Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sweet Sorrow

This is getting ridiculous. We've owned the new house for a month, and we still aren't actually living there.

Want to hear something even more ridiculous? I'm still in no hurry to move. In fact, this is becoming something of a personal crisis.

I've really enjoyed going out there to play in the woods and putter around, but I've been just as happy to leave again at the end of the day. Our old place has been home for over twenty years, after all. It's familiar and comfortable, filled with happy memories and our handmade details. Until this year, I did not expect ever to leave it.

Then too, our pilot son lives here when he is in town, but he has elected not to move with us. He's looking at homes closer to the airport. I know it's past time for him to have his own place, and that having him back for this extra year has been a bonus. But I am so sad to think we will never again be all together as one family, under one roof.

The hubby is having the time of his life out there already, and he's champing at the bit to get moved in so he can spend evenings working around the place. Our younger son is ready whenever we are. I am the only one dragging my feet.

For better or worse, the moving van is reserved for next weekend. I'm trying to focus on all the new projects and possibilities ahead. There are so many things to look forward to, I know, and I should be the happiest woman on earth. But I just can't seem to let go.

Am I nuts?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Look, Quick ...

Bird Mushroom Flickrsize

Did you see a white bird on the tree trunk at first glance? So did I!

It's yet another kind of mushroom, though, growing back in the woods behind the house. I think it's gorgeous. Here's a closeup:

Bird Mushroom Closeup2

And a view from beneath the "wings":

Bird Mushroom Underside

I hope you guys like mushrooms as much as I do, because I don't think I'm ever going to get tired of them. The variety, the colors, the architectural quality ... I find them exquisite. Add to that their ephemeral nature and the fact that most of them are made of poison, and then you tell me what beats a 'shroom for an intriguing subject.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fabulous Fall Decor Award!

Hey Ma, look what Kim from Wishnik Woods gave me! It's Havenwood's first award, and I'm so flattered. Thanks, Kim, for thinking of me.

The rules are to pick up and post the award and to pass it along to six deserving recipients. With so many of my favorite blogs looking gorgeous in autumn colors right now, this is going to be eeeeeeeeasy.

Rambling Woods is a good choice, with beautiful photos and and almost daily updates on the seasonal changes around the pond.

Then there is Carly at Ellipsis. Carly LIVES for autumn. You're likely to find a touch of fall there any time of year.

Ellen at The Happy Wonderer has got it goin' on, with pumpkins, kids, and Halloween decorations galore.

Work of the Poet, home of Mary's "Ruby Tuesday" meme is featuring Halloween this week.

The order of the day is autumn leaves and country fun over at Five Green Acres.

And finally, a neat blog I've recently found, Our Little Acre. There you'll find a nifty corn maze, among other great fall stuff. I guess I'll have to come out of lurk mode and introduce myself over there... ::Running a comb through my hair and checking my jeans for rips in Bad Places::

Monday, October 20, 2008

Into the Woods

Yesterday was a perfect autumn day. The air was cool, the trees were aglow with sunlight, and the wind made the whole forest rustle. Come along with me for a walk in the woods?

We'll stop by the pond first, to admire the watercolor reflections there. No frogs today; it's getting cold for them, I think.

Autumn Pond

Just beyond the pond stand some lovely old trees, all decked out for fall.

Pond Trees2

The red maple marks the trail head, standing like a great, flaming gate to a secret world.

Trail Head

Passing under the guardian tree, we enter the cool, quiet woods.

Trail Head Maple2

An archway of saplings makes for a fine, welcoming entrance.

Trail Arches2

Stand still for a minute, and listen to the leaves as they rustle and fall:

Falling Leaves from My Maracas on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sunny, With a Chance of Turkeys

I've seen turkey feathers in the fields and woods around here since day one. The turkeys themselves, though, have been another story.

Wiley and shy, wild turkeys are seldom seen out in the open. Still, I'd heard tales ... "Mom, there were turkeys crossing the road as I drove in today!" ... "Vick, you should have been here this morning. There were twenty turkeys in the front yard!" ... turkeys at the pond ... turkeys in the friggin' trees ... and I hadn't seen a one. Until yesterday. When I didn't have my camera.

There I was, see, checking out the new stove and fridge that had been installed in my absence that day. From the corner of my eye, through the kitchen window, I spotted something large and dark moving at the far end of the pasture. So I grabbed my binoculars and finally caught sight of these turkeys I'd heard so much about. I just had to try to get a closer look.

Now, I'm thinking that turkeys don't fly if they don't have to. They're inside the fence, and there's only one gate. I should be able to just sort of casually sneak up on them. So off I went, strolling toward the pasture and through the gate, hands in pockets, not looking directly at my quarry. I felt like Elmer Fudd stalking a wabbit.

Most of the birds ignored me, but two of them were already watching me intently. I feigned interest in the manure pile for a while, trying to look like a fellow bug browser. They didn't buy it. The flock moved a little further back in the field. Now and then, I'd take a peek at them through the binoculars. Admire the manure. Peek again.

Time for a closer stroll. By the time I got about halfway to the flock, several of them were focused entirely on me. I suddenly realized that these were damn big birds. And I began to question how close I really wanted to get to an angry wild turkey.

While I pondered the possibility of being attacked by turkeys, the birds decided they'd had enough. One by one, they strutted over to the fence and flew up onto a wooden railing. Several of them sat there for a while, looking me over, before drifting down into the woods and melting into the shadows. I would have killed for a camera, but somehow I think I would have missed the moment if I'd had one.

So all you get to see today are the feathers we've collected, as proof that the gobblers are out there. Until now, that's all I had, too.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mystery Solved!

I am so ashamed of myself. West Virginia born and raised, and I didn't know a ramp when I saw one.

Research on the onion garlic (oops - I meant to say garlic chives) introduced at last week's herb class led me to photos of my mystery plant, and it turns out they are the related plant known as ramsons, AKA ramps. Ramps are wild leeks prized in the south for pungent, tasty spring dishes. And West Virginia is the ramp capital of the world. It is home to a number of famous "ramp feeds," foremost among them the annual event in Richwood. There, hundreds of people come from miles around to enjoy ramps with the traditional sides of bacon, beans and cornbread.

Now in all fairness, we were townies. We lived in the suburbs in Charleston. Ramp feeds were something we saw on the news, and they happened out in the country. We were good with that, because ... well, because people who do eat ramps stink for days. We are talking way beyond garlic here. The ramp isn't just on your breath; it actually permeates your system, and is excreted from the skin as well, so that your personal stench cloud extends for a few feet in all directions. But those who love them swear it's worth a few days in exile.

I remember my dad, a country boy at heart, coming home from business in the hills a few times after having partaken. He was indeed impressively odiferous. My mother would fuss and scold about it, but he just endured her displeasure with a sheepish grin. I don't think he was the least bit sorry. When I realized what my "exotic wildflowers" were, I could almost hear him laughing at me from Heaven.

So will I fry up a mess o' ramps this spring? I don't think my coworkers would appreciate it, but we'll see. We'll see.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Herb Gardening 101

I've long thought that I would enjoy having an herb garden. It intrigues me to think of plants having powers to heal and protect, and I like the earthy flavors of culinary herbs. So of course I signed up for a three-part presentation a master gardener is doing at the local library, starting tonight. Surprisingly enough, the hubby agreed to go along.

Unfortunately, the presentation was a bit disappointing, lacking any semblance of cohesion. The presenter seemed to forget what point she was trying to make, and went off on tangents that reduced the speech to a collection of random facts. Still, she obviously knew her stuff, and I did learn a thing or two. First among them, that I have to wait for spring to plant them, and that I'll need to be able to overwinter quite a few of them indoors. I thought they were hardier than that.

The room was full of interesting people though, and I hope they all come back for the rest of the meetings. We had three other master gardeners in attendance, including a couple who run a perennial business and want to add herbs to their stock. There was a woman who claimed to be a shaman and a practitioner of holistic healing. There were people looking to spice up their cooking, and people who were just curious about the topic.

One of the women in attendance brought with her a bag of green stems to give away, the plants I'm holding in the photo. She said they were seed heads of garlic chives. Do they not look a whole lot like the mystery plant from a couple of posts ago? The ones in the woods are bigger, and their seeds are rounder, but otherwise they're the same. The woodlings grow from a bulb that sits on top of the ground and looks a lot like a clove of garlic. I think I'm getting close to identifying them, based on a chance encounter. What are the odds?

Actually, this sort of thing has been happening a lot with this house. There have been so many serendipitous events, so many coincidences and lucky breaks. I'm taking it all as a Good Sign.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

To Bee or Not To Bee

When we bought the new place, we inherited a bee hive. Actually, we inherited quite a few, but most were paper wasps and yellow jackets that have since been evicted. This one, however was a honey bee hive, and I wasn't at all sure what to do with it. I didn't want to harm the little beasties, but I didn't want them stinging us, either.

So off I went to the library, where I checked out Beekeeping for Dummies. Fascinating creatures, bees, but they're not exactly low maintenance. And a lot of that maintenance involves opening the hive and poking around in there. I didn't have to read very far before deciding this wasn't going to be a whole hunk o' fun. So now what?

The librarian suggested the Humane Society, and they suggested Critter Gitter, and the guy who gits critters suggested his next door neighbor, who just happens to be a beekeeper. Score!

Bee Guy called within hours, ecstatic at the prospect of relieving me of my bees. He was in his truck before we were even off the phone. Anticipating an exciting afternoon, I rounded up the guys and we set off to meet him at the house.

As luck would have it, it was rainy and cold, so all of the bees were hunkered down in the hive. Bee Guy arrived with a dolly and a smoker, and we retreated to what seemed like a safe distance, prepared to witness The Battle of the Bees.

It never happened. Bee Guy simply waded into the tall grass we'd been afraid to mow, picked up the box, and carted it off to his truck. We couldn't believe it. The hive didn't even notice, much less object, that some dude was making off with their whole nest. The entire event took all of five minutes.

The only bees we saw were the few visible when he opened the top to show us the inside of the box. He offered to open the next layer, where there would be a lot more, but he allowed as how that could get "a bit stingy." We opted to avoid the stinginess.

So Bee Guy got a new hive, which he will rent to farmers for pollination. The bees got somebody to take care of them. And we got the bees removed for free plus a big jar of honey as a thank-you gift. Don't you love it when things work out?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Name That Plant

Anybody know what this is? They're the only thing that seems happy to grow in our woods, besides the mushrooms. They're just a stem with this array of green orbs on top, which are now opening to reveal black seeds. They grow in large groups.

I've never seen anything like them. Have you? (Click the photo to enlarge it.)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Death to Contact Paper

Why does everything have to be so friggin' hard?

I thought it would be great to have so many kitchen cabinets. That was before I tried to clean the buggers. The finish is so grubby that they require actual scrubbing, and in the twenty years they've been there I don't think anybody has ever removed the drawers and cleaned out the frames. But that's only the half of it.

The issue here is Contact Paper. There are three different patterns. One of them is the normal stuff that peels off. Two are on there with what has to be some kind of industrial glue. And it. is. everywhere.

It took all my strength to get it ripped off of two drawer bottoms, and the sticky residue that was left is just not coming off. I've tried everything I can think of, and none of it has any effect on the goo.

Given that we're planning to replace these somewhere along the way, I think I'm just going to have to buy new paper and stick it on top of the old, worn out stuff. Man, I hate that idea.

No point here, by the way. Just venting.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Kiva, This One's for You

I double-posted the mushroom photos, here and on Maraca, as few people have found Havenwood yet. Over there, my friend Kiva left a comment that gave me pause:

"I definitely like the results of your new set priorities. I've never seen so many different types of mushrooms in one single area. I especially like the orange color on that one mushroom.

Do you think the mosquitoes were actually fairies teasing you?

Motherly nag: If they were mosquitoes, you better get some insect repellent with Deet in it. It's not good to be bitten. They carry all sort of nasty things including West Nile."

Oh ... yeah. West Nile. I forgot about that. Way back when I was a kid, mosquito bites were a minor nuisance and a badge of honor. We'd count them, and the kid with the most bites won.

So how serious could it be, really? I did a quick Google, and discovered that while most people have mild symptoms, the few who have severe reactions are in deep poo-doo. And people over 50 are more likely to have severe symptoms. (Great. Another reason to love getting old.)

I rummaged out the black fly defensive gear left from vacation this summer, and now I wear it all and douse it in industrial strength Deet before I go mucking around in the woods. It may not be pretty, but it's much more attractive than a hospital gown, don't you think? Now, I just have to convince my kids to take precautions.

Kiva, thanks for the motherly nag. Moms always do know best.

P.S. Hanna at This Garden Is Illegal recommends Mosquito Dunks, among other things. You can bet I'll be stocking up on those, too. Thanks, Hanna!


We has dem! Honest to goodness bluebirds -- not jays, bluebirds! Yesterday, three of them perched on the fence posts, hunting. They'd watch the ground for a bit, then dive down and then fly back up to the post with a tasty morsel. I must have sat there with my binoculars for twenty minutes, enchanted.

I do not, however, have any photos of them; my camera just can't zoom that far. I'm hoping Santa will remedy that problem, but he may be tapped out by then. Dang.