Saturday, May 25, 2013


Whew!  It's been such a wacky weather year this spring, that we thought we were going to miss out on Morels!   What an awful thing that would have been.  But finally yesterday morning, after we'd given up on hunting them, Jim was out walking with the grandson, and just happened to find two, right beside the path.

About 20 years ago, I read this technique of planting morels in a likely place and tried it.   Just save the salty water you soak them in, add a little molasses to feed the spoor, and sprinkle it out in a likely spot.   Every single year since then, we've found a few.  Usually much later than we expect, but a surprise and delight, nevertheless.  

So after searching the whole area for about a half hour, we came up with 5 decent sized morels, the yellow late kind, and Jim fried them up for an evening snack last night.    Heaven!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Music Goes On.....

 This year marks the 100th Anniversary of Woody Guthrie's birth.  As part of the celebration of that great man's contribution, his son Arlo has made a tour of the country, bringing his songs to audiences all over.  Last night, we were thrilled to be in the audience in little Dowagiac, Michigan for the last concert of that tour.  Like us, the audience tended to be OLD fans, but with a few youngsters sprinkled among us.  

I've been a fan of Arlo's since the 60's and seen him in concert 3 times.   Last night was the best yet.   At 65, he still has that wonderful relaxed, sing/talk way of performing that carries you along the trip through Arlo's fertile imagination to see life through his slightly skewed perspective.  This time, stories of his father's music, life and history were woven through the songs.  As always, what a trip.    He told us of remembering standing at Lead Belly's knee at the age of two, and of going to a rodeo with Rambling Jack Elliott at the age of 18 and seeing the woman he'd later marry, and stay with for 43 years.

Getting a peak into Woody's songwriting style was eye opening.   The family has discovered thousands of unpublished songs, written lyrics only, with no music, because neither Woodie or Arlo ever learned to write music.   Some of the songs are now being sent out to various musicians by Arlo's sister Nora, to add music and bring them to life again.  

What a great mix of songs old and new as Arlo talked about the Oklahoma dust bowl years and how Woody felt about the shabby treatment of migrant workers, and followed that with his, "Pickle Song."  I could never figure out which I loved more, Arlo the storyteller, musician or songwriter, but that evening was a great combination of all of them.

He did break into a small sampling of "Alice's Restaurant," but promised not to inflict that whole song on us.   Said if he'd known how popular it would have been, he'd have made it a lot shorter.

On the way home, I thought a lot about what a history of our country is wrapped up in this one person.    So many of the problems that Woody's songs protested are still/again/yet with us today but Arlo can still face it with a positive outlook and song.  Those songs ring as true today as when Woody wrote them so many years ago.

Friday, May 17, 2013

You've Got to be Smarter than the Squirrel!

We love our birds here, and have two feeders up for them.  We do have multiple hummingbird feeders up, and they're humming with life this time of year.   For the seed eating birds, we have settled on two special kinds of feeders, and they're constantly busy with a wonderful assortment of finches, nuthatches, woodpeckers large and small, juncos, cardinals, rose breasted grosbeaks and the occasional Baltimore Oriole, and lots of wrens and purple finches. 

 We feed only black oil sunflower seeds and both feeders have small openings, so that only smallish birds can feed there.   One has a spring loaded top and when a heavier bird or squirrel lands on it, it sags down to block the openings completely.   The other feeder is a two liter pop bottle, with a metal part screwed onto the top.   Fill it with seeds, and mount it on a tall slim pipe, and it's just perfect for two birds at a time to feed.   Perfect, that is, until the squirrels figured out how to shimmy up the pole and rob the feeder.  Then they'd hang by the tiny perch and gobble all the expensive feed in a few minutes and cheat the birds out of their meal entirely.

We've gone through many versions of these feeders, before finally finding solutions that worked.    Jim made a stovepipe sleeve for the pipe that hangs down and blocks the squirrel from climbing the pole.    This was great until recently, when the ultimate squirrel moved into the neighborhood.    First, he went down the rope onto the hanging feeder, pulled off the lid and swiped 3 pounds of seed in one helping.  I got better at screwing the lid on tight and stopped that problem.

Then it climbed the back of a chair, launched itself through the air, came to rest on top of the stovepipe on the pole, and again, emptied the feeder in no time flat.    We moved the chair away, and he used a nearby tree for his aerial act.   Moved the pole and hammered it down into the ground again and it slipped down enough that he could get to it from the ground!  Dinner last night was a frustrating experience, as we watched that squirrel leap up for a snack before we chased him away, over and over.

So, last night, Jim raised the stovepipe blocker, moved the chair further away, and we ate dinner in peace, while watching that nutty robber try his best to get to the goodies.    He'd troll under the feeder, look up and bob his head up and down to gauge the distance, then launch himself in a huge leap, only to miss by mere inches and crash to the ground.    He'd get up, shake himself, twitch his tail in anger and stalk away, only to reappear minutes later up the tree, only to try again, and again and again.   For about two hours tonight, that squirrel tried every angle to get to that feeder.   I couldn't get any pictures of his aerobatics, he was moving too fast for that, but I did get other pictures.   Cute little guy, when he's not being a thief.

We finished dinner and sat across the room, to talk about tomorrow's plans, only to see motion out of the corner of our eye, as this flying marauder tried the target from yet another angle, without success.   If we didn't see it, we'd hear his failure, as he hit the stovepipe baffle and sent it ringing like a bell, against the supporting post.

In the growing darkness, we saw him trolling the spilled seeds on the ground, still twitching his tail in anger, and now and then standing up to chatter his disgust at his failure to gain the easy pickings.    Hopefully he doesn't figure it out, there's not much else we can do to deter this audacious robber, but he sure is entertaining to watch.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Our Annual Miracle

 Each year about this time, this beautiful magnolia tree in front of our house bursts into joyous, exuberant bloom.   I realized this spring, that this is now 40 years, I've been able to enjoy this annual miracle.  

When we bought this house, 40 years ago now, that tree was just about 5 feet tall, and I was very young, moving into my first home of my own, with my then husband and daughter.     It was my dream home in the country and we planned chickens and home grown vegetables, and all the joys that go with it. 

Who would have known that I'd still be here, all these years later, 3 children grown and moved on, after many years here alone, and now with a husband who shares my joy in the natural world that surrounds us.

 Now the tree is taller than the two story house.  We've declared the place to be a nature preserve, and share these trees with barred owls, pileated woodpeckers, hummingbirds, woodcocks, the occasional turkey, and lots of other birds and animals.

With all the good and great things around us, one constant surprise is this magnificent magnolia, returning to bloom each spring in a slow, timeless beauty.  
What a marvelous thing this is, to be able to watch this tree each year. 

Life is very good.