Flocks of tiny irruptive pine siskins may monopolize your thistle feeder one winter and be absent the next. This nomadic finch ranges widely and erratically across the continent each winter in response to seed crops. Better suited to clinging to branch tips than to hopping along the ground, these brown-streaked acrobats flash yellow wing markings as they flutter while feeding or as they explode into flight. 
AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
Flocks of tiny irruptive pine siskins may monopolize your thistle feeder one winter and be absent the next. This nomadic finch ranges widely and erratically across the continent each winter in response to seed crops. Better suited to clinging to branch tips than to hopping along the ground, these brown-streaked acrobats flash yellow wing markings as they flutter while feeding or as they explode into flight. AL BATT/BLUFF COUNTRY READER

It was one of those thrilling days of yesterday.

“Watch where you step,” I told the youngster as he visited the barn.

He smiled and intentionally stepped into a fresh cowpie.

I couldn’t be angry with him because he did exactly what I told him to do. He watched before he stepped. He even took the time to aim.

He was unlike the two people I overheard in a clinic’s waiting room. The couple from northern Minnesota finished one another’s sentences — incorrectly according to their reactions.

The husband said, “I’m too tired to drive today.”

“I’ll drive,” said the wife.

“You don’t know where you’re going.”

“You could tell me.”

“I’d like to tell you where to go,” he mumbled quietly in the hopes that his wife wouldn’t hear.

She said nothing.

Maybe she pretended that she hadn't heard him. Perhaps she was a practitioner of the fine art of selective hearing.

I’ll wear it with pride

There is clock time, calendar time and lifetime. Troubled times ignore clock and calendar while seeming to last a lifetime.

My mother-in-law, Lorraine Nelson of New Richland, and my sisters-in-law, Donna Swenson of Waseca and Mary Bushlack of New Richland, gave me a “I pooped today” T-shirt. That T-shirt reflected one of my goals after a recent surgery. I’ll try to wear it in all family photos.

A case of the miseries focuses the mind. Learn from yesterday. Live for today. Hope for tomorrow. There were days that didn’t spark as much joy as I’d have liked. Nurses hid pills in my mashed potatoes. I spit them out thanks to the training I’d received from family dogs. The hospitalizations and various procedures were a lot when I think about them. They were a lot when I don’t think about them. As this chapter of my life comes to an end, I find myself happily burdened by the future.

I’m a free-range consumer of soup and pie

My father was scribbling away in the kitchen, adding penciled notations to notebooks. His farm office was the kitchen table. My mother, in the midst of preparing breakfast, expressed her desire to go to a feed at a church in the city. The supper was held a bit earlier than those at rural churches that had to deal with the schedules of dairy farmers. My father said that the cows had priority over a meal in church, but mother could go. He said that if he ever got rid of the milk cows, he could keep winter hours.

I milk cows only in my memories, so I’m more free-range than my father was.

I blew the $20 weekly allowance that my wife gave me. It isn’t as bad as it sounds. She doesn’t care where I spend the money.

My wife and I attended a soup and pie supper at Round Prairie Lutheran Church in Twin Lakes. I had chili with oyster crackers. The chili was excellent and that combination is one of my favorite cold weather meals. My meal concluded with a glass of milk accompanied by cherry pie topped in whipped cream.

I hope Dad didn’t know what he was missing.

Echoes From Loafers’ Club

Your necktie is covered in food stains.

I know that.

Why don’t you have it cleaned?

I’d rather just lick it whenever I’m hungry.

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: One of the Bruces is moving before the end of the year. Southside Bruce is moving to an eastern state to be nearer to his daughter. Sadly, it’s like a good neighbor to move away. He has been a perfect neighbor and I’ll miss him.

The guy from just down the road

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

“How are you doing?” I ask.

“Everything is nearly copacetic. I've changed all my passwords to something secure that I'll never be able to remember. My neighbor Weasel told me that I should get tattoos of all my passwords. He’s goofy, but I’m trying to apply some of Weasel’s teachings to my life. Whenever life gives Weasel lemons, he squirts them into someone's eyes. Our minister is long-winded, but his sermon this week was considerably longer than normal. When I shook hands with him as I moved towards the door, I said, ‘Your sermon was wonderful. It was invigorating, inspiring and instructional.’ The minister broke out his best Sunday smile. I think he was about to give the sermon an instant replay when I added, ‘Why I felt like a new man when I woke up.’”

Naturally

The weather had been cold. It reminded me once more that there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.

The first week of November brought an influx of pine siskins to my feeders. Some years, siskins don’t stray far from their breeding territories in northern U.S., across Canada and into Alaska. The cones produced by the conifers there are generally plentiful and siskins use the seeds as food to survive the winter. The winter movements of siskins are erratic and often driven by the state of those cone crops. Every couple of years, siskins irrupt and move into the central and southern parts of the continent, but the timing and scale of these movements are variable. Every three to five years, some trees produce enormous quantities of seeds and during some of the years in between this abundance, they produce almost none. In the years when the mast production is uniformly depressed, pine siskins move southward looking for food. They mix with flocks of goldfinches at the feeders (the siskins are the ones in the striped pajamas) and brighten our days with their loud zreeeet sounds like someone slowly tearing a sheet of paper in half.

My yard also entertained rusty blackbirds. The blackbirds flipped over fallen leaves in search of food as I once flipped over rocks in the hopes of finding ants and beetles.

Turning over a new leaf

I’m proud to serve on the board of the American Bald Eagle Foundation (ABEF) located in Haines, Alaska. The Mission of the ABEF is the conservation of the bald eagle and its habitat through education and stewardship.

Katie Dickerson is the museum coordinator at ABEF. Until earlier this year, the museum used real leaves to cover the floor of dioramas. This practice threatened specimen safety. Eventually, the leaves dry and crumble. This creates dust that dirties the museum and can cause degradation of specimens. Insects and their larvae can come with the leaves and become pests. Katie replaced the real leaves with 14,500 artificial, but realistic looking leaves. The dioramas had no complaints. Happiness abounds.

Nature notes

Mourning doves are here all year, but the doves of winter might not be the doves of summer. Your cold season doves might be migrants. They have a differential migration, a complicated move related to a bird’s age and sex. They move south September to November. The young leave first, then the females and lastly the males. Some birds, mostly males, don’t migrate. The doves in my yard in the winter are predominantly males. They risk frostbitten toes to get a jump on establishing prime breeding territories in early spring. Males are slightly larger, their breasts are rosier and their heads are brighter and more iridescent.

Meeting adjourned

“That best portion of a good man's life: his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.” — William Wordsworth

Thanks for stopping by

“The amount of sleep required by the average person is about five minutes more.” — Max Kauffmann

“Blessed are those who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused.” — Anonymous

DO GOOD.

© Al Batt 2017