You Flushed What Down The Toilet?

It is an annual event where our sewer mainline will become plugged, causing sewage to backup into our downstairs bathroom shower and laundry room. It happens with enough regularity that the sewer guy and I are on a first name basis. Starting about three years ago, the frequency increased from once to twice per year. We had the sewer mainline unclogged early in December 2017 and, now, just this week, it clogged again. So, once again, I called up Juve, our sewer guy.

Juve was puzzled by the increased frequency and said, “It is always about 30-40 feet out that it is plugged. Can we look down the manhole in your backyard?” After we had popped the cover off of the manhole, he looked down and said, “Oh no! That is no good!” The city sewer was plugged! It was barely flowing and it was rising up the manhole.

The plugged city sewer would explain the increasing frequency of our mainline being plugged. We determined that probably what was happening is that when Juve would get his cable down 30-40 feet it would be at the point where our mainline entered the city sewer. He would then break loose the clog at that point and our mainline would drain. That would be good for awhile until something else plugged the mainline.

To remedy the plugged city sewer, we found a pole, about 20 feet long, and used that to push and move the sewage around. This broke up the clog in the city sewer, resulting in the sewage draining from the manhole.

After most of the sewage had drained out, we saw various items that had been part of the clog. Using duct tape, we taped a bow rake to the pole and used that to retrieve items from the manhole. We pulled up a corroded metal rod which was about three feet in length, a chunk of asphalt, a mass of tree roots, tampons, “flushable” wipes, plastic wrappers, fibrous pads of some kind, and other items that should never be flushed down a toilet.

A picture of a chunk of asphalt.
A chunk of asphalt pulled from the sewer via the manhole.

I suspect someone dropped the metal rod through the hole in the manhole cover but I’m baffled by the chuck of asphalt. There was no way for it to get in there unless some had removed the manhole cover and then dropped it in.

A picture of a corroded metal rod pulled up from the sewer.
A corroded metal rod pulled from the sewer via the manhole.

Those two items, when combined with other items that do not break down, such as “flushable” wipes and plastic wrappers, were what it took to plug the city sewer. I don’t know where most of that junk came from because we don’t flush anything down the toilet except bodily waste and toilet paper.

A picture of tree roots pulled from the sewer.
A mass of tree roots that were pulled from the manhole.

Taken Out Once Again

Our mailbox was taken out once again. Lizzie and I were relaxing in the living room when we heard a loud bang. She ran barking towards the front door and I was close behind her. When I looked out the front door, all I could do is groan with resignation.

A picture of our knocked over mailbox.
Our knocked over and flattened mailbox and post.
A picture of the mailbox flag on our driveway.
The plastic red mailbox flag was thrown onto our driveway.
A picture of the mailbox door on the street.
The door to the mailbox was thrown onto the street.

Images from the Game Camera, Part 2

Our game camera has captured plenty of daytime images but what interests me the most are the images captured at night. During the daytime, I frequently see the squirrels and birds that frequent our yard during the daylight hours. Below are a few images captured at night.

We occasionally see Eastern cottontails in our yard during the day but I had hoped the presence of Lizzie in our yard would scare off the rabbits. However, the amount of images of rabbits captured by the game camera made me realize the real party is at night!

A picture of an Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus)
An Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) investigating a log.

Prior to the erection of our fence, nighttime sightings of raccoons were a regular enough occurrence that I thought nothing of it. After our fence went up and we saw no raccoons during the day, I naively hoped they were not frequenting our yard. The image below informed me that they were still visiting our yard, even if only on an irregular basis.

A picture of a raccoon (Procyon lotor)
A raccoon (Procyon lotor) walking away from the game camera.

Prior to our putting up our fence, a red fox made regular rounds through our yard. On one occasion, I saw it lift its leg and piss on our garage. I also found the remains of several rabbits under shrubs and bushes that, I assume, belong to the fox. I thought that maybe the fence would dissuade the fox from entering our yard. Apparently, that is not true. Hopefully, the fox will eat the rabbits that have been frequenting our yard.

A picture of a red fox (Vulpes vulpes)
A red fox (Vulpes vulpes) hunting in our yard.

Images from the Game Camera, Part 1

I bought a game camera with the hope of recording the coming and going of a nesting pair of White-breasted nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis) that were nesting in one of our nest boxes. For various reasons, that didn’t work out to my satisfaction. Looking for a use for the game camera, I placed it in various locations in our yard to discover what it might record. Below are a few images captured by it.

As expected in east central Minnesota, there are plenty of Eastern Gray Squirrels to be photographed.

A picture of an Eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)
An Eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) looking for lunch on our patio.

Another frequent visitor to our yard is the American robin, often with an eye towards the ground, looking for worms to eat. While gardening, I place any grubs I find on a stump for birds to eat. Robins are usually the first to snatch them up.

A picture of an American robin (Turdus migratorius)
An American robin (Turdus migratorius) foraging in our yard.

The Chipping Sparrow is a regular summer-time resident. I frequently see them hopping through the grass, looking for seeds and insects. They appear to be fairly bold birds, approaching within a few feet of Lizzie. Lizzie, for the most part, ignores them preferring to hunt for rodents.

A picture of a chipping sparrow (Spizella passerina)
A chipping sparrow (Spizella passerina) foraging for insects and seeds.


This weekend was a good weekend for observing raptors. On Friday, I noticed a large hawk high up in the branches of an oak tree. Using binoculars, I confirmed it was a rough-legged hawk (Buteo lagopus). Supposedly the rough-legged hawk winters here in Minnesota but I have only seen it in the spring as they pass through on their way to northern Canada.

The camera on my phone couldn’t do justice to this bird, so I downloaded the image below from Wikipedia.

A picture of a rough-legged hawk (Buteo lagopus)
A rough-legged hawk (Buteo lagopus).

I’ve occasionally observed sharp-shinned hawks (Accipiter striatus) in our neighborhood and yard, but, last year, a pair of sharp-shinned hawks moved into the neighborhood and they returned again this year. While they are interesting birds to watch, I’m concerned they will scare off the chickadees, nuthatches, and other small birds that have made our yard their home.

Again, I couldn’t get a good photograph of the sharp-shinned hawks with my phone, so I downloaded the photograph below from AnimalSpot.

A picture of a sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus)
A sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus)

Later on Saturday, we were relaxing on the patio when a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) flew over head. When we moved into our current place, we rarely saw bald eagles flying over head. We now regularly see bald eagles flying above us.

The following photograph is from because I haven’t got a picture of a bald eagle flying over us.

A picture of a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in flight.
A Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in flight.

Visitors to Our Bird Feeders

There are two bird feeders hanging under the eaves outside of our living room, one for seed and the other for suet. I placed the feeders there so that we could enjoy the coming and going of birds as fed. I recently installed a game camera to photograph the birds that frequent those feeders. While I was happy for the photographs of the birds, I was disappointed with the quality of said photographs.

Black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) are year-round visitors to our feeders and a favorite bird of mine. They usually dart in, grab a seed, and dart off as quickly as they came in.

A picture of a Black-capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) on a bird feeder
A black-capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus).

American goldfinch (Spinus tristis) are beautiful summer visitors. Unlike chickadees and nuthatches, goldfinches tend to hang out on the feeder for as long as it takes to eat their fill.

A picture of an American goldfinch (Spinus tristis) on a bird feeder.
An American goldfinch (Spinus tristis).
A picture of an American goldfinch (Spinus tristis) on a bird feeder.
An American goldfinch (Spinus tristis) .
A picture of an American goldfinch (Spinus tristis) on a bird feeder.
An American goldfinch (Spinus tristis).

White-breasted nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis), like the black-capped chickadees, are year-round visitors. Also like chickadees, nuthatches dart in for a seed and then quickly fly off. Nuthatches are the upside-down bird. They can frequently be seen walking upside down along tree trunks.

A picture of a white-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) on a bird feeder.
A white-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis).
A picture of a white-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) on a bird feeder.
A white-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) on a suet bird feeder.

Almost Made It

Our mailbox is a curbside mailbox and, as a result, gets knocked down on a regular basis by snowplows. After having our mailbox taken out two years in a row, we got a PO box at the local post office and now have most of our mail delivered there.

After the city had replaced our mailbox several years in a row, they must have talked to the snowplow drivers because the snowplow drivers now leave plenty of room between their plows and our mailbox. We haven’t had any snowplow mishaps with our mailbox for a few years now.

But the good can’t be allowed to stand. Last fall, I came home to discover our mailbox had been hit and knocked askew. After carefully inspecting the damage, I determined that some jackass backing out of our driveway had probably backed into it. It is a daily occurrence in which a driver pulls into our driveway to turn their car around to go the other direction. I’ve watched many of these lost souls and it is clear to me that they are more than just lost. Indeed, they are barely in control of their vehicles and that operating them in a safe manner is a great challenge for them.

After I had straightened out the mailbox, we had no incidents for half a year. I was beginning to hope the mailbox would survive winter when one last snowstorm came. It was one of those rare April snowstorms we seem to get every ten years or so. The night of the snowstorm, some jackass lost control of his vehicle going up the street. By up, I mean that the street inclines towards the west. Since we are on the south side of the street, this jackass, who was either drunk or driving a vehicle with bald tires or both, crossed over into the oncoming lane and drove up onto the curb and took out our mailbox.

A picture of tire tracks in the snow on our curb
The path the car took on the sidewalk. The black triangle at the top of the image is our mailbox.

The reason I suspect the driver was drunk was that it takes a lot of effort to lose control of a car on our street such that it crosses over into an oncoming lane of traffic, hops the curb, all while going up a hill! And, on top of that, the driver got out of their car, walked up our driveway and around to the side of our garage to relieve his bladder!

A picture of boot prints in the snow.
Boot prints in the snow on our driveway. They lead to the side of the garage where the driver pissed on our garage.

Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus)

While looking through photographs captured by my game camera, I was surprised to see that it had photographed an Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) rabbit early one morning before sun rise.

A picture of an Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) rabbit
An Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) rabbit hopping through our yard.
A picture of an Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) rabbit.
An Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) eating seed.
A picture of an An Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) rabbit
The Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) rabbit leaving after eating seed.

Spring Flooding

My recent post about ducks hanging out in our backyard during the Spring reminded me of when an unusual amount of water flowed through the drainage area at the bottom of our property.

There is a small drainage area between our property and the neighbors. In a normal spring, there is a small flow of water. However, in 2013, there was a markedly larger flow.

A picture of water path the neighbor's fence
Water flowing past the neighbors fence.

The water pooled in our backyard.

A picture of the flooded area at the bottom of our property
Our flooded backyard.

A picture of our flooded backyard
Our flooded backyard.

And it pooled in our neighbor’s backyard.

A picture of our neighbor's flooded backyard.
Our neighbor’s flooded backyard.

The water encroached on the neighbor’s garage. Their backyard was very soggy that spring.

A picture of our neighbor's flooded backyard.
Our neighbor’s flooded backyard.

Although I have no photos, the mallards could frequently be seen paddling around in pond that had formed in ours and the neighbors’ yards.

Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos)

Every Spring, a pair of mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) visit our yard. They hang out in our yard for several weeks before moving on to where ever they go. They can usually be found at the bottom of the hill in our backyard, where usually there is flowing water. Occasionally, however, they come up the hill, closer to our house.

I took this photo in 2012 when a drake and a hen mallard ambled along the sidewalk between our house and garage.

A picture of two mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) walking down our side walk
A drake and hen mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) walking on the sidewalk between our house and garage.

Two years later, I took this photo of a drake mallard hanging out on the roof of our garage.

A picture of a drake mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) on the roof of our garage.
A drake mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) on the roof of our garage.