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155/2018 January 8, 2018

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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For the first time ever, I’m ahead of the average needed per day to get rid of the same number of things in a year as the year itself. I mention it because (a) it happened and (b) Mali mentioned that she’s taking up this challenge too.

I have this large three-ring binder filled with printed-out and handed-to-me recipes (including Mali’s fried rice!). It was overflowing. Tim and I successfully culled 144 of them this weekend. And that binder is still plenty full. Mali’s fried rice remains.

It doesn’t give me any extra physical room in the house, but it’s a step.

Don’t worry. I’ll be behind again in no time.


Deep Cold January 2, 2018

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

At night, it’s been double digits below zero (F). Now, at 8 a.m., it still is.

My sweet neighbor’s pipes have frozen. Or the well pump has a problem. Or the holding tank. Or something. No water. No water is the worst, and I ache for her. And I hear other neighbors are also dealing with frozen pipes. And I’m shocked that so far, so good here. We’ve had to deal with it before (once from afar, away in Arizona). It’s awful. The longer this cold goes on, the more likely it is to happen.

Since Friday, after a quick round-trip to New York to visit a 95-year-old from Toronto, I have gone outside maybe twice: once to the post office, once to bring in the trash cans and to shovel.

Last night we had invited a friend over for New Year’s pork/sauerkraut/mashed potatoes. His car battery, about to die, had given up the ghost in the cold. He was already in possession of the new battery but was waiting for it to be warm enough to change it out. He tried charging the old one all afternoon, to no avail, so told us he couldn’t come. Tim went to get him, then drove him home after.

There were ice crystals on the mixer that we keep in the mudroom. My toes were numb just moving things in and out of there.

The kitchen is about 52 degrees F. I am staying upstairs in my office, where I will work. I will venture downstairs occasionally to run water through the pipes.

6BY5: Quarterly Report and Summation January 1, 2018

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

I know that since October 18, you’ve been obsessing about what the last three species were that I listed on my Monhegan trip, the ones I didn’t see until October 1 and therefore had to wait til the fourth quarter to report. Well, wait no longer: yellow-crowned night heron, orange-crowned warbler, and white-winged scoter.

The yellow-crowned night heron was its own adventure, as several of us went off to a pond where it had been sighted by many others. We saw a bird very far away, so far away that not even looks through scopes were definitive. Luckily, one photographer took a shot with his 600mm lens, and when we blew that image up, we were able to make a positive ID. (I just looked up 600mm lenses online. I knew they cost thousands, but I didn’t realize how many.)

But wait! I listed three more species after Monhegan. Yes, only three: ring-necked pheasant, ruffed grouse, and snowy owl.

Tim and I went looking for the reported snowy on Christmas Eve, about an hour’s drive north of us. It was risky, looking for an individual bird. It could be a bit of driving for not a lot of payoff. Luckily, we saw a bald eagle and horned larks and snow buntings and a rough-legged hawk, so if we hadn’t seen the snowy, we still would have been happy to see these birds. But after a first stop, we got back in the car, drove a little farther, and over the next hill found the snowy! Not only did we get a great look, but it meant that I had gotten a snowy for the fourth consecutive list year, and that makes me happy.

So, fourth-quarter additions: yellow-crowned night heron, orange-crowned warbler, white-winged scoter, ring-necked pheasant, ruffed grouse, snowy owl.

And full 2017 list: downy woodpecker, common raven, black-capped chickadee, American goldfinch, white-breasted nuthatch, American crow, mallard, tufted titmouse, American tree sparrow, dark-eyed junco, European starling, house sparrow, mourning dove, blue jay, red-bellied woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, rock dove, red-tailed hawk, eastern bluebird, purple finch, wild turkey, bald eagle, northern cardinal, Canada goose, barred owl, rough-legged hawk, snow bunting, American robin, bufflehead, horned grebe, common merganser, herring gull, northern harrier, horned lark, brown creeper, pileated woodpecker, American kestrel, red-winged blackbird, killdeer, wood duck, turkey vulture, common grackle, eastern meadowlark, northern mockingbird, mute swan, song sparrow, northern pintail, green-winged teal, American black duck, great blue heron, eastern phoebe, American woodcock, Wilson’s snipe, Carolina wren, belted kingfisher, brown-headed cowbird, osprey, yellow-rumped warbler, pine warbler, tree swallow, chipping sparrow, northern flicker, great egret, Cooper’s hawk, black vulture, yellow warbler, northern rough-winged swallow, eastern towhee, blue-gray gnatcatcher, snowy egret, fish crow, surf scoter, long-tailed duck, common eider, common loon, great black-backed gull, double-crested cormorant, house finch, broad-winged hawk, rose-breasted grosbeak, chimney swift, warbling vireo, barn swallow, brown thrasher, gray catbird, black-and-white warbler, indigo bunting (May 6!), yellow-bellied sapsucker, house wren, common yellowthroat, Baltimore oriole, bobolink, white-crowned sparrow, chestnut-sided warbler, American redstart, blue-winged warbler, ovenbird, northern parula, veery, ruby-throated hummingbird, eastern wood-pewee, American bittern, eastern kingbird, ring-billed gull, spotted sandpiper, red-eyed vireo, cedar waxwing, hermit thrush, green heron, glossy ibis, willet, Nelson’s (sharp-tailed) sparrow, great-crested flycatcher, wood thrush, scarlet tanager, common tern, black-throated green warbler, gray jay, red-breasted nuthatch, palm warbler, greater yellowlegs, lesser yellowlegs, northern gannet, black guillemot, laughing gull, peregrine falcon, great cormorant, sharp-shinned hawk, merlin, blue-headed vireo, golden-crowned kinglet, ruby-crowned kinglet, American pipit, clay-colored sparrow, white-throated sparrow, Cape May warbler, blackpoll warbler, dickcissel, Savannah sparrow, Lincoln’s sparrow, rusty blackbird, yellow-crowned night heron, orange-crowned warbler, white-winged scoter, ring-necked pheasant, ruffed grouse, snowy owl. (147 species. 2016: 118. 2015: 125. 2014: 118. 2013: 173. 2012: 115.)

6BY4: An Aside December 31, 2017

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

For Christmas, my stepfather-in-law, with whom I keep the annual bird lists, sent me a book about a guy who broke the big-year record a few years ago. I had sent him this book last Christmas, and now that he’s read it, it’s my turn. “Please ignore the coffee stain on the cover,” he wrote.

To do a big year, one needs time and money. The book’s author had just quit his job, and clearly, he has money. At least it would appear so in the first couple of chapters, as he flies cross-country twice before March. At February’s end, he has a species count of 294, and he hasn’t yet decided to do a big year. (His final count was 749.)

The number 294 hits me especially hard because unless I venture out into the subzero wind-chill temperatures during the next fourteen hours or something amazing shows up at my feeder, my count for this year will remain exactly half that: 147. For the whole year.

Which shows, in part, that I’m not a serious birder, no matter how people around me perceive it. I sometimes wish I was more serious, but: time and money. Even my best year—the year we hired a guide in southeastern Arizona, where the author begins his journey in January—my count was just 173.*

And that’s OK. Still, I wish I had time, and I wish I had money, and I can guarantee you that with both, I would do a lot more destination birding.


*Will I ever break 200? It would take some planning, a lot more discipline, and a reordering of priorities.

2037/2017 December 30, 2017

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

I made it. I got rid of 2017 things in 2017.

If I hadn’t made it, I was going to cheat by just shredding/recycling some scrap paper (as I have a pile four or five reams high that I use for manuscript drafts, running the unused side through the printer). But, as we’ve discussed, that would have been most unsatisfying. Still, I would have done it.

But I didn’t have to, because I gave my Buffy/Angel comic book collection to the 13-year-old across the street. And I gave an old toy to the young kids down the street. And a neighbor took some other items either for the family or the food cupboard. There was a bag of mixed hardware (screws, etc.) that finally pushed me over 2017, there being enough in that bag to call it 2037. So we can call it an even 2017 if you’d like.

And I printed out a 2018-in-2018 chart. Let the games begin.


Ooops. Scrawled one word too quickly. The editor is embarrassed.

Writing Advice December 24, 2017

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

When attempting haikus, it’s good to get John Blackburn’s verses and Karl Suessdorf’s tune to “Moonlight in Vermont” stuck in your head.

Pennies in a stream
Falling leaves, a sycamore
Moonlight in Vermont

Icy finger waves
Ski trails on a mountain side
Snowlight in Vermont

[Telegraph cables, they sing down the highway
And travel each bend in the road
People who meet in this romantic setting
Are so hypnotized by the lovely]

Evening summer breeze
Warbling of a meadowlark
Moonlight in Vermont

[You and I and moonlight in Vermont]

Backlimericks 6 December 23, 2017

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

I think this is the last of the limericks I wrote for my friend’s fiftieth. It’s arguably the weakest of the bunch. I wrote it because birthday cards with ageist jokes annoy me.

[obligatory ageist birthday limerick]

Blah blah-blah-blah blah-blah-blah old.
Blah blah-blah-blah blah, so we’re told.
Blah blah-blah-blah icky.
Blah blah-blah-blah sticky.
Blah blah-blah-blah blah-blah-blah cold.

Dashing through No Snow December 22, 2017

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

We were supposed to be in Portland Tuesday through Saturday. I was excited to be in town over a Thursday so that I could go to a contra dance. But as the weather reports came in, Tim and I texted from our respective workplaces over the wisdom of staying in town—whether leaving Friday morning (today) would be too late to avoid driving through a storm. So we made a dash for it. We had a quick early dinner at a Japanese-food-truck-turned-cozy-corner spot (where we wouldn’t feel deprived by not drinking but could still have amazing food) and checked out of the hotel around 6:15 pm to face a 4.5-or-so-hours drive home.

The skies were clear. The roads were dry. The crescent moon was setting. Dashing through no snow. Hard to believe it was on its way.

I was in bed by 11:30, I think. When I got up in the wee hours (to wee, of course), the snow had begun, heavy flakes visible by the streetlight.

Today we took our first x-country ski on the rail trail.

Tonight we are hunkering down.

Even More 153s December 21, 2017

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

Truth be told, I’ve seen a lot of 153s that I haven’t bothered to note. Because they are everywhere. But here are some.

  • In August, when planning my Maine vacation itinerary, the fastest route between Portland and Port Clyde was reported to be 1:53.
  • On August 21, I stopped working at 1:53 to join friends to view the eclipse.
  • On August 25, I discovered that the battery in the clock in my workout room had died. I replaced it at 1:53 and set clock to same.
  • On September 15, I tried to balance my checkbook, but found I was $153.39 off on my first attempt.
  • On September 22, at 2:03, I looked up the weather report and saw this: W—P—, VT 10 Day Weather as of 1:53 pm EDT.

Then I ignored a bunch, but

  • On October 22, the icon on my phone screen for emails noted a count 153 (I never check email on my phone).

Again, I ignored 153s around me. But

  • On November 11, in the parking lot at the doctor’s office, I looked up and had parked behind a 153 license plate (see photo, below). The very next day Tim and I were grocery shopping and I saw another one!

More ignoring.

  • On December 19, when we set up the GPS to stop at the Maine Mall before we headed into Portland proper, it told us we would arrive at our destination at 1:53. And
  • Yesterday I was informed in an email that “Children’s Disaster Services sent 153 dedicated volunteers to 13 locations affected by disaster or trauma and cared for more than 2,328 children.”

Which prompted this riveting update.

Jewelry Cleaning Recipe December 20, 2017

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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I’m about a 4.5-hour drive away from Route 153. Last night I grabbed a pair of earrings I’d packed to wear and noticed that they need a cleaning. A few years ago I found a really good recipe for this task. I’m always afraid I’ll lose it (even though it’s printed out at home), so I figure I’ll put it here for backup/safekeeping/your information. Turns out it’s all over the Internet, even on Epicurious.

1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon dish detergent
1 cup water
1 piece aluminum foil

Heat water in the microwave for 1 or 2 minutes.

Cut a piece of aluminum foil that roughly covers the bottom of a small bowl (like a cereal bowl).

Pour hot water into bowl. Place salt, soda, and dishwashing liquid into bowl. Place jewelry on top of foil and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Rinse jewelry in cool water and dry jewelry completely with soft cloth. Discard solution after use and make a new batch next time.