BACKYARD VISITORS AND BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIONS

Butterfly visitor in our backyard

Jerry and I fully realize that in time we will have to downsize but for now we are enjoying our home’s many blessings. In this time of Covid 19 our local family comes once a week for an outside socially distant dinner – which they bring – always so yummy.

And then there are the animal and insect visitors, each with their own specialness : raccoons – one time I was sitting on the patio reading when I got the feeling that someone was watching me. I looked up to see a momma raccoon with four babies walking across the patio toward me. They were about ten feet away. I screamed in shock and scared the raccoon family. With much more dignity than I was displaying, momma raccoon made an abrupt turn and headed away from me and off the patio. The baby raccoons followed in single file. It was a precious sight which in retrospect I appreciate.

As I have noted in previous blogs the deer are frequent visitors. When we pull open the shades in the morning the first thing we check for is the presence of deer in our yard and hummingbirds at the feeder. A few days ago there were two deer nibbling at the leaves on the trees at the edge of the woods behind our house . They were quickly joined by two more who sauntered into our back yard. It is fine when they eat the wild plants that grow in the vinca at the top of our hill or when they lie down and sunbathe. For the most part I am moved by their majesty and grace. But when they come up on our patio and start nibbling on the tomato plants and the hydrangea and other edibles, I am not so pleased. Frequently in life we are faced with sorting out the good from the not so good. Deer for me fit into that category. I chase them away when they head toward the patio, otherwise I enjoy their antics.

Butterflies are incredibly delicate and beautiful insects. We have a butterfly bush which has been a perineal attractor of assorted butterflies – monarchs being the most common. This year we have been amazingly successful with our zinnia plants which I started from seed. Not only are the plants tall and proud but they are bursting with blooms and the butterflies just love them. So we got a twofer – beautiful plants and an assortment of beautiful butterflies.

We also have chipmunks, a fox and rabbits. The chipmunk is a frequent visitor who used to enjoy digging in the patio plant containers upsetting their plantings. One time after a particularly bad chipmunk attack I headed to our local garden center where they sold me ” the best spray to get rid of chipmunks” for fifteen dollars. The can was so small I thought I would be lucky if I got one meaningful spray out of it. I asked the salesman if there was anything available for less money and more content. He suggested I look at the ingredients on the can. The number one ingredient was red pepper flakes which the salesman said did equally well when sprinkled around a plant. I thanked him and took myself to the local grocery store where fortuitously red pepper flakes were on sale. Three containers cost in total five dollars and ninety nine cents. One container was equal in content to the spray can and just as effective. I know because I ran my own comparison test.

This year the chipmunks still seem to be very present in our yard but they devote themselves to scampering around and digging tunnels. On rare occasions the fox will spend time sniffing the yard but mainly we offer a cut through as he goes chasing after some animal smaller than he. One of its most favorite prey are the members of the rabbit family. We had so many wild rabbits in the spring. Haven’t seen any lately. The fox has been busy.

The best visitors to our back yard are family and friends,. Last Sunday we had the usual lovely socially distant Sunday gathering of our local families. Gatherings like this will be harder to pull off when we downsize. When they left they said to Jerry that when they came next they would celebrate his 85th birthday. Little did he know that they and our out of town children would all be gathering for a socially distant dinner birthday celebration the following Wednesday – in our back yard. The party was organized by our daughters Maura and Meg. I wondered if I could help facilitate the organization. Both daughters said “no”, just enjoy the celebration Their words seemed to be a direct reference to a line from a prayer in the book Our Daily Bread : ” Give us courage to embrace change, shifts and transitions with grace.” As parents we are used to being the organizers but then there comes a time when it is fitting for the children to take over.

Jerry’s birthday was yesterday. It was perfect in every way. There was a kind of rolling arrival of our children, which was great – and since the gathering was a surprise for Jerry he had plenty of time to bask in the pleasure of each arrival. They came from New Jersey, Pennsylvania , Richmond and locally from Falls Church with staggered arrivals starting at 2. The weather was ideal for eating outside and maintaining social distance. But best of all was the joy of our family gathering. Not only was Jerry being honored but also our grandson Jimmy. He turned 21 – another big milestone birthday. When Jimmy was born on Jerry’s birthday he was an incredible birthday gift.

We pray for the wisdom to accept change when it has to be, but for right now we continue to bask in the joys of our home of the past 30 years.

A taste of the birthday party festivities

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