Egrets, Egrets

The blog title might suggest I’m blogging about how to respond to an e-invite or invitation. I’m not.

I’m talking about are the small white herons that are seen in fields with cows. They’re about 20 inches long with a 36-inch wingspan when they fly and stand in a hunched position.

Recently, I spotted the white birds wandering in and out of cattle  at the edge of a friend and fellow writer’s pasture pond.

“Oh, those are cowbirds,” she said.

We begin to discuss how we always see cowbirds but had no idea why the name. or anything about the bird. That led to some research. Writers do love their research.

Cattle Egrets are native to Africa but somehow reached South American in the 1870s and migrated up. By the 1960s the white birds were documented as far north as Canada, west as far as California and east as far as Florida. Since Texas is about in the middle of those three, that would explain why we see so many of the birds in our cow pastures.

Sometimes the birds can be confused with Snowy Egrets. If you look closely, you’ll see a thicker neck, an orange or yellow bill, and dirty yellow legs and feet. Snowy Egrets like wet, water feeding.

Cowbird egrets prefer foraging field grass and pastures for the crickets, grasshoppers, and other insects the cattle hoofs stir up. They also clean the cows’ hide of ticks and fleas. That’s why you’ll see them on the cows’ backs and pecking the legs.

Their name comes from the grazing animals they team up with to forage. In other places, they are known as cow cranes, cow herons, cow birds, elephant birds, rhinoceros egrets, and hippopotamus egrets.

Breeding season runs April through September and depending on the arrival of fall even into October. Fall is running late here in southeast Texas and that’s why there are still so many cattle egrets this year.

My romance writer heart fluttered to learn they pair up and nest in established heronries year after year.

Now the next time you’re driving and spot a long-legged white bird on a cow’s back, you can wow your audience with tidbits of trivia.

If you really want to impress, throw in this little fact.

The oldest Cattle Egret on record was at least 17 years old when it was captured and released in Pennsylvania in 1979. It had been banded in Maryland in 1962.


Time to Clip Wings

A Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

The chicks that were hatched at my school last spring have grown into full sized birds now. The hens are even laying eggs so we are finally getting a return for all our investment.

One of the boys at my school was telling me that their hen was also laying eggs.  He was very excited.  He said they saved the first egg that was laid.  That is a sweet thought but not very practical.

I didn’t tell him this.

I remember the first egg laid by our hens.  It was a green egg and appeared shortly after a chemical fire near our house that required us to evacuate for the evening.  At first I wasn’t sure if the green egg was a result of the fumes from the fire.  Then I remembered that some breeds of hens lay green eggs.  I was very relieved.

Anyway, the birds from the school are quite adventurous.  Beekeeper Brian looked out the kitchen window to see them on top of the coop.

This is would not be a big problem except that several times I have found one of them in the yard next door.  Fortunately they always manage to find their way back.

Guess it is time to clip wings.


Quote on Life – Robert Frost

About the author

I had a high school English teacher who was very big on memorization. When we studied American poets, she made us memorize poems by Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, Walt Whitman, James Whitcomb Riley, and Edgar Allen Poe. I didn’t enjoy the assignments much back then. Now as words from the poems flow through my memory, I do.

Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is a favorite. When we lived where it actually snowed in the woods behind our house, I found myself reciting Frost’s poem often as I watched the snowflakes fall.

About the quote

In the throes of that English homework to memorize all those poems and passages from Shakespeare, life passed slowly. I didn’t think the semester would ever be over. Like Frost, I can say in retrospection — life did go on.

And, I’d add that all those memorized words were not wasted.


Wearing of the Pink

October brings a flood of pink, specifically pink ribbons. Since 1992, the wearing of a pink ribbon has been the international symbol of breast cancer awareness.

Ever wonder where ribbons and symbolism all started?

Penney Laingen, wife of a hostage who’d been taken prisoner in Iran in 1979 started the trend. Inspired by the song, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree,” she tied yellow ribbons around the trees in her front yard to await her husband’s return.

Yellow ribbons were used again to remember soldiers fighting and dying in the Gulf War. AIDS activists piggybacked on that, turned the ribbon red, and sent it on stage Jeremy Irons’ chest for the Tony Awards.

That propelled charitable organizations to begin using colored ribbon campaigns for their causes.

The first ribbon for breast cancer awareness was a peach-colored loop handmade by Charlotte Haley whose granddaughter, sister, and mother had battled breast cancer. She passed out sets of five along with a card that read: “The National Cancer Institute annual budget is $1.8 billion, only 5 percent goes for cancer prevention. Help us wake up our legislators and America by wearing this ribbon.”

Evelyn Lauder wanted to enhance upon Haley’s idea. Lauder had her lawyers approach Haley, who refused to relinquish her grassroots, word-of-mouth project. Lauder’s lawyers advised her to come up with a different color and she did.

She traded peach for pink and put pink grosgrain ribbons on cosmetics counters across the country promoting her Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF).

Pink is playful, life-affirming and studies show it has a calming, quietening effect and lessens stress, according to the Color Association of the United States. It’s perfect to symbolize everything breast cancer is not.

Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation gave a pink ribbon to runners in its New York City Race in 1991. The origins of the Run for the Cure ribbon is here.

And, so the pink ribbons we wear every October became the icon for awareness and and show moral support for those with breast cancer.

If you’re like me, you have one or more friends or family members who have been affected by breast cancer. I’ll be wearing a pink ribbon this month.

How about you?


Useful Chickens

A Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

It’s pretty well accepted that chickens are useful for laying eggs.

On Miller Farm, however, they serve other purposes.

They have been therapy chickens for a homesick international student.

They provide hours of entertainment for the humans on the farm.

They also give Chicken Wrangler Sara a workout when they escape from the chicken yard.

This morning I read about another brilliant use for chickens. Here is the headline:

Campus chickens combat crickets at Boerne elementary school

Students who take care of chickens are called “chicken tenders”

You can read all about Van Raub Elementary School in Boerne, Texas, and their cricket-eating chickens here. There’s even a video.

I’ve often wondered why we don’t see many crickets on Miller Farm. Now I know.


Quote on Human Potential – Purkey

About William Purkey

I ran across this quote in a The Passive Voice blog. Passive Guy always gives me food for thought with his blog posts where he shares blog site quotes along with a spattering of poetry.

In this blog he introduced me to William Purkey, author of this meme. Purkey was a public school teacher then Professor Emeritus of Counselor Education at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro who co-founded The International Alliance for Invitational Education to help educators foster human potential in educational settings. He authored a book titled Teaching Class Clowns. I wish I’d had that resource during my teaching years.

About the quote

A different version of Purkey’s quote hangs off the lamp on my computer desk, a gift from a dear friend. Both versions carry the same meaning.

Work like you don’t need the money.

Dance like no one is watching.

Love like you have never been hurt.

I’m sure there are other versions that encourage us to live in the moment and that’s a good thing. Both quotes make me smile. How about you? Did you smile when you read Purkey’s quote?


Breast Cancer Awareness and the Women Who Fostered It

Unless you live under a rock you know October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but it hasn’t always been that way.  Historically breast cancer was a taboo topic. Women with breast cancer didn’t discuss the topic publicly.

It was former First Lady Betty Ford who played a major role in bringing breast cancer out of the shadows when she allowed the press into her hospital room to discuss her diagnosis. Her openness increased the number of women willing to talk about it and, even more important, their open discussions led more women to have breast exams for early detection.

Ford’s actions were a catalyst for the 1985 partnership between the American Cancer Society and Imperial Chemical Industries, producer of anti-breast cancer drugs, to designate October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM).

Two other women also shared a major role in increasing public awareness.

  1. When Evelyn Lauder, senior corporate vice president of the Estée Lauder Companies, received a breast cancer diagnosis, she made breast cancer awareness an Estee Lauder brand staple. Her companies continue to do so today through her Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF).
  2. In 2013, Angelina Jolie publicly shared her decision to undergo a prophylactic mastectomy after testing positive for the BRCA gene. That catapulted BRCA gene mutation into the spotlight and encouraged research funding for genetic cancer.

These three women were forerunners in changing the prevailing attitude. These days we are keenly aware of breast cancer, but are the millions of marketing and advertising dollars spent to raise funds for awareness missing the mark?

Yes according to Paige More, a woman personally affected by breast cancer and co-founder of The Breasties.

She suggests money spent on awareness marketing efforts and advertising materials might be more beneficial if directed to a nonprofit, a hospital, or breast cancer research.

Statistics from The American Cancer Society estimate there will be 271,270 new cases of breast cancer in 2019, 99% of which will be diagnosed in women.

We still don’t have a cure . More research might fix that. Maybe Paige More is right, more funds should be divert to research and not so much to awareness.

What do you think?


Birthday of surprises

September is my birth month. This year I celebrated big time.

The festivities started early with a chocolate pinata. The chocolate ball is suspended then cracked open in true pinata style. Pineapple, strawberry, and churro pieces fall on a tray edged in whipped cream with cups of dipping sauces like caramel. Yummy confection.

Then on my actual birthday a beautiful bouquet of flowers from my youngest daughter arrived mid-afternoon. A surprise treat. And, I so love fresh flowers, especially roses.


Next Husband-dear surprised me when our dinner-for-two turned into dinner with our two best friends at a local Italian restaurant. Good food, good friends, and great conversation. A lovely evening.

Husband-dear collaborated with my favorite artist on another painting for my Barbara Rudolph collection, my fifth. Each has a specific significance for me. That’s Barbara’s unique gift building your interests into her paintings. Check out her gallery. She accepts commissions for specific paintings.

This delightful little chickadee painted on a vintage postcard is extra special. Our street is called Chickadee Lane and I collect vintage postcards.It was a delightful evening. But my celebration wasn’t over.

On the weekend my sister invited Husband-dear and me to dinner then surprised me by including my brother and my oldest daughter. Another lovely evening around the table with family. My sister also gave me a huge bouquet of carnations

and a picture of us…I’m not sure next year can top this year with surprises.


Thoughts from an Emptynester

A Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

During the past five months of living in our house with only Beekeeper Brian, I have noticed several things.

  1. Two adults cannot finish a gallon of milk before it goes bad. In fact, some weeks we barely finish a half gallon.
  2. Cooking dinner every night creates too many leftovers for two people.
  3. Some nights we just want to eat cold cereal. And we do.
  4. It is no longer necessary to do laundry on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I can do laundry twice a week and still do small loads.
  5. The large grocery cart is really too big. I can use the smaller one for my weekly shopping.
  6. I have considered only shopping once a week. I’m not sure I’m ready for that change.

I recently found an old pacifier in my lingerie drawer.  It belonged to our oldest daughter who is now 26 years old and married.  It reminded me of times past when the house was filled with noise and messes. It is quieter now and a little neater.

I’m not sure I’d say it was better – just different. A kind of different I can get used to.


What is Fall?

About the graphic

This suspended leaf with green in the background is a perfect depiction of fall for those of us who live along the Gulf Coast. No beautiful mountains of color here. Just the occasional leaf floating to earth.

About the quote

The quote is from Matt Lanza’s weather blog, Space City Weather. The full quote reads: “Autumn is really just a state of mind. In Houston it has to be because you certainly would never know it was just about autumn by stepping outside.”

And, indeed, we are having a very hot September. Our temperatures are in the 95+ range with heat indexes well over 100! To have a feel of fall at my house, I’m hauling fall decorations out and using fake fall foliage accents.