Monday, April 30, 2018

Elfin Saddles

Shoveling beneath some rotted wood exposed some unusual mushrooms plump as cooked macaroni and about the same size and pallor, mushrooms I'd never seen before. They had elegant saddle-shaped caps with white piping, and grew in neighborly little clumps. They are casually called "elfin saddles." It's said that bugs and millipedes can hide between the lobes for a while, freeloading.

Turns out these mushrooms belong to the Helvella family, whose saddle-shaped caps are characteristic, and specifically the ones I dug up are Helvella leucopus. Quite common, and formerly considered edible, they have since been downgraded to "suspect" or "unknown," probably because there's no one left to tell us that when eaten they have no ill effects. Interesting discovery, though.

Sunday, April 29, 2018


Whippoorwills and owls are now calling at night, and occasionally in daylight I inspect the bluebird box to make sure all is well (and that snakes and bats haven't invaded it). Removing the nest, I noticed with approval that it was lined with extra white fluff, unusual considering that bluebirds have no white feathers, and I was not expecting, at that moment, to see eggs in the nest, but I did. And was very surprised.

A bird that wasn't a bluebird, more like a chickadee, shot out from the box as I approached, and the rust-spotted ones must be her eggs; they match with other photos of chickadee eggs. Apparently the bluebird couple was evicted after producing one egg, and now their blue egg shares the nest with the other, smaller, spotted eggs. Never seen this before. Put it all back as it was. After the chickadees are hatched and raised I can clean out the box so the bluebirds will return and breed there.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Zero Gravity Chair

My old tube-framed, woven-plastic folding porch lawn chair finally gave out and I gracefully let it go, taking it to the recycling place, and then, because I spend so much time lounging on the screened porch, sought a new one and saw for sale absolutely nothing like those familiar tube-framed, woven-plastic patio chairs, as hard as I looked. So how to replace the chair I used to work in, doze in, carry to the meadow and sun myself in? That kind simply isn't sold any longer.

Instead, I saw folding "director's" chairs (don't need one) and "zero-gravity" lounge chairs, and there being nothing else, I chose the highest-starred one on Amazon, chose between burgundy and black, and in two days a box half as high as I and three times as wide appears on my porch and has to be dragged into the carpeted living room, where the item won't be scratched in case I want to return it, I'm that skeptical. With the box sliced open, I dump out and unfold a well-wrapped chair ALREADY ASSEMBLED, ready to sit in, a situation so knock-me-over-with-a-feather that in my confusion I actually looked at the instruction sheet, and from it learned how to lock the chair into position with handy little tabs beneath the armrests, and how to attach the utility tray (holding drinks, phones, and right now the tablet I took this photo with). The attached sun-shade is adjustable and folds away, over the chair back. Looks like they came on the market in 2015 and everyone was wise to them but me.

I was curious: What is so zero-gravity about it? Then I got in the chair, stretched it out, and locked it into position with the little pull tabs, and lounged. What a difference from the former chair that like those dreadful wooden "Adirondack"chairs had you seated with knees above butt level, pressuring the lower spine. I've about decided to keep this rather handsome chair as my living-room lounge chair and buy another for the porch. The white dot on the chair back is a reflection from the sun.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Homemade Lavender Bug Repellent

Maybe two years ago I bought a big bottle of lavender oil cheap, and recently looked in vain for the same product -- rumored now to be nothing but cheap oil and water with synthetic lavender smell sent over in bulk from China -- because it worked so well for me as a spray-able bug and mosquito repellent. All the new options were expensive. But I did find online that I could make my own.

One method is to drip 40 drips of lavender essential oil into 2 ounces of distilled water, adding perhaps a little vegetable oil so the spray will cling to the skin. The other is to start from zero with culinary-quality lavender buds. I had all the ingredients, and began by boiling four tablespoons of lavender buds in one cup of water for a little while, and letting it cool, keeping the pot lid on so the lavender smell doesn't dissipate.

Then I strained the buds out of the water, which to my delight and surprise had turned lavender color.

To make the liquid into a bug repellent body spray rather than a room spray, using a glass jar I added the lavender liquid to 1/2 cup of Witch Hazel (a herb-based liquid milder than rubbing alcohol, used as a skin cleaner and toner, very cheap) and 1/4 cup of liquid coconut oil. Then I lidded and shook the jar real well and poured two ounces of the result into a lavender-color-coded spray bottle. I stored that bottle and the remaining liquid in the fridge, as recommended. Can't wait to see if it works. Mother Nature here in Missouri been in hard labor trying to give birth to spring. An advantage of the unusually cold weather is that the bug population has not yet mobilized. I am prepared.

Sunday, April 15, 2018


On a stroll through the woods on this 37-degree day of howling winds, I happened upon a seasonal mushroom: a False Morel. Surprise, because my continual monitoring of soil temperature shows it still short of 50 degrees, the typical mushroom threshold. Identify the False Morel by its thick stalk and solid, "gabled" or ruffled head, in brown, red, yellow, or beige, as this one was. On March 20 I  had found a single mature Devil's Urn, a cup-like black mushroom (inedible), and usually when they pop up so do the morels, but there weren't any morels, true or false, and calendar-wise it was too early. Finding a False Morel (Gyromitra esculenta; inedible) indicates conditions are ripe for for the true morels, the ones everyone wants to eat. Despite the cold and lack of sun, this False Morel, encouraged by heavy rains, came up anyway, but again no true morels were in the vicinity. A tease.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Spring Forward

The spiritual reading today said "Strengthen your will." I said, okay, I'll try, nothing to lose, and after my in-room coffee made the bed and dressed myself at once for the 6:30 p.m. ballet class, my favorite -- because then I won't have to change later. Without much back-and-forth or cellphone reading I willfully decided -- because the dawning day was wildly beautiful, the forsythia and tree buds all popping, the blue and white hyacinths in full bloom, the air clear and fresh -- to take a walk at Glassberg Conservation Area. One mile into the walk there's a fantastic vista of the Meramec River valley. Then one mile back.

Bluebells, violets, spring beauty, the white daisy-like flowers of the bloodroot, the first dappled leaves of the trillium -- all suddenly existed. Walking was easy and puddles few because gravel was recently shoveled over some well-worn parts of the path. There's a wooden bridge and some stepping stones across a creek tributary. The sun dribbled light into the narrow stream. It was 9:00 a.m. A sleeveless shirt was perfect. In the photo I'm relaxing alongside an energetic little waterfall with clear fresh icy water. How good!

After this willful walk I willfully fixed a full breakfast and ate it on the porch in perfect weather with singing birds alongside. This breakfast was a victory -- toast and egg and all that.

I had willfully washed and dried my new cotton nightgown, a great bargain, that arrived with sleeves four inches too long. I willfully set up the ironing board -- usually it might take me five weeks to feel like doing it, but I was strengthening my will -- and secured the ruler, shears and pins to shorten the sleeves, and hemmed the sleeves with iron-on sticky tape rather than needle and thread, although needle and thread might have been quicker. Finished in an hour.

Then I went willfully to work on my work. Did okay. Then fixed a banana-yogurt-peanut butter-coffee shake for lunch. Then wanted to get lazy. Just for today, I won't be. I need a hummingbird feeder (birds arrive around April 24; males have arrived as early as the 12th). After ballet class I will go get one.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Boonville, MO

On a bus trip from Kansas City to St. Louis we (44 ladies, laughing art lovers who'd been touring museums in KC) stopped at the Love's gas station and quickshop in Boonville, where I'd never stopped before, about halfway across the state. I understand there was a Civil War battle in Boonville, and the Budweiser Clydesdales are stabled there, and there is a historic walking tour of Boonville's many attractions, but this, across the road from the Love's, is what caught my eye. The Love's was doing great business selling Wendy's burgers, Starbucks espresso in cans, and showers to those passing through, but across the road there are no more weekly specials for residents, whatever they might have bought here.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Hey Guys, Keep It Classy

Guys, when you are on a first date, these are the dumb ways you give away to your date that you watch lots of Internet p0*n. You:
  • Rate women on a numeric scale from 1 to 10.
  • Ask if we shave, and regardless of our reply tell us in detail about the amount and styling of hair you find acceptable.
  • Declare that you hate and will never, ever use condoms, that you can't use condoms, they're really uncomfortable, etc.
  • Have only one erogenous zone, and believe that women have only two.
  • Never read books or magazines (We know that is because you spend all your leisure time watching Internet p0*n.).
  • Complain that your PC runs really, really slowly (We know that's because your PC is full of malware and viruses from Internet p0*n sites.).
  • Declare, and illustrate with finger-in-mouth gesture, that romantic comedies make you sick.
  • Openly and shamelessly tell us, "I'm a single guy, so I watch p0*n, okay?" (If we watched p0*n to get our ya-yas, we would have class enough to keep it a deep dark secret, especially on a first date.)
  • Ask if we squirt.
  • Proudly announce that you do not own a suit. (We know that's because instead of going to weddings and funerals you stay home and watch Internet p0*n.)
  • You took guitar or sitar lessons for a while, but not any more (because all your time is taken up).
  • Ask when we were last tested for STDs. If we ask you, your answer is always "I know I'm all right."