Flowers, Birds and Clunker Money

June 10th, 2009

My goodness, the rain just keeps on coming.  Someone asked me recently what I was doing financially these days with investing.  I said I’ve been saving for a rainy day, the only problem is that its been raining for over a month and I’m out of money…

We’re due for some warmer, sunnier days and I know they’ll come.  I really do appreciate the cooler weather for getting work accomplished, but the bugs and weeds have gone crazy.  I think the birds thrive on the moisture at this time of year because insects are so abundant.   Its fun to watch flycatchers and bluebirds chase insects around beneath the trees.  And the flowers love the rain too- this hydrangea is showing off.


Nesting birds are really busy everywhere it seems.  I was excited to see my first Baltimore Oriole nest high in an oak tree on the hillside overlooking the pond.  I had seen the female oriole around for a couple of weeks, and one bright morning the nest just stood out in the sunlight, hanging pensile near the top of the oak tree.    I went out early and waited for over a half hour to try and get a photo of an oriole together near the nest.   The nest would move and shake but the oriole would not appear… so I went out a second day and finally the oriole made it’s way back to the nest in a secretive fashion.  I captured a shot with the bird nearby, but it went in and out of that nest so quickly!


The garden has shown  a few surprises this year as well.  We have many dill plants that have grown as volunteers from letting plants go to seed in previous years.  One plant is growing near the base of a Saint Francis statue, with a little friend happily munching on it.


The caterpillar is the larval stage of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly, fairly common in our region.  We’ve got enough dill around, so I enjoy watching these guys.  But I’m on the lookout for tomato hornworms- they can tear down a tomato plant in a matter of days, and that’s my sauce for the next year.

For some more exciting news I saw a flying fish today!  I was out early checking on the bees, and saw a heron catch a really big bluegill.   I started down the hill to chase it away, and it took off across the pond with the fish flopping in its bill the whole way.  It was kind of funny looking, but I was miffed.  Those bluegill are prized for catching with the boy!  And if they’re too big to swallow, the heron just drops ’em on the bank and goes for more.  Practical bird, huh?  There’s lots of smaller bass and I suppose the heron eats some of those too.  But man that gangly bird has been around every morning lately- I wonder how many pounds of fish it eats in a month!?

I wandered back into the garden (I just love strolling around the vegetables!)  and I thought of how such a few seeds can become such a grand harvest with a little steady attention.   Then I looked over the fence at my 27 year old diesel farm truck and I remembered it needed a little attention too.  Well farm truck is a bit of an exaggeration since we really aren’t farmers.  Unless you count a hundred thousand bees as livestock, which the Department of Agriculture actually does.  But no, we’re just a small family living in the country.  Down the road there’s a real dairy farm and a hog farm, and after talking with the dairyman about his mornings, I’m pretty thankful for mine.

But I digress… I was going to say something about that old 3/4 ton truck, eventually.  When that old “Cash for Clunkers” plan passed as law years ago, I almost jumped at the chance to trade it in. But that plan presented a huge mess for consumers and companies, and my truck never qualified anyway.  On the surface it seemed like a great idea.  But looking a little deeper it was just another basket of taxpayers dollars in an effort to support the auto industry during a distressed period.  I’m not a fan of government largesse and program development, especially when it seems like we’re playing Wheel of Fortune with so much money these days.  How did they justify GM getting billions of taxpayer dollars while Ford was able to make their own way?   But I know there are real folks out there whose jobs and livelihoods depend on the auto industry- and I’m glad the nation support’s them.  We’ve given disappearing billions to the financial industry, what’s a few more to help workers that actually create something?


Heck, maybe my old truck sitting out back might actually be worth something.  It served its purpose enjoyably over many years, and I still have ambitious plans for it, even if that means it becomes a collector classic!   I’ve thought of trading it in on something that gets better mileage.  Let’s see, more rationalization…  the truck is really hard to start because the glow plugs need replaced and the fuel filter assembly needs fixed too….

Of course that still means car payments for something else, and that old paid-for truck has a lot of memories going for it.  Still runs and looks pretty good too.  There’s something about driving down the road in an older truck, and seeing people look admiringly at it, sharing memories of years past.   Clunker or not, I really like that old truck.


8 Responses to “Flowers, Birds and Clunker Money”

  1. R. Sherman

    Of course, had the government just given the GM and Chrysler bailout money to the taxpayer in the form of a refundable tax credit to be used on the purchase of newer vehicle, we wouldn’t be looking at the problems we have. Of course, the dealers would then raise prices to take advantage of the credit, while still paying attention to what people are actually willing to pay.

    I’d love to get a new set of wheels, but I can’t see myself buying GM or Chrysler. I would hate to get screwed out of my warranty protection in some fashion.


  2. I’m with R. Sherman, unless I could buy an American made Honda, instead of a Mexian or Candadian GM or Chrysler, I probably wouldn’t be interested. Besides, I just sold one junker and bought another. I have another junker but it has tens of thousands if not a hundred thousand miles left in it… and it starts easily and gets 35 mpg.

  3. Don’t like the cash from clunker plan, but then I don’t really have any clunkers–I have an 8 year old Chevy 1500, with 102k miles, paid for (but only gets 19 mpg on the road, around 16 in town). But next time I’ll have to get something that gets better gas mileage, especially now I don’t have deserts to go exploring and camping in.

    Up here, summer so far is just right–it’s been on the cool side, wet but not flooding wet.

  4. Flying fish, ha!

    I like our oil-burning Saturn… it’s not the finest piece of engineering on the planet, but it gets 38 MPG and it’s been trouble-free.

    I do envy those old-truck drivers… reminds me of my old Ford F-150… just can’t justify the gas mileage. We tow a utility trailer behind the Taurus wagon instead (~24 mpg).


  5. R.- It does seem like wasted billions at this point, but I can’t see buying one either. I like Ford products, and that they’ve made it independently so far. I’m curious once all these gas-guzzling clunkers are off the roads, and automakers meet more stringent fuel standards… where are they going to make up the lost revenue from gasoline and diesel taxes?!
    Ed- Honda’s looking pretty good these days, especially if they make them here. Two of my family members have been driving Honda vehicles for over 2 decades! 35 mpg? That’s pretty darn good.
    Sage- Well maybe you’ve got a “clunker” by the definition if the combined mileage is less than 18 mpg? But you’re right- if you don’t need the truck, the bottom line is getting something that costs less to drive!
    Ron- Wow, 38 mpg is great. Towing a trailer is a good idea too- behind a Taurus no less! Heck, the mileage you get with your vehicles still beats most of what’s out there today.

  6. Just thought I would throw this in but I have a ball hitch on my Honda Civic and have pulled a trailer with it though I wouldn’t do so in the hills of southern Missouri. I’m guessing that the Taurus would outpull it though.

  7. Why doesn’t the dog chase off the heron?

  8. Ed- That’s pretty handy, I guess as long as it’s fairly light. Makes sense in flatter terrain.

    Pablo- Ah, the dog. Dogs rather… three of them. Well the pond is a hundred yards off and the way the house sits they don’t usually see the other critters. If the shiba sees an animal- he goes after it with gusto. Bunnies, moles, squirrels and the like. But he rarely catches anything. The basset hound just sleeps and stares, nearly deaf now, but with a nose like three bloodhounds. You open a can of food and he magically appears. And the lab? He’s been trained to retrieve a ball, doves, ducks and rubber “bumpers”… he pretty much doesn’t notice anything else. I usually head for the pond clapping my hands and the heron flys off, squawking hoarsely out of protest!

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