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The Ironweed Festival

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


Here's a concept. Pick something you love and create an event around it. It doesn't have to be a big deal. Just invite a few friends over to appreciate it.

Late summer. Ironweed bloom. Blue sky time. Whatever.
Call it the Ironweed Festival.

Allis-Chalmers sitting in a field time.

Little black dog crossing a sunspot time.

Ironweed painting the meadow time.

It's hard to photograph, to do it justice. This is an old cow pasture, where the cattle ate everything they liked and left what they didn't. Which turns out to be ironweed. Inedible by cattle, though I've seen deer  clip the leaves off from time to time.

Joe-pye weed was contending for top billing in the wet meadows.

Wingstem wanted placement on the marquee as well. We were happy to oblige. Ironweed-Joe-Pye-Wingstem Festival.

And we were recording it for all we were worth. 

J. Studly Magruder posing for a new photo, King of the Ironweed. Those are binoculars, not some weird medieval codpiece. 

The Black Barn, drowning in a sea of purple. And to the left, my beloved chestnut log cabin, now just a pile of timbers crowned with a roof, courtesy the June 29, 2012 derecho. But oh, the landscape. It remains delicious.

A log end.

What's left of the cabin.

Lobelia syphilitica (Great Blue Lobelia) growing against its old timbers. Once used as a treatment for the clap. Good to know, right? You're welcome.

Shila and Tim, in ironweed.

Sneaking Up on a Buck

Sunday, August 31, 2014


The canoe, Lois, is my cloak of invisibility. When Marcy and Shila told me they'd spotted a buck bedded up on a steep slope, under cover of trees, I paddled quickly but silently over. Gave a few strokes, drifted motionless ever closer, then hung onto a snag to anchor myself for photography.

He was unperturbed by my presence. I was not something to worry about, floating in a small boat out on the lake. 

That's how I like my deer best: Unperturbed. Not simmered, seared, sauteed or with a side of wild rice. Unperturbed.

Quietly grooming himself.

Arising, preparing himself for an afternoon's foraging. He'll be a five-pointer. 

Those velvet antlers itch. A well-placed sharp hoof does the job. 

Thus groomed, he's ready to go. 

And I am blessed by his presence, by witnessing his toilette, his peaceful reverie, which becomes mine.

Such incredible beauty awaits those who float silently. These multicolored birds with their raiment of bronzy green and wine. Who could dream such a beautiful little heron?

Death to minnows and frogs, life itself to me.

The work of a pileated woodpecker in live wood, excavating for carpenter ants. These huge rectangular holes open out the ant galleries, and the pileated sits there lapping the larvae, eggs and adult ants up as they run by. 

And everywhere around me, the kwirrk and churr and constant pas de deux of the Snag Kings, the Woodpeckers to Beat All Woodpeckers, the Flying American Flags, my darlings the red-heads. Raising up their young by the dozen in this Nirvana for birdwatchers, deerwatchers, heronoglers. North Bend State Park. You really must visit.

Smooth Water, Mystery Globs, Deer, Vultures and Wildflars

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Summer fairly demands her due. You cannot let these crystal days pass unappreciated.

Just get some friends together, throw some canoes in the car and go. Rent a couple if you run short.

And watch what happens to your beautiful hardworking friends when they are rocked gently on the water.

Meander around with no purpose.

which turns out to be the greatest purpose of them all. 

Wonder at the weirdly firm jellied masses anchored on underwater snags.

Which, because you're a Science Chimp, you've already figured out are bryozoans, a species called Pectinatella magnifica. Only a few species inhabit freshwater (the vast majority are marine). They are the ecological analogs of corals, though they aren't related. They feed by extending tentacles into the water and snagging little critters floating past. Basically an intestinal tract, an oral opening, and a ring of tentacles, times several hundred, all glommed together in a cluster. Animals, not plants. Or something kind of in between. Why they're here, what if anything eats them, I dunno. One of nature's mysteries. Native, at least, and now spread from a primarily eastern distribution throughout the country's waterways. 
Bryozoans. Whaa? A life form that has simply never occurred to most of us, in full glory at North Bend.
We can only wonder. 

A juvenile Cooper's hawk bullets low over the water and snags his talons on a low limb. 

A doe works up a steep slope with her little family of twins.

Sun lights the fawn's ears and the blood vessels running through them. A little pink tongue flickers.

The doe casts one look back at me to tell me she sees me and they'll be moving along.

Cardinalflower lights up the muddy bank. I'm so glad to see it's found its way into the waterway.

We come upon a juvenile turkey vulture, newly fledged, who appears to be sitting on his (her) wing. Notice that he has yet to attain the red head of the adult turkey vulture. Also note the immaculate fresh feathers with pale fringes. Not a bit of raggedy on this bird!

Everyone expresses concern for it, hoping it isn't injured. I look at it for awhile and pronounce it fine. First off, a vulture with an injured wing is not going to be able to get 30' up into a tree. 
Second, baby vultures  do weird things, and if this baby were still in the hollow log or cave he was born in, he'd probably be flat out on his belly with his legs out behind him. 
He's just doing the best he can to relax while perched like a big boy. That apparently includes using his own wing as a bolster pillow. 

Weird as it looks. 

Sure enough, he rights himself and calmly preens his bolster pillow, then flaps easily off to another snag. Whew!! I don't know what I was planning to do about it if he was hurt. Something. But I knew he was fine.

How do you cap a paddle like that? You stop by a rose gentian meadow on the way out of Harrisville.

And exhort your friends to inhale that mysterious perfume, that nasal nirvana they emanate.
The contortions are fully worth it.

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