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Birds, Barns, Cows and Gear

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Here's a pile of gear--it's what Bill took with him every day on the bus. Mine was not much smaller. You can imagine what it's like stumbling around in the dark at 4 AM, making sure you have everything you'll need.

People look at our stacks of luggage in the airport, barely concealing their disdain for out excesses, and I want to say, "Hey! We're working here! It takes gear to show people good birds!"
Here's Ann Oliver's photo of me showing some folks their life Sprague's pipit.
But I don't say anything. I let them think all those suitcases hold my makeup, heels, creams, hairdryer, curling iron, gels, emollients, and diamond tennis bracelets, because that's certainly the impression I give, as dolled up and fabulous as I always am.

For instance, here's Bill using an iPod and speakers to try to bring a clicking yellow rail into view. Though everyone was patient and he tried for a very long time, the rails--and there were five or more--were content to click just out of sight. The day before, Bill and I had seen our life yellow rail in this spot as it lightfooted across the road right in front of our van! It ran, then flew, its body upright, its impossibly long toes dangling from greenish legs, then dropped into the marsh, never to be seen again. I still can't believe we saw a yellow rail, with no playback of its calls. It just appeared to us. I guess it was meant to be.

So because the birds sometimes hide, we amuse ourselves looking at other North Dakota life forms. I think these may be red Angus cattle. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong. They look like Angus. Both red Angus and red Holsteins have finally gained favor after decades of culling because they were the "wrong" color.

People can be so arbitrary. And yet I have to admit that fawn-colored Boston terriers kind of bug me. They ought to be black or brindle red. Whatever these cattle are, they're certainly handsome mahogany red and rounded beasties.

North Dakota always inspires in Bill and me the most intense outbuilding envy. We have one outbuilding, the hardest-working four-car garage in Ohio. It is crammed to overflowing with two cars, four bikes, a lawn tractor, a Real Tractor, all my pots and potting soil, tools, bird houses, bird feeders, seed, feed of all descriptions, can barely get to your car. So I dream of loading a few North Dakota granaries on a flatbed trailer and hauling them to Ohio, where they would probably promptly rot and fall down. But a girl can dream, can't she?

Two granaries, linked together to make a fabulous little conference room at Dakota Sun Gardens not far from Carrington.

And there are always the barns, the beautiful barns. I have my favorites, like this one with the licheny roof and the mostly gone paint.

I love this barn for its incredible beauty, but also because Say's phoebe's live here, and the grove behind it is just full of orioles and house wrens and bluebirds and yellowthroats. When I see these photos I hear their songs again. We take festivalgoers here for a hit of forest birds when they've seen enough grassland birds for awhile.

And what do the children do while we bird? They go adventuring (their own word for exploring). Liam makes sure they both have adventuring sticks, which makes them feel safer.

He packed their Ohio adventuring sticks in his luggage, and carried them all over North Dakota, and got them back to Ohio only to have Chet Baker chew them up when they were left on the lawn.

A stick on the lawn is fair game. Chewing sticks is a big part of my job.

And from Ann Oliver, who was there, some freshly baked comestibles at the Woodworth Diner. Mmm, mmm, good...

The fabulissimo Rhubarb Coffee Cake Square. It doesn't look that impressive, but oh my goodness it was delicious. Rumor has it that Lynne has a recipe. Hmmm, Linney? Wanna share this gooey goodness with the world?
One thing I can tell you: I am planting some rhubarb this fall. All the signs point to it.

I am excited. I get to stay home for a couple of weeks and paint now, in one of my favorite times of the year--late summer, when the insect music is an overwhelming swelling chorus, when everything is blooming its head off, when the hayrolls march across the fields and the bluebirds gather on the wires, when the warblers start slipping through the birches. Mmmm. See you around!


I've got North Dakota Barn Smell in my head now--thanks for the hit. I love barn smell, even though my tendency to tip over--yes, it started early--led to some epic fragrance episodes as a youngster.

"Mary fell in the silage pit!" "Again?"

"Mary fell in the scummy water trough!" "Again?"

"You know that ditch right under the cows' tails when they're being milked? Mary..."

"Again? Again? Again?"

A yellow rail, you actually SAW a yellow rail ? That is serious bird karma !

The moment I saw the fist cattle photo, I thought they were Red Polls. Of course, your guesses might also be right, but there are some nice herds of Red Polls in North Dakota (and Ohio). They are a medium size, dual purpose, naturally docile breed which I hope to raise when I retire. I couldn't find a way to post a photo here, but there are photos on my blog from last autumn:

‎"Potholes & Prairie" Rhubarb Coffee Cake from the Woodward Cafe (courtesy of a local newspaper).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Have 9 X 13 pan available.

- 1tsp soda
-1C buttermilk
-1/2 C shortening
- 1 1/2 C sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 C flour
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 C chopped rhubarb

- 1/2 C brown sugar
- 2 TBSP flour
- 2 TBSP margarine
- cinnamon

- Soda & buttermilk. Add all ingredients EXCEPT rhubarb. Mix. Add rhubarb. Pour into a 9 X 13 pan.

- Mix brown sugar & flour. Cut in margarine.
Sprinkle on top of cake. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Bake for 30 minutes @ 350 degrees.

Posted by Annie O Birder August 10, 2010 at 6:04 PM

There was one thing about the photo of Bill calling in the rails that really stood out, and that was Bill himself. I have not read, but am familiar with, the book "Good Birders Don't Wear White". Perhaps some camouflage is in order!

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