Wildlife in the Yard…and the Tail End of Summer

Posted by mrssmythe on August 20, 2017 in Critters, Seasons |

The yard has been brimming with wildlife these past two weeks! One visitor I’m still not thrilled with – the snake. This is the same snake I’ve mentioned in earlier posts. But he’s larger now. CPT America insists he’s only big enough to be eating insects, but, if that is the case, insects must be terribly nourishing. He’s twice as long as when last I saw him. And when he slithers along his stump, he just keeps going and going…

The snake hangs out around my tomato plants, so going out to pick tomatoes has become something of an ordeal for me. More often than not, I send CPT A. The photo below shows you the snake in relation to the tomato pot.

Yes, I realize he’s really not that large. But still…he’s a snake.

A visitor I’ve been more pleased to see…this woodpecker. Isn’t he dapper?

And, we’ve had other birds too…

the turkeys are back – now with about five babies in tow.

There’s is a new resident under the barn. A groundhog!

He’s a bold, trundling thing that we see almost daily now. The dogs are very interested, but so far, the groundhog has been wise enough to stay out of sight when they are around.

And, finally, a visitor Pepper found in the chicken coop this past week:

Thankfully, the chickens did not see him. (They probably would have attacked him). Pepper rescued him as soon as she saw him, and, with a little coaxing…

she and Ginger were able to move him to a safer part of the yard.

In other news, Fall is definitely on its way. Here’s a leaf I found on one of the dog walks this past week:

And, today was the final day for swimming at our local pond.

Ginger’s big accomplishment this summer…learning to dive! She worked for about two weeks solid, moving from the top rung of the ladder to the final, spectacular running dive you see here. She was so pleased!

Now, we’ll just need to find another spot to swim for the next couple of weeks. Despite the changing leaves, it’s still pretty steamy here. Thankfully, the state parks permit swimming through Labor Day.

From the dining room table, looking forward to tomorrow’s eclipse!

Mrs. Smythe

P.S. Many thanks to CPT A who provided several of the more professional looking photos you see in this post.



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Pond Doings, a Rabbit, and Cosmos

Posted by mrssmythe on August 7, 2017 in Critters, Garden, Seasons, Week in Review |

Last week was a great week for the pond. We had warm, sunny days and plenty of free afternoons for swimming.

A huge “field” of water lilies sits just outside the main swimming area at the pond. Pepper and I swam over one afternoon to investigate and found that many of the lilies’ stems curl beneath the water like old-fashioned telephone cords.

The water is pretty deep at this point, so the stems go on and on. It’s really amazing to see. The lilies must be incredibly determined to climb through so much water just to reach the surface.

Since then, our weather has cooled substantially. We had showers over the weekend, making for some lovely sky scenery on Saturday.

The garden has appreciated the extra water, and the cosmos are now as tall as I am. The finches love them.

The cooler temps have also meant more time outside for Opal the rabbit.

Most of the time, when Opal is outside, she is in her hutch, but CPT A had the brilliant idea of adding dog fencing to her area. Opal loved it, and Ginger seemed to like it as well. (That’s Ginger in the pen with Opal. Ginger has a habit of reading aloud to her pets. I think she was reading The Giver when I took this photo).

And now, it’s raining again and much cooler. I’ve even seen a bit of leaf change already in a couple of maple trees. Fall seems to be sneaking up on us early this year. Even so, I’m sure we’ll have at least a few more bursts of warm weather and a few more good swims left to us. For now, it’s pleasant tea-on-the-porch-with-a-book weather…and that’s nice too.

From the dining room table, getting ready to start the water for said tea,

Mrs. Smythe





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Garden Visitors

Posted by mrssmythe on August 6, 2017 in CPT's Lens, Critters, Garden, Photography |

August is the big month for flowers in my garden…which means it’s also the big month for pollinators. I’ve been thrilled this year to see so many bees and butterflies, and I get a kick out of just sitting on the porch, watching everything coming and going.

I tried to photograph some of our visitors today, but didn’t have much luck. Everything was moving too fast for my phone camera. CPT A took pity on me and pulled out his fancy Nikon D3 to see what he could do. As usual, it was a lot. All of these photos are his work – thank you, CPT A!

Seeing bees and butterflies enjoying themselves is one of my favorite things about having a garden. And, on days like today, when things are humming (literally), it’s easy for me to start thinking about expansion.

Suddenly, I want more butterfly weed, more cosmos, more butterfly bushes…more of everything that seems to attract these pollinators.

All of the weeding and digging and planting is forgotten…at least for a little while….as I envision a sea of blossoms, bees, and butterflies.

It’s a lovely thought.

From the dining room table, wondering who will drop by the garden tomorrow….,

Mrs. Smythe



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A Snake in the Garden and a Cat on the Couch

Posted by mrssmythe on August 1, 2017 in Critters, Garden, Week in Review |

Ugh. Can you see the snake in the photo above? Right there under the pot. That’s his little head poking out. He’s not very large, but he was large enough to startle me  this past week when I was picking cherry tomatoes.

I think he lives in that stump. When I saw him, I screamed, jumped, and dropped a tomato on him. My reaction wasn’t enough to scare him out of residence, though, and now I look carefully whenever I’m harvesting tomatoes or weeding in that section of the garden. He’s one of several snakes we’ve seen this year in the yard. My neighbor says they are good and eat slugs…something I try to remember.

Other, sightings in the garden this week…

Monarch caterpillars!

We’ve seen two of these and hope they feel at home in the yard. It would be lovely to see even more.

The Black-Eyed Susans are really taking off now. The ones you see in this photo were all self-seeded from last year’s plants. Quite a crop!

Another “volunteer” – this sunflower, which popped up right where last year’s sunflower stood.

I’ve had no luck planting sunflowers on purpose, but the serendipitous ones seem to do really well.

The tomatoes are beginning to ripen.

I’ve had a handful of these cherry tomatoes as a fun snack each day this week. (And, no, I didn’t eat the one that fell on the snake – even though CPT A said it was silly not to).

The Hydrangeas are doing well. We have white ones in the back…

And purple-y pink ones in the front. The blooms below are on the same plant – I think the soil must be somewhat mixed, as I’ve been told that the soil’s acidity is what determines the color of the blossoms.

Also in bloom…the Hostas

…the Phlox,

…and the Beardtongue. (Isn’t that a crazy name for a flower?)

And, finally, for those of you who appreciate photos of the cats…I found Shadow curled up with Ginger on the couch the other morning.

Both of our cats seem to be getting more affectionate as they age, which is nice because it’s much more fun feeding an animal that actually seems to like you rather than one that holds you in disdain.

From the dining room table, getting ready to head out to the porch with a book (it’s that kind of an evening),

Mrs. Smythe




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Al’s Diner

Posted by mrssmythe on July 22, 2017 in Out & About |

For months, we’ve been driving by Al’s Diner in Chicopee and wondering about it.

It’s the cutest little place. (And, by little, I mean little – just six booths and some stools along the counter). We wondered about the food. We wondered about the clientele. We wondered about the meat pies and whole hams advertised on the sign outside. Most times, though, when we drove past, Al’s was closed. Had Al’s had gone out of business? Then, we’d spot someone inside and our speculation would begin afresh.

This past Tuesday, I happened to drive by Al’s in the morning (usually, I pass it in the afternoon or evening). The place was packed! That did it. Someone in the family had to get over to Al’s and find out what it was like. CPT A and Ginger volunteered. Ginger had a morning ballet class on Friday and Al’s was on the way to the studio. They could go for an early breakfast and then tell me all about it. Perfect!

Al’s didn’t disappoint. Besides having an interesting history (it opened in 1959, operated 24/7 until 1983, and is on the National Register of Historic Places), the food was great and very affordable.

Ginger ate two enormous chocolate chip pancakes. CPT A ate eggs, hash browns, and toast. The staff was friendly, and the place was filled with ambience and “regulars”.

I’m sure we’ll be back.

From the dining room table, with gardening and grocery shopping on the day’s agenda,

Mrs. Smythe




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