Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Glassberg Conservation Area, 400 Acres, Now Open; See It Here

The LaBarque Watershed’s new conservation area is now open to the public: 428 acres with 1.5 miles of easy to moderate hiking trails and good signage, a 3-acre fishing lake called Buder Lake, and Meramec River bluffs from which to view the Pacific Palisades. Formerly residential property, then acquired by the nonprofit Wild Canid Center which never got the funding to build on it, now, thanks to the Glassberg family, it belongs to us all. It opened at noon October 30. I was there. Here is my 7-minute video tour, the first ever, to peek at until you can get here and enjoy it yourself.

Fishing and hiking are encouraged, but camping, biking, and horseback riding are not allowed, dogs must be leashed at all times, and hunting is not yet permitted, but with hunters in the surrounding area you’ll look smart in your hunter orange. Wear hiking boots, bring water. There are no facilities.

The new Glassberg Conservation Area is located in northwestern Jefferson County on Highway FF, and practically across the road from the Young Conservation Area that protects a long section of LaBarque Creek. See you in the Conservation Areas!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Why I Hired a Personal Trainer

For the past month I’ve had a personal trainer. Not because I plan to be sleek, buff, catlike or muscular, but I needed to re-learn how to exercise, that being a non-negotiable for women who need more muscle and bone just to function (and live on 100 rugged acres). My back hurt (whose doesn’t?) so I had quit ballet. Fearing further injury I quit Zumba. I quit step aerobics. I quit upright cycling and went recumbent. I quit exercises I’ve done for 30 years. And the less I exercised the weaker I became, so I exercised less--a vicious circle.

            When I'd joined the gym a few years ago, a trainer in his 20s worked me like a Marine. I couldn’t take it. That trainer was embarrassed to hear I’d had a mastectomy, mentioned because it affects my balance. This year I was lucky to meet Kevin Edwards (pictured), who is my age, a regional bodybuilding champion in the master’s division in his weight class, and he knows, quote, “Boomers have issues.” He told me that between trainer and trainee communication is key. I gave him a chiropractor’s chart of my back. Kevin’s training program targeted my sore spots, strengthened my core and improved my balance and posture. Toned muscles can stabilize weak points in the spine. We worked for one hour twice a week. He advised me on eating habits and I’ve changed mine bite by bite. “Whenever you eat a carbohydrate, always eat protein with it,” he says. “Eat your fruit in the morning,” he says, “so you can burn off the sugar. Eat vegetables after noon.” In the illustration you see the “One-Armed Romanian Deadlift” I had never heard of and am still trying to master. It works the core and most everything else, including balance.
            Personal training is costly but is one of the best investments I have made. If you don’t already, try making your health a top priority.  Because if you’re sick or hurting, nothing in life is good.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Free Gold

Took this on October 21 when the Divine Woods were golden through and through, bright as sunshine, leaves quietly falling, and when blended with the beautiful blue October sky and warm weather -- intoxicating!

Then I went away for a few days and returned hoping for more golden woods time, only to find that a storm had stripped most of the leaves, and I was surprised, even disoriented, to see only the white unfiltered sunshine typical of November. At least I got this photo for us.

What's different this year: Usually reluctant to let go of summer, I welcome the autumn and do not dread the winter, when life gets harder: the cabin's logs hold and radiate cold; can't sit out on the porch; the car skids; the skin gets dry. It's life and I'll take it.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Chicken of the Woods

This is "Chicken of the Woods" or "Sulfur Shelf" (Laetiporus sulphureus) seen today on a dead oak in the Divine woods. This meaty wild mushroom according to Mushrooms of North America is "the most popular edible polypore. Fresh young specimens are delicious..." However, I enjoy wild mushrooms solely as works of art. Chicken of the Woods (not to be confused with "Hen of the Woods" (Grifola frondosa)), is parasitical, and in its early stages, attacks a tree's heartwood, and by the time the "chickens" you see here appear on the tree bark, "they are definitely coming home to roost, as far as the tree's health is concerned," says You can see that the undersides of this tree fungus are sulfur yellow. Looking into joining the local mycological society, I found its homepage plastered with dozens of warnings: They are NOT RESPONSIBLE if you go hunting mushrooms with them, then eat one and croak! I didn't feel the love. For comparison, here's the spectacular 24-ounce Grifola frondosa I found in the woods in October 2008.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Do You Think It's Time?

It's growing out of the garage gutter, 12 feet above the ground, too high for any but a skilled handyman to reach, and anyway the garage roof is too sharply pitched for me to dare to climb on. I planted sunflowers in the meadow when I moved here 11 years ago and deer snapped 'em up before they even bloomed. Didn't try it again. This sunflower is a volunteer, and the only blooming sunflower on this property because it's out of deer range. The garage gutter, to my knowledge, has not been cleaned in a decade and is full of broken twigs and branches flung from the very dead oak you can see in the background. I sent this photo to the landlord to say that while I enjoy the flower, maybe it's time to do some upkeep.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cops: 0; Me, 1

We got our colorful eastern Missouri autumn, beyond our wildest dreams, and today was its most gorgeous day. So I lunched in a little county park along the Big River, where I have a secret spot for fishing, and was at a picnic table being enriched by the view when up behind me comes a sheriff's deputy, a very handsome one, all in brown (I love a man in uniform) and surprises me when he says, "Maybe you didn't take the time to read the signs at the park entrance when you came in, but glass bottles aren't allowed in the park."

"Oh, I'm sorry," I said. I had half my sandwich and  two-thirds of a bottle of orange juice left. I picked up the bottle to surrender it.

"It's not glass, it's plastic!" I said.

"Sure looks like glass."

"It's plastic. Here, squeeze it," I said to the deputy. He hesitated but he did it.

He said, "Lotta people don't take the time to read the signs at the park entrance that glass bottles aren't allowed in the park." And he turned his attention to the folks on the sandbar, fishing, saying, "Wonder what they're catchin' today."

He wandered off to sit in his patrol car, and after lunch I took a little walk to see if my secret, small and narrow fishing spot down the bank was still there. It was.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Agritourism Experience

I confess I cheated on y'all and took my first overseas trip, to Poland, specifically rural south Poland (Carpathian and Tatra Mountains) with a group doing "agritourism," and now I know what that means. Our group of 12 visited Polish villages and learned about their foodways, and the cooks gave us lessons in their kitchens, so now I can fold a cabbage roll properly, and make pelmenyi, little Polish tortellinis stuffed with meat (pictured) and served in borscht. I brought back a jar of rose-petal jam. Once back in the U.S., I combed the big city for piernikis (gingerbread cookies filled with plum jam and dunked in chocolate) and Polish lemon vodka. We saw the clean and beautiful Polish countryside with farms and trout streams and pastures unmarred by chemical spraying, and we visited craftspeople and open-air markets and it was harvest time with so many purple plums, fruit, cucumbers for pickling, dried flowers and fresh sheep's milk cheeses and breads; and we hiked two of Poland's great national parks, set aside for posterity because they know when they've got a good thing going. That's the difference between most Poles and most Americans.
     Part of our agri-tour was arranged and hosted by

Sunday, October 7, 2012

House Beautiful

"House proud" is being overprotective of the appearance and cleanliness of one's house, for example hating to have people sit in your chairs or eat at your table or enter your front door -- and it afflicted many in my parents' generation (now flattered as "The Greatest Generation") and many fewer members of my own generation. Yet heretofore I was too house-proud to winterize the Divine Cabin by putting plastic on its exterior, while for 10 years I have faithfully, with blood, tears, toil and sweat, plasticked or double-plasticked from the inside the single-pane, airy, leaky, original windows, using cellophane -- and shut off from the rest of the house the beautiful but horribly drafty 30 percent of the house called "the Studio" from October to March.

The Studio's picture window made it a wonderful work room and  guest bedroom, and last year with our freakishly mild winter and the house's new heating ducts and frantic caulking and one electric heater, I actually used the Studio in winter for the first time (after 10 years' occupancy) and fell in love with it. But although it was cellophaned from inside, elusive drafts still shivered the cellophane and me.

Knowing that this winter would have to be colder because it couldn't possibly be warmer, I put on exterior plastic and tape, and this is how it looks now. Martha Stewart wouldn't approve. The plastic is translucent so I've lost, for the winter, my meadow view.

But after I finished the job, the room was so much warmer and draftless I thought I was imagining it. Came back later. No, the plastic was working. Seriously working. So I can seriously work in the studio. Useful is beautiful.

The hanging plant is my surviving basil plant, also beautiful and useful.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Welcome Autumn

1. Bedsheets from cotton to flannel.
2. Pajamas from cotton to flannel.
3. Plug in the heated mattress pad.
4. Place and plug in all three space heaters.
5. Arrange for a helper to spend the day helping me "plastic my windows" and doors against drafts. With help and two hair dryers it takes one day. Alone it takes three or four days.
6. Check propane tank fill level. (Done. It's at 45 percent.)
7. Fold and store the tent.
8. Scrub and oil most garden tools; take dull ones for sharpening.
9. Obtain salt block for animals.10. Obtain kitty litter for icy walks.
11. Cram possible mouseholes, mouse thruways, and crannies with steel wool.
12. Diagram and begin to build the outdoor fireplace made of concrete blocks that I saw in Mother Earth News.
13. Accept all invitations to wineries, Oktoberfests, hayrides, day hikes, sausage festivals, haunted houses, church bazaars, feasts, and any other riotous celebratory events, and issue invitations for at least two of my own.