Sally in The MIX

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Two Treasures to Visit

It’s good news!

It was exciting to learn from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation that Sequoyah County has the second best place in the state to watch birds (actually wildlife of all kinds) at the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge, and the overall county is number 10 in the state as the best place to be a bird watcher.

As a novice birdwatcher, who knows pretty much absolutely nothing about birds, it has been amazing to me how many birds there are in my own back yard. I can now recognize 20 or 30 different feathered friends. Before getting my bird book and a pair of binoculars I could barely tell the difference between a robin, a cardinal and a blue jay. I’m much better now. It’s those 30 or 40 different types of sparrows that keep me confused.

The wildlife department is a big help. The wildlife department is more good news for us if you don’t know already. And they have a great website, with all kinds of information for hunters, fishermen, and people like me who just like to observe wildlife.

Our wildlife department cooperated recently with the Cornell University Ornithology Lab and the National Audubon Society on the Great Backyard Bird Count. I counted my birds but didn’t send in the info. Wish I had now. It was the smart bird counters who went to the wildlife refuge and counted 53 different types of birds that got us in the top 10. That’s exciting. Think I’ll go to the refuge myself. But there’s nothing I like better than sitting on my own back porch on a sunny morning and taking photos of my birds, many of whom I know by name now. Yes, I name my wild birds.

Chad Ford, the outdoor recreation planner at the refuge, said a visit would be good.

“We encourage everyone to get outdoors and enjoy their local treasure, the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge,” Ford said. “Not everyone gets a wildlife refuge in their own back yard.”

Yes, our wildlife refuge and our wildlife department are both treasures I thoroughly enjoy.

Now the wildlife department is joining in the Virtual Spring BioBlitz! OK 2017 Project. This is for people like me who would rather observe wildlife than pseudo-star people on TV. The project will have we observers (also known as citizen scientists) taking photos of both fauna and flora (critters and plants for those who didn’t like biology), which we then post on the iNaturalist website. According to Oklahoma wildlife, participation is free and prizes will be awarded to the top observers. New challenges will be posted each week with opportunities to win additional prizes and compete with fellow citizen scientists statewide.

During last year’s inaugural virtual BioBlitz! More than 2000 observations were made of 701 species in the state, so the competition is rough. But I still signed up, and hope I can find out the name of that pretty salamander that lives under my back porch.

You know, sometimes we get really tired of all the bad news. Well, here’s good news – our wildlife department and wildlife refuge.

So come on in, join the watchers, have some fun, and meet new critters. Visit the wildlife refuge south of Vian and visit the wildlife department on the internet. I love both places.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

40 Bags in 40 Days

This is the update report on the three-generation 40 Bags in 40 Days Purge, to which Darling Daughter challenged me and her own daughter, my granddaughter.

Don’t think Darling Daughter thought I could do it. I didn’t either. But, yep, I’m right on schedule. I do have these rules about “Use It or Lose It” and “Wear It or Share It.” Doesn’t mean I follow the rules. Even my own.

Darling Daughter has been texting us about her own purge success. Gorgeous Grandddaughter hasn’t texted one word. I suspect there is little purging going on at her house. But anyone with a 3-year-old doesn’t get to do much but chase the 3-year-old around, so we understand.

I had never heard of the 40-day purge before Darling Daughter brought it up. Maybe that is why my house needs a purge. I find it hard to throw anything away. I may need it. I might not need it today, but I might need it in 10 years or so. And that recalls another of my rules. If I throw it away or get rid of it, whatever it is, something will come up and I will need it within 24 hours. But I won’t have it anymore because I threw it away. It never fails.

Nevertheless, I agreed to do the purge, because Darling Daughter is always challenging me. But I looked it up on the internet first.

Good Grief! There is a whole 40 Bags in 40 Days world out there. These people must live and breathe purging. How can they have anything to purge if they keep purging all the time? They are so busy throwing things away they don’t have time to buy anything.

And they make lists, lots and lots of lists. One list suggests what areas to purge, one per day, for 40 days. The list goes from the basement to the attic, and even includes such things as your makeup bag, your bookcase and your liquor cabinet. All I can say is I’m too old for a makeup bag, don’t touch my books and ha, ha, ha, I don’t have or need a liquor cabinet. Uh, well, I may need one after this purge thing.

Another lists all the things you should throw out, like thin and frayed washcloths and towels (but they make good dust cloths); shopping bags (hey if that bag says Disney on it, it’s staying); and jeans that don’t fit anymore (I am going to lose weight). That list had 60 items on it.

One lists demands we toss out “scraps of mail.” I don’t even know what that is. If it’s a scrap, it was gone a long time ago. Another list says to toss out old receipts and checks. But someone else said they should be kept for at least two years! One list suggests getting rid of flat surfaces because they gather clutter. Terribly sorry but earth’s gravitation suggests I have a flat surface for my coffee cup if nothing else!

So I made a big decision, and decided to kick off my purge by dumping all those lists. That worked well. Then I did dumped old mail. I will donate all those glass vases that came with flowers on Mother’s Day, and I packed up all the boxes I save cause I might need them next Christmas.

We’re 10 days into the 40-day purge, and I’m still on track. Only 30 days to go. I’m so proud.

The only thing is, my house doesn’t look different at all!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Baffled Bird Watcher

I’m the Baffled Bird Watcher

A cuckoo? Are you kidding me? I thought cuckoos were itty bitty wooden birds that jumped out of fancy clocks! But there he/she was, in all its glory. A yellow-billed cuckoo. Wow! And I got a photo of that one.

Of course I would not have known that without my bird ID book, through which I had to go from cover to cover to find the cuckoo. Of course it was written that cuckoos, although shy, are common in Oklahoma. 

I always wanted to know what birds I was looking at but never had the time to figure them out, or look them up in a bird book, until I sort of retired. Now I thumb through that book on a daily basis. But I’m still baffled.

I’m baffled because every time I spot a new bird (well, new to me), my book tells me that particular bird is common in Oklahoma.

Then it tells me there are hundreds, if not more, types of sparrows. How am I supposed to tell sparrows apart if they won’t stand still for identification, and they all look alike anyway? I’m baffled by sparrows.

This past weekend a bird of prey baffled me. Why are most hawks brown and speckled? Hawks are gorgeous. I love hawks and birds of prey. I can ID two – the bald eagle (we all better know that one) and the red-tailed hawk (all Oklahomans better know that one). All the rest baffle me.

A little brown speckled and barred bird of prey baffled me mightily on Saturday. Nothing better than sitting on the back porch watching my backyard birds eat on a spring day. Then, out of nowhere, one of my songbirds (couldn’t tell which one cause it was flying at super-sonic speed for good reason) plunged from over the roof above my head, and dived into a large crape myrtle bush. Tiny bird didn’t stop there. It kept right on flying.

That’s because right behind it was a small hawk of some sort. But this poor hawk wasn’t small enough for that overgrown shrub. He/She came to a crashing halt in the crape myrtle. He/She was small, but not small enough.

I heard the crash and watched the bird quietly, to make sure it was OK. Hawk took a while to recover, but it did. Then it took wing and flew off to the west and perhaps better hunting on Kerr Lake.

And that is when, and only then, I got to see it was a little hawk with speckled feathers and a barred tail. Couldn’t wait to get to my bird book to figure it out. Oh dang. According to the IDs, most all Oklahoma birds of prey are speckled with barred tails. I’m never gonna’ figure this out.

I’d like to think the little bird of prey was a peregrine falcon. But more than likely was a sharp-shinned hawk or a Cooper’s hawk, according to my book. They are both quite common in Oklahoma.

And I’m sorry, but both look alike to me, and my hawk didn’t stand around waiting for his/her photo op. But I’m not giving up. Maybe someday I’ll have camera in hand, and I’ll get a photo of my bird of prey, and be able to figure out who is or trying to eat, my sparrows.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Elderly Insomniacs Learn Lots on the Internet

Still, “Quigley” is a good movie, and I watched it to the very end. Still insomniated, I decided to check out Quigley and his super horse.


What I found on the internet made my . . .night. According to published reports (I hope we can believe them) Tom hung out with the wranglers on the set of Quigley, because he thinks of himself as more of a cowboy than actor. And, while making Quigley, he fell in love with that horse. It was reported the horse was a quarter horse-cross, and stood 16 hands. Its name was Spike. It was brought in for Selleck because he, at 6 feet 4 inches tall, looked like he was riding a pony on all the other horses on set.

Consequently Tom fell in love with Spike. He begged to buy him. Owning wrangler said, “No.” But at the end of the movie, the wranglers liked Tom so much they presented him with Spike as a gift. Tom spent $7,000 to fly Spike back to his new home on Tom’s California ranch, where Spike was ultimately retired at the age of 22. I found no report on Spike’s demise, but considering that was over 20 years ago, it is probable that Spike has gone on to that great pasture in the sky.

I knew I loved Tom Selleck for some reason, that being he is a true horseman and cowboy, and isn’t bad on the eyes either. And real life is so much more interesting that fictional movies.

There are other such stories, believe it or not. Johnny Depp was reported to have saved his mount, Goldeneye, from the movie “Sleepy Hollow,” when he found out the gelding was on the way to the killers. Some question that fate, and argue that any horse good enough to be in a movie or known to have been ridden by a movie star, would most certainly not be considered as equine bacon.

As a horseman, my respect for Selleck and Depp is considerably enhanced by their compassion for their co-stars, Spike and Goldeneye. I much prefer a guy who loves his horse. And don’t mind at all staying up all night just to watch.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Reflections on Advancing Age

At a meeting this week, several friends and I complained about the troubles of aging.

One of my friends even asked how old I was. I told her (but that number won’t be mentioned here). She told me her age and the one thing I have to celebrate is that she is five years older than me.

Since I didn’t have a good comeback at the time, I went looking for some on the internet, and found the following.

-“Every man desires to live long, but no man desires to be old.” Jonathan Swift

-“Old age is always fifteen years older than I am.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

-“Men do not quit playing because they grow old — they grow old because they quit playing.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

-“Old age is like everything else. To make a success of it, you've got to start young.” Theodore Roosevelt

-“Birthdays are good for you. Statistics show that the people who have the most live the longest.” Larry Lorenzoni

-“There is still no cure for the common birthday.” John Glenn

-“If I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.” Anonymous

-“Age is a high price to pay for maturity.” Tom Stoppard

-“Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act.” Truman Capote

-“Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.” Mark Twain

-“Time may be a great healer, but it's a lousy beautician.” Anonymous

-“I complain that the years fly past, but then I look in a mirror and see that very few of them actually got past.” Robert Brault

-“Wisdom doesn't necessarily come with age. Sometimes age just shows up all by itself.” Tom Wilson

-“No man is ever old enough to know better.” Holbrook Jackson

-“I am old enough to see how little I have done in so much time, and how much I have to do in so little.” Sheila Kaye-Smith

-“An archaeologist is the best husband any woman can have: the older she gets, the more interested he is in her.” Agatha Christie

-“Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone.” Jim Fiebig

-“Everything slows down with age, except the time it takes cake and ice cream to reach your hips.” John Wagner

-“Don't let aging get you down. It's too hard to get back up.” John Wagner

-“I don't do alcohol anymore - I get the same effect just standing up fast.” Anonymous

-“First you forget names, then you forget faces, then you forget to pull your zipper up, then you forget to pull your zipper down.” Leo Rosenberg

-“As you get older three things happen. The first is your memory goes, and I can't remember the other two.” Sir Norman Wisdom

-“Old age isn't so bad when you consider the alternative.” Maurice Chevalier

-“Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.” Anonymous

-“The idea is to die young as late as possible.” Ashley Montagu

And with those final, somber reflections by those all smarter than me, I close up my computer. Happy old age everyone.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Keep Calm. Winter Will End.

We will now do the Dance of Joy. January is OVER. Yippee!

Obviously I am not a winter person. I do not ski. I do not skate. Might go down a hill once on a sled, then I will go in the house and make hot chocolate for everyone.

I don’t like winter. I don’t like excessive cold, especially when my water pipes freeze. This winter my water pipes have been heated better than I have. We have survived so far.

A little bit of cold is OK. You need a little bit of cold for the garden. It helps gardens.

Speaking of gardens, I, the black-thumb gardener, am like every other gardener around. My new seed catalogs have arrived. I have shopped all of them, and ordered. I pile the catalogs up next to my easy chair. I might need to order something else. The pages of my seed catalogs are worn, and folded, and marked, and some are torn out for further reference.

On the internet I subscribe to all the seed companies. I get daily updates on my email. I read them all carefully. There might be a good deal in there.

On Saturday after I fed the birds, I sat and watched for a while, enjoying their raucous behavior and the sun. The sun felt good, but I will not brag on our fair winter weather so far. I might jinx it. I did wish I could plant something, then had to bite that black thumb. ‘It’s the first of February,’ I reminded myself. ‘Maybe we can think PLANT SOMETHING by mid March. Maybe. Get a grip.’

Do people who don’t garden realize how hard it is for those who do garden to NOT garden? I considered planting a peach or apple tree. I considered just turning over the soil shovel-full by shovel-full. Maybe a little bit of lettuce or a radish or two could pop up before another hard freeze. I ended up picking up trash the wind had blown in or the dog had dragged in.

And I watched my birds. Even though they are wild birds, after you feed them for years, they become your birds.

OK. I don’t mind a little winter. In fact a little winter at Christmas is nearly a necessity. If winter must continue through January, then I suggest some sort of festival in January. It could be a ‘Let’s Have Heat Festival.’ That would at least make January seem shorter, not the 31 long days it is already.

I like February. It is short. Darling Daughter’s birthday is in February, so that helps a lot. March is OK too because that is when Spring arrives, and Handsome Son’s birthday is in March. It is usually warm enough then to cook out. Woohoo!

When is that garden show anyway? Found it. Garden show in Fort Smith is March 17, 18 and 19. I can hardly wait.

But January? January goes on, and on, and on, until I develop Cabin Fever and try to dig the frozen ground up to plant a pansy. Or a bush. Or a tree. Help!

Wait. Wait, I told myself on Saturday. Do not get excited. Spring will come. The ordered seeds will arrive, and you will take the advice delivered by one of you gardening magazines.

That is “Keep Calm and Garden On.”

That does it! I’ve got to order an apple tree!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Super Bowl? Pass the Cheese Dip!

Well, now that my NFL football season is over, what to do next?

None of my favorite teams made it into the Super Bowl over the past championship weekend. Son texted me and asked, “Who is going to win the Super Bowl?”

I texted back, “I don’t care. Oh I’ll watch it, after I make and eat the cheese dip. But I’m only interested in seeing the new commercials. And maybe the half-time show.”

Yep, that means the Cowboys, the Broncos, the Texans, the Chiefs, the Packers are all out! I picked a bunch of teams to support, but wouldn’t you know. None of them made it to the Super Bowl.

So, to celebrate not caring who wins the Super Bowl, I thought we might hear from the losers in past years. At least they make me laugh. Here you go. . .

John McKay is the BEST! 

-“Kickers are like horse manure. They are all over the place.”

-When asked about his teams’ execution, McKay said, “I’m in favor of it.”

-About coaching an expansion team, “You do a lot of praying but most of the time the answer is ‘No.’”

- “Well, we’ve determined that we can’t win at home and we can’t win on the road. What we need is a neutral site.”

-“We didn’t tackle well today but we made up for it by not blocking.”

-“Emotion is highly overrated in football. My wife Corky is emotional as hell but can’t play football worth a damn.”

-"If you have everyone back from a team that lost 10 games, experience isn't too important."

- A genius in the NFL is a guy who won last week."

-"Opening games make me nervous. To tell you the truth, I'd rather open with our second game."

And then there’s former coach John Madden turned sports broadcaster, who I dearly loved to hear call a game. Madden is the funniest. He said. . .

-“I always used to tell my players that we are here to win! And you know what? When you don't win, you lose.”

-“Don’t do anything great if you can’t handle the congratulations.”

-“The fewer rules a coach has, the fewer rules there are for the players to break.”

-“Here’s a guy who can use his arms and legs at the same time.”

-“When your arm gets hit, the ball is not going to go where you want it to.”

-“If you win a Super Bowl before you're fired, you're a genius, and everyone listens to you. But a coach is just a guy whose best class in grammar school was recess and whose best class in high school was P.E. I never thought I was anything but a guy whose best class was P.E.”

-“Here's a guy who when he runs, he moves faster.”

-“Ninety percent of the game is half mental.”

-“The biggest gap in sports? The difference between the winner and the loser of the Super Bowl.”

No, I don’t care who wins the Super Bowl, as long as it’s not the Patriots. Son had pretty much the same opinion. All he texted back was “Hey, I want some cheese dip!”