Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The New Firebowl

New firebowl
The firebowl I dug and built, obscured with brush and fallen wood, was a disheartening sight because I love a nice fire for myself and guests; it's just fun to watch and poke at while enjoying adult beverages. Unable to clean it up--and I wanted it moved a couple of feet over--without a chainsaw, I hired Patrick to do it, and not only did he dig and build a handsome new bowl out of stone I'd thrown behind the garage, but chopped and stacked all the fallen and mostly rotted wood, and I will burn some as soon as it stops raining and the wind dies down and I rake for quite a radius beyond the firebowl because there's fallen oak leaves an inch thick from autumn. I don't want to catch a spark.

The property could actually use a controlled burn to eliminate briars and brushy understory, but that won't happen. Meanwhile I'd cogitated on the fact that I'll probably be home more often during this administration and entertain more people, and the firebowl is a fine enhancement as well as potentially useful.
Old firebowl

Here are "after" and "before" pictures, with the "after" picture first, because if I put the "before" first nobody would know what it was. The old firebowl was encircled partly with sawn hunks of wood and partly with concrete and stone. Patrick, camera-shy, would not pose with his handiwork.
New firebowl with woodpile

Monday, February 27, 2017

Need Some Green?

Buds on trees are only tiny fists yet, and the grass isn't green, but the moss and ferns are. Just to provide us the relief of seeing some greenery. Fiddleheads that grow next to the double waterfall are about two weeks away.

Hawks are pairing; hawks hunt together only when they're choosing mates. Last night in the pink twilight two bats flew overhead and I was so pleased to see them. As I walked to the creek today to hunt fossils I heard a turkey squawking, and it didn't up and flap away as I approached, so it was probably in the process of finding a mate or mating. Turkeys visit my yard but they like to live farther up the lane, near my neighbor, because her house backs onto the woods while mine backs onto a steep cliff like this one.

I'm just going out now to chop tall dry weeds obscuring my view of the bluebird house. A few days ago I cleaned it out because they'll be nesting any day now.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Tomatoes in February

Six days in the downtown of a big city, and I began longing not only for Missouri but for what I realized was my very high-grade diet instead of oil-drenched, over-salted, very tasty, expensive and calorific restaurant food (I rarely dine out) that was turning my blood to peanut butter. Baltimore's famous crab cakes are crabmeat welded with mayonnaise and fried. I've enjoyed them in the past but choked even thinking of them. The breakfast buffet had eggs fried every way but none boiled. The buffet was $20 so I felt it was okay to ask for one. Still wanting normal food, without exercising (having no energy!), I unlocked the hotel's exercise room and swiped an apple from its fruit basket, getting away with this for two days before someone removed the basket.

The plane landed back in St. Louis at 9 p.m. and I, waistband now too tight, prayed to get to the grocery store before closing for fresh produce: tangerines, apples, bananas, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, escarole, yogurt, almond milk and tofu--grateful I live where I could buy all these in one place for the price of one restaurant meal in Baltimore and more grateful I can pay. After spending that much money on six days of restaurants I will never again skinflint myself and be alarmed by $35 a week on groceries for home consumption. Heirloom tomatoes were $3.99 a lb but I had been dreaming of a perfect tomato sandwich, technically available only in July and August unless I store-bought heirloom tomatoes. Besides, they were pretty. Home at last, I didn't allow myself to sleep until I'd set up a whole-wheat bread, carrot salad, and a pot of escarole soup. The next morning the bread was ready and was made into said tomato sandwich with onion. OMG, I was so happy to be home.

Friday, February 24, 2017

What's Under There? This.

The Divine Cabin sits atop a bluff and from the road people can see, in winter and spring, what looks dramatically like a cave at the bluff's base. They actually park on the shoulder and walk on down there. It's so familiar I barely notice it, but I explored today so you can visit. In the above photo you can see in the left bottom corner my two three-foot hiking sticks, for scale, so the opening is about 30 feet.

The "cave" goes back about 20 feet, and although you can walk in you must stoop and then crawl and then meet a solid wall without portals, so it's not a cave but merely sandstone rock that is vulnerable at that layer to weathering. There's daylight enough inside for photographs. Because it's a sandstone bluff its flooring is sand with fallen chunks of solid sandstone (this presents danger and is why it's off limits), and animal tracks, mostly opossum. I found a bone about 10 inches long. What is a cave without a bone? The bone also had teeth marks (see the close-up photo). Before the flood of '15, a fox den was nearby--but beneath the bluff is not a good animal hideout because there's only one way out, and for the climbers, nothing to climb. Claws can't climb sandstone.

The bluffs were cut by LaBarque Creek when it was ancient and higher. The LaBarque is now about 40 yards to the west, beyond those trees. A fox's den will always be near water. The bluffs are wet and green year-round and they used to form a swampy pond ("the secret pond") at their base, full of frogs in spring and summer, so many they climbed the cliff and up the side of my house and stuck on the bedroom window. The flood of '15 thickly covered the creek's silty margins with sand and evened it out so there's very little pond area. A two-minute video I made way back when, in 2011, preserves it.

What you see from the road
Nearby I found a damp log with a few fresh oyster mushrooms that were in the pan 20 minutes later.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Seduced by Pink Light

These warm and cloudy days create a world of pink light between 5:15 and 6:15 p.m. "Pink light" is a woo-woo thing you imagine when you want to send people long-distance love and protection. Always enraptured and outdoors to see it, I was seduced into thinking about spring and summer. Before I knew it, I was:
  1. finding the gardening gloves and the trowel.
  2. raking and weeding, and saying hello to worms.
  3. fertilizing and then paving a small area with old shingles to smother the grass and weeds to prepare the earth for planting.
  4. at Lowe's buying seeds (hard to find!) for collards and turnips, two hardy vegetables that my bunnies and deer won't eat. And buying a garden hose.
  5. contemplating the Totally Tomatoes catalog and circling about 20 different tomatoes I want to grow, to be narrowed down to two with three plants each. (Totally Tomatoes sells both seeds and plants.)
This is either patently insane behavior or it's human. Thanks to the wildlife, of the tomatoes borne on these plants I will probably actually get to eat only one or two. I'm not a gardener. I'm kind of a make-believe gardener. That is okay. It's the journey, not the destination. . .

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Inauguration Store

Happened to be in the Baltimore airport where an Inauguration Store (remember, it's not far from D.C.) sold clothing with slogans including this sweatshirt ($27.99) at 50 percent off. I pitied the sweatshirt. I could have bought a pink tee that said, "I Suffered for Eight Years of Obama, Now You Can Suffer Eight Years of Trump" but resisted the temptation, even at 50 percent off. I don't have the nerve to wear it sarcastically. I believe America will be great again, because all around me are people stunned into political activity.

I went to a conference where I missed and longed for my quiet stone porch and the signs of spring. The ocean was right outside the door. No interest. Thinking only of spring in Missouri.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Pantry and Its Discontents

Always wanted one and can't believe I haven't shown it to you in all these years: the pantry. It's a miserable little closet vacuumed out now and then, scrubbed and dusted I think only once in 15 years and I made somebody else do it, and only items in glass, armor-like plastic, or metal are shelved there because paper towels and napkins, and even newspaper used as shelf liners got shredded into mouse nests. (Never, ever say to me, "Poor little mousie.") There's also some extra flour in big tough plastic 5-gallon jugs that used to hold Demetrius's protein powder, but I bet you are looking at my liquor shelf.

In early 2012 I drank my first martini in Florida sitting at a bar packed with people age 80 and older at happy hour, and I told the lady next to me it was my first martini and she yelled, "Hey, it's her first martini!" and everybody hooted and hollered and toasted me like it was 1929, and I was so thrilled with how drunk I got that when I returned to Missourah I threw a martini party. I taped some martini recipes down on the table, bought an aluminum shaker and went to a liquor superstore, my first, to hunt all the ingredients--I'd heard of vermouth but didn't know exactly what it was, nor "simple syrup" either--got olives, lemons, tons of ice and had the party, and haven't made myself a martini since.

Then I bought some Missourah bourbon after I got a free sample that really sent my head to Mars. I read about how fun it was to drink bourbon with a boyfriend but my boyfriend at the time did not drink hard stuff and to this day I have the two bourbon-type glasses I stole from his kitchen thinking how romantic it would be to drink bourbon with him, and haven't had another drop. I also keep a half-bottle of Johnny Walker Red somebody gave me to take home after a party, Sobieski Polish vodka, Ketel One for the vodka martinis I never make, some flavored vodkas (because I drank them in Poland; lemon vodka in my freezer; a whole bottle of Polish caramel vodka I bought in Chicago; what was I thinking?), Serbian slivovitz (plum brandy; equivalent of moonshine; I am the only one of my friends able to drink it) and J&B, my favorite scotch because of how it takes the edge off and makes me hear violins, and I keep saying "tomorrow I'll have a drink and watch a movie," but I never do have that drink because I don't sleep well after evening drinks and tomorrow, always, I have to get up early, exercise, work and so on. And I drink best with others.

What are the all the beans and tomatoes for? Emergencies. Also have stuff in there I don't know what to do with, like a jar of red Russian caviar. Maybe I'll open it and see what happens.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Northward Migration

Lady Flicker, Wikimedia Commons
Yellow-Shafted Flickers stop here for suet in late January and early February, flying from southern Texas and northern Mexico to their summer breeding grounds in Canada. I watch them compete with the lordly Pileated Woodpecker for the same suet cake. The much larger Pileated who lives here year-round flaps his wings and waves them away, but the flickers are clever, and they simply wait beneath the suet cage for pieces that fly down to the leaf carpet while the bigger bird drills and gobbles his share. The Flicker is the only woodpecker who will eat from the ground.

Yellow-Shafted are the easterners, and Red-Shafted are the
westerners. They are in my view the most elegantly clothed of all the migrating birds. Wish they lived here all year round. The goldfinches at the seed feeder are still their winter olive green but now with a mention of yellow. The smaller picture shows a little Downy Woodpecker, in a flutter of striped wings, boldly trying to nip the suet while the male Pileated clings to the suet cage with his big crusty feet, and I decided after trying hard and getting no decent photos that this is the year (after 15 years) to set up a bird camera with remote shutter control to capture not only their individual beauty but their interactions.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Alternative Facts

Planted the amaryllis my neighbor gave me for Christmas, using nice potting soil to encourage it. And the bulb sat with its one yellow shoot pointing up, forever, for a month. Not growing or greening. The shoot's tip was dry and brown so I figured I killed it, or a mouse gnawed it, or it was a dud--the rare, one-in-every-10,000 dud amaryllis bulb (I am so centrally important to the universe that rare things happen to me).

The only direct sunlight in winter is in the morning, in the guest room/office, and I tried giving it light. At first I thought I was imagining it, but the yellow blade turned spring-green and grew. Temperatures rose into the 50s outside (global warming is a Chinese rumor to trick the United States out of manufacturing) and I sat it on the porch in a sunny spot on warm days and a blossom end formed and swelled into a pod. Up against a light you can see a shadow developing inside. This morning one side of the pod was split open about an inch. I peeked, trying to see what color bloom it has in there, but I'll have to wait.

P.S. Recently it was my birthday. Several people thought to give me crayons, coloring books, and toys. ("Divine is so lonely or crazy she needs these to fill her time.") Actually I see more people than ever and am working on the greatest project of my life, and so are you, and the amaryllis is an object lesson.