Thursday, September 16, 2010

Heading into the tunnel

I'm trying to understand why the upstairs thermometer is reading 70.3 and the downstairs thermostat is reading 71. That seems a curious situation. Perhaps the heat given off by the refrigerator is slightly raising the downstairs temperature. Or it may be that the upstairs radiated away more heat overnight while it was serving to insulate the downstairs.

I'm thinking on this subject because we're clearly approaching the turnover point where we have to turn on the heat and/or begin running the woodstove. We usually resist that until the night-time fall in temperature gets the house down into the low 60's. At this time of year a battle is going on. The sun is now travelling low enough in the sky to shine half way into the dining living rooms under the overhangs, which raises the daytime temperature into the high 70's on a calm day. Later, as the sun travels still lower, it will be capable of raising the temperatures into the 80's during the day; but the steady drop of outside night-time temperatures results in more and more heat radiated away.

Yesterday I had a semi-competent seeming chimney sweep here to check and clean out the flue. I also had him install a new stainless steel chimney cap to replace the one that blew off twice during it's twenty or so years of service. The screw clamps that are designed to secure the new cap onto the top of the chimney don't look very robust to me; but he assured me that he'll replace the cap if it blows off and he wrote that as a guarantee on his very reasonable bill.

Meanwhile, the squirrels are plentiful and very busy, carrying black walnuts thither and yon to bury them. Yesterday one of those squirrels left a chewed acorn on the patio bench, which was somewhat of a surprise. The nearby trees include black oaks, pin oaks and one solitary post oak none of which produced many acorns this year. That acorn may have been one of the last of his hoarded stock from last year's banner crop, or he may have gotten it from the woods across the creek where there is an overcup oak. That latter shouldn't be the case since I understand that all oak species talk to one another with chemical signals and come to an agreement on whether to produce acorns in any given year. I need to go across the creek and see if any of the oaks over there have produced acorns.

Those squirrels had better be careful out there. This year I've seen more middle sized hawks near the house than ever before. A few weeks ago two juvenile Cooper's Hawks (I think), were working together clumsily to try to catch a squirrel that had hidden under the back door landing. They failed in that case, and at one point the squirrel even turned the tables and ran out to startle one of them and drive it off; but I bet those two have learned a thing or two about squirrel hunting in the past few weeks. And, if there are juvenile Cooper's Hawks about, their parents must also be around.

In other news, I cleaned out the frog's bowl last week and found him surprisingly frisky and agile for a 24 or 25 year old. It was downright difficult to collect him from the sink and get him back into the bowl after I scrubbed off his rocks and changed the water. I was tempted to give him the run of the house for a couple of hours to see if he can still broad jump as far as he used to; but I resisted the temptation. There are too many ways he can cause trouble by hiding under furniture and such.

How does he stay in shape living in that little bowl? Is he doing isometric exercises while he appears to be placidly hanging out under his rocks? He occasionally gets into a mood and moves the rocks around quite vigorously but not often enough to qualify as an exercise program.

Moving on to consider news of the wider world, I read that the stork has delivered 43 new baby Komodo Dragons to the Los Angeles Zoo. Cute little 6 inch long tykes they are; but the one being held by the zoo curator has much longer claws than my frog, and, of course, he has teeth which the frog thankfully lacks.

The zoo news set me to wondering how many reptile afficionados across the country have managed to import baby Komodo Dragons as pets. And how many of them are going to turn those cute little babies loose in a few years after they've grown into not so cute five or six foot long drooling beasties.

A couple of months ago Linda and I watched a Discovery Channel show that claimed there are now estimated to be a hundred thousand or more Burmese Pythons in Florida some of them growing quite large. I imagine a big enough python will eat a Komodo Dragon if given the chance; and I'm sure that works the other way around as well. Both of them, I'm sure, will quite happily eat a jogger; but I doubt that a python could catch one of those, unless it got very lucky.

Ah, the great circle of life.

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