The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Garnishing the Yard with Bird Baths and Solar Lights

My bird baths are not so elegant,
but they are filled with happy starlings.

Yesterday I added four little bird baths on the ground and filled them with water. The starlings began to splash in the bird baths and jostle to get in. Once in, they pushed each other out after a few splashes, got pushed out, and looked for a way back into the spa.

As I pointed out to Mrs. Ichabod, the baths are far more important than food. The birds need a place to bathe and preen their feathers. Starlings can find their own food in the spring, but they still enjoy competing with each other for the suet and cracked corn.

I put the cracked corn on four levels - the top of the old wooden filing cabinet, on the dry or protected shelf below, in the drawer, and the ground. The best part of this comedy is having a squirrel pop into the drawer to get some food. He will always sit on the drawer lid to have a good lookout for danger. When he heads inside to look around, a startling will glide in to land on that same spot where he eats his food. The squirrel pops up at the starling, "Get off my food drawer!" and the starling darts away.

I used to give the squirrels a fresh ear of field corn each day, but I switched to the composite ear, which they do not favor. In the last few days I saw one, then two perfectly clean cobs on the ground where I put food. Could they have brought old ones back for a refill? When I put the fresh corn on the ground to feed them, the squirrels took the full cobs away. They are clever beggars and thieves. If they were humans, they would make ideal Planned Giving Counselors (estate robbers).

My first thought about this is - trim around each one?
Maynard G. Krebs would not approve.

My solar lights in the crepe myrtle failed after one year, so I bought a new set that lasts all night -using a very slow blink. That made me think of using a longer string on the backyard fence, at least on Mrs. Wright's side.

I unraveled the bundle  of lights outside, when they arrived, and wondered, "How will I keep these lights from sagging on the fence?"

There is always twine, but that would rot as the soaker hose is used and the sun hits the fibers. I began to untangle about 50 feet of lights and look for something to hold them in place. Aha! The tiny lights fit into the fence apparatus every few feet, pointing some of them down. The rest lined up like soldiers along the top. That only took a few minutes, and they were working as soon as the sun began to set.

I asked Mrs. Ichabod to look outside, and she saw the entire fence top lit up.

I said, "The vines will grow up around them and be backlit at night." She immediately responded, "You can pick peas in the dark now. No trouble." Chris is so practical. Notice the all-important pronoun - you. Not "we can pick peas at night" or "I can pick peas at night," but "You can pick peas at night." And I probably will, until longing turns to loathing and I beg our helper to pick all he wants, day or night.

One last string will garnish the back fence; all the trees are solar lit. "What about the roses to be planted along Mr. Gardener's fence?" you wonder. I found some stand alone solar spotlights at Walmart that I can use there. They can be planted in the mulch and trained on the roses.

These can be pushed into mulch individually or in groups.
I am still using some from at least 10 years ago,
the same ones I used around the swimming pool.
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PS - Fellow Garfield Grade School student Lawrence Eyre wrote on Facebook about bringing a magazine to John Deere Junior High (1960) concerning solar power in the future. Later we were at Yale Divinity, but not at the same time, and another Garfielder was at the Yale School of Music. We were from the same neighborhood around the grade school where my mother taught.

The prophet Lawrence Eyre:
"September 1960, John Deere Junior High School, Moline, Illinois. A bespectacled, buzz-cut boy, left hand holding note cards filled with facts and forecasts from a Popular Science magazine article, stands and enthusiastically delivers his first speech in Mrs Sandstrom's 7th grade classroom: "In the future, the world will be powered by the sun...." More than half a century later, I am still that boy, waking each day thrilled to witness long-ago dreams becoming reality around the world. It is a privilege to live in these brightening times."