A Journal Of
Fishing and Farming
 Along with other good times and interesting discoveries

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Richard Loller

January 5.   Here is a red shouldered hawk in our sycamore overlooking the deck and bird feeders.  I think most of our birds are too little for his dinner, but the doves are probably just right.  Yummy. January 16.  Here is a view of our mystery bird.  We think it may be a yellow rumped wabler.  But other pictures don't quite match what the books show.  
January 17.  Above is the engine that runs my SQUIRREL BOMB.  Actually, it is a collapseable rod with a reel loaded with fine but strong fishing line which.....goes out the top of a window across the deck to this holder at the top of the bird feeder pole.....
where it is attached to a plastic juice bottle with an inch of water in the bottom for weight.  So, when Squirrely gets on the feed table below I let the bomb go and give him a reason to be a little bit scared about coming back.  Only works for a while.  Squirrels are like me.  Not much short term memory.February 10.  These little blue flowers (the key gives you an idea of how tiny they are) were coming up all over.  Really pretty and dense but we never did find out their names. Anyone know?

February 2.  Grandaughter Zinnia hits 14 and scores another great cake made by her talented pop, James. February 21.  This red bellied woodpecker makes a rare visit to our suet feeder.  I made the feeder based on a store bought one my daughter had.  Birds that can't cling to the bottom are excluded.  Woodpeckers, wrens, chickadees, titmice, and one talented red winged blackbird enjoy it though.
February 22.  Here is a shot of two downey woodpeckers sharing the suet.  I only saw this one time, but I did see a downey sharing with a chickadee once.  Snowy day and the birds are crowding onto the hanging sunflower seed feeder.  When it's cold they tend to be more tolerant of sharing.
Here's another mixed group on the feed table--a female red bird, a dove, and a male towhee.Female red bird, female house finch, two male towhees (rare sight), female towhee,and male red bird..
I think towhees are some of the most beautiful of all our birds.  This one is mama.Looks like a good time deck party including Mr. Squirrel.  If you look closely you'll see the bomb hanging between the two feeders at the top--ready in case the squirrel decides to try the treats on the table.
February 23.  Snow is still around but the roads are getting clear.February 25.  Snow is gone overnight and the primroses are showing up at our house and  at our old house (now a vacation rental) four doors down the road.

Flash back a few days to February 20.  Sweetie Pie and I drove  to Hamilton, Alabama, to buy a labradoodle.  Still snowy but the highways were clear.  The man selling her (the black one) threw in her half-sister because he said he was ill and closing down his dog business.  At this time they had no names. When we got back to Nashville we went straight to daughter Travis's house.  She said she and the grandaughters would house train them for us.  Things were pretty much chaos when we put them down and Raven and Puppy (their dogs) joined the fun. 
When Travis and her family went to San Francisco we kept their dogs.  Here is Raven (we call her Rayray now) watching for squirels while Miss Jane takes a break from watching the birds..  
Rayray is getting set to catch the ball in the air.  She is a self taught retriever and will fetch the ball or stuffed toy as long as you can throw it.

Got it. Just taking a break.  It's getting hot and time for a hair cut.

March 2.  Son Hanley sent this metal woodpecker and I attched it to a tree easily seen from the deck.  Above it is a real red bellied woodpecker.  Pretty neat, huh? March 7.  We don't see piliated woodpeckers much at this house.  Back in our little house where we lived for 45 years they had a nest in a hole they made in the big sycamore hanging over the river. Their nest was most often used by wood ducks and sometimes screech owls.  During the 2010 flood the top of that tree fell and so no more nests.
March 28.  This is our poor old pignut hickory that caught some tree disease and died over the last two years.
Those big limb could hit our house or daughter Travis's if the whole thing blew down.
However, that night we had a huge rain and wind storm and most of the big limbs got blown off.

Luckily none hit the houses but this big one knocked a hole in the fence that kept the dogs in.  Son in law James soon cut it out of the way and patched the fence.. The rain raised the river level so that the ramp to James's dock was pretty well covered.  His two stand-in kayaks on the dock itself managed to float up and stay cozy.

March 14.  I needed a project, so I decided to build a dog house for Bunny and Rosy.  Naturally, I did not look up any plans on line.  Just got a ruler and a pencil and began to build. I even insulated the thing.  Sweetie Pie said, "Why insulate it when the doors are always open?"  Dub.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, as so many things have done. April 17.  Finished except for a bit more painting and moved by myself to a spot below the deck.  I figured it would be heavy so the top can be put on and off and moved separately. That helped save weight during the move.  Ha!  Once complete I could see it was twice as big as needed and weighed a ton, top or no top.  And now the damn dogs won't use it.  Anyone want a dog house for two St. Bernards?

March 17.  How they grow!  Here we have them posed for the members of my Zoom yoga class to see.  Rosy is 4 months and Bunny is 3 months.They are at the stage where they chew up anything not put up.  Not good. Fortunately our yard and daughter Travis's yard are fenced and connected so the dogs have lots of room to explore and run up and down the fence along the road to bark at walking or jogging tourists and other passers by.  What fun.

However, their favorite activity is tapping out.  Looks a lot like yin and yang.  Changes had to be made.  This door to the deck matched the one on the other end which is mostly glass.  Fortunately, we had this solid one stored away and John Price, the handyman supreme, hung it and put in the doggy door.

April 15.  First goldfinchs spotted this year.  A male and his girlfriend, wife, significant other--whatever. He chose this moment to turn his back and then flew off with no thank you. Sister Ann, left, and her friend Barbara visited from Eastport Maine.  They are both selling their houses and looking further south for a house big enough to share.  Nashville was a bust as was Ashville, NC. But Chapel Hill  NC ended up the choice.  As of today (July 12) they are settling in. 

Back to April 24.  This is a bird house my son gave us for Christmas 6 or 7 years ago.  It has a tiny TV camera inside.  We try to spy on the baby birds if we have any, but until this year either nobody showed up or the nests were so high up inside the house that we got nothing but blurred images. This year we got chickadees.  They are so cute.  These are the eggs, six in all.  Despite the off-center aim and out of focus lens we saw them grow up and prosper. 

I tried and tried to get a good still picture of these little guys, but they are all blurred and not much good.  What is this?  That's two babies with their mouths wide open.  Man, for such tiny birds they got big mouths!  But  I did get a  fairly decent one minute video of the chicks a few days before they flew out and away.  Click here to see it. We left the nest box alone for a month or so after the babies left, since some "experts" said birds preferred ready made nests and others said to clean them out. When we did open it up we found this neat nest made mainly of moss!  I took it out and put it on a covered ledge  at the back of the deck.  I thought other birds might want to recycle the moss.  The next day the entire nest was completely gone.  No traces.  Squirrel?  Possum?  Raccoon?  ???

May 8. This is a slice of the garden.  Those are kale in the foreground (left) with arugula (right) and garlic behind them.  I'm getting really lax about keeping the garden photographed (and weeded as well!). To the right of the arugula that's romaine lettuce (big leaves) with spinach next to it.  The romaine did great and kept going until mid July.  The spinach never did much.  Planted too late.
May 29. Here's a shot of Bunny, now 5 months old.  She likes to dig just like our granddog Puppy does.  What are they after?  They really. . .. . . get excited and sometimes get deep enough so their entire head disappears.  Note that she hasn't had her haircut yet.

July 7.  Well, time passes and Zuccini's grow.  They are the same color as their big leaves and these two got away from me but I found them at last.  That is the lovely Mrs. Sweetie Pie posing so prettily with them.  July 9.  Here is the wren's nest from the pair that picked our other deck birdhouse for their home.  We sat almost under them as they flew back and forth to build it, feed the babies, and bam!  All gone.  We missed the big exit.  But we now have 4 or 5 wrens that look and act like babies coming aroound.  Good.
July 20.  Here's one of the reasons the wrens, tuffted titmice, and chickadees stay around.  That's peanut butter I smear on the top and side of the suet feeder.  And the suet is inside the house, so birds that can hang upside down can get it but big birds cant.  This brown thrasher is a regular on top on the house.  He has a sweet tooth.  Tooth?? July 22. I have my coffee on the deck and watch the birds early almost every morning.  This morning Sweetie Pie joined me about 8am.  I had to go put in my eyedrops.  I was waiting the 5 minutes required when I heard her calling.  "There's a prothonotary warbler out here!"  These are very seldom seen here in Nashville.  Of course, by the time I got out there it was gone.  Here's a photo, but not mine, alas.
July 27.  Here's a strange bird I did see on a hot afternoon around 5:30.  It was here and gone pretty quickly and I only got these not-very-good shots.  We thought it was a yellowthroat which we see now and then..... but no, we looked at all the web sites and bird books and it is something else but we haven't figured out what.  The doctor from Vanderbilt Hospital  who came to try to see our Evening Grossbeaks last December (see below) said it is a yellow throated wabler.  Not to be confused with a "common yellowthroat."  Whoa!
December 7, 2020.  This is from last year, but it is so rare I wanted to show it again.  This is a male evening grosbeak.  First ones we've ever seen.  He and his mate (see next pic) visited a couple of times for about 15 minutes and then took off and haven't returned.  Sweetie Pie put the photos on the Cornell Lab web site at around 9:00 p.m. The next day a fellow knocked on our door wanting to see them.  Of course, they were long gone, but he stayed an hour............with his binocs glued to the sunflower seed feeder.  Turned out to be a doctor from Vanderbilt Hospital.  He's the guy who helped us identify our  mystery bird above.  After he left, what to our wondering eyes should appear but another bird lover who stayed until almost dark.  All to no avail, however.  We promised to let them both know if these pretty birds ever returned.

July 12.  Back to Summer 2021.  Variety of tomatoes.  The big ones are probably Early Girls and the little red ones on the left are Super 8 cherries, the brownish one  and the yellowish ones are ones I got from daughter Travis.  The brown is a German cherry (not so good) and the yellow one is sweet and good, but I forget the name.  Still, next year I'll stick to Super 8s.  They have lots more and they don't split as often. I planted two kinds of beans.  The long narrow ones above are Kentucky Wonders (I think) and grow way up the fence.  The broader ones are Roma II bush beans.  The Romas did not do well at all but the climbers did great.  It's now August 22 and they are still coming along, but slower.  We froze a lot and they will be great this winter.

Here are a few of the sweet banana peppers I got.  They didn't do so well, but I'm still getting some.  Plan to pickle some and give away some.  Want a few? July 31.  The okra plants did not grow much over knee high but had a fair number of pods.  The big one is no good, should have picked it sooner. The smaller one will probably be ready to pick in one or two days.  You have to check okra and tomatoes daily or at least every other day or the okra gets too big and tough and the tomatoes split..

End of July and my heavenly blue morning glories finally begin to take off...... Here is the back side of the fence.  They will pretty much cover it before they stop spreading.  Now, in late August, we are starting to see some blossoms.

July 31.  Got the dogs a hair cut at Pampered Pets.  Sweetie Pie and I tried to do it and decided that $60 was cheap.  Here's Rosy with her new do.  Rosy will retrieve a ball or a chew toy like Ray Ray loves to do.  She learned it from Ray Ray.  However, she only does it three or four times before she gets bored and runs off with it.

Bunny is outgrowing Rosy now.  She is the adventurous one. Rosy would stay home and beg for petting and treats if we let her.  Bunny likes to dig holes, like Puppy always did, and chase the squirrels off the bird feeders.  Good dog!

July 31.  Here is a young titmouse taking a bath.  We evidently had a big hatch of them hatch near us this year.  I've seen six at a time at the feeders and they are clearly babies since they will stay at the feeders and eat unlike their parents who grab a bite and fly off to eat it.  The chickadees do that too, which helps us spot the babies since they eat at the feeders too. Finally got a visit from a female ruby throat humming bird.  They came late this year and for a couple of weeks she was the only one.  Then another female showed up and now they play  Get Awau From My Feeder!

August 1.  I began spreading peanut butter on the top and sides of the feeder and got titmice, wrens, and chickadees in addition to the downey woodpeckers that are regulars at the suet underneath.  They all love it.  Here are two of the young wrens that were born in our deck birdhouse. And here is one of the young chickadees that were born in our other deck birdhouse, the one with the tv camera.  We have really been lucky with birdhouse tenants this year.  The downey is more interested in the suet, although she likes a nip of the peanut butter now and then too.
August 6.  Daughter Travis and her family left for San Francisco for their annual camping trip with their old college friends.  We got to keep the dogs.  Actually, Sweetie Pie left for France on the 9th, so I got to keep them by myself alone until the 11th when I left for Florida.  Then I dumped them at Papered Pets until the 15th when I got back.  Travis got back the same day and picked up her dogs.  Which saved me the trauma all over.  Ever try to take 4 dogs to the kennel in one trip?
In the photo on the left you see all the dogs.  Bunny the white one is getting ready to try to take the tennis ball from Rosy the far black one. Ray Ray the near black one and Puppy the gray one stand by.  Above, Ray Ray gets the ball and heads back so I can throw it again.   She would chase the ball until she died of heat exhaustion if I let her.  Rosy will retrieve, but not very long.  She's not an addict.  Puppy and Bunny only like to steal the ball and keep it away from the black dogs.

August 10. Here is friend Frank Mann at the helm of his faithful pontoon boat.  It's a joke that it never fails to need repair or break down when I visit.  This time was no excepion. This trip my Nashville buddy Harry Murphy went down with me.  Frank has a trailer with two bedrooms we stayed in.  It also had a fridge stocked with Miller Lite for me and Corola long necks for Harry.  What a host!  He also has a pond on his 10 acre place where Harry and I fished some between rains from Hurricane Fred.  Here's Harry with a good size tilapia.
Here I am at the pond with a good sized chiclid.  Not sure exactly which flavor.  There are many exotic fish in Florida's rivers and streams and they get into Frank's pond through a large drain to the Caloosahatchee river. This is another chichlid, a Mayan chichlid.  Harry and I caught a lot of these between fishing trips in the pontoon on the Caloosahatchee River , which runs by Franks southern border.
Here is a better look at a tilapia.  Good eating and you probably have seen them on the menu at restaurants.  They are grown commercially.

Here is a photo of a monarch butterfly.  If you saw my journal last year you know we planted milkweed for them to lay their eggs on and raised some of the caterpillars in a cage and then let them go when they hatched from their chrysalis.  Click here to watch. This year we have seen none at all in Nashville.  Please stop using poison on your plants!  It kills all the bugs, bad and good, and the birds and frogs eat the dead bugs and die as well.
Well, here is the big event of our trip to Okechoobee, the huge and famous bass fishing lake an hour east of  Ft. Myers and Alva Florida, where Frank lives.  The guy on the boat is Bill and his dog is Fang(?). They  have come to pull us back to the ramp after our motor battery quit way out in the middle of the lake. You can't start those big motors with a rope.  Maybe we should have noticed that we were the only boat on the lake and the only boat trailer in the parking lot.   Hurricane Fred might have told the other fishermen it wasn't a good day.  Maybe. Well, Captain Frank and I enjoy the tow back to the ramp.  Harry is the camera man today.  We didn't give up easily when the  battery quit.  We spent at least an hour fiddling with all the ways we knew that might help.  Finally, with bad clouds coming up from Hurricane Fred Harry made a brilliant suggestion.  " Why don't we Call 911?" We did and after three or four phone relays Framk got Bill.  He and his tow boat and Fang arrived within 30 minutes.  God does answer prayers!  Yes she does.

Photo by Kevin Kelly on Unsplash
Photo by Kevin Kelly on Unsplash

Meanwhile, back in France, my wife, Sweetie Pie, has made her way through a tunnel into what must be the dungeon of the evil prince... But wait, it's a wine cellar and Sweetie Pie and her lifetime friend and traveling companion, Inez, are enjoying a glass of vino in a wine cellar somewhere nice and dry.

Far from being stranded in the middle of a stormy lake, she and Inez are enjoying the sites as they meander up the Rhone river and debark in interesting places, such as the palace of the14th century French Popes in Avignon.  Popes moved to Italy in the 15th century.  Too bad. Farther up the Rhone, they explore  Dijon, where the mustard comes from.  This is a hospital from the 15th century.  If you think about it, Europe has a lot more history than we do..

August 16.  I got home yesterday and found a lot of veggies that needed picking.  A lot of the tomators were split from all the rain Hurricane Fred brought to Nashville.  But we didn't get hit like the towns 90 miles west of us where many houses were wrecked and 20 people drowned. I picked the dogs up at Pampered Pets and you would have thought they had been on bread and water and had to break rocks with their teeth the whole time I was gone.  Somewhat happy to get home.  Here theey have settled down and are watching a squirrel that is thinking of raiding the bird feeders.  Good luck.

This bee has figured out there is good stuff in this metal flower.  I've seen it off and on for weeks.  Smart bee. Finally a male goldfinch in courting plumage, but it wouldn'tt pose for the camers.  Dumb bird.

August 27.  The male hummer went south and left two females who fight all the time about who is the boss of the feeders.  We have three... ...feeders.  This little  one my sister Ann gave us is my favorite.  Not many hummers use it but today this young lady enjoyed it so much she actually sat down to eat.  Her rival must have been off visiting friends.

August 29.  I looked up from the deck and saw these clouds that my grandmother Mama Jess used to call a buttermilk sky.  I remember helping her churn the butter on their back porch.  That's how old I am.

 September 1.  Today I harvested the butternut squash.  There were 23 orange, or nearly so, and there are 5 or 6 still cream colored down in the garden.  I guess we will be eating a lot of squash and giving it away. It is said to keep a long time.  I had to move these to an upstairs bedroom because some critter, I suspect the squirred, had started chowing down on one. 
Here are our two dummy dogs drinking muddy water out of the plant bottoms.  They aren't alone.  Our granddogs Puppy and Rayray do it too.Here's the boss female hummer standing watch over the deck feeders.

This is supposed to be mouse for use as a cat toy.  We bought ityears ago.  However, Ms. Jane ignores it.  But Bunny and Rosy play with it a lot.  One grabs the tail and the other the head and they try to tear it away for themselves. The miracle is that the thing is still in one piece.  A supurb example of Chinese (or somewhere Asian) craftsmanship.  Who would have thunk? September 22.  Whoa!  How did we get so old?  Left is Jim (Mouse) Moore, then Dave Dawson, then me.  Mouse and I went to visit Dave in Cedar Hill where he lives with son Phillip on a 20 acre place Phillip has turned into a frisbee golf course.  Go figure.  It's located on Ogg Road and is at the back end of nowhere.  Yet, frisbee golf nuts come from all over.  We three old guys relived our times working together at the Methodist Publishing House back in ancient times.  Good trip.  We'll do it again.

Octber 7.  Thursday morning about 8am I looked out the kitchen window and the yard was full of turkeys.  I hurried to get to the front door and got this shot after many of them had gone on.  Sweetie Pie counted 26 from the kitchen window.  Good to know we still have a large flock living up the road and visiting occasionally. From what I could tell they all seemed to be females, which seems to be as it should be this time of year.  However, I saw this same bunch a few days later lolling about under some trees and there was a big male with them.  He was showing off.  The mostly ignored him.
October 21.  Here are the heavenly blue morning glories finally.  They sure are late coming but they are lovely when they finally arrive.  There are on the corner of our front fence by the mailbox.These are down the street at our old house (now a vacation rental).  They are really healthy but more on leaves than blossoms.y.
You can't really appreciate them until you get close up and see how they somehow glow in the center.  I grow them every year..This is Bunny who has been digging for moles again in daughter Travis's front yard.  Somehow she manages to get her face and feet clean.  Maybe Rosy licks her face for her.  
October 28. Here she is, the last little hummer.  Next day she was gone.  I left the feeders up another couple of weeks but no new ones showed up on the way south.Took advantage of the good weather to ride the three wheel bike down the road and saw this old Tom with 8 or 9 of his hen friends just north of Victoria and Paul's house.
October 19.  Here's a photo of the Barred Owl we had been hearing most nights.  Today, toward dusk, it came across the river accompanied by a large and loud group of crows that stayed about 10 minutes and then suddenly left.  We couldn't see it at first since it was hidden in the leaves of the big sycamore.  After the crows left it lighted on a limb of our dead pig nut hickory.  It was late, so there isn't much detail and its head is turned away.  I did get a  video and on it you can hear its unique call--"Who Cooks for you?"  Video.   October 21.  Don't see the larger woodpeckers much until winter when they appreciate our feeders.  But this female red belly showed up and stayed around quite a while.

October 31. Halloween.  Here is my scary halloween costume. Our friend and expert handyman, John, did it up right.  He said he won a big prize at his local tavern with his Gandalf get up.  (Beard is real!) He confessed the secret of his wizard's hat--that's a roll of toilet paper helping it keep its upright shape.
November 15.  Our romaine lettuce is blowing and going. And it still is as I write this in mid-January.   I cover it if  temps are going to be below 28 or so.  It's been great to have.  Just wish I had planted arugula as well.December 20.  Here's our Christmas card display.   Big gap from November 15 to here.  Why?  On December 1 I had my right hip replaced.  Now I'm a double metal man bound to set off all the alarms at  airports.  Anyhow, that's why the gap.  I wasn't thinking about photos before or after until...
Christmas!  Here's our tree made of wood that we have used for 40 years or so.  I can't believe I had the time or energy to construct it, but I did and we have used it ever since.Here is a shot of the lights in front.  Actually it was made in January and that is snow on the ground.  We got 5 or 6 inches of snow in  early January and it stayed around 3 or 4 days.  Whoa!  Just like the  60
'Here is a view of the back deck lights.  I had to string them on the outside this year because the dogs chewed through one of the strands when they were in front. A good thing about snow, as far as bird watching goes, is that it  brings in lots more birds than usual.  We make sure we have plenty and a good variety for all--sunflower seed, safflower seed, mixed stuff with millet, wheat, cracked corn etc. suet and peanut butter for the woodpeckers, wrens, chickadees, titmice, and anyone else able to hang upside down.,

The dogs know a good thing when it is really cold and snowy outside.  Stay warm and safe in 2022!

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