Monday, December 29, 2008

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Waterfall #1


Yesterday's strange heavy rains inspired this first in a series of portraits of the 5 waterfalls on the Divine property, which is in the Meramec watershed. This waterfall plunges into a perfectly circular, stony-bottomed pond. I find waterfalls to be very sensual.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Oak Cherry Gall Wasp


Never saw this before, thought it was a fungus, but no; these are former homes of gall wasps who specialize in setting up housekeeping on the undersides of oak leaves. Taken yesterday. Latin name Cynips quercusfolii. Say that and you've said a mouthful.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wald Hickory Nuts is Good Eatin'

Christmas is the day to crack nuts and eat 'em. The hickory-nut crop collected in October I kept out on the porch until they were nice & dry and the shell gives up the nut easily -- or as easily as it can considering I crack 'em open with a meat mallet -- you know, one of them you use to flatten chicken breasts, or beef for what they call tornadoes in the restaurants. The nut is sweet and tasty. Rather eat those than candy. Although if you got candy I'll force myself. And I'll thank you to hand me off that turkey leg. Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sammy Strikes Again

Remember Sammy, unsuccessful suitor of Shelley? Well, he snuck down our road in his blue pickup this morning, and I knew he was fixin' up yet another holiday display for the woman of his dreams. Garlands, ribbons, wreaths, tinsel, Santas, etc. This photo ain't the half of it. True love. I hope Santa brings poor Sammy a new girlfriend. This year Santa brung me David, and I don't want nothin else.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Fireworks, Baby, All Night Long


Fireworks are legal in this county, 20 Dec to January 10. And the county next door, right over the border, has 3 fireworks superstores where I buy mine. Solstice (coming up Sunday) is the best, better than July 4. It gets dark early and in late December I'm a-just itching to blow things up.

If you want to win my heart, bring me $200 worth of fireworks early on in the relationship.

Fun explosives include:
-Artillery shells: Tangerine-sized papier-mache spheres that shoot 100 feet into the air and explode into those loose starry formations you see on July 4th.
-Individual artillery shells: I bought three, one with 300 grams of gunpowder -- that piece alone cost $13 -- and I can hardly wait to light the fuse.
-Rockets (fun).
-Bottle rockets (you ain't lived until you've tried to set off a gross of bottle rockets all at once; not recommended).
-"Rats": 50 to 500 cigarette-sized cylinders of gunpowder laid side by side and tightly wrapped together; light 'em and they explode one after the other. The horrible racket and stinky smoke are so COOL!

Not Roman candles though, except in a pinch. Those shoot upwards and deliver ten loud bangs in the air. You stand there and count all ten. It's just too predictable. When my niece is here I buy cones and fountains because they do not go airborne, aren't noisy, and the fountains of sparks are very pretty.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas in Pacific, MO


Those huge bluffs that to this day get mined for silica have big holes in them, one of them just right for a life-sized Nativity scene. To its right is a Christmas tree and some lighting equipment and wiring for nighttime display. Now, who says there's no art and culture around here?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Spring is in the Air

Yesterday was warm, 45 degrees at noon, good for a walk up a local road so steep it ought to have steps cut into it. Hill on one side, fantastically deep ravine on the other. Light ice and sleet from the night before (rain gauge said .4 inches) had melted that morning, and up from the earth and trees came a smell of loam or leaves or something growing, just like spring. I stopped to inhale it. Just like spring!

I smiled. It's December. Look at December from the proper perspective, and spring isn't really far behind. That's why I love Missouri. I've seen crocuses here as early as Feb. 2. That's just 8 weeks away!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Self-Reliance

"Ain't nobody gonna do it for me."

That's what I tell myself when I'm in a "situation" or a jam. Like yesterday, had to carry an 8-foot wooden ladder. Weighed quite a bit and awkward. Then I had to arrange it upright against the house. It took everything I had. I even had to let it go and drop it once, it was so heavy. And then I had to climb it. And then get back down. There was no choice. But I tell myself, "Ain't nobody gonna do it for you," when I need, but don't want to:

-move an item weighing more than 50 pounds
-climb on the roof
-jump
-negotiate a steep incline or slick pathway when there's no other way
-find my way when lost in the woods
-get the gun
-use a power tool
-keep moving when injured
-repair something
-confront a trespasser

Wish there were magic lamps with genies inside that would come out and do things for me, but there ain't. Today after looking all over for advice, and just about giving up and taking it to the man, I fixed the CD drive on my computer all by myself.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Good Fortune


Had to show you this photo I just took, although I hope you saw it "live" -- of tonight's conjunction of Jupiter, Venus, and the moon. In astrology this night is considered very lucky. Hope it is for you. I set the camera on "infinity" and went for it. And happy December -- the month with the prettiest name.

What Has a Yellow Belly and Sucks Sap?

Woodpecker, seen through the bedroom window, looked like a Downy but with the barring across its back all in disarray. I looked harder. It had a red chin. Peterson's told me it was a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, only the second I have ever seen here. Its yellowish belly is sometimes hard to see.

The first one appeared on my birthday, one January, some years ago. I considered it God's birthday gift to me. And here's one on Dec. 1. This area is the northern edge of their winter range, and they tend to winter somewhat farther south, preferring the West Indies (who wouldn't?), so I know he's passing through.

The photograph is from Wikipedia. I'll keep my camera handy; maybe the sapsucker will agree to pose.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Season's First Snow


Did those bluebirds know something? That it would snow overnight? About an inch of it. Was just out takin' 110 pictures. This, my favorite, #100, is not photoshopped -- that's the way the branches with the snow on them really look.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Look Who's Here to Cheer

In these dreary days counting down to the Solstice (not so far away) some vivid color is thrilling. Today I saw -- the bluebird pair! They often winter here, but not in the box. Maybe this year?


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Deer Season

The grimmest story ever told on this 100 acres:

One Christmas Day I decided to walk in the snowy oak-and-hickory woods for an hour and think good things. The silence was the big winter kind that felt like deafness. Animal tracks led me along a known game trail. Barely out of sight of the road, a dead deer lay split open, red exploded all over the white snow. Without looking too closely, I saw it was the young buck from the family I'd watched strolling down the road every dusk for more than a year.

Clearly the coyotes had got it. I was rattled enough that I didn't go walking anymore that day.

Next day the landlord's handyman, who was new then, came by to work on Shelley's house. Then he knocked on my door and said, "Need anything?" - which he never did unless I called him. He's a busy man.

I told him about the dead deer in the woods. He said he'd taken a walk, seen it, and got a good look, and its antlers had been roped to a tree. He figured a trespasser wounded and left it, maybe thinking to return and finish it off. But the hunter never came back and the coyotes got the deer. Alive.

"Oh, how horrible!" I said.

Deer firearms season had been closed for a month. He said, "That was poaching. Why didn't you report it?"

It came out that, for God's sake -- he suspected that maybe I'd done it!

No hunting is ever allowed on this acreage. Just to make sure everybody knows, a month before this deer firearms season opened (Nov. 15-25), I sprayed purple paint -- signifying "no hunting" -- on tree trunks all around the property's edge. When I see a deer I deliberately shoo it toward the center of the woods, where supposedly nobody can hunt. And if they do they'd better be humane enough to kill.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Vitamin C and Propane

Eager to fill the Divine propane tank now that gasoline is so low -- $1.79/gallon in Eureka, and propane prices tend to parallel gas prices -- I phoned the propane company. And the driver came today. I hopped over and said hello, and "What's the price of propane today?" He said, "$2.83." I said "That's high." "But it don't look like your place uses a lot," he replied, nodding toward the Divine cabin.

So that was his comforting take on how my hard-scrabbled $400 got me 135 gallons and a tank up from 30 percent to 50 percent full. On the open market, propane trades at about $2.18. The delivery company tacks on 65 cents per gallon for the truck, its driver, office and whatall. Beats the cold, though, and beats getting bloated bills from the natural gas company, which city folk tell me is really puttin' the thumbscrews on its customers this year.

Oh, the Vitamin C? When the year's deteriorating like it is, and fuel bills depress you, take extra C!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Lesson in Warmth

The Divine cabin is well-built; it’s just that it’s 70 years old, with two tacked-on rooms built in 1969 and 1991 – and the doors are a bit warped, and the windows old, loose or off, or single-pane (no storm window). Spring, summer, and fall here are glorious, but I’ve always dreaded winter.

Until David came last week to winterize the place. Oh, I’d always done the plastic-over-windows stuff, but I still spent last winter straddling the electric heater just to keep warm – wearing hat, legwarmers and fingerless gloves. I’d stand there like that to do my reading, telling myself, You wanna live out here – you have to be tough.

Well, this prince among men caulked up the window frame that let winter winds whistle over my bed. And he did bunch of other stuff, like help me plastic the windows, and fixed my old furnace’s thermostat. There's a level inside filled with mercury called the heat anticipator. The level wasn’t level. Just a tap fixed it and corrected the whole system. Won’t be using so much propane.

I’d been shutting off rooms to keep warmth in some and cold in others, and David pointed out that because there’s only one air-return – located in the living room –I should open the interior doors to keep warmth circulating.

Then he weatherstripped the doors, some warped to the tune of half-inches and inches – “hellacious,” in David’s assessment. I could feel the difference right away.

He had to go shopping with his sister, so he left me the caulking gun to do some other, smaller jobs. Thank you, David, for your knowledge, advice, common sense, and skill – you should see how flawlessly he caulked! Thank you for the warm house!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Spider Invasion

Nothing like weekend guests to bring in all the 2-inch wolf spiders seeking shelter for the winter. Saturday night three or four wolf spiders ran around the kitchen and dining room all at once, eliciting concern (black widow? brown recluse?) and tales of spider bites, tarantulas and scorpions. The spiders were stomped by the tough-talking "kill 'em and grill 'em" brother-in-law and defended by my squealing school-aged niece who thinks they're part of the environment. I was only dismayed that these spiders all showed up at once at dinnertime. It was like I rang for them or somethin.

By the end of winter, behind the shelves or baseboards or in the closet, they will grow to about 4 inches long, and leave huge webs that droop like hammocks. Wolf spiders are harmless.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Autumn Postcard

Dear Reader: I took this today, down the road a ways. Thought of you, and wished you were here. Love, Divinebunbun.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

My Friend Hawkeye

Yesterday a friend and I walked a trail through Lone Elk Park where elk run free, and she saw, across a lake, a couple hundred yards away, two male elks tangling their antlers, pushing and shoving . . . I said, "Wow. How did you see that?" and she told me that a gym teacher once called her Hawkeye.

Encouraged, when we went back to my place I got out my Benjamin-Sheridan air rifle that I use for fun and squirrels. On the shooting range I set up in my meadow I taught Hawkeye -- who was born in New York City and had never touched a gun -- to shoot, first at coffee cans. On her fourth-ever shot she hit the target, and kept on hitting with jaw-dropping accuracy; a real natural talent. I said, "This calls for a celebration," and got out my Osama Bin Laden paper target, downloaded from a site called Ty's Shooting Interests, which I use only on special occasions. Hawkeye got a bull's eye on her second shot. I gave her the target as a souvenir to take back home to the big city.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fossil Fields

The bed of the mighty LaBarque Creek is a motherlode of fossils and a rockhound's Eden. The rocks are a perfect Chex Mix of limestone, sandstone, shale, chert (sometimes resembles arrowheads!), dolomite, hunks of iron, hardened clay, and marble. I find that the rocks with fossils are almost always turned fossil side up. Most fossils here are those of ancient marine plants, both simple and leafy, and simple animals, sort of like coral, called crinoids. My guess is that what you see in the close-up photo is crinoids. I don't know how or why I sleep when there is such cool stuff not 200 feet from my door.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

She Loves Him Not

A followup to the previous entry. Shelley made Sammy take down the whole display and take the pieces away in his truck. This morning I walked down there and it was vanished except for a few straws on the ground. Wish I'd been a fly on the wall for that conversation.

Floridaboy commented on previous entry that the display looked like an altar -- and I agree with him!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Ya Think He Kinda Likes Her?

Neighbor Shelley's suitor has been courting her for over a year. She pays him no mind. So Sammy gifts her with all sorts of artistic creative floral arrangements he builds and leaves at the gate of her driveway. Once he gave me a wonderful hanging plant that he had extra. Shelley lets the stuff rot right where Sammy left it. It's such downright odd behavior that I think Sammy might be her ex.

Sammy stops in front of my house if he sees me workin outside, and is polite, and asks me if I've seen Shelley, and where she might be these days.

This morning I saw a van come and go, and later I saw that Sammy had outdid hisself on this Halloween display. He brought in bales of straw, mums and pumpkins, the cornshocks and skull, the cobwebs he draped over the arrangement and the bushes. If I were her I'd at least give the man the time of day.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Hen of the Woods


At the base of an oak tree, far into the woods, I found this "choice"-grade edible mushroom, Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa), my first ever. Was I thrilled! Recognized it at once from studying fungi manuals. Got the scale and weighed it in at 24+ ounces. Beautiful.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Drama on the Kitchen Floor


The occasional roach comes out of the drain here, but this morning I watched one of 'em get trapped-and-wrapped by a hungry spider, deep in a corner of the kitchen where I don't clean much. The drama went: Spider saw the roach, dropped down and stung or bit it so that the roach flipped on its back. Spider climbed on up, dropped down again and strung up the roach so it was suspended in the air, and then spun it, roping it tightly round the middle with filament. She lowered her prey to the floor after it was all tied up. The photo shows her putting on the finishing touches. The roach expired shortly afterward, and the spider had breakfast.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Advantages of Small Breasts

With women gettin' bigger all around, I see a lot more cleavage at the Wal-Mart than I used to, probably because you can always get somebody to look there instead of looking, for example, at a dewlap or a double chin. Ladies, you do as you like, but I have 10 points to make in favor of small breasts:

1. You don't need to wear a bra.
2. I'm 51 and ain't sagging yet.
3. They've made me a much better athlete, gardener, wood-chopper, and so on than I would have been with floppy things a-flappin' in my face.
4. I know that my date likes me for my mind and sense of humor.
5. I don't get backaches, or have straps cutting my shoulders, or have perverts staring and mumbling at me in the bus station.
6. If anything was wrong, the breast exam and mammograms would find it right away.
7. I and my kind are natural and organic, no artificial ingredients -- and even admirers of the big ones know that if a woman will fake one thing, she'll fake anything.
8. I and my kind are immediately recognizable as resisters of conformity and capitalist patriarchy.
9. The $7000 some ladies spend on that operation, I spent on 6 months' vacation.
10. I ain't so pathetic as to think that to get the best of this life I have to thrust some of my personal anatomy into everyone's face.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I Show and You Tell


Is this a cricket? He or she was clinging to the front of the house, looking as much as possible like the landscape: green with an overlay of dried-out, early-fall leaves. Now that's style. I think he/she is minus a left-leg joint, too. Didn't seem to bother it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Rare Look at Indian Pipes

"Fleshy" like mushrooms, Indian Pipes feed themselves from leaf mulch, but they aren't fungi; they're flowers. They're colorless because they haven't got any chlorophyll. The thick stems are a little narrower than a drinking straw, and a "bell" about the size of a bluebell hangs down on the end. Occasional in the Ozarks, they say, but I found this clump right down the road. Scientific name Monotropa uniflora. Thought they were fungi to add to my fungi photo collection. Instead I got my first-ever look at Indian Pipes.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Panic at the Pumps

Ike blew through Texas and then wet us here in Missouri with 5.5 inches of rain in just a couple of hours. Right before Ike arrived, neighbor Shelley stops by on her way in and tells me, There isn't any gas left in town. I said, say what? She said, all the gas stations have sold out their gasoline; I just come from there.

Thinking of the 24 pumps at the QuikTrip and 12 at the Shell, I expressed disbelief.

You know what it is, Shelley said, people out here have all these trucks with double tanks and SUVs and whatnot, and everybody heard gas was going to $5 a gallon cuz of Ike hittin' the refineries. I said, People acting crazy. No need to panic like that. Everybody is listening to too much TV.

So then it rained buckets. My phone and electricity went out. Finally I get to turn on the TV and the whole world had gone irrational. The worst local flash-flooding wasn't here but in the big city, where it never floods. Two people drowned trying to save their cars and others are scraping mud out of their restaurants & that. Then national news says a huge Wall-Street financial concern employing all sorts of financiers & accountants has gone bankrupt. And then a certain President comes on TV and says to stay calm and sit tight because everything will be fine. Then I saw commercials for and against Obama and McCain, with both of them acting crazy, and showing their faces in profile and talkin' down to us like we were irrational or at least morons, and I wondered if this U.S.A. is turning into a Third World country or what.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Wald Hick'ry Nuts

Today I hauled myself up to the pump house roof and picked shagbark hickory nuts, and here's the basketful, in their green husks. Some hickories' nuts are bitter, but shagbark is the one for eatin'. When the husk dries and splits, the kernel shows, a light beige. It dries out and turns brown. Inside the kernel is the edible sweet nut. (See the second picture.) Lots of folks say it's such a trial to get the kernel off it ain't worth it. But this ain't the year to waste food!

If you won't take that trouble for the nuts, at least gather the split husks and dry them out and throw a load of 'em on your fire next time you smoke or grill.

Usually I leave the hickory nuts for the turkeys and the squirrels (they throw the husks down from the tree at me), but how often in life are you gonna pick and dry out and crack and eat wild hickory nuts? And the real trick to cracking 'em is patiently wait till November when the kernels will be really dry and crackable. All in its own good time.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Black Blue Butterfly

Trying to ID this butterfly for you, I googled "black butterfly," "black with blue," "black with iridescent blue," and more. For crying out loud, it's not considered black or blue -- it's a "Red-Spotted Purple" butterfly, Liminitis arthemis astyanax. About 3.5 inches across. Photographed today in Gray Summit, Missouri. Quite common in the Mississippi Valley -- and to the east. But the feeling it gave me was not at all common!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Celebrating Steve the Handyman

On this Labor Day: on Friday I photographed Steve the handyman and his tools when he came by to install a new window in the Divine cabin. I put it here to remind myself that "labor" isn't a synonym for "people overseas," and also to honor all labor, even mine, and its contribution to prosperity, health, and contentment. Labor these days seems to be taken for granted -- why, we hardly use the very word anymore unless we're talkin about babies. Let's change that right now.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Armadillos This Far North

Armadillos are tropical mammals (that's right, mammals!), but they've been in southern Missouri for several years, working their way up Interstate 44. Three years ago I saw an armadillo on Highway FF. Told the feed-store owner's son, and he said he'd seen one in the area also, but nobody had believed him. Finally, today, one turns up as road kill right where Highway FF meets F. I apologize for such a sad photo. It's just proof that armadillos do come right up to the northern edge of their range when they want something. (This is latitude 38 degrees 25 minutes North.) This one might well have been drinking from the creek. They need a lot of water. My 1946 Webster's unabridged dictionary states flatly, "Their flesh is good food."

To protect themselves, armadillos will roll up into an ball. But when startled by oncoming cars, they jump -- vertically -- which is almost always fatal. This one had a laceration along its back and down the side. Close-up, it's an almost Martian creature: blend of pig, tank and turtle, with an opossum's face and a rat's tail. But unfortunately, it's very slow.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Man Kisses Bass

Out fishin' on a spit of land stuck into a lake in St. Charles County, and catching nothing, I saw a single fisherman, a stranger, in a johnboat coming toward us. He drew up and asked in his nice rusty-sounding Missourah accent, would I take a picture of him and the bass he'd just caught. He had a disposable camera...

He was an old, thin man wearing a shirt printed with colorful fishing flies. Could have been my dad, if dad had lived and got skinny; or, your dad, left alone on his own; sometimes strangers are angels in disguise. I said yes, of course, and pulled his bow up onto the gravel a bit, and grabbed the camera offen him. And from the water he ups a beautiful, heavy, live largemouth bass about half as long as I am tall. And he wanted me to take a photo of him kissing it.

So he kissed it and I did. He wanted to talk; he was lonely. I recognize that right away in a person, and tolerate it as long as I can. He offered us the fish to take home. I said no. He said, well, you put it back in the water, then, and handed it over. Now I had never before held such a big fish. I could look right down the fish's throat and see all the way into it -- its needly white bones and ribs. I held it by its tough wet lip. The poor thing flapped -- the air was burning it. Awestruck I hesitated and the man said, bringing me around, "Turn 'im back into the water." So I did. Off it went, with an amazing story to tell to its friends and family. Off went somebody's lonely dad. And I had felt the real weight of real life.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Debbie the Housekeeper


Meet Debbie, who visits the Divine cabin every month for a full day and helps get it clean and organized. Her family's lived in Missouri a long time. She charges me $12/hr and needs more work than her current clients have. She supports her mom and attends community college. Email me if you are in the STL area and have some work for her. She'll use your cleaning implements and potions. She has no car so she'll need a ride back and forth if she can't take public transportation. She's a self-confessed cleanin' fool and I enjoy her work and her company!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Too Tight!

Lawnmower was balky. Cleaned the air filter and bolted it back on. Mower would run for 2 minutes and quit. David poked at it and said, Definitely an air/fuel mixture problem. And he fixed it in one stroke by loosening the bolt that held the air filter. When I'd bolted it on I'd made it -- too tight!

In Jan. 2007 I was workin' my 50-year-old abs to the max, and had a beautiful six pack (in my case, a four-pack). Trouble is, one day I stretched and tore a big sheet of muscle -- my rectus abdominis muscle -- in two places -- rip! rip! near the groin. It got inflamed and I saw 6 doctors and had scans, tests, medicines, 4 misdiagnoses (diverticulitis, hernia, spine, psychosomatic), physical therapy, and chronic pain for 11 months until I went crying to a chiropractor, and she broke up the big lumps of scar tissue that were crippling me. I'd made my abdominal muscles -- too tight! (That's why they call it "ripped"!)

Branch loaded with tomatoes breaks off because when I staked it I tied it -- too tight!

I make and sell jewelry for fun and the #1 reason I have to redo necklaces, anklets, and bracelets is because I pull the "tiger tail" jewelry wire -- too tight!

The fishing line snaps because it's too tight! You get indigestion because your waistband is too tight! You get Morton's neuroma foot pain and calluses and corns because your shoes are too tight! I've learned from experience 100 times now -- don't pull anything or anybody too tight!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Fire and Rain


As an example of Missouri's always extraordinary weather, here's a photo taken last Thursday of a cloudburst of rain that fell in sheets while the sun set. Photo faces southwest.

I Learn to Fish

Got the urge to buy the $12 Missouri license and go fishin'. Came on suddenly. Haven't fished for years and was never very knowledgeable about it.

Yesterday David took me fishin and I brought my two rods: a bamboo fishing pole and a beautiful lightweight fly rod with an open reel. I was tryin with the fly rod, but he said neither of my rods was right for the pond fishin we were doin. Esp. if were were going to catch the bass that was teasin us by jumpin up and down in the reeds.

So David and I went right down and he bought us a both rod & reel, plus tackle and fattest night crawlers in Jefferson County. Went back to the pond. He showed me how to use the reel, which kind of split shot to use as weight, how to cast the line overhand, what knots he uses, how the floater is attached, how to reel it in. On his first cast he caught a bass perhaps 1.5 - 2 lbs. It was a keeper but he used the pliers to pull the hook from its throat, and let it go.

They say you learn something new every day. Well now I'm thrilled to report I know something about fishin'. From newbie to novice in one day. This means anyone can do it. Get you a Missouri fishing license and have fun.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How You Get Born

The strange night sound from the meadow kept repeating itself. Sounded like a buck snorting -- but over and over, rhythmically. Never heard the like, and nervously I stepped out on the porch a few times over the evening hours to listen. It didn't go away. And with my wild, city-bred imagination that is full of ax-murderers, etc., I decided not to get a flashlight and venture out to seek the source. Locked the doors and went to bed.

A week passed and toward dusk I saw the local doe and she was nosing along a very small fawn -- "a football with legs," a friend had described it. Just one fawn. (She usually has two.) But just this one. And I added 2 plus 2 and realized what I had heard that evening was the doe in labor. I could have seen a fawn being born under a meadow of summer stars! I missed it because I made myself afraid!

Monday, July 28, 2008

The 20-Foot Waterfall



Back in the woods is an intermittent stream. On its way to LaBarque Creek, the stream makes a leap and then plunges down a sluice, 20 to 25 feet in length, that in size and shape resembles a water slide, and ends in a fresh cold pool. The way to get there and see it as I did today is to bushwhack through steep, rocky, jungly, and pathless Eastern Ozark terrain. Or you can see the photos, the first I've ever taken of this secret, unnamed waterfall.

Hummingbirds Return

Hummingbirds are back, just about at normal numbers here in eastern Missouri. Ecstatic to see mine. I asked them where they had been, but they didn't answer. That means, "Don't question us. Just enjoy us." and so I do! I hope everyone else who missed their hummingbirds has seen them "come home."

Monday, July 21, 2008

Love in the Body Shops

His bald head showed scars, and I immediately knew how he got them. He owns the auto-body shop. The scars on his tanned scalp were pink and white, all shapes, some more vivid than others, so he'd collected them over time. He wore a short-sleeved, very clean, very creased, tucked-in blue shirt, with an oval over his heart with his name, embroidered in brown: Don.

Underneath cars most of his life, Don had cut his brow open on them at least six or seven times, badly enough to leave permanent scars. Another body-shop owner could have probably read them like a book. I saw in them his love of cars and loved him for loving anything that much, even when it hurt him.

"Adds up fast," he said, apologetically, handing me the estimate: $606. "That's 'cause in that one place it's scratched down to the metal. We take off the door handle so you won't have any tape marks on 'er when it's repainted. You'll have to leave her here two-three days, so the paint can dry. . . "

I would have to look for a lower estimate, and drove to another body shop with an office not 8 feet by 12 feet, lots of it taken up by four-drawer steel file cabinets. A neat rack of car keys hung from the door. The estimator, a stringbean with glasses, name Jim -- no other name was possible -- had color pictures of his 20ish daughter on his Steelcase desk, and all sorts of little certificates and state licenses and awards and thank-you plaques exactly lined up on the wall. I loved him for loving his daughter and for lining everything up just so. He typed up his estimate for me: $470.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Beautiful and Rare


Highways here in Ozark foothills used to be lined with native coneflowers, the flowers in the photo. Then somebody decided they were a commodity called echinacea, and lowlifes went around ripping up every single one by the roots, even on County Highway F where the road is perched on a steep and treacherous ridge. They even stole them from patrolled, private land -- coming up the river by boat and sneaking onto the property. Rip, rip. To them, Missouri is worth $6 a pound.

The word from the naturalists is that the bee population, nationwide, is way down. To my own eyes it's obvious only that the coneflower population is way down, so I planted my own, and they attract plenty of beautiful bees.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Deep Woods Mushrooms

Living in the Missouri oak and hickory forests, you learn how to read animal tracks and identify trees, how to beat poison ivy and where to find edible berries, and all about wild onions and greens. Now I'm starting to learn about one of the most mysterious of life forms: mushrooms and fungi. If you want, you can learn with me! Mushroom ID guides tend to be big and bulky -- so I just took photos and ID's them at home. Growing on the fallen log you see False Turkey Tail. The pink stem and beautiful tutu belong to the poisonous Sweating Mushroom -- I think -- or it may be a Bulgarica. I wouldn't think of eating any of them without having been formally introduced!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Midwest Scarce on Hummingbirds

No hummers. Day after day, I watch my three feeders. Usually they're buzzing with five or six dive-bombing rubythroat males and elegantly costumed females. But not this year.

Online "bird boards" in Missouri, Indiana, and Ohio, report the same scarcity this year. Hummingbirds appeared in Missouri as usual, around the 24th of April. But everyone's usual customers aren't coming to nectar feeders. Normal hummer activity is reported only in one remote rural area of Missouri.

Nobody knows why. Speculation about the missing hummers ranges from: the Midwest's extended winter (although hummers can survive freezing temperatures); flooding (confusing the hummers as they migrated from Mexico); a natural, cyclic decline in the population; a sinister, pollution-related population decline; and, because there's plenty of flowers the hummers don't need nectar feeders.

I miss them very much. If hummer activity picks up I will let you know.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Ungrateful Turtle

Route 66 State Park -- formerly a toxic dump once known as Times Beach, Missouri -- isn't far from here. The EPA incinerated the toxins, fixed it all up with bike and horse paths, and I figure it isn't any more toxic than anything else, so I went walking there this fine June morning. Several people were on the same road, jogging, biking, rollerblading.

A common sight in spring and summer here is turtles crossing the roads and highways. People (and me too) often stop to pick 'em up and put 'em in the roadside so they won't be killed. A few drivers like to run turtles over to hear 'em pop. That type will roast for eternity. But this lean white-haired bicyclist wearing a bike suit stopped and laid down his bike when he saw the big turtle in the road, just about the time I saw it.

The turtle was black and the size of a dinner plate. It immediately pulled in its head and legs as the kind man approached. Using both hands, he picked up the turtle -- and darned if it didn't shoot out two quarts of pee in a stream thick as a racehorse's, all over the poor Good Samaritan.

A mother and daughter out walking saw this too, and we all had a good laugh at the old guy's expense.

Moral: When you pick up a turtle, make sure it is facing you.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

World's Finest Milk Snake

Nice to be on vacation and take time to look down at my feet and see almost between them this exceptionally fine milk snake who agreed to pose for a picture. Approximately 20 inches long. They aren't usually out during the daytime, so it was doing me a favor.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The First Tomato and the Flag Man

With awe I watched the hard little green pearls of May turn into the fat green beads of early June. Then one of them grew fat and soft, took on a lemony tinge, and then a red. And here it is. Gem of all gems. Summer's first tomato.

This is better than an award, better than a military decoration. It's beautiful, shiny, and fit. God, who is an artist, packaged this little, special gift of food. Not only is it wonderfully colored and crafted -- it will taste good and nourish the body. Great work, God! (Applause.) And, God, I'm sorry I've been tied up in the rush and details of life and not seeing the depths and wonders of your creations.

When I'm sitting in traffic waiting for a flagman to direct the rush hour around road construction, I like to remind myself that the flagman, who stands in hot sunlight on hot asphalt and deals all day with irritable and inconsiderate drivers -- is one of God's wonderful creations, is doing God's work of caring for us regardless of who we are, and that someone loves him very much.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Stealth Gardening

A secret: From last year onward, I'm not supposed to plant vegetables or herbs. The landlord wants to keep his 100 acres totally natural. So this year the poison ivy grows wild, and my tomatoes and basil are in containers. But I'm darned if crops from last year aren't resurrecting and growing exactly where they please:

-echinaceas
-turnips and garlic in the compost pile
-parsley
-dill, in the same place I tore it up last fall
-lavender, ditto
-fennel, ditto
-arugula (very, very tall this year)

And I have all of this without dirtying my hands, absolutely free! What luck! Thanks, Mr. Landlord!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Poet Laureate of Missouri Said:

Walter Bargen is the Poet Laureate of Missouri, the first one ever appointed. Notes taken during his talk to the St. Louis Writers Guild preserved some of the intriguing things he said:
  • "The role of the writer in society is to keep us awake."
  • "Poetry is like music; talking about it is not experiencing it."
  • "Each first line [of a poem] is an argument for the poem's existence." For example: "About suffering they were never wrong, the old masters. . ." and "You don't remember the hanging, but you do. . ."
  • "It's rhythm that marches your reader through the poem."
  • "You know you're really writing well when you're surprising yourself."
Also in the notes, perhaps not a direct quotation: "IDEA: read poetry to stone, birds, and trees."

Sunday, June 8, 2008

My Mom for President

Elect my mom president of the United States and the budget will be balanced in five days. The occupation of Iraq will end when she says so: no ifs, ands or buts about it. Osama Bin Laden will quake in his boots, and if he bombs anything she will clean his clock and show him who is boss. There will be no shenanigans in the Oval Office. You'd better believe the White House will be tidy and there will be no eating at the desks. Rich folks will be taxed until they're in the same boat as the rest of us.

President Mom's cabinet will be working women who know how to juggle everything in the world and get things done. She will award medals to stay-at-home mothers, nurses, cancer patients, and graduate students. Dick Cheney will soon be laughing out of the other side of his mouth. When the Democrats and Republicans have stupid arguments she will say "Cut it out or I'll knock your heads together."

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Top Ten Sitcom Supporting Actors

Local news is scarce these days while we wait for the government to buy out every house in the floodplain, so the newspaper here printed the local trivia expert's list of top 10 sitcom characters. Well, I dint agree with his choices, because mine are just plain better. There are lots of very good ones, but I picked the ones I thought just stole the show. If you've never seen the Kingfish, you have missed seeing a genius at work.

TOP TEN TV SITCOM SUPPORTING ACTORS*

  1. The Kingfish (Amos ‘n’ Andy) played by Tim Moore
  2. Eddie Haskell (Leave it to Beaver) played by Ken Osmond
  3. Ed Norton (The Honeymooners) played by Art Carney
  4. Maynard G. Krebs (The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis), played by Bob Denver
  5. Barney Phyfe (The Andy Griffith Show), played by Don Knotts
  6. Alice Kramden (The Honeymooners) played by Audrey Meadows
  7. Ricky Ricardo (I Love Lucy), played by Desi Arnaz
  8. Mr. Haney (Green Acres) played by Pat Buttram
  9. Lurch (The Addams Family), played by Ted Cassidy
  10. Zelda Gilroy (The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis) played by Sheila James

*I picked from U.S. programs only. Excluded are title characters such as Lucy or Gilligan; top-billed characters such as Al Bundy (of Married with Children); mass-media marketing darlings such as “The Fonz” or “A.J”; and characters who later got their own sitcoms, such as Maude or Rhoda.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Crazy Like a Lawnmower, Part 2

Honestly, my dad didn’t sire a moron. It’s just that he never asked me or any of his other kids, all daughters, to do the mowing, nor did he show us how. He would have been ashamed, my mother says, for the neighbors to see teenage girls doing a man’s job.

Then I grew up and had landlords, and then a boyfriend. A true friend is one who will 1) mow your lawn and 2) help you move house.

Well, you learn something new every day, so I guessed my mower wouldn’t start in the middle of the grass because it WASN’T GETTING ENOUGH AIR in its CHOKE, and sure enough it started up roaring after it was back on the asphalt, and I felt like a genius. I knew about the CHOKE because 30 years ago I regularly drove a ’64 Chrysler that wouldn’t start unless I put my finger down its choke.

The Divine lawn has five sections, three of them sloped. Beginning the mowing on a slope was a mistake.

Certain bare patches were thick with dry oak leaves matted up like corrugated cardboard. Boldly mowing right through them spawned a ferocious dust storm. After several of those, the mower quit, and I guessed at once that I had abused its air filter. The filter sits on the top of the mower, in a closed and fitted black plastic case, and I still can’t see how air ever gets in there. But after securing a dime to unscrew its top I got mentally lost in the beauty of the coin, and in the many reasons why I admire FDR, and then in contemplating, really for the first time, the torch and plants on the coin’s reverse. Then I removed the top of the case and rinsed out the air filter. I left it to dry in the sun on top of the pumphouse and quit for the day.

A pow’ful ornery attack of hay fever laid me out flat the next day, and that’s why there aren’t any Rugged Rural Missouri blog entries between May 19 and June 2. My mowing ensemble had included sturdy shoes and protective eyewear (“eyewear”? What a word!) but not a breathing mask. God, how stupid I was two weeks ago compared to how smart I am today.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Crazy Like a Lawnmower, Part I

My power lawnmower is nothing unusual, 3.5 hp, except that it is too small to mow the whole acre of lawn grass. I am not unusual except that I am a U.S. citizen totally clueless about mowing a lawn.

Firstly I decided to mow only half the acre. Problem 50 percent solved. I put off the job as long as possible, hoping it might rain every day, or at least every other day. God obliged with the third-wettest spring in 130 years. Problem solved for all of April and half of May.

In mid-May I had four-inch grass and knee-high weeds full of ticks jumping from stem to stem like my lawn was their jungle gym. I knew that mowers used gasoline, but had no idea how much. I was a real pantywaist about pumping the gas into a 5-gallon can, terrified and flinching and doing it one drop at a time. But I muddled through, telling myself that the gas was probably more scared of me than I was of it.

Then in the driveway I had my first close-up look at the mower. What a relief to see that the machine had idiot graphics that showed where to put in the gas and oil. I did know how to prime the machine with three jabs at the red rubber button, and to yank that cable “straight from the shoulder, just like a baseball pitch only in reverse.” But it took a while to realize that I shouldn’t pull the lawnmower out into the center of the lawn and try to start it there.

Honestly and truly, my father did not sire a moron. . .

Monday, May 19, 2008

Hired Help

I heard that Debbie is decent and honest and "a cleanin' fool," so I phoned. My house, at any level I'd have to stretch to, has not been well or fully cleaned for over a year. She has no car so I picked her up in the city.

She was great. She scrubbed the kitchen ceiling and fan, the walls, cabinets inside and out and tops, back of the stove and beneath the sink. She took down the kitchen wall clock and re-set it -- it had been an hour off since late March. Also dusted walls, mopped floors, vacuumed, etc. Total of eight hours. All the while drinkin' coffee and Pepsi. Meanwhile I mowed the lawn, pulled weeds, cut back some creeping poison ivy, and cleaned out the garage.

I woke up this morning and thought, Glory be, my kitchen was clean, finally clean enough to suit me. We had even folded up the living-room daybed -- a job I couldn't do alone. In the bed position it only reminded me how much of 2007 I had spent laid up with three torn muscles that are now so scarred up there's places I can't stretch to.

Debbie has long Missouri roots and grew up near the Black River. For a long time she was a housekeeper for the elderly, she said, until government funding for that was cut. She was also caretaker for her grandmother, who died last year at 91. I worried that she might secretly hate cleaning and me for asking and paying her to do it. Oh no. "Cleaning is my livelihood," she said, and she offered to come back and clean for a day whenever I wanted, monthly or every other month. An irresistible thought.

I am over 50 and Debbie is the first hired housekeeper I have ever had, probably the first my squeaky-clean family has ever had in the three generations I know about. Thought long and hard before finally deciding there was no shame in hiring help.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Learning from Well Water

Before the electric pump draws it up into daylight, the well water here has had a long and mysterious career. Fabulously icy, and stony-sweet, it’s divine -- and as hard as nails. It's taught me this:

  1. For calcification around fixtures, spray with 50 percent vinegar, let it sit, wipe like you mean it, and then – wearing eye protection -- use a kitchen knife to chip off what remains.
  2. Rinse hair and face with bottled water or rainwater to stave off ratty “stonewashed” hair and ashy skin.
  3. A “stonewashed” effect will suffuse all your fabrics eventually. Laundering them inside out will help them last a bit longer.
  4. Drinking glasses will look like you just drank milk from them unless you use a dishwasher armed with Jet-Dry. Alternately, buy drinking glasses by the case, or explain to your company that the glasses aren’t really dirty, that you honestly did wash them, that the hard water clouds them up. Hard water also wears out glass so that it breaks more easily.
  5. Use a filtration pitcher for most of your drinking and cooking. Your coffeepots and pans will last longer. Filter the water you give to pets.
  6. In your sink or washtub, detergent will look not sudsy but like scum. The harder the water, the less suds you get. But the detergent is still working. The fact is that sudsing agents are added to detergents and shampoos merely for show. Hard water fights on the side of reality. I find that fantasizing about luxurious lather is almost as good as the real thing.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Hard Times & Noble People

This sign is in front of a small-business auto-exhaust shop in town, and it speaks of the times. Many more people shop now at the no-frills grocery: all three checkout lanes are busy. People carry their groceries home -- walking.

There are more new employees at Wal-Mart, working very strictly, as if they have master's degrees from Wal-Mart University. Rummage sales, church suppers, food drives, fundraisers, foreclosures. Fewer doctor visits, less travel and dining out. Higher bills for everything. With gasoline $3.68/gallon (today -- who knows about tomorrow?) every soul feels pinched. (Thanks to a certain P------t of the United States whose name we don't mention.)

All the same, there's an atmosphere: everyone making an effort to hold their heads up, hide their worries, keep their dignity and put on a smile, and think to themselves, "There's some that's got it a lot harder than I do."

Monday, April 28, 2008

Hail, Hail

Screwy late-April weather, even for the Midwest: 75 degrees. Then 35 degrees overnight. Then sunny. Then big clouds. Then pea-sized hail (pictured, in the grass); within 10 minutes it's sunny and all gone. Now 60 degrees, partly cloudy, with strong chilly wind. Never a dull moment.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

His Lordship

"A spectacular crow-sized woodpecker," says the Peterson Guide. It's rare to see pileated woodpeckers on suet, but pairs live here year-round and come to dine and entertain me from December to May, and again from July (when they train their sons and daughters to eat suet) to September (when the parents take a much-deserved vacation). They live for up to 12 years, and dwell in "singles" apartments in hollowed-out trees. The male has a red "mustache." They all scream for joy. The well-known cartoon woodpecker was modeled on a pileated woodpecker. Photo taken today!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bird Migration News

Seen yesterday: a Yellow-Throated Warbler. My first! Now he's gone. So spring migration is finally in full swing.

Spring's first hummingbird this morning at 7:30. In 2007, first sighting was on April 12.

Anticipated soon: Baltimore oriole and Rose-Breasted Grosbeak. Pictured is last year's male oriole, on the suet. It was May 6. He and his mate mostly drank from the hummer feeders. The orioles stayed two days so I got a photo. Last year's grosbeaks stayed so long I'd hoped they'd settled, but they moved on.

To be fair to everyone else sighted around the food and water today: Pileated, downy, hairy, and redbelly woodpeckers; white-throated sparrow (with the unmistakable song!), chipping sparrow, jay, cardinal, bluebird, crow, chickadee, nuthatch, pigeon, towhee, and cowbird. The cowbirds just got here. The juncos went north last week.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Biggest Quake in 40 Years

Bed was quaking like it was strapped to a motorbike. This woke me up. Must be I had a bad dream, I thought, but I was wide awake and it kept going. Stuff started squeaking and clinking. The clock said 4:40 a.m. "This must be -- an earthquake!"

Checked beneath the bed just to see if anybody was playing with my perceptions. Nothin there but the rifle. Looked out the window to see if other lights in the hills were snapping on. Didn't see any. Then I did what I learned to do when Nature is reminding us who's boss:

1. Put on shoes.
2. Find purse, load it with medicines and checkbook.
3. Sit tight in the room with strongest walls and least windows.
4. Remind myself where are the shutoff valves for water and propane.
5. Switch on TV or radio.

On TV, there was only Cops, so I went online to see if anybody knew anything, but it was too soon, and then at 5:00 a.m. the newscasters came on and said it had been a 5.2 Richter scale earthquake centered 100 miles east of here.

I've felt one other quake, in 1989. That one felt like a truck passing in the street; didn't last 20 seconds. This one was larger and lasted about 40 seconds. Aftershock at 10:15 a.m. Felt disgusted (what, is this quake stuff going to ruin my day??).

Biggest quake since 1968. Exactly on 102nd anniversary of San Francisco quake! Fortunately not big enough to create fatalities. Of course we'd all heard about the New Madrid Fault line that made a horrible quake in 1811, when the Mississippi River flowed backwards and killed about everybody on it. But this wasn't even the New Madrid Fault, it was another, smaller one where Illinois meets Kentucky.

Just a reminder for us all of who is the boss.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Sprang Chickens

Ready to buy? $2.19 apiece at Dickey Bub's. They sell them every spring, for one week. Well fed and warm under a big light they were peeping like it's goin out of style. The initials stand for chicken breeds: RIR = Rhode Island Red; BO = Buff Orpington; RSL = Red Sex Link; click on the link if you think I'm funnin' you. Also called Red Stars. What is it in my brain always makes me so happy to see baby birds, fawns, kittens -- any kind of babies? "Heavy Breed" means they're good for both eggs and meat.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Heart Like a Rain Gauge

Ace climbs water towers and sets water pressure for small towns. His van is packed with tools and straps and ladders and gauges, including a Geiger counter. He showed me how some of gauges worked. The indicator needles jumped and held. "See these?" he said. "They don't lie."

I was amazed. Surely those things lie. Somehow. I keep testing my tire pressure over and over because I usually don't credit, at first, what the gauge says. But Ace makes a living by trusting his gauges, so he must be right: What gauges say is the reality.

Here's my rain gauge, sort of like a footlong shot glass, and its view of what fell last night: one and one-half inches of rain. This isn't good news for this part of Missouri. But it's a reality. Plans must be made for the rivers rising again this week. People are murmuring "Flood of '93," "Flood of '82." Makes an individual feel very small and feeble, and makes the heart beat harder.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Come Get You Some Spring Onions!

Spring's slow in coming, families down the road still scraping flood mud outa their houses, and 4 inches of rain in past 7 days. . . while walkin with my head down I saw: Spring Onions! Yes! And suddenly life was real fine!

Everyplace I saw their thin little round stems (with purple lower down) in the grass, I yanked, and secured some real nice ones, even this early in the season. They're scallions, but a lot smaller and thinner, with bulbed ends. They don't grow in fields or woods. Look in what grass you have and you might find some. First crop of 2008! I'd better go down to the creek and see if there's fiddlehead ferns yet!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Fallout

So neighbor Shelley comes down the road and finds in her way this old dead oak tree that must have gotten saturated with the recent rains. It's so spongy the branches are like powder and we don't know if it can be chainsawed. Find out tomorrow~! Good thing it fell before she got here. Spring 0f 2008 may just be one to remember.

Easter Washout

Our dramatic flooding this week got Missouri declared a disaster area and onto the national news. (A big Chicago paper referred to Pacific, Mo., as a "hamlet" -- obviously they dont know Pacific has 2 QuikTrips and 2 McDonald's.) Although my house stayed dry, the three possible routes home -- one along the Big River and two along the Meramec River -- were all underwater, with the National Guard turning back anyone who tried to drive through. So I got stuck in the city on Thursday and just got home now, Easter Sunday. Water level isn't all that's falling; first thing I do stepping out of the car in my city shoes is slip on wet gravel and fall on my face.

And this is what it looks like outside on this baby chicken and bunny day! Not only snow, but there's a 14-lb. ham in the fridge ready for out-of-state guests who didn't get here because of the rising rivers. I'll have to throw a big party next weekend to celebrate the end of March in Missouri!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bluebirds

Lady Bluebird has accepted her mate's choice of dwelling -- fortunately it's the one in the meadow right outside my dwelling -- and now they're flying back and forth, selecting yellow grasses and bringing them into the box to build their always-exquisite teacup-sized nest. Here she is, in a picture just taken 20 minutes ago, catching a breath between shopping trips. First Bluebird Sighting is a joyous landmark in the year -- a living greeting card from Nature.

About 4 weeks from now this box will overflow with baby bluebirds. Last week I finished cutting away all tall brush from the area to discourage predators. Now I should mow the grass down to a crew-cut, because bluebirds do their best hunting in short grass, and they'll need to hunt all day every day when the babies hatch.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Honey Treatment for Hayfever

"Take a tablespoon of honey each day for 14 days, starting in early March. It's best if it's honey from a bee farm in your area."

Somwhere I heard that, and desperate to quit sneezing and squirting $25 bottles of prescription corticosteroids up my nose for 8 months of the year -- to ease my miserable, adult-onset hayfever -- I tried it!

I will testify on a Bible that molds and dust and smoke still bothered me -- but it seems the trees and grasses didn't get to me, or they got to me less; and out here, that is more than half the battle.

My dad was a peasant farmer from Europe and he insisted, "Eat a spoonful of honey a day and you will never get sick." We laughed at him and said "Yuck." Don't think you can smoke and eat fatty meats 3x/day and that honey will protect you. He thought it might, but it didn't. But he got his information from somewhere in his culture, and I heard it repeated by some New Ager years later and said to myself, "It can't HURT to try."

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Flying Propane Tank

The Divine cabin failed seven state and fed'ral requirements for propane safety. The #1 change ordered by the inspector is that the 200-gallon tank, looks like a baby elephant, has to be moved to the other side of the house. They'll use a crane. I'll stay home that day to ask real nice if I can ride on it while they move it.

Tanksful of LP (liquid propane) have been delivered here for 50 years and in all that time if anyone saw violations in the tank and pipe setup they looked the other way and kept mum. Propane, that burns such a dreamy blue -- fairy-godmother blue -- inspires all sorts of magical, magic-carpet thinking. I pretended that the less I looked at the gauge, the less often I'd need to call for a refill.

The gas people will drain the tank before they move it, and probably won't credit me for that, so this March weekend I'm using LP promiscuously, baking pies and keeping the whole house cozy warm after bein' crazy frugal all winter. Lesson: Don't be frugal. Spend what you have.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Crocus, Poke Us


Here's the spring's first Blue Pearl crocus. Yes, I plant 'em. It's always the first flower to waken. Last year it appeared Feb. 5. Winter has been persistent, so this year it was March 5. The Blue Pearl is a type of snowdrop, flowering even before the familiar vivid yellow and white and purple crocuses. That's snow you see in the background. Twist my arm and I'll have to say I like Blue Pearl crocus flowers better than any other on earth.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Dickey Bub Farm & Home

Birdseed and suet is one-third cheaper at Dickey Bub's, a medium-large hardware store with three locations: Union, Potosi, and Eureka, MO. They sell the Dickey brand of work clothes for men and women, along with tools, seeds, rock salt, John Deere riding mowers & that. When they opened I was scared to go in there. It was too "man." My haircutter tole me she was almost brave enough to go in there until she heard their sound system blasting a song about tequila.

Several score of fat and lazy wild birds depend on me for seed and suet, and needing a way to cut the cost, I finally sidled into the Dickey Bub's, and wandered in a daze (what IS that metal thing?) until I found the pallets of 35-lb. bags of Tru-Value mixed birdseed. I was used to backing my car up to a loading dock and they'd put the bags in the trunk for me. But at the Dickey Bub's there were no clerks to be seen, nor loading docks, nor shopping carts -- men don't use em, I guess --and I had to hoist the sack over my shoulder and carry it if I dint want to look like a helpless female gettin weak and whiny in her change of life.

It's got easier to go in there and easier to carry the bags, and I am so pleased with myself. Plus, the birds and I both eat better. Nowhere else around here sells 100 percent wool socks, which stay warm when they're wet, a necessity: it's not only men who get shin-deep in creeks or muck and that, and then have a ways to go to get home.

Friday, February 29, 2008

I Sold A Diamond

I hated to sell, but I sold my diamond today, plus a few rings and things I liked but did not love, or that were broken. In return I received not thirty pieces of silver but $734 for the lot.

I knew this diamond for six years. It was .47 carats, grade SI1, color G, a solitaire set in 14K yellow gold, and my first and only diamond. Geologists say that the youngest diamonds are 20 million years old. So I had a very old and radiant companion. Whether it was wise I don't know. Unlike other gems I have known, this one was deaf and mute. It did not wink at me, or reveal its secret name. It was beauty and constancy incarnate, and absolutely nothing else.

My homework revealed that 24K gold is presently at an insane record-busting price high (this is technically called "price ecstasy") of close to $1000 per ounce. (You will of course get much less for 14K gold, which is 53 percent pure gold, the rest other metals). A diamond of like quality goes for about $850 wholesale, and an honest jeweler who is buying will give you perhaps 60 percent of that. The first jeweler I consulted offered me $250 for the lot. I left him staring at my afterimage, I fled so fast!

Now my stone will bring happiness and beauty to others -- for generations. It will exist until this planet is a cinder. I was a short interlude in its life. And as lovely as it was, it is just a material thing, after all. All is vanity and striving after wind.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Glimpse of the Fox

Silent as thought he came and went. I glimpse him only a few times a year. But this morning the world was all cloudy white with an inch of fresh snow, and his warm-red fur stood out. I was snapping snow photos and got the barest glance at him: the fox.

After a single breath he vanished into the woods. I studied his footprints. Note the Greek cross in the middle. That's how you'll know a fox's tracks. Lucky you if you ever see a fox. They're so quiet, intent on business. Look for a den within a hundred feet or so of a creek. You'll know it for sure by the mess out front of scattered bones and fur and feathers.