Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Birds

I have to keep it short, today. We have been blessed with much and are thankful beyond the sentiment. As I worked diligently in the studio, the turkeys enjoyed the old garden (that finally received the garlic, yesterday).

Our dinner's bird came from here, the Gale Woods county park. Despite losses of millions of poultry birds to a severe outbreak of avian flu at Minnesota's mega farms, small farms like Gale Woods didn't lose any birds. It's hard to imagine how we could decentralize the production of food animals at the scale that we produce and consume them in this country, but I am thankful for this park and its mission, and that it provides for our meals of pork, beef, lamb, chicken and turkey, and finally for the Gale family who well understood years ago that this kind of farming was losing ground and needed to be preserved by imagining it as a park.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Winter's Gift

Storms came through with significant rains, and November thunder, and wind. It happened this way and was expected after such a long and pleasant autumn. Now, it is not rain, or sprinkles or mist, but flurries or squalls of snow. The ground is not yet frozen, nor could it be, but unstirred water is now ice.

The change is apparent in our behavior, the humans, the deer, the bluejays and crows. Bald eagles and red tail hawks circle together, coyotes climb fallen trees, chipmunks vanish.

The turkeys march daily, on their chirping and pecking tour. They are fond of our place where there is little to concern them, and after the rains the eating is good.

So many tasks left unfinished, and others that must go on despite the turn to below freezing temperatures. If I were to list the whirlwind of projects I've accomplished since May, it would be long and dull and yet one must consider that a life worth living is full of unsung activities that bolster the praiseworthy. Now that we have returned to frozen, I can look forward to the limits set by it, and push those limits at times; limits set more so by people unaccustomed to the relative warmth inherent in temperature than the temperatures themselves.

On days with high winter temperatures of thirty or more, I can fix on the plank repair for the bridge across the great wetland or cut dead wood for trail edging, and if the wood chips are not too frozen, spread them along the trails.

It is this trail work that Rex loved. Fitting, then, that on this day, the one year anniversary of his death, of his willingness to let go, as I sat in his rocker in the adjacent room, that I consider his work my work, that his work was accomplished and praiseworthy and that so much of what becomes praiseworthy goes unsung, including the gift, the conveyance of appreciation, from one human being to another, of value.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Autumn Creature Feature

This is the best view we could get of a Wood Duck that inhabited the back pond (I don't know what else to call it now, it's beginning to suggest permanent). About two months ago the ducks began congregating, yet I was so busy I didn't realize what was happening. A few weeks later, while felling trees, we noticed on the ridge a steady stream of walking ducks. It went on for minutes, there must have been one hundred! They are extremely skittish and do not let you get close, but I had been listening to their squeaky swing set sound for weeks. It wasn't until the parade that I understood we had a large congregation. One day, a week or so ago, they began flying over the house, rounding back to land on the lawn. Then they were gone.

Last year I did my best to save the frogs from what I thought was a frog trap. But now I'm beginning to think they want to be in this pit -the soil cut and retained around our basement, code required, egress window. I count at least thirteen in this portion of the pit, but there are more. You may also see the blue-spotted salamander to the left of the blue, roofer's trash. Next summer this pit will be excavated, probably retained with a galvanized steel, and a new, rot-proof, egress window installed. What will happen to this amphibian paradise?

Apparently, in autumn, the best house painting days are also the best days for lady bugs to seek out their death chamber. By the thousands on a warm, breezy day, a couple of weeks back, they swarmed the house. On their backs, stuck to the paint I eagerly applied, they became such a nuisance I had to quit. Several left defensive trails, "reflex bleeding" as it is known, on the paint that had dried. Once in the house they strive for light, which tends to be the light fixtures on at night. Look up at the plastic lens to see all the dark splotches of recently passed Coccinellidae. Don't bother cleaning it until winter sets in. They are stubborn too. When you try to coax them into your hand or onto a piece of paper they hunker down or, just as frequently, as they climb walls and windows, they simply drop to the floor, sometimes spreading wings to fly to another location. While gardeners love ladybugs, I have entered a new relationship to them that is, well, a little bit more complicated, and I well-learned not to paint the house after labor day.

Squirrels. This one had no idea I was standing there, silently waiting for Wood Ducks to come by. They didn't. Look at how auburn it is -for a gray squirrel. The posture resembles a man in a Godzilla suit, and by most people's reactions to them, squirrels may as well be Godzilla. Me? I still like them, they do not bother us or the house, we don't feed birds so I have no self-interested reason to despise them, and I'm pretty sure they're having more fun in the woods than any other animal. There is one thing I have learned. I always thought it was squirrels dropping all those acorns in the back yard. It's not. Bluejays. Autumn is the season of bluejays. They knock the acorns down and then do their level best to stuff them in their mouths, then fly away to stash them. Even though I grew up in an oak forested area where gray squirrels and bluejays were the most common animals, I never recognized this behavior until this autumn.