Your Big Backyard

by WCE

I attended land grant universities. In a college discussion, Finn asked me if the local land grant university is a good school. “It depends, ” I thought. If you want to study volcanoes, oceanography, veterinary medicine, rangeland management, wildlife biology or forestry, it’s a very good school. We have excellent researchers in the cultivation of pears and berries. But it probably doesn’t rank very high with US News. (It’s #138.)

Recently, I saw Facebook posts from a friend who studied forestry and then moved to Montana and Wyoming. She posted a picture of a young moose stripping leaves that she took on their family hike (below) and a video of a grizzly bear across a stream from them. I also saw a NY Times article about what researchers at University of Montana (#194 according to US News) are learning about songbird communication in the presence of predators. (It’s linked below).

20150611.TMoose

I’d like to know more about birds, and the sounds I hear when I meet the bus or go for a walk are mostly those of various birds and squirrels, so the article interested me. My kids recently watched a video about pythons in southern Florida, and they were impressed by a huge python that had crawled through the sewage system into someone’s toilet. What’s interesting about nature where you live? Do you know what is under study about nature in your local area?

Here’s the NY Times article on bird warnings that I enjoyed.

When Birds Squawk, Other Species Seem to Listen

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143 thoughts on “Your Big Backyard

  1. In recent weeks, as the sand-colored birds have arrived to roost on their eggs, the people detailed to protect them say they have been taunted, cursed at, and dismissed as flunkies of a state more concerned about birds than people. The bathers want their sandy shores back.

    “A man told me the other day that he has spent his life trying to fight what we do,” said Lyra Brennan, a field technician for Mass Audubon, who has had to call on state park rangers for help as she patrols the beach with binoculars and a notebook.

    https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/06/06/resurgence-plovers-rankles-beachgoers/YGX5fxC451sX3mckdGfJ5N/story.html

    The problem appears to be that for whatever reason the plovers are able to successfully raise almost 3x as many chicks at this popular urban beach as they are in more isolated locations.

    The are of course, adorable:

  2. This isn’t something I think about very often. Over the past few years as the number of feral cats have disappeared or aged in our neighborhood, we notice a wider variety of birds. We have a number of animals that are categorized as endangered or threatened and are made aware of that fairly regularly – two reptiles and a variety of bird come to mind off the top of my head. In our yard/neighborhood, we typically see birds – primarily blue jays, doves, and cardinals, squirrels, possums, fox, raccoons, lizzards, toads, geckos, guinea hens (long story), and deer. Where I used to live about 15 miles south, but in the same city, the bats regularly visited my neighborhood in the early evening.

  3. I like watching the ospreys, but they grow cross when I kayak anywhere near their nests.

    Their migration is interesting:

    On a clear morning in early September 2008, a three-month-old female Osprey named Penelope pushed off from Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and flew, alone, 2,700 miles to French Guiana in 13 days.

    She touched down in coastal Maryland and North Carolina for three days, lazed along the Bahamas for four, then blew through the Dominican Republic in 29 hours. At dusk she launched out over the Caribbean, flying all night and the next day to a tiny island off the coast of Venezuela. A week later she was exploring rainforest rivers in French Guiana, her home for the next 18 months.

    They mate, take care of the baby during the summer, and then the parents take a break from childrearing responsibilities and winter separately. If both of them make it back, they’ll stay monogamous.

    Different article:
    http://www.jamaicabayosprey.org/faq-about-ospreys

  4. all the usual birds, small animals + deer. Baby ground hogs are cute. I see hawks flying a lot and I think they are cool. Just last week a bald eagle that had been banded when introduced into the wild turned up as roadkill a town over. The bird was 38years old.

    A couple of years ago we had a couple of bears locally which took to raiding dumpsters that had garbage in them but weren’t in a highly trafficked area.

  5. I have looked up hardy native plants to grow in my backyard and that’s how I discovered that all that research was linked to NC State. I feel that all the research takes place in the Research Triangle and this part of the state needs more research institutions. We are getting more hospital based research so at least there is something going on here.

  6. Rhett – they’re like dogs. We have a family friend who lives right near Chatham Bars Inn (if anyone knows where that is) and there are hundreds of them just sitting there as you look out onto the water. We were on Monomoy a few summers ago walking around and a seal came right up to us. My BIL is a biologist and so he was thrilled, I however high tailed it out of the water. Where there are seals, there are sharks.

    There has also been this explosion of coyotes and wild turkeys all over the Cape. It’s really bizarre, they must have walked over the bridges.

  7. Rhett – adorable!

    I am worried about global warming meaning that sharks will make it all the way up to the NH and ME coast. Blech! I don’t want sharks in my nice seaweedy waters!

    Locally, we have many birds, a raccoon, and bunnies. The bunnies are awfully cute, but they eat many of our wild strawberries that are growing in the patio garden.

  8. What a fun post, WCE!

    I have an exciting (to me) piece of nature news: when I walked in my backyard the past few days I have been hearing a swishing sound as I walked by a certain small tree. I found a tiny nest there, empty, but when I came back a little later I saw it occupied by a hummingbird! I can’t get too close, but I am looking forward to seeing the babies if they survive.

    I am trying to pay more attention to birds these days. We have hawks nearby that I love to watch, and I would like to pay more attention to what the birds are saying.

    Even though I live in a city I am very close to a large wild area that houses foxes, raccoons and now coyotes. You would not want to walk a dog off leash at dawn or dusk in these areas (unless it was a big dog!). DH and I once saw a coyote lying in wait in the grass as we walked, and it gave me the shivers, but was very exciting as well.

  9. Milo,

    Are you familar with the arctic tern?

    The Arctic tern is famous for its migration; it flies from its Arctic breeding grounds to the Antarctic and back again each year, the shortest distance between these areas being 19,000 km (12,000 mi). The long journey ensures that this bird sees two summers per year and more daylight than any other creature on the planet.[7] One example of this bird’s remarkable long-distance flying abilities involves an Arctic tern ringed as an unfledged chick on the Farne Islands, Northumberland, UK, in the northern summer of 1982, which in October 1982, just three months from fledging, reached Melbourne, Australia. Assuming a direct route of flight, the distance covered would have been more than 22,000 km (14,000 mi).[8] Another example is that of a chick ringed in Labrador, Canada, on 23 July 1928. It was found in South Africa four months later.[9]

    A 2010 study using tracking devices attached to the birds showed that the above examples are not unusual for the species. In fact, it turned out, previous research had seriously underestimated the annual distances travelled by the Arctic tern. Eleven birds that bred in Greenland or Iceland covered 70,900 km (44,100 mi) on average in a year, with a maximum of 81,600 km (50,700 mi).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arctic_tern

  10. My neighborhood is built on what used to be a bird habitat, and the developers have done a great deal to try to incorporate nature, so th many species of birds are still around. I’m a little obsessed with the egrets (also called herons), and love seeing them at the little pond behind my house. If I knew how to post a picture, I’d share one I took of some fairly rare pink egrets. I consider them to be the redheads of the bird world, and as a mother of a redhead, I feel very protective of them. Our lakes are stocked with a variety of fish, which I know nothing about, and we also have a ton of turtles, frogs, and snakes. Neighbors have reported Bobcats in the wooded walking trail area, along with cotton mouth snakes, and we have a coyote problem from all the development going on. Most interesting is that we get alligators in our waterways during mating season, as everything flows down to the Gulf. I haven’t seen any myself, but neighbors have posted pics of them sunning themselves next to the water. I stick to the sidewalks, but lots of middle school age boys jump off the bridges into the water.

  11. Oh, I forgot hawks and vultures. With cell phone towers we have gotten some of these birds back over the past 5 or so years. Though come to think of it, these past few weeks, they haven’t taken care of road kill like they have been. Within the neighborhood we have a family of owls – the property owner set up an owl cam that everyone seems to be checking as the chicks hatched recently.

  12. The long journey ensures that this bird sees two summers per year and more daylight than any other creature on the planet.

    Suddenly, the idea of people having a summer home seems far more pedestrian.

  13. Two more bird things going on in my neighborhood:

    In the natural area near my home they are doing a lot of research to preserve and restore the land and native species. There is a type of quail that used to be all over the place, but there are not too many left. You will see road signs for “quail crossing” with the appropriate silhouette, and teepees made out of sticks to create potential nesting/hiding spots.

    We have had a bunch of crows (a murder?) hanging out on my street for the past few years, and I have heard that they are quite intelligent and can leave presents for you. Does anyone know anything about this? I don’t really like them and wish they would move on, but if they are going to stay I’d like to know more about them.

  14. Or this:

    A female shorebird was recently found to have flown 7,145 miles (11,500 kilometers) nonstop from Alaska to New Zealand—without taking a break for food or drink….”It’s the equivalent of a human running at 70 kilometers an hour [43.5 miles an hour] for more then seven days.”

    According to satellite data, E7 flew at an average speed of 34.8 miles an hour (56 kilometers an hour), seeking favorable winds at elevations between 1.85 miles (3 kilometers) and 2.5 miles (4 kilometers).

    Along the way, the bird “slept” by shutting down one side of her brain at a time and burned up the huge stores of fat—more than 50 percent of her body weight—that she had piled on in Alaska.

    Interesting to note that the bird consumed 50% of it’s body weight to make the trip. A Boeing 777-300ER has a max takeoff weight of 660,000lbs of which (fully fueled) 321,000lbs is fuel. So, almost the same ratio as a long haul jetliner.

  15. We have a few owls in our backyard which are sort of cool and you see hawks flying around from time to time. Unfortunately we also have copperheads all over the place. We have a creek in our backyard and one day last summer we got out of the car to find a gigantic water snake sunning himself on our driveway. I ran inside with the kids and I still look out for it every time I go outside, shudder…

  16. @Louise – But you’re in the city that controls all the money! :-)
    Seriously, though, NC State is the main land grant institution for NC, along with NC A&T in Greensboro, so that’s where most of the agricultural & environmental research will be. Because of its much smaller size, A&T is just less prominent. We have the same thing here – VT is the big land grant so we have agriculture, engineering, natural resources, etc. while UVA has more medical and humanities research.

  17. Despite having huge packs of feral cats in the neighborhood, we also have a lot of birds. My husband is into them. We used to have morning doves that hung out on our back porch, and a couple of years ago, a robin built a nest in our hanging basket on the front porch, and hatched and raised three babies. We have woodpeckers, and even have seen hummingbirds.

    However, I think the coolest thing about our microenvironment is the utter lack of deer. I think our neighborhood is unique for Westchester County in that characteristic. It means I can garden without putting up a massive fencing system. I do not know why we don’t have deer – the neighborhood is dense, but other similarly dense towns, like the river towns, have deer.

  18. My favorite backyard was ABQ, just because it was so different. I loved when the quail hatched, and you’d see mom and dad followed by a series of little cotton balls with legs. And then you’d see the road runner, looking like it arrived directly from Jurassic Park (never saw the “dinosaurs evolved into birds” quite so clearly as the first time I saw one of those in action). And then the number of little cotton balls after the mom and dad would get smaller and smaller every time they bobbed by. . . .

  19. Living on a farm, we see lots of different wildlife. We have a momma red fox and her baby living behind the barn. We hear coyotes yipping at night on a regular basis, and DD saw the first fawn of the year earlier today. Both DH and I love to look at birds. DD not so much, but she does know the different types. She went to the beach recently and texted me that she heard a chuck-will’s-widow late at night. She was excited about it because it is not a bird heard around here, and they have a really neat call. http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Chuck-wills-widow/id

    Milo- We actually have ospreys pass through our area every March and then on their way south in September.
    Fred-We occasionally have bears. DH was doing some work for a sheep farmer recently who had lost some sheep to a bear. The bear killed the ewes, ripped out their udders to get the milk and left the rest of the carcass to rot in the field. The bear also killed some lambs, but did not eat any of them either.

  20. Milo-Did you ever find out if that was a bobcat you were hearing earlier this spring?

    MBT-Herons and egrets are different types of birds. We have lots of great blue herons, sometimes green herons, but only rarely egrets.

  21. My DD associates Florida with the pythons as well (sorry PTM ;-).
    This week a shark got at two people on the same beach in two separate attacks on the same day. We have so many beaches and lots of people in the water at this time of year.

  22. Sheep Farmer – I think it was a bobcat, after consulting with a couple neighbors, but I haven’t heard it again. There have also been flyers around my neighborhood about a missing cat, and the owners are really upset, but I’m pretty sure that cat is toast. Besides the alleged bobcat, we’ve seen foxes, and there are even coyotes. There have also been black bears, but they just seem to destroy any bird feeders people have out. Deer, of course, but that goes without saying. You don’t even notice them any more. My kids don’t even comment unless there are a couple babies.

  23. Well, to tie this to yesterday, my news feed today tells me of a study that proves that excreted birth control pills are causing fish fertility issues and a decline in fish population.
    Our main wildlife is the d******d squirrels. And the occasional very confused deer running down the street.

  24. We have lots of bald eagles. I love seeing them fly around overhead. When I was little it was rare to see one, and so majestic when you did (still is for me). My children are not at all impressed with them. They are use to seeing them. We also have lots of monarch butterflies and occasionally hummingbirds.

    I went to a land grant university and just recently researchers from there think they have figured out what is causing the honeybee die off. I’m always interested in stuff like that, as well as invasive species – I mentioned last week that I’m dealing with the ash borer and trying to save my tree. And locally there is the asian carp moving north and killing off local fish.

  25. Mooshi, you are so lucky that you don’t have deer. I never thought about it, but I don’t see deer in your town even though we are only a few miles from each other. I see deer almost every day. They have taken over my neighborhood! The turkeys have been driving me crazy for the last month or two because they are very loud….plus they come between 5 and 6am. We hear coyotes at night, but that is usually in the winter. I find it very surprising that I see so many animals because I live so close to a city, but there are still a lot of woods around here.

  26. True story – I had never heard the term “land grant university” and didn’t have any idea what you guys were talking about when you first mentioned it.

  27. We have a lot of feral pigs here. I hear them often in the undeveloped area next to our house, and every so often one of them will be seen on the street. They are quite destructive to the native environment.

    There’s also a family of feral pigs in the woods near my office. Some people in the office feed them, and others are hoping they will eventually be served at an office party.

  28. We live close to the Loop with a lot of high rises & mid-rises around, which means FALCONS! They are so incredibly cool to watch. A pair of them nested in a really tall tree at the park behind our building last year, and we watched them all summer. We haven’t seen them come back to the park this spring yet, but seeing as the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup last night – maybe we will see them soon. (see article)

    http://articles.redeyechicago.com/2013-05-16/news/39316751_1_baby-falcons-field-museum-greg-martin

    Besides that, the scourge of my rooftop garden is squirrels. Fluffy rats!

  29. July 2, 2012, marks the day that Abraham Lincoln, with the sweep of his pen, forever shaped the future of the nation with his signature on the Morrill Act. This legislation established America’s system of land-grant universities, which not only provided access to a college education to a much broader sector of society but also enlisted the help of institutions of higher education in solving society’s pressing problems.

    In this day of more than 4,000 American colleges and universities of all stripes and seemingly universal access to a college education, it might be hard to sense the revolutionary nature of the land-grant college concept. Emerging from a 19th-century American culture dependent on agriculture and industry, land-grant schools were the first higher-education institutions focused on research and improving the economy.

    The legislation became law 150 years ago in 1862, during the darkest days of the nation’s Civil War. We have come a long way since.

    The social mobility afforded everyone has helped strengthen American democratic principles. Indeed, some have dubbed the Morrill Act the democratization of education.

    From http://www.vt.edu/landgrant/president.html

  30. from the all-knowing wiki:

    A land-grant university (also called land-grant college or land-grant institution) is an institution of higher education in the United States designated by a state to receive the benefits of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890.

    The Morrill Acts funded educational institutions by granting federally controlled land to the states for them to sell to raise funds to establish and endow “land-grant” colleges. The mission of these institutions as set forth in the 1862 Act is to focus on the teaching of practical agriculture, science, military science and engineering (though “without excluding … classical studies”), as a response to the industrial revolution and changing social class.[1][2] This mission was in contrast to the historic practice of higher education to focus on an abstract liberal arts curriculum.

  31. So basically, land grant schools were established to actually solve societal problems (hence, the focus on engineering & agriculture) rather than just educate the elite few in what we now call the liberal arts. :-)

  32. “to focus on the teaching of practical agriculture, science, military science and engineering ”

    Is that the basis for schools like VT and Texas A&M to have a Corps of Cadets?

  33. The Morrill Act had a huge influence on the American system of higher education, perhaps the biggest influence really. It is because of the Morrill Act that universities see their mission as not just education, but also research and service. The service part is actually very important for most land grant institutions. Examples of service include outreach to K12 education, running health clinics in rural areas, agricultural stations, and collaborations with local governments to encourage high tech startups in the area.

    Before the Morrill Act, American higher education was dominated by small religious institutions that educated the sons of the upper class.

  34. Since there is a land grant university in my backyard, I see (and smell) cows and horses on a daily basis. Of course, there is research on much more – I also drive past a fisheries research center on my way home. My subdivision has a large swath of preserved woodland so we see deer, rabbits, groundhogs, and a lot of birds – no idea what else is in there. I don’t usually notice bird species, but some beautiful blue jays and cardinals have been around this spring.

  35. Love this topic and loved hearing about wildlife in everyone’s backyard. We have the usual suspects- deer, fox, coyotes, wild turkey, blue herons, and other long beaked birds, etc. Thankfully no wolves yet *they are scheduled to move into the state soon) or bears. No poisonous snakes either.

    I want to learn how to identify various trees and birds as I am not very good at that.

  36. “July 2, 2012, marks the day that Abraham Lincoln, with the sweep of his pen, forever shaped the future of the nation with his signature on the Morrill Act.”

    I was not aware that Abraham Lincoln was capable of sweeping his pen on that date.

  37. I never knew about the land grants universities. It’s very interesting to learn the history behind the schools.

  38. I’ve enjoyed using the Merlin App from the Cornell Lab to ID birds in my back yard. You input info about your bird and it gives you likely choices, and you can listen to the call, etc. Just used it the other day to ID a green heron.

  39. “I want to learn how to identify various trees and birds as I am not very good at that.”

    I have about half a dozen of the Royal Audubon Society field guides that have been very helpful, and I believe they’re now in app form.

  40. “We live close to the Loop with a lot of high rises & mid-rises around, which means FALCONS! They are so incredibly cool to watch.”

    I’ve been racking my brain to remember the name of this book and your comment triggered my memory of On the Wing: To the Edge of the Earth with the Peregrine Falcon.

    Naturalist Tennant (The Guadalupe Mountains of Texas) describes his efforts to trail peregrine falcons on their epic migratory flights from the Caribbean to the Arctic in a detailed, impassioned account that’s part nature study and part gonzo travelogue.

  41. We occasionally see bats flying at dusk in our backyard, and I’ve toyed with the idea of installing a bat house as a way to help control mosquitoes. But considering bats can carry rabies, it hasn’t seemed like such a good idea.

    We recently came across a baby raccoon that some members of my extended family handled. (It was sooo cute, they said.) Turned out it died and may have been carrying rabies, and one family member decided to get shots. I had to call the county health department to handle this incident, and their phone tree recording was something like: Press one for Ebola, press two for rabies ,,,.

    In the course of explaining the risks, the county staffer explained that in some cases they always recommend rabies shots. Like if you wake up with a bat in your bedroom. The way he said it made it seem as if it was not that uncommon around here.

  42. We have a bat living under our roof right outside the attic. We let him stay because I think it does help with the mosquitoes.

  43. “My DD associates Florida with the pythons as well (sorry PTM ;-).”

    I’m not so worried about pythons down here. They tend to live in the Everglade which Marco, Jeb! Bush! (ital.), big sugar and FPL (with their sea level nuclear reactors) are intent on destroying.

    As far as I’m concerned the most invasive species in South Florida is politicians.

  44. Finn,

    Shearwaters aren’t as cute as my favorite sea bird – the mighty puffin:

  45. Milo – Yep —The State of Texas agreed to create a college under the terms of the Morrill Act in November 1866, but actual formation didn’t come until the establishment of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas by the Texas state legislature on April 17, 1871. A commission created to locate the institution accepted the offer of 2,416 acres of land from the citizens of Brazos County in 1871, and instruction began in 1876. Admission was limited to white males, and, as required by the Morrill Act, all students were required to participate in military training.

  46. And this….Since that time Texas A&M has flourished and has become one of the nation’s premier research universities. Along with the University of Texas and Rice, it is one of only three Tier 1 universities in the state. In 1971 and 1989 respectively, Texas A&M was designated as a Sea Grant and a Space Grant institution, making it among the first four universities to hold the triple distinction of Land Grant, Sea Grant, and Space Grant designations.

    Sea grant colleges created in 1966 and Space grant colleges in 1988. There are also Sun grant colleges created in 2003.

  47. CoC, i frequently deal with the health department for my job. So far this year, in my county (western VA), there have been five confirmed cases of rabies-three skunks, one raccoon, and one cow. The only way to confirm if an animal has rabies is to run some sort of test on the brain. Our health department says that if you are exposed to an animal that may have rabies (and you were not able to catch it to have it tested) then you need to get the shots as a precaution. A friend found a bat in her DD bedroom late one night. Not thinking, she opened the window, and the bat flew out. Her DD had been asleep, and since they did not know if the bat had bitten the girl while she slept and since they did not capture the bat to have it tested, the girl had to undergo the series of shots.
    Lemon-I look at all the wilderness around me and wonder if Bigfoot could possibly be real. We have lots of different types of animals show up on our game camera, but no Bigfoot. The state game people are adamant that cougars do not exist in Virginia, but lots of people in the western part of the state swear that they have seen them. Could be the same with Bigfoot!

  48. Sheep Farmer – I was basing my comment off of info I found at Wikipedia, after someone corrected my calling the birds egrets, saying they were herons. According to wikipedia, “An egret /ˈiːɡrət/ is a bird that is any of several herons, most of which are white or buff”. I have no knowledge other than that, so won’t argue if you say they’re two different species.

    Austin – I believe Univ of Houston is also a Tier 1 university now, too.

    Florida people, I see that Trump is now running, meaning Florida has contributed three candidates to the election – so we thank you for sharing your vast political wealth with the rest of the country.

    Rhett- thought of you. I just picked up our new-to-us Lexus IS350 today, and brought the owne’rs manual in to read over a glass of wine tonight. I’m looking forward to it a ridiculous amount. Everyone we’ve tried to look at was sold almost immediately. When I finished the paperwork on this and came out to get in, there was a young couple standing by it yelling at my salesman “What do you mean it’s sold? It’s not sold!!” and the woman tried to block me from getting in. It was crazy.

  49. Drift alert…

    Since we’ve discussed Rachel Dolezol here recently:
    “Dolezal said being the mother of two black sons has shown her “what it means to experience and live black… blackness.””

    Does this bring to mind anyone you know? I’d love to hear her take on this.

  50. A couple of years ago I planted a small packet of “Butterfly Weed” seeds, which are the host plants for monarch butterflies. I only managed to grow three scraggly, stunted, unhappy looking plants, which are hidden in the middle of the garden. I was weeding in that area and noticed that the least pathetic of the three plants had two monarch caterpillars on it! The whole purpose of the original seed planting exercise was to attract monarchs and to show the kids the whole caterpillar butterfly lifecycle thing, so I feel like a success. Of course, I’m much more excited about it than the kids are.

  51. Sheep Farmer – You may be right, I was focused on the land grant information when I cut and pasted that.

  52. Along with WCE’s alma mater, Oregon also has the country’s only Nike Grant university.

  53. Missed a great discussion today! DS had his surgery. He’s recovering well but we still have a long way to go. During surgery they discovered a hernia which will be evaluated before we leave. We’ll get through this quagmire.

    On topic, well I live by the water abd bear the city so you can imagine my backyard! On schools, I went to one of the few land, sea, and space grant universities. If it wasn’t for Sea Grant I wouldn’t have my PhD!

    Finn- I wondered the exact same thing.

  54. Oh, I never heard of space grant and sun grant colleges. Also sea grant and urban grant.

    I seem to be out of practice filling out children’s forms, and I just had the wild urge to forge our pediatrician’s signature on a camp form that should have been turned in yesterday. Apparently I need to schedule a visit for a physical right away, but I’m not sure because our local practice joined a larger group that doesn’t publicize its phone number and only allows access to its website via a portal that requires a password I don’t have.

  55. Rhode, glad to hear your son is done with this surgery. I’m sure it’s been quite a day for you.

  56. Rhode, So You Think You Can Dance recently featured a dancer who’d been born with a cleft palate, but after several surgeries it’s hard to tell. I thought of your DS.

    One of my best childhood friends was also born with a cleft palate, as was a HS buddy. It was pretty obvious in both cases, but both of them grew mustaches, which made it much less noticeable. That’s an option that your DS will have as well.

  57. Finn,

    Your HS friend was born +40 years ago? These days I think they’ve got the surgical techniques down such that it’s almost imperceptible.

  58. Yep, I’m more than 40.

    Both of my friends had obvious suture scars. I think they were both stitched up when they were very young, and never had subsequent surgery.

  59. I’m right now at a local politics NIMBY meeting with a lot of my neighbors (the 65-and-over ones, at least) bitching and bitching to our local politician against a special-use permit for something. I have never seen die-hard Republicans abandon their belief in property rights so readily. Also, they believe, truly, that Democratic representation should be proportional to their relative property taxes–and they say this outright in so many words! They’re also eager to sic all sorts of government agencies, including state and federal environmental regulators, on private property owners in order to bureaucratically shut this down. To relate to yesterday’s topic, they keep referring to and making arguments based on an absurd “study” that nobody has actually seen and whose figures seem preposterous–and even the one citing the study acknowledges that it applies to a totally different situation, but don’t let that get in the way.

    I brought my two older kids so they could see the Democratic process up close. It’s ugly.

  60. Milo,

    “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” – Winston Churchill

  61. Rhode, glad to hear that the surgery went well. I can’t remember if I mentioned this before, but my husband was born with a cleft lip and palate 30+ years ago. The advances in surgical techniques from then to now have been truly amazing and it is awesome what they can do these days with many fewer surgeries than used to be required.

  62. CoC – Forms are the worst. I have filled out a ton of them this Spring between two kids I had a total of 7 different sets of camp forms. plus am working on fall sports forms as we have a doctor visit in early July. I love our one camp because they keep everything on file (online for me to see) from year to year. All I have to do is update anything new since last year, select my weeks, and select which bus pick up and drop off location we plan to use for the week. A few clicks and its done!

  63. Rhett – all those people sound a lot smarter and more reasonable than many of my neighbors who attended tonight.

  64. Milo,

    What I can’t understand is the PR campaign is being orchestrated by Mary Lee Hanely who seems to have a business degree from Florida State. I’ve been assured that a such a degree entitles one to living in (at most!) a van down by the river, I’m shocked to find that she’s a highly compensated contributing member of society.

  65. Thanks all! Because of a circulation issue near the nose, the surgeon will have to revisit the nose. If the hernia needs to be surgically, we’ll try to tackle both at the same time. DS will still need follow ups and touch ups, but I hope the worst is behind us.

    This kid is my hero. He’s troopering through so much sh!t and still smiles. He tried to smile and babble with the nurses tonight. And then cried because he couldn’t. It broke my heart.

  66. Rhode, I hope he has an easy recovery and I am glad the surgery is over.

    CoC, I actually had to take a day to drive to pediatrician office because I couldn’t get the camp forms completed. I wonder if it is the same practice, but our ped joined a much larger group, and their phones are answered in north carolina. It is impossible to get a human in the local office because calls are answered by people that WFH in NC, and they enter messages into a system for the staff or doctors.

    I hate it, but it is just a few more years and I don’t want to switch because I love the doctors.

  67. 10:05 I ask only because I’ve read that while all parents are delighted by the near flawless repair, many are ever so slightly upset about losing their original little munchkin.

  68. Rhett – lol.

    Rhode – good luck to you both. I’m glad the progress has been good.

  69. Regarding the article – I think at some level parents are increasingly afraid of being termed neglectful, so they are afraid to let their kids out of their sight. I was talking to a few parents and one of them was making elaborate arrangements for drop off/pick pick when their oldest kid could take the city bus back home. The timing of the city bus was fine for the trip home. But it was deemed that the would be high schooler could not/would not take the city bus putting pressure on the mother to do pick up from three different schools which are close but let out at almost the same time. The other parent I talked to won’t let his fourth grader walk home by himself although you can see the school from their house. My kids were hoping that some other kids would join them on the short walk home but it turns out that all of the parents are picking up no matter how close their house is.

  70. Rhode – good luck with DS’s recovery!!!! Glad he is in good spirits!

  71. FL?

    Or the busybody neighbor who could have said “if you want to, you’re welcome to come inside until your parents get home”?

    But the government response is so disturbing. And even with the media attention, the charges are still in place.

  72. Milo,

    The only side of the story reported was that of the free range parenting group’s PR flack.

  73. Rhett, maybe we could have a post about the age at which kids should be able to take public transit and fly alone.

    My state has a law barring kids under 12 from being in any public place alone, and advises that they should not be left home alone until at least that age. So obviously I can’t put my kids on a bus or train alone until then.

    Any interest if I submit a post to CoC?

  74. My state has a law barring kids under 12 from being in any public place alone

    That’s insane.

  75. The original saying had to do with Congress. The wag was Mark Twain (1835-1910). “People who love sausage and respect the law should never watch either one being made,” he deadpanned.

    No, no, it wasn’t Twain at all. Nor was the quotemeister talking about Congress, although he did unfavorably compare lawmaking and sausagemaking. “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made,” quipped Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898), the famous Prussian statesman and architect of German unification.

    Ref Milo’s local government in action public hearing story.

  76. I guess I have feelings for you all. Driving in today I heard the gulf storm had moved into middle-east Texas and I immediately thought of all the Houstonites + AustinMom + Mia.

    Hope you’re all staying dry!

  77. Something similar happened to my 11 year old in early summer. He was playing in the park with friends (legal in those days) but didn’t have a key with him, and his 19 year old brother locked the door out of habit when he left the house – we usually left the door unlocked all day. The older girls weren’t around at that instant, and none of the immediate neighbors with kids happened to be home (I was at work downtown). One of the other neighbors saw him from the window, asked if he was okay, let him in to use the phone to call me at work (pre cell phone – kids knew the number). I was in the middle of a discussion with my boss, packed up, hopped a cab, let him in, gave him a snack, called the boss back, all within 20 min. Exurban dwelling boss, said, where are you, a phone booth?

    The reporting of this story is entirely generated by the free range association (analogous to news generated by the science press releases), although a few of the other anti-govt sites did some checking, and the local CBS affiliate reported more details – the kids were placed temporarily by CPS with a relative who was not an adequate caretaker, and who returned them to CPS and foster care after a few days. The parents were told by the judge that they would get the kids back if they “admitted” that they didn’t realize it was wrong to leave the 11 year old alone outside ever, and took parenting classes while the kids were in day camp and day care. What I suspect is that the inadequate relative was a regular caregiver for these kids, especially the 4 year old, and that is what made the whole thing last for more than 6 hours.

  78. Finn, thanks for that article. Junior tells me all the time that he is too young to go take the trash out alone, and hang in the back yard himself. His teachers constantly emphasize that children his age must always be in sight of a parent or caretaker.

    Um, Junior is 13, and less than 2 years will be driving. He is probably mature enough to father a child. Four years from now, I believe, he can join the military and go some place to get killed. Five years from now, he better be out of my home (and the cat with him).

    At what point are we allowed to let our kids grow up?

  79. Meme – even six hours of state intrusion would be too much here.

    When you hear pleas from CPS and related agencies that they don’t have adequate funding to address cases of legitimate concern, I simply can’t believe them any more.

  80. In my county, they do not specify an age at which children can be left alone. But having responsibility for a child under 12 who would be left without adequate supervision is an excuse for missing jury duty, so I take that to mean that 12 or over is fine with the county to leave a child for the better part of a day. I was babysitting for non-family members a few hours at a time, during the day, starting at 11, so other adults thought I was not only old enough to be responsible for myself, but also to be responsible for their small child at that age. I can’t imagine any sane person thinking that an 11 year old isn’t safe playing in their own yard.

  81. I share PTM’s view because my kids are no longer little but are really not unsupervised except for the walk home from school which is about 7 minutes.
    This next school year the bar will be raised for both of them.

  82. When you hear pleas from CPS and related agencies that they don’t have adequate funding to address cases of legitimate concern, I simply can’t believe them any more.

    That’s probably unfair. There’s the CPS in Chicago dealing with serious poverty, violence, drug use, etc., and then there’s the CPS in Lake Forest, which is probably well-funded and hassles the parents of 11 1/2 – year-olds about letting them play in their own yards.

  83. Rhett – I believe that an 11-year-old was home alone and that the state decided arbitrarily that this was unacceptable.

    That’s enough for me.

    Rocky – and Monthomery County, MD is uniquely over-funded also?

  84. I drove by a house undergoing renovation by the Property Brothers the other day. It’s one of those that has a Scarsdale PO/address but is actually located in a less prestigious town. I look forward to seeing how they handle this when the episode airs.

  85. I believe that an 11-year-old was home alone and that the state decided arbitrarily that this was unacceptable.

    So, no chance there is more to the story?

  86. You’ll agree I assume that the PR flack wouldn’t include any details that would undermine her employer’s position and the reporter didn’t do any independent investigation to determine if there was more to the story?

  87. Rhett, that house is pretty, and the history is neat, but a little too old for me.

    We have friends who live in CT and live in an early 1700s old farm house. The floors slanted at such awful angles, particularly when you wake up after having drunk too much wine the night before, and you feel like you are hanging upside down. That stay at their house cured me of ever wanting a historical house.

  88. I guess it’s possible, but I’d want to know what the probable cause was for them poking around in the first place.

  89. Atlanta,

    There was a house hunters recently in CT where they bought a house from the 1740s and they began to renovate and opened up the ceiling and the beams weren’t cut lumber but rather straight tree branches.

  90. “The floors slanted at such awful angles, particularly when you wake up after having drunk too much wine the night before, and you feel like you are hanging upside down.”

    DW goes nuts at the slightest feeling that a mattress is slanted in one direction or another. An 18th century house with slanted floors would be her personal version of Hell.

  91. Yeah, see, I have no idea what “Montgomery County” means in socioeconomic terms. I only just recently learned that there’s sort of a big difference between the Maryland suburbs of DC and the Virginia suburbs of DC.

    I can go into detail about Palo Alto v. Mountain View, though.

  92. Montgomery County is not the best example for my case; it’s pretty affluent overall, but there would be some pockets where family services probably does some difficult, noble work. I get your point about Chicago.

    Still, this keeps popping up in a lot of places. What about the girl who was playing in a park while her Mom worked her shift at McDonald’s?

  93. “I only just recently learned that there’s sort of a big difference between the Maryland suburbs of DC and the Virginia suburbs of DC.”

    There is?

  94. What about the girl who was playing in a park while her Mom worked her shift at McDonald’s?

    I could only imagine your neighbors response to the local rabble leaving their feral progeny to run wild all day in the local park.

  95. Well, that’s what somebody who’s native to the area told me. Like, all the liberals live in one and all the conservatives live in the other. Or something.

  96. Rhett – Some of them are idiots, I agree. (thinking about that some more last night as I was going to bed, I realized that many were probably there just like me, keeping silent and seeing what was going on. My impression was negatively affected by the few who were talking.)

    But regarding the CPS cases that have made the news, I think that in any situation they evaluate, there is a level of parenting that we might consider Totebaggy ideal, and playing alone in the park for several hours while your Mom works at McDonald’s is not an ideal that any of us would choose. Similarly, we wouldn’t choose to parent like Amy Chua, either. Then there is a different threshold at which the situation has degraded sufficiently that the state is justified in declaring the parents incompetent or unfit. What’s concerning to me, is that there seems to be VERY little margin between the two thresholds of less than ideal (but not intervention worthy) and unfit parenting.

  97. Rocky – It’s probably more personal perception than reality. Voting data would show, in both states, blue inner suburbs, then purple, then red. The perception would be that Va. is more conservative and MD more liberal. Arlington, VA is blue; St. Mary’s County, MD is red.

    Now if your friend is Jewish, that’s a different story. As Meme and Allboys have pointed out, Jews don’t cross the Potomac River.

  98. What’s concerning to me, is that there seems to be VERY little margin between the two thresholds of less than ideal (but not intervention worthy) and unfit parenting.

    I think you underestimate the degree to which these are man bites dog stories.

  99. Catching up — the part of the story that grabs me is what Milo said above: if the neighbor is so concerned, why the [bleep] wouldn’t she [assuming] just invite the kid in for some lemonade and AC? Good lord. Whatever happened to “it takes a village”? Now the “village” is all Neighborhood Watch, looking to catch each other out on some infraction. To me, that’s the most depressing part, that people are more interested in pointing fingers than helping out.

  100. Rhett – I would agree with that if, in the case of the Silver Spring kids, as soon as the story blew up, the agency issued a statement that said “Upon further review, we have concluded that the children were not neglected or in any danger… We always strive to …., but in this case our agent clearly made mistake…”

    But no. They hold firm. And the parents are still due in court on the second charge, even though they won their court battle for the first event.

  101. Catching up — the part of the story that grabs me is what Milo said above: if the neighbor is so concerned, why the [bleep] wouldn’t she [assuming] just invite the kid in for some lemonade and AC?

    Because they leave him outside all the time and he does nothing but shoot hoops so all she hears all day is Ka-thwang Ka-thwang all.the.time?

  102. “As far as I’m concerned the most invasive species in South Florida is politicians.”

    LOL

  103. Catching up — the part of the story that grabs me is what Milo said above: if the neighbor is so concerned, why the [bleep] wouldn’t she [assuming] just invite the kid in for some lemonade and AC? Good lord. Whatever happened to “it takes a village”? Now the “village” is all Neighborhood Watch, looking to catch each other out on some infraction. To me, that’s the most depressing part, that people are more interested in pointing fingers than helping out.

    This. People are so quick to call the police rather than assess the situation and make a rational judgement.

  104. “There was a house hunters recently in CT where they bought a house from the 1740s and they began to renovate and opened up the ceiling and the beams weren’t cut lumber but rather straight tree branches.”

    That is so awesome. I bet this house had the same construction and I won’t even start on the staircases.

  105. but in this case our agent clearly made mistake…”

    What was the mistake? Someone called the police to report neglect. The police, following policy contacted CPS which following policy began an investigation. You’re forgetting that there are no news stories about the vast majority of these calls where the investigation reveals mom at home shooting heroin or running off to Florida with her new BF while leaving the kids in the custody of a “cousin” who flaked out and left them alone or any number of other sordid tales.

    Do you think the average CPS agent responding to a report of neglect find no neglect in the majority of cases?

  106. “Because they leave him outside all the time and he does nothing but shoot hoops so all she hears all day is Ka-thwang Ka-thwang all.the.time?”

    I assume that’s it. And yet she still has a choice: does she want to make it worse, or make it better? She can focus on her annoyance, distance herself, and call the cops; or she can think, hey, this is a bored kid, parents aren’t there, maybe there’s something I can do to be neighborly — why don’t I talk to him and see what’s going on?

    A/k/a if you aren’t part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

    When I was a kid, my mom left keys with neighbors on either side in case I forgot or lost mine. That was just totally normal. I find it stunning that either things have changed so much, or that my experience was so far out of the norm.

  107. How about a hide-a-key? That’s what we did. It was in the backyard along the fence stringer behind the big rose bush. It’s probably still there.

  108. “What was the mistake? Someone called the police to report neglect. The police, following policy contacted CPS which following policy began an investigation.”

    If the police officer can’t determine on his own that two kids walking down the road does not constitute neglect, than the CPS investigator should have made that determination. Instead, they charged them with neglect (or something pretty close to it, in legal terms.)

    When I would come home to an empty house a few days a week starting in third grade, I usually had my key, but if I didn’t there was typically at least one or two doors (of six) left unlocked. If not, a downstairs window was probably unlocked. By the time I was driving, and therefore always had keys, I’d broken in to my own house many times.

  109. they charged them with neglect

    No, they didn’t. They investigated and made a determination that the claims were unsubstantiated.

  110. When I was a kid, my mom left keys with neighbors on either side in case I forgot or lost mine. That was just totally normal. I find it stunning that either things have changed so much, or that my experience was so far out of the norm.

    That’s what we did as well. And I was a latchkey kid starting at 9. But today, most people probably don’t know their neighbors well enough to trust giving them a key. I know we don’t, and it’s pretty sad. We’ve lived here 15 years and know very few of our neighbors.

  111. I’m sure most folks have moved on, but Rhode- I’m glad your little guy is recovering and out of surgery!

    We had house finches make a nest on our door this year, which was SO fun for the kids. (And us. Let’s be real.) 5 little birds hatched, and it was very cool.

    I hadn’t heard much about that case, but the fact is that they aren’t just under investigation, they were also arrested. CPS doesn’t need probable cause, but to arrest the parents they’d need that. I’m hoping there’s more details because it’s a bit scary if the threshold for child endangerment is an 11 year old being alone in their yard, unafraid, for 90 min.

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