Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Death of a Small-Town Paper

Our local newspaper covering Eureka, Pacific and somewhere else -- Gray Summit? -- came in the mailbox every two weeks bearing news of VFW suppers and church fish fries, all-you-can-eat breakfasts, Railroad Days and the bank's Customer Appreciation Day, flea markets, photos of prize-winning kids or teachers or the high-school play, and canned advice by our local Edward Jones agents. But it has died.

The paper -- The Current -- over the past year got thinner and thinner, a signal that advertisers had either deserted it or their ad people weren't aggressive enough, and a healthy newspaper must be 70 percent advertising. It used to have two plump sections, and occasionally a third special supplement. I had read every inch, sometimes laughing ("Local Photographer Almost Gets Picture Published"). I read about the new mayor at 8:30 a.m. on his first day in office firing every town employee including the city clerk who'd worked there 25 years. That's-a called drainin' the swamp. One time the mayoral candidates were Ms. Pigg and Mr. Titter. I learned that from the paper and will never forget it.

For a while the electronic Patch brought news and I called because I used to be a reporter, but their $50 per article was paltry. It takes all day and mileage to run around collecting information and interviews to put together just one news article, or learn enough about a person or business to write a feature story, and for local politics you must sit through the aldermen's meetings, etc. and can't leave, and covering politics in three towns means there are three such meetings to go to, not just one. Life is too short. The dying Current changed publishers three times, thinned and died. I will miss it. Along with bringing useful news (no disrespect intended) I used its obituary pages to peel potatoes on, at the same time reading those life summaries and how everybody was connected to everybody else and will be dearly missed.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Yes, Yes, Yes!

Which day of the year tops them all? On March 21, spring equinox: Joy! April 24 the hummingbirds return, on the dot, and I run around screaming 'cuz I just won the lottery of life? All of June, the most beautiful month? July 4, when we create loud stars in the sky like we are God? July 25, the ripest day with the richest night sky? Thanksgiving Thursday, everybody's holiday? On December 21, winter solstice -- and the days begin lengthening, oh thank you, God! There's the day the spring peepers awake and sing (depends on precipitation, and they began on February 16). Or -- the first crocuses. They aren't wild; they were planted. By us, maybe 15 years ago. Earliest recorded appearance: Feb. 6. This year: Feb. 25.

Rain ended, yesterday I trekked over the property to watch brimming waterfalls, see ferns unfolding, look at buds on trees, step ankle-deep in mud, breathe in the most delicious, cleanest, laundered spring air and whitest sunlight, cleaned up trash by the creek, checked the cabin roof bashed (whomp! whomp!!) by thick oak branches broken off by Saturday night's windstorm -- the roof is okay -- and then bent to clean storm debris from the lane and around the cabin. That done, I was about to photograph the wonders of some velvety little buds when I looked down and saw in the sunny sweet spot at the house's southwest corner, these!

They never fail! If I were a flower, I would be a crocus (from the Latin word crocatus, meaning "saffron yellow"). Crocuses are not just the promise of spring. They are the signature on the contract!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Creek is Rising

8:30 a.m., 24 Feb 2018
Dry winter has given way to about three days of rain. On Thursday it rained enough to brim the creek, LaBarque Creek. Then it rained that night. The next day I didn't look at the creek; I lolled. This morning after it rained all night (and another bout of rain approaching, according to radar) I was curious, because if the creek rises enough, it could be we're about to be cut off from the rest of civilization. The LaBarque was out of its bed and moving swiftly. I will post updates.

Cabin Fever and Catholic Fish Fries

Yesterday I abandoned the cabin because I could lie on the bed or the couch, but that was all. Not even read or watch Netflix. I could do nothing but loll. They say you can always clean, but the house is too dusty and messy to clean. Unable to do a lick of work I drove over the ridge road to the Little Ireland coffeehouse where I worked all afternoon,  enjoyably. Because it does not have music, you can hear yourself think. It has a couch, but I didn't loll on it. They already know my order: Bottomless cup of black coffee, please. But only half a cup, and when I drink that I will return to the counter for another half cup, please, and perhaps another half cup, because I like it steaming, and the coffee does cool off if work absorbs me.

Then it's past 4:30 p.m. and I want dinner. What to do? Why, St. Bridget's Church is just a block away and it has a fish fry every Friday during Lent, $10 per plate for adults. Liked it; there's retro cool in having dinner in a school gymnasium ("Go, Shamrocks!") among tables full of strangers. Please note at the right of the photo the peach pie in the plastic container.

See, it's a slippery slope into decadence, February style: cabin fever, coffeehouse, a fish fry, pie, then at home I open a bottle of pinot noir and loll myself to sleep.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

About This Winter

Only dustings of snow. Only brief intermittent frozen rains here, not enough to endanger us (downstate was a different story). It's as if (so far) winter here has hesitated to speak, out of politeness, so as not to interrupt our important activities.

Yesterday I led our "spiritual group" on the topic of raising our vibrations to attract our "perfect mate." We had fun listing the many fine qualities of the him or her just about to arrive, who is looking for someone just like us. I brought unicorn and princess valentines enough for all and wished everyone Happy Valentine's day.

Only one sprinkling of salt has been necessary on the concrete steps this winter. And. . . already the bluebirds are back, very active, and they love to have families in my bluebird box and I can hardly wait. Happy Valentine's Day. Happy day every day. Love is everywhere and spring is gaining momentum.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Show Me Steak

"Eat more protein," said the doc, and except for hot wings I think chickens are for eggs. I prefer beef or fish or lamb or pork, but especially beef and now I had license to eat more.

Because I know beef is a treat and not a staple I buy only favorite cuts and only grass-fed, for a while driving 42 miles round-trip to obtain favored cuts. So for the first time, and because it's winter, I had steaks delivered from a local source: farmergirlmeats.com, Warrenton, MO. Six in a box: 2 filets mignon, 2 strips, 2 ribeyes. Flash-frozen, they came from the farm to my house by UPS the same day. This shipping arrangement cost money but so had driving 42 miles. (There's a pick-up option if you want.) Now I have my favorites and will eat one steak per week. They're aged, too. Free-range chicken, lamb, and so on are also available.
The steaks arrived in a cooler.

I trim the thawed steak if it needs it, pat it dry, salt and pepper both sides liberally, place it in a pan that has heated to smoking a couple of drops of oil, and cook the steak 90 seconds on one side and 90 seconds on the other, then remove it to a plate, tent the plate with foil and leave it for 10 minutes to distribute heat and juices. I like it rare. Like fish, a steak is tenderest when raw, and after that it's all downhill.

From half of one ribeye I made the above-pictured steak salad. The salad is a Cooking Light recipe called Antipasto Bowl, using asparagus, olives, mozzarella pearls, and more. My lunch was as good as it looks. The secret of good food: good ingredients.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Missouri's Only Native Pine

The Short-Leaf Pine tree is Missouri's only native pine, and the map says that the eastern edge of Missouri, the Ozark foothills where the soil is rocky/sandy, sunny and dry, is about as far north as you can find them. It's a tree of the American Southeast. Here it is growing ever taller on the property's southernmost southern-facing sandstone cliff. It's rocky/sandy, sunny and dry there all right. Before European settlement and the invasive cedar trees that accompanied the settlers, Missouri was covered with Short-Leaf Pines, the conservation department says.

I like their powdery-soft look. The needles, two or three inches long, are "bundled" in twos or threes, and the bark looks scaly. Male and female cones grow on the same tree (very handy for them), although it takes a few years for the tree to produce cones. The wood is great if the tree is mature. The trees pictured must have taken root in 2002 or later, after the cliff's original face was blasted off for road widening.

While cedars, alien invaders in Missouri, require at least an inch of soil, and I know that because I chop them down and rip them up trying to preserve the property's native oak-hickory forest, the Short-Leaf Pine (pinus echinaceus) is tougher. I have no idea how these Short-Leafs cling to the foot of a St. Peters sandstone cliff and find nourishment, unless they simply like life.