Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fall Duties of Titmice

By Gamildclair Huggins

Adolf, Lon & Canthy

Dorie, Sharice, Sly (hiding on the back pumpkin) and Ned


Summer is over! The air is getting cooler. The wind is blowing and the leaves are turning bright colors. Sisters Dorie and Sharice gathered nesting for their winter borrow. They gathered Lavender buds because they smell so good. They stuffed the buds into their pillows so all winter long they can remember summer.

“I think I will put in some of these nice red Rose petals too.” Says Dorie.

“That will smell really good too.” says Sharice as she fills her cheeks with more Lavender buds and scurries off to fill her pillow. There are not too many blossoms left but the seed buds are really sweet and fragrant.

“I guess we should make pillows for Sly and Ned too. So we will need to come back for more,” decides Sharice.

“Oh, do you think there is enough time left to do that?” Dorie replied.

“Sure, but we had better hurry before the rain comes and spoils them” Sharice assured her.

Dorie and Sharice fill their cheeks with the sweet Lavender seeds buds and scurry home to stuff and sew up the pillows.

A Tasty Snack

Sly and Ned were twin boys. They loved to do things together and often found really good stuff. This morning Sly was out by himself foraging for something to eat. He was always hungry for something different so often went out by himself to new places, but most of the time he didn’t want to be alone. Ned didn’t like it either.

Sly found an apple tree and filled up on the sweet fruit. These would not keep over the winter well until they were dried, so he just ate it.

Later he would tell Ned, Dorie and Sharice where to find them, so they could have a snack too. Maybe later in the fall some would have dried enough so the apples would store longer.

“They would make a tasty treat then too,” he thought to himself. “I won’t forget to come back and get the dried ones.” He would need to check back soon before the rain came and they rotted.

He stuffed his cheeks with more apple and scampered off to tell the others what he had found. When he got there everyone was out of the borrow. “I wonder where they went” then he heard giggling in the distance and he knew that Dorie and Sharice were under the oak tree.

“They are probably gathering acorns he said to him self. I had better get over there.”

Acorns and Squirrels

Dorie, Sharice, and Ned had gathered acorns from the oak leaves under the big oak tree. Sly joined them told them about the apples. Ned and he ran around a bit until the girls called them back to finish the job. They made a big pile, now they needed to put them all away Ned thought that putting them in the ground would be best. After all the turnips worked that way, so they dig little holes all over the place and put one acorn in at a time.

“It is getting too dark now, so we had better start in the morning,” Sharice noticed.

Dorie didn’t want to stop looking for the acorns but she couldn’t tell the acorns from the leaves, so she said “It is too dark. Let’s go in.”

The next morning Ned and Sly woke up early and went out to get the acorns. They were gone! “Those lazy squirrels took our stash! We will need to get the girls and gather some more.” Sly said disappointed and angry at the squirrels.

So Ned and Sly got Dorie and Sharice up. “Wake up sleepy heads the squirrels took all the acorns!”

“Oh! Darn!” they both said together. They looked at each other and giggled “Tee hee hee,” covering their mouths with their tiny paws. They were always doing that.

They all trundled out to gather the acorns. They worked for half the day and stashed the acorns in little holes in the field and took many home to their stash the other half of the day, so the squirrels would not get them again.

“I hope we can find them in those holes when we are hungry.” says Ned.

“Oh don’t worry they will be right here when we want them.” said Sly as he scampered to the next place and put his tiny orange nose down in the hole and droped in the acorn.

“We can put them here and over there, down under the apple tree and out in the yard near the corn field” Ned told Sly.

“Maybe we could save a few more this time inside so we don’t have to look for them,” replied Sly.

“No, there isn’t any more room in the storage. We will just need to look for them when we want to eat acorns,” Ned reassured Sly.

“Oh I guess” Sly replied with a big sigh. “But can we at least put a twig over them so we can find them?”

Ned laughed. “This big tree drops millions of twigs a day that won’t help.Oh don’t worry they will be right here when we want them.”

Sly scampered to the next place and put his tiny orange nose down in the hole and drops in another acorn. “I guess you are right, but you need to help me find them when we want them!” retorted Sly with his paws on his hips.

“You know I will.” Said Ned and patted his brother on the head.

“I, just hope we can find them when we are hungry.” Ned said under his breath.

The Soft Spot

There has been a great crop of pumpkins this year. They had been testing the pumpkins since they turned orange. But they were too hard to get into. So they waited until a spot on the pumpkin got soft and each gnawed into the soft flesh of the pumpkin. Each Titmouse filled their tummies with the sweet pumpkin pulp, then got as many seeds as they could hold in their cheeks then looked for places to hide the pumpkin seeds. Again they made little holes in the grass and plunked in a pumpkin seed or two in each.

Last year they forgot where a few were so in the spring there were pumpkin plants and oak trees all over the place. “Where did they come from?” they all exclaimed but were delighted when the pumpkin plants grew lots of new pumpkins to eat.

Ned and Sly got so carried away putting things in holes that they put all their pumpkin seeds in holes next to the acorns. Even on top of the burrow! We will see what happens next year.

The Other Side of the Forest

Way on the other side of the great forest cousins Adolph and Lon are gathering in winter vegetables. They like carrots and turnips so they are bringing them into their nest just in case there is a time they might want a tasty treat.

Adolph, Canthy and Lon also like acorns. Boy! There are a lot under the oak tree this year. The Blue Jays and squirrels have been dropping them on the ground. Blue Jays and Squirrels like to eat them in the trees so they leave the ones on the ground for the Titmice and Possums.

As Lon pulls a big piece of turnip down the burrow Adolph notices that it will not fit especially with Lon’s mouth full of acorns. “You can’t get that in there!” he protests.

Just as Adolph said that Lon yelped “I’- s-uck! H--lk!” he screeches with his mouth full.

Adolph grabed onto Lon’s curly tail and tried to pull him back out of the hole but he is really stuck. Adolph ran back and up the nearest tree to size up the situation as Lon wimpers, stuck tight in the hole, front paws on the big turnip and mouth crammed with acorns.

“Peese h—lk me” he wines, his mouth still chock full of nuts.

From the tree Adolph can see that the hole is tightly surrounding Lon’s tummy. “I think I can dig you out, Lon, if you just hold still” he yells from the tree. Lon is so busy trying to get out he can hardly hear what Adolph is saying and struggles all the more to get him self out but only digs himself in further.

Adolph scampers down the tree and comes over to Lon and touches him on his back and says quite sternly “Sit still!” Lon quiets down and Adolph begins to dig. “Boy, you really got yourself stuck in there. I think all the wiggling has got you stuck worse.”

Lon begins to cry, but that makes it even worse. “Stop crying, you are getting the dirt all wet and muddy!” Adolph says.

Lon takes a deep breath as well as he can with all those acorns in his mouth. “Ota.” he says quietly.
Adolph began to dig all around Lon, to the left-- then on top-- then on the right --then under Lon. “-Top! Y--r -ickling me!” Lon squeaks laughing.

“Sorry, I am almost finished” Adolph exclaims. “There now you can wiggle your way back out. Just a little at a time now, careful!”

Lon’s shoulders appear, then his little black ears, then his little orange eyes blink away the dirt and he is free. He spits out the acorns. “Thanks” he says with a sigh. “I was really stuck. Oh look-- the opening to our burrow is bigger now the turnip will fit!”

“Oh no you don’t!” Adolph exclaims. “We will leave the turnip in the ground then get some when we want it next time. They won’t spoil. Let’s get all the acorns we can. I know where there is corn too.”

“Oh goodie! Let’s go! I love corn.” Lon says and bounds off.

Wait a minute! You don’t know where it is. You’ll get lost! Lon! Lon! Wait!” but Lon was long gone.

“Darn. I guess I will have to go get him.” Adolph says to Canthy and they both went to find Lon and to show him where the corn is. They knew he would get lost.

When they found Lon he was on the pumpkins very close to the corn so he was not lost like they thought.

As they gathered the corn kernels they were thinking of the nice meals they would have in the winter—Hasty pudding, Corn soup, Corn with Beans, Corn Bread, Tamale Pie! Boy, they could hardly wait.

“I like roasted pumpkin seeds too” says Adolph. We should find a soft pumpkin and save the seeds in our borrow so we can roast them at Christmas”.

“Ya, and I know where there is a big Chestnut tree. We can save some of chestnuts for Christmas too!” says Canthy.

“Oh! I know where that is!” exclaims Lon and runs off as fast as he can.

“There he goes again.” Adolph says with a big sigh.

“Ya, I bet he will bring back the biggest one he can find and we will have to help him try to get it in our borrow,” chuckles Canthy.

What Luck

After the work of getting the pumpkin seeds Adolph was tired. He found a great pile of leaves with the sun beating down on it. What a great place to take a rest. Soon he was fast asleep. He started to dream. Little red balls swimming in a lake. Long green vines with green leaves, he played ball with the little red balls kicking them to Lon and Canthy, rolling them on the ground. Adolph woke up with a start. “What was that all about? Balls, Red, ground, vines? I don’t get it” he thought to himself.

As he opened his eyes after his dream he sniffed the air. “Oh!” he exclaimed. “I know what that dream was about.” He scurried off to get Canthy and Lon.

“Hey you guys we forgot the tomatoes!” he yelled as he arrived.

“OH ya! We had better go get them. They must be dry by now. I hope the squirrels and Blue Jays haven’t gotten them. That little white dog loves to eat them too. I hope he doesn’t know where they are,” said Canthy.

They scampered off to the tomato patch. The tomatoes were the tiny grape type that were just their size. They could put several in their cheeks at a time and bring them back to their burrow. “They will make a tasty soup with the carrots, peas and turnips,” they all thought. Back and forth they went from the patch to the storage making a trail between their doorway and the tomato patch. When they realized that somebody could follow the trail to their borrow they used their tails to sweep the dirt so it did not make a line right to their front door. “That would not be safe.” Adolph said.

They hurried around and got as many as they could fit into the storage place just for tomatoes. It felt good to get that finished.

On the home front

Later Canthy wanted to organize the burrow. She was the best organizer in the family. So, deep in the borrow Canthy was fixing places for everything. She liked a neat borrow. She made up all the beds, cleaned up the living room and fixed a large place to store the food that the boys continue to bring back on their hunts.

Canthy likes sweet smells just like her cousins Dorie and Sharice. She has also gathered Lavender and Rose petals for her pillow.

When Canthy is finished with the things she wants to do, the smell of the Lavender is so sweet that it lures her to curls up and snuggles with her pillow. “Soon the boys will be back and they all will have plenty of work to do finishing up the filling of the food storage for winter” she thinks to herself but for now she can dream of spring.

Canthy wakes from her nap. The boys are not back yet so she scampers outside. “I am hungry for a snack.” Searching she finds a lush strawberry to eat, the last of the season, what a great lunch. It is really big but she was so hungry from all that work that she eats it all up

Maybe there is another few strawberries I can put in the sun to dry and save for later.” She scurries around the strawberry patch looking under each leaf and finds 6 small ones and 2 big ones. The small ones will dry quickly and be easy to save so she takes them to a sunny safe place to dry where the Blue Jays can’t find them. “Lon and Adolph will really like strawberries too,” she says to herself. So she brings the big ones back for the boys snack.

A Blue Encounter

“Oh, yes the Blue Jays. Those pests! Just the other day one started to screech as they do. Within seconds 6 humming birds came to the rescue of what ever he was screeching about.” Adolph said to Canthy. “We all know that they will eat anything and don’t like it a bit. I don’t know if they figured out what he was screeching about or not but it was not long before two other Blue Jays arrived. Then they all scattered,”

Canthy thought she had better keep looking up. Those Blue Jays might get all their storage! Thieves that they are!

Blue Jays and squirrels were the first to find the sunflower seeds. Adolph, Canthy and Lon knew where a big patch of orange and brown sunflowers were. They had seen them in the spring and knew just where they were. Every day they had stopped by to see if the seeds had dried. Today Canthy came by and saw that some of the seeds were missing.

“Those darn Blue Jays!” she exclaimed. “Adolph, Lon the Blue Jays have been in the sunflower patch!” she yelled. “Come quick and get some before they are all gone.”

As they picked the sunflower seeds two large bright blue Blue Jays came by. “Screech, Screech, what are you doing in our sunflower patch?” the biggest one said menacingly. The Titmice ran for cover. They ran so fast that the Blue Jays couldn’t tell where they went.

“Well, I showed them!” screeched the big Blue Jay.

“You sure did” said the other. “Your bad! Your bad!” he chanted.

The biggest Blue Jay puffed up, strutted up to a sunflower and plucked a seed out of it. “These are ours! Those little mice are no match for us.” And he strutted off with the smaller one right behind strutting just like he had chased the Titmice away.

But the Titmice were cleaver. The cleaver Titmice knew that the Blue Jays had been bulling all the animals of the forest all day and had warn themselves out so the Titmice came at dusk when the Blue Jays sleeping, and gathered up the sunflower seeds. “Won’t they be surprised in the morning,” Lon whispered as they filled their cheeks.

Finishing up

The Titmice have worked very hard getting all the food into the storage room in the borrows. Each one had made a bedding space with the pillows filled with Lavender. They have worked together to gather in all the dried fruit, seeds and dried vegetables into the storage room. They have cleaned up all the stems and dirt that they tracked into the borrow doorway tunnels.

Ned, Sly, Dorie and Sharice felt very good about the job they had done. Their burrow is ready for the winter. That night they curled up in their warm beds and slept dreaming of all the nummy food that they had gathered.

The next morning they woke ready for the day but what to do? All the work was finished. It was still really nice outside. The rain had not come yet, the sun was shining and the ground was covered with yellow, red and brown leaves.

“Everything is neat and clean now, and the storage is full,” Sharice said, “We should do something fun today.”

“Ya!” exclaimed the twins.

“But what?” asked Dorie.

Sharice thought for a long time. “First we should have breakfast. Sly would you get the pieces of apple you found and I will get the pumpkin seeds that I gathered yesterday. They all sat down and munched on some fresh pumpkin seeds and sweet apple.

As they sat munching away Ned popped up with “Let’s go see the cousins!”

“That’s a great idea” said Sly enthusiastically throwing pumpkin seeds in the air

The girls together shouted “Yah I want to go!” then looked at each other giggling because they had said the same thing.

They quickly cleaned up the mess Sly had made getting so excited.

Off they went out the cleaned doorway tunnels, out onto the red, yellow and brown leaves, across the pumpkin patch, under the apple tree, through the corn field to the tree lined entry to other side of the forest.

“Stop a minute,” Dorie said, “I’m getting tired.”

“Come on let’s just get there! I bet I can beat you Ned,” yelled Sly and he dashed off.

“Oh No you don’t!” Yelled Ned and started off after him.

“I’ll walk with you, Dorie.” Sharice said softly. Just then they saw Adolph, Canthy and Lon in the distance coming their way. They met at the top of the hill.

“We were coming to see you!” ---“We were coming to see you too!” They all said at once.

The girls all giggled and danced together. The boys ran around in circles chasing each other.

“Which way should we go?” they asked each other. “Well our house is bigger,” said Dorie and Sharice.

That’s true said Adolph lets go to your house. They all trundled off out of the tree lined entry to other side of the forest--across through the corn field --under the apple tree-- across the pumpkin patch and over the red yellow and brown leaves to the front door of the twins and the girls borrow.

Once they were inside the girls went into the kitchen to make Hasty Pudding their favorite dessert while the boys played hide and seek in the leaves. It was a wonderful end to the duties of the Fall. All the Titmice were very proud and knew the winter would be a fine one now that they had finished their work.

This is the Titmouse’s favorite dessert when they go and visit each other.

Hasty Pudding
(Cornmeal mush)

1 cup corn meal in 1 cup cold water
2 cups boiling water in sauce pan
2 Tbls sugar
¼ tsp salt
Bring water to boil, mix cornmeal, sugar and salt in cold water. Mix the cornmeal mixture into the boiling water carefully, stirring constantly, lower heat and cover, let simmer for 5 minutes.

“I like to serve it without stirring it so there are little floating islands of the pudding in a sea of milk,” says Sharice.

“I like it smooth and creamy all mixed up.” says Adolph.

“I like it with dehydrated berries and cream on mine,” says Sly.

“I like it in a big lump in my bowl sprinkled with sugar so it melts like a crust then it floats in the milk. I take little bites of it with a bit of milk until I get to the soft middle, then I gobble it all up,” says Ned.

“Oh! My favorite is putting peach jam that Sharice makes in the summer in my Hasty Pudding,” pipes up Canthy. “Dorie what is your favorite?”

“Well, I will have to think about that. I just like it all those ways,” says Dorie

Lon just says “Yum! Yum! Yum!” as he gobbled his up.

Until next time

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