Monday, March 25, 2013

Hungry Pileated Woodpecker

This male Pileated was hungry enough, in the seven inches of yesterday's snow, to allow me to stand in the open porch door and take his picture while he breakfasted on suet. His mate was nearby, but it wasn't her turn yet to leap onto the suet cage, clutch it with her long black toes, and eat. Not only that, but when they fly back to the tree trunk they wipe their beaks on the bark like it's a napkin.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Midwestern Graffiti

Back East where I used to live, when a car window or a truck was dirty or dusty as they so often are in late winter, people wrote vivid and highly creative obscenities on it so that in traffic it could offend absolutely everyone.

The tone of such things in the Midwest is so mild and different--so Midwestern--it makes me laugh. Frequently the classic "Wash Me" appears. Whereas out East you might read on the passenger side of a dusty van that its totally innocent owner would do a sex act for a stated amount of money, here you see "I Love You" or "Go Cardinals" or "Jesus saves" or peace signs. I took this photo in a parking lot while the owner sat in the vehicle, and he/she didn't even try to call the police on me. It's just that relaxed.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Spring Bird Report

The towhees, robins and white-throated sparrows are here, but the juncos have not yet left for their homes in Canada. Normally by the third week of March, bluebirds are nesting in their house in the meadow, but this spring they are very few, even around the soybean fields. I'm concerned that the chilly, snowy spring will discourage the hummingbirds who always arrive around April 24, a month from now (with the exception of 2008, when they were very late). Doves have arrived. I made a shelter of tree limbs and branches beneath the bird feeder so the doves can eat without the resident hawks diving and snatching them up for lunch. My year-round cardinals must be either breeding or nesting; they come for their sunflower seeds only very late in the day, at twilight. Owls are calling, but they do this year-round. Eagerly I wait for the whippoorwill or chuck-wills-widow whose nighttime song means "no more frost," but I don't expect to hear one before the end of April. The woodpecker population -- Downies, Hairies, and Pileated -- is normal, which means fat and lazy. The Downies are always first and last at the suet. The Pileateds sleep in until about 9, eat heartily and then go to bed early. This year I have a young pair who don't know me very well and don't yet trust me enough to take their picture.

Found this teacup-sized nest in the blackberry briars when I was cutting a path between them, planning for easier berry-picking this summer. Right now we're awaiting a spring snowstorm, but I am determinedly thinking "spring" and "summer" and "birds" and "berries" while monitoring bird arrivals and departures.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

High Water

My Weather Radar app forwards National Weather Service warnings by making the smartphone shriek and vibrate. It's been issuing flood warnings for this area since Sunday's heavy rain. This was taken where LaBarque Creek empties into the Meramec River -- the flood's peak, if it doesn't rain again today. A foot or two higher and the water'd crawl up over Highway FF as it did in '08, when all my three possible routes home, including the Interstate, flooded and the National Guard turned us back and I couldn't get home for four days. When the water gets up about this high I try not to leave home (which I'm grateful is on high ground). Flooding is a growing problem as more land is developed and paved. Jeff County Highway W is under water -- don't plan on going there.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Lonely Day

I'm the luckiest person ever born but today I felt lonely, maybe because spring is so late in coming this year, and I knew I shouldn't sit in the house but go outside and do some work.

Green onions that Demetrius planted before he died four years ago still pop up and keep me company every spring, and they have naturalized into clumps all competing for space. I dug up and divided some clumps and replanted them so they'll grow thick and strong, and picked a few for cooking. That made me feel less lonely. And while digging I unearthed several moist healthy worms, just as good soil should have, and of course then I couldn't say I was alone at all.

While raking around the firebowl it occurred to me that I should light it. Fire is always warm and friendly. There's no rule that I can't. So I lit one. I didn't build a fire or feed it, I just lit what was there and let it burn orange as long as it would, releasing friendly crackles and sweet healing smoke of oak, and I felt even less alone.

I turned some soil, and as chilly as it is, it's not too chilly to plant my favorite salad herb, arugula, so I did that, and in six days I will be godmother to baby vegetable plants, which always make me happy.

Because my memories of Poland cheer me up, I made a Polish beer bread with rye flour and ate it with butter, not skimping, and cooked some sausage and peppers, and drank the rest of the beer that didn't go into the bread. I arranged to see some friends tonight. I feel much better.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Garden in the Brain

I lost six days sick with flu and am just now catching up on mid-March's favorite activity: seeding summer vegetable plants. Last year all 12 tomato plants came up thriving. This year I planted 6 tomatoes, 2 parsley, and 4 Genovese basil in potting soil in an egg carton. This was shut in the furnace closet. When the seeds sprout the baby plants will be grow-lamped until May. Directly sown will be (not this week; next week, when I'm m strong enough to break and turn the soil): turnips, radishes, kale. When (or if) the sun comes out, then arugula.

Compared to March 2012's 70- and 80-degree days, here in eastern Missouri we've had cold rain, wind, mud, sleet, and wintry mix (everybody loves a wintry mix!) daily, so the imagination had to work overtime to first plant the garden in the brain, which is required before the garden in reality can manifest.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Old Fresh Air Camp Chapel Nook

Takes up about the space of a walk-in closet. Looks interdenominational to me. No youth summer-camping experience was complete without some compulsory reverence. Camp is where I learned I was going to hell because I wasn't Catholic, along with the Lutherans, "Piscopalians," Jews and whatnot; most of the people in the world. And praying with your hands folded in front of you means you're really praying to the devil. Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Old Fresh Air Camp Dining Hall

I can't figure out if the campers dined on their institutional food cafeteria style or (because of the round tables)  family style so they could learn manners. It's been more than 40 years since anyone ate here. Did you go to a residential camp as a kid? Remember the big institutional gallon tins of fruit cocktail? Remember the cool little individual boxes of cereal, and the little milk cartons?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Old Fresh Air Camp Ceiling

Now, before y'all start hunting around for this old camp seeking thrills and plunder, I want to let you  know 1)  there isn't anything worth anything, 2)  it's dusty, moldy, and has asbestos issues, and there's no water or electricity, and 3)  it's locked tight and it's on private property which I patrol with my pit bull Osama. This is the ceiling. Not healthy.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Old Fresh Air Camp Furnishings

The few remaining dorm furnishings were all pushed into this corner, where they are rank with dust and mouse droppings. There is no question that the couch (or was it a daybed?) is from the 1970s, because I used to own one much like it.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Old Fresh Air Camp Dorm

Taken inside the dorm where the Fresh Air campers bunked from 1957, when the dorm was built, to 1971, when the camp closed. This was the emergency exit. The counselors bunked in dreary small rooms (with private toilets) right next to this one.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Old Fresh-Air Camp

This property was once a summer camp for city children, and the cabin I live in was the gatekeeper's house. The camp, half a mile up the lane, closed in 1971. The lane ends in this circle at the camp building, consisting of dining hall and dormitory. The tree in the raised bed is a gorgeous redbud when it's in bloom. The gates, for which I had keys, persisted until road widening in 2002.

I was able to enter the ruins and take photographs, and I'll be showing them here over the next few posts. No surprise that the building was closed in part because of asbestos issues.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Toward Winter's End

This winter waited until the third week of February to really snow, and then a week later it snowed again, and the first week of March it snowed and then snowed again. The grape hyacinths are blooming, the robins are passing through here, the geese are flying north, I saw them all yesterday evening; then this morning it snowed once more. The lane where I, all bundled up against the wind, took my daily walk was crossed with arrow-like turkey tracks. May this be the last snow, so I can get to weeding and planting!