| Seen From The Road
Ellie S. Thomas
If you're an outdoor person, and you're avid for nature, then it's hard to beat living in the country. We didn't exactly live in the country because our home was on a busy highway and when we were advised to walk for our health's sake, we felt it wouldn't be beneficial to walk along that particular route where our lives would be endangered by speeding vehicles and we'd be breathing noxious fumes. It so happened that there were other, more remote roads, all over the place and we took advantage of their isolation whenever we were able to for our constitutionals. Little did we realize how attached we'd become to these forays, the secret vistas, the wild, (and domestic,) life found along their reaches, and all the other things that make life meaningful for people such as ourselves.
To add to our pleasure, the little house we lived in was set close to a small copse of woods from which emerged rabbits, muskrats, various woodpeckers and songbirds, and other gifts from Mother Nature. The woods were laced with a network of grapevines and Virginia creeper and had many fruitful things that attracted wildlife naturally. Voyeurs such as we were delighted in this setting, and every day was a thrill of fresh surprises. I hope I can share some of them with you as we walk through our journal of country life.
Thou are the sun! In thine orbit thou hast the power to make the year and the seasons; to bid the fruits of the earth grow and increase, the winds arise and fall; thou canst in due measure cherish with thy warmth the frames of old men; go make thy orbit, and thus minister unto all from the greatest to the least!
The calender says it is spring but it was minus 6º overnight and the temperature only rose to a stingy +2º by 8 a.m. The sun was bright and pretty but it didn't last long. We spent the afternoon in Hannawa Falls and were very sorry when we took the Norwood Pond road to get there. There are huge cavities in the highway between Norwood and Potsdam big enough to burst a tire or knock a car out of alignment. The highways are mostly bare and the snow is pulling back from the sides. There were a few farm animals out in the near pastures and I saw a horse lying down in the snow. It made my bones ache to look at the poor thing. There was little bird activity, mostly crows and they filled the treetops, fifty to seventy-five at a time. It was dusky and gloomy by 6 p.m. The dampness gave me a sinus headache. It is 22º and we are supposed to get up to two inches of snow before morning.
One thing this weather is extremely good for is reading and I snuggle down on my bed with a good book. I've just finished Hal Borlund's Sundial of the Seasons, an oldie but a good one. A country boy, he knew and relished the country way of life. By morning the predicted snowfall hadn't materialized and we awakened to banging and booming as the house settled and icicles broke free and rattled down the roof. It was about 8º at 8 a.m. and still; the sun was breaking free of the treetops and a squirrel was stuffing himself at the feeder.
We spent the day reading, writing and doing arithmetic, (working over bills and budget,) until the sun began its slow descent and the puddles glazed over with long fingers of ice. It was a pretty day, if not overly warm; 27º at 6 p.m.; a heartening improvement. The lengthening daylight sent us to check the windows regularly to see if we were missing anything. This time of year, there seems to be something new each time we look outside and life seems unbearably exciting.
One of the reasons we love this old house is because it's in the quietest of neighborhoods. We do have neighbors, the closest I'd guess to be about 500 feet away from our line, but almost everyone is gone from their home (except ourselves,) on a day-to-day basis. There are only a few older children and they are in school most of the time, and there are few pets around. It is a great place for a writer to live. No one bothers me, as a rule; my biggest enemy is the telephone and my answering machine allows me to hide from that if I wish to.
After breakfast, we decided not to waste the beautiful morning because the sun seemed undecided whether to stay with us or not so we drove fifty miles to the south where the roads were bare and the snowbanks almost entirely gone from the roadside. There was an even layer of snow, possibly 2-3 inches on the fields. The spreading sheets of water were still iced over but the rivers were opening up.
We got out and walked and huge flocks of red-winged blackbirds patrolled the roadsides. Now and again, there were brief snowsqualls and then the sun emerged brighter than ever. The temperature finally rose into the mid-thirties and it was quite pleasant. The sap is beginning to rise and men were tapping the trees here and there.
We stopped in Duane where I interviewed a young chainsaw carver and took a good selection of slides of his sculptures. He was most agreeable and happy to work with me, allowing me to show his craft work from start to finish. When the pictures return and I see what I have, I will query several periodicals about him.
We are recovering from a nasty sort of virus and the severe coughing has disturbed my rest for almost three weeks. I can see why people so often died of illnesses in days before antibiotics, and flu shots, and other medical interventions. My weakened condition brought me home, wearied and ready for my bed but next morning, the outlook was grand with brilliant sunshine and I awakened raring to go! The yard was riddled with an assortment of tracks and the one like a trailing vine was back; the little muskrat must have survived the winter!
By afternoon, we'd lost the blinding sunlight and the clouds were rolling in; more rain, no doubt. We should lose more snow if it does. There are already widening patches of bare ground showing along the highways; however, the creek at the wetlands is still closed. I guess I didn't explain that we have found the most portentuous expanse of wetlands when we have walked down the secondary road near our home. I expect to see all sorts of wonderful things once it opens up. Neighbors tell us in an off-hand manner, that it is usually busy with all sorts of wildlife. Don't they care?
The muskrat is visiting us again; I bet he got frozen out. That's what happens in the early days of the season when channels open and the rats emerge to feed. If they prolong their activities unduly and the temperature drops and the waters close, they can't get back to their dens and many are found frozen on top of the ice. This one was pulling roots in front of the garage in late afternoon and slopping through the mudpuddles like a pre-schooler. He will have little to eat until the snow goes and the waterway opens.
I am dipping into yet another of Edwin Way Teale's wonderful books. I've probably read them all by now and I was devastated when I read of his death some time ago. I guess the one I liked best was A Naturalist Buys An Old Farm because it was reminescent of us with this old place, planting our flowers, enjoying our walks, renovating, etc.
Well, it couldn't last and today is overcast and its almost certain to rain but 'if winter comes, can spring be far behind?' Our 'Thing 5' had tiger lilies up at least two inches high along the foundations of her house at least two weeks ago! Now, the eaves are dripping but the wind is beginning to rise. There is a storm advisory out for tomorrow- 6" of snow on the way.
The Canada geese are beginning to select their 'spots' in the fields along the east of the wetlands and the gander is poised beside his mate as she huddles on the ground. He will stand beside her, protecting her as she lays her eggs and incubates them. Aldo Leopold says geese are monogamous and if one dies, its mate will mourn pitifully. These mated pairs present a pretty domestic scene. They are huddled in the meadow owned by a small time farmer who still operates his farm 'the way Dad used to do it.'
I received my published copy of The 50c Horse yesterday. Sure hope some children will get to see it and enjoy it. I had asked the librarian to take a subscription to the magazine in lieu of the books I'd won as most prolific reader for the year, then I heard the magazine had gone under.
There is a wind chill factor of 20 today. The winds seem to come from all directions at once so there is no backing into them as we walk. The sun is nice but there will be little melting, I'm afraid. It rained last night and was foggy, a storm system is supposed to move in by midday and there are flood warnings out in many areas.
The woods behind and to the east of our house are filled with birdsong; finches, I'd guess by the high sweet twittering. The creek is opening and a spate of water is rushing through- and by suppertime, the storm had yet to materialize.
I am torn between making these notes or taking my camera to the window to snap the birds as they feed. The nuthatch grows bolder every day. I never thought they would come to a feeder, assuming they were strictly arboreal critters, but this one comes and picks. Then he retreats to the roof of the garage and sits with his upcurving nose in the air. He'd better be careful, he is ursurping the pigeon's favorite spot. They are eating the grit off our asphalt shingles!
My spouse walks back and forth, back and forth, yawning and sighing. Perhaps we need to hibernate because the short, dark days make us sleepy...when we aren't napping, we are eating. Perhaps we have the sad syndrome? (An insufficiency of direct light?)
Luckily, the predicted high winds and six inches of snow did not materialize but there has been widespread flooding. We were fortunate as most of it occurred to the south. It was 26º at 7:30 a.m., winds 11 mph. By afternoon, it was in the low-30s with intermittent snow.
A red squirrel broke through into our basement the other day and made such a banging and smashing that he sounded like a crew of drunken roustabouts down there. I left the doors opened and he left- gracias a Deo. Beatrix Potter loved squirrels and I have read that Benjamin Franklin took a captive squirrel to one of her friends when he visited England. They didn't have any over there, the people had eaten most of them during a period of famine and disease had killed the rest. After Beatrix saw Franklin's gift to her friend, supposedly it gave her the idea for Squirrel Nutkins.
The 'popples' outside my window are swelling and growing leafbuds and crowds of gulls are flying over, uttering their despairing cries. I have just finished Loren Eiseley's The Night Country. His description of the Brownian movement made me think of the optical illusions I had this winter when I was driving into a blowing snowstorm. That made me dizzy.
The early morning sun streamed through the windows in a deceiving manner and I was tempted to think it was a beautiful spring day but the 23mph winds soon nipped that idea. The wind chill factor made it feel more like zero- the thermometer says 25º. I knew I'd not be able to walk because although I can bundle up so that my body is comfortable, I can do little to keep my face warm. If the wind hits me in the face, my teeth and ears ache. Ski masks are undesirable for various reasons; perhaps I should invest in one of those plastic bubbles that snowmobilers use.
Mother's birthday will be day after tomorrow. I want to do an article about her life which has spanned horse and buggy days and goes on to incorporate modern electronic gadgets, the jet Concorde, landings on the moon, etc. It seems worthy of comment that a person can weather all these changes and remain sane in the bewildering days of today.
I finally got my check from the story of the toyhorse. I do hope somebody enjoyed it. Also received my copies of the magazine with the story about a local girl who is a world champion black powder shooter. She is young to be so expert.
The puddles are still frozen over this morning with long splinters of ice despite the warm sunshine; however, the 'popples' are actually opening out with miniature leaves.
The birds still come to inspect the feeders ignoring the widening patches of bare ground with its old seeds, bits of hay and straw, etc. E- put out a fresh piece of suet and an old dry chunk fell to the ground. Within five minutes there were three big, black crows pecking at it. Where did they come from? There wasn't a one in sight when he made the changes. How do they know? And so fast! Later, E- returned from his walk carrying pussywillows. In The Star Thrower, Loren Eiseley says that the first flowers were designed not to need pollinators, which was a good idea since there were none around. They were pollinated by the wind, instead.
I sent Insights a picture and brief summary regarding our young champion, and they are going to use it in one of the next few issues. That will be good; I enjoy writing something that I know will give somebody pleasure and her family will enjoy this.
Tomorrow is mother's birthday. She is a bent little figure, cruelly stooped from rheumatoid arthritis plus ninety four years of living. Watching her valiant attempts to keep going makes me realize how much time I spend bargaining with God to let her have just one more birthday, just one more Christmas, one more year. Who am I fooling, is it for her or for myself? Anything to put off what I cannot face. I may be selfish and she may be more prepared than I think.
As I grow older, I can see that the elderly who have lost all friends and family may be 'ready' to go. Life must be sad when there is no one left who remembers you in your youth. Children and young friends are wonderful but they have only seen us as old people; surely a tiresome thing, for both.
We drove 54 miles south into the mountains for the 'big party.' The sun came out and it was pretty but very muddy in the country. The geese were milling about overhead and the red wings whistled inviting songs in the marshes. The trees are really showing growth these days-
The afternoon reached the high 40s with little wind. Rivers are running high although the slower ones have yet to open up. Snow is forecast for tonight and tomorrow. It hit 46º by 6 p.m.
I wanted to work on these notes today but sometimes, it just doesn't work out. It seems that on the days when I have the deepest impulses to write, there is always some domestic, or family thing that must be done first. I find myself doing so many things that I do not particularly want to do that by the time I can begin to write, I'm just too tired, or the inspiration is gone.
Today is a happy day, though. It is mother's birthday and truly deserving of celebration. She is a nonogenarian and then some, still able to live alone and take care of herself. Her mind is keen and she is still physically quite active. Now, that is old age as it should be but seldom is.
We got our first April Fool's joke this morning as the ground was white again. It was 32º at 8 a.m., winds 3 mph and drearily overcast. No birds were heard or seen and a mild flurry of sugar snow fell, disappeared, and fell again. It is a good day for baking and I just may- the little ones are having a great time playing 'April Fool's' jokes on us and we comply, playing ignorant.
By late morning, the ground under the feeder was host to several American tree sparrows, pretty little birds, their wings and back colorful mosiacs of cinnamon, white, and bits of black and rust. Out on the lawn, there's a crow dragging one wing. We watch to see how well he copes with this injury. As we watch, something upsets him and he jumps about a foot in the air but can get no farther.
Shortly after lunch, I glanced out the window just as a large bird skimmed over the back lawn and perched in a tree beside the highway. It looked like a sharp-shinned hawk but it didn't remain in place long enough for me to be certain. I spotted it again in the orchard in late afternoon. It had a buff breast so it might be an immature red-shouldered hawk. It sat in the rain, craning its head from side to side looking for food. I once had a small birdfeeder that attached to the window glass with suction cups and the kestrels would swoop and try to pick the little finches right off the perches! You got the feeling they were going to come straight through the glass.
I am reading Mary Taylor Simeti's On Persephone's Island and it makes me anxious to get out soon and start planting herbs, I do enjoy them so- She adds to the interest by explaining the mythological background of many of them, how they related to certain gods and goddesses, and what they are supposed to do for us, their uses, in other words.
The eaves dripped and the temperature shot up to 20º. The wind was quiet but the puddles were still covered with a fragile layer of ice. I guess the gardening will have to wait for awhile.
They have been reading some of my work on the radio. I shouldn't even have known about it had friends not called to remark on it. And Workbench is going to use my article on F.M.; they will get measurements from him and build a facsimile of his project in their shop and photograph the unit there.
He was a joy to interview. His inventor's mind was still very sharp despite insuperable disabilities and age. He was into just about everything. As we talked, his eyes twinkled and his deep chuckle rang out time and again. He was just a love of a man. He showed me several of his innovations and demonstrated how he'd surmounted his handicaps to work on them and I knew he would make an excellent subject for magazines dealing with disabilities. A person such as he is surely an inspiration to others.
I must wind this up for this morning as I am being treated to lunch. That is supposed to be the final accolade, when someone kind offers to take me out. Little do they realize that it is sometimes a sacrifice on my part, especially when I am hot to write.
Downstreet, the Grasse River is still iced over. At 10:00 we left Malone and drove to Ellenburg where it was snowing lightly. At Rouses Point, we'd clocked 51 miles and it was another 46 miles to Burlington, Vermont, from the causeway where I photographed a prize lake trout held up by one of the ice fishermen. The fields lay under a carpet of dirty snow with open patches of sere ground looking like dingy scatter rugs. Cattle stood, or lay dejectedly, their flanks caked with mud and manure.
The bays and inlets of Lake Champlain were studded with ice shacks and fishermen braved the piercing winds to try for a prize catch during the Derby. One excited young man was going from car to car breathlessly seeking directions to an accredited weighing station for his beautiful trout. I snapped his picture and he was so excited he never asked my name or number, I wonder if he even realized I took the photo? He'll regret it when he comes down to earth and wants a picture of his fish. The camera was set on automatic and I used a yellow filter, (unsatisfactory.) Late forenoon gave us cloud and sun. We left the allergist's at 3:35 p.m. and at 4 p.m. we were on 89n and it was 40º.
Note: Champlain is on the Great Chazy River, so is Mooers Forks, Ellenberg Depot is too, but on the north branch of it, Chateaugay is on the Chateaugay River, and Malone is 48 miles west of Champlain on the Salmon River. Fort Covington is on the Little Salmon River. It is heartwarming to see these waters opening up again.
The wind stayed cold but there was life in the fields on our left where two deer fed among the ruby colored osiers. We stopped and their heads went up immediately. They watched us intently, only their white tails giving them away. When we drove off, they went back to eating. I remember Helen Hoover's The Gift of the Deer and how much I enjoyed that book. I could have spent hours watching these creatures today but had to get to town and back because a young woman is coming out from the newspaper to interview me and take photographs. Such celebrity!
This weekend we jumped ahead into daylight saving time. It begins at 2 a.m. on Sunday and lasts about seven months. I shall be months calculating what time it really is, then when we switch back, I will be doing the same the other way.
By afternoon, the cold wind had died down and it was much nicer. The currents of air carried sounds from the geese across the road. They're probably happy to be outside, too; the deer were back eating also but this time, there were three! The air was sweet and heavy with fumes from the sugar shacks where they are boiling that elixir down. (New York State produces over 320,000 gallons of syrup but Vermont gets all the credit.)
The bicyclists and motorcyclists are out in force today; wouldn't you think it'd be bitterly cold on a motorcycle? Not to mention chancy- Did you know that one in twelve women own a motorcycle? I didn't.
We are having company for lunch. 'Thing 5' came along with her two youngsters and we tried to entertain them in a house not designed to keep a young child happy. The girl wanted to use my computer, a touchy thing at best of times. Says she wants to 'be a writer, too!' I feel selfish not allowing her to use it, but what shall I do when it refuses to work? And there is always something due forthwith! We distracted them by helping them make Easter eggs and bunny designs for the windows.
It's difficult to see Mars and Venus these days, usually they're visible just before sunrise, low in the east. Venus is usually so bright; it will disappear next month and we won't see it again until fall when it'll appear as an evening star. I stand by the window and watch for it each morning about thirty minutes before the sun comes up.
It was a sunny 30º at 8:30 a.m. with winds 8 mph and by 4 p.m. the sun had gotten the temperature up to 43º. In the forenoon I had a call from Time Mirror for a certain number of words. It seems just my luck that someone is always visiting me when an editor calls with instructions. I feel self conscious taking the call, almost as if I were attaching undue importance to it just to impress somebody; however, it is important to me. After such a session, I am never sure that I got my directions right. I wish I had a recording machine built into the phone. It seems that I have seen such a device advertised but whenever I mention it to shopkeepers, they look skeptical. Would it even be legal? I do want to get on with my writing and other things that I can enjoy indoors now before it is beautiful outside and nature is calling to me.
There is a lot of illness around; thank goodness that I got a shot for pneumonia last fall. I know after I had the flu the last time that I was a likely candidate for a lung infection because I was so sick and coughed so terribly. By the end of WWI the country was devastated by an epidemic of 'Spanish influenza' that took the lives of over 500,000 before the end of nineteen nineteen. Many servicemen returned from the war only to die of the flu.
Well, the grass is beginning to emerge from the ocherous thatch of winter. Many streams and rivers haven't let loose yet but ducks find the open patches and geese honk past overhead looking for openings large enough to accomodate their communes. The air is sweet and redolent of maple, the gusty fumes envelope the sugar shacks where the wood disappears in direct porportion to the smoke billowing from the chimneys.
It is beautiful and mild, in the low forties and very muddy. There are intermittent raindrops but they don't amount to much. This is the weather for sitting on our glassed in porch.
We can see little kestrels spaced out along the overhead wires, their streaky brown bodies and grey and blue wings providing a colorful accent note. Chickadees are singing outside the windows and now and again, there's a phoebe upbeat call. There is also the high scream of the killdeer; so, they are back, too. The flickers are here, also.
Its been sunny and pretty all day long but the wind is cold. Most of the snow is gone but in the mountains Tuesday, there were still deep snowbanks lining the sideroads. Spring's a-cumin in, nonetheless. One thinks of all the songs and poems it has inspired. Strange, how music and poetry enriches one's life. There are many days when the sun warms the enclosed porch and I am able to sit in my old rocker with the tape recorder turned up high, enjoying my favorite pieces. Today's selection is Mozart's piece for flute and harpsichord in C Major. For some reason, it makes me think of an English garden
I also enjoy taking a brief turn around the outside perimeter of the house and grounds, just checking...looking to see what has popped through today, if anything. Just a few, little green blades of grass excite me. Enjoying all the little signs of spring.
We walked to the creek and studied the swollen, rushing water. It is still rather bleak. The fields are just beginning to emerge from the sere browns and ochers, now there's a hint of mustard. There are no trees 'out' yet, not a whip of shrubbery, or a blade of grass. A lone heron tried to ferret out some shred of sustenence but flapped away at our approach. It is a barren, unlovely place at a barren, unlovely time of year. A time for thinking and introspection. Are we living up to those grand New Year's resolutions made such a short time ago?
The countryside looks barren but the trees are beginning to stir. My nose tells me as surely as any indicator could and I soon shall photograph the long, green catkins on the poplar trees. Now I begin the sneezing, wheezing, eyes and nose streaming time of year. Even the sight of anything fuzzy sets me off and I am dopey from antihistamines. People probably think I am drunk as I reel along the roadside.
We passed the kennel on our way north. These people board dogs, clip others, and train a few of their own. Usually there are muffled barks and yips coming from the pens but today there is a blissful quiet. The 'little' farmer from up the hill has been down the road with his manure spreader leaving huge pats of dung like tracks of a hidden Yeti. He's turned the lane to his fields into a muddy wallow.
A small rabbit haunts our birdfeeder in the late part of the night but when the first rays of dawn peek through, he grows cautious and uneasy. Then he lopes off to hide.
The sparrows trill away beneath my window. What accomplished singers they are! One can scarcely blame them for serenading the recent mornings; they have been life renewing after the long, chilly winter. There are geese going over and 'Peter' has been breakfasting in the sideyard under the feeder. The iris are a couple inches high along the foundation. It is 42º at 4 p.m. with splendid sunshine. The creek was a bit lower today-
I have to get to the library and do some research. That mandated a call from 'Thing 2' saying she was coming out. Then a friend called and she needed to talk out some problems. I have tried to convey the fact that I would like to keep the morning hours for myself, for my own work, but it is difficult without giving offense because people just do not regard writing as work. There are otherwise considerate people who would not dream of interrupting a business man, or an office woman, but when they hear I'm writing something, feel perfectly free to come and stay
It was too good to last and now there is a dark 'muffled' morning in view. The sounds of the earth are silenced beneath a fresh layer of snow and the chickadees, sparrows, and other small birds are picking at the feeder. There are twenty-five assorted blackbirds under my window giving their racheting call, and the crows flap from tree to tree and peer at the house.
During the night, it rained, snowed, and sleeted and the radio issued safety bulletins as well as cancellations and today it was extremely foggy about 7 a.m. A good day to read. I have Sue Hubbel's A Country Year that I am dying to get into. I've dipped inside a few pages here and there and know I am going to love it. I make myself a cup of tea and disappear with my book. The winds roar down out of the west, carrying loose snow and debris with them and driving is hazardous for motorists who must be out. I see the tuft on top of the female cardinal's head is turned backwards, giving her a comic appearance. She watches me as I move the sheer curtain, trying to get a good shot at her with my trusty camera.
Our trees looked like they'd been freshly laundered, as indeed they had by last night's downpour. It thundered heavily to the south but the precipitation here did not remove the snow cover. Morning radio told of numerous accidents in the last 24 hours; most highway crews had put away their plows. One snowplow flipped bottomside up when its blade caught an immovable object.
Now, incredibly, there are hordes of robins alongside the road and at one point, I saw a bluebird! It has been a day of mixed squalls and sunshine, the wind very unpleasant. The seasons are so unpredictable, a year or two ago at this same time, we were out gathering marshmarigolds, (cowslips,) for spring greens and fighting off the mosquitoes simultaneously. Well, this year the bugs won't be a bother, that's for sure!
Many bright, cold days ago, much as this, (but perhaps a month earlier,) my father took his old gray mare and they climbed high on the mountain and Dad would cut wood for the next winter. John McPhee says if it is not cut during the winter, you'd might as well forget it, because it will not burn well. 'Cut it while the sap is out of it', he says, 'and you'll have nice dry firewood.' Perhaps it is too late already? It had better be done right when you rely on 15-20 cords to get you through the winter.
The sun came out lovely but the winds were cold. We drove into the village for groceries and two deer were still in the old pasture just to the east of us. What can they be finding to eat there now? One would think that bent-over, dried-out hay from last fall would be sour and lack nutrients. But then, again, it may be a matter of priorities. It may be better than nothing.
We were very surprised to see twelve, or thirteen woodcocks feeding in the ditch along one short stretch. It was surprising because they are supposed to be a nocturnal bird and very shy and elusive, as well. The feeding must have been extravagantly good because they were most reluctant to fly up. I took pictures, they won't be good, but at least they will confirm what I saw.
The rabbit was back feasting on grain under the feeder along with morning doves, juncoes, chickadees, and sparrows. A rabbit is so wary. Just when you think they are lost in their browsing, that head goes up and the long ears flick. Their anatomy is arranged perfectly for safety. The eyes are set high on the head, allowing them a global view of their surroundings and there is not much that can creep up on them.
We rode alongside the seaway channels and I photographed deer, raccoons, and a woodchuck. It is very muddy and the animals didn't stand out well against the dark ground. I hope my pictures will turn out.
The faint sun and wavering clouds brought the temperature up but it was damp- There have been numerous grass fires the past three weeks despite wet, soggy conditions. The radio says warm weather is on the way. Dare one hope they are right? You can bet that the moment it is warm enough to sit out, the black flies will take over.
We are setting bluebird boxes, almost a month late but how does one get out any earlier? There's either five feet of snow or a mud wallow. And the requirements are so specific: they must face to the east and be about four or five feet above the ground...about 100 yards apart and away from surrounding shrubbery where predators might hide-
It was 42º at 4 p.m. The winds have been cold all day but we do still have snow in the ditches after all.. and we did see a butterfly today. The mourning cloak is the first butterfly seen in the spring. Bernd Heinrich writes some fascinating sketches on the habits of lepidoptera in In A Patch of Fireweed. I am so happy to see more interest being displayed in these gorgeous insects and people are establishing lepidopterariums all over the country. I just wonder if it will be enough to counter the normal mortality and the actions of those who must capture butterflies and moths and embed them in lucite for monetary reasons? Why do some feel the need to kill and possess, why not simply look and enjoy?
A little sparrow sang lustily from the small cedar beneath my window. The sun sent its rays over the treetops in the southeast, picking out the silvery shards of still frozen grass. The temperature really dropped before morning and everything, grasses, twigs, etc, was frozen over.
There's something about this continued cold weather that makes me crave hearty food. I fantasize about rich, nourishing stews, bowls of vichysoisse, (hot, not cold as most people have it,) or a steaming bowl of beef rice soup, or tomato macaroni with croutons. The flame of life must diminish within the body and if not nurtured, perhaps would flicker and go out all too readily. The body requires more calories during cold weather just to keep going and keep the core of the self warm and intact.
Last night I saw the moon rise over the trees in the same spot where I'd seen the morning sun come up, but it was the palest, wanest moon I've ever seen!. And this morning, the radio predicted unsettled weather but we took a chance and drove to Hannawa Falls again, a distance of twenty some miles. It sprinkled but the rain is opening the bays up. Norwood Pond was well open except for the little corners and I heard that some fish are biting here and there; bullhead and perch, mostly. I'd rather purchase some in the supermarket than stand out in the damp raw wind.
The grating arthritis in our old bones made me think of the warmth of the desert. This, in turn, prompted me to dig out my notes and pictures and write a story for American Desert Magazine. The editor says she will use it and remarks that she is from a community here in the northeast. Small world! I am offering the piece I wrote for Outdoor Life as a reprint to other magazines. Some say they plan to use it but in this business, one feels certain of success only when the item is seen in print.
We continue to be grateful for the invention of the telephone. It has been a blessing to my dear old mother who calls me almost daily. She said yesterday that someone called her. The voice sounded moderately familiar so they traded questions as to health, and 'what have you been doing', etc., then the woman said, 'May we come visit you for a little while?' Mother said 'certainly' and hung up only to realize that her caller had failed to identify herself, so now she didn't know who was coming! Fortunately, it was my nephew's wife and children.
We awakened to a fresh cover of snow. Everything was quiet with little traffic, school was out and workers were getting ready for the Holy Weekend. The temperature was in the low forties and I don't think many will get to wear their new bonnets.
The day wore on with no sunshine but the temperature rose and the snow was nearly all gone by afternoon. It was still 40º at 7:30 p.m. We have been at full moon the past few nights. I have been reading different books on the moon's effects with a great deal of curiousity and some skepticism. Dr. Arnold Leiber has an interesting one in which he attributes crime, lunacy, PMS, and many other physical happenings on the effects of the moon. He says it affects the sprouting of legumes and growth of many flowers, vegetables, shrubs, etc. as well as turning mankind's life upside down. I can't say whether he's right or not, but I do know that the older generation certainly looked to the phases of the moon before many of their ventures.
Next morning there was no sunshine but the temperature rose and the snow was nearly all gone by afternoon. It stayed about 40º and a watery sun played over the fields and meadows pointing up the huge swaths of manure where the farmer had been using his spreader. The aroma hung in the motionless air, a miasmic atmospheric swamp. Killdeer ran back and forth screaming incessantly and ducks quacked their way past over our heads as we headed for the creek. There were strings of Canada geese honking by and as we walked northwards, we scared up a woodcock out of the muddy ditch. The chortling cries of his companions seemed to come from all directions at once. There was a sudden who-osh and a raucous quack-quack-quack as a lovely mallard rose in the air, his pretty green head glinting in the morning light. His dowdy little brown mate soon followed him-
There were still long fingers of ice reaching across the puddles. The creek was glazed over on the high side but the water passed underneath the road to emerge from the conduit gurgling and singing exuberantly.
By noon, the temperature was over 50º but it was overcast with a feeling of rain. The robins were calling and blackbirds were whistling and I saw- a mosquito! John McPhee told about the mosquitoes in Alaska, saying "they swarm...nearer the coast, they sometimes fly in dense, whirling vertical columns, dark as the trunks of trees. Kauffman talks of killing 40 at a slap. I slap my arm and kill seven".
The tulips are coming up along the walk What can be more welcome than their colorful cups emerging along the walk in early spring? Insects are busy outside the windows and it's a glorious day with little wind so we got all the benefit of the sun.
My legs are beginning to function better all the time. When we first began walking, I was barely able to make a quarter mile before the muscles began to protest. They would ache and sting, but now we are doing a mile and a half before breakfast almost daily. So good for me. It is sad to realize that I shall lose all my gains when it is time for another winter. Winter walking is out (for me) in the north country. We could walk in an enclosed mall but it's just not the same. I don't care to breathe all that recycled air, laden with infectious organisms and walking on the hard surface bothers my feet and legs. Still, it is a life-saver for many who must walk.
Tonight I heard the first song of the peepers. How I love these first heralds of spring! Their cheerful little voices echo far into the nights once the temperatures stay above freezing.
Here's another magnificent morning, sunny and mild. It was 42º at breakfast time with little wind. I noted the swallows darting and swooping around the old bluebird nest that they took over last year. There was a young starling perched on the lid and they took turns dive-bombing in an effort to dislodge him. Finally he flew off.
We walked down towards the wetlands and there was no sign of wildlife. The murky water issued the pipe with a fine, polyphonic rush but attracted no ducks, nor geese. Where is everybody? There's still a promise here of beauty to come- I can mentally picture what another couple weeks will bring, once it starts to really turn green.
The farmer has been down the road with his 'honey-wagon' and left a load of raw, semi-liquid manure, barely getting it off the road.
By afternoon, the temperature was well into the 50s but our brave sun was growing faint-hearted. Outside the window, the swollen buds of the lilac were assuming the shape of miniature leaves and there were swarms of some sort of insect life. I noticed a huge tan cocoon on a lower branch of the lilac. It resembled a miniature sleeping bag; must be one of our larger moths. Time will tell.
Perhaps the sudden change in temperature has something to do with the tremors we've experienced the latter part of the week. It was 75º in late afternoon and the house has been fully opened to the fresh air lately.
We enjoyed an incredible 49º. The sun was well up although the radio promised late afternoon rain. We walked through the wetlands and there were two or three ducks paddling about at the eastern extremes. Red winged blackbirds sought a place to perch and overlook the situation. They continued their ratcheting calls as we walked by and they spread their wings so the red epaulettes were very visible and (they hoped) intimidating. Then it clouded over and felt like rain.
During the last twenty four hours, the lawns and fields have gotten about 30% green. The gentle rain reminds me of the enjoyable time we had in Ireland. For some reason, the rain in Ireland didn't feel wet. That might not sound sensible, but we walked along in a fine warm mist and it was actually enjoyable. Made one think about all those songs: 'It Was Just A Garden In The Rain,' and 'April Showers,' etc.
For some reason, lately the windows are aswarm with ladybugs. They are about the only bug I don't hate and they were recognized as helpers and dedicated to Our Lady back in the Middle Ages. Now, if they were spiders, I would shiver and recoil with dread. I don't know why a couple more legs makes such a difference but spiders certainly give me the creeps.
The warm, gentle rain lasted overnight and plants are fairly bursting through the earth. It was 67º at 7 a.m. and the sun began to penetrate the overcast. Drops of moisture fell from the eaves, the trees and shrubbery dripped, and water splashed when a vehicle passed. The robins called over and over, reluctant to see it end, probably because it was bringing such fine, fat earthworms up to the surface. They are curled up and stretched out all over the highway, some dragging crushed nether portions along in a painful manner.
We walked past the wetlands but other than a mallard and his mate, there was little to be seen. I live vicariously as I wait for these waters to become populated, by reading So Cranes May Dance (Barbara Katz,) a book that shows what can be done for a dwindling species. These people procured acreage and wetlands and made space for many species of cranes that would probably have been lost before long. The stories of their hardships is certainly inspiring...and all for the love of wild creatures.
Our moth has hatched! It is a glorious thing,...a cecropia and colored like a celestial dragon!
He might better have waited a bit because the weather has taken a step backwards towards winter. It's a chilly 52º and threatening rain. Better still than the West Coast with its Santa Anas and quakes. Speaking of which, they had a tremor registering over 6 in the last twenty-four hours, undoubtedly re-awakening fears of the dreadful one about three years ago.
By mid-morning, it was raining lightly. We walked down 'our' road and there were two, or three ducks paddling about in the channel. There were frogs squashed and mutilated over the road in a mix and match froggydom. Some almost looked as though they'd been pressed in a book.
The temperature stayed in the 50s and the wind chill factor was in the 40s, providing a damp, uncomfortable day. But spring is coming, all the signs are here and it was still 50º at 8 p.m. We hurried home and started a fire in our little free-standing fireplace. It is not an ideal thing but does a lot to take the chill off the tiny solar room, making it a pleasant place to sit these days. When we have the occasional garage sale in early spring, or late fall, our customers use every excuse imaginable to get inside the door and stand beside the fireplace. Perhaps it helps us to even better sales, who knows?
The overcast continues and it is still damp and rainy but getting green- looking Irish. By afternoon, it is only 55º and the damp is crippling. Even the wildlife seems to be withdrawing but by late afternoon, it began brightening up. The sun came out and the mercury climbed towards 60! The house sparrows came in flocks to check beneath the feeders until the red-winged blackbirds and Brewer's blackbirds drove them off. The radio warns of more rain, turning to snow the next few days. E- returned from his walk with a small rayed flower. It resembled colt's foot with its scabrous scaly stem and orangish center, but it's so short.
This kind of weather makes the amateur gardeners anxious to get going. The pros say this is the time to take a trip until the urge leaves but I like to get out the seed packages and make a diagram just how I shall plant things this year. Something here, and perhaps something else in that corner this time. It helps pass many dreary days. Also, this time of year I start sprouts. Sprouts are a good way to add nutrition to a tired diet and also gives the feeling that I am doing something springey. The first radish sprouts add so much to a salad with their peppery, tart little bits of green.
Robins called their cheerful song and I heard a cardinal and a pileated woodpecker in the woods. I am told few have seen the pileated woodpecker. Well, we hadn't either before moving here and they certainly are a novel sight. As big as a young pullet, jet black with white facial markings and a brilliant red comb, they hack out huge splinters from our trees, three to four inches long by one to two wide. In Colonial times, these birds hung in the butcher shops alongside domestic fowl and people ate them. Their call has to be heard to be believed.
E- returned from his walk today with a spray of great big pussywillows but they are already ripening and turning into miniature explosions of gold. Pollen receptacles, probably- (No soul at all, you see-)
The wind has stayed bitter all day but I won't complain. We are still better than quaking California. Our tulips are several inches tall now and the lupins and musk are up and the giant alliums are about six inches high. The animals are peculiar sights these days still wearing their rough, shaggy winter coats. These must itch because they are often rubbing against fence posts or the corners of the barn, or each other. On cold days, their breath steams and blows before their face like the spout of a teakettle. They must be happy to be outside the barn, even briefly. The barn cats follow them about and sit in the mix of straw and steaming dung. Is that for the warmth?
At 8 p.m. it was only 46º and the wind so cold, but still the peepers sing! And each morning there is additional evidence of the hidden life about the house while we sleep.
When we awakened, the sun was nice but the wind came straight out of the northwest. I guess it was about 44º when we left for services, the day's high was only 55º. But there are still isolated patches of snow here and there and the mountain slopes gleam white, so we can't expect too much warmth until that is all gone. Our poplars are sending out long, green catkins that make my nose run and my eyes itch. Even my ear drums itch, they feel on fire! The daffodils are beginning to bloom along the foundations but the bluebirds are still flocking... so they are not nesting yet.
We drove into the mountains to visit various people and the ski slopes were busy with ski-ers. We stopped in Malone for a late breakfast and could scarcely be seated there were so many people passing through with skis strapped to their vehicles. The skiers were almost universally dressed in ski togs, heavy woolen sweaters, and down-filled jackets.
With dark, the stars filled the skies and they grew bright and clear as the temperature plunged. Timothy Ferris says 'a star is a celestial body massive enough for thermonuclear process to have taken place at its core.' Who thinks of that when they're looking at a gorgeous sky? Don't we prefer the mystery of the moon as it once was and we could dream all sorts of things about it?
There's a heavy frost on the ground. The wind chill factor is about 22º but the sun is climbing and it will probably get into the 50s today. And the afternoon was fine if you kept out of the wind. It is marvelous weather to be sitting on our glassed in porch, which warms right up and where we have a front row seat on Nature.
We see leaves unfolding more every day and the lawns drying up nicely. We see the red-winged blackbirds and the fulvous female cowbirds pecking underneath the feeders in hopes of finding a seed or two. And a young officer undulated past on his roller-blades, doing a peculiar sort of ballet.
It continued in the high 50s with the sun barely visible in minatory clouds and the plangent cries of the mourning doves rang from the ridgepole. The fields are losing their ocherous garments and assuming a verdant hue. The farmer hasn't been able to get on to his fields and doesn't know what to do with the animal waste. The cattle are not often out, either and he loads and dumps one puissant load after another just off the highway, almost in the ditch.
There is a small sparrow repeating the same thredony over and over as the sun rises. He faces into the slanting rays and expands his tiny throat. There are the repetitious calls from woodcocks cavorting high above the wetlands. Suppose they are searching for likely nesting spots.
The leeks should be well up by now. We used to look for them about the same time that we got cowslips, I think. They are unmatched in vichysoisse, or in various soups or stews. Many people object to their strong odor and I remember being extremely unpopular when I was a kid and we'd had them at home. No one crowded you until your body had been purged but they have a wonderful taste and I am very fond of them in a stir fry. We used to find them growing in pastures and felt free to dig them but today with people's close-fisted response to their 'rights' as property owners, one does not feel welcome to trespass.
The sunny morning changed to overcast by afternoon. The highs were about 60º and there were southwest winds of 10-15 mph. There's 50% chance of rain by tonight, so they say.
We are coming to the new moon phase and the sun rises at 6:02 and sets at 8:02, some change from two, or three months ago.
The woodlands are really coming to life now that most of the snow that stood at the foot of the trees all winter is pretty well gone. The trees throughout the countryside seemed to sustain a great deal of damage this winter and no wonder, with the severe sleet storms we had. But our trees are growing and looking good; the little cedars we put at the corners just five years ago are now well above our heads and the lombardy we put at the corner of the garage must be twelve or fifteen feet high already. Its mates that we set in the front yard, just twelve feet forward of it aren't doing quite as well but neither do they get all that run-off from the garage roof.
I was thinking today that keeping a journal is about the only way that one can keep track of life at all. It otherwise merges into one long succession of empty days when we've forgotten the simple pleasures that we enjoyed and the things that happened on a day-to-day basis.
There was intermittent rain throughout the day. E- went for his early morning walk and I had to go rescue him. Enroute we passed through the wetlands and there were four ducks east of the highway, two in the channel and two in a puddle. Mallards and their mates. Off to the west, I saw a long neck indicative of a goose but he stayed clear. When only the necks are visible above the long grasses, it looks like a field of big black umbrella handles.
We drove into the village to pay bills and get supplies. The horses were out and the a dapple grey was chewing on the same post that he's been nibbling on for the past year. His long tongue shot out six or eight inches and he licked and munched as though the wood was so delectable. Why do they do that? I took several slides of him doing it.
It's green, really green and shortly we'll have to mow. It is just above 50º today. I had a call from Insights; they'll use my submission next month. That's nice. Now, for today- After dinner we walked in the rain and I carried Grandpa's old black umbrella. It must weigh close to ten pounds all by itself. There are millions of tiny green dicotyledons popped up along the road.
There's been sporadic rain and the morning temperature was just above freezing. The saving feature is that it warms up rapidly now. It was in the 40s by 9:00 a.m. The winds were 12 mph and out of the northwest, not too pleasant a beginning but by 10:00 there were a few weak rays of sunshine beginning to show.
"It's May, it's May," Julie Andrews sang, but it stayed dreary throughout the day and by dusk, was raining hard. The downpour only lasted about an hour. It couldn't get me down; I curled up by the fireplace with Alex Frater's Chasing The Monsoon. That's just the book for this kind of weather and he makes you see that you could always be worse off. I enjoyed it immensely, (of course, I like all his books.) He uses this vehicle to tell of his travels over the southeast, following the devastating storms and illustrating their effect on people. He draws some interesting characters- When I finish one book, I'm not certain I can wait for his next. It's always a toss up with me which I am most anxious for, one of his or another travelogue by Paul Theroux. Strangely enough, I do not like Theroux' fiction- but then, I don't like most fiction anyway.
Following Frater's comments, I got out my trusty umbrella and walked down towards the wetlands. Occasionally a duck, or a goose, passed over and Pan was playing on his pipes. His call rang from on high, first in the east, then in the west and the killdeer vied with him and tried to drown him out.
A few vehicles passed as I walked, the blast of the displaced air hitting me a second or two after they were gone, faintly tinged with petroleum fumes.
The tarvia was covered with long threads of earthworms, some crushed and dead, others stretching along, curiously 'bleached out' in appearance. And lying beside the road was a Painted Lady, the undersides of her wings facing upwards in a vain attempt at camouflage. She was too chilled to fly so I put her in my pocket. Before long I could feel her fluttering wings and the delicate movements of her tiny feet. She crawled out and shot 20 feet into the air. I wished her luck.
I remind myself that I must call California in a day or two as soon, (Cinco de Mayo,) will be the anniversary of our son and daughter-in-law. They are coaxing us to visit them again but I still have the after taste of our last trip in my mouth. My husband laughed at me for being disturbed because over our train disconnecting as we rode along. We came to a stop with a mighty screech and the smell of burning electrical equipment or brakes. I didn't enjoy the experience, nor do I like to fly anymore, so how does one go? Our last trip by car saw us snowbound near Denver the same night as the awful plane crash at Stapleton Airport.
The wind has picked up and it's heavily overcast. There are 13 blackbirds in the apple tree; surely an unlucky number, but for whom, or for what? It's a miserable, damp day and they are predicting that snow will be seen in many places but we saw brave stands of tulips in blossom this morning and the motorcyclists are riding.
A streaky little sparrow is singing outside my window. I love to watch them scratch for seeds, they hook their claws into the earth and jerk backwards. Looks very inefficient to me.
The 'popples' are covered with long green catkins; they will bring the rose-breasted grosbeaks. Got the camera and took a series of transparencies. It will be interesting to take more when they have gone to seed. They explode in balls of white fluff almost like cotton.
For some reason, the hornets seem to be really active these days. The green grocer killed aone that had entered the store with a customer! You'd think the continued cool temperatures and damp would keep them sleepy. It's 45º at 6 p.m. with the possibility of snow in the mountains. Yesterday there were record high temperatures all about us, spawning heavy winds and miniature tornadoes. Several adjacent communities lost their electric power. We are luckier than most when the power goes off because we can always start a fire in the fireplace. It is inefficient perhaps, but oh, so welcome.
We went for our walk dressed as though it were late March instead of early May. The cold is supposed to last most of the week. I photographed the emerging wetlands and surprised two Canada geese swimming in the channel. They honked at me in a minatory fashion as they paddled off. I think I may have heard a bob-o'link singing.
Tomorrow, we are taking a trip south to Fonda where I hope to photograph the shrine to Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. I plan to visit the site of the martrydom of Father Jogues while we are there and take pictures of that one, also. It will be a nice spring break because route 30 south is a beautiful ride. The Hudson River Regulating District built the Sacandaga Reservoir around 1919 within the Adirondack Park, (although not on Forest Preserve land,); nevertheless it caused a great deal of controversy at the time among preservationists.
There is a very nice restaurant at the four corners just before we reach our destination where we have found delicious fare in the past and hope to again-
I hope it will not be too chilly for my new spring coat but I can always carry the zip-in lining along. Those convertible garments are worth their weight in gold. In the North Country, you're never certain when the weather will change...and not always for the better.
We had breakfast in Malone. It was about 11:30 before we left and heavily overcast. When we got up route 30 into the mountains, going 'up south', the old-timers used to call it, it was spitting snow. We by-passed Saranac Lake, recently named number eleven on the list of Best Small Towns in the United States. It is a nive little town.
By the time we reached Elizabethtown, the forsythia was in bloom and all the way south to Westport. Port Henry had more of it and daffodils, besides. At 2:30 we were still traveling under leaden skies but the fields were very green and Lake Champlain was calm and peaceful.
North of Crown Point we saw large orchards; they will be gorgeous in just a couple weeks. Crown Point is a hilly area, very green and pretty. There were huge flocks of goldfinches, like flying daffodils. We paused at Ticonderoga to take a couple pictures of the old fort. We also stopped in Skeneborough Harbor, the birthplace of the American Navy, and took more pictures, then north of Dresden there were llamas and miniature horses; it was a bit warmer now, 52º and people were mowing their lawns. We stopped in New Queensbury for dinner and then spent the night in Saratoga. We had a very pedestrian place to stay but it was clean and comfortable. We drove about Saratoga a bit, seeing the sights, but it's not profitable without advance planning or city maps. We returned to our room.
It's amazing the difference in temperature being just a couple hundred miles south, and near the water. The tulip trees are in bloom and so beautiful and there was something blue in the distance that looked like azalea. That always makes me think of the young southern girl whose parents named Azalea, thinking it was Az-a-lee. They stuck with it, too; let the rest of the world change!
When we left Saratoga to go inland, the temperature dropped and north of Gloversville, it was cold; you could see your breath! Regardless, the bedding plants were set out and I purchased a half-dozen for Mother's Day. Coupled with the article I had published about her, it will make her day. Buying the plants and thinking about her enjoyment made me nostalgic and I began brooding again, wondering how I shall ever manage when the time comes. Of course, there is a slight chance that I may go first but odds are against such a happening and selfish as I am, I cannot bear the thought of her death even though it may be a relief...for her.
It was still overcast and we ran in and out of rain. The area was still very nice, even in the gloom. The Sacandaga River ran alongside the road and then Wells, on Lake Algonquin was spectacular. The hills were still dressed in the plum and purple tones of winter. I shot several pictures of the mirror-like bay.
We were pleasantly surprised when we got north to Speculator and ran into sunshine. It followed us home and Massena had a marvelous temperature of 59º, a heat wave.
This morning, we started for our walk before 8:00 a.m. wearing ski jackets, lined jeans, and gloves. By 10:00 a light sweater was plenty. It was about 39º, I guess and afternoon in the 60s. The sun was brilliant throughout.
We transplanted perennials that were coming up too close together and left them covered over with buckets lest the strong winds dehydrate them. The sun was strong and the temperature was 66º at 6 p.m. so I guess they could have waited for a rainy day but there's been curiously little rain despite the overcast and sprinkles. The air is full of insects tonight-
I sat down to read my latest Writer's Digest. There are usually letters from people inquiring the best way to write in order to make sales, or asking what they are doing wrong because they have been writing for twenty, or thirty years without being published! I think a lot it of may be simple luck. I really do believe luck plays a large part because you must hit just the right person on just the right day to make a sale. You must also have the right topic and the right slant to it.
One wonders what will happen to publishing now that so many publishers are getting into electronics. Will it eventually take over the field as they hope, or will people always love their printed books? I rather think I shall. So much handier to take on vacation than a computer-
I wanted to make a further comment on the nature of names. Yesterday, I mentioned the girl we knew whose parents steadfastly called her Az-a-lee, teachers and all notwithstanding. I knew another whose mother thought the name Eloise was so pretty that she named her daughter that thinking it was pronounced E-loy-zee. She was very surprised in years to come to find her daughter had been El-o-weeze all along. And then there was Xavier, whose parents called him X-la-veer, if you don't mind! So, one can't be too careful in selecting names for someone else- I sometimes wish-
We watched the sun struggle out of the clouds and trees, sparrows were singing- We took our usual walk and saw four mallards paddling about. Far off in the western end of the creek, a black duck stood at the edge, his pale head showing clear contrast to his darker body, his salmon colored feet were highly visible even through my binoculars. Coot?? Some sort of shore bird flew over my head with a loud piercing 'peep, peep'.
The cattle aren't out in the pastures yet. The temperature shot up into the 70s bringing out swarms of insects and swarms of swallows. If it swoops and soars like a bat and it's seen in the daytime, it's probably a swallow; if it's seen in the nighttime and it swoops and soars like a swallow, it's probably a bat.
Tonight there's a pale crescent moon buried in layers of swirling mists. I am reading Lewis Mumford's Sketches From Life with a great deal of enjoyment. I would probably read until ten p.m. or later but there is a mosquito persistently buzzing about my head. It is no consolation to know that it will only bite if it is a female. How can I tell its sex from the buzz? Too, I often wonder, if AIDS is caused by a transfer of body fluids, why can't a mosquito carry the AIDS virus? (They can't-) She will surely transfer my blood if she is able to. The reason she is so intent on stabbing me is because she requires my blood for egg production. Would I deny her motherhood?
I see we'll have to endure another day of heavy clouds and light rains with only intermittent sunshine. It looks like an 'all-dayer' and is just under 60º. The swallows are poised on the overhead wires, daring insects to dash past. There are cabbage whites dancing over the dandelion studded lawn, apparently happy to be alive once more. One wonders if they too undergo the stages of metamorphosis: egg, larvae, pupa, and adult like the monarch?
We were outside on the lawn when someone spotted a shimmery, emerald beetle in the grass. His colors changed from green to gold according to the light. We captured him, no easy task as he was very speedy, and I placed him in a small plastic box so I could photograph him. He was a reluctant subject and he scrabbled and scratched at his translucent prison. I shot several poses all the same. Can he be the searcher, a carabid brought from Europe to control the gypsy moths? If so, he is not very efficient as our neighbor's tree is already filled with cottony tents. But perhaps that's a different thing-
I went inside and amused myself listening to the Bozeman Trio with Schubert's adagio in E flat. Suits my mood to perfection- The weak sun began climbing. The leaves on the poplars are well opened now, only needing a few wrinkles pressed out of them and the lawns are dappled with dandelions like nuggets of gold. Our shrubs are beginning to look alive and I can't wait for the mockorange bush to blossom. It will not be before late June or early July but it is so beautiful.
The windows on the porch are a-buzz with hornets, most likely from unfertilized eggs hatching from last fall's parthenogenic laying. Many wasps and ants are spawned by parthenogenesis- requiring no male fertilization. Yet many Christians have problems with a Virgin birth, thus giving an insect more credit than a human being-
There's a steady twittering from the sparrows. They have taken over a bluebird box and are determined to drag a goose feather inside crossways. They can't see that it must go into the hole end-for-end like a stopper into a bottle. Each spring I find goose feathers under the box, they bring them from the geese across the road.
Today, I received a check from the NRA.
The birds are shrieking and the laborers are streaking past. Tulips line the walk like gay soldiers and the tamaracks are coming to life, a delicate green tracery softening the woods and fields. I took additional photographs showing how the wetlands are coming along. Let anyone with an eye for beauty, or love of nature, be alert. These places are where Nature heals herself, renewing the earth with beauty and nourishing many species and the adjoining pastures. Dr. Philip Greer of Shorter College says, "Marshland is the source of 20% of the oxygen we breathe."
There were a few water striders darting about the placid surface and a bob o'link sat on the overhead wire. The ground underneath the trees was a carpet of wake-robins.
I'm just getting over some 'bug' and still feel very feeble and debilitated. When I am ill, it makes me hark back to my first sale. I'd been sick then, too and was in bed, sound asleep, when the phone rang. At first, I was inclined not to answer it but it was eleven p.m. and one always fears for one's family. Much to my amazement, it was an editorial assistant calling to purchase an article I'd mailed not long before. All things considered, the late hour and her exuberent praise of my work, and her asking if I'd like to work on assignment made me wary. Surely this must be someone playing a hoax on me. An unkind one to be sure, but nevertheless, a trick, so I churlishly turned down the chance that most freelancers would give their eyeteeth for.
The wetlands have grown increasingly attractive day by day, reflecting the sky and encroaching weeds in their placid waters. Many life forms scuttle in and out of the long grasses as we draw near and the exuberent cries of the birds tell us about life hidden away from our eyes. Wait until the young emerge!
The days grow lovely and it is 80º at noon with strong sunshine. There has been surprisingly little spring rain and everything needs it. The birds are taking advantage of the good weather to get on with their nest building. I hung out two humming bird feeders today, the 'little ones' should be around anytime now.
We are trying to get the house fixed up a bit before it is so nice outside that we can't bear to be in. We've re-modeled the bathroom and put new panelling on the dining walls. I am crazy about it, it is a tiny berry, or bud, crimson with green leaves, on a creamy background. Looks very old timey. I've hung pink priscillas at the windows, a band gathered just above their waist to pull them back, a lace panel in the doorglass. There are sheer batiste panels underneath the priscillas and a patchwork cushion on the rocker with tones of pink, brown, white. Looks very nice.
We walked early today to escape the heat and the water in the creek falls off day by day... the bob o'links are increasing and singing their sweet bubbling songs. There is very little to be seen at the channel, a couple of mallards off in the distance.
Lately, I've been suggesting my belief that luck plays a great part in whether one's work gets used, or not. After citing how my first sale came about, I felt obliged to remember another unlucky episode out of my past. I'd been writing for a conservation magazine and they'd featured a piece I written about bluebirds. I later queried the editor of a regional newspaper about a story of interest and that I thought very timely. He declined the services that I proposed but went on to ask if I'd like to write a column on nature and wildlife. I'd asked if I could call him back on that and before I could do it, he had died.
With daybreak, we embarked on another warm, sunny morning. It was well into the sixties and we had a vigorous breeze. We were fortunate in having such a rush of air because the black flies and mosquitoes were busy.
By noon the sunlight weakened and the clouds began to roll in, then it was raining by dinnertime. The earth has been quite dry and the wild shrubs and bushes such as cherries are beginning to blossom and need lots of moisture.
The cardinal paid us a visit today, peeping and whistling from the top of a dead tree in the backyard. I heard more whistling this evening after our brief rain but the singer remained hidden. We are told that the bird species are declining in proportion to the paving over of the earth, the stripping of our forests and draining of our wetlands. What shall we ever do without them? Feeding the birds and wildlife constitutes a $500,000,000 industry in this country and I should not think that revenue could be lost without someone suffering.
Speaking of which, I have been trying to photograph that merry prankster, the grey squirrel from inside the windows. The least movement of the curtain and he is away- Then, too, shooting from inside offsets my automatic exposure and I have to use compensation. At first, I couldn't bring myself to turn it dark enough and I ruined some lovey pictures. Finally, I got one that is not too bad and shows His Impertinence perfectly.
It is decidedly cooler again and there is warning of frost for tonight. It will surely blast the strawberries that have just begun to blossom. The wind is brisk and straight out of the northwest. I see a cabbage white dancing over the lawn and the bob o'links are singing the same sweet song that I so enjoyed last year. Last spring, during migratory weeks, I spotted an Eastern meadow lark, a robin, and a bob o'link and a blackbird all drinking out of our garden pool.
The lady's bedstraw is now several inches high along the roads and in the backyard amongst the bushes. And wonder of wonders; I heard the thrush again today- I slid my little window to one side and leaned my arms on the windowsill a'la Anne Of Green Gables. I listened for long, enchanted moments. Some times it sounds like a flute, other times like a cello. At all times, it is beautiful.
There was a full bright moon last night in a clear sky, the sign of dramatic weather changes, usually. We walked down by the wetlands and viewed the changes. The cattails are waist high and when a bittern tried to hide among the canes, it was very hard to distinguish once it pointed its head skyward. A couple ducks swam in the eastern length and a muskrat sculled away towards the west, his vee-shaped wake rippling behind him.
The air is clamorous with the elastic song of bob o'links, the burbling call of robins, the chortle of woodcocks, the twitter of swallows and sparrows, and the grating cry of crows.
The 'happy little farmer' from up the hill drove his tractor down from farm number one and crossed the fence and went off into the field. His cattle were out in a dimly seen back pasture. The 'gentleman farmer' a bit further down the road was out petting Ferdinand, his pet bull. The contrast between the two men and their 'farms' provides us with a great deal of things to speculate on. Encompassing their estates are the wetlands, brooding alone. The wild ones are just as happy to have it that way. They don't want company and few would guess how the marshes teem with life, rich and abundant. .
I see the little apple tree in the side yard is beginning to blossom and there was a Painted Lady searching for blossoms in the flower garden. The paper (and TV ) says that so many of them are hatching in California that they are a menace to traffic, smearing windshields and road surfaces with a yellow slime. The iris are all budded up as well as the lupins.
It's very cold and drippy. We apparently had some rain since last night, but not enough- After a while the sun came out and we walked farther. The black flies and mosquitoes are out but I've seen them much worse. Of course, it didn't hurt having Avon's Skin So Soft on face and neck.
The wild mustard is in blossom and there were four Canada geese in the pasture near the road. They watched with gimlet eyes but did not fly, nor move off. There were two ducks in the channel that did-
The creek is a quiet place and the water surface is dropping all the time. There is scarcely any movement on the eastern side of the highway. I saw a frog, apparently hanging from the surface of the water. He looked like he had one toe caught in a trap holding him upright in position. His head and forepaws barely cleared the surface, like a man treading water. I thought at first he was dead and he never moved when I approached closer, not until I purposely allowed my shadow to fall on him. Then he arched and dove clear to the bottom in one fluid motion.
We've found another cocoon on a bush outside the back door. Wonder what this one will hatch into? It is great fun to observe and assess the possibilities.-
We drove into the mountains under sunny skies. A lovely big hen turkey contested our right to the highway but a blast on the horn sent her scurrying back into the fields.
The lilacs are well developed in the Malone area, well ahead of ours. The rivers and streams have withdrawn and the edges look crackled and sere. The water fowl, ducks and geese mostly, have to be content with life on terra firma.
The bluebirds were vying with the swallows for nesting boxes up home. And there is a huge big brown rabbit hanging about.
It stayed well into the 80s all afternoon with a high hazy look and a brisk wind. At sundown the wind increased dramatically and we had a couple loud claps of thunder and several flashes of lightning. There was a five to ten minute cloudburst and that was it. I love to watch it storm when I am at camp. The lightning hurtles down in long jagged prongs that slice into the river. Sometimes there is a smell of ozone. Wouldn't you think that the fish would be killed when the power is discharged into the water like that?
One day the storm hit so close that it knocked out a transformer just across the water. Huge blue balls of fire jumped off the pole and blew away on the wind. It was a frightening moment when it went because the power went off and our faces were bathed in a eerie blue light. We packed and left camp, driving around and past downed trees and falling limbs. It was a storm of major proportions.
Temperatures have fallen off considerably since yesterday. The mercury was just above 50º at breakfast time and there are frost warnings for tonight. It is supposed to go down into the low 20s. We've had no sun all morning. It is quite gloomy.
The sun did come out in late afternoon and it turned off very pretty. E- got some yard work done but I couldn't stay out today. The green catkins have gone to seed and are floating off the poplars. The air is so full of them it appears to be snowing and the ground has a blurred and fuzzy appearance. Very bad for those of us with allergies. I took another series of slides to go with those I shot when the catkins first blossomed. We can compare them when they return from the lab. It's 54º at 8 p.m. and still sunny.
The air is busy with dragonflies. Someone said that the DEC has released them?? Perhaps it was just a sudden spring hatching, I don't know. Regardless, they are most welcome if they cleanse the air of mosquitoes or blackflies. Hal Borlund says fossil dragonflies at least 350,000 years old have been found and long ago many had a wingspan of two feet. Now they are seldom more than seven inches across- and of course, they do not bite. Teale says dragonflies and swallows are weather indicators. When it is going to storm both hug the earth, on clear days their prey flies higher and so do they. Borlund says they cup their six legs into a basket and sieve the air. They can outfly a midge, scoop it up, pass it to their mouths and eat it while chasing down another. He says some are swift as birds. Remember, if the black flies are biting, there's usually clear water close by.
We are still getting clouds of seed bloom off the trees and it fills the air like snowfall. One of our trees cracked and fell over in the high winds the other night. It gave me a chance to inspect at closer range and the catkins were turning to white balls reminiscent of dandelion heads. Great for allergy sufferers!
Our tulips are just about gone by but the lilacs are coming on. It is so dry it will be a wonder if we have anything pretty. The creek is a poor, one-sided thing with patched and crackly edges. The cattle walk along the banks looking for a place to descend. The farmer provides them with a tank of nice clear water but they seem to prefer the muddy, roily water that is hazardous for them to get to. They half climb, half-slide down the bank, chancing a broken leg, in order to do so...then they stand about in it. Why are cows such stubborn animals? Grandpa used to tell about his and how they'd usually manage to step on his feet before he got done with them. When he tried to push them off, they'd just lean into him that much harder.
It was 63º this morning at breakfast and the winds were 8 mph at 9:00 a.m. It was sunny and pretty- The wind felt good when we were walking. There were just the usual two ducks in the creek. They must be desperate for a habitat to swim there. The water looks like sudsy coffee. It is sluggish and scummy.
There was a slim, graceful bird along the edge, with a long bill like a woodcock but not chunky or short like a woodcock. It was a uniform light brown with long, slender legs. A snipe, perhaps?
I ran into the village to visit the library and a woodchuck nearly beat me to the door. They say they also have a resident rabbit that sits there so stoically that people think it's a fake one. Speaking of which, they put on a sideshow for us nearly every day. We love to observe their antics but occasionally we are visited by a large black cat who is also interested...too much so. That's when we hear the little rabbits run underneath the porch where we are sitting. One day, I heard a thump and a faint despairing cry, much like a baby's, then silence. Later, E- found bits of fur and hair. Another tragedy enacted. Nature is cruel.
Few have loved animals more than Beatrix Potter but she told that after she'd been petting a ferret her rabbit bit her soundly as it undoubtedly smelled its natural enemy on her hands.
It's going to be a hot afternoon. The creek level is still dropping and the water is roily and scummy, world without end. There were no birds in it although two geese flew overhead, honking and squawking. I scared up a woodcock and he spiraled off.
There is a hazy look to the meadows. The bob o'links sing from their chosen spots in the grass. The first two notes of their songs sound like they were going to sing 'whip poor will' but then it goes on like someone plucking an extremely elastic string.
The seeds from the trees are less now but we're still sneezing our heads off. The apple trees and flowering crab are opening beautifully but the bumblebees are dead or dying beside the roadside. Who will pollinate our blossoms?
The spring migration continues and we see birds that are seldom seen about at any other time. The little golden crowned kinglets are new to me. They are flitting around the brushheap. I don't know if its safe recesses attract them or the fruiting shrub that is directly above. That one spot attracts a great deal of wildlife. That birds love to search it over and the rabbits love to hide in it.
We walked our usual mile plus and the wind was out of the southwest and gentle. There were two geese near the creek but seemingly uninterested in swimming in the milky mess.
The cattle were out at farmhouse number one but confined to a corral directly behind the barn. The farmer was droning down through the fields on his tractor, carrying another noxious load into a different quadrant this time. The cats crouched in the garden spot, ducking behind short weeds, hoping they were invisible.
It was already well into the 60s with the promise of being another hot, dry day. I picked up a sphinx moth by the road. He was very dark over his top with a wide chartreuse band about his body followed by an extremely thin band of the same color. A nessus moth- when he was turned over, he turned into a different bug, Jekyll-Hyde fashion. His underside was burnt orange with dark umber shadings about the outer edges of his wings and body! He was about 1 1/4 inches long, and as round as a pencil. I showed the Jekyll-Hyde sphinx moth to five year old Nicholas and made him close his eyes before I turned it over, thinking he'd ask what I did with the 'other' bug but children these days aren't easily fooled.
There was a pale fragment of moon well up in the morning sky, its right side much eroded away. It was a sunny morning and the temperature soared...lucky for us there was a spanking breeze or it might have been very uncomfortable. We had a noon cookout and walked about the lawn without any bugs for once. The wind blew them all into the next county and most of the butterflies, as well. I spotted a cabbage white and later, a creamy swallowtail, sailing before the wind.
It always seems cool and moist down at the wetlands. It smells like the seashore and the odor of clover comes on the wind, carried across the meadow. There are small cheeping noises emerging from among the canes and small fish swarm about the conduit where I saw a tiny snapping turtle swimming around. The minnows better watch out. Just since yesterday, I've begun seeing hordes of bottle green dragonflies about.
By dinnertime, we'd lost our sun. The sky grew dark and bruised looking, the wind rose mightily and we got a few claps of thunder and some lightning. Several minutes of downpour followed and then it grew quiet and I heard the liquid notes of a little sparrow in the mockorange. And the hummingbirds are back! One took possession of the little red feeder and woe be to any other who dared to approach...or even a bee, or wasp. He is an intrepid little soul!
The morning temperatures were a shock to systems just getting adjusted to the 85-90º of the last part of the week. The wind came directly from the northeast, cutting at our faces as we walked. The hay is lush and nearly knee deep already and the vetch and bedstraw line the highways, mixing with the dandelion and wild mustard. What a riot of color!
The bob o'links flutter through the air and alight in the grasses. How do they find their nesting spots a second time in all that enormous pasture? A red-winged blackbird scolded us from a wire not more than twelve, or fifteen feet overhead. He stood his ground when we paused below and squawked and rattled his epaulettes.
There were two ducks paddling in the far western reaches of the creek, hardy souls, and a heron stalked up the eastern side. There were three pairs of Canada geese housekeeping in the pasture. They honked as we passed.
The cheerful little farmer has plowed a great expanse so far to the west that it's difficult to see from the road. Whatever can he take care of so far away?
Our cocoon broke open today and a gorgeous creature emerged...it looks like it was made from watered silk. There are shadings of peach, or orange about the head and long, velvety plumes.
May 25th It was just going on seven p.m. when a fair-sized rabbit came out of the brush. He was strikingly mottled, like a woodcock, or a grouse. There were varying shades of white, and light tan overlaid with darker brown and streaks of black. The back of his head was a fulvous color with a black patch between his ears like a tiny skullcap. Now and again he'd lift his tail and the white underside would show.
He munched his way along a dandelion that he'd neatly clipped off at ground level and the ball of seeds fell to the ground. He clipped off another one and another until a sudden fright sent him scurrying a few feet to one side and then the other.
When he faced me, I could see a delicate white border around the leading edge of his ears, a white circle around each eye. Above each eye, there was an additional dark line like one long, dark eyebrow. He munched methodically away, bobbing his head and flicking his ears as if something, mosquitoes probably, were driving him crazy.
Occasionally he'd paw in the sand with his short forepaws, then he'd stretch out in it, long legs trailing behind, then with a quick twist he'd be rolling his back in it, dangling feet waving in the air.
His feet were long and fawn colored over the top with a snowy underside. The chest, belly, and inner thighs were white also and fluffy looking. Some evenings we have observed two, or three of them emerge as the shadows lengthen, keeping to the murky edges until the daylight wanes. They browse until one approaches the other head on and then a game of leap frog ensues. They meet almost nose-to-nose and then one seems impelled to leap at the other like a foot boxer. They flip end for end and a mad chase begins about the perimeter of the lawn. They stopped as suddenly as they started and resumed feeding again. They are a joy to watch as they eat thoughtfully and seriously until another mad impulse seizes them and sends them to dancing once more.
Recent days, we've had thick clouds and a weak sun. The winds are quite brisk and there were widespread frosts over the North Country. The low temperatures have broken records dating back to 1963; however, usually by afternoon the sun has strengthened and it's very pleasant. We've been working outside and it's just comfortable, the breeze keeps the black flies away. The radio says they have widened their range and are now being found in outlying communities where they were never a pest before.
We continued with the rain and chill right into several days of unseasonal temperatures, really warm. The black flies and mosquitoes got worse but the apple trees were bursting with blossoms and color and the sweet cucumber vines fragrant with bloom. We feared that the rain would mean no blossoms or apples later on, so much depends on spring weather. Violent winds, or a lot of rain, anything that prevents the bees from getting out may mean no apples.
We've been watching the ruby-crowned kinglets searching about in the brushpile behind the house and I photographed a rose-breasted grosbeak in the poplars. The trees are in blossom and covered with long catkins that the birds seem particularly fond of. The rose-breasted grosbeaks seem to like them best of all and each spring you can count on seeing them when the buds begin to open. They also like the young tender leaves and devour many of them.
The Wake-Robin, or trillium, or birthroot as the Native Americans knew it, is in bloom, both white and blood-red. There is so much to see, one is alive to so much beauty that it is a wrench to leave home for even a minute! We wonder why we are so blessed. We look up at the unblemished sky, across at the rolling fields, listen to the birds and beasts, the abundant life. So much for us to enjoy and so many who cannot- but, then, many would hate our life. Mark Twain was so right when he said, "Ten men hate what I love."
The weather is following much the same pattern as last year except that we seem just a bit later with the blossoming, etc. It's been dry by spells, then torrents of rain and we got about 36 hours of rain the past few days. It's amazing to observe the changes outside the window just since. The weeds and shrubs have doubled in height and they are a newly washed, bright green. The dogwood is in bloom and the mockorange is budded up. The apple trees are finished now, they only lasted about a week, or ten days.
Today we've got a good day, sunny with a smart breeze. Laundry is dancing on lines all along the highways but 200 miles to the south, it is pouring and humid. The rabbits are back and putting on a daily show for us. I am having an interesting time trying to get it all on film; photographing through the windows is far from ideal- I hope the fair weather continues. If one can believe the winged ant's dispersal flight, we should have good conditions.
The windflowers, or wild anemones are beautiful along the roadside. They are waxy white, with six petals and a yellow rayed center and the leaves look like those on delphiniums. I took some slide shots of them, both singly and in patches.
As we walked we watched the birds arise from, and descent into, the long wet grasses. Wouldn't you think that would be an awfully uncomfortable home? There were two geese creekside and they ranged back and forth along the tops of the earthworks, playing King of the Mountain. I heard more geese but there was actually little life to be seen.
The kill-deer ran down the highway before us, uttering strange burring sounds like a metronome, leading us away from a nest, I presume. Now and then she'd stop to snatch up an earthworm threading its way across the highway. So that's where they've been disappearing to!
The tulips, of course, are finished and we didn't seem to have any narcissi this year at all. The creek is higher since the rain and not so nasty looking, no scum today. Looks like it wants to turn off sunny and warm. The bob o'links follow us along our path as we walk. Their song is cherry and promises things to come. I carried my camera along today and was not disappointed because there was abundant life along the creek. The herons and geese posed for me as well as the bob o'links; they all seemed cooperative and I got some pretty shots. When we returned home, the wind was picking up and the neighbor's plastic was up in our plum tree-
This morning the geese were settled in the first pasture and didn't even bother to honk at us. There were two in the western side of the creek and they puddled off. Why do we never get to see the little ones? It is a strange year, it seems to lack something. Despite its beauty, it misses the lushness and abundance that we experienced last year.
There was an especially heavy dew this morning. It drew me to the window and I was lost again, photographing the rabbits in the sideyard . I have concrete proof now of what they eat. Everyone blames rabbits for vandalized gardens and ravaged flowerbeds but we have watched them enter the flowerbeds where they munch contentedly on the weeds that we have aplenty of. They seem to enjoy sorrel and dandelion leaves and leave our flowers strictly alone! I have a picture of one clipping off a dandelion at ground level and it disappearing down his mouth like a log in a chute.
We enjoyed our first cookout today- we didn't go anywhere to celebrate the long holiday. We preferred to stay off the road and just relax. E- sat on the lawn and I went from window to window, observing the birds. In late afternoon, we had the unexpected pleasure of watching a starling take an unseasonable bath in the run-off in front of the garage. And in the traces of remaining snow, there is the thick and thin track of a robin, like a long skein of yarn.
It was a sunny morning and we zipped right along down our road. The flowers seem later this year, I've yet to see the beautiful anemones that blossomed along the way last spring.
The creek is half-dried over and there are no swimmers, no frogs, no tadpoles, muskrats, or birds. It is nothing but a stagnant run-off.
By afternoon we'd lost most of the sunshine and it began to feel damp and smell moldy. Our lilac shrub has had one stingy blossom on it and the other one had none. The iris are opened now but there's a dearth of butterflies for some reason. I did see a Painted Lady today-
Later I spied three cedar waxwings in a tall tree at the edge of our grove. I've never seen that particular bird around here before. Well, surprisingly enough, it's been a day of sunshine and shower. The earth must be satisfied because the garden is doing well and everything looks green and healthy and our young trees are getting immense.
The rabbit was back taking a sandbath underneath my window, so out came the camera again. It is difficult to resist these Pagliaccis.. This one scratched the sand loose, then threw himself down and rolled in it. His long legs flailed the air in a ridiculous manner, then he sat and rubbed his feet over his face. And the flute-like notes of the thrush sounded over and above all. I do love that bird.
The rabbit was still in the yard when we drove away and he didn't get excited at all. We drove into the mountains and the sun and mild breezes were warm and inviting. The blackflies were quite troublesome and mosquitoes began in late afternoon but you can't have everything. Timothy Ferris says that our planet has 2700 species of the pests!
We drove in and out of drenching showers, getting a brief walk between the deluges. There was little to see however, just the usual clamour of birds trying to drive us away from their nesting areas. They were having a glutton's picnic. The woodcock's cry echoed and re-echoed and the killdeer screamed, the geese honked and the swallows twittered, the red-wings threatened and the woodpeckers hammered. Off in the distance we could hear diesels but whether train or ship, I couldn't tell. And there was the occasional bleat of a calf and the voice of Farmer # 1 humming his 'mystery tune'.
The highway was littered with earthworms and slugs but very few frogs this time. We have a growing commune of geese in the first pasture and the 'little' farmer, (#1,) has put six small calves out in the corral near the road. He is getting his garden in, little by little.
We found a nice place along the road and we unfolded our cloth and untied our sandwiches. We munched in silence, absorbing the peace and beauty all around us. A tiny dragonfly alighted on my ankle. We looked at each other and smiled in contentment.
It is foggy tonight but the radio says tomorrow will be nice. I see the morning glory seeds and sweet peas I started inside some time ago have sprouted. And inside the circle of lanternlight, the daylilies and oriental poppies are budded and the peonies are a gorgeous crimson.
The animals are on the move for some reason lately and there are deer, and raccoons crushed on the highways. I hung the laundry out underneath the trees today. The grasses grow right up underneath the line and some are rather high. The clothes dried in record time and I brought them back in and folded them and put them in the bathroom to make certain all dampness was gone. Much later I went back in and found a pile on the floor; it looked like the wet lint that sometimes follows the clothes from washer to dryer so I bent over to pick it up. Much to my surprise, it jumped a foot away from me, giving me a great start. It was a tiny toad who'd apparently hitched in with the wash-
I see some daylilies are ready to open now. It's threatening to rain but tomorrow is supposed to start clearing off and warming up. The past few days have scarcely reached 60º and its been so unpredictable.
We drove to Hannawa Falls and purchased some bedding plants there. The mosquitoes and humming birds were in almost equal proportion in the greenhouse. We spent a pleasant day with Thing 3 and her family. After eating, we walked a woodland trail that some kind soul had marked out with white cobble stones. There were deer prints and all sorts of berries. And so pretty along the water.
This morning, I was threatened by a feisty litle woodcock, or snipe while walking. It must have a nest close by the road and it came towards me in an utterly unwoodcock-like manner and 'paraded' back and forth uttering a strange drill-like ullulation over and over. I watched in fascination and when I wouldn't leave, it finally gave up and flew away.
We've been planting dill outside but up in the mountains some have lost their gardens due to a sharp frost. The temperature got into the 30s overnight. When things go wrong, the pessimists attribute our reverses to the Pascalian theory that God abandoned us right after our creation. I don't feel abandoned and I don't think there is much justification for such a remark. I wonder who they credit with the perfection of a newly born child? Do they think that miracle was one of their own devising? Such people are tiresome, I don't wonder St. Simon Stylites sat on his pillar, it was probably the only way he could get above it all. How easy to quote Sir Walter Raleigh, "I wish I loved the human race, I wish I liked its silly face-"
This was a marvelous morning with a brisk wind all day long. We saw about two dozen geese and a couple ducks at the creek. The bob o'links have all but deserted us, they must be nesting discreetly now-
The creek is a nauseating mess; the eastern side looks like someone had dumped a load of manure into it. It strikes me that we're seeing fewer birds, fewer butterflies, less frogs, and bugs- We surprised three mallards away from the creek.
'They' are harrowing the fields again to the west of the highway and the cloying odor of freshly turned earth is carried by the wind. There is also the smell of something unbearably sweet but what I can only guess. The clover is not in bloom yet- The gulls are following the plow, making sure they see what turns up, rather Macawber-like. There was a soft slug on the highway about an inch long, maybe inch and a half and emerald green!
I scared up a snipe, or woodcock as I walked along. It fluttered off so quickly it was impossible to identify it accurately.
Night brought a thin sickle moon and gathering clouds. Nothing materialized, however, and by morning we walked beneath a high dome of cerulean blue. The color diminished as the eye descended towards the horizon where it became a creamy color, sometimes tinted with rose.
Our garden flowers are coming on. The poppies are beautiful- this afternoon it is 58º and overcast. A porcupine has been busy at the screen door. I caught him in the act. I was lying there dozing when I heard some one pulling at the door. When I went to see, there was no one to be seen. Convinced I was hearing things, I went back to my couch. The noise was repeated and I went again. The third time, I wised up and looked at ground level and there was the culprit, giving one last guilty look back, before he humped off. Actually, porcupines are nothing to fool with. Alan Eckert tells us that wounds from their quills fester and swell and 'the animal is unable to eat or drink and soon dies.' He goes on to say that there are microscopic barbs just below the tips which begin to spread as soon as they encounter body heat. Nice little fellow!
I don't know why porcupines are so active just now. Can it be their mating period? One was waddling down the highway, holding traffic back as no one wanted to be the first to administer the coup de grace. And no wonder, because I've heard that their fierce quills can penetrate a tire. I was lucky in having my camera with me and I took his picture, several times.
Snails are climbing the window glass, leaving silvery trails as they go. What does that mean? Last night was very chilly, down in the mid-forties before morning. I photographed a dead squirrel and a purple finch in various positions today but soon gave up; there is no way to make dead things look alive. But the squirrel was alive, with fleas-
The bob o'links aren't quite so insistent now but the peonies are wonderful and the lupins and iris are in blossom. The hummers have been back for a week or two, or at least that's as long as we've seen them. I used to wonder what they lived on before the flowers were fully in blossom but I read a newspaper article that said they live on the saps and resins that come out of trees. I also read that a humming bird can take off in 7/100's of a second; I knew they were fast-
The bob o'links are active and the red wings very aggressive. The mallards and geese seem to rely on these birds for an early warning signal to fly off.
I see there is a newcomer at the third farm, a golden palomino. So beautiful- I picked two lovely, miniature flowers along the way. One resembled a sweet pea but is so small, and so yellow. The other has frail, pink petals and long yellow stamens. Still no anemones.
All in all, it was a magnificent morning, about 70º at breakfast time with a heavy dew. The grasses stood knee deep and drenching wet. I found more of the miniature sweet peas and one of the lovely anemones; they are beginning to blossom now. The one I allowed myself to pick was about 18" tall with green 'hands' standing out from the stem in opposite positions. First glance would convince one there were five leaves to a side but closer inspection showed two leaves on each side, heavily indented. They split back almost to the base of the leaf and each section is further divided by three at its tip. They are rather glossy with a 'bubbly', or uneven finish, thickly veined and ribbed.
The white cinquefoil had no green calyx, the petals blossomed directly out from the stem. At the center of the cup there are myriad yellow stamens, short with the small pale chartreuse button showing beneath them. There is a distance of about 6" or more between each set of leaves on the stem.
Back home, the thrush is singing his heart out- why, oh, why must I devote such a marvelous morning to housecleaning? Oh, well, put on Tortoni's Sinfonia Pastorale and go to it.
Our 'city kid' grandson is visiting us and we are indoctrinating him to the joys of the country. He is beginning to like visiting the creek, also.
Although it is sunny and breezy, I feel some disappointment in this spring so far. It is usually my favorite time of year but it has been so dry the flowers are blossoming and going to seed in record time. Ants are entering the house in search of food and moisture and there are fewer birds to be seen every day as they retreat to the cooler depths of the woods. I miss the bird calls, especially the silvery thrush that sang so beautifully early on. He only sings sporadically these days-
Perhaps this is a acryogenic period like the one when fauna reached into the Arctic Circle. According to Loren Eiseley, we are still on the edge of winter or early spring, as far as the periods are concerned. Right now, we are mulching and watering in an effort to save things but it's not the same.
We drove up to see Mother and helped her transplant several flowers. The birds were singing and it was so pleasant there if one could discount the black flies. They never give up. She was leafing over a copy of GRIT, which she dearly loves. "I like the recipes," she says. She wanted to order it but stopped when she saw 24 issues on the form. "I don't know I'll be here in two years time," she remarked. We finally proved to her that 24 issues was one year's subscription as it is published several times a month. "Besides, they'd give you a refund," we told her. Keep it light, if possible.
It is warm and beautiful but dry- it is getting warmer still and humid by evening. We have to walk very early or very late because I just cannot stand it. The beach is the place to be.
I remember working at a resort hotel many years ago. When we were on 'break' we collected handfuls of snails from the river bottom. We put them on papers on the screened-in porch of our dorm. I thought the shells were empty and planned to make something with them, but did I get a big surprise! During the night, snails emerged from their shells and climbed the walls. In the morning there were snails up and down the sidewalls and festoons of them on the ceiling. Some were on the curtains; they were far from dead.
Everything is growing beautifully. We set out lupins of different colors and some China blue forget-me-nots. Our lemon lilies are blossomed out back and I hope will attract the hummingbirds. Our roses are in bloom now, too. I would like to set out some red oaks along the back line. They seem to do so well for us, the one we planted two years ago is higher than my shoulder already and it is such a pretty color. I can visualize a stand of them shading the western side of the garage that does overheat terribly. And that is where I keep my deepfreeze-
It really is a super day, sunny and very pretty but the temperature drops so low at night that a couple blankets are necessary. I started for a walk and the wind was very chilly. I got a present just at the end of the driveway where I found a beautiful creamy fluted swallowtail butterfly. For some reason, that is where I find most of my butterflies. They must like the open area and draft that carries them up the driveway to the highway where the vehicles do them in. That is where I found the strange little Janus-like moth a week or two ago and it is also where I found the burnt orange one. Thank heavens I don't even have to kill any of them, my collection would be very limited if I did.
I picked one more anemone and one of the little yellow sweet-pea family. I see the daisies are in blossom now throughout the meadow.
The little farmer must have sowed the plowed field that we spotted far off in the distance because there is no longer any brown soil visible. It is exhilarating to stride along up the long slope through the wetlands. This stretch is open and the breeze carries across the meadows, almost always out of the northwest and it brings the odors of the first clovers, the first strawberries, the first haymaking. 'Maud Muller on a summer's day raked the meadows sweet with hay-'
It was clouded over by noon and we watched the sky anxiously. There's been no appreciable rain lately. Last night, as I lay reading, I heard the strangest chirping beneath my window. It sounded like birds do when there's a cat around but when I looked out, there were two little mallard ducklings bouncing through the side yard. They beeped with each step like a wind-up toy, lovely little balls of black and orange fluff. We ran out with the camera but they dashed into the bushes where they continued their importunate chirps and we couldn't find them. When we came back in, they came back out and continued their saga. The last I saw of them, they were still going along towards the creek into the gathering dusk. They will be easy prey for almost any carnivore or predator.
I paused in my walk to speak to the 'little' farmer. He was on his knees in his garden and I informed him that it looked very nice. He said he would be haying before long. This was the first time I've ever seen him when he wasn't singing or whistling! He appears to be a truly contented man. It is a pleasure to see someone happy to be working and working at something that makes him happy.
We've had a couple afternoon showers, not nearly enough but oh, so welcome. It did cool things off a bit. I see my seeds are up.
As we walked today, we surprised one of the little ducks paddling in the creek. When he saw us, he became jet propelled and ran over the water like a miniature hydrofoil. It's funny that he is so wary so young; the other wasn't about so he apparently didn't make it. I don't know how long this one will survive without adult protection. He is like a little ball of black and yellow fluff.
My flowers are beautiful but this was a week of terrible sunburn. E- found some wild strawberries; they joined the spinach, radishes, and onions at the dinner table.
There's been no further action at the creek. They've finished re-plowing the field and they dragged and harrowed it and now it is growing back to grass again. There are huge bald patches to my left where the woodcocks danced. The soft, green patches of moss are the first places they bring the small ones to and if anyone comes along on foot at that time, the parents put on a great display. I counted several one morning, flying low and around and around our heads, uttering their strange cries. They looked like tiny futuristic missiles, leading with that long beak and they stayed low until we left.
The dill is up. It was 53º at 8 a.m. and sunny after a very cool night well down into the 40s. We're at the new moon and can expect extremes. I see the primroses are budding up. The grass is growing right behind the lawnmower and it is a struggle to keep ahead of it and keep the weeds pulled. Why is it that no matter what one may suffer in undesirable climate changes, the weeds never stop growing?
The birds must be at the end of spring migration because the species have settled down and we are stuck with the usual robins and starlings. I detest the cowbirds and starlings but lucky for us, they do have a voracious appetite for insects. We may thank Eugene Schieffelin for them. We'd been better off if that wealthy New York manufacturer had enjoyed less idle time. He thought it would be really nice to introduce all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare to the USA, and we see the result-
However great these pests may be, I must admit that they are a welcome sight when they are the first birds back in the spring. They waddle about the wet, moldy bare grass and peck and eat a prodigious amount of insects. They do appear to be devoted parents, also, and strangely enough, they can sing quite prettily if they want to.
We walked down our favorite road this morning and saw a rail! I had never seen one of those quaint birds before, but for that matter, I am seeing many things in the wetlands that I'd never seen. Coots, for instance...but back to the rails. I'd been hearing a strange noise whenever I approached the stands of cat tails, a sound I could not identify. It sounded like someone rapping on a stone with a hollow stick. After many days, I began to see a strange wine-rose bird with a barred rump. It ran its long bill into the muddy shoreline with great interest. Now and then, it would cluck. After it clucked, there would be rustling in among the stems of the cat tails and answering peeps. Now and then we would be lucky and see the darting form of a little black ball. Which reminds me, I haven't seen the little duckling again. I hate to think he didn't make it.
The house is full of ants again, both little and large. They form a vertical column and ascend the wall in file. They walk to wherever the scout found something desirable, in this instance the butter dish, and they must pass the word because every ant in Kingdom Come hurries to see. It was unfortunate that they found my butter dish because the tiniest ones looked so much like crumbs that I fear some were consumed before Someone found out they were protein rather than carbohydrate. An ant with a full load can travel one foot in 10 seconds at 22ºC.
The continued drought is very bad for allergy sufferers. The pollen count is very high each day and there is nothing to wet it down and the winds generated by the overheated earth whip it around with disastrous results. The lilac leaves and those on the flocks are covered with mosiac, or mildew. They look like I'd sprinkled them with talcum powder.
Two more little ducks passed through our yard this evening; it's getting like Grand Central Station. You cannot get near them to photograph them, can't even attempt to save their lives!
Everything is greening up fine and by the time we are at the summer solstice, blossoms and leaves should be lush and full-blown. The farmers have yet to begin haying; it seems late but with the strange, unreliable weather and slow season, they probably have a good reason for delaying. This may be the favored time of year for many but once I see everything at its most lush, I begin to see the handwriting on the wall. Far better May, with mere green tracery of leaves and only hints of what is yet to come than summer in all its ephemeral beauty.
June 16 and rainy most of the day! The temperature dropped from 71º at 8 a.m. to 60 at 2 p.m. I found more of the lovely waxen flowers (anemone canadiiansis) along the highway near the creek. Oh, why did I never study botany? I brought a collection of the flowers home and tried to dry them but they turned a nasty brown. I also brought home a trumpet of jewelweed and some other herbs that I found near the creek. They are all drying up anyway. What a pleasure it would be to know the proper name and family of each, its uses and its nature
The days have turned much warmer and it is very dry again. After what appears to be a soaking rain, I dig down a few inches and the soil is dry. We try to get our walk in early because it is often in the seventies already by 9 a.m. The lawns are getting that parched look and when the wind blows, it catches up the dust and carries it along with it. We are watering every day but it just is not the same; however, it does keep the flowers alive...but barely. They never seem to reach their full potential.
The musk, the lupins, pansies, and roses make a fine, monochromatic color scheme in the front corner between garage and house, ranging from just off white through pink and down into the loveliest of lavenders. The bees are mad for the tall giant alliums and I am glad we didn't plant any near the doors because they are always a-buzz with bees of various kinds.
We were busy all day long. We carried water and cut back the lupins that are going to seed far too early. The radio promises rain but it surely doesn't look it. There was an eclipse of the moon Sunday night... the old-timers believed that the moon had a lot to do with our weather conditions, and of course, it does. One notices that our most extravagant weather changes usually occur during the dark, or full of the moon and I remember grandparents peering at it and finding it worrisome when rings appeared around it.
We are infested with ants of varying sizes, I suppose they are looking for moisture. I hate to kill, kill, kill but one must defend oneself. I found an article in a magazine that advised me to place sprigs of wintergreen, (if I find some,) around or draw a chalk line to keep the ants away. I tried the chalk but these ants didn't seem impressed at all.
The swallows have nested in the box by the house and they are busily skimming along, providing their offspring with insects. I'm surprised that they catch them so easily because there seems relatively few this spring. We have to rely on swallows because we just don't seem to see any bats any more. They've either been killed by insecticides, or have moved on to greener pastures. I remember the time I left my mop pail on the backsteps and when I went back to put it away, I was amazed to see seven, or eight bats in the bottom. I thought they had radar? Why didn't they miss the bucket? A couple days later, there were more in it. The police came and took them away, unhappily, I must add, and I asked for a report if there should be rabies, but I never heard anything.
Another scorcher. We walked right after breakfast and even then had to cut it short. The animals crowd under a solitary tree and chew their cuds or lie down in what used to be mud but everything is dry and cracked looking. It looks like alligatored paint, or like me... I laugh when I remember trying to impress our small daughter with the importance of skincare; she was at the age when she didn't appreciate being dragged in for a bath. She was told that if she kept her skin nice and clean, it would remain smooth and pretty. "Why is yours so crackly-looking then?" she inquired.
It is still 86º after 6 p.m. but it is much worse elsewhere. The orb spiders are making their traps through the flower gardens; imagine such an ugly creature making silk? There was a good selection of tarantulas at the Pet Store in the mall and the big, brown bodies would not fit into one of my coffee mugs. I am told that they are not poisonous but I have also read that they can have a nasty bite. One lady told me that if they are dropped, they shatter like crystal. That's fine with me.
It darkened over and we had a few sprinkles this afternoon but not enough, not nearly enough. They are forecasting more tomorrow with severe storm conditions and maybe hail. I never thought I'd get sick of seeing the sun. I planted my Rue despite the promise of another hot, hot day. I put it in the shade for the most part. The musk is beginning to open but that is very hardy, the mock orange is fully open and the iris is done.
A squirrel is clawing at the kitchen window. (S)He had to climb the chimney to get to it but is very determined. She has gone all around the outer edges, looking for an opening, now she is examining the midsections. It is frightening when a wild animal becomes so determined. I suppose they have young and it is so dry, they may not be able to find food. Sometimes they get inside and climb up between the walls. They gnaw and bite in a frenzy to get out and often I fear that they are coming through into the room.
Our son-in-law was putting new wood up in his soffit when a squirrel's nest fell out with several small babies. The mother ran down the wall and picked them up, one by one, and tried to climb back up the same ladder he was on, by-passing his body to put her offspring back in the hole. Her tactics rather alarmed him because he feared she might bite him in her maternal concerns.
It was a day of alternate sun and shade. We put out the clothes and it would shade over and begin to pour. We'd bring them in and the sun would come out. After repeating the process several times, we just gave up. It is very humid tonight.
June 20th, we are starting another hot, humid day. When it is already 73-75º at 7:30 a.m., you know you're in for a hot one and that's what we've had for the past two days. We like to walk early because by nine, you can't stand being out in the sun.
I've been trying to get a picture of the rail and her little black babies down at the creek. It is a great place to be on a hot morning, anyway. There is almost always a nice breeze from the west and it smells of wet and mud; almost like being at the seashore. We surprised a bittern today and it took off with its long legs dragging.
Usually there is one, maybe two, herons circling overhead waiting for us to leave. I love to watch them and was heartbroken to read that some idiot shot and killed eleven that were nesting downstate somewhere.
Two more little ducks passed through the sideyard last week. We don't see them at the creek, so they probably didn't make it.
The smell of clover is blown from the right as we walk along. It is carried over the meadows and smells very sweet. And the bob o'links sing and sing. I enjoy that bubbly, elastic song; it makes me think of a kid twanging on a rubber band. And there is usually that ridiculous, chortling noise coming from all directions like a lunatic on a bass recorder. It must be a woodcock.
Sunday night there was a red, red deer just down the road and I berated myself for having no camera with me and again the next morning as we were driving into town, a skinny, scroungy fox sauntered across in front of the car. He made a leisurely stop in the ditch where he scratched himself and sniffed the grass and stared at us as if to say, 'Well, I'm posing, where's the camera?' We rushed home and got one but of course, he was gone.
It is much cooler today but so dry. Each evening the fireflies are like sparks caught in the tops of the trees and in the grasses. The moon is very bright and it often prevents the solar lights from coming on along the walk.
The wild sweetpeas are blossomed and they are a treat. We have planted and planted but don't seem to have any luck growing them, guess we'll have to continue enjoying wild ones...or somebody else's. The garden peas are said to be early but we have had peas on the tenth of June before. In fact, one year we got the mad idea of dropping seeds into the ground just before freezeup. Well, the idea wasn't so bad if we'd had a normal winter but we got a prolonged January thaw and we had peas coming up all over the place, then when it froze again, they stood drooping and forlorn, a joke on us whenever we had callers.
I just took my road test again. Due to my own carelessness, I lost my license and had to go to classes with persons who had never had a license, or who had lost theirs for DWI, or speeding, etc. Mine was lost when we moved. Somehow I never received the renewal notice that they send and they apparently do not forward it so, out of sight, out of mind. I never thought of checking and it went over so it was no longer renewable. Ergo- it really wasn't difficult to take it over, but a nuisance.
Today is a nice sunny day, not so hot- We saw a deer near the highway. We had been to Hannawa Falls and we returned the back way. Of course I didn't have my camera with me and there it was, grazing just about a mile down the road from home. So frustrating!
We found tiny wild strawberries along the roadside. I suppose we shouldn't pick them, Michael Hallowell says "never pick raspberries or blackberries within a mile of the public highway. Some herbs have an affinity for the lead in car fumes and may contain up to 200 times their natural levels." But we ate the poison fruit and they did taste good. We gathered enough that we each had cake and strawberries for dessert. Yummy!
This afternoon has turned very cool and they are predicting scattered frosts for tonight. Yesterday was rainy and cool, too and it poured Saturday. I didn't get my walk in today and I feel it, too. I am hoping the change in weather and the moisture may rid us of some of these tent caterpillars that are crawling over everything. They are really getting to be a problem in many places and one woman, interviewed on TV, said she found some in her bed!
We've just had our third strawberry shortcake.
Midsummer's Night Eve...gather your rosebuds while you may! It is uncomfortable again and still 83º at 6 p.m. We walked in the mall, away from the sun but it is not the same. Where is the fresh air? And all the delights of nature that we enjoy? We returned home and put the air conditioning unit in the window for some relief.
We walked out into the ditch and checked on our polluted strawberries and got enough for another treat tonight. When I was a child, wild strawberries used to flouurish along the railroad beds, for some reason.
A kind person brought us some wild leeks also so we shall have vichysoisse tonight. I must get out this afternoon and find an appropriate birthday present for a dear grand daughter. She is an artistic, very independent little soul and what shall we find? Perhaps something will come to me-
It is fun to stroll outside every day and look for the tiny green things peeping through in the flower garden and to note the growth of those that have already sprouted. Even the emerging insects will be welcome for awhile- any new life forms-
We travelled to visit our new grandson. Poor child, the heat is awful for him and he has a fierce heat rash. He lies with only a diaper and wisp of a shirt on but his tummy goes in and out like a small bellows as he pants and tries to sleep in the heat.
From one extreme to another, its been drizzling again and damp most of the day and only 58º. We did manage to get a walk in this morning between the sprinkles. There was a pale, lemony sun buried in layers of dense clouds. The drop in temperature is terrific and many will have colds, or be sick. If we find the unseasonable chill uncomfortable, so do the bugs as we've been nearly bugless recently, quite a novelty in the northeast and the Adirondack foothills at that.
There's been little activity at farm # 1 lately. The young men haven't been out in view and the hay isn't being taken care of and there are days when there's not a soul to be seen.
Further along, at the 'gentleman' farmer's, life goes on. He had the roof fixed on his house and now he's having the Amish build him a new hay barn. And across, just beyond the 1870 farm, someone is building between the 1870 farm and the woods.
And at the wetlands, all is quiet. The birds are nesting and secretive as are the mammals, but there's always the butterflies and flowers. The men are taking advantage of the wet to go fishing. They stride up and down along the water in their big, muddy boots, some clear to their waist. I don't know how they can walk and should they ever go over the tops, they will be dragged to the bottom. They carry a creel strapped to their side and wear battered old hats with hooks stuck all over them. And do they look happy!
Now, it's right back hot again. Yesterday ultimately warmed up immoderately and today is not far behind. We were beginning to wonder if all the little plants that showed such forward growth this spring could withstand the changes? Our young trees have been doing very well too, but it looks like we may lose a lombardy poplar out front. We save all the dishwater, and mop water and pour it on the trees but it is not the same.
Some are making strawberry jam, this is a strawberry year. We moved a lot of flowers and some shrubs, probably will be sorry making such moves in a dry spell, but we had to get them out of the sun and on the shady side.
I notice a proliferation of insects, a sure sign of drought. I spent a great deal of time trying to photograph the lovely green beetle that changes to gold when the sun hits just right. He is a beauty. Wish I could identify him.
A-ha, I've caught and photographed one of the emerald and gold beetles to some effect. I had to confine him to a plastic case as he wouldn't settle down and get his picture taken. I never fail to get a kick out of the remark by the English geneticist, J.S. Haldane who, when asked what he thought of a God who made such a diverse universe, replied, "HE sure was fond of beetles."
There was an unique butterfly on the outside of the porch window. He was black with lacy looking scalloped wings. They had white spots about the outer edges. I tried to catch him but I'm just too slow.
Still in the low 80s at 7:45 p.m. Luckily, we've had a good breeze all day or it would have been unbearable. The primroses are at their peak and so bright and pretty. Everyone who visits us comments on them and I find myself promising more and more pieces- We froze 5 pints of wild strawberries today
It is so hot at bedtime that we sat on the porch in the dusk and watched the fireflies. The peepers keep up a ariosan chant and it is often the best part of the day. I purchased a small plastic daisy that is supposed to be a birdbath but the water evaporates so quickly that I doubt anything's had a good drink.
We are still waiting for the hummingbirds. We used to have so many but this year, they appear few and far between; and Mother has them about her feeder, six, or seven at a time. I took transparencies of them and the pictures are pretty good. The little birds are SO cute- She comments on one that drives all the rest away. "He's a regular little bully," she says.
The sun struggled through a dense layer of clouds, finally winning through to provide a pleasant day. Since the solstice on June 20th, the northeast has been unseasonabaly cool. We've just passed the dark of the moon and the stars continue on a westerly path. Can't see Venus any more now and Mercury has fallen so low and grown so pale, it can't be picked out. But Jupiter is there in the southwest each evening, a bright and friendly object. Tomorrow is the lunar eclipse but not visible to northeasteners.
The birds seem to be retreating to the deeper parts of the woods and their songs are less than most years. Last year at this time, we listened to the silvery woodthrush each evening and enjoyed his melodies. I don't know of any other bird so gifted as a singer. His notes were like the sound of a flute and he sang and sang to us each evening and often in the early morning, also.
When we weren't listening for the thrush, we were spying on the pileated woodpeckers. They often visited us, two or three at a time and sometimes they'd be silhouetted against the rising sun, their large bodies and wedge shaped heads lodged against the bole of an old, dead tree. They'd hack away and occasionally that strident cry would ring out, [it is quite a distinctive sound,] then they'd flap away.
There is a dearth of everything from butterflies to tadpoles, to beetles. I think our poisonous environment is killing everything off. As we walk, the bob o'links are less insistent these days but the woodcocks must have nestlings because they begin sounding as soon as I walk down the cross road. Their strange drilling chirp sounds over and over and if I stop, and I frequently do just because I love to see them flush up, they sound more strident and louder and louder, until I either move on or they fly up and away.
We planted two mountain ash seedlings although why we are planting in this heat, I do not know. A kind person gave us some lettuce, some string beans, and some raspberries. Fresh things from the garden are such a treat, and we enjoyed them thoroughly, too.
Went for our passeggiata, or promenade, early so we could get in and out of the heat. The sky reminds me of a mirror, reflecting all the heat off the roads, pavement, cars, waters. The skies and the waters are a perfect match in color and appear drained of energy and life.
The sun has risen with a good deal of promise and the air is cool and refreshing. We are at the dark of the moon now. The summer solstice was June 20th at 10:14 p.m. EST. We will not see the lunar eclipse day after tomorrow, we're too far north.
We spent the day in the mountains and the black flies and horse flies were abominable. The sun shone steadily although the radio forecast electrical storms. It was a very pleasant day and we watched the hummingbirds come to Mother's feeders two, and three, at a time.
E- took a walk down the land and says the blueberry plants are covered with unripe berries. If the dryness doesn't cause them to dry up, perhaps we'll have some fresh blueberry pies soon.
The sky is hazy and it is sunny and cool after a bit of rain last night. Our hollyhocks are open but the mockorange is finished; the primroses are still full and the roses, giant allium, and musk are in bloom. The last two days have felt cool after Friday's high of 90º. We drove into the mountains to cool off. Later, it rained during the night and dropped to 60. It was fortunate that we didn't have any particular plans today because the long holiday has been cold and wet and we only enjoyed the outdoors sporadically.
The mosquitoes are fierce. Zwinger says they are attracted by a combination of carbon ioxide and nitrous oxide along with the warmth and moisture from our breathing. Quit breathing!
We walked into the woods despite the scare over the ticks that carry Lyme disease. There is a tall, bare giant of a tree and it is just riddled with woodpecker holes. So this is what the pileateds have been up to. I never saw so many holes, nor such large ones.
Regarding Lyme disease, the papers are telling us that there is an experimental vaccine now for Lyme disease. That's a welcome bit of news for those of us who love to walk in the fields and woods and have been afraid to.
This morning I flushed another woodcock up from the grasses. But this one was a fierce and courageous little parent and refused to be driven far. He circled overhead, uttering that strange chirping sound and settled right back down in the same nesting spot.
Next, there was an au-oo-gah, somewhat like the horn of an old car. It lifted me right out of my tracks and I stared about but couldn't see anyone, nor was anything near. The noises went on and I was convinced that I was losing my mind until I heard a deep chuckle and there was a huge, black crow overhead making all those weird sounds. He rattled deep in his throat, like someone gargling, then he chuckled again and the last I heard was a sort of rough crooning. Quite a repertoire!
The earthworms were out on the tarvia and they are a deep, blood red, for some reason. One was stretching along making pretty good time in his aimless fashion. He crossed towards the center of the highway, then changed direction completely and circled back, leaving a long, slippery trail. Every little way he appeared to lose control and his body would roll over a couple times. He seemed very uncordinated.
It is in the 70s. We had a cookout and except for a few black flies, it was pleasant enough. I've had just enough pleasant surprises to 'make' my day. Lately, I've been irritated by the constant 'wichety-wichety-wichety' from the thicket outside the bedroom window. I wasn't able to get a look at the little bird with such an ugly call until this morning. I heard it outside the porch window in the lilac shrub and was able to see the lovely caller. It's a small bird, maybe four inches, with black on its face and a gorgeous yellow throat. Unsurprisingly, it is called a yellowthroat.
I've also been able to identify St. John's Wort, which I found in the side yard, and the Birdsfoot Trefoil that is golden along most highways just now. It is very pretty and must be related to the sweet pea family. It has two clasped petals of bright yellow and the third, the keel, is peeled back and stands up above the other two. It's strange how gratifying it is to be able to name things but that's what makes this area our home. Here, I know, or am familiar with, most things and it makes a great difference. That's why so many elderly become confused when they are placed in nursing homes. The lack of familiar surroundings causes disorientation.
The blackflies and mosquitoes are fierce! The bees are buzzing about the Giant Allium that they love. They are probably filling their wax glands to make honeycomb.
Today I was treated to a woodcock display that was very enjoyable. As I neared the wetlands, I noticed a woodcock perched on a fencepost by the big oaktrees on my right. He sat with his long beak pointed downward in a dejected fashion and when I neared, he flew off. As I passed the channel, I heard a familiar trilling chirp warning me that I was too close. I stood and looked about and it sounded closer and closer. When I didn't move on, the bird threw himself/herself into the nearby weeds with a great threshing about, hinting of injury or some problem. Then it moved to another spot and threshed about, all the while uttering that same chirping trill. Then it flew up and circled my head, crying and clucking. Soon it was joined by a companion and the two circled and threatened over and over. I watched them through my binoculars and they looked like tiny, futuristic missiles darting about with long beaks leading and spread tails behind.
The sun went down in a blaze of glory and I strained my eyes to see the green ray that sometimes (rarely) appears in that second just as the sun disappears below the horizon. I didn't have any luck and soon forgot it in the mundane cares of getting my housework finished up for the day.
E- left for his walk and I was forced to join him later. The meadow larks darted between their observation posts on the high wires and their nest in the grasses. They uttered a strange nasal bzzst- I watched for woodcocks hoping I'd see another of their marvelous displays but saw none. I gathered some chicory, daisies, bird's foot trefoil, anemone canadiensis, and a pretty soft yellow flower that I can't identify so far, and I brought them home to photograph. By now it was awfully hot and we took the car for a refreshing spin. We stopped and picked up a poor dead flicker on the way, and at the creek, I saw a woodcock perched on a fencepost. We spent the rest of the day listening to music and I read for awhile. Mostly May Sarton's A Journal of Solitude.
It's strange how it stays dry despite light rains Saturday night into Sunday. It is 82º by noon and overcast. Will it rain today? It is the field day up home.
We started out and were soon threatened by rain. We did get our walk in but there were often sprinkles. When I reached the wetland site, there was a repeat of the woodcock activity. Their actions makes me sure that they have babies so I glassed the field and sure enough, I saw three tiny grey-white fluffballs running over a bare patch of ground at some distance. I resolved to return later and try to photograph them.
I returned about an hour later with shoe rubbers, dark clothing, camera, and an old bucket to perch on. I sat in the swamp until it began to rain again and none of the cunning little devils came out; however, the parents hung about overhead calling and chirruping. It was an unsuccessful venture from all angles. My plastic bucket collapsed and sank into the mud; I looked like a proper fool to all and sundry, who passed by.
Tonight there's a tiny crescent moon high in the west. It began to rain and did it ever rain! We pitied the campers and vacationers who'd saved up time and caused themselves much expense reserving camp sites or cabins, etc.
I wanted to get as far as possible before it began to pour. It did sprinkle but I was determined to check on the woodcocks and they gave me the usual display. I did not see any chicks but the adults whirled overhead and chirped and the winnowing sound of their wings was clearly audible. They announce themselves from far away and trill and dart about. One would think nature would have given them the instinct to keep a low profile.
The grasses and wild flowers stood in splendid display, covered with drops of moisture and tiny moths tried to fly up from them but fell back into the depths. There was the odor of wet earth and the sweet, sweet smell of clover carried on the breeze. The wild herbs beginning to blossom add their fragrances to the air.
I was just watching a duck cleave the channel when E- came to rescue me and it was well because the skies broke open and buckets of water poured down.
We started for Indian River on route 812 about 10 a.m. Did some photographing around the Croghan area and stopped in Mannsville for gas. We concluded our business as quickly as possible and returned home where it was lovely but cool. It had cleared off and we walked about very pleasantly. The woodcocks were out in force and they could be seen fluttering high above. Several dropped into the weeds and grasses and fool that I am, I left the highway and followed, wetting my legs and feet. They led me on the classic muttering, fluttering, suffering trail with nothing at the end but I did get a closer look at the adult. Others hovered nervously above just a few feet in the air and a duck took flight.
The anemones are still in bloom but turning a bit brown and the chickory has turned a heavenly blue the past week and lines the roadway. The crow offspring are as large as the parents but still expect to be fed and follow them about with raucous cries and the swallows are teaching their young to fly.
I got back some of the transparencies that I'd taken of the flowers and wild animals. Some of them are very satisfying, indeed. Those of the horse eating the fencepost does not show what I wanted it to, they merely show a horse standing by a post...not close enough. Well, tomorrow we must go to Syracuse and perhaps I can get some more, and better, shots.
Returned from Syracuse and photographed herons near Pierrepont Manor on the way home and a novelty mailbox somewhere near Pineville. I also got pictures of a wild turkey on the side of the road; large creature!
Drove up home to see what Mother was up to and enjoyed a splendid day. The sun shone and it was mild and there was a pleasant breeze. We strolled along the edge of the ravine where the road ends and it has overgrown to the extent that it is impossible to see Ingraham Stream any more despite its gurgling cascade sounding loud and clear below.
There were enormous wild strawberries, some almost as big as my thimble and the birds called and called. I know I heard a yellow throat and I saw a young cedar waxwing. And there were butterflies such as I haven't seen all summer.
I found the old foundations of the neighbor's well house and the cellar stones of their house, also. So many memories and so many dear faces come to mind, long gone now, of course.
Finally it began to rain and we had a good one. It's much cooler now and sunny again. The hermit thrush sings nightly from dusk to dark and again in early morning..so beautiful!
Had lunch at the country club and there were many golfers despite the squalls. It turned muggy but the air conditioning kept us shivering. We managed to get our walk in despite ominous clouds. The woodcocks were almost the only birds in sight and they whirred and whistled over the meadows. The swallows skimmed the ground, a sure sign of rain. The 'gentleman' farmer is busily cutting and raking but he hasn't had much luck getting his hay dried and inside. His wife said that he was 'awfully discouraged.'
His new hay barn is nearly finished and old time farmers would get an eyeful at its design. He will not need to pitch hay down and fork it over to the critters; the cleverly designed ricks facilitate its slide from the loft above directly down and out to the animal.
The new house across the road from him is coming right along, too. They are putting the sheathing on and will start the roof, weather permitting. Much building seems to go on these days anyway, rain or shine. No wonder houses warp and shrink and crack.
It feels cool despite the sun , only in the 60s later on in the afternoon. Went to Churubusco to day simply because we'd never been there. It is one of those tiny, hidden-away places that one always swears to stop and see and indeed, we often sped right on through before realizing we'd been there but when you talk to someone, they came from...Churubusco! Well, today we saw it! The wind was bitter and we didn't linger..
The sweet cucumber vines are up over our window tops now and the convolvulus is twining about the fences. It is queer how the black bryony grows clockwise, bindweed twines counter-clockwise, and the sweet cucumber vines cling by turgorous movements, turning from right to left like a DNA helix.
The anemones are still in blossom but not the pristine white as they were. The purple loosestrife is beginning to flower and the chickory is a mass of heavenly blue along the highways. There are many ox-eyed daisies now and the swallows appear to be finished with the bird box out front. At the wetlands, I pause and stare at the lush development of cattails, sedges, and diverse wild flowers. The abundance of wildlife, such as many people never get to see in all their lifetime, make me realize how fortunate I am. I possess neither worldly riches, nor fame, but I am content with what God has given me and happy to live here in my own little corner of the world. I am able to enjoy the sunshine here just as well as the millionaire can at his palatial home and our flowers bloom just as prettily for us as his does for him. Our hollyhocks are splendid but the primroses are just about finished. The coneflowers are opening and are striking- I suppose I should be using the Latin names for the flowers and shrubs but probably many people are no more familiar with them than I am. Of course, one can easily look them up if one has some idea what family they belong to. That is the advantage of having some idea of the system. The first name should be the genus, the second the species, and the third is a descriptive term denoting the variety. If the last is in quotation marks, it alerts us to the fact that this is a manmade hybrid, or cultivar.
I do know that the anemones are Anemone canadensis and the Bird's foot Trefoil is Lotus corniculatus. The pretty little rayed flower in the backyard is Eregeron philadelphieus.
We had a rather cool walk today. The woodcocks were busy in the ditches, wet and soggy after so much rain. The chicks were visible, scurrying around the same bald patch of the barrens. The adults circled above chirruping their alarms but like most offspring, these didn't seem to heed. The meadowlarks watched us from the top wire uttering their strange 'bzzst' before departing. It grew foggy as we walked and suddenly, I saw the rail babies. They are surprisingly large now and not entirely black anymore. They dart in and out among the roots of the cat tails and are as well hidden as I would be in a tropical jungle.
It cleared off before long and we enjoyed the odor of fresh, clean air. The woodcocks were drilling in the ditches and flushed as we neared. They fluttered off in a straight line but curved back and dropped to the bald patch of ground northwest of the creek. E- said he saw some movement there and sure enough, there were a couple chicks running about. Wish I could see them up close and be certain of their identification. Would also like to know exactly what color they are, when.
All the babies were out today. The young swallow nestlings sat on the electrical wires twittering for their parents to feed them and the six young calves in the corral looked at us wistfully and waited to be petted.
It turned humid again by evening. A little rabbit was munching away under my window. I observed him for awhile and it was clear that he knew someone was watching him. He nibbled away and occasionally stopped to scratch himself. The fleas, or blackflies were driving him crazy. He licked one of his long, white feet and then drew it over his lopping ears, bending them way down over his face. He ate contently for awhile and then all at once, something alarmed him and he ran into the bushes.
We needed a break and so we drove into the higher elevations and the day cleared off as we went. It finally turned out really nice. The flowers were bright and the hummers were busily harvesting the nectar. Puddles stood along the roadside and robins and starlings were taking their baths and preening themselves. There were numerous fishermen trying their luck in the racing streams but the black flies would have driven me away. Fortunately, most days it is too chilly for them to be much of a pest-
Bugs and insects notwithstanding, the world is a beautiful place. Abraham Maslow noted that many people have 'peak experiences'; somewhat like mystic moments of great awe, of the most intense happiness, or even rapture...in a variety of situations, one of them a fusion with nature. I often enjoy that feeling, looking at the perfection of nature. Who can doubt God's presence when observing His handiwork? Could such perfection come about by accident? I think not. And how closer can one ever come to true happiness?
It began to rain again, lovely, lovely rain. By 6 p.m. it was 71º and raining...did I say raining? This will be excellent for the hydrangea and mountain ash we planted. What began as a dry spring is turning on us now. We get rain almost daily and attendent cool with it. The grubs are eating up the vines and flowers and some things are rotting. About the only positive thing I can say is that it usually clears off by noon and at least half the day is pleasant.
We walked and checked on our precincts. The fields in the far western meadows have grown another pelt of green and we still wonder why they plowed them at all? The creek may grow in volume now if it continues to rain every day...there is more weed in it than ever. I never saw that particular growth in the channel before. Once in a while we see a heron standing up to his ankles in the water but they are few and far between. The ducks have left and only the woodcocks are rife, but of course, they don't go in the water but poke in the mud alongside.
Farther along, we saw 4 herons sharing the same territory. I snapped off several shots but haven't a great hope for the quality of the pictures. We returned and took a drive into the mountains where a stag ran up out of the ditch and smashed into our left front fender. When I saw we couldn't possibly miss, I closed my eyes. We dreaded getting out and looking at the car, but incredibly, there was little damage. And the deer appeared unharmed, too. It turned warm again and was 80.
Mother was fine and up to some of her 'busy' work. She turns out one latchet hook rug after another, like an assembly line and it keeps her offspring busy turning in the rough edges for her. We can scarcely keep up with her.
We had started out the day with dripping rain and it lasted until late afternoon. The rooms were dark and dreary when we left. The same small bird was sitting on a high wire out front where he has sat for days on end, repeating his same little song phrase over and over endlessly. I wish I had some idea of the number of times he's repeated it. Many birds are singing this morning. They had sorta quieted down since nesting and hatching season arrived but this morning they were quite musical.
The sweetpeas are beautiful along the highways; the colors range from a near white to pink, then dusky rose into lavender. The wild strawberries are still abundant along the ditches but the anemones appear to be gone, or almost so. The mock orange has lost most of its blossoms and small apples are forming. The golden glow is almost eaten up with grubs but it is gamely trying to form blossoms and the sweet cucumber vines are covered with small beetles, striped like potato bugs.
I found a strange hard shell bug in the entryway. It is silver on silver and much larger than a lima bean. It acted dead so I shut it inside a pill bottle for later identification. Imagine my horror a couple days later when I found its legs waving feebly! That gave me the same creeps as I got the day I found a beautiful moth. It was so splendid that I decided to pin it. After I had 'pinned it,' the apparently dead insect began waving its feet and antennae!
My herbs look very sad but there are a few sprigs of catnip coming up; I thought I'd lost it all over the winter. The sweet basil is not doing a thing...the bee-balm has a few spindly blooms.
We have been having a multi-family garage sale and busy, so-o busy. People rushing in and out hugging piles of clothing to their bosoms. Others frantically trying on over their outer clothing and children screaming. Why did I let myself get talked into this?
It's hot as blazes again and we are panting like dogs. The sun seems to bounce off things with an impact like a blowtorch. The road edges are lined with huge patches of melted tar, some bubbled up like bubble-gum. When I was a kid, I loved to step on those same bubbles and make them crack.
At least it isn't raining! We walked and it was very pleasant indeed. The haze hovered over the fields and hung low in the gullies and the dog lady's 'smoke' tree was luminous and rosy all over the top. Her flowers in her 'pet semetary' are very pretty, too.
There was little action at the creek although we did flush up a couple woodcocks that flew off uttering a ratchety 'awrrrh'. The channel is filling up rapidly with weeds and the tiny minnows and turtles appear to love it that way. The meadows are deep in hay, cow vetch, daisies, buttercups, and bird's foot trefoil. It makes a magic carpet for the cows- Van Gogh would love it.
I still hear little 'wichety-wichety-wich' occasionally outside my window but he is not as jubilant as before nesting time. Most of the birds are much quieter these days so they will not be found on their nests.
It did rain a little by afternoon. There was a cardinal outside the bedroom window low in the shrubbery. His insistent peeping drew me to the window and I was surprised to see him. We don't usually have them around here; environmentalists call them an indicator species and their presence means that our woodlands are deteriorating. Cardinals do not require the dense woods that many birds do-
Fortunately, I'd gotten my walk in before the rain came. It was mild and pleasant but growing humid before I got all the way back. I paused at the culvert to observe the channel turning green once more. The far western trees are reflected in the muddy water and the high banks and weeds as well, making a pretty pattern. The killdeer were wading along the edges and a woodcock, too.
The anemones are all gone except for an isolated one, droopy and brown. Most of the color along the ditches now is the blue of chicory and the deep purply-blue of cow vetch. But they are lovely, too.
The small birds follow me from fence post to fence post clicking their tongues at me and I hear the bzzzt of a meadowlark. It's funny that we haven't heard more from them as they can be such marvelous singers. On my way back, I surprised a heron and it flapped its heavy body up and across the meadows.
There were brief periods of sunshine and then heavy rain during the afternoon. In between times, the pavement seemed to radiate the heat waves and they bounced off our faces as though we were peering into an oven. We'd finished our shopping early so as to get a walk in before the rain. The heat has raised the hay and grasses knee high in the meadows. The larks and bob o'links hide in them and do little singing. The creek is deeper after yesterday's downpour and the water stands in the ditches and low spots. I hope the woodcock babies are mobile these days or they may drown.
The fields to the far west appear to have been planted to something as there is a dense green crop growing like mad. There was a fine red deer just north of the field along the creek. Perhaps they've planted something that deer like. How kind! Tonight there is a low pitched rumbling across the sky.
E- decided to walk again but I didn't go; however, we ran a little contest to settle the question of 'who sees the most' when we walk. He has been very punctilious in his looking and reporting. He saw just enough to make me sorry I hadn't gone!
We must get up into the mountains as it will soon be my dear brother's birthday. He hasn't been well and is often on my mind. I hope this heat isn't bothering him unduly.
The sun is boring down again. Yesterday over 50% of the nation had temperatures above 90º. It is 93º here and everything appears to be dying. The birds seem to have lost some of their zest in singing. The heat brings swarms of grasshoppers (orthopterans [leapers]); there's about 18000 species of them, more or less. One hopes less- The yellow rocket is in blossom along the wayside lighting an otherwise colorless avenue, just now.
Last night the rain came down in heavy showers. I don't remember when we've had such heavy downpours. The cascading waters found points of entry where it had never leaked before.
Mother reported a lot of rain in the mountains, too. We watched her hummingbirds, sometimes a half-dozen at a time. They were being dominated by one aggressive little male who didn't want anyone eating out of his feeder or even alighting in a bush nearby, or on the clothesline. He'd drive them away with angry chitterings and the drum of his wings was clearly audible through the window. He even crossed swords with a bee who wanted to drink out of the feeder. When the bee had enough of being harassed, he'd go on the defensive and the bird would retreat. It was better than a show-
We've been waking earlier and earlier. We have to walk very early or very late. The wetlands are almost entirely dried up and the frogs jump in the one small muddy puddle that is left.
We began the morning with welcome sunshine but by mid-morning, the skies were hazy and the thunderclouds were piling in the west. We had a few sprinkles and there were storm warnings over the north country. Syracuse is getting it right now and we probably will get our share. There's been a heavy wind most of the afternoon. It certainly feels welcome but presages a storm and perhaps a violent one at that.
I think we've been seeing bluebirds about the 'gentleman' farmer's. They certainly fit the silhouette and they don't fly like a swallow. And they are undeniably blue-
Foolish though we may be, we've been setting out calendulas that we bought on sale at the greenhouse. We are filling in along the walk where our flowers didn't come up. It is much cooler today; in the high 70s and perhaps they'll make it. It started out with a gentle rain but, of course, it didn't last. We had hoped it would add to the mephitic puddle at the creek; if not for our noses, then for the benefit of the poor frogs, but alas-
We walked our favorite road and the wind off Lake St. Lawrence was like a wind from Siberia. It was bright and sunny but so cool- There was a paucity of wildlife. A few ragged looking bob o'links and meadow larks fluttered through the grasses and the ubiquitous crows flapped and cawed throughout the neighborhood. A woodcock flushed but settled back down closeby; their babies must be gone, finished with, because they are no longer so erratic, and persistent.
High in the western sky, I noted a waning gibbous 'ghost' moon and the dew is bending the grasses and hay with its heavy load of moisture. The creek reflects the hay and purple loosestrife and limpid sky very prettily. That would make a lovely painting-
We probably shall be sorry but we planted a small Yew (taxus, courtesy of Linnaeus). It is a pretty little thing with flattened linear leaves, green on both sides and they seem to grow double. We put a good deal of peat moss in with it to retain moisture and will have to water it by hand throughout the summer, I'm sure.
The morning feels cool and the night lows were in the forties. There had been fears of scattered frost in the mountains. Our walk was most enjoyable because the air was crisp and refreshing. The plover flew high, screaming incessantly and the neighborhood was just stirring awake.
Small brown birds accompanied us, flitting from post to post and uttering wee protesting chips. The swallows were drying out on the wires overhead and a woodcock flushed and dropped. There was a cabbage white butterfly and then several black moths or butterflies. They are too cautious to let me get close enough for identification.
When I got near the 'gentleman' farmer's I saw two bluebirds perched on a wire. I watched them for a few minutes and went further along just in time to see an oriole flash across the wide lawn and alight in a huge elm. It tarried there until I tired of watching it and as I turned away, I saw a bluebird land in that tree. A bonus day with all those beautiful birds!
I am amused at the contrast between farm #1 and farm #2. The first is a casual arrangement of equipment parked in the dooryard and in the fields. Buckets and tarp laying about seemingly where they were dropped and unfinished paint jobs so one can't tell which color they are leaving and what one they are going on to. The next farm looks like one on a calendar. There is nothing lying about; all is in use or under cover. There are artfully arranged flowerpots and flowerbeds and the barns and outbuildings are slick with fresh paintjobs, and they all match! Strangely enough, the 'gentleman' farmer seems to call at #1 whenever he has a problem. But doesn't everyone end up there at some time or other?
We had to cut our walk short today and I feel cheated. The creek is dry except for one small puddle about 4x6 on the right of the highway. We did get a bit of rain during the night but not enough, never enough.
We have a cucumber or squash vine beginning to blossom in the dead center of the flower bed. Our roses are still lovely and the milkweed is blossoming and smelling so-o sweet. The little rabbit still comes to eat our weeds but he is growing so big these days
I waded through the underbrush at the east side of the house following the calls of the yellowthroat. Finally I spied the little beauty and it was carrying food back to its nest. I took several pictures which may not come out because I don't think my film was fast enough for the shadowy woods. The bird has called incessantly all spring but now it glides silently back and forth. I watched the birds follow a cat, silently flying above it from tree to tree, watching where it was going, assessing the danger. E- brought in an egg he found when he was mowing. It is almost as large as a pullet's egg and an ecru color, speckled with darker browns. Quite lovely, to tell the truth. Wonder which bird is its mother?
I had to attend the funeral of my favorite cousin and it was a very sad affair but, luckily, it was very pleasant out. We were very close in age and had grown up together. Our children nearly corresponded in age. How did it happen to her instead of me? Sometimes life seems like a lottery- I shall miss her but otherwise, can't grieve about a natural happening. Death is greatly feared by many, especially those who have no beliefs, but I observe the moth and caterpillar. They begin as an ugly grub. After they've eaten and grown their way through the first cycle, they wind themselves inside a cocoon where they sleep, apparently without any ordinary body processes going on. Many even freeze only to emerge when the time is right into another glorious form. Would HE do less for mankind who is made in HIS image?
We flushed up a blue heron today and saw the bluebirds again. I picked a few wildflowers and brought them home for identification. One of them, the rough-fruited cinquefoil dried very well but the bird's foot trefoil doesn't retain any shape. I took slides of several of them and want to get more.
We saw a red deer browsing in the meadow and I see our trees are loaded with developing apples already. We drove into the mountains and enjoyed the cool contrast. Up there, the talk was of the funeral. Mother didn't go because of her age and crippled condition but was very sad. Rain threatened off and on but none developed until later...after we'd gotten home.
I found a splendid book on flowers of the Adirondacks in the Saranac Lake Library. It is Wildflowers of the Adirondacks by Anne McGrath and Joanne Treffs. The pictures are so clear and good that it's easy to identify flowers in the raw from it.
We are having a great time watching the hummingbirds. They come, two or three at a time and fight for the feeder. They perch on my 18" garden fence or in the mockorange. When they are at the feeder, I can hear them feeding with tiny, greedy, clicking sounds. They advertise their approach with the buzz of those bitty wings that sound like a high speed fan. Enjoying blueberry pie.
It is a joy to see the first ripe berries and my spouse is euphoric, in blueberry-heaven. He wades from patch to patch calling, "Come here and see these." He loves to pick them and see the blue harvest pile up. I am not so wild about the cleaning- I photographed the luscious berries hanging heavy on the low bushes. I find our blueberries very difficult to pick because they grow low to the ground, not high up as in Maine.
We made our usual trek despite aches and pains. It was just right climatically but the midges are a nuisance. They fly in our face and get behind glass lenses- The big heron was back fishing in the creek. I see I made a mistake calling the growth in the channel pickeral weed, it is not that. I don't as yet know what it is.
The tiny yellow and orange trumpet vine has blossomed at the wetlands and my flower book calls it Impatiens capensis, or jewelweed. It is very dainty and pretty and supposedly, an antidote for poison ivy. I want to photograph it soon.
It's sultry and sticky and a hazy layer of air lies over the meadows and the swallows are flying low, garnering insects. Thankfully, there's a nice breeze, it would be intolerable without it.
The water is low at the creek despite all the recent rain and it lies stagnant and brown. There was no insect or animal life to be seen there but I did find several clumps of the bluebell family along the road nearby. There are pretty purply-blue bells at the top of tall slender stems. The sessile leaves are lined up along the stems, one after another and two, or three bell-like blossoms crown the ends. Each bell is composed of four petals that cup about the long anthers which end in four distinct white tips that form a cross. The fields are otherwise, filled with daisies, cow vetch, coltsfoot, black-eyed susans, and daucus.
The 'first, (little,)' farmer was having a rodeo and he and two companions were rounding up the cattle, one driving a tractor and the others on foot. They hooed and hollered and their voices rang across the meadows. The meadow is all mowed off and the hay stored so I don't know why they were so particular about the cattle feeding there.
The flowers were so pretty I resolved to return and photograph some of them. I took slides of the jewelweed and the bluebells but they may not be good because I used a rather slow film and the bluebells were in partial shade.
The jewelweed is so beautiful, indeed a miniature orchid and it has all the tawny colors of a lily. The tiny bladders are puffed out as if inflated with air but it doesn't endure picking at all well. I was afraid that it might never come back after being mowed flat and dug up when they went along the highway with the mowing machines but there are several patches of it.
We have a high, welcome wind but I fear it will blow up a storm and in fact, they forecast rain for this afternoon. In the meantime, it certainly feels good. This is one morning that the midges didn't bother us. I put it off, and put it off, but must get inside and get some words on paper. When the weather is good and the flowers are coming up, it becomes increasingly difficult to remain inside looking at a keyboard. I wander out the door, to 'just look' at the flowers but then am drawn to bend and pull out a weed that is crowding my honesty, or bee-balm and then I am licked because one thing leads to another and soon I've wasted an hour...if you call weeding and breathing fresh air, wasting. I cannot.
I photographed some of the animals in Burnet Park and was it hot! I thought they'd die, or perhaps we would. The heat was excruciating and we had to be mad to tramp through that concrete enclave on such a hot day. The katydids are vocal in the tall elms; this morning early, I photographed a cicada on the deck. What a big, ugly insect.
I garnered some wild flowers on our morning walk and examined them closely under my little glass. It's surprising that many rude and homely flowers that we usually ignore are exceptionally pretty when viewed under magnification. The ordinary bedstraw has tiny white stars consisting of four minute petals and clovers are composed of many small sweet-pea-like clusters. They have the keel and the standard. Milkweed's umbels are lovely four-petaled flowers and there always seems to be a darker one in the middle of each cluster.
We weren't the only one enjoying the morning at the creek, we flushed up an enormous heron and he took off, jettisoning a bucket full of water from somewhere. We've noticed this before, how they lose water whether simply shaking it off their legs and body, or whether excreting, I can't even guess.
It is heating up again. We are saving every drop of water for flowers and shrubs. A bit of rain overnight but so little- It may be worse than none at all because it causes the roots to turn hopefully towards the moist surface and then the sun kills the plant. It is 87º and overcast with a chance of rain, or thunderstorms. The squirrels are driving us crazy trying to get in the house- and they are so cunning, so difficult to fool. I wrapped my bird feeders in a fine mesh, hardware cloth, the proprietor called it. 'Ha-ha,' I thought, 'I've fixed them now.' It took them just a few minutes longer to get through.
There is a bird singing the same one-noted call over and over. The ground is surprisingly dry despite all the recent rain and the calendulas we set out a week or two ago, look pretty sad.
Our walk was unexpectedly cool, the wind has a foretaste of fall. The farmers are busy getting their hay in and the town mower was cutting back along the roadside. I feared for the jewelweed but it is growing just a bit too far back for him to get, I hope. I brought a sprig of it home and took several transparencies. I actually picked more than I meant to for fear it might be threatened but a piece came away in my hands, so I was stuck with it.
We awakened to rain and it's done nothing but rain harder and harder all day long. The temperature never made it above the low 60s and we've felt the clamminess in every bone of our body.
I amused myself by spreading a moth that I've been relaxing the past twenty-four hours. He is missing the left underwing but is still a gorgeous creature. He appears to be made of velvet and is almost two inches long with a wing span of a couple inches. He is colored like grey bark and has a long, feathery antennae. The next challenge will be to identify him. I am also soaking a creamy swallowtail. That is a beautiful creature. I just discovered that the moth is not missing a hindwing, however his body is so thick, I fear he will smell bad before I can get him arranged and dried out.
Our sweet cucumber vines have covered the windows and are in blossom. They pervade the porch with their fragrance and the tiny six-petaled flowers look like dainty stars.
I was wounded this morning to note that the mower did cut off a lot of the jewelweed and it is lying shriveled and limp beside the road. There are frogs squashed all over the road, too. I found another moth of some kind and must relax him and get him arranged. They are beginning to get ahead of me and I am beginning to feel like a ghoul.
~August~August 1 and hot again..we spent the day at the lake where it was blissfully cool. The flowers are all in bloom and little birds are lively there. A bit too lively, really because they decorated D's shirt so he had to go change. We left, reluctantly, at 4 p.m.
I found some elecampane in bloom this morning and picked one blossom. At first, I'd thought it was jerusalem artichoke but a study of the book showed my mistake. I picked a few more bluebells and something we always called wireweed but which I suspect is a member of the spirea family.
The mower mowed with a vengeance. He has cleared away some eight feet, maybe ten, from the tarvia and flattened birdsfoot trefoil, bedstraw, daisies, chicory, and many grasses. Who would be walking out that far? Who'd drive out there? Why does all America have to be barbered and manicured so that children never see how things look in the natural state. They will think that is how all the countryside is supposed to look.
The Canada geese are coming back into the pastures now that the hay has been cut. Do they feel more secure now that they can see further?
The wet weather has brought another hatching of mosquitoes and they are becoming a pest. The poor bees act like they are starving to death and the hummingbirds come in between showers and dart from blossom to blossom among the bee-balm.
There's a rutilant orb exerting pressure from above and a drying wind like a Santa Ana. Still about 79º. A big 'dozer has been left by the creek for some reason. Now, what can they be up to? One fears to ask. We got more blueberries today and I photographed the squirrels chewing up my birdfeeders.
The day started out with sun and we drove into the mountains. I walked through the fields and picked a handful of blueberries and looked for sweet grass. The apples are increasing their dimensions and turning red. Walking over the lawns and through my father's fields brings on a fit of nostalgia. I see the spots where my brothers and I used to play, the big stones we used to climb. Oh, time is cruel, it really is-
The hummingbirds were darting about the feeders, two and three at a time. The aggressive little one was still there, still refusing to share the food, darting at any that approached. He even took on a bee but the bee refused to be intimidated.
About mid-afternoon, it began to rain and we started home. We noted that the giant alliums have began to turn blue and call the bees. I picked some leaves off the lovage and bee-balm to dry for herb tea and hung some yarrow and smart weed for coughs this winter.
I don't hear the yellow throat any more but the goldfinches are coming into their own and sing from the top of the weeds outside our window each morning. My transparencies of the yellow throat didn't come out well because my zoom isn't powerful enough.
The sun pounded down all day long like in Camus' The Stranger. Fortunately we had a good breeze but it was still pretty humid and uncomfortable. We are getting fresh tomatoes now, so-o good.
The squirrel came through our screen over the cellar window, an $8.00 repair job.
I've been noticing a thin crescent new moon. Only the outer edge of the right hand side showed. It traveled from the southeast in a low arc to the northwest. I first noted it last Thursday night low over the neighbor's house. By tonight at 8:45 p.m. it is gibbous already and still only half-way up in the western sky about 2/3rd of the way between horizon and zenith.
I walked alone today because the continued humidity has my companion lame. It threatens to continue thus for some time, too. I gathered some specimens of bluebell, steeple bush, a long, silky grass, a seed-bearing branch of ash, a sprig of black currant and one of pin cherry. I also found a small dark brown butterfly and a black swallowtail. The latter will have to be relaxed and spread. (I no longer soak them but use damp sand- much better.)
The birds are calling and the crows are noisy. That reminds me, I haven't seen the one with the broken wing lately. Has he fallen prey to a predator?
We started out with a half-hearted sun and by afternoon, the rain came again. July was a miserable month as far as our arthritis was concerned, will August be different? The web worms are destroying acres of pine trees and the DEC plans to allow Nature to run its course.
It's interesting how things come around full circle. DOT is replacing the unsafe bridges in the state with wood? Yep, wood. And people are going back to burning wood, even industries are storing wood chips for future use.
There are all the signs of an early fall. The goldenrod is hip high, not quite yellow but getting there. The trees are turning noticeably, the apples are reddening and the grape vines are loaded with grapes, green, of course. We've had a thin crescent moon nights when it could be seen. I pray we have a lovely fall, we deserve it after such a lousy summer. The bugs don't give up, I killed another mosquito on the porch today. But we are finally beginning to see more butterflies. I found two more for my collection yesterday, a black swallowtail and a tiny brown one, as yet unidentified.
It is overcast and still looks like rain, it even sprinkled on us when we went out but I just can't take it seriously any more. It is very hard on the birds and animals, we've tried to keep water outside but it evaporates as fast as we put it out. It was 84º., a lower temperature but the humidity stays so high.
The 'little' farmer has had the creek dozed out! Why have they disturbed this tiny rivulet? Surely it cannot be of benefit to anyone for damming or changing it's meagre course and think of the damage they're doing! One wonders why farmers can't leave these tiny trickles, these small areas of wetlands alone. Why must everything be smoothed over? Before long we'll be like Florida where the road system has been extended 4 1/2 miles a day for the last 50 years!
There's some water left and the herons are gorging and gurgling on the few diehard frogs. I sat in the backhoe trying to photograph them and sat underneath some of the bushes but they are just too wary. I eye the destruction, appalled! Where will our rails go? What will happen to the coots? The woodcocks? Oh, it is awful!
Last night we had a brown rabbit out back under the windows. He sat and munched the fine growth of herbage but the bugs seemed to be driving him crazy. He flicked his long ears continuously but they wouldn't leave him alone.
We went to sleep to the sound of rain hitting the windows. Although we miss the warmth of the sun, this cool weather can't be beat for sleeping.
The cool is welcome but we got a minimum of rain. Yet, the ground is so water-logged that the ants have taken to the trees. If you walk underneath, the insects drop on your head. And they are in the sweet cucumber vines, wandering up and down, sometimes carrying an egg, sometimes not. It amuses me to think of those who have been purchasing ant farms and we have so many for free! I also noted a hard shell bug, one with a shield-shaped back. They are all looking for escape.
We drove into the mountains and it turned off nice although the breeze stayed quite cool. The leaves are noticeably turning color as they climb the mountainside. We saw two beautiful deer and they scarcely seemed to notice us. They'll notice shortly, or die! We drove right up to them and I snapped a half dozen pictures but they continued to browse. I walked the streets of Saranac and did a rather large circuit but walking in town is not the same as doing the country roads.
Before the day was over, it had reached the low 70s. The moon is half full these nights and it is great for sleeping. I notice how our appetites have returned with the cooler weather.
We picked the first ripe tomatoes and summer squash today, also picking blueberries- our freezer is getting filled and our mouths are purply, stained from the delicious juices. That is one thing the northeast can brag about, it's blueberries are unexcelled. We look forwards towards blueberry picking each fall and many a housewife has furnished her home with the little extras from 'blueberry money'...and it doesn't come easy, I know from experience.
We've had a very satisfactory day. I did not get my walk in and must resume it tomorrow. The birds seemed happy to be enjoying the good weather and they whistled in the thicket outside my window. The chickadees are coming back out of the depths of the woods again. They were busily playing games in the poplars this afternoon. The crows were cawing and making noise.
The ants are still crawling through the vines. Their paths seem aimless but perhaps they know what they are about. The bees act very happy with the giant allium blossoms. They do seem to love that big thistle...and the hummers are coming for the bee-balm. I refilled the little feeder today just in case they run out.
We have a rather large wasp's nest growing underneath the eaves of the house. E- wants to knock it down but I point out how many insects they destroy. We have entirely too many mosquitoes; so sic 'em.
The sun is coming up and it looks like a nice day. Housewives are busy making pickles and freezing vegetables. The primroses are past their peak now, the goldfinches appear to be nesting, and I photographed one out back on a bull thistle. The thistles are quite beautiful right now. They are tall and have a lovely deep lavender blossom; they are dedicated to St. Barnabas.
It has been a sunny, splendid day. I got my morning walk in without comment. The farmer has hayed off one half of his first pasture and there are over 75 Canada geese resting across the creek. Crows are strutting on the cut hay and cawing fiercely. The water is very low in the channel and though scummy looking, is filled with minnows,
The rough fruited cinquefoil is gone now and the jewelweed is going to seed. The little pods already snap when squeezed. And there are tall, golden, rayed flowers in thick clusters now. When they go to seed, they explode in white fuzz-balls. I must look them up and see what they are. There is no time to lose these days as it is growing darker much earlier now.
Thing 3 brought us some zucchini out of her garden, it is plentiful this year. Her birthday is approaching and I know just what I shall get for her. She is a person who loves her home and crafts and all sorts of folk art and I have just the thing in mind. We have found an old pitcher-pump for the top of her well. I know she's been wanting one and they are hard to find! It is also the birthday of my favorite nephew and my favorite son-in-law, (I have three favorite sons-in-law,) and he shall be the problem!
We want to pick more wild berries for the freezer soon. The goldenrod is blossoming and the bull thistles are going to seed. The monarchs are perched on the milkweed, storing up energy for their long flights to California, or Mexico, I guess. They must be chionophobes, too.
I noticed when we were walking that there is some St. John's Wort along the pasture fence; it's a wonder the farmer didn't pull it up because it is poisonous to cattle. Maybe he didn't recognize it.
We've had a simply splendid day, sunny and lovely. I walked and made a survey of the farms, the fields, and wetlands in all their loveliness. As I walk there is an irrestible desire to draw long breaths and relax completely. I am rather worried about the presence of a big dozer which they brought close and parked last week. I think they may just plan to dredge the creek out a bit because the dry weather has nearly obliterated it. I can't imagine what else they could be planning to do. Sad to say, they have left the dredgings already done piled up in a long, high, unlovely heap and it will take forever to cover over with green. I was given to understand this was a temporary situation but no one's been back to level it off. The new channel is raw looking and the birds wander along the piles looking forlorn and lost. The water is roily, devoid of life for now. There are few herons, we've seen one muskrat, no rails, few ducks and geese. What a pity!
I went back to check on the St. John's Wort and make sure I wasn't mistaken but it was as Edwin Way Teale described it, 'a yellow herb, many-branched and stiff stemmed with two raised lines along each stem, and the small leaves with oil glands, it's a fairly pretty weed, each shiny yellow petal decorated with tiny black dots.'
It began to rain by afternoon and drenched the patrons at the fair. 69º by 4 p.m. We purchased vegetables from the Amish and now I am making zucchini relish and enjoying blackberries.
It continued to rain during the night with a violence that sounded like a fire hose turned loose on the roof. The morning was overcast and sullen looking.
The wetlands are pretty desolate now; the red wings are gone and the fields are pretty well mowed off, leaving the larks and bob o'links homeless. The sweet cucumber vines are setting fruit and the moon is at the gibbous stage.
We walked over the back yard just relishing things and I noted what appeared to be a large glob of bird droppings on the creamy siding. Closer inspection revealed a most unusual moth. It was almost as large as a silver dollar with furry, white and brown scales. Even its antennae were furry and covered with white down. I tried to capture it but it was too clever for me. I didn't dare grab for fear of mashing it, so it got away.
I'm getting tired of cleaning berries. I'd rather watch the pileated woodpeckers. They excavated 3" splinters over 1/2" wide from the trees out back. They come, two or three at a time and we can see the chips flying from the living room windows.
We took a drive through the mountains into ever increasing signs of fall. Early apples are beginning to fall already and the leaves are turning russet and gold. It's turned balmy and warm, almost too-warm but the nights are going down into the 40s now. It is dark at 8:30 p.m. Our domestic grape vine has grapes as large as my thimble and those on the wild vines are pea-sized, but still green so far.
The woodcock's dancing spot is grown over now at the wetlands and is knee high in Queen Anne's Lace, daisies, and Hypochaeris radicata, or cat's ears. The latter looks like a tall dandelion but it grows atop a very tall stem with long, lance-like leaves, clasping and only slightly dentate. When the blossoms are done, they explode in white furry clusters. The birds seem to like it well. My allergies are reacting to all the fluff that passes on each air current.
We went for a brief and leisurely saunter, a word Anne LaBastille says is from the Middle Ages when people walked to the Holy Land (Sainte Terre); however, we didn't saunter far because the rain became too heavy for walking. We went up home and it was 75º. Mother was busy putting something delectable into glass jars and I protested over her working so hard, especially when she no longer has to but that inbred horror of waste, you know. The garden is producing well for some reason. I am making blackberry jam and eating new carrots.
The geese watched me with a wary eye this afternoon but didn't move. The young calves watched me hopefully, looking for a bit of affection, I guess.
The blueberries are ripening fast behind Dad's barn and North Country residents have a fierce, blue-mouthed appearance that shows what they've been eating.
The trucks are going by with huge loads of pulp wood and other, smaller trucks are carrying past loads of hay bales to augment the winter's needs. Farmers are mowing off as quickly as they can and I notice a new trend, as the hay is rolled into the huge balls, some are now enclosing it in white plastic. Won't it overheat, or sour, that way rather than keep dry?
Taking a morning walk is a beautiful way to begin the day, in our case after a hectic weekend. The air has an opalescent quality that you could cut with a knife, reminiscent of Turner-
Someone in the neighborhood is hammering and there's the swishy sound of tires on a still-wet highway. I'm afraid fall is coming early. A mourning dove greets the sun from a telephone wire; when it flies off, chittering like a chipmunk, its lovely spade-shaped tail becomes a white-edged fan.
There are cuprous piles of soil left by highway crews and slugs of dog dung where the kennel owners have walked their charges. A dozen Canada geese are just rousing in the fields beyond and a monarch butterfly swoops and glides gracefully over the road. There are no signs of the sweet bob o'links that serenaded us along our way throughout the spring and the colors of the landscape are changing.
The loosestrife (Lythrium Salicaria) that was a blaze of Royal Purple such a short time ago is dulled by large portions of the stalk that have gone to seed. The rushes stand like ranks of soldiers, brown furry shakos held high and tall blue-green bayonets glint in the sunshine.
The creek, that all but dried up in this summer's drought, has been dredged out further by a backhoe, ruining the habitat for the rails and lovely blue herons that we observed all spring. They've dug it down so the banks are now three to four foot high and precipitous. There are a few isolated puddles here and there along the bottom and no longer signs of the jumping young tadpoles-turned-froglets that brought the herons.
The swooping, curvetting barn and tree swallows have thinned to a lonely one, or two, and except for a few goldfinches and yellow sulphur butterflies, there is little life to be seen. It is still 83º at 6 p.m. and sunny.
The jays are raucous overhead. Everything seems to be preparing for an early fall. There are few birds left to be seen now and flowers are half-seeded groundsels, loosestrife rapidly losing its splendor, and the brown of sedges and cat tails.
There are Monarchs twenty feet in the air, floating about on the currents. Two are circling in a colorful dance; I don't know if they are mating, playing, or fighting.
The air is warm and sticky; it will be a humid day. I have to watch where I step. Geese have apparently been on the highway and their droppings look like squeezings from a tube of green paint. They've left pile after pile, some a good half inch in diameter.
Now and again someone whizzes past on their way to work and I cautiously step off the pavement. Caution is the operative word because workcrews have left a good 8-12 inch drop off after laying the tarvia. A good place to injure yourself, break an ankle. After dark we were treated to a night of brilliant meteor showers, about one per minute for hours-
The showers of falling stars continues and the moon has been spectacular. I want to read Apple Tree Lean Down (Mary E. Pearce,) but am torn between the marvelous book and the marvelous sky show. Finally, the book won and I went in to wash up for bed. My grandson warns everyone, 'See Grandma early because she begins washing her face at eight o'clock.'
The road crew has been back filling in the shoulders of the road where there'd been such a drop off. The herbage was already growing back through the disturbed soil, looking like fresh, green stalks of swisschard. Slaughtered butterflies lay along the roadside; I picked one up and put it in my pocket for my collection but lost it on the way home; a pretty lemony one, too. Later we saw another- a lemon butterfly on a golden flower in the yellow sunlight.
We walked past the creek, a sad thing now dredged out and devoid of life. Past the third farm where three horses are feeding; one bay and two roans (?), sorrels(?). They picked up their silky ears and greeted us with explosive exhalations from their nostrils. We met them at the fence and I stroked the muzzle of the first; the second was prepared to nibble and displayed long, yellow teeth, all 40 of them. I left him rather abruptly.
By late afternoon, the temperature stood at 88º, with almost 50% humidity. We took a 70 mile ride into the mountains to the south and found the leaves beginning to change color already. The cat tails and rushes stand over my head. Electrical storms are predicted and they may flatten some of these tall flowers and sedges.
Apples are rolling from the trees by the wayside and the sky looks like polished aluminum. It is easy to see that the birds now are different, both in species and behaviour, from just a few weeks ago. The beautiful little kestrels are lined up every couple yards on the top wires, watching for a meal. The eastern kingbirds are also perch four, or five to a group. Earlier on, they were a solitary bird. Even the tones of the fields are changing. The grain heads are making large greyish-purple patches, and the goldenrod is bronze.
As I walk closer to the farms, huge barn flies assail me and are quite persistent. The midges are mean little things these days, also. There are large clumps of bull thistles in blossom, very pretty; there is more elecampine than I'd realized and the birdsfoot trefoil is still good.
I noted one patch of a miniature flower sprawled alongside the road, just one clump with tiny incipient blossoms, looking like tiny, purply lipsticks. I found one a day later with a bud opening up and I brought it home and photographed it and then pressed it. It is a lovely little thing. It opened out to five petals with yellow stigmas.
There was a freshening breeze this morning...the geese were still down, none appearing awake or on guard. Flocks of blackbirds wheeled into the sky on their path to some new desecration; they are the bane of farmers.
Goldfinches preceded me down the highway. They uttered their sweet, wheezing song and their black wings carried them from seed head to seed head. Flocks of barn swallows twittered busily on the overhead wires for all the world like gossiping housewives. I wondered what they were saying?
The wetlands are a Byzantine tapestry; olive, gold, bottle-green, purple, and umber. The 'dozer has slid huge rockpiles down on to the rushes that lay like dead soldiers. What will the rails and herons think of such destruction? I know what I think of it!
A muskrat is swimming up and down on his/her activities.. (S)he tries to make it up the bank but is met at the top by an angry bird, some miniscule creature that pecks at the muskrat peevishly and the 'rat falls back with a splash. He swims a couple feet towards me and doggedly tries to climb up again. Again the bird meets him head-on and he's back in the water. He is persistent and this third time, the bank collapses with him. He will not give up and he makes it to the top a little further along.
I see a furry patch disturbing the high grasses and soon he comes back into view with a huge mouthful of weeds. They trail out to the side like a big, green moustache. He jumps back into the water and swims off with his booty.
It's really a rather uncomfortable day despite last evening's shower. The incessant song of crickets makes our ears ring as we tread the freshly paved highway. The roadcrews have marred their own work already with huge gouges and scratches from the heavy machinery.
The raucous jays are quarreling, probably driving the blackbirds away. The meadows glow with patches of white: groundsels turning white with seed, Queen Anne's Lace turning to clutches of bird's nests, and Baby's Breath also making seed.
The land seems drained of color since the latest electrical storm and the tones are somber. The brown spires of sourdock, browning, dying loosestrife, and umber heads of cat tails and sedges mix with the Aztec Gold of goldenrod, goldfinch, and butterfly. The monarchs and swallowtails are a pretty accent.
We walked beneath a high and hazy sky; indistinct clouds were piled in an ominous formation- a calf called plaintively and a woman came along emptying her dog. The air was bracing and heady; life can be grand.
It is the time of fruiting. The trees are drooping with globes of red and gold. The light green grapes are turning blue on the vine, the woodbine is turning red and it is studded with bluish purple berries, cranberry bushes are laden and the birds are watching the mulberries as they grow dark. Everything is maturing and providing for another generation.
A watery sun sends weak rays to the darkening fields. A hurricaine is on its way north and living critters seem to sense it. There is a noticeable lack of birds and insects today and there wasn't a butterfly to accompany us on our walk. A few swallows are flying low; we are told this is a weather indicator, that small insects fly high on clear days, so when swallows fly low, it means a change is coming. The geese are late rising this morning; it's a day when there's no sense in hurrying! Perhaps I'll return to the house and immerse myself in Kuki Gallman's I Dreamed Of Africa. Very nice-
As the sun climbs, crows clear their throats and gurgle. Their coarse jeers carry from the treetops across the highway. Beneath the window, a little bird whispers an insistent 'sweet, sweet'. It is neither musical, nor sweet, more a mechanical rasping. A jay has been alerted and adds his noisy squawk to the waking sounds of the day.
The air has a fresh 'cleared' odor to it as though it had been processed during the night, the impurities removed for today's use. Last night the moon was half-way towards full, a waxing moon, and the temperature dropped sharply before morning. Now, the excessive condensation reveals large patches of spider's webs in the shadowed areas for all the world like big, lacy doilies spread out to dry.
Two farmers from adjoining farms were out in the same meadow astride their ponderous great machines. The vehicles lurched back and forth belching blue smoke and sending up sprays of dirt, doing something; jousting for all I know. A plane passed overhead, the sound of the engines lagging along behind from another quadrant of the sky like trailing smoke. Thus two of mankind's modern inventions mar the day.
The next morning, the rain changed our plans and we drove through showers until we got up into the mountains. It was almost uncomfortably cool after so many 85-90º days but Mother had a low fire going in the old kitchen range and it felt very welcome. There is always the cheerful odor of breads, or something good cooking. If I could bottle the essence of home, it would make me a millionaire.
We stopped for coffee enroute and it cleared off; then when we started up again, the shadows left the mountaintops and chased the sun over the fields and meadows. We'd drive beneath huge bruised-looking clouds and it would be cool but before we'd get a jacket on, the sun would come out and we'd perspire. The apples were falling in golden piles and the fireweed glowed in the ditches. The lakes are ultramarine with reflections of the sullen clouds and in the shadows of the porches, the hummingbirds were busy at the feeders, building up energy for their coming journey. By afternoon, it was 76º.
The sun climbed and it highlighted one half of the highway while the second half remained a darker color and was covered with leaves; oak, beech, and maple. Everything was drenched and the sun turned the drops on the grasses to diamonds, sparkling and pristine.
There were hundreds of little frogs squashed all over the highway and opportunistic crows took advantage of the bonanza, after all, frog's legs may be $2.69 a pound! Why do frogs invariably die bottomside up? I can't recall seeing one dead dorsal side up..they usually lie looking up at the sky, little forelegs in a beseeching position as if they'd been granted one last prayer. The freshly laid highway is pitted and cross-hatched by farm machinery and in the ditches, the long grasses are lopped over in windrows as though combed by a careless stylist.
Goldfinches bobbed along beside us and a big, blue heron cruised overhead, his long, snaky neck retracted for better flying. They are a curious bird, very wary and ungainly looking. It's surprising how graceful they become once they are airbourne.
We are at full moon now- The eastern sky showed great promise today with huge, fleecy cumulus clouds riding high in a baby-blue sky; the western half didn't look nearly as promising and that's where our weather comes from. This is the first time since the summer's drought that I've seen the earth look moist. There's a huge pile of soil around the corner and it resembles a heap of coffee grounds. The cattle have been moved to a back pasture and the near fields look denuded of life; as for the wetlands and creek, the less said the better. It's been raped, that's about the kindest thing one can say about it. Such devastation for no good reason...makes one's blood boil!
A flock of maybe fifty Canada geese occupy the mid-field. They act more guarded now than they did a few weeks earlier. Poor things, if they only knew! Their numbers have increased to the point that the DEC is declaring another hunt on them shortly.
A small muskrat is paddling back and forth in the creek and he must have heard or seen us because he immediately disappeared. He is the first sign of returning life to our ravaged and mutilated wetlands. Across the road, the channel is completely dry and the highway department dumped a load of large rocks into it, smashing down the loosestrife and cat tails where the rails had their nests. Will it ever be the same again?
As we plod along, ten Canada geese flop past overhead. Their loud honks sound very like a dog barking. They go down and join the others. The treetops are filled with blackbirds, sparrows, and a woodpecker by the sound. They know where to seek shelter and safety. They'd better stay there, too, because there's a big hawk circling overhead.
There are more little frogs flattened on the road but the butterflies can't be dried out yet this morning. There is a small white moth trying its wings but they don't seem to work very well just yet. Moths and butterflies are like airplanes- they must rev their motors; in their cases, flap their wings until they get warmed up enough to fly.
Last night's clear skies and full moon mandated low temperatures before dawn and it was only 48º at seven a.m. The sun was preceeded by a few weak rays peeping over the horizon. There was no birdsong, no animal life in sight but the bees were industriously buzzing the flowers. The air was stagnant and motionless except for vagrant breezes that caught in the tallest trees. Where the fields were uncut, there was a carpet of bronze.
As we passed the first farm, I counted 13 pieces of machinery at the right of the house and two mammoth pieces on the left. There was a tractor on the front lawn, one on the side lawn, and one in the lean-to against the barn. Long rows of split wood was piled at right angles to the driveway and the garden space was in front of that. Behind was a milk house and a leaning old shed where two bawling calves were awaiting fall martyrdom. They were in a tiny corral made of barbed wire. The poor farmwife didn't stand a chance. There were buckets upended on every third or fourth fencepost. Tarps were carelessly thrown over the exhaust stacks of tractors and other mechanized machinery, held in place by still more buckets. And all this conglomeration of things but a few steps removed from the backdoor, (the front door is obviously never used as is common on so many farms).
The old farm dog walked among the 50-75 Canada geese that were sheltering in the nearest field. He ignored them and they didn't appear alarmed to see him so close. He peered into his master's face before deciding what his attitude should be towards us.
We started the day off with bluejays and crickets. The sky had an undetermined look but then a few sickly rays of sunshine emerged. It's supposed to be hot and sticky again. As we walked, the feeble sun tried to penetrate the opaque light that overlay the meadow. There was a nice westerly breeze; fortunate for us because it would've been uncomfortably hot otherwise. All was quiet creekside. The sedges are turning rusty on the top, adding a new color to a fall landscape. The geese have left the near field and are spread out in the pasture at the left of the farm. The tractor is missing from the front lawn; someone has plans for the day.
The strange luminous light continued throughout the day. In mid-afternoon, it was as if everything was seen through cheesecloth, or a sheer curtain. I think it's going to rain. And at seven thirty, it's dusk again. Fall brings on nostalgic daydreams of riding the haywagons up home and watching my mother string apples to dry on the clotheslines. Grandma would be busily making her barrel of saurkraut and Grandpa would be picking her herbs so she could dry them, usually sage to mix with the fall meat, or he'd get turkey weed and smartweed for winter medicines.
The heat continued, many days already in the 70s at breakfast time but the breeze was refreshing. It swirled the poplars around, turning the little leaves inside out and making a lovely susurration.
The geese grouped together close to the highway, a hundred or more. They eyed me suspiciously and flapped their wings but they don't flush. I plodded past down along the marshes. The Queen Anne's Lace and chicory share the highway shoulders with small imitation dandelions called cat's ears. The broad meadows shade from green to brown where the sedges begin to bring rusty accents that turn to umber, then ochre where cat tails are exploding.
A heron flushed up almost beside me, a skinny young thing and it flew a few rods to perch on a pile of soil that was excavated from the creek. It glared about and I stepped behind some bushes. It darted its head cautiously from side to side and after five, or six minutes, it became airborne and flapped back to the creek but not anywhere near me.
I noticed that someone had thrown apple peelings and the core beside the road. The yellow jackets were going mad over it. I watched them digging out the juices until a motion in my peripheral vision caught my attention. An ant, and a rather small one of the species at that, was dragging away a fallen comrade. The corpse was a completely flattened and dessicated little body but he continued the long journey, pulling and shoving up hill and down dale as though he was dragging the national treasure. He continued to drag his dead along a journey that would have been epic for a human given a proportionate situation and the last I saw, he was still going. Such devotion is seldom encountered. Would anyone do that for me?
The sun was like a nasty red boil, an abscess, when I tried to get a glimpse of it. The rays were a malignant red-orange boding no good for the rest of the day. Yesterday the heat was insupportable and it scarcely cooled off during the night. Today is worse.
The heat, or humidity, or a combination of the two brings out new hatchings of insects. The variety is stupendous and some are amazingly beautiful. There was a beetle perched on a rock by the well. It had a slender tapering body that gleamed a brilliant emerald green that turned to gold when the light changed. After it flew off a wee fly lit on my arm and its tiny body shone golden, it had dainty, gossamer wings. The body wasn't much thicker than buttonhole thread. After that, I spotted four distinctly different dragon flies. One, a huge creature, was perched on the stalk of a hollyhock. It had a length and wingspan of several inches and the head was the size of a large wooden bead, such as one sees on playpens or cribs. It was a light, bright green. The next was a milky, opalescent color and it was equal in size to the first but the third was the ordinary, blue-green usually seen. The last one was smaller and lighter with a blood red body. They are all interesting and fascinating to observe.
Still, its been an absolutely splendid day. The ghost moon shone in the sky with a crescent bite taken out of the lower edge. It's on the wane now. There's was a haze over the meadows and the waters which is rapidly dissipating and the heat is increasing rapidly. The sumac berries turned red sometime ago and the leaves are following suit and in the woods, wild grapes hang in purple clusters.
Country people have a thought to their winter's wood and cord after cord is piled within easy reach, drying in the hot breezes. Vegetable stands line many of the roads; corn is the principal item just now but many offer cucumbers, tomatoes, and zucchini, too. These furnish Post-Impressionistic still lifes in their little booths or tipped up in a basket. The wasps and yellow jackets hang close by, competing for any stray drops that ooze from the harvest. Some farmers add 'mums and glads' to the display and the colors are jubilant. And the crickets are making our ears ring.
Monday the temperature is supposed to drop into the 30s. It is very difficult for the body to adjust to such dramatic changes. The sky is layered with grey and lavender clouds that look cold and heavy. There are scraps of leaves and branches torn loose by the winds late yesterday. There were bad storms in the surrounding areas, too.
'They' have been busy desecrating our wetlands again. We were dismayed to see another behemoth parked in the meadow gloating over its past work and anticipating more to come. We can't understand how anyone can alter the wetlands and wildlife habitat to such an extent. Where is the DEC?
There has been a wide swath mowed right across the channel and concentric paths made along the edges. Everything is altered absolutely. There will be no more rail nests, nesting ducks, geese, or coots...no more herons. And of course, the beaver and muskrat are wiped out. If this wholesale destruction was to discourage them, it's too much like burning the house down to make toast.
The sun was brilliant and it was 38º at 8 a.m., 65º at 1 p.m., and 70º at 4 p.m. There was the half of a ghost moon in the afternoon sky. I sat in a lawn chair and observed a goldfinch flitting from seed head to thistle. They wheeze their way along, the bright colors competing with the sun itself. The chickadees are emerging from the deep woods and feasting on the wild grapes and apples seeds. Even the jays are approaching nearer these days, watching the sweet cucumber vines for the luscious big, black seeds.
I'm getting a second flowering from one of my dwarf sunflowers. Usually there's one large blossom comes at the very top of the stalk but this one has blossomed and the head hangs over, darkening with seed but in the axil between the stalk and leaf, 3 small yellow blossoms have formed and they look like daisy petals.
I found a beetle that was the color of bronze on one flower stalk. His back was shaped like a shield and there was the bas relief of a perfect 'y' on it. I also found a peculiar green caterpillar curled up like a striped snake on a sweet basil leaf. I've brought him inside and he is in a plastic case. He left the leaf and went over to a corner where he left 3 rather large deposits of black dung, then he returned to his leaf. He is fairly light green with darker spirals about him and is over an inch long. He looks more like a miniature snake than a caterpillar or worm. I want to see what he will develop into. There is another inhabitant rolled up in a gauze mess on an oak leaf. It has hooked 2 leaves together and made a cottony shroud between them.
And, there's been more clearing of the wetlands over the holidays. They have a strangely familiar look, like a man who's shaved off his mustache. There wasn't a Canada goose in sight; the shoot-out on Saturday has driven them into hiding. There was one lone heron at the creek, a a young one, too foolish to be wary. He waited until the last minute when we were almost upon him, then flapped forlornly away, his long legs dangling.
The big trees along the road were peopled with blackbirds. They whistled obscenely and played musical chairs above our heads. The cattle have moved up close to the road; in fact, two were about to cross it but I scolded them back where they belong. Apparently the farmer feels the old fence, now long gone, so conditioned them into not crossing that they will think it is still there.
There's no sign of activity at farm 1 now, not even a tractor in sight. The fields and woods rang with the stridulations of insects as if someone were shaking a jar of bells. After the low temperatures of the past few nights, the leaves were beginning to spiral down. There wasn't a cloud in the afternoon sky but a smart breeze turned the leaves upside down and set the trees to swaying, a 5, or 6 on the Beaufort Scale.
We'd scarcely had a fly inside all summer long but now they are beginning to cling and it's difficult to get in without bringing at least one along.
This is one of the first times this season that I have awakened to the sound of raindrops hitting the big hollyhock leaves outside the screen. We walked through the sleepy neighborhood and the houses were quiet and shuttered, there was little activity and it was tranquil except for the occasional dog, or sound of a vehicle starting up to carry a worker off. It was difficult, from our perspective, to believe that somewhere tanks and cannons were on the move and people living and moving in synchrony with the bombardment of guns.
were going over; I couldn't see them in the overcast but perhaps
they're recovering from their awful fright? Or is instinct more
powerful than caution and will it bring them back to the same
disastrous spot? By mid-morning the meagre rain finished and our
neighbor was out walking. It must be some kind of social commentary
but we've lived in this neighborhood for six years and really don't
know anyone up or down this road. We have a waving acquaintance with
those next door and the one four doors away who once was a co-worker
but, no, we really have formed no alliances, no friendships. Most
wouldn't recognize us across a living room and have no desire to get
to know us, or anyone else nearby either.
I am still observing my green caterpillar. He is surprisingly mobile and is perfectly camouflaged when he curls on a leaf. He is a voracious critter and I have a hard time to keep him in basil leaves. I've been putting in 3 a day and they're pretty much gone by morning.
The light has been streaming over the meadows at almost right angles. It throws long shadows and there is a large, movable object crouched down along the creek some distance from the road. I can see it move but can't distinguish what it is. It resembles a huge, brooding bird but it's too large to be a Canada goose. Maybe a wild turkey? A turkey vulture? A coydog? That last thought hurries me along past the culvert where a truck (all enclosed) has been parked. I scurry past the next two farms, the 'little' farmer's and the 'gentleman' farmer's, where there's no sign of life. The cattle have been turned loose at #1 since milk time but they huddle just outside the door, reluctant to leave their cosy berth.
I pass the 1870 farm and there's no sign of the horses today. Clearly the young mother has yet to leave for work; the garage doors are open and her car is parked outside but today the dogs don't even raise their usual racket. Have I become invisible?
I turn back and head for home. When I am again even with the first old farm, (#1,) I spy a man walking along the creek towards the parked truck. Evidentally he was the huge bird I'd seen earlier but what was he doing? When he reached the truck, he appeared to remove waders and a packbasket. Can he be trapping so early? It seems too early- perhaps he is putting traps in place before it gets too cold to drive in the stakes. Let's hope he doesn't set them until the last minute (if at all).
The overcast lifted and the sun shone brightly. The sky was just beautiful this morning. In the west, it was stippled with small, fluffy clouds that some call flocks of sheep, actually I guess strato-cumulus, or cirro-cumulus would be the better term; in the east, they seemed further apart and exposed a sky of tender blue, limpid and clear. Here and there, one saw an expanse of white like a gauzy scarf drawn from north to south, cirrus, or cirro-stratus.
The fields were drenched with a heavy dew and the rising sun glittered like diamonds on the blades of grass. A few hardy chicory plants continued the strand of heavenly blue along the roadside and the clover heads mottled the fields pink and brown. The Queen Anne's Lace was mostly gone by except for a few clenched fists that were dull and colorless, even the goldenrod seemed dispirited and drab. The morning air was cool and refreshing and for once, didn't make me sneeze. The lady was out walking her dog again. It was on a leash but demonstrated a willingness to come frolicing over to climb my legs.
The little ones are getting ready to return to school. They grumble and their parents rejoice. What a contrast from our old schooldays in a one room country school with one teacher who controlled and taught eight grades. Who taught citizenship, the three R's, hygiene, manners, and all sorts of things. Where we used outdoor toilets, drank from a dipper in a waterpail, and the oldest boy kept the fire going!
I attended to my chores and picked 3 basil leaves for my grub. It was gone! I scanned the area round about in a radius of 2-3 feet but there was no sign of him. Did he find a crack to the outside and escape? There was a movement in my peripheral vision and I spied him a good six feet away, loping along at a brisk pace. I put a leaf in his path and he climbed on and was back in captivity again.
By 6 p.m. it had reached 77º, a fine day altogether. My garden flowers have been a disaster. Insects have sucked the juices or riddled the leaves of most flowers that haven't dried up entirely. I have some hardy calendulas and a few ox-eyed daisies, (coneflowers, really) standing, and the cosmos are rather nice but the cleome is ratty, the bee-balm is sere and dark and the dahlias are all one color, blood-red.
The vines have gone to seed and the dried blossoms have peppered the siding and windows with dark, round smuts like mildew. The lilacs and flocks are covered with mildew and nothing really looks good or healthy. Just fed the caterpillar 3 more leaves. In a retributive act, I feed him leaves that some of his ilk have already damaged. So there-
The sun rose an angry red eye. Crows screamed at each other just outside the window. Since they've become protected, they grow more insolent all the time. A jay made his imperious call; I've heard the same sound when someone jostled a crate of bottles.
It was nice and cool, in the high 50s. The sound of gunfire echoed from the Rod and Gun Club down by the river; they were practicing early...someone's dog barked. Late mornings the sky has been spectacular and today is no exception.
The sun lost its red-orange malevolence and was simply a white hot disc behind a cloud. Luminous rays rained downwards between earth and overlying layers of clouds which they seemed to shred, leaving them hanging in tattered fringes. The colors were tender greys and soft blues and creams.
A young hunter was parked beside the road in his truck. He was dressed in camouflage fatigues and I asked what he could possibly be hunting already? He said he was timing the geese to see what time they would fly up. I informed him that the flocks have vanished since the recent shoot-out and the change in the landscape. I inquired what the latter will do to the hunting? He was rueful as to its effects. We expressed surprise that the DEC has allowed such devastation. I walked on and then turned back, he passed and waved.
There are now four horses at the 1870 farm. A bay, a mare with four white feet, one with two white feet on the left side, and a third with one white hind foot. One of them has white lips- Back home, I've walked one and a half miles.
Again, the sun was a fiery orange ball. The jays and crows made their usual sunrise serenade. The bright weather continued throughout the day. We rode up into the mountains and the leaves on many of the trees have taken on autumnal colors. There were many fishermen out taking advantage of such a fine day; children were enjoying their play in the falling leaves without the constriction of heavy garments. What is good for some is not good for all, however; the prolonged heat and lack of rain has given us a very bad hay fever season. It arrived early and has been intense; the papers say it may be the worst in seven or eight years.
It is also a bad year for people getting stung. Yellow jackets have gone into the cool, moist ground and fiercely resent anyone walking nearby. A police officer was stung so many times that he died from it and they chased a young child, following her right inside the house where they stung the first person available, in this case a six weeks old infant.
Tonight after repeated seizures of sneezing and coughing, I decided to swelter with the windows closed rather than endure the spasms any longer. It was 77º and too warm to have the house closed up but the alternative was too risky, I don't need an asthma attack! My nose is so inflamed that I covered it with Bag-Balm, the only thing that seemed to soothe it.
The day began sunny and clear although showers were predicted later. We checked out the neighborhood and everything looked fine. A big, blue heron flapped across the highway north to south first thing. The cattle were in the southeast corner of the pasture almost three quarters of a mile from the barn, their puissant aroma telling just where they might be found.
At the first farmhouse a man was busily measuring the porch area while the farm wife swept down the walls and took the stuff away; chairs, grill, etc. I continued on to the 1870 farm where the four horses were out again, the one with four white feet is the one with white lips. It also has a tiny white blaze on its forehead.
The people seemed away at the second, 'gentleman's' farm. It was all closed up but I heard her wind chimes tinkling in the breeze. A van is parked in her driveway and I've been wondering why bees and yellow jackets are so attracted to cars? Whenever a vehicle stops they swarm about the tires and into the wheel wells. Do they perhaps find some carrion embedded in the tire treads? What else could possible draw them?
It is the Jewish New Year. A fleecy sweatshirt felt very comfortable this morning despite the 52º temperature. By 2 p.m. it was clouded over.
I checked on the green caterpillar prepatory to bringing him some leaves. He has acted sluggish the last couple days and I was anxious to see if he might be getting ready to spin a cocoon but he was gone again! He'd acted so immobile that I'd left a bigger crack to admit more air in case he was suffering from anoxia and he absconded. I found him hanging tail up in a spider's web; he'd fled the dangers he knew- There is a lesson to be learned here. He left a benevolent jailer and escaped to a far worse fate; now he is hanging like a side of beef in the spider's meat locker. If one only knew when one was well off.
It has sprinkled off and on, just enough that I missed my walk so I've been working inside. I decided to get out my butterfly collection and try to get that in shape. My big Monarch looks pretty good as is, and the Swallowtail is really nice. It is so pretty; a very dark charcoal up to the bottom of the lower wings, then they shade to a lovely bluish-purple. There are creamy dots all along the outer perimeter of the scalloped wings and just inside the long tails, there are orange spots, one per hind wing.
The Northern Pearly-eyes is variegated shades of tan and ecru with deep brown spots, each with a tiny white 'pupil'. There are seven spots per hind wing and at least five on the fore wings. The odd way the colors are shaded makes the wings look like watermarked bookend papers. The wings are cunningly scalloped.
The Common Sulphurs are quite ordinary; yellow with charcoal edges to the fore and hind wings. They also have a dark 'eye' spot on the fore wings and one pinky-orange sex spot on the lower wings. I also have a Cabbage White, it resembles the sulphurs except it is white instead of yellow. They are small butterflies about one and a half inches as compared to the larger Monarchs and Swallowtails that are maybe three-
Then, I have a rather dilapidated Painted Lady, and one I can't identify, perhaps a tortiseshell or tiger? It has tails- And then there's my beautiful moth, a catocal, I think, and it is lovely. Never saw one quite like it. The fore wings are very low key but the pattern is absolutely splendid, like a stained glass window, in beige and charcoal. The under wings, when revealed, are the insect's crowning glory because they are a burnt orange with large umber spots and edging, like the darker parts of the forewings; and the back of the head is also marked like the forewings. It has short, thick antennae. I almost ruined it because the book said to use a few drops of disinfectent when relaxing it. I used Chlorine 11 and nearly drained all the color from it- it left a Monarch almost completely white.
I have a teeny tiny moth that I haven't worked on at all. I really lack anything to work with which makes it difficult. Wish I still had the Luna moth we found up at camp; that was a gorgeous creature. The sad part about my recent caterpillar is that I shall never know what he would have turned into.
I see heavy, gravid clouds just clearing the treetops this morning. They look like one good belch would inundate us. It is 52º but the radio predicts clearing and a sunny day. We shall see-
I walked and a north wind was channeled straight down the road directly into my face. My ears burned; fortunately it was at my back on the way home. Lamb's quarters (that we used to call pig weed), were popping up along the recently laid shoulders and someone had been back at the creek, digging and scrapeing once more. They've flattened the piles of soil left from their earlier dredging. Well, I guess they can't do much more harm than they've already done although the continuing invasion will guarantee the birds and animals will stay away. Actually, there are some geese back; however they are used to farm machinery and anyhow, they are far away in the northeast end of the pasture.
I saw a few fall asters in bloom and a few more froglets crushed in the road...no sign of the horses or dogs; the carpenter was back at farmhouse number one.
The flats are yellow where the rushes were cut. I still can't figure out why they did that. The land is too flat and wet for either cultivating or building, have they found some use for rushes? The tenants on the corner are having a care to winter's approach, they've piled wood, cut and split, all along their north wall at the rear of their house.
A group of friends went along the river with us where we picked asters, goldenrod, and sourdock. Martha brought selections of Joe Pyeweed, Vervain, Nightshade, Bedstraw, Sneezeweed, Boneset, and assorted other wildflowers or herbs. It was very interesting.
It is fascinating to note the subtle day-by-day changes. The huge pile of soil that was left by the roadside is now growing a pelt of green weeds. It is partly behind a fence so it is debatable if it was piled there by the highway crews or the farmer.
At farmhouse number one there are glimpses of fresh paint. Now that the farm work has let up a little there is time for touching up the paint on the house, weather-proofing, tightening up.
Further along at farmhouse number two, the 'gentleman farmer' is displaying a yearling bull in a corral facing the road. It is a handsome red and white creature with a white face. It must be for food because in these days of artificial insemination, no one keeps a bull for any other reason.
We may possibly have solved the riddle of the destruction of the wetlands. The person owning the rest of the farm has built a huge big section on the rear of the house. There appears to be a three bay garage with a large apartment or offices above. The mailbox bears the legend 'x's reforestation'. One and one make two-
The wind dropped and we were able to enjoy our walk a bit more comfortably. It was a beautiful morning with a limpid sky. A plane was going over equipped with pontoons. We don't often see those even though we live between two rivers. Someone left a disk harrow at creekside; they must be planning some new vandalism. I reached down next to the dry creekbed and picked a piece of sticktight, Bidens ceruna. The jewelweed can no longer be seen. I pressed one of the blossoms several weeks ago and I'd like to get a few sprigs of it now with the tiny exploding seedpods.
The bull was bellowing to the cattle in a stertorian manner. He sounds like a blast from AMTRAK. The cows were foraging along the highway and two were getting periously close to being in it. There were no geese in sight but half a dozen dusky pigeons were drinking from the puddle at the creek. The rising sun felt good on our backs and I lowered the hood of my sweater but when we reached the shade of the big trees, I was forced to lift it again.
The squirrels are coming out of the woods now and foraging on the lawns. I don't really like, nor trust them. They are destructive rodents. Earlier, they ruined two screens on the basement windows chewing their way inside and they destroyed our birdfeeders one after the other...not to mention the seed they wasted or contaminated.
I don't see my little sparrow any more; every evening for many weeks I had a small sparrow under the bedroom window. It scratched in the sand and took dustbaths, it picked up bugs and seeds on the lawn but remained close to one spot it had chosen.
After all these weeks, they are hauling away the large pile of soil. A payloader piled it on two dump trucks and they, turn and turn about, hauled it off out of sight. There were two dump trucks, two pickups and one payloader busy at the site.
Tonight there were no birds or animals visible. I looked for remnants of the jewelweed at the creek but it must have died back to ground level or been cut when the highway department was working on the road. I did carry home a sprig of mustard (Brassica negra), that I picked in front of the 'gentleman farmer's'. Wish I could identify the shrubs that are heavy with red berries, bluish-purple ones, and the white clusters that are turning blue like blueberries.
It was pleasant enough while we were walking because the exercise kept us warm but it is not so nice when you are sitting around. As I write, a jay screams his challenge...there is no sign of the sparrow, perhaps they've left the area already. The day did warm up very pleasantly. Mother said she was sitting outside. It was 70º at first and the wind was only 7 mph. It is dropping sharply again.
The leaves on the giant tree in the sideyard are yellowed and falling fast, those across the highway are also vividly yellow; in fact, it has been a yellow year. The lack of consistent moisture made lawns ochre, and many plants dried up entirely. Our lawn has been covered with Hypochaeris radicata, 'cat's ears most of the summer. Better that than nothing, I suppose. There is also some other yellow rayed flower making itself prominent in the area but I've still to figure out what it is. It greatly resembles Microseris linearfolia which isn't supposed to be in this area. It won't be long before the tamaracks and beeches are yellow, too. I like them because they make it seem as though the sun were shining all the time.
It's a pleasure to pass the 'little farmer's' place each morning. He never pauses but goes on about his work, singing to himself. He gives us a friendly wave and his wife comes out to shake her hand but neither pauses. Busy farm people.
We awoke to crows pronouncing their same dreary caws over and over in a monotonous fashion. Jays are their only competitor. Vehicles whisked by on the wet pavement and yellowed leaves were glued to everything. It was raining.
Early last evening there was a crescent moon in the making, temperatures have moderated and many of the perennials that we'd cut back are up and blossoming again. Shorter, and with fewer blossoms to be sure, but still in the race.
It rained on and off through the day which is great because many wells have gone dry this year. If we went into the winter with the ground dry, the wells would be dry all winter and we'd lose a lot of flowers and shrubs if the ground wasn't saturated when it froze. Many plants are diseased and riddled by insects searching for moisture. There have been beetles inside the fruit of the sweet cucumber vine. There are grubs inside the seed heads of the cosmos where the next year's flowers will be stored.
At dusk the crows begin convening again. Huge flocks insisted on lighting in the same tree where their combined weight bent it in an arc and I expected it to crack momentarily. I wondered if they were harassing an owl as they are prone to do or if it was merely one of their so-called 'crow's congresses'? In any case, their noise was deafening.
There was such a weather inversion this morning that it was difficult to breathe. It was hard to enjoy our walk and I had to strip down to my shirt sleeves. There was scarcely a breath of air and the early morning fog still had a vaporous look and texture. It is the sort of weather I remember when school re-opened in the fall and every kid insisted on wearing his, or her, new fall woolens. There we'd stand, sweltering in the heat, unable to believe it could be so hot when it was September already.
The horses and the bull feed in their confines and masses of flies hang about their eyes, ears, and muzzle biting cruelly. By afternoon we had reached the high 80s and the humidity was about 62%. Fortunately a breeze came up and moved the air about; it looked like it wanted to rain and the radio predicted electrical storms.
At farmhouse number one, they haven't cleared their garden spot and they still have quite a few green tomatoes on the vine. By early evening there was half a silver disk in the sky. It turned fiercely hot and broke all records for quite a number of years in many places. It seems we had a real soaker last night and we are due for another very soon by the looks.
I started walking with a short sleeved shirt topped with a like one with long sleeves. It was alternately too much and not enough depending where I was at the time. When I gained a rise and the wind hit, it was cool; when I was in the shelter of the trees, it was too warm. I thought I'd learned my lesson yesterday when I wore a flannel lined windbreaker and ended up by carrying it most of the way...you can't tell a thing by just looking out of the window.
The fall asters are lovely in shades from the lightest pink to deepest purple but they're all anethema to me. I'm so full of medication for allergies that I reel along and by spells, I sneeze until I nearly fall down. I can see by the deeply dug tracks along the muddy shoulders and the zigzag treadmarks back and forth along the road that somebody else had a harrowing night, too. There are beer cans and pizza boxes, glass jars and candy wrappers, and a Smith Brother's cough drop packet lining the roadway near the creek. Heavy marks show where a vehicle left the road and parked in the meadow. When they returned to the highway, they carried large clumps of soil with them. And judging from the large piles of litter everywhere, there are more of them than there are of us.
The countryside is growing colorful again with the reds of maples, the yellow of beeches and aspen, and poplar and many colors in between. A Monarch rides the currents and a Yellow Sulphur dances along beside me. It stops to sample the Queen Anne's Lace but that doesn't suit so it dances off to light on the yellow cat's ears. That must be more agreeable because almost a minute is spent on that one blossom, then the ballet begins again. Its motion is nothing like the Monarch's graceful swoop. The Sulphur's is more a feverish, frenetic energy-consuming pitch.
The sweet cucumber vines are covered with small beetles, striped a lot like the Colorado potato beetle. They are very difficult to kill. Last night one joined me in my bedroom and I swatted it with a magazine, I hit it with a book, but it refused to die until I stepped on it and crushed it.
The roadside stands are piled with colorful orange pumpkins, tan butternuts, green acorn squash, and the gigantic hubbards. Oak acorns are also in heaps and hogs would love to get at them.
I feel very comfortable in a sweatshirt topped by a flannel-lined windbreaker. Met the kennelowner at the corner where she was draining her dog. She boards them and clips them and acts exceedingly fond of them. She picks them up into her arms and croons to them and kisses them, chacun a son gout.
I am alone on the side road with nothing and no one in sight. The verges are a blend of plantain (that we used to call Toad Plant for some reason), there's the white blossomed bedstraw and the ubiquitous chicory. A Monarch lights on a pink globe of sweet clover; poor thing, it cannot afford to be fussy these days. There's not much left for it to feed on.
When I reached the creek a small creature rushed into hiding with a great rattle and rustling of reeds. There was a wooly bear caterpillar in the road, first I've seen this fall. The two dark bands at either end were quite pronounced; what does that signify? I nudged him with my toe and he curled up into a circle. I poked him gently again and he turned up onto his side and rolled off like a hoop. I didn't care to touch him as his setae can be very irritating. A small child picked one up and held it to his cheek to test its furriness. The thing fell down inside the boy's shirt where the coarse bristles set up a bad reaction and the last we saw, the unfortunate child was covered with a red rash. He said he didn't like 'grizzly bears' anymore.
The chickadees sang and followed out of curiousity while jet trails crosshatched the sky. At farmhouse number one I counted 17 pieces of machinery. The 'little' farmer is nowhere in sight but one of the 'boys' is painting the milkhouse. If they keep this up, they'll be in House Beautiful one of these days.
There's been a man's short-sleeved undershirt in the ditch since spring. The farmers haven't picked it up, neither have the road crew, neither have we. I contemplated doing so but what would I do with it next? If I hung it on the fence a cow might get it in her throat. I've seen cattle suck on, or lick, rags and old clothing, probably for the salt content. Or I might be accused of littering- or I might short out an electric fence. There are all sorts of possibilities; maybe other people had as many excuses as I-
I observed a butterfly fanning its wings back and forth in the early morning sunlight. Many butterflies and moths are subject to thermoregulation and can't fly until their body heat builds to a certain temperature. The fanning creates energy and warms them up until they can take off, just like an airplane!
At 6:30 p.m. it was already difficult to see to read by natural light.
It has been raining throughout the night. I can hear the domestic geese across the road; their strident voices can be heard when we are walking and still three quarters of a mile away. It is a 'soft day' as they say in Ireland. I recall walking the streets of old Dublin; those were fine 'soft days' when the smells of damp soil pervaded the greenhouse atmosphere as we walked through a warm mist along old, ivied walls and winding lanes. The green-green greenery and vaporous climate made it seem as though one might be walking under water but there was not a feeling of chill. That came later as we squelched along the lanes of Glendalough viewing leaning Celtic crosses and tumbled graves along the way to St. Kevin's bed.
Today a small streaked bird chirped underneath the window, then burst into song. What should we do without the sparrows? It launched a melodic ripple from the top boughs of a small bush. I can't imagine where the crows are today; there's a fresh crop of squashed frogs in the road.
I have a fresh sowing of cress rising in a container just outside the door. I threw the seeds out last week and they are about an inch high already. I shall have to cover them or bring the container inside tonight as low temperatures are forecast. As the moon fills out, the temperature drops-
The sun rising over the trees dispersed the chill of last night's frost. The lawn is covered with a wet, white blanket and in the ditches and shaded areas, the greenery looks stiff and frozen...it was a light frost, I suspect. The windows are steamed up and the radio says 35º now. We are warmly dressed, I have a hooded sweatshirt underneath a flannel lined windbreaker and it feels just right. Everything is drenched and will be for some time because there is no wind at all.
At farmhouse numero uno, the two little spinners on the lawn are motionless. I pick up a handful of the nuts that are piled along the road. They look like hazelnuts only larger. My companion tastes one that is cracked open and says it isn't bad but not very sweet.
At farmhouse number 2 there is no sign of the 'gentleman farmer' but his bull is browsing in the corral. This morning he is silent; we proceed along to the 1870 farm. It is prettily situated in a copse of trees; oak, maple, and elm. The birds seem to love the setting and linger here longer than any other place in the neighborhood.
We walked underneath the overhanging limbs and heard the whistling, cooing, peeping, and hammering of several species of birds. A flock of geese flew over; ten, no, eleven in a string, then five more. It was a lovely morning and promised to be a wonderful day...we started back and saw a reddish brown body vanishing into the weeds at the culvert at creekside. If s/he, only knew how harmless we are.
A white frost lay over the lawns and shrubbery. This is the sort of weather that requires at least three daily changes of clothing. In the morning we put on fleecy sweat suits but by lunch, we are glad for a short sleeved shirt. By dinnertime, the process is reversed and we're back to the warmer outfits. Last night's gibbous moon was mostly hidden by blankets of clouds but when it peeped through, it was well worth the wait. And this morning when the rising sun crept over the meadows, it was like looking at a mesh of sparkling diamonds.
Many of our flowers are still standing and the Monarch and Cabbage White butterflies are enjoying a last minute taste. I covered the herbs late last night to protect them long enough for one last cutting. They add so much to every dish. The sweet basil is knee high and in blossom, so are the catnip and rue. Lovage and salad burnet have gone to seed but the oregano and parsley are fine. Most will over-winter with a bit of protection except for the basil. It must be cut and dried.
Men are sighting in their guns and practicing their aim at the Rod and Gun Club. It is cool and clear with scattered frost. It is a grand day for walking. The air is so quiet that we hear a locomotive across the border, its horn echoing repeatedly.
The birds and squirrels are busy above our heads and one feels bombarded by the falling acorns and bits of branches. There is a hammering sound, startling in its intensity and power. Then a crazy cry rings out, lill, lill, lill. The woodpecker moves on and sounds out another tree. He sounds exactly like Woody Woodpecker of old-time cartoons.
Later. the full moon was visible clearing the treetops in the southeast. It looked hard and cold but in truth, it is much milder tonight. It was 64º at 6 p.m. and we have not lost our flowers yet.
We walked through a gentle rain today. It was 58º and there was a mild breeze, probably a 3 on the Beaufort scale, (winds 9-10 mph). I heard the jays in the treetops but had to guess at the action. There is a choice for those who wear corrective lens; they can remove their glasses and see nothing or they can wear them in the rain and see nothing. I can recognize the jays, clumsy flyers that they are. They seem to lurch sideways through the air, hauling their heavy bodies along.
Each year we seem to feel we are suffering extremes of weather but it is not really so different on a year-by-year basis. Last September at this time, the temperatures fluctuated from the high 50s into the low 60s; most of last August was in the 70s and 80s, pretty normal, I'd say. There was more variation in 1989, September opening with very hot, humid temperatures, then in mid-month they dropped to the low 40s, then worked back up to the high 40s, all pretty uncomfortable after 95% humidity.
I was reading Joan Didion's The White Album in which she has a lot to say regarding ecology and the conservation of water. She is right, if we don't begin to curb our wasteful ways we shall surely suffer for it. We returned from visiting Thing 1 and her family and watched the boys shower and shampoo several times a day, then run the washer for one pair of jeans while their closets bulge with others. Difficult to hold one's tongue- Oh, well, that's part of being a family.
I must begin preparing to celebrate my spouse's birthday. Usually it is impossible to get more than two of the family together at the same time, so by the time it is over, we've had four, or five, birthdays, Mother's days, and Father's days.
Had a short walk and it began to rain. There was little to see but it was invigorating to walk in the fresh air. There are many 'wood-for-sale' signs, the men have been busy with their saws and when it occurred, I can't imagine. They seemed to be in the fields most of the time tilling, disking, or cutting and raking hay.
Walking through the devastated wetlands is so heartbreaking these days that we try to escape elsewhere. We turned homewards and drove up into the mountains. The sun came out and it was a very fine day. The fall foliage was pretty but it is not flamboyant as it seems some years. There are times when the country seems afire but not this year. The leaves are falling as fast as they turn and we gain new perspectives into the woods and new vistas appear that we couldn't see before.
There is a small, pretty deer in the open meadow just before town. It is very red and quite tiny, most likely a doe. I just hate to think how many will be killed- and soon. Nick was practicing with his bow and he launched an arrow that split the shaft of the first one he'd shot off and remained there, now twice the usual length.
We missed our walk entirely this morning and went out to lunch instead. Flocks of geese are going over, flying low and aimlessly. They aren't setting out in a purposeful southward manner yet. It is dark these days before 7 p.m.; what shall we do when they turn the clocks back? The temperature may not be awfully low but it is raw and damp and the furnace has been coming on the last few nights. Tonight I set a small electric heater going rather than turn up the thermostat. Mother is lucky with her old woodstove. She is more comfortable than we are. We have a small free standing fireplace but no dry wood. We can buy all the wood we want but we always get cheated and they deliver green wood instead of dry. It sputters and sizzles and I accuse my companion of 'frying' wood; our last fire, he threw in a chunk of punky wood and out rushed hundreds of ants-
It was wet again this morning. We walked and I spotted the loveliest spider web hanging on a fence. There were 21 radii, joined by 14 lateral joints; how does the spider know just how many spokes to put in his web? Any more or any less would make it assymetrical and saggy. As much as I detest spiders, I must admire their work and , of course, E.B. White made them almost likeable with Charlotte's Web.
The meadows and wetlands have developed the most astonishing colors- it is almost as if I were wearing polaroid glasses. The darks are romantic velvety olives, mustards, there are citrons, limes, and melons and rusts. The rain the past two days has washed the highway so it looks re-paved again. The 'gentleman farmer' has erected a new fence of the latest technology. There are slim white posts with a fine white wire strung between. They all look plasticized and it may be electric.
I saw the pretty little deer again today when I returned yesterday's moldy fruit back to the supermarket. It was standing in the same spot as yesterday, not moving much. It will move sharply in another few weeks or else- Today has been sun and showers and tomorrow is supposed to be clear. I ordered oil for the first time this year.
The rain has finally ended, at least for the moment. We went for a walk and the wind was straight out of the west. I wore two sweatshirts, one with a hood. I creamed my face liberally and then tied the hood snugly over my ears. Then a sleevless vest and a flannel lined windbreaker and gardening gloves. Orlon tights and corduroy trousers covered my lower extremities and I was not a bit too warm!
They have been very thorough in their devastation and there is no sign of life at the creek or in the meadows. I hope the animals and birds will have forgotten by spring and at least some come back.
There is a bright ghost moon high in the morning sky. The lower right portion is missing; tonight there will be a bright waxing gibbous moon visible. It is fascinating to observe the moon; like most laymen I used to think that the term 'first-quarter' referred to the current shape of the moon, rather than to its time in its monthly cycle. It is so hard to reconcile oneself to the fact that a 'new moon' means you see no moon at all.
It is fairly mild this morning, just around 40º but tonight is supposed to be quite cold and I have yet to bring in my geraniums. I see some wood is missing from the farmer's yard; he must have sold several cords. Alas, it is all green and full of sap. It will not burn well.
We had to turn back from our walk. It was spitting rain and there was a bitter wind that penetrated our clothing and chilled the bones. It was 42º but felt more like 22º. It was good that we had returned because I had a long distance call I should have hated to miss.
It is surprising that our flowers are still standing today. There's a swollen gibbous moon like a bright mobile in the eastern sky in the early evening.
We decided to drive up to see Mother. She was working on yet another rug but seemed happy to pause for a time. We discussed various things and then she mentioned that she'd been pestered recently by people selling over the telephone each evening. 'Just when my news comes on, too', she said indignantly. 'But I found out how to stop them; I told them I was on welfare and didn't have any money!' With that monumental lie she ended her persecution.
It was chilly and raw, snowing briskly when we left Malone about noon. It continued nasty until two, or three p.m. and then the sun came out and it turned off very fine. I am amazed to see our flowers are still standing. The snow fell on the multi-colored trees, the yards filled with fall flowers, the fields of pumpkins, and high up on the mountaintops, the trails and ski-runs stood out like bas reliefs.
By night the geese were on the move. At 7 p.m. it was very dusky and about two dozen or more passed over going north to spend the night on the water.
There are already jack o'lanterns, ghosts, and witches posted out in many yards and I even saw a Christmas wreath on one door! Last night the moon was bright and clear with a big bite out of the lower right hand side.
We've had a hard frost. At 12:30 there was a luminous half-disk hung in the eastern sky and the stars were bright and plentiful. Later this morning our flowers stood bowed in dismal acknowledgement that their day was done. By noon the sun was strong and the day turned lovely but it didn't last long; by mid-afternoon it was clouded over again. There are still butterflies about. Why aren't the Monarchs on their way to their destination in Pacific Grove, CA. or Michoacan, Mexico yet?
This is the weather for reading before our little fire. I am knee deep in Berger & Smith's Where The Waters Divide . I walked with them as they crossed the mountains, some of the places were familiar to us as places we have known, but for the most part, it was a wonderful adventure. It's a fascinating book.
When we tire and turn out the light, we sit for a brief time, watching the flames and seeing the bright stars descend. They appear to lower as they brighten and we pick out the Dipper and Cassiopeia with its little chair-like shape.
We took a quick run into town and when we returned it was beginning to get nice outside. We walked after and it was up in the 60s. Even the birds and small mammals seemed to enjoy the fine weather. A squirrel frisked on a tree bole and didn't seem unduly afraid of us and then a little chipmunk posed on another tree and watched from bright, unblinking eyes. He stayed in one place until I'd nearly reached him, then he dashed away.
The farmer was out chasing his cows with a tractor; they insist on being where he doesn't want them and two were coming into the road. He's cutting all the trees and brush away from the creek. We paused long enough to order a cord of wood, $20.00, split and delivered. We walked farther and talked to the horses. They came directly to the fence to greet us and we hated the flies that clung to their eyes. It will be too overcast to see the last of the moon tonight but we're between the last quarter and a new one will be ready the 7th- by 10 p.m. it is just under 50º and very foggy.
Handel's Sonata in C major will lull me to rest...I love a flute-
This is a bonus day! The sun is bright and the breezes balmy. We trod the usual path enjoying the respite from poor weather. The birds exclaimed from the treetops and we even saw a late butterfly. There were wooly caterpillars in the highway; I'd like to bring one home and watch it turn into the Isabella moth. It is impossible to run over one of these because the air generated by the speeding wheels blows them out of the way. There were a lot of slugs stretched out on the tarvia today, too. The cattle were looking for 'greener pastures' again and the farmer's son drove down and shooed them away from the highway.
By afternoon it was 77º and we sat on the porch enjoying summer's last fling. Tomorrow and the following day are supposed to be very fine. I watched a bewildering string of apples disappearing off the trees outside. The big, red globes vainshed and sailed through the air in a confusing routine until we got a better look...the crows were picking our apples!
Perhaps we shall visit the orchard and buy some. Ours are wormy and gnarled. Their freshly picked ones seem juicy and delicious. There will be cider, too and I love it heated with spices.
It looks like the start of another absolutely splendid day. The sun is rising over the treetops and the sky is mother-of-pearl. The crows are awakening everyone to share the morning. The temperature rose as the day passed; we saw a small grass snake crushed in the road. It's the first snake I've seen this year; in fact, I didn't seen one last year either. This one was pasted so flat by vehicles that there was little left but a rather attractive design almost merged with the road surface.
The goldfinches are busy in the hedgerows. They swirl through the air and dart at one another; can they be mating, or nest-building this late? I know their season is well past that of other birds, but October?
The Grim Reaper has cleared everything to ground level at the creek. The shrubs and bushes are all gone, the piles of sand have been smoothed out, the channel straightened...it looks like a Florida canal now. A small furry creature dartedway from the roadside into the deeper grass of the ditch. Where will this die-hard spend the winter? They have worked unceasingly at the creek this fall. Against all rules, they straightened the meanders and speeded the flow, another spring run-off will carry away any soil that has any value. One wonders-
By mid-afternoon the temperature haddropped into the 60s and the sky haddarkened. A storm rolled out of the west and we had a soaker before dinner.
The sun didn't fight its way out of the vaporous fog for hours. It was apparently quite wet overnight as there are giant puddles in the driveways and angleworms several inches long litter the roads.
The 'gentleman farmer' has half-grown calves in the new pasture enclosed by the smart new fence. They are very skittish and thunder away at the sound and sight of us. They go a few rods and slam to a halt to face us, nostrils quivering. They look from one side to another frantically, ready to stampede-
Blackbirds whistle and sound their klaxons; the top of a pole detaches itself and flies away...a rough-legged hawk has been watching for his breakfast. We stride along enjoying the fresh air; we don't seem to make very good time but Marcus Tempi warns us 'as the body ages, time flies' So right! It takes longer to do the simplest things and we waste half a day doing them.
By 3 p.m. we have already lost the lovely sunshine and it is once more clouded over and growing damp. I shall return home and bake. Some bran muffins would not only be good for us but the aroma would be very cheery.
It grew dark and dreary, the shadows hung from the ceilings and were thick in the corners. It was light enough to walk about and distinguish items of clothing but impossible to read without eyestrain. Then there was a downpour which will probably take down many of our pretty leaves. Between 2-3 dozen geese flapped by going south towards the river...it was very mild despite the rain which was lessening all the time.
It was difficult to say just when it was daylight, but we started to walk about 9:30 a.m. Passing trucks showered us with microscopic drops of water...the rising sun was drawing up water and multiple rainspouts divided the limpid sky. All about the fall colors echoed the sunlight and made the day cheery, whether or not. Off in the distance, the guns boomed but in the immediate area there is only the gabble of passing geese.
As I walk beneath the large oaks and maples that overhang the road, there is a constant rustling like being underneath an umbrella in the rain. The leaves are piling up on the tarvia and they are slippery and clinging. There is one spectacular tree across the road; it is the color of newly minted pennies.
The wet surface of the road is littered with angleworms and they hook their darker end (Mars Violet color), into the indentations and then hitch the rest of their body along. They move surprisingly fast; I wish I had a stop watch or even a second hand, but they seem to go forwards 6-8 inches in a minute's time. The movement makes the orangy valve on their body seem to slide up and down their length. Some have been run over and they are dragging crushed nether portions along behind them. I wonder if they feel pain; they do have a nervous system-
As I approach the pasture, the young calves manage to keep an eye on me. They are like contortionists because regardless which direction they are facing, they crook their head around so I can be seen. Seldom have I been eyed with such dread and fearful scrutiny. They nervously lick their pink muzzles. Even the bull seems affected and runs about his corral, kicking up clods of soil with his heels. When I am past, I hear that locomotive blast echoing behind me. It does make one hope the farmer builds a good strong fence...it is 84º by mid-afternoon with a smart wind.
Last night, apparently in reaction to the unusual temperatures during the day, there was a strong wind. It tossed things around and thunder rumbled and it rained heavily for awhile. By 7, or 8 a.m. there was neither rain nor wind but the land was drenched. When I went for my walk, the worms were gone from the road. Did the birds pick them all up? Did they finally make it to the other side and were there no others to take up the challenge? Or did last night's rain wash them all away?
This afternoon is 20º cooler than it was yesterday at the same time and there is a sneaky wind. The cows are lying down; the old farmers used to say that meant rain- There's still a few on their feet and one seems awfully lame in one hind leg. Perhaps she fell or got caught in the fence...they have large yellow tags hanging down from one ear like a little girl losing her barrette. One black beauty faces me and she has a peculiar marking, a white bow between her horns.
At the 1870 farm the horses are feeding purposefully, their large heads hang down like a scoop on a road digger and they 'crunch, crunch, crunch' with their long yellow teeth. I can hear the terriers inside the farmhouse barking like mad, advertising the fact that their family has left for the day and they are defending the place.
At the 'gentleman farmer's' his lady is out digging her bulbs. He is seated in the open door of the barn and he is dressed in a one-piece 'Winnie' suit, looking over the latest innovation in farm machinery. The 'little' farmer would undoubtedly scorn such attire, no matter what he was doing. His clothing seems to remain the same, day after day, summer or winter.
We are really feeling the drastic change in temperature. This morning the wind was very cold and penetrating; it was bright but by noon the temperature only registered 44º despite the lovely sunshine. The wind is 15 miles an hour and out of the northwest. It sets the dried rushes and sedges to whispering and the yellowed leaves from the oaks swirl past our heads. The 'little' farmer has piled sharpened stakes between two trees and he is busily mending fences. He says the cattle are driving him crazy-
I see the titan has been moved; it has apparently been cutting more of the wetlands in the northwest fields. There are more wooly bears out again, we should have a good crop of moths in the spring. Perhaps they'll devour the clothes straight off our backs as we walk along?
We felt we had learned our lesson, going out yesterday without sufficient wraps, so today we overdressed and it was mild. It was only 38º but there was little wind...it was trying to sprinkle. The 'little' farmer was mending his fences again today and there was a new surprise along the wetlands. There was a pickup truck down along the creekbed and a man could be seen operating a tractor. I didn't notice the brushhog at first but he had one in tow and was flattening everything. Each circle he made erased yet another swath of grasses, rushes, sedges; the wetlands are no more! When the barren land is no longer able to retain any water, one wonders if he will see any cause and effect from his actions?
We have lost most of the leaves now and one can see almost through to the main highway. The lombardies are still green but the maples shade from lime to yellow. The blackbirds are whistling; and well may they whistle when spring comes and they are looking for nesting sites. There are still killdeer about and they fly high, screaming their annoying cry incessantly. I pass the 1870 farm and the trees there are denuded also and the habitual birds seem not to know what to do about it. There are 14 huge trees about that house and 8 across the road, lined up in front, and 7 in the barnyard. They are well supplied with trees and they have placed numerous bird houses among them and the birds love it there. Don't blame them, I would too. It is a lovely place but the owners both work such hours that one wonders when they are able to enjoy it?
Just past the 1870 farm there is quite a copse of trees. They are bare too and the jays are busy among them. They scream and fly in and out adding a brilliant color note among the fallen leaves. The leaves were spinning down this morning and they danced and rattled across the road. They created a eerily contrapuntal song as they skidded along. There was the sound of chickadees somewhere in the background. In the horse pasture, I noted an old weathered stump. There was a clump of bullthistles at one side of it and the combination would have made a wonderful still life.
The rolls of hay, (Shredded Wheat) that the 'gentleman' farmer so painstakingly stacked beside his fence in late summer are no longer that daffodil yellow; they have faded to deep umber. There was a high of 74º and it was sunny and nice but now it has dropped back to 66 at 5:30 p.m. and is overcast.
We must shop today because our grandchildren are coming. I rack my brain to think of some way of entertaining them because they are 'city kids' and will not go outside. They are at a loss without a TV or someone to entertain them. Seemingly they have never heard of throwing a ball, or going for a hike, or climbing a tree.
It has been fine and balmy and before long the sun came out and the crows began to 'sing'. The digger was busy at the creek again, they have routed out a huge channel, straight as a die and several feet deep. The brush hog flattened all shrubs and brush and there's only a flat stubble left over a once-lovely area.
Now there is little to see except the fluffy bits of exploding milkweed and the ubiquitous mustard that refuses to stop blooming. We were happy we'd had our walk because shortly after our return, it began to pour and continued throughout the afternoon. As we expected, the boys were bored stiff so we took them to visit the Seaway and watch the ships pass through the locks. That was more like it and they could have stayed there much longer than we wanted to. We visited the souvernir shops and had some goodies and returned home.
We started our usual pilgrimage today and found broken glass littering both sides of the highway from the front of the house to the corner of 'our' road. It is difficult for anyone who loves nature to understand some people today. For instance, there is renewed activity at the creek; we see two pickup trucks, 2 huge diggers, and the tractor with the brushhog still attached but it is off to one side for the moment. A man is operating the bigger-digger and he is dredging out a channel. He waves to us as we pause to watch the operation. He is scooping up great mouthfuls of black earth and I wonder where all the little crustaceans and living organisms will go that had buried themselves in the mud thinking they were set for the winter?
We walked along observing all the usual signs of on-going life; the 'little' farmer is continuing his job of husbandry only he is mending a different section of fence. The cattle are enjoying this new pasturage without harassment...several huge flocks of geese honk by overhead; there must be two hundred in that bunch.
I thought most of the little birds had gone but today I note an abundance of sparrow-sized birds; they are very dark all over the top and very light on the breast and stomach. They may be slate-colored juncoes but somehow that name doesn't strike me just right for them. Last winter we had some of them visiting our feeders but many had a rosy patch on their throat and they closely resembled a rose-breasted grosbeak except for their small size. There was a nuthatch on the bole of a tree close to the road and he scorned to be frightened by us.
The diggers have left the creek for the day apparently; all the equipment is still there. There are now rather large pools of water standing in the creekbed but whether from all the recent rain or from natural seepage, I cannot tell. The water reflects the sky and gloomy clouds. The machines are into clay and the digging must be difficult. It probably binds to everything; the jaws of the scoop, the men's boots, it is awful stuff. We tried to raise a garden in it in our younger, more foolish days and it did grow good produce but it was almost impossible to get out the root crops like carrots; they had to be dug out with a shovel, you could not pull them.
Snow is forecast for tonight and tomorrow. A lonely old man in a fine looking truck stopped and began to speak through his opened window. When he found we'd talk, he shut his motor off, leaving the vehicle dead in the line of traffic. When another car approached, he pulled out of the way and again shut the motor down. We had a fine visit for about fifteen minutes and then we politely excused ourselves and left.
We will be at the first quarter moon Tuesday. The farm dog at #1 sees us and comes out looking doubled in size but when his master speaks to him, he shrinks back to normal. Its been a lovely day but the temperature is rapidly dropping..it is about 48º and clear at 5:45 p.m.
I walked by myself today; it's mild but that's soon to end. The skies are overcast and if the earth were reversed, they would make a fine tumultous seascape. 'They're' still at it at the creek; the big yellow digger has been left in place...some of the piles of soil are now over 8 feet high. The water is expanding and deepening and it may be a fine waterway when they finish but I see the roots of many plants topping the piles.
One cow is out, she has simply stepped over the fence at its lowest point. She goes back of her own volition. There is a colorful kestrel perched on the wire overhead and (s)he doesn't fly off until the very last minute. They are so pretty. (S)He must have had his dinner lined up because he was reluctant to leave .
There are more leaves on the ground and swirling through the air; they now take the place of the butterflies that flew past this summer and fall. I pick up one oak leaf and wonder if they're all alike? This one is a slender shaft, perfectly assymetrical and it ends in a crown shaped nodule. The large, three pointed part of the crown points outward, then there are deep indentations and a crown on either side, then further down, where it joined the tree there are two small blobs on either side. All oak leaves have a certain similarity but they are also quite different. Some are not quite symmetrical, some have large blobs, some have small blobs, so they are as individual as people.
Incredibly, there are insects still singing! And the dog-walking lady still has geraniums blossoming bravely and the lady at farmhouse number one has petunias and there is the odd goldenrod still in blossom along the road. Even the lamb's quarters and bits of other herbs look fairly good yet.
A black cat crosses my path and the spinner in the yard, (a pheasant) looks like he wants to take off. There is an irritated, small, grating sound repeated over and over and I see a nuthatch going down a tree head-first, then there is the sound of a 'copter going over. The sky is littered with bits of milkweed fluff chasing the leaves behind the currents...a fancy new van pulls up behind me cutting off access to the road. They look about to get out...they are well-dressed, two brawny young men with lots of hair and a faded, dishwater blonde who looks zonked out. I do not know them nor what they want but they make me nervous. They neither move, nor say anything as people normally do if they want directions, or think they know you; they watch a second car turn on to this road and approach from the other direction. The driver waggles his finger at me mockingly and they drive away. That damned black cat! It brought me bad luck.
As I turn the corner, I see the farmer has a wagon all piled with brush where he's been mending fences.
'They' are still busy at the creek but may be making the channel a bit narrower these days. Aldo Leopold didn't think much of straightening creeks and waterways; in 'A Sand Country Almanac he says, "The government tells us we need flood control and comes to straighten the creek in our pasture. The engineer on the job tells us the creek is now able to carry off more flood water, but in the process we have lost our old willows where the owl hooted on a winter night and under which the cows switched flies in the noon shade. We lost the little marshy spot where our fringed gentians bloomed."
The water in that ditch is glazed over now. I walked along and was surprised to see the nuthatches alighting in the road. I thought they were strictly treecreepers but I got within six, or eight feet of this one this morning before he took off. He was apparently gleaning in the road, getting grit for his crop, or insects. It seems too cold for insects-
As I turned back, I noticed a beautiful big wasp's nest in the ditch. It was an amazing structure and I carried it home and measured it. It was one foot in diameter and about fourteen inches high, of variegated cellulose and ranging in color from the lightest silver to deep grey and in some places, there was even an almost orangy-umber streak. It was magnificently made, thin as a lettuce leaf and there were at least seven layers with air spaces between. The layers were only occasionally attached to each other, like honeycomb. There was a great hollow in the center and a comotose wasp feebly waving his legs. There were several channels of access, or egress to the outside and I can't see how the nest was attached to the shrub or what covered it over from the weather.
After I got home, I photographed the nest for its great beauty, then I began to unwind it as best I could. I got it rolled out to over a meter in length, not a true estimate because in my clumsiness, I sometimes peeled off two, or three thicknesses as one. It was light and airy, almost fairylike. The single layers were created in large, looping scallops and the pattern gave it a lacy look. It obviously would be both warm and cool because the layers of foamy tissue must act like a thermal blanket.
It was almost 50º by noon and the afternoon was very pleasant. At 8:18 p.m. there was a waxing crescent moon in the west alternately covered by wispy fragments of clouds.
The tamaracks ( an Indian name for larches) are turning golden off in the meadows. Closer at hand I watch a cow trying to frighten a rooster who is herding his flock of wives through the pasture. It is an unusual sight these days to see poultry running loose. It once was a normal country scene to see them, or the tiny chalets of boards slapped together for a broody hen and her babies to shelter under and enjoy their family seclusion.
Homes are heavily decorated for Halloween these days, there are a minimum of seven or eight pumpkins on display at each house. It is trying to sprinkle but so mild; the killdeer are still around screaming their incessant cry from high above. Perhaps they cry in despair over the vandalized fields and waters, who wouldn't?
There is a Winslow Homer sky; one almost expects to see raging waves beneath, and it is very pretty. Two lovely pigeons fly down to drink from the creek...it is pouring by dinnertime.
My wasp's paper is causing much comment. Paper was thought to be invented in China in 106 A.D. and mankind learned to make it by watching wasps!
We've begun digging the dahlias. The slugs and earthworms are out and they're busy, too. Some of the worms are thicker through than a lead pencil. They rear their head and ooze along. They are so big they make an awful mess when they are run over. Between them and the squashed frogs, it is not a pretty sight right after breakfast.
The bull watches us from his enclosure; he is thick and square, dark red with a buff face. His face looks like it was made from a soiled floorbuffer. He licks his chops, then roars as we pass, lifting us right out of our shoes.
The channel has a couple of feet of murky water now but it is straight, so straight it is obviously man-made. Leopold says 'hydrologists have demostrated that the meanderings of a creek are a necessary part of the hydrologic functioning. The flood plain belongs to the river. The ecologist sees clearly that we can get along with less channel improvement..'
The 'little' farmer chugs by us on his tractor and waves. He is sucking on a cigarette and well hidden behind a jet black beard. He goes right to his fence mending in his blameless fashion. The sun is shining brightly as if to make up for yesterday's (and last night's) drenching rain. There are huge puddles everywhere.
We stopped and spoke with the man who is operating the backhoe. He has no more idea what the owners are doing than we do, he is merely following instructions. He feels all this digging and delving may be to drain the fields. Today they have him working with a hand shovel, opening a pathway through the culvert, then they want him to push all the great piles of soil back and smooth it over.
The 'gentleman farmer' is mowing his lawn...the butterflies and bees are utilizing their last chance to store up energy for the winter and humans are likewise taking advantage of summer's swan song to get wood chopped and piled, storm windows washed and on, and bulbs dug and dried off.
We have had a stealthy visitor. There are huge, cloven-hoofed tracks in the sideyard and out back, is it the Devil? No, it ends in a large splat of cow manure. Now that the trees are bare, sounds seem to travel incredible distances. We hear a donkey engine across the river in Canada. The sound echoes across the river and fields. The sky is a tangerine color that reflects on the poplars out back and they repeat the eerie light. And there is a waxing gibbous moon about 50% up in the southeast. The winds were about four miles an hour and it was 45º.
They have doubled the length of the channel at the creek. The water has deepened and runs through the culvert with a lovely rippling song. Everything is sound this morning, sound that magnifies and echoes...the dead leaves come rustling and rattling down through the branches with a tearing sound and spin across the road like a tin pie plate. The bull lets out a blast and the calves answer with a bleat. An airplane drones across the sky, skimming in and out of the clouds and blackbirds and chickadees call.
The sun comes out and is splendid; you can almost see the temperature rise. The 'little' farmer jounces past on his tractor and waves. He is half-whistling, half-singing his own little tune. He certainly seems a happy man, (a rarity in today's world.)
Now we see the whys for all the brush and old tires that have been piled at the creek; 'they've' had a fire! They've burnt all the brush that he cut along the water and as it was pretty wet, the old tires insured that it would burn! I can't imagine why the DEC allows all these infringements of the conservation laws. In olden days, the farmer would at least have gotten something out of it. He would have leached out those ashes and made potash to enrich the fields. He would have saved some for saleratus (baking powder) and medicine and he would have baked some of the potash down into pearl ash and had a cash crop.
We returned home and I hung my plants outside to enjoy the sunshine. It may well be the last chance they'll have to enjoy the outdoors and sure enough, we awakened to pouring, drenching rain, half snow. We went a short distance and were forced back. Apparently the small mammals do not like the soggy weather any better than we do because a small black mouse has entered and was in the dining room. My companion said 'surely not black' but I saw it very clearly from the kitchen chair I was standing on and I swear it was black and humped like a miniature buffalo. Now trapping season begins.
The sun continued rising but the puddles were frozen over and the ground covered with a white frost in the depressions and in the shadowed spots. As we passed the big meadow the slanting rays of the sun silhouetted two grazing deer. They might be does as they look fairly small. What a peaceful, lovely scene. A bit further on, I saw a red tailed hawk sitting on a branch watching over the fields, and there were smaller birds perched on the overhead wires, all puffed out, looking twice their size, keeping warm. But then a thick cloud coverd everything in somber hues and the rest of the day was alternate shadow and sunshine. We drove up into the mountains and it turned out to be quite nice.
There was snow on the mountaintops and in the ditches, and on many trees. It was nippy but the air was exhilarating. The snow on the fallen golden leaves and on the ends of the evergreen branches looked like a scene from a postcard. Hundreds of geese poured over- and a vestige moon announced its plans to be round and full come night.
The wind was still and it wasn't quite 30º but it felt so mild. We hurried down by the creek and the digger has been moved away from the area. The water is full and sluggish; it trickles under the culvert and makes its little singing song. I spy a swimmer out of the corner of my eye but the animal remains hidden; a muskrat, I suspect. There is little life to be seen here but the birds are atwitter at the 1870 farmhouse. I hear the peculiar call of the nuthatch and the drumming of a woodpecker. The paper tells us that nuthatches require a large territory and they creak like trees. I know they make a very peculiar sound as I hear it often when I am walking.By 3:30 p.m. it was overcast and the wind came up. It began blowing, about 16 mph and the temperature stood at 48º. The rest of the week we're supposed to have warm weather. The full moon climbs high in the eastern sky by six p.m. these days but the days are beautiful.
The bulldozer operator was running his tractor/brushhog combination up and down the boundary line of the farm to the west. He'd straddle trees a couple inches in diameter and the brush hog would growl and rumble and grind them up. The ditch he dug last week is a big, stagnant canal with little movement to the water. It looks murky and muddy and nasty things float on the top. Little of it seems to make its way beneath the road to the other side.
The 'little' farmer yelled at the cows to get out of it. He'd been down the road on his manure cart and left some rather nasty patches of raw manure on the road surface. He passed upwind of us with his highly offensive load but appeared blissfully unaware of his aroma. He sang to himself as he bounced along.
The 'gentleman farmer's picture graced the front of the daily paper! He is a doctor and has given his school a piece of equipment. We were aware of his affiliation as his wife made sure to tell us how much she enjoyed the college surrounds and activities. It's practically the only time she has spoken to us.
The sky was just lighting to the east and traffic picked up as people hurried to work. The trees were nearly motionless. The temperature rose steadily until mid-afternoon when it reached the high 60s. Cars and trucks passed with freshly slain deer tied to the top or sides. If the weather stays so warm, it will not be good weather to let the animals hang-
My trapping has not produced any results as yet. With the moon so full and beautiful, perhaps Monsieur Mouse has returned outside to better hunting.
Now there is only the faintest movement of the treetops. The sky's a tender blend of cerulean blue, cobalt violet, and Paine's Grey laced with streaks of salmon and Naples Yellow. The grass in the backyard is still a bright green and the aspens are an Aztec Gold that makes it appear the sun is always shining. There is still an occasional daisy in bloom and a stalk of goldenrod; the calendulas and yarrow are still blossomed; of course, the ubiquitous mustard is thriving. It beats all how we grow to like these lowly weeds once all else is dead. The weeping willow next door looks like a golden waterfall, the branches are chains of deep chrome yellow. .
On our walk, the piles of 'dog-dew' littered the road, actually looking more like a human had been guilty of an exceedingly vulgar, not to mention illegal, act. The water seemed lower in the canal and the cattle were fording it and drinking from it. The 'gentleman farmer' was out rototilling a spot for his wife's spring flowers.
Our house is filled with ladybugs. I counted seven in the front window. Most are tiny, two-spotted ones but there is a larger one almost as big as a pea. I see another small one in the window over the sink. The hunting must be good; the windows are probably full of fly eggs. Outdoors, there are butterflies; Common Sulphurs and Cabbage Whites dancing over the remnant dandelions and cat's ears on the lawn. A solitary bright red apple hangs at the top of one of our apple trees like an early Christmas ornament.
The past few nights the moon has been like a huge provolone hung in the evening sky . It lightens the area so you could walk about without worry and even accomplish simple tasks; no wonder they called it the 'Harvest Moon' in earlier days. Early people likely got many of their crops in by its light.
There are still wet patches on the road surface. I never realized what a difference there is in trees and leaves before; the dark green of evergreens is so refreshing and cooling, but in the late fall it is the beeches and poplars that matter. Even the tamaracks gleam with gold, lighting an otherwise gloomy landscape. It's a very hazy morning and 66º on the mountaintop. The mountains are otherwise a Mars Violet with a few dark green patches and golden accents. The silver maples look like spring trees in bloom, their white leaves curled into silvery balls. There are huge piles of logs along the highways; the men are getting out pulpwood. By 3 p.m. it was overcast but still 76º and it remained warm.
It has threatened to rain all day but as yet there's been only a sprinkle. The butterflies are still with us and the bees- we walked down the side road and the big, green monster is at it again. He has tilled two vast swaths from the highway to the creek. We watched him dismount and apply his chain saw to saplings too big for the machine. There was the unmistakable buzz of the saw and then the large machine went again. It was quiet at the creek; muddy and lifeless. Is it any wonder? What is there to attract anyone, or any thing anymore?
At farmhouse #1 the pigeons were lined up on the barn roof, where they muttered to one another. The 'little' farmer was, typically, visiting with a motley crew in the yard. The 'gentleman farmer' passed us in his Caravan on his way somewhere. To the college? To the store for milk or bread for breakfast? I saw they have company. We walked on and a spanking new Bronco slid to a halt beside us. The nice young man said a doe had just run across the road in front of his car. We weren't surprised, we'd heard the hooing and hollering and the guns booming as the men drove through the woods. The young man was more fortunate than we were about two months ago when a large buck ran directly into us, smashing into our left front fender. We were not injured nor was he but we were upset about the car until we saw there was little damage.
Now we set the clocks back one hour; I hate slow time! That's not true, I hate changing time; leave it one way or the other.
It was very quiet, there was no one out working but we did hear the occasional boom in the distance. The water at the creek is brown and sluggish so we walk on without interest. There's not much to see there anymore.
The lady at farmhouse #1 came out to get her paper and she waved. The men seem to be hosting hunters and a station wagon loaded with them pulled up through the fields, they opened the gate and then closed the fence again. We plodded on and then turned back just the other side of the bull's corral.. Ferdinand didn't even greet us today but the horses looked up with curiousity and watched us for awhile. We continued back down the slope towards the creek and lo, they have been back there again. The ditch was filled with litter from snackpacks, nacho bags and beer cartons. We picked up nearly three dozen aluminum cans, each worth a nickel at the redemption centers, so someone is anxious not to be caught with the evidence in his car. Teenagers? A guilty husband?
Later on the day turned sour and it began to rain between 3:30 and 4 p.m. It's supposed to be close to freezing tonight and the thermometer is dropping rapidly. It is dusk by 5 p.m. (new time) and about 48º, 60% humidity.
'The sun was shining on the sea, shining with all its might'- no, it is shining and very nice but we were unable to walk until we'd showed the house to prospective clients. After being busy as a bee, the people left and we had time to enjoy at least part of the day.
I've been studying the moon and the wooly bears and the way the wasp's nests are hung. The weather prophets claim there is a significance in all these things and they portend certain weather patterns. If the caterpillars have a wide band of brown fur, it is supposed to mean the winter will be mild, and if the wasps hang their nests high, the snow is supposed to be very deep. The wooly bears don't seem to be aware of this and they sport wide bands and narrow bands and some even appear smeared; the wasps put their nests high or low, wherever they can find a handy place to put it. The squirrels seem doubly anxious to collect foodstuffs because it was a dry year and they may not have gotten as bounteous a crop as usual. Patrick was charmed when he was here and I told him to time the crickets for 14 seconds and add 40 to get the temperature.
Grandma and Grandpa used to watch the sky for certain patterns but that didn't give them a prediction for the weather country-wide, only right in their own area, if at all. We are beginning to see a tiny crescent 'ghost-moon' high in the morning sky now so we are moving towards the last quarter of the cycle. It is much cooler again, also-
We've had a white frost. It is still 50% dusk in the mornings and the mercury vapour lights burn. Many have to scrape their windshields in the mornings. On route 420 the steam rises off the water in the swamps and there are bubbles that look like suds floating along the surface. The edges are glazed over with ice as are the puddles in the ditches. As we travel south, the temperature drops, (we are climbing). 25º, 21º- and there is vapor, or fog hanging in the hollows. The roadsides are lined with parked vehicles every little way; hunters. We take route 458 (7 miles to Santa Clara ). At the end, we join with route 30 south and Saranac is 21 miles away. It is full daylight now and quite cool but the sun is climbing fast and it promises to be a nice day. I walk the streets in brilliant sunshine. The wind is piercing and it moves the lower bushes about. The frost still hugs the roots of the shrubbery and the mountains are purple in the distance, accented by the bits of fir green, and closer by, the needles cover the ground with burnt umber and sienna. The tamaracks are still rather golden but are also getting bare. It is 38º and Malone is 30 miles away on route 30 north, or St. Regis Falls is 17 miles across 458-
The little crescent moon was back in the sky to the west. The wind was directly in our faces and a great shock after the recent mild weather. We were surprised to see that most of the great meadow to the west has been tilled! I took my camera along and photographed the horrible change in our wetlands. They are as flat as a car park now and the soil dredged from the waterway stands in dark, desolate piles.
We hurried past the old farm, (#1;) it is always comforting to study that place, it is so farmlike. I couldn't help but notice the paint job on the outbuildings. The great barn is au naturelle but the two small excresences have a bit of paint on each. The front of the first is red, and one side; the other, a milking parlor perhaps, is white with the most awful blue foundations. Then the next building, (a granary maybe?) is white to the eaves and no farther. I like these people, they are pure farmer and don't pretend to be anything else. She passes us in a car with a lady friend and they wave. Going shopping-
The barn paint makes me think of those in New England, barn red to a fare-thee-well. Once red barns were ubiquitous because the farmers used up their extra milk, mixing it with ferrous oxide for paint. Worked very well too, as you know if you've ever tried to get it off antique furniture.
We returned half frozen. I do hate to give up my walks come late fall but as much as I cover my body, I can't protect my face enough and I just cannot take the cold. This morning it is 36º with 8 mph winds and 82% humidity, by 6 p.m., it is 50%, some change?
It is Halloween. It will be a cool night and if we are lucky, perhaps it will rain although I doubt it; it is usually nice on Halloween and anyways, if the celebrants don't rampage tonight, it will just be some other one. Just since yesterday, (or was it the day before?) we have lost the small golden disks from the poplar trees, (popples, as Dad used to call them,) in the back yard. Now the trunks stand like bleached bones, gaunt and shiny. The rising sun highlights them so they gleam like a forest of needles. Or...
It is clouded over by noon. We didn't walk until afternoon and it looked deceptively mild but there was a nasty wind straight out of the east. It easily penetrated my spandex gloves and I had to stuff my hands inside my pockets. My ears stung inside my hood and now I feel an incipient earache coming on. One of the false clues to the temperature were two yellow butterflies dancing over the front lawn.
We observed some strange tricks of Nature today; the road was quite wet for 18-20 feet and then there would be several feet of dry pavement. The whole thing was repeated several times over until we reached the 1870 farmhouse and then it remained dry. We couldn't figure out why the pattern- there were no sheltering trees nor overhanging structures.
The water isn't really getting through the culvert; it goes two thirds of the way through and then stops. It is true there is a small brush pile at the opening of the culvert but it shouldn't deter water with the least bit of thrust to it.
Many of the cows are lying down and so is the bull- a heavy vapor hangs low in the air. We are turning away from the sun more every day and the night skies are beginning to be splendid. Venus will be in the western sky early each evening this month and Mars should be visible early in the morning as it rises about 5:30 p.m. It seems the winds are dying down about evening as the ground cools and there is less movement of air.
As we near the creek, a muskrat jumps into the water with a loud splash. The crows flap by overhead; they really don't do much sailing as hawks do, or swallows but they flap heavily along, making hard work of it.
At the farmhouse #1, the cats are huddled in the door of the milkhouse. Are they cold? Are they waiting for a taste of milk? Or they just being cat-like, waiting for someone to come along and be company? Barncats usually aren't too chummy.
The fog descended but we walked anyway. It was almost balmy with little wind. I guess they may be about 6 mph, the humidity is high, however, 82% and it is sprinkling lightly. Of course the humidity accounts for the feeling of warmth, if it drops we shall feel the cold much more.
Blackbirds are whistling and squeaking in the treetops. Don't they migrate? They sound like a man rubbing his rubber boots together. It is very mild, 44º and the jays are calling. There are still live spiders on the road!
The stars move more to the west each night- Cassiopeia is directly overhead now and Vega, Altair, and Deneb are clustered in the west each evening.
The fields have a new look these days. The pastures across the road are thick with thorn apple, 'popple', apple, and wild grape vines laced together tightly enough to defy penetration.
By afternoon, it had moderated slightly and the thermometer stood at 37º and it was sprinkling. There wasn't too much change the rest of the day; it was still 36º at 5:30 p.m. but A- called and said it was snowing in a very business-like manner in Hannawa Falls.
Many would find the country dreary this time of year, I'm sure, and with the short days, it might be depressing for some but I see the buff cat tails ranked against the chartreuse tamaracks that stand against trees of Mars Violet, denuded and bare as they are now. The somber clouds sag above all, lending a claustrophobic feeling.
It is cheery to hear the little chickadees call from the woods and the jays are a bright, colorful note in an otherwise bland landscape. I saw the two red deer as we entered town again, they certainly are red this fall-
There are snowstorms all about us and the Watertown area has been hit hard. Our ground is bare. The ubiquitous sumac berries are pointed wine-red candles. We spent the day bringing plants in from the porches and taking cuttings , and cutting and hanging herbs to dry and mulching what is left outside.
Many of our small trees have to be wrapped against mice, etc. And so goes the day- at 7:15 p.m. it is 28º and we are watching a spectacular sunset. The sky got all gold and mauve with haloes around the edges of the clouds. The colors 'rayed' out in a marvelous glory and the sun itself was a fiery orange-red eye which slowly and reluctantly sank beneath the horizon deep into mountains of clouds.
We must attend a family 'occasion'. It is my sister-in-law's birthday and we are supposed to lunch together so we head for the mountains. It makes me remember a family joke. The children loved the idea of the mountains and would ask incessantly when we drove up there, "When will we be in the mountains?' I guess that came to mind while I was remembering how our youngest daughter used to exclaim over a sunset that she called the 'weary Alice'. All family memories-
The creek is iced over 'good' and a cast stone clanged off the surface without penetrating. I looked for the little muskrat and pitied him with his house and food supply for the winter so utterly destroyed. Quick freezes like this so often shut them out before they can get back into the water and they freeze on top of the ice. Perhaps we should be happy if they get a 'quick' death this year because with their habitat so wholely gone now, they'll starve to death, anyway.
There was a time when I drove back and forth to school with our son and he'd call, "I see a muskrat." We'd stop and he'd collect the frozen 'rats' and sometimes my trunk contained a half dozen carcasses. Trapping was a good healthy way, and often the only way, for a country boy to earn some pocket money. It couldn't have been easy, either, because I remember him getting out before six in the morning, many of them bitterly cold, to check his traps before school. His face and hands would be purple with the cold, and numb, but he never complained. Now, no one wants to wear animal pelts and that business is over with.
We watched the big pet at the 'gentleman farmer's'. He stood in his corral keeping an eye on the house and when the door moved, he emitted a low rumble and got to his feet from where he'd been lying in his pile of feed. The farmer's wife came to the fence with a scoop of grain and while he had his treat, she rubbed and petted him.
The grasses along the roadside stand stiff and white. It is 26º with little discernible movement of trees, bushes, etc. Later the wind was bitter in our faces, it seemed from the south and west, mostly. The little plants of mustard and shepherd's purse are still blossoming along the wayside; in fact look healthier than ever.
There are a great many swollen clouds overhead. The trees and shrubbery stand in a tense and expectant silence. There are no calls, no sounds other than the occasional traffic. The ground is bare and stiff, bereft of color or movement; it is almost winter. A jogger goes by at a fast trot. He is all dressed in red and he emits little puffs of smoke like a toy engine.
Our clutch of suet is an active place these days. There are woodpeckers, chickadees, and occasionally a nuthatch hanging upside down from the clump of fat. A chickadee bombed down from a tree and hit E- on the head, knocking his hat off. Did it plan to light on his shoulder? Or was it merely a clumsy chickadee?
There were brief periods of sunlight between eleven and twelve noon but the wind picked up and it grew colder. The sun disappeared behind heavy clouds and the larger branches began to toss, particles of snow appeared in the air, and the day lost it's allure.
We can see our neighbors are getting their snowsleds tuned up. They are looking forward to winter fun. The children can't wait and get their sled and toboggans out and slide down the slightest slopes-
The birds sit all puffed out in order to trap heat. There is a kestrel doing just that on the upper wire along the road. He sits until the last minute, reluctant to leave his perch and possibly the sight of prey. When he takes off, he sails over the meadow and stops, 'treading' air, like a swimmer treads water. He flies a bit further and stops in mid-air again to become a mass of quivering feathers.
We see the 'little' farmer who delivered our wood. He piled most of it very nicely beside the garage and even left us kindling to start it with. How's that for service? Country neighbors are very nice people. He still has red globes of frozen tomatoes hanging from the vines he, or his wife had draped over the woodpile. They look strangely like Christmas ornaments now. Speaking of which, I saw decorative lights on the shrubbery yesterday and the lights were on!
We've put more suet out and cut the herbs back to ground level and mulched them with leaves. We didn't have any leaves of our own so we picked some up beside the road, already bagged, where they'd obviously blown off a truck.
The horses are out and one is busily gnawing at the top of a fencepost again. Perhaps he is lacking some element in his diet? Has dental problems? Is nervous? They are growing quite shaggy these days.
They have yet to smooth the piles of soil back at the creek as the 'digger operator had informed us would be done-
It is strangely mild because there is no wind. The woodpeckers and chickadees and crows are active, taking advantage of the good weather although the grasses are stiff and white with frost. I note that the mustard has finally 'bit the dust'. Small grey birds flit along from cover to cover, jays call from the treetops, and we are surprised to see a large, dark body churning past above our heads. The strange light colored head and the size caused me to exlaim, 'A turkey vulture!' But it alighted in a tree close by and began to pound.
A pileated? This time of year? Don't they migrate? I've never seen one around here after October or before April.
There were spiders running across the road surface and the mustard plants are standing erect again.
At the 1870 farm the man and his son were busily picking and digging stones. They'd throw them into the back of the pickup with a loud thump. I remember the operation when my Dad used to do it; first he'd hitch the horse to our old stoneboat. It was a flat contraption fashioned out of several stout, thick planks nailed together with crosspieces and it had some sort of tongue, I suppose, so the horse could be fastened to it. As soon as Dad got hitched up, we'd jump aboard and set off through the fields.
As we rode along, the planks rasped over the ground and when we'd hit a rock, the sparks would fly. I usually felt very sorry for the poor horse, not sorry enough to get off and walk, but sorry because it seemed such a laborious job for him to pull an unwheeled, ungreased thing.
When we spotted a rock, we'd call out and someone, usually the caller, would hang his hand over the side, much as a canoer hangs his hand in the water, and we'd try to grasp the rock. We often had to stop because many rocks were too large to yield to easy grasping. If we didn't stop, the grasper might well get a stone-bruise and I don't know of anything more painful.
Today seemed wonderfully sunny and calm for early-November; it was 10º this morning with little wind. The chickadees were busy about the feeder. They are such cunning little things; I love watch them lie on their side to run one foot inside the hole in the feeder so their favored seeds will come tumbling out.
The deer was at its usual place, feeding in the meadow. Doesn't it know this is hunting season? Which reminds me; I've had no luck with my trapping as yet. A 'red tail' comes along and perches atop an electric pole. Poor thing is undoubtedly hungry. It is probably one of the spring's hatchlings and the parents no doubt kicked it out of the family circle last month. A very high percentage of young hawks do not survive their first year, they just aren't well enough equipped to get through the first winter.
Another sunny morning but appearances are deceiving, it is only about 13º; however, it is calm so we don't mind it much. By late afternoon it is 40 but they are forecasting sleet for tonight and tomorrow.
We left for the mountains while the sun was still rising and the deer were back in the meadow. We stopped and I shot two pictures knowing they were too far away for my lens. They picked up their ears but continued to graze. There are geese in the several rivers and a few ducks.
At a farm along the way, the man had dredged out a pond where he has various ducks, geese, and peacocks. They were out today but for once, the male peacocks weren't exhibiting their glorious tails.
Further south, the homes on our right had a couple of inches of snow on their lawns but the land across the road was dry! Not a snowflake to be seen by merely crossing the highway; it is difficult to understand.
There is a thin crescent moon in the southwest and it sets before 8 p.m. The last snow we saw was April 10th and then we got it again, however lightly, on Sept. 27th.
St. Martin's Day and we start out for our walk. It is about 30, or 32 degrees but the wind chill factor's more like 18º and we had to turn back. The wind was straight out of the east and bitter. The sky was overcast and the roads were bare but destined not to be for much longer.
We hadn't been home long when it began to snow. The wind increased and the snow swirled and soon the highway was glazed over. We hurried into town and got our groceries, just in case- The radio and television stations began to issue traveler's advisories and the afternoon was far from nice. We were very happy not to have to go out and bet the mailperson felt lucky that it was a holiday and she was relieved of the necessity for delivering mail.
The afternoon consisted of putting out additional food for the birds and watching as the storm grew in intensity. There were many fender-benders throughout the area and the northern portion of the Northway was closed. It was 36º at dinnertime and I could see that thin crescent moon still.
It was good to have an early dinner and curl up beneath an electric blanket with a good book. The moon was gone in less than two hours. Morning brought an entirely different day. The air was quiet but the neighborhood was filled with people trying to get their driveways cleaned out. At first it was bright and sunny with no wind. It was 32º at 8 a.m. and we had a couple inches of fresh snow. In the east, the sun was rising in the sky, making a creamy splendor touched with gold but after an unequal struggle to free itself from the entangling clouds, it gave up and retreated.
There was no wind at all and we soon loosened our coats. The unaccostumed snow boots made each foot feel 5 pounds heavier and we scrunch, scrunched along watching for cars and tried to keep our footing. The break-down lane was icy and treacherous.
Things were quiet at farmhouse #1. A station wagon, (or shooting brake, as the English would say), was parked at the entrance to the lane. Tracks led down into the meadows where hunters went with their four-wheelers.
There was a large dory beached in the yard near the woodpile and garden. It was probably 14-16 foot in length and white once upon a time. Do they expect another deluge?
There was a gentleness about the atmosphere and far-off vistas had a bluish cast. Traffic sounds were muted and one heard the occasional twittering of chickadees and the caw of far off crows, or the crunch of one's feet.
There was the wet, splashy sound of cars going along the snowy pavement. Every tree, every shrub, and every weed was limned with white tracery and every twig and projection bore its own load of fresh snow. There were heavy, pendent clouds, looking like they'd like to shed another load at any minute.
Our grove of trees was a white blur cross-hatched with dark lines, the branches and roots, the vines and berries standing out like bas reliefs. Of course, as luck would have it, we've been forced to start digging up the leach field. So lucky it is neither cold, nor the ground frozen.
Two large crows observed our peculiar habits from the large tree that straddles the line between us and our immediate neighbor. The mockorange was ablossom with chickadees and they'd dart to the bird feeder and seize a sunflower seed, then zip back to the protection of the mockorange bush. They'd perch on one of the branches and hold the seed down with their claws. Then they began rapping it and pecking at it until they were able to pierce through to the tender core. Then back for another; one would think all their energy would be expended just going back and forth. One dropped a seed and another picked it up and flew off with it.
There is about 35% humidity and we will undoubtedly have more snow, or even rain, before dusk. Sure enough, this morning the ground was bare again. It's a 40/40 day, temperature and humidity-wise. It is good that it stays mild, with the drainage field all opened up; but the rain last night didn't help the problem of draining the water off.
The creek was open again but they never finished leveling the soil off as they'd planned. This means another invasion in the spring ensuring the animals and birds will not return to their homes.
There was a young kestrel perched on a wire above the creek. These little hawks seem to remain around all, or most of, the winter. They are immensely colorful with their brown and white bodies and blue wings. They have a silhouette all their own, as does the bluebird and both seem to slouch on their perches.
Up at the old farm, #1, we saw a cow frolicing all by herself just behind the barn. She ran and kicked up her heels, something had made her day. Across from that farm, we noted that the 'gentleman farmer's new fence is gone. So are the yearlings that he'd enclosed there- I've seen people move cattle about, but not fence and all! Just beyond his barn, that new fence is gone, too. He's folded his tent, (like the Arabs-) Times certainly change-
At one p.m., we have gained 8 degrees and the deer is back in the meadow-
There is the sound of rain on the roof, water running in the gutters, and cars splashing past on the roads. It is rather foggy. Last night there was a silvery half-moon riding high in the southwest early in the evening. There are still dandelions ablossom on the sidelawn and it is not really cold.
I noted a spiderweb connecting the lilac shrub to the house. It is in the shelter of the eaves and has not been blown about by strong winds. Today it has gathered moisture and huge crystalline droplets are suspended over its surface like tiny beads. There are larger beads interspersed with smaller beads and they all have a glittering, ephemeral life of their own.
The lilac itself appears to be coming back to life. There are swollen nodules on the end of every twig and it hasn't even lost its leaves yet; they look surprisingly healthy. Remember The Last Leaf?
The winds are from the northwest at 14 miles per hour. The temperature is dropping and the radio predicts snow. It is grey and overcast.
As we walk, we see a new crop of earthworms astride the tarvia and they are very sluggish, indeed. They will never make it across the highway so I kick them off the edge out of compassion. There are two crows forging across the leaden sky and just when I bemoan the fact that there is a dearth of bird life, a flock of blackbirds materialize from nowhere, noisily sharing some tidbit of gossip. More of the meadow has been cultivated and perhaps they've found some tasty tidbits in the newly turned soil.
The water is open again and running free. It passes through the culvert with a noisy, rippling sound- it is snowing lightly by 11 a.m. and then after lunch, the flakes turned to hard granules that bombarded us and rebounded from the road by several inches. There was a brief violent wind-blown flurry and then they were gone, leaving the branches tossing. Less than an hour later, the sun came out, the sky was blue, and it was a very pleasant 38º. Who would dream we are only about six weeks before Christmas?
The 'ghost moon' continued rising in the southeast- Last night there was a waxing gibbous moon. It was so bright it illuminated the yard, the bare white treetrunks, and cast long shadows from each stone and it was already riding high at 8:30 p.m. up in the southwest. Today dawned mild and sunny...it was in the high 20s at 9 a.m. so we rode into the mountains to see what was going on. The ground sported a fresh white cover of newly fallen snow. The deer was gone from its usual spot in the meadow but there was a hawk, a rather large one, too, standing forlornly in the top of a bare tree.
By noon the temperature had risen to the high 30s and the wind died, making a lovely day. The eaves dripped and birds gathered about the feeders. By afternoon, the moon was again bright in the sky, and I expect it will be full in a night or two. The calender gives it another four days. It is 31º at 6 p.m. and pitch dark. .Coming up is the Hunter's Moon and it will shine near the Pleides; Native Americans call it the Beaver Moon.
We are going through the vacation catalogs. Ed would like to go somewhere, anywhere, as long as it is warm but I usually feel warmer right at home where I can set the thermostat where I please and wear whatever I want, as long as it is warm.
When I went out, the strong sun felt warm on my back. I ascended the hill and the 'little' farmer passed me, singing his toneless song from the crest of his pungent load. He may be the one happy person I've seen in recent months.
There is a new sound in the neighborhood these days. The 'gentleman farmer' has some bellowing critter confined in his barn. Its stentorian road makes Ferdinand look like a smalltimer; he pauses and takes note of each cry.
Everyone seems gone at the 1870 farm but the horses, their only livestock unless you count the smaller animals, are lined up at the fence, steaming and blowing. The nippy air seems to make them feisty and they nip and give each other half-hearted kicks. One seems to have a swelling on the stifle. There is a widowmaker directly over their heads; if the farmer doesn't get busy, a good wind could show him a horse with a broken back.
It is growing dark very early and by 4:30 it will be all over for today...the fresh powdering of snow on the ocherous fields and stubble reminds me of a man with his beard lathered-
It's been an absolutely beautiful day for late November. There are nimbus clouds overhead and the low pressure seems to bring out all the old, moldy odors, some distinctly skunk-like. It was a welcome 58º .
It was grand walking as long as we stayed on the hard surface; otherwise the shoulders were very soft and muddy. There are delicate dainty hoofprints along the creek and someone either left the highway to avoid, or pursue, the deer because he left heavyduty treadmarks alongside. By afternoon clouds were moving in and our bones say the pressure is slowly dropping and the headache and arthritis pills come out. We hear noises from afar that we don't usually hear and our eyes cannot see the source of.
The winds are almost nonexistent, but the humidity is nearly 50%. The creek is open again and we followed the deer tracks along the east side of the highway up the creek to where the deer crossed the road, followed the tracks north along the west side until we saw here it came out of the meadow. A muskrat startled us out of our sleuthing and we moved along.
Up at the old farm the cows we butting each other head n and kicking up their heels. The horses at the 1870 farm stood heads bowed in dejection. It began to sprinkle a bit; how couuld it sprinkle if the humidity is only 50%? As it neared lunchtime, it grew darker rather than lighter.
It's fun watching the chickadees. I threw out a handful of seeds from the squash we had last night and they picked one up and held it by both ends as they perched. They rapped and pounded until they pierced through to the tender core. Sometimes they'd drop the slippery seed and had to stand nearly upside down in the rather long grass to find it. One zoomed off with one crosswise his beak, he looked so funny, top heavy almost. It was overcast at 4p.m. and vehicles passed with their lights on already.
It is not nearly as warm today, it got to an incredible almost-70 yesterday but it is still a very nice day and we won't knock it. There were earthworms and slugs on the highway, a sure sign of warmth. The cumulus clouds hung low and now and then the sun struggled through the heavy layers. We will certainly never see the full moon tonight through such overcast.
I see the 'gentleman farmer' has begun shutting Ferdinand inside the barn at night as does the 'little' farmer at the old farm with his milkers. Even his three young calves are gone from the corral. I do not hear that awful roaring at the second farm, perhaps the creature is happier now that he has company inside, or perhaps (s)he is gone.
As it turned out, we did see the moon at 7:30 p.m., full and well up in the sky in the east but glazed over with a surface layer of sheer-cotton clouds that portend no good. As if ordained, it brought an overcast morning with a temperature in the 40s. We went for our walk and although we appreciate the mild day for so late in November, the fact is that it was rather damp and chilly. The creek is open again and E- saw a muskrat from the corner of his eye; so quickly there and so quickly gone. Only the ripples left to give him away.
A kestrel perched on an overhead wire observing the process; he wouldn't be averse to taking a young 'rat but I think an adult would give him trouble. I've seen kestrels have difficulty trying to take one of the larger 'songbirds' like a robin, or starling.
The osiers are turning a definite red and beautiful in the winter scene. They are so pretty splitting through the snow.
The 'gentleman farmer' appears to be gone the past few mornings and his lady is out doing the chores. Just rolling back those giant doors seems to be about all she wants to do...tonight there is a gorgeous sunset. It began to grow dusky about 3:30 p.m. and an hour or so later, the pendent clouds turned purple and they were laced with tongues of fire. Red skies at night only forecast good weather if they are opposite the setting sun, according to an article I saw in some magazine- and the television just predicted rain tonight.
Someone lied for it was a pretty, sunny morning, 42º at 9:30 a.m. and the winds 6 mph, humidity 40%. The morning stayed rather nice but about noon, we began losing the sun and the radio said rain, turning to light snow by tomorrow. We've been grateful that all precipitation held off until we got the leach field finished. It's muddy enough as is. It seems strange to view shots of people in western states digging out of huge drifts when our ground is still bare.
The geese have been going over in larger numbers. We've been lashed with driving wind and rain. The trees tossed and swung in wild circles, shaking the squirrel nests in the tops like dustmops. The ground was still bare but methinks not for long. We drove into the mountains in early afternoon and it began spitting snow along the way, soon the ground got white, especially at the top of the mountain road. The rec park was populated with Canada geese and snow geese and we saw ducks and a heron in the shallower part of the river
The temperature dropped steadily throughout the morning accompanied by snow squalls. School was delayed for about an hour in various places over the north country due to glazed roads. It was about 34º by 11:30 a.m. with 40% humidity. There are weather advisories out. The winds are picking up and swirling the trees about and the chickadees and jays are busy at the feeder. Afternoon saw sunny patches, the sun playing hide and seek through sagging cumulus clouds.
Tonight we were treated to another of our spectacular sunsets. The low hanging clouds turned deep purple and each was edged with a red gold margin. As the sun lowered, those red and gold rays gilded windowpanes, siding, and water. Anything in the mid-distance became a royal purple silhouette. By 4:30 p.m. the mercury vapour lights came on and the snow turned a luminous blue. After the sun had gone, taking the reddish tones with it, a vanilla colored strip remained below the clouds for another half to three-quarters of an hour then the sky drained of color and I thought it was over. Each time I looked for the end, there was a new display. There seemed a series of gauzy scarves with fringed edges playing across the western rim of night, some a mottled lavender, some blue grey, others mauve, interlacing the remaining areas of brightness. A shade of blush arose and climbed to the lowering strata of clouds; surely this would be all? But the color deepened to a salmon that made a channel into the heavens much like an inlet into the sea. Then the cloud edges blurred and the area of deep rose turned north and the sky in between shone a robin's egg blue! Or was it merely a lack of color? A multitude of sheep grazed in the rose and grey meadows and their numbers increased and mingled until they seemed against a backdrop of raging fire.
The dome of the heavens darkened and became a void leaving only slender bright areas that stubbornly stayed rose- God was extending a welcome to us and it seemed a portent of happy times to come.
The winds came out of the southwest and turned bitterly cold. We started out but had to cut it short as my face was freezing. Why is it that when we wouldn't dream of going with our hands, or feet uncovered, we do so with such a delicate part of our body exposed? The barometer was rising and it may fair off by afternoon.
The ground is beginning to assume a hard, frozen look and I suppose the frost is beginning to penetrate. This is the time to drench the shrubs and trees because if the ground freezes with them dry, they will not survive the winter.
We've had fun observing the chickadees busy with a pile of pumpkin seeds. As we peel and cut up pumpkins for the holiday pies, we save the seeds and throw them to the birds. Once, I dried them off but it seemed to dehydrate them and take all the good away, so now we just throw them out under the feeders. The birds have quite a time because some are slippery and some still have a long membrane attached that catches on the grass and hauls the birds back just when they're taking off. The sun was brilliant at 11 a.m.
The children are coaxing us to plan a trip to California this winter. They pity us here in the bitter northern cold but I am seldom comfortable in northern California, summer or winter! Besides, who would help make the turkeys and pumpkins out of construction paper such as have decorated most windows in the neighborhood. Who would assist in the whispered secrets and underhanded purchases that soon will require more assistance in the wrapping? Who indeed?
It's been a pleasant day despite predictions of sleet; maybe we'll get it tonight. It was 34º and still when we left for our morning walk, with winds of 2-3 mph. It was frosty but we enjoyed the fresh air. The sharp frost overlay everything, giving the grasses and meadows a bluish look. The creek was frozen solid on the western side and there was only a short portion on the east, maybe 4-5 feet open before it closed over once more. We were examining it when a Ford station wagon slid to a halt. The young man clearly wished to talk so we did the geese, the hunting, the problem of the wetlands. He shut off his motor without leaving the road and we pondered various questions pro and con. I noted a fluttering out of the corner of my eye and tracked a fair-sized grey bird as it swooped and circled the creek, finally alighting on the top of an electric pole at creekside. It was a barred owl and it sat looking down at us for a good eight, or ten minutes. It certainly didn't act the least frightened and when we walked on, it was still there. It began raining slightly, then there was a brief sunny period, then more overcast. The clouds were moving in again and the next 24 hours may be dangerous as the temperature hovered just around freezing. I hope there is no sleet for the holiday travelers who can't adjust their traveling to the weather. Coping with holiday traffic is bad enough all by itself without any additional worries.
It is supposed to be much warmer by Saturday without the danger of freezing. We are more or less house-bound, so I bake, or sew, or write...even read. Theroux came through with his The Happy Isles of Oceania.. We journeyed from one native island to another, sometimes visited the old sites of WWII battles, met natives who were friendly, some treacherous...very interesting.
The small critters are beginning to come inside now in a business-like way; I heard the patter of little feet but seem a dead loss as trapper..
We left for Syracuse and a day of shopping. It was foggy and the fields and highways were drenched with rain. The low pressure caused poor visibility and everything seemed blurred and indistinct. We were lucky it wasn't worse, I suppose, considering the time of year. It was about 41º, perhaps we'll see some sun tomorrow. Eiseley says it takes the sun 250 million years to make one full circle of the galactic wheel; wouldn't it be terrible if we didn't see the sun during all that time?
Thanksgiving has been very nice but exhausting, as usual. We drove through three counties without bad roads, heavy traffic, or nasty weather. Quite an accomplishment for the end of November in the northeast. The biggest annoyance was finding a place to eat. There is truly no place like home. Tonight I took time out to wrap my daughter's birthday gift. Hope she likes it because it is almost 200 miles back to Syracuse if she doesn't.
The overcast continued, the cumulo-nimbus are mostly obscuring the light. It is supposed to warm into the 60s by afternoon, suppose that means high winds, and they say rain. I believe the latter part.
It is always good to get back home despite the piles of mail and blinking light of the anserphone. Luckily there was nothing important or that couldn't wait because I was tired..
The winds picked up to over 50 mph. One side of the creek was open while ice covered the other side and murky water roiled over the top of it. It was rather pleasant for walking before the winds came up. The road surface was bare and we scrunched along but our faces began to feel rigid and frozen. We've gotta get home and wish Thing 4 Happy Birthday!
Back at the house, we rushed to replenish the feeders while the birds watched us reproachfully. If they weren't above eating the little yellow millet seed but they are and throw it on the ground distainfully, then they get angry when they run out. At least there was suet for them if they really got hungry!
afternoon the winds were so strong I could scarcely stand against
them. We pushed ourselves down the road and finally had to tie our
hats on. The trees were tossing and the cables overhead smacked
together, emitting creaks and groans. There were earthworms and two
different caterpillars on the roads. One was a mink colored velour,
the other black and chartreuse, both less than an inch long. Someone
left a good many oil slicks and despite their toxicity, they do have
an iridescent beauty of a kind.
At sundown the clouds resembled piled suds on the horizon. By 6:30 p.m., the temperature had dropped to 17º- It was a day devoted to medical calls and visiting kinfolk. Pleasant enough otherwise- It is Thing 1's birthday. We call her on the phone and as always, the first question is 'what is your weather like? A phone call is unsatisfactory but that is the way life is once families grow and separate into other families. Perhaps we'll get together soon.
The first sounds of morning were so muffled and muted that I knew fresh snow had fallen. We had 2-3 inches covering the ground and visibility was poor, both from the vaporous texture of the air and also because the wind was blowing the snow around. It had started about 3 a.m. and was mixed with sleet and drizzle. It is about 18º at 9:00 a.m. and schools are closed and most meetings are cancelled. I doubt there will be any mail delivery in the country today.
Much of the winter fun lies in playing detective. A brief look out the window reveals so much. You can tell who, or what has been around. Are those rabbit tracks? Is that blood on the snow where the tracks end? And those delicate little tracks with a fine line going down the middle, are those the tracks of a deermouse? I think so-
Reading Primo Levy's Other People's Trades. He is an excellent writer and so imaginative. I liked his Moments Of Reprieve as well. He and Italo Colvino seem to start from a fresh vantage point always.
The winds are 11 mph. The light reflects long glittering pathways on the hard crust. The birds are doing serious business with the suet and at the feeders. The temperature was only 10-11º and the wind increased, straight out of the east causing the windows to fog and become etched with frost. Heavy swollen clouds moved overhead and it threatened to be a very cold night. I could hear our chimes banging away in a tree outside the window.
We put out extra suet for our feathered fans; with everything coated with ice, they'll have a hard time of it tonight. Tonight we shall have good books and hot soup before a wood fire. I tried to read some of my hand-written notes I made back in the fall when we were at camp and away from typewriter, computer, et al. It is not good writing under the best conditions and I can scarcely read it myself once it gets cold. What did I mean all those months ago? Incidentally, Joan Brooks wrote to tell me that American Desert has gone out of business. Another market gone!
By morning the cumulus clouds were fluffy and innocent looking. The eaves were dripping and it's was 10º with brilliant sun at noontime. The walking, or driving surfaces were quite slippery and there have been numerous accidents. I can't remember so many people going into the rivers so early in the season.
The birds and animals have moved south with the cold and there have been sightings of snowy owls in our area, they've even found them in New York City. A large crow made his slow deliberate approach to the suet tree. There was a piece on the ground and he tried his best to carry it off but it was frozen in and he was thwarted. The little birds perched fearfully above trying to get a bit of suet from the feeder and still keep an eye on him.
Today the telephone rang incessantly and I was scarcely able to get anything done. I should be thankful because mostly, it was family wanting to know if we were okay, if we'd lost our power, if we were warm enough. Why am I such an ingrate?
We have had a little more snow. I see it piled on the corners of the windows and passing vehicles create small whirling snow devils. Frost has etched fancy patterns on the glass panes and it is 10º with extremely light snowfall but the wind chill factor is -15º. Now the sun is out, it looks like a Christmas card outside, the snow follows each bowing branch of the fir trees and lies along the top of the needles. And it is Thing 4's birthday? What shall I wish someone who is missing all this cold and snow? Can I send him a snowball?
Years ago we could look out the windows and note which direction the wind was from or if there was any at all, like Daniel Boone, but in these days of gas or electric heat, even oil furnaces only come on sporadically and that's the only time we see any smoke, if then. Now we must wait for a radio, or televised report for information. Ah, well, the very look and texture of the snow on the windows, the crunch underneath the feet will tell a lot. We used to be able to determine a lot by the shotgun report of nails snapping out of the wooden siding, or the almost 'frozen' sound of the train whistle as it echoed over the meadows.
Pearl Harbor Day with all its bitter memories.
It is noticeable that we are craving more sweets now. Is it because the cold causes us to use up more energy or are we eating from boredom since we cannot get out to walk as usual? The shorter, darker days are also having an effect on the pineal gland and many feel despondent or (in extreme cases) suicidal.
It is still and foggy looking. We've had more snow overnight and the temperature is almost to 20, 18>º right now. The neighbors smoke is going almost straight up, perhaps a bit to the northwest when when it can be seen. The mercury vapour lights are still on. By noon the temperature had risen to 24º and the skies are leaden; the neighborhood has a glazed unclear look and we seem to be getting freezing rain.
The milky looking atmosphere continued on to dusk when it was 26º. Many are out scraping the slush from the driveways before it could refreeze into unmanageable ruts.
Mother called while I was typing up my notes. I was letting the anserphone take the call when I heard a sugary, put-on voice coming through and knew it was she. She gets the biggest kick out of the answering machine now and it's funny because it took months to get her to use it at all.
The rabbits are on the move. Perhaps they have been all along and I just wasn't aware of it but I saw one make a furtive trail through the woods. He was brown. Former years we have watched about dusk, standing quietly until our eyes adjusted to the low light and then we'd detect the slight gentle movement that bespeaks a rabbit. There'd be the quiet passings from bush to bush until dark enfolded the shadowy forms and hid the action.
There was sleet or freezing rain overnight and the windows and driveways are covered with ice. The radio forecasts more of the same for today and the skies appear full of cooperation. Don't even see the chickadees around today or the crows but something did carry off a huge piece of our suet from the tree out back.
The weather is denying us the sight of wildlife today; Aldo Leopold tells us that many birds, chickadees as well as nuthatches, juncoes, sparrows, and woodpeckers fear the wind, or getting wet before a storm. If a chickadee gets wet or a cold wind hits him while he is wet, he will be frozen before morning.
It is amusing to see some of Mother Nature's cosmetology. The ice storm flattened all the 'clutched fists' of Queen Anne's Lace and now they stand like a florist had wired their stems stiffly upright and starched and pressed the heads out flat. As a finishing touch, she sprayed the umbrels with artificial snow. They are very striking- By afternoon, it is thawing more and the atmosphere has lost that 'milky' look that presages trouble.
The roads are bare and there is little wind. As we passed the aluminum industry, the scrubbers must have been hard at work because the white steam rose high and innocent looking from the stacks. The houses are almost universally decorated for the holidays. There are Christmas lights and a tree in the homes of Native Americans, Jew, Asian; no child worth his salt is going to be done out of any holiday especially one where gifts are exchanged, and goodies. So we shall be ecumenical after all in the long run and 'a little child shall lead them.'
We drove fifty miles into the mountains. There was a dearth of wildlife but we did see two noble looking hawks perched in a tree. Their feathers looked silver with a deep grey trim, and one had a snowy collar about his neck. He looked like a rough-legged hawk in the light phase. He was a good-sized fellow, some of them can go to 19 inches in length and span 52 inches.
The snow is dirty and discolored where it has melted back from the highways. There are little sparrows busy at a feeder; we haven't seen any this fall. All we appear to be getting are chickadees. But they get hungry, too and are certainly friendly. When E- goes out to refill the feeders they perch on the eaves just above his shoulders to wait. We see pictures from time to time where they have perched on the person's hands, or cap...they are friendly little fellows.
The radio says we will have some sunshine today which will be very nice. And they were right! The afternoon was sunny and pleasant. The little snow that remains is so filled with water and shrunken that each tiny clump of grass looks like it had punched its way up through the cover. There is a dark ring about the roots of each plant where they have fought clear of the chilly blanket- does the act of growing create energy and thus heat? How one thinks back to those days of flower and bird song, bee buzz and butterfly, of complaining of being too warm. What a cruel thing to die in March or April, after enduring the gloom of winter and forever denied another spring!
Last night's thin crescent moon is almost doubled in size tonight and there is a great, big snowman standing guard outside each window. Some of them wear familiar-looking caps, or scarves and they are jaunty in the extreme..
Last night I watched the first quarter moon shoot up into the first third of the sky in the south about dinnertime, (just after dark), and within two hours it had reached its low zenith and headed west. At 9:30 p.m. it was setting due west after making the lowest arc and fastest transit I've ever noticed. Venus was bright and unblinking in the west-
This morning the jays are screaming in the woods; we have been cutting up pumpkins and throwing the seeds out for the bird's delectation. They saw the snowmen and some acted wary until they realized it didn't move or menace them.
I was struck by the farmer's fence; at first, I couldn't figure out why a new fence should be so twisted but then I saw the tracks; someone has gone through with a rec vehicle, pulling up a stake or two to make way, then when he replaced the fence, he did it carelessly getting the fencepost in bottom side up and thus twisting the two wires one over the other.
The fog began to burn off about eleven a.m., leaving millions of tears dripping from the shrubs and twigs. It will be too cloudy tonight to keep check on the moon the earth is wet and soggy; someone forgot to wring out the sponge. There are mild winds at 10 mph and they'll undoubtedly strengthen as the day goes on and the temperature drops. This is supposed to turn to snow by late tomorrow; meantime, get walking!
We were beaten by the rain which increased so rapidly we had to give up our plans to go out. The interiors were filled with murky shadows that made it impossible to do anything without heavy duty lighting. There was only one solution; to the mall. Neither of us particularly likes 'getting malled' so when the rain abruptly let up, we hastily threw on our coats and started walking. It was mild and very pleasant even though devoid of life. The creek was half open and the water running atop the thawing ice which had a black and, at times, mustard green coloration. It was making a rapid transit through the culvert today.
The horses were standing like bored schoolboys. They came up to the fence and E- laughed at my reluctance to put my hand out to the nearest one. Moments later I laughed when she stretched out her neck and rasped a huge chunk of bark from the nearby tree. Perhaps she is a 'cribber'-
It was twenty degrees colder than it was yesterday, same time. The 'milky' look is back in the air and the temperature is going down. The grasses are frozen stiff and resemble the stubble on an old man's face.
Last night the half-circle moon was bright and clear. It rose in a higher arc and set much later. There is practically no movement of air; a cold front is moving in.
Today we were smarter and filled our pockets with apples. One of the horses came to the fence immediately and got two apples. Another approached out of curiousity and she also got two- I don't like the face as well on this one as it is narrower and the eyes are smaller but what I associate with meanness may possibly be better blood lines. The Arabian strain showing up; spirit as opposed to temper. We shouldn't feed other people's horses, it would be unforgiveable if we made them sick.
It began to snow just before noon, huge lazy drifting flakes; the kind most people are fond of but that (fortunately,) do not last long. We'd be buried if they did-
It began snowing and blowing with greasy roads. There were traveler's advisories out and the radio listed numerous accidents. The sun was a roily disk seen through dense layers of snow; it reminded me of the yellow patches in a snowbank where a dog has lifted his leg. Van Gough would have felt very familiar with that oddly coiled ball up there.
After 10:30, it cleared off and turned bright but it is cold. We drove a short distance to call on friends and the wheels squeaked as they turned on the layers beneath. When we returned about 8 p.m., it was 11 º with low humidity; it will be a cold night.
E- is cosy before the fire with a huge cross-word puzzle. He likes to do the Times, and in ink! If I must have a puzzle, leave me a jig-saw and a good place to work on it. I can amuse myself for hours.
As for me, I am scarcely able to wait until I can wash my face and put on my robe; isn't it odd how ingrained our little habits become, how rigid we are about them? Look at the millions, myself included, who are not civil until we've had our morning coffee? And I don't feel human until I've washed and brushed my teeth, morning or night. And I can't think of anything worse when I am traveling, than to discover I've forgotten my toothbrush. Now I try to always keep an extra brush in my bag, and leave it there. It's a fetish, I'm sure. Thing 1's fetish is whether she has turned the stove off. She is so compulsive about it that it's a family joke.
The frost has built up in the corners of the window turning the glass into oblongs etched with lacy trim. The bird feeders are empty and the suet is all gone; 'the cupboards are bare;' we must replenish the supplies. Tell the chickadees, the nuthatches, the jays that help is on the way. They stare at us and chatter uncomprehendingly. What is wrong with us?
It is Thing 3's birthday and well I remember that cold and miserable day, some time now in the past. It was bitterly cold and E- had just left for work. Naturally, the moment he was gone I knew I needed help, so I sent next door. The householder good naturedly warmed his car and piled me inside. I was so quiet that he couldn't believe anything was going to happen and after all, as a father of ten, he had some reason for his assumptions. Later he could scarcely credit his ears when he was told I'd produced a son within twenty minutes of our arrival.
The smoke from the chimneys is going straight up and the birds seemed to have fled deep into the woods. We heated the car and drove into town, passing one car towing another along the way. We would see more of it before we got home. Shoppers left their motors running, preferring to risk a stolen vehicle rather than one that refused to start again.
There is a 'Van Gogh' sun sunk in a deep packing of grey clouds but by noon we had none at all and the temperature had risen to plus nine. It began to storm by 3 p.m. and within an hour there was a couple inches of snow and visibility was severely restricted. The wind swirled its way around the buildings and dusk came early. I think Nature was ashamed of itself and wanted to hide what it was doing- I think of the homeless, or 'street people' in this kind of weather. I don't pretend to understand how this awful situation has come about but I do feel for them. Imagine trying to live outside in weather of this kind? Why don't we allow them to sleep in the heated, unused spaces between inner and outer doors of office buildings if we cannot provide anything better?
The birds did everything but come into the house and get us so E- went out with seed. The chickadees perched on the edge of the eaves about eighteen inches from his head and watched to see he did it right.
The neighbor's children enjoyed the fresh snowfall going around and around the house on a snowmobile. Personally, I can't see such entertainment but to each his own. I'd think they'd be so much better off walking, or skiing, or snowshoeing, away from the noise and fumes but apparently they don't see it that way. The pediacentricity of this day and age is really appalling!
It's time to get the tree. Memories come back of childhood days when my father, or grandfather, hitched the horse to one part of the 'bob-sleds', usually used to drag logs down from the mountain woodlot, and we'd mush off into the fields. There'd be arguments pro and con over the suitability of different trees, but not too much lest the adults lose interest. The chosen one was soon lopped off and sooner loaded and we'd start back, singing Christmas carols and speculating on expected gifts.
Nowadays it seems a much colder procedure. Down to the car lot, pay the man for one of his sorry trees, stuff it into the trunk and go home. There is no leisure to enjoy selecting, no heralding it home-
The sun came out bright and clear, that's something to be grateful for. A mourning dove joined the chickadees at the feeder; it huddled on the ground waiting for whatever they threw down.
Soon it was plus four and the roads were melting off. The salt and sand was still there but pushed to the side where the mix will join the run-off during the next thaw, polluting everything for hundreds of feet but what can we do? Let people kill themselves on the ice?
We spent enjoyable hours decorating the tree. Everyone took part. The oldest, and/or tallest, got the job of doing the top while the shorties threw loops of tinsel about the bottom. We close our eyes to the aesthetics of the thing so all may have their part and no feelings hurt.
And then the sun set. The sky was peach on the horizon line, then a band of gold, then the prettiest violet that deepened as the eye ascended the dome of sky and saw the slowly encroaching night. That wondrous orchous light reflected on the earth and the snow took on bluish-purple highlights, the windows turned lavender, and then a splendid full moon began to climb in the west. Beautiful, beautiful Earth! Are there other universes and can they compare to this? Perhaps there may be others but no more beautiful than ours, possibly better. No, not any prettier, never!
The temperature moderates as we approach the Nativity but the forecast is for snow, sleet, and freezing rain. The moon was hard and full last night, a harbinger of weather extremes.
The wind came out of the southwest, mild for this time of year but still no fun to get directly in the face. It was slushy and greasy underfoot and caution was the prime word. There were various tracks leading off into the fields, some humans and others impossible to identify because the snow was too soft and deep to take an impression. We waded out with suet, and seed, and scraps of vegetables. The cardinals love grapefruit halves, or tangerines.
I feel sorry for the 'little' farmer who spent so much time mending his fences this fall, they have been snipped and carelessly looped back by people with snowmobiles into a sorry sagging spectacle.
We took our gifts up the mountains and the roads were covered with slush and melting snow. High up, it was snowing in a businesslike manner so we decided not to tarry; however, once we descended to the flatlands, there was no storm activity at all. It was quiet and clear. Half way home, the sun came out and it was very nice!
About ten minutes beyond the mountains, we ran into flocks of crows. They gathered along miles of road and as we continued northwards, we kept running beneath out-riders. I can't imagine where they were coming from or why they were congregating in that one area but it must have been edifying to have so many around.
A full clear moon cleared the trees to the east. It looked very romantic but I had no romantic thoughts. I spent the evening wrapping gifts and addressing last-minute cards. The latter seems like such a waste. Recent years we try to send solely to those out-of-state, or shut-ins whom we haven't a chance of seeing. And more and more, I am replacing them with early phone calls, (later ones never seem to get through when you want to.)
Some gifts defy wrapping because this one or that has specified such an unusual thing. How do you wrap an antique pitcher pump? And antique trunk? A weather vane?
Dec. 22nd Today started out sunny. The winter solstice was at 3:54 a.m. this morning so today is the shortest day of the year. It was a wonderful day, a plus- about 40º at noon and then by 5 p.m. another eye-catching sunset. The horizon was all coppery and it lent a cuprous glow to everything in its path, then it developed into a deep cranberry color so tender and moving that it brought a lump to the throat. The moon is full and yellow again tonight. 'Mooning' out the window reminds me of 'Little Women' and the romantic, moody girls. I loved the book and that got me to reading George Eliot's Middlemarch, after all these years. It has much the same setting in time, and the same old-fashioned manners. A thoroughly good book, often described as a 'home epic' and 'one of the best and wisest English novels.' I enjoyed it, too.
It's getting fairly windy. It was a rather nice day, quite mild but the wind was sneaky. We refilled the birdfeeders so the free loaders could eat while we were out of town. We have some finches joining the chickadees and mourning doves at the feeders. There's some like small grosbeaks without the seedcracking beaks. This afternoon one paused briefly at the feeder, then flew down to the ground where it ran rapidly back and forth, picking up the seed dropped by the chickadees.
The sun came over the trees at 8:30 a.m., clear and quiet. The actual moment of sunrise was at 7:35 a.m. but we don't see it until later. There was little activity at the feeders yet, the birds must be finding better elsewhere. We are running three feeders and two suet stations.
It's the day before Christmas and the sun came out of the overcast and the wind rose. The snow has a hard glossy appearance that tells me it is cold. We really can't complain yet, we have little snow accumulation, this month's total is less than a meter, perhaps a bit better than average but still not bad. The sunset is about a minute later than it was at solstice.
There's the usual holiday bustle. Despite the cold, first one and then another has to get to the mall for something they forgot. And I am frantically wondering if I cooked enough of this or that. Maybe I should bake some more- If I don't slow down, the heat and humidity in the kitchen will run my new hairdo. One year I was unable to get out and get it done and had to wear a wig, they were very popular at the time. When I bent to take the turkey out of the oven, there was a conflagration that singed the front of the wig, my eyebrows, my hands; I was lucky not to have serious burns.
Will the cattle kneel tonight? Last night we had our first Christmas so today we left Syracuse just before 11:00 a.m. on our way to a second. It was mild and clear, at least the mainstreets were but secondary streets were covered with frozen snow that soon turned to slush. The sun was faint-hearted as were the winds. Traffic was light and we got to Watertown before we realized it.
There were numerous hawks perched in dead trees along the highway and I wished later that I'd taken a count. They are undoubtedly hungry; most likely young ones from spring hatchings as yet unskilled in hunting. Sometimes there were two in the same tree and I'm sure mature hawks would insist on their own territory. Probably three-quarters of these will be dead before spring.
We paused mid-way from orgy to orgy to thank Santa and head home. We've partied enough to last for weeks. We reached home by mid-afternoon. When I drew the curtains at dusk, the movement sent a young rabbit scurrying across the yard into the shelter of the trees. Then, when I drew the blinds at the front, there was a second one beneath the birdfeeder eating spilled grain off the ground. Both were brown rabbits.
This morning the water intake was frozen up so the temperature must have dipped before dawn. It is quite overcast and dreary and we are suffering the annual post-holiday let-down. We view the chaos of wrappings and boxes and wonder where we shall fit in all the new things we received. Shameful to wallow in such an orgy of giving when so many are destitute.
By late afternoon the western sky was filled with dark, heavy clouds; perhaps they are laden with snow. We will most likely get some by night time. We're coming into the last quarter of the moon now, (when it can be seen), and Venus is brilliant each morning.
We are still trying to clean the exterior of our car. When we left Syracuse we noted large deposits of some substance like frozen grape juice, Kool Aid, or purple paint on the windshield and the finish. We wondered why anyone would be out in such cold to wreak vandalism against us? We tried to remove it with paper towels and it seemed to come off quite readily but it was just too cold to pursue the task. Later, when we'd called back to thank our hosts, we mentioned what had happened and inquired if they'd experienced the same thing. They laughed.
The birds in their area feast on wild berries of a kind that causes highly colored deposits. Our friends have had droppings on their vehicles all fall. Realizing the acidic content of bird feces, we hurried to wash the car more thoroughly.
The long shadows loomed across the lawns and drive, brushing bare trees, shrubs, and feeders with purple. A half-circle moon was still high above with only Venus for company in the chilly sky.
A few minutes after seven, the chickadees joined the little brown rabbit at the feeder. He'd crouched in the shelter of the mockorange bush until the increasing daylight drove him under cover. The sideyard is laced with a delicate pattern of rabbit tracks, like fairies had danced under the windows in the night. Rabbit tracks look like the eyelet trim so often found on children's or ladies' garments.
The sun is brilliant and the eaves dripping.
We are only beginning to recover from the holiday and its attendent over-eating and lack of rest. Now we make plans for the new year. A portion of the roof must be fixed before it warms enough to melt seriously and the porch windows must be caulked before spring rains. And something seems to be wrong with the drain in the garage; clogged with road sand, likely.
We've called in our second order for fuel since September. Meanwhile, the birds and rabbits are busy at the feeder. It is funny to watch the mourning doves and their deliberate way of placing their feet, like a man on snowshoes. They are such shy creatures, the slightest flicker of movement at the windows and they are gone. They must have extraordinary vision or ESP-
The up and down weather has resulted in some nasty virus'es being about and we have lost a couple days to their effects. One would think when the cold sets in in earnest, they'd be frozen out. Our offspring try not to visit us if they suspect their little ones have been exposed to colds, or virus' but it's not easy to know in time. Thing 5 has been sick in bed this week and we have ferried soup, and Kleenex, and a vaporizer to her. Her poor nose looked like it was about to fall off so I sent along my tube of Aureomycin. It, or Bag-Balm, are the only things that seem to work when my nose is sore but I hate to use Bag-Balm close to my mucous membranes because I was told it contains mercury. I found out how soothing it was when I came across part of a tin that Dad had used for his cows.
Across our backyard, (and it is over five hundred feet deep), the osiers glow ruby red, appropriate for the season. Above them stand a few remaining candles of sumac. Sometime I must try making lemonade from the berries. Euell Gibbons swore it tasted like lemonade but I've yet to try it.
The yard is lacy with rabbit tracks again. There are curious formations under the feeder where the tracks of rabbits, mourning doves, and finches blend and the chickadees plunge into the indentations again and again when they lose a particularly favored seed.
The doves turn their heads sideways to stare up at the windows with those innocent round eyes. They seem content to take the other birds' leavings. They will gladly eat the millet.
A squirrel paid a visit. She scarfed up the grain like a vacumn cleaner; she's probably pregnant and ready to eat anything. Now a nuthatch visits; they usually stay in trees out back and this one vanishes in a whift of air. The Finch Corp. sends their delegates and three crowd about the tiny feeder. The chickadees seem not to know what to do about the invasion and cling to the sides. Are they shy, or class- conscious about joining the others? They give up and flit over to the suet. I enjoy the finches. They are not the golden yellow of fall but still add cheer in much the same way as did the last yellow mustard plant, the last goldenrod, and the last glowing tamaracks.
There are gorgeous snowcapped mountains on my window panes, topped by billowing cumulus clouds that sparkle and give off a diffused radiance, there are ferns and flowers and tiny birds etched here and there over the surface. Some things look like undersea anemones while others resemble dainty butterflies. I can see whatever my fancy desires.
There's an explosion several feet above the feeder and two small birds collide so swiftly and violently that I notice neither species nor color, I am too surprised.. Momentarily they tangle beak and claw in mid-air, then they vanish as suddenly, leaving a couple of drifting feathers to validate the spectacle. The doves paused to observe the action but when they saw me peering out, their attention riveted on the window. They stared in round-eyed wonder, the rapid slip of the nictating membrane over the eye their only movement.
As the day goes on, the sun is lovely and it is a fitting day to end the year. Night time brings another spectacular sunset. The coppery sky reflects a golden glow on the bluish purple shadows of the snow and the combination gives greenish hollows that look peculiar beneath the deep orchid of the higher dome above.
I try to reflect back on all the resolutions I made last year at this time and wonder if I should repeat them again this coming year, or just throw in the towel. Oh, well, who said 'a man's reach should exceed his grasp?' Guess that means 'keep on trying! Keep on trying! and so I shall.
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Ellie's Story List and Biography