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Come Lope With Me

Thursday, May 7, 2015

There's a line in This is Spinal Tap, where the 80's hair band is trying to make the best of a somewhat flaccid set of engagements, and Nigel Tufnel says something like, "People should envy us. I envy us!"

That is just one of dozens of lines from that brilliant Christopher Guest/Rob Reiner film that I love, that pervade my life and get repeated weekly. 

People sometimes tell me they want to grow up to be me. Which is very sweet, but also odd, when you think about it,  because I feel like I still haven't grown up. And don't ever want to. At some point I will have to concede that I'm old, but I guarantee I still won't have grown up.

That said, I never envy me more than on a May morning, when I get to check my bluebird boxes.
It's like Easter, every stop. You never know what the bunny might have put in your basket.  

Ritchie box, 05/05/15. This pair of eastern bluebirds got a late start, because they were waiting for me to clear the massive briars that had sprung up around their box. I also had to bring my sledgehammer and some stakes and reset the leaning box pole (the guy who cuts that hayfield always seems to clip it with his deck). I think she started building her nest the same afternoon I finally did that. I could feel her hot breath. 

So I was headed to drop Liam off at the bus, then run Duck Creek Road, one of my favorite resorts of late, to get a big fat bird list, "run" 4.5 miles, and check the two new boxes I just put up out there. I told Bill to take a morning to bird from the tower. He was delighted to do just that, logging 60 species before he had to take off for work! May.

A wisteria-covered barn said good morning! If it were my barn, I'd cut that crap off of it, but I'm sure glad the owners don't seem to care it's there. I borrow its beauty for the one week it's beautiful. I hate wisteria with a passion the other 51 weeks of the year. 

Speaking of invasive exotics, European garlic mustard is just now invading Washington Co. Ohio, and is just coming into bloom in shadier spots. You really can't find it until it blooms, and then you see it freakin' everywhere. I saw red when I spotted this big clump just blooming on my treasured wildflower safari road. It would all die, starting immediately. This is just one of about sixty reasons why I can never do a timed run. Too easily diverted by bird, butterfly, flower, sky, cloud, weed...

Before. You can see the tall spindly white-topped spires of garlic mustard (and hear my teeth gnashing).

And after my savagery. Now you can see the Virginia waterleaf, false Solomon's seal, yellow impatiens, and celandine poppy the garlic mustard was already smothering. The thought of this horrid exotic getting established and outcompeting the wildflowers on Duck Creek Road literally makes me sick. It loves disturbed soil, like the road grader makes, so it makes its first inroad along the road, then marches unstoppably through the woods, making a botanical desert of solid GM wherever it goes.

While I was pulling and throwing the budding mustard plants into the road, our elected Washington County Court of Common Pleas Judge and his wife stopped to chat and ask what I was doing.  They've been seeing me loping along past their house for months and took that chance to figure out who I was and why I'm always out with my little doggie. I was delighted to give them a quick lesson on GM identification and control. They'd never seen it before, and like most people, weren't aware of what it does. Randy offered to take the huge wad of plants home and burn them for me. I gladly took him up on it, warning him not to lay them anywhere first lest they release seeds. I told him I feel a sense of stewardship toward this county, and he said he does, too. 

Just a few hundred yards along, I found the biggest stand of twinleaf I've ever seen, and the white stars of Trillium grandiflorum. That whole green carpet is twinleaf and Dutchman's breeches. Ahhh. This is why I pull garlic mustard.

In front of the judge's home, a lost little least sandpiper was mucking around in the ditch. Poor baby. So tired, having flown all night. I let him be, wishing him a good feed and a good migration. Not one of my best bird photos, but I have only my phone when I run. He was species #29 for the morning, on a morning when I'd log 76 in three hours!! Ah May. May may may may MAY.

The fog persists well into the morning along Duck Creek. I love it, and make sure to get out by 7:15 so as to get max fog. It extends the birds' singing time, and cools me as I lope along. 
All too soon it will be hot, hot, hot. 80's all this first week of May. Arrgh. Not running weather, unless  you get out early and run in the fog.

The Bacon appreciates the cool, too. When he begins to lag behind me, I know my Dogmometer is getting too hot.

A not-so-old homesite, with remnant lilacs telling the tale of habitation, of where the front walk went.

By and by, the blue struggles through. 

And the woods is so full of song and promise.

In my next post, we'll check all my bluebird boxes, and see what's inside them! 


I don't know how many bluebird boxes you have, but I'm randomly guessing 21 eggs total!

Posted by Gail Spratley May 7, 2015 at 7:13 PM

Oh, are we playing Bluebird egg Bingo? ;-) Well then, I'll guess 36.

Posted by Anonymous May 8, 2015 at 3:58 AM

Beautiful piece. I too hate garlic mustard and spend many hours every year trying to eradicate it. Hopeless probably. But I sometimes discover morels when yanking the GM and I persevere thinking about future windflowers.. I love your blog and your books. Thank you for writing.

every year I tell myself that I will "not take the garlic mustard bait" and just leave it.... I have been criticized for not removing it: completely/correctly/at the right time.... there are tons of it, and if you take out 2000 plants, there are always two more that you missed.... there is a new big whopping patch near a stream that I walk by and it is adjacent to a yard so every time I pass I want start ripping it out, but it is not public land, so I just get irritated by it. It is edible so why can't we just convince people to eat it like kelp or arugala?

It's at this time of the year I always wish I had you along on our hikes through the woods. I'm no good at recognizing bird songs, having been without much of my hearing for far too long. So now with a portion restored I only know there're birds around! A few I know but not many. It's still fun thou.

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