Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ladies Last

At the optometrist a male customer and the female clerk were talking about the fading summer while I, waiting for new specs to be fitted,  read all about Brad and Angelina's wedding.

"Only female hummingbirds at my place now," he said.
"Where did the males go?" she said.
"Males are always first to migrate in the fall. They leave the females behind."
"Don't know."
"Probably so they can take care of all the cleaning and locking up."

I'd noticed that my corps of Ruby-Throats became all female every September before the hummingbirds disappeared entirely, but today I learned from something I didn't know: that males also arrive first in spring because "the earliest males have their choice of the best territories, which improves their chances of attracting females for breeding." Being early, they risk  not finding enough food. In fall, males depart up to three weeks before the females and the juveniles so as to give the youth a chance to grow a little stronger before their long and demanding flight to southern Mexico and the Yucatan. also tells me that my regulars probably already left and the ladies I'm seeing squeaking and dive-bombing each other at my nectar feeders are from north of here and are passing through.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

And the Day Came. . .

.  . .when the sun rose like the moon. And only female hummingbirds were left. And the kitchen floor was suddenly too cold for bare feet and I shut off the ceiling fans. Woke from a scary dream -- extremely rare, but almost 365 days to the day from last year's bad dream. And I sought out and wore a sweatshirt in the morning for the first time in months. There were pie pumpkins at the vegetable stand and I wanted one, but, in denial, I bought an eggplant and apples instead. (It was a fine fat piglet of an eggplant.) Leaves are still green, but basil must be harvested or be lost. The weatherman predicted a high in the 60s by Friday. I try to remember that this day comes only to the lucky who still have days.

. . .clients contacted me, three on the same day, after several months. They are buckling down, writing again. I roasted pears and pinched the skins from concord grapes and ran them through the food mill to remove seeds, and froze the pulp for grape pie. Cookbooks lay open to lentil dal and and vegan cheese soup, and I contemplate buying King Arthur scone mix. I chose for lunch a slice of blackberry pie, now out of season, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It cost almost $11 but I have craved it for weeks, since blackberries vanished. I brought out the little artificial sun lamp that sustains me as I reduce my house to two rooms and then to the one with the fewest windows.

It is time to file, caulk, fill, cover, clean, oil, sharpen; assess supplies of salt, cat litter (for icy surfaces), birdseed, canned foods, and water in jugs. Pick up woolen suits from the tailor. Change the sheets from cotton to flannel. Arrange visits with friends who in two months will be hard to get to. Pay the house and car insurance. Propane tank is already filled.

The year is tilting.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Everything and the 10-inch Kitchen Sink

October 1 is my 13th anniversary on the Divine Property, and it's 14 years 2 months if counting subletting from June 1998 to August 1999. (The only place I've moved into twice.) I will never leave this place where the extraordinary happens every day and the rent, plus 99 acres of land and an ideal neighbor, is $502 a month ("as is").

Inconveniences and Oddities:
-Single-pane windows, plus a concrete slab foundation, ensure that the cabin is a freezer in pitiless winters despite every strategy known to humanity.
-If it's humid, the living room carpet -- even though cleaned -- stinks of pee from a cat who died of bladder cancer in 1999.
-!$%&*!$!!! mice, termites, snakes, skinks, spiders, bats, crickets, etc. for roommates.
-Kitchen sink measuring  13" x 10," x 7 inches deep: smaller than a shoebox.
-No bathtub.
-No library serves this location.
-$30 a month trash service.
-A fallen tree on the gravel road means you stay home until the chainsaw guy gets there.
-Bizarre, intermittent wireless service.
-Six miles to the nearest doughnut.

True Loves:
-Shade trees.
-Peace and quiet
-Native stone screened porch with wooden screen door, furnished with picnic table.
-House aligned east and west so equinoctial sunlight shoots through perfectly.
-Bringing and inviting people here.
-Wildlife, flora, and most weather.
-Birds of the day and birds of the night.
-Most amazing neighbors.
-Landlord to call when something's wrong.
-Two-car garage.
-Red flag on the mailbox.
-Wild foods.
-Propane tank. I love the stupid thing and the blue flames it makes.
-Unable to see neighbors but sometimes hear their roosters or fireworks.
-99 acres of meadows and woods
-Conservation areas nearby.
-Well water.
-Gorgeous, vivid moonlight and night sky.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

We Finally Met

On an early-evening walk up the lane I chanced to look where I was going for once, and thank God I did because a copperhead snake about 18 inches long (adults measure 24 to 36 inches), lay in my path where it hadn't been just minutes before, and I gave it lots of space -- after greeting it very politely by its Latin name: Agkistrodon contortrix phaeogaster Gloyd, and taking a photo so you'd believe me. This is the third species of venomous snake I've met on the property and the second I've photographed. The day I met the Timber Rattler, around 2001, I was weed-whacking near the creek when I heard a curious noise -- a rattle -- and saw a black-patterned snake as thick as my arm letting me know I was intruding, and that day I weed-whacked no more. I met a Pygmy Rattlesnake on my doorstep last year. Watch where you're walking at dusk. A Missouri man died of a copperhead's bite this past July but he'd actually picked it up to show it to his son. The last Missouri death by copperhead before that was in 1965.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Bambi's Skull

Empty turtle shells whitened to chalk by the weather, and bones, and sometimes skulls large or small lie on the forest floor or the creek's edge. This poor fawn died I know not how or when, but please have a look at Bambi's teeth: huge, long, serrated and razor-edged for ripping leaves and grass and garden vegetables--and picture double their number, because this photo is only of the upper plate. Angry deer--yes, they get angry and charge--fight, bite, and kick with those rock-hard hooves and antlers, and a big one can knock you down and stomp you to a pulp and we all know what they can do to a car.

Statistically you are much more likely to be killed by a deer than by a shark. Before getting all teary-eyed over gentle big-eyed Bambi, remember that in the movie Bambi fights Ronno for Faline, stomping Ronno without mercy and knocking him off a cliff. The fight is shown mostly in silhouette to avoid showing blood, wounds, and agony. Nature is not quite so discreet.

Monday, September 1, 2014

DaVinci Said

Varieties gathered during a 90-minute foray, Rockwoods Reservation
"To such an extent does nature delight and abound in variety that among her trees there is not one plant to be found which is exactly like another; and not only among the plants, but among the boughs, the leaves and the fruits, you will not find one which is exactly similar to another."
-Leonardo da Vinci

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Happy Couple

The smaller one, the male, is using his special little set of pincers to clutch his female partner for a minimum of 3 hours and up to 3 weeks to make sure he and no other male is transmitting his genes to the next generation. These two walking sticks (Diapheromera femorata) were doin' the wild thing on the garage door, and so as not to disturb them I used the other door--after I took my purely scientific nature photo. They are a favorite food of wild turkeys.