Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fifty Shades Freed

Sat down with early-morning tea and saw tiny young hatchling (because his tail is blue) five-lined skink trapped in a web spun beneath the picnic table, and its spider approaching to suck his blood. Skink was so tightly wrapped and limp that I thought him dead already, and turned away because I didn't want to watch, but then I saw him wiggle. Breaking the web, I carried the skink outside and urged him to run and hide, but spiderwebbing had bound his back legs to his body, and the same with his tail, depriving him of his rudder and best weapon. He didn't move. I thought him dead again and was sorry I had interfered with the spider's meal. He was still so pretty I wanted to take his photo. Then he struggled: Alive!

Using a round toothpick I picked apart the webbing, cotton-candy sticky. I plucked it off his shivering whip of a body, and he ran. And he will never stay out past curfew again!

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Nectar-Lapping Raccoon, See It Here

I wasn't kidding four days ago when I posted about my disappearing nectar and nectar feeders. There's a young raccoon and an older one, now both so bold as to steal from my feeders in mid-afternoon. They tilt the feeder and lap at the sweet juice that runs out. This of course ruins it for the hummingbirds, and I must now cook up nectar daily so I can keep my hummers. I watch the feeders all day, holler and throw rocks and potsherds at the thieves and if they are too close for that I play the Siren app, which makes them run.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I'm Warty But I'm Not a Toad

I'm a Blanchard's Cricket Frog (Acris crepitans blanchardi Harper); you can tell by the garters around my thighs. Although I'm warty and tiny (never more than 1.5 inches long), I am a frog, not a toad. Between my back toes is webbing, and my skin is more slick than dry. I am beautifully painted and camouflaged, and today I modeled for a large ungainly land animal who spent 15 minutes sitting uncomfortably on rocks at the edge of LaBarque Creek and pointing a pink thing at me.

Me and my homies sing in chorus on spring and summer nights. The warmer it is, the more we sing. When approached, we jump into the water, but our favorite place is the shore, where we eat crawling insects. What else do you want to know?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Hard Up, Are Ya?

When it got dark I heard heavy thuds and thunks on my roof. My hair stood on end. I locked the doors, hunkered down, and prepared to murder somebody.

In the morning I go outside and find a hummingbird feeder has been knocked off its hook. It's glass and fortunately hasn't broken. So I cook up new nectar, refill it and hang it.

After dark again, thud, thunk--sounding just like a man wearing heavy boots, walking on my roof. He will be sorry he did that, I vow. Just let him show his face.

Next morning one of my hummingbird feeders is missing. I look everywhere. It's bright red; it shouldn't be hard to find. But it's nowhere to be found! Those things are expensive! And the others are askew and empty! I filled them only yesterday!

In the early evening, while there's enough light to see, I'm on my porch and hear thunk, thunk, and to my surprise I see not five feet from my face the upside-down top half of a raccoon curled over my gutter, batting at and molesting one of the two remaining hummingbird feeders. So greedy it will try to steal 4:1 diluted sugar water? That's hard up! I grab the broom and chase it while saying bad words, and take the feeders into the house.

Next morning I walk to the mailbox in my pajamas and walking uphill I see a red object on my roof. It's my missing nectar feeder! Upright no less! Now to find a monitor who will watch me while I go up on a ladder and get it.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Strange Harvest

The lone pear tree on the property, planted by idealistic former tenants, every year raises not only my hopes but excites the opossums, squirrels, maggots, birds and bugs around here. Enraptured by the spring blossoms, we watch amazed as they form green pears that gain weight all summer. Then the animals get them all. Except this year they left them for me. It's a plentiful harvest, but they're all bizarre and deformed like these:

The problem could be 1) Leafroller worms chewing on the buds back in spring, creating oddly-shaped pears and bronze-colored scabbing. 2) Another kind of worm, and we had a plague of army worms in May. 3) Fruit fungus (thus the brownish-black patch on the middle pear). 4) Fukushima. A photo of a pear grown this year near Fukushima, Japan, found online, looks a lot like these.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Taken for Granted

It looked like a festival: Black swallowtails in the ironweed! Five or six elegant Papilio polyxenes  flying around, alighting, three or four on the same flower head, raising and lowering their blue-tinged wings. I ran for my camera. Of the 60 photos I took, none captured the spirit. Determined to get a photo of not just one butterfly but a bunch, I marched back to the meadow and clicked and tweaked and refocused as butterflies flew out of the frame as if teasing me, or vanished, or landed on other plants. Darn! Well, I was just going to stand there until I got my picture! I wanted that picture!

And then God said to me, "You will get that picture when I grant it."

Oh, I said, and relaxed. And took 219 pictures. Here is the one I think does it.

I guess I will get what I want when God grants it.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Redneck Culture

The mayor of our fair rural hamlet wants you to know there are absolutely no trailer parks within our city limits. He doesn't have to say--because everyone knows--that the rednecks live in Villa Ridge. Nonetheless, aspects of redneck culture (pictured) do infiltrate our daily lives of working, going home to watch Judge Judy, then sitting at the computer looking at YouTubes or whatnot, and then prayer before bed.

I was recently in Indiana for eight days and liked it, but Missouri redneck culture dissuaded me from bringing home a T-shirt that said "INDIANA" because Indiana is the home of "Hoosiers" and here, "hoosiers" doesn't mean "people from Indiana"; it's an offensive word for the lowest form of redneck culture, which you can find in Villa Ridge. It's a noun, as in "He's a hoosier," or an adjective ("The place looks kind of hoosier") or a verb ("I washed and vaccumed out the truck, so don't you hoosier it up". Supposedly it's a greeting, "Who's your Daddy," corrupted over the years; and nobody knows how it got to be a fightin' word here in Missouri.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Free Food

A shagbark hickory tree has a three-year cycle, producing lots of nuts, then some, then squat, and I didn't know that, so last year when the shade tree had squat I blamed drought, or squirrels, or myself somehow, and was a sad sack until I heard this year's nuts pinging on my roof and smacking the pump-house roof, and  beheld a whole darned treefull to harvest.

They cluster in twos and sometimes threes. I pick only those I can reach from terra firma or by standing on top of the pump house, the only time I ever do anything so foolish. Still I filled a basket.

Within the spicy-fragrant (like Old Spice shaving lotion) green husk is a small brown husk hiding the nut. The green husk dries to brown, splits, and must be removed, and then the tight-as-a-leotard inner husk must dry; by that time, it's Christmas. Needing a drying rack and loath to buy one I raided the garage and made a duplex drying rack out of a plastic organizer that just never fit anywhere in the house and a screen that no longer has a window to match.

Ultimately I will have about a pound of nuts to look forward to. Cracking my own hickory nuts at Christmas is divine.