Mary Lou, the flowering dogwood outside my window, is changing color – again. Her previously green leaves, shaped with the compound curves of Pringles chips with pointy ends, are turning bright rust-colored as she shuts down the conduits that for the past few months have transported nutrition from the earth on which she stands, to be processed in those then-green solar collectors into more branches and, now, a mass of red berries among the buds that will open next spring into a glorious bouquet of pink ad white four-petaled flowers.
Sugaring-off when I was a kid was a sure sign of summer’s on the way. Nights below freezing and days in the low to mid 40s made the sap run in the sugar maple trees. In those days, we donned snowshoes and hiked from tree to tree, boring a half-inch hole in each trunk, hammering in the spile, then hanging a collection bucket from an attached hook.
This spring was a record-breaking season for attendance at the annual Mount Hope Maple Madness, held at Camp Eder, on Mount Hope Road, Hamiltonban Township. The event was staged by Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve, an environmental education facility a short distance from Camp Eder.
Folks from miles around showed up to learn about maple syrup making, and to enjoy some of the sweet, sticky nectar on hot pancakes.
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.