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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