Ants, Words, Books, Birds, More Words

Posted: February 21st, 2011 under Crisis of Vision, Kings of the North, Life beyond writing, Oath of Fealty, Revisions, the writing life.
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The morning began with the discovery (not unexpected by me!) that the dozen or so ants on the counter yesterday had become a superhighway of ants along the edge of the counter, up the wall, and into one of the cabinets.  They had also constructed a network of smaller routes on the counter itself.  Some of them had crossed the Great Chasm between counter and stove top, with the result that the sugar bowl (these are sugar ants, much to be preferred if you must have ants) had ants in it.

Sugar ants rarely bite (they will do, if they wander up under a sleeve and you rub them accidentally, but who wouldn’t?) and their bite is mild.   They do tickle.  And they look…like a river of ants.   Sugar ants are small, but very numerous.  Very VERY numerous.    They like white sugar, brown sugar, sugar inside screw-top glass jars (which is how I store sugar–you find them trying desperately trying to squeeze through the thread-glass space.)    They are of course wildly fond of honey.    Or molasses.   Unlike picnic ants, they ignore bread crumbs after a test-nibble.

Breakfast, therefore, was deferred until ant-ridding had taken place.   Starting with taking everything (EVERYTHING) off the counter.   Soon I left the ant-ridding to Himself,  and  slouched back to my workplace and went on working on revisions.   The day turned lovely.   It was driving me nuts.   I finally gave up  and went outside with the camera because it’s the last day of the Great Backyard Bird Count.    The first bird I took a picture of was this:

Buteo jamaicensis, Red-tailed Hawk, southwestern form

This is a large bird, who at first sight (sorry, no picture of this) was being mobbed by several blue jays and mockingbirds, all much smaller.    It tried to hide in a juniper growing next to the horse lot fence,  was pursued to ground, and literally fought its way up the fence until it could get to flying room.   It perched briefly in a tree a little ways down the fence and then took off.

I went back in to work again, wishing I could stay out, but…and stuck it out to the end of Editor Revisions.  Yay!   I was starting the final check to be sure the chapter heads had stayed where I put them (they don’t always) when I heard a truck in the driveway.  I thought it was the tractor repair crew (Bombadil, our larger tractor, had refused to start and was suspected of having other problems.  Anyway, after 8 years it’s about time it had a professional working over.)   But it wasn’t–it was a FedEx truck with a small package from Publisher.

Yes.   I can certify that printing has occurred.  Kings of the North exists as a real object (for those who want a real object as opposed to a virtual object.)   I whipped it open to see how the map looks…and did an indecently smug dance step down the hall to email Editor and thank her, in the same email as returning the revised ms. for Crisis of Vision (once I’d done the final check of where the chapter titles are on the page. )    The paperback of Oath looks sharp too.

So, having that email away, I thought I might just dip into The Shiny when another truck arrived, this one towing a long flatbed trailer on which to haul Bombadil away if Bombadil would cooperate by starting up.    Tractor repair crew had brought a new battery…started opening things and removing grills and made the unfortunate discovery that Bombadil’s battery cable end-thingies (hey, I know what a rock-shaft-valve’s right name is–I don’t have to know what the end-thingies are called)  had rusted onto the battery terminals with such finality that they had to be cut off.

Need I mention that some of the words spoken or thought or uttered in avian language today were on the warm side?    Fairly early on in the process of getting Bombadil to move, I decided that I was not helping the process and could well go into the house and start putting things back on the kitchen counter.    Maybe even fold laundry.    But let grumpy looking guys get on with whatever they wanted to do or say without my presence.   I imagined it would include comments about how I had neglected Bombadil.

After quite a bit of time,  Himself came back in to report that it had been necessary for someone (not Himself) to hold the cut ends of the cables to the terminals of the new battery to get Bombadil started, and then the brakes had given trouble, but the rock shaft valve had performed just fine.   Bombadil was (as I could see out the window) loaded onto the flatbed and was about to be hauled away for service.    Suggestions had indeed been made about how I should have done this and that and the other thing that I did for years until last year.  There were reasons.  Some might call them excuses, but I call them reasons, why last year was Different.

I went back out with the camera to celebrate the day, and found the mockingbird clan,  all furious with one another, zipping around the yard playing an unfriendly game of chase.

Mimus polyglottus, Northern Mockingbird (in a snit)

Yes, this bird was in just the mood he appears to be in.  Fluffed out aggressively and not at all happy to have a big lens aimed at him.    Shortly thereafter he took off after another mockingbird, screeching and threatening doom.    Far overhead, one  red-tailed hawk had found another and they went somewhere else.

So:  ants ridded (for the time being–it’s never permanent), words written, books delivered,  tractor hauled away, birds seen and counted and photographed, words said.  A full day.

(And Himself came in while I was writing this to tell me that Christchurch in New Zealand was hit by another earthquake and lost the steeple from its cathedral plus much damage elsewhere.    Wishing the best possible outcome to anyone affected by this quake. )


  • Comment by Adam Baker — February 22, 2011 @ 6:37 am


    Ugh, we had a huge infestation of ant’s awhile back, and dealing w/ that was such a pain. Nothing like opening a kitchen cabinet and finding the bottom of it covered in ant’s. And they are always such a pain to get rid of. Thankfully we havent had a problem w/ them in awhile.

    I always love the pic’s that you share of your land and the animals around it. Its been in the 60’s & 70’s here in North Carolina, so the birds have been coming out like crazy, and thanks to the bird feeders in front of the house, have been driving our cat’s insane. But we havent seen anything as majestic as that hawk, but we tend to have several very striking male & female cardinals, and an occasional blue jay, and then lots of other birds I cant identify. I think the ones I like the most though, are the woodpeckers that you can hear knocking away, but cant quite ever seem to locate.

    Great news that Kings is in print! I was on Amazon last night, looking it up so I can set up my pre-order this week, greatly anticipating its release!

  • Comment by Dave Ring — February 22, 2011 @ 10:39 am


    My Aunt Ruby (not biologically, but her family “adopted” my mother) did not worry about ants. On the few occasions they came into her house, she asked them to leave — and they did. I don’t have all her abilities, but I like to think I’ve inherited some of her perspective.

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 22, 2011 @ 10:45 am


    That’s nice for her. I have mentioned to ants and mice both that I would prefer them outside, but neither listens to me.

  • Comment by Jim DeWitt — February 23, 2011 @ 12:52 pm


    I had not known you were a birder, Ms. Moon, let alone a bird photographer. Fine work, and a most excellent avocation. Birding gets you out-of-doors, sensitizes you to what is going on around you in the natural world, and provides endless opportunities to watch fascinating interactions among birds.

    And, of course, some birds eat ants. And others eat mice.

  • Comment by genko — February 23, 2011 @ 1:36 pm


    Ah, yes, ants. ‘Tis the season, after all. We have a few preventive methods in place, but cleaning everything off over and over again seems to work the best. And then there’s meal moths …

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 23, 2011 @ 1:52 pm


    Birds aren’t the only things that get me outdoors, either. I’m not even sure I’d consider myself primarily a birder, since I’m easily distracted from birds by other wildlife or new plants these days. I was fascinated by native plants before birds (bad eyesight and great difficulty using binoculars as a kid. I loved hearing them, but often could not see what other people were pointing at.) Plants had the advantage of holding still to be looked at up close. Later I got into birding, but though I’m probably an advanced-intermediate, and know all the local species by sight, I’m no tour-leading expert.

    Although I’ve really slowed up on posting to the 80 Acres site, since I got in a time-bind with Crisis of Vision, being outside with, and photographing, the natural world is an important part of my life. If you haven’t visited there yet, check out the 80 Acres website and blog.

  • Comment by Tina Black — February 23, 2011 @ 2:25 pm


    I am the fortunate owner of an old bottle of Skin So Soft from the time period when it worked as a bug repellent. When the ants invaded last year I wiped this stuff over the ingress pathway and lo!, the ants were history. *g* This is so much easier than the alternatives.

  • Comment by Daniel Glover — February 23, 2011 @ 3:27 pm


    I get sugar ants every spring, but they are the big, black ones. They’ve been coming every year since they found sugar coated donuts on the counter one Sunday morning. Can’t figure out where they are coming from and with limestone foundation it probably don’t matter much. It’s only for a few weeks and clean counters during the time they are out before the plants start is the only problem. Have found them trying to get in the molasses but they are too big to get in. 🙂

    I, too, am eagerly awaiting Kings.

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