A Little Bitty Bird Made Me Lie

A few days ago I posted a bit about the coming of spring. In it, I mentioned that the Junco, a bird from up north, left to go home. This morning as I looked out on the yard I spotted a Junco hopping around under the feeder picking up sunflower seeds. Damn, I exclaimed to myself. He made me a liar.

What I suspect is that the Juncos are migrating south to north, and this guy is late. Probably because he winters further south. It doesn’t matter except I wrote a bald faced lie in my last post. I don’t like to lie, telling lies is reserved for politicians on the stump, or defending their shoddy records. Politi-speak has evolved into something that is widely accepted even though we all know it is wrong. So then, why do we continue to vote for the people that live to tell untruths? A great example of this type of talk was displayed during the last election cycle when then candidate Biden stood before the country and said he would eliminate COVID. We all knew that was BS, but the Trump haters were so anxious to get rid of someone who knew how to run the country that they accepted that lie and many more.

Just as we all know that state run elections are running over with fraud, but the chiefs in charge continue to accept the lies told by state attorney generals who certify results. As long as those who oversee the election run by the laws in their state they cannot see the real fraud going on because they followed the law to the letter.

Another common form of lying, that is publicized, is when a politician makes a statement based on his knowledge of the facts at hand, and newly uncovered facts come up. On the basis of the new facts the old statements are now false, therefore the subject is telling a lie.

I wonder if America will ever get any of this stuff straightened out to correct the system. Until then, I have to rely on my own judgement of what is, and what isn’t a lie. Reading opposing viewpoints makes things worse because because often a lie is challenged with another lie. I tend to believe the people I want to believe in, and anyone else is a liar. I don’t think I’m alone on that point. In the meantime, I’ll try to correct my own lies with fresh news based on new facts about the migratory habits of my bird residents. Or, are they residents if they only stay here for the winter? That poses another question, just where does a migratory bird call home? Since he commutes between places one or the other must take precedence. I guess I’ll just go sit on my rock and strike a Rodin pose whilst pondering the issue.

Robins, Daffodils, and Junco’s

A few days ago, my heart skipped a beat. I looked out the kitchen window and spotted a robin, the first sure sign of spring. Robins leave for the south-land during the winter months and return when it is warm enough to find food. A minute later, I spotted the green shoots of daffodils sprouting from the near frozen ground. Yessss! Spring is launched. Daffodils are one of the earliest flowers to bloom and they love cold weather. In fact, if the weather turns warm while they flower, the flower wilts and drops. As the day worn on, I began looking at the spots where I planted daffodils and yes, they were all poking their pointed green leaves though the surface.

Robin, worm eater
Daffodils waking from winter sleep

Two days later, as I sat reading at the morning table, it occurred to me that I have not seen a Junco in a long time. Junco’s are tiny birds who nest in Canada and migrate south in the winter. They consider Illinois south, not a very smart bird. The fact that I had not seen one lately means they are headed north for the summer.

Junco, butI call them Snowbirds

Three very positive signs that the long cold winter is coming to an end in the heartland. They can only be a harbinger of the work that is coming, cleaning dead leaves, digging beds, planting vegetable seeds. Then watering to watch nature explode into green goodness.

Broken Promise

Back in 2011 I made a promise that I couldn’t keep. My daughter-in-law asked me to make her an intarsia hummingbird. Like always, I dove into the project only to learn that I was not skilled enough to make a hummingbird out of wood. Hummingbirds are tiny. This month I searched the internet for the smallest bird on the planet, only to find out that the Ruby Throat hummingbird is not the smallest. There is a species that is found only in Cuba called the Bee Hummingbird. It is almost half the size of a ruby throated humming bird. Nature just raised the bar on me.

Over the years, I have acquired more skill in Intarsia, and some better equipment too. I decided to give the bird a try. I began by finding the old pattern I had from 2011. The bird on the pattern is huge I thought. Not a realistic hummingbird but one that would be relatively easy to cut. I searched for more patterns only to learn that most intarsia artists make the birds large, almost like I am looking at the bird through a microscope.

I never found a pattern that I liked so I set out to make my own. Google images has pictures galore of humming birds and I found one that was in the correct pose for my piece. I matched the bird against a hibiscus flower which is one of its favorites to feed from. I made a pattern for the flower, a single bloom, and another for the bird, in scale or as close as I could eyeball the true size.

One problem I had with the bird pattern was to get a good photo of the wings. When a humming bird hovers and stands still his wings are beating at 200 strokes per second. Yep you read that right it is 200 hundred strokes per second not minute, they are a blur. For someone like me who is trying to copy the bird in wood that means I have to find some really slo-motion pictures to get an idea of what they look like while beating. I finally decided I can make the wings look like whatever, and no one can challenge me because no one will ever be able to see these wings standing still. That took some pressure off of my mind so I could proceed.

The next challenge was in trying to make something that tiny in two dimensions but looking like it is in three dimensions. I started out that way but changed my mind when I could not see the beauty of the bird in clunky two dimensional wood. I had to make the bird in three dimensions. the next challenge was to determine how to position the bird so it looked real against a flower. When a Hummer hovers up to the flower to suck the nectar out of its stamen he is virtually motionless and not touching the flower in any visible way. I could not see how to put the two forms together in a way that the final product would be believably real. The only way out was to make a flower, and a separate hummingbird and to design a way to make the bird seem like it was hovering in mid-air just microns away from the flower stamen. I won’t divulge my secret, but I made it look real.

When I finally began this work I was coming off a piece titled “Three Roses” which wore me down. The pieces were very tiny and delicate and there were too many of them. I thought the humming bird would be a vacation piece. My initial estimate was two to three weeks. I jumped into the pattern and made it quickly, then selected the woods and began cutting. In about a week I had the flower and the bird cut from the woods. I set it aside for what reason I do not recall, but it sat from May until November, and then I took it up again. And I spent three more weeks finishing the bird and flower.
As in all art work the frame is important in order to showcase the center piece. I decided on a rectangular frame with an elliptical opening for the art. I am an amateur wood worker even after seventy years of practicing. The damn frame almost broke me. The simplest of all cuts became a nightmare, the 45 degree corners. For the life of me I could not get the 45 degree cuts to match when put together. I think I was at 44. 85 degrees and not 45.00 degrees. The end result was a frame that had large openings between sides. I started with an 18 x 14 size frame and before I finished it was down to 17 x 13. I had to continue to trim the pieces until I could get the corners to match perfectly. Since I only make one or to frames a year I will never be able to afford the precision equipment I need to make forty-five degree cuts perfect. The result is in the photos below. I’m still deciding whether my daughter-in-law will get the work.

Enough talking it is time to unveil the masterpiece. “Hummer Breakfast”

Day 61-SIP-KETO Be Damned

After two days of intense rain we have sunshine again. The wetland behind my house looks like a swamp, filled to the edge of my yard with water. The geese honk on a continuum, probably warning other geese to keep their distance. I haven’t seen any sign of babies yet, but I know they are there. My Mallard ducks are not in the pond, but I know they are close by. Yesterday, I watched the male sitting comfortably in a growth of sedum in the pouring rain with water running off its feathers like they were made from silicone. He was happy. I never saw his mate, but she may have been sheltering her clutch from the pouring rain.

I spent most of the day writing and watching videos. Later I descended into my shop and worked on intarsia. This project is turning out fairly well. It is the fastest I ever completed a piece, one week from pattern to production. Today, I will embellish it to make it uniquely mine.

The virus noise has changed its frequency and now smacks of how people are violating all the government recommended protocols for maximizing safety. For us in the Chicago area it was easy yesterday, because of the rain, but I sense a relaxation all around me. Traffic is heavier, there are more people walking the paths, more bicycles, more picnicking, more people shopping, as compared to a couple of weeks ago when we were still in full hunker. I will say one thing though, almost everyone wears a mask when in a building like a grocery store.

My phone went through an automatic update a week ago and I now have new feature on my weather program. I get a daily update of the latest COVIAD-19 confirmed cases. The very first report I saw showed 47 confirmed, and I was pleased that it was low. Then everyday since, the number has grown to a peak of 147 confirmed in a single day, and today it dropped again to 76. This tells me as I suspected all along that we are lagging New York and our epidemic is still on the rise. This is not the time to let our guard down. On the other hand, our businesses are really feeling it. Our little town has lost three businesses permanently. Thankfully, the sit down restaurants repurposed themselves into carry out places and are doing some business.

Last Friday, I treated myself to a restaurant meal. I dumped my KETO diet in favor of a good old fashioned Italian meal, chicken parmegian with mostacolli, topped off with the restaurant’s signature banana cream pie. KETO be damned, I needed that. Today, I am back on the regimen of low carbs, fat and protein. Since I haven’t lost any weight lately, I found a ketosis meter and test strips to see if I am really on a true KETO diet. My numbers so far have been .3 and .8 just barely in the range. Just like people relaxing the COVID-19 protocols, I have fallen off the KETO protocols. It is sad because I slowed to a crawl just five pounds short of my goal.

It is time for me to sneak off to the grocery store for the final ingredient in my mother’s recipe for stuffed cabbage, then the day turns into Cooking for Joe. I wish I had the sense to video my cooking, everyone could see how sloppy I am. Maybe that would be the title of my cooking videos “Cooking Sloppy With Joe.”

Day 58-SIP-Mystery Hatch

It all happened under my nose. Some wonderful creature of nature decided to use the decorative pine tree under my office window as a maternity ward. I never saw a thing, even though I pass by the tree to get into and out of my house everyday. It wasn’t until two days ago that I found some egg shells on the front lawn. At first I thought someone’s garbage got blown away and I happened to catch it. Then I looked more carefully at the broken eggs, there were six of them, scattered about. I cook with eggs everyday and I could not have broken an egg like these were broken. Duh! The light went on. Something broke these eggs from the inside. It had to be a chick of some kind, but what? Snakes lay eggs, and I have a rather large garter snake that shows up very year about this time, but these eggs were too large even for the big reptile, and garter snakes have their young live. No one in my neighborhood raises chickens, so I figured that is out, and these were much too large to be a song birds eggs. Maybe a turtle? Nah, I’ve uncovered turtle eggs before and they were not even half of these. That left me wondering if the two mallards that have been lolling about my pond for the past few days are it.

A little more probing and I found the nest under the decorative pine. There are the remnants of at least four more eggs in there all with openings. The eggs are about the same as a large chicken egg, but the color is just a tad different. Only the ducks and the geese are left. I truly believe that these eggs are a mite too small for a goose. So again the finger of suspicion points at the mallards.

This Is What I wish I Will Soon See in My Yard

A couple of days ago, when I reported that the mallards were hanging around I expressed a wish that they would have a family in my yard and use the pond as their training ground for the babies. A wish come true perhaps? Except there is no sign of babies anywhere. Could it be they were discovered by a raccoon who had a feast and left his mess for me to clean? Only the mallards know for sure. I will have to keep my eyes open for them to see where they hide when not in my yard. I’ve counted nine to ten eggs shells, so that would be about the right size brood for a duck. What a joy it will be to discover mama and papa feeding and nurturing the family for me to watch.

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