Our friends, Greg and Sherry, bought an old barn on a large piece of property in Minnesota a couple of years ago. Since then they have spent a lot of time between here, Jacksonville, and there, making changes, clearing a few trees around the barn, and putting on an addition to the original structure. Out of the old barn has emerged a lovely living space of two bedrooms, a bathroom, an open plan kitchen, dining room and lounge area, plus a nice comfortable screened in porch.
There is still a lot of work to do, but the main thrust is there. The rest is mainly “accessorizing”: putting in permanent flooring, deciding on décor and finishes, and painting the exterior. The barn-house is surrounded by woodland and even though there are two sets of neighbors living close by, the trees almost completely hide the other houses from view.
Five days into our retirement ride we stopped to visit with Greg and Sherry. In fact we spent 4 blissful days with them in their “little piece of paradise” (my label). One element of this new habitat that I really enjoyed is that they have installed floor to ceiling windows in the dining room and on both sides of the spacious lounge. This means that not only does a lot of natural light fill the home but it also seems like sitting in the middle of the woods – but with all mod cons!
While we were there, I spent my early morning quiet time sitting in a chair right up against one of these enormous windows. With my meditation books in hand and a cup of herbal tea close by, I was truly in “God’s space”. Greg and Sherry have placed several bird feeders within a few yards of this particular window and the morning activity was quite frenzied. Nuthatches and Downy Woodpeckers vied with Hairy Woodpeckers and Chickadees as well as some small sparrows and titmice, while the hummingbirds buzzed in and out. I also saw a bluebird one day.
The squirrels up there were enormous, about twice the size of squirrels down here in Florida. Although Greg and Sherry had installed a really interesting squirrel feeder for them, they still came and tried to access the bird feeders once in a while. But they also had a plentiful supply of corn down on the ground because our friends also took care of the numerous deer that would come almost up to the house in search of food.
Every evening at about 9pm we would spot movement out among the trees. We would turn off the lights inside the house, and soon we would see the deer emerging cautiously from the trees and coming toward a large block of salt that Greg and Sherry had attached to a tree, and also toward a long wooden palette that lay close by on the ground piled high with corn. They are such graceful creatures and are a delight to watch. One evening we were treated to the spectacle of a mother deer with her two young ones.
During the four days that we stayed, I also got to see an animal that I had never seen before – at least, not in real life. I’m sure you’ve all heard them “singing” and maybe even seen them in an animated movie. Yes, I’m talking about the chipmunk. I was so amazed at how small they were! I had always imagined chipmunks to be the size of a squirrel, but instead they are these tiny little animals probably about the size of a hamster. They were very entertaining scampering here and there in the undergrowth. Richard managed to get some really good pictures one day as a chipmunk decided to sit on a small fallen log not far from the window and complete his/her morning ablutions.
Although they did not come into the yard, we also saw many Canadian geese and wild turkeys not too far from the house as we made various trips in the surrounding area. There were two very large fields on opposite sides of a nearby road that had been mowed recently, and the geese were there in large numbers mainly in the morning, probably more than a hundred at a time, feeding on whatever geese feed on. The turkeys were usually in a lower section of the field apart from the geese.
It was such a joy to be surrounded by so much of nature’s wonders that God created for our pleasure. I am so grateful that Sherry and Greg gave us such great hospitality in their tranquil haven, and I hope it won’t be too long before we can go back and enjoy it some more. We have to go back anyway, so that we can see the finished product that is their summer retreat!
What an amazing way to start the day; such nourishment for the soul!! This morning I was sitting in my lanai by 6.45am. It was going to be another day full of brilliant sunshine and very low humidity and I was ready for it. I love the subtle yet clear light and the silence of the early morning.
Within moments of being there it was as though someone had pushed a button. For the next 30 minutes I was treated to my own High-Def, surround sound, 3-D, wide screen live show. And through it all the sun rose higher and the light got rosier.
The Hummingbirds came out in full force. Within minutes there were at least four couples buzzing in and out and over the yard. I know they were couples because each set of two sported one ruby-throated male. It seemed as though there were bright red diamonds flashing about the garden.
The couples dived and rose together in perfect unison, twisting this way and that. Suddenly, they would come to an abrupt hovering halt, facing each other. For a few moments they hung quivering in space about six inches apart and then it seemed as though they leaned in to each other in two or three darting movements, as if exchanging quick kisses. Then off they zoomed for some more madly ecstatic flight.
Meanwhile, in the background, at the birdfeeder on the back fence, Mamma and Papa Cardinal were taking turns at having breakfast. The male, in all his glorious scarlet beauty, would eat then hop up onto the fence and stand guard while his mate had her fill. When she flew back into the tree behind the fence, he would go again to the feeder and eat some more. As she flew down again, he resumed his spot on the fence and gallantly awaited until she finished.
While all this was going on, several Titmice were playing at catch-me-if-you-can in and out of the wrought iron work of the old gazebo. I was sure they were just marking time and waiting for the Cardinals to finish feeding. And in fact, as soon as they flew off, the Titmice descended on the feeder and took their turn.
I had one more unexpected treat in store. After the Titmice had finished at the feeder and the Hummingbirds were taking a well-earned rest from their tactical maneuvers, I went inside to make some tea. As I stepped back out into the lanai I noticed a large black bird on the feeder. It was a very “glistening” black, almost like a raven. Its beak was also black.
He was about the size of a Cardinal, but sleeker, slimmer. It was definitely not as large as a crow. I began ruffling the pages of my “Birds Of North America” by Kenn Kaufman but could not find a match. Then suddenly the bird moved around on the feeder and I was looking at his profile. There on the side of his breast where the wing met his body, was a flash of vivid red underscored by a slash of white.
Once again I checked my book and I believe I found my answer. There amongst the Blackbirds was a species called the Red-winged Blackbird. It was obviously a male which still had not completely acquired his full summer plumage, hence the slash of white. Although the book indicated that these are “abundant and familiar” birds throughout Northern America, this was the first time I had seen one.
By the time my new visitor had left the feeder, everyone else had retired to the trees or moved on to greener pastures. With the exception of a couple of butterflies who went their merry way, dancing from bloom to bloom. What a wonderful gift God has given us with His creation and what a blessing to have so much of it in my small patch of the world.