you love, as if you were fighting for life against the minotaur itself, is important.

So here we are, our last first day...our last first week of homeschooling our last young man. Long has he been taller than I, but I have a little more time to teach and to pass on words of inspiration and wisdom, when he seeks them. I pray that I finish this job well, by the grace of God.

I'll post more on our last first week very soon! It has been pretty amazing!

My handful of readers, tell me about your first day or first week back to school!



19 August, 2012

Better Bird Conservation

I just received this post on how to protect more birds than I already do in our backyard habitat. Some of my readers may find the extra tips helpful, as I did. Even though I keep the curtains drawn on my patio doors, we still have the occasional bird strike the doors (one just about a week ago), usually upon being spooked by the local hawk or some other thing. I hate when that happens, but sometimes it just cannot be helped. One year, a dove struck a tree really hard when it was spooked. But it is rewarding to do as much as we can to prevent the senseless waste of birds.

We added an exta water source for our birds this year, plus keep our cats indoors. But did you know about drinking shade-grown coffee? Enjoy the article, and let me know what you have done this year to draw more birds to your yard.

Enjoy your birding!


16 August, 2012

How do Birds Stay Cool in summer?

Stumbled onto a very useful article today. I thought some of you interested in nature study and attracting birds might be interested in this information.

Do keep a birdbath or two around and change that water every day!

Then, go read here:


Have you seen any intersting changes in your own bird visitors during this summer of drought?


24 July, 2012

Foster Fledglings

Some of you have likely heard how cowbirds tend to lay their eggs in some other birds' nests.

This is what I observed this morning:

Juvenile cowbirds visit the deck

morning feeding

I am a little sad that this means Daddy cardinal's own babies likely did not survive, especially since the number of cardinals visiting the cottage has declined in the past year.

This is fascinating to observe in person!


07 May, 2012

The fledglings are coming around

Just within the last week, the various sets of bird fledglings have been arriving at the feeders with their parents, or running around in the yard digging for moths and bugs. All still enjoying that combination of being fed by their parents, and learning how to get their own food. We've spotted a (red) house finch family, several starling families (the biggest surprise for me!) and one large (or possibly two smaller) sparrow families.

two of the sparrow fledges - it is not hard to love their cuteness, even though they are such common birds.

May is exciting, because it has been very quiet while all the parents spent most of their times nesting. Now it is getting noisy outside again, listening to the chirps of all the little ones, while still hearing the mating songs going on with our other regulars, primarily the mockingbirds, the male cardinals that haven't found new mates, yet, and the red-bellied woodpecker.

What have you all observed so far this month? Let me know! I love hearing from you and about the variety of birds we all enjoy.


30 April, 2012

The Antics of Howard the Squirrel

I heard a rattling of noise, both plastic smacking sounds and chattering of birds out on the deck this morning. I wondered what could be blowing away. It has been pretty windy these past couple of days, and that does startle our 'regulars' at the feeders.

I looked out the door and saw one of our squirrels, lying on his back, tail flapping in the wind. I honestly thought he was dead. Then he rolled over and I grabbed my camera. I captured the rest of his antics, shared below...

So much effort!!

Trying to get this thing under his control :-)

Oh, I see now...he wants to take this feeder up to his tree...

He freezes, because he knows I see him. This is a pretty typical pose.

He watches me briefly, and I think surely he will eventually drop this thing, then I can rescue it and take it back inside and refill the hummingbird nectar inside.

Then...what does he do next?


Do you see what he has done?? In one quick second, he slipped off the little rope and hooked the hummingbird feeder high up in the tree! There is no rescuing that thing now!

He knows this is food for the birds. I wonder if he thinks it will magically have food in it now, just for him. Perhaps he will knock it out of his tree when he realizes that the one who feeds them will not be able to reach that high. Not to mention it is the wrong type of feeder for him to break into and steal food for himself. Why didn't he drag the old, green seed feeder across the yard and up the tree? These and other questions likely never to be answered ;-).


26 April, 2012

Sometimes Nature can be Harsh

I was all excited to find two nests on our small property this month. I identified the first one right away, as the Mother Mockingbird was already incubating her eggs when I spotted the nest out front in a live oak tree.

Then just a week or so ago, I spotted this in our grapevine:

I look in all my birding books and online for photos, to guess at what kind of nest this must be. That egg is pretty small! Our "regulars" are generally very stealthy about their nests here at the cottage because I suspect they are keen to the fact that we have a Cooper's Hawk and a Red-shouldered Hawk that are pretty regular, as well. :-(

The following day, I walked toward the nest again, this one in the backyard, and both cardinal parents were near the area.

To my excitement, it was confirmed to me that this was a cardinal nest and eggs.

Yesterday, I thought I saw one more egg in there, carefully spying on them before my Spanish class students arrived. I may have seen wrong, as I didn't want to interfere.

This morning, the inevitable happened. Mother Cardinal was no more. Her body was picked half-clean by the merciless little Cooper's Hawk.

I saved a few feathers, and watch to see if the father will take over incubation...but I doubt that he will. The fathers only rarely spend any time on the eggs under normal circumstances, from what I have read.

Poor Mrs. C should have chosen a better location than right near the fence, where the hawk loves to sit and look for prey.


The male cardinal sings out a song. I just thought he was keeping watch over the nest and the momma at the time. I was photographing evening primrose and a painted lady butterfly.
In hindsight, I wonder if he was already calling for another mate, or simply calling out for the original one who laid the eggs.

Now I wonder if he will stay around here, or go on toward the lake and look for a new mate far away from here. He knows there is a good food source here. We shall see...I will let you know.

Until next time, keep your eyes on the trees and bushes and watch for movement.


What I've been sewing

Another prom has come and gone, but this is what I was sewing up exactly one week ago!

Guitar buttons,for that extra touch!

Also whipped up a pocket square and a bowtie! (easiest bowtie I've ever made, and I've made a handful. Finally, a decent, simple pattern and instructions for one! Can't say that the vest instructions were great, though. In fact, they were bad.)

Ds trying on his new accessories

Our youngest son's junior prom - Not your ordinary prom!

This photo is from one of our Metro newspapers!

Some of the many amazing props at the homeschool prom

sitting down to a nice dinner

Knights of the Round Table

 Mirror image

What projects have YOU been working on?