It’s For the Birds

The days are shorter now.

The days are shorter now.  Storm clouds are on station.  The times, they are a changin’.

November 6, 2015 — Daylight savings time has come and gone, a signal for mother nature to turn down the thermostat and show us who’s boss.  Look around your neighborhood and let the warm cheery window light launch your imagination in the direction of turkey, punkin pie, sugar plumbs and presents under a tree.  After that, winter becomes a black hole the lucky enjoy from a Caribbean vacation or the clamp of ski bindings. The rest pray for spring.

These changes also signal us to help our feathered friends.  Last week the first dark eyed juncos arrived.  These brave members of the sparrow family are among my favorite flying friends.  They breed in the arctic and winter in more temperate climates.  These little guys kept me company on the Appalachian Trail as I marched northward from Georgia all the way to New York.

Dark eyed junko. Courtesy flickr.

Dark eyed junco. Courtesy flickr.

Juncos are ground feeders.  In fact, I’ve never seen one perched on one of our feeders.  As such, they must compete on the ground with squirrels, chipmunks, doves, cardinals and other birds much larger then themselves.  Fortunately for them, birds are messy feeders and there’s plenty of dropped seed to be found under our feeders.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark-eyed_junco

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This year we decided to add a second feeding station across the yard near the aucuba and holly that screens our yard.  Our feathery customers snatch a seed and dive under cover of the evergreens to munch in safety where the neighborhood hawks can’t get at them.

Having water near the feeders is important to attracting a wide range of species. We've identified 35 different ones over four years.

Having water near the feeders is important to attracting a wide range of species. We’ve identified 35 different species over four years. The most common are sparrows and house finches followed by mourning doves, cardinals, chickadees, and tufted titmice.

I learned a new three-prong feeder pole would be expensive. To my delight I found a DIY project on line that cost about $15 plus some cement for the base.

I learned a new three-prong feeder pole would be expensive. To my delight I found a DIY project on line that cost about $15 plus some cement for the base.

Customers in the house.

Customers in the house.

A little art found on the front walk.

A little art found on the front walk.

Among the Joy$ of Retirement

Time to paint.

Time for momma to paint. (Photo altered with the Pencil Sketch app.)

When we downsized, we bought a “functional” house and remodeled it in a way that our real estate agent says is attractive empty-nesters like us.  It is a custom built three bedroom bungalow in a neighborhood with which we’ve been associated for more than 30 years.  We adore the convenience, setting and the nature associated with the Rock Creek national recreational trail that helps define our leafy ‘burb.

This is our “forever” house.  After a lifetime of moving, we’re dropping anchor.  Like any of the 13 houses we’ve owned, this one has its challenges.  You adapt them to you where you can and you adjust to them as needed.

On the plus side, we love the backyard and low-rise deck.  We moved the laundry from the basement to the smallest bedroom in a way that a conversion back to a bedroom would be little more than a few bucks and a couple of hours work.  We also vaulted the living room ceiling, installed a bow window and skylights and opened up the entry to a glass-enclosed sun room. This house was built in 1953, so kitchen and bath updates, new windows and doors were necessary.  Soy foam wall insulation added R-21 to our walls and drastically chopped heating and air conditioning bills which helped pay for the remodeling.

On the downside, the over/under stairs to the attic and basement made it impossible to open up the kitchen, a feature we miss.  An expensive elevator we couldn’t afford would have solved that problem, so you adapt.  There are other nits, but that’s the biggest one.

We got rid of enough furniture, but not enough junk before moving in.  Our daughter occupied the basement au pair suite for awhile and we still are harboring a ton of her “stuff” that doesn’t fit into her nearby apartment.  Storage space is at a premium.

Everyone’s excess is choking the utility portion of the basement.  We also need new furniture.  Ours has been moved nine times including once overseas.  We decided to wait to buy furniture and paint permanent colors until we had the house figured out.  After four years, we’re ready.

Here’s where the joy$ come in.  Retirement is expensive. Some things you can anticipate, like the need for long-term care insurance if you can afford it. Then there are the unwanted gratuities that arrive as bolts out of a blue sky.

2015-09-29 11.46.11My wife totaled her car two weeks ago.  Fortunately she was uninjured.  Ker-ching!  Okay.  Maybe we don’t want to and it’s going to pinch, but we can absorb the added cost of replacing a late model car after the insurance payout.  No sooner than we had the replacement home, the check engine light winked on in my car.  Oh, oh.

I drive cars until the wheels fall off, so to speak.  My Acura was 12-years-old with just under 100,000 miles.  It should have been good for 75 – 100,000 more. To that end, I plowed a ton of (unanticipated) money in it earlier this summer.

The little red check engine light proved to be lipstick on a painted lady.  Her price for going all the way was eye-popping. In a matter of months I would have “invested” a lot more than the car was worth, so I donated it to public radio.  I’d been coveting a sexy a Subaru Forester for my trail work anyway, so I didn’t need much of a nudge to breakup with an old floozy who overplayed her hand.

Naturally none of this was in the budget, especially buying two cars in two weeks.  Of course, there’s more work to be done on the house and yard.  We’ve begun repainting the interior and will be hunting for new furniture soon.  Hard to undo that.  Then, we always seem to need something like new glasses.  My hiking adventures aren’t cheap either…

Among other things, here’s hoping a pipe doesn’t freeze this winter.

UPDATE:  It was a buggy summer.  Progress on the landscaping has been slow, but there has been some.  The next big push on that front will be a pruning and transplanting just before spring arrives. Over the winter I’ll build a retaining wall at the bottom of the slope pictured below.

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