Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hungry animals

We have had some interesting animal behavior around here today. My husband noticed a dead armadillo by the driveway when he came home for lunch today. It wasn't there when he left for work this morning, so we assume someone hit it on the driveway between 7:30 AM and noon today. He had hit one a few weeks ago on the driveway late one night. Something obliged us by carting it off after a couple of days. This new "driveway kill" was still there when I returned home from Baton Rouge this afternoon. It is being guarded by a lone buzzard. I am hoping something will haul the carcass off during the night.

Later on during the afternoon, my husband spotted three deer grazing out beyond the house. We watched them for awhile, and I got the binoculars and studied them. I never could determine if they were does or bucks, but they did seem thin and they ate like they were hungry. We are used to seeing deer grazing on the grounds all the time. They take a couple of bites and then look around. They also keep moving as they graze. These three grazed like cows with their heads down, chomping away without looking up or moving around except to move a bit for more grass. Clearly they were hungry. It is hard to understand skinny, hungry deer with a large green pasture and hayfield a few hundred yards away, and thousands of acres of corn less than a quarter of a mile away.

Right now some of the prairie areas at Kalorama are in full bloom with Liatris, also known as Blazing Star or Gayfeather. It is one of the showiest of all prairie species and is wildly attractive to butterflies.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Fountain wars

In the past week, I have been engaged in a skirmish with the fountain at the patio. Without going into lengthy history at this point, I will just say that when I came to Kalorama, the fountain, which was constructed by Mr. Nathan Bolton in the 1950’s, was in terrible disrepair. It was a rectangular shaped concrete pool, 6 X 16 X 2 with a cast metal statue standing on a pedestal at one end. I believe it originally functioned as a goldfish pond. I resisted doing anything with it other than cleaning out the leaves for several years. However, because of its location, the pressure was there to do something with it. Also, every once in awhile, a small child would manage to jump in, fall in, or otherwise worry me with their activities while near the hole. I ended up creating a shallow stream over gravel with a waterfall into a reservoir that proved wildly popular with the birds.

When I first fixed it up, water gardening was not as popular as it was to become, and a submersible pump large enough to push the volume of water the distance needed was not readily available. I began with an external pump that required that I prime it to get it started. I kept an adjustable wrench and small cup near the pump for that purpose. After several years, the first pump died. Someone gave me an ancient water well pump, and I rigged it up and used it for a few years after that. By the time that pump gave out, submersible waterfall pumps were readily available at the big box stores, so I decided that would be easier than priming it, and it would be much quieter, too, since it would be under water.

The new pump, which is the second or third submersible pump in the war is made to come apart into two pieces for cleaning purposes, I guess. It has three of those tabs and slots that line up and turn to hold it together. Something, vibration from running I guess, has caused those parts to break, so it won’t hold together anymore. I noticed one day the waterfall wasn’t falling. I could hear the pump humming, so I unplugged it and began my first assault, which was removing the rocks and apparatus I have rigged up to hide the pump. Because it was separated, the pump was completing its circulation cycle under the water. The outlet that sends the water to the fountain is on the detachable piece. I studied it, and determined that a couple of long nylon zip ties would hold it together under water just fine. I fixed them where I thought they would hold and put the rocks and stuff back in place. The following day, I was back into the battle again, as there was no water falling. I found some duct tape at the store that I was told would hold under water and was going to try that. I “dug” the pump out again and discovered that the ties had shifted so the part was loose. I tightened them down to the point that they could not shift and put it back in the water without taping. This time I left the rocks and stuff off a couple of days to see if it would hold. It has held for over a week now and I have high hopes it will stay that way until something else goes wrong.

When I first began this most recent skirmish, I noticed the water smelled pretty raunchy, so I pumped most of it out and replaced it. I was going to pump it dry and get the leaves and crud out of the bottom of the reservoir, but noticed there were tadpoles of all ages swimming around. After the last battle, I brought the camera out there and sat and watched for awhile, hoping to see a frog. No luck there, but a young female brown-headed cowbird came down for a drink. Also, on the water surface there were water striders. Those are fascinating insects, equipped to glide around without breaking the surface tension of the water. I got a picture of them, and then noticed the funny shadows moving around on the floor of the reservoir. They were water strider shadows, and were very cool looking, which were three circles in a pattern like a face. I have included a picture of that, too.