Tag Archive | diet

Squirrel McDonald’s 

It’s another dreary day here in the Midwest. The clear, bright, new windows we had installed don’t make it look any more friendly outside. It’s February… In Illinois… what do I expect?

Although the day is dreary, I do enjoy watching the gray squirrels taking care of business in the front yard. There are many spruce and large trees in my area, which allows for a large population of these furry, funny entertainers.

February is an exciting time in a gray squirrel’s life… It’s MATING SEASON! Woo hoo! Time to frolic, play, tease, fight, love, share, chase, eat and all other forms of craziness!! You can easily identify the sexes without seeing their undercarriages during this time. The female is in the lead, with a dominate male directly behind here, if there are any other following in line, they are young, subordinate males… waiting for their chance.

Males will fight for dominance when there are no females around to chase. You’ll hear the “Chu-chu-chu” noise or see the squirrel stomping its feet and swishing its tail as a form of war dance! To adorable.

**Click here to learn how smart squirrels are**

If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know I have many bird feeders and perch areas to feed the wildlife at work. At my home, not so much. I do have a suet holder and otherwise, I only toss ‘left overs’ out to the wildlife I share my space with. Left overs can vary from bread to nuts to fruit to seeds, nothing I think is dangerous to the wildlife, nor anything I want out there that attracts unwanted wildlife, like skunks or ‘possoms. All approved items get thrown on the front lawn at dawn. The front lawn is devoid of crazy Border Collies and if thrown out at dawn, all trace of food will be gone by mid-day, thus won’t be attracting any nightlife creatures of the stinky variety.

As I know I might catch some flack from feeding the wildlife anything but proper foods… I did consult the ALL KNOWING INTERNET to back or deflate my decision to give my furries bread. Seems there are as many pro’s as con’s out there for feeding any type of wildlife (ducks, birds, squirrels…) bread. In my opinion, and how I try to live my life (mostly)… It’s all about moderation. Going to McDonald’s twice a year isn’t going to kill you, in the same as giving wildlife bread will kill them. I don’t share it that often and they seem to enjoy their Squirrel McDonald’s!

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

 

How to Roast Chestnuts in an Open Oven….

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…

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Chestnuts can roast in a kitchen oven also!

My first experience with roasted over a fire chestnuts was last year while going on a steam train ride in Georgetown, Colorado. They were reeeally good.

So this year, when I spotted a big bin of chestnuts at the local human feed store… I had to try them! I’ll admit, I had done a bit of online research before I jumped into making them. When choosing your chestnuts, pinch each one to be sure there is no give whatsoever in the shell. Around here, I was paying about $4.99 per pound. There are types you can buy are in a jar, however I didn’t try them.

Wash and dry them so they aren’t slippery when you go to cut them. I did read many opinions about which way cutting them is the right way. Many sources say to cut an X on the flat spot. I found this quite dangerous! I decided to put the flat side down and cut perpendicular to the ends. I found using a serrated steak knife to be the easiest to cut with. And they opened just fine!

I then soaked them in salt water for about an hour. This step can be skipped. I just wanted to be sure they were moist.

There are many directions you can go here. My first batch I boiled for 10 minutes, followed by 10 minutes (spread on baking sheet) in a 350 degree oven. The second batch was only in the 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Honestly, I could not tell the difference in taste or texture between the different preparations. They both tasted the same and pealed the same, which was quite easy. Although, just like relatives, some are easy to deal with, some aren’t!!

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They are much easier to cut with the flat side down. I read in many places that the X was not an X, but a cross.

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The shell pealed quite easily. Out of about 25, only 3 gave me issues.

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Mmmm! Yummy, healthy snack.

chestnuts

© 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.

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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

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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

Chicken Caesar Salad with Chardonnay

 

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Chicken Caesar Salad is my husband’s favorite meal. I enjoy it, but it doesn’t enjoy me.

I don’t have any background on the wine, as it was a gift. I don’t normally like chardonnay’s, however this one turned out to be a great match for the salad.

 

This recipe is for two hungry folks.

  • 4 – 5 thinly sliced chicken breast fillets
  • 2 Romaine lettuce heads
  • 5 pieces of bread to make croutons out of OR store-bought croutons
  • 1 cup of parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup+ Caesar salad dressing
  • Small amounts of butter, olive oil, garlic powder and flour to cook with.

I start making my croutons first by cutting up bread in bite-sized pieces. Melt about 2 tbsn of butter and add 1 tbsn of olive oil to this. Mix with bread and add garlic powder to taste. Toast these in the oven at about 350 degrees until they are crunchy.

Dredge chicken breasts thru flour and skillet fry to doneness. Allow to cool and cut into bite-sized pieces before mixing in salad to prevent the lettuce from wilting.

Mix all together! Complete!

 

© – Ilex Farrell