Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Two for One

Taken yesterday. These pileated woodpeckers are both females, probably mother and daughter. They played peekaboo on this oak tree for an hour.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Messenger

This pileated woodpecker was swooping around the house at 8 a.m., joyfully screaming, "Wake up everyone for a mile radius! It's Christmas!" I ran outside to hang the suet for her. After two solid days of rain, the earth has today a very light dusting of snow. A blessed Yule to you!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Gift of Warmth

Really good wool blankets, like children’s beloved “blankies,” serve as full-body hugs, hiding places, coats, curtains, shields, bedrolls, bags, tents and more. I treasure my two.

The Hudson Bay Company, founded in England in 1670 and still around, made this unbleached wool blanket with sky-blue stripes and three “points” or lines along one edge, a reminder that North American Indians and trappers traded three beaver pelts to get one. Dense and scratchy, it's windproof, wears like iron, gets passed down as an heirloom, and is priced to match. A wire brush loosens the twigs & grass & beggar lice it picks up outdoors. Bought from L.L. Bean. After 10 years of very severe treatment, including somebody dying in it, it has only begun to look “lived in.”

The navy-blue blanket was made in Portland, OR by Pendleton, founded in 1883. Lighter in weight and softer, this is my house blanket, kept on the bed. It’s banded with rainbow stripes (rainbows and stripes are divine). This one bought from REI. Again, pricey, but like the other, you need to buy it only once.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Times of the Signs, Part 3

Nothing heartens me like the sign "Live Bait," and the Eureka Feed Station has that sign up all year. Another sign too, seasonal, mentions Christmas; the only one like it in town! Divine purchases there include birdseed by the sack, bales of straw, cases of suet, deerskin leather work gloves (8 years and grubby-lookin but still good!), mousetraps and poison, salt blocks, tools & fishing license. Run by a father and son. Used to be closed on Sunday and Monday also. One time Demetrius left his wallet on the counter on a Saturday and it was in the same place when he returned on Tuesday. The Feed Station now, somewhat reluctantly, has Sunday hours. Posted on the door:

8:30-10 Church
Open 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Don't Hate December

Don't hate December, the month with the prettiest name; it's only doing its job of helping us appreciate the rest of the year. Leafless trees offer 360-degree views of enchanting sunsets -- when December has some sun as raw material. Good month for cutting back briars and Japanese honeysuckle and cedars, for changing batteries and windshield wipers, and for cleaning out the garage. A bunch of great holidays. Plus the Solstice, just two weeks away now -- when days will commence getting longer.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Come & Get It, You Little B-------d

Today on this first truly cold day of the season (high 32 degrees) I was making my famous Christmas cookies and had just lit the stove when a little gray blob shot across my kitchen floor. I hate meeses to pieces. So I loaded up a mousetrap.

Over many years I have learned:

  1. Bait it with peanut butter.
  2. Just a scant trace of peanut butter. Even a little too much and they’ll eat it without triggering the trap, the little cowards. The photo shows the bait dolloped and OVERFILLED.
  3. Lay the trap in a tight spot so the mouse has to wend and elbow its way toward the trap and can’t weasel back out.
  4. Listen for the sweet “snap” and gloat when you hear it.
  5. Set the trap the night before you expect a guest or guests who is/are a real mensch and not too squeamish to take the icky trap with the broken-necked mouse outside and dump the body in the field.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Waldensian Presbyterian Church, Monett, MO

I like country churches. This one is on the National Register of Historic Places. Not the church, but the cemetery.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Mock Filet Mignon for Thanksgiving

Times hard this year? Or is your family just sick of stuffed peppers? Fulfilling my vow to bring you the best in trailer food:


1-1/2 pounds ground beef

2 cups cooked rice

1 cup diced onion

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

6 bacon strips

In a large bowl, combine beef, rice, onion, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and garlic powder; mix well. Shape into six patties. Wrap a strip of bacon around each patty & fasten with a toothpick. Place in an ungreased shallow baking dish. Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes or until meat is no longer pink. 6 servings. Try with steak sauce. It'll fill you up and don't taste bad neither.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Purple Paint = Don't Hunt Here

Here's a tree I purpled some years ago -- with a brush, because there was no handy can of purple spray paint -- with a sign that was nailed up many many years before that. Since 1995,when the Missouri Purple Paint Law took effect, in Missouri purple paint on trees or posts means, "Don't trespass. Specifically, don't hunt here." For anyone who needs to know: "It is illegal to hunt deer on any land that has a "no trespassing" sign put up. . . . A land owner may place purple paint on trees or posts to mark their property. This purple paint is to be treated the same as a no trespassing sign. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, purple paint is bound by a court of law as a legal method of informing hunters of no trespassing." I purpled again this fall, but know enough now not to do it on a shaggy-barked tree like this one.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

People in Their 50s Trying to Have A Conversation

-"Now what was the name of that movie you told me about the other night?"
-"I don't remember telling you about any movie."
(Long bursts of laughter.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Vitamin D

Doc said, “You’re low on Vitamin D.” Me??! Just combine sunscreen, long pants and sleeves, a solidly rainy October, shorter daylight, aging, drinking rice milk not dairy milk, being too busy, and days too dark or too wet to hike or chop weeds. He prescribed 5000-unit capsules, one weekly for 6 weeks. Also I’d better quit runnin’ ‘round and get more sun and rest. So I sat outside in the sun to drink coffee this morning and saw my bluebird pair. Maybe the box looks like a nice place to spend winter. Recent migrants: white-throated sparrow (I heard it) and yellow-rumped warbler (I saw it). And juncos have arrived. Don't be like me; take time out to sun yourself and live life.

Monday, November 9, 2009

1953 Lincoln Continental

Fully restored, inside and out: Lincoln's 50th-anniversary ultra-deluxe model with power steering, brakes and windows. Interfering with your view of this car are a 1957-model female and 1950-model male with lots of miles on them. He wants 60 grand for the car. It's worth it.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hearts and Flowers

I had more company this rainy morning: the Dutch couple who rented this place before me and who told me when they were moving out, to California, so I could move in. They are great, and visit whenever they get to Missouri to see the cabin they lived in for a decade. She's an artist, he's a professor. When I moved in I saw that kitchen and "dining room" ceilings are stenciled with flowers and hearts. I know immediately who painted them. Pink and blue. What purpose do these little paintings serve? I guess they're just for the spirit. This October it's done nothing but rain.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Two Brothers

Had some city guests out on the property today. Their boys went right for the firearms -- and we shot .22s practically all day. They'd never done it before, and were hooked. But their parents did prevail upon them long enough to take a walk with us through the autumn woods, and here they are, Steven, 11, and Jackson, 12.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Deer in the Ditch

On a walk along the edge of my own property, about 4:00 p.m. yesterday, I found a doe in a roadside ditch, eyes closed but still breathing. She didn't look all that torn up but I was so shocked I didn't do a full inspection. After sunset, the coyotes would come whether she was dead or not. I raised my eyes and saw bits of car parts in the road.

My options: Ignore it; try to put her out of her misery with my .22 long rifle (the biggest gun I have); or get someone braver to do it. I thought all sorts of things: "Let nature (!) take its course." "I can't shoot it, it'd be too horrible, I'd never forgive myself." "Should I shoot it in the head or heart? What if I did it wrong?" "For this I need a bigger gun." "Maybe she's just stunned and will get up and walk away." "Am I obliged to do this?" "Whom should I call?"

I did nothing. About 7:30 p.m. just as total darkness fell I heard one terrific shotgun blast from that part of the road. Haven't been back there to look.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Floodplain in Autumn

This floodplain is in Allenton, Mo., a tiny ghost town between Pacific and Eureka. When I moved here eight years ago Allenton was still a town, but it's across the freeway from Six Flags, and development -- the enchanting idea of a retail paradise -- has threatened to flatten it ever since. The post office closed about three years ago. But people still live and farm down the back roads and on the Meramec River floodplain where nobody can develop. Oct. 1 was my eighth anniversary on the Divine property and I thank God. Of all the things I have ever done, I love living here the most. I love this land, hills and floodplain and whatnot. They will remove me from this property feet first, if at all.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Meal #53,672: Organic Beef Salad

Hawkeye and I were dining out and she & I figured we each eat 1,000 meals a year, given that we skip some, and she had therefore eaten 55,000 meals and me 53,000 and change. If you work hard and play hard it stands to rights that you should eat well. Here you see that a friend gifted me with an organic beefsteak I pan-fried and sliced and tossed into an organic-lettuce salad -- that way I got everything good-for-me in one bowl. It looked so tasty I wanted you to at least see it. Dessert was watermelon. That's not wine; it's grape juice cut with water. I never drink by myself (wish you'd been here; I would've brought out some real wine!). But I like the look and it don't taste bad either. Some time ago I realized that if I don't feed myself good no one else will!

Yeah, it's the same kind of bowl I use for grits. I have a passion for this set of 6 (now 5) Williams-Sonoma pasta plates from the middle 1990s, got pictures of herbs in the bottom.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

True Grits

Grits are like a cross between mashed potatoes and cream of wheat -- warm, filling, milky (if you put milk on) and buttery (if you put butter on). Can't do without em.

These are Quaker but aren't instant. I put em in the bowl with water/milk, and microwave for 6 minutes, 66 seconds (easy to remember, easy to key in). Dab the butter on last for maximum butter buzz. The other brand I eat is Jim Dandy.

Hot grain cereals in general, for breakfast, plus some fresh fruit, can fuel you pleasantly all morning. Makes me feel like Wonder Woman. Try it; don't turn up your nose. Grits are corn and good for you. It doesn't remind me of a bowl of vomit the way oatmeal does. I can handle oatmeal only rarely, and prefer it baked with milk and egg into a sort of pudding, with raisins or other dried fruit in it.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Venus Conjunct Regulus

Sky phenomenon just before dawn this morning: the 2nd-brightest star, Regulus, "the heart of the Lion" in the constellation Leo, partnered up for a good long while with the brilliant planet Venus (top), the morning star right now. I don't know what this may mean to the astrologers, but it has to be good, something about love and nobility of heart. While I was outside taking this photo, the local buck came out of the woods into the meadow and snorted at me. I was on his property, after all.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Late Summer Blues

Sorry to see this beautiful summer go -- along with my hummingbirds, who left Sept. 12 -- I am looking for beauty wherever I can -- in this case in a floodplain. Farming, like fishing, is about hope...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Japanese Print

After 2.5 inches of rain in the last few days, there's fog in the early morning. This morning's eastern sky looked like this; ink on paper. Exactly like this, colors and all. There was no photoshopping.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Had no idea after 8 years living here that a snapper resided in LaBarque Creek shallows. Only because he or she stirred a little did he break up his perfect algae-coated camouflage and show himself. He was approximately 14 inches at the widest point, and I gave him lots of personal space. Small bluegill darted near him but not quite within reach. Watched for a while to see if the snapper would try to grab them. No; he/she was patient, very patient, waiting for one of the fish to be stupid.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Church on Sunday

I like country churches. This is St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church, outside of Ruma, IL; built 1906, although the congregation was founded in th 1870s.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Along Came an Argiope

Lives in a web attached to the pump house, and has resided there for 4 days now, plump and happy, in a web measuring 24 inches across. The male makes the zigzag part of the web, the female the rest. Called a Black and Yellow Argiope, Argiope aurantia, it is common and harmless but about 3 inches long and is dressed to the nines.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Doin' the Wild Thing

Such goin's-on, on the garage wall, in broad daylight -- these ASSASSIN BUGS (thank you for the comments that helped me make a positive ID). I liked their attitude. They didn't care who saw them or knew, nor what anyone thought; they weren't scared of me and the camera, just intent on their very important task. Reminds me of [censored]. I hope it was fun for them and wished them well and to be fruitful and multiply. Specifically these are "sailback" or "dinosaur" bugs; Arilus cristatus in Latin. I show 'em in silhouette so as to be discreet.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Robidoux Springs

You can't see but the bubbles, but there's a scuba diver in the water, and these kids wanted desperately to see if he was ever going to come back up, and how cool it would be if he didn't; this is the diver (I had permission to take his picture) who also had an underwater camera. He told me it was murky down there from recent rain, no good for photos that day -- but there's a huge and complicated cave under there that cave-certified divers can explore. This is at Robidoux Springs in Waynesville, MO, one of several scuba-diving spots in the great state of Missourah.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Gorgeous Trout

South of St. James, MO, Maramec (sic) Springs Park is a trout hatchery as well as the home of the most beautiful blue spring I ever saw, emitting 94 million gallons of water a day, and a home to thousands upon thousands of happy rainbow trout, so many you could pert'near walk across their backs to the other side of the water. I was enchanted and will go back. One can fish for trout there a bit farther downstream. Cost you $4/car to get in. Most worthwhile central-Missouri $4 I ever spent. I been hangin around Crawford and Pulaski counties in search of really exciting fishing sites. Didn't have my fly rod along, but I'll be flyin back here with my rod and trout stamp pretty soon. That's a leaf floatin' on top of the water at right (it's gettin on in August, some leaves already detaching).

Monday, August 10, 2009

Homemade Rifle Range

To build this I could use only what was in my garage, & only what I could lift. The foundation had to be weatherproof and windproof and require no digging. So I placed 4 concrete blocks on end. Over these I stuck five-gallon plastic paint buckets, jamming them tightly or less tightly to make their tops level. On top of these went a sheet of plastic, about ¼ inch thick, weighted with barbell weights, those chintzy ones with concrete centers. (Demetrius the Gardener became a health nut late in life, too late, and left them in my garage. But his spirit – “make do, or do without” -- helped guide me in this construction project.) More paint buckets on top of stacked weights brace the bale of straw which is the backstop. The photo shows one bale; I need another to bring the backstop to the best height. But that’s all I will need to buy. I used to buy 6 bales and build a pyramid of straw. Precip made them rot and collapse. I wanted something better.

Photos show the the finished version, the foundation (left), and the rear view. Tell me I did good!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

On Your Honor

You are on your honor when you select, weigh, bag, and pay for your own tomatoes at this unattended (sometimes) tomato stand off Hwy FF. The sign points the way, and that's .75 per lb.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Favorite Fishing Access

Six a.m. found me on the Big River at Byrnes Mill, Mo. (pop. 1339). What remained of the original mill was destroyed by the floods of ‘08. At what was my secret favorite fishing access there’s a new parking lot and picnic area. Catfishers reel ‘em in if they can get to the river’s cliff side.

From my muddy sandbar I caught a dozen bluegill, & let ‘em all go; here’s a pic of my best catch: Note the “blue gill” (duh). Hook, bait, place, and time made for ideal fishin. I’d be honored if next time you’d come with. Yeah, the rod is pink. The name engraved on my tackle box is “Bun Bun.” Deal with it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I Wanted a Rabbit

Wanted a pet. Something all mine, beautiful and friendly and warm, to lavish affection on, and receive affection in kind. A true and loyal friend who would enjoy my company, who would appreciate little gifts I would buy for it, and treats, and cuddling, and be glad to see me. It would give me something to live for besides myself, and be a reason to get up in the morning when days were rough, and share my happiest and saddest times. We’d appreciate each other as God's special creations and be each other’s best friends. We would have a bond.
Wanted a pet to love and to love me back. Wanted a rabbit in particular. I thought long and hard about it and then realized what I really wanted was to love a human being.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Scent of Sassafrass

Sassafrass (sassafrass albidum) runs wild on this property and friend of mine unearthed a root so we could inhale its fabulous, characteristic fragrance: rootbeer plus anise. The wild foods book says that sassafrass has been found to cause liver cancer in lab animals, and we aren't supposed to steep the bark and drink sassafrass tea like great-grandparents did, for a tonic, back in the day; but just to ID it and sniff it and dream of being back in the day is fun on a July afternoon.
"Sassafrass" is a corruption of the word "saxifrage," which ultimately means "to break rocks." To ID it -- it's common --look for distinctive "mitten"-shaped leaves. Sometimes they're three-lobed and rounded, like Casper the Ghost throwing up his hands. This is a plant you won't forget.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tomato Sisters

Just an example, to share with you, of the beauty and symmetry of nature and growing things: Three tomatoes (cultivar: Balcony) on their vine.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Remington Nylon 66

A million Remington Nylon 66 .22 long rifles were sold, starting from 1959 until the mid-60s, but this one -- a legendary firearm -- is mine. It's got synthetic parts not of plastic but of nylon -- makes some of the bearings near greaseless. And it's very, very light. It's semi-automatic and holds 12 shells. "Revolutionary" in its time. What's it for? On the Divine property it's for target practice. Yowza. It has no scope, but what a great sight it has. Was shootin' out the spaces in "6" and "8" on old license plate.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Where the Hail You From?

Everybody loves lettin' other folks know where they hail from, and here's the push-pin map down at Gary's/Dowd's Catfish and BBQ Restaurant in Lebanon, MO. They serve mighty good catfish, plus mashed potatoes better than Mom's, and then the red-velvet cake -- well, just get yourself down there to Lebanon, if you like catfish and can't ketch em yourself. I been there twice; it's worth the two-hour drive each way. You can see from the map that lots of locals eat there; always the sign of good food.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town

Taken in Bourbon, MO. There's another one, too, in case this one runs out.

The Plain Truth

This sign stands outside a business called Assured Automotive in Eureka, MO. The other side of the sign says, "I Survive on the Trust and Support of My Customers."

Monday, July 6, 2009

Wild Petunia & Friend

The poet James Russell Lowell -- "What is so rare as a day in June?" went on to write in the same celebratory poem, "There is no blade of grass too mean/to be some happy creature's palace" -- and today I found a grasshopper enthroned in a Hairy Wild Petunia (Ruellia humilis), common Ozark wildflower. Photograph taken very early this dewy morning.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Joining the 21st Century

The Divine Cabin has joined the 21st century; thought you'd like to know. Last night I got to watch Kill Bill and then a 1986 Mike Tyson fight. Wow. And that after a 30-mile cruise on the freeway seeing all the fireworks from the all the towns from the city to out-here. And that was after dinner at my favorite Italian place, with good comp'ny.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Port in a Storm

I said to the doctor, “Did I do this to myself? Should I go back to never drinking, not even a beer a month, a glass of wine? Should I never eat meat? Give up dairy? Should I give up sex? Doesn’t that stir up hormones? Isn’t it bad for me?”

And the doctor answered, “It’s not just about longevity. It’s about quality of life. If you enjoy something, that is the best medicine. Do what makes you happy, and have fun. Don’t give up doing anything that a normal person would do.” (In short: "Live Life.")

So I ordered this case of port, a terrific extravagance; it is the first case of wine that I have ever bought. But it’s so good, will stay good for years, and I won’t drink it [all] myself. I’ll give bottles to friends, drink it with friends. And give bottles as a thank-you to the people who helped and encouraged me while I cried and was down, and to hosts who’ll invite me to parties and dinner. I’m going to have fun.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dinner is Served

Knights of Columbus barbecued in the parking lot by the ballfields today, and at dusk I got my dinner there, and would like to share it with you, so here it is, the Midwest's finest meal: Barbecued chicken with sauce, corn on the cob, cole slaw dressed with oil and vinegar, and baked beans (not too sweet. I like to slice a jalapeno into them).

Leave the city. Y'all come on over for dinner -- I'll buy you your own dish of barbecue, just like this one -- and you will know true bliss. Say grace first! ("Mumble mumble thy bounty, mumble our Lord Amen.") Happy first day of summer. I love your company. To my British and Aussie readers: This is what we eat in America.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I Don't Got No TV

After last week's digital changeover, I get only 3 TV channels and they are channels of nightmare: one broadcasting over and over, in English and then in Spanish, the message that if I'm seeing this message I am f----d and should call some number that never answers; and two digital channels owned by, run by, and featuring the best-known local evangelist. (And his toupee.) (Whatever it is about toupees, I can't take my eyes off 'em.) The only entertainment offered is reruns of "I Spy." I sh-t you not.

Getting any signal at all proves my antenna and TV do receive digital -- without a converter box -- but most signals from the city, 35 miles away, are too puny now to reach me. AT&T U-Verse doesn't serve this area. Guess I'll try a company a day until I find one that will. Wonder how many people are diggin' through their pockets to do the same as I.

In the meantime I let the TV mumble through its repeating nightmare. For company. To fill the dark corners of the house and the mind. And I don't chide myself. I've seen TV all my life and can't be expected to go without it for the remainder.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Wild in the Lawn

Unable to mow the lawn right now, but why would I mow anyway, when what grew up is this riot of orange wild daylilies (also called "ditch lilies" and "junk lilies"), brown-eyed susans, and fleabane. It's better than a botanical garden, because it's 100 percent natural. A metropolis for bugs, bunnies, chipmunks, snakes and all kinds of birds in the corner of my yard. And all I had to do was -- nothing. Let that be a lesson to me.

Each lily blooms for only one day. Let that be a lesson too!

Monday, June 15, 2009

German Contributions to America

Visiting Hermann and other formerly German settlements along the Missouri River, one remembers the things German immigrants brought to America; how wonderful:

  • Breweries
  • Beer gardens
  • Wineries
  • The town band
  • Oktoberfest
  • Clock towers
  • Turnverein (fellowship groups, like today’s “athletic clubs”)
  • Bratwurst (and knackwurst, liverwurst, wieners, and so on)
  • Dance halls
  • Potato pancakes
  • Music schools and conservatories
  • Pumpernickel bread

Thank you!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Wine Country

Pictured, my old schoolfriend Anthony from New York State, born in Brooklyn. Yeah, he's Italian. In fact he's a professional Italian, so wanted to visit Missouri wine country, about 30 or 40 miles northwest from the Divine homestead. Particularly Hermann, MO, because it's a German-settled town and his wife is of German descent. Germans settled there in the mid-1800s because its hills and view of the Missouri River reminded them of the scenery on the Rhine River. Immediately on the south-facing slopes of their hills they planted grapes. And this picture proves that wherever you have wines, you have Italians. He's holding up a blush wine. He also bought me a bottle of port -- he said, "this is the best domestic port I have ever tasted--" I figure I should listen to an Italian. Because he can't take it on a plane I will be shipping him bottles of port to Ithaca, New York. Missouri has 78 wineries.