Archive for January, 2018

Mongo Feeder

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

If you’re gathering statistics on the number of smiles/laughs generated (SLG) by non-humans in the Soldan household, Franco the German Shepherd wins. We did get a smile this morning from an unidentified mouse that moved a lot of Franco’s dog food from his dish to the cupboard where we keep the granulated sugar. The little guy piled it right against the door, so it spilled out when the door was opened. Franco ate it thinking it was some sort of bonus. It was actually his all along, and the potential loss could be considered a punishment for not guarding his food dish effectively.

In terms of SLGs per gram of body weight, I’d have to go with the Chickadees and Nuthatches that populate the little forest just west of our house each winter. They fly up to the feeders strung from the tree branches, seize a sunflower seed, and then fly someplace private where they can open their prize and swallow the insides. A Chickadee’s body weight is such that, it can land on a zip tie (one of natures natural building blocks, right along side of duct tape) sticking out of a bird feeder, and barely bend it. A zip tie is not designed to be sturdy when cantilevered out past a bird feeder, but these little guys do not fear landing on them, grabbing a seed, and then flying off.

Alice and I are not big travelers, but we do enjoy getting away now and then. On a recent trip, we visited Escanaba for an EMS conference, then spent 2 days in Milwaukee visiting my parents, and finished up with 3 days in Chicago visiting the Art Institute and pigging out on Chipotle. During our summer trips in the motorhome, we bring Franco, who is happy as long as the RV is moving down the road. In the winter, it isn’t as practical to bring him, so we usually board him. The Chickadees have to depend on the kindness of our neighbors. I have 3 sunflower seed feeders up, and they last about 1 1/2 days. This means that our little SLG per gram winners run out of food unless our neighbors stop by and fill the feeders. We hate to ask them, and a better solution was needed.

I use mostly tube feeders for my birds. Bigger birds tend to leave them alone because the feed hole is so close to the perch that they have to do gymnastics to get any seeds. Squirrels can get to them, and until we found the good quality plastic globes to protect them, we lost a lot of seeds to the squirrels. So I had this idea to capitalize on the tube feeder concept, but make it big enough to last several days during our winter trips.

I thought about tubes, and found that I had a chunk of (unused) 4″ plastic sewer pipe. It seemed like the tube part of the big feeder was solved, and all I had to do was figure out how to meter the seeds out without them all falling on the ground at once, and how to hang the thing in the tree. Enter Google ™. I appear not to be the only one looking for a squirrel-proof large feeder for small birds. The design I found was on the “instructables ™” site, although I’m sure there are many others out there. I added a couple of windows about 6″ up from the bottom so I could see when the seeds are running low without taking the whole thing down. For perches for the little birds, the author specified tie wraps, Which I have to admit I was skeptical of. His logic was sound, however. A sturdy perch gave a resourceful squirrel an avenue to attack the seed tube. So I used tie wraps.

The resulting feeder was finished, filled, and hung just before our January trip. The results were good, although I do see quite a few unopened seeds on the ground below the feeder. The blue-jays, squirrels, and Juncos seem not to mind cleaning these up. Our little Chickadees flit on and off the feeder all day, generating a smile whenever we see them.

Snowflakes

Friday, January 12th, 2018

Click here for 25k movie

We humans live most of our lives indoors. If Alice and I wanted to improve our inside experiences, we’d probably not live where we are. A second rate apartment on 5th Avenue in New York contains more luxury that we could ever hope to achieve in our humble home, no matter how hard we worked at it. We understand and acknowledge this. But the outsides…

Our two German Shepherds have done something for me that I can’t imagine anything else doing… they’ve gotten me outside at times of the day that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Tonight, for instance. Franco needed his evening walk, so I dutifully donned boots, jacket, mitts, and hat, and headed out the door. Oh yes, it was 8:00 and long dark this time of year, so I also put on my headlamp.

I would not have known that the perfect snow was falling had it not been for Franco’s bladder. I don’t think I’d be exaggerating if I were to suggest that I have to be careful about getting too interested in the snowflakes tumbling into the beam of my headlamp. With my head tilted back so I’m looking straight up, I fear that if I let myself go, I could lose my vertical orientation and tumble to the ground. There is nothing in my life experiences that seems even remotely like these snowflakes on a perfect evening. The movie I’ve added to this post gives a small idea what it’s like, but really, I wish I could take you all outside on a night like this, strap on a headlamp, and allow you to behold the wonders of a snow fall.

The Glade

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

I was waiting in line at Econo Foods the other day. The fellow in front of me put down a $20 and ordered some Powerball and Mega tickets. He got $4 change. It is entirely possible I was reading something into this, but I pretty firmly believe that I saw this fellow smiling with anticipation when the clerk handed him his tickets.

The news lately has had a story each night about how high the powerball and mega-millions jackpots were. One article I saw said the odds of any one ticket being a winner were about 300 million to one. To give you a sense of proportion, the odds of any one of us being killed by a meteorite are estimated to be 1 in 1.6 million. Yet when we read a story about someone buying the winning ticket at a 7-11 ™ somewhere in rural Florida, we can just imagine ourselves in the story. All our troubles would be over!

As I was walking Franco the other day, I snapped the picture at the top of this post. It is a row of trees I planted some decades ago. My idea was to separate the pond from the road with a screen of trees. Each of the little guys I planted came from somewhere on our property. They were dug by me with a shovel, hauled to their new home in the wheelbarrow, planted, and given their first drink of pond water. They were watered regularly during the dry years, but their roots are now deep enough they can go it alone.

The story of me planting these trees is not as interesting as the powerball winner in Florida, but I would suggest it is more true to life. So many of us want to write a best selling novel, a hit song, star in a high grossing movie, or yes, win the powerball. Few of us will be able to enjoy any of these fantasies, but it doesn’t stop us from dreaming.

If I could take a young person aside and get them to listen to me for a sentence or two, I’d suggest to them that it is the good habits that you cultivate, and the little things you do and then regularly reinforce in your life that will pay the best dividends. It is tempting to wish upon a star, but planting and watering a little tree will likely pay off better in the long run.