The Bird Feeder

In honor of February being National Bird Feeding Month, and last weekend in particular the Great Backyard Bird Count, my Garden Group hatched a plan to make bird feeders as lures. This seemed like cheating to me – would these birds come to your party without the bribe? Are you really that popular? Our gal Sally had a simple design for us, birdfeeder version 3made of a paper plate in a plastic holder, smeared with peanut butter, sprinkled with birdseed, and suspended with three pieces of cord from whatever likely spot there was to hang it from.

All very well, but the real problem with bird feeders is the gate crashers. Squirrels. Ann Arbor, a city proudly full of trees, abounds with native Michigan Gigunda Squirrels. These guys are the heftiest, fattest squirrels I’ve ever seen – I suspect them of being cross-bred with woodchucks. For unknown reasons, and in spite of their short legs, small ears, and lack of grace, they are called Fox Squirrels. I put my bird feeder outside my window and waited.

First to find the goods were the chickadees. Beside themselves with joy, they blasted in and out of the seedy landing pad, which barely swayed under their weight. Then the fox squirrel showed up. He climbed the little shepherd’s crook with only slight trouble, but when he went for the paper plate it tipped up, swung wildly, and though he attempted to recover through some impressive acrobatics, dumped him on the ground. It was really entertaining, and he tried twice more before giving up. As planned, the peanut butter kept the seeds on the plate for the birds.

But soon after that a small red squirrel came along, and being about half the size of the Gigunda was more successful. Time for plan B. I reloaded the plate with seed laced with red pepper flakes. Mr. Red snuck up, grabbed a pawful, ate it, ran off, and did not come back. Chili peppers taste like that so mammals will leave them alone, and let the birds, which can’t taste hot pepper, disperse their seeds far and wide. The chickadees seemed happy to collaborate in this scheme. I don’t know how happy the squirrel was.

Valentine’s Day

“Roses red and violets blue” comes from Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queen. Oddly, his next line is: “and all the sweetest flowers that in the forest grew.” In the forest? Roses? Don’t they need more sun than that? I’m not likely to find out, since marauding deer cavort through my woods all the time. You wouldn’t think deer would eat roses, since they generally don’t like anything highly scented and what about the thorns? But they will chomp happily on roses. Sunlight would be the least of the problem for any roses out there. My roses are tucked safely into their beds in the fenced garden.

Which brings us to the next question: isn’t this a strange day to celebrate with roses? Even in the non-winter we seem to be having in Ann Arbor this year, there are no roses sprouting, let alone blooming, in the garden in February. When I lived in California there were no roses blooming in February either, because January was the time to prune them, hard, all the way back to bare sticks, so the poor things got a rest in that frost-free climate.

No, I’m afraid our nation relies on immigrant roses for Valentine’s Day, doing the work our native sleepyhead roses shun. Will foreign roses be allowed into the country? They mostly come from Latin America – what about that wall? Maybe it will be ok if they’re long-stemmed and say they’re coming in for beauty pageants.roses

And right on that cue, the doorbell rang, and red roses appeared on my doorstep. Their country of origin is undisclosed, but I see they have a sponsor. Thank you, Doug.

The Call of the Catalog

It is time. The seed catalog has called, and I answer. My resolve to deploy a smaller army of tomato varieties in my not-enormous garden weakens. What am I to do when confronted by all these admirable traits, painstakingly acquired and voluptuously displayed in the glossy pages of the seed vendors of the world? Their names alone are so inspired, so evocative, that entire novels could be written just by listing them. Or anyway, short stories:

On a Cloudy Day in Oregon Spring Indigo Rose, Defiant. She was a Summer Girl with a Hungarian Heart and though she was the Patio Princess she refused to make an Heirloom Marriage with the Black Prince. Big Mama and Big Daddy had already invited Madame Marmande, but that was too bad. She wanted a Better Boy. As the Skyway flashed with Red Lightning bright as the Fourth of July, the prince’s henchmen, Jersey Devil, Martian Giant, and Bloody Butcher, rode up to the castle on a Bobcat, throwing Cherry Bombs, looking to capture the Damsel. She quickly dispatched her Orange Pixie on its Crimson Sprinter to get word to her Champions, Gladiator, Super Sioux, and Mortgage Lifter, who rode down the Big Rainbow on Green Zebras to defeat the Big Boys, reducing them to Carbon. So the princess put on her Zapotec Pleated Pink Berkeley Tie Dye Cherokee Purple dress, invited a Celebrity or two, and they all sat down to eat Supersteak, Pork Chop, Black Pineapple, and Chocolate Stripes while drinking Cherry Buzz and Brandywine. At last, in a Sweet Zen mood, the princess decided Mr Stripey was a Longkeeper and took him home to her Red House Free Standing where they live in Peacevine Harmony. Oh Happy Day!

Yes, those are all really names of tomato varieties, and there are enough other plot-provoking names left over for a sequel. But don’t worry, I’m not going there.