Friday, November 30, 2007

special hunting edition

I might have mentioned before that I live on a half dead road...
that is, I would be at the end of a dead end road, because the road peters out after my driveway, but if you have a 4 wheel drive vehicle, you could bounce and whine your way up to the top, or bounce and careen your way down from the top.
It is a "cut through" road. Mostly it is used by me for brisk, head clearing, heart pumping walks, because it is steep, and goes up through a swatch of large trees that have strangely not been logged (I believe because from observing the surveyors ribbons, there seems to be a border overlap along the edge of the road and perhaps some uncertainty about ownership.) Lucky for the trees, and me.
Occasionally it is used by other people, to sneak home from the bar in town at night the back way, or to dump odd things they find themselves with that they don't know what to do with or don't want to get caught with. Deer and turkey out of season for example, or used condoms and once I found a box of porno dvds.
Sometimes, it is building scraps, I have gleaned an entire sheet of exterior grade plywood and a wonderful outdoor table that only needed a slight bit of repair...but occasionally, there is just plain old garbage, or dead bodies.
A variety of dead bodies.... deer carcasses, dogs, cats, dead baby goats, and once I even found a tiny black dead baby horse dropped off, wrapped carefully in a big black garbage bag.
Sometimes, I do the forensics, the baby goat was stillborn, looked like selenium deficiency, that cat was a hit and run, most dogs are usually head shots.

I walked up there this week after the big thanksgiving hunting weekend, carrying a bit of curiosity with me..did someone do a good job of cutting the meat off the shoulder of the deer they bagged, or was it an amateur butcher job? Did they keep the head to mount? Did they toss the legs and hooves every which a way, or line them up...people are strange....
Anyway, carpeted in wet leaves, the road was pleasantly and surprisingly clean after the holiday weekend..except for this impressively large pile of beer cans. (Four 12 packs to come out of the back of one pickup truck is impressive, I don't care how redneck you are)

But it was the label on the Busch box that caught my attention......"special edition hunting package"
Great! loaded rednecks with loaded that's my idea of a wholesome, family style thanksgiving weekend!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

climate change delays my video

so here it is, another visit to the hollow....autumn (after it stops buffering and starts to play, hit pause and let it load all the way, blogger vids work a little different than youtube, this is an experiment for me) (scroll to bottom to see videos)

The original intent was to "send myself to homeschool" to learn video editing (I really miss the days of homeschooling the boys, so I rustled up a new student, myself!)

The plan was to have a video for each of the seasons here in the holler,
(winter is already up) but that was "BC" (before climate change) and the effects of which destroyed a lot of what I know as beauty in the holler.
I finally got back on task (this does not mean I am over the grieving process, just means I find the state of denial an increasingly safer place to live)
Jimmy Butler did the music for the videos, he likes to score youtube videos, and that was another reason for the delay, had to wait for him to get back to Nashville after playing the Oklahoma Centennial Celebration (can you believe OK has only been a state since 1907? guess they were trying to pretend it still belonged to the natives)

Anyway, I am trying to get my knitting back on track, but soon hope to upload my observed "naturalists list of casualties of climate change" in several parts, so stay tuned for that (don't worry, I will try to deliver it as gently as possible)

Friday, November 23, 2007

full, fall, fell

There was a late afternoon a few days ago that the birds were in a particular frenzy at the feeder....snow tonight, I wondered?
But the leaves were still bright and hanging on, and it was warm enough that there were 4 frogs sitting on the edge of the pondlet.
Went to bed without building a fire and woke up with a very cold nose. Conditions in the night had created a crystalline frost, the kind that builds little tall towers of jagged reflection on every surface.

On my beloved young hybrid American chestnut, on the plants in the pond and on every bladed surface on the ground and in the sky.

Even as I walked out to enjoy it, the sun was coming over the eastern hill already warming the air to an instant melting point.

In the night, the frost had wielded icy machetes on maple petioles, severing their tenacious connections and soldering the now cracked joints with clear ice. As the sun hit them, the weld dissolved and the leaves where crashing down all around, heavy with their frost, as if a giant were pouring sugar coated cereal over the hollow. The crystals melted into puddles as soon as they hit the rapidly warming ground.
In less than 8 hours, the hollow went from bright to brown, with yellow accents, and it seemed like a good time to put some sweet potatoes in the oven.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

and now for something completely different

I am thankful for every blogger who shares their uniquely beautiful words and pictures, with no profit but the forging of a link of shared human spirit, still illuminated with kindness and conciousness of the earth as our common home.

I am thankful for all those who perform their craft with passion and proficiency, and then, with bared souls, share their uniquely human skills.
And though I had forgotten how the release of this Dave Grusin album uplifted me back in the day, it was passed on to me yesterday, and it so reminded me of these human traits that when shared are blessings, that I wanted to pass it on here.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

reasoning leaves

Have you ever watched an old farmer, walking back and forth from the barn, trying to fix a stubborn piece of equipment, and there is a teenager puppy bounding along exuberantly back and forth in front of him, tripping him up occasionally and generally being a nuisance?
and then finally that old farmer gets frustrated with the pup and he boots him good from hell to breakfast, and the kick catches the puppy under the belly and vaults him with a thud against the barn wall and the pup whimpers off under a tractor?
The old farmer is instantly remorseful and calls the pup over and pets his sun warmed soft belly that is turned toward him in submission.

After this springs cruel freeze and this summers drought, I kinda felt like that puppy being petted when this fall gave us a little water back in our creeks and one of the most beautiful and bright falls I have ever seen!
Then I read this article "Why Autumn Colors are so Late"

"The elevated carbon dioxide levels keep photosynthesis going for longer and so maintain the greenness of the plant for more of the autumn "because a CO2 rich atmosphere allows the tree to generate carbon-rich compounds that are known to prolong the life of leaves," Taylor explained.

While the carbon dioxide keeps the leaves productive for longer, it also gives the tree less control over its period of dormancy, which it needs to prepare for the winter and spring. This could make the trees more susceptible to winter's chill, Taylor said."

Well patooey!
Anyway, it has really been a bright fall to remember, I took a kajillion photos, and am trying out sticking a slideshow in the blog, as follows (goody! an experiment! nothing new for anyone else, but new for me, cheap thrills are the only kind I know)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Liking Liquidambar ~ a true story of questionable mysticism

(edit-when I first posted this, I left out the photos, without which this post doesn't make sense, she says, smacking forehead!)

At about age 8, I discovered library book sales. My first purchase was a large format "Guide to North American Wildflowers" I would sit on the floor with it smothering my lap and pore over the botanical descriptions, sound out the latin names and dream of growing up to be a botanist.
That's how it starts, you know, with just one book.
Then came the Little Golden Guides, the Peterson guides, the obscure field guides published by small university presses.
It doesn't end with wildflowers, you know, it expands to trees and shrubs, butterflies and moths, rocks and minerals, fungi, mosses, liverworts, stars, constellations....and of course, if you have the books, you have to go out and look for the stuff.....and that's how the unjustified hours and hours and hours in the woods start.
Such a serious addiction, and at such an early age, too!
I loved the names; oak, hickory, maple - quercus, carya, acer.
But sweetgum..what a great name! Liquidambar styraciflua !

I said it a bunch of times. It became one of my favorite trees.Partly because of that cool name, but also those groovy middle-earth-looking seed pods, and of course, who could not love a star shaped leaf?

So when I moved here, I noted that in all my wanderings there was only 1(one) sweetgum to be found in this entire holler. As a matter of fact, I noticed that there weren't any in town, either, or on any of the farms between here and the river, that I could see....And when there is only one of something, it gets elevated in status.
Back to the story...On that particular morning, not too many days ago, I was staring out the back kitchen window, squinting, trying to see if I could make out that sweetgum, up the holler a ways in the overgrown field. I new it was pointless to check for sweetgum balls to bring back in my pockets and spread around the house.... no tree seeds of any kind this year, because of the freeze, but I was wondering if its leaves where bright yellow or bright red.

Mamma calls and in conversation about a past event, she says referentially "oh, that was way back about the time that the big sweetgum fell on the barn, you remember?" They have a lot of Liquidambar in west Tennessee where the folks live. Odd coincidence, I think, that she should mention this particular tree, on this particular morning.
I said to my oldest son who was leaving for work, "I need to walk up to that sweetgum and see if it's leaves are fully turned". He grinned at me, "an important mission, I'm sure" he said as he pawed through a mostly empty refrigerator looking for something of substance to eat on his way out the door to work.
Work. Oh yea. I can't go check on the sweetgum, I'm supposed to be working. So I fire up the computer and stall a little before starting "real" work. I read a couple of my favorite blogs. Two is my limit for each day, because blog reading, no matter how good the writing, does not get the baby no shoes, the mules no hay, and me no firewood. Needless to say, I am real behind on my reading...and then with a disgraceful lack of willpower, after finishing my cue of two., I break my rule and sainter on over to Via Negativa, where Dave has started a series "Poetry for Naturalists" and the first thing I see in the entry is a reference to "liquidambar".
Oh goody! second coincidence! I am instantly sidetracked. Coincidences are high ranking permission-givers to sidetracked behavior in my unwritten book of mystical rules.
It takes great effort to get back on track, but I do, but my heart is antsy and restless as I work in the shop, thinking about sweetgums, writing, poetry, fall leaf colors and how nice it would be to spend the days wandering with the camera in the woods, instead of freezing my fingers off at the drill press, but I count my blessings as I warm my fingers around my tea cup and try not to draw mystical connections and significance.
Near the end of the day, my youngest son calls "hey,wanna ride to Lebanon with me? (45 minutes away, the nearest "real city")....well, I hesitate, "I should get ahead with my work..." He tells me that I need to get out more, and he'll feed me. So I ride with him to take his girlfriend to work and the entire ride I enjoy the company but have one eye out the window, watching every tree, and as hard as I search, there are no sweetgums. As you cross the Cumberland river and move south to Lebanon, the topography changes to a kind of limestone barrens, lotsa cedar and oak, and when we reach the city, lots of yard trees, silver maples and (pa-tooey) bradford pears, but not much diversity.

This makes my solitary sweetgum in the holler seem even rarer...a loner, kind of like me, worth a poem, perhaps.

Youngest takes me to dinner, and when we get back out to his car, a leaf is stuck to the it an oak, or maple, or any of the street trees we have passed under?, it is this!!

"Look! Look!" I said excitedly "Liquidambar Styraciflua! what does this mean, Mr. Natural?"
Son looked, grinned and shook his head at me indulgently and climbed into the drivers seat.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

one hand in front of another foot

Precisely because I am "too old" to do so, I have taken up tree climbing again. That and I seem to have been tripping and falling down a lot lately, so where better to work on that than in a place where it could really matter if I fell down?
I am not talking about the type of tree climbing that tree trimmers or deer hunters or wildlife department eagle nest snatchers or amazon forest biologists do with ropes and equipment. I am talking about the kind of climbing you do as a kid, where you are walking in the woods, talking with your brother and your friends and you all get stopped in your tracks by a tree standing regally, stretching up and out its perfectly placed branches. Someone in your group breaths, "wow, that is a hell of a climbing tree" and a sudden scrambling decorates the tree with a group of human monkeys.
It looks like a wild free for all, but after a certain height, everyone silently remembers the "live limb only and 3 point rule" (2 legs and an arm, or 2 arms and a leg) because every kid has been impressed by knowing some kid who had their entire summer ruined by a broken collar bone or appendage from falling from a scary height.
This maple has some great climbing characteristics, healthy, stout limbs, open branches that reach out toward the hollow, numerous branches evenly spaced and a low "swing up" limb to get my lard ass into it to start with.
After getting to the "stomach flutter height" in it yesterday, I have established some goals of chi movement, breath, a smoother route and and greater height for myself over the winter.
Already on my walk this morning I have noticed that my eye is roving over familiar trees for open branches...the mind is a greedy gatherer.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

F(T)ree Love

Am finally getting around, to wandering around, and really admiring, the17th Festival of the Trees. Behind as usual as I have been real busy dragging down firewood (is there irony in that?) By rope, since I don't have anything 4 wheel drive, or a tractor or a collar that fits my mule (thats pathetic, isn't it?)
This festival particularly made me joyful, the twists and turns and flow of limbs make my own breath and blood flow faster, smoother and calmer. Wow, I needed that.
The way One thing aways leads to another, it got me to thinking about a photo of a favorite spooky tree of mine and I went pawing (mousing) through the folders looking for the photo that I thought I had taken recently of that scraggy tree friend.
It was not where I thought I remembered it (my photo files are oddly (dis)organised, like my yarns and seeds and cooking utensils, the system makes sense to me most of the time, but not always) But while I was looking around, I noticed that I have multiple pictures of certain trees the way one does family members, because I love them, they are part of my world, I check on them as the season go by, maybe even talk about the weather with them.
Studying the photos, it is true, some of the photos are repeats because the tree is aethetically pleasing, or particularly photogenic, but most, it is just because I have affection for the character and prescence of that particular tree.
I doubt if I will be hanging them with human names as many older women do their collection of cats, but neither do I think of them in functional terms like the "line corner beech", the "climbing maple", the "pasture gate oak" like you name the mailman or the checkout girl. Maybe they will be the nameless beloved. Or maybe not bothering to name them is like not bothering to learn the names of my mailman or my favorite bloggers....a character flaw on my part.

Oh and I did find the scraggly tree, strangly, although I had dumped my camera several times, it was trapped on the sd card in my camera....haunted, maybe!

Monday, November 5, 2007

when lilacs in the dooryard bloom?...wait just a minute!!

so there are lilacs blooming in the dooryard, and it is November.
I also saw peaches, pears and hickories in bloom on the way home from Gallatin the other day.
I don't know how to look at this. And then I have to wonder why I feel a need to look at it anyway other than watching it like you might train yourself to watch your thoughts during meditation.
I have seen this phenomena before when warm fall weather was prolonged, this time, it is in response to the rain we finally got.
Allthough it was a blessed 7 inches, it did not replenish the water table or resevoirs or refill creeks, but it made the trees and plants go crazy with a last minute frenzy of reproductive futility.
And the most surprising thing is that that we are having a pretty colorful autumn, after all.

The birds are also in a frenzy. Although I really couldn't afford it, I bought some sunflower seeds and put them out in the feeder, (not used since the snows last winter.) In less than 5 minutes there where hoards of fighting birds around them, as if it was a blizzard a coming.
It makes me sad that they are so hungry, but there really is nothing to eat, as nothing except the most unappetizing plants such as ironweed where able to make any fruits or seeds this year. I have seen chipmunks scaling to the top of goldenrod stalks and eating the flowers...that's hungry.
It is funny how we get "attached" to certain species..I have always had a fondness for phoebes. When I moved to the cabin, there where phoebes everywhere, because there where hundreds and hundreds of red wasps living in the attic, and that is one of their favorite meals.
When I had to re-roof the cabin, the red wasp population was decreased, the phoebe numbers dropped, but then the next year, the population of both was right back up.
This year, the wasps were mostly killed by the freeze. I saw a few at the pond, but no phoebes at all.
I miss them, another species on my list of things I miss.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

dry box

This post has to back up a couple of weeks to be timely, but I have been too busy to keep updated and thought maybe it was worth telling.
Before we finally got a rain, things had gotten so dry that the woods was black dust underfoot, the mosses where dried up and the understory leaves hung like drying tobacco on the stick. On a walk, we found a box turtle in the middle of the ridge lane. I lay down on my belly to video tape him and through the lense I noticed that something didn't look quite right. In an irritated manner, he was using his front claw to bat ants away from crawling across his face.
My companion said...does turtle skin always look so "papery"?
No, it is normally very shiny-leathery looking. Suddenly I put away the lense and realized that this box turtle was dehydrated and weakened. His eyes were sunken into his face, his color was drab and his skin was indeed, very dry and dull and lifeless.
Now, I am of the belief that you should pretty much leave things where they lie, as over my lifetime, many of my well meaning rescue attempts have gone terribly awry. Usually because of complexities of nature that I didn't factor in at the time.
But thinking about this turtle's predicament made me reconsider my policy.
Normally, this ridge is flanked by two creeks that run most of the year, and usually the hills have seepy places that although they dwindle to a drip in late summer, always have at least that going on. This year, the creeks have been bone dry for months, there are no damp logs or leaf piles, no seepy places to visit, not a drop of moisture anywhere but the one bushel basket sized hole in the creek below the culvert.
We picked him up and carried him with us on the rest of our walk and then down to the culvert hole. When we set him in the edge of the water, he basked for a minute seeming to soak up the moisture gratefully while the ants plaguing his neck folds abandoned ship. Then he swam (jubilantly, it seemed) around the hole a few times, as if to stretch his limbs and suddenly crawled out on the other side up the bank and into a perfect little mud cave in the shade, just his size.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Ever catch a falling star

I took a pretty hard fall in the woods the other day. Haven't fallen in a long time, and it is always jerks you to a new awareness.
On a steep hillside, my foot slid down a log that was hidden under fallen leaves. Acting like a slick banister, it rapelled me downward a good 8 feet before depositing me with a loud thud on my hip and elbow. I was too shocked to even groan, but the sound of impact caused the dogs to wheel back around and check on me ,sniffing my head as I lay there, long enough to make them a little nervous, I think. Assessing the minimal damage and regaining my wind, I inspected the now close ground in detail, and was delighted to find that I had fallen in a patch of earth stars.
These fungi are in the puffball family, and they look magical and delicious (politically incorrect delicious....a little like peanut butter cookies with hersheys kisses in them) here is an interesting fact about them, although I don't think it applies to this species...
stars fallen to earth remind me of the Sly and The Family Stone lyric "I love you for who you are, not the one you feel you need to be"
Easy to think about those we love, harder to love ourselves that way..

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