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At Home in Ohio

Horse Sense

Connie Moore

horse

A tiny news piece came across my desk the same day a photograph of a horse was given to me. They made me think of the television show, Mr. Ed

The show about a talking horse aired from 1961 to 1966. It was financed by comedian George Burns at a cost of 70,000 dollars — a lot of money back then. Wilbur Post, Mr. Ed’s owner, was played by Alan Young; Mrs. Post was played by Connie Hines. Mr. Ed was played by Bamboo Harvester, a crossbred gelding of American Saddlebred, Arabian, and grade stock. Apparently — going by comments made from those who worked with him — Bamboo was one smart horse. Of course his voice was a man’s, Allan Lane — a western film actor.

Mr. Ed often made use of sayings involving his own species. "Hold your horses," "Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth," "Straight from the horse’s mouth," and "Putting the cart before the horse" are just a few.

It was his knack for listening to Wilbur’s troubles that often gave Mr. Ed the edge on how to solve situations that otherwise might have been Wilbur’s downfall. And that is where a little news piece was of special interest.

In a Mahoning County, Ohio newspaper of 1917, horses were shown to be good listeners. It reported: “The horse is really one of the best listeners in the world. He is always on alert for sounds which concern or interest him. When he looks at anything he turns his ears towards it to observe the better whether any sound comes from it. If a horse is particularly interested in your driving of him he always turns his ears backward toward you, but if he has no concern on that subject or if he sees anything ahead that interests him he keeps his ears pricked forward. A horse hears the whinny of another horse at a greater distance than the average man can hear it.”

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Besides being good at listening, it is said horses have a memory on par with an elephant’s. And they stay awake for a whopping average of 21 hours a day. Truly an amazing creature.

Do you know what horsepower is really about? It is the amount of power it would take to pull a 150-pound weight out of a hole 22 feet deep. Oh, and to do it in one minute. That translates to a 1,700-pound horse equaling 1-1/3 horsepower.

To keep up their strength, horses eat grass, hay, and oats. For treats, they are as individual in tastes as humans. Some go for the healthy stuff like carrots, apples, bananas, and hay cubes. But if given an opportunity to try different items, well, horses have been known to love peppermints, cookies, oranges, sugar cubes, different sugary cereals, cat food, hot dogs, and an occasional beer or Coke.

While none of Ohio’s horses talk, they do make inroads into our hearts. Here are a few of our favorite snapshots. The next time you encounter a horse, watch his ears; he’s listening to you, he’s watching you, he’s wondering if you might have a bite of something sweet for him. If you do, he’ll remember you forever.

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Celery Sense

Connie Moore

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There’s a love-hate relationship with this vegetable that goes crunch. Just look online under “Why do people hate celery?” A 2011 Japanese survey showed it is the most hated vegetable among adults. A 2012 New York Times article began, “Americans don’t use celery much.”

For we who love the green stalks, March is National Celery Month. All sorts of possibilities come to mind. Stewed, fried, soup, stew, appetizers, side dishes, dessert. (Oops, did that say dessert? Yep, celery goes into a ribbon-winning cake.)

Before we get to recipes, though, let’s take a walk through a bunch of celery. It’s low in calories and high in fiber; a good source of potassium and containing small amounts of Vitamin C. The leaves contain more than the stalks as far as nutrients, so use them for garnishes, soups, in place of parsley, and in salads.

Traditional herbalists use celery and celery seed tea for treating gout and other inflammatory arthritis. Celery is 95 percent water, so it can easily be incorporated in smoothies and other nutritious drinks. It can grow to over 3 feet tall in rich, black peat or, as some call it, muck.

Among Ohio towns is Celeryville, located in Huron County. Known as the celery belt, the land in this area was once a swamp (Willard Marsh). Draining a 5000-acre swamp was a challenge taken on by three Dutch families from Kalamazoo, Michigan. That was back in 1896. Today, the Wiers family is raising hundreds of acres of celery. Their business started out with 8 trucks and 10 trailers. Today they have farms in Ohio and Florida. They use 125 trucks and 200 refrigerated trailers. This year will mark 111 years for their farms.

In 1856, in our already mentioned Kalamazoo, MI, celery was introduced as a crop by George Taylor from Scotland. Today Portage, Michigan is home to the Celery Flats Interpretive Center. Located on Garden Lane, the interpretive center is on the north side, and an historical area is on the south side.

While most recipes calling for celery use a very small amount, our recipes highlight this vegetable as a main ingredient. Well, all except the cake, but it’s still important and I promise, it won’t go crunch!


Mom’s Celery Casserole

Ingredients

• 1-1/2 cups bread cubes
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 4 cups diced celery (including leaves)
• 1 can (10-3/4 oz.) cream of chicken, celery, or mushroom soup
• 1 can (4 oz.) mushroom pieces

Instructions:

1. In skillet, sauté bread cubes in butter until crunchy like croutons.

2. In saucepan, cook celery in enough water to cover it for 8 minutes, then drain.

3. Measure out 1/2 cup bread cubes for topping. In 2-quart baking dish, combine the rest of the bread cubes with celery, soup, and mushrooms. Mix well. Top with reserved bread cubes, which may be crushed if desired.

4. Bake in oven at 325 degrees F for 35 minutes.

Recipe source: Together We Share by Connie Moore and Evah Lewis, 2000.


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Ants on a Log

Ingredients

• Celery
• Peanut butter or cream cheese
• Raisins, Craisins or chopped nuts

Instructions:

This can be an appetizer or snack.

1. Wash celery and drain. Cut into 3-inch long logs.

2. Stuff with your choice of peanut butter, cream cheese, or even Nutella.

3. Place raisins, Craisins, or nutmeats along the top of the creamy stuffing. Enjoy!


Celery Chowder

Ingredients

• 4 cups cooked, diced celery
• 1 small onion, minced
• 1 cup cooked, diced carrots
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 1-2 tablespoons flour
• 2 teaspoons salt
• Pepper to taste
• 3 cups milk, warmed

Instructions:

1. Celery should be cooked well in enough water to cover. When soft, drain. Rub through sieve, discarding stringy residue.

2. Sauté onion and carrots in butter until soft and just starting to turn golden. Add celery. Blend in flour, salt, and pepper.

3. Warm milk in saucepan or microwave. Add gradually to vegetables, stirring to blend well.

4. Cook on low until thickened, about 5 minutes.

Recipe adapted from 1948 Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook.


Waldorf Salad Cake

Ingredients

• 3 cups flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons cinnamon
• 2 large eggs
• 1-1/2 cups sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 cup mayonnaise
• 1/2 cup milk
• 2-1/2 cups apples, peeled and chopped
• 1 cup chopped walnuts
• 1/2 cup celery, finely diced
• Garnish of apple slices, cherries, celery leaves, nuts — optional

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour three, 8-inch cake pans.

2. Sift together dry ingredients.

3. In bowl, using electric mixer, cream eggs, sugar, vanilla. Beat in mayonnaise. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk. Mix in apples, nuts and celery. Pour into pans.

4. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pans for a few minutes. Remove and cool completely.

5. Frost (below). Decorate with optional garnishes. Be sure to dip apple slices in lemon juice or fruit fresh product to prevent browning!

Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

• 1/2 cup butter or margarine
• 1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese at room temp.
• 4 cups powdered sugar (4x or confectioners’)
• 2 teaspoons maraschino cherry juice

Instructions:

1. Beat all ingredients until creamy and spreadable.

Cake recipe won fourth place in 2004 at Clark County Fair and is property of Clark County Agricultural Society. Printed in County Fair Cookbook-Dishes of the Day, 2010.

February Fishing

Connie Moore

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Dry, brown oak leaves swirl downward to land in rippling waters like gondolas. Kingfishers call out over the lake. Warm sunshine dissolves into the still icy-cold water.

Suddenly, nine Canadian geese fly in low, bank, turn, and bank again. Slowly, they put down their landing gears, dropping onto the lake. All the while muffled voices float across the water as fishermen, bent on wetting lines, come to grips with rod and reel. There is no danger of an exciting catch. Not today. It is only February. More weather must pass under the bridge before fish bite here.

There is a calmness in the warmth of the day, though. Not so much a seasonal change, but rather a mild midlife twinge of events to come. Bare trees still hold last year’s dried leaves, not quite ready to let go and embrace the new leaf buds tightly curled beneath. Spring’s colors aren’t ready to appear; that’s weeks off.

Colors are in sight though. Sitting under the bobber tree, we wonder how long and how many fishermen it took to decorate these oak boughs so generously with red and yellow bobbers. Silvery spooners and opaque masses of fishing line hang like holiday tinsel. Not wanting to add to the decorations, we carefully cast sideways into the open air, aiming for a particularly warm looking bit of water.

Not that it matters. The fish are still a dozen or more feet below anything we offer. Slow and sluggish to thaw from winter’s cold, they are in no hurry to rise to the bait. We knew that when we came out. But, like the men on the lake, we were drawn out, enticed by the calmness, the warm sunshine, the possibilities of seeing and hearing nature come to terms with the oddness of the weather. So, whether the line is in the water or not, we spend time in our fishing spot.

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No, this is not a day about fishing. It is about a moment, pure, warm, and inviting, a nature moment that only comes once before spring heralds the real fishing season.

It's a One Potato Day

Connie Moore

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February days can be brutal. Weather is not conducive to outdoor hours. Time is not any more forgiving than any other winter month. Cooking is taking on a boring element.

In desperation, we resort to experimentation of culinary magnitudes. Can what is left in cupboards be combined to make a surprisingly edible something that is not completely off-putting and is somewhat like the imagined outcome?

At the same time — probably due to the common factor of boredom — the Powers That Be have declared the month of February be inundated with special food days. You know, those "holidays" that beckon us to eat a particular food? In the first 14 days of February there are 14 different food days. February’s last 14 days have a "holiday" for 17 more foods. It means you might have to eat banana bread, toast, and chili on the same day (the 23rd). That’s not so bad, but, how about chocolate-covered nuts and clam chowder together (the 25th)?

Referring to the second paragraph — the desperate experimentation — we opt for February 22 as our guide to gastronomical surprise. It is National Cook a Sweet Potato Day. We have one sweet potato left in the basket. Iit only takes about 20 minutes to cook in the microwave and yields a straight-forward half-cup of mashed potato. Now what?

Well, we could eat it just like it is, but remember, we are looking for exciting surprises. So we might mix it into some fudge. Or blend it into a can of tomato soup. Or spread it on a piece of toast and top with cheese, melting the whole thing under the broiler. Or we could mix it with pecans, brown sugar, butter, and a touch of cinnamon for a microwaved cup of soufflé.

We could wash the potato, dry it, slice it, and dip the slices in some water that is mixed with lemon juice or vinegar. That will keep the slices from turning brown (like preserving apples or avocados). Then pat the slices dry and fry them in deep oil for a small, one-serving batch of potato chips.

We could make one of my mother’s favorite winter suppers. She boiled a sweet potato or two, and when it was almost done she cooled, peeled and sliced it. In a skillet, she melted butter, added a cored, peeled, sliced apple (or two) and a bit of brown sugar. Over low heat she fried the potato and apple until soft and browned a bit. Sometimes she fixed a whole casserole of this mixture and baked it in a 325-degree oven for half an hour.

Yet another skillet dish is cubed sweet potatoes, sautéed in butter with a bit of orange juice, raisins, or dried cranberries.

But we wanted to use the sweet potato to the best of our abilities in regards to surprise twists, so this is what we did:

Fudge Brownies.

Here is how we made them. And when we passed them out, we put the secret ingredient in an envelope and let the recipient choose to know before or after as to what they were eating.

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After all, what’s a day in February without a challenge?

Sweet Potato Brownies

Ingredients

• 1/2 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
• 3 tablespoons water
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil
• 2 eggs
• 1 box (18.3oz.) fudge brownie mix (We used Betty Crocker)

Instructions

1. In mixing bowl place potato, vanilla, water, oil, and eggs. Using electric mixer, beat until well combined.

2. Add the brownie mix and stir together using mixing spoon. Mix thoroughly, but do not beat hard.

3. Pour into a greased 13x9-inch baking dish. Bake in preheated, 350-degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until done.

4. Cool and cut. Can be glazed with dark, bitter, or milk chocolate.

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Just Before a January Winter Morning

Connie Mooresunrise

Off to the east, there is a wedge of sky that holds soft blue, creamy white, and that mellow, cottony, winter pink of sunrise. Outlined by roof edges and bare-limbed trees, the space is the first area in which to see the new day.

To hear the new day, you must be willing to brave the still-cold air and sit outside wrapped in blankets and dark clothing so as to blend in with the tangled fence row. There, ever-so-slight peeps of cardinals and sparrows can be heard if we holds our breathe. Life seems suspended in time.

As the light increases in the wedge of sky, more sounds join as feathered creatures wake to empty stomachs and the need for quick energy. Moving inside, we give way to their need to come out of hiding. While we enjoy hot coffee, they enjoy seeds and suet.

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They have a hierarchy or pecking order for the first meal. Juncos and cardinals are first and eat off the ground under the feeder. With charcoal-grey coats, the juncos blend in well and, surprisingly, so do the red cardinals. Mourning doves come in under cover of pre-dawn, wary of a certain cooper’s hawk which makes a regular fly-through on frigid mornings. He needs quick energy, too. A dozen gray doves keep to flower bed edges, ready to leap for cover if the hawk’s large, dark shadow appears.

White-throated sparrows, chestnut-capped chipping sparrows, brown stickpin song sparrows, and the ever-present house sparrows are next to show up. They too prefer the ground, although the crowds of house sparrows will inundate the feeder and shuffle seeds off the edge.

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As sunlight streams across the fence into the expanse between trees and feeder, a large woodpecker swoops in. Although his cap is red, he is a red-bellied woodpecker. He is keen for the peanuts mixed in with the seeds. He takes his turn, and as he flies off to eat in the safety of a tree, his mate takes her turn.

Back on the suet feeder, downy woodpeckers take turns. They don’t mind the Carolina wren eating on the other side of the wire cage that holds the suet block. When it is this cold out, they are tolerant of each other’s presence. Perhaps they have a community sense of survival. Inside, we have a family sense of survival, beginning with our own breakfast.

One week later, the same wedge of sky is a brilliant, spring-like pink with thin, yellow shafts of sunlight. To see and hear this day, one could hardly imagine that it is still January. Birds, too, feel the warmer air moving in for the first time since November. Songs replace squeaks of hunger. The day will prove to be another yo-yo turn of weather events. Sixty degrees is not hot oatmeal weather.

Rain is in the mix. Keeping birds and humans alike holed up under cover, high winds sweep in over the land. Turbulent air moves over our valley and the rest of Ohio, bringing an aching for the real warmth of spring.

Another few days and the cold returns. Icy conditions bring much activity to a standstill. But the birds still need to feed. Slip-sliding over the feeder roof, bigger ones flutter into piled up seeds. On the ground, dozens mill about, scratching up seeds caught in the icy mix. Their small faces look as forlorn as we feel. It’s back to hot oatmeal and survival.

Each morning we look to the wedge of sky, wondering what it will hold as the day begins. Soft, muted tones or bold, bright light? Will there be sounds of hunger or songs of delight? Only January knows.

Winter Outdoor Cooking

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In one of our old family albums, there is a faded black-and-white photo of my husband grilling in the dead of winter with snow a foot deep. He is dressed out as thick as an Eskimo, the grill shifted to the open porch where he could keep an eye on it and run into the house to catch a breath of warm air every so often.

He had no desire to stand out in January cold, building a fire, slowly grilling a beef roast with barbecue sauce on it. Yes, it could have been done in the oven, but what about the great smoke flavor? What about the challenge of keeping the temp just right? What about the macho thing? Ah, yes, that was back when he was young, easily influenced by his wife and willing to answer questions from the curious neighbors.

We still grill in winter, but it is our son who is master of the outdoor range now. With a grill and smoker, just about any meat or fish can be cooked. While I write this, the smoker is puffing away with a five-pound pork butt (mustard and dry rub applied) slowly coming to a temperature of 205 degrees F in a heat of 265 degrees F. Patience is essential; hours go by before it is time to let it cook over a pan of apple juice. After a ten-hour process, the meat is full of flavor and tender enough to shred at a touch of a fork. But it’s not done. Honey is smoothed over top and it rests for two hours. Only then is it shredded, sliced, and ready for the next day’s eating.

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Last evening, a large trout was cooked over coals in the kettle grill. Cold evening air blew steady all around, but the foot or so in front of the grill was toasty warm. An inviting aroma filled our senses with butter, salt, pepper, and thoughts of the hot sauce of butter, shallots, green onions, garlic, and hot pepper flakes to be poured over the plated, crispy, brown beauty. Fish cooks quickly, so it wasn’t long before we sat down to eat.

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Last week, the grill master produced a succulent, crisp-beyond-belief, spatchcocked chicken. In cooking history, spatchcock was a culled, immature, male chicken, but today it refers to a way of cooking a whole chicken quickly over high heat. It requires a very sharp pair of kitchen shears, and one cannot be squeamish when it comes to cutting through bones, gristle, and flesh in order to flatten the bird. The bird is butterflied. Cutting down both sides of the backbone and removing it completely will lend the bird space to spread out and flatten under the pressure of a heavy hand or iron skillet. The hardest part of it all is done. Apply a dry rub and put it on the hot grill. Cook till juices run clear and joints can be moved easily. Bring it in, tent with foil for ten minutes while putting the rest of dinner on, and dig in.

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While we can be satisfied with the entrée off the grill and a salad, some may want to round out the meal with vegetables and fruits. Blueberry Salsa goes well with the chicken. Fried Bacon Cornbread is a good side for the crispy fish (no sauce) or pork.

Blueberry Salsa

Ingredients:

• 1 large pink or red grapefruit (or substitute an orange)
• 1 teaspoon honey or sugar
• 1 tablespoon lime juice
• 1 cup fresh blueberries
• 1/2 tablespoon finely minced jalapeno pepper
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped red or sweet onion

Instructions:

1. Section grapefruit or orange and dice the sections. Add the rest of ingredients and mix — more or less pepper or onion is up to you.

2. Chill until serving time. Serve with chips, crackers, or alongside meat or fish.

Fried Bacon Cornbread

Ingredients:

• 1/2 cup cornmeal
• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
• 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• Dash each of salt and sugar
• 1 egg, beaten
• 1/2 cup milk
• 3 slices crispy fried bacon, crumbled
• Leftover kernel corn, optional
• Vegetable oil or butter for frying

Instructions:

1. In mixing bowl, sift together flour and baking powder; stir it into the cornmeal.

2. Add salt, sugar and crumbled bacon. If using corn, add also.

3. Mix egg and milk together; add to dry ingredients and mix well.

4. Heat oil or butter in heavy, 10-inch, nonstick skillet or well-seasoned iron skillet. Drop batter by tablespoons into hot oil. Fry until brown, turn, cook until done.

5. Serve hot with butter and maple syrup.

Baffling Squirrels

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Photo courtesy Russell Moore Photography

For decades, mankind has been baffled by a smallish, gray, furry, and unquestionably cute creature. Oh, they have come to know all sorts of technical information about the rodent — structural makeup, strength of limbs and muscles, living habits, eating habits, etc. — but what baffles so many scientists and common folk alike is just exactly what goes on in that tiny little brain that gives them the edge over inventions meant to thwart their upward and outward trek towards contents of bird feeders.

Yes, we’re talking squirrels, those intrepid backyard animals that make feeding the birds a challenge par none. The extent to which writers over the years have gone to document the cuteness of these creatures can be seen in a simple count of the Clark County website catalog of books. Over 200 books line the juvenile bookshelves. There are series such as Those Darn Squirrels and Scaredy Squirrel. Four titles are simply Squirrel. There are titles that hint of what a squirrel can do such as Frisky, Brisky, Hippity-Hop and Aw, Nuts.

In the story books, all squirrels are named. Mick, Mack and Molly play together while Bob and Rob have their own adventures. Then there are Mario and Isabelle and Merle. One of the older squirrels of course is Squirrel Nutkin, from author Beatrix Potter. Yes, there is much to read about those little furry bundles of energy.

On the other hand, only one book shows up in the adult reading section on how to cope with — nay, outwit — the residential squirrel. Actually, we should use the plural, because if there is one squirrel then there is more than one. Our backyard and adjoining trees are home to five. But we have them baffled when it comes to our large bird feeder. More on that in a minute.

It seems that at least one man has had the courage not only to investigate and experiment, but also to document his findings, failures and all. Bill Adler, Jr. wrote Outwitting Squirrels: 101 Cunning Stratagems to Reduce Dramatically the Egregious Misappropriation of Seed from Your Birdfeeder by Squirrels. The title says it all. The 101 list is in the back of the book, but we recommend you read the whole thing. It is truly an eye-opener into the world of squirrels. And for the most part, the entire world around your bird feeder. Written in 1988, the book is in its 3rd edition, so that tells you it’s a must-read for anyone thinking of feeding birds.

Squirrel-proof feeders are addressed at length in Adler’s book. Brands such as GSP Feeder, Steel Squirrel-Proof Feeder, The Hylarious Fortress Post Feeder, Cling-a-Wing and Spinning Satellite and others are tested, summarized and rated.

Locally, most stores that stock birdseed also sell feeders, some of which are supposed to thwart squirrels. Just recently, a local chain advertised Squirrel B Gone feeders and Squirrel Stumper bird feeders. Costs can swing as wildly as a squirrel trying to hang onto those feeders — a few dollars to over twenty.

Sometimes a book can be worth its weight in energy and monetary savings. Taking note of Adler’s experiments, measurements and predicaments, we have a squirrel-proof feeder, much to the delight of dozens of bird species and their human benefactors.

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Photo courtesy Russell Moore Photography

The feeder’s support post is an 8-foot long, treated, wood, 4x4 post, two feet of which is sunk in the ground. So, ground level to the bottom of the feeder is 6 feet. At the top of that six feet is an open-sided, roofed, platform feeder. Attached under that feeder is a 2-foot section of galvanized steel stove pipe. Just two screws hold it in place.

Squirrels have tried to climb it only to slide down. They have tried tunneling up under it only to back out, as it closes in closer to the top. Only once has any squirrel tried climbing the wood then leaping for the feeder. Unhurt, they thudded to the ground.

The feeder is placed away from any trees or bushes; the closest is ten feet away. And yes, the squirrels do climb those junipers, walk out to the very edge of the longest limbs, and get ready to jump. But a squirrel’s distance perception is remarkable, and calculating that the ten feet from where they stand to the feeder is more than they can high-dive, they are resolved to eat under the feeder and hope for a bunch of squabbling birds to shift seeds over the edge.

So far we haven’t named our squirrels, but we admit to (on occasion) adding to their sustenance a few peanuts or cereal/peanut butter nuggets. After all, they are furry and cute.


Comments? Email me at mooredcr@Juno.com.