Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy New Year

We gather around the table, give thanks for the plentiful food, and talk about the weather.

Beyond the sheltered circle of house and barns the world is a bleak and dangerous place for birds. Food is buried and the winds are bitter.

Here are a few Celtic New Year traditions to bring you luck and keep you out of trouble in 2009.

Do open the front door at the stroke of midnight to let the old year out and the new year in.
Do hold a silver coin to bring you wealth in the new year.

Do give your spouse a kiss to welcome in the new year.

Don’t wear shoes which have a hole in them or financial problems will stay with you the whole year long.
Don’t wear new clothes on this day.
Don’t sweep the floor, else you’ll sweep a friend away.
Don’t do any washing, as throwing out water on this day is considered unlucky.
Don’t remove the ashes from the fire or take a burning ember from one house to another.
Don’t let the fire go out.
Don't make any money deals as money made on New Years Day will only bring bad luck.
Don’t carry any debts over into the New Year.
Don’t pay out any money on the first Monday of the New Year.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year. May 2009 see an end to these troubling times.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas lights

A drive around my town on Christmas Eve.

Click on any photo to see lots of detail.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Driving home last night, listening to Christmas songs, I thought about how timeless the lyrics are and how they paint such beautiful word pictures of our collective Christmas memories.

The lyrics to White Christmas were written in 1940 by Irving Berlin and introduced by Bing Crosby in the movie Holiday Inn (1942). It became very popular with WWII soldiers and their families because it expressed their longing to be home with family at Christmas.

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the treetops glisten
and children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow.

I'll Be Home for Christmas is one of my all time favorites. It was written the year after White Christmas by Kim Gannon and Walter Kent. It too touched the hearts of soldiers and their families alike. When you listen, it's easy to picture a soldier writing these words to loved ones back home.

I'll be home for Christmas
You can count on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams

Silver Bells paints a vivid image of busy city streets. Shoppers bundled in coats and mittens hurrying past window displays. Colored lights everywhere reflecting off falling snow. Written in 1951 by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans it was first sung in the Bob Hope movie The Lemon Drop Kid.

Strings of street lights
Even stop lights
Blink a bright red and green
As the shoppers rush home
With their treasures

Christmas carols celebrating the birth of Christ date back to 760AD. They never became popular because they were all written in Latin. Not until 1223 when St. Francis of Assisi started his Nativity Plays in Italy were carols sung in the language of the people listening to the plays. Minstrels traveling through Europe spread the songs, changing the language with each country they visited.

In 1647 Oliver Cromwell came into power and banned carols. People continued to sing them in secret thus keeping them alive until in Victorian times they became popular again.

It would be hard to choose a favorite Christmas carol, there are so many lovely ones. Certainly one of the most beautiful is Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem, written in 1865 by an Episcopal clergyman, Philip Brooks. His visit to the town of Bethlehem inspired him to write a poem. I love this line. No one could ever say it more beautifully.

The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear was a poem written by Edmund Sears, the pastor of the Unitarian Church in Wayland, Massachusetts. Ten years later, Richard Willis, an American composer, created the melody.

Peace on the earth, goodwill to men
From heaven's all gracious King
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

Friday, December 19, 2008

You could get a lot of counseling for that much money

One of my 16-year old cats, Hocus Pocus, was running a fever a couple days ago. He felt better the next day, but I decided to take him in for a checkup and maybe some lab work. The vet did routine blood work and decided to x-ray the lungs. An hour later, X-rays back, the vet went off on a new tangent. "The heart doesn't have distinctive edges," said Dr Harbach pointing at the x-ray film with her pen. "We need to do a cardiac sonogram," she advises. I scheduled one for the following afternoon. Well, as it turned out, there was nothing wrong with the cat's heart. (BTW, I changed veterinarians shortly thereafter). The point isn't actually the illness, but the opinions of other people about my spending money on veterinary procedures.

Back at work the next day I told our receptionist about the veterinary visit. Another worker overheard and retold the story to yet more people. Most of them felt it was their job to put me straight about spending money on cats. These were some of their comments:

"You don't spend money like that on cats. You can get another cat for free."

"You're nuts, you need a shrink. You can get some serious counseling for that much money."

"When they get old/sick best to just let them go."

"Cats are not people. It's wrong to spend that money on cats when there are so many people who need help."

These viewpoints made me a little queasy, but mostly they made me mad. Is it just cats that illicit deep resentment or is it all pets? I suspect the sarcasm was directed at me because I gave value to a non-human creature. I'm not exactly shy about expressing myself so I told everyone what I thought about their advise: On the subject of helping people vs animals. My co-workers are driving brand new, ginormous SUV's and telling me to give my vet budget to people. So, I asked why didn't they drive their last SUV for another 10-years and donate those car payments to a good cause? Can anyone, in good conscience, eat lunch and dinner at a restaurant when some poor folks need the meals much more. Why aren't they brown-bagging it and sending the money to the Salvation Army? Nobody agreed with those arguments. It isn't the same thing at all. A new Lexus is a necessity, a cat is a liability. Fancy stuff is important, cats, on the other hand, damage fancy stuff. On and on in that vein. I wanted to ask them to detail their last donations to our Rescue Mission for the homeless, but I bit my tongue.

I've heard the same ideas from pseudo-psychiatry personalities on TV. Pet owners substitute animals for children or human relationships. Isn't it possible to have both? As a child we had pets. I don't think my parents loved me less because we had a couple cats and a collie (altho I was certainly more trouble than all the pets combined;)

I know many of you have pets. What do you think about these arguments? Do you believe people are confused and think their pets are children? Or have they raised their children and now have some additional time and money to enjoy a pet? Or maybe they find raising children with pets helps the children learn empathy and responsibility? Is spending money on those pets somehow taking food from the mouths of hungry children? Do you think people with pets shun their friends and stay at home to interact with animals as a recent publication suggested? I'd be interested in your comments.

I hope everyone has a nice weekend. Stay warm and enjoy your pets--if you have 'em.
See you all next Monday.

Monday, December 15, 2008

If you enjoy hosting birds in your garden

Some wild friends dropping by for lunch this week.

Ms Belle the red bellied woodpecker.

The chickadees are always the first to try a new feeder.

I have found suet dough is one of the best ways to attract wild birds to my garden. Woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, blue jays, wrens, and others all come to the suet feeder. There is a lot of nutrition and calories in suet so it really helps the birds get through a difficult winter.

I have had really bad luck with the suet dough brands sold in box stores. My birds will not eat the WalMart or box store suet dough. I watch for Kaytee, to go on sale for $.99 a block, it is a favorite. Even raw suet from the butcher will attract woodpeckers but it is usually more expensive than commercial blocks. In places where squirrels are a serious problem, meat suet is the best alternative.

You can also make a peanut butter mixture that will attract birds... and squirrels. There are dozens of recipes starting with an inexpensive peanut butter and adding cornmeal or oatmeal and various things like raisins, lard, a little sugar, nuts, etc. I freeze it in an icecube tray and set cubes outside.

I have two downey females. One is on a mission to drive the other away. Too bad they won't get along, there is plenty for everyone. This is the shy one keeping an eye out for her troublesome rival.

This nuthatch stops for some suet before going back to her job of hiding seeds in my shingles.

The aggressive downey pauses for a snack before continuing the pursuit of her rival.

Enjoy your visitors.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A winter garden

Frozen toes and fingers are forgotten in the magic of a winter garden. Fanciful shapes and sculpture created at the whim of whirling winds. Diamonds dusted atop pristine white. Prisms of ice reflecting color back into the light.

Most of last season is covered and hidden. Only the occasional blackened, withered foliage left to hold a place against the coming of spring.

Mary Oliver's words capture a little of the eerie silence and unnatural light of a snowfall.

The First Snow
~ Mary Oliver

The snow
began here
this morning and all day
continued, it's white
rhetoric everywhere
calling us back to why, how,
whence such beauty and what
the meaning; Such
an oracular fever? Flowing
past windows, an energy it seemed
would never ebb, never settle.
Less than lovely? And only now,
deep into night,
it has finally ended.
The silence
is immense,
and the heavens still hold
a million candles; nowhere
the familiar things;
Stars, the moon,
the darkness we expect
and nightly turn from. Trees
glitter like castles of ribbons, the broad fields
smolder with light, a passing
creekbed lies
heaped with shining hills;
and through the questions
that have assailed us all day
remain--not a single
answer has been found--
walking out now
into the silence and the light
under the trees,
and through the fields,
feels like one.

A tiny snowbird suns himself on the russet stalks of Autumn Joy.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Last summer's garden walks

Last summer we had several garden walks in our area. The gardens were neat and colorful, but none of the plantings really caught my eye. I saw the same Knockout roses, daylilies, and acres of Impatiens. Not that there is anything wrong with these hard working plants. They are just very common and show up on every single garden walk. On the upside, you can't go into anybody's garden and not learn something. I snapped a few pictures of things that were a little unusual. Maybe you will pick up an idea you like from one of the photos.

This first trellis-entry into a back yard is not unusual but very nice. Garden designers go on and on about creating 'outdoor rooms'. This seemed a very good way to define an area and separate it. There is another trellis farther back leading into another 'outdoor room'. I think the rose on this trellis is Ramblin' Red, an excellent climber which is hardy to zone 4 and I believe bred by William Radler, the same man who gave us Knockouts.

The last three photos are of unusual birdbaths. The first one is made from terracotta pots. A few tall, moisture loving plants around it might have softened the look.

This birdbath is cast from a large leaf. I haven't tried this hypertuffa technique yet but I plan to. My rhubarb leaves should make excellent 'molds'. I think I would like this birdbath better if it were set on a concrete post, a tree stump or even sitting on the ground. The aluminum stand looks out of place.

This last birdbath is a little different. It is just a large glass bowl sent into the seat of a chair. I'm looking for the right chair and plan to shamelessly steal this idea. On the ground is a big shell with hen and chicks growing in it. That was cute.

I have more garden walk pictures for a later post.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Gardening Book

The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: Planting and Pruning Techniques
by Tracy DiSabato-Aust

This is one of my favorite gardening books. Not a coffee table book with lots of beautiful photos, but a practical book about perennial care. All the usual perennial information is here. Soil--moist or well drained? Is sun or shade best? Which plants resent transplanting? How often should you divide?

The book also covers things like how to prune your tall perennials to avoid staking. How to prolong bloom time or how to delay bloom. How to extend the life of biennials. When and how to shape your plants for fuller foliage and more flowers.

Ever wonder why some plants open up in the center and how to avoid it? Ever try cutting half your monardas back to get longer bloom at staggered heights? Ready to pull up your floppy Autumn Joy? Tired of staking large plants? Uncertain about which plants can be cut down in fall and which should not? What pruning techniques will cause early flowering perennials to rebloom later in the summer. Tracy has the answers to these and more.

It would make a great gift for any gardener on your Christmas list;)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Peanuts for the blue jays

Had a chance to do some birding over the long holiday. The blue jays have a special table in the garden. Peanuts are their favorite but they eat suet, cat kibble and sunflower seed too. The jays always visit in a group of three. I can hear their calls from far away as they approach the garden.

Grab a peanut and hurry away to hide it. Then come back for more.

They always try to stuff more than one peanut in their mouth. Eventually they settle for one at a time.

They like the shelled peanuts but not as well as the ones in the shell.

Sly sneaks in for some cat kibble while the jays are off hiding their loot.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving day. May you spend it with friends and loved ones and may you find you have many, many things to be thankful for.

This old Norman Rockwell illustration made me chuckle. Did they really do that to people who ate too much?
I'm taking a few days off to enjoy some family time. Be back Monday.

Friday, November 21, 2008

From PC's to birdbaths;)

My photo PC has been in the shop all week. I just about maxed out the old 80 gigabyte hard drive in less than a year. It's getting an upgrade to a 500 gigabyte hard drive. That should give me some space for storing pictures (for a while anyway;).

These are some photos I had on a flash drive and decided to post. Mushrooms have nothing to do with my PC--just some interesting ones I found the other day while doing yard work. They like soil high in organic content, so if you have mushrooms (or any soil fungus), it's a pretty good sign your soil is healthy;)

Rambling disjointedly onto another topic.

I'm taking my concrete birdbath in for the winter. If it stays outside through many freezes and thaws, it will almost certainly crack. I'll replace it with a heated one so the birds can get water when everything is frozen and there is no snow cover.

I saw this photo on the Duncraft site. The cost is something like $30o. I love this birdbath! It looks like stone but is some kind of resin compound. Anyway, I thought maybe this winter I'd try making something similar from hypertufa. Anybody that works with tufa, please let me ask you some questions. Perhaps we can do a blog tutorial about tufa projects.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

More tribute to autumn (Part II)

P. D. James said, "It was one of those perfect English autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life."

I know I'm guilty of looking back on events through a romantic, rose colored haze. When I remember the autumn just passed, I will think about the crisp air, the gentle warmth of the sun, and incredible color everywhere. I will remember the last tomatoes and the first sweet apples, the pungent scent of leaf smoke and the impossible colors of an autumn sunrise. I will relive the cautious hopefulness I felt when we elected a new president, and enjoy the remaining days left to my much beloved old cat, Voodoo.

O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stained
with the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; There thou may'st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my Fresh pipe;
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruit and flowers.
~ William Blake

The Sussex lanes were very lovely in the autumn...spendthrift gold and glory of the year-end...earth scents and the sky winds and all the magic of the countryside which is ordained for the healing of the soul.
~ Monica Baldwin

Autumn is the eternal corrective. It is ripeness and color and a time of maturity; but it is also breadth, and depth, and distance. What man can stand with autumn on a hilltop and fail to see the span of his world and the meaning of the rolling hills that reach to the far horizon?
~ Hal Borland

I'm glad I prepared this post a few days ahead. My 'photography' computer is going into intensive care tomorrow. Not sure when I'll have it back.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thank you

I would like to express my heartfelt thank you to all American veterans and the men and women serving in Americas Armed Forces.

Look around you, everything you see is due to a great extent to the Americans who have fought and sometimes died for our great country.

And I will always do my duty, no matter what the price,
I've counted up the cost, I know the sacrifice,
And I don't want to die for you,
But if dying's asked of me,
I'll bear that cross with honor,
'Cause freedom don't come free.
I'm an American soldier.

When liberty's in jeopardy I will always do what's right,
I'm out here on the front lines, so sleep in peace tonight.
I'm an American Soldier

~Toby Kieth/Chuck Cannon

Photos by Norman Rockwell, one of the greatest chroniclers of life in America.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

To linger just a bit longer (Part I)

Our glorious Indian summer ended Thursday. Harsh winds ripped the gold and scarlet leaves from the trees and left skeletons silhouetted against gray skies. A chill rain adds to the gloom.

I shouldn't complain, it could have been snow. For the next several days (or maybe weeks) I will be huddled inside wrapped in knitted sweaters and furry cats. I will watch the birds and read my friend's blogs and wait to see what winter brings.

But first I want to time travel back a few weeks and relive a bit of autumn's blazing color.

I am rich today with autumn's gold,
All that my covetous hands can hold;
Frost-painted leaves and goldenrod,
A goldfinch on a milkweed pod,
Huge golden pumpkins in the field
With heaps of corn from a bounteous yield,
Golden apples heavy on the trees
Rivaling those of Hesperides,
Golden rays of balmy sunshine spread
Over all like butter on warm bread;
And the harvest moon will this night unfold
The streams running full of molten gold.
Oh, who could find a dearth of bliss
With autumn glory such as this!
~ Gladys Harp

From my favorite poem by RobertFrost. I always picture his wood in autumn with fallen leaves mostly covering the paths.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
and having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
~ Robert Frost

Maybe, if we are very lucky, we will have another spell of good weather before winter sets in to stay. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! .

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tribute to Autumn's Beauty

In the autumn, we are gifted with amazing splendor before nature plunges us into the bitter grayness of a long winter. Autumn is the time of abundance and beauty.

I plan to enjoy every moment of Indian Summer with my camera.

The hazy, cloudless skies of Indian Summer. Leaves scurrying down the street before the wind.

The cold shiver from an arctic blast. Indian Summer. The last warmth of the sun.

Chilly mornings and glorious warm afternoons.The Harvest Moon. The Hunter's Moon.

The Rainy Season. Dry corn stalks clattering in the wind.

The touch of frost on grass and window pane. The smell of burning leaves.

- Keith C. Heidorn

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Famous Local Halloween Legend

This first photo has nothing to do with the Bray Road legend. Pure gratuitous atmosphere. If ever there was a spooky cemetery, this is it. So, if you're in the mood for a scary tale--read on.

(Click to enlarge)

Skywatch Friday (really Thursday) again. Click the badge to see skies all over the world.

When I first heard the story of the Beast of Bray Road it really sent goose bumps down arms. Walworth, Wisconsin isn't very far from me, maybe 50-miles or less. In the 1990's mysterious sightings were frequent and the people who claimed to have seen this beast seemed to be reliable and honest. A brief account of the reports was even given (tongue-in-cheek) on a major TV network news program. That's were I first heard of it. Linda Godfry who wrote the newspaper story below went on to write a book. Later a movie was made based on the legend.

Although I have never outgrown my love of a good Halloween tale, I'm pretty skeptical when it comes to ghoulies and supernatural beasties. Having said that, I have to admit, I wouldn't go for a drive down Bray Road alone at night.

The following account is from the the Walworth County newspaper:

The rumors floated around town for two years or so before Linda Godfrey heard them. A wolfish-looking creature that ran on two legs and had been seen around the Bray Road area, stealing chickens, eating roadkills and scaring the daylights out of locals who (sometimes literally) ran into it.

Although the stories seemed like grist for the National Enquirer's mill, they were consistent enough to be intriguing. A certain number of people, good honest working folk, had seen something-something unusual. Something scary. Something hairy that relished pavement patty dinners!

The logical place to start was the county humane officer, Jon Fredrickson. It turned out Fredrickson has a manila folder in his files marked "Werewolf," filled with note cards detailing six or seven such "sightings." One referred to unusual tracks, another to a hairy pointy-eared creature seen chasing down a deer on two legs.

Another described a Burger King employee who saw a man-like creature running in mid-November. The employee allegedly said he could not believe what a fast and powerful runner the thing was.

Fredrickson's best guess is that the mysterious beast is actually a coyote or even a wolf, both of which have been unofficially reported in the area.

There are at least two people, however who would disagree with Fredrickson. I found out about them through the grapevine, and both agreed to tell me their versions of what they saw. I'll call them Barbara and Pat, since both were reluctant to go public with their real names for understandable reasons. (It seems society is less than kind to people who claim to have seen werewolves.)

The two women are unrelated, but both saw the creature on different parts of Bray Road in the evening hours. Barbara is a working mother, age 26, and Pat is a high school student. And both are entirely serious about what they saw.

Here are their stories in their own words:

Barbara: I was driving home one night on Bray Road, and I saw this thing on the side of the road. As I came up to it in my car, its back was to me so I saw it had ears and the whole bit. It was kneeling!

Its elbows were up, and its claws were facing out so I knew it had claws. I remember the long claws. And it was eating road kill or something, and as I drove by and I saw all this, it looked right at me and didn't run. It didn't get spooked or anything.

And it had like glowing eyes, which probably were a reflection of my headlights. It was right on Bray Road, right before the Bray farm, on the curve. And I saw it.

He was brownish-gray ... and he had big teeth and fangs. And he looked at me. He turned his head to look at me.

It was about the size of an average man, 5-foot-7 maybe, about 150 pounds. It was holding the thing it was eating palms up, with the real long claws and the pointed ears. He had a big long nose and a long chin, like this on this picture (she pointed to a drawing of a "werewolf" from a library book).

This is exactly what I saw (the picture). This is it. This is what it looked like.

This happened to me two years ago. And after I'd heard that Pat had an incident with it, I decided to go to the library. I looked through a few books they had for a picture of what it looked like, and I found that picture.

The knees were bent in a kneeling position, like a human would do.

It was night, and it was quite large, but I know what I saw. You don't mistake something like that. I don't take Bray Road in the dark anymore.

(Click to enlarge)

Pat: It was October this year, on Halloween. I was going down Bray Road, and it was kind of smoggy out, and my front tire got lifted off the ground. I'd hit something. So I kept going about 50 or 60 feet, right before Sitler Road, and then I got out of the car.

I'm looking around the side to see what it was, 'cause I'm thinking I hit a small animal. I hit a bird the same night and so I'm thinking I just killed another animal.

There was nothing on the road, no blood or anything. I didn't see anybody, and I felt like if I hit it, it should have stayed there. I walked to the end of the car, and here comes this thing, and it's just running up at me!

You could see the chest of this thing because it was big, and it was hairy. It was fast, that's for sure, because I see this thing, I get in the car, and by the time I got inside the car the thing had grabbed hold of the car.

I just put my foot on the gas pedal and I started going. Maybe after I got going I looked back, but at the time I was more interested in leaving.

The way it was running, you could suggest that it was on two legs because you could see the chest so well and it was pulsating as it was coming toward me. It was hitting the ground hard. I've never seen a human run as fast as that and my uncle was a track star. (If he'd gotten me) I probably would have been dinner that night.

It was bigger than any dog I've seen around here. We had a couple of Rottweilers and we had one that was a real big one, and this thing was bigger than he was.

And he had more hair.

It was brown. You could see the hair; dark colored. It wasn't black, though. Long straight hairs.

Coyotes don't get that big. I've seen a coyote. They were suggesting it was a bear at my house but I told them it wasn't that big.

But it was bigger than any animal I've ever seen around here. When the nails hit my car it was like, mmmph! (she clapped her hands together forcefully). It hit the top of the trunk and it slid off. The fog made the car wet. But when it was going down it scratched (the car).

This did not look like a German shepherd. I swear to that.

I went to go pick up my mother's boyfriend's daughter, and on the way back she saw it, kneeling down eating or something. She's 11, and I picked her up from trick-or-treating, so it was around 9 p.m. She said, "Look at that THING!" I said, "Yeah, look at it," and I pressed on the gas.

The mind tends to play tricks on people after you've been scared, and I admit I was afraid. I'm not going to say it was a werewolf. I'd say it was a freak of nature.

It's weird because you don't think something like that exists ... but if you see a creature like that, it tends to leave the mind wondering.


Barbara's mother also had a story to tell. She said a neighbor of hers woke up at 4 a.m. because her dogs were "going crazy" barking outside. The woman said she went outside and heard a long, constant howling sound. "She said it was so scary," said Barbara's mother, "that she couldn't get back to sleep. And she does remember it was a full moon."

Barbara's mother also heard from a male acquaintance that he had seen some sort of creature that was bigger than a dog or wolf by a creek. He didn't know what it was.

One other family admits to seeing a mysterious creature. Karen Bowey, who lives on Bowers Road, said her daughter Heather saw it. Heather, who was then 11, was out playing with a friend two years ago when she came running home, frantic with fright.

"She said she thought it was a big dog, until it stood up," remembered Bowey. "We said, 'What do you mean, stood up?' She wanted us to go down there but we just blew it off."

Heather's memory of the incident is vivid. "It had silver-colored fur with brown in it," she said, "and its face was shaped like a coyote's. But the back legs were shaped differently. When it stood up, they looked bigger than a dog's or coyote's, like they could stand up and jump and stuff. It was looking at me.

Heather said the creature continued to stand and look at them, until the children realized it wasn't a dog and started running back to the house.

"I looked back and saw it running toward us kind of like a dog would run but with bigger leaps. It got halfway to the house, then turned around and went back into the cornfield," Heather said.

Bowey said Heather was not the type of child to lie or make things up. "I just think it's a very curious thing," said Bowey. "I don't think it's human. I think it's a mix and it gives the impression it's deformed."

There are other rumors that no one I contacted would own up to, such as the one that claims a local hunter found identifiable tracks on his land, or the one that says a woman and her two children saw a dark, hairy creature on two legs chase a deer out of the woods-and keep up with it!

Most people do seem to agree that something is out there. They just don't know what it is.

Fredrickson, the humane officer, still sticks to his coyote-wolf theory. "Sometimes when a wolf or coyote is ready to pounce on an animal," he explained, "it'll actually spring up, which gives the illusion that it's standing. So if they caught sight of the animal at just the moment it was lunging, it could have appeared to be on two legs."

Nevertheless, Fredrickson concedes there are a lot of people who really believe they've seen something out of the ordinary. And he doesn't know quite what to make of it.

He probably said it for everyone, though, when he made this observation -"The county is getting stranger."

Monday, October 27, 2008


Saturday dawned bright and brisk. The perfect autumn day to spend in the garden. With a chilly wind blowing but the sun warm on my back I took down all my wren houses. Time to bring them in and do some repairs and touch up painting before storing them over the winter. The wrens will be back next May and expect the houses to be clean and neat for their new families. Several larger birdhouses will be left up all winter. Birds like chickadees will be grateful to huddle inside them on cold winter nights.

The favorite and the first wren house occupied every year is the white one with the decorative cutouts. I guess birds have a sense of style too.

I decided to enlarge three flower beds so I spent a couple hours cutting out sod and re-edging. Today I'm feeling a few muscles I don't remember having. This is my favorite spade. I bought it probably 15 years ago. Perfect for edging borders, removing strips of sod, and especially moving perennials in and out of tight places. It keeps a very sharp edge all season.

Now that I've given myself a little extra space, I can get busy planting some spring bulbs.

My friend is giving me a toothy grin for the camera;)

Sunday blew in with a vengeance. I dug out the warm down vest and braved the 60-mile per hour winds to fill the bird feeders. As I watched the leaves swirling madly around me I felt the first ominous splat--a large wet snowflake on my face. The season's first snow. It didn't amount to much and lasted only about 10-minutes. Still, a reminder that good weather is to be treasured late in October.

In the afternoon, I took a scenic drive out to one of our local apple orchards. They have the best apple cider donuts served fresh and hot with glasses of fresh pressed cider. Brought back a dozen donuts and several gallons of cider to enjoy later.