Saturday, January 17, 2009

This and That

A good year for cardinals at my backyard birdfeeders! I have seen at least 6 pairs recently.

Well, we survived the coldest week this area's seen since the last century (1996 to be exact). On our way to work yesterday morning, the truck thermometer registered -30 degrees! But yesterday's "official" low was -26. This morning when we left the house to do our weekly grocery shopping and errands, the temperature was almost 20 degrees (above zero!) -- it's amazing what a difference 50 degrees makes!

We're all surviving the Manpower "work reduction" at work with everyone pitching in all over the place. Mr. Johnson's "official" request to use me as additional help in his extremely short-handed work area was denied--the PO that pays me is not the same PO that pays his Manpower employees. Well, I'm sorry, but that's a load of BS as far as I'm concerned.....and I'm not going to stand my and watch my husband stress out when I can do something about it! So my solution has been to get as much work done in my area in the mornings and then I go down and help him out for a couple of hours after lunch. The job was fairly quick and easy to learn ("so easy a monkey could do it" according to the always complimentary Mr. Johnson!). I'm happy that I'm able to help out and he's relieved that they're keeping up with the workload pretty well. (His manager showed up unexpectedly the other day while I was down there working, but when Mr. Johnson called to admit what was going on, the manager's response was "I don't know what you're talking about, because I didn't see a thing." Whew, what a relief!)

The biggest problem with this whole process is that we're going in to work later and therefore getting home almost an hour later than what I'm used to, so I'm having a really hard time getting stuff done anymore. It seems like I've barely gotten home and it's 5:00 and time to start supper. And because I'm really not used to working quite so hard, I'm generally asleep on the couch by 8:30 (or maybe I can blame it on the cold weather?) Anyway, my blogging activities have suffered, so this is going to be an extra long post, just in case I don't have a chance to get another one ready in the next week.

Does anybody out there have some good pellet ID skillz? I found these two in one of my ground feeder trays this afternoon. The biggest one is about as big around as my index finger and they appear to be made up of mainly seeds and seed shells. I'm pretty sure the possums are not responsible for these because it's been too cold lately for them to venture out. I sometimes see the crows sitting and picking seeds from this tray. Does anyone know whether crows will cough up a pellet?
Here's a look at the bigger pellet broken in half. There's a whole sunflower heart in there along with all the other partial stuff. I always associate pellets with owls, but owls don't eat seeds, do they? Another backyard mystery......
Here's a fun picture. I bought this big mineral block for the deer that visit my backyard. Of course, the deer have shown no interest in it whatsoever, but the birds really seem to like it. It's not unusual to see sparrows and juncos perched on top picking at it, but I was surpised to see this Red-Bellied Woodpecker clinging to the side and pecking at it also. (See all those sticks in the background? I started trimming my apple trees a couple weeks ago and just threw the trimmings on the ground until the snow melts. The bunnies are really enjoying chewing on these as you can see from the lighter colored portions where they've nibbled all the bark off.)
I got a nice e-mail from Julie (October Eves blog) yesterday wondering if I had any good book recommendations and here are a couple I've enjoyed lately. If you're interested in reading another good book about life in Alaska, check out Heather Lende's "If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name," about daily life and residents in Haines, Alaska. If you were a fan of the "Northern Exposure" TV series a few years back, then you will definitely enjoy this book.
I'm currently reading "In Beauty May She Walk" by Leslie Mass. This is Leslie's story about hiking the Appalachian Trail at age 60. I'm really enjoying this book. Hiking the entire AT is not for sissies or slackers and it's interesting to read about her experiences during this hike. I'm not sure I could do it--her descriptions of the trail sound very similar to some of the trails I hike getting to my deer hunting stands and imagining myself hiking those trails with a 45-pound backpack all day long seems pretty overwhelming. But I truly admire the fact that she's an older woman and taking on the physical and mental challenge of this hike and sharing it with the rest of us.
As soon as I'm finished with "In Beauty May She Walk," the story of "Dewey, The Small-Town Library Cat" is waiting for me. This was another recommendation from Amazon and I can't wait to start it! (Cute cover, don't you think?)
My birdJam software was delivered a couple weeks ago. I also ordered a little external speaker with a rechargable battery that I can just plug my iPod into if I want to play the birdsongs for someone else or to try attracting birds in the field. Unfortunately, everything's still sitting in the box on my desk until I find some time to sit down and read the instructions for loading everything onto my iPod.
Here's a fun picture of Sophie enjoying some afternoon sun on the couch. I think she was half asleep and didn't even realize I was taking a picture of her.
I'm about half done knitting Sophie's sweater -- I got some dirty looks this past week when it was so cold and she was wishing she could wear it! I'm not going to have enough yarn to finish it, so I'll have to check sometime this week and see if I can buy another skein that's close to matching this dye lot.
I've finished a couple of other projects in the last couple weeks also (one of my New Year's resolutions was to finish at least 2 "old" projects every month). Here's that stupid scarf I've been working on for 4 years! I do not like this scarf and forced myself to finally finish it. I hope the person I was knitting it for still wants it! After I got it washed and hung up to dry, I noticed an "irregularity" in the pattern that made me dislike this scarf even more. (If you click on this picture to enlarge it, you may be able to notice the irregularity also, but if you don't, then that makes me feel better!)
I finished this afghan too. It's huge and very warm and I hope to donate it to an elderly couple in Rochester whose home burned to the ground last Thursday.

I also want to send special congratulations along to two of my blogging friends: Troutbirder and Richard (At the Water). In the January/February issue of Minnesota Birding that just arrived in my mailbox today, I was pleasantly surprised to see that both of them had bird photos published. Way to go, guys!

Well, that's pretty much all that's been going on in my life for the last week. I hope you're all staying warm and for all you folks in the eastern U.S. who are still shivering, I want to assure you that warmer weather IS on the way!


Lynne said...

I saw photo credits for Troutbirder and Richard in Minnesota Birding too. I'm excited for them. Maybe I can get autographs from them one day!

I don't see any iregularity in the scarf. It's cute!!

You're going to LOVE your birdJam.
Hi Jay!!

Sophie looks lovely in her custom sweater! She'll be stylin'!

I think it's great that you're helping Mr. Johnson. And the afghan for the couple who's house burned- well Ruthie, you are just a terrific gal with a BIG heart.

I got a mineral block to attract critters up at Hasty Brook last summer and the birds just LOVED it. Especially the woodpeckers.

Take care and don't work too hard.

KGMom said...

I'm with Lynne--irregularity? WHA? No, don't see it.
Anyway--love you almost finished doggy sweater. Bet Sophie wished it were done--what with the C-O-L-D weather.
I have not ready Dewey yet, but it look like a treat. I know the premise. Let me know if you like it.

Dana and Daisy said...

oh my you have had some dreadfully cold temps. It got into the 50's here today so I finally went out and took down my wreaths and remaining christmas themed decor on the porch. (it has been about 20 for days now) I thought I'd have to rename them my Valentine Wreaths if I didn't get them down soon.

But blasted, a bird is nesting in my ski's again, so the season's greetings skis will likely stay a while longer until i can tell if there are eggs in the nest or not.

However I think it is a common sparrow and someone I know does not take kindly to the vermin with wings variety. But to me, they are all God's creatures and deserve a place to call home.

Shellmo said...

That cardinal was so beautiful! I hope work goes easier - sounds like you are working very hard. Is there a vacation in your nearby future? :)
Sophie is just a gorgeous dog by the way. Love all your projects as always!

Anonymous said...

Dewey looks kind of like old "Wooley", doncha think?

I saw no flaw, no flaw I saw. The scarf is gorgeous!

There's no way Sophie knew you were taking a picture or she would've been outa there!!

There have been so many fires lately. It's kind of scary. I'm sure those people will LOVE that afghan. You're so sweet~~what have you done with my REAL sister?? LOL LOL LOL

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Gosh Ruthie, you are just full of..
information tonight. I am reading Dewwey right now. I will look for the other two books soon. They sound like something I would really like to read. Thanks for the tips.

Sophie looks beautiuful in that blue sweater. You should definitely get more yarn and finish it.

Take care and don't work too hard.

Mary C said...

Thank you, Ruthie, for the cardinal "fix." Hopefully, JZ will visit and help you ID those pellets. That Alaska book looks interesting, and of course, the Dewey book looks like every librarian should read it. I'll have to at least put that one on my Amazon wish list. Are you planning to bring your Birdjam and Ipod with you when you visit your brother? I love that color blue, especially on Sophie. She'll love it when you finish it. And your completed projects really look good. I hope you are enjoying your weekend.

Meggie said...

Hey Ruthie! Cardinals are plentiful at my feeders also but that's nothing new for me.

About the pellets...before you said that you didn't think it was from a possum, that was my guess. I have one that insists on eating catfood that I leave out for a feral cat. I see it when the temps are in the single digits but never in sub zero temps.

I was NOT able to see the irregularity in the scarf. I like it!

Sophie's sweater looks very nice. Hope you find a matched skein to finish it.

Sorry that you're working so hard and so long. Take care of yourself.

Jayne said...

Hey Ruthie,
I think whatever you create is beautiful and can't see anything irregular about it!
Interesting pellets... no clue here.
Glad you are able to help Mr. J out at work and still get your hours in. It's been a tough time for many lately.
Sophie looks so content in the sunshine. :c)
Have a beautiful week ahead. XOXO

Heather said...

Hi Ruthie. Good to hear from you, but don't rush to make posts on our account. We'll be here, waiting for you. I've been thinking about you in this cold weather. We've had a few nights below zero here in Ohio, but I knew you all were even colder than us! We're up to 35 right now, and I tell you, it's like a heat wave! I went out to fill some feeders this morning with only one layer of clothes on and my coat, and it felt toasty warm!
Thanks for making book recommendations - I like that. I'd like to check out the one about the lady on the AT. I read a book from one of your previous recommendations about the lady (and her family) who got the last homestead claim in AK (sorry, can't remember the title and I'm too lazy to go back to the post where you recommended it!). Anyway, I really enjoyed that one.
Stay warm, and don't work too hard! It's very kind of you to help out your hubby at work (Dave and I both work for the same company, too. Convenient, isn't it?)

Toni said...

Ohmigod! you have a GSP?! So do I :) Just tripped over your blog, and love what you've done with the place.

Dave said...

Wow' you are a bizzy girl. We have your warm temps here in Anchorage. Last Wednesday I posted it was -32 and this Wednesday it was +42. Talk about a temperature swing. They call it a Pineapple Express, warm weather coming from Hawaii. I hope it goes your way, we want some colder temps.

I don't know what the pellets belong to, but I do know owls don't eat seeds unless they are in a mouse. :)

Red said...

That is one tremendous Cardinal picture. Poor thing has ice crystals or snow on it!

That's pretty cool of Mr. Johnson's boss to not see you down there :) Hopefully they'll change something so he can have some helpers do the work he needs doing.

That afghan looks great... I'm sure the couple will appreciate it greatly!

Leedra said...

Love the Cardinal photo.

Been knitting a blanket for the grandson we are expecting in the spring.

Leedra’s Photos For Fun
Photography By Leedra

Mel said...

Hi Ruthie,

Good thing that Mr. Johnson's boss was ok with it, I hope everything solves quick.

It's so strange that you can be at home by 5pm!! I envy you!!

That Cardinal is sooo pretty, and your ever growing projects too!


Ruth said...

Working, knitting, birding, blogging, reading, keeping up at home...
No wonder you are ready for bed at 8:30. I love the scarf and afghan.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Lynne,
I found more yarn that matched the dye lot exactly, so hopefully Sophie will have her new sweater by the end of the week!

By searching the local paper, I got in touch with Robert & Alice Johnson's neighbor and found out they're staying with her. I got her address, packed up the afghan, added the postage thru the convenient on-line USPS system and it will be picked up for delivery on Tuesday morning.....mission accomplished!

Hi Donna,
I never noticed the problem while I was knitting the scarf either--I guess that's what happens when a project I didn't want to work on in the first place drags out too long.

Hi Dana,
Your outdoor holiday decorations were so pretty--you have a lot more ambition than I do! You're also much more sympathetic to nesting house sparrows than I am too!

Thanks Shelley (a short vacation in early March is already booked!)
Sophie thanks you for the compliment. She is a pretty dog, but quite silly sometimes and she makes the most undog-like noises of any dog we've ever had--lots of groans and moans (sometimes she sounds like Tim "The Toolman" Taylor if you used to watch Home Improvement)

Hi Sissy,
Dewey does look like Wooley--I'll let you know if he rides a rug in that book!
I'm trying to figure out how I'll be able to get a picture of Sophie modeling her sweater once I finish it.

Hi Lisa,
I hope you're enjoying the book about Dewey.
I did find more yarn and hopefully can get a few more rows knitted yet tonight--I'm down past the "armholes" and pretty soon the decreases start, so it's probably 3/4's done.

Hi Mary C,
Glad you enjoyed the cardinal--I really like that they're pretty much hanging around the backyard feeders all day long this winter.

I'll definitely bring the iPod with birdJam along, but I only got the eastern birds version. There's a version for western birds also and if you like it after seeing the demonstration, you'll have to start hinting for Mother's Day!

Hi Meggie,
The thing about that pellet that makes me think it wasn't a possum is that it was so solid and well-formed. My possums generally leave little, loose, pellet-shaped chunks--not anything like this one I found.

I'm not really working any longer--OT hasn't been approved for ages--I'm just actually working the full 8 hours every day (so no time for goofing around that I'm used to having!)

Thanks Jayne. I'll tell you where to look for the "irregularity." If you look at the left side of the scarf--there is more space between the rows of red dots above the main pattern design. Now compare the left side to the right side......and in fact you can see where I started doing only 2 rows of black in between the red dots toward the top of the left side.....look right below the hanger--see it?
I'm glad everyone who looked at this picture didn't notice it--I had to look long and hard to try and figure out why it didn't look right.

Hi Heather,
I've got my usual 2 layers on today and I was actually a little overly warm and could have left the longs johns off! We had snow flurries most of the day, but it was so nice outside and Sophie was even able to get some frisbee chasing time--earlier this week she could only be out for a few minutes at a time.

It IS nice for us to both work at the same place and have the same hours--I almost never have to drive and we can have lunch together each day too.

Hi Toni,
Thanks for stopping by my blog. Sophie is our third GSP (we lost our second one about 10 months ago). I visited your blog real quick and took at look at your doggy--he looks very much like our first GSP. I'll stop by your blog soon to visit a little longer.

Hi Dave,
Thanks for the info on pellets--I was pretty sure owls didn't ever eat seeds.

We watched the weather all last week showing -40's in the Northwest Territories, Alaska and the Yukon. That jetstream seems to be flowing right over us, so what you're having right now we've been getting in a week or less.

Hi Red,
After you mentioned it, I went back and looked at the cardinal picture enlarged and you're right! If I remember correctly, it was snowing very lightly the day I took that picture.

(The afghan is packed up and ready to ship--I hope they like it too.)

Thanks Leedra.
Baby afghans are fun and the recipients always appreciate them.

Hi Mel,
The work reduction was only scheduled to last 2 weeks--so only 1 week left and then we're back to the regular schedule (and I'm home by 2 PM). I don't know if I'd be able to re-adjust to a job with "normal" working hours.....I've been on this schedule since May of 2006 and although it's tough to wake up at 3:45 each day, it's definitely worth it to get home so early!
Thanks for the hugs! :-)

Thanks Ruth, I really enjoy being at home--there's always something more fun to do than housework!

Mama Pea said...

Wow, what a catch-up blog post! I think you're working too hard both at work and at home. How you manage to get so much knitting done is beyond me. I always enjoy seeing all your projects you post. Gives me ideas and encouragement.

Thanks also for the book suggestions. I'm definitely going to follow up on them.

You've also been putting a lot of things on your Etsy site I see. You are one busy gal!

Mary said...

Ruthie, gosh your workdays are longer but you sure pack a lotta action into them - dinner, feeding birds, examining pellets, reading, knitting! You're a great friend to Mr. Johnson to help him out and I'm happy that no one minds...

Take care of yourself and stay warm. I've NEVER experienced the cold you have.

Now I'm off to check out those photos!


Marsha said...

I have a serious case of cardinal ENVY! Couldn't you just send one pair NW? LOL! I so enjoyed this post catching up with you. I'm sorry you have to work extra hard because of the sorry state of this economy. So many people I know don't know how secure their jobs are anymore.
Your knitting projects are beautiful and you are a very generous soul donating these beautiful homemade things to others.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Mama Pea,
I hope you enjoy the books.

Too bad I'm no good at PowerBall--winning that jackpot would mean I could quite work and have at least 40 more hours a week to catch up on all my projects!

Hi Mary,
I guess I shouldn't be surprised that I fall asleep on the couch, should I? And even on the weekends, I still wake up at 5 AM--if only I could figure out a way to get by on less sleep each night....

Hi Marsha,
I am so amazed at the numbers of cardinals I've been seeing this winter and I'm sure I could spare a couple for you! Once spring comes around though, there will probably only be 1 or 2 pairs left in the yard, so I've got to enjoy them while they're here.

Windyridge said...

I haven't heard of too many people using bird songs to attract birds. You are one of the few. I've had great success with it especially during breeding time.
The hiking book sounds very interesting and I will reserve it at my library. Thanks for sharing. She sounds like an amazing lady.
Doesn't the male cardinal always provide a lovely splash of color in the colorless winter days?
I love the scarf!!!!