Friday, December 28, 2007

Seven Random Facts

Long ago, (mid December) I was tagged for the Seven Random Facts meme by Jennifer at A Passion for Nature.
I didn't intend to sit on this for quite so long, just got wrapped up in the holidays and am just unwrapping myself now!

Here are the rules:
1. Link to the person who tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 random or weird things about yourself.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

My Seven Random Facts (added to the Eight I've revealed earlier) are:
1. I’m old enough to feel that "you're becoming your parent" is a compliment.
2. I’m not as old as my house.
(me— 1959, my house—ca.1835)
3. I eat to live; not live to eat. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy good food, just don’t spend a lot of time or effort preparing it. Except soup.
4. I’ve always loved the Little House on the Prairie series. The pioneer days would have suited me well. Just keep that Nellie Oleson far from me!
5. We don’t have cable TV—never had it; never will. Not that I wouldn’t get some benefit from certain channels, but I tend not to be able to sit and watch for very long without feeling there is something else I could be doing.
(or should be doing) (or could be learning) (or should be learning) (could this be adult ADD?)
6. I find public discussions about PMS about as interesting and appropriate as commercials featuring giant green mucus plugs.
7. I believe much is said about a person by the content of their pockets. Mine typically have: an old receipt, a chapstick and various assorted acorns and pinecones.
So, what’s in your pocket?

I know it's likely these people have been tagged before, but just in case, I'll tag seven more. Of all the memes floating past, I always like the opportunity this one gives for sharing a bit more of ourselves than we would typically reveal on our blogs. (and if it's just not your "thing"--that's okay, too)

T.R. at From the Faraway, Nearby
Carolyn at Nature Art Photography
Swampy at Swamp Things
Kerri at A Little Piece of Me
Diane at Sand to Glass
Caroline at Crayons
Chris at Chicago Nature Lady

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Trail of a muskrat

Days of blue skies are an invitation to walk.
And, lacking any breeze to speak of, Christmas morning’s bright sunshine brought a curiosity that I answered with hiking boots, light jacket and camera.
Our pond, far enough from the house to require a short walk, but close enough to catch a glimpse from the kitchen window, always intrigues me. And although springtime’s frog population and the summer months’ basking turtles are far more “exciting” to watch, it holds a certain beauty in winter—
when the surface is stilled by ice, its life trapped beneath the surface.

The lightest layer of ice has formed across the water, smoothing the surface like peering through a glass—the leafy bottom easily seen beyond the icy needles.
Soon, the thickening ice will hide her paths, but the trail of bubbles caught beneath it mark her route in and out of the bank--perfectly round, clustered glassy beads of all shapes and sizes.
Though I haven’t seen her since late summer, I know she is here, beneath the ice, waiting for spring.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Silent Night

Christmas preparations are behind me--and, early enough to be able to enjoy this season, finding a few moments away from the hustle.

Saturday's mildness was whisked away by a chilling wind--tumbling darkly-shadowed, rosy clouds across a winter landscape.

Crawling into a flannel bed that night, I was thankful for the shelter of a warm, brick house--as the night raged about outside my rattling window.
I wondered how anything small could not be blown away on such an unfriendly night.

The next morning a thick blanket of clouds remained--silvery strips, as the sun played peek-a-boo with the wind.

But tonight all is quiet.
It is the silent, holy night.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Morning field

A beautiful sunrise on a chilly, 11-degree morning. The field is frosty. One goat watches me from the shelter of the barn, while the others hunker down in their straw inside.

The colorful sky hints of storminess to come and many travelers' activities.
Last year I spotted an owl perfectly outlined within this tree's branches--a nice perch to survey the grassy surroundings.
I can't look at this tree without remembering her watching me, too.

My gloved fingers beginning to ache with the cold, I couldn't resist capturing this faded, frost-covered grass, waiting to be warmed by the rising sun.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Trash talk

For 10 days I’ve been avoiding garbage cans, discreetly tucking scraps and wrappers in my pockets, and then into my own, personal trash bag. It’s my way of experiencing the Trash Challenge. And although I intended to follow through for the 2-week trial, I’ve seen enough already to know what changes I must make.
It’s not as repulsive as it may sound. In fact, I would bet no one knew what was in that canvas bag beneath my desk. There was no smell—just a bulkiness that grew despite my efforts.

First, some changes were made in our every day basics.
Cloth napkins replaced paper napkins. Maybe not a good choice for barbecued chicken, but for most dinners, I’m not that messy.
And, no more eating a snack off paper towels—grab a plate! It may take longer to clean it up, but it’s the higher road to take.
Food scraps?…Somebody must eat it, so if it’s not right for the compost pile, maybe a possum or skunk will be thrilled with a small treat.
In the habit of grabbing a handful of napkins with that fast food?…Only take 21 if you plan to use 21. (Am I the only one with leftover napkins under every car seat and in the glove box?)

The next thing I did was check the website of my garbage company to see exactly what they would accept as recyclables. Being able to toss a box or jar or can or bottle into their large red bin was wonderful. In fact, I was able to be rid of the majority of packaging this way.
What do I wish they would take from me?….Styrofoam!

Uh oh,…kitty litter—ugh. Clay litter, as I learned, not only takes a lot of room in landfills, its manufacturing process requires it to be scooped out of pits 30-40 feet below the surface of the earth—essentially mined.
So, to satisfy my need to make a more sensitive choice, we’ve changed to a pine alternative, made from the natural waste product from the lumber industry—and it can be composted when finished!
The remaining clay litter I shoveled into the potholes in our gravel driveway.

Which brings me to mention what is probably the greatest discovery as an alternative to throwing something away : use it for something else!
Envelopes make great shopping lists—write your list on the back and tuck coupons or other reminders inside.
And styrofoam can even be ground up and added to planting soil!

Because the longer you can hang onto it, the longer you prevent it from becoming trash. (And the longer you can put off having to buy something for that purpose.)

Here’s what I ended up with:
Public restroom paper towels (most of my “bulk”)
Lint roller sheets
Popcorn bags (paper)
Hot cocoa packets (metallic paper)
Cupcake wrapper (paper)
Ice cream tub (waxed cardboard)
Plastic Bread bags
Potato chip bag (plastic)
Cookie package wrapper (plastic)
Egg noodle bag (plastic)
Cheese slice wrappers (plastic)(good grief, these things are annoying)
Granola bar wrappers (plastic)
Candy wrappers (plastic)
Styrofoam egg carton

Paper napkins (from eating out)
Single serving butter tubs (from eating out)
Styrofoam coffee cups

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Sunday, December 9, 2007

Purple Finches!

The snow of yesterday has given way to a dripping landscape. The creeks run muddy brown--runoff from the fields added to a day's rain. Not a good day to be out. So, resigned to observing from behind glass, and determined to make the best of a day at home, I sit looking out, puttering at online shopping, making soup and catching a few glances at the feeders.

There's nothing more intimidating to a beginning birder, than knowing you're looking at a bird that is easily confused with another in appearance. And comparative descriptions only work if both are sitting side by side. Helpful hints like, more stout, shorter bill, larger head, ...are code for, "be careful what you call this."
So, imagine my appreciation for a finch tutorial like this from Cornell's Project Feeder Watch.
And birds that agreed to sit side by side!

Purple Finch and House Finch, both males

Purple Finch, male

Purple Finch, females

American Goldfinch and female Purple Finch

Purple Finch, male

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Friday, December 7, 2007

A winter day

I fell in love with snow as a child.
Bundled in snow pants and the bulky hand-knit hats and mittens that grown-ups chose to do without, as they race from their warm homes or businesses to snowy cars in no more than a sweater and street shoes, becoming miserably chilled from scraping ice off a windshield with a credit card or bare hand—I delighted in the wintry world.
Dragging toboggans or with saucers tucked under our arms, we’d trudge through the woodlots behind our homes and spend the day sledding on the sand hills, covered with snow. For months, every radiator in our house was piled high with a continuous stream of the day’s icy, shed garments. The neighborhood basketball courts would be flooded for ice skating, and every yard sprouted a smiling snowman.

Now, in our more southern home, snow is light and infrequent.
I wait eagerly for the forecast of flurries, hoping it will necessitate a reunion with my favorite woolens—tucked away in a cedar closet for ten months, waiting for their few weeks of service.

The morning light is just beginning to filter through the trees.

Last night's frosty air settled on the few blades of grass and leaves not beneath snow.

And as soon as the ice is thick on the pond, we will hurriedly shovel paths.
There will only be a few days to play Fox & Geese.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Just enough

This morning we awoke to snow--
not much, but enough.

Enough to experience the stillness it brings when it blankets the world in a layer of soft, clean, cold, whiteness.

Enough to preserve the lifetime of one snowflake suspended from a spider's silken thread.

Enough to slow us all down long enough to appreciate the little things.

Tomorrow this gift will seem like a dream.

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Monday, December 3, 2007


I’ve been thinking a lot about a piece I heard on NPR several weeks ago, the Trash Challenge—carrying everything you generate and would normally throw in the trash with you in a bag for 2 weeks. You may recycle whenever possible and compost vegetable matter. The rest is yours—to haul wherever you go.

It’s all too easy to drag that trash can (or 2 or 3) to the curb and never give it another thought. Out of sight, out of mind, after all.
But, if when you threw something away, it never really disappeared--would we behave differently?
If our waste really was our problem--would we be more careful?
(Because it never really does disappear, and it really is our problem.)

And, although I tell myself that when it comes to generating waste, I’m being “responsible” by recycling and composting as much as possible, could I do a better job with the choices I make? Wrappers and disposables pile up pretty fast. The price we’re willing to pay for these conveniences is far greater than the pennies they add to our shopping bill.

So, how am I doing, really?

I’ll try it, and let you know! Anyone else?

The results of this experiment are recorded here.

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Sunday, December 2, 2007


Annie and Katya were friends from the start.
The little orange cat, afraid of the big world she’d stumbled upon at the top of a steep, gravel drive off a narrow, winding road--
and the 8-year old girl, a new resident of the old brick farmhouse situated atop that hill.
Miles from nowhere, it seemed they were. And perfectly suited to each other’s company.

Soon, the two traveled as one, exploring together—Annie swaddled in Katya’s woolen shirt, shed as the sunshine warmed the summer mornings. By fall, her accommodations in the barn were upgraded to an accumulation of blankets at the foot of her little girl's bed.

The years flew past, from tea parties to slumber parties to high school graduation—and the now very large orange cat, present always, kept her many secrets, as a best friend should.

Last week, Annie and Katya, now 23, spent their last night together.
Then the quiet orange cat passed on.

We are very fortunate to have a vet who cares for people as tenderly as he cares for their pets.
For the last 2 years, Annie has required shots twice a day for diabetes.
Monday, she began experiencing seizures, and for several days, underwent testing and treatment in his office for what was thought to be encephalitis or a stroke, unrelated to her sugar levels.
When it was clear that she would not recover, he medicated her to prevent further seizing, tube-fed her a substantial meal and released her to us with instructions for “Going Home”.
Our daughter, Katya, arrived home from out of town that evening to be with her friend. Annie died the next morning.

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