Saturday, June 30, 2007

Indulgent day

Three goals for this weekend:
1. read my book (I hardly ever bring a book home--this one I'm looking forward to: Annie Dillard's, The Maytrees.)
2. walk at Cincinnati Nature Center--it's not too far from home, but far enough that I have to plan to go there--it doesn't just happen.
3. stake out the mysterious bird that is calling from my very leafy woods.

I got an early start this morning-- headed over to CNC, The Cincinnati Nature Center, a reward for my busy week. I wanted to be able to linger and enjoy--and I did.

As early as I was, and with most others looking forward to sleeping "in" on Saturday, I had the trails to myself. Nothing but quiet woods and glossy lake views.
I left my camera in the car for my first circuit, Edge Trail--not really sure I wanted to be fussing with pictures, when I could just be basking. And, besides, what if I didn't see anything? So, no pictures for you of Orioles, Indigo Buntings, Common Yellow-throats or the most humongous snapping turtle I've ever seen. I wished I'd bought the turtle food they sell--he sure looked hungry, and would've been just as happy to take my hand off, if I'd offered it!
But I swung back for a water break before heading across to the fields and grabbed the camera, just in case--good thing.

The blackberries are loaded with fruit this year--and it looks like we're about 2-3 weeks ahead of usual for ripening. I'd grown up with raspberries in the northeast, but actually now prefer blackberries--luckily for me, they grow everywhere down here! The fruit is fleshier--but the plants are woody and thornier--beware! (Oh, and watch out for snakes, too!)

At first I thought I'd found an owl perch, this trunk looked so whitewashed.

But it's dried pitch--woodpeckers have been very busy.

And the perfect ending to the perfect morning...

Now, if you'll excuse me, I left the Maytrees on page 61.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Have you seen...

The latest rains have left me with a yard full of bark--golden jigsaw puzzle pieces, fallen from our Sycamore tree.
It might seem a nuisance to have them scattered about the lawn, but still damp, in the morning light, they're beautiful. Each unique.

Some show the tracing of the layers, irregular rounded lines, rough to the touch. Subtle color differences where another piece lay on top.

Or a perfect peep hole--framed in a golden band.

Rounded edges on graceful, random shapes.

They will curl and fade as the day's sun dries them, becoming flutes of all lengths.

But, in the dampness still, unfurled.

"Have you seen...." is an effort to discover the unusual beauty in things not usually appreciated for their beauty.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Let us give thanks.

Sometimes it's not what did happen that makes us thankful--
it's what could have, but did not. ~me

(Great Blue Heron?)

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Borrowing a feather

Last night, I found another barred owl feather in our woods. A reminder they're with us still, though we may not cross paths or hear them as much. I like to imagine them watching silently from a branch just over my head, as I walk quietly beneath. And I wonder if my repeated walks into "their" world are as interesting for them as they are for me-- watching the woman who watches.
This feather was lovely--not a flight feather, as I've found before. But a more delicate type, with long, flowing downy edges--maybe from the breast? A feather for warmth and watershed. So perfect and clean.

I wanted to stay outside, walking, watching...keeping the special feather as a treasure. Tucking it in a pocket would have ruined it--so, when I suddenly wanted to take a picture in the grassy field, I set it softly on the ground beside me. In an instant, a swallow swooped toward it.
I've read others' stories about tossing feathers into the air for birds to snap up--but never imagined they'd come as close to me as this. Tree swallows carefully place feathers to curl over the nest and keep in warmth when the mother must be away. And, our second nest box is now being made ready by a nesting pair.
I will part with my lovely feather--leave it on the grass beneath the swallows. It will just gather dust on a shelf in my house.

The barn swallows have a fancy feather in their nest, too! What do you suppose this is from--black, wispy, with a white central band?

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Baby pictures!

A visit to the barn this morning--Phoebe was very unhappy with me.

Someone's snooping so close to her nest, had caused her to get her parental feathers ruffled. I assured her I meant no harm, and would not eat her children. Just wanted to capture those precious baby faces--her FIRST brood to make it this far! (3 tries)

She's chosen a safe spot this time--out of reach of four-legged prowlers--just above the lightbulb. Her previous nests have been raided. But she's a smart bird, and persistence has paid off. I hope she'll raise these fuzzy heads to be smart, too.

I think, from the amount of fullness, there are more than 2 nestlings here--although only 2 heads are obvious.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007


I drove home from work Thursday in a zucchini state of mind.
Our garden is not always consistent in what it yields each year. But it always gives us more than enough zucchini. And, although by summer's end, I've grown less than thrilled with the, by then, enormous, green, seedy monsters it produces--the first crop of the season is always looked forward to with renewed excitement.
It was this anticipation of our tender, young squash, and our "famous" Zucchini Spaghetti, that I dreamed of, driving down our lane.
From the front yard, I glanced upward toward the porch--just stealing a quick peek at whoever might be feeding at the hanging platform feeder, before walking into the house to start dinner. It wasn't there. Upon closer inspection, I found it perfectly intact, but lying in the garden below. The cord we'd used to suspend it had seemed sturdy enough--a bright white nylon from the hardware store. But the friction of the branch it hung over, apparently had worn it to the point of snapping--I'd have to deal with that after dinner.
No sense in setting up a feeding station, waiting for birds to discover it, and then giving up quite so easily. There was plenty of cord left, and plenty of porch-sitting weather to still enjoy. But, first things first--and that meant zucchini!
This meal is so quick and easy, healthy and satisfying--I wish I could take credit for it. I can't really remember how the recipe evolved--but over the years, my family has adopted it as a favorite--something we eat often throughout the summer, and no other time of the year. It is summer garden on a plate.
Twenty minutes later, I climbed the stairs to the porch, dinner in hand, and settled comfortably into my seat, ready to feast.

That morning, I'd watched a steady stream of birds drawn there, to the now fallen feeder. Babies squawking and fussing at mothers--wings quivering, begging for attention. Insatiable shadows of the parent. And I knew, as I headed off to work, their day's sole responsibility would be feeding the insistent youngsters. I felt relieved that my day would be, in comparison, easy.

In no time at all, the branch beyond the porch now filled with birds. As if on cue, the titmice communicated their displeasure in grating calls, looking at me from the spot where their dinner had been. "Have you no idea how much my child eats? And you're going to watch their fussiness now, while you eat zucchini spaghetti?"
The guilt was too much. The noise was too much.
Setting my plate aside, I retrieved the feeder, and fresh cord. In a minute, it was again suspended from the branch, still full of food.
Bon appetite!

Zucchini Spaghetti
several small zucchini (lg. zucchini must be peeled or is bitter)
extra virgin olive oil, liberal amount (will contribute to “sauce”)
sliced onion, to taste
garlic, crushed, to taste
celery seed
basil/oregano, if desired
fresh diced tomatoes or canned w/ juice

Cut zucchini into 3/4” cubes. Slice onion in thin strips. Over med heat, cook zucchini and onion in generous amount of olive oil (I use almost 1/3 cup) until onion is nicely browned and zucchini is beginning to brown, and still somewhat al dente.
Add garlic, celery seed, and herbs-- covering it with lid and steaming it for about 5 minutes to just tenderize it, but keep it green, and soften herbs.
Just before ready to serve, add tomatoes to top of pan, replacing lid to heat through. I do not stir much after this point, in order to keep things from “mushing” up.

When all is warm, gently stir contents of pan in order to blend juices and oil into sauce. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
Serve over pasta (we love angel hair for this!), top with parmesan cheese.

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Have you seen...

"Aerodynamically the bumblebee shouldn't be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn't know that, so it goes on flying anyway." ~Mary Kay Ash

"Have you seen...." is an effort to discover the unusual beauty in things not usually appreciated for their beauty.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Birdwatching, or, "Can you hear me now?"

It was a perfect porch morning.
The temperature had dropped into the 50s last night, and, once out of bed, I grabbed a fuzzy pullover to take the chill off. We decided to watch birds--Lily and I.
I never sit down at her end--there really is no need for a chair. But Lily likes this vantage point to watch the goings on in the side yard below.
I'm tucked cozily into one of 2 folding, nylon chairs (and far more comfortable than that cute hard-backed chair!) we have on the opposite end--equipped with binoculars, camera, bird book, coffee cup and slippers. Lily travels much lighter than I.

Honestly, I wasn't expecting much animal excitement.
Our tanagers have raised their brood and we haven't heard another peep out of them--literally. Where they are now, is anyone's guess. I had expected, naively, that when the young fledged, they'd stay a while, but, apparently not. This close to them again, I may never be. But, if they return next year, I'll know their call in a minute. It was fun to learn so much--and satisfying to know I had a place good enough for them to stay and nest.
The other backyard birds have become rather predictable--so I was really only "watching" with half an eye, when I picked up bright, orange-y motion in the woods.
Scrambling, with too few hands for all my "gear"--neck straps all snarled, I did manage to point the camera in that general direction. The trumpet vines cover just about every inch of the woods' edge--bright spots of orange, facing toward the sunlight. Bird? Flower? What's that?

I know these pictures don't show much--but he's there--the oriole--feeding from the trumpet vine.

And could this be his mate? (Based on the fact he was one tree over--probably not very scientific, but logical)

Well, at least you know why I can't get cell phone coverage out here--I'm buried in vegetation!

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

For just one day

Country roads, ditches brimming with day lilies--a summertime image I always look forward to.

I know most are not planted there--escapes from long ago that thrive in the worst of conditions. They fringe the farmers' fields, adding color to a landscape that otherwise would only consist of acres of soybeans and corn. And long furrows of dirt.
Without them, the roads would be no more than paved spaces between crops--intended solely for access, not enjoyment.
Each summer, the lilies race to beat the mowing crews. And many times I've anticipated their cheerful blooms, only to find them decapitated-- unopened buds tossed askew by an order to trim the roadsides.

I smile when I see they've made it this time.
And wonder if they know they have just one day to be beautiful.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

A bright spot in my day

The trumpet vines are brilliant spots in the green woods. They've seeded themselves all over the yard--and every fencerow is buried in a fast-growing mass. We'd probably lose our house in the greenness, if we didn't keep plucking them from the cedar shakes. But I forget their irritating nature when they open their showy flowers--the only bright spot in the woods, for now.

This evening I visited the nest boxes in the field again. For several days now, the tree swallow parents have been keeping their voracious children fed--a non-stop labor, one, then the other, swooping into the box. Two birds on an exhausting mission.
I haven't peeked inside--I'm afraid to upset their happy existence.
So, I stand every evening, watching, a few feet from their house, hoping to catch glimpses of the family. The parents are very accepting of me--usually flying closely overhead, then slipping past me, and into the box. I can hear the chirping within--a flurry of excitement each time the next bite is delivered.


And tonight, a treat for me!
I finally see them--in a sky full of swallows.

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