Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Weather Breeder

Pebbles eyes the house from her pasture early this morning.
Clouds boil above the foothills, sunshine and shadows chase each other.

Mallards on the pond.

A golden wash of fleeting sun.

Clouds billow in hiding the rim of the mountains.

It is raining somewhere in the mountains above us. The smell of ozone and damp sagebrush is sharp on the wind.

As I stood on the porch watching the moving clouds, the rainbow faded, then grew bright again. It was not raining here, but the wind blew icy drops like pinpricks against my face and hands.
For several days the weather has been mild and lovely. Mid day warmth has called for opened windows. Since Monday the long-range forecast has been for the onset of cold. Last evening [Tuesday] J. phoned me just after supper to say that he and his nephew should be arriving back from their overnight trip sometime just before midnight. I summoned a burst of energy and waded into some long neglected cleaning while I waited for them. The west windows were open, the curtains barely stirring. Stepping into the gargage from the entry for broom and mop, I was enticed outside to admire the 3/4 moon. The air was soft, warm.
Today I woke before daylight and stayed still, listening to the wind moaning around the house. The cats thumped and skittered through the kitchen and living area, raced in and out of the bedroom. "Here comes the weather," I thought. [Wind early in the day and restive cats are both a good indicator of a wild weather day.] Leaving J. to a few more minutes of peace, I fed the cats their treat of canned food, scooped coffee into the machine and opened the curtains. In the east was a half-hearted rising sun. In the west, clouds surged, casting ever changing shadows on browning pastures and wind-bent trees.
I went out with the camera through a patter of yellow leaves. The old smoke scent of the weekend's forest fire, mingled with the lemon-eucalyptus smell of rain battered sage carried on a nipping wind.
All day we have watched sunshine chased by racing shadows, angry clouds, wind that blusters and then subsides to a riffle. As we finished lunch a burst of rain turned to a rattle of small hail.
At the quilt shop we kept glancing out at the darkened street. We spoke of coming winter, of comfort food and long evenings of sewing or reading. When I left at 5:15 the wind accompanied me across the wet parking lot, nipping meanly through my corduroys.
Grandson came in after dark to tell me that it is snowing. I am bundled in a big hooded sweatshirt that I gave my Dad several years ago. The cats are all asleep, worn out with ushering in the storm. Time to retreat to my cozy old chair with a new book.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

WOL [Great-Horned Owl]

The grey blob mid-branches is the owl.
When grandson and I went on owl watch in the early evening, owl had moved out of the dense foliage and onto a bare branch. I hurried out, camera swinging from my wrist hoping for a better look at the Mallards who had appeared on the pond, and then spotted the dumpy oval owl-shape in full view. Daughter's cat, Tarbaby, [who has been demonstrating suicidal behaviors] was stalking the ducks, creeping through the long grass on the edge of the pond. From his branch the owl appeared interested in the possiblity of cat as snack.

Easy to see why "owlish" is not usually a complimentary term.

This feather, from the owl's front, was lying on the tangled grass under the owl's perch. It is incredibly soft and downy. I looked for others and for an owl pellet. Grandson found one last year, freshly hoiked up. Such treasures seldom appear when I deliberately look. They are there, waiting to be suddenly noticed before the wind whisks them away or tromping boots crush them.

Dusk and the first chill of evening coming in over the pond. When I looked up again, the owl had gone; silent wings, gleaming nocturnal eyes, deadly beak and grasping talons.
How do they say "OWL" where you live? I defy anyone speaking any regional form of English to get that word out in one syllable! Three letters, yet an unwieldy mouthful to manage. New Englanders torture the word with various nuances: "ah-wul"; "aaawwl" [a sound such as one involuntarily makes when a tongue depressor is being employed.] "ouw-wul." If you bring to mind Eliza Doolittle singing out her vowels for Prof. Higgins, you have a number of options.
Our grandson when he was about three, came up with an alternative that has become a family tradition: "agle." [Think "angle" with the "n" missing!]
I once had an enjoyable reciprocal conversation with a great horned owl. It was early autumn in Vermont, leaves not yet parted from the hardwoods, but a fine temperature for an afternoon walk. We were home from church, lunch eaten. I sought companions but neither husband or our two teenagers were of a mind to stroll through the pasture and across the brook.
Crossing the slender ripple of the Lemon Fair, I stopped to crush a snippet of wild mint and watch the kildeers running over the rough ground, uttering their name-cry. I hopped from one grass-tufted hump of dirt to another--the place we always referred to as "the bog", the spongy ground cut and molded by the feet of my grandfather's cattle, plodding toward the cool shade of the woods and then back to wait at the pasture gate for milking.
To the left, a line fence and rutted wagon tracks leading over a little knoll, down through a wooded hollow and on to the now-collapsed sugar house. I surged through an ever-spreading stand of prickly ash to the circle of shag-bark hickory, stood with planted feet and head craned to evaluate a possible crop of hickory nuts. I recalled nut gathering afternoons with my grandfather, the team of work horses standing patiently hitched to the wagon while we rustled through fallen leaves for pale nuts, some still cupped in greeny-brown hulls. We dropped the nuts into small battered buckets which grandpa emptied into burlap grain sacks.
As I stood there in the green, leaf-strewn circle, a sudden owl-call came from a branch midway up a hickory. "Whoo-whoo whoo-whooo!" "Whoo to you, too!" I said crossly, startled. The owl obligingly replied. Intrigued, I stood there hooting and the owl answered in hollow booming tones. We carried on this way for perhaps half an hour before the owl shrugged and floated off toward the neighbor's farm. I scrambled over a rocky hillside, scraped through more prickly ash in hopeful pursuit, but the encounter was done.
After endless attempts to photograph our resident owl yesterday, I pulled out a copy of Winnie the Pooh and reacquainted myself with the "owl" of E. H. Shepard's illustrations which conjure memorable creatures from the words of A. A. Milne.
At wikipedia I found this bit. It made my day.
"Wol is a Kentish and Sussex dialect word for Owl,[1] which Milne would have been familiar with, living on a farm at Hartfield at the time he was writing Winnie the Pooh."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Tent Worms vs Woolly Bears

Can't have my woolly bears maligned, so here is some info regarding the two different creatures. The tent caterpillars are the nasty destructive ones and I remember them dripping from the trees, landing in my hair or going down my collar. Very unappealing. That said, I don't really want a woolly bear walking about on me either--prickly little feet!
How could we ever be bored? I greatly enjoy the discussions and the curiosities raised by our respective blogs.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Tent caterpillars

Tent caterpillars are moderately sized species in the genus (Malacosoma) in the moth family Lasiocampidae. Species occur in North America, Mexico, and Eurasia. Twenty-six species have been described, six of which occur in North America. Some species are considered to have subspecies as well. Although most people consider tent caterpillars only as pests due to their habit of defoliating trees, they are among the most social of all caterpillars and exhibit many noteworthy behaviors.
Tent caterpillars are readily recognized because they are social, colorful, diurnal and build conspicuous silk tents in the branches of host trees. Some species, such as the eastern tent caterpillar, Malacosoma americanum, build a single large tent which is typically occupied through the whole of the larval stage while others build a series of small tents that are sequentially abandoned. The forest tent caterpillar, Malacosoma disstrium, is exceptional in that the larvae build no tent at all, aggregating instead on silken mats that they spin on the leaves or bark of trees. Tents facilitate aggregation and serve as focal sites of thermal regulatory behavior. They also serve as communication centers where caterpillars are alerted to the discovery of new food finds.
Pyrrharctia Isabella
[woolly bears]
The banded woolly bear larva emerges from the egg in the fall and overwinters in its caterpillar form. It survives winter freezes by producing a cryoprotectant in its tissues. Once the weather warms, the larva devours all the grass and weeds it can, pupates, and becomes an adult, which then lives through the summer. It is the larvae of this species which are the subject of common folklore, which has it that the forthcoming severity of a winter can be predicted by the amount of black on the caterpillar; this is the most familiar woolly bear in North America. But in fact, larvae produced in the same clutch of eggs can vary from mostly red to mostly black, even when reared under the same conditions, and this variability invalidates any actual temperature-related trends that may otherwise be evident. In fact, the orange band will grow towards the ends of the body, with the black bands decreasing in size, as the larva matures.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Woolly Bears

Woolly bear caterpillar on a dry cottonwood leaf.
This one was wriggling away from me into the grass.

My grandfather, who had a countryman's long wisdom of weather, told me how to predict the severity of the coming winter by observing the coloration of woolly bears. The dark bands on either end are the "cold spells" and the orange midsection indicates the length of a mid-winter thaw. Looking at this one, the cold temperatures will arrive on time, but there will be a long, mild, mid-winter, followed by a lingering chill in the spring.

I was thinking this weekend of autumn in New England: the deep burnished brilliance of maple leaves, sumac flaring red, the yellow canopy of beech leaves before the wind sweeps them down, glossy oak leaves clinging to the trees well into cold weather. And I was thinking of woolly bears. I picked them up on the dirt roads, stepped carefully around them as I gathered the last of the garden harvest and pulled up spent plants and vines.
Tramping about outdoors on this beautiful Sunday I was delighted to encounter two woollies. They aren't as common in the interior west as in other places I have lived.

The late naturalist, Edwin Way Teale, is one of my favorite writers who has stood the test of passing years and changes of place. With his diminutive wife, Nellie, Mr. Teale planned four journeys through America, plotting his routes carefully months in advance. From his journals and photographs of these treks came four books: North with the Spring; Journey into Summer; Autumn Across America; Wandering Through Winter. Each year I bring out the one which suits the current season. Following is a favorite passage from Autumn Across America.
"We descended that afternoon to autumn movements of Lilliputian dimensions [and] a humble form of seasonal travel began to absorb our attention as we drove north. We saw, as we had seen for days, wandering woolly bear caterpillars crossing the pavement. Some were going from left to right and some from right to left. One had just reached the center stripe when the whirlwind of two passing cars sent it spinning around and around. Frequently we saw other woolly bears rolled sideways for a dozen feet or more by the hurricane gale of a speeding car. Always these travelers righted themselves and continued their crawling, a prey to autumn wanderlust. This autumn travel of theirs, a feature of completed growth, is in its way a definite migration. It is a movement to winter hibernating quarters. Before entering the long months of immobility the caterpillars set out to see the world. Each woolly bear, for a time, becomes an insect Ulysses. Its autumn days are spent adventuring far, and about highways, daring much. As we zigzagged now and then to miss these wanderers in their perilous travels, we began speculating on the answers they would give us if we questioned them in what the French scientist, J. Henri Fabre, called "the language of experiment." Later on, in the northwest and back home along the Atlantic coast, over several thousand miles of roads, a hundred times and more, we stopped to cross-examine with experiments the journeying woolly bears.
I picked them up and set them down facing in the opposite direction. They reversed themselves and started off across the concrete of the highway in the same direction as before. I watched them regain their feet, without any loss of sense of direction, after being bowled over by the wind of a passing car. I whirled them around and around in my hand and set them down. They headed away as before. I shook them up in a brown paper bag and dumped them out. The result was the same. I picked up one woolly bear going in one direction and another going in the opposite direction and put them down, curled up into round pincushions, on the center stripe of the highway. They waited a minute or two, then uncurled and began walking away from each other, each stubbornly holding to its original direction of movement. Whatever the explanation of their ability, these humble wanderers---have within their pinhead brains or primitive nervous systems a sense of orientation that enables them to hold to their course once they start to cross the road. "
Most US libraries have copies of Teale's works. Some are available used through Amazon or Alibris. Most of mine have come from second-hand book shops. I have been able to replace several I bought in small paperback editions with sturdier hardcovers located over the years.

Changing Tires

This is the look of a destroyed tire!

The look of a man trying to deal with two shredded tires on a motor coach in the middle of nowhere, Wyoming. Grim, sweaty and greasy!

Help has at last arrived in the form of a large, tatooed, long-haired man with a battered truck and a portable air compressor. The logo on the truck is "Anytime Road Service."

He wondered why I was taking photos and I assured him I was creating a documentary of our trip!

August 22nd advanced our planned leave-taking for Vermont by several days. At that, it was a date nearly a month removed from our originally scheduled trip to visit my late father.
Dad's final health crisis developed suddenly, and we hurled clothing, toiletries and food supplies, as well as our elderly Siamese cat, into the motor home, with the grim prospect of 2100+ miles between our part of Wyoming and Vermont.
Heading out, we stopped in Riverton, the next town, where J. has bought tires for his trucks and equipment for several years. While greasy men with noisy impact wrenches put new tires on the front of the motor home, others performed an oil change and "full service." We went into the cafe and had lunch, then waited around while the service was completed. It was an hour after noon by the time we were officially "on the road."
J. stopped two hours later in Casper, WY to top off the fuel tanks and true to form as a long-haul truck driver of many years, he went around the motor home "tunking" the tires to make sure all was well.
Fifty miles down the road, there was a sudden and dreadful BANG! The coach rocked, overhead cupboard doors flew open raining out cooking pots and kitchen paraphernalia. A rest area sign loomed on our right and J. steered the motor home into the parking lot, bumping and scraping as the layers of tire tread peeled off.
Investigation showed that both driver's side rear duals had blown, taking out a portion of the tail pipe. J.'s best guess was that one tire had picked up a nail either at the fuel stop or soon after, causing a slow leak. As one tire went down, all the weight was being carried by the other.
The tire company had stowed the old tires in one of the storage bays under the motor home, so we did have spares, but they were not on rims. J. phoned 911 giving our location and was given several numbers for road service providers.
I watched him as he repeated numbers, scrawling on a sheet of paper hastily torn from my notebook. [He is mildly dyslexic--under stress he is apt to transpose numbers as he writes a series.] While I hovered at the rear of the coach, trying to console our terrified cat, Raisin, and restore fallen objects to their places, J. punched at his cell phone with increasing irritation. Nearly 5 o'clock on a Saturday afternoon, middle of nowwhere [which describes most of Wyoming.] I could hear his side of the conversations: "What? You're not the road service? But isn't this 265-....? Oh, sorry." Curses and vile mutterings, jabbing in another number. This time I could hear the man at the other end: "Sorry sir, this is an auto parts store, but you might try....."
J. scratched savagely at his paper, intoning imprecations on the makers of Michelin Radial Tires.
"I want to go home, " I said, childishly, during a lull. I knew we had to continue if we could sort the tire problem, but looking out at the miles of unpopulated high desert country, thinking of the hundreds of miles to be traversed toward a destination of sorrow, my courage faltered.
Glaring over his reading glasses, J. responded in a tone of mild astonishment. "What," he inquired, "would make you think we would turn around and GO HOME? This is nothing, a couple of flat tires; happens all the time."
Several retorts crossed my mind and were hastily squelched as unsuitable to the delicate situation. I opened the door of the fridge, leaping back as a number of packages and bottles jounced out. I retreived a small can of cold soda, shoved it across the dinette table in J.'s direction and exited the motor home.
I stepped over a strip planted with dry and tired yucca, and trudged across an expanse of hot-smelling tarmac to the rest area "facility." It was cool inside, with the familiar rack near the door--brochures describing area attractions. At the back of the room block printed signs directed one to "MEN" or "WOMEN." One portion of wall was taken up with a large map of Wyoming and the adjacent areas of bordering states. A red arrow pointed out "You are here" and gave an indentifying number for the rest area. Tacked beside the map, a piece of white poster board was filled with neatly hand written numbers grouped under headings: "Lodging; Food; Medical Emergency; Road Service." I rummaged a pen from my bag and a scrap of envelope, double-checked numbers. I burst back into the motor home and presented J. with my list. I retreated to the bedroom while he began again to punch numbers, muttering the while that he hoped the phone's batteries would hold.
I hauled Raisin the Cat from where she had burrowed into the bedclothes. "It will be all right, " I told her, reassuring myself. She gave me a baleful "Mer-rouw" and hunched herself back under the quilt.
J. appeared in the tiny hallway. "I've got someone coming out from Wheatland", he said. "I caught him at the end of another service call. It will take him about an hour to get here." He crumpled his Coke can and stuffed it into the garbage sack, banged the motor home door. In a moment I could hear him clanging tires and tools out of the storage bays. While he wrestled with the lengths of bent exhaust pipe, I moved from one seat to another, took out a book, finally settled at the little table and began transcribing family research notes.
Two hours after the blow out, help arrived. It was another hour before J. and the serviceman had the tires changed. "Cheap enough, " J. stated, after he had handed over $274.00 and wiped grease and sweat from his hands and face. "The man's been on the go all day following service calls. You'd think he'd be able to afford a better truck!"
He started the engine and eased onto the highway, commenting that he hoped he could find somewhere enroute to buy four more tires--Goodyear, not Michelins!
I brought my book and strapped myself into the passenger seat. Shadows of early evening crept down over the distant foot hills as the road unwound. Coal trains chugged along their tracks, too many cars to count as we passed. Riding away from the setting sun, toward the Nebraska line, we drove into the night.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Lazy Afternoon

Looking straight up into the tangle of cottonwood branches near the irrigation ditch. I walked about trying to focus the camera for the best light, not looking where I was putting my feet, head cranked back. I remember as a child staring at the sky that way until I felt that I might lift off my feet and go dizzily up into the blue.
Aspens growing on a bend of the ditch. The leaf colors are changing daily. There was a slight haze--smoke drifting over the mountains from a forest fire on the other side.

Shades of gold and green against blue.

A flicker perched on a lobbed-off limb in one of the cottonwoods. If you double-click on the photo you can see the bird's markings. I was shooting directly into the shade, and of course I'm not going to master the settings on this camera. I don't suppose birds and such would sit still while I pondered the buttons and dials and tried to remember how they work.
It has been a beautifully hot golden day for late September. We warmed up shepherd's pie for lunch. Our daughter ambled down from next door and thought it looked appetizing, so she rummaged out leftover veggies to go with it.
Our good neighbor arrived with her grandson, bringing us a share of the green beans she picked yesterday. We all sat in gentle clouds of cat hair, enjoying the company.
When everyone departed, J. [who definitely over did things yesterday with his damaged hamstring] went in for a nap, followed by several companionable cats.
I wandered out to the west-facing porch, kicked off my sandals and rolled up the legs of my jeans the better to enjoy the hot sun. I had just gotten comfortably immersed in my book [reading Nella Last's War] when I thought I heard the call of an owl from the cottonwoods near the pond. A pair of great horned owls lurk there through the autumn weeks, but are usually silent during the day.
I fetched the new camera and trudged down the drive past the little cabin which over-looks the pond and irrigation ditch. I gazed up at the branches the owls favor, but didn't spot any. The flicker was busy on his high stump, a reward for my curiosity.
By the way, I so enjoy the comments you leave. I hope you check back to the comments section, as I will answer you there. It seems wonderful to me that folks from such faraway places can enjoy a lively and interesting round-robin exchange of ideas.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Quilt Show Photos

Close-up of the house block

My beloved Teasel is always forgiven for cat hair on my quilts!

This is a close-up of the tulip block in my houses quilt. I used the new, still unfamiliar camera for some of these shots and later discovered that a speck on the lens had caused a blurring.
This was impressive. I wish I had gotten a close up of the intricate machine quilting done by one of the professionals in town.

This was made by Joan, a massage therapist and quilter. The horses are cut all in one piece from a stencil, appliqued with a tiny machine stitch and then "stippled" by machine. Delicate work!

I named this quilt "The Houses of West Hague, NY." I made it for my "Cousin Bruce" who has given me so much help with family history research. The various branches of our families have shared the same upstate New York hamlet for many generations. Piecing those 8 houses was a pain! I redid the roof angles to get them as perfect as possible and never did learn an easy way to do it. Each corner of the border has a 6" maple leaf block---added in tribute to the gallons of maple syrup made each spring for the past 200+ years.

This is a strip sampler made in soft muted prints and set with a mottled dusty rose fabric. I call this one "Carole's Parlour." My dear friend Carole had a parlour/study in a huge vintage house in Vermont which her husband, George, had restored. It was furnished with her big desk, an elegant antique sofa, comfortable chairs. There was a fireplace--a beautiful and welcoming room.


I made this for Carole's husband, George. George is a meticulous craftsman who has restored old colonial homes and vintage Lincoln motor cars. It is appropriate as his surname begins with a "T". His mechanic and woodworking tools were always beautifully ordered.

Bear Tracks

I made this several years ago from scraps of calicos in the colors of a New England Autumn.

I spent two hours this afternoon as one of many women from our quilt group, setting up for the annual quilt show. Since my back is still twingy I was glad I had an easy assignment---helping to "check in" quilts and smaller items.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Shapes of Sunrise

Early morning mist. The mallards creating ripples in the pond don't show in the photo. Perhaps the two pale blobs represent the ducks--or are merely smudges on the camera lens. The finer points of photography escape me.
A pale misty sunrise.

The pond reflecting blue sky. Weeds have gone tawny and stubbly dry. The cottonwoods and willows are turning pale gold.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Around Here Last Week [the nicely edited version.]

Marbled Salamander.

[photo from the web by John D. Wilson]

My neighbor, who has lived in Wyoming for her lifetime, tells me that these creatures are locally called "mud puppies." They are amphibians, probably dwelling in our pond, but this is the time of year when they venture out in the cool of the evening and make little forays on land. With J. doing limited hops between bed/bath and his seat in front of the TV, I have to remember to shut up the garage last thing at night. It was 10:30 p.m. Thursday when I went into the garage. Near the door was a salamander who looked very like this. I didn't want to put on gloves and carry it out into the night, was too lazy to fetch my camera. I put a clean cat litter pan over the sally, thinking to deal with it in the morning. Come morning it had slipped away, perhaps slithered under one of the doors and crawled back to the pond. Strangely, our son-in-law announced the next day that he found one in his cistern. Since the cistern is only uncovered during fill-ups, we can wonder how the salamander came to be there. Can we imagine that it spilled into the water tank from the "village pump?" Did it plop into the cistern in a moment when M.'s back was turned? No, I didn't carry it up the hill, wrench off the cistern cover and deposit it within for a joke.

A recent sunset. Everything below the skyline has blended into black against the fading red glow behind the mountains.

The view from the west porch this morning at 8:30 a.m. In case you're wondering, that really is snow on the foothills! The wind came up last evening and when I pulled the curtains shut for the night I saw raindrops on the glass. The house was cool this morning and the cats were piled on the foot of the bed. I opened the curtains on the south facing windows first. Gazing toward the pond I could tell that fall has arrived--the leaves are still green, but even from inside the house there was a perceptible change. When I saw the snow, I thought of outside winterizing which "wants done"--and which J cannot do on crutches. I tried not to think of the winter ahead. The change of season is right in sync with the calendar page--the autumnal equinox tomorrow.

The rescue kittens are now a year old. The vet considered them to be about 8 weeks old when I brought them home at the end of October last year. That is Jemima on the left and Chester on the right. Chester celebrated his cathood on Friday by getting out the porch door and spending the next 48 hours--somewhere--outside. The storm/screen door has one of those spring-things which doesn't work properly and it had gone into warp mode after I wrestled in a chair from the cabin. [An old upholstered desk chair with wheels which I thought might be an option for J. The chair was heavier than I remembered and dragging it over the rough ground between cabin and house proved a tiresome chore!]

Chester's dad, Charlie, and Raisin, also took advantage of the partially opened door to have a walk about while I was at work. J. saw them and managed to hobble to the door and call them. Charlie and Raisin obliged by returning, while Chester, true to his anxious nature, skittered off. We left the window open in this small room, keeping the door closed to the rest of the house. I crawled along the edge of the porch in the dry stubble trying to see beneath. I went to the cabin and peered into the dim crawl space. I slept in here [or tried to!] getting up hourly to poke my head outside and call the wretched cat. His sister prowled the house, crying and pleading with me to produce him. At 6:30 a.m. on Sunday he plopped through the window. When I had stumbled groggily to close it, he flung himself on me with purrs and small mewings. I let the other cats into the room. Mrs. Beasley snarled at him ungraciously. Jemima sniffed him from whiskers to tail and said that he smelled "funny." As I lifted him to my shoulder I took a whiff of his fur--dead grass, dried leaves, dust.

The truck from the raspberry farm has been in town twice this week. The farm is about 40 miles from here. We usually go at least once during the season to pick berries. It is pricey to buy them by the flat, but that's the only way we'll have them this year.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

J,'s Fishing Trip at Flaming Gorge

This salmon has a hooked jaw, referred to as a "kype"
Salmon, Kokanee, which is a land-locked variety of Sock-eye

This one is thrashing!

This creature is called a ling. Not considered a gourmet choice

Another view of the Kokanee
The salmon are out of season and had to be returned to the icey waters of the lake.

He should have been content with fishing. This is what happens when old geezers decide to water ski using unfamiliar skis and a wet suit. Not a happy day.
All fish photos taken by grandson on his cellphone. I took the one of the water skiing aftermath. The injury has been disagnosed by the family nurses as a pulled hamstring. Of course Macho Males do not seek the advice of a doctor. Day two of this invalid adventure--and I'm threatening to whack him with a crutch!
We had trout for supper, baked with salt, pepper, onion powder and rosemary. I didnt' take a picture.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Flowers of Late Summer

My middle sister, wearing red wellies,
scavanged through the edges of her dooryard and into the meadows to collect these end of summer bouquets which she placed in plastic pails of water. The arrangement graced the outdoor gathering of food and friends which took place after our Dad's memorial service. Some of the individual blooms had suffered from the recent rains, but in such colorful bunches that didn't detract from their beauty.

Boneset, frost asters and goldenrod leaning from the shade into the edge of the yard at my younger sister's home where we stayed.

Rudbeckia, with some going to seed bluebells and a sprig or two of bee balm.

Frost asters

Joe Pye weed gone fuzzy with damp weather.

This was intended to be a rather easy posting, an opportunity to share these photos taken in Vermont. Joe Pye weed is one of my favorite late summer wildlings and a relative of boneset which often grows near it in a moist edge of the meadow setting. When I lived in New England I picked all these late flowers at peak of bloom, bringing them home in huge untidy armloads and plunking them, waterless, into a large crock so that they would dry and provide an interesting cloud of furry seed heads. Inevitably they began to shed all over the floor, the cats swatted at them and they had to be tossed out.
I wanted to include a blurb about the folklore of Joe Pye--the person and the plant, eupatorium purpureum. I found several descriptions, ranging from scholarly to lyrical, on the web. I then remembered a book I purchased in the mid 1970's: Old Time Herbs for Northern Gardens by Minnie Kamm. I can see the cover of that book in my mind's eye, haven't had it in my hands for a while and don't even know if Joe Pye weed is included within its pages.
Warning: the rest of this post could probably be classified as a "rant!"
Our frequent moves of the past few years [into the lovely houses my husband builds] have meant endless sorting and shifting of my pack-rat collection of "stuff." Many of these items have found a temporary [three years now!] residence in a storage shed existing on the property. A former owner cleverly built shelves in one area and some of my many books have been settled there while others remain in large, now flimsy, boxes. I periodically get a bee in my bonnet and stride down to the shed where I spend an hour heaving boxes, bins, small chests and other oddments into teetering piles while I search madly for a remembered book. At least once a year J. is struck by an urge to "organize" the shed, which he does with all the energy of a strong, muscular male, but with no sense of where I may look for something. [An on-going apprehension is that someday I shall expire, alone in the shed, beneath a topple of cartons, spilled books and over-turned trunks!]
Today I squeezed behind a queen-sized bed frame and mattress to get at the book shelves. I moved boxes and crates, fell over two horse saddles, discovered a number of books which are now dumped in "my room." I didn't locate the sought-after book. I did, unwittingly, put my knee into a vanity mirror which some person [who should remain unidentified!] had placed in front of a vintage trunk, filled, not by me, with yet more books! I will have to [eventually] confess the damage to J. who was saving the mirror unit for another house.
Much as I want to have my hands on the herbal, I decided a retreat was in order, so, book-laden, back up through the little meadow, which is alive with rattling and pinging grasshoppers, across the wobbly plank which bridges the irrigation ditch. Those of you who are fellow sufferers of insomnia know too well that the where-abouts of the missing book will now be added to my list of things to ponder in the darkest midnight!
Oh yes, Joe Pye: he was a native American herbalist and healer of early New England who used a decoction of the plant to cure typhus. It also acquired a reputation as useful in the treatment of urinary ailments and gout. The most unique [and maybe the safest] recommendation is to add an infusion of the weed to a small child's bath water to induce peaceful slumbers. Don't let the child drink the bath water!