No more Banana Bread…

One of my favorite treats is eating some delicious banana bread at a country café.  My favorite type is oozing with ripe bananas, some walnuts and cinnamon.  This is now a beloved memory after I finally went for allergy testing.  I thought, like my mum, I might have a protein allergy.  Chocolate, eggs and cream gave her fantastic welts on her forehead – often spelling Mars Bar.  She would swear blind that she hadn’t had chocolate but I always knew.  Finally, she would break down after my interrogation, laughing hysterically.  One little cousin had allergies to almost everything but has grown out of some of them.  Over two years ago, on the advice of a good medical friend, I stopped eating gluten.  It was difficult but I now have a very healthy diet full of walnuts (allergic), bananas (allergic), cinnamon (allergic).  My friend was correct and I am also allergic to wheat, yeast, peaches, cashews, almond and mustard.  Who the heck is allergic to bananas??  I can’t bear the smell or texture of seafood but am allergic to nothing (unless it has a mustard sauce…)

My diet is mostly vegetarian but I have no allergy to milk or meats.  On a side note, I received a note from Ancestry DNA to say my profile had changed again.  To my surprise, I am 3% Basque, which might explain my lack of Spanish DNA.  The Basque people are ethnically unique from their neighbors, France and Spain.  They come from a very ancient group of Europeans and have more Neanderthal DNA than most (as do I).  Many years ago, on a trip to Madrid, I looked with trepidation at all the Basque terrorists on the “Most Wanted” posters, hoping that the customs officer wouldn’t notice they looked like my siblings. Perhaps I should embrace my hunter/gatherer origins and just eat the squirrels in the garden?  Luckily, I am not Epi-pen allergic but should avoid certain foods or start the allergy shots.

I was quite overwhelmed by the lovely comments on my post The Biopsy, and I am happy to say that my tardy results finally came through.  Nora, the thyroid nodule, is not malignant.   Dear reader, you may wonder why I am having so many health issues right now.  My recent Covid infection provoked some of the doctor visits but I am also trying to catch up on yearly tests that I avoided during the pandemic and before our ‘good’ insurance stops soon.  My husband retired two years before he could claim Medicare (next May) so we have taken advantage of his last work insurance.  COBRA is a US scheme that allows you to continue your last work insurance for 18 months, at your own cost. 

Recently, I saw a new doctor at our practice, and it was just to ask for a referral to physiotherapy.  She thought that perhaps my incessant coughing during Covid triggered my cervical pain and numbness again.  She said, “I see you have spinal stenosis”.  “I do?” responded Kerry, having completely forgotten about that diagnosis.  When we lived in Scotland, I became a minor celebrity at our local orthopedic hospital because of my strange spinal problems.  It’s likely congenital and what a gift my relatives have given me!  Mental illness, high cholesterol, dodgy spine, allergies and Lord knows what else.  They also gifted me great skin, good legs and an amazing sense of humor.  You take the good with the bad…  That doctor suggested allergy testing after I expressed some frustration that I ate more fiber than a heifer but still have digestive issues.

My Glorious Live Oak

When I was being poked by the allergy nurse, she asked if I would like environmental testing also.  “Why not?” said I.  This one was less fun – I could feel one prick throbbing almost immediately.  Bottom line; I should not live in a humid forest.  I am most allergic to OAK – you can see the beautiful live oak outside our house, above.  Then there are three water oaks behind my house.  Few of our neighbors have oaks.  When I came home, I pointed at Miss Live Oak and whispered, “YOU!!!”  Don’t worry I will cuddle her next week, perhaps with a mask on.  Almost all the molds were ticked – who knew there were that many??

Teddy and I were talking about getting a horse and wagon, given the gas prices, but we will have to switch to an Ox.  I am allergic to horses but not cattle.  I don’t think the neighbors would mind a lovely Ox on our shared pasture…  On a creepy note, I am allergic to COCKROACHES (and dust mites)!!  Our trusty bug guy came out last week because the cockroaches were getting out of control.  As soon as he left, dying cockroaches were crawling up walls and making me ALLERGIC!!!  There is very little dust in my house because I have OCD – et Voila, another silver lining.  I will now take bareback horse riding off my bucket list.

Walnut, Sycamore, Sweet Gum, Cottonwood and Cedar trees are on the list.  Ragweed, Russian Thistle (Que?), Sagebrush and Marsh Elder also make me itch.  Maybe Greenland might be a good place for me to live or just stay in the house as I currently do.  I am seriously considering the allergy shots because I would like to enjoy my beautiful environment more.  On a funny final note, Teddy and I were herding ducks across the four-lane road at the end of our cul-de-sac.  Our beloved Muscovy ducks at the pond have decided to visit all their friends in our street.  I stood in the middle stopping the traffic and Teddy hopelessly tried to herd them across to the pond.  At a street birthday party this week, I discovered that other neighbors have also been herding ducks/halting traffic.  So far, there are no dead bodies (human or duck) on the road and I am not allergic to either!

The Non-Ducks are back!

Above are Whistling Ducks who migrate to our pond every summer. They are really neither geese nor ducks but a sub family – Dendrocygninae. It’s a bit of a tongue twister so we call them non ducks. They live in Latin America in the winter and we think they are Catholics given the amount of ducklings they have.

This is a male Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly They are common along the Gulf Coast and give a lovely flash of crimson in a sea of blue and green Pond Hawk dragonflies. To me, they are beautifully colored fairies that cluster around humans because we attract mosquitoes. These little predators are quite precocious and will sit on your hand or head.

This is Mr and Mrs Puddleduck, a pair of Muscovy ducks who live here year round. Mr Puddleduck has a glorious blue sheen to his feathers. They wag their tales like puppies when you talk to them…awww! We have had so many thunderstorms around these parts that we have puddles in the ground around the pond. These are full of slugs and worms that these fat little omnivores love. Their feathers have been covered in dirt with their muddy foraging. I tell them to go bathe in the pond to no avail…

These are two mud encrusted red eared slider turtles – what is it with the mud this year? Perhaps it acts as a sunscreen in turtle world. Sometimes they ‘turn turtle’ and we have to wade in and rescue them before the sun bakes them. They are indigenous to the southern Gulf but people have released unwanted pet sliders into other areas and then they become invasive.

OUR IDYLL

If you look really closely to the right of the most northerly pondweed, you will see the head of a massive turtle. He splashed into the water like a hippopotamus when I approached.

This is a Delta Flower Beetle, a beneficial migrant from the Florida Everglades. I was really trying to capture the Lantana blossom but then spotted the Delta which is also a type of Scarab beetle – happy memories from Egypt.

Egyptian visitors at the pond

There has been a curious mystery at our pond for the last few weeks.  There were three little ducklings swimming alone in the middle of the water.  The Whistling ducks have gone to Latin America – would they leave their ducklings behind?  It would be strange as they are the helicopter parents of the duck/goose world.

JUVENILE WHISTLING DUCKS

Then I noticed we had a lovely dove gray Muscovy duck that I assumed was a daughter in law to the extended family.  Was she a flighty young mum, ignoring her ducklings?

UNUSUAL DOVE GRAY MUSCOVY DUCK – AKA DAUGHTER IN LAW

When I walked with Teddy to the pond on Sunday we spotted new visitors. We have a pair of Egyptian Geese which are an invasive species.

EGYPTIAN GEESE

I watched their relationship with our adored Muscovy Ducks but all seemed well.  To be honest our Muscovy ducks are bruisers, more than ready for the pot, as they would be in Mexico.  They look like those Mexican wrestlers with a mask on so I didn’t think the Egyptian Geese would bother them.  I recognized the geese but couldn’t remember what they were.  Now I realize I have seen them on thousands of Egyptian papyrus and ancient carvings.

Much like the Whistling ducks they are neither ducks nor geese but a sub category most similar to Sheldrakes. Today we had an important duck/goose update when we met one of the neighbors who has named all the Muscovy ducks and who lives at the pond. Apparently the Egyptian Geese were indeed terrorists and had frightened the Muscovies on two occasions. What!! She chased them and they seem to have left the area. If I see them again I will call the Ranger. How dare they frighten our residents!!! As for the abandoned ducklings, they are just deadbeat parents…

A few years ago we had another invasive species at the pond, Nutriamama and baby are pictured above. They are a relative of the Capybara and were brought to Louisiana for the fur trade. They breed like rabbits although they look like little beavers and can decimate the vegetation that is needed for the local species. My friend saw the Forest Warden preparing to trap them and asked him, “What are you going to do with them?” Bless her heart! It was like asking the store Santa if Santa is real. The warden very kindly told her that they were being ‘relocated’ to another area.

For some more fake news see RARE TWO HEADED DUCK below

THAT’S ALL FOLKS!!!

From negativity to positivity

As my Nana would say, “You can almost see her breakfast…” Thank goodness for skorts on windy days.

This is my second draft of a post because the first was a tirade about the Dystopian nightmare that I feel I am living in.  I keep looking up to the skies for a plague of locusts or frogs to accompany the Pandemic and violence.  Ultimately, I decided that there was no point in adding my angry comments and opinion to the melee.  Instead I retreated to my containment pond where the water is full of ducklings from both the Muscovy and Whistling Ducks.

Muscovy Mama with her head in the pond and gorgeous ducklings (eight are still with us)

I have been sitting on the edge of the culvert, frightening the green heron because I walk so softly and delighting in nature.  The dragonflies, of every hue, come close to me and land on my head.  Teddy has counted over 30 species of dragonfly in that pond alone.  We watched their very active mating and then saw a female dip her tail, with the fertilized eggs in the pond.  By August, it feels like you are in fairyland with a rainbow of dragonflies fluttering around you.  They stick close to humans to catch the mosquitoes that bite us.

So far in 2020, Teddy has rescued a really large Turtle who was stranded upside down and yesterday I found a tiny little one, about 2 inches across, who was dropped by a predator in the grass.  I lifted him up and we were able to take a close look at his cute little face.  He was hot and bothered so I delicately popped him in the pond and off he swam having lost one of his nine lives (or whatever turtles have).  Today I stopped on the path as Mama Muscovy and her eight big babies walked up the bank and onto the grass for shade.  Mama kept on walking with a trail of ducklings waddling, with me at the tail end.  They have become used to my presence so know no fear.

The Whistling Ducks have tiny little spotted ducklings and they are a little more wary.  There are at least 8 pairs of ducks with a variety of little ones.  The ducks have a really cute squeak but I haven’t heard them whistling yet.  The frogs that bleat like sheep are back – and it is quite unnerving.  I keep looking for a flock of lambs to no avail.  There is a GIANT carcass of an Armadillo in the grass.  It is about the size of a large cat.  I guess it was run over and then the predators had some tasty lunch.

Whistling (squeaking) ducks – their babies are spotted!

I mentioned before that Muscovy Ducks are called Backyard Ducks in Mexico where they originate.  That means they are a tasty lunch in Mexico…  While I was sitting at the pond I spotted an older Mexican couple who were gardening at one of the houses.  They were taking quite an interest in all the ducks and I watched them with trepidation.  ‘You can’t eat these ones – they have names!!’  I was overreacting because they just wanted to ooh and aah over the ducklings like all of us.  In Baja, Teddy and I had the most delicious duck and pomegranate tacos but I didn’t name those ones…  What a hypocrite I am, especially since I have eaten many interesting animals in our travels across the world.  Alligator is chewy, BTW, as is camel.

As much as I still enjoy my pond and its critters, I realize that I live in an idyll far removed from many Americans.  In our township, you are not allowed to discharge a weapon for any reason, especially not to hunt.  There are no fireworks allowed at any time and a million other regulations.  As frustrating as our quarantine has been, I can only imagine what it is like in crowded public housing with no job to go to.

Great Heron walking in Pond Weeds

May we exit this pandemic in peace and live more equitably with compassion for every member of society.

All these photos are taken by the marvelously talented Teddy who has a new exhibit for his photography.