Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Odd-Looking Balls

Odd looking pods about the size of golf balls found here and there on the ground. Never seen them before. Looked them up in tree books. No luck. Opened (pictured at right), these light hollow spheres contained marvelous white dry fluff, but no seeds. Turns out this was a home of the parasitic Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Biorhiza pallida. And a fine comfily upholstered home it is. The wasp who dwelt in its center was long gone, to lay her eggs at the base of the oak tree and further parasitize it. These "pods," or more precisely "galls," may grow on either oak twigs or leaves. So if you see these they aren't spring fruits. Photos taken 11 May.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Midwestern First-Date Advice

A third drink before dinner shows a lack of respect for oneself AND one's date. At such piggish behavior, put $10 on the table and leave.

Men, don’t wear sandals. Midwestern men have notoriously scary feet.

Men, dive for the check and refuse to let the woman pay. Since you’ve just met, the woman has no other way of telling whether you valued her time and company. (No Midwesternista is a feminist on the first date.)

Women, carry enough cash to pay the check in case he “forgot his wallet.”

Don't wrap up the catfish bones to take home to your cats.

There’s no turnoff like a dinner date who explains that he can’t walk very well right now because a thousand-pound hay bale fell on him.

Women, cleavage shouldn’t look like tonnage.

Something bigger than a breadbox in a car’s back seat – a cooler, pet carrier, cardboard file-boxes, child seat, tools, fishing gear -- shows that there's something in your date’s life that’s far more important than you’ll ever be.

Friday, May 22, 2009

I'm Comin' Out: Animals

Sighted this past week in the yard for the first time this season:
  • 5-foot blacksnake (familiar; spends winter under the kitchen floor)
  • Bunnies. I met one this morning that ran TOWARD me. I stopped and asked if it had a message for me. It didn't. I then asked for a bunny blessing, because, as you know, rabbits are divine.
  • Miss Turkey, about to come into the yard for some fallen birdseed. I accidentally made a noise and scared her away.
  • Turtles. Crossin' the road as usual. The young turtles are looking to set up their own territories.
  • Fireflies. I would love to be able to make a video that would show you how my whole yard looks at night: like a universe of stars.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Male Flowers at Prom Season

Oak trees have catkins -- that's what these long strips of tiny flowers are called -- and catkins are long streamers of male flowers, releasing their pollen everywhere during prom season. Just as in the old V.D. movies, the catkins then drop off one by one, until your car or roof is covered with both yellow pollen dust and thousands of spent catkins.

It was TreePete who answered me "Catkins" when I asked what they were. He doesn't come around anymore, not since I invited him over and left him to tend the barbecue grill and he let everything burn rather than simply say he didn't want to barbecue.

TreePete aside, oak branches simultaneously have little red barely visible nubs. These are the female flowers. They hide ovaries that develop into the more familiar offspring of the oak: acorns. But they couldn't do it without the male flowers. The acorns too drop off onto your car or roof until you're fit to be tied.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My First Daisies

Daisies are often a child's first wildflower. I read about them long before seeing any. Grew up next to a tannery that had its own railroad spur, and in the disturbed ground, just outside of our wire fence -- that coathanger-type-wire, looped and painted white -- I saw and felt these, picked their heads off, tore the hearts apart to see what was inside. They left a strong, not unpleasant scent on my fingers. Thought they were daisies. Wasn't more than five or six, but I knew that you were supposed to pick the petals off saying "He loves me, he loves me not."

Forty years later I find out this stuff is unromantically called "fleabane." And "common fleabane" at that. Can't find anybody who's sure whether these are the bane of fleas.

Today, as you can see, I have them rioting around my mailbox. Petals can be pink or white. More than 100 petals per flower. When I want to know if he loves me or not, I'll pick up the phone and ask.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Mind Like Wild Mint

Popping up in the roadside, this beautiful complicated bloom called either Bee Balm or Horsemint. To me it looks like an image of the human mind. For a while I confused it with the passionflower. Horsemint in Latin: Monarda bradburiana.

Has 101 uses. The leaves make a minty tea. Says Wikipedia: "Bee Balm is the natural source of the antiseptic Thymol, the primary active ingredient in modern commercial mouthwash formulas. The Winnebago used a tea made from Bee Balm as a general stimulant." Also says it's related to oregano, but I can't see any family resemblance.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Giddy-up, Snapper!

With this photo I will surely win the title of Miss Lawn Mower 2009 of Pacific, MO, hands down, no contest. Steve the handyman, and the new handyman, Tim, were out here this morning and taught me to use the riding mower and were game to take my photo. This was my first ride on a mower. To my surprise it is fun. I'm also surprisingly attractive. Who knows what's next, an ATV?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Got Water?

Sunday I get up and the water heater's leaking. Oh mercy. Mopped it up. Had to shut off the valve to the house and phone the handyman on his day off. He'll be here tomorrow morning. To get water today I make do, stepping outside to the pump house with some saucepans and buckets. I consider this a great privilege, not the holy terror it is when the plumbing's not working in the city.

Too bad I couldn't wash clothes or dishes or floors today. Instead, I relaxed and saw a rose-breasted grosbeak I will try to photograph for you.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Jelly-Bellied Friends

I think spring rains water not only plants but snail seeds. Because when it rains, garden snails pop up full grown everywhere, walkin' around like they own the place. Up in the woods even at my Ozark foothills' highest elevations (about 880 feet) I still always have that moment of wonder when I see abandoned snail shells, whitened down bone-like, or sometimes polished down to a fragile brown translucency, with iridescence. "Shells? Up here?"

Picked up an attractive volunteer snail and put it on a dinner plate to pose for me. Actually I tricked it, saying George Clooney was looking for extras for his next movie. It handled this very well.