Saturday, December 29, 2007

hush, listen over on yonder ridge!

Another thing I have missed over this sorry sad year past is any and all of the woodpeckers. BCC they had been so common in the holler that you could hear one drumming away for insects at just about any time that you set your ear to listening. Often their loud call would cause me to look up from my work and watch one zig-zagging its way up the holler, back and forth from ridge side to ridge side, as if it were trying to lace the holler shut with an invisible string.

But this year, without the insects, I haven't seen or heard nary a one, till today.

I stood under these beech trees on this east ridge and listened across the holler to the rapid tapping, and tried to pinpoint its location in my minds eye from the sound and my personal friendliness with pert near every tree on the pasture ridge across the way. Hard to be sure of something when that is what you strongly want it to be, but after a little bit, it let loose with that unmistakable call as it moved from the west ridge to the south ridge of the little side hill. Finally! a woodpecker has come back to the holler.


Monday, December 24, 2007

Solstice Thunder, solstice moon

Although we have had a few frosty nights,  most days this winter have been gloomy damp and 50 degrees, unseasonably warm.

There was one afternoon in the upper 30's  when the sky spit tiny pellets that whitened the warm ground for 20 minutes or so and then the wind picked up and the holler dissolved back into gray.

The new little pond has taught me many things already.


Despite a frosty night before, a 54 degree day is all the same as the 54 degree water to a green frog.



Red spotted newts move along the leaf littered plant zone of the pond, and frogs sit on the log, looking cold and rubbery as I tuck my sweater tighter around me...this does not fit with my image of what frogs and newts do in December.



     I consider the winter solstice to be a few day affair, not just the longest night itself, but the days and nights on either side of it. Even if I have lost track of the calendar (which I often do) I always "feel" this turning point, little signs seem more auspicious, I eye my dwindling firewood pile, I light more candles, feel the need to do something sacred with a pine cone or acorn, find my hands unconsciously forming a honeysuckle wreath from a vine  pulled randomly while bird walking.

The solstice is a good time to go home and be with my family, their house and hearts are warm. This visit finds my mom and I standing just outside the back door in the dark, in nightgown and robe, amazed by the gusting high winds, the clouds racing across the moon as if it were Halloween instead of almost Christmas. I ask her where her ladder is, as I want to climb up to the second level of their solar house and fix a wind slapping window, and she says, wait till morning. Then we both say,in unison and incredulously, "Is that thunder?!"

Yes, solstice thunder, no rain, just rumbling and blowing and more blowing and rattling.

Next night I am back in the holler and feel like a child given a special  solstice treat when the "long winter moon" rises up over the eastern hill, bright enough to read by, even though there is no snow cover.  moon 

And there is mars! dangling beneath it like a lovely Christmas ornament.  I hope you all saw that! 


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

(part 1)Turkey Roosting Time in Tennessee

While the Midwest has had ice storms instead of  seasonal snow, we have had record warm. 75 degrees yesterday, twice I had to go back into the house to slip into something not so hot, digging around for a t-shirt that hasn't been packed away. Guess I will have to change my seasonal clothing storage habits that have evolved over the years to adapt to the new climate. Critters can't make adaptations just by switching wardrobes.

A few evenings back it was so balmy that I was standing just off the back porch wearing only my pajamas and the twilight when I was startled by the flapping, whooshing and scrambling sound of turkeys going to roost.

Just beyond my shop/mule barn, about 100 feet up the dry creek bed and standing up hill a little in an overgrown pasture and cedar thicket is is a large old spreading pasture oak. You can only make out its limbs above the successional woody growth, but it is larger (about 4 ft dbh) than it looks in this photo (taken back in the fall, the oak is the gray limbed orange leafed tree in the foreground).IMG_844s4

Anyway, turkeys make a great amount of noise as they ascend, and it got the mules concerned and on alert, which is pretty amusing in itself, but I was even more entertained by the way this flock of a dozen turkeys put themselves to bed in such an orderly fashion.

In the fading light, I could see their silhouettes on the spreading branches as they arranged themselves. First turkey flaps his way a quarter of a way up in this oak, when he is settled, the second one finds a branch at this level, then the third, and so on, until they are all arranged. Then the first turkey goes up one more level, the rest follow and arrange themselves, in order. Then they go up to the top. How pretty, I think! Like Christmas partridges in a pear tree. Except just as I was admiring the arrangement, first turkey decides that maybe they are too vulnerable spread out in the top like that, so down they go, one at a time, in order, back to the "next to the top" level and there they spent the night.

Friday, December 7, 2007

old "mossyback" and photo difficulty

Recently I conversed with a young neighbor man who was crossing my property on a scouting mission. He rolled down his pick-up window while his two buddies sat silently in the front seat. Pleasantly stoned and with a beer in hand (him, not me, I had my camera in my hand) we danced the redneck dance of posturing and postulating, pedigree and critter sightings until we found common ground and had established rights and access, best deer paths and permissions. The end result is; I now have permission to fish in his pond, he can use my pasture to access his deer stand, and park in my drive in exchange for a haunch or shoulder.

It would have been a normal exchange except for the fact that the entire time he was looking deep into my eyes as we talked. I have been told that I also have this disconcerting habit, but I rarely see it reflected in a young person. It was an odd exchange, his very stoned young blue eyes and my old curious brown eyes firmly locked together for the entire length of the conversation.

So when he asked me if I had seen "old mossy back", I saw from his eyes that he had registered in my eyes the slight rounding of surprise. Except I could see in his eyes that he took my surprise as lying, when I replied that no, I had not seen this legendary old, large buck.

No, I was surprised because I had spent the last hour crawling around on the sides of the holler trying to get a half-way decent photograph of moss on tree stumps with ferns (an "important mission" I am sure) and referring to the stumps in my head as I sighted them in the distance as "mossybacks".

It wouldn't have worked to try and explain that to this feller, let him believe that I had seen old mossyback and that he is alive and well, but I will try and explain here that.... I am having a hell of time trying to capture how really lovely that moss and ferns look, all green when he rest of the holler is gray and brown. I post these two photo here with the hopes that I might post more later in the "before and after" effect...after I learn how to photograph moss!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

from the bottom to the top

At the top of the cut through, at the sharp bend in the steep bank, there is an old stump.
The stump protrudes out 6 feet from the bank, and 8 feet under its curved roots hangs nothing but thin air. The road has washed out from under it, leaving it a large, curved knee of a stump sculpture.

  On this day, we find bright moss and perky button mushrooms, sitting on the lap of this stump, IMG_90s35

while directly underneath thin air icicles hang and drip...the knee is bleeding cold water!



Tuesday, December 4, 2007

watercolor winter

funny how melancholy winter lays on the earth sometimes....a body don't have much to say
and yet, they want to read what others have to say, to chase the blues away, and they are quiet, too.

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