The Vet Clinic Visit

There was a large, bearded man at the vet’s, holding a cute puppy wrapped in a blanket, explaining at reception how the puppy had been mauled, the lacerations etc. etc. The vet said ‘you’ll have to hold him for me,’ and had a look, and the puppy yelped in pain and the large, bearded man was sobbing. There was also a couple with a chihuahua in reception area, the woman wanted to pet the dogs, so I told her they had fleas, she went ahead and petted Emily anyhow – so kind. Rudy and Emily let us down sometimes with their behaviour, but have to say they were brilliant.

At this point we’d already seen the vet and he’d confirmed the dogs were crawling with fleas and getting too fat, which we feel bad about, because table scraps have become a part of their lives – it’s very hard to resist their begging, but that is what we’re doing now. And they have flea collars and I vacuum the house every day and try to wash down every surface they come into contact with every day. One of the hardest things for me is when I make bread, and Emily hears the electric knife and heaves herself off her bed and comes plodding through to the kitchen for a taste – she loves Italian bread, poor little girl.3516

I haven’t taken many pictures this week, thereis much less opportunity now that winter is setting in. Last night I had a migraine and freezing cold feet and Doug was makingsupper and I pulled aside the kitchen curtains to look out into the darkness and there was a possum, rooting around in the fallen leaves, exploring the garden, busily going about the business of finding things to eat. He (she?) was about the size of a small dog, with light grey fur, a ropy tail like a big rat’s, and a white triangular face with 2 huge, slanted black eyes. Odd-looking, but quite pretty really. I really regretted the fact that I couldn’t get a good picture. The same goes with all the birds and squirrels coming to the garden now, which is a shame because they are spectacular, especially the male woodpecker that comes to the kitchen window feeder every day. I’m posting 2 not very good pictures I took this morning, you can at least see the red feathers in the first pics.


In spite of the snow and cold, the garden was very busy. Three squirrels, one making off with a stripped corn cob, the woodpecker couple, and nuthatches and juncos pecking around very companiably. The snow has stopped now, and it’s time to get some writing done.


Deal’s Orchard

We had a few gusty days this week and the last leaf fell off the maple tree in the garden – the pear trees still have leaves though, turning yellow and gold. The garden is still a very busy place – we have chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, bluejays, juncos and along with the squirrels it can be quite entertaining to look outside these days. My bird knowledge is increasing. I now know the difference between a chickadee and a nuthatch. The stunning black/white bird with a little red spot on its head I assumed was a male woodpecker is actually the female – the male is even more spectacular, with red plumage on his head and going down his back in a strip. These lovely creatures come to the garden every day and thanks to the feeder by the window, we are lucky enough to observe them closely.  Last night at around 9.30 we peeked outside – it was dark of course, but the outside light was on, and with the kitchen light switched off we couldn’t be seen. Two very large raccoons were ambling around, rooting around in the grass for scraps. One suddenly just hopped onto the middle pear tree and scaled the trunk, then disappeared up into the branches – I was very impressed, I’d never seen a raccoon climb a tree before!

We went to Deal’s Orchard in Jefferson last weekend, it’s quite kid oriented and a bit of a family tradition around here – there’s a corn maze, and other games and kid-things, we really had some fun in the corn maze and took a hay ride. The day was so mild, these lovely fall days are just easing us into winter gently, with temps in the 50s and 60s. It loos overcast this morning and the dogs have fleas. They have been biting,scratching like mad, etc. etc and I doused them with an apple cider solution yesterday. My two poor old sleepyheads don’t need this grief so we’re off to the vets tomorrow – soonest opening.

The Garden in October


The first thing I saw this morning, after I made coffee and started thinking about what I needed to get done, was this nuthatch. I can’t seem to make a decent go of meditating, but it was really calming to watch him and his friend come and go, pecking away at the seeds in the feeder. This week has consisted of me making a series of truly horrible suppers, terrible news (is there any other kind these days?) as a series of bombs were mailed to prominent Democrats and phone canvasing for votes. Bright spots: new pictures of Elijah, my writing, all the birds and squirrels in the garden, walking the dogs with Doug, my hour of reading each morning, finding a book of poetry yesterday at the thrift store.

A week ago, as I think I posted about, we installed corn cob feeders, 2 suet balls and bird feeders in the kitchen and bedroom windows. I think we’ve turned the garden into a sort of free, all you can eat buffet for squirrels. The suet balls are both done for now – the squirrels got them, along with much of the corncobs. I’ve seen as many as 6 squirrels in the garden, feasting away, and as cute as they are I’ve wished they’d clear of and make way for the birds. The feeders have brought in nuthatches, which are so pretty and agile – they can hang upside down, and large, flashy bluejays, juncos (sparrow-sized grey and white birds with pale pink beaks) and woodpeckers, who are stunning with their black and white plumage and flash of scarlet on their heads. Unfortunately the woodpeckers have a tendency to fly into the window glass. I’d post more pictures, but I can’t get close enough and my phone doesn’t allow for me to zoom in effectively.  All this action is really entertaining, and I’ve stopped pining for the little hummingbird quite so much.  We’ve yet to spot a tufted titmouse, listed after the nuthatch in our copy of “Birds of Iowa”. Apparently the titmouse is ‘notorious’ for pulling hair from sleeping cats, dogs and squirrels to line their nests. Can this really be true??

I’d had this book a while before I started to read it, because I felt it would be completely fluffy and romantic judging from the cover. Then, feeling like something light, I started reading. It’s not at all what I expected. The Day We Met tells the story of Claire, a woman suffering from early onset Alzheimers. It’s told in episodes as Claire’s condition worsens – flashbacks tell the stories of the births of her daughters, her relationship with her dad (who also had Alzheimers), and it’s a beautiful but in places really hard and sad read, certainly not fluffy in any way shape or form. The saddest parts concern Claire’s 5 year old marriage. She can remember things from her past, but she’s entirely forgotten about Greg, and how much they loved one another. And as Claire starts to lose everythng, the ability to read and recall the names of household objects, she tries to stay connected to her 3 year old . . . I know this sounds completely grim, but it’s somehow not, it’s real, occasionally funny and a total pageturner.  A book I’m very glad I found, and one of thse you often find yourself pausing in and staring off, having a think and a bit of a weep.

Ivy is 21!!!

Ivy and Conor, on her high school graduation day

Ivy aged 7

Ivy is 21 today. It’s a really blustery autumn day and I’ve had the usual bit of thinking back, and where did the years go etc. etc. but not too much. Top picture is of her at her graduation from St Mary’s of course, I love the way she’s got her arm around Conor and is putting him at ease, because she always did do that. She is the younger by 14 months but had more confidence and so when we went out he often hovered a little bit behind her and sometimes she’d tug him forward and put her arm around his shoulders. Bottom picture perfectly reflects the happy little child she was, passionately interested in animals and nature (especially bats at that point), and already an excellent reader.

Of course we’ve had some difficult times. Ivy hated middle school and the teenage years weren’t fun. But she is a hard worker, and she’s a lovely, passionate young woman who loves life and nature and has very strong opinions – we can talk for hours about everything and anything. She’s very frank and determined, a strong sort of person. Writing this, I’m realizing how lucky I am; everyone loves their children, but I genuinely like my daughter and would want to know her even if I hadn’t given birth to her 21 years ago.

Happy Birthday, Ivy!




Life’s A Bitch and then you Write

I’m taking a writing course called Life’s a bitch and then you write, because writing’s proved so difficult for months now, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s fear of failure, because the writing world seems to be made up of really talented, accomplished, brilliant people (I know, I read their books!) and although reading can be inspiring, sometimes it just seems to confirm a suspicion in me that I’m really not that good. So at the beginning of this month I signed up for this course, and started scribbling something in a notebook, a story I told myself didn’t matter, was just a bit of fun etc. etc. which seemed to work to remove the pressure (all self-inflicted) off myself, as I am still going and making a bit of progress. Maybe I shouldn’t even write that; I might jinx myself. Anyway, being in this course has shown me I’m not the only person out there filled with all sorts of worries and doubts, people who love writing but life gets in the way, women who devote themselves to kids/parents,spouses/jobs and then find it impossible for one reason or another to do what they have always dreamed of doing. And I hope that by putting myself out there just a bit, and verbalizing some of my writing issues, I’ll somehow help myself.

My routine now is to spend mornings writing. It felt good to get back to my notebook today after 2 days off, as Mr. B had Saturday off and we went to the library book sale and I picked up a pile of books. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into these when the weather gets cold, and have wanted to improve my curry-making skills for a while. I’ve never seriously attempted to make Chinese food, I just love to eat it, but couldn’t resist Jim Lee’s Chinese Cook Book. I’ve read the Anne Tyler and Yaa Gyasi already, but they are good enough to reread at some point.

for the squirrels

It was a lovely crisp day, Saturday, after a series of really grey, chilly d ys, and so great to see the sun again. I looked for the hummingbird but reckon we’ve seen the last of him for this year, hopefully he’s half way to Mexico by now. We worked on pulling up tomatoes and getting our various garden ornaments stowed in the shed hanging squirrel feeders, adding to the pile of dead brush and sticks we’ll burn in a few weeks. It felt so good to be outside and enjoying mild weather. I spotted 2 monarchs, floating over the garden, and as soon as we came inside the nuthatches were out again, pulling on the remnants of the sunflowers.

Mr B hanging a squirrel feeder

up in the branches!

fading flower

So that’s it then; the end of my first summer in Perry, really. We’ve both had fun, learned lots, eaten fresh tomatoes – beans too, in my case.  It felt like we’d started all this, hanging the feeders and so on, in the nick of time, because the following day the weather turned bitter again and a banket of snow fell, the first snow of the season.

Mr B in a tolerant mood as I take a picture

October Hummingbird

One week into October and I still haven’t taken any photographs, mostly because it’s been raining every day and each day is grey and overcast and really blurry. I took the above pic at the end of last month. That’s roughly how our bed looks each morning, with the dogs (as soon as Doug goes to work they expect to get on the bed with me now) and my journal.  A month ago we were amazed that we were still seeing hummingbirds in the garden and guessed they’d be gone any day. A Google search told us they respond to changes in the length of the day and instinctively understand exactly when it’s time to take off for Mexico, so not to worry if you still have hummingbirds in September etc. etc. But here we are 10 months into the year and we still have this one little hummingbird each morning, looking cold and damp, his feathers fluffed up against the cold. We love watching his tongue unfurl from his beak and lap at the sugar water in the feeder. I’m going to refill the feeder later, but can’t help worrying he’s cutting it a bit fine if he needs to fly off and winter in warmer climes. I don’t know if hummingbirds can survive Iowa winters. I’ll miss him when he goes, but I have a serious heart to heart with him regarding this most mornings, when I open the windows in the kitchen and there he is.

This weekend we went to the Perry Perk to listen to Cindy Axne and Warren Varley, our local liberal candidates for political office. It just felt like the best thing we could do, and more useful than staying home snarling at the telly. It was a grey, rainy day and we drank hot coffee while Brett Kavanaugh, a petulant, whiny man accused of sexual assault and warmly praised as a hero by Republicans, was sworn in as a supreme court judge. Then the next day I started Christmas shopping (!) and started gearing up for another week of writing and trying to keep the dogs exercised – they’re not keen on being outside in the rain.

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford

Thursday morning I decided to have some coffee in the living room and switch on the TV, as I was curious to see Dr Christine Blasey Ford and hear what she had to say. Prior to Thursday the only image the world had of her was a blurry snapshot of a teenage girl.  But of course a grown woman walked into the hearing, obviously very nervous, quite apologetic, but more than capable of describing exactly what happened to her. I ended up watching all her testimony (Rudy and Emily had to wait until the end of the day for their walk). I’m sure I am not the only woman whose eyes filled with tears as she listened; Dr Ford was shoved into a room by 2 drunk boys, shoved down on a bed, groped while they laughed their heads off. And since she spoke out on Thursday the reaction has been everything you might expect when a woman talks about an assault – she’s got it wrong, she’s very vague, it wasn’t that bad, she shouldn’t have been there, why is she speaking out now?  But as this is 2018 there is something else in the mix of reactions, and that is belief, a solidarity from all the other women who went through very similiar things and kept their shame and embarrassment to themselves, too scared to talk.

After listening to Dr Christine Blasey Ford and watching senators shuffle out white-faced during recess, I had to listen to Brett Kavanaugh also. I am a Democrat and not predisposed to believe him, but I was prepared to listen to what he had to say. What I was not prepared for was the sheer deluge of anger and rage he brought to the hearing – his utter fury that his rightful place in the world, as he sees it, had been challenged. Apparently the accusations against him are all a ruse by liberals and the Clintons, out for revenge. We heard, repeatedly, about how he had worked his butt off, got into a top college, was on the football team and now his life was being torn apart. In a dog whistle to his supporters and the Trump base who have hijacked religion in order to validate their misogynistic, racist views, he told the sory of how his young child had suggested the family ‘pray for the woman’ – one of the few times he mentioned Dr Ford.  His face was screwed up in anger as he talked and shouted and he either has a facial tic or needed to blow his nose. When questioned, he was belligerent and sarcastic, as well as vague and evasive.

I have felt depressed since Thursday. Women are usually shouted down; I’m afraid this will happen again and this angry, petulant, rich brat will get nominated.