The beginning of wisdom, as the Chinese say, is calling things by their right names. (E. O. Wilson, as cited by Elizabeth J. Rosenthal, Birdwatcher: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Just Didn't Get Around to It

April 30, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  Yesterday (I say “yesterday” because I am entering this on Saturday, May 1), I had to work at night but I also had work to do in the afternoon.  Moi had taken Mway out in the morning, and though I intended to take Mway out in the early afternoon, I just didn’t get around to it and finally it was too late and I had to get ready and go out.  So I didn’t have a chance to take Mway for a walk.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Confirm Morrow's, Still Not Sure About Pink Bush

April 29, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  Moi wakes me by clanging something in the bathroom, and when I get up I have the impression that she’s already taken Mway for her morning walk because the dog is lying in her bedroom and not pacing around.  So I don’t take her out for a walk until about 2 pm, an hour and a half before I have to leave for work.
State of the Path:  This morning I did more research online about honeysuckles bushes and learned much I think about Tartarian (pictured in Audubon), Morrow’s, Arum, and bella or pretty honeysuckle.  So the focus on my walk today is to try to identify the honeysuckle bushes better.  When I inspect the first couple bushes I encounter, by the outbuilding, by the pig pen, and out along the orchard, I do find today, contrary to what I thought yesterday or the day before, that they do have slightly hairy undersides, which seems to be the distinguishing characteristic of the Morrow’s honeysuckle.  None of the bushes I look at have an egg-shaped leaf with a tip at the end, so this seems to rule out any Arum honeysuckles.  The only other really different honeysuckle bush I encounter is down by the creek, beneath the big trees, closest to bug land.  This one has pink flowers that have not yet fully opened, and could be the pretty or bella honeysuckle, although this could be a Tartarian honeysuckle instead, which can have either white or pink flowers.  I see some bumblebees flying around the bushes as I look at them.  And the leaves are starting to come out in the big trees by the creek – pretty soon I’ll be able to tell if they’re oak or something else like ash.  These big trees are engulfed by the honeysuckle bushes, as well as by multifora bushes, and you don’t see any leaves on them except way high up.
State of the Creek:  Don’t pay much attention to the creek today, except to note that the sun is shining in the water and showing up the moss growing around rocks and sticks in the water.
The Fetch:  Because the gnarled stick broke yesterday, I bring the “pro-quality” one today.  Although she doesn’t overtly complain about it, and indeed shows nothing but enthusiasm, Mway only fetches the stick about four or five times.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Call Them Morrow's for Now

April 28, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  Moi and I both work today; I also work tonight.  I take Mway out shortly after Moi leaves, around 8:15.
State of the Path:  Last night I felt I made a great deal of progress toward identifying the shrubs on our land, but as I walk along today I see there’s much more to learn.  There seems to be one prevalent shrub, which might be the Morrow’s, but along the old orchard and in the area of the monkey vines and the boxelders, there seems to be a few shrubs of another type of honeysuckle that clusters right next to what I’ll call for now the Morrow’s.  Then down by the creek, among the big trees, where the Morrow’s crowd around the trunks of the trees, I spot a honeysuckle closest to bug land, which seems to be sporting pink flowers.  It’s cold this morning so the flowers are somewhat closed, and I hope on a warmer day to clear up my confusion.  Throughout bug land, there is yet another type of shrub: this might be what Moi has been calling Russian olive, but again I’m not quite sure.
State of the Creek:  Running slowly, quietly, and brown today.
The Fetch:  When I reach the clearing, Mway has wandered down through the field, and I have to call her to come up to the clearing.  Today I have the gnarled stick, which yesterday I thought to myself I like as much as the “pro-quality” stick I used for so many weeks: its gnarls are enjoyable to grip, and the burl makes the stick fly through the air nicely.  But on about the fifth toss the stick, stressed by Mway chomping on it, breaks apart into two pieces.  The half-piece that Mway brings back to me is just a little bit too small for me to enjoy throwing.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

They're Some Sort of Honeysuckle

April 27, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  Moi and I both work today, Moi having to leave earlier than I do, so it falls upon me again to take Mway for her morning walk, which I’ll probably have to do all week.  We go out about 8:30.  I find my father’s safari helmet.  It is in the basket with the cow skull.  I select a small stick from the bench on the porch: this one’s gnarled with a kind of burl at one end.
State of the Path:  Today my feet get soaked simply by walking through the wet grass.  I brush past and, particularly on the side path near the boxelder trees, stoop under those shrubs that crowd the path and that I still hesitate to call Russian olive or honeysuckle shrubs – the photos in Audubon depict these shrubs as having yellow flowers, and whatever it is I brush past and stoop under has white flowers.  I will have to bring an Audubon with me sometime, but unfortunately I don’t have the time today.  Again it is cool today, and most of the flowers have not opened.  It seems to me that we are past the flowering time of the trout lilies.
State of the Creek:  It rained last night, and the water, though not that high, is flowing strongly.  There’s cow piss foam hanging against the big log at the log jam.  Water is trickling in at the swale from bug land, and just barely creeping around the sandbar.  On the sandbar, shoots of jewelweed have come up, and there’s a single wild mustard plant jutting up in the middle of it.
The Fetch:  With the smaller sticks I’ve been bringing along, I no longer keep count how many fetches Mway makes, since it’s now typically far more than three, and closer to ten.  Again I make my first toss as I’m walking across the clearing, and Mway dashes after the stick and brings it back to me before I can take two more steps toward the end of the clearing.  On a number of tosses, Mway sprints off at angle opposite to that at which I toss the stick, and she has to make a sharp right-angle corrective turn to dash off in the direction where she hears the stick fall.
Addendum:  After I finish work, I come back home to mow the lawn about 5 pm.  The drive belt on my lawnmover comes loose, not untypically, and I have to push the lawnmower without any mechanical aid to mow most of the lawn.  I’m very tired afterwards, but while Moi is in the kitchen cooking supper, I take Mway for a second walk, just a very short one, past the summer house and down to the clearing.  On my way back, I tear off a twig of the shrub I’ve been talking about, and this evening I spend about 2 hours trying to identify it.  In the Audubon, I leaf more carefully through the wildflower book and eventually narrow my specimen down to a type of honeysuckle shrub – the photo of the Tartarian honeysuckle most resembles what I see outside (I hadn’t realized before that there was a special shrub section in the book or I simply missed the picture before).  But the entry also makes mention of the Morrow’s honeysuckle, though there’s not a separate entry or photo for that.  When I go online, I find photos of the Morrow’s, showing the white, five petal flower (that should turn yellow with age), the oblong leaves, followed by commentary on how this is an invasive species that likes disturbed areas – the only problem is that mention is made on at least one site of a hairy underside to the leaf, which does not seem to match with my specimen.  Nevertheless, I’m sure that the shrubs that I have to brush against and stoop under these days are, if not a Morrow’s, certainly some sort of honeysuckle bush – as Moi has been saying all along.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bushes Crowd the Path

April 26, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  I have to work both this afternoon and tonight.  And Moi has already gone off to work this morning, and, as she yelled to me when I was still in bed, didn’t have a chance to take Mway out.  So I prepare to take her out about 9:30.  It’s cold and rainy, so I wear my denim jacket.  When I look for my father’s safari helmet, I can’t find it, so I wear my orange wool cap instead.
State of the Path:  A couple lilac branches are hanging low over the sidewalk.  Since I don’t want to get too wet, I just stick to the main path, down to the creek and back.  It’s only drizzling, but at several places I have to brush against bushes, and my jacket and pants get quite damp.  The path in bug land is again puddled and soggy; at the seep I leave a rather deep footprint in the mud.  None of the flowers have opened up.  I hear peepers when I reach the sumacs, but when I arrive there, no sound seems to be coming from the pond between the ridges.  For the first time in a week or so, I feel my feet growing damp inside my boots.
State of the Creek:  The water in the creek is again high enough to be flowing strongly.  At the log jam, there is a bush that crowds the path, and it is very narrow walking between it and the pool behind the log jam.  With no sun out today, I can’t see to the bottom of the pool.  I take a good look at the bush that crowds the path, as the specimen here seems to be of the species most prevalent on our land.  Moi has told me that these bushes all over the place, some of them are Russian olives and others are honeysuckles, but when I look through the Audubon books just now, the photos for theses plants don’t look like what I see outside.  I’m going to have to get together with Moi and see if we can identify these shrubs with more certainty.
The Fetch:  Mway greets me at the clearing, and I make a first toss of the stick as I’m walking across the grass toward the one end of the clearing.  The stick sinks deep into some early shoots of goldenrod, and Mway has to circle around a number of times before she finds it, snaps it up, and brings it back to me for another toss.  I’ve brought one of Mway’s smaller sticks, one that she had left on the kitchen floor, and it’s evidently a stick she likes, as she fetches it a good number of times, enough times that I don’t bother counting how many.  The small stick is a good one for her to chomp on and huff at as she holds it in her mouth, and typically after a number of fetches she waits for me to say “drop it” before she lets go of the stick at my feet, then spins around and winds herself up to dash off after the next toss.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Have to Go to NYC Instead

April 25, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  With Moi and Barb in one car, and the Boy and me in another, we drive to NYC to set him up in his Harlem apartment.  As I expect, we don’t get home until after dark, and there’s no walk for Mway from me today.  I learn when we pick up Barb that Moi only asked Dennis to let Mway out, not to take her for a walk, but I suggest to Dennis that he could fetch stick with her if he wants.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pull Some Poison Ivy Off a Tree

April 24, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  Moi and I both work tonight.  I take Mway out about 3 pm, bringing along one of her small sticks that I find where she dropped it sometime or other next to the piano in the music room.
State of the Path:  Mway is already outside when I go out the door.  Near the pig pen, she roots at something in the ground, but immediately drops it – it’s probably a piece of plastic or something like that.   Notice ferns coming up in the path by the wigwams, and down by the creek, a few of the may apples have flowered.  There really are so many shoots of plants coming up now, that it’s overwhelming to note everything – I could spend an afternoon walking around with the Audubon book, and then who knows how much success I would have?  I think to myself that I should at least concentrate on the shrubs, and learn how to differentiate between the so-called Russian olive shrubs and the honeysuckles – and then there are the elderberry shrubs; they must be coming into leaf or flower by now.  The shrubs are very prevalent on our property, and very noteworthy on a walk, because they crowd the path in a number of places: particularly past the monkey vines by the old orchard, and down by the creek, just past the deer stand, among the tall trees, and at the feed channel to the skating pond.   Down at the creek, I start to pull off the poison ivy off the one tree, but my gloves have so many rips and holes in them, I’m hesitant to do anything but a half-ass job.
State of the Creek:  The water in the swale from bug land is only standing now, and it does not cover the sand bar just before the creek.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing I toss the stick as I’m walking across the grass; Mway runs after it and brings it back to me before I can take two steps.  Again I toss it, and she brings it back before I can take two more steps.  Finally I reach one end of the clearing.  Mway fetches the stick quite a few more times, then she plays the game of holding it in her mouth and growling until I tell her to drop it.  She drops it, barks as I’m picking it up, then fetches the stick a number of more times before she decides to run down the path on the way back to the house.
Addendum:  Tomorrow I’m taking off from work, and Moi and I will be taking the Boy to NYC.  It’ll be an all day affair, and I will not be able to take Mway for a walk.  Moi has asked Dennis to do the honors.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Oak is a Maple

April 23, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  This morning I picked some dandelion blossoms for my breakfast.  Unfortunately, our cool lawn does not get as many dandelions as a typical overheated suburban lawn does, so I didn’t have as easy a pick, this early in the season, as I would have liked.  But I did get a sufficient number of fairly good-sized ones, dipped them in “free-range” eggs and coated them in panko bread crumbs, and fried them in bacon grease.  I ate them with bacon, lettuce and a spring onion from our garden, and some more eggs that I scrambled and fried, and I sprinkled a dollop of olive oil over the whole thing.  Work tonight, and take Mway out about 2:30.  She’s waiting for me in the kitchen.  I select a smaller stick for her today from the pile kept on the porch bench.
State of the Path:  Yesterday I could have mentioned that the hedge garlic was starting to flower, although I didn’t notice that until I got in my car and saw some of the flowers under the lilac trees.  Along the path, the only place you see much hedge garlic is around the pig pen, and today I do notice that some of the plants are sporting little white flowers.  Along the old orchard, I see a new spot of jack-in-the-pulpits springing up, just before the monkey vines and the boxelder tree.  Down by the creek, I break off a few multiflora briars that are dangling down into the path.  Then down by the big oaks, I start to survey the trees for their leaves – most of the big trees here have not yet gotten their leaves.  One tree has some poison ivy starting to grow up at the bottom of its trunk, and in its crook are some of the yellow star-like flowers that I’ve been unable to identify.  I take a look at the big tree across the creek, where I had seen the red-bellied woodpeckers earlier this year, and which I’ve been calling an oak tree – the leaves on it are now a lot bigger, and I’m pretty sure I can see now that the tree is not an oak, but some kind of maple.
State of the Creek:  The sun is shining into the brown water, and the minnows and water striders are out.  In a few places I see what I think is duckweed growing, but there’s not much of it.
The Fetch:  It does seem to me that Mway prefers a smaller stick.  More than three, less than ten, fetches today.  On one toss, she overshoots where the stick lands; it bounces up and hits her rump, but she spins around and catches it in the air with her teeth.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Just When I Thought I'd Seen Everything

April 22, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  Work tonight, and I take Mway out about 2 pm.  I bring along the old “pro-quality” fetch stick, mainly to test my theory that it’s a little heavy for Mway and to see if she only fetches it a few times.
State of the Path:  There are more dandelions in the yard, and the lawn looks pretty with the dandelions, the violets, and the gill-of-the-ground growing amidst the grass.  We haven’t yet had any dandelion blossoms to eat, and I wish Moi, on the two nights that she cooks, would treat us to some.  The path right now is very easy walking, and the only plants that crowd the path are the honeysuckle and Russian olive shrubs and the multiflora bushes, particularly on the side path near the boxelder tree and along the creek, just down from the deer stand and in the middle near the oaks.  But all along the path, I see shoots of goldenrod and other weeds that I know will eventually crowd the path as the season goes on.  Among the pin oaks before the creek, I see a tree with peculiar blossoms – the blossoms looks like candlesticks attached to the branches, so the tree looks like a candelabra – I’ll have to keep a watch on this tree to see if I can eventually identify it.  I walk most of the path, seeing the violets, the gill-of-the-ground, the wild mustard, the dandelions, the jack-in-the-pulpits, the may apples, the cheeses, the few remaining trout lilies, the point blue eye grass, and the yellow star-like flowers which I still haven’t identified, thinking that I have seen no new wildflowers, when coming up along the strawberry field, I look down and lo and behold – there are some blossoms on the strawberries.
State of the Creek:   It rained a little last night, and there’s a little more water trickling in at the swale from bug land, but the water in the creek is not any higher than it has been.  With the grass now growing in bug land, the puddles in it now make bug land look like a marsh.
The Fetch:  Two fetches --  supporting my theory that the “pro-quality” stick is a little heavy for Mway’s liking.  Yet she fetches the stick without complaint – only giving me that eye when she runs past me, which seems to say, yes, I love fetching this stick for you but give me a break on this one because the stick’s kind of big and heavy don’t you know.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Take Advantage of the Boy

April 21, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  Here’s how difficult it can be to identify a bird.  Around noontime today I saw out our kitchen window a bird perching on the trumpet vine that grows up a post of our front porch (and grows through the roof by summertime).  I had a very good view of the bird and had a long enough time to observe it to go upstairs and get the Audubon bird book, leaf through its perching bird section several times, then even go find a paper and pen and jot down the color features of the bird and leaf through the Audubon again.  Here’s what I wrote down as the color features: black and white wings with brown tail feathers, brown nape and cap, black beak and a black goatee-like spot under its beak, white belly or breast with a black and white neckerchief or crest.  I found nothing in the Audubon to fit this description: no chickadee, no sparrow, no wren, no finch, no swallow, no vireo, no warbler, no thrasher – I’m even leafing through the damn book again – nothing.  What kind of bird is this?  I work tonight, and I was prepared to take Mway for a walk sometime before I leave around 3:45 pm.  But around 2:15 I hear the Boy taking Mway out the door and then in the distance the sound of her barking which means that the Boy is tossing a stick for her.  I’m going to take advantage of this – and not take Mway for a walk today.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mouse in the Pipe, Shoots of Jewelweed, Stick Breaks Apart

April 20, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  Work in the afternoon.  I get home about 4:45 and take Mway out for a walk.  I bring along a small stick that Mway had left lying beside the kitchen table, probably from her morning walk with Moi.
State of the Path:  Passing by the garden pond, I again note the new ground plant coming up all over the place and wonder if Moi had a chance to look at it so she can tell me what it is.  Before the pig pen, I hear a squeal, not sure if it’s a bird or something else, but immediately I see Mway sticking her snout in a PVC pipe lying in the weeds, so I figure it must have been a mouse that lives in the pipe.  I hear birds all along the walk, but I realize with the leaves coming out on the trees it’s harder and harder to see them.  Down by the creek, I realize that there aren’t as many trout lilies out now as there were before and that they must have passed their peak; the cheeses, though, are more prevalent.  I see some more of the same ground plant that’s growing by the garden pond, and it suddenly dawns on me what this is:  these are the first shoots of jewelweed, or touch-me-nots (which will grow higher all summer and not flower till late in the season).  I note that someone has stuck a stick in the ground near the pines in bug land; I don’t know if Moi stuck it there to indicate that she planted something, or if she or the Boy stuck it there because it is simply a fine looking stick: a long crooked stick with its top portion gnarled in such a way that it looks like someone carved a design in it.
State of the Creek:  There’s still some water in the drainage swale from bug land, but it is just standing and not trickling any more into the creek.  The water in the creek is very low, and in the pools it looks like it’s not moving; you can only see the water flowing slightly when it’s over the rocks.
The Fetch:  Mway definitely prefers the smaller stick, as again she fetches it more times than I bother to count.  But I have to admit to myself that I miss the bigger stick, the feel of it as I toss it, the transfer of force from my arm to the stick itself.  Because I can’t impart as much energy into the smaller stick, I only throw it within the grassy clearing itself, and on the second or third toss, after Mway brings it back and drops it at my feet, it even breaks in half.  After that it feels like I’m throwing a toothpick.  And, indeed, on one toss, the stick, instead of being propelled forward, flies twirling high in the air, landing well short of where Mway expects it to land and has already run to, so that she starts sniffing the ground wondering where it is, and I have to finally walk up to the stick and point it out to her.  But Mway doesn’t care how small the stick is; as long as it’s some sort of object that she can run after, pick up, and bring back to me, she goes after it with passion and determination – or at least what seems like passion and determination to me.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Difficulty of Mowing the Lawn

April 19, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:   Work late morning, early afternoon.  When I get home, I have to mow the lawn.  I don’t mind mowing the lawn, except for making the time to do it.  But it is a hard lawn to mow because of all the obstacles in the yard or along the perimeter of the lawn.  These include blackberry canes, multiflora briars, and other prickly weeds that jut into the yard, low hanging branches from the lilac bushes and other trees, the garden hose that Moi never wraps up, dead branches from the birch and willow trees, a screen door, tomato cages, a wash basin, and a plastic waste can filled with an old swimming pool liner along the garden, Blue’s grave and the mounds of dirt around it that Moi never shoveled back on the grave, a chimney that fell off the summer house, a big glass jug sitting in the weeds near the chimney, the various cat graves around a spruce tree in the front yard, a bathtub by the lilac bushes, a broken barbecue grill pushed back into the bushes, a stove pipe from a wood stove that Moi picked up one day and just lets sit under the spruce tree in the back yard with a bunch of other junk left there over the years, the swimming pool and the swimming pool filter and the wiki light posts that are lying on the ground around the pool, the frame of a wooden swing set that Moi sometimes uses to hang a deer hide on, a soccer ball and another old pool liner lying under the maple tree, two other wood frames for hanging deer hides, one propped against the corn crib and the other against a bus stop that my father had made for the kids when they were small and had to wait for the bus at the end of our long lane and which we now use as a make-shift lawn shed filled with items that we seldom or never use and that paper wasps like to build nests in, an old wooden canopied swing that’s hanging by rusty chains and covered during the summer with Virginia creeper, a cement block-lined fire pit in the middle of the back yard, the lawn furniture that hasn’t been used since the Boy’s parties with his college friends (the furniture including two metal chairs without cushions, the frame for a chaise lounge that Jazz got me for my birthday, a rickety picnic table, a wooden garden table with movable benches that are anywhere in the yard but next to the table, and a park bench with cement sides that it takes six people to move), a tipped-over metal cooler with legs, a couple recycling containers filled with beer and soda bottles from the Boy’s parties that never got recycled, various sticks that Mway has left lying around the yard which usually get chewed up by the mower blade but whose splinters are sometimes spit up into the air in front of me, some broken glass and a snow board by the old shed near the driveway, and a toy truck left in the weeds near a mound of dirt the kids used to play on when they little….When I get done with the lawn, I sit on the sofa in the living room for a minute, while Mway paces around the kitchen and every now and then sticks her head in the living room.  I take her out about 4:45.  Outside I had noticed before mowing that some one had found the fetching stick that I was fond of and had thrown it on the sidewalk, but I take one of Mway’s smaller sticks for our fetch today
State of the Path:  I don’t see any new flowers that have come up, although there are a lot of plants that have been coming up that I have not yet made mention of, mainly because I don’t know what they are.  One that I think Moi might know the name of is a pretty ground plant that’s coming up a lot around her garden pond – I’ll have to ask her if she knows what this is.  The hedge garlic is becoming more prevalent, the wild mustard growing higher, and I notice leaves coming up on the raspberry runners by the old orchard and shoots of blackberry runners coming up among the dried up old canes and in the path, which I try to trample on as much as I can to keep them from becoming impediments in the path.
State of the Creek:  Minnows in the pools.  The water going into bug land through the maples has dried up, but bug land is still soggy in the spots it usually is, but not so much that I get water in my boots.  My feet have remained dry for quite a few days now on my walks.
The Fetch:  Mway fetches the small stick a good number of times.  I don’t bother keeping count.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Have to Make a Phone Call Instead

April 18, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  Work all day today.  When I get home it is still light out, but Moi and the Boy confront me with a change in the Boy’s plans for moving to NYC, and I have to make a phone call to deal with that, which distracts me from taking Mway for any walk today.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Figure Out What the Mystery Tree Is

April 17, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  This morning I go online and google “tree with compound leaves of three.”  It takes visits to several sites, to compare information, but I’m very confident that I can now say that the mystery tree is a boxelder, which is a kind of maple tree also called an ashleaf maple.  The difficulty in identifying the tree comes from the fact that sometimes the tree has leaflets of five – which is why I didn’t find it in Audubon: the picture in that book shows a similar leaf, albeit with five leaflets.  But online I did find a photo on one site showing 3 toothed leaflets that looks exactly like what I see in the back acre, and on another site there was a photo of the flowers that I saw in the early spring, with a description on still another site describing the flowers as “borne singly on thread-like, drooping stalks…in clusters” that come out in early spring before the leaves.  And the reason I didn’t see them on the other specimens out there is that the boxelder is dioecious, meaning it has separate male and female trees.  The flowers that I saw are male.  Interestingly, the boxelder does not grow all over the Mid-Atlantic states, but it does appear in the Susquehanna Valley.  The tree is described as having an irregular trunk, with light gray-brown bark.  And because of its leaves of three, the boxelder is sometimes called the poison ivy tree (the resemblance to poison ivy is a thought I had a number of times while holding the leaves in my hand).  Moi hasn’t yet come back from Jazz’s.  It’s eleven minutes after ten, and I got to get ready to take Mway for her morning walk.
State of the Path:  It’s cold enough today to wear my wool cap and denim jacket.  Speaking of poison ivy, in the last couple days I saw its red leaves poking up through a cinder block by my car in the waste area between the driveway and our nearest McNeighbor’s yard.  I’ve also seen some of its red leaves in the side garden by the house.  I know poison ivy well, as I’ve pulled up tons of it over the years; indeed when we first moved here I had to pull up whole bushes that had grown over outbuildings and eaten away the wood.  These days now I still pull up some poison ivy every year, but mostly just whatever grows close to the house or threatens one of the yard trees or one of the outbuildings that we use.  The forsythias are starting to lose their yellow flowers, replaced by green leaves – I now know that the yellow things that first appeared on the forsythias are flowers; I’ve learned that some plants get flowers first then leaves, while others get leaves then flowers.  An example of the latter are the lilacs around the house: they’ve had their leaves for a while and they are now just getting their white or purple flowers.  I’ve forgotten to mention that the wild mustard’s flowers, which were green before, are now starting to turn yellow – or is it that the flowers are now just starting to get yellow petals?  And I’ve also forgotten to mention that the garlic hedge is coming up in more places and growing taller – there’s a lot around the old barn wall.  Most of the male flowers of the boxelder in the old orchard are gone.  I take a fairly close look at what I assume are the couple female trees growing nearby, and which I never really noticed until they had gotten their leaves.  These trees never had the same flowers as the other one, which had them in abundance, or any flowers at all that I noticed, but one of the trees seems to have some now: they are similar to the male flowers, but the threads are not as long.  Another tree that I’d like to identify is the one growing up behind the jack-in-the-pulpits.  Whatever kind of tree that is, it’s the same kind as the tree I see out my office window, and which I have to bend under every time I mow the lawn.  I’ll see if Moi knows what kind of tree this is.  I’d still like to know what the tiny yellow, star-like flowers are -- but, as I leaf through it again, Audubon is still of no help.
State of the Creek:  It rained last night, so the seep in bug land is again soggy.  It’s too cold for water striders or minnows to appear in the water of the creek, let alone the spring peepers, whom I heard again last night when I was coming back from work.  The flowers of the trout lilies and the cheeses, not to mention the dandelions, are staying shut today because of the cold.
The Fetch:  I’d say Mway definitely prefers the new, lighter stick, as she fetches it close to ten times today.  She’s already started to chew it away, though, and on my second or third toss the stick breaks in half, so I only have half the stick to throw after that.  Moi just walked in, and I ask her what tree that is outside the office window.  She thinks it’s a wild cherry.  So let’s see – Audubon lists a wild cherry as the same as a black cherry, and has a picture of one on page 136.  Perhaps this is what it is, but I can’t be sure until later in the season when flowers and berries appear.  Moi and I both work tonight, so I’ll probably end up taking Mway for a second walk this afternoon, but unless something unusual happens, this is all I’ll report on today.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Leaves on Most of the Trees

April 16, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:   It goes without saying that I don’t record everything that happens on a walk in this journal.  Most of the time the omission is by choice and necessity, but sometimes I forget to record something I wanted to.  For example, yesterday I wanted to mention that I saw the white posts along the path where Moi has planted the Douglas firs, or whatever evergreen trees they are that Ezra gave her.  I also wanted to mention that I saw another, what I guess was, a fritillary butterfly.  Today out the kitchen window I saw a tiger swallowtail passing by.  I work tonight, and this morning while I was in the music room preparing for tonight, Moi and the Boy interrupted me to tell me the amazing news that the Boy got confirmation that he’s been hired to work at CBS in NYC; he’ll be starting out in an entry-level position as a scheduler.  This afternoon Moi has gone down to Jazz’s to help her with some of her wedding plans; I’ve just been in my bedroom reading and relaxing.  I left my door open, and Mway quietly came in and was resting on the floor.  It’s now 2:15, and I’m ready to take her for a walk.
State of the Path:  I find the new fetching stick where Mway dropped it yesterday in front of the porch.  It works fine doubling as a walking stick.  Out at the old orchard I now realize that, whatever the mystery tree is, there are two more of them just beyond where the monkey vine dangles, hemming in the path just across from two honeysuckle or Russian olive shrubs.  You can’t pass this area without brushing against the leaves of the trees and shrubs.  Oddly, or perhaps only oddly to me, these other trees never had the catkin-like flowers like the other specimen, at least that I noticed, and you’d think I would’ve noticed them, but the leaves are the same: a compound of three.  Just before the jack-in-the-pulpits, I break off a number of multiflora stems that have started jutting into the path.  With the other stick I might have been able to beat them back, but the new stick is too light, and probably would break apart.  The muddy and soggy ground in bug land is starting to dry up a little, both near the seeps and along the ridge.  I notice even more spots of may apples, particularly two areas near the maples and along the back hedgerow.  Most of the trees now have their leaves, except, still, the ashes and black walnuts, whose gray branches stick up aridly above the new greenery.  The pin oaks before the creek, also, don’t have leaves; their dead brown leaves stayed on the branches most of the winter, and now they are late in getting their new leaves in spring.  I see a number of maple saplings coming up, even one in front of the skating pond, recognizable now as such, because I do at least know what maple leaves look like.
State of the Creek:  Where I crossed the creek a while back to look at the skunk cabbages, the water is low enough so that now there’s even a bed of small rocks to step on.  So I walk across the creek and dip under the wire fence to take a look at the cabbages, whose leaves are outspreading.   I note that there are even more cabbages along a little swale that comes down off of Hutchinson’s wood lot.  See the trout lilies, even more cheeses than before, and here and there the little yellow, star-like flower that I haven’t yet identified; point blue eye grass is even growing along the feed channel to the skating pond.  The first feed channel still has lots of orange water in it; the far feed channel is only muddy.   I hear a bird rattling in the oaks, and for a moment I think I see a female red-bellied woodpecker on a high branch; but whatever it is soon takes off and flies up through the field toward the top ridge.
The Fetch:  Mway fetches the stick I’d say about 7 or 8 times.  This supports my theory that the other stick, however much I liked it, was too heavy for her tastes.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Look for the Stick

April 15, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  Work tonight, but I spend all day running around like a chicken with its head cut off getting tax papers together.  After one initial trip this morning, I have to make a second trip to the tax lady, because she made some minor errors with attaching the payment vouchers to the forms, and, including what I have to pay for the Boy’s taxes because he can’t afford to pay them himself, I end up writing nine checks to fulfill all my tax obligations.   Finally I get everything done by 2:00, and take Mway for a walk then.
State of the Path:  Moi mentioned that Mway this morning had found the “pro-quality” stick that she lost yesterday, but that she lost it again somewhere on the path, so I take off this afternoon without any sticks, hoping I’ll find her stick before we get to the clearing.  I take the side path along the orchard to look again at the mystery tree, which appears just as inscrutable as it did yesterday.  As I’m walking along, so used to having a walking stick am I that I feel a little vertiginous and decide not to go down to the creek but to cut over right away to the clearing where Moi, I believe, said Mway lost the stick again.   As I double back on the side path, just before the cedar and the area of the flattened weeds, I almost stride past, what I’m surprised to find, a group of jack-in-the-pulpits, their hoods sticking so high above the ground for just coming up in one day.  I continue on, then, to the clearing, but I don’t find any stick, so I walk down to the creek where there are more sticks for me to choose one from.   As I enter bug land, I hear a pecking in the trees along the creek, and briefly catch sight of a bird’s red head – I think maybe I’ve seen my friend the red-belled woodpecker, but it flies off before I can observe anything more.  I walk across the plank over the drainage ditch of bug land, and find a suitable fetching stick along the path where it runs narrow along the creek.
State of the Creek:  I don’t look at the creek today.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, I have to call Mway, but she quickly comes running, and today I lose count how many times she fetches the stick, probably close to ten times.  The stick I found is about as long as the old one, but it is much lighter – and I think to myself, maybe Mway only fetched the other stick a few times, sometime only just once, because it was, after all, rather heavy for her.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mway Loses the Stick

April 14, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  In the morning it looks like I’ll have to work afternoon and evening, and won’t have a chance to take Mway for a walk again today, but as it turns out some of my afternoon work falls through, and I have time to take Mway for a walk around 2:30.  I have to change from my work clothes into my walking clothes, and find Mway in her bedroom, lying on the floor, near Moi lying on the bed, but awake.
State of the Path:  I am very tired today and suffering congestion from allergies or a cold, so I don’t feel like looking at much.  But it is a pleasant walk, a nice cool day.  In the old orchard I walk toward the kids’ old fort to look for jack-in-the-pulpits, chasing away a squirrel, which Mway only senses vaguely.   I find no jack-in-the-pulpits, but notice, as the sun shines down on their green parasols, that there are actually about six different spots where the may apples have come up in the orchard; this is in addition to the may apples down by the creek, below the deer stand, with a few further up where the path narrows.  The violets have also spread from the orchard into the field; and down in bug land the point blue eye grass is spreading across the soggy area by the pines.  I think I even see some of the point blue eye grass in the strawberry patch, although that could be strawberry blossoms, I’m not sure.
State of the Creek:  Some very large minnows in the pool behind the log jam.  Water striders again cast shadows against the rocks, that make the bugs look three times the size they really are.
The Fetch:  One fetch – which is all right with me.  But when I arrive in the back yard, I see Mway running by the side of the house, after visiting the Boy, who is scraping paint in the front yard, and she doesn’t have the stick in her mouth -- the fine one that I’ve been using for months.  “Where’s your stick?” I raise my arms, and we go to the front of the house, and eventually throughout the yard, looking for it.  Moi comes out into the yard, and I tell her what has happened.  “That was a pro-quality stick,” she commiserates.  I look around a few more minutes, then finally give up – I will probably find it next week when I’m mowing the lawn.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Day Has Me Doing Something Else

April 13, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  Drive Wade to his doctor in Philly.  When we arrive back, the pharmacist at the pharmacy where Wade fills his prescriptions reveals that he is a neighbor of mine, living on F_______ Road, and tells the story of a party at the old farmhouse just west of Hutchinson’s.  The owner of the farmhouse and host of the party was a construction worker who owned a bulldozer.  He had a fight that night with a friend, and in a drunken rage, dug a hole with his bulldozer and buried his friend’s Volkswagen in it.  The man told his friend that when he apologized he would dig up the Volkswagen.  The friend never apologized, and the man committed suicide a few years ago.  The Volkswagen is apparently still buried in the field.  No time for a walk for Mway today.  Moi tells me the dog was moping all day, even sitting in the armchair in my office, sighing.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Long Hour's Delay

April 12, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  Work late morning, early afternoon.  When I get home, I disappoint Mway by putting on my boots and father’s safari helmet, and then going out the door, not to take her for a walk, but to mow the lawn.  I mow most of the lower part of the yard, edging around the trash that Moi has neglected to burn, and, after picking up willow and sumac branches blown down over winter, spot mow on top.  At places the flowering gill-of-the-ground is about 8 inches high, and the Pennsylvania bittercress is 2 feet high.  I keep the blade on the mower high, because Moi and I both like these weeds growing in the lawn.  The bittercress probably won’t grow back, but the gill-of-the-ground will continue to flower, along with the blue violets.  Unfortunately, compared to our McNeighbors, we don’t get a lot of dandelions in our yard – we would like more because the flowers, dipped in egg and rolled in breadcrumbs then panfried in oil, are delicious.  My mower goes over the few dandelions without touching them – I look forward to more coming up soon.  When I get done, about 4:45, I go into the house to get Mway for her walk.  As I pick up her fetching stick off the bench, she barks, releasing her pent-up frustration from having to wait for me for an hour while I mowed the lawn.  I decide not to bring my walking stick today – the snow’s gone so I don’t have to worry too much about slipping, and the fetching stick, if I need any kind of walking stick, will work as one for most of the walk.
State of the Path:   The may apples, in the four or five spots where they’re growing, have all now spread out their parasol like leaves.  I look again at the mystery tree – shaking my head as I note how it has come up crooked, and almost looks like a mutant shrub.  Redwing blackbirds are screeching in the back hedgerow, about the only birds I see today, except for a turkey vulture flying over Hutchinson’s wood lot.  In the last few days, some hedge garlic, or wild garlic, has come up.  Running down the still muddy path by the wigwams, Mway puts a big fresh paw print in the mud, which fills up with water spilling in from an older paw print.  I see the point blue eye grass, the white cheeses, the yellow trout lilies, the green wild mustard, and down by the creek I pick a specimen of a little yellow flower that has come up – but I don’t find it in the Audubon and Moi doesn’t know what it is.  Her sweet flag is about two feet high now in the orange water of the feed channel, which I nearly fall into as I step across it – should’ve had my walking stick; I could’ve used a second stick to pivot myself.
State of the Creek:  The water is low enough now that it’s hard to hear any gurgling over the rocks.  The only place I hear the water over the rocks is at a narrow place down by the oaks.  Beyond that, the creek makes a bend, and there is a pool of water, even deeper than the pool behind the log jam.  I see minnows in the pool, and gnats swirling above it. This is also where Moi and I saw the snake the other day, leaping out of some leaf and branch debris.  I suspect this is where the mallards like to come to feed, but I haven’t seen them since Mway and I chased them out the other day.
The Fetch:  For all her frustration while waiting for me to mow the lawn, Mway only fetches the stick once.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Unable to Identify the Odd Tree

April 11, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  Work all day today, but I expect to get home tonight while it’s still light out and can take Mway for a walk.  Right now I’m looking through Audubon’s wetland book in the section on snakes.  The kind of snake we usually see down by the creek is, from what I can tell, the eastern ribbon snake.  Moi and I didn’t get a long look at the snake we saw yesterday, but it was definitely brown and patterned: possible candidates are the brown snake or the northern water snake – who knows?  Right now – I just had a feeling of déjà vu.  It was very weak, and it didn’t last long.  I get home from work about 6:30, and ask Moi if Mway needs to be taken for a walk.  Moi says that she wouldn’t mind one, and indeed Mway is pacing about the kitchen like she’s expecting one.  Then Moi says that Mway didn’t eat her breakfast until about 2 pm, and suggests again that it has something to do with some sort of expectations Mway has of my taking her for a walk in the morning.  I put on my walking clothes and, because I’m tired, I tell myself that for this walk I’m going to focus on nothing except trying to identify the unknown tree in the old orchard.  Because I don’t expect to observe any birds, I put on my father’s safari helmet.  Though I probably should, I don’t bother to carry along our tree book.
State of the Path:  Just before the sumacs, Mway squats to take a dump.  Because I’m walking too close to her, she squirts out just a little poop, then runs ahead to try again.  I stand still to let her poop, and I notice that her thighs are quivering and that she seems to be having a hard time.  I’ve never seen her straining so much to poop, and my first thought is that, maybe without us even realizing it, Mway is getting old, and maybe that’s also why she’s not fetching as much these days.  But as I’m walking along, I think about Mway not eating her breakfast, and think maybe Mway is just experiencing some digestive tract problems, perhaps from eating something or other outside.  On the side path, it seems some sort of ground plant new for the season has started to come up, but I leave trying to identify whatever this is for another day.  Out in the old orchard, I take a long look at the leaves of the unknown tree: the leaves occur in triplets, with serrated edges on top, and the left- and right-most leaves forming a sort of left and right hand.  Audubon has different sections in its field guide to North American trees for narrowing in on an identification:  I leaf through the photos in both the sections labeled “toothed simple leaves” and “compound leaves.”  I find nothing that looks like the tree growing in our old orchard – what am I suppose to make of this?
State of the Creek:   At the wigwams, where water has been trickling into bug land, there’s nothing really there now but spots of water, but down at the drainage area, water is still trickling along, if ever so slightly.  On the side of the ridge along bug land, the ground is still soggy, but on the other side of the ridge, the ground is drier, and I manage to walk all the way to the clearing without any water seeping into my boots.
The Fetch:  Only one fetch – but as Mway runs past me and heads to the path back to the house, she seems to give me a guilty look.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Slithering from the Debris

April 10, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:   Early today Moi expresses a concern that Mway has not been eating her breakfasts – at least not until I arise in the morning and start milling around the kitchen.  She thinks maybe, as a result of her being away for a few days, Mway has gotten it into her routine-making head that I’m the one who should throw food in her breakfast dish.   I have no idea what goes on in that dog’s head, I think to myself.  Both of us work tonight, and I take Mway out about 3:30.  Moi decides to come along.
State of the Path:  We check out the garden, the chickens following behind us, Moi mentioning that the onions and lettuce are about ready to pick.  Moi points out that the birch tree in front of the garden looks like its dying.  In the old orchard, we look again at the tree with the odd seeds – neither of us has yet gotten around to identifying it.  Moi removes a branch sitting in the side path; I walk over the red willow that I’ve been regularly walking over, hoping to keep it from growing into an impediment in the path, even though there are green leaves on its branches now, and it so obviously wants to live.  Moi wonders exactly what kind of maples are growing down by the wigwams, anticipating that she might be able to tap more trees next year for syrup.  Down by the creek, she points out where she thinks locusts and hawthorns might be growing.  “I would like to identify better what kinds of trees we have growing on our land,” she says.  By the pines in front of the ridge, she points out again to me how there are a number of saplings coming up, and mentions that Ezra has given her some fir trees to plant somewhere.  “See, there’s that willow I planted several years ago.”  “Where?” I ask, seeing only some pathetic little tree without any leaves.  “Over there,” she says.  Then I look across bug land and see, behind the Boy’s paintball barrier, a sizable willow tree. “You planted that?” I ask, in amazement, “I’ve never noticed it before.”
State of the Creek:  Moi notices some minnows in the pool behind the log jam.  Then further down, she exclaims, “Ooh, I just saw a snake.”  I look where she’s pointing, at an area along the bank chocked with branches and leaf debris.  Then, as I’m looking, I see the snake leap from the debris, then swim back under the bank.  “Yeah, I just saw it too.”  “What kind is it?” she asks, “Is it a copperhead?”  I hesitate, because I don’t really know what kind of snake it was.  “Well, it wasn’t black and it wasn’t striped like lots of the snakes we see.  It was brown, with a pattern on it.  So I’d say you should be careful when you walk down here.”  “I’m not going to be careful when I walk down here,” Moi says facetiously.  “If it’s a copperhead I’m going to try to pick it up.”
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, I tell Moi to stand out of the way as I toss the stick.  One fetch.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Wild Mustard and Point Blue Eye Grass

April 9, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  A couple days ago, while driving to work down O__ C_____ Road, I saw two turkeys crossing the road; Moi has mentioned that she’s heard turkeys gobbling up in Hutchinson’s woods.  Yesterday, while Moi and I were out, I caught sight along the road of a grackle – it looked exactly like the picture I’ve been looking at in Audubon, black with a blue head.  A few weeks ago I also saw a starling outside my bedroom window, which matched perfectly with Audubon’s photo, black with speckles of white, sort of like Mway’s coat.  After seeing these two birds close up, I’m not sure anymore that the flocks of black birds I saw a month or so ago were starlings; they may have indeed been flocks of grackles, and the Audubon description of their voice – “Clucks.  High-pitched, rising screech like a rusty hinge” – jibes with my memory, although Audubon’s description of the starling’s voice – “a series of discordant, musical, squeaky, and rasping notes” – does not contradict it.  Perhaps there were starlings and grackles together, also with cowbirds, as Moi tells me that Ezra Glock has suggested that these birds flock together.  Once again I have to say – who knows what I’ve seen?  I have some work and errands to do in the afternoon.  When I come back, about 2:30, I take Mway for her walk, before going to work tonight.
State of the Path:  Moi is outside shaving more saplings for Wigwam II.  She complains that the chickens are prowling around the back porch, knocking over clay pots.  It’s cold enough today to be wearing my denim jacket.  Most of the trees, the birch tree by the garden, the willow by the corn crib, all the maples, are getting their leaves -- I’d say all the trees except the black walnuts and the ashes.   The wild mustard has grown considerably, and has gotten flowers, which are still green, not yellow like they eventually will be.  There are so many plants coming up now I wish I had the leisure today to identify more – maybe I’ll have more time tomorrow.  I pass by Moi who’s now down at Wigwam II tying up her saplings as poles.  In the middle of bug land, I see an area of point blue eye grass growing.
State of the Creek:  Despite the rain we had last night, there’s not much more water in the creek than yesterday.  A multiflora bramble snags my pant leg, and I beat it back with the fetching stick (which is actually a little bigger than my walking stick).  Mway spends a lot of time sniffing on the ground on the other side of the creek.  I hear a lot of birds, including some sort of whistling bird that has a call that sounds new to me – but I don’t have time to linger and look today.  By the ridge along bug land, water suddenly seeps in my one boot, and it is ice cold. 
The Fetch:   Up at the clearing, Mway greets me, smiling, and she seems ready for a bout of fetching.  But what do you know – again, just one fetch today.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Violets, Gill-of-the-Ground, Cheeses, and Shadows of Striders

April 8, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  After we visit the tax lady in the morning, I take Mway out about 12:30, so I can rest up later for work tonight. 
State of the Path:  When I step out on the porch, Moi is on the stoop, shaving off the bark of a sapling for a pole in her new wigwam, which she calls Wigwam II.  As she carries the sapling down to the wigwam, with Mway following her, I go out to the old orchard to look for jack-in-the-pulpits, which Moi says I might find now underneath the kids’ broken down tree fort.  I don’t see any jack-in-pulpits, but all throughout the orchard floor, mixed among the spring onions and other grasses, I see purple flowers, which I first mistake for gill-of-the-ground but later learn from Moi are violets.  Audubon suggests to me that they may be either dog violets, which have leaves and flowers on the same stalk, or common blue violets, which have leaves and flowers on separate stalks – if I remember, I should be able to tell tomorrow which ones these are.  I meet Moi down at her wigwam, and we walk down to the creek.  There Moi points out to me some gill-of-the-ground, which I now am reminded actually has more of a blue flower than a purple one like the violets.  She then discovers some of the little white flowers that I had first noticed a week or so ago (they are a little bigger now) – and she tells me they are cheeses.  “What?’ I ask.   “Cheeses,” she repeats, “Like cheese, only cheeses.”   And indeed I find cheeses listed in Audubon, although the leaves in the photo don’t look like what I remember seeing down by the creek.
State of the Creek:  Moi watches some water striders in one of the pools of the creek and says, “I like the way the water spiders cast shadows.”  I look into the pool to see what she’s talking about.  I see a couple striders, and they seem to have big globular appendages attached to their undersides that move in tandem with their upper body.  “That can’t be their shadows,” I exclaim, as Moi walks away.  And I look at the striders for a while, and only when I see one pass very close over a rock and the globular appendages disappear am I convinced that I’m looking at shadows.  I come to realize that when the strider passes over a rock that is deep enough in the water, the sun casts a shadow onto the rock that distorts their spindly legs into fat blobs encircled by a ring of light.
The Fetch:  One fetch.  When I get back into the house I am sweating and dying for a glass of ice water.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dandelion Flowers, Green Grass, and Cabbage Butterflies

April 7, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  Yesterday afternoon I did finally end up mowing some of the lawn, just the lower portion where the grass was getting high.  In the front yard and the side yard, I left whole areas of Pennsylvania bittercress untouched.  It’s amazing how, once you name something, you see so much of it around.  I take Mway out about 1:15, so I have time to rest up before going to work tonight.
State of the Path:  Mway runs through the chicken flock then heads down toward the summer house.  I decide to take the reverse path, but as soon as I do, Mway is not around, and I have to call her to come along.  At the edge of the lawn, I see two dandelion flowers.  I manage to get through the soggy ground around the ridge without much water seeping into my boots.  The weather is too warm for my long-sleeved shirt and wool cap – normally by this time of year I would no longer be wearing the cap, but I’ve been favoring it, for bird viewing purposes, over the wide-brimmed safari helmet.  The water in bug land is turning an oily color; in the feed channel, where Moi’s sweet flag are growing well, the water is almost orange.  The foot holds are drying up, so it’s getting easier to cross the feed channel.  Lots of trout lily flowers, and I see what I believe are the blue flowers of gill-of-the-ground.  I hear a splash in the creek again – the frog.  Along the seeps of bug land, I try to walk on the new grass coming up, so that doesn’t end up getting too high.  May apples seem in abundance – I notice a new area of them coming up near the two anthills on the path along the old orchard.
State of the Creek:  There’s still water trickling into the creek from bug land, but around the wigwams the water is drying up.  Behind the big log of the log jam, there is a slight scum on the water, but I no longer see the huge piles of cow piss froth as I did when the spring waters were rushing along.
The Fetch:  Up in the clearing, I see two what I assume are cabbage butterflies.  One fetch.  On the way back toward the walled garden, Mway drops the stick to sniff something on the ground.  I end up carrying it back to the house, and laying both sticks against the side of the house.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Identify the Ghost Flowers as Pennsylvania Bittercress

April 6, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  Last night Moi downloaded a bird identification app on her iPhone.  It show pictures and plays bird calls.  It seems like an ideal resource, but I don’t know how much use I will be able to make of it.  I’ve never had a cell phone, and the only way I might be able to use Moi’s is to bug her to use it for me.  As it turns out, I have no work today, but I do have to go out on work related errands, including getting gasoline and oil for the lawnmower.  I hate to begin mowing the grass, but it is getting high in a few places, and since my mower won’t go through high grass, I worry about keeping up.  I take Mway out for her walk about 4:30.  Just now, Moi has called me down to her computer.  She has been looking online to try to identify the ghost flowers, and she found a site with a lot of photos, showing plants at different perspectives – and yes, indeed, we found our plant: it’s Pennsylvania bittercress.
State of the Path:  Moi follows me out as far as the outbuilding, where I’ve seen and heard a lot of bees.  Moi worries that the bees might be making a nest in the building, and I worry too, because that’s where I store the lawnmower during the summer.  It’s very warm today, almost too warm for my long-sleeve workshirt, but because of ticks, I’ll wear this all summer along.  Throughout the field now, it seems there’s a layer of green, sometimes showing quite conspicuously, sometimes partially hidden under the brown dead goldenrod and blackberry brambles.  The wild onions in the old orchard are high, and joined together now by other grasses.  Over the grasses are the light green leaves of the Russian olive and honeysuckle shrubs, beneath the still gray black walnut and ash trees, which are the last trees to get their leaves.  Down by the seeps in bug land, the new green grass is already about six inches high, and there is new green grass sprouting all among the dead brown grass of bug land.  I see even more may apples coming up than I did yesterday, and I delight in seeing the yellow trout lilies, sprinkled along the banks of the creek.
State of the Creek:  As I walk along, I wish I could identify the birds I keep hearing.  The creek water is brown, and it’s barely moving in the pools.  Beyond the oaks, I hear a splash in the water – I don’t see what it is, but I guess that it’s a frog.  Last year dozens of frogs would leap in the creek water as I walked on a typical summer day along the bank.
The Fetch:  The clearing is now all green grass, and some of it’s getting high.  When I get there, I don’t see Mway, but then I spot her sniffing around in the sumacs.  I call her, and to my surprise, she doesn’t come running over to me right away.  I call her several times, and finally she comes.  I toss the stick once; she dashes after it; then she runs past me to head back to the house.  As she’s walking by the sumacs, I see her duck her head to peer once quickly through the trees – in the hope of maybe catching sight of whatever it was she was sniffing at before.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Moi Comes Along to Help Identify Things

April 5, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  Work this afternoon, get home and take Mway out about 5.  Moi comes along, in particular to look at the tree with the long seed strings in the old orchard.  I bring the binoculuars.
State of the Path:  Walking from the walled garden, Moi worries that the chickens will follow us down the path.  “Just move quickly,” I say, “They won’t follow too far.”  I show Moi the tree – she thinks it might be some kind of ash, and she is intrigued that it bloomed so early.  I point out some of the ghost flowers.  “I think maybe it’s just white clover at an early stage,” I say.  “No,” Moi disagrees, “It doesn’t look like clover.”  I point out to her all the green shrubs around.  “Why do you call these wild olive shrubs?” I ask, since I’ve never seen that listed in Audubon.  “Russian olive,” she corrects me, “Some of them are Russian olive, and some are honeysuckle.”  Down by the creek, I point out the skunk cabbage, the may apples, and the trout lily leaves – and then suddenly we both realize, all along the creek, so many of the trout lilies have blossomed, showing their yellow flowers.  Then, after we’ve walked the plank across the drainage area to bug land, to my surprise, Moi steps into my foot holds over the feed channel and ventures along the skating pond; I follow, telling her I haven’t been able to find any of the colt’s foot she mentioned.  “No,” she says, “They don’t come up here.  They’re usually by the bank over there,” and she starts back over the feed channel.  I start to follow, then realize I’m stepping on some new small purple flowers, and I call Moi back.  “That’s point blue-eyed grass,” she says.  Then we both walk over by the pond between the ridges where Moi says the colt’s foot comes up.  “Maybe it’s gotten too shady for it to come up here,” she says.
State of the Creek:  A little water is still trickling into bug land up by the wigwams, and flowing from bug land into the creek.  As we walk along, Moi asks me if I think the creek has gotten wider.  I don’t think it has.  “I think it has,” she insists.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, I move to the far end to throw the stick, Moi standing nearby.  But Mway has stopped in the middle of the weeds in the field and is sniffing the ground, and I have to call her up.  “Maybe she’s found something,” Moi says.  Mway responds promply to my call, and comes running up through the weeds, smiling, into the clearing.  I raise my stick behind me to give it a good toss, when I hear a loud whack, and Moi yelling.  I look around me, and she is clutching her elbow.  “Did I hit you,” I shout.  “Yes,” she shouts, and starts walking on the path back to the house.  “Are you okay?”  I ask.  But Mway is waiting for me to throw the stick, and I give it a toss.  3 fetches.  Back in the back yard, Moi is leading the chickens back into their cage.  Mway is standing in the yard, without her stick, and anxious about the movement of the chickens.  She picks up another stick, and jostles it to coax me to throw it, but I walk over to the porch.  I see that she has dropped the other stick at the door, and I pick it up and lean it against the house along with my walking stick because Moi is concerned that our wild bees, which for years now have nested in one of our chimneys, have strayed to the bench, and she is going to move the bench tonight by the chimney, to urge them toward their usual nesting place.

Monday, April 4, 2011

It Doesn't Matter It's Easter

April 4, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  Unusual for me today, I have no work.  Later on Moi, the Boy, and I plan to go down to Jazz and Matt’s and have a meal with their neighbors.  Moi has to go out this morning to get a new door knob for our back door, which broke last night, and, though she has taken Mway out in the back yard to throw stick, she asks me to take Mway for her morning walk today.  I oblige, around 9:15, and bring along my binoculars.
State of the Path:  Right out the door, I see what I’m pretty sure is a mourning dove standing in the driveway.  I bring up my binoculars, and immediately realize that I’ve forgotten that I’m wearing my bifocals, which makes the view through the binoculars not so good.  In the walled garden, I see some robins, and try the binoculars one more time – not good again, and I let them just dangle for the rest of the walk.  In the corner of the old orchard, I see may apples coming up – where they generally come up every spring.  They may have been there days before, but this is the first time I notice them there.  I take note that I’ve been keeping the side path pretty well trampled down, but there are shoots of blackberries or dewberries starting to come up, and I realize that, unless I’m diligent about walking this way, this side path may very well become impassible by summer.  Down by the wigwams, water is still trickling into bug land.
State of the Creek:  I decide to go over to look at the skunk cabbages – I may get my feet wet, I figure, but what the hell – I’ll get them wet anyway when I pass through the ridge around bug land.  Amazingly, I manage to step on the rocks without any water seeping in my boots.  Most of the skunk cabbages are in their leafy stage, but I see three or four with their “spathe and spadix,” or at least their “spadix.”  Perhaps if I had been more attentive, I might have seen these plants in February, burning away, as described in Audubon, the snow around them.  As I head down toward the oaks, I anticipate Mway scaring out the ducks – but no such thing happens.  Maybe the ducks only come around in the afternoon, or maybe we have scared them off for good this year.  At the feed channel to the skating pond, I decide to leap across it, rather than step into the still muddy foot holds – I manage to do it, but it is a big leap for me, one which jars my bones and muscles.  I look for colt’s foot – and I begin to think that Moi is mistaken about having seen it coming up around the skating pond.  Mway wades into the creek, and I see the mud roiling where she has stepped in.  She then decides to step into the puddles in the skating pond, then wade through the brown muddy water of the feed channel – when she comes out, she’s pretty stinky looking.  The sedges in the feed channel are growing taller.
The Fetch:  In the clearing I take my stand where I usually do and immediately realize that, unlike in the afternoon, I’m looking into the sun.  I think about changing spots, but Mway only makes one fetch anyway (well, she was already out earlier; this is all she really needs to do now, we both think together).  Passing back through the walled garden, I see a couple of starlings, making their nasty chirp.  I think for a moment about looking at them through the binoculars, partly because I’m concerned about misidentifying some of the black birds I’ve been seeing.  As I’ve been leafing through the Audubon, I’ve found that there are a number of types of black birds that I could be seeing, for example, grackles and cow birds.  Right now I can’t readily distinguish a grackle from a starling, and I’d like to be able to do that.  But the particular birds I’m looking at are flitting all over the place, and I quickly give up trying to look at them more closely.  Back in the house, as Mway and I are walking up the stairs, I think of her wading in the water and I hear Moi’s voice in my mind saying “close the bedroom door,” so at the top of the stairs I quickly reach over Mway to slam the bedroom door on her, before she can hop on the bed and dribble mud and water into the blankets and sheets.