HOMES FOR BIRDS & GNOMES

From: Meridian, ID:

(Birdhouse Deluxe.)

(Birdhouse Deluxe.)

When Janet and I were on our way to the beach earlier this month, we stopped overnight at Greg and Jodi’s house, where we caught up with grandkids’ happenings and such. While we were there, Jodi had a “Happy Birthday” gift giving for Jan, whose birthday arrived on March 2nd this year. (Come to think of it, it arrives on March 2nd every year.) One of the presents was a really, really cool birdhouse! She also conspired with me to slip a box of additional goodies into the back of the pickup, so that I could give it to Jan on her actual birthday, Sunday morning at the beach. It included a chocolate raspberry torte cake, plus a bunch of different items Jodi (and Amber, maybe) had picked out at a variety store. Janet really had fun going through it! And of course she, me, and my high school buddy, Vern, had fun eating the cake. Sooo rich!

We think the birdhouse was made locally in the area where Greg and Jodi live. I’m not positive about that, but I think that’s what Jodi had said. Where ever it was made – and by whomever – there was a lot of attention to detail that went into it. Whichever lucky young bird couple can afford the rent/lease; they will have a dandy place to raise their family. We don’t have it hung in the backyard, yet, as we haven’t quite decided where to put it. I suppose we should get going with that…this has to be the high-demand time of year for bird-nesting spots. To give you a better idea of the size, I can tell you that the base is 13 inches long by 7 inches wide. The height from the base to the top of the chimney appears to be about a foot. We can hardly wait to see what kind of bird will wind up in residence.

***

(Janet and Piper working on the gnome house.)

(Janet and Piper working on the gnome house.)

Ever since we took down our front-yard spruce tree last year, Jan has had plans to create a different kind of small house: A gnome dwelling. She didn’t get started on it last year. (Probably just as well, giving the tree stump a chance to dry out and “season” a bit.) The calendar rolling over to springtime – and the accompanying sunny, warm days – got her to thinking more seriously about getting the project started.

Well, the other day we hired a neighbor girl, Piper (11 years old), to help clean up the back yard a bit. A recent high wind had left quite a lot of “limbage,” and there were lots of fall leaves still in the flowerbeds. So after Janet and she finished the work part of the day, Piper stayed on to help get the gnome house started. She came back the next day, as well. Of course it is still very much a “work in progress,” but it is definitely already cute, cute, cute. When I came home, yesterday, I saw that different neighbors had two of their grandchildren out inspecting it. I hope the gnomes who will live there prove to be good and thoughtful neighbors, not raucous partiers.

(Some of the shingles are in place.)

(Some of the shingles are in place.)

On day 2 of the gnome housework, Jan and Piper concentrated on getting shingles on the roof. They didn’t finish – shingling is tiresome work…I can vouch for that – but they did enough to give you the idea, I’m sure. Can you tell what material they used? Think about it. Remember you can enlarge the picture by clicking on it. (Use the back arrow to return to the Blather, afterwards.)

***

I hate to keep blathering on about the same subject. (I really do, despite what you probably think.) But when one has been overweight as long as I have, and when one has been trying for so long to lose weight (as I have, with more or less determination), when it suddenly happens that you actually find yourself losing weight…well, it is a pretty big deal.

When I quit smoking a tad over 3 years ago, I was already 30 pounds heavier than even the most liberal medical chart said I should be…and within just a few months I put on 30 pounds more. It wasn’t unexpected, of course. Everyone knows that quitting the coffin nails is going to mean a weight gain. I suspect that I (like many others) counted on it, i.e., we used it as an excuse. “Hey,” I whined, “…it’s not my fault! I just quit smoking, you know.” So in no time at all, I found myself weighing in at 260, 265, 268. And on one morning last year, the scale topped out at 269.9 pounds. OMG! (But I never once hit 270 pounds. Oh, no…that would have been just too, too much. I would then have been forced, you see, to go on a crash diet. Or, more likely, I would have been forced to up my personal “Do Not Exceed” number to 280 pounds.)

(My personal weight-chart. March, 2014.)

(My personal weight-chart. March, 2014.)

But, as you may recall, on my visit to the Urgent Care facility early in the month, the nurse practitioner prescribed some (anti) water retention pills, primarily to help drain off some fluid that had accumulated in my lungs. My cardiologist then renewed that prescription for me. The pills contain a very small dose of the primary drug…20 mg. (I can only wonder what might happen if I took two or three of them at a time?)

I believe the drug has done – and may continue to be doing – what it was prescribed to do, i.e., rid my lungs of fluid. At any rate, I can breathe easily again. But what it has done a fantastic job at is helping me lose weight! Yes, of course, the missing pounds are, no doubt, the famous “water weight.” And it seems that most people consider that not as important as real weight loss, somehow. I say if one is carrying around water as extra weight, getting rid of it is a good thing, and I am excited about it!

I have, to date, lost 14 pounds during the month of March. Going back to that black day in 2013 when I weighed 269.9 pounds (NOT 270, mind you.), I have lost 22.7 pounds! Water, schmater…I can easily tell the difference walking around. And in getting up from the couch.

As I said (I think), I weigh myself every morning. (I know, I know…the experts tell you not to do that.) I also keep track of my daily weight. Using the Xcel program, I can see a running computation of my average monthly weight, the average miles I walk each month (none, recently), and so on. It hasn’t helped me all that much over the years, but at least it kept me aware of what was going on. The image above represents my morning weight during the month of March, 2014. You may not be able to read the numbers, but the colored cells certainly give you the idea of what I’m talking about. (The solid horizontal line is at 250 pounds.) Like I said, I am definitely excited.

At my peak weight, I bought a pair of suspenders…and I’ve been wearing them with my trousers ever since. I also continued to wear a belt for many months, but gave that up shortly into the New Year. Now, whenever I slip the suspenders off my shoulders, my pants drop immediately to the floor! (Unless I catch them.) By the way, the prescription I credit with so much of the progress is furosemide. (I’m sure it must have a host of possible horrendous side effects, but at this point I don’t care.)

***

(A picture of my "stringer," early in the day.)

(A picture of my “stringer,” early in the day.)

On Monday evening our local seven-day forecast showed Tuesday as “breezy,” but dry and warm, with the next six days with showers or rain. That being the case, of course I had to make a trip out to the desert south of town, yesterday. One must “make hay when the sun shines,” and the same old saw applies to whistle pig plinking. I am still a novice at this “sport,” if one can legitimately call it that, but so far it seems much like fishing. Specifically, while I don’t mind all that much doing it by myself, it is a lot more fun to do it with a friend. (I doubt that it is much fun at all for the whistle pigs, themselves, even though I have noticed on occasion that an individual will exhibit behavior that suggests a daredevil personality). I mean, such as popping from one hole, running like mad to another hole several yards away…and then repeating the trip every ten minutes or so. You gotta wonder. Is it a young male, doing his thing to impress a female?

Like fishing, I’ve noticed a flurry of “bites” when I first drive in to a ground squirrel community, and then a tapering off of activity, until the fisher/hunter is spending quite a lot of time just waiting, or glassing the fields for barely visible heads poking from holes here and there. Unlike fishing, there is no limit on whistle pigs. A shooter can arrive early, and stay late…what ever he may feel like at the time.

(My shooting bench and my pickup windbreak.)

(My shooting bench and my pickup windbreak.)

I must admit that shooting sand rats would be more fun if one could find a use for them. Eating them is, for me, out of the question. I know it’s unwise to say, “Never,” but I find it extremely unlikely I will ever be that hungry. Making a fur coat from their tiny hides would be ridiculous, too, even if one had the tenacity to gather up the number such a project would require. Who would be seen in public in such a coat? Would there be a use for the leather one could process from those same tiny hides? Get serious! A simple pair of gloves – and small gloves, at that – would require dozens of individual skins. No, the shooter simply has to be content in the knowledge that he is helping the ranchers and helping to prevent an outbreak of bubonic plague, which the squirrels are known to carry.

It was, indeed, a bit breezy out in the sagebrush, but I was able to make it a little less uncomfortable by setting up my shooting bench in the lee of my pickup. The wind was still a factor in shooting, especially when aiming to one side or the other. (Shooting straight downwind wasn’t so bad.) The .17 HMR bullet is light enough to be very susceptible to wind drift, but I got the hang of it without too much difficulty. At 50 yards, I found that holding the crosshairs an inch or two off the target worked pretty well.

***

(Three different rimfire magnum cartridges.)

(Three different rimfire magnum cartridges.)

There is yet another similarity between fishing and hunting – and virtually every other activity we humans can get involved with – for that matter. At the beginning of our involvement in whatever it is, we can fool ourselves into believing that one day, someday, we will have every tool we need, be it poles, reels, lures, rifles, pistols…you name it. Some of us live long enough to realize, eventually, such a belief is akin to believing in the Tooth Fairy. For example, I have been singing the praises of my Ruger .17 caliber rifle for several months, now. Who would have thought I could be, would be, tempted by a different varmint shooter? So soon? No, sir…not me. And yet while surfing the web for ammunition sellers the other day, I came upon a bullet called, “.17 Winchester Super Magnum Rimfire.” Winchester came out with it just last year, I believe, and at this point I know for sure of only two companies making rifles to fire it: Winchester and Savage. The bullet leaves the muzzle of the rifle at 3,000 fps! That’s fast, Jimbo! (By comparison the Hornady cartridges I’m using in my .17 Ruger leave the muzzle at 2,550 fps.) The extra speed makes this new .17 bullet very, very flat shooting out to 100 yards or more, and with a manageable “drop” all the way out to 200 yards. Be afraid, whistle pigs…be very afraid. I will not be buying one of these new rifles any time real soon, but it will definitely be on my wish list. Truth is, even if I had one in my hands now, I suspect it will be difficult to find ammunition for it, even online. I doubt that any store in our area is stocking it, yet.

***

As yet, the forecast rain has not materialized. Ain’t that the way? I could have been out amongst ‘em. Ah, well, there will be other days. I hope you’re doing something fun this week.

Bud

6 Responses

  1. Jerry Howard says:

    Congratulations on the weight loss. I am jealous. Looking at a picture of a stringer of dead fish is okay but I am not sure about a picture of a pile of dead rodents. I don’t know why but it is somehow more gruesome than a picture of dead deer or elk.
    That new 17 looks interesting.

    • Bud Larson says:

      Hi Jer, In fact, I did hesitate to include that picture (of the dead ground squirrels). I actually took some pains when setting up the picture…tried to keep the more gruesome side of them down. The .17 HMR bullet, even the 17 grain version that I prefer, is going fast enough to really mess them up. An elk or deer would probably look the same if shot with a 155 Howitzer, know what I mean? I’m getting real close to buying one of those “super mag” rifles. (I can afford the Savage, but not the Winchesters…and definitely not the Volquartzens!) The only thing making me hesitate at the moment is that the WSMR ammo may be even tougher to find than most other rimfire stuff. Later, Ol’ Bud

  2. Nancy says:

    Wow, congratulations on the weight loss! Now I have an idea for you. I don’t like using the term “carrot on a string” but in this case it might be appropriate. Set a weight loss goal and then reward yourself with the new gun purchase. Just a thought. Love you.

    • Bud Larson says:

      Thanks, Sis. That’s a very good idea! The “carrot,” I mean. And I REALLY like Jerry’s take on it. I believe I’ll start that plan right away. Love ya, Bud

  3. Jerry Howard says:

    I agree with Nancy. Every time that you lose a pound reward yourself with a new gun! :)

Leave a Reply