Tuesday, July 29, 2014


We have had a couple bats flying above our back yard 
sanctuary at dusk.
Yes, we are excited about having another misunderstood creature in our garden.

My bat encounters have been limited.  We see them while camping.  And  
while visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Texas, I was all atingle when they took me to see a million bats emerging from their roost under the Congress Ave. Bridge. This is the world's largest urban bat colony.  My sister knows what I like!

Also, on my list of bat experiences, I have loved the illustrated bats in Brian Lies "Bats" books...Bats at the Beach, Bats at the Library, and Bats at the Ballgame.  (A new one, Bats in the Band, will be released in August.  I will be adding it to my children's books shelf.  And I will be reading it to my grandchildren.)

Like bees, bat populations are in decline.  And like bees, they hold vital ecological roles.  A little knowledge about these mammals will help calm the fears that myths and scaremongers perpetuate.

Nearly all the bats in the continental United States and Canada are insectivores.  They are too busy hunting and eating flies, mosquitoes, beetles and cockroaches to want to fly into someone's hair.
A single bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes in an hour.  

Of the over 1,200 species scientists now acknowledge, only 3 species are vampire bats. All 3 of these species live in Latin America. 
These blood eating bats do not "suck" blood as Hollywood would show it, but lap it as a cat would drink its cream.
Protein in a bat's saliva prevents the host's blood from clotting.  The properties found there have lead to positive use in medicine.

Coincidentally, my niece and her husband had a bat in their yard last week too. They live in Texas.  
This bat was hanging upside down, which is normal, but it was, abnormally, rather close to the ground.
They wisely called animal control.  Bats can have rabies.  And just as any  wild animal should not be handled, you should not touch a bat.
Most bat bites occur while a sick or injured bat is being picked up.

Bats play a crucial role in insect control, in pollination, and in the spreading of seeds.  They are the only mammal capable of true flight.  Their wings contain the same bone structure as a human hand.   Their velvety skin stretches across these bones like the fabric and ribs of an umbrella.  The thumbs cling to surfaces when the bat alights.  The sensitive touch-receptors on the surface of their wings are also found on human fingertips.
Bats roost upside down, because the bones in the hind legs cannot support their body weight. 

A female bat usually has only one pup a year.

 The females congregate together to bear and raise the young.  The pup weighs 25% of its mother's body weigh.  This is proportionate to a human mother giving birth to a 31 pound baby.  Ouch!
On top of that, the mother gives birth while hanging by her feet, and she must catch her baby with her wings as it drops.  The pup drinks its mother's milk from birth and up to 6 months.  A young bat cannot forage on its own until its wings are fully developed.
Where's dad during all this?  He's hanging out with his buddies in some man cave.

Any of you familiar with Brian Lies' illustrations have seen the baby bat being carried by its mother while she is flying.  Pups do ride along with their mothers.  When mom is flying, the pup holds on with its teeth.

In insect eating bats, a highly sophisticated sense of hearing is used for navigation and finding prey.   Fruit bats do not use a echolocation system because fruit doesn't fly move.  Fruit bats have excellent eye sight and a good sense of smell to find their food. 
 But, insectivores emit sounds that then bounce back to the bat.  In a split second, the bat can determine the size, distance, speed at which an object is moving.  Even the texture of an object is known from the sound waves created.

These gentle and intelligent mammals, that live for more than 20 years, deserve our appreciation and respect for the many ways they help us humans.
I hope you can enjoy seeing some bats soon, be it in a book or in the twilight sky.  

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

animal odds

a poem by jennifer:

there used to be five
   3 cats 
   2 dogs
back when the children were none.
as the next decade passed, that number came down until there was only one


the number of children has now reached three
the cat met her fate,
live fast and die young
and suddenly, the pets number none.

but all is set to change
in the upcoming days.
each child with it's heart set

  one wants a bird
  one wants a mouse
  one wants a fish

all want a cat....

and i can't help but question the tempting of fate
three pets that one cat could put to an end.

the animal odds show that we are left with
what else, 
but one
uneasy mom.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

3 good things right under my feet

Sometimes a small household management issue will bug me and a solution eludes my searching for an answer or in finding a new purchase.
Then when I'm least expecting it...tap, tap, tap...I look back at my shoulder and there's the answer smiling back at me, having been there all along.

With time and patience the mulberry leaf becomes a silk gown.
                                                                                      Chinese Proverb

Letting the solution come to me, in its own time, has happened 3 times recently.

The first time involved this cherry tomato plant.

Back in the spring this tomato plant was looking healthy, but not at all promising that it was going to bear fruit.  For many weeks we watched for blossoms and none appeared.  As sunny vegetable garden ground is precious dirt around here, this plant was slated to be pulled out.  We thought the plant was deficient in some way, for some reason unknown to us.

(I have a hard time pulling any growing thing out, with the exception of weeds.  I hate thinning seedlings!  Poor little plants yanked out and tossed aside.  It's distressing to see the end of something I had nurtured from seed.)

  Anyway, I was going to remove this plant.  But I ran out of time the day I was going to do the deed. 
Life got busy and I didn't get back to it, and then it just didn't get taken out.

 I picked this lot of cherry tomatoes a few days ago.  And, needless to say, I am so happy that I didn't have time to clear that space and plant something new a few months ago.

#2 thing that solved itself...
The space where our clothes dryer had been was under-utilized for a year.  I put a bookcase there, but I just wasn't feeling the feng shui.
Last week the raccoons were at our pond again.  Duke was digging around in his stock pile of wire looking for a piece to strengthen the cover, when he discovered a cool wire rack that was given to him years ago.

There it was!  Just what I had been looking for, and I didn't even know it until I saw it.

and #3 dilemma solved, without much effort, required only a shift in the location of a picnic table umbrella.

We use our garden swing a lot in the summer.  Last year the large, leafy branch of a loquat tree, that had shaded the swing area, broke off.  This left the swing in the hot afternoon sun.  A split bamboo fencing canopy was a temporary fix, but there were problems with it.  
It came to me that our tilting table umbrella might fill the need and it does.
One thing we like about the new swing shade-maker is that it leaves the sky view open.  This not only enhances the view of clouds, birds, and butterflies and also provides great air circulation.

Paul McCartney's words, Let It Be, are having more and more significance the older I get.

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

half way to christmas.... half off tag sale!

posted by:  jennifer

it is that time.  christmas in july!  we are more than halfway to christmas, and so i am celebrating by having a tag sale in my etsy shop: etsy / strawberryoaks

each one of my handmade, unique, heirloom quality stockings are 50% off their original price.... wholesale prices for everyone!

here is a peek at what i have to offer:

if you want to see the whole picture, head on over to my shop.  happy july!


Thursday, June 26, 2014

easy? gourmet? kid friendly? delicious? bbq or campfire? whaaaat?

posted by:  jennifer

so this is an oldie, but a goody.... and you know that those oldies sometimes get forgotten.   and this deserves to be brought back to the front burner when it comes to meal planning.  even more so now, during the summer when thinking about camp meals... or backyard cookouts.

hobo packs!

you know... vegetables, herbs, protein... all wrapped up in a cute little pouch and cooked in it's own juices.   

the many benefits of such a meal include, but are not limited to:
  -easy clean up
  -adaptable to many tastes/dietary restrictions
  -kid friendly
  -damn tasty

the process:
  1. cut up any desired vegetables (squash, onion, peppers, garlic, potatoes*, kale,  whatever!)
          *for the potatoes, i cut into slices and then par-boiled until almost done
  2. cut up any desired protein.  we used chicken breasts and sausage.  i know my husband 
        and son would love shrimp, and tofu would work perfectly as well.
  3. chop up any fresh herbs.  we used:  parsley, summer savory, chives, and thyme.  
  4. gather salt and pepper, olive oil and butter
  5. for each pack tear a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil. mine were about 18 inches long, 
         and about a 12 inch square of parchment paper.
  6.  make your masterpiece:
        -place the parchment paper in the center of the foil
        -in the center of the parchment add any desired ingredients
        -drizzle your vegetables/herbs/protein(s) with olive oil and a pat of butter if desired.  
           season to taste with salt and pepper
        -gather up the parchment and then the foil into a pouch.  you can either use a sharpie
          marker to mark your pouch for identification, or do like my kids do and shape the foil
          in a unique way so you know which is yours.
  7.  on a hot grill, or near the embers of a campfire, cook your hobo pack.  if you are cooking 
        in a campfire, be sure to place the packs on the edges of the embers so that they 
        don't burn.  you will need to rotate them during cooking.  but be sure not to turn them 
       upside down, or you will lose all of those great juices.
  8.  you should smell when they are done.   your mouth will start watering, as mine is now as 
        i type.  i kid you not.  they will probably take about 20 minutes.  
  9.  unwrap, savor, clean up by tossing away the wrapping.

what will you put in your hobo pack?  share if you so desire.  i would love to steal your ideas!!


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Opossum... Overcoming a bad reputation

I'd like to introduce you to today's guest blogger.  Formerly Joey.  Now, Jill Opossum...

Hi everyone!  I'm wondering.  Why don't people like me?
I think I'm rather cute and I am extremely useful.

I was recently rescued from the gutter, having lost my way on my first night out of my den nest.  It's easy to get turned around when you strike out on your own. 
The world doesn't look so large while riding on mom's back.

At 7" long, I am capable of surviving all by myself.  I just need to learn about streets, cars, and such.

I am a Virginia opossum and the only marsupial found in the United States or Canada.  I come from the oldest surviving mammal family in the world, and can trace my family tree back to the age of the dinosaurs.  Pretty good lineage, I'd say.

Because we opossums have no method of food storage or energy storage, I needed to quickly find a food and water source.  Lucky for me, I was brought to the Taylor Certified Wildlife Habitat. 

I have a stable food source here.  And there are many containers with water.  I am also safe from some of the predators which usually kill us opossums: humans, cars, and dogs.  I need to be on the watch for owls though.

I can be such a helper.  I'm really a natural clean up engineer.  I eat so much of what you don't want in your yard...beetles, cockroaches, snails, slugs, mice, and rats.  I will scavenge in your garbage, if it is accessible. I know you don't like that.  But humans aren't the only ones that crumble when it comes to fast food, you know.

I'm smarter than a dog, more on the level of a pig.  (My kind have been tested for learning abilities.) I present far fewer health risks to humans than do dogs or cats.  I am more resistant to rabies than any other mammal, including man.  
I am gentle, very quiet, and really, prefer to be left alone.  I avoid confrontation.  My only defense is bluffing that I'm dead.  It is an unconscious act when I roll over, become stiff, and close my eyes or stare off into space.

I know that this "look" does nothing for my image problem.  I do show my 50 teeth when I'm frightened.  This only gives the appearance that I can defend myself, but I can't.  So please let me, or any of my fellow opossums, just mosey about. We won't hurt you, or dig in your soil, or make any trouble.

It's dark out now and time for me to get going.  I'll be cleaning up the stuff you don't want to see.  The only thanks I need is your respect and acceptance that I am an important part of the natural world.

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol

Sunday, June 22, 2014

practical beauty....or how to scatter joy

posted by:  jennifer

for the last, oh i don't know, year or two, i have been meaning to make a new curtain for our kitchen.  the one i had hanging was a temporary one, a rather sad piece of fabric with a quick pocket sewn into top that the bent tension rod went through... and due to the fact that the tension rod was bent, the whole thing was known to fall down here and there.  all very encouraging things when you feel like you are on top of very little in your life.

but a couple of weeks ago i decided to stop lamenting about this and do something.

i knew i wanted to make a window covering  that had some applique work, including a quote of some sort.  

and this is what i ended up with:

i am quite pleased with it.  how nice to smile when i look at the kitchen window... very refreshing after years of cringing when looking at the same window.

i love doing applique work.   i always use wonder under.  it is a iron on fusing.  (my grandma gave me a yard of it many moons ago, when she gave me a sewing basket for christmas.  i still have the scissors she gave me, and i have been an under wonder fan ever since.)  i tend to also sew around the edges of what ever i have ironed on.  i like the look of the stitching, and it also makes it all the more secure.

for this piece i used a vintage linen i found at an estate sale, hand cut felt letters, a few butterflies, a bird, some ribbon, and some vintage lace gifted to me by my husbands paternal grandma (she has let me at her fabric room....glad to know that her stash will be used.  lucky me!)

the quote i chose is by ralph waldo emerson.  scatter joy.    i like it.  it is simple, and i feel that this is what this curtain does to this corner of the house.   it scatters a little joy that makes me smile.

a smile that lasts until i look down at my nasty kitchen floor.  but between you and me, i have a new bee in my bonnet.   and let's just say, that i predict that in the next week or so the floor in my kitchen will be bringing a smile to my face as well.  wish me luck at home depot today!