Sunday, June 30, 2013

Pink Rocks / Amidon Conservation Area

Among Eastern Missouri's most popular outdoor features are its rocky rapids through elephant-sized boulders called "shut-ins" -- and the best known is Johnson's Shut-Ins, but the most awesome is the Pink Rocks shut-ins on the Castor River at Amidon Conservation Area, about 8 miles east of Fredericktown, MO, which I visited with the hiking group today. Traces of iron in the ancient stone created the pink boulders and cliffs that DON'T ERODE, and pure chilly water rushes between them, with quiet pools downstream for dips and bass fishing. Formerly a teenage hangout, the Pink Rocks have been reclaimed so visitors can fish, refresh themselves, and picnic right on the boulders. Above, a fellow hiker, post-hike, enjoys herself in the shut-ins on this gorgeous June day, the final day of June 2013; and below's a view of the massive pink cliffs (look for the people. See them?). More info about Amidon Conservation Area here. Eastern Missouri's geology, south of about Hillsboro, MO, has a volcanic origin which created veins of copper, lead, silver, lime, silica, and barite--and its "Lead Belt" supported mining businesses from the 1700s to the present day. It's some of the oldest exposed rock on earth. I tell ya, Missouri has everything.

Saturday, June 29, 2013


A curious young being, so young it isn't blue yet, peeks out of my bluebird box. I would love to know its thoughts about the green and blue world outside the box. Tomorrow I will try for another photo.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Lavender Farm

Lived here 11 years before visiting the famed Lavender Farm in Eureka not five miles away. There they grow lavender, give spring teas with lavender tea and lavender scones, and strawberries with lavender whipped cream; and the gift shop sells essential oil, tinctures, spray, facial serums, soap -- and plants. Bought me a culinary lavender plant, cultivar "Provence," so I will always have a supply for my own lavender scones. Yes, I make 'em. See recipe here.

First went to the Lavender Farm in May for a spring tea with my "Laughter Yoga" group pictured here: Elaine, Mary, Ria, Kathy, Jodi, all of us dining in a former stable fixed up all nice and we got reservations and food and then a talk from the farm's owner, who said lavender is proven antifungal, antibacterial, antiseptic, anti-aging, anti-anxiety, and all-around good for you, whether absorbed through skin or eaten. Returned there on this electrifyingly gorgeous late June day to see the picnic umbrellas and lavender in bloom and some girls (see photo) out picking it, and also to buy the highly concentrated lavender essential oil to blend with the organic coconut oil used as my skin lotion, and the lavender spray that can be used as cologne or bug repellent. Everybody knows, right, that Lavender Skin-So-Soft bath oil keeps bugs away. Lavender is why. It's beautiful and it tastes good. Lavender is one of those miracle herbs.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Poor Cardinal

The enormous "thunk" against the window late yesterday afternoon must have been Lady Cardinal. Window accidents happen around here about every four months or so; most of the time the birds survive. But this fatal impact knocked her about twelve feet to the side of the window, next to the stoop. Of course when I found her it was far too late and I could only study her as I usually don't get to study my live cardinals. At first I thought the downy feathers indicated she was a juvenile, because my cardinal pairs have been prolific this season, but that's not so; she has a cardinal adult's red-orange beak. Downy feathers are just the secret vest beneath the elegantly understated suits that female cardinal birds wear. I got to see the gradient of gray into red. I didn't know cardinal birds had such relatively large but fragile-looking, straw-colored feet. Then -- saddest words in the language -- I buried her, near a tree she seemed to have liked. And when I opened the garage door to put away the shovel I got a surprise -- a live turtle was there, apparently got in while the door was open, and it was waiting right on the threshold for someone to raise the door.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Photographing Bluebirds

When I see a blue streak and flutter out of the corners of my eyes, I will neglect all else in life to let you know the bluebirds are raising their second brood of the 2013 season in my bluebird box.

At a day course taught by a Missouri state nature photographer I learned that to photograph wild creatures I should make myself inconspicuous. Animals are threatened by the human shape, so he used to shoot photos from his truck with a huge telephoto lens. With my simpler equipment all I did was put on a hat and baggy clothes of that greenish-brown worn-out sort, and set up my tripod. "What's the difference between an amateur and a professional photographer?" he asked rhetorically. "A tripod." And -- as he advised us -- I waited. He said "If the animal was there before, it'll come back again. So just wait." Sweat  and wait, sweat (94 degrees; but how hot must it be inside the bluebird box?) and wait. This, my best bluebird photo yet, was fortuitiously taken on the day of summer solstice. Happy summer solstice!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Meadow Mushroom

Mushrooms are not animal, vegetable or mineral, but alone among all things in nature are in a class of their own. This year's soggy pre-summer weather, with thunderstorms afoot every evening, is great only for fungi, and a sprinkling of these, Meadow Mushrooms (Agaricus campestris), popped up in my lawn overnight, full-sized, four inches across with solid, inch-thick stems (which I removed for the photo) and fresh pinkish gills. I love wild foods that I don't have to hunt for but instead come to me. As much as I'd love to taste these (with bacon), and they're said to be edible (especially with bacon), glamour photos is as far as I'll go.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

I Hire a Wardrobe Consultant

I followed a sudden, unprecedented impulse to hire Dacy of MindfulCloset to re-dress me and yesterday bagged up clothing that no longer fit: 44, count 'em, 44 pieces of business clothing: pants, skirts, suits unworn since the workdays of 1997-2010 or that I wore with safety pins and grieved in because their waistlines measured 26" and mine didn't anymore. This seems trivial, but in business it matters very much. I'm a professional editor and when I go out I have to look well-edited.

I told Dacy, a girlish 36, that although those mostly black and funereal clothes didn't fit, I felt bad leaving them (and thus those days) behind. She told me to picture the future wearing new stuff I'd look awesome in and absolutely love.

Our free consultation was right here. We did a questionnaire and paged through some fashion books seeking looks I liked (Coco Chanel!) and what else I favored (solid colors, fur or mohair or cashmere, comfort, durability, linings, pants pockets, necklines with space for jewelry). I showed her my closet, what I wore, didn't or couldn't wear. She measured me and gave me a choice of shopping with her or she'd shop for me, bring the clothes over, let me try them on, and return those I didn't want. I chose the latter (I hate shopping for clothes, or rather, I suffer: they never have my size; I don't know who sells classic clothes; I'm hustled or ignored by salespeople; I don't have hours to crawl the malls, and pricetags scare me. I bought almost all my clothes on eBay and paid a tailor to fit them to my then-body). Consultant to many, Dacy  (pictured) knows where to shop and she came over with several armsful (with her own rolling clothes rack) for me to choose from.

I could just weep for joy, imagining the confidence I will have when clothes fit, are pretty colors, hide my figure flaw (yes, I've got only one), and make people say "You look stunning" -- because I am!

MindfulCloset service costs $45 an hour, but my services cost rather more and I know when I'm more confident I'll surely draw more business. I told her I'd pay for quality, durability and versatility. I will take it out of my savings because this is what savings are for. It's also a business expense.

What's left in my closet after the Great Purge: One dress (black). One suit (black). One pair of pants (black). One skirt (brown). One summer dress. One beloved too-tight suit (navy) to take to the tailor to see if she can "let it out" and make it wearable again.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Divine: Remember Me This Way

Should you, a long time from now, have occasion to remember me, this is the picture I want y'all to have in mind:, Divinebunbun among Missouri coneflowers on a June day. This was my happiness! Taken today on a return trip to Valley View Glades by my friend Maurice.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Mushroom People

A mushroom foray is a trip into the woods -- off the trail -- to find fungi and maybe pick some (by cutting, not uprooting!) for study or for cooking at home. Note the carrying basket, the socks up over the pant legs, and the enthusiasm of two of my foray companions on this gorgeous June morning. Between the twelve of us, ages 6 to 80, we brought back 22 species. The kids were the best mushroom spotters. Our leader, age 80, explained 1) they're closer to the ground and 2) they've got sharper eyes than older folk. I myself took only photographs. Here's some Jellied False Coral (Tremellodendron pallidum). It's edible, but according to an expert, cooking it isn't worth the effort.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Valley View Glades Natural Area

On Highway B near Morse Mill, in Jefferson County, is a conservation area called Valley View Glades. I hiked its trail late last year and vowed to return when spring came, because a glade in bloom is a marvelous thing to see.
Come on out soon. You needn't walk the 2.6 mile trail loop. The most amazing vistas in Valley View Glades are at the beginning of the trail, whether you choose to walk left or right. There really is a valley view. Here's more info and a map.

What's a glade? It's not that stuff in cans: It's an outcropping of rock and thin soil, just enough to support echinaceas, coreopsis and other wildflowers, on a south-facing hillside--a unique kind of ecosystem. Missouri's natural glades get clogged up by invasive red cedars, so conservationists cut down the cedars to preserve the glades' sunny openness and protect the habitat of special creatures such as salamanders who live in glades.

Should you want to hike the complete trail, it's very rocky most of its 2.6 miles. Bring water. I found my walking poles to be most helpful. You will stepping-stone across at least two pretty brooks.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Yes, There Are Brown Flowers

"There are no 'brown' flowers. Who ever heard of brown flowers? They're probably just dark purple or dark red. Maybe you're colorblind."

"But the book Ozark Wildflowers, which is divided by flower color, has a section called Brown Flowers."

"I've never seen a brown flower."

Well, now you have. "Occasional" rather than "common" in the area, the Climbing Milkweed (Matelea decipiens) is new to me. The blossom typically has five petals and the plant's leaves are huge, floppy and heart-shaped. It likes rocky areas. Other brown flowers include early spring's Trillium and Wake Robin. Maybe other places don't have brown flowers, but Missouri is special.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Rabbits Return

Relieved and pleased to see wild rabbits again in my yard. For two years I wondered if coyotes and feral cats got them all, but I had been spoiled because the huge garden before then attracted them like iron filings. I won this one over after only two days of approaching him (or her) bit by bit for a photo. Bunny story: One day Demetrius was out mowing with our monstrously loud old lawnmower. A rabbit stood alert in the grass near the propane tank and we were amazed that no matter how close Demetrius got with his awful machine it would not scare.Later we figured that it had to be a mother with some young nearby. A mother won't move. Treasure any bunnies you see; they are universal symbols of pluck and luck. P.S. Happy June, my favorite month.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Girly Girlness in the Ozarks

It's more important in the country than in the city for a woman to show her femininity so's people don't think you're one of those man-hater women's libbers. When I drive downstate I put on lipstick (looks like I'm wearing full makeup); that could be the difference between being helped with a flat tire or left to change it myself. Other acceptable ways to look like a girly girl:

  • Wear pink or red
  • Wear floral prints or at least paint-on or stick-on flowers on your clothes
  • Wear flowy clothing
  • Dye your hair blonde
  • Grow your hair long, no matter how awful it looks (mine is short, so I compensate with pink or red or florals)
  • Have your toenails and fingernails painted. Extra points for long fingernails with nail art (as shown).
  • Wear bling
  • Don't wear Birkenstock sandals
  • Do show cleavage (at any age)
  • Smile and make your eyes big
  • Wear full makeup 
  • Have a very obvious and huge boob job
In short, look like Dolly Parton as much you can. The nail-art samples above come from the local nail salon that I favor.