Someone wisely said that decisions are made by those who show up. Whoever said it, I think that's true. It even applies at the birdfeeder. I like the goldfinches, chickadees, house finches, nuthatches, woodpeckers and blue jays that show up at my feeders during every month of the year. I feed black oil sunflower seeds because they all like them. Those birds show up. They make the decision as to what I'm going to feed the birds.

Nature lessons

Eating bananas will not attract mosquitoes and taking vitamin B-12 will not repel them.

Echoes from the Loafers' Club Meeting

"I've decided to stop feeling guilty about everything."

"How does that make you feel?"


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 "With great power comes a great electric bill."

I've learned

If my first guess is wrong, I should always go with my second guess.

Nobody cares what kind of a car I drive.

Everything and everyone is interesting.

News from Hartland

Rash of skinned knees believed to be the work of Jack the Tripper.

Ringleader arrested at jewelry store.

Senior Citizen Center Dance Contest winner credits leg cramp for his unique steps.

Ask Al

"Have you ever seen the Catskill Mountains?"

No, but I've seen what they can do to mice.

"Why are some upscale restaurants so dark inside?"

Because people eat less when they can't see the food.

"Does Hartland have a city celebration?"

You bet. It's the Hartland Humidity Festival. Come and sweat on the sidewalks while eating a "walking hamburger gravy on mashed potatoes" from an old popcorn box.

T-shirts seen at the county fairs

You lost me at "Hello"

I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes a couple of days gang up on me.

There's a place for all God's creatures...right next to the potatoes and gravy.

Fair memories

I watched a boy find a dollar bill in the garbage. I suspect that boy looked in every garbage receptacle at the fair.

I was on stage with a banjo player. He told me that it was easier to tune a chainsaw than to tune a banjo. I think it's easier to tuna fish than it is to tune a chainsaw.

I picked up a free flyswatter at a county fair. I have a wedding anniversary coming up and, coincidentally, it's our flyswatter anniversary. That's one of the big ones. Next year is our fiber anniversary.

Sliding away

My wife and I walked the fairgrounds with some grandchildren. We looked at those scary rides that spin a passenger seriously before providing a sudden change of altitude.

I don't need to go on any wild rides. I can get the same feeling by getting up quickly from a chair.

It was decided that several of the youngsters would go on a large slide. There was only one problem. The kids on the slide didn't slide. They had to work their way down like inchworms with ride tickets. There was no worry about sliding into the beer garden or suffering a dreaded slide burn.

Car talk

I saw a vanity license plate at a fair that read, "GOTTA P."

Another on a small car said, "I go where I'm towed."

A car passed me on the highway as if I were backing up. It carried a bumper sticker reading, "You are loved." I felt passed.

Customer comments

Jim Borkowski of Crookston grew up in Kiester. Jim believes that if a city has a Walmart, it's not a small town.

A young Iowa farmer told me that while planting corn, he became stuck eight times in one day. A common complaint of humans is that the days are too short. I'll bet he thought that particular day was much too long.

Barb Quillen told me that her grandmother, Bertina Olson, didn't like grapefruit. She went so far as to say that grapefruit might have been God's only mistake.

Did you know?

The Steele County Fair had a 2012 estimated attendance of 321,926 over six days. It drew 5,000 during its first fair in 1918.

A freegan is someone who practices the reclaiming and eating of food that has been discarded. Dumpster diving is one method. This means that raccoons are freegans.

Gary Larson, creator of the cartoon "The Far Side" said that as a child, "I'd throw red ants in with black ants, and then play war correspondent."


"Why don't I ever see any baby coots?"

American coots build floating nests in marshes or shallow lakes. The nests are almost always associated with dense stands of vegetation such as reeds, cattails, bulrushes, sedges, and grasses. It's not often built on the edge of a stand of vegetation, where it would be clearly visible. The female lays nine to 12 eggs. The chicks hatch covered in down, alert, and ready to leave the nest within 6 hours of hatching. American coot chicks have black bodies with bright red head and beak, and orange plumes around the neck. I suspect the coot is nicknamed "mud hen" because of they way its head bobs when it walks. Some hunters maintain that it is called a mud hen because it tastes like mud. I read somewhere that folklore said that coots didn't migrate. People thought coots burrowed into the mud for the winter and emerged in spring, earning them the moniker "mud hens." Whether called coots or mud hens, they are a favorite prey item of the bald eagle.

"I was using a flashlight in the garden and saw tiny glowing eyes. What could it have been?"

It sounds like a wolf spider. They have eye shine much like a cat's eye reflects light. Wolf spiders are moderate to large-sized spiders (one-quarter to one-inch long) with dark brown and slightly hairy bodies.

"How does the state do its pheasant counts?"

Since 1955, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has conducted annual roadside surveys during the first two weeks of August to estimate pheasant abundance. All pheasants observed while driving 152 survey routes are counted. DNR staff survey the 25-mile long routes in the early mornings on days with clear skies and light winds. The surveys provide an index of relative abundance.

"When is a watermelon ripe?"

This is a question that has confounded man for as long as we have been capable of being confounded. Most melon varieties are ripe when the stem that attaches the melon to the vine becomes brown and crisp. Try piercing the melon skin with your fingernail. If this is easy to do, it's ripe. The spot where the melon touches the ground is usually yellow when ripe.

"What are the caterpillars on my dill?"

They are likely black swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. They feed on carrots, dill, fennel, parsley, and Queen Anne's lace. When they hatch, the caterpillars look almost like bird droppings. As they grow, they are black and have a white stripe. Then they become a larger green and black. They are eating machines, as are most caterpillars.

"I saw a large black and yellow spider on a large web near my garden. What is it?"

This is the beautiful yellow garden spider, also called the black-and-yellow argiope or writing spider. It is a large orb weaver spider. As with many spiders, the female is much larger that the male. The spider's large web often has an area in a zigzag pattern, called a stabilimentum, that resembles dental floss. The purpose for this is up for conjecture, but is thought to provide camouflage for the spider, attract flying insect prey by reflecting ultraviolet light, or serve as a warning to birds to avoid the web.

"How long do great horned owls feed their fledglings?"

For up to five months.

"When do purple martins reach breeding age?"

Martins are sexually mature in their second summer.

Dave Swanson of Glenville asks if feeding hummingbirds in the fall will keep them from migrating.

It will not. There are a number of factors that trigger the urge for the hummingbirds to migrate, but the most significant one is day length. When the days get shorter, the hummingbirds move on, regardless if there are feeders or not. Keep the feeders for a time after you've seen the last hummingbird just in case there are stragglers in need of energy to complete their long journey south.

Thanks for stopping by

"The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you." - John E. Southard

"To learn how to identify a bird by its general outline, markings, and behavior as a species belonging to a certain family or order was a new and thrilling occupation, and so it remains, I think, forever new, forever thrilling throughout life with every watcher of birds." - Louise de Kiriline Lawrence

Meeting adjourned

Kindness is the key to a heart.


© Al Batt 2013