Sunday, July 27, 2008

Good news

There's good news today. Guarded, but good. Joe's wife called me a few moments ago and told me he is improving some, and has been moved out of ICU. He's still on a monitored unit, as I understand it, but not intensive care. This is a very good sign. Please continue to pray for him.

I'm sitting here at this huge window, which was created solely for the purpose of allowing me a full, unobstructed view of the beauty that Joe has engineered out there. I spend a lot of time right here, which may or may not be a good thing, but I surely do get a lot of pleasure out of it.

This morning, to my surprise, three little juvenile squirrels have made the yard their playground. There's a male and two females, siblings obviously, as they appear to be all the same age. They're not quite grown, little bodies are smaller and lighter than they will be in a few weeks. Their tails, which will eventually be thick and lush, are a bit scraggly and just look unfinished. Ever playful, they have chased each other into every nook and cranny out there, up the trees and back down, round and round the trunks, into the shrubs and out - I wish I had one tenth of their energy.

As I said, I was surprised to see them. I wasn't even aware that anyone was raising a brood right now. I knew that squirrels raise a family in the spring, and again in early autumn, but this midsummer litter has surprised me. I guess I still have a lot to learn about squirrels.

I have three nest boxes in my trees, and I can see two of them from my window. The third one is in a tree near the house, and is up pretty high, so the roof overhang blocks my view of it. These boxes are shared by the squirrels and the birds. One moves out and the other moves in, alternating occupancy throughout the year. I know there are baby birds in the two boxes which I can see, so this little group of siblings either grew up in the one I can't see, or in a nest in some other location. I haven't noticed any leaf-and-twig nests in any of the trees, but that doesn't mean they're not there.

I'm glad to see these little juveniles, as they'll provide entertainment and a lot of laughs for the rest of the summer. Eventually, they'll move on, to scout out uncharted territory. Their mama will chase them off if they don't go on their own, but she probably won't do that until she's ready to deliver another litter. Oh, it's a jungle out there!

Be blessed, friends.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Prayers for Joe

There is very little to be said today. I received a phone call this morning from my neighbor, John, who is the brother of Joe, the architect of the landscaping in my yard. Joe has become my trusted friend, as well as my advisor with regard to anything that takes place out there. He is in the hospital in the ICU, with serious cardiac issues. At this time, I have few details and couldn't share them if I did, but I do have a request. Anyone reading this who is comfortable with prayer, please pray for Joe. Pray also for his dear wife, Kathy, who is not in the best of health herself.

Eddie came today, and the yard looks a lot better. However, he let his helper do much of the work, which is fine, but if that helper doesn't wake up and wise up, I'm going to pound knobs on his head. He doesn't seem to understand that a lawnmower can be pushed this way, or that way. It discharges clippings from one side only, and it shouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that when mowing around a fishpond, one should point the discharge vent away from the pond, not toward it. After he left, I spent half an hour out there with a net, skimming clippings from the surface, trying to remove them before they sank to the bottom, where they would only add to my woes with the filters. I hate to be a tattletale, but I do intend to mention this to Eddie next week. He'll handle it.

Speaking of the pond, I'm beginning to wonder where I might find an outlet for an excess of fish. Most of the big fish out there now were little 12-cent feeder fish, purchased from Petsmart. They were less than two inches long, and one is now eight inches long, and there are about three others at six or seven inches. They're fat, brightly colored beauties, and they're still growing. One is a striking, glowing orange, another is a pale color with orange and black speckles. Others are in varying shades of orange, gold, white and pink.

Now here's the fun part. While I haven't bought a tiny fish in at least six months, there are at this moment at least a dozen little-bitty fellows out there, little fish which I'm very sure I didn't buy. Apparently someone has been busy. Incidentally, one of the larger fish is looking suspiciously rotund, so I imagine there will be more little fish before long.

This is all a bit surprising, since goldfish are not livebearers. They lay eggs, which they will then eat if they see them, and will also eat the fry after they hatch, if they can catch them. I knew that, so I've put in a lot of plants to provide cover for the fry, and apparently there's enough litter on the bottom of the pond to hide at least some of the eggs. Something is working right, because there surely are a lot of babies out there.

This may become a problem in the future, because the pond is not tremendously large, at right around 900 gallons, and there's a limit to the number of fish it will support. I'm going to have to find someone with a much larger pond who would like some free fish!

Well, as I said, there wasn't much to tell tonight. Joe is heavy on my mind and heart, and I do ask for your prayers for his recovery. He's a good and kind man, and a lot of people like him.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Birds and the Bees

I'm here at my window this morning, looking at my ever-more-shaggy back yard (Eddie comes tomorrow) and watching a whole host of birds, as they go about their business. It's fascinating! I can see them, but they can't see me, so their behavior is completely natural.

The heat we're enduring right now is taking a toll on the birds, and for the most part, they look pretty tacky. I find feathers in the yard all the time, big old tail feathers stuck into the grass like spears. I can only conclude that they fall out while the bird is in flight, and the heavy end hits the ground first, causing that peculiar, spear-like position.

It's easy to tell who lost them, because many of the birds are almost tail-less. These are mostly grackles - they seem to be molting worse than the other birds. One particular big male, who most likely was resplendent with a big old boat-tail until recently, is now looking pretty funny, but he doesn't seem to know it. He's still strutting about, showing off for the ladies, seemingly unaware that he only has one tail feather, and it's bent. You can almost hear the little hens laughing as he prances around, but he doesn't seem to notice.

The scraggly grackles are often joined by noisy troops of starlings. Not the most desirable of birds, but they do peck and scratch around in the grass, and presumably are eating pests. I'm not sure if they eat seeds or bugs, but either way, it's okay with me. The only seeds in the lawn would be weed seeds, since my St. Augustine spreads by runners. Its seeding habits are negligible. The starlings are medium-sized, slightly speckled black birds with bob tails. If they're missing their tail feathers in this molting season, it would be hard to tell.

Naturally, there are the ubiquitous sparrows. Always sparrows. Tiny, busy, seemingly nondescript little sparrows. At first glance, they don't seem to be all that noteworthy, but if you look closer, they're really quite pretty. The little hens are a discreet dun color, with black markings on their wings. The males have a pretty little black chin and chest decoration, which looks quite sharp and dapper against their gray-brown chest. They're very prolific, and raise a continuous parade of babies out there. The antics of those babies as they're learning to fly are very entertaining. That will be a whole blog one of these days, most likely.

There are robins out back this morning, and you can see some signs of molting on them, but nothing like the grackles. With the robins, it's mostly little raggedy patches on their otherwise brilliant red breasts. They spend a great deal of time scratching and poking around in the grass, and now and then I see one pulling a desperately-protesting worm out of the ground. There are earthworms everywhere out there, thanks to the organic practices Joe has encouraged me to adopt. I'm a believer now - it's the only way to go. No chemicals back there!

Now, about the bees -- a neighbor a few houses down has some beehives, and his bees often come to my birdbaths for a drink.
They're welcome here. They don't just gather at the birdbath for a drink of water, but they also visit the flowers. Since most of the flowers I plant back there are hybrid annuals, cross-pollination is not required, but there are some that are not hybrids and they need the assistance of the bees. There are coneflowers, black-eyed susans, and daisies, for starters. These all re-seed, (oh boy, do they re-seed!) and for them, cross-pollination is very important. Even snapdragons and some petunias will return from seed next year if conditions are right, though most of the time they're treated as annuals.

The bees are a bit feisty, and will rise up and circle threateningly when I approach, but have never actually stung me. However, their presence at the birdbath seems to really upset the birds, who seem to have a prejudice against them. I've never seen a bee bother a bird, but the birds don't like them. They don't try to eat them, they just gather in a little group and have heated discussions about them! It's so funny to see a small cadre of bees, sipping water from one side of the big old bird bath, while five or six birds are crowding each other on the other side, watching the bees intently, and chattering to each other. This is when I wish I could speak bird!

I guess there is room for everyone, and a purpose for everyone - even tacky birds with broken tail feathers and pugnacious bees. If they all do their job, stay in their own territory, pursue their own interests, and don't try to boss their neighbors, it all works well. Perhaps there's a lesson for us all, in the birds and the bees.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hire American!

It's Tuesday morning, and I'm looking out my window at a lush, green, thick lawn in serious need of mowing, and that won't happen until Thursday. The little bit of rain we got a couple of days ago has really jump-started the grass growth. I have a sprinkler system, and it's working, but rainfall just does more, somehow. Eddie will probably have to catch the clippings this time, instead of using the mulching mower. I prefer that the mulcher be used, but when the grass is this long and thick, it's not a good idea. The mulched-up clippings tend to smother the yard, and cause a buildup of thatch. I will leave the decision to Eddie, though. He knows more about it than I do.

Which brings me to the topic for today. I was in a conversation with a friend on another forum, and he made the comment that
"only Latinos can cut grass in Texas". If you observe the lawncare workers as you drive around town, you might think he's right, and he almost is, but not entirely.

The commercial lawn services do employ mostly Latinos, but there are a lot of individuals of all colors who have their own little business. My own yard is cared for by Eddie, a friendly and dependable black man of indeterminate age. He has kept my yard mowed and edged now for about eight years, and he does it well. He does about six or eight yards here on my street, and also does my friend's yard in another part of town, at my recommendation. It's possible that I could hire an illegal to do the job for less money, but I'd have to provide the equipment, and Eddie has his own. Besides, Eddie has become my friend, and I wouldn't give his job to anyone else. It wouldn't be fair.

Anyway, my point is, there are people other than illegals who will fill local jobs, given the opportunity. It falls to us, the potential employers, to provide the opportunity. As long as we keep hiring illegals, they will keep coming. If we all insist on hiring American, even if it costs a couple of dollars more, we can eventually stop the tide that's crossing the border. The law of supply and demand will take over. If there's no demand, the "supply" will stay home.

The notion that illegals work cheaper is a fallacy. I might get my lawn done for a few dollars less, but I'm paying it out in taxes to provide all the services that they're sucking up like sponges. We need to wake up. As patriotic Americans, we need to hire American. Eddie is an American, and he has a job here in my yard for as long as he wants it, and I will continue to pay him fairly.

Now, let me stir the pot just a bit. I have a friend who occasionally hires illegals, partly because many of them possess a particular trade skill that is beneficial to his business, and is scarce among Americans. Also, in one particular case, the man is just such a good and capable worker that he would be hard to replace. He's learning English. He's also friendly, kind and a darned nice guy. But he's illegal. Hmm. What to do about that?

Well, the first thing that comes to mind is - get him legal! This is easier said than done. He's willing, even eager to become legal, but the process is long, arduous and expensive. It entails returning to Mexico, remaining there for (I think) two years and then beginning the re-entry process. That's a pretty daunting prospect. Why does it have to be so difficult?

It seems to me that our own American interests would be better served by simplifying the whole thing. Let this man remain here with his employer, and initiate the legalization process. Get him legal, and we have a new taxpayer, a productive citizen who will abide by our laws and will behave himself. Perhaps part of the legalization process could include good character references, proof of employment, a clean record with law enforcement, (discounting traffic violations - they have to learn how to drive here) and a record of timely rent and utility payments. Good grief, we have natural-born citizens who couldn't pass those tests!

There are those who lament about how America has forsaken the spirit of Lady Liberty, how we're mistreating immigrants and all that. They say we should welcome all immigrants as we did before. To that I would say, I agree. The spirit of Lady Liberty was welcoming, it's true, but inherent in that welcome was the expectation that the immigrant would come here with something to offer besides needs and demands and a sense of entitlement. It did not extend to a rising tide of criminals and baby machines, and that's what we have now, to a great extent.

We need to get real about the legalization process, and then get tough about who we allow to come in and participate in that process. The argument now is that they have to come in illegally, because it's too difficult to get in legally, and there is a lot of truth there. With that argument before us, it's tough to enforce the laws. Change that, make it feasible for a decent person to get in, and we can then turn back the undesirables - the criminals, the addicts, and yes, the terrorists. We can turn them back because we can say "you don't meet the criteria" instead of just saying "nobody gets in". Instead of discriminating on the basis of ethnicity, we will be admitting on the basis of qualification. I think there's a grain of sense in here somewhere.

I'm just hypocrite enough to want the borders closed and immigration laws enforced, but at the same time, wanting my friend's employee to be able to stay. I just want it made feasible for him to become legal. He wants it, everyone around him wants it, why must it be so difficult? He has indicated that he would like to achieve citizenship. Why can't we help him with that? His employer would be thrilled, because then he could hire American!

Well, it looks like rain. That's about all Eddie will need. More rainfall on this yard, and he won't even be able to catch the clippings. He'll have to bale them! Anybody need a bale of St. Augustine hay?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Now, how does this work again?

Good morning, everyone! I've just gotten this thing set up, really have no earthly idea how it works, but I'm going to try. Kathy, this is for you, since you have encouraged (pushed?) me to do it.

Those of you who know me are aware that I'm pretty opinionated, and not above sharing that opinion with one and all. You get my emails when I get on a soapbox about something. Perhaps now I'll put those opinions here, and you will have a choice regarding whether or not you wish to subject yourself to them.

I have chosen the title "Views from my Window", because it can cover a broad spectrum. Some of those views will be descriptions of the scene from my actual window. Those, I hope, will be fun and entertaining. The antics of the resident wildlife out there present a never-ending show. Also, if I'm having success or even a failure with some gardening venture or other, I'll share it, and will welcome similar comments from readers.

Other views might be better described as "view points", the things that range through my mind as I look at my little world outside my window, and ponder the larger world beyond. I have no special qualifications for this beyond age and life experience, which includes nearly thirty years in hospital nursing. I'm not a theologian, politician or sociologist. I'm just an old gal who has seen a lot of things come and go, watched a lot of people make mistakes, and have made some of my own. I've also seen a lot of people excel and accomplish wonderful things, some overcoming great odds to do so. I've had a couple of small triumphs too, as most of us manage to do in spite of ourselves.

I'm just a simple observer of the human condition, who happens to greatly enjoy writing, and this blog seemed to be a good way to indulge that passion. I'm still unsure about where this little adventure will take me - take US, I hope - but I'll try to make the ride enjoyable.

The "comments" option works, I presume, and I welcome your input. In the beginning, the readership will consist of my family and friends, and I anticipate no rowdiness there, as all of you are kind and gentle people, polite and considerate of others. However, it's my understanding that blogs are frequently visited by unknown and unrelated folk, and that's fine - everyone is welcome.

To those visitors, I will say - it's also my understanding that I have the right and ability to moderate any comments that aren't consistent with the friendly spirit we wish to maintain, and I will do so. I want this to be a place where we can all feel safe. Since it is always possible to express a dissenting opinion in a kind and gentle way, we will seek to uphold that standard. Say what you wish, just say it gently and politely.

There will not necessarily be a regular, daily entry. I'm still working two nights a week, and there are days when I won't have the time, energy, or inclination to visit this keyboard. Some days, there just won't be anything to say. This will be strictly an informal, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants endeavor. If you choose to become a regular reader, just check in every day or so and see what's on the table.

It's my hope that this little forum can become a happy place for my friends to visit. If you like what you find here, please pass the address on to your friends as well. If not, well - 'nuff said.

Blessings to you!