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Baker's Balloons

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Chet Baker loves to accompany me to the mailbox, which is about a quarter-mile from our house. It is a most agreeable walk, being shady and studded with purple coneflowers. Fourteen years ago, we planted these gorgeous things, just raked seed into fresh earth, and it is clear that they are happy in the light shade along our driveway. They are spreading like something nonnative might spread, but whee!! They are native.
I love the wild type coneflower, with the retrose shuttlecock petals. The cosseted plants I bought to put in my garden beds are nowhere near as hardy or lovely as these, grown from Vermont Wildflower seed. Pretty much everything in that seed mix has died out except these, and they look like they mean to go on forever.I just can't stand what the plant breeders are doing to this noble gangly plant, dwarfing it, making it dibbly-double; making it orange and white and yellow and mango colored. OK, I'd take a mango-colored one, but don't show me those darned ucky frilly gnomish monstrosities.Eccccchinacea (my spelling) "Razzmatazz." Well named, at least. It's less than a foot tall, and there's no way for butterflies to access nectar, even if there were any, because the nectiferous cone is all covered with petals. Please. You take one of the most useful plants in the garden, full of nectar for leps and seeds for goldfinches and buntings--and you remove everything that makes it useful, ergo everything that makes it beautiful. And just for good measure, you dwarf it. Yeah! That right there is Improving on Nature.

This time of year my tall natural beauties--chest high to me-- are alive with fritillaries and swallowtails. I've counted more than twenty butterflies at once on one stand of coneflower. We have four stands, all along the driveway, so that's a lot of fritillaries.
On our last walk, Chet found a cluster of balloons that had doubtless been released at a baby shower or wedding. Mether. If ever there was a perfect thing for a Boston terrier to bring home, it is this. It is lightweight, and very very shakable. Listen. It goes wubba wubba wubba when I shake it. I will take it home with me.
Well? Are you coming with me?
Carrying these balloons home is nothing for a dog like me, who once carried a basketball named Scooby all the way around The Loop. You must, must click on the link to see me, Chet Baker, as a baby.

And once I get them home, I rip them up, completely. This picture shows my brindling very well. My father, Peanut Brittle, is a bright red brindle. I am a seal brindle, the best kind.

Because KatDoc will scold us otherwise, we have to say here that Mether took the balloons away from me as soon as I started shredding them. And it is true. Most good things must come to an end, and one of them is blue balloons. But wild purple coneflowers go on forever.


Oh, my darling Chet Baker, you and Mether read my mind. The instant I saw the Blue Balloons in your mouth, I had terrible visions of you, Chet Baker, on a surgery table, with your Dr. Lori taking the balloons out of your lovely intestines. Thank you for not swallowing them.

Balloons are certainly Good Things to carry, and even to shake (wubba-wubba) but most definitely not to shred.

Love your native coneflowers, Julie (I have some, too, but not as many as you) but what the HECK are those other ugly monstrosities? What ever possessed the flower people to mess with success?

~Kathi, whose purple coneflowers (the real kind) are covered in butterflies and goldfinches, and who wouldn't have it any other way

I'm sure those Blue Balloons deserved to be both shaken (wubba wubba) and shredded. Imagine the audacity of them, invading your private domain and loitering uninvited amongst those beautiful flowers.

A job well done, Chet Baker. Well done!

No Chet, not the balloons! Your mether knows better! Julie, you had me worried for a momment.

Big Boy Chet still has that "Look what I did!" smile he had as a baby.

What a great example Chet Baker is for us all. Cleaning up litter and making the world safe for all other animals while having so much fun at the same time. Chet Baker never fails to make me smile.

I thought of Kathi right away, "uh oh..." I agree with Chet. What a lovely surprise on a routine walk to the mailbox! It's new, it's pretty, and when you shake it you hear wubba wubba wubba. Go Chet, but Mether knows best.

My coneflowers look sick and don't attract much. Probably because we bought them at a nursery that mass produces pretty flowers - sterile ones. I hope next year they look like yours.

A Chet Baker fix with a happy endng.
When I clicked on the link, as instructed, and saw Baby Chet--I let out a MMMMM. It doesn't translate well in writing, but it was a "isn't he too cute for words" mmmmm.

I love your coneflowers--such a lovely and useful flower. I feel the same disappointment and bewilderment when I see the cultivated varieties of columbine. My favorites will always be the sweet delicate red ones.

Baker looks like he's enjoying his walk (wubba-wubba).

Chet Baker sure is a cutie! I think my dogs would have wanted to kill the baloons first, and think about tkaing them home later. I love the purple coneflowers, too. I just planted some this year - they aren't much to look at yet, but I'm hoping that they will spread and fill in quickly in the coming years!

Thanks for the comments! I'm also a former Ohioan myself (I went to Baldwin-Wallace College and lived up near Cleveland for several years before moving back to Upstate New York). I often get nostalgic when reading your posts, but I love it nonetheless.

I just discovered your blog today; while searching for pics of cicadas for my 4yo daughter, your pic of the baby bluebirds came up. I am hooked!
Since we moved from California to Missouri 4 years ago we have been experiencing wildlife like I never imagined possible. I always want to help when we find animals in distress, but I'm so ignorant as to what will help and what makes it worse. We were all traumatized recently when we found a fledgling dove in the yard and our border collie promptly bit it's head off!
And we've finally drained our pond because it's a death trap to birds and small animals. I have so much to learn. I wish I had you on speed dial!
Most fondly,

Hi Melissa,

Thanks for the kind words. We like to hook 'em fast and hook 'em good. Baker helps with that, he is so cute and addictive.

Maybe you can get the concept of "Mother's bird" through your border collie's head. Chet Baker doesn't even need to be told now--if it's small and vulnerable and I show it to him, it's Mother's bird (or turtle, or mantis...) and he won't harm it. That must have been awful for you!

If you need to contact me, just drop me a line in my online comment box on my web site at
I'll get it and write back and we'll be off. I get a lot of requests for help and am happy to try.


Hi Julie I'm one of your lurking readers who on occasion makes a comment. So glad you posted about cone flowers. I have some but they don't seem to attract the butterflies like I want them to. Everything else in my yard does thank goodness. I'll have to look for a more native variety of cone flower.

Second I left you an award on my blog. Stop by if you get a chance. No obligation to participate.

I don't know if I've ever loved a dog shorter than my knees, but I have fallen in love with your Chet Baker! He's a 'heart-smilin' kind of dog that makes life worth livin'.
Your blog is a daily breath of fresh air for me, thank you for sharing your gifts.

love the flowers and as someone sitting home being a sickie today the chet fix was just perfect!

Wha happn'd!

I read your Herring Gull post early this morning and tried to comment but Blogger wouldn't let me. Then, trying back just now the post is gone!!

Blogger gremlins again!!

Well, my question was: How would you rate the intelligence of the Herring Gull (or all gulls for that matter) with that of the crow or raven. Both seem pretty adept at exploiting us humans!

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