The caller told me that he was unemployed. He had spent the winter in Arizona. He figured that if he couldn't afford to eat, he might as well go hungry in warm weather.

When the weather warmed in the spring, we opened the door to the henhouse, permitting the chickens to once again become free range. Tired of being cooped up, the chickens rushed from the henhouse like students coming out of a grade school at recess.

I enjoyed saying, "Gentlemen, start your chickens," when I opened the door.

A neighbor drew a line through the middle of the floor of his chicken house. That way, a hen could lay it on the line.

The chickens may be loose and the snow has melted, but in the middle of May, I spotted a pickup truck with a mounted snowplow on the front. He wasn't late for last winter; he was early for next winter. I'm not sure if the driver was pessimistic or optimistic.

On a veery nice trail

I led a bird walk at a state park far from my home. I love walking. It's like reading a book with my feet. Pelicans flew low enough overhead that I could hear their wings whistling as if they were made from corduroy. A veery, a tawny thrush, sang its beautiful ethereal song, flutey and fine. I thanked my lucky stars that I was able to hear it.

Looking out my window on May 14 at 5:30 a.m.

The ground appeared to be moving. The area under the feeders was crawling with native sparrows. LBJs (Little Brown Jobs) that included Harris's, Lincoln's, chipping, song, white-crowned, clay-colored and white-throated sparrows.

There were no house sparrows. They tend to sleep in. House sparrows aren't related to our native sparrows and they're built differently. House sparrows are chunkier with a rounder head, shorter tail and stouter bill than most North American sparrows.

The Old Testament Bible associates the sparrow with loneliness and solitude, while the New Testament views it as a sign of insignificance.

There's gold in them there feeders

Nancy Rosenberg of Albert Lea called to express her amazement at the number of goldfinches in her yard. If we don't complain too much about winter, we are given gold in the spring - goldfinches. Nancy must have suffered winter gladly. The lively chatter of what my father called " wild canaries" causes me to fill the feeders with nyjer seed (also called thistle seed). I want to comfort the joyous.

Purple martin tales

Vic and Gail Savick of Freeborn informed me that they'd found dead purple martins after the epic May snowstorm, spring in a snow globe. Our largest swallows, purple martins perform aerial acrobatics to catch flying insects. John James Audubon used the presence of purple martin houses to help him find his lodgings for the night.

He said, "Almost every country tavern has a martin box on the upper part of its signboard; and I have observed that the handsomer the box, the better does the inn generally prove to be."

Native Americans hung empty gourds in their villages for the martins. Purple martins in eastern North America nest almost exclusively in birdhouses.

When geese attack turtles

Duane Swenson of rural Waseca watched a Canada goose chase a turtle away from a nest near Duane's farm pond. A gander can get a little cranky and this one had goslings in the nest. It would attempt to chase away any creature that ventured too close.

The painted turtle is the most common turtle here. They are commonly called "mud turtles." The painted turtle is an omnivore (eating both plants and animals) that feeds on insects, snails, slugs, crayfish, leeches, mussels, tadpoles, frogs, fish eggs, fish, carrion and plants (including duckweed, algae, and lily pads).

Common snapping turtles would be more of a threat to a small gosling. They, too, eat both plants and animals. Potential foods include insects, fish, clams, crayfish, snails, worms, frogs, tadpoles, salamanders, snakes, turtles, birds, various small mammals, carrion, and aquatic plants. In June, female snapping turtles travel to areas suitable for nesting and often cross roads.

Echoes from Loafers' Club

"I wish I'd have gone out for baseball when I was in high school."


"Do you know what I'd be making if I were playing for the Minnesota Twins today?"

"Sure. You'd be making everyone wonder why you are on the team."

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: I've never heard anyone, quarter or otherwise, singing in a barbershop.

I've learned

The best way to save face is to keep the lower half of it shut.

If I've seen one shopping center, I've seen a mall.

My opinion represents those of one seven-billionth of the world.

Mothers, purses and deer

My wife searched for something in her purse. She dug deep for the elusive item, only to discover that it was right at the top.

"If it had been a snake, it would have bitten you," I said. That's one of the things we say in such instances.

Dad had one check in his wallet. Mom had money in her purse. She was always willing to give me some of her moolah at 6 percent. Actually, my mother was willing to give her offspring everything.

Jan Jerdee of Albert Lea told me that deer are common sights on her lawn. This spring, a doe brought three young triplets to the yard. Because of the May snowstorm, there was little for them to eat. The doe stood up on her back legs to kick persistent crabapples from the branches of a tree. The fawns ate the crabapples. Jan added, "A mother is a mother."

When forks fly

My wife and one of her best friends, Linda Brekke of Owatonna, journeyed to Washington, DC., Linda is a farm broadcaster on the radio and needed to be in our nation's capital for a convention related to her job. The two attended a function at the Chinese Embassy, where they were fed well. They were given plastic silverware. Linda was using her fork, when the plastic tableware snapped and part of the utensil flew across the banquet hall. Linda was worried that she might have created an international incident.

So far, so good. There has been no retaliation, but please, everyone, keep your fingers crossed.

The chair of the cemetery

I told a kind gentleman at St. Johns Lutheran Church of Elkton that I had done a radio show from the cemetery near that church. I've done countless radio shows from cemeteries. Graveyards are lovely places to walk and talk. He told me that he had purchased a monument for his gravesite. It is a bench. That's nice. It will offer his friends and family a place to sit a spell and visit.

Nature notes

Dead opossums acted as speed bumps on a rural road. Vultures were on the side of the road paying their last respects to a coot.

I sang to the vultures as I drove by, "One of these days, these coots are going to walk all over you."

To a turkey vulture, our roads are long buffet tables. Vultures are part of nature's sanitation crew. The coyote is another that feeds heavily on road kill. However, a study showed that in some urban areas, 40 percent of a coyote's diet consists of cats. Any cat outdoors is subject to many threats - a coyote is but one of them. A coyote averages 30 pounds, but each time I see one, I reckon it larger.

Meeting adjourned

Be kind and place others at the receiving end of that heavenly combination, a wave and a smile.

Thanks for stopping by

"I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all." ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

"For peace of mind, we need to resign as general manager of the universe." ~ Larry Eisenberg


Al Batt 2013