Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Health, wealth, and happiness to you all in 2010!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Nature Notes: Coyote Snow


Just when I thought I had run out of things to talk about for Nature Notes, this shows up. A coyote, A.K.A. prairie wolf, is suddenly hunting in my back yard every day, making the rounds from the woods to the pond to the pasture.

It comes alarmingly close to the house, and doesn't seem fearful at all about being so near people. They say coyotes will not attack anything larger than they are, but this guy is still intimidating. He's almost as big as a German Shepherd, and those eyes do not look friendly.

Above is a video of the coyote hunting a mouse in the pasture. Coyotes apparently eat a LOT of mice, and help keep down their numbers. It was pretty far away, so you'll see the action better if you click the lower right corner of the video to make it bigger. We were listening to Prairie Home Companion at the time, in case you're wondering what the background music is.

Coyote Snow

He looks kinda cute with snow on his nose, doesn't he? And he's wearing a gorgeous fur coat.

There's a sense of both awe and fear, seeing something so wild and dangerous just outside. I am thrilled to be living where such a thing can be. But I am also pretty happy about having good sturdy doors between us.

Click here to see more Nature Notes.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hallmark Moment

Christmas at our house includes a lot of traditions. One of them is presenting my kids with an ornament for the tree that represents something that happened that year, or something important to them at that time of their lives.

There's a Spiderman for the year my younger son spent most of his time in a Spidey costume and perfected climbing the walls. A karate figure for the year he got his black belt. Santa reaching for the stars when he got accepted at college.

The older son, who was born to fly, gets one of the Hallmark airplane series every year. There's a robot for the year he was into robotics competition, a violin for the year he got first chair ... well. You get the idea. Most years they get more than one, so it has accumulated into quite a collection. Putting them on the tree and sharing the memories each one brings has always been a treasured event.

So it came as a bittersweet moment this week when the older son showed up with a box and asked for his ornaments. He's putting up his first tree in his own home, and it was always the intent that the kids' collections would go with them when the time came.

We brought up the bin and sorted through, this one is yours, this is your brother's - do you remember when we went to the lake? You made this one in kindergarten. This set came for you from your grandmother, and I know she'd want you to have them.

I was touched to see how much the ornaments meant to him. And I love the thought that they will always bring back happy times for him. That was the intent all along. But it was really hard to see them go.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Nature Notes: Out After Dark

Winter Moon

There was an amazing full moon this week. Did you notice? When I came off the highway exit on the way home it was hanging there right in front of me, as if it had been waiting to surprise me. I parked in the garage and went straight out to the back field to walk around a bit before it got dark. It was gorgeous.

So when the hubby suggested a few hours later that we go for a walk in the moonlight, I nearly said no. Partly, I had just done that; partly, I had other things I thought I had to do; partly, his idea of "a walk" usually includes a scramble through the brambles, not something I particularly enjoy in the dark. Or ever. He promised to stick to the mowed parts and to stay out of the woods.

And I am so glad we went. The moonlight was incredible, so bright that everything cast long shadows and we could clearly see the trees around the pond reflected in the water. Stars winked in and out between the clouds. Far in the distance, we could hear the lonely sound of a train passing in the night.

Walk in the Moonlight

I just had to go back out with my camera to try to capture some of the magic. I had a lot of fun out there alone, drinking in the night and experimenting with shutter speeds and apertures. None of the photos really turned out well. Still, I think I salvaged a few. If I can get them to upload, I'll post them this weekend.

I suppose there's a lesson here: Always go with Yes.

Visit Nature Notes for more adventures in the great outdoors.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Paint Update

First of all, thanks a million for the suggestions and sympathy about the paint problem on my front door.

I took the paint back to Lowe's, where the high school age kid behind the counter listened to my tale with a vacant expression and said, "Huh. That's weird." Long silence. I suggested "we" call Valspar. She rummaged around, found a number and handed it to me. I left. I know a lost cause when I see one.

I called the number for Valspar and reached a real live person on the first ring at 6:30 in the evening. He spoke English. He knew about paint. How cool is that?

I described the problem, and he explained what happened. Bottom line: I'm screwed.

On the paint can it says, among other things, to paint only when the surface and air temperatures are 50 to 90 degrees. I knew that. That's why we took the door down and painted it in the nice, heated wood shop out back.

What the can did not say was that it has to stay at that temperature for at least 24 hours. We hung it back up the same day and let it freeze overnight. Paint Guy didn't really explain why that causes the chalking, but he did say it is going to keep right on doing that no matter how often I wipe it off.

The solution is to sand it down and repaint it, and to let it cure at the proper temperature. He recommended waiting for spring.

So. Dang.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Nature Notes: November

Nature Notes

There isn't a lot of interest left in the landscape, now that the leaves are fallen. The tall grasses have dried to a dusty beige, and even the white clouds of milkweed have flown.

The grass is still green, though, and I'm glad for the pines all around. Funny story about those ... a fellow came by and asked the former owners and the neighbor next door if he could pay to raise Christmas trees on the properties, and they both agreed. He planted the trees, some in straight rows and some in a three-row-deep swath down the driveway. He never came back to harvest them, and now they're much too big; some are full grown. Lucky us, eh?

On our last walk around the place, the only splashes of color were a bluebird and a lonely red dragonfly.


Last Dragonfly

Bare Bones

Yellow Brick Road 2

Check out the Before and After shots of the trail. The woods seem smaller when the leaves are off. You can see much farther into it, and all the mystery has disappeared. The hubby likes it better this way. I prefer the shadowy green of summer.

This is such a strange time, suspended between the green seasons and the winter. I am ready for snow.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here's wishing everyone a day filled with family, friends, great food, and hearty laughter. May you all be blessed.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Just Shoot Me.

Well, here's the door in its fresh coat of paint.

But hold your applause, because there's more. It develops weird streaks every day. They're chalky white areas with edges that look like ice crystals grew there and melted. Frost damage? On paint?? It can be polished off with a soft cloth, but new ones appear the next day.

I'm at a loss. Any ideas?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Much Ado About Nothing Much

About a year ago, I put up this post at Maraca: Paint My Door. Some of you may remember. I had inherited an ugly metal front door that had been slathered with a bad shade of flat, pink paint. Clearly, something had to be done about that.

Given that the economy hit the fan at the same time we closed on the house, "something" did not include a fancy new door. That left paint. And for most people, that would have meant a one-day project.

I, however, am not most people. My talent for procrastination is so spectacular that I can expand a simple project into an emotional event lasting a whole. Freaking. Year. Don't believe it? Watch me:

For starters, there was the matter of choosing a color. The siding is beige, so anything goes. Red is nice. I had a dark red door on the last house, and it looked great. Of course, before it was red it was a dark gray-blue, and I got a lot of compliments on that color. But ... How about a nice pine green? Never had a green door before, and it kind of goes with the whole back-to-nature thing out here. So... red or green? Green or red? And what SHADE of green or red? There were dozens of them. Dozens, I tell you.

Which is where last year's blog post came in. I couldn't decide, so I had my blogger friends pick. They went with red. Of course, posting it as a Ruby Tuesday entry probably skewed the results, but so be it. However, by that time it was too cold to paint. So I waited for spring.

By spring, I had begun to consider navy blue. And dark gray. And the shade of red I liked last year wasn't quite ringing my chimes anymore. Summer came and went.

And then the holidays were here. And that damn door was still pink.

Until last weekend. Crossing the grocery store parking lot, I spotted a fallen leaf that was exactly, perfectly, absolutely the right red: bright enough to be lively, but dark enough to be stately; saturated, glowing, the color of ripe berries in sunlight. Ignoring the sidelong looks of my fellow shoppers, I scooped up the leaf and squirreled it away in my wallet. Back home, I sealed it in a baggie and put it in the refrigerator. The hard part was over.

Or so I thought. I carried that leaf all over town, store to store, running in and out with paint chips to compare them in daylight. Could not match it. Just could not. What seemed perfect in one light was completely different in another. In the end, the shade I wanted was in between two chips, so I ended up with two cans of paint, intending to mix them together.

It took me another 20 minutes to decide on a brush: A good one, to do a nice job? A disposable one, since I'll never get all this red paint out of it? I went with a cheap brush that still felt nice.

Back home again, I couldn't figure out why it had been so important to me to match that leaf. I wasn't going to be able to do it anyway, so I just went with the darker can of paint.

And finally, finally, finally I actually painted the door. It's red. It's not the perfect shade, but it beats the hell out of that pink.

At least, I think it does. It was dark when we put the door back up, and since it's dark when I leave and dark when I come back every day, I haven't actually seen it in the daylight. I'll take a picture this weekend and let you know.

Now. About the hardware. Leave it for now or replace it? Basic builder stuff or something upscale? Pewter or bronze ...

Friday, November 13, 2009

How Not to Start Your Day

The hubby left for work at 6 AM as usual. So it was a surprise to see him walk back into the bedroom a bit later. I opened one eye and asked what was up.

"We have a herd of horses in the front yard."

"We what?"

"Have horses. Five of 'em. What do think we should do?"

Well, seeing as how we have a fenced pasture, I thought we should try to get hold of a horse or two and put them in there. Hubby thought that was a dandy idea and set off to put the plan in motion.

In just the few minutes it took me to pull on some clothes and shoes, he managed to catch all the horses -- and to lose them again. According to him, he was able to walk up to one, get hold of the halter, and lead it into the pasture. He was elated to find that the rest of the horses were following them in. Mission accomplished.

Or not. As soon as he let go of the halter and headed back toward the gate, all the horses made a run for it. He wisely decided not to stand in their way. Last he saw of them, they were headed for the hay field next door.

By the time I got out there, the herd had vamoosed. The only thing we could do at that point was to wake the neighbors and tell them their horses were out.

It's still pitch dark at 6 AM here, so I never actually saw a thing. If it weren't for all the free fertilizer in the yard, I'd swear he made it all up.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Signs of the Season: Deer Crossing

Deer Crossing

November is both the rutting season and hunting season for white tail deer. Add them together and you have whole herds of half-crazed critters jumping out at you from all directions.

I always take this road home because I love going through the tree tunnels. However, this section runs between woods on one side and a soybean field on the other. That's a recipe for roadkill if ever there was one.

There are always deer in the field. Always. This year, though, I have seen only five or six at a time. Last year it was common to see 15 or 20. Even with the reduced population, though, it's a good idea to slow to a crawl through here.

It takes a little longer to get home going this way, and it's a bit riskier than the alternative route -- especially if one is stupid enough to try snapping photos while driving. Still. Totally worth it.

For Nature Notes and more Signs of the Season, click over to Michelle's wonderful blog, Rambling Woods.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Nature Notes: Bear Hunt

It's woolly bear season in Indiana. The fuzzy little fellows are on the march, hunting for snuggly places to spend the winter. There they will spin a cocoon and work on becoming an Isabella Tiger Moth.

Unlike the caterpillar, the moth is completely unremarkable. It's beige. Blah. But if you want to see one, you can overwinter a woolly worm with the directions found here: Backyard Wildlife Habitat.

Legend has it that the bands of the woolly bear predict the severity of the winter; the longer the red part, the colder the winter. So what do you think? Does that part look "long" to you?

And what are they trying to tell us when they roll up in a ball like this? I'm thinking, "Brrrrr. It's gonna get cold."

*Update: I haven't seen Chuck since the day I took his picture, though a few more of my chrysanthemums have gone missing. Apparently, he too is hunkered down for the winter, safe and sound for now.

Click here to see more Nature Notes.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Nature Notes: Yellow Brick Road


This is one of those "better late than never" entries. The weather and health issues have conspired to keep me inside lately. I'm doing better now. Thanks so much for all your kind comments and concern. It has been a comfort. I'm sorry I haven't been around more, but I'll be catching up on visiting everyone in the next few days.

Yellow Brick Road 2

Today was my first foray into the woods since the leaves began to turn, and I almost missed the show. This time of year it is a pure pleasure just to drive back and forth to work, as the colors have been breathtaking this year. But nothing compares with actually walking among the trees.

Virtually all of our trees turn yellow - maple, poplar, ash and beech. Aside from the bronze oaks, there are very few reds. I wish you could stand with me out here; pictures just can't capture what it's like to stand in all that golden light, with the leaves showering down all around.

Little Green Bug

I was surprised to find this little guy on the pathway, shining like an emerald. As I bent close to admire him, he looked up at me, and ... well ... as you can see, I scared the bug juice out of him. I suppose if a critter the size of a skyscraper took a sudden interest in me, I'd probably react the same way. I felt bad, but I just had to laugh.

I actually found myself apologizing. To a bug. I may need to cut back on the meds.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Nature Notes: Hush

It's a gray day.

I have it off, and I had so many things planned. An early morning foray into a strange section of the woods, renewing my driver's license, a trip to the library and a stop at an antique store. Grocery shopping, laundry, making a pie. Phone calls, paperwork, bills. But ... it's just so gray.

And I am so tired. Asthma all night long. I thought it was almost over, but it was only taking a breather. So to speak.

So I didn't get very far today, just to the front porch to sit in my old green chair for a while.

It is silent here now. No more crickets, no more frogs, no birdsong. The leaves still whisper though, those that still cling to the trees: Sshhhhhhh.

I wonder how much trouble I'll be in if I get caught with an outdated address on my license.

Rain is falling fitfully, in stops and starts, as if distracted and forgetful of its mission: Sshhhhhhh.

I begin to consider doing laundry. Surely I can manage that, at least.

From the south woods, a murmuration of starlings rises, easily a thousand strong, flying low in a rush of wings: Sshhhhhhh.

I smile. It's a gray day. A nothing day. And that's all there is to it: Sshhhhhhh.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

What About Chuck?

Is it normal to have a pet woodchuck?

This one is ours. My husband calls him Woodie, I call him Chuck. Whatever the name, he poses an ongoing dilemma.

This place had been empty for almost a year when we bought it, and Chuck was already here when we moved in. He is comfortably ensconced in a burrow under the concrete slab of the pole barn. The main entry is right next to the barn door, and the escape exit is in the dirt-floor stable behind the pole barn.

We figured this was Not Good, in a vague sort of way, but any damage to the slab was already done. Besides, we had bigger fish to fry - radon to vent; a septic tank to pump; a fireplace to repair; banana-yellow and Pepto-pink bedrooms to paint. By spring, we were focused on the corn fort and on transforming the barn into a woodworking shop. Chuck remained low on the priority list.

There was some talk among the male members of the family about shooting Chuck. Not gonna happen. However, having to pass by a giant, overly bold rodent on the way in and out of the barn was unnerving. He peered at us from his den as we came and went, staring us down. Something had to be done.

Plan A was scaring him off. This involved me running into the yard whenever I saw him, flapping a dish towel and yelling like a lunatic. At first he ran in a gratifying panic -- straight into his burrow. OR, straight past me and under the deck. Eventually he just looked at me and kept eating grass. It was dinner and a show.

Plan B was Making Life Miserable for Chuck, in hopes that he would pack up and go. We rolled mothballs down the den and dusted the entry with red pepper. If it bothered him, he didn't let on. We filled in his holes. He dug them out again.

Plan C is live-trapping. Woodchucks hibernate through the winter, so removing him from his den now would just be mean. Once February rolls around, though, Chuck may be headed for a new neighborhood.

But then again, maybe not. We've actually come to enjoy Chuck's company. And for a while, there was a Mrs. Chuck and a Chuck Junior. They reminded me of the Beavers in Narnia.

The corn fort fence has effectively kept him out of the garden. I don't have flower beds, so that hasn't been a problem -- although, you'll notice in the photo that he has been snacking on my chrysanthemums. And it's kind of fun to have a wild creature that seems content to share his space with us.

Then too, the websites I've checked say groundhogs live only two years, on average. Chuck may be nearing his expiration date anyway. Maybe we can co-exist for another season?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Nature Notes: Reflections


The trees between the pond and the house are still green, and they mostly hide the view of the woods behind. I hadn't been down there in a while, thinking there wasn't much to see now. Imagine my surprise this week when I reached the water -- a still mirror of azure sky and crimson leaves.

The air was just chilly enough to make a sweatshirt feel good, and a breeze ruffled the water now and then. Two hawks circled, apparently curious about my camera. (That, or I was standing on something dead. With hawks it's hard to tell.)

I cut my first pumpkin from the patch and picked the last of the beans. There are still a few watermelons, and the herbs are still going strong, but the garden is essentially over. I need to sit down and make notes soon on what worked, what didn't.

I need to sit down and take stock in general, actually. We have been here a full year now, during which I have done little, really, to make it my own. Now that the house and I have gotten used to each other, it's time. Don't you think?

Autumn Pond flickr

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009


All I want is a room somewhere,
Far away from the cold night air,
With one enormous chair,
Ah, wouldn't it be loverly?
Lots of choc'lates for me to eat,
Lots of coal makin' lots of heat.
Warm face, warm hands, warm feet,
Ah, wouldn't it be loverly?

Yes, Eliza, it is.

I came home late from a rough day that included a two-hour job interview to find a fire in the hearth, dinner in progress, and flowers on the table. Do I have a great hubby or what?

Oh, so loverly just to sit so abso-bloomin'-lutely still.
I would never budge 'til spring
Crept over me windowsill.
Someone's head restin' on my knee,
Warm and tender as he can be.
Who takes good care of me,
Ah, wouldn't it be loverly?
Loverly. Loverly.

Oh yeah. Loverly.

*P.S. The italicized lyrics are from the musical play My Fair Lady and are sung by the character Eliza. Apologies - I should have noted that.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Monarch Magic

It's an amazing thing that monarchs migrate at all, especially given that the migrating generation returns to a place it has never been. One of the many mysteries surrounding the phenomenon has been how they navigate. It seems scientists have solved that one, and the answer surprises them.

Researchers have always assumed that navigation occurred somewhere in the critter's brain. However, the truth is that there is a stand-alone GPS system in the antennae that guides them. Here's the article: Butterflies Use Antennal GPS to Guide Migration.

Karen Oberhauser of the University of Minnesota says, “Our sensory systems are really localized to our heads, but insects can taste with their feet and smell with their antennae, and probably their abdomens have pretty complex sensory systems, too. Because insect sensory systems are so different than our sensory systems, it’s sometimes difficult for us to even ask the right questions."

I doubt that we truly realize how alien and wondrous insects are, how radically they differ from us. What must the earth, reality itself, be like for them? They must see and hear and taste things of which we are totally unaware. It has to be like living in a different dimension, a parallel universe.

And as if that weren't mind-blowing enough, here's another tidbit: Butterflies Remember What They Learned as Caterpillars - though virtually nothing remains of their original brain and body.

I don't know about you, but when I discover stuff like this I just sit here with my mouth open, grinning at the wonder of it all.

*P.S. On a related note, there's a great photo of Katydid ears over at the blog Squirrel's View. You ain't gonna believe where those are. It's a cool blog - she's definitely "one of us". Go see.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Nature Notes: First Frost

We got a little taste of winter this morning, a surprise dusting of glittering white frost. It coated the deck and iced the chrysanthemums. I skipped breakfast to snap a quick shot, my breath a white cloud in the strange, cold air.

The trees have started to turn here, and small armies of pumpkins are lining up at roadside stands. My own sprawling patch has produced only three, but they are good sized and will make dandy jack-o-lanterns. The soy bean fields are like seas of gold, with flotillas of turkeys sailing through. The snowy billows of Queen Anne lace have all gone brown, their lacy blossoms curling inward like withered hands. The last of the hummingbirds left last week. I will take down the feeder tomorrow.

I've been avoiding close contact with Mother Nature for a while because I think the bitch is trying to kill me. Allergies turned into a constant cough early in September, which became bronchitis and then progressed to asthma attacks. I've been stuck indoors for weeks to avoid dust and pollen, which is why I haven't had much to post here for a while. I'm hoping the frost will bring some relief, and that I can get out again with the camera soon. I do miss poking around outdoors.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Nature Notes: Dances With Geese

Out here in the country, mailboxes are all on one side of the road. Ours is on the other side, so I always pull into the driveway and stroll across the street to pick up our daily supply of junk and bills. The neighbors don't mind; it's the way things work out here.

Their geese, on the other hand, consider it an outrage.

These are them. I call them "The Girls," and since their appearance a few weeks ago, checking the mail is a daily event. The game goes like this:

Nearing the driveway, I slow down and turn off the radio. All the better to sneak up on 'em, you see. I park and open the car door. By now, they have spotted me and are heading my way from wherever it is geese lurk between victims. They stop. I look at them. They look at me.

Slowwwwly, I set my foot on the gravel. At the first crunch they raise the alarm, honking as if the hounds of hell had invaded their turf.

I start moving toward the box, my pace nonchalant, matching theirs. If all goes well, I get to the box first, grab the mail, and beat a hasty retreat before they reach me. However, if one of us starts to run there's a full-on, wing-flapping, shrieking-honking race for the goal.

It is important at such moments to consider the probable value of the prize. Because there's a pretty good chance somebody is about to get whacked and bitten for it. And that would most likely be me.

I'm pretty quick for an old broad, and I have yet to leave empty handed. But if The Girls ever look like they're gaining on me, I will ditch and run without a backward glance.

Their territory apparently ends at the blacktop, because once I've gained the street they settle into a cranky border-patrol mode, still grumbling and eyeing me closely, but never following me back to the car.

A saner woman would probably just turn around in the driveway, back up to the box, and reach into it from inside the car. But hey. Where's the fun in that?

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Nature Notes: What Could I Do?

I meant to do my work today --
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.

And the wind went sighing over the land,
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand --
So what could I do but laugh and go?

- Richard Le Gallienne

It's one of my rare days off today, and I could have spent it doing productive things. Should have, really. But "a brown bird sang" and it's Nature Notes day, so I went out to play instead. If Hubby complains about the absence of clean socks, I'm blaming Michelle. And the turkeys.

Mr. NRA hasn't shot the place up in a while, and I have my fingers crossed that somebody else complained before I had to. So it's quiet today and presumably safe to be outdoors. The only sounds are the cicadas, the cricket chorus, and the wind in the trees.

There were some very oversized green beans in the veggie garden, so I stopped to pick those. The stems squeeked as my fingers searched for fat new pods, as if protesting my thievery. Have you ever noticed how pretty bean flowers are?

There is a weed in the garden that I've been stalking for months, unable to catch the blossom fully open. It only unfurls for a brief time each day, and I had given up on being there for the big moment. I glanced in its direction and there it was, in full flower. I had the camera along, but no tripod and no time to go back for one -- the flower was visibly closing as I watched. Even though the focus ain't great, I was thrilled to finally catch it.

Setting the bean basket in the shade, I followed the path down to the pond. We have the most amazing grasshoppers here now, bright yellow fellows, and they were pretty as butterflies whirring through the air as I shuffled through the grass. Nearly all the real butterflies are gone. I've seen a few monarchs passing through, but no more swallowtails. The little brown guys are all that's left.

There are some beautiful seed heads on the rushes now, and the orange touch-me-nots line the banks. Both were blowing too much in the wind for a decent photo. As I walked the edge of the water, I could hear the small plops of frogs just ahead of me, all diving for cover into the still, cold water.

The damselflies seemed to be in the mood for a photo op, though. There were a number of pairings in progress, but only this one that was bright red.

Around the pond and down the fence row, another pretty bug posed for me. No idea what it is, but I loved the pattern on its underside.

In the woods, the path is already sprinkled with fallen leaves in reds and golds. The shade is so dense that very little grows there; a few ferns, moss, and mushrooms abound, of course, but little else.

I hate to admit it, but I always get turned around in the woods. Once I'm out of sight of the house, all the paths look the same to me. Sure enough, I managed to get lost again and came out behind the next door neighbor's place. I've done worse. (Note to self: Mark the friggin' trail.)

On the way home, though, I discovered there's a new wasp nest up in the trees, one of those miraculous paper structures that seem to appear overnight. This one, I suspect, is constructed largely of wood that used to be my deck. The bees have been chewing on the railing all summer.

And so, it's back to the kitchen to deal with these beans. We like them tiny, steamed quickly, served with a little butter and salt. Or, when they're bigger, southern style: boiled with onions and bacon. These may be beyond even that, but they're getting cooked tonight anyway. Gotta have SOMEthing to show for my day, after all.

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Nature Notes: Morning Has Broken

Green Diamonds

Houseguests are due any minute, but I didn't want to miss out on Nature Notes, so you're getting a quickie:

In a nutshell, we seem to have a new neighbor somewhere to the north of us who loves guns. I mean, loooooooves guns. He starts shooting around 6 or 7PM and keeps it up until after dark. It's like living beside a rifle range.

So. Since that totally winds me up, I stay inside in the evening, where I can't hear it. To get my daily dose of natural peace and tranquility, I have to get out there in the morning before work.

And I am not a morning person.

However, I have discovered that the world looks entirely different in those early hours. I am now involved in a love affair with dew drops and dawn light.

I guess every cloud really does have a silver lining. But if Mr. NRA keeps this up, I'm going to have to have a chat with him. Not looking forward to that.

Hope everyone has a great (and gunshot free) holiday!

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Nature Notes: What a Difference a Month Makes

Remember these?

This was the milkweed patch to the south of the house as of July 25. At the time, monarch butterflies were flittering around them, and there was the potential for caterpillars.

Same plants, taken August 19. It was disappointing to find no sign of monarchs, but I was impressed that these huge seed pods had grown so quickly.

Tree frogs seem to be everywhere all of a sudden, and they love to sun themselves on the broad leaves of the milkweeds. They blend in so well that it's hard to see them.

I love their brown hands; they look like they're wearing little gloves.

No clue what this is, but given the size of its pincers I wasn't about to get too close. There were quite a few of these on the milkweeds, too.

There seems to be quite a little ecosystem going on out there in that corner of the yard. It will be fun to see all those pods open and to watch the seeds fly.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Nature Notes: I'll Get You, My Pretty

Tall Bellflower Blossom

If you have kids of a certain age, you probably remember the Pokemon craze. Pokemon were little fantasy creatures. There were hundreds of them, and the battle cry of the game was "Gotta catch 'em all!" The tykes who got sucked in drove their parents nuts in their quest to acquire every new critter the company made.

I have become similarly obsessed with wildflowers. I didn't set out to catch 'em all, but that certainly has become the goal. Every day brings something wonderful that I've never noticed before.

Wildflowers are ephemeral creatures. They are often subtle, small, and hidden, and they bloom for only a short while. Blink and you've missed one. So every chance I get, I'm poking through weeds, lying on my stomach in the mud, risking my neck climbing things for a better view. And on days I'm not prowling the property, I'm wondering what I'm missing.

Meanwhile, the vegetable garden is overflowing, there are clothes in the laundry we don't remember owning, and feral dust bunnies are breeding under the beds. I've taken to leaving the vacuum cleaner and a bin of cleaning supplies in the middle of the living room, in case anyone drops in. (I get credit for doing housework without actually having to do any.)

Capturing a wildflower isn't exactly easy, either. Too much or too little sun, and the colors are wrong. If there's a hint of a breeze, you can forget a sharp focus. If there is no breeze, mosquitoes are snacking on your tender bits.

The bellflower above has been the toughest customer so far. The stalk is tall, so it's never really still. They grow under trees, so lighting is patchy. Worst of all is that amazing, wonderful pistil that sticks out a good inch from the plane of the petals. No amount of fiddling with the settings will put the whole flower in focus. This is the best attempt so far, and I'm still not happy with it.

Of course, I could just cut them and bring them inside. No wind, good lighting, no bites. Dramatic black background. I'm sure the photos would be technically better, but it would ruin the experience. It would take the "wild" out of the flower, and it would take the flower out of the earth.

There's a quote by Malcolm De Chazal: "The flower in the vase smiles, but no longer laughs." I prefer my flowers laughing.

The collection so far is in a Flickr set, linked below, if you're interested. I'm still uploading entries, and I'll keep at it until frost puts an end to the project. Until then, please note there is a vacuum cleaner in the middle of the living room. Housework is in progress. Honest.

White Yarrow Flags

Downy Yellow Violet Dwarf Ginseng

*Wildflowers on

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