This male orchard oriole enjoys a treat at the feeder. AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP
This male orchard oriole enjoys a treat at the feeder. AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP
Tony Guggisberg of New Ulm has some red splendor crabapple trees with fruit that persists over the winter. Pheasants flew into the trees and ate all the crabapples. Tony said that he planted some Black Hills spruce trees and chipping sparrows, robins and grackles built nests in the trees almost immediately. Tony has a Christmas tree farm. He reckoned that every fourth Christmas tree contained a nest.

A caller said that gangs of Tennessee warblers slurped up the nectar from the crabapple blossoms in her yard.

Breaking and walnutting

Cindy St. John of Fairmont told me that her parents once brought a harvest of black walnuts into their house. While they were away from home, squirrels got into the house and had their way with the walnuts. Eating walnuts must be thirsty work, as the squirrels removed the cover from the back of the toilet so that they might have a few drinks at the banquet.

Opossums to the right of me, opossums to the left of me

A friend named Bill lives in Omaha. He feeds the birds. He noticed an opossum in the yard. He live-trapped it and hauled the opossum to a park near Boys Town. The next day there was another opossum. He caught it and deposited it at the same place. He caught and delivered a number of opossums.

Several weeks passed. A man told Bill's wife that he was thinking of quitting feeding birds because his yard was being overrun by opossums.

She asked him where he lived. His residence was near Boys Town.

When wrens attack

Don Selvig of Winnebago said that he was puttering around in the yard when he was attacked by a house wren. The attack consisted of the tiny bird flying straight at Don. Don took refuge in his house and shared his tale of woe with his spouse. His wife didn't believe him. Don had to show her. He ventured back outside and the attacks began anew.

My tower has been buzzed by robins mistaking me for a worm.

Echoes from the Loafers' Club Meeting

Do you have a pen I could use?


Then what's that in your shirt pocket?

That's a pen you can't use.

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: most people could use a good listening to.

Cafe chronicles

The radio offered Toby Keith singing about being in love with a red Solo cup.

That caused a patron to either laugh or lay an egg.

That man, who optimistically called himself middle-aged, bellowed, "Good gravy!"

"Good gravy" is "uffda" with gravy.

At the table of infinite knowledge, we talked of a friend who had died much too young. I recalled a song by Jimmy Buffett called, "He Went to Paris," that contained this line, "Some of it's magic, some of it's tragic. But I had a good life all the way."

Larry Sandvol of Big Stone City, S.D., talked of his friend, an avid duck hunter, who died and was cremated. His hunting buddies reloaded shotgun shells, putting a bit of cremains into each shell. They spread his ashes that way.

We miss our friend. Sometimes we laugh to keep from crying.

I mentioned a movie that my wife and I had seen in the theater. I knew it was a chick flick. How did I know? I woke up once during the film and my wife was crying.


Two Hartlanders had such a great day fishing a brook that they vowed to meet 10 years later at that same spot to repeat the experience. But 10 years later, they couldn't agree on the exact location. One said, "This is the spot. I recognize the clover growing on the bank."

The other man replied, "Nonsense, you can't tell a brook by its clover."

I camped along the Missouri River. Camping is something to do when you feel the need to use a Posturepedic rock as a pillow.

I don't own a cabin. I know that in some parts of the country, cabins are called cottages. Where I live, a cottage is where you make a certain kind of cheese.

I canoed during the day, put up a tent in the evening and built a small fire for cooking.

At one site, wood was difficult to find. I can't paddle a canoe as well as I can chop wood and make a fire. The canoe was old and would have made a warm fire.

It was tempting.

We're all part of a team

Over the course of a week, I visited the grocery stores in Ellendale and New Richland. I couldn't help but notice how nice everybody was. Folks greeted one another whether they were acquainted or not. People regularly held doors open for others and wishes for nice days were common. Shoppers were required to talk about the weather, but appeared to mean it when they asked, "How are you?"

I saw a bumper sticker on a car parked in front of one of the stores that read, "I run like a girl. See if you could keep up."

I spoke at a college in Chicago. There was a basketball tournament going on while I was there. I watched one team warm-up. It had a muscular guard, a quick guard, a 7-foot center who dunked effortlessly, a lithe forward whose smooth moves were readily apparent and a couple of deadly jump shooters. They warmed up. Six players. Six basketballs. There were no words exchanged amongst the players. There were no handshakes, fist bumps or high-fives. No one smiled. They were as snotty as a preschooler with allergies. They played a team that appeared to be far less talented, but played as a team and destroyed the six players on the court.

Did you know?

A Gallup Poll found that Rhode Island was the least appreciated state by its own residents with only 18 percent saying the state was the best place to live. Only 19 percent of Illinois residents felt that way. Montana and Alaska topped the list, with 77 percent of residents thinking highly of their state. Minnesota was at 61 percent and Iowa 56.

Nature notes

"How long do crows live?" Most crows don't live a year, dying in the egg or as nestlings. The average fledged crow likely lives 7 or 8 years, but studies by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology indicates that crows could live to be 17 to 21 years old. The oldest known wild American crow was 29 and a half years old.


"How can I tell a Eurasian collared-dove from a mourning dove?" Eurasian collared-doves look larger than mourning doves and are slightly lighter in color. The collared-dove has a diagnostic black collar on the back of its neck and has a squared tail as opposed to the pointed tails of mourning doves. It looks as if the end of the tail had been cut off with scissors.

"What eats dandelions?" The flowers of dandelions are nectared by bees, butterflies and flies. Chipping, field, house, song and white-throated sparrows, American goldfinches and indigo buntings are a few of the songbirds that eat dandelion seeds.

Dandelions are devoured by wild turkeys, pheasants, ruffed grouse, rabbits, deer, ground squirrels, mice and chipmunks. Cooked dandelion greens have long been food for humans. The leaves and roots could be served on buttered bread or used in salads and the flowers dipped in batter and fried. During the Civil War, Confederate soldiers used dried dandelion roots as a coffee substitute. The plant is a great source of iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, carotenoids and vitamins A, B, C and D.

Tom Jessen of Madelia asked about robins calling in the middle of the night. Studies have shown that robins in areas with much artificial light begin singing before robins in low-light areas. I've noticed robin songs early after a storm or under a bright moon. Call notes in the night might indicate the presence of a predator. The robins in my yard begin vocalizing as early as 3:30 in the morning. I suppose it's on their list of things to do.

Nature lessons

The snowy owl is likely the oldest bird species recognizable in prehistoric cave art.

Charles Darwin was a pigeon fancier.

The oldest state park in Minnesota is Itasca State Park, established in 1891. The newest is La Salle Lake State Recreation Area begun in 2011. The largest is St. Croix State Park at 31,775 acres and the smallest is Franz Jevne State Park at 118 acres. The top three state parks for visits in 2013 were in descending order Fort Snelling State Park, Gooseberry Falls State Park and Itasca State Park.

The extinct dodo was a dove found only on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.

Thanks for stopping by

"Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom." - Marcel Proust

"You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you're finished, you'll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird. So let's look at the bird and see what it's doing-that's what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something." - Richard Feynman

Meeting adjourned

The investment return on a kind word is extremely high.


© Al Batt 2014