Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Happy Couple

The smaller one, the male, is using his special little set of pincers to clutch his female partner for a minimum of 3 hours and up to 3 weeks to make sure he and no other male is transmitting his genes to the next generation. These two walking sticks (Diapheromera femorata) were doin' the wild thing on the garage door, and so as not to disturb them I used the other door--after I took my purely scientific nature photo. They are a favorite food of wild turkeys.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Just Another August Morning

Just another day. . .the usual hassles and b.s.. . .just another day. . .I bought $60 worth of poetry books this week, I must be crazy. . .How long can I ignore that bill they keep sending?. . .Stuff isn't finished. . .my reputation is at stake. . . just a bit more coffee, just a bit . . .I can't stand what's happening in the Middle East . . .I really need to sew fleece curtains for all the windows for the winter. . .darn, the jar in the fridge tipped over, what a mess. . .I don't know who to call next. . .everything's such a gamble. . .these chicken franks were a waste of money. . .why hasn't so-and-so been in touch?. . .get a birthday card for my sister, she's 50, it should be a special 50th-birthday card. . .I need a haircut. . .The novel needs rewriting, but it always does. . .what's blasting the air-conditioning going to cost me? . . .I should go to the gym. . .I saw some leaves falling and it scared me. . . .I forgot my sunscreen. . .it's August and I haven't camped even once. . .I want a 20-inch waist like Audrey Hepburn. . . better take a walk because by 8:30 a.m. it's fainting-hot. . .I have 19 students each needing my full attention. . .what are those yellow flowers in the field, Brown-Eyed Susans? Guess so. . . aren't they pretty? Their lives are so simple. . .

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Propane and Anti-Pane

August is the best (cheapest) time of year to fill propane tanks; and having previously spent $880 for a fill three years ago, I had saved $1000 toward this new tankful.
I hated my propane company, so I phoned the company the lady at the copy shop recommended and asked what the stuff was going for.

"One ninety-nine a gallon," said the clerk, "and one eighty-nine a gallon if you pay within five business days."

I hadn't heard a price this low in a decade. Before signing up on the website I beheld a referral program that gave the referrer a $50 credit--and, unbelievably, $50 credit for me too! So I hurried to the copy shop. "This isn't about copies," I told the lady. Together we filled out and submitted the online form; they phoned within two hours. Three days later the tank-truck driver checked my furnace, stove, and regulator, and cleaned out the squirrel's nest that has occupied the tank's cap for years, and showed me how to shut off the valve in case I had to. They'll also monitor the supply and top it off. Thank you, God, for making me smart enough to relinquish control of my propane supply.

The total for 300 gallons: Abut $570.00. I then went hog-wild and bought a new-with-tags suit on eBay for $30 and two pairs of white double-layer socks. (No, I won't wear the suit and socks together, but there's some folks who wouldn't be surprised if I did.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

It's Not Easy

I stayed up very late, trying to sip the most from summer. Finally I got into pajamas and when I looked up through my west-facing window I saw a frog in space.
Never had I seen this before. No idea how it got there, why it stayed, what it wanted, unless to become a new constellation.

Missouri tree frogs come in green and gray. This one (Hyla cinerea) is green. It's not easy. Gray tree frogs have pure white undersides. I didn't know tree frogs clung to glass. Perhaps it was attracted by its own reflection. Or maybe it wanted to watch me undress!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Idiot's Delight

On a garage-sale safari I saw dozens of woven baskets going for a dime or free. It used to be that tins, such as Christmas fruitcake tins, were the get-rid-of-clutter item one couldn’t even give away. Now it’s baskets. Saw some nice ones but did not purchase because I had one, and I’m determined to use what I have. Formerly an Easter basket—you know how baskets tend to persist in a house or garage—this is my herb-and-mushroom-gathering basket. Not very big or deep, it keeps me from harvesting more than I can use.
At first I carried the scissors in a pocket, then more safely in a fanny pack, and then in the basket itself because reaching around and unzipping the pack was cumbersome. But I lost them from the basket within a few minutes, and only their bright-pink handles allowed me to locate it in the forest floor. They're useful also for when I leave them in the planter, distracted by a swallowtail butterfly or the propane truck or some such.

Remember idiot mittens that were strung together? Well, this red ribbon is an idiot solution to lost scissors. I’d hate to lose even these cheap scissors because I want to use what I have.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Unrest in the City

I have no opinion on the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri (a St. Louis suburb 30 miles from here) because facts are so few, and the facts available seem untrustworthy, doctored, spun, denounced as false, released at odd times--it's like a bad TV show. The photos and footage are the most sensational the media can muster. Young men die at the hands of police quite often. Police too die at the hands of young men. What's unusual about this situation is how the media persist in stirring the pot -- they are in the business of creating anxiety. Anxious people buy things.

I admit to liking the clever label "Fergustan," but won't bandy it about because reason tells me it's an exaggeration and inflammatory, and cleverness is no substitute for brains and reason.

My feelings?  What good are feelings? This whole situation exists because feelings now trump facts.

A Companionable Spider

All summer I welcome daddy-long-legs into the bathroom; they arrive even without a welcome, so why not. This orange-brown one, my companion for several days now, first hung out in the plastic container I keep combs and hair products in; then it spent an evening on the sink’s edge, and leg by leg it poled away when I came in to brush my teeth. Here it’s enjoying a bath towel. It seems to like exploring the variety of bathroom surfaces and landscapes—like a European tour, except for spiders. I carefully dried my hands on this towel’s edge so it could keep its footing. It’s so companionable now that it doesn’t flee. What does it think of the giant being who enters and brightens the bathroom (a room with no windows) at intervals, steams it to a comfortable humidity, and leaves it in peace?

I hear many folks bemoaning the end of summer, but summer lasts until my summer companions are gone.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Extend Your Router's Range with Cardboard and Foil

This cheap fast DIY idea I saw online. Here's proof that it works:

Here's how:

1. Find a piece of cardboard in the right size and shape to cradle your router on 3 sides.
2. Cover the cardboard with aluminum foil.
3. Set the router down in the  foil-covered cardboard, antennae outward, of course.

The Divine Cabin receives only satellite Internet (there's no cable out here!) for two computers and the phone.The farther from the router, the worse the signal: in the living room, 3 bars and wavering, the bedroom 2 bars or 1. Now I get 4 solid bars in the living room and a solid 2 or sometimes 3 in the bedroom.

Instead of foil-covered cardboard, my other options for boosting my signal were: 1) Buy 50 feet of Cat5e or Cat6 Ethernet cable, drill and thread it through 2 log walls to attach it to the computer. 2) Buy a $70 signal booster, hard to program and slows the download by half, and might not even work. 3) Extend the current double-barreled satellite cable but accept that it might lose speed or get noisy at the splice, and I'd need to hire a geek to do it correctly.

It's not pretty, but it was made in America:

Monday, August 4, 2014

Off My Feed

I felt unwell, too tired to eat, so on the first day of the annual ethnic food fest I lay on my living-room floor looking up symptoms on my phone, diagnosing "adrenal insufficiency," and was too tired to drive to the food fest and not hungry. The second day was the festival's final day and either I went and got the food I grew up with and would normally walk ten miles for, or would have to wait until next year.
So I went, waited in line, listened to accordion music, and watched the hall full of people dine and revel. I got a plate but had no appetite, so had it packed to go and here you see it, brought home, along with an extra box of cookies and a pair of four-cheese pastries purchased to tempt myself.  Normally I'd eat everything here plus seconds. I had a few bites and put the rest away.

I've posted about being Polish, but I'm half Serbian and grew up on this food. These old-fashioned dishes can be made only from scratch and are hard to make well. Greek food comes close but is far from exact. From top right: two inch-thick golden squares of gibanitsa, a four-cheese pastry made with filo, specialty of my godmother, Hristina Spasojevic; she used to make extra pans full because I said I liked it. The swirled pastry is homemade poppy seed roll with a rich, milky dough, not a bready one. Beneath it, a collection of homemade cookies made of ground walnuts, cream cheese dough, chocolate, butter, powdered sugar, with a piece of honeyed baklava. To the left, three cabbage rolls, called sarma, stuffed with ground beef and rice; four grilled Serbian sausages, made and flavored sort of like gyros, but better, called cevapcici; and Serbian-styled potato salad (with a mild, not vinegary, vinaigrette, potatoes sliced thinly, and green onion) and coleslaw (like Italian, has garlic and no mayo and is never wet). I did not take the Serbian bread (pogacha; cognate of focaccia) or the sliced white onions that go with the sausages.

One major difference between Greek and Serbian food: Serbs didn't grow olives or use the oil; they used butter. I didn't taste olive oil until I was 23.

Now it's 9:30 and I'm going to bed. If I don't feel like eating these things tomorrow I will call the undertaker.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Keeping Down Appearances

On warm mornings I wear my pajamas to walk to the mailbox; if it's cooler I'll sling on my bathrobe. If it's night and I'm throwing a mouse's corpse into the meadow, what's the problem if I do it in my briefs and Maidenform? In winter I work outside wearing ludicrously paint-stained sweatshirts, hunter-orange stocking caps, and holey gloves. If my hiking clothes are possibly poison-ivied or full of ticks or chiggers or mud, I'll strip down on the stoop before entering the house. Can't do that in the city.

In the city I had to comb my hair and put on a bra and clean clothes that matched before I left my  apartment building, or children would point and laugh. And I amused  my fellow urban dwellers with my white T-shirts that somehow almost always turned a faint pink, broadcasting the fact that I did my own laundry and was a moron. Heck, I wasn't throwing away good T-shirts because they turned a little bit pink!

I like living here because it allows for appearance improvisation. There's no sense washing my hair if I'm cramming on a ball cap to clean the garage that day. But then if I must go to the hardware store for something, I'll pretend I don't have greasy hat hair, and  -- I don't feel judged, because most everyone looks just like me. Except middle-class moms, who put on yoga clothes in the morning and wear them everywhere, dawn to dusk, because from any one point it'd be a 15-mile trip to go home and change. See, we have our reasons.

Except on Saturday night and on Sunday. Then, if you're gonna see people, you have to clean up. Paradoxically, those are the times that city people get to be slobs.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Where the People Are

I enjoy studying the highly detailed United States Department of the Interior Geological survey 1:24,000 topographic maps of my area of rural Missouri, where towns are tiny and most of the map area is green, indicating forests--and sprinkled on the maps, often in the middle of geological noplaces, are little black squares with crosses on top, along with the name of a church. The maps do show street names, and creek and park names. But in terms of buildings, only churches and schools get their individual names on these official U.S. maps. City halls and post offices aren't named or noted: only churches and schools, as if this were 1850 or something. I asked a friend what he thought of this and he said, "Churches and schools are on maps because that's where the people are who will help you." This is Catawissa Union Protestant Church, built about 1914. Summer is the best time to photograph churches.