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Blobs and The Meaning of Life

Monday, March 30, 2015

I'm kind of a linear person. I can't do one thing until I've finished the first thing. So when I have a lot of irons in the fire I go a little nuts. Right now, I'm trying to finish my new book. The whole manuscript and all the paintings are due April 15. Tax Day. The same day Phoebe's FAFSA is also due. 
I don't like all that coming due the same day, but it is what it is. If I didn't have deadlines, I wouldn't have two books and a third on the way. 

"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by." --Douglas Adams

So I've been trying to finish my book and I make great progress each day, sometimes writing a couple thousand words, but there is a lot still to do.
And then there's the blog, for which I post three times a week. 
The last time I was trying to finish a book, in spring 2011, I cut down from five posts a week to three. It makes my head spin to think about putting out five posts a week. Before that, I posted every dang day for many years. Seven posts a week.
I remember writing this whole long apologetic thing about how I just can't do five posts a week any more. Gaaah. Apologizing for cutting back to three? Zick. Give it a rest. 

Spring's coming on and I have all this fabulous stuff from Costa Rica needing to be shared. But the brink of spring is just such a wonderful time. I love it so, when everything is waking up. Beginning.

The ditches, suddenly full of blobs of protoplasm and promise.

Spring peeper eggs, wood frog eggs, mountain chorus frog eggs.
I can't tell them apart. I just know these are one or all of the three.
Feel free to correct me. Lots of people do. When you do three posts a week you're wrong a lot. Ha. I crack myself up.

I love seeing all those little embryos, beginning. I bless them as I walk by, like some kind of hillbilly St. Francis. Live long and prosper, little blastocyst.

On this 70-degree day from heaven, the ditches and puddles were full of red-spotted newts!

I usually see newts in small ponds, so it was a surprise to see them carrying on in puddles as if they were trying out being frogs. 

I love the sinuous, croclike way they walk, patrolling the silty bottom, looking for what? Other newts, probably, this being the end of March. It seemed to me that these creatures were not fully metamorphosed from red eft phase.  First off, they were walking on the bottom, not propelling themselves fishlike with finned tails. Their feet weren't webbed; their tails lacked the large laterally flattened fins. Furthermore, I didn't see the big gonads hanging down like I do on adult males. 

They seemed to be in transition to adulthood, and with it a fully aquatic form. They were tweeners. Teen efts. 

This one, the eftiest of them all. I felt privileged to be in on this interim event. Perhaps that's why they were hanging in small puddles, to get the feel of being aquatic before committing to pond life. Renting before buying. 

Also in the puddles were mystery blobs. So many mysteries, so little Science Chimp gray matter left.
It's all going to the book, friends. I stared for awhile. I knew what this was. It just wasn't coming up. 

So I poked it and sniffed. Very, very soft. No discernible odor, not even of fermentation. So not animal in origin.

 Ah. Finally the meaning of the mystery blob's brainlike pattern seeped through to my brainlike organ. Color was wrong, but I knew who'd thrown it there.

I looked up.

And across the road.

The distinctive arched branches and orangeish bark of the Osage orange.
These babies had been in the drink since October. No wonder they were gooshy and red.

"Try to be one of those on whom nothing is lost."--Henry James

Chet and I proceeded down to the terminus of our run, the beautiful shaly passage of Dean's Fork I love most.

The turkeys love it, too. 

The stream was too wide for me to jump across, but I liked watching Bacon dig the cool water. I wish I could drink wherever I go, like he does. If I could, we could run forever.

The old gristmill I loved so, collapsed in the same June 29, 2012 derecho that took my Garden Pod. 
I'll never get over having this gristmill fall down.  But there's still a barn there I can love. The gristmill used to be my destination. Now it's the stream, the black barn, the surprise teen efts. The road itself.

Nothing stays the same. Nothing is permanent. Only change can be depended on. People will come and go in our lives.

 I'm trying hard to let loose of it all.

"We must be willing to get rid of the life we planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us." --Joseph Campbell

Digging the Mystery Daffodil

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A fine spring day. The temperature hit 70 in the afternoon. Chet and I had to get out and see what was up on Dean's Fork, put a few more miles on the chassis. Just the sky alone would have been enough, but the warmth was intoxicating. To run in a tank and shorts, feel the warm wind on my skin.

A couple days later, it plunged to 18, and we got an inch of snow. Such is spring. 
This is why it's good to live in the moment, and grab it when it comes.

When there's almost nothing green yet growing, green catches the eye. I fixed my binoculars on these clumps across Dean's Fork. They look like daffodils, but there's no explanatory tumbledown homestead near. Odd. Could they have been washed out and deposited here by a flood? I don't know. Mystery abounds.

I picked my way across the stream. These are worth examining.

They're plucking at my memory. It's a daffodil, I think, but I can't recall what kind has such broad, round-tipped leaves.

You know what I'm going to do here. I'm going to go all Stone Age.
I search the stream bank for a trowel, and find a stone that's bladelike but cupped. 

Those bulbs are really in there, with long strong roots going down about 8". I have to dig for quite awhile to encompass them. Finally I can dig no deeper and am forced to pull the bulbs as gently as I can. Luckily, the roots come with them.

This takes awhile, and Chet settles down to bask and stand guard.

 She does this from time to time. Hunkers down and digs and mutters for a long time. I just wait it out. I have nothing else I have to be doing. This is what I do.

 Voila! I have my specimens. I take only three, and leave dozens of others in the two clumps to grow in peace.  Another cool thing about can take a little piece, and if you're patient, it'll replicate the original plant in time. You don't have to pillage the whole thing.

 I bundle them in wet leaves and leave them in a puddle, because I have several more miles to run. Well, traverse.

On down the road I come on the Peony House, the tumbledown structure where I found my beloved Dean's Fork heirloom peony years ago.

Here's how it looked in situ on May 15, 2014. This unexpected shot of white in front of a barely discernible structure. Once a proud part of someone's garden, now just persisting there because that's what peonies do best. Everything else has been subsumed by ragweed and ironweed and star chickweed, but the peony stands strong.

It makes me happy to see it prosper, even if no one but me ever sees it or kneels to smell its heavenly bouquet.

 Four years ago, in the fall, I dug two small eyes, planted them in my asparagus/rhubarb bed, and waited three years for them to make flowers. They finally bloomed in 2014. They should be wonderful this spring. 

P.S. It smells like roses in heaven.

Near the tumbledown house I see a small bulb sending up shoots. I crush a leaf, note its oniony scent and find it's an allium, decide to leave it grow. It's probably a little yellow one I already have. These are the places you find heirloom plants.

I pick up my bulbs on the way back up the road, bundle them in wet leaves and sandwich them between a couple of slabs of bark. I know if I root around Harold's weekend mancabin, I'll find a cup that will work better as a transport system. 

C'est voila!

I bring them home and plant them immediately in one of my terraced beds. I can't wait to see what they'll be. If these small bulbs don't bloom this year, I can still find out.

Because the next morning, I pull up at my financial advisor's office in town and find the same plant growing in a clump by the parking lot.  Ah! I knew it looked familiar. It may not turn out to be anything special. But then again it may.

Of course, there's always the chance mine are different. That's the fun of plants, and the mystery of finding them, digging them out and spreading them around. Someone years ago planted them at a homestead now long rotted and gone. And there they are, still fixing to bloom in the middle of the woods. Whatever they are, they've probably lived there a hundred years, winter after dry summer after winter.

The shadows grow long and we turn for home, thinking about spring and clouds, daffodils and dinner,  the enduring wonder of plants that persist. 

**So before evenfall, fellow gardeners on blog and Facebook have all decided that what I have here are NAKED LADIES! I'm so excited! This perennial amaryllis makes leaves in spring that die down by June. And in August, it sends up a surprise stalk of pink fabulous.  Hence the name. Surprise Lily is another common name.

This photo takes me back to a lovely time in 2011 when Nina and Tim came to roll around in August on Indigo Hill, and Chet was only six.
Thanks, everyone, for chipping in on the ID. I hope mine have a dusting of blue on the end of their pink petals. Divine!

Dogbombed again! Plus, Pileated Poop: How to Find It

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


I tried to take some pictures of coltsfoot. 

When I get down on my knees, Chet always trots over to see what I'm looking at.

Which makes for some interesting compositions.

Clearly, Chet considers my photos vastly enhanced by his presence.

I like this one. My car's in it. Plus, bonus dog winky.

It was a perfect spring day, with stripey shadows across my favorite dirt road. It got up to 70 degrees in the afternoon. I started writing at 7 AM, and I was done with a bullet by 3 pm.  We headed to Dean's Fork!

So, so beautiful.

A winter rosette. Not sure the species, but sure love the color, and the way the new warm-weather growth is green.

I was diggin' it so much. It started out a run, then devolved into a ramble.

I saw a tree that had been thoroughly woodpeckered. Only a pileated can make a hole like that. Well, up here in Ohio, anyway.

Anytime I see fresh woodpecker workings, I look for pileated poop in the pile of chips beneath the holes. It is always right at the base of the tree. Pileateds apparently drop their poo straight down as they cling to the bark.

I was not disappointed.

Lotsa poop.
A bunch of holes. 
This bird had been working here for a long time.

It was time for some pileated poop analysis. 

I crumbled it up in my palm. The most surprising thing in it was a very large horsefly head (outer left center). Its leg was there, too. I figure the woodpecker found the horsefly roosting under some bark. Not a typical prey item, though.

There were also sumac seeds  in the above photo (bottom center and top center, two species).

I crumbled the big curly poop and it was almost solid carpenter ant parts. Lots of nice black skulls. 

So now you know how to look for pileated poop. I led a bird walk a couple of winters ago for the Ohio Ornithological Society and we saw almost no birds. But thank God I saw a tree with fresh workings and was able to crumble up pileated poo in my hand. That made everyone so happy. Me most of all.

Mether, we share a predilection for sitting down on dirt roads and looking closely at poop. That is why you are the perfect dog person.

I resumed trying to get a good evocative photo of coltsfoot. This, growing in a streambed.

His dog radar kicked in.

and he bombed the shot again.

This is an infinitely more interesting shot with me in it.

Everything's better with Bacon.

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