Chaotic Caroling for Copulation

Spring is in the air … I just wish it would wait until after the alarm goes off!


Photo by Fotolia/mbridger68

Cheerful chirping woke me up this morning. One might think that I would appreciate this as we moved to the out the country in order to be closer to wildlife. But alas, the robins were calling to each other long before the sun or me were even up causing me to, temporarily, miss the snowy days of silence. And can anyone tell me why so early? It’s been a little while since I’ve dated, but last I recall, girls preferred being serenaded before they go to bed, not before they get up.

And it’s not just the robins who are piercing the cozy darkness with their jarring calls. A few weeks back, I was woken at 2:00am to the hooting of owls. Now those birds are LOUD. I swear their calls were actually echoing inside of the house. Consequently, nature-boy got sent outside with the mission of chasing off whoever it was that had to be sitting just outside of the window. So there I was dressed in my boots, my coat, my hat and my much-too-thin-for-outside pajama pants wandering around in the snow looking for owls. (And they say nightlife in the city is crazy!) Much to my amazement, it wasn’t just one owl, but four that found my backyard the ‘place to hang out and meet chicks’ (pun intended).

But with spring comes new life. And it will only be a matter of weeks before the birds which were so intent on being the first to greet the morning, are themselves being harassed by younglings demanding to be fed. To which I say, serves them right! Come to think of it, my youngling is pretty vocal about food too.


Photo by Fotolia/Steve Byland

‘To everything there is a season’ and right now that season is for the birds — literally. But if I’m honest, I do wish them all the best. Their chaotic caroling reminds me of how fast time moves and that sunny days are finally upon us. And longer warmer days means that it’s time to get it in high gear for the garden. And that’s as good a reason as any to get up early.

Invasion of Black Blister Beetles

I have had a few insect problems in my flower and herb garden over the years. For several years, grasshoppers attacked, eating any and everything green and even ate the bark off the small trees. Although I have not seen black blister beetles for several years, this year they have arrived and are doing great damage.

Black blister beetle

Blister beetles will feed on just about any leaf that grows in your garden. They have now removed the chard from the garden and are starting on my hostas. They seem particularly fond of certain weeds that grow in the pathways. The experts tell us they can arrive in swarms, and indeed, they do seem to have done so.

The one redeeming quality of black blister beetles is that they also do damage to grasshoppers, one of the most destructive farm and garden pests. “Newly hatched beetle larvae use their legs to seek out clusters of grasshopper eggs to feed on. In this sense, blister beetles can be considered a beneficial insect, but only in the larval stage. Once they become adults, they’re nothing but trouble” (

black bettle 2

Planet Natural has a comprehensive list for control of blister beetles which I have abbreviated below with comments:

• I should have been more observant earlier, but I was so busy trying to control Johnson grass that I overlooked insects. Planet Natural recommends “frequent and careful inspection of home gardens. The numbers increase gradually in the growing season’s early months, and an observant gardener can keep them from doing much damage.”

• I am not sure I approached the problem in the correct way, as I donned rubber gloves and hand-picked the beetles, then stomped them. Planet Natural recommends to “never handle blister beetles with bare hands. Always wear gloves. Brush the beetles off plants into a small container with some soapy water. If shaken from plants, the beetles will often lie in the dirt and play possum rather than scurry away. Take advantage and gather them carefully.”

• I noticed some plants attract black beetles – plants I would call weeds. One of their favorite plants turns out to be pig weed, which I don’t have a lot of, but it must be enough to attract. Planet Natural suggests we keep grass, weeds, and other growth trimmed around the margins of the garden to remove the places where they might get started. I am doing this, so hopefully I can get these guys under control.

• I haven’t tried row covers, but I’m ready to try them now. Plant Natural suggests that “Well-anchored row covers can keep migrating beetles off your plants in the mid to late summer. They will not stop early season adults who over-winter as late stage larvae in the soil. Use them if you notice clusters of beetles (or expect them) in and around your garden come July.”

• Turns out that while blister bugs attack grasshoppers, they are also attracted to them. With the invasions I have had of grasshoppers in past years, I may have to work particularly hard to get rid of the blister beetles.

Always a problem on the old homestead isn’t there?  It certainly makes life interesting.

Storm Shelter

Regrouping after a total loss takes a while, and it has been three years since my old farmhouse burned. The replacement is pretty overwhelming and there are so many issues to consider, I am just now breaking ground. I am excited to describe what I’ve chosen to build, but my first priority was to make absolutely sure there would be a storm shelter, something the old house lacked. I spent too many storms cowered in a closet.

Originally the farm had a “cave” built in the early 1930s. It served the primary purpose of food storage (potatoes, jars, eggs, etc.) with underground protection during storms. Like many “caves,” however, it began to collapse, became unsafe and was bulldozed. Also it had snakes, mice and bugs and I knew I wanted a better shelter.

Just Before the Storm

I had learned of new shelter types recently and have a steel “safe-room” in my city house. As I began to research for an appropriate farm shelter, I considered,

  • A shelter that had a tested FEMA rating.
  • The location I wanted to place it.
  • Appropriate size and cost.

Time for Shelter

As I compared various shelters, I found some key differences. I decided a poured-in-place concrete reinforced steel shelter was overkill and subsequently reviewed forms of in-ground and above-ground shelters.

I rejected the in-ground units for two reasons: First, it didn’t seem to afford superior protection, and second, for older persons, access was more difficult, especially if confined to a walker or wheelchair.

I thought the above-ground units seemed appropriate, so once the FEMA test was satisfied, I still found some were constructed of lighter weight metal, some required significant “step-in” and others had poorly designed locks. Finally, there were differing installation designs.

Approaching Storm

I settled on a unit from Protection Shelters, although similar products may be available under other brand names. This unit will install above ground in the garage by bolting through the concrete floor and will allow step-less entry. The company had other models including below-ground and safe-room designs, but one needs to consider their own unique needs.

Now that Priority No. 1 is handled, we’re moving on to building. The shelter will be installed 10 days after the garage concrete has cured.

I can’t wait to see the more fun stuff (like walls), but I’m sure glad I started with this.

Photos Mar 2016

A pedestrian walks through snow covered trees at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. Heavy snow and strong winds have shut down some highways and schools in Colorado and canceled flights at Denver's airport.
A pedestrian walks through snow covered trees at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. Heavy snow and strong winds have shut down some highways and schools in Colorado and cancelled flights at Denver’s airport.Picture: Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette via AP
Butterflies lap up some orange juice at the Natural History Museum's latest exhibition, Sensational Butterflies in London
Butterflies lap up some orange juice at the Natural History Museum’s latest exhibition, Sensational Butterflies in LondonPicture: Eddie Mulholland for The Telegraph
Hundreds of people line the beach north of the Cocoa Beach Pier in Florida to watch launch of the Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft off the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Hundreds of people line the beach north of the Cocoa Beach Pier in Florida to watch the launch of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force StationPicture: Malcolm Denemark/Florida Today via AP
Japanese artist Tatsuo Miyajima's light installation for Art Basel Hong Kong entitled 'Time waterfall' is projected onto the facade of the International Commerce Centre (ICC) (centre) on the Kowloon waterfront
Japanese artist Tatsuo Miyajima’s light installation for Art Basel Hong Kong entitled Time Waterfall is projected onto the facade of the International Commerce Centre on the Kowloon waterfrontPicture: AFP
Southern azaleas in peak bloom under a canopy of centuries old Live Oak trees covered with Spanish moss on the first day of spring at Magnolia Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina, USA.
Azaleas in bloom on the first day of spring at Magnolia Plantation, Charleston, South CarolinaPicture: Planetpix/Alamy Live News
A performer dressed as a Hello Kitty poses inside a Hello Kitty-themed Taroko Express train in Taipei, Taiwan
A performer dressed as Hello Kitty poses inside a Hello Kitty-themed Taroko Express train in Taipei, TaiwanPicture: REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
Lightning streaks across the sky over 6th Street during South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.
Lightning streaks across the sky over 6th Street during the South by Southwest festival in Austin, TexasPicture: Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP
The newest cruise ship of the Meyer dockyard called 'Ovation of the Seas' sails into the harbor of Hamburg, Germany. The cruise liner will undergo final completion works at the 'Blohm + Voss' shipyard after two years of construction.
The newest cruise ship of the Meyer dockyard called ‘Ovation of the Seas’ sails into the harbor of Hamburg, Germany. The cruise liner will undergo final completion works at the ‘Blohm + Voss’ shipyard after two years of construction.Picture: EPA/DANIEL BOCKWOLDT
Easter bonnet: An adventure into the outdoors for this newly-hatched chick at West Lodge Farm Park at Desborough, Northamptonshire.
Easter bonnet: An adventure into the outdoors for this newly-hatched chick at West Lodge Farm Park in Northamptonshire.Picture: John Robertson

Disneyland’s Disastrous Opening Day

disneyland, walt disney


On tiny white paws she crept, under cover of dark, while everyone slept …

She slunk in through the cat door, lured by the irresistible smell of food. Too small to catch anything but bugs, and now, too weak from malnutrition …

With her little empty belly overriding all her fears, and hunger making her reckless, she forgot everything her mother had taught her, and survival instinct took over.

But the food was so good. She grew careless and stayed too long. Daylight came. The other animals, the dogs, woke up. There were strange noises, smells, and movement in the house. She couldn’t make it back through the door to safety without being seen, or even caught, and eaten. She hid in an open cupboard, hoping to creep out the next night, and escape.

Peek-a-boo Minicat

All day I kept hearing strange noises coming from the cupboard. The dogs, and a couple of my cats, set up camp on the floor outside the cupboard door. I figured it was either rats, or a snake. I didn’t want to deal with either, so I left the door open slightly, hoping whatever it was would make its own way out.

And it did. Minutes before dark, I heard my dogs barking at something just outside the house. Thinking it might be a snake I raced outside to protect them, and there she was.

A tiny feral kitten. The dogs had her cornered, but she was doing her best impression of a bigger, scarier cat.

Now, when I say feral, I don’t mean she was a stray, or homeless cat. Australian feral cats are descended from domestic cats, but that’s where the similarity ends. These cats are vicious killers, always striped – the original color of cats – and often growing much larger than their domestic ancestors. Most have never even seen a human, and most humans never see them.

They’re solitary, and nocturnal. They have adapted well to Australia’s dry conditions, and can survive for long periods without water; they get necessary moisture from their prey.

Living in the outback, I’ve only had a few fleeting glimpses of them. They are considered a major pest, and a threat to our native wildlife, which has very few, if any, natural enemies. Without competition, the feral cats have thrived. They’re hard to control, and they’ve caused the extinction of some species.

Minicat Chills Out

Still, I don’t hold anyone’s lineage against them, and this little one needed my help. I gingerly bent down to pick her up — more like grab her as she made another dash for freedom. Even at around four weeks old this baby was a wildcat and didn’t hesitate to sink her teeth into my hand several times. Little baby cat teeth and people hands are not compatible. The teeth won, ouch!

I took her back inside and offered her the good food. She’d been stealing the dry cat food from the container on the table. It’s what my cats snack on between meals. One taste of the ‘good stuff’ and she lost all interest in mauling my hands.

When I’d stuffed her full of mince, I put her in the spare room with a litter box and her own supply of food and water, and left her to calm down. Every day I’d clean her litter box — she used it, just like a normal cat — and three times a day I delivered fresh food and water, while she dived behind the furniture and watched until I left.

Minicat Meets Brax

After a couple of days I left the door open so she could see us going about our daily activities. Eventually she stopped hiding, and just retreated to a far corner when I fed her. A week later she was watching us from the doorway. A few days after that I caught her touching noses with my kelpie, Brax.

Minicat and Brax Play

Brax has a way with other animals, especially cats. He’s a canine cat-whisperer. And he’d been sitting outside the spare room trying to see the strange ‘minicat’ that had come to live with us. I knew the kitten would interact with him first. She’d seen him almost constantly since she’d arrived, and she soon realized he wasn’t going to eat her.

Friends Now

We’ll leave it there for now, and in my next post we’ll find out what happened when she decided it was safe to come out of her room. Did she make the right decision?

Till next time, keep the faith …



I love our little farm! It is quaint, and the animals, for the most part, behave themselves. Well, unless there is a bag of grain sitting out where they can see it. That’s usually when the shoving, grunting and the fake sounds of growling tummies can be heard over the song birds!

This summer has been joyful and heart breaking. We waited for the birth of our second baby llama that we expectantly named Blessing. Super Farmer helped to bring her into the world without mama llama’s permission (think mama llama moaning and spitting as Chad pulled on the first legs out). She was going to get help whether she wanted it or not as the anticipation was too much for us to bear!

Baby Blessing was born on Father’s Day this year, a perfect gift for her human granddaddy! We ooohed and ahhhed, along with our Addie Acre Facebook followers, who rejoiced at films and photos posted over the next week. However, Sunday I found our precious Blessing barely breathing on the barn floor, mama Violet snuggled beside her watching in distress. I yelled for Chad as I quickly opened the gate to kneel beside our little baby llama.

Chad and I held our little girl as mama cried out, noises of anguish softly filling the barn. We prayed for our baby as we waited for the vet. Doc Larry got there as fast as he could but he could not save her. In a fog, I Listened to him explain how baby llamas only have a 50/50 chance of surviving and how a simple cold can make them crash within hours. We don’t know what happened to our Blessing.

She was up and running, nursing and meeting the other animals just fine all week as evidenced by seven days of life chronicled on film. I’ve watched them over and over trying to figure out what went wrong. I tearfully posted that our tiny Blessing had passed away, flying up into heaven on the wings of an angel. The response we got on Facebook shocked me! We had numerous folks cry alongside us, sending me messages of how their hearts were breaking as their own tears flowed while looking at her photos plastered all over the Addie Acres page. For days, we had words of encouragement, folks sharing just how much she was loved and enjoyed!

This sweet little baby touched hundreds of lives and brought so much joy to people I have yet to meet. Our baby Blessing came into the world for a short week, yet she managed to soften hearts, bringing laughter to hundreds of people just by learning how to stand, her first day out the barn or sitting in a field of purple clover as her mama looked on. I don’t understand why God took her so soon. He knows what He is doing.

I came to love this white little llama by the name of Blessing and was honored and blessed to have shared her for a seven short days with folks all across the country. Chad buried her between the mulberry trees and placed a large fieldstone commemorating her short life. I can look across the llama’s pasture from my porch. I see the glowing sunset shining rays of warmth on her fresh grave adorned with fresh picked wild flowers. I will always cherish my week of Blessing and those who shared it with us.