We do not usually think of it until the opportunity has passed, but it sometimes pays to notice what is happening in the town next door. Case in point:
A couple of us were sitting around swapping tales of winter and keeping our coffee from getting cold. We all had seen snowy mornings, though not lately.
Our first snowfall of the year had left about an inch on the ground. The resident Keeper of Order In the Home gave her permission to not even shovel.
My trusty navigator and I took a drive last weekend, to Cincinnati, my son and the Cincinnati Bengals. Our drive took us across miles of unseasonably barren farmland virtually devoid of snow.
I’ve been making the trip for decades. I don’t recall any year in mid-February when there was so much brown ground.
In the past three years, maybe four, I haven’t burned a tank of snowthrower gas. One of those years I never even took the thing out.
“You should feel lucky then, haha,” my nephew wrote in a chat.
Nope. He is young enough to think clearing snow is a chore. I used to love clearing our driveway late at night, just me and the machine’s headlight and a stream of snow.
When the merits of “sustainable” growth are mentioned, the factor most often mentioned is more revenue for the local treasury.
I am sitting on the back deck, watching eight squirrels cavort around the grass and through the flower beds, trees and roof. A few House Sparrows arrive looking for breakfast, as do a pair of Mourning Doves and another of Northern Cardinals.
When many of us think of the woolly mammoth, I’m guessing we think of Queen Latifah, or at least the voice she gave to Ellie the woolly mammoth in the “Ice Age” movie franchise. For the record, the ice age ended about 11,000 years ago, and so did Ellie and her mate, Manny.
Actually, I think someone stole him to hunt deer – you could use dogs in Virginia when I lived there. I bet he didn’t object when the dognapper promised a life in the woods. In a way, I don’t blame him.
Below and in front of the porch rail, the surface of Marsh Creek is smooth like a 200-year-old farmhouse window pane, smoothly rippled as the flow wanders and eddies its way to lower elevations. Reflections of creekside oaks and sycamores decorate the translucent surface of the flow, itself browned from nearby mountains’ muddied runoff – poor man’s fertilizer, some farmers call it –in rounded jaggies across the stream. A short way up the creek, mated Red-tailed hawks and a few Bald eagles prepare for their new families.
Across the glassine stage at the foot of the hill there pass pairs of Canada Geese, a few mallards and their current loves – Canada geese mate for life, mallards for convenience – and a clan of mergansers.
When I was young, finding water was fairly easy. An old farmer would take a forked apple branch, some of the younger fellows used a wire coat hanger bent into the requisite “Y,” and head out to the area one proposed digging a well. It was called “dowsing.”
Holding the branch by the short legs, the long end poking out in front, the dowser would begin to walk around. Eventually, the tip of the divining rod would dip toward the earth. At the point the rod dipped deepest – hopefully, pointed straight down – the person in need of water started digging.
I often tout the idea of getting the kids down to the swimming hole. Let them splash in the creek, and watch the fish and turtles that live in the water and on the shores. Let them flip over rocks and identify some of the larva.
One of the ways biologists determine the quality of water is to check for macroinvertebrates such as May and Stone fly larvae. If the water is too polluted for human consumption, it also will not support the bugs – or the fish that feed on them.
While many of us have been quibbling over the details of our Distracter-in-Chief’s latest tweet – or more recently, his sudden lack of early morning digital shouts to his public – most of us are, for various reasons, not paying much attention to some of the more important edicts he has, with less fanfare, issued and will continue to issue. It’s not that what he is doing is secret; too many of us are simply not paying attention.
When Scott Pruitt was made head of the Environmental Protection Agency, we understood on some level that he would like to abolish the agency, and there was media commentary noting the incongruity of placing in charge the guy who had mounted 14 lawsuits to block the his new subordinates from doing what their name seem to indicate they should be doing.
At the tender age of about 10, I got my first lesson on the subject of cleaning up after oneself. We’d gone to visit Gramma and Grampa in Watertown, Mass., a little way out of Boston. I always liked visiting their home, a really old-fashioned place with a parlor – a small room off the living room, home to a couple of rocking chairs no one actually sat in. In fact, the big set of double French doors to the parlor was rarely not closed.
TThree Black Vultures showed up in the backyard Tuesday and headed for our stream. They were not looking for food; they craved water. They hover over us every day; that was the first time any of them landed so near our house.
Drinking water is in short supply in many wild places. We are in a time of year when water levels often are low, but Marsh Creek, in places where it normally only is low, is nearly dry. I was shooting pictures of a pair of Great Blue Herons looking for enough water to support a fresh frog for lunch when a Mallard drake swam by, about three feet over the surface of what used to be the creek. There was more water in the humid air than in the stream bed.
On a nearby fence rail, a dozen starlings sat with mouths open, panting. Other critters presumably have found shadier places to await sundown.
Last year was no-till for the field, and the crop was corn. No-till means the ground is left unturned, the roots of the previous crop keep the hillside from flowing to the bottom in heavy rains, and new seed poked into the earth with a tool made for the task.
I am diabetic. It’s no big deal, relative to the millions of other folks making Big Pharma rich with sales of antidotes to the sugar-water guzzling ways of our early years. I would go to bed with a bowl of corn chips, a bowl of salsa, a Pepsi in a Big Gulp cup, and television. Now I take, among a small smorgasbord of medications, metformin, a.k.a. Glucophage. It’s one of the mainstays of the diabetes treatment industry.
The flock of mallards launched from the creek, reminding me that a bright orange vest might be a good safety idea during deer season, but not so great if one is trying to slip up on the ducks. Indeed, most birds have excellent eyesight. They require it. Unlike ground-locked critters that can lie low and wait to spot something moving, birds are the movers, and sometimes quite fast. If they are going to eat – or at least not be eaten – they must spot their targets a long way off and make quick friend-or-food decisions.
The ad for a big-screen television shows a picture of a still, blue lake. A canoe is pulled up on its shore. In the background, a stand of pine trees of indeterminate species frames one side, a fall-colored mountain range the other. You can almost hear the loons calling each other across the water, as they have done for thousands of years, maybe longer.
Here on the East Coast, the lawn mowing season is winding down. A little earlier each day the sky looks like a storm brewing. Times have changed; I need less time each day to recognize it’s not a storm, but the westering sun that causes the early-graying sky.
Here in South Central Pennsylvania, those of us who do not regularly water our greenery find it still needs a periodic trim, but not like the rain-pressured growth that bogged down the Troy-Bilt when we returned in July from a wedding in Florida.