Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Robin Song Morning

This morning as my dog and I passed one of the picnic shelters in the park, I heard the most magical birdsong.

A robin was sitting on one of the picnic tables in the shelter, which is basically a roof and no walls. He was singing his morning song which was being amplified and echoed under the shelter's roof.

He must have thought that he'd found the most wonderful place to sing, and his song, already beautiful, had become almost like a concert in symphony hall.

Even on ordinary occasions I love to hear a robin's song, but this was a real treat.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Daily Coyote

I just finished reading The Daily Coyote by Shreve Stockton.
It's a wonderful book with beautiful pictures and a heartfelt tale about finding life, finding love, and finding peace.

The author tells how she found herself drawn away from New York city to a new life in the little town of Ten Sleep, Wyoming - population 300.

She is given a days-old, orphaned coyote cub and told, "If you don't want to take care of it, or it gets to be a problem, let me know and I'll drown it in the water tank."

The author - who has sidestepped and is inexperienced with commitments involving the care of something other than herself, those that tie one down, and those which involve a change in one's own life - knows that this is a serious decision. The death of this creature, or the responsibility for it's life, will be placed upon her. And she doesn't make her decision, or take the resultant responsibilities lightly.

You will become involved in the author's life - her struggles to find balance while adjusting to her new surroundings, trying to make a living, tending a blossoming relationship with a neighboring cowboy, and raising a baby coyote along with her cat in a place that doesn't look favorably on coyotes.

It's an absolutely wonderful read, and the story doesn't end with the book. You can visit Shreve Stockton's websites, the old one: The Daily Coyote ; and the new one: The Daily Coyote. Both are full of Shreve Stockton's beautiful photography featuring Charlie, the coyote, and the deeply captivating Wyoming landscape.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The noise (and stink)

I live in what many people describe as an idyllic little New England style town. And this is true. The only thing that really has begun to upset me is a business which lies very nearby. It is by no means close to the idyllic downtown, but it does lie no more than about 1/4 of a mile from my home. It is a mulch and soil business and it has expanded in the past couple of years.

Early on, in our first years here, a strong smell of mulch would sometimes drift our way. Now that the business has expanded and the small hills of mulch have turned into steaming mountains, the strong smell of mulch has been replaced with a sometimes overpowering smell - what a friend of mine mistook once for the biting stench of what she thought must certainly have been a chemical spill in the area.

And now, for the past year, this enterprise has been experimenting with what is called Green Grinding. They take in food waste from local grocery chains, grind it up, let it compost, and use it as a soil additive. This is all very well and good, green-thinking and saving our landfills and all, except for one teensy detail.

It stinks.

Apparently it's not supposed to stink, but the way this business is doing it, we often smell the stench of a landfill blowing our way. And in the park next door, which is even closer to this business, the stench is sometimes gut-heaving in quality. Think of the rodents that this must be attracting.

To add to all of this, the expansion of the business means that they are often very busy adding to their mountains of mulch. This process has become excessively noisy. It doesn't take place all the time (please see this post about the pleasant quiet), but when it does, the noise is fearsome. Especially when it begins at 8:00 am.

I've uploaded a little snippet of video that I took this morning from my front porch. I used a digital still camera with a video feature. You know how when you take little video snippets this way, noises which aren't right up close to the camera sometimes aren't caught, and if they are, they aren't as loud as they were in person? Keep that in mind while you listen to the sounds. Be sure to turn your volume up:

On my walk in the park with the dog before I took the video, the noise was loud enough to make my head hurt.

I know that some people live in high traffic, high noise areas, but when we moved here we bought a house at the end of a dead-end street, up against a nice park. Not a high noise, high stink area.

My how things change.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Quiet Day in the Garden

Today has been a quiet day. Beautiful and sunny, but very quiet. The park next door was empty. I could hear the breeze in the treetops it was so quiet. On our walk, I rested for a few minutes with my eyes closed and my face to the sun while my dog rummaged through the old cattails looking for stray baseballs (he found one which has been fermenting in the goop all winter).

It's the beginning of spring break here for the area schools. I think everyone has flown south for the week.

I tidied up the back yard by gathering sticks and fallen branches, enjoying the quiet and the song of the wind through the pines and the just-budding branches of other trees.

I'm not really a gardener. I do a garden blogger's bloom day post every now and then (supposed to be on the 15th of each month), but really I'm just an impostor. My posts consist of cleverly cropped photos leading you to believe that my yard is bursting with bloom and color. You will note that you will never see a panoramic, or full shot of the whole yard. I also post pictures of what's blooming wild in the park next door.

If you've ever read Harry Potter, you'll know what I mean when I say that, for comparison's sake, my yard is a Weasley yard (rusting cauldron by the doorstep, stray galoshes piled up, and gnomes in the garden) and not a Dursley yard (everything prim and trimmed and neat).

Nonetheless, I do put forth a bit of effort. This year I even thought ahead and started seeds indoors. I've even got several things sprouting in my sprout tray:

Last year when we rototilled a garden spot in the way back, I had to say goodbye to all of my lovely wild violets. I've been grieving that decision recently because 1) wild violets are my favorite flowers, and 2) they are some of the first bloomers and I was already beginning to miss them, even though it's early yet.

But wandering around in the mud patch back there, I spotted some hangers-on pushing up through the earth. Hooray! I'll have some violets after all:

And speaking of rototilling, how good a job could we have done if these are coming up in the middle of the vegetable garden plot?:

Spring is really here. The crocuses have arrived and late snowstorms haven't even spoiled the show, as usual, to cover them up again:

Happy Spring!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Evasion tactics, or, "Where, behind that cat?"

We have a cat who likes to come along for walks when we take the dog out.

We have a couple of different routes for walks in the park. The smaller route which goes around the pond is the only route on which we allow the cat to join us. The other route, which encompasses the whole park, is too long. Too many things could go wrong for a cat - other dogs, for instance, or just the feeling that the whole park is now its domain. The latter one is what I don't want the cat to come to believe. The park is too big and too busy for the cat to go gallivanting that far from home.

The result is that, if the cat looks like it's trying to follow us on the longer route, we must try to outrun it, hoping that it will finally stop and go to the hedges which are its favorite place to wait for our return.

So yesterday, my husband and I went running out over the soccer fields, dog happy as a lark, cat running after us, all the time looking over our shoulders and shouting, "He's coming, hurry!"

To onlookers it must have looked something like Monty Python running from the killer rabbit.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

This was a very charming, engaging, and interesting book.

A London writer, just after WWII and digging for an idea for a new book, stumbles upon the interesting lives of several inhabitants of the tiny island of Guernsey in the Channel Islands. They all have interesting stories to tell of life during the German occupation during the war.

A letter-writing correspondence with these people leads to a visit and to a whole new life.

The book will teach you things you probably never knew about the war and about the Channel Islands - and it will keep you marvelously entertained with the wit of Juliet Ashton, the fiesty main character.

The book is presented as a series of letters and telegrams, each one a treat to read. They end up weaving a riveting tale that's easy to read and pulls you into the lives of the characters.

Take it along on vacation, or spring break. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Study in Moss and Lichen

Yesterday my family headed over to Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Although spring is in the air, on the Pine Lane trail we found a forest still bleak in winter colors, but interesting things all around, nonetheless.

Lots of lichen growing on decaying trees:

Hidey-holes in mossy tree trunks:

Woolly moss:

Which sometimes looked like a head of hair:

Or as if it was just resting for a moment on the rock before scurrying away:

A diverse neighborhood:

Fern eruptions:

We turned around here, not just because part of the trail had fallen into the creek below, but because two of our number had fallen in as well and were wet and cold (the male half, which were playing around on fallen trees and too close to treacherous, sandy banks):

A jumble of fallen debris:

Here is a trail marker, fallen in:

More moss:

A spot, slowly eating away the stone upon which it lives:

A mossy colony:

A bit of green peeking through the leaves:

And finally, a very interesting pine:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Herbs for herbal remedies - Growing or wildharvesting your own vs mail-order

Here is the difference I see in what I've grown in my garden or wild harvested and what I get through mail-order. Mine are on the left, mail-order is on the right:



I prefer my own. I mean, just look at the goldenrod. With the mail-order you get stems - big ones from the looks of it - all shredded up with the flowers and leaves.

When I make goldenrod infused oil, I only use the flowering tops. All I have left of what I harvested from last fall is what you see in the picture, so I mail-ordered some to get me through to this fall when I can harvest some more. I'm a little nervous about using the mail-order now. I'm not sure how the oil will turn out.

I'm glad I've planned a big garden this year full of lots of different herbs. I'm really looking forward to using only my own homegrown or wild harvested plants.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Monday, March 9, 2009

Robin McKinley

I've recently read a couple of things by Robin McKinley. I'm now looking forward to reading more from Robin McKinley - and she does have many more titles out there.

The first book I read by her was Chalice.

Now, there are different kinds of people in the world. There are some people who like cities and crowds and loud music and night clubs and parties. And there are some people who like walks in the woods, the feel of the sun on their face, and who receive a gentle re-energizing just by soaking in the natural world around them. Chalice is for this second group of people. It's a gentle story full of bees and woods and a woman struggling with a weighty role she's been chosen for by the officials of the demesne - who nonetheless don't care for her, and a new Master of the demesne who is not quite human anymore and is feared by everyone who lives there - except her.

If you are the type who likes cities and crowds and parties and such, I would recommend Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr - which is a wonderful urban fantasy- , but probably not Chalice, which is a fantasy with nothing urban about it.

The second thing I've read by Robin McKinley is a collection of short stories called, A Knot in the Grain and Other Stories.

This collection drew me in from the start and I read the book in one sitting. Included in the tales are herbcraft and mages and princesses and romance between unexpected people, and a young girl having to move away from her friends and start life anew in a small community threatened by a new superhighway - all right before she starts her junior year in high school (even this story has fantasy woven into it).

Robin McKinley's books might be just the thing if you feel like relaxing with beautiful, gentle tales.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

My Query Holiday results thus far

Back in January a friend in my writing group sent an email to everyone letting us know of Firebrand Literary's Query Holiday.

For one month during the holidays, this literary agency would accecpt the first chapter of a finished work without a query letter.

I took advantage and sent off a submission. One of the agents kept a tally on the number of submissions they were receiving and the number of full manuscripts they had requested so far. I kept up with the tally, which grew and grew.

By the end, they had received right around 3,750 submissions. From those they ended up requesting, give or take, right around 100 full manuscripts.

Mine was one of those (!).

Don't know how long it will take to hear back (weeks? months?) - all I know is that I sent the manusript off at the beginning of February.

I'm still waiting, but it's a good kind of wait.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Wintergreen Adventure

My daughter and I ventured out in search of the plant that I think is wintergreen that I saw growing out in the woodlands on one of our previous adventures.

It was cold, but not overly, and only a scant bit of snow covered the ground. Wintry colors met us as we made our way into the woods (clicking on any of the pictures will enlarge it, then click the back arrow to return):

Our dog likes to lead the way:

We came across interesting things like these fractal-like growths on an old, dead tree:

And these berries with a leaf which had fallen onto a snowy, frozen stream-bed:

This flat expanse tells of a frozen pond underneath:

A mossy peninsula jutted out into the frozen pond:

We came across a little, thatched fairy village:

Or maybe they were just cold tribbles:

My daughter has the patience to find and take the artistic shots, like this leaf caught on the rusty nails of an old hunting stand:

And this one of our dog framed by a circular vine. A very low hunting stand is behind him - don't know why they bothered to place it so low to the ground:

My daughter always finds bones. Here is a vertebra and what I think is a tibia (both deer):

The leaf detritus was very thick, but we did manage to find a few plants peeking through both the snow and the leaves:

I thought I had found some wintergreen nestled between the roots of a tree - but it wasn't wintergreen:

We did find a spotty tree:

And one that looked like it had eyes:

My daughter scolded me for not noticing this and almost stepping on it:

The squirrels have missed this little feast:

Oh, look! Is that a bit of green? Maybe spring is around the corner:

Good thing, it looks like the reserves are running low:

On our way out of the woods, we spotted this inviting trail which we've never taken before. We'll save that for another adventure on another day:

The best pictures from our wintergreen adventure today were taken by my daughter:

We both tried to snap a photo of this lovely cluster of three red rose hips, which were so colorful in the bleak winter landscape. All of our shots came out blurry, except for this one my daughter took:

Against the fallow farmer's field we found this crab apple tree full of shriveled fruits. The lower branches were empty, but these are too high for the deer to reach:

We didn't find any wintergreen, but we'll try again another day, another season, because we like to go on adventures.