Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving, neighbor!

He was on my mind as I was working last week--our raccoon and his crafty ways.

Anything that is attractive to him, whether as food or trophy, must be fastened securely. And I was sure to wrap the new suet feeder several times with a metal chain and squeeze the hanger closed with pliers. I’d made some wonderful suet cakes that were waiting in the fridge—tasty morsels containing assorted leftover bread heels, stale cereal pieces, random odd nuts and berries and peanut butter.
The woodpeckers would love it!

I had taken a good part of an afternoon getting it situated in a small buckeye which stands just off the kitchen windows—between hanging finch feeders, platforms and tubes. One stop in a semicircle of seven stations. And for nine days, Harry (hairy woodpecker) visited us often to extricate his favorites from within the mesh cage.

This morning it has disappeared.

I can imagine how tempting it must have been—luring my neighbor from his bed—the fragrance of peanut butter wafting to his loft in the hollow tree in the ravine on a balmy night. And I can almost picture him stealing the feeder and retreating to his post to enjoy its delicacies safely within.

Next time, I’ll have to remember he has tin snips—the brand new pair he stole from the barn a few years ago.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007


Window strikes are never pretty--somebody always gets hurt.

But, whoever left this "fingerprint" upon our kitchen window yesterday, picked himself up and fluttered away.

It shows such detail--from individual feathers, down to distinct toes! And its size is surprising--each wing measuring 8 inches.
Could it be a waxy film or fatty residue of a suet feeder? Or is it just the feather dust from such a strong impact?

I'm inclined to leave it for a while. The subtle shading catches the afternoon sun--and, perhaps will prevent others from doing the same.

Any idea who left it?

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Friday, November 16, 2007

The sage in the field

His silver head is beginning to bow,
the slender figure bending with autumn’s chill.

Weathered, gnarled fingers curl
where strong arms reached toward summer’s sun.

Casting stories aloft on a breeze,
memories to take life, come spring.

Tell me another, and another,

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Go west!

Saturday morning we packed the car--maps, winter jackets, hats, binoculars, bird books, camera and a lunch of peanut butter nutella sandwiches, chips and apples. After much indecision of whether we would go east or west, we'd chosen west--to Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge in southern Indiana, for a day trip. Described as a "continentally important" bird area and "an exceptionally fine bird watching site," my fear was, "and what if we don't see any birds?"
What a magnificent expanse! From glowing golden woods of yellow poplar, beech and sweet gums--to glassy lakes, clear and dotted with cypress knees! We found black ducks, ring-necked ducks, herons, cedar waxwings, Cooper's hawks, and assorted others. Oh,...and otters! Even without the birds, it would have been well worth the 2 hour drive.
We're already planning to visit again, this time--with the canoe!

Tall, straight trunks of Tulip Poplars...

warm, glowing woods...

Lake Sheryl, bounded with the cinnamon shades of cypress...

still reflections of fall color...

Bald Cypress at its northernmost native range...

Cypress knees in needles of this deciduous conifer...

and in the shallows of the lake...

the otters playing and feeding on surface of Richart Lake...
(far right blur on distant surface)

sun setting on fall fields.

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Friday, November 9, 2007

Before winter

There are still a few undone tasks before winter.
Chores that could be finished as the first few flakes fly—but cold fingertips make it clumsy.
Thanks to a very hungry, very heavy raccoon last spring, our feeding station out back was left dragging on the ground. And since much of our viewing during the warmer months is from the upper front porch—this back area hasn’t had much attention. Until now… as we move ourselves and our pastimes back inside, behind glass.
A few replacement pieces, new poles and some creative, (hopefully) squirrel-proof rigging, and our winter set-up is complete. The chickadees have already forgiven us for inconveniencing them with this afternoon's fuss.

In the process of fastening some suet feeders to our large hickory tree, we found something else out walking—or, should I say, a walking something else.

Northern Walking Stick, female

All those mouth parts--just for eating plants, especially oak leaves.

She climbs. There are still a few undone tasks before winter.

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Decisions, decisions, decisions

In our family, I’m known to explain things—to attempt to understand why things are as they are, and share the revelation with others. Not that what I end up with is "right"—there are many ends, once you start down a road. But, as much for myself as for others, I am rewarded with a settled feeling when I make sense of this world…an assurance that, whatever the issue, there will be resolution. Once resolved, set aside.
Most often, I find my understanding has come from nature--perhaps because I look for it there, perhaps because nature willingly shares it.

I can recall, one spring, watching a nesting robin repeatedly lay strands of grass against a small branch outside my window. For days she brought piece after piece—yet, none held fast. I worried she would continue without end—so long she fussed at that spot. But, weeks later, I found her “happily” nested in the adjacent bush. How long do you keep at something that isn’t working? Long enough to be able to say you’ve given it your best effort—not so long as it prevents you from getting on with the egg-laying of life.
Last February’s ice storm glazed the same tree—the branch heavy with its coating of ice, fell. Sometimes our choices are taken away.

Right now, I’m choosing paint.
A lover of color, I’ve decided upon brown.
The absence of color can be beautiful, too.



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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Set Free

I came upon this scene suddenly, driving one of the back roads just before evening. As I turned the car for a better look, I spooked the turkey vulture, standing guard.

Did you see her
fluttering within her cage,
small and warm,
full of life?

Silently, she has flown
on wings that beat
a rhythm
never ending,
strong and free.

Where did she go?
I think you know.
I saw you watching.

As final as this sight may seem,
it impressed upon me the continual rhythm of life.
Two weeks ago this field was not yet harvested--
this deer must have fallen here just recently.
Yet, nature has already reclaimed her for others' lives.

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Sunday, November 4, 2007

Taken home

In the middle of my day at work, I take a walk—a break from the indoor environment that, at some times seems claustrophobic—especially on sunny fall days. It’s not too stimulating—beige concrete bounded by the blacktopped lot and brick-faced building, covered by a metal canopy—but it’s fresh air, nonetheless.
And, sometimes within this sheltered area, there are creatures that seem out of place. Stranded on this man-made island, separated from where they intended to be.

Last week I found a praying mantis. Not another mantis, like the huge Chinese Mantids that descended upon my milkweed patch in August, the imported garden-stalkers from the other side of the world—a very different, smaller one, the North American native, the Carolina Mantid.
Her season is almost ended. Frosty mornings will soon bring our first hard freeze. But until then, she deserves better than days on a barren concrete sidewalk, dodging unseeing feet.

She behaved perfectly in that inverted styrofoam bowl on my desk for the remainder of the afternoon. Aside from the occasional “scritch” of her barbed feet as she walked around inside it, and my peeking through the air holes I’d given her…we kept her visit a secret.

The next morning, at home, with the warm sunshine on fallen leaves against the river rock wall—she seemed at home.

Chinese Mantid on milkweed
August 12, 2007

Chinese Mantid straddling large milkweed leaf
August 12, 2007

Carolina Mantid
only 2 inches in length
November 2, 2007

Green eyes
Raptorial forelegs with sharp spines

Carolina Mantid
November 2, 2007

Her small wings and heavy body do not allow her to fly--but they are beautiful to look at up close--
mottled shades of brown, silver and rose.

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Friday, November 2, 2007


I can’t quite decide what’s bothering me more—being surprised by gunfire in my own “backyard” or feeling the presence of an intruder into what I now consider “my” land.

I was walking behind the pond, only for a minute, when the shots rang out. And although I anticipate the start of deer season when the weather carries a chill, it always startles me when I hear the shots. Memories of a story from my youth of a woman who was killed by hunters because she wore white mittens… mistaken for a white tail… remind me that I should be wearing blaze orange, even now, as I walk my trails.

From just ahead of me, a beautiful buck suddenly bounded from the cover of the woods, almost into my path. Across the pasture, seven more--does, ears sharply tuned to the direction from which the commotion came, heads held high searching the horizon for danger, clustered together on the hill, flushed from the meadow. It seemed they must’ve been aware of my confusion, too—for there we stood, sharing that moment of terror, realizing how vulnerable we were, to a danger unseen.
I dropped to the ground—partly to be less of a threat to their path of escape, partly to save myself. The woods were no longer a sanctuary. The birds had become still.

I darted back to the house, grabbed binoculars, car keys and my phone, --and set off to plead common sense to whoever it was, at that moment, who was demonstrating none.

Our woods back up to a church field, accessible from the road just around the corner. And as soon as I pulled into their lot, I saw my target. Probably not demonstrating the best sense either, I slipped the car into park and jumped out—slamming the door to announce my visit, and charged purposefully across the field.
“We was just shootin’ into that there sod pile." A man and his 7-year old grandson stood looking at me quizzically.

Maybe it was the binoculars I was madly waving at them, maybe it was the crazed hair just pulled loose for a nice evening walk. But it must’ve been evident to them that I had clicked into defensive mode.

I looked to the branch of the pine where my barred owl sits, surveying the field…
And the clearing, where my deer rest in the afternoon…
And the sky…

This was my land, our territory, and they had disrespected everything special about it.

The Ohio Revised Code 2923.16.2 states:
No person shall do any of the following:
Discharge a firearm on a lawn, park, pleasure ground, orchard
or other ground appurtenant to a schoolhouse, church, inhabited dwelling,
property of another or charitable institution.

Whoever violates this section is guilty of
discharge of a firearm on or near prohibited premises.

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