Monday, March 30, 2015

First Picnic of the Year

Humble meal: leftover cabbage curry with yogurt; mandarin orange; bottled water. Awful if I would have had to eat it in the car, but  this checkered weather (one day gray, next day brilliant; typical March) delivered today a wonderful sun-filled 70-degree experience, and into the city park I went, the only picnicker around, and enjoyed my lunch and looked forward to all the picnics of 2015. Okay, I admit I was looking for mushrooms too.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Daffodil, Narcissus, or Jonquil?

At dawn
At dawn I cut daffodils from my snowy meadow and brought them indoors to save them from frostbite, and they rewarded me by filling the room with their sweet scent. What a strange name, “daffodils.” I looked it up.

Native to Spain and North Africa, their name comes from “asphodel,” a legendary flower said to grow in the Elysian Fields—an ancient Greek afterlife of flowery meadows. The“d” in front might come from “de” in Dutch or Saxon. De+asphodel morphed into “daffodil.” Language will do that.

At noon
They’re also called “narcissi” because a young man, Narcissus (a name related to “narcotic”), spent 24/7 by a pond admiring his own reflection. He wasted away, died there, and was changed by the gods into a flower. These, all-yellow with big coronas, are Narcissus hispanicus. Enough Polish vodka and squinting and the blooms do kind of resemble those male models in the magazine ads wearing nothing but tighty-whiteys.

Also on the property are smaller Narcissus poeticus, their short trumpets hemmed in orange; and Narcissus pseudonarcissus (wild daffodil) its bright-yellow trumpet backed by pale-yellow petals.

Some call these flowers jonquils. That name comes from, and I quote, “modern Latin jonquilla or French jonquille, from Spanish junquillo, diminutive of junco, from Latin juncus ‘rush, reed.’”

I’ll have to return outside and identify all the types of narcissus—their generic name—faithfully growing here each spring. The bulbs are poisonous, so moles, voles and squirrels don’t eat them and deer don’t eat the flowers. A daffodil-bulb extract called galantamine is used to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Daylight Savings Time

People who won't follow Daylight Savings Time are called "Daylight Savings Time Deniers." I happen to love Daylight Savings Time which lends to the day sweet lavender twilight and spring peepers at just the right hour, about 7 p.m., after supper, when the kitchen is clean but there's a thought forming -- in the shape of a red bell pepper on the counter -- as to the meals of tomorrow.

In 14 years here, 15,330 meals could have been prepared on this counter (this is ALL of my counter space), but I had  many meals at work, at Super Smokers barbecue, and mozzarella sticks eaten while hiking or sitting in the car in traffic, so probably I've prepared in this kitchen only about 10,000 meals, for myself and all sorts of guests ranging from baby birds to distinguished authors. I wish I'd kept a guest book over the years of the fascinating people I've hosted.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spring in a River Town

Circumstances had me staying (alone, but not unhappy) at a B&B in far southern Illinois, in Elizabethtown, on the Ohio River, facing Kentucky. The B&B's address is Front Street and Main. Because of melted snow and rain, E-Town's Front Street was entirely underwater, just feet from my window. Above is a view of Front Street, and the photo below is the corner of Front & Main, and the yard and fence of the very nice B&B.

Sad to say, little E-Town is broken-down and boarded up except for 2 B&Bs, two bars, a liquor store (where I bought a bottle of Jim Beam, it was that depressing), and one gas station doubling as the town cafe. Another restaurant -- on a boat, anchored in the river right off Main Street, the E-Town Restaurant, is famed for its fried catfish and I'd looked forward to crossing there on the walkway and eating some. In the top photo you can see where the floating restaurant had been (on the left) and in the far right upper corner, between the trees, you can see it, with the blue roof, tied to some trees. The rushing waters broke the lines that held the restaurant in place and men went out on boats and caught it before it floated any farther down toward Cairo, Illinois, where it meets the Mississippi.
I hadn't seen the Ohio River since leaving Ohio (after a brief residency) in 1980. Odd to see it again when I never expected to. Understood more completely when I saw E-Town how people get annoyed with the way things are.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Spring Thaw on the LaBarque

Thaws and about three inches of rain raised the level of LaBarque Creek and made it swirl as it rounds the bend on our property. The spring peepers began singing six days ago. I am awaiting the emergence of mayapples as a sign that the soil is warming.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

I Got Me New Tars

I bought 4 new tires and I could just cry -- not because of their price, because $97 per tire is not outrageous for these good ones, Bridgestones -- but for how long I rode around on tires so crummy they changed my whole way of driving. It so happened that I thought my mechanics were rotating my tires at every oil change when they weren't, and the mechanic one day said when did you last rotate your tires, and I said, I thought you were doing that (never assume) and he said, come on out to the bay and see the uneven wear on your tires.

I thought, oh, no. He showed me the tire treads and seemed very serious. Does this mean I need new tires? I asked. If you rotate them can I still use them?

He said yes, but you should really get new ones.

Will these kill me? I asked.

No, they won't kill ya. But at high speeds you will feel a vibration.

So without ready money to buy a whole new set* (I'd just paid mucho dinaro to remove from the car a 10-inch dent that went down to the metal) I drove around for six or seven months on the unevenly worn tires, becoming more cautious, creeping across ice and praying, skidding when I braked in rain and in 1/16th of an inch of snow, hydroplaning on the freeway (the weirdest, sickest feeling), and just the other week the car, using momentum, skidded despite my braking out of the lane and right into Highway F where anybody could have been coming.

After fishtailing last week, almost hitting some railings, I told myself: Either you pay $500 deductible for repairs after smashing your car, or you pay $500 for new tires. Which will it be?

Very fortunately I had overpaid quarterly taxes and got a refund. I said to myself: What will you do with this refund? Will you be stupid and buy earrings? (I love earrings; have 4 piercings in each earlobe.)  Well, to pacify my inner Zsa Zsa I bought $40 worth of cheap earrings and earring parts for repair. Then I manned up and bought new tires.

Oh -- how different! I'd been driving fearfully, distrustfully, braking before I had to, taking it very slow around curves, fearing gravel, sand, and salt on the winter roads, worried about driving in rain. True, those tires did not kill me, but I am so relieved they are gone.

*the last time I bought new tires was at the Auto Tire. They put three 16-inch tires on my car and one 15-inch. I thought my one wheel well looked odd, but I didn't know from Adam or how to read tires. Besides, I trusted the professionals. About four months later a man noticed, circled the car and told me. That setup might have killed me. Better believe I bought these new "tars" elsewhere where there's free lifetime tire rotation. It's where the rubber meets the road.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Happiest Day of the Year

Here it is -- the day I await all winter: the first crocus in the lawn, plus a bud for lagniappe. Joy; all doubts fade; all things are possible. The whole world looks beautiful now that it's reframed as spring. No wonder the ancient New Year came in March. I tore the plastic from the front window so I can see the east again, where the sun and the moon rise. It tore some of the paint from the house. I'll patch it up later.

Friday, March 6, 2015


Lucky we are to have a man who snowplows our lane, but years of plowing have now entirely scraped the gravel from its unpaved portion -- several hundred yards -- leaving wet clay like mud-colored paint in winter and whenever it rains. No one can leave or enter house or car without splashing mud on pant legs and bootsoles and tracking it all over Creation. Here you see what happens to a just-washed vehicle (fortunately, with four-wheel drive) and how deer and turkey tracks get memorialized. Our lane got a fresh load of gravel about six years ago, and this will be the third year I've been asking the landlord for fresh gravel. It's not a DIY project. Am sending the landlord these photos because polite requests have been ignored. Yes, it could be worse, and it probably will be. Just thank me for sharing, and stock fresh pairs of shoes, socks, and pants for me if you intend to ask me in.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Seasonal Fuzziness

Warm until February; snow and sleet in March: "Seasonal fuzziness" is what it's called by a Missouri Department of Conservation representative whom I heard speak about climate change (he said that he would not say "global warming" because that phrase was too  politicized). He said weather is drifting away from the calendar and our expectations because of man-made climate change. Yes, the weather is more and more confused; it's not a collective hallucination. Numerous outdoor events scheduled for March, when I'm often rhapsodizing about crocuses, have been snowed out, including a Mardi Gras dog parade ("Mardi Growl" -- everyone goes) in Eureka, and my planned jaunt to the back roads of  southern Illinois, inaccessible after a 7-inch snowfall. They rescheduled those events for April. Tonight it will be 0 degrees. This Saturday it'll be 52 degrees. LaBarque Creek (left), always pretty, looking like a poem, freezes and heats like a fever line.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Survivor

I admit trying to kill this red-cedar tree for the sake of the native oaks and hickories the invasive red cedars are displacing. Baby cedar trees plant themselves mere inches in front of baby oaks, choking off  their sunlight and selfishly drinking all the water. In spring I chop down or uproot any young cedars endangering the oaks.If they're too big to chop, I might strip some or all branches so at least they won't block sunlight from the other trees that deserve to live here.

I learned from red cedars that everything in nature wants the best for itself and will do all in its power to survive.

Don't recall exactly when and what I did to this tree, but it outsmarted me. It looks very happy and blithe. As you see, there are still plenty of grown red cedars around for them that likes 'em.