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Summer Flowers and Shameless Commerce

Friday, July 20, 2018

I can't find a time of day when I want to sit down and write a blogpost. I'd rather be loping along, grabbing images of late July. I've fallen into my delicious stay-at-home routine which keeps me healthy, happy and wise, if not materially wealthy. I wake up with the first cardinal at 5 and am out on the road by 6:30, enjoying the sunrise and the opening chicory and the long beamed raking light and shadows. I'm proud to say I have an addictive personality--but only for beauty and exercise and being outside.

I get a huge dose of all this every morning, and it sets me up for a day of painting blue jays for Saving Jemima. If that isn't a good life, I don't know what is. I'd love to share my new paintings, but Houghton Mifflin Harcourt frowns on that. October for it!

I thought last year was beautiful. This year, though...

Sweet peas and chicory, a rare Three Graces view in the back, plus bonus bumblebee!

Across the road, the very first tall ironweed bursts into bloom on July 18! Very early. It's announcing the festival that'll be going on in August, whetting my appetite for great swatches of royal purple, for the round heads of Joe-pye weed and dancing swallowtails of three species.

 Had to get those Graces in the shot. Not a great angle for the tree dancers, but with ironweed, a rising sun, and The Three Graces, how can you lose?

I've been having the kids drop me off a few miles down our county road on their way to work in the morning. We get a wee bit of car time, a bit more time to yak and be together, and I get to be out where it's most beautiful way earlier than I could get there if I ran from the house. It's fabulous. And all the ground I cover is new, because I'm only running one direction. Yes, I run the same road most every day, but it changes overnight. 

Chicory and rust-red dock seeds and hayrolls and a barn. Winning!

Yep, that's me, crouching by the side of the road, in case you were wondering as you sped by. I should probably wear a shirt with my Instagram address in big block letters. I amuse myself by thinking what they must be thinking as they smile and wave every morning. Oh, there she is. Doesn't get all that much running done, does she? Usually hunkered down peering at the flars.

On this morning's outing, I discovered that these glorious roadsides had just been mowed down. Goodbye, evening primrose and chicory...

 until mid August. See you then. That's what perennial roots are for.

I ran down our dirt road yesterday, singing our Rain Crows song, "Dirt Road." I'll sing it TONIGHT, July 20, 2018, at The Blennerhassett Hotel with the full band! That's in Parkersburg, WV, and we're playing 7-10 pm, old people's hours. If you're within striking distance, come see us. We'll be in the delightful rose garden if it's not raining, and in the gorgeous leather lounge if it is. Win win. From left: Wendy Clark, keyboard/vocals; Craig Gibbs, bass/guitar; JZ, vocals, woodwinds, percussion; Mike Austin, drums; Bill Thompson III, guitar/vocals.

Wasn't that smooth, to talk about our dirt road, then segue into an ad, then go back out on the road again?

Real good chicory skies on a side path.

I found a couple things on our dirt road that got me all excited.

First was a perfect, still shiny-wet pile of bobcat poop. Adult bobcat poop. Big stuff, maybe 3/4" in diameter, but broken into the short, square Tootsie Roll segments that say CAT. I was happy about that! That's the kind of cat I like to have spooking around my house.

Second was a little smashed bottle. I knew it would be good, because it looked like something you'd get at the Impulse Buy counter at a gas station, so I picked it up.

Nobody there to hear me crowing, first over bobcat poo, then over

tempt me sweetly

Alas, no bouquet remained, as it had been squashed many times over, but I was delighted to learn that one could enter a new world of sensual fantasies with a little alcohol, denatured water, fragrance and propylene glycol. Humans are such suggestible creatures. I'll spray this on and he'll go wild!

Thanks, I'll take the bobcat poop.
( I realized at this moment, with a small sigh, that I lead a very dull life by ordinary human standards. I find it incredibly exciting, but I get excited by things most people don't even notice.)

When I got home, Phoebe had Blackberry Cloud Cake, a Martha Stewart recipe, waiting for me. Sugared wild blackberries and pistachios top an impossibly light concoction of meringue and blackberry whipped cream. She had whomped it up late the night before, rolled it, refrigerated it, and had it waiting for me when I got back from my run. It's the food of angels. The tart blackberries and crunchy salted pistachios make it.

We had to do something with all those wild blackberries that have sprung up around our totally neglected oil derrick on the back 40. The company that leases the well is happy to take our oil, but is definitely not keeping up its part of the bargain to maintain the well. The welljack is busted and covered in brambles, and we're heating and cooking only on the natural pressure of the gas as it comes out of the ground, unaided by the jammed welljack. It's been out of commission for more than a year!! Makes me very nervous. Will the pressure hold all winter, keep my greenhouse warm?

 The only good thing about this deplorable situation is blackberries.

It is SO GOOD to have my girl and boy home this summer, together.

Things people don't even notice:
The 3/4", impossibly blue blossoms of dayflower. 

The Lamborghini of beetles, the dogbane beetle. With my cellphone reflected in his chrome. Click on this one.

 An oddly bent petal, 

which turns out to be the silken shelter of the wee looper who's been eating
all the true flowers out of the black-eyed Susan's eye, and leaving lots of
frass, too.

And under the silk shelter of the flower in the back?  

A yellow crab spider who has doubtless eaten the wee looper that went with this flower. Gonna have to click on this one to see the spider.'s the thing to do.

So. I've found myself far more interested in loping around, playing with my kids, cooking, gardening, looking at bugs, checking bluebird boxes, taking photos, and painting for my book than blogging frequently this summer. Not apologizing, because everything is free here.  However. I have a situation that has smoked me out, that I'm hoping someone out there enjoying this post might remedy.

I'm taking a group of ten travelers to southern Ecuador for a birding/natural history/photography/ridiculously fun and indulgent trip, October 24-Nov. 2, 2018. And I had it all sewn up, had a beautiful group assembled, and life intervened,  as it often does, and three people had to drop out at essentially the last minute. So I have three spaces open on a Holbrook Travel-sponsored private Zicktrip that's coming up fast.  Guiding will be me, the fabulous Mario Cordoba, and Ecuadorean guide Manny Lopez. That's three guides for ten people, and that's deluxe. Here are a few critters we saw in 2017.

 Booted racket-tail.

 Lubber grasshopper nymph.

 Donna, Mario, and our local guide scoping the canopy.

 Violet-tailed sylph. Lord, lord, lord.

Moustached antpitta.

 Plate-billed mountain toucan in the rain.

 Ecuador is SO MUCH FUN. Southern Ecuador will be new territory for me and Mario!  Traveling with a small group of 13 total, 3 of them guides, is wonderful. If you have the means and the time, and would like to join us, click this link! And if it fills right up, I keep a waiting list, so leave your email with Holbook. Thank you for reading, for noticing, and for indulging me on this rare two-ad post. I hope there's enough bobcat poo and floral lore to balance the shameless self-promotion.


I hope you have some well-heeled readers who snap those spots up! And from one poorly-heeled reader, I NEVER mind your shameless commerce. ;-)

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Geez, Julie!! If I weren't stuck co-leading a tour to Costa Rica Oct. 20-31, I'd sign up for your Ecuador tour in a heartbeat!! I'll bet those seats won't even last the day!

My ornithological guru? Along on a trip? How fun would that be?!? It’s looking better for sure. Thank you! Ecuador rocks, so hard.

My husband and I once spent a little too long laughing in the aisle of our local pharmacy over a body spray called "Sexiest Musk Fantasy". You just got me giggling all over again. I will take the bobcat poop too, thank you very much.

You, too, can smell like a polecat! What a fantasy! Snort!

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