Thursday, August 30, 2007


Blame it on the heat...
I've been burned out.

Discouraged by the lack of anything beautiful to study.
Disappointed that, even when I steal a few minutes to enjoy the out of doors, it doesn't refresh me.
Concerned that I'm finding it hard to appreciate what I love the most--being out in nature.
And so desperately waiting for this awful dry spell to pass.

The chicory beside the path was open wide, greeting the morning sun. Standing tall, adding splashes of periwinkle to the brown field grasses around it. And I walked on, around the loop, hoping for something more beautiful. No birds, no butterflies--just crickets scurrying ahead of my steps through the short grass on the trails.
And as I was almost back to the house, I found what I was looking for. An ever-so-short chicory in the middle of the grass path. Poor thing--it's purpose in life never realized, literally cut short by a mower blade every time it put forth growth. Never growing tall like its neighbors to the side.
But, even as discouraged as that little plant must have been by the repeated mowings, it was in full bloom. Covered with more flowers than you'd think its small 2-inch size could support--giving everything it could muster to its purpose in life, before it is too late.
Simply a little weed...but the sight of it was beautiful.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Frost says it best

"When I was young, we dwelt in a vale
By a misty fen that rang all night

And thus it was the maidens pale
I knew so well, whose garments trail
Across the reeds to a window light.

The fen had every kind of bloom,
And for every kind there was a face,
And a voice that has sounded in my room
Across the sill from the outer gloom.

Each came singly unto her place,
But all came every night with the mist;
And often they brought so much to say
Of things of moment to which, they wist,
One so lonely was fain to list

That the stars were almost faded away
Before the last went, heavy with dew,
Back to the place from which she came--

Where the bird was before it flew,
Where the flower was before it grew,
Where bird and flower were one and the same

And thus it is I know so well
Why the flower has odor, the bird has song.
You have only to ask me, and I can tell.
No, not vainly there did I dwell,
Nor vainly listen all the night long."

~Robert Frost

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Paint Creek Lake

This morning we took the canoe to Paint Creek Lake. A nice breeze on the water and bright sunshine were the perfect remedy for my claustrophobia from this week's miserable temperatures and suffocating humidity.
The Paint Creek region is the very edge of the Appalachian Plateau--the hill country of southeastern Ohio frames most views from the water.

Limestone cliffs border some areas, sand beaches others. And, because the water level is down more than a foot, large sand bars are exposed.

We stopped here for a while, killdeer scurrying all over this bar of small pebbles. The weathered log had an interesting pattern on the root surfaces.

At the water's edge--birds!!

Gulls and Caspian Terns?

That's the most birding excitement I've had in a very long time!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, August 24, 2007

Cool creature

This evening our local weatherman gave this August's statistics. Five days above 100 degrees, and an average monthly temperature 10 degrees above normal, 94. Yes, it's been hot.
And with the heat, my activities have been restricted to whatever can be accomplished indoors, and with minimal heat generation and energy expenditure. After another sandwich dinner tonight, and with blinds drawn, we commented on how the extreme heat has reminded us of the other extreme, a blizzard. Schools were even closed today, as conditions become unsafe.

But, carrying on, unaffected by the discomfort the rest of the natural world seems to be displaying, the ant lions have taken up residence in their "usual" spot on the ramp to the barn.
Apparently, they prefer to be protected like this, with the eaves shielding the dirt from rain and harsh sun. It remains dry and loose year-round--the perfect building material for their pits. Each depressed ridge in the concrete ramp holds just enough dirt for them to doodle around. Many conical pits, with an ant lion buried at the center of each, are excavated in each ridge.
Each year, I know this is where I'll find them, fierce-looking mandibles ready for unwary dinner to tumble in.
Sometimes, I feed them a treat--and watch their dirt-throwing behavior as they attempt to snare their prey.
And sometimes I unearth one, just to meet the creature that builds with such skill, such a deadly trap for an ant.

Now, isn't he cool??

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Have you seen...

A small, fuzzy caterpillar hanging from his silver thread..




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

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A turtle (fish) story

This morning’s rain was inviting—
partly, because it was a light, misty moistness that felt good to breathe in,
and partly, because it freshened the colors that had become dull and lifeless in the summer’s heat.
I chose breathing over photography, and went out to walk, leaving the camera behind—safe and dry on the kitchen table.
For almost an hour, I lingered along the trails, my shirt becoming fairly damp, my hair absorbing the humidity to the point of a drip finding its way down my forehead. Just as I was ready to start back to the house, I encountered a box turtle at the green, grassy edge of the woods.
He was large and beautifully yellow, more so than any I’d ever seen. Brightened by the rain, he almost glowed. Motionless, poised at the trail’s edge, he peered up at me with bright red eyes. And didn’t move.
I weighed the choices before me, carefully. I could take this treasure with me, back to the house, snap a picture, and return him to this spot…or I could leave him here, run quickly and return with the camera. How far could a turtle go in a few minutes? And, how hard would it be to find a large, yellow turtle, anyway?

I ran…and so did he, for when I returned to the spot, he was gone.

And as I scoured the ground around me, I noticed what I hadn’t seen before. The leaves have begun to fall, turning the woods…yellow.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, August 20, 2007

Off-road vehicle

Following a deer trail winding through the brush,
finding the still-warm spot in the cool, tall grass,
where they choose to wait out the mid-day heat.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, 1997

Standing on the edge of the world,
watching the afternoon sun set ablaze the red rock of the canyon below,
while birds fly beneath my feet.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, 1997

Wading a deep, narrow riverbed,
borrowing a crooked stick as a staff,
the towering cliffs above on either side.
Virgin River, Zion National Park, Utah, 1997

Wandering waist-deep on the prairie,
discovering strands of hair where bison lost it,
feeding here, yesterday.
Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota, 2000

Sharing the narrow, climbing mountain trail with a hermit thrush,
being the only human ears to hear this song he sings,
in the deepest woods.
Acadia National Park, Maine, 2001

Straddling cool, black depths,
experiencing the purest darkness imaginable,
in the world that has no sunlight.
Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky, 2002

Bracing against the harsh wind,
seeking warmth nestled against a rock,
where the tiniest flowers live in just a crack.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 2005

Scrambling over boulder fields,
feeling small against the rocky face,
to be in the peregrine’s world.
Acadia National Park, Maine, 2007

My new hiking boots have arrived, and it’s a good thing…
because I’m not content to believe the “scenic overlook” is as good as it gets.
"The mountains are calling and I must go."
~John Muir, "The Father of our National Parks"

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Pasture evening

The skies are threatening rain--again. So far it has stayed dry--but the distant rumbling and deep steel blue horizon suggest it may happen--this time.
We've had another afternoon of 100 degrees.
The goats seek shade in the barn for most of the day, emerging at dusk to graze as the sun is setting. Last night it dipped to 82--barely a chance to catch your breath before the next sunrise heats the day.
The cattle and donkeys across the road have spent their evening enjoying the fresh grass in the lower pasture. They must tire of hay on these hot days, for they barely look up as I approach.

The baby jacks still stick pretty close to their mothers. The ears-too-big-for-his-head, knobby knees and shock of hair cropped just above the eyes. Is there anything cuter than a donkey foal?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Nature's Way

A break in the heat--finally! And, I trotted back out to the field, enjoying the coolness of this morning's air. I had seen a Robber Fly there a few days ago. And hoping to get a better picture of him standing guard at the flowers, I returned to that same spot. Maybe it was the change in the air, or time of day--he was nowhere I could see. The bees are safe today.
Without my chosen subject, I stopped for a minute. A little oak tree just beside me was looking rather spindly--barely leafed and naked. A covering of plump, juicy caterpillars explained why.

Yellow-necked caterpillars, arching in their defensive posture had almost denuded the tree. And, if I felt especially attached to this little oak, I probably would have returned with a bucket and plucked them from its branches. But as I stood contemplating the pairs of hairy eating machines, looking like Lady and the Tramp sharing between them, a single noodle--I decided to let them be.It's an eat or be eaten world out there--and I'm hoping nature will take care of this one for me.
The Forest Service says natural enemies (birds) generally keep infestations in check.

Female Eastern Pondhawk eating moth.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, August 13, 2007


So often, it seems, as I grow older, I feel the predictability of the seasons. The child-like wonder is forgotten. The rhythms and rituals have become familiar. Some days I go out, knowing well what I will find there—and am surprised that it is not as I would have expected. As I walk this property, memories of things observed here in years past, are jostled—adjusted by differences in this year’s weather, the progression of the trees, the evolution of the pond…
Nature continues to teach new things. It cannot be predicted. Yesterday was one of those days.

The milkweed patch has been a success this year—better than ever in size and butterfly production. And I visit it every day, sometimes twice to watch the activity it attracts. I know who to expect to find there, and where. It has become as familiar to me as a room in my house. I could walk through it in the dark without tripping.
But yesterday, things were different.

I usually consider myself fortunate to find one or two praying mantids by the end of the summer. I know they lay hundreds of eggs in the foamy masses, but don’t usually encounter too many adults. They’re always so curious to look at, as they turn and look back at me--triangular heads resembling alien life forms. And, I’ve captured them in empty mayonnaise jars, to marvel at for an afternoon. Such a prize to find even one.

In the milkweed patch yesterday, on just 20 plants, I spotted 7 mantids! They were hanging everywhere—upside down from the broad leaves, their brown bodies waiting motionlessly for dinner to walk or flutter by. I was astonished to see so many. Each one of good size, some almost 6 inches long. Spending their day, hunting in the milkweed patch.

I’ve been enjoying some of the essays of Ora Anderson, a self-taught naturalist, journalist, conservationist, artist who lived to the limit of his days, 94 years, on a farm in southeastern Ohio, passing away just last August.
His marvel at the newness of each season through his keen eye, never tiring of observing and learning from immersion in the natural world. How, even after 94 years, "the riches of yesterday are replaced by new treasures today--and tomorrow."

I should have known better than to feel nature can ever be predictable.

Chinese Mantid, Tendora aridifolia

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, August 12, 2007

An abundance of bugs

Tall Ironweed against Daisy Fleabane

For the first time this week, I walked. Today is cooler--mid 90s.
We’ve had record-breaking heat –at, or nearly at, 100 degrees for 2 days now. And, although the only birds flitting around the field are the brightly clad goldfinches, I found the milkweed patch and gum grove teaming with life. The air is loud with Cicada singing and there is an abundance of bugs!

At first glance, I thought these were aphids. But, a closer look shows black heads and no tailpipes, making me think Milkweed Bug nymphs? (Added to the fact that adults have been very numerous!)

And on the Ironweed, this yellow Jagged Ambush Bug, stands out as he stalks his dinner.

I was fortunate enough to actually watch this cicada singing just several feet away on a low branch.Tibicen chloromera (?), a very large, black-eyed, green-winged, noisy creature enjoying the dog-days of summer.

And, I am enjoying the fact that just several degrees less on the thermometer can make such a difference!

Stumble Upon Toolbar