Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Caught in the Act

It seems I'm feeding a lot more than birds these days. Fortunately, the feeder hangs high enough that El Bandito here can't reach it, and I don't really mind him cleaning up the spills on the front porch.

I'm told that raccoons are often rabid though, which does give me pause, as he comes right up to the windows like this and we do keep them open in the summer.

Still ... look at that face. Is he cute or what?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Nature Notes: Daffodil Days

Spring Moon 2

Has come to town
With a yellow petticoat
And a pretty green gown

- Nursery rhyme by Nathaniel Hawthorne

For me, spring officially arrives with the sweet scent of daffodils, my favorite flowers. We have a single clump of the big, classic, yellow kind at the corner of the porch, and they are in full bloom. The moon was out in the daytime when I got home on Thursday, too - double the magic!

When I was a child, we lived above a garden on the banks of a river. In her younger years, my grandmother had planted daffodils over the entire bank down to the garden. There they cheerfully spread over the years to become a carpet of golden blossoms. Following the stone steps my grandfather had carved into the hillside, we breathed in their fragrance and glowed in their reflected light.

We picked armloads of them for the house at Easter, where they returned joy in full measure to my then house-bound grandmother. To this day, the sight of a daffodil sweeps me back to those childhood holidays ... Sunrise service, new patent leather shoes, scratchy layered petticoat and a frilly dress, white cotton gloves and a hat with ribbons ... egg hunting and Easter basket chocolates and ham for supper ... the whole family gathered, eating and laughing together ... ballerina-twirling through the daffodil perfume.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Good News, Bad News

Good news: I'm getting a small raise and nice bonus to take to my new position. (Yeah!)

Bad news: The furnace died before I could even deposit my bonus check. And it's geothermal, so the replacement will be way more than the bonus. Way, way more. (Boo!)

Good news: It's been relatively warm this week, so we haven't frozen our buns off without the heat. (Sweet.)

Bad news: The hubby is ticked at me for insisting he work from home while the installers are here. I can't miss training and I can't hand the keys to our empty house to a pack of perfect strangers. (Tough.)

Great news: There are some awesome breaks on geothermal systems right now - a federal tax credit for 30% of the cost, a state incentive of $1000 cash, a manufacturer rebate of $1000, and a 5% discount from the installer for paying cash. (Woo hoo!)

Bad news: Even after all the breaks, it's still going to cost more than a normal furnace. (Crap.)

Good news: Heating and cooling bills should be lower in the future, and geo is a green way to go. (Whatever.)

Bad news: Somehow, the cost breaks and future benefits are not making up for the loss of the new and improved camera I was going to buy with that bonus. (Sigh.)

Good news: We will be warm again. (Counting my blessings.)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

This Is New.

I'm craving nutmeg. What do you suppose that means?

I don't know when it started, exactly, but for days now I've been obsessed with the spice. I wake up imagining I can smell nutmeg. I put it on my morning oatmeal. I stare at my work computer, seeing nothing, longing for nutmeg. My favorite nutmeg delivery system is Jello sugar-free instant vanilla pudding, and I've eaten pools of it this week. I have just downloaded cookie and cake recipes featuring nutmeg as the only flavoring, which I really, really should not bake because I know I will eat all of whatever comes out of the oven.

So what's up with that?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Nature Notes: Jumping for Joy

As I mentioned in the previous post, the deer were feeling fine and frisky this morning. It took me a while to get to my camera, and when I opened the blinds it scared nearly all of them away. These two yearlings were too busy having fun to notice me. They ran circles around the neighbor's barn and our back yard, chasing each other and jumping back and forth over the fence.

After a long, rough winter I think they're just happy to have grass underfoot and sun on their faces.

(The yard looks awful, though. Don't look at that, OK?)

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Starting Over

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Well, yesterday was my last day on the old job. Training for the new position begins Monday, and I'm taking a couple of days off in between to recharge my batteries. It's tough to leave my comfort zone, and I'll miss all the familiar faces. But that division is closing, so there was no point in staying until the end.

I am grateful and happy to have another job to go to. And I'm looking forward to learning about a new facet of the business. But you know how it is with a new job, having to prove yourself anew to yet another group of strangers. So I started today vacillating between melancholy, trepidation, and excitement.

Enter The Universe. I'm standing at the bathroom sink brushing my teeth when motion in the back yard catches my eye. Peeking out from between the blinds, I find a scene from a Disney movie in progress out there: The deer are dancing! They're bounding around the yard, running full-tilt circles of the field, jumping the pasture fence and back again, racing just for the fun of it. A pair of twitterpated robins flutter around in the grass, a hawk circles the woods, and I can hear the barred owl calling. How can you not laugh with all that going on?

Downstairs for breakfast. I flip on the TV and catch the big finish number of Shall We Dance, with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Fred pauses in the amazing dance sequence and looks out of the tube, right at me, and sings:

Drop that long face. Come on. Have your fling.
Why keep nursing the blues?

If you want this old world on a string,
Put on your dancing shoes. Stop wasting time.
Put on your dancing shoes. Watch your spirits climb.

Shall we dance, or keep on moping?
Shall we dance and walk on air?
Shall we give in to despair?
Or shall we dance with never a care?

Life is short. We're growing older.
Don't you be an also ran.
You've got to dance, little lady. Dance, little man.
Dance whenever you can.

Yeah, Fred old buddy, you're right. Time to put on my dancing shoes.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Nature Notes: Mmmmmm. Sun.

Spring Sun

Spring has sprung! It happened last Sunday, when the pussy willow blossoms suddenly burst open, revealing the first tantalizing glimpse of white fluff within. In the days that followed, the sun made a comeback. Temperatures climbed above freezing, the snow began to melt, rising in deep fogs in the morning. By noon the skies had turned impossibly blue.

Today brought the first robins and bluebirds, and all the birds are singing again. Now that they've found the feeder we're seeing cardinals, titmice, chickadees, juncos, jays, doves, sparrows, and purple finches. The hawk has taken notice and watches from the trees at the property line, but he seems not to want to come so close to the house. However, I have spotted a mouse bustling around under the cover of the dead weeds beneath the feeder, and a couple of nights ago there was a raccoon walking the porch railing like a tightrope acrobat, trying to reach into the seed tray. I'll have to keep an eye on those guys.

It's time to figure out when to start seeds indoors, to decide on a weed controlling mulch for the veggie patch, and to lay out firm plans for managing the land here. (More on that last later - I've met some great folks at the Saint Joseph County Soil and Water Conservation District, and I'm still exploring the conservation options and management information they provided.)

It seems we went from eternal winter to spring overnight, and suddenly there is so much to do. It's the season of hope, of irrational optimism and ambitious projects. Bring it on, baby. Bring it.

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