Monday, April 30, 2012

Robins ?

Many people who know us know that Helen and I have a certain empathy for animals. Before we were married, we took in a stray dog that had apparently been abandoned in a shopping center in mid winter. Calls to various dog pounds and ads in the paper did not get the attention of the owner so we kept her. We had her from February of 1967 until 1980. Since then we have had a number of rescue dogs and all have been excellent pets.

Over the years we, and by that I mean Helen, have also raised some orphan animals. Back in Massachusetts she raised Chipper Magoo, a naked, eyes closed, gray squirrel when I found him. He eventually went out on his own and resided in the woods out back until he wandered away. Around the same time Helen took in a pair of baby robins, Robin and Springer, who had been evicted from their nest by a hurricane. This was a new experience for us. Generally people would put a baby bird in a box with some water and bread and expect then to survive. Helen actively took on the role of Mama and hand fed them using tweezers. A local bait shop was our supplier of worms, but Helen would also turn on an outside light and wait with a fly swatter to gather bugs for the birds.

A surprising thing Helen noticed, the two birds had distinctly different personalities. Robin was more drawn to Helen and Springer was more remote. Eventually, they grew up and were released. Springer was probably out in the woods someplace, but Robin would fly back to the house from time to time and sit on the windowsill behind the kitchen sink looking at Helen.

Moving to Florida, we again were raising animals. A woman I worked with brought us a baby gray squirrel that her cat had caught. There was some damage to the critter and when it sat up it wobbled, almost falling over. That was Weebles. We raised her and released her to our back yard and she lived in a squirrel house I mounted in the trees. But that was only for a short time. Innate patterns came to the front and she made several nests of her own. We could always recognize Weebles by the mark on her face left over from her cat attack. Helen would go out in the yard and whistle. Weebles would come running from someplace, run up to Helen's shoulder and chatter away, like she was actually trying to say something. Some time later, we saw her with a family of her own and when Helen whistled, she let her young stay at a distance while she joined Helen in a brief chat. One day on my way home, I found a dead squirrel out on the street. I was saddened to see the white mark on her face because I knew it was Weebles. I hated to tell Helen, but I couldn't have Helen whistling outside thinking our squirrel was still there.

After that, Helen came across a round, gray fur ball about the size of a golf ball on the neighbor's lawn. Though we didn't recognize it immediately, it was a baby flying squirrel. I had never seen one before but when we saw the huge eyes and the flap of skin between the front and rear legs, it had to be a flying squirrel, and he became Widget. He was a riot as he had the run of the house much of the time. We had a cage for him in our bedroom where he slept away the days in a little cardboard home I placed his cage. Flying squirrels are nocturnal, so he didn't become active until night time. Having lights on at night would keep him in his house, but the light from the TV didn't bother him. So, we enjoyed his antics while watching Johnny Carson. He would climb the drapes and then glide across the room, run back and climb, and glide once more. Then he found that he could fit under the door and he was gone. One night we found him on top of the living room drapes gazing at the Christmas tree.

Helen and I took him outside one early evening to get him used to the woods. As I said earlier, I had never seen a flying squirrel. We sat in a small copse of trees behind the house with Widget on Helen's lap and we were looking up into the still light sky. Suddenly we saw a square shape flit from one tree to another. Widget was up like a shot and up the tree. I'm not sure that we ever saw Widget again, but I put a feeding station on one of the trees and we had plenty of visitors. I got a red light for illumination and Helen and I could sit out there and watch them. One night we had 28 flying squirrels at one time. It was beautiful and comical at the same time.

This brings us to Helen's latest adventure. In an earlier blog I mentioned our friends from Missouri and how there were three baby birds that fell out of his camper when he went to unhook. They may be robins, but we don't really know for sure yet. Helen was on the computer a day or two ago looking for names for triplets. She settled for Wynken, Blynken, and Nod, and she can tell them apart. From the beginning we could see that Nod was a bit under developed as he was trampled by his siblings. A bigger area solved that problem but he was always something less developed than his kin. Late yesterday morning Nod was doing poorly and Helen tried to do her best. In the end she lost Nod and she takes this very seriously.

Here are Wynken, Blyken, and Nod in their first nest, in the bottom of a bucket. You can already see that two are more aggressive than the third.

Now the nest has been moved into our bird/squirrel rescue cage.

Getting a little time outside. They will be released and will not be cage bound pets.

This is one of the birds, but I can not tell them apart. It's starting to look like something other than a robin and we would hope someone can identify the type before they are full grown.

Momma Helen hand feeding the birds. The secret is the hand feeding. Young chicks cannot feed themselves but wait for mom to come back and put food down their craws.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Report from Lazy Acres

I'm sorry to report that yet again I am derelict in my duties as a blogger. We have had Sam and Donna of at our home for a week and I managed only one blog while Sam was putting out a well composed blog every day. I would suggest that you visit his blog to get an idea of what went on this past week. I already covered Saturday and Sunday in the last blog.

Monday we all went to the Homosassa Springs Attraction, a wildlife park located in the southwestern part of the county. There we saw manatees, alligators, fox, eagles, owls, and a lot more. Helen and I have been going there for years. Once it was privately owned, but was later bought by the state. There have been a lot of changes over the years and most of the exotic, non native animals were removed. Basically, what you see now is what was always here. Lucifer is the exception. Lucifer is a hippopotamus, surely not native to Florida. Actually, he was born in California in 1960 and was used in a number of movies. Later he "retired" to Florida. When the non native animals were removed, there was no place for Lucifer to go. With some public pressure, the Governor at the time made Lucifer a Florida citizen so he can spend the rest of his days here. Monday was the first time in 30 years that we have seen Lucifer inactive. He can be seen playing with a huge tire or moving around his quarters. Monday he was almost inert. You can check out more of the Park  at


Donna and Helen near the entrance to the park

The park is in two parts. The first entrance is right on Route 19 in Homosassa and the park provides a pontoon boat to take visitors to the park. The trip is narrated and one gets to see more of wild Florida.

The second part is the park itself and one can drive directly to the park without the boat ride. Once you've had the boat ride, you will probably drive directly to the park. We do now, but wanted Sam and Donna to have the whole experience.

Sam, me, and Donna at the Fishbowl

Part way around the park is the Fishbowl, an underwater viewing area where numerous fish and a few manatees can be seen. This is a steel bowl with viewing windows. Many years ago it was constructed next to the spring and was slid into the spring using banana peels. Then, concrete was poured in until the bowl settled to the proper level. Some years back, Helen and I would SCUBA dive the spring and clean the outside of the windows as algae would grow and block the views.

One of the larger alligators in the park. It's nice to have a strong fence between us, though he would probably scamper away if there was no fence and we got close.......maybe.

Tuesday was another pool day for the dogs and they really had a great time, as they always do. I realized that for the most part, the dogs really do not play together, they all play with a human. Jodie and Riggs played tug for just a short while, but mostly they relied on me and Sam. I would play tug with them and that was OK. Coco will not play tug or chase and only wants to fetch, so as long as she's out there she wants someone, anyone to throw something in the pool. She will not quit and she has never ever quit. We eventually have to put a stop to her activity. Sandy is content to have her favorite ball and keep it in her mouth all the time. When I take it from her and toss it in the pool, she is quick to retrieve it, but the ball is SO slimy from being in her mouth so long. Jodie likes to be chased. She will pick up a toy and try to get one of the dogs to chase her, but they won't. I have to pretend to chase her and she loves it.

Donna and Helen supervising the dogs in the pool. Please note that they are far away from where the dogs exit the pool and shake. The ladies stayed dry, but Sam and I were not so lucky.

Riggs with one of his toys. His preferred toy was the orange one.

Sandy with her preferred toy, a tennis ball that she had peeled half of the felt off. 

One of the nights we had a fire. Something about a fire is almost hypnotic, like an aquarium. From left to right you can see Coco, Me, Riggs, Sam, Jodie, Donna, and Sandy.

Wednesday and Thursday were chill out days. Donna noticed a draft in their camper and Sam discovered that part of the bedroom window on the left side had fallen off. This was a crank-out window and the actuation rod apparently broke. They have no recollection of hearing it fall and it could have happened anywhere on the way down. Sam and I made a temporary repair of 3/8 plywood that fit right in. Sam got Donna to get on the ladder and caulk around the edge and later prime the wood. Friday AM she applied a finish coat of gloss white. We were pleased with the result. A local RV dealer quoted us a delivery of five weeks on a replacement, so a temporary repair was the only option.

Friday afternoon we took the guests for a boat ride up the Rainbow River. In Florida, many of our rivers flow full volume out of springs. The Rainbow Spring  flows 490 MILLION gallons of water a day. In addition, smaller springs downstream add to the flow. There is a lot of wildlife and a great deal of activity on the river. We would not go there on a weekend as there is way too much traffic. One popular activity is tubing down the river. There are at least two places where you can rent a truck inner tube or something similar and float down the river. Helen and I have done that in the past with our boys and friends. The water from the spring is about 72 - 73 degrees year round, so you can get some sun, yet cool off when you want.

Sam and Donna getting some sun.

The Great Egret is an excellent hunter. They seem to move slow, but then in the blink of an eye they thrust their bill down and impale a small fish or frog. It is my understanding that they can put that bill right through a man's hand.

This is one of three alligators that we saw on the river.  Some girls in kayaks were passing as we startled one and they were not pleased to learn that an alligator was nearby. It was only about 4 feet long and was no danger to them, unless molested, and that wouldn't happen. A male might want to harass a small alligator, but girls have more sense.

The Anhinga or Snake bird. This bird swims with only his head and neck out of the water and it looks like a snake. It swims underwater and is very adept at catching small fish. When he is through fishing, he flies to a low place to dry his wings as flying wet is too taxing.

This, to me, is the star of the trip. We found a family of river otters as they were swimming down the river. They are so cute and agile in the water. They are also very adept at feeding themselves and sometimes I wonder how the small fish population survives.


If you read Sam's blog, you will find that Friday night is very often (always??) pizza night at the Weeb Ranch. This week was no different as Sam ordered in pizza from a local pizza place.

I think we had a great time with Sam and Donna and we certainly ate well. Donna brought her famous lasagna and Helen now has the recipe for her sauce. Sam taught me a lot about helicopters that I didn't know before. I knew that Sam was in the Navy off Viet Nam and was part of a helicopter rescue unit. Some  of his stories were amazing. Sam and Donna both have interesting histories and their stories often kept us spellbound. We met them in 2010 on our way back from Alaska and had a brief afternoon with them, but have kept in contact since. Still, you wonder what you will see when they stay for a week. Helen and I think that we will remain friends with them for a long, long time.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Visitors from Missouri

First of all I want to give you some excuse as to why it has taken me so long to put this in a blog, but I'm a bit short of brain cells right now. So, I'm going to reserve the option of coming up with an excuse later, if one should pass through my mind. Amen

Friday afternoon our friends Donna and Sam Weible and their wonder dog, Riggs arrived for a short vacation. Helen and I were ready for them with a spot for their camper with water and electric and plenty of room for Riggs to run around. We haven't seen them since our return from Alaska in 2010, but we read his blog each day and we have been in contact besides the blogs. We wondered how all the dogs would get along, but it went very well, a sniff here and a sniff there and they were all friends. There is more to tell, but I'll let the dogs tell it on their blog.

Now Donna and Sam are nice people. Donna brought Helen a fancy Bamboo plant. Sam brought me cold weather and rain and also three baby robins (we think). They are residing in our laundry room and Helen is feeding them frequently and they seem to be doing very well. Now, when we pull the car into the garage we can hear a chorus of barks coming from inside the house and tweets coming from the laundry room.

I think many of you already know Donna and Sam. Here, Sam is waiting for supper while Donna is trying to keep Riggs in line. She didn't have much of a problem because as big as Riggs is, he's a pussycat!

Here's Riggs, Donna and Sam again. A big part of the visit was to get all the dogs in the pool. Our three dogs are used to the pool as that has been their main swimming area for years. The "Cement Pond" was new to Riggs and he entered the water with some trepidation. He is used to the gentle slope of natural ponds and having to navigate steps or (heaven forbid) jump off the side was not to his liking. However, he's a sharp pooch and he was soon going up and down the stairs like a pro. Jumping off the side is still a bit of a problem.

This is the spot where Donna and Sam will be staying. It's in our residential area, of course, but they have plenty of room and privacy. Plus, Riggs has the run of the property, not that he need much room to roam as he is almost always at Sam's feet.

We took a ride to the western end of Citrus County, where the county meets the Gulf of Mexico. Helen and Donna are caught in the strong wind blowing off the Gulf. The sun felt warm and it was comfortable out of the wind, but decidedly cool where the wind blew.

This is THE ocean beach for Citrus County. Fort Island Gulf Beach is a small beach that seems to get a lot of use. The beach has to be replenished with new sand from time to time, but it attracts a lot of Florida people because it's really the only ocean beach for miles, so people from many counties can be found here.

Please disregard the posting date in the header. Lets call this Sunday, April 21, 2012. Thanks.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bandits at 5:00 O'Clock

Helen spent some time yesterday adding a few plants to one of her flower beds in the yard. This one is right outside the window of the computer room. I don't remember where I was but I heard Helen yell "Paul, get the camera!" I grabbed the camera and ran in to the computer room and saw two very young raccoons wandering through Helen's flowers. We were happy to catch them unaware and they were SOOOO cute.

They were inquisitive and had to check out all the items Helen had lined up with the flowers.

Then Helen noticed that the cute little dears were molesting her flowers. Actually, I think they were eating the flowers. Helen banged on the window and yelled and they quickly scampered up a tree.

If they were cute on the ground, they were even cuter in the tree. I went outside, hoping to catch them relatively close to the ground, but when the saw me, they raced further up the tree, and they were fast.

They kept their distance, but they couldn't keep their eyes off me.

It became difficult to focus in the fading light with all the branches in the way. Going to manual focus helped a bit, but then I was relying on my eyesight instead of the cameras auto focus, so the results were mixed. I did the best I could and went back in the house. A few minutes later I looked out to see how they were doing and they were gone. Apparently they made their escape as soon as I turned the corner.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Bit of Mexico comes to Citrus County

After I published this blog, Helen pointed out that these are not "professional" dancers, they are amateurs who make their living doing something else. Now I am even more in awe of their performance.

Yesterday Helen and I got to relive some of the fun we had in Mexico. I was very much surprised to find that the
Ballet Folklorio Quetzalli De Veracruz was going to perform at the Curtis Peterson Hall, just ten miles from home. They are not really a ballet as you would think of it, but a series of folk dances done in period costumes, representing various areas of Mexico. When Helen and I were in Patzcuaro, we got to see Danza de los Viejitos, or Dance of the Little Old Men. In Patzcuaro, it was not performed by a professional dance troop, but by local street performers and had a lot of local flavor. The youngest "Old Man" was only six years old and he did a masterful job, as did all the others. We were able to catch a number of performances in the main square and enjoyed every one. So when we saw this dance listed we knew we had to go.

It was much better than we thought it would be, but the dancers were all professional and this program has been presented around the world. The dancing was fabulous, the colors bright, and there was not a lull in the performance except for the intermission. I don't know how they can be so active and keep doing it for such a long time.

I'm posting too many pictures, but I forgot how to insert a slide show. Also, even with the program in front of me, I cannot properly describe most of the dances.

The first dance comes from the area of Guerrero and represents Ancient Mexico. This was a very lively dance that had me wondering how the dancers were able to keep the pace for such a long time.

More from Guerrero

The Michoacan area is the basis for the next few dances. This is the traditional Dance of Lovers or Jarabillo de Novios.

More of the "Lovers". Again, it was lively and well choreographed.

Lovers, picture III.

And picture IV

I'm not sure which dance this was, possibly Dance of Three because it came right before the Old Men Dance.

More Dance of Three

And still more!

The introduction of the Old Men and start of the Dance of the Little Old Men

On this stage they were a bit friskier than we saw on the streets of Patzcuaro. However, in Patzcuaro, there were no women in the cast, only the dancers taking the parts of the old men and their musical background.

Stooped over and walking with a cane, but extremely active with the tapping and stomping, hard to do in the bent over stance.

Getting the audience to participate in the beat.

Comical to the end.

This was the Cowboy Dance representing the northern part of the Baja peninsula.

A slower performance called Procession of the Virgin from the Veracruz region.

More dance from Veracruz.

Still more. The Ballet Folklorio is based in Veracruz, so that are got the most attention.

Unknown dance, also from Veracruz.


This is Danza de los Negritos or Dance of the Little Black Men. It commemorates the legend of the child of a black slave woman being bitten by a venomous snake. She goes into an intricate dance, appealing to her Gods to spare her child. The figure in white represents the woman carrying the dead snake in a bag and the dances act out stomping the snake. It seemed a bit eerie.

The last dances were more refined, but still there was the beat of boots stomping, Not quite like Flamenco dancing, but close.

This was at the closing moments. The crowd was pleased with the whole performance and gave them a standing ovation.

The whole idea of a Mexican production in Citrus County piqued our interest in Mexico even more. We have already decided to spend next winter in Mexico, again, but now we'll have some additional places to explore.

Now, on another note. Yesterday's blog was about Daisy and I mentioned taking the dog to Pat and Lewis, who are as dedicated to saving Labs as anyone could be. Although they are into canoe and kayak racing, their lives seem devoted to saving Labs. Lewis made a video of Daisy and put it on You Tube. See Daisy Meets Judy

Sorry for such a long blog!