Archive | May, 2011

Of dragonflies and degrees

31 May

The dragonflies were out in droves this morning.  At least three varieties were sunning on the narrow western verge between the edge of the corn field and the woods.  As I walked by they would rise and circle back.  At first I thought there were only a dozen or so, but new ones would keep rising  and falling all the way around the corner , up the south hedgerow until we got to the edge of the shallow green grass sea.  Birds hang out there, not dragonflies.  Butterflies were mixed in with the dragonflies; one yellow swallowtail sunned itself on the lower leaves of the hickory tree.

The grass has grown from hip to chest high in the past week.  Abundant rain and heat have contributed, I think.  In the mornings it is like walking on the floor of a shallow living sea.  Not that I have ever done that, but I do come home as wet as if I had.

The tree peonies are done.  The first deciduous peonies came out today.  The perennial poppies have started.  Only 4 efts out this morning.

It is hot.  Hot like summer hot.  Like August hot.

A bridal shower last night for the eldest daughter of friends of 30+ years put into sharp focus how educational and professional options for women have changed during the course of my life.

Both daughters and one of their female cousins studied art in college. The younger daughter was showing me some of her past semester’s work: metal work using oxyacetylene and MIG  (arc) welding.  She said shed loved MIG welding. Which got me thinking.

I grew up around what we called arc welding since farm machinery needed almost constant upkeep and repair.  In university as partial fulfillment for a degree which included  a certificate to teach agriculture in high schools, I took a metals class; welding was part of the curriculum.  During student teaching I taught welding to a high school ag class.

But what was different from Hope’s experience is this: I was possibly the first woman to ever take and complete the metals class in Agricultural Engineering at Cornell.  And how would I know that? Because the professor tried repeatedly over the course of the semester to make it as difficult as he could for me to continue in his course.  He was hell bent on making me quit. He told me he did not want a woman in his class and he would do what he thought would achieve my dropping out.  Now days he could neither do nor say the things he did and said.  But in the 70’s there was no recourse for me but to stick it out.  Or drop it, as women before me had.  So he said.  Some of the other (all male) students in the class were sympathetic; but we all needed the class and they were not going to jeopardize their grade for me. Nor did I expect them to.  None of them actively participated in the professor’s tirades or shenanigans, but no one stood up for me publicly, either.  It was the more severe and vitriolic discrimination I had yet encountered.  But not the first.

Forty years ago I was 12 or 13 but it does not seem so long ago;  the vet came to check a cow.  I blithely announced to him my goal of becoming a veterinarian.  He laughed.  He said I should go back to the house and make cookies.  My decision not to become a vet had nothing to do with his pronouncement.  Various aspects of working with healthy animals became more appealing so I stayed in animal science.

Forty years prior to that,  the trinity of jobs outside the home open to the women were teaching, nursing and secretarial work.  We had some of each in my family.  At the party were two widows, the grandmothers of the bride. Both were wives and mothers first; one is a potter, the other a retired farmer.  And one other job: both my mother-in-law and an aunt worked in munitions factories during the second world war.

There were exceptions to the trinity: the woman who later would become my mother graduated with honors from Cornell and was hired by P&G as a market researcher for their new product: Tide.  She traveled via rail around the country on their ticket; she had the equivalent of an expense account for hotels and food.  She spent her money on a fabulous working wardrobe that I in turn wore at Cornell decades later.  It was a plum job that was cut short by her father’s death.  She returned home to help her mother, started teaching, eventually meeting my father at a dinner party.

Of the women with whom I graduated or who are friends my age, one is head of veterinary radiology at a major university; a few are or have been professors in math, nutrition, computers.  Several are engineers of various sorts.  Several teach or nurse.  Computer technology, pharmacology, social work, hotel management, freelance writing, accounting, and research are others fields in which they are working.

Younger female friends have degrees and jobs in an even broader array of subject areas.

The young women at the party probably can not conceive of any field of study or class not open to them.  I could not at their age.

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Week in Review

28 May

Yesterday 13 red efts were out in the newly planted corn field when Hawthorne and I went for our morning walk.  That brings the May sighting total to 15.

Lots of rain and thunder and lightening.  About 1.3 inches the past two days.  Loss of power one night.

And now sickness so am not doing so much.

The tree peonies have been blooming, and quickly since a sudden heat wave has shown up.

The red bush was first and is almost done now.

Jay went fishing up the other end of the lake Thursday and caught perch, rock bass, sunfish and a gar.  The gar has lots of pointy teeth (see the blog header) and a skin so tough Jay was able to only get a small portion of flesh from near the tail, even using a filet knife and an electric knife..

I have modified the cooking on the last of the catfish and this new batch:  the pieces are rolled in mayonnaise  then in a spiced cornmeal/flour mixture and either baked or pan-fried.  The mayo has oil and egg and lemon and salt–all help to flavor and prepare the fish for the coating.

At Mom M’s the wisteria are blooming beautifully.  And lastly, a photo of Alison, Susan and me last Sunday before they had to leave.  What good friends to come to celebrate with us from far away!  We all went to Cornell together and along with about nine other ladies lived in apartments around the county in various groups for about a decade–or more–during and after college.

Spring supper Wednesday was fresh lettuce and green onion salad, baked fish and rhubarb custard with ice cream.  All but the ice cream we grew or caught.  Last night was the same with addition of a tomato-carrot-herb soup.  Only the carrots were store bought.

Surprising Sunday

23 May

The last little robin did not live the night. Spent the morning walk with Hawthorne grieving until I came upon the first of the five efts.  They have been out returning to the wood’s edge many mornings after their night’s hunt. Then remembered that I had told Sue I would get her one to take to her bio class.  The largest and fattest came with us the rest of the way home, also the big black and yellow millipede.  Made them a portable home away from home and drove it up to Sue.

She and I walked around her pond and discussed gardens.  Lost track of time and on the rushed drive home to get ready for church saw a large blue-green snake dead by the side of the road.  Checked it on the way to church just to make sure.  Yup. Dead.

As we drove into church there was my father!  Now why would he be here, two plus hours away from their home?  Jay did not wish for me to see.  But if your parent showed up at an unusual place and time you would check it out, would you not?

And there were my aunts!  And my mother!  And Alison!–with whom I went to college and lived with during and afterwards.

They were part of a plot of our son’s to honor us with a surprise anniversary party.  It was a surprise.  Surprise!  My relatives and Alison came down to church with us.  And afterwards we returned to the family center to a large surprising mix of friends.  Isaac had friends of his helping and taking photos. When he gets some to me I will show you.   The room and tables were beautifully decorated.  Lots of flowers.  Photos of our wedding day.  And lots of dear friends and family.

Isaac made a very nice speech.  He coordinated the flow of the party.

Everyone brought a dish (or more) to pass. There was a large buffet of food.  Then another large buffet of desserts. Mary made and decorated a cake to look like our wedding cake.  Jay made a nice speech. He had been prepared because, as he said, he is an Eagle Scout and scouts are prepared.

We had known something was up.  But not when or where.  Jay had been suspicious of this weekend. But not this method or mode.

Alison came all the way from S. Carolina.  Susan came all the way from Boston.  Eileen called later that evening from California.  Betty and Suzanne and Sung and Gretchen and Kevin and Cassie and Jeni and Sarah and Erika and Isabelle all helped Isaac.

Isabelle played violin and had worn her purple and silver jaguar print party dress underneath her church clothes and all during service while she helped care for babies.  So it was a surprise to see her in the party dress.  I wondered if she had hid her clothes in her violin case.  Isaac and Isabelle played a few songs on piano and violin.  People told stories about us.

It was a very fun time.  Alison and Sue and Betty and Suzanne and Henry came back to our home for awhile together after.

Now there are flowers and food and cards all over the kitchen and living room.  It was a wonderful afternoon and evening.

And while we were enjoying ourselves, that large tornado was destroying part of Joplin, Missouri.

Sunny Saturday

21 May

Lilacs are out as are the tulips and columbines.  Last night we planted an Enkianthus we bought on our anniversary. We love the flowers.

Saw the first hummingbird yesterday.  At least one came to the feeder this evening as soon as it was up.

Saw an interesting small black beetle this morning: looked like some sort of very tiny (half the size of my pinkie’s fingernail) rhinoceros beetle   although that page indicates they are much larger.  The one I had was black with no reddish underpart.  It flew off on the way in the house to a container.

The robin’s nest with the four baby birds was on the ground this morning.  Two of the young were dead.  They were all surprisingly large for being about a week old.  Of the other two, one lived to this evening and is eating and pooping.  Am digging worms and feeding it.

Goldilocks ate another (boughten) mouse.  Then she had the opportunity to sun herself outside.  Perhaps she is getting ready to molt.  She is very sluggish and seems to be duller in color than usual, both signs of impending skin shedding.

Transplanting, planting, weeding, more weeding, raking.

From June, 2008: Choose Wisely

20 May

Apropos of watching the new Jane Eyre movie and now having a 15 1/2 year old daughter, this re-post from when we were reading and listening to the book together:

Jane Chooses Wisely  

We reached the crux, the climax, the pivot around which the story of Jane Eyre turns the other day.

The wedding has been stopped, the mad wife revealed, Mr. Rochester has given his history and begs Jane that she promise him “I will be yours, Mr. Rochester.”  When she refuses, he tries to manipulate her by saying she will ruin his life if she does not do as he wishes (by becoming his mistress) as there is no one who will be offended and they are in love.

“This was true: and while he spoke my very conscience and reason turned traitor against me, and charged me with crime in resisting him. …Who in the world cares for YOU?  or who will be injured by what you do?”

“Still more indomitable was the reply–”I care for myself.  The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am , the more I will respect myself.  I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man.  I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad–as I am now.  Laws and principles are not for times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be.  If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth–so have I always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane–quite insane: with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs.  Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot.”

20 Cats and 5 Efts

19 May

Jay caught these down at the falls today before work and during lunch.  He is fileting and skinning them now.  He gave two away that are not here.  They are catfish, sometimes called bullheads.

The corn jumped up over night.  And in the fallow corn field from last year some clover is coming in.  On the northern edge of that field this morning were five red efts all within 10 feet of one another. Here are three:

The spots make them individuals. To us.  That and their varied behaviors.

These bring to six the number of red efts I have seen this month.  The first I carried home.  Here it is on the new bench Jay bought us for our anniversary–a week beforehand.

And up close.


Little lizards.

The Original Invite

18 May

Randi was right-there was a lamb.  We found an invitation.  It took me a while to figure out how to show the whole thing at an appropriate size.  The lamb was there because Jay was a shepherd and I was an animal scientist doing research with sheep (lambs, really).  That is how we met.

The invite is essentially a postcard.  But it was mailed in an envelope.  It was in black and white.  I still like it as an invite idea.

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