Friday, June 21, 2013

3 Jul

Tuesday morning the dog and I took our usual morning walk.  A wet dragonfly with a gold racing stripe down its back condescended to be picked up from its wet grassy site and carried perched on my fingers for a ways until the sun dried it off and it flew away.  A few enterprising young spiders had built lovely intricate webs across the pathway that we have made up through the meadow, it is a great runway for catching insects, too, so I veered around them further into the tall grass.  In the hedgerow along the lane two adult turkeys and I startled each other.  They ran out into the corn field on the other side of the hedgerow.

Tuesday mid-afternoon T. and I watched a large tractor fitted with three large mowers—one in front and two on either side in the rear—quickly cut all the lower meadow.  Once the tall grass was down it was easy to see the patches of ripe wild strawberries and graze on them.  We went on an errand.  By the time we returned, both upper and lower meadow had been shorn. The tractor was gone, all was quiet again.  Numerous long, wide, neat, flat rows of the cuttings lay on the short stubble, quite the manicured look.

When Hawthorne and I took our walk the next morning, I spent most of my time walking around the fields finding patches of wild strawberries, snacking.  The rest of the time was spent watching and wondering if the Bobolink broods had fledged prior to the destruction of their nests. I counted at least eight birds feeding and landing, some of which were smaller and had the needy gestures of young birds and some of which were larger and noisier and acted like parents.  So I am hopeful.

Late Wednesday morning another large tractor returned, this one outfitted with a machine which swept and turned the rows of grass into large windrows. Only four for the lower meadow.  Then later in the afternoon a truck and tractor with a chopper came and chopped the vast windrows into the trucks.  The haylage was taken to feed cows at the large dairy which rents these fields.

In such short periods of time so much can change.

Around here Jay has been ill for a week with a fever and severe head and neck aches.  By this morning he had lost 5% of his body weight and was in pain even with analgesics.  We had gone to the doctor Monday; this morning the Dr. sent us to the ER where we spent about ten hours.


It is now Wednesday, 3 July 2013.

I wrote the last sentence above after returning home late; Jay was admitted to hospital Friday night, tentatively diagnosed with Lyme disease.  Too tired to explain to finish a blog post, I got ready for bed.  Isaac called at 11.20 to ask about his father and planned to visit Jay in hospital Saturday afternoon.

Saturday morning, June 22nd, I woke at 5.45AM to the sound of a vehicle driving in the driveway and Hawthorne barking madly.  State troopers were at the door.

Our son Isaac, 22, was killed in a motor vehicle accident at about 2.30AM Saturday morning.  He drove into a tractor trailer.  His BAC was 0.23%.


No Red Efts

13 Jun


The restless wind woke me up early, due in part to a mirroring, echoing turmoil inside me.  This time of year it really is light enough to walk at 5.30AM, so out Hawthorne, Pounce and I went.
The year my brother became ill was when I first really noticed the red efts.  They appeared any warm mid-May  morning in the northern edge of the corn field from the woods.  Damp encouraged, rather than deterred them. Their numbers swelled to a couple dozen eft individuals for a few days, then gradually dropped to single digits, disappearing for another year by the end of June.
My brother’s birthday was June first.  Since his death, it has seemed to me that peak numbers of efts occur around and on this date.  They are tiny blazing bits of color; living, moving, breathing exclamation points.  ”  I am here.  Small, insignificant in the grand scheme of things.  Beautiful.  Dutiful.”
Efts , for me, exude hope and beauty.  They are a blessing-  they bring happiness and joy.  They indicate our lives have purpose and meaning.  God has given me life.  How shall I spend it?
A line in one book  read over a few months this winter still has me thinking: ‘We tend to forget that time is linear, that a new day will come.”
This is so true of me.  Most days it seems time is not marching on, but dragging baggage into today from the days before.  Or from months ago.  Or years gone by.
It may be a new day, but the worries come from a series of yesterdays.
What could I have done differently so we would not find ourselves in this hard place?  Could I have done anything?
We did the best we could, we put one foot in front of the other: how did we come to this bog?
It is now mid-June. There has not been one red eft out in the field-woods boundary.  Nor in the woods.  Each day I scout the ground for one.  I forget to look up at the running clouds and twirling sky, at the newly-dressed trees massing like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in their finest before a concert.  And they are waving to get my attention.
Where are those little sparks of hope?  I keep looking for them thinking they may be what can buoy my spirit with beauty.  And each day almost miss the meadow grass, now blooming and hip deep, or the elderly cat coming through those green waves to be carried and cosseted, or the first poppy popping.
God brings new blessings, new beauties and hopes as time marches on. They may not look like last year’s.  The blessings may come disguised.
At the far end of the field, as I pondered all these things, something caught my eye: a living red-orange exclamation point, a blazing beauty mark  glanced back at me from the dark soil.


Autumn Harvests

15 Oct

Jay bought a new bow this fall.  The first new bow in over 20 years.  On one of his first times out hunting with it, he shot a turkey.  He was hunting deer.For a week or so Jay has been watching the deer which come to feed on the neighbor’s oak mast in the evenings, figuring their routes, the wind, where to put a blind, etc.

When he put the blind up in a small spot of woods near the oaks, the deer changed their route.  You might change the way you came to table too if a small box appeared in a corner of your dining room.

So he put up a stand in a white pine higher on the trail they use.  Friday night the wind was right.  He left a walkie-talkie with me and went out. About 30 minutes before dusk he called to say he shot a fawn.B y the time I made it over there, he had also shot a buck.  Two deer on one hunt with bow!

When we walked up the trail the buck had taken and crested a rise, there were two deer in the distance- a buck and a doe.  Two much larger bucks appeared in the further distance.  We eventually retreated and Jay waited for full dark.  Henry came to help him look.

The first buck we had spied had started and turned while we were watching it; the guys eventually found it had startled at the carcass of the buck Jay had shot.


A nice 8 point buck which Jay and Daren have yet to decide whether it is a yearling or two year old.

Friday night was also the coldest night so far this fall.  It got down to the low 20’s F.  Sunday I picked these:  a large acorn, one of the few horse chestnuts from our tree, and in the middle one of the first (very small) persimmons from the tree Jay started from a whip.


I nibbled just a tad on the persimmon.  This morning, though, I ate most of it.  Then promptly ran to the bathroom to brush my tongue and mouth before I vomited.  The sites I read afterward are correct: unripe persimmon is like talcum powder on the tongue.  We will leave the rest until after frost.  Or put them in a bag with some apples as ethylene gas ripens them.


19 Jun

‘Chawn’ is a new word I made up.  It has been useful and successful in private use, so it is here presented for public consumption, so to speak.  Equal parts chewed and sawn, with a little of the word broken in the meaning, chawn is an irregular past tense verb indicating the involvement of an active agent and is especially useful in the gardening context.  “Something has chawn those pea plants.”  “Oh, no!  The buds on the pink rose have been chawn off.” “I see the army worms have chawn through that wheat field.”

Please let me know if you find it useful.


The half-sized, darkly colored red eft found wandering on the far side of the corn field from all his fellows was being carried home on my palm for installation in the home garden.  Since it was in an unusual location already, I felt little qualm about relocating it further.  Then I saw the new hatched Black Swallowtail butterfly, with its globular abdomen and not-quite-yet-fully-sized wings on a tall stem of orchard grass and stopped to take a closer look.  The eft saw his chance and took it.  It left my palm and disappeared into the messy understory of the meadow. 


One of the silliest, most time wasting chores I ever encountered was during a summer job working for a professor doing corn photosynthesis research.  Three students were employed by this man one summer.  We spent one whole day planting corn seedlings by hand in rows to mimic a miniature corn field.  The point of this exercise: to make sure the leaves all lined up in the right (the same) direction.  Really.

Anyone besides me ever notice that corn plants align their leaves efficiently all on their own? Even when planted by being flung into the soil willy-nilly by a mechanized corn planter.  Maybe profs in Cornell towers do not have time to notice such trivialities.

Walking daily through a growing corn field and a meadow has given rise to thoughts on political economic and social engineering theories.  Those corn seeds were planned before germination for a specific job: high scale production of dry matter and seed protein. Each seed is equal; the environment for its growth is prepared and maintained by outside governing forces. There are differences among varieties, but within a field there is little to distinguish an individual plant except by negatives: some have been broken off, eaten, chawn by insects or animals. Who cares about individuals, anyway?  A corn field is about the collective, not the individual; a vast uniform green growing in lock step. 

Oh, there are some small bits of interest: intrepid spiders who fling silk across the rows, ant hills, certain winged or crawling insects hunting or eating there.  And some weeds persist; those which are more noxious, which live through the herbicide spray, and which do better without competition. But overall a cornfield is an environmentally uniform sterile sort of place.  It reminds one of descriptions of cities of former Eastern Bloc countries; or of huge drab apartment buildings left behind by the Soviets in Ulaan Baator; large, boring, useful, regular, and regulated.

A meadow, on the other hand, is a delightful, colorful mess of life.  The list of plant varieties found there would go on for a couple pages.  Then we could start on the insects, the birds, the vertebrates, the invertebrates; bird nests and beetles, deer beds and dragonflies, fireflies and field mice. Meadows are constantly morphing. Some plant or other is always in bloom, giving off pollen, in bud, in decline. No plant is ever “equal.” The motto of meadows may be “Variety is the Spice of Life”.  There is no bare soil; something is living on every square inch of it. It is a Mom and Pop store sort of place where one could write unlimited novels on the rise and decline of plant families, their histories, their turf wars with other plants. Those noxious weeds which are the bullies of the cornfield live here too, but only a few; they are usually small and insignificant since they have to compete.  Ah, competition!  It brings diversity and strife and beauty. Each step you take brings different sights to view.  There is never a dull moment, unless you close your eyes and stop your ears and drift off. 

 One could argue, if one were so inclined, that the production level from a meadow living in such beauteous, irregular disarray would be much lower than from a cornfield.  But one would be wrong. Individually, each plant cannot compete with a corn plant for production: individual plants are not meadows.  Meadows are communities made up of myriads of individuals. Meadows, you see, are cut and come again propositions.  Knock them down, bale them up, and they spring right back.  In a good year three cuttings if you so chose.  Repeat each and every year.  The quantity and quality of protein and dry matter can compete with a corn field.  It is not nearly as easy or neat to get.  And that, I think, is what corn fields are best at. Corn fields are a version of what the 99%ers think they want. Every individual plant grows just as high as every other; gets treated just the same as every other. That neat orderly cornfield: one bumper harvest leaves behind stalk stubs, noxious weed seed, and bare soil that will have to be cultivated and replanted before yielding anything more.  Think again, anyone?

And if you wish to take a nap, or hide out from someone, or just enjoy the day I highly recommend a grassy meadow.   A nearly mature corn field is good for hiding.  But not enjoyable; don’t lie down or you will get dirty; you may even get lost because everything looks the same.

Birthday Young Men

11 Jan


Chocolate Chips and the Guzheng

23 Dec

Chocolate chips are about as “native’ a United States food item one can get that are not readily available or used  in much of the rest of the world.

Back in the 70’s I was an exchange student to the Australian Outback–near Walgett, NSW.  When I wanted to make something typically American for my host family I thought of chocolate chip cookies.  They had never heard of such an item.  My mother sent some, a big undertaking, and expensive, in those days.

To the best of my recollection, I saw none for sale and ate no foods in Panama, Mexico or Bolivia in the 70’s, 80’s or 90’s containing chocolate chips.

There were lots of chocolate bars in Mongolia, but no chips.

Ditto in Israel.

Back in the 90’s my friend Soon, from Korea, wanted to make Rice Crispy bars.  To her _they_ were the quintessential American food.


The daughter of one of my friends from China plays the Guzheng.  I finally saw a photo of one yesterday and listened to a musician performing on one here today.

The Guzheng similar to a harp.  And a piano.

Cookies and Arrangements

23 Dec

Yesterday M and X came and we made two kinds of cookies and Christmas arrangements.

X brought a Sichuan dish of mung bean noodles with garlic, cilantro and herbs that we ate at room temperature.  We also had leftover venison chili on rice.  I made chai, which X and M had not had before.  That was a surprise to me.  We went over the various spices I used: cardamon, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, star anise.  Cardamon and nutmeg were not familiar to them.

We made chocolate chip cookies from the recipe on the yellow bag: a typical All-American cookie.  Chinese homes, they explained, do not have ovens and they had been at a loss to use the ones found in their apartments here.  X’s daughter and husband in particular wished her to learn how to use the oven to make cookies!  Chocolate chip cookies!  We made and decorated chocolate spritz Christmas tree cookies.

All that butter.  Another thing not used in Chinese cooking.

Then we went out and collected assorted greens, berries, and plant material for the arrangements.

M’s very lovely artistic result:


What I made for X:

That morning the Paperwhite narcissus Ellie gave me had come into full enough bloom that i cut them and added them to the arrangement already on our table.

We had such a lovely time.

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