The flash of yellow above the white-throated sparrow's eye immediately demands an observers attention against a brown background. COURTESY OF AL BATT
The flash of yellow above the white-throated sparrow's eye immediately demands an observers attention against a brown background. COURTESY OF AL BATT
Not likely to become a new cooking show

Shari Hopp of Unadilla, Neb., was being driven to distraction by the squirrels' assault upon the bird feeder near the kitchen window of the house she shares with her husband, Gordon.

One day, Shari was busy whipping up some delicacies when she saw another squirrel on the feeder. She opened the window to yell, but did something else. She had a pair of tongs in her hand and she grabbed the squirrel with them. It was an instinctive move.

The squirrel escaped, but he had quite a story to tell.

So did Shari.

Life is good

May is when we go from having the least amount of deer during the year, to having the most.

I watched a Cooper's hawk harass a flying turkey vulture with a loud "kek, kek, kek." A friend was upset because a Cooper's hawk had taken a songbird from the feeder in his yard. I tried to calm him by telling him that it was a birdfeeder, after all.

Ruby-crowned kinglets and white-throated sparrows sang loudly as a broad-winged hawk flew overhead.

Birding in a hospice

Kirsten Strnad of Faribault told me that while her late husband Forest was in the Homestead Hospice House in Owatonna, he identified 21 species of birds from the window, including an orchard oriole. His excitement about seeing the birds was so great that it caused a number of the other residents to take up birding.

It's a hot time

Mike Shaul of New Ulm told me that he'd built a solar air-heating collector. Easy and cheap to build, it offers a quick payback on the cost of the materials. It's a huge saving over equivalent commercially-made collectors. The collector uses columns of aluminum soda beverage cans with the ends cut out. The sun shines on the cans, which had been painted black, heating them. The air flowing through the inside of the can columns picks up the heat and delivers it to the room.

Echoes from the Loafers' Club meeting

I was an old lion tamer. I quit last year.

Why did you quit?

I ran out of old lions.

Driving by the Bruces

I have two wonderful neighbors - both named Bruce - who live across the road from each other. Whenever I pass their driveways, thoughts occur to me, such as: if I were a chicken, an egg would be the same price as a new Cadillac.

If you don't like the weather, blame the weatherman

I haven't put the snow shovel away yet. I don't want to rile the gods of winter. I spoke at a couple of things in Luverne, Minn., during this reluctant spring. The windshield wipers of my car were employed all the way there and back.

Luverne had been suffering from a lack of moisture, as well as temperatures much lower than average. A farmer in that area told me that he'd just planted some corn. He said he was told that corn should be stored where it was dry and cold. That described the soil perfectly.

Mother's Day

My mother taught me how to cook. Sort of. She showed me how to use a toaster. She taught me the right way to use it. Being able to make toast was a giver of goose bumps. A banquet of burned peanut butter sandwiches moved within my reach.

I have wondered since that time who it is that uses the highest setting on a toaster. And what do they use it for, thawing permafrost?

My mother taught me the right way to do many things. Turning bread into toast was but one of those things.

Happy Mother's Day.

I wanted to live in a treehouse.

Back when the only tablet I had was made by Alka-Seltzer.

Back when our family reunions had an entire table covered with nothing but homemade pies. LOL. That meant "lots of lard."

Back when "The Wizard of Oz" was appointment viewing.

I had received a GE transistor radio and a much-wanted book by John Steinbeck for my birthday.

I placed the radio on top of the book and positioned them on my nightstand so they would be the first things I'd see when I opened my eyes in the morning.

Added to the bouquet of frying bacon and brewing coffee coming from the kitchen, they made for the start of a fine day.

My friends the ex-cons

In the process of chasing the horizon, I drove through Prairieville, Sogn and Wangs, three Minnesota towns that can't get much smaller. A stranger waved at me. I waved back. Your cousin who lives there says, "Hi."

As I left Sogn, I listened to an NPR story about our overcrowded prisons.

My grandmother and aunt lived in a very small town in Iowa. It was nearly nonexistent. They lived next to a couple of elderly bachelors. I was told that the two old men had spent time in prison, but neither my aunt nor my grandmother would tell me why. As a boy, I visited often with the two old bachelors, trying to find out why they had been in prison, without asking them. I'd hold up a newspaper showing a headline of some crime and say, "Why would anyone ever do something like this?"

They seemed nice. Maybe prison had changed them?

Customer comments

Viola Nolte of Fairmont began teaching country school in 1935. She had 30 pupils in grades 1 through 8. She was paid $35 a month.

Ric McArthur of Morpeth, Ontario, wrote, "The National Institute of Health has just released the results of a $200 million research study completed under a grant to Johns Hopkins. The new study found that women who carry a little extra weight live longer than the men who mention it."

I overheard a coach yelling out instructions during a girls basketball game in Prior Lake, "Guard your man. Don't let her out of your sight!"


"What is the fear of birds called?" Some would call it idiotic, but not me. And it's not birdaphobia. Ornithophobia is an abnormal, irrational fear of birds.

"How many monarch butterfly eggs become adults?" Monarch eggs and larvae have slim chances. Studies have documented mortality rates of over 90 percent during the egg and larva stages.

"When do turtles lay eggs?" June is the big month for turtle eggs. The nesting period is typically from late May into July.

"How many times will a robin use the same nest?" Usually just once, but she might build a new floor for that nest to raise another brood.

"What is the easiest way to get butterflies in my yard?" Raise cabbage. One of the most common butterflies seen flying around yards is the cabbage white. This white butterfly uses a variety of larval host plants from garden vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage to weeds such as garlic mustard. Cabbage suffers in its presence.

"My grandfather is fond of saying 'I haven't seen you in a coon's age.' How long is that?" The average raccoon lives two to five years if it is a nonsmoker.

"What is a tree fox?" It's a nickname for the gray fox, a mammal capable of climbing trees.

"Do deer whistles on cars work?" They do not. Whistling deer don't work either. The deer whistles do nothing more to alert deer than the sounds of the vehicle aren't already doing.

"Are squirrel nests high in the trees indicative of a harsh winter?" There is no correlation between the location of spherical dreys built by the squirrels and winter's severity.

"How big are wild turkey eggs?" Egg length is 1.9 to 2.7 inches and the width is 1.6 to 1.9 inches.

Nature notes

Doug Bushlack of New Richland asks how to discourage grackles at the feeders. Don't use tray or platform feeders that allow grackles to land. Tube feeders surrounded by cages work. They let small birds enter, but not larger birds. There are feeders with adjustable, weight-activated perches that close when a heavier bird, like a grackle, lands on it. Feeders can be made unappealing by shortening or removing perches. Reduce the amount of seed that birds throw out by replacing seed mixes with black-oil sunflower or hulled sunflower seed. Use safflower. Grackles eat many kinds of seed, but safflower isn't on their preferred list.

Nature lessons

As soon as the snow goes and there is a bit of warmth, ticks appear.

A bluebird chick can fly 300 feet when fledging from a nest box. That's the length of a football field.

Thanks for stopping by

"Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?" - Henry David Thoreau

"I've made up my mind, but I made it up both ways." - Casey Stengel

Meeting adjourned

"Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom." - Theodore Isaac Rubin


© Al Batt 2014