Tag Archive | animals

New Doggy Bling

Last week, we ordered new collars for the boys. They were from Four Black Paws. These are beautifully, hand-made and well constructed. We got cute hearts for Oreo and a grayscale pattern for Breck. Oreo needs a thicker collar at 1″ wide, whereas Breck doesn’t need a thick collar, and we got him the 3/4 inch size. Both were size large.

The super cool part about these collars, is that their names and contact phone numbers are etched onto the clasp. No more jingle, jingle.


So cute!!

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Shut the F-ing Door! Were You Born in a Barn?!?

“Were you born in a barn?” I can still hear my Mother’s voice uttering this phrase…. After us kids were old enough to sass her with, “I don’t know. I was just being born. Where did you decide to birth me?” She changed her response to an open door with, “I didn’t marry the electric man!” or “Don’t let all the bought air out!”

Those nagging comments make their point. Shut the F-ing door! How hard is it to do? You’re forgiven for the few times your arms are full, however unless that is the reason… Shut the front door! Or back, side, garage or even the car door.

My Mother ran a tight ship that had us three children (my brother, me and the eldest child, my father) kept in line, for the most part. She grew up during the depression and was frugal. I also get the concept from a frugality standpoint… I don’t want to pay to cool/heat the world. Let alone the fact of all the critters that can get access to your domain; stink bugs, skeeters, mice, moths, wasps.. Oh My!

My boys, Breck and Oreo aren’t genius dogs, but they have their moments. Breck is smart when he wants to be, and the outcome will benefit him. Oreo tries so hard to understand what we want of him, tiny smoke rings blow out his ears. So cute. Once he does ‘get’ something, he doesn’t forget it tho.

image     image

The kitchen door in the photo goes out to our garage, where there is a doggy door that exits to the yard. This is perfect, as if muddy paws or any other nastiness needs to be dealt with, it happens in the garage. This would also mean that the dogs would need to stay in the garage until a human has time to deal with them…. Not come in when they wanted, full of god knows what!!!

When we chose to change the locks, my husband thought this type of handle would be easier to use when your hands were full. Who knew that it also is easier for Breck to open the door also! Breck understands doors that open by swinging out, however not doors that swing in. He knows the knobs are crucial to how it works, but in his 9 years hasn’t coordinated pulling and twisting a knob together, only pushing and twisting. Click here to see his attempt to open the basement door.

Thank goodness the little one has not learned his brothers tricks. Oreo sits quietly on the step, waiting for us or his brother to be let in.

Since this has been happening, I have been trying to teach both of them, “SHUT THE DOOR” to no avail. Has anyone out there taught their dogs how? I’d love to know your secret! Until then, I will enjoy the fact that after 10 years of my Mother not being on the same plane as me, I can still hear her voice.

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Rock Stack Pondless Fountain

This fountain may look familiar to you if you were around when I first started my blog in 2013. It was one of my first few posts. What started this whole fascination with pondless fountains was my husband bringing home a large clay pot from a client’s house. I looked at it, thinking to myself, “Gee, this would look cool laying on it’s side, spilling out water.” And the rest is history.

After having him install that first fountain, we were addicted. When I started my garden design business, I was approached by a client wondering if I installed these type fountains. I said, “Heck yeah!” and showed her the clay fountain we had installed. She had found some copper pots and hoped my artist hubby could figure something out for her. He did and it is so unique. (check out the link above to see it).

Since then, he’s been putzing around with other designs. He likes the ‘rock-stacked’ look and this one was created. I love it! It was placed in the front of my house. When the windows are open, I can hear the splish-splash of the water. I like to sit in the window on weekends and see all the wildlife that visits it. Bees, wasps, birds of all sizes (saw my first flicker!!), squirrels, bunnies and chipmunks all take their turns enjoying the water.

I was so excited to reinstall it after having to temporarily remove it so I could redesign the front garden. After two long years, its back in operation at the Farrell house! Woo-Hoo!!



I’m not the only one to see it back in operation!!

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Late Winter Walk


The Sand hill Cranes  fill the air with their calls

I’ve said it before, Spring has sprung in the Midwest!

We took a walk in the local forest preserve to enjoy the latest batch of awesome weather Mother Nature baked up for us this week. It was 50F / 10C and that is a tad above average. The forecast is for the temperature to continue on this week with little precipitation. Sweet. It was 2012 when I last witnessed this early of a spring. We had lilacs blooming April 13th! A more regular pattern would be blooming by May 15ish. The springs since then have seemed to really drag on… I keep a camping journal and noticed that in all the years of camping between 2011 & 2015, we’ve never camped in May. Long bouts of precipitation is the only thing that stops us from camping. We couldn’t care less about the temperature, however if we can’t have a campfire, why camp? We usually use those rainy weekends for house chores… They don’t do themselves. Or can they?

There were many other creatures enjoying this fine Saturday. Mother doe and her two offspring were resting in the brush off the side of the trail. She wasn’t too wary of us, however kept watch.

image  image

I always like finishing my walk by circling the first pond as there are usually swan around. I didn’t get too far when I noticed another one of Mother Nature’s creatures enjoying the warmth.. and another and another. My brain didn’t freak-out, but I did assess my current situation and concluded that the only bad part about this situation was that I was wearing wimpy, walking Mary Jane’s and not hiking boots. I backed out the way I came, snapping pictures on my camerone, hoping I would capture a shot.


An ‘overcrowded’ area of Real Estate… ie – more that 3 snakes in my sight!

The area was pretty much covered in snakes. Not like Indiana-Jones-pit-of-snakes snakes but enough that even I wasn’t going to push forward.  I’m not scared of Midwestern Snakes, as they are not venomous (these were garter snakes). Even had I been wearing boots they couldn’t bite through, I didn’t want to step on any of the little guys! You could hardly see them. I actually heard them before I saw them. Slither slither slither ~~~~~~C8~

I couldn’t see any fish in the pond, however I knew they were there by the amount of fisherpeople throwing lines in. A sign that these ponds are healthy was the amount of animal activity around it. Another thing I learned from my frog monitoring days is that there are fewer to no fish in ponds where you can hear lots of frogs. Why? Because fish eat frog eggs. So if you’re fishing on a pond that is buzzing with RIBBITS!!! most likely you’ll not have a good day fishing.



© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Sex… I Mean Spring is in the Air!


Mr. & Mrs. Downey Woodpecker

Ah, spring is in the air here in the Midwest! I’m just starting to see the animals start their mating games. I love watching…I’m such a romantic!!

The female birds act like baby chicks, demanding to be fed.

The dominant males fighting off the young bucks for the females.

Doves cooing and preening each other.

Chattering, dancing squirrels.

House building materials are at a premium.

Male birds donning their spring colors.

Elaborate songs can be heard along with seeing fancy flight patterns of returning snowbirds.

I’ve always felt like the animals retained more knowledge of nature than we humans did. We began to lose it when we decided money was more important than simpleness. With that being said, I observe the animals to tell me how they feel nature will be treating them in the near future. And they are saying to me… “You’d better dust off your flip-flops, as it will be an early spring!!”

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Dark-eyed Junco – Junco hyemalis

The Dark-eyed Juncos are my little winter friends. They visit my Midwestern area for the mild weather.. Giggle. Considering these guys love the Canadian woodlands, my area would be a nice, mild place to winter.

Dark-eyed Juncos enjoy inhabiting the ground.  They are often found in coniferous forests including pine, Douglas-fir, spruce, and fir, but also in deciduous forests such as maple, aspen, cottonwood, oak and hickory. They hop rather than walk about the bases of trees and shrubs in forests looking for fallen seeds.

imageDark-eyed juncos are unique sparrows that nest on or near the ground in forests.




© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Camping at Cave in Rock State Park

I may try to write more ‘campground informational’ posts on the campsites we visit. Hopefully, it will help the next camper!


Cave-In-Rock in southern Illinois sits atop the high bluffs overlooking the scenic Ohio River and surrounded by the Shawnee National Forest. The heavily wooded park is named for the 55-foot-wide cave that was carved out of the limestone rock by water thousands of years ago.

The first European explorer to visit this area was M. de Lery of France, who in 1729 called it ‘caverne dans Le Roc’. The cave was frequently mentioned by later travelers in diaries and journals.

The cave served as a backdrop for a scene in the movie “How The West Was Won”. The scene was a near-accurate portrayal of how, in the 18th and 19th centuries, ruthless bandits used the cave to lure unsuspecting travelers to an untimely end.

In 1929, the State of Illinois acquired 64.5 acres for a park that since has increased to 204 acres. The well-wooded, 60-foot-high hills and the rugged bluffs along the river – commanding expansive views of the famous waterway – became Cave-In-Rock State Park.

Cave-In-Rock, Illinois
Phone: (618) 289-4325
Visit Campground Website

Sites: 34
Electric only – Dump and water available

View on Google Maps

Latitude: 37.4700045922213
Longitude: -88.1526660919189

Although this is a a State Park, it is not part of the reserveamerica.com reservation for all other State Parks. Seems there’s probably a few that were able to get out from someone’s thumb and stick to the ‘ol ‘First come-first serve’ way of business. When inquiring about the chances they would be full for Labor Day weekend, the ranger replied, “I’ve never turned anyone away.” It was true, out of the 43 sites available, there were only 9 sites taken. I was flabbergasted! Although they only have electric, this place is a GEM otherwise. Trails for dog walking, scenic views over the Ohio River and colorful sunsets are what awaits you here.



Mom doe and her twins were around every morning. They were so cute gobbling up acorns.

We also saw hawks, vultures and a bald eagle. Many large game birds are here for the fish. We saw also saw numerous butterflies, bats and amphibians… although there was one heavy hitter missing from the normal Midwestern party… SKEETERS! Blood-sucking &$@&%$?#@+’s of evil… It was quite odd to not have to put bug spray on. The noise of the night creatures was deafening. Perhaps the balanced ecosystem has taken care of the problem? I don’t care how it happened, it was AWESOME!!


Breck, Oreo, Me and the cave!!


The sites were very large and level, at least our was, site 4.

There is a local guy in town that sells firewood. I felt it was in bad taste to post his phone number here, however, he lives on the first corner, catty-corner from the church. There is a sign with a phone number.

The town has a restaurant. That’s about it. If you want even a basic quickie mart, you’ll have to go to Elizabethtown, about 20 minutes down a one-lane gravel road. I  had to laugh as I was told by three locals (who all thought we were from Wisconsin, with our accents) if we need something, we’ll need to go to ‘E’town.’

Where? I would ask again.

E’town, right der off 146.

E-Town sound like an online store to me! My husband taps my arm and says, E as in Elizabethtown.

Alright! I’m on the same page now!!

Outhouses at bottom of hill were, well, outhouses! The nearby shower house was very clean, free and roomy.

Cell signal from the three companies we had with us was pretty bad. (Sprint, ATT, Verizon)


© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Borg Ship Dog Toy

We were near a Pet Smart and Old Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard was bare. We always peruse the store for bargins. The boys really like large balls like volley and soccer size balls, but they pop them quite quickly. The fun isn’t completely over, as the ‘ball bowl’ is now just easier to grab onto. However, no more kicking, rolling or chasing. I checked into the cost for a durable dog product of that size.. Ouch $45. My boys can get through things both cheap and well-made. That is 5 cheap volley balls. I then spied a large square ‘ball’ – It’s a Chuckit Kick Cube. Hmmm. $12.50 clearance. How bad can this be? They could easily bite the edges instead of having to bite a round surface.  There is a rubber part in the square’s centers that make kicking it a breeze, however it’s very unpredictable.

As a Star Trek fan, I immediately dubbed it the Dorg Ship (Borg).


Oreo figured out how to pick it up first. Breck learned how to head-butt it out of Oreo’s mouth first!


© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Thirteen Line Ground Squirrel – Ictidomys tridecemlineatus

Cute Cute! Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels (Gopher, Striped Ground Squirrel, Striped Gopher, Thirteen-lined Gopher, Striped Spermophile), they are not tree squirrels or chipmunks, but closely related. These guys are often seen standing on their hind legs on right of ways or other places where the grass is mowed. The squirrel’s coat pattern is distinctive, with 13 dark and pale stripes running the length of its back; with white spots in the dark stripes.

The thirteen-lined ground squirrel is the mascot of the University of Minnesota, Goldy Gopher and responsible for Minnesota’s nickname as the Gopher State.


Don’t mind me, the cute little ground squirrel, I’m just here to clean-up the fallen seeds from the feeder above… Or am I?!? Muh-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha


I’m very environmental. I always bring my own bags right here in my cheeks. I just pop these seeds in whole now and I’ll crack them open later during the “Rocky & Bullwinkle Show”.

Ground squirrels possibly once lived in a short-grass prairie and now our lawns are where they like to live. They dig a variety of tunnels, from short ones used for escape to deeper, longer ones with nesting/hibernation chambers. This usually gets them on the shit list with homeowners that want a perfect lawn. They also sometimes damage gardens by digging burrows and eating vegetables, but they also eat weed seeds and harmful insects. I like coexistence…. Unless you cross into MY small and humble ‘house-space’.

imageimageThese little cuties are in a brick flower planter built into my workplace’s garage. I’m pretty sure I have counted six of these little guys in there. When they were smaller, they fell out of the planter often and would need to be put back in there as it is quite high for them, but not an adult. I’ve not seen an adult enter the nest through the top, however it is possible it has another entrance somewhere else… Oh, JOY!!! I’ve not gotten any flack about feeding the birds or tree squirrels here at work, however these guys have passed the ‘house-space’ zone. In a week or so, I’m sure they will be a mature 28 days+ and at the normal time youngsters leave the nest. Sadly, these cuties are getting the HUMANE kick to the curb. I will be digging this out and corralling them out to the outcrop/evergreen area to go enjoy life a bit farther away from me. I’m not sure yet what will be my plan of defense to keep them out of there, however it will have to be some kind of barrier.

imageTheir primary diet includes seeds and insects, however sometimes they crave a little more protein…

I had just gotten to work one fine morning, waking-up my computer, opening the windows and about to go fire up a cup of joe, when I hear some awful “I’m being killed” type screams. I look out the window to see one of my cutie ground squirrels with a male house sparrow in it’s jaws and blood splattering from the birds flapping wings. I ran for the door instead of filming… Not sure what I was going to do upon arrival… As I ran around the corner, the squirrel was already almost back to it’s hole and dropped the sparrow upon seeing me.

Um, yeah. That bird had no chance.

I find it funny that I have seen these squirrels and the birds run around the ground together, within inches of each other for years, with no tangles. If this was so common, I think I would see more birds show concern when the squirrels are under the feeders.

Later, after I fled the scene with a somewhat upset belly, I saw the hunter come back for his meal. He sat by his hole, triumphantly eating his prize.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl