Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Everywhere, Endless, and Changing

I want so much to share the beauty I see, living out here--daily, my cup overflows. In the city, I got beauty at the museum or in individual plants or trees, and only in glimpses, so I moved and I stay so I can feast on the beauty that is everywhere and endless and changing. On my gravestone please write, "She loved beauty."  Or maybe this, from a North Country British gravestone:

The wonder of the world,
The beauty and the power,
The shapes of things,
Their colours, lights and shades,
These I saw.
Look ye also while life lasts.

(That wasn't written by a Londoner.)

Woke early this late August morning with a head cold returned in full force (darn, but that's life; I'll take it) and peeked outside and the sun was just rising, but I saw turkeys at the meadow's edge, and although it's not a bird-book picture of a turkey, the above photo is what I actually saw. And loved it.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Garden vegetables get smaller as the hours of sunlight diminish now. You know how the girth of August tomatoes is much less, maybe half, of July's. These August jalapenos, small but fully formed, easily detached from the mother plant, and that meant, "Harvest Me." These little emerald beauties are hot as #&!*@!!#. I can never predict how hot a homegrown hot pepper will be.

The word "harvest" comes from Anglo-Saxon and is related to the German "Herbst," meaning "autumn." I am not ready for autumn but harvest is fine by me. It's also guaranteed in one of the most beautiful sentences in the English language: "While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease."

Friday, August 24, 2012

Growing in a Micro-Climate

Missouri's in the temperate zone, but in some dry rocky south-facing sandstone glades that get a lot of sun, cheerful in the huge long drought grow cacti like these prickly pears (opuntia humifusa). I haven't seen any other type of cactus in this area. What's a "glade," you ask? A rocky outcropping amidst woods or grassland. Our glades here are sandstone. The cacti grow in just-right areas only a few feet square called "micro-climates." This one's on the sunny side of the road. The opposite side, chilly and shadowy, is an entirely different ecosystem, supporting temperate plants and creatures and moss and no cacti.

I find cacti on the edges of woods here, at the base of dry south-facing sandstone formations, and on the edge of my south-sloping gravel driveway, where prickly pear plants like shoe soles have persisted for years despite being snowed on, frozen (they turn purple), stepped on, bruised, and run over by cars. If not, they produce frilly yellow blossoms and plum-like fruits. Always get a pleasant sense of wonder when seeing  these wise and witty-looking desert entities way up in the Ozark foothills.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

All Play and No Work

Coming round a bend from walking in a park in town I saw this dramatic huge air balloon collapsing in the baseball field. Turns out a sudden course change required the captain to land somewhere open and flat, along with 8 passengers he referred to as "1800 pounds of passengers," and I ran over to ogle it like everybody else, especially tons of kids comin' outa nowhere. After the balloon drooped to the ground it still had air in it so the captain recruited the kids to roll on it end to end to press all the air out, and they sure enjoyed that and of course I have video (34 seconds) of kids rolling on it and screamin' with joy on a summer evening in Missouri. And the captain, in the red shirt, said it was much easier than just him doing it.
The travel basket looked very small for 8 people and a third of it was taken up by 4 tanks of propane fuel, 400 lbs each. After the kids deflated the balloon, two adults folded it and the captain called a truck to pick up the basket and passengers. Golly, all this excitement and novelty and it was only the second day of my annual "All Play and No Work" week. I'd just been fishing with my bff Carmel and then to a church ice-cream social with Ace and came to the park to walk it off, and now this.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

One Form of Deer Repellent

Friends down the road keep two gardens, a flower garden including tall sunflowers we never see around here because deer snap 'em off leaving four-foot stalks, and a vegetable garden. Both gardens are fenced. That's the only way for hobby gardeners to get homegrown produce to the table, because otherwise all we grow is deer munchies. They bite the tops off tomato plants too, especially during this summer's drought when nothing but gardens got watered. Can't blame them for wanting juicy greenery. Friend's husband found this skull, of a buck with only one antler, in the woods and decided to stake it in the center of his vegetable garden -- even though it has wire fencing. It has golf balls in its eye sockets. I think he means it to strike fear into the hearts of deer, who, if they only turned around, could see plenty of other nice grasses and leaves to rip and pulverize with their amazing one-inch tubular teeth with razor-sharp edges. It's also a form of folk sculpture.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Brown Eggs, Subtracted, Alas

Farmer Bob's "Brown Eggs" truck at its usual roadside spot at 11 on Wednesday had no canopy or patio chair and the cardboard sign saying "Brown Eggs" was stowed in the pickup, and as I approached Farmer Bob got out of the cab and I said, "You sold out all your eggs already?"

Farmer Bob said, "The health department says I can't sell eggs on the roadside any more." His eggs weren't refrigerated and they have to be. So he wasn't selling eggs, just telling every customer that skidded to a stop nearby, cheerfully expecting to purchase henfruit, that they could buy his eggs at his house on Highway B. By my reckoning that's 15 miles and out of the way of most of his regulars. Sad because seeing his one-man business on the roadside was a bright spot in my rural day and I daresay it was a bright spot for him too.

You needn't be French to know eggs come out of the chicken with a protective coating ("bloom"), and dont need refrigeration until they're washed, but I guess they don't know that here. Farmer Bob had zucchini to sell, though. I selected one, and he gave it to me free. I hugged him because I don't think we'll meet again. Joylessly I drove into town to the gas station, my next errand, and vacuumed out my eggless car.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Why We Should Protect Missouri Streams

Taken at the "beachfront" of a LaBarque Creek tributary with no official name, sometimes called "Sandy Creek" or "Robinson Creek." Deeper and wider than the LaBarque, people at the party were floating on it, boating on it, jumping off the dock into the water (squealing with joy all the while), sunning themselves, playing with their kids and grandkids, swimming in it pretending to be water dragons, and sitting beneath umbrellas on shore drinking a beer, all without fear of polluted water or the deadly currents that sometimes take people who are swimming in the Meramec, the temperamental river that the gentle LaBarque Creek empties into. I was so happy I was at the picnic, about a mile from my house. This is the sort of land being saved for posterity by the Friends of LaBarque Creek organization.

The Labarque Creek, as it runs through the Divine property, has no stretch as deep and swimmable as this one. Because it changes its shape after big rains, once in a while there's a swimmin' hole.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Don't Eat These Beans

The trumpet vine (campsis radicans), also called trumpet creeper or hummingbird vine, is native to Missouri, and its red and orange horn-shaped flowers are lovely, but it's a pest and twines around anywhere it feels like twining, and climbs like ivy, so it's classed as invasive too. The hotter the weather gets, the more they bloom. Hummingbirds like the blossoms so I like them, but today I saw beans like six-inch green beans hanging from them. Some "beans" hung in clusters of three; others were single like this one. I didn't know trumpet vines had seed pods that are a dead ringer for green beans.

Can you cook and eat them like green beans, meaning with mushroom soup and canned french-fried onions? No, they are poisonous.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Water from the Sky

The storm introduced itself with a gust of wind of the kind that snaps trees and sends logs flying through the air. Earth-quaking thunder passed over. The electrical power shorted out at 11 p.m. Soon the violent part of the storm was over. My device's battery ran down and, with nothing else to do in the pitch darkness, I went to to bed wondering what I'd see outside in the morning.

The pump is electric, so the only water was in the pipes and there wasn't much. I had filled pans with water as the storm approached, and had also put in a few gallons' supply, but these bottles past their expiration date tasted chemical, so I used it only for washing. Made a cup of tea. All things, including my life, felt like luxuries. Going outside I saw downed branches but nothing serious; my fragile tomato plants were undamaged. In fact all plants sang with happiness because they'd been rained on. With great curiosity I approached the rain gauge and was amazed and grateful to see a full two and a half inches. So ended the hottest and most dreadful stretch of drought here since the Dust Bowl days.

For a while I tried recharging my device through my car battery to check the electric company's outage map, but soon ran low on gasoline. I couldn't work on the computer so I took a walk and saw a swollen, muddy LaBarque where there had been only a thin nagging trickle. I then swept leaves from my porch, broke down boxes for recycling in the garage, and had my first full day outdoors for many weeks; the storm cooled the air from the 100s to the 90s. As it got too warm I went into town to an air-conditioned hair salon to get a haircut I'd been putting off.

Just as the day was beginning to be not so wonderful, when after 16 hours without electricity I started to think about the spoiling food and useless toilet, the electric power resumed and everything indoors sang too.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Brown Eggs with Value Added, Part Two

He said when the moon is waning and gives light all night, I can expect the tomatoes I'm raising to ripen faster. I believe him. Farmer Bob, whom I met in December and last posted about in early spring, sits beneath a canopy on the roadside every Wednesday and Saturday next to his 1988 Dodge pickup, selling brown eggs and now summer vegetables in the hellish summer heat. He offers customers a seat in the extra chair he sets out for socializing, and almost always when you drive by there's somebody sitting in it, sometimes me. We've had several conversations on life and gardening.

The eggs are great, although he raised their price to $3.50 because of fuel and feed costs. He knows that's high. He said, "The eggs in the store for 99 cents are okay if you want to bake with 'em. Mine are for if you want to eat 'em." He said he eats eggs and bacon every morning and he's been married four times. I told him I'd phoned a witch and asked her to cast a magic spell for me. He said I didn't have to call a witch, that Jesus was always there to help me.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Spider Caucus

It's election day not only here in the human world but among the daddy-long-legs. They are caucusing to nominate candidates for president of my bathroom. The office includes nice perks: water (in these times of severe drought) and a human occupant who doesn't squash them or allow any juveniles to pull off their legs. It's a two-party system divided along color lines; you can see two centrists working hard to create common ground. They are all happy to quit making those dreadful political commercials accusing each other of lying and support for gay marriage and whatnot. The truth is that after the vote and a few martinis these are the gayest spiders I have ever seen.

Daddy-long-legs often gather in groups, what the biologists call "aggregation behavior," and nobody but me knows why. Somebody needs your vote today, so please vote.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Introducing "Piehole Midwest"

It's a Midwestern home-cooking orgy, so if that sounds good to you please see my branch blog, "Piehole Midwest," get on your elastic-waist pants and join in. In Shakespeare's soliloquy "The Seven Ages of Man" the fifth stage is described as a man with a "fair round belly with good capon lin'd, " and some good-cook and big-eatin' friends and I are at that stage now. "Piehole Midwest" (thepieholemidwest.blogspot.com) is blissful photos, recipe try-outs, and remarks about the food that ends up in front of me, and of course like all Midwesterners I eat what's put in front of me. I've also posted hand-picked links to guaranteed enjoyable food and recipe blogs, and I take the best photos I can.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Drama on the Dining-Room Floor

(Not retouched. The flash was 5 inches from the floor.)
Opened the door to the laundry room and saw coiled there a three-inch baby blacksnake. It startled, crawled down a step and snaked away along the dusty dining-room baseboard, where he got caught by the tail in a spider's web and struggled to move forward. Couldn't. The more he thrashed the more he was caught. The spider, who'd been waiting, descended, about to make a meal.

I felt sorry for the snake and snapped the web around it to set him free. Sticky webbing and dust balls were still tangled around his tail, though, hobbling him as he tried to escape. He did all he could to free himself. Here's the 7-second video:

I terrified him trying to remove the dustballs and sticky webbing, but succeeded, and then he curled up for a moment to rest in a safe little pile. By then I had set the camera to "flash" and,as in the photo at the top, saw the reason that the small blacksnakes I meet with in sunlight often look bright silver, not black: reflectivity. Which probably protects them in some way.

Talking reassuringly, I manuevered the snakelet into a container and freed him outside where there was cover so he wouldn't become anybody else's dinner.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Yes, Your Honor

This local vegetable stand is unattended. Choose and weigh and bag and pay for your choices (mostly tomatoes, but sometimes potatoes, squash, or jars of salsa) and nobody (or at least nobody I ever see) watches you open the cash box to make your own change. It's an honor vegetable stand, open every summer for years now, an amazing sight in the year 2012. I like its assumption that most people are honorable and decent and don't cheat and deceive, and I like proving that its assumption is still correct. Fear the karma if you are ever tempted to steal. It's fast and and tailor-made for the transgression. In my salad days I once got $10 too much in change and told myself, "What the heck, it's not like I robbed somebody; I will keep it." Shortly after that someone stole my $10 in quarters, all I had with me, stranding me at the laundromat I'd walked through a snowstorm to get to, and I had to drag heaps of dirty clothes and linens home again. That learned me.