Buzz Top Buddy

It was time for Buddy’s summer haircut and like every other year since he could talk – he begged for a buzz cut.

I don’t know why it’s been hard to buzz this kid. His older brothers routinely got a buzz the end of May every year until they were old to just say no.

But Buddy – we’d cut short – but never buzz.

This year though – he asked me once again after a week of extreme heat and humidity. The ticks were terrible and I had spent several minutes every night checking his head for the tiny varmints.

I caved.

We got him all set up outside with the clippers before  I realized that I had never given a buzz cut before. Jan’s dad, a retired Air Force colonel, is our usual barber and not only does a wonderful job , but saves us lots of money.

But Buddy had complete trust in me – or else he was desperate.

A few anxious minutes later – Buddy was buzzed.

He grinned from ear to ear.

Mom cried.

His sisters told him it was cute and every time he walked past them they would rub his head – which annoyed the kid so much that in desperation he resorted to…

hats…2 hats and a hoodie.

Hmmm… now tell me son, how does a buzz cut keep you cool in the heat when you keep it so well covered?!

Cowboy Night

Okay – raise your hands here – who is tired of winter?

It was during this long spell between Christmas and Spring several years ago that a Shervheim family tradition was born.

It had been a very long and cold winter. They kids had been inside more than out and we were all a little stir crazy. We needed something different – something to break the monotony.

I had been looking for something in the back of one of my cupboards and discovered my cast iron pans.  In the other room I heard one of the little ones whooping it up on the wonder horse while his siblings chased each other around the room shooting their tinker toy guns.

That was it! We would have a Cowboy Night!


The kids enthusiastically jumped into the planning.  We made a special supper using the cast iron pans – just like a chuck wagon – and ate it by the light of our kerosene lamp dressed for supper in our cowboy best.

Then we watched The Lone Ranger before bed.

The kids loved it – and started asking for it about mid-January every year.

The menu has changed from year to year – but it always includes baking powder biscuits, some sort of beef cooked in the cast iron dutch oven, and a fruit crisp or cobbler in a cast iron skillet.

We’ve added some authentic Cowboy music with a Sons of the San Joaquin CD.

And the cowboy costumes are no longer mandatory – usually only worn by Buddy.

But the feel and the memories are still there.

It took just a few minutes on a miserably cold winter day to create a tradition that  binds us together.

Years from now – in the cold of late winter –  as my kids are scattered with their own homes and families – maybe, just maybe – they’ll remember the cast iron pans, the tinker toy guns, and The Lone Ranger.

And they call each other up and say “Hey – you remember Cowboy Night?”

Birth of a Hummingbird

The birds are busy singing and building here, getting their nests ready for the season. It’s always exciting to find a nest and watch the babies hatch from the eggs. We have been able to watch several bluebird nests through the years, but I have never seen a real hummingbird nest, until now!

My mom just sent me this link that is filled with amazing pictures of baby hummingbirds. Someone found a hummingbird nest and carefully took pictures starting with the eggs all the way to the young bird leaving the nest. It took just 24 days from birth to flight.

There are five pages in all, with the last picture showing a matchstick and a penny in the nest so that you can visualize the actual size. Amazing!

Check it out for yourself at:

Making My Own Suet (or How to Really Stink Your House Up and Make Your Children Gag!)

Make it yourself SuetI had read several articles and researched several recipes, so I felt prepared to attempt to make my very own suet.

It looked pretty easy. Melt fat and add lots of ingredients that birds like, such as nuts and seeds. No problem right?

I decided to use the packages of lard that have been at the bottom of my freezer since the last time we butchered a hog, say 3-4 years. (Somehow I never quite got around to using it!)

Do you have any idea what fat does when it sits in the freezer for a long time (say 3-4 years)? It gets rancid and very smelly. We discovered this as soon as I put the lard in a pot on the stove. The entire house was filled with the horrid smell of old fat. My children were running around with the noses plugged making gagging noises. I can’t blame them, I felt like it, too.

Thankfully the fat melted quickly and we could add the peanut butter, old wheat berries, and oatmeal to the pan. We mixed it quickly and poured it into an old cake pan to harden.

Once you got past the smell it actually went pretty well. They birds seemed to enjoy it, the chickens loved the scraps that fell off, and I got rid of some very old (say 3-4 years) lard.

I’d say it was a win-win for everybody (at least once the smell cleared out of the house)!

Yet Another Varmint: The Pesky Squirrel

Here he comes, straight down the roof of the gazebo, heading straight for the feeder, which is conveniently located right outside the patio door for perfect viewing.

Just finished his meal and is heading back…

…when he spots the suet feeder and has a little dessert!

These great shots were sent to me by my sister. They had quite a time with that pesky squirrel!This is one time that even a squirrel baffle wouldn’t have helped. But it did provide some wonderful entertainment for the children!

Setting Up a Bluebird Trail Part 4: When?

When should you set out your bluebird boxes? In my part of the country (Southern Iowa) now would be a good time! Bluebirds typically start nesting in March and continue through August.

We’ve always found that having a nest box open and ready in the early season is a great way to attract bluebirds. Many times we are able to get one nesting early in the season before some of the more aggressive birds (such as the house sparrow and the house wren) arrive to compete for the nest boxes.

We’ve attached the nest boxes on hedge posts and metal T-posts (used for fencing), but you could also a commercial wooden post. You can mount them right on trees, but they seem to be more susceptible to predators. (Raccoons, snakes and other climbing predators can easily climb the tree and destroy the nesting birds. Squirrels have also been know to chew and destroy the box itself!)

Once the boxes are out, you are ready for business! Now all you need is spring and the return of the bluebirds. But I’ll have to admit, that seems pretty far away right now! As I am writing this, we are under yet another Winter Storm Warning, and March is just 2 weeks away!

But the thought of spring with all the green leaves, warmer weather and the bluebirds nesting is enough to give me hope that sooner or later, even this winter will have to end! Preparing the bluebird nest boxes is just another act of faith, just like buying my garden seeds!

The Bully’s Back: Meet the Blue Jays

Everything has been so peaceful and calm at our feeder this winter. The regulars have been polite and very social, no pushing or shoving, that is until now. The blue jays are back. He flew in with a whole flock of his cronies and took over the feeder for a while, sending all but the bravest of the smaller birds up into the tree to wait for him to be finished.

Maybe I’m a little prejudiced but the character Sammy Jay in the classic Thornton Burgess books for children, but to me, the blue jay has always appeared to be the bully of the bird feeder. He swoops in like he owns the place and scares everyone else away. He chitters and chatters as if scolding all he sees.

He is a beautiful bird, but please don’t tell him. His head is already big enough! The deep blue coloring of his back and wings are set off perfectly by his white breast. He’s a bright spot of color against a dreary winter horizon . But there’s something about the way he holds his head and how his beak looks as if he is wrinkling his nose at the world that makes his entire demeanor appear stuck-up. Oh well, Sammy Jay can still feed at my feeder, despite his bad manners. I will admit that his antics provide a bit of enjoyment for those of us on the other side of the window.

A Silent Winter Walk

I finally got out of the house today and enjoyed a beautiful winter afternoon. The sky was a brilliant blue and the sun was shining. The most recent snowfall was melting showing more patches of brown grass than snow. It was wonderful to be out. I walked the trails for the first time in weeks and was amazed by the stillness. The only sounds that could be heard were a raucous crow, an occasional dripping of melting snow and my own feet as I crunched along the trail. It was as if all the world around me was asleep. What a difference from my walks in the spring and summer when I’m surrounded by a cacophony of sounds. The whole world is alive then with bird songs and the buzzing of insects and the croaking of the frogs in the ponds.

But now it is quiet. I appreciate the stillness of a winter walk. I need the stillness of a winter walk. My soul soaks up the quiet like a sponge. My responsibilities and worries and concerns just melt away as the peace of the winter afternoon surrounds me. I returned to my responsibilities with a clear thoughts and a smile on my face, ready to face my challenges.

Mourning Doves at my Feeder!

We had another first at our feeder this past week! A Mourning Dove with her air of class and distinction choose our Woodlink feeder to partake of a meal during the cold snap . Although doves are common to many feeders, we have never seen one at ours. My father-in-law has several feeders out just down the road from us and had seen quite a flock of 24 mourning doves feeding just a few days before ours arrived.

At 9-13 inches tall, they are a mid-sized bird. Their muted gray and brown coloring reminds me of the dignified matron of the past. Always neat and well-dressed in a classical kind of way. Not a hair out of place and dressed to not call undue attention to oneself. Even their call is smooth and mournful. They are seed-eaters and typically ground feeders, but when the ground is snow-covered, they are quick to find a feeder and thoroughly enjoyed our sumptuous feast of sunflowers. She was just a guest however, and did not linger long after lunch. We do hope she stops by again so we can further enjoy her demur appearance.

Another Woodpecker Sighting!

All the ice, snow and cold weather has made our bird feeders the “in” place to hang out the last few weeks! It was right after a massive ice storm that we spotted our first Downy Woodpecker at our Woodlink feeder. What a beautiful bird! I’m not sure why they haven’t frequented our feeders, although they might feel more welcome if we added suet to our menu. This loner was looking for an easy meal during pretty tough conditions and we were very glad to serve it. He didn’t stick around long, just for a day and we haven’t seen him since, although we have looked! He seemed to get a long just fine with the juncos and the finches, all of our regular customers. I guess he just needed a respite from the storm as he journeyed onward.

That’s one of the joys of feeding birds during the winter months, the ability to watch a bird closely for a few minutes from the warm, dry house. They are much harder to see in the other seasons when there is an abundance of color and activity all around. The stark surroundings of winter and the need for food brings these hard to spot birds out in the open where even my young ones can watch them and enjoy them.