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Posts Tagged ‘birds’

I’m sure that is not the longest title ever put on an ariticle, but I’m sure it is right up there.  We have been working very hard getting the yard in shape.   It won’t be long now before we will have to mow the lawns.  The peas are up and looking very nice.

There is a LOT of work to do around here.   Yesterday I worked on the East Prairie; cleaned out the last of the branches of last year’s tiny white asters.   Do not be fooled by that name, the flowers are tiny but the plants can be absolutely rampant.   They got about 5 feet tall last summer, since they had no competition except for the poke weed and some wild lettuce named fireweed (for some arcane reason).

Let me just say that in my head, fireweed is that amazing magenta flower that grows all over the Alaska Interior, not this 6 foot tall Ozarks giant that has insignificant flowers that the pollinators adore.

Anyway, I got that cleaned up and then we went out to dinner, which was scrumptious.   After we got home it was a dead calm so we burned the little brush pile out in the savanna.  That has been there about a year and a half, ever since I beat a path through the forsythia thicket so I could work on removing elm sprouts.

Today I cleaned up the garden area around the sauna.  Now that has turned into quite the place.  My job, now that all the forbs have gotten established, is to keep the honeysuckle and the elm trees from moving in.  It blooms all summer with plants I collected seeds from while walking the dog.   When I first planted this garden, I put some beautiful day lilies in there, but now that it has turned into a micro prairie, the day lilies have a lot of competition.  They bloom, but it is a struggle.  The little birds love this garden.

After I got that done, I decided to have a beer and see if I could see any birds at the pond.  I was rewarded by a gold finch, who came down to the waterfall for a drink.

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He didn’t stay very long.   I waited for a while, and Jim came to join me.   We sat for a while, and all of a sudden a junco dropped by.   This little bird knew darn well we were there, and did not come down to drink.  It took a while for me to capture him looking in our direction.  It is not safe for little birds, you know, and he was trying to look in all directions at once.

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Then I went off for mosquito dunks, and on my way back to the pond I sort of wandered around looking at the yard.

There are about five million violet seedlings in my path, something for future reference.  They are invisible in this shot, which is all about the grape hyacinths and the dragon’s teeth.

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Other than that, I think it is looking pretty special.   I wandered past the Green Man on my way to the pond.   I can actually see him this time of year.  The bittersweet vine really fills in.  Right now it is barely sprouting.

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Right behind him is the pond.   While I was getting this shot, there were a grackle and a robin in the pond taking a bath.  By the time I got around the corner, the grackle was done and had vacated the area.

The robin was very wet.

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He sat there for several minutes as I stood frozen on the opposite side of the pond from him.  After a while, he decided that he was not sufficiently bathed, and so he hopped back into the pool.

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Well.  That’s better.

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He is even more wet.

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But , apparently, not wet enough.   Back in he went for another splash.

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We have a pretty good sized pile of prunings from the yard, so if the wind calms down at sunset we shall have an Equinoctical bonfire.  That will be nice.

Happy Spring!

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Well, I have been way from the blog for far too long.  It is amazing what a profound effect having people make unkind comments has, it is like being burned by a hot stove and never wanting to approach it again.  I have decided that cruel and unstable people do not get to control me.

A few days ago we noticed that the number of small birds in our yards seems to have increased radically, not quite exponentially.   We hang two big feeders, each will hold 3 quarts of black oil sunflower seeds.  All winter, we had to fill them about every three days.   All of a sudden, they are being emptied in one 24 hour period.

Also, I noticed that the number of birds hopping around on the ground and in the trees and shrubs seems to have increased from lots to dozens and dozens.   The elm trees are blooming, and there are finches all over them, eating the elm seeds.  (My hope is that they eat ALL of them, as every year I have to weed hundreds of volunteer elm trees out of my gardens.

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What is going on?

Well, the fact is we have a housing crisis for small birds in the neighborhood.   There is a place about 400 or 500 feet from here where there are new owners.   Now granted, the property they bought was very overgrown, and they have every right to clear the elms and massive quantities of grape vines, virginia creeper and other stuff that has slowly inched its way towards their house.   They probably are going to replant once the area is cleaned up, sort of like what we have done on our east property line.

But at the moment, there are hundreds of little finches, sparrows, wrens, juncos and other birds that like dense woodsy shrubs who have summarily been evicted from their homes without warning.  They have found their way here and have found the proprietors to be willing to provide their needs.

And so, The Havens earns its name once again.  A population in crisis has found a place with shelther and food to get them by.

 

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It is no secret that if you have a plot of land there is generally four sides to it.  Given the predilection surveyors have to orient things on a logical grid, those sides usually conform to ordinal directions.

This is the case at The Havens.   There are numerous posts that feature our West line, which is where the stroll garden is, and the little pond.   On the North line is the barn and a very wild line of trees and shrubbery that shields us from the “view” in that direction.  Our South line is the street we live on.  Many pictures of the house, vineyard, and front gardens have been taken from that line.

Our East line parallels the main drag towards I-44.   When we moved here, it featured a broken down stockwire/barbed wire fence and a wild tangle of volunteer elms, cherries, mulberries, orange trumpet creeper vine, poison ivy, virginia creeper and God knows what else.

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It was a heaven for the local birds, and served to shield us from the wonderful view of the neighboring business, which sold mobile and manufactured homes.   Most of the mobile homes were repossessions.   It was pretty much an eyesore.

So much was it an eyesore, that I almost NEVER took any pictures specifically of it.   The East line only shows up as a back drop for other parts of the place I was trying to show, sort of like this one of the sauna.

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Despite that fact, I really sort of liked it, because there was always something going on back there.   On the north end of that line is a thicket of plums with a big currant bush.  The brown thrasher used that spot to raise her family.  There were usually cat birds living there, as well as cardinals using the vines for nesting areas.   The finches hung out there, along with robins, blue jays, the occasional hawk or owl.   The hummingbirds used the orange trumpet creeper vine.

I won’t discuss the owner of the trailer sales place except to say that he was the reason that we found ourselves in need of a lawyer.   Harassment is a gentle word for what he did. But as things turned out, he wound up selling his property to the Dollar General corporation.   During the course of the hearings at the City Council, we discovered that they intended to build a privacy fence between our place and their lot.

We decided to have the tangled mess cleared up to facilitate that event.  Our plan is to establish a garden over there that consists of prairie plants:  tall grasses like big bluestem and panicum; medium grasses like little bluestem, prairie dropseed, and sorgastrums; and a bunch of prairie flowers.   I also intended to plant shrubs as well, to re-establish the flyway for the small birds.

So we spent a big wad of money and had professionals come in and clear the line.  We had them preserve the line of forsythias at the back, as well as one oak, one large mulberry, and one black walnut

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Eventually we had all that chipped up tree and shrubbery spread out along the line to make a mulch layer.  I spent the fall and spring planting shrubs next to the very beautiful fence Dollar General built.

Last fall I planted seeds for the flowers and grasses.  They are young, but they are coming along.   I also have assiduously transplanted starts from my Petite Prairie, and those are the plants you can actually see in the above shots.

Above is the north end of the East line, where I planted forsythia about ten years ago or so.  You are seeing the west and east sides of that thicket.   Needless to say, during the interim the birds have provided me with lots of extraneous things in that patch of shrubs, not the least of which is a very healthy stand of poison ivy.   When the clearing was done, we had the stumps of the trees ground out, but we could not do that at this end of the line and also save the bushes.

I really wanted to save those bushes because I knew that that birds were using the line of trees for shelter and habitat, and I wasn’t willing to completely evict them all.   Anyway, we now have about 10 elm trees, two or three locusts, a maple and a couple of mulberries that are trying to assert themselves.   Since I am averse to using glyphosphate or other herbicides, the method needed to convince these trees that they are actually dead is to go out there and clip off the dozens of sprouts they are sending up around their trunks.  This is a job you have to do every couple of months or so during the summer for two or three years.

A few days ago I went back there to beat back the poison ivy, so that the sprout removal would be less fraught with danger from it.  I filled up a 33 gallon garbage bag with poison ivy.   I thought I had avoided getting it, but no such luck.   Both my wrists have outbreaks and I got exposed to enough of it that my eyes are all swollen up.  Oh well.   Sacrifices must be made, I guess.

Anyway, while I have been removing elm sprouts I found two old cardinal nests from last year.   And I also found the nest the brown thrasher built this year.

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I also saw the cat birds and a pair of hairy woodpeckers.  The other day I saw a whole family of indigo buntings as well.   So I guess our transition has not made my birds feel unwelcome.

Next year the flowers and prairie grasses ought to look quite special.   In the mean time, I will have to introduce myself to the City’s Compliance Officer and explain what the plan is so that I won’t get citations from the local authorities enjoining me to mow down the “tall weeds.”

I think I’ll begin by inviting him to visit the Petite Prairie.  Stay tuned for future developments.

 

 

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Somehow, to me the title of this post sounds like a fine title for a children’s book.   It would be a sort of “Goodnight Moon,” only about birds.

A few days ago I was gazing out my bathroom window at the Hosta Dell, as I am wont to do.   It is a view that particularly pleases me.  These shots were taken several years ago, but it looks much like this now, although the hostas have really filled in.

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Note the bird house on the left post of the pergola.   That is a wren house, and there is a pair of wrens that has “owned” it for several years.

Part of the reason I like to look out the bathroom window is I can watch and listen to the goings on without having my presence disturb the tenants.   It is quite amusing. The redbud on the other side of the fence is the vantage point where the male wren proclaims his territory.   The pergola and shrubs nearby are great hunting grounds for all sorts of bugs, as is the Hosta Dell itself.

A few days ago I heard all sorts of commotion going on out there, so I took a peek and discovered that the rock ridge has attracted a resident, an Eastern Chipmunk.   Although I have no idea what the sex of this rodent is, I shall refer to it as “he” for the purposes of this story.

Said chipmunk was over near the fence where there are rail road ties that keep the gravel of the rock garden from migrating under the fence and into the front yard.   The ties are pretty old and decrepit, and have lots of rot in the center, places where maple seeds and other edibles tend to collect.   So he was investigating the possibilities for breakfast and suffering through a proper dressing down from the Papa wren, who was bouncing along the top of the fence and generally making his displeasure known in no uncertain terms.

This intrigued me, as I could not see what danger a chipmunk could possibly pose to the wren family.   My amazement grew as I observed the wren take a couple of dive bomb runs at the chipmunk’s head.   He took cover in a crack in the railroad tie, and I settled in to watch the proceedings.   The wren was not deceived by the disappearance of the chipmunk, and sat on the fence proclaiming “You’re not fooling anyone, you know!”  Eventually the chipmunk stuck his head out and began looking for maple seeds, an activity I heartily endorse.  The more he eats the less there will be sprouting in my garden.  I wish he would eat cherry pits.

The wren was having none of it, however, and once again flew down intrepidly and pecked the hapless chipmunk on the head.   He gave up on breakfast and dashed across the rock garden to his front door, pursued by the wren.

For the life of me, I could not understand what was the big deal about the chipmunk.  It wasn’t a cat, or anything I perceived as predatory.   Curious, I repaired to Google and looked up chipmunks.   Suddenly it all became clear.   The chipmunk, eater of seeds and other vegetarian sorts of things, is not so innocent.   It turns out they are opportunistic predators and will eat bird eggs and fledglings if they are convenient.   They have been observed to climb trees to get to nests of eggs.

Suddenly the wren’s attitude did not seem quite so odd.   The wren is a very small bird, and the fledglings would make a tasty morsel for  a hungry chipmunk.

Wrens ARE very small, and one year I observed a blue jay attempting to eat a freshly fledged wrenlet.   It was only because I intervened and liberated the chick from the jaws of death (literally) that his nefarious plan was foiled.

I suppose this post could be entitled “Wrens do not like much of anybody” as pretty much everyone is a potential predator when you are that small.  I have been keeping my eye on the wrens for a couple of weeks.  I have been listening to the chicks get louder and more demanding as the days go by, and I was hoping to catch the fledging.

Today was the magic day:  They fledged this afternoon.   No wonder it was so loud in that bird box.   The proud wren parents managed to raise up FIVE little wrens.   I discovered them in the snowball bush at the far end of the stroll garden (far from where the chipmunk lives!).   All five of them were grouped in a nice organized troop on one branch.  Of course I did not have my camera, so I ran to get it.

Mama wren is no dummy.   She saw me looking at her kids and knew the jig was up.   By the time I got back to the location with the camera, she had started marshaling them in a different direction.   There were still three in the snowball bush, but they were moving away fast, urgently directed towards safety by their mama.   However, I did manage to get a great shot of one of them in the snowball bush.

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One of his siblings had ensconced itself in the clematis.

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Another one was in the beach plum bush, but that picture was very blurry due to the fact that the wind was blowing and the little bird was not still enough for a good shot in the shadows.

But another one of the chicks got very excited by the whole thing and flew over the fence into the forsythia by the pond.   Immediately the parents went ballistic, telling it that it was too far away and it should just get it’s little butt back over to the group.   Obediently, he returned from his foray and perched on the fence, where I got a delightful portrait.   “What are you looking at?”  he seems to be saying.  “My mother told me not to associate with strangers, you should go away.”

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The mother wren seconded his sentiments, emphatically.   So I left them to it.

In other news, the second round of robin babies have hit the ground.   I had a new heuchera to plant, and I had sat the pot out under the pergola to await my attentions while I gave a couple of massages.   When I returned to my chore, I reached down to grab the pot and discovered that while I was gone it had been graced with an inhabitant.  Again, I ran off for the camera.   Can you see it?

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How about now?

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That bird child was the noisiest little bugger!   I scooped him up to put him on the spirea bush while I dealt with transplanting the heuchera, and the screeching that the little bird put up was impressive.

“I’m being molested, kidnapped, help! help! help!”  was the burden of his extremely loud complaints.

I expected his parents to come to his aid, but what I did not expect was every male robin in the yard.  They ALL came over and started yelling at me.   There were at least five male robins, a female (probably the baby’s mother).  Even more surprising was that  a gold finch and both wrens gave me what for right along with the robins.  Avian solidarity, I guess.

I put my head down and planted my plant, and then got the heck out of Dodge while my eyes were still in my head.

Life at The Havens is never dull!

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In the past I have mentioned that The Havens is a Certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat.  If you search the blog for “Habitat” you will find several posts on the subject.

I made a pretty comprehensive post about the vegetable garden a while back. Things have not changed a lot back there since that post, although we are in the process of removing the perimeter of grass that surrounds the beds. Right now this involves covering the area with carpet in an attempt to smother the grass. This is varyingly successful depending on the quality of the carpet used. But at least it is being discouraged. Eventually we will remove some dirt and put in weed barrier and something to walk on. Bark seems to work pretty well, as does pea gravel.  This is still to be decided.

I am excited to report that we have a screech owl hunting here. I have not figured out where it sleeps yet, but there are lots of trees with holes on the place so I’m sure it has a nice bedroom. However, it likes to sit on top of the frame that holds the swing out by the pond. I found one of its pellets the other day, all full of mouse fur and beautiful green beetle wing covers. The latter surprised me a bit, as I was not aware the screech owls eat beetles. But I did a little research and found out that not only do they eat baby rabbits (Yay!), they also eat other mammals, crayfish, insects, earth worms, small birds, and a whole lot of other stuff that you wouldn’t necessarily think that an owl eats.

In other news, we have been blessed (and I use that term advisedly) with another new addition to the habitat.   Apparently The Havens has been certified habitable by the local groundhogs (Marmota monax).  This species has  colonized the yard more than once.   The last time there was a ground hog living here the garden fence got another layer of security added, so I’m not too upset that we have a new colonist in residence.   So far she has stayed out of the vegetable garden.   Honestly, there is PLENTY for her and her family to eat around here without decimating the garden.  I noticed that she seems to like sweet cicely pretty well.

Anyway, I mentioned the extra level of security for the vegetable garden fence.  The previous ground hog had discovered that it could tunnel under the fence and access all that succulent produce within.   We acquired a live trap, and placed it strategically in front of the hole.

“Fools!” the groundhog muttered, as it dug a new hole a few feet down the fence.

We got another live trap and stationed it by the second hole.    It was just as easy to dig a third access hole…

We cogitated about the situation for a while, did a little on-line research, and then Jim went off to the farm supply emporium and acquired some chicken wire.  Attaching it securely to the outside of the fence about 18 inches up, at ground level he bent it outward and allowed it to extend out along the ground so that there was a strip of chicken wire about 18″ out onto the grass.   He got some landscape “staples” and secured the wire to the ground.

The groundhog thought about the situation for about 30 seconds and found a spot where the wire wasn’t really tight to the ground and wiggled its way under the chicken wire to its favorite hole under the fence.   This is where it made its strategic error.

Apparently beguiled and distracted by the crunching of  my fine lettuce, it did not notice us approaching the garden until the gate opened.

“Yaaaaaah!” is a pretty good approximation of its reaction to our sudden advent, especially since we happened to have Ruby with us.   Ruby chased the groundhog to its hole and then sped around through the gate to behind the fence to continue the pursuit.   The panicked rodent did not leave the same way it entered and found that the chicken wire was a lot more secure than it had seemed at first blush.  Tangled up in the chicken wire, it was having a huge groundhog heart attack since Ruby was bouncing around as it flailed its way out from under the wire.    Off it went to its tunnel, with Ruby in hot pursuit.

Jim addressed the loose wire situation, tightening it up and adding several more anchors.   The groundhog crouched in its burrow, apparently a victim of PTSD.  During the night, it moved away, never to return.  I guess the neighborhood was just too stressful for it.

Anyway, the new groundhog doesn’t care about the garden (so far).   It has lovely accommodations on the root cellar mound, and one of its progeny or its mate is busy digging an extensive burrow inside the barn.   We are not really too happy about the barn situation, as it is tunneling under the slab of concrete that makes Jim’s shop floor, and making a hell of a mess inside the rest of the barn with its dirt pile.   I have visions of the barn falling into the hole it is digging down there.

Anyway, neither of our tenants is going to be all that happy about their living situations, because we have plans for both areas.  We are planning to improve the barn substantially.   When that happens I sincerely hope that no groundhogs get entombed beneath the new concrete slab floor that is going to be poured.   But if they are, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.

Also, we have acquired solar panels, and we are going to install them this summer.   This is a long involved project that begins with the moving of the dirt pile that we have established back near the root cellar.   That root cellar never had enough dirt on it, and because of that it has never been stable in temperature, being too cold in the winter and too warm in the summer.   So we intend to have a dirt worker come along with equipment and move our dirt pile onto the root cellar.   Unfortunately, this is going to seriously discommode the groundhogs living there but they are not an endangered species and I can live with that.

Pretty enterprising mammal, though.   I was investigating the burrow the other day, and I discovered that the ground had found a piece of reflectix insulation that was in the barn and had hauled it all the way out to the root cellar and was attempting to drag the whole sheet down into its burrow.   I guess even groundhogs know the value of insulating their home!

So, there you are.   The Havens wildlife habitat is still a destination.

 

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It is hard to believe that the last time I posted here was before Thanksgiving.  I have been on line, too.  But somehow I have been sucked into Facebook and have found myself putting up little blips here and there rather than making a blog post.   I wonder how many other bloggers have been seduced by social media?

Since I posted, it has snowed and thawed several times.   I did get some pretty nifty snow shots during all those events.

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We had a real cold snap before Thanksgiving, and the little pond froze with beautiful hoarfrost crystals.

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We also had a small ice storm, no big damage although we did have a couple of elm trees that dropped a lot of branches.   The day after the ice covered stuff it was a lovely day and things were already starting to melt.   I took Ruby for a walk and the ice was positively magical.   Everywhere I looked the woods sparkled in rainbow colors.   This phenomenon proved to be shockingly difficult to photograph, but I did get one image that almost conveys how amazing it was out there.

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During all this harsh weather, my neighborhood has been living up to its name.   All kinds of little birds, and big birds too, have been enjoying the shelter, food and water The Havens provides.  Actually, there are plenty of mammals also enjoying The Havens along with the avian population.

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We had a sumptuous Thanksgiving repast.

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At Christmas, Jesse and Lynette were able to get away from their Army duties and bring James to visit us.   They were here for far too short a time, and we loved every minute of it.

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I saved The Quilt for a Christmas presentation, even though the kids knew I had made it and had enjoyed hots of it during all stages of creation.   They did not know about the pillow cases or the matching throw pillow, though.   Honestly, I think it makes a pretty impressive bed.

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James approved, I believe.

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One of my dear friends gave me an amaryllis bulb as a Christmas gift.   This week it started to open.

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Today it looks like this:

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So now you are somewhat up to date.

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Georgia…. Georgia on my mind…  It is beautiful there.

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Continuing the peripatetic way that was outlined for me at the beginning of the summer, I made a solo trip to Georgia to visit my son, his wife and the new grandbaby, James.  You will pardon me if I do the typical Grandma thing and immediately post a picture of the paragon.

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I have a feeling that he is going to grow from being extremely cute to being Way Handsome.

It was a lot of fun, really.    The town home community they live in hosts Mississippi kites, kingfishers, numerous other birds and at least one alligator.  There were tree frogs and geckos hunting on their porch.

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There was an egret rookery on Ft. Stewart to admire.

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I visited the Atlantic coast at  Jekyll Island, a barrier island that shows exactly how the river of sand flows in slow motion.

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On Ft. Stewart, near the rookery, is a very beautiful pond that is a recreation area for the soldiers there.

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The “kids” took me to nearby Savannah, and we enjoyed eating at Five Guys Burgers and Fries.   Wonderful hamburgers.   We walked along the river in the old part of a very lovely city.

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I got to bond with James.

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Gratifying is the word that comes to mind.   What was so extremely gratifying was not just the wonderful child that the two of them created, although that was pretty gratifying.   The really great thing was seeing how our son has grown into a tender father and supportive husband.   I got to see first hand the wisdom of his choice of wife; for not only is she very pretty, she is also extremely intelligent, focused on her desire to be a good mother, wise beyond her years, and a fiercely loyal mate.

I also witnessed this very manly man completely involved in the nitty gritty details of housekeeping, sharing the chores of housekeeping.   Even more, he agreed wholeheartedly that since his wife was the main food source for the baby, his main part of the job was going to be the clean-up brigade.   He did that chore with no sign of disgust; but rather with relish, delighted to help make his baby clean and comfortable.   He cooked us dinners, too, following the example his father set.

Who says that only women can be nurturing?

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Oh, it was wonderful in the extreme to witness the only major disagreement they had while I was here.   Someone  (I’m not sure whether it was me or Jesse) congratulated her on the excellent job she did of producing this baby.   She objected.   Her position was that Jesse had a lot to do with creating the baby, too.   He disagreed.   I loved the way he put it:  “Babe, all I did was contribute the leavening agent.   You did all the rest.”   Truly, that was the closest I saw them getting into an argument in the almost two weeks I was there.

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They are not only parents, they are soldiers.   Both of them.   I found the uniforms and boots by the door to be touching and sweet.    His and hers, together.

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I am so proud.  And so blessed.

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