Monday, March 19, 2012

Birds, Snakes, Squirrels and Smog. Vacation, Dinner.

CardinalI was talking, by email, to Glenda Larke about birds. When she moves from Malaysia to Western Australia she is going to miss a lot of the birds that are so prevalent there. It made me think of how much Matt and I miss our home in North Carolina where we had a back yard full of feeders and nesting boxes and spent hours watching Feederbirds, squirrels, anoles and occasionally insects (that last was more Matt than I). We had a huge bird feeder (people used to joke it was big enough for a doghouse for when Matt was in trouble) and a magical bird bath with a dripper which attracted all Ladderbackkinds of birds. In the pictures shown there are Cardinals, Gold Finches, a Red Bellied Woodpecker (why? doesn’t have a red belly) just to name a few. It was always fascinating to watch the Cardinals feed each other which I understand is nesting behaviour when one is sitting on the nest, the other will bring food. In our nesting boxes we used to getEastern Bluebird Eastern Bluebirds, Prothonotary Warblers and Great Crested Flycatchers not to mention wrens which will nest practically anywhere. One year we left the shed open and ended up with a nest on a coffee can full of nails. The Great Crested Flycatchers are well known for adding a piece of shed snakeskin to their nests as a deterrent to predators. I Squirrelsread flying squirrels, we didn’t have any of those although to watch some of the squirrels jump you would swear they could fly. They also like to hang around the feeder and pick at seeds the birds dropped. We managed to keep them off the feeder with a baffle arrangement, but towards the end of our time in NC there was one little perisher who could get over the baffle, only one who ever managed it. As you can see we used to feed them dried corn which didn’t last 5 minutes. We always had one family of Great Crested Flycatchers nesting, probably the same one each year, and we have photos of them carrying bugs to their young in the nest box. Can’t find them though. They were a perfect example of co-operation and one would sit in the trees and watch whilst the other fed the chicks then whistle the all clear.Pileated

Another woodpecker we got quite regularly was the Pileated which is a huge bird compared to all other woodpeckers, but our pictures are not terribly clear, sadly. They are mostly sitting on trees in front of us so they blend in. This one shows the actual bird. They are supposed to be pretty rare, but we used to see them quite a lot. If you know about birds, you will know people often keep lists, there is a life list and a yard list. I think our yard list got up to 17 species altogether. Sadly, I Indigo Buntingdon’t think I have a copy of it any more, nor even our life list. Once we moved into an apartment, we didn’t get to see much wildlife despite the park. On thing that always fascinated me was the Indigo Bunting which is the prettiest of blue birds, but is apparently not blue at all, it is simply the light refraction affecting its colour, I don’t really understand how light refraction can produce such a beautiful blue, not very scientifically minded I suppose. Nor do I know what colour its feathers really are, white, clear, what I wonder?

Black RacerIn the early days in NC we used to get occasional snakes too, but I guess they eventually learned to keep clear. The most incredible snake, to me, was the Black Racer, one could see why it got its name, that thing could move incredibly fast, never seen anything like it. It shot across our yard like a gun out of a bullet. Quite harmless. Unlike thCottonmouthe Copperhead which our neighbour found in his yard, in fact he found a couple of them and nearly died of snake fright. I believe they wouldn’t actually kill you if you were in good health, but a dose of venom is not the best way to find out. I never did come across a Cottonmouth or Water Moccasin which are the most dangerous in the area, so called because when they open their mouths it looks like cotton. I have no wish to verify this. We did see one snake crawling up a tree in our back yard to get at a bird’s nest, what it was I don’t know, don’t think it was poisonous. There is one poisonous snake in Ontario, The Mississauga Rattler, and I have no wish to meet that either.

For those of you who have no interest in the above, this would have been as boring as hell, sorry about that.

Pea SouperSaturday morning we awoke to thick fog, couldn’t see the trees outside our window and it took a long time for the fog to dissipate. Eventually, after lunch, it got really nice and sunny. It started me thinking about the pea soupers we used to get in London when I was in my early 20s. We complained about the inconvenience of it all, almost impossible to drive anywhere, but despite everything I don’t remember anyone worrying about health consequences. You might see the odd person with a mask, but not for most of us. Considering all the junk hanging around in those pea soupers it’s a wonder our lungs didn’t suffer permanent damage. Smog really was revolting stuff. Fog at sea isn’t funny either, my parents and I have been at sea in a pretty thick fog a few times, all you can hear are the fog horns of other boats as well as your own horn. Due to sound distortion, its almost impossible to tell where another boat is and you just hope everyone has the sense to stay still. Can be a very scary experience. Sunday was just as sunny and warm, but everyone is thinking March came in like a lamb it might go out like a lion.

Over the weekend we booked to go down to North CarolinSugar Shacka in September again. Not the same place as the last two years, but the Sugar Shack where we have stayed a couple of times before. Its only drawback being its situation right on the main road. The cottage itself is delightful and I understand they now have an internet connection which makes it ideal for me!!! The other cottage is now way too expensive for us to go to on our own which is a pity as its not on the road and in a quieter location. Its also within easy walking distance of many places, but as we don’t walk that well, we don’t worry about that part.

Saturday night we had a very enjoyable meal with our friends. She had made Rouladen which I haven’t had in a long time. I can’t remember if I have ever tried to make them myself. These were delicious. I used to make Oiseau sans TĂȘtes (Headless Birds) which is a sort of French version of them in-as-much as they are both rolled meats with a filling. Below is a rouladen recipe, looks like it might be similar to our friend’s recipe. She served spaetzle dumplings (a noodle) with hers. which I didn’t know, but one can buy. We have tried making them, not very successfully. Forgot, as a concession to the day, our hostess made us a green dessert.

German Beef Rouladen

  • 6 slices top round (see below)
  • 3 slices lean bacon
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 garlic dill pickles, sliced
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • mustard, salt, pepper, corn starch
  • 1 - 2 cups water
  • Season beef slices with salt and freshly ground pepper. Thinly spread mustard on top of each slice.
  • Divide bacon, pickle, and onion slices on one end of each slice.
  • Roll up slices, tucking the ends in and securing with skewers, wooden cocktail picks, or thread.
  • Heat butter in skillet. Brown rouladen well on all sides. Do not crowd rouladen in skillet, or they will not brown nicely. Do in small batches if necessary. Add extra butter if needed.
  • Once all rouladen are well browned, add 1 - 2 cups of hot water, gently stirring up browned bits. Return all rouladen and any accumulated juices to skillet, bring to simmer and cover.
  • Simmer for about 1 1/2 hours.
  • Remove rouladen. To thicken gravy, combine about 1-2 tbsp. corn starch in a little cold water and stir gently into cooking liquid until slightly thickened.
  • Season gravy to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. If you wish, add sour cream to the gravy.
  • Remove skewers, picks, or thread to serve rouladen with their gravy.
  • Have the butcher cut beef top round into thin slices, about 3/8 inch thick. Each roulade should measure at least 6 inches by 4 inches. Gently pound meat until it is about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Be careful not to put holes in the meat. The larger the roulade, the easier it is to roll up.
  • This beef rouladen recipe is delicious served with Potato Dumplings, and red cabbage

Have a great day



  1. Hi Jo .. beautiful birds - they are amazing aren't they in their differences .. snakes - not too keen to put it mildly!!

    Great to look forward to a holiday and break ... now that smog - I experienced it in Oxford at school .. and included a post about it when I wrote about the film Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy ..

    Just had my salad .. but the beef dish looks delicious .. cheers Hilary

  2. Funny, you just had your salad, I just had my breakfast.

    I lived in London for four years in my early 20s and so experienced a lot of smog.

    Have you always lived in Eastbourne? I lived in Crawley for a few years once. But most of my life I lived in Kent before we emigrated.

  3. Shame you can't go back and live in NC. It is a beautiful place and don't you just love those soft accents?

    We have lots of birds and yes, I love the Indigo Bunting. We have a few nesters. We also have Bluebirds.

    I've fixed Beef Rouladen before. I usually tenderize the beef before wrapping the bits inside. What's fun about this recipe is you can get creative about what you put inside the *roll*.


  4. Y'all are so right Sia. We'd love to go back although we do love where we live now, so wish we could spend more time in NC, but not all the time.

    Not sure my German friends would approve of getting creative with rouladen LOL.

  5. I have found out that there ain't no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.
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