Saturday, March 29, 2014

Signs of spring

We've had a weird spring here in Maryland.  For the past three weeks, temperatures have jumped around from the 20s to the high 60s.  We've had sunny days, windy days, rain, on and off, and snow a couple of times.  The latest snow was this week.  At one point I had icicles handing from the drain pipes and dripping down onto my front steps. Unfortunately, it then got below freezing so I had a coating of ice on the steps.  I don't have a railing out front so going down the steps was a bit iffy.  Luckily I made it without falling.  I then went to get some rock salt, but of course the store was sold out.  Instead I bought kitty litter and some salt that is used in water softeners.  The litter produced a crunchy surface over the ice, so I could safely go up and down.  The salt did help melt the ice, I think.  I've had to use the litter once since then, as we had another warm/cold spell.  Kitty litter is really messy when it is wet!  I sure hope we are done with winter now!

The birds that dine at my feeders seem to have decided it is now spring.  I haven't seen any courting so far, but the males are singing their spring songs.  The male goldfinches are all decked out in their courting colors.  When they share a feeder with the cardinals, it's very colorful.  I even had a pair of redwing blackbirds recently.  They don't nest around here and are seldom seen on my feeders.  They are voracious eaters, but not as bad as starlings.   I've been seeing flocks of robins all winter, so I don't consider them good predicters of spring, but now I'm seeing only one or two at a time.  I guess the migrants have passed through, leaving only the summer residents.  Interestingly, the juncos (a winter only bird) think it's still winter.  They usually fly north as the weather warms up, but they are still hanging around.  Juncos are ground feeders, but at least one of them has learned how to perch on a feeder.  I've never seen that behavior before, but I guess he was desperate, as there was no more food scattered on the deck floor.  I throw birdseed onto the deck only when it is snow-covered.  It's a mess to clean up the shells, not to mention the little white blobs the birds leave behind.

Here are a few signs of spring in my yard.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Trip to Florida

In late February, I flew to Vero Beach, Florida to visit my brother and sister-in-law who live down there during the winter.  I chose the cheapest flights I could find, but got a bit nervous after booking because the flight went from Baltimore to Rochester, NY  and then down to Orlando.  I used to live in western NY, so I know what the weather can be like up there.  Flying north in the winter is a bit of a risk.  As if turned out, Rochester was fine - a little snow on the ground, but none coming down.  However, we left Baltimore 45 mintues late because there was icy rain and the plane had to be de-ided.  We got to Rochester with no trouble and the plane emptied, leaving only 5 of us still aboard.  We quickly moved up to the front seats, before the folks in Rochester who were hoping to escape the winter, boarded for the trip to Orlando.  We made up a part of the time on the way south, but we were still later than scheduled arriving in Orlando.  I had booked a shuttle bus service to Vero and wasn't sure I would make the connection.  I called the company who said the bus would wait 10 minutes for me.  Boy was I lucky!  My bag came through among the first off and I hurried down to where the shuttel bus was waitaing.  Everything was fine from then on.  I arrived safely in Vero and my family picked me up.  This was much better than having my 86 year old brother drive to Orlando to pick me up.

The weather in Florida was delightful.  We had sunny days with temps in the 70s, although the last day I was there, it was going into the 80s.  My sister-in-law and I spent an afternoon going to all the thrift stores in town.  Vero Beach has many wealthy people, so the thrift stores have wonderful items for very little money.  I bought another bird house to add to my collection, but nothing else.  Of course, I had to leave 4 paperback books behind in order to fit the birdhouse into my suitcases!  No problem, as I had read the books by the time I left and was going to donate them anyway.

Another day we went over to the stores on the beach and wandered around a bit.  Went to a store that has all sorts of cooking things - pots and pans, gadgets to do just about anything in a kitchen, table linens and more.  I tried to buy my sister-in-law a couple of gadgets that I thought she would use, but she refused to take them.  She likes the things she already has and isn't interesting in anything new. Another store we visited is a wonderful store called the Laughing Dog.  It has fabulous creations of glass, ceramic, fabric or wood.  There was nothing I could afford, but I loved looking at all the beautiful objects of art.  We poked into some other stores as well, admiring all the birghtlyt colored Florida clothes.  Somehow I resisted them as well.  I was tempted just a little by the handmade baby dresses in one store, but as much as I love my 6 month old granddaughter, I just couldn't see spending $40 on a dress that had to be hand-washed and that she would out grow in a few months!  Sorry, Elise.  When you have stopped growing so fast, I'll see what I can find that you would like.

The day before I left, my brother took me out to dinner for my birthday - at my favorite restaurant.  I celebrated turning 73 by having a very good Margarita before a dinner of crab-stuffed flounder.  Yum!
The last day I was in Florida, we drove out to where the local water company has created ponds which attract many birds.  We watched flocks of small black and white ducks, and a few white herons, cormorants or anhingas (I can't remember how to tell them apart)and other birds we couldn't identify.

The trip home was uneventful - my favorite kind of trip.  I had lots of time at the Orlando airport, so I ate a nice dinner in a real restaurant and had no problem getting through the very long lines at the security checkpoint.  Of course I have a lot to do now that I am home.  The house needs cleaning, or at least dusting.  I still haven't done my income taxes, which I started before my vacation.  I am trying to finish reading a book before tonight's book club meeting.  We are reading "The Aviator's Wife" a fictionalized story about Anne Morrow Lindberg's life.  It's interesting and well-written, but I am a bit uncomfortable about this kind of book.  I prefer my books to be either fictional or true.  As  I read this book, it's impossible to know what is real and what the author has made up.  It will be interesting to see if the other members of the book club feel the same way.  I'm going to quit now and see how far I can get in the book before the meeting tonight.