Saturday, August 28, 2010

LaBarque School, Oct. 19, 1907

A reader with ties to LaBarque Creek, MO shares this precious photo. His grandmother holds the slate scripted with "LaBarque School, Oct. 19, 1907"; her older sister, in a matching outfit, stands next to her. Girls' surname is Leder. This photograph is copyrighted and may not be used without permission.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Walking on steep Timberstone Trail I saw a yellow item in the road. It was a turtle, about six inches long, on its back, squirming but unable to turn over. As I approached it pulled itself inward, scared. I saw the wound to its plastron. I turned it over. Scarlet blood flowed from a deep crack in its shell; it had been run over but not killed. I took a photo too sickening to show you, and deleted it. I lifted the turtle from the asphalt and placed it among some roadside plants. Thought it might prefer to die there instead of in the hot August road. Hope I didn't hurt it worse. Felt very bad that there wasn't any hope for its survival.

This is not the usual Three-Toed Box Turtle one sees around here; this turtle unquestionably has four toes. It does not have the brown streaks on its plastron which would firmly identify it as an Ornate Box Turtle, Terrapene ornata ornata, but in Missouri it must be either one or the other, and it is probably an Ornate. Its normal lifespan is 32 to 37 years. Every summer I see a couple of dozen turtle bodies, all sizes, littering the roads.On our narrow, steep, curving or shoulderless roads it is not always possible to swerve to avoid them. I would grieve except that I know there are many more turtles who survive in this area, where there is abundant conservation land. Whoever is responsible for that, I thank fervently.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Old LaBarque Schoolhouse: Found!

Yes, the LaBarque Schoolhouse is still standing and it's being used as a garden-tool shed for the series of 1990s "I deserve an estate" type houses, on big rolling lawns, built around it. The painted words "LaBarque School" are very faintly visible above the door; so very faintly that the camera eye could not capture them for you, but trust me, in the sunlight, in person, they are there. This building stands near the intersection of Hwy FF and John McKeever Road, behind a fence and some trees which partially obscure it. I have lived here 10 years and never noticed it until someone told me where to look for the old schoolhouse.

A commentator on this blog said he has a 1906 photo of his mother at this school, so the structure must have been built before then, but my guess is that the building was rather new at that time. Also the stucco coating is recent; on a piece of wall where it is chipped away, you can see that the original building, or at least its foundation, is native stone.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Turkeys in the Mist

The August morning I took this photo it rained again, just enough to bring forth steam from the earth, and to my surprise this brought the wild turkeys out. Usually they visit only at dawn and dusk, and they have a favorite place to hunt, which is the old rotting coldframe that was so well made that seven years later I am still unable to tear it down.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Le Pic-Bois

Okay, I admit it, I wanted to escape the Missouri steam heat for a while, so I went to Quebec City, and there in the old town (Vieux Quebec; you must visit) what did I see on a shopfront but a three-foot wooden replica of my friend the Pileated Woodpecker delightfully translated into the delightful "Pic-Bois." That just means woodpecker, but it sounds so much cooler! In fact, just about everything was cooler in French. I admit too that I spoke bad French if only to say "Je ne comprendes pas" and "Je ne parle pas francais", and "Bon jour" and "Merci," and politely everyone I said it to switched to English except one seventyish man on a bicycle who saw me waiting for a bus in the rain, and stopped and said something, and I said "Je ne parle pas" and he didn't parle Anglais either, so he explained to me on his fingers that the bus would arrive in four minutes.

This huge wooden sculpture is strikingly accurate in every detail except the real Pic de Bois has much bigger and crustier black feet.

How wonderful that someone else a thousand miles away loves my close friends as much as I do!


On an August afternoon, when it'd been over 90 degrees every day for a solid month, and was pushing 100, it rained for a solid fifteen minutes, then it rained for another fifteen minutes, hard, with the sun shining. Dodging the huge raindrops I ran outside seeking a rainbow, but didn't see any. But from my porch, where I and the camera could stay dry, I saw my birdbath and bird feeder bathed in sun and rain.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

August Cornfield

The ears ripen in late summer
And come on with a conquering laughter,
Come on with a high and conquering laughter.

The long-tailed blackbirds are hoarse.
One of the smaller blackbirds chitters on a stalk
And a spot of red is on its shoulder
And I never heard its name in my life.

Some of the ears are bursting.
A white juice works inside.
Cornsilk creeps in the end and dangles in the wind.
Always—I never knew it any other way—
The wind and the corn talk things over together.
And the rain and the corn and the sun and the corn
Talk things over together.
(excerpt from "Laughing Corn," poem by Carl Sandburg.)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fall Webworms

Hated seeing two-foot-long webby bags full of little maggots, ugly as sin and getting bigger every day, hanging from the old hickory tree that shades the house. Two of their bags were within reach of the ground. Had an urge to burn them.

Tried matches. The web would not light. At last I hit on wrapping pages of newspaper around the webs and setting them on fire.

After that was done I finally looked up the fall webworm, Hyphantria cunea. They weaken all kinds of deciduous trees by skeletonizing the leaves. Turns out that burning the bags, after wrapping them in rags, is a time-honored way of getting rid of them. The bags that can't be reached from the ground can be torn open with a stick or rake so that birds may come and feed on the webworms.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Serious Pie

The Hen House along I-44 in Bourbon, MO is a gingham curtain/wooden table family restaurant with a stunning refrigerated display of pies right behind the hostess as you walk in the door. There must be twelve kinds. It's my favorite place when I'm having a pie attack. (Cracker Barrel's crumbly little pie slices only in a pinch.) One Saturday evening I had such serious pie on my brain I prepared to drive 45 miles to the Hen House. Luckily I phoned first, because it was 7:00 p.m. and it closes at 8:00 p.m. when all decent people settle in bed or are well on their way there, but I do wish it were open all night. I feel comfortable and understood at the Hen House like I never do in beatnik coffeehouses. Serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, awesome fried chicken, pot roast with gravy, and all your other Missouri dream foods, and their strawberry lemonade is #1 on my hit parade. It also does catering --an idea so delightful it staggers me. This post is in honor of my friend Duke, another pie fiend. The right slice of pie lights him up like a Christmas tree.

Friday, August 6, 2010

How Life Gets Around

I love thinking that the tiniest corners of the world vibrate with life, whether we see it or care or not, or get a photo, or laugh, or sigh at how much this looks like a loving and familiar kiss. And in August, with summer in its highest gear, everything not only vibrates, it hums.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I Preserve Stuff

Your mom, my mom, sweating in the kitchen in August, boiling jelly and jars -- I was allergic to doing canning myself. But then there's freezing. I hope it inspires you that I tried it and did it. It's easy. Here you see my pineapple, red plums, and mango. Oh, do try it!

I followed the instructions at, skinning the mangoes and plums by dunking them in boiling water, cooling and then peeling. Sliced them. The pineapple, I cut into spears. Placed slices in freezer-safe containers. Made a cooked syrup solution, 3 cups of sugar to 4 cups of water. To prevent browning, spiked this with 1500 mg of ascorbic acid (I crushed and dissolved three pills of Vitamin C). Poured cooled syrup over fruit. Put in freezer.

I chose syrup pack over dry pack, because syrup pack preserves texture better, and retards freezer burn. You can always rinse the syrup off.

Once again, as in '08, this ain't a year to waste food!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Father Feeds Son!

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Caught in action so quick that it blurred even during the half a second of one shutter snap: The adult Pileated Woodpecker (right), having lunched on some suet -- always available here -- feeds his adolescent son by regurgitating. The parents come for suet each year during nesting, vanishing until around August 1 when they bring and feed the kids and then patiently wait on the tree while Junior and/or Missy practice flying at and pecking at the suet basket. Mastery takes about a month of practice. If the young one continues pestering the grownup for food by getting close and opening its beak, Mom or Dad will give them a sharp peck, meaning "Get your own!" By September the kids have flown and the parents go "on vacation" until frost, not coming by, even for suet, but calling when they see me come out of the house. They resume suet-eating around Thanksgiving.

The female Pileateds have red caps; males have red "mustaches" as well. The younger ones can be distinguished because the head feathers are whiter; the older the bird, the more yellow. The stripes and mustaches on different Pileateds are all unique. Most often Dad feeds a son and Mom feeds a daughter, but I have seen it vice versa also.