Tag Archives: nature

Squirrely Behavior


Years ago, the squirrel population around our home seems to be on the increase. One of their favorite pastimes was gathering nuts from my neighbor’s trees and relocating them to my yard. For years this has been happening with acorns, resulting in me pulling up tiny oak trees each spring.

Now they’ve added hickory nuts to their menu, as my bare feet frequently encounter empty half shells in my lawn. Though they try to bury their treasures, my sod is too thick for them to have much success.

These squirrels are increasingly comfortable around humans, too, no longer scurrying away as I approach. When I was moving a sprinkler, I saw one squirrel furiously pawing at my grass attempting to dig a hole at the base of a Maple tree—and having some success in doing so.

I approached him to scare him off. He was not deterred.

I saw one squirrel furiously pawing at my grass attempting to dig a hole at the base of a Maple tree—and having some success in doing so. Click To Tweet

Forty feet away and he stopped digging to give me a long look, not fearful, but amused.

Thirty feet away and he paused to give a long and vigorous scratch to the back of his head; I think he was grinning at me.

Twenty feet away and he rolled over on this back, but not in a posture of submission as some animals do. He shimmied from side to side, rubbing his back on the hole he was boring, feet flailing in the air with unabashed jubilation. I’m sure he was laughing at me, daring me to come closer.

Ten feet away and he scampered around the tree trunk, poking his head out to watch my approach.

I circled the tree and he did the same, climbing up several feet so we could look at each other in the eye. I think he was enjoying this.

We played hide and seek for a while, and then I couldn’t find him. Eventually looking up, I spied him perched on a branch, looking down on me from a safe distance.

I instructed him sternly to stop digging holes in my lawn. I think we have an understanding.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

I’ve Got Water, How About You?

clean water

Although April began with the proverbial showers that are reputed to bring May flowers, it has been quite arid the past two weeks.  So much so that I have had to resort to watering my lawn.

I feel a bit guilty doing so.

You see, as I dump hundreds of gallons of pure, clean water on my lawn, over a billion people on this planet have no clean water drink.  I would gladly forgo my lawn watering ritual if it would somehow quench the thirst of those with parched throats, but alas, any water sacrifice that I make in Michigan does nothing to satiate those who are thirsty in third-world countries.

Remember to do your part to "water" thirsty people in the process. Click To Tweet

Even so, there are ways to help.  Countless organizations provide inexpensive and simple water filtration units to those with dirty, germ-laden, disease-infested water.  Even a small donation can provide a safe source of water to those in need.  Other organizations drill wells in areas lacking nearby surface water.  Wells are more expensive, but can serve thousands for many years.

I just did a Google search for “provide clean drinking water” and was treated to 284 million matches—I’m sure one of those organizations will click with you.

So, go ahead and irrigate your lawn if you must, just remember to do your part to “water” thirsty people in the process.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect on social media.

A Lesson About Compassion

I learned something disconcerting about myself.

Regular readers may recall my post about mourning three bird eggs that had been knocked to the ground when a severe storm destroyed their next. I had compassion for their death, but there was nothing I could do.

When I was out moving sprinklers in my yard I was horrified to see three too-young baby birds on the ground. They couldn’t fly and one couldn’t even hop; as I approached, they opened their mouths in hope of some needed sustenance. Again, I had compassion, but was frozen in a state of inaction. A myriad of thoughts rushed through my mind: Compassion without action is worthless. Click To Tweet

  • I don’t know what to do.
  • They’re going to die anyway.
  • I’m too busy.
  • What if they carry disease?
  • I should let nature take its course?

I would periodically check on them with each move of the sprinklers. I continued to feel compassion and tried to justify my inaction. A couple of times I saw an adult bird on the ground near them. I convinced myself that their parents were tending to them. Yet each time I approached, they turned in my direction and opened their mouths.

By the next day, the weakest of the three wasn’t looking too good and he later died. Would I likewise be witness to his siblings’ demise?

On the third day, one of them was clinging to the side of a tree and later he was gone. I never saw him again and assume he was able to fly away.

On the fourth day, the remaining bird was hopping with a bit more vigor and for the first time was instinctively flapping his wings. An hour later, he too was gone.

I should be happy that two out of three made it, but I wonder if I should have tried to help their weaker brother.

What I do know is that compassion without action is worthless.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Where Do Frogs ComE From?

Last night while mowing my lawn, I saw three frogs in my yard. In 24 years of living here and mowing the grass, this was a first.

Where did the frogs come from? I know the biological answer and the evolutionary answer and the creation answer, but those are the wrong answers to my question. I want to know why this trio of amphibians suddenly showed up in my yard.

  • There is no water on my property or nearby,
  • We are not in a low spot,
  • My lawn is not even damp, and
  • Given the drought earlier this summer, the water table is surely lower than normal.

Where did my frogs come from?

I asked the ever-resourceful Google and was treated with 29,300 exact matches to my query, but the top four sites didn’t provide the answer I was seeking. With 29,296 still to check, I’ve already given up.

I turn the question over to you:

Where did the frogs in my yard come from? Click To Tweet

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

The Birds Are Singing

I’ve worked at home for over eleven years.

With a home office, it’s critical to have a professional, work-like environment. This is especially true when you are on a phone call (or video call). There can be no household noises, such as blaring TVs or radios, crying children, barking dogs, or talking spouses. These sounds can all be picked up on the phone and heard by callers.

This has never been an issue for me—until now. Not that any of the preceding has become an issue, but I have introduced another decidedly non-business sound.

Last year I moved my office from a windowless room in the basement to an unused bedroom on the main floor. When the weather is nice, I open up the window for some fresh air.

Recently, while on a phone call with the window open, the person I was talking to asked, “Do I hear birds?”

Indeed she did. A musical concord of songbirds was serenading me outside my window. Though melodic and soothing, they were also quite loud. But I would have never guessed their unrestrained happiness could have been heard on the other end of my phone call.

Singing birds may be unprofessional, but I’m okay with that.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Could Spring be Right Around the Corner?

Technically, the first day of spring will not be for a couple more weeks (this year on March 20—unless you live south of the Equator, then you have a much longer wait).

However, the seasons seldom line up with the calendar.

For me, the best sign of spring is when I see a robin for the first time. That happened today.

Another typical sign of spring’s arrival is bulbs whose new growth begins to emerge from the ground. Unfortunately, for me, that indicator is flawed this year, as my tulips got confused with a warm fall and actually began showing their greenery last October.

Bravely these early arrivals, with their one-inch stalks, stood guard all winter long, despite repeatedly being covered with snow. Though they are no longer a vibrant green, they did nonetheless maintain their general color all winter long.

And now, with warmer temps, they seem to be growing again. It will be interesting to see if they have enough energy left to produce flowers later on, but nevertheless, they do assure me that spring is on its way.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Oil Cleanup Costs

A few weeks ago, I mentioned another oil spill, this one in my home state.

Although smaller than the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, this one is still estimated to be 1 million gallons — which to me is a huge amount of petroleum.

Today it was reported that the company responsible for the spill estimated that the cleanup would end up costing them $400 million.  That’s about $400 for each gallon spilled!

Though I’ve not heard news recently about the status of the clean up — since the media enjoys broadcasting bad news, I assume that no news is good news — it seems that the focus has already shifted beyond cleanup to the cost.

For PB it is a much different story.  They will be in the news for a long, long time — and I suspect that their effective cost per gallon spilled will likewise be much, much more than $400 a gallon.

The Butterfly Effect and Monsoons

With the monsoons continuing to deluge Pakistan, producing flooding, causing a lack of shelter, food, and clean drinking water, and resulting in death, I wonder, “Can’t something be done to prevent this?”

It is silly, of course, to think that the weather can be controlled — or is it?  Could a monsoon, hurricane, typhoon, or tornado be redirected to a less populated area or safely dissipated before damage is done?  Though it may seem laughable or even arrogant to propose, consider “the butterfly effect” which suggests otherwise.

The Butterfly Effect, based on chaos theory, postulates that a small event, such as a butterfly flapping its wings, could have a much larger effect someplace else, such as altering, causing, or averting a tornado.  (Check out the Wikipedia entry for the Butterfly Effect for more information than you likely care to know).

Although the location of the altered weather is random and cannot be predetermined, it seems that something could somehow be done to mitigate the damage of a developing storm.  Yes, it would take more than a butterfly or two, but caught early enough, it would seem that a reasonably small event could be introduced to calm a storm’s fury.

It would be akin to the idea of altering the path of an approaching asteroid.  If done when it was far enough away, the trajectory need only be changed a fraction of a degree to cause it to completely miss the earth.  Again, it would be a minor event, producing a huge change.  Why not?

(While we’re on the subject, I recommend that you not watch the 2004 movie, The Butterfly Effect.)

Another Oil Spill

The attention of North America and possibly the world is on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but southwest Michigan is dealing with its own oil spill.  Although at an estimated one million gallons, it is relatively small in comparison, it has been receiving much attention locally and was deemed newsy enough to garner some national coverage over the weekend.

Michigan’s oil spill is on the Kalamazoo River (albeit not the part that goes through Kalamazoo).  Although the water will disperse it just like on the gulf, there are some key differences.

One is that on a river, the oil is relatively contained.  There is no question as to where it will go; it will go downstream, whereas the oil in the gulf is at the mercy of changing weather, water patterns, and numerous other variables that make its path hard to predict.  Another difference is that recovery and repair crews can reach our spill much quicker and address it more effectively.  A third issue is that the source of the leak is a pipeline on the surface, as opposed to being thousands of feet under water in a challenging work environment — and not insignificantly, our leak was quickly stopped.

Oh, one more key difference is that the company responsible seems to be responding properly and admirably, possibly having learned a lesson from BP’s slow and oft-criticized response.

Workers have been mobilized and are out skimming the oil off the river and groups are rescuing oil-covered wildlife (which so far as been minimal).  While some people have had to temporarily leave their homes (toxic fumes) and others are advised to drink bottled water, the impact is not looking too severe.  Even though a million gallons of oil seems like a formidable amount, there is confidence that this spill can be quickly dealt with and contained before it causes greater havoc or reaches Lake Michigan (some 70 miles away).

Weathering the Storm

Bird Nest it a Strange Place

When we lost power last weekend, there were high winds at the time. Very high. To my dismay, the next morning I spotted three birds’ nests that had been ripped from my trees by the gusty gale.  Although saddened by the loss of home for my animal friends, I was encouraged that most of the nests were apparently empty, as I found only one poor creature who didn’t make it.

There was, however, one nest that smartly survived the bluster.  It was snugly secured above a crook in my downspout, safely beneath the protective overhang of my home’s eave. A good thing too has it was home to three baby robins. I noticed them that morning during my inspection of the storm’s damage. By the time I took a picture later that day, one had already left the nest.

Upon checking later in the day, I spooked another. With instinct overcoming him, and a mighty squawk and sputter, he took to flight.  I was witness to the first flattering, yet successful, flaps of his wings.  His parents were aghast, making quite a fuss in the process. One flew near to where he landed and another served as an irritating distraction, with a cacophony of sound and sight.

By the next day, the youngest sibling had likewise “flown the coop.”

The nest is still there, empty, but ready. Robins often have two broods a year, so mom and dad may be back for a repeat performance later this summer.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.