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)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

It Doesn't Matter It's Memorial Day

May 31, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  No work today.  I do have to mow the lawn, though, and don’t take Mway out till after I finish, about 5:30.  (Instead of my usual wool walking socks, I wear regular, and cooler, socks, which I keep on for the walk.)
State of the Path:  By the time I’ve finished the lawn, I’m so tired that my feet are dragging as Mway and I head down the path.   I bring along the “pro-quality” stick, mainly so I have something to support myself as I’m walking.  I stick to the main path, and I don’t really have the energy to look at anything.  Honeysuckle branches brush against my cheek; blackberry briars scratch at my shirt.  I noticed much more while I was mowing the lawn, and I suppose I could give an account of the State of the Lawn:  The grass was not too high, indicating how little rain we’ve had this spring.  Plus the Boy had a party this Saturday night, and much of the grass around the benches and picnic table was tramped down.  Plus the grass was low and brown where Moi and I had left the pool cover sit for a day or two.  This past week I cut a number of lilac branches down, so I wouldn’t have them as obstacles while I’m mowing.  So the lawn was not too hard to mow this week.  Still there were some obstacles remaining, which I should remedy one of these weeks:  the wild cherry on the side lawn has low branches which I have to duck under or plow through while I’m mowing; there’s another wild cherry with low branches by the corn crib, and a white mulberry tree with a low branch behind the pool; the apple tree by the outbuilding also has low branches, and the maple tree by the pool has one low branch that I kept running into.
State of the Creek:  As I’m stumbling through the high grass on the path along the creek, I step at one point perilously close to the bank.  The sky’s starting to cloud up, and the creek looks dark and foreboding.  Past the clutch of honeysuckles and multiflora briars, I hear Mway stepping into the water to cool off.
The Fetch:  For a moment I think Mway’s going to fetch the stick more times than I care to count, but she stops short of around five fetches.  I play “Put it down” once, and when she brings the stick back, she stands looking at me as if she might want to play it again.  But I turn around and start heading down the path along the sumacs, Mway following me with the large stick in her mouth until we come to the fork at the main path, where she has the space to speed up quick and pass me.  When we get to the house I put on my swim trunks, hang up my work shirt heavy with sweat on the clothesline to dry, and jump into the pool.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy for Areas of Shade

May 30, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  As usual work all day today, and when I get home, about 6:30, it’s still light out.  Moi tells me that today, while clearing weeds around the pool, she encountered a garter snake eating a frog.  She slammed the snake with a shovel, and apparently both animals sped away, each still alive.  When I go to put on my walking gloves, I can’t find them; Moi tells me that she threw them away, and the pair of gardening gloves still remaining on the hutch are mine to use.  Instead of the “pro-quality” stick, I bring along a stick I spied under the lilac bushes while I was getting out of the car.  Lying in front of a burdock with leaves the size of TV trays, the stick looked like a decent one, and I wanted to remove it from near the driveway.
State of the Path:  Although it’s a pleasant early evening, I decide to stick to the main path, particularly when I look down the side path and see the late afternoon sun shining down hard on it.   Past the sumacs, the sun is beating down on the main path too, and I’m happy when I reach the shade under the maples.  I realize that I’m soon going to have to bring clippers again along on a walk.  The honeysuckles in particular, done now with their flowering, seem to be putting all their life into growing their branches, and at the sumacs, and at other places, they are seriously starting to obstruct the path.
State of the Creek:  It’s shady down along the creek too.  Without the sun shining down on it, the creekwater looks almost green, especially where the multiflora shrubs arch over it, or where there’s moss, or whatever, growing among the bottom rocks.
The Fetch:  When I get up to the clearing, the sun is blazing again.  Instead of standing and waiting for me, as she usually does, Mway is wandering through the goldenrod at the clearing’s edge.  Here the plants are that high that Mway can’t be seen: I hear the swish of the weeds, see nothing but the swaying plants.  Soon, though, Mway clears the weeds and runs over to spin around at my feet as I’m readying to toss the stick, the only spot in the clearing where the weeds are being kept down.  She fetches the lilac stick more times than I care to count.  Back in the back yard, I look at the newly unveiled pool water; although it’s green with algae, Moi says it’s okay to go in, and I think that’s what I’m going to do now.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Distinguish an Elderberry from Other Shrubs

May 29, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  Moi and I both work at separate places tonight.  I have to leave at 3, so I take Mway out about 1:30.  The Boy came home this weekend, and while we were all out in the yard trying to get the pool ready, he threw a stick to Mway, who on the first fetch chewed it to pieces, then set to barking waiting for a now nonexistent stick to be thrown again.
State of the Path:  Note berries coming out on the honeysuckles.  In the middle of the field, I see a single shrub with clusters of white flowers that looks to me pretty much like an elderberry, which means that the shrubs down at bug land that I thought might be elderberries are something else all together.  Later when I’m coming up from the creek, I notice that the shrubs I’ve been calling red willows (because that’s what Moi calls them) have the same as yet green flowers like the shrubs over on the far side of bug land, meaning those are red willows, or whatever, over there too.  The poison ivy has taken over in the strawberry field, and I don’t see any fruit on the strawberries (why there should be so much poison ivy here I don’t know, because there’s no dead wood around for it to feed on).
State of the Creek:  Mway splashes and snorts in the water at one end of the creek, and then later, does the same at the other end down at the crest of the skating pond.  See the mud stirred up in the water as she steps out wet on shore.  Other than that, no sound from the shallow brown water except for the plop of a few frightened frogs.
The Fetch:  Mway walks the whole length of the clearing then almost starts down the path along the sumacs without stopping to fetch a stick.  I have to call out to her to stop.  Is this because she figures she already fetched enough earlier with the Boy, or is it because it’s so hot.  I am certainly hot and sweating – it’s not necessarily pleasant to walk through a Pennsylvania field in the middle of a hot day.  Mway does turn around, and goes after the “pro-quality” stick that I’ve tossed toward the bushes, then comes running back, looking at me out of the sly of her eye with that look that says “I’m only fetching this stick one time today, I hope you don’t mind.”

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Wade through the Weeds

May 28, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  Work tonight; take Mway out about 2.
State of the Path:  On the side path along the old orchard, I wade through the weeds today.  Kick out a starling from the goldenrod, the robin from the multiflora shrub, see the first sprouts of ragweed, feel blackberry shoots grab at my shirtsleeves, step on new nettles making a place for themselves, pass oat grasses that tower over my head.  At places the path is indiscernible and I must navigate by judging the relative heights of the weeds.  The path clears up a bit down by the wigwams, but it’s only about a foot wide, and at the seeps in bug land, it stretches out about three feet wide, edged around by thick green grasses. Along the creek, it again becomes clogged, mainly with grasses I can’t identify, and hemmed by jewelweed.  The flowers on the multiflora shrubs are big and bulbous.  They look unnatural – as if fairies have come out last night to festoon the shrubs with popcorn balls.  Down at the may apples by the creek, Mway stops to sniff at something, and I hear something moving beneath the canopy of leaves.
State of the Creek:  It never rained last night, so the creek still lies brown and quiet.  Gnats hover here and there.  About five frogs leap away from my trudging feet and dive into the water.
The Fetch: One fetch with the “pro-quality” stick.  On the way back along the sumacs, Mway drops the stick and waits for me to pick it up and throw it ahead on the path, like I did yesterday. Since I did this once before, is this now going to be part of the routine?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Flowers Nod above the Brown Water

May 27, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  This morning Moi and I removed the pool cover, and after consulting an email she sent to me last year, Moi finally found where she stored some of the important parts to the pool filter, so soon a daily swim should again become part of my summer routine.  Moi cleaned off the back porch yesterday, and at first I couldn’t find the “pro-quality” stick, but I finally saw it lying on the ground.  I take Mway out about 2:30, just before getting ready for work tonight.
State of the Path:  I’m in a rush today, so just take the main circuit down to the creek and back.  From the sumac trees down to the maples, a lot of weeds to tramp down or tear off as I’m walking: goldenrod, sweet grass, honeysuckle bushes still growing, a leaning multiflora stem and blackberry shoot.  One of our McNeighbors is out in his yard: it seems the male of the tribe cannot go outside without operating a machine, be it a lawn tractor, a minibulldozer, whatever.  I have no idea what this guy is operating today.  But he doesn’t shut off the machine until I’m walking back through the walled garden and can see through the trees his white shoulders plying at some evidently important task.
State of the Creek:  White flowers of the multiflora shrubs nod along the bed of the barely moving brown water.
The Fetch:  One fetch today.  On the way back, Mway suddenly drops the stick and ventures sniffing into the weeds.  I look at where she finally stops but don’t hear or see anything, and I keep moving on, eventually having to toss the stick forward into the path so Mway, when finally she starts following me, can have it, as customary, to carry back to the porch.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Main Thing Now: Just Keep Walking

May 26, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  Last night a rare moment for us:  for about an hour before dusk Moi and I sat on the lawn swing, after I convinced her that the swing was still safe to sit on.  Even more rarely Mway sniffed around the yard and the weeds, without bugging us to throw the stick for her.  A rabbit casually squat beneath the birch tree.  Moi said that she was happy that the honey bees finally came back to their home in our chimney this spring, mentioning that Ezra hasn’t seen any bees except bumble bees around his house this year.  As the light dimmed we saw bats flying out from the top of the chimney, and we wondered if they’re still living in the attic or if Moi finally managed to caulk them out completely.  Moi said she saw a firefly, and flying over the willow tree, we saw two mallards, the mallards, we figured, that live on the creek, but which I mentioned that I’ve only kicked out once this year on our walks.  Work tonight, and take Mway out about 1:30.
State of the Path:  The main thing now is just to keep walking on the path, our foot and paw steps, and the occasional clippers, being the only thing now keeping a way open down to the creek.  Notice more green blackberry shoots, some now top of the head high, especially on the side path where it turns around at the back hedgerow.  The jack-in-the-pulpits are still up, their leaves six by six in size, the specimen on the side path covered with dead brown flowers fallen from the wild cherry behind it, which now has small green berries.  A number of milkweeds are growing in the path just beyond; I almost hate to trample them down because this is the only place I’ve been seeing milkweeds.  When I can do so without breaking my stride I whack blackberry shoots down with my stick.
State of the Creek:   At the log jam, a multiflora bush beneath the locust tree extends its stems to another multiflora bush growing beneath an oak tree on the other side of the creek.  This phenomenon, of two multiflora bushes reaching out to each other on either side of the creek, occurs a number of places along the way.  Beneath the bushes and other weeds, the shallow brown water lies quietly, not even flowing strongly enough to wash away the locust blossoms still littering its surface.
The Fetch:   Mway fetches the willow stick more times than I care to count, on each fetch ripping away more and more of the bark and etching more teeth prints onto the wood.  Finally she brings the stick back and it falls apart into pieces at my feet, and I tell her, “Okay, that’s it.”

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Multiflora, Blackberries, in Full Bloom

May 25, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  Surprisingly I have no work today.  Moi, who’s been working all day and won’t be back until this evening, tells me thunderstorms might pass through later today, so I decide to take Mway out about 12:30.  My walking workshirt, when I put it on, smells from my sweating in it yesterday while I mowed the lawn, which I managed to finish without the lawnmower breaking down.  I bring along an Audubon and a stick from a willow branch that had fallen off the tree and which I mowed over yesterday.
State of the Path:  The honeysuckles and Russian olives have now all shed their flowers, and they’ve receded into green anonymity, while the multiflora bushes, now all in full bloom, and the blackberries, all come to the foreground with their white flowers.  I can now see clearly where all the multiflora shrubs are.  There’s a big one growing up a tree in the back hedgerow; there’s a fairly good-sized one along the side path, out of which I scare a robin on nearly every walk I take.  A number grow on the ridge around bug land: one grows up nearly halfway up the big locust at the center of the path along the creek, and another one just down from it, the one I mentioned yesterday that burgeons out toward the creek, grows part way up an oak.  There’s one on the other side of the feed channel, growing opposite the honeysuckle I cut back a few days ago, the latter which I no longer have to grab hold of to cross the channel because the water in the channel has dried up.  I notice phlox growing near the skunk cabbages, and there’s ever more phlox along the crest of the skating pond.  I don’t bother to try to identify the small white flowers among the goose grass, because I’m sure Audubon has omitted that plant from its book, but I do stop at the yellow flowers along the ridge of bug land, and even sit down on the grass, sweat beading up on my forehead because I’m right in the sun, while I leaf through the book.  I don’t really find this either in Aubudon, but looking at the small five-petaled flower, and the compound tooth-edged leaves of five, my best guess is that it’s some species of cinquefoil, and I’m going to leave it at that.   
State of the Creek:  Even before I reach the creek, I can hear Mway splashing around in the water and choking from slurping some of it up too fast or maybe from swallowing a locust flower.
The Fetch:  When I get to the clearing I have to call Mway, and I soon see her coming up from somewhere behind the sumacs, wading through the grass and goldenrod.  I toss the willow stick toward the end of the clearing (incidentally, where I now know there’s a honeysuckle shrub, a multiflora bush, and a bushy vine of poison ivy growing up the electric pole).  Mway runs to it, but then she sits down and starts to chew at the fresh stick, probably to get her smell on it.   But I’m worried she might chew it to bits, so I call her, and she comes running back with it.  She fetches it more times than I care to count, and toward the end of her bout of fetches, the bark on the stick starts to shred in ribbons and her teeth marks become prominent on it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Goldenrod Waist High

May 24, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  Work this afternoon, and when I get home, before I start the task of mowing the lawn, take Mway out about 3:15.  Yesterday while looking through the Audubon I thought maybe the yellow flowers I saw yesterday were some kind of cinquefoil, and I started a search online, which yielded nothing definitive.
State of the Path:  Some of the goldenrod is now waist high, and on the side path along the orchard, it is starting to obliterate the path in places.  Some of the new green shoots of blackberries, which I was worried about not seeing just a few days ago, are now nose high.  I see a few ragweed shoots coming up in the path.  Mostly, though, the path is still visible, especially as I mentioned before, where water had coursed down it this spring, and in places like along the wigwams and down at the seeps even some bare ground is still visible.  I look again at the new white flowers, and note that they are something distinct from the goose grass among which many of them grow.  On the path along the creek, jewelweed is starting to hedge in along the sides.  I look again at the big trees, and realize that, though two of them are locusts, at least one of them still looks like some kind of ash.  Where yesterday Moi showed me how the path was getting undermined, a multiflora bush burgeons out and makes passing along the path here even more difficult.  Coming along the ridge, I forget to look at the yellow flowers which I’ve been trying to identify.  I realize that what Moi pointed out as dogbane yesterday is indeed a different plant from all the goldenrod around.
State of the Creek:  Mway wades into the creek to cool off, its waters growing ever more shallow, locust flowers still lying on top of it.
 The Fetch:  One fetch, with the “pro-quality” stick, and that’s enough for me as well.  I have forgotten before to mention this, but in the clearing there is a strip of clover, with white and pink blossoms.  Back at the house, Moi lets Mway inside, and when I get at the door I don’t see the stick.  So I let Mway back out, asking “Where’s your stick?”  She scoots down the porch to where she left it, then starts hopping up and down, urging me to throw it.  “No,” I tell her, “you’ve already fetched it, once.”

Monday, May 23, 2011

To the Sassafras Trees

May 23, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  Work all day today, and unfortunately it’s still light out when I get home, so I take Mway out, about 6:30.  Moi decides to come along again.
State of the Path:  She takes me first out to the garden to show me what she planted today: some more green peppers and tomatoes, some herbs, some endive, and I guess Swiss chard.  I stop at the white mulberry tree.  “We should take a look at this,” I say.  “There’s what people have told me is a mulberry tree over here,” Moi says, and I follow her into the walled garden to look at a tree, growing on the opposite side of the falling-down barn wall, that has maybe what you call catkins growing on it, and for all I know may indeed be a mulberry tree.  Past the pig pen, Moi starts going down the side path, knowing that this is the route I usually take.  “No,” I tell her, “we don’t have to go that way tonight.”  It seems to me, as we head straight on the main path down past the wigwams, that everything has grown about six inches more since yesterday.  “What did you say this was again yesterday,” I ask Moi, pointing at a grass-like plant growing in the middle of the path down at the seeps in bug land.  “Sedge,” she says, “look it up in your wetlands book.”  Down by the creek, we look again at the white flowers I haven’t been able to identify, and seeing it growing among leaves that look like goose grass, I remark that maybe they’re the flowers on the goose grass; but Moi parts the plants and reveals that the goose grass is a separate plant from whatever the white flowers are.  As we walk past the log jam, I’m glad that I cut down the honeysuckle bush that once blocked the path because I feel like if I hadn’t I might fall over the bank of the creek today.  I notice that the plastic barrel that the Boy had pulled out of the creek long ago is almost engulfed in jewelweed.  I point out to Moi how I noticed the other day that there are two oaks growing beside and engulfing the lower branches of a big locust tree, and since I’m already looking up overhead, when we get to the center of the path along the creek, I realize to my surprise that the big trees there, engulfed in honeysuckle bushes and a mutliflora shrub, which all this time I’ve been calling ash trees, are actually big locust trees.  When we get to where the path narrows, Moi forces me to give her my stick so she can stick it under the bank to show me how the ground is being undermined.  “Just don’t cause anything to give way,” I tell her.  Up beyond the break in the ridge, Moi says, “We should go look at that sassafras tree while the weeds are still not that high,” so we traipse through a field of goldenrod to look at a tree which even I can identify as, indeed, a sassafras tree (two of them actually – and perhaps the only sassafras trees growing on our land).  Back on the path, we pass the strawberry patch.  “I’ve never been happy with the strawberries here,” she says, “These might be what they call Indian strawberries, or false strawberries, rather than real wild strawberries.”  Then she points to a plant that looks like goldenrod to me.  “And this, and all these weeds that are mostly growing around here,” she says,” is dogbane.”  “No, that’s goldenrod,” I insist, “that’s what we have mostly growing around here,” and I point at a patch of weeds that I’m sure must be goldenrod.  “That’s goldenrod, yes,” she says, then pointing back at a plant that looks almost the same to me, “but that’s different, and that’s dogbane.”
State of the Creek:  The creek seems almost unnoticeable today, what with everything that’s growing around it.
The Fetch:  Two fetches today, with the “pro-quality” stick.  Down at the creek, Moi had mentioned that we have Solomon’s seal growing on our property and that, of all places, it grows up along the edge of the fire pit in the walled garden.  So on our way back to the house, I wander over to the fire pit, asking Moi to show me the Solomon’s seal.  “Oh, it’s not coming up now,” she says.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

That Was the Name Thereof

May 22, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  Moi and I work in separate places tonight.  I take Mway out about 3:00.  Moi decides to come along.  “Why aren’t your barking, Mway?” she asks.  And I say it’s because she knows I don’t like her to bark.
State of the Path:   We look at the small apples coming out on our apple trees; I point out what I think is the white mulberry tree to Moi, and she points out that it looks like they’re starting to get mulberries; and then we set down the side path along the old orchard, where I have my first question for Moi.  “What is this stuff coming up?” I ask her.  “That’s goose grass, or bedstraw.  Feel how sticky it is,” she says, reaching down to touch it.  “Does it get a flower?” I ask.  “No, I don’t think so,” she says.  Later we see more goose grass down by the creek – it is much higher, and it is indeed getting tiny little flowers (but I don’t find any photo or reference to goose grass in the Audubon, and the northern snow bedstraw pictured in there looks like nothing we’re looking at).   We walk by the black raspberries – and I call them that because Moi agrees with me that that is what they are, and we both recall one other thing that distinguishes the black raspberry from the blackberry:  the purplish cane (as compared to the reddish cane of the blackberry).  I sweep aside some may apple leaves to find the new yellow apples that Moi told me yesterday to look for.  “You got to be more gentle with the way you touch them,” she says.  Moi starts picking some sweetgrass.  “Is that Virginia creeper growing in there?”  I ask, pointing inside the orchard.  “I’d say,” she says, “And jungle size.”  We go by some white flowers that Moi first thinks is on a multiflora bush – but I’m able to point out to her that they are on a blackberry and that the multiflora flowers are very similar.  “What kind of grass is this?” I ask.  “That’s timothy,” Moi says.  “What kind of bush is that?” I ask, pointing to the shrub I was trying to trample to death earlier in the year.  “I’m not sure,” Moi says. “I don’t think it’s a red willow.”  “And see these,” she says, past the wigwams down in bug land, “this is field bracken.”  “Aren’t those ferns?” I ask.  “No. Field bracken.  Look it up in the book.”  “And these bushes here, are they elderberry bushes?”  I ask.  Moi isn’t sure what they are, but she looks at the as yet green buds coming out, and agrees with me that they are worth keeping track of.  Down by the creek, I point out the little white flowers that I noticed the other day, but Moi doesn’t know what they are either – I pick a specimen to take back with me, but still I’m unable to find anything that looks like it in the Audubon.  Later along the ridge around bug land, I notice another new flower, a yellow one – and stuff a specimen of this also in my pocket – also unable to find anything like it in Audubon.  On the other side of the ridge, Moi feels a small shrub.  “This might be an elderberry,” she says, “No.  Maybe not.”  “Sometime before the weeds get too high,” she continues, “we should walk up in the field there and look at the sassafras tree.”  “Oh,” I say, “Is that where it is, up there somewhere?”
State of the Creek:  A lot of locust flowers lying on top of the still pools of water.  At the feed channel, Moi picks some of the sweetflag for me to smell.  The feed channel, for the first time this year, is dry, and we both walk across it onto the crest of the skating pond, Moi stepping in the mud.  We walk in opposite directions along the crest of the skating pond.  “Those phlox are pretty,” Moi says.
The Fetch:  Bring along the “pro-quality” stick today.  I wait for Moi to get past me, before I toss it.  About five fetches.  On the way back to the house, we notice plums coming out on the plum trees by the garden pond.  “They came out like that last year but then disappeared,” I remark.  “Yeah,” Moi recalls also, “I don’t know what happened.  It might have been when I was taking care of Jazz last summer, and just wasn’t around when they were ready to pick.”

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Difference between Blackberries and Black Raspberries

May 21, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  Work tonight, take Mway out about 2:30, after her and Moi’s nap.  Today I did manage to wash my walking socks, as well as my walking work shirt, so I have at least a partially clean outfit to wear today.
State of the Path:  Today I went online to do a little research on blackberries, and found one website that was fairly informative.  A chief detectable difference between a blackberry and a black raspberry (which I kind of already knew) is that the former bears an aggregate fruit and the latter a single fruit that come off with a hollow pit and leaves a receptacle behind on the branch when picked; a dewberry is a type of blackberry that grows along the ground.  As I walk along the old orchard, I start to think that what I’ve been calling black raspberries might just be young blackberries – when the fruit comes in I guess I’ll finally be able to tell for sure; but it seems to me that in past years we’ve had both types of berries.  I don’t see any, and I don’t ever remember seeing, any dewberries.  One website says that brambles are a common name for blackberries – a jagger or a briar I suppose would be any type of plant with a thorn.  It seems to me that I see blackberries in three general states: there are the new green shoots that are coming up; there are the canes that are now bearing leaves and pretty white five-petaled flowers; then there are the dead canes that will bear no leaves or flowers and are very prominent along the path between the sumacs and the pig pen and outbuilding.  I also look at the multiflora bushes today, which seem to me to be not as robust as they have been in past years.  There’s one bush on the sidepath near the hedgerow (the one I’ve been scaring the robin out of), hemmed around by jewelweed, which seems to have another bush, with skinny leaves and bright red stems, growing over it; I see this at some other places too, and I begin to think that maybe these are new stems of multiflora coming in.  Coming up from the ridge around bug land and just before the strawberry field, I see a multiflora bush which is bearing white flowers, which are white and five-petalled just like a blackberry flower: so I was right when I thought I saw flowers on a multiflora the other day.
State of the Creek:  Mway wades into the creek and takes a sip of water, then wanders around the weeds on the far bank.  By the time I get to the creek I realize it’s a little warm today to be wearing a long-sleeve work shirt, but this is what I wear on my walks.
The Fetch:  I bring along a smaller stick today, one that I found in the music room, where Mway frequently drops her sticks after her walks with Moi in the morning.  She drops them there, I suppose, to remind me of our walks in the afternoon.   She fetches the stick more times than I care to count, and we play “Put it down!” once, but the smaller stick gets lost a couple times in the goldenrod and sweet grass, and Mway has to spend up to a minute looking for it; which seems to me to be a good argument for using the “pro-quality” stick on our walks.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Poke the Stick into the Hole

May 20, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:   Work tonight, don’t get around to taking Mway out until about 2:30.  My walking socks are still damp from two days ago; they stink, and really need to be washed.
State of the Path:  It would have been a good day to wash those socks and hang them on the line: warm and sunny.  But I am in a hurry; don’t take any side paths.  I realize today that the white flowers I thought were coming out on the multiflora are actually coming out on the blackberry runners – big white flowers.  See that I will have to bring along clippers again sometime soon; the honeysuckles are still the main obstruction to the path these days.  Poke the “pro-quality” stick into the snake hole; it doesn’t go in very far.  Mway stops at the edge of the creek – what does she see, other than a few birds (unidentifiable) fly by?  Coming up from the swale to bug land, I realize that the tree growing up right ahead of me is an oak – looking like the other young oaks around, a lone oak in this area of red willows and maple saplings.
State of the Creek:  Water hardly moving at all today, trickling among the rocks, which are white and dry in the sun.
The Fetch:  Already mentioned “pro-quality” stick.  Mway treats it like any other.  She’s full of energy, running after the big stick and bringing it back the full length of the clearing, more times than I care to count.  Three big black birds (hawks?) fly out of a walnut tree by the summer house.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

An Oak Grows through a Locust

May 19, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  Work tonight, and I get ready to take Mway out about 1:30.  As I’m putting on my clothes, Moi comes home and opens up the bedroom door which Mway had closed upon herself.  Mway comes over to stand and stretch in front of my doorway.  My socks are still wet from yesterday.
State of the Path:  I see Mway rushing into the outbuilding, making a clangor as she runs through tools and junk.  When I pass the open doorway, a feral cat runs up the back steps.  I call out to Mway to leave the cat alone, but she doesn’t catch up with me until I’m walking down the side path along the old orchard.  In the spot of field in the middle of the side path, a number of multiflora bushes, crushed from the winter snows, still lie dead, with seeming no prospect of regaining life.  I scare the same robin out of the same bush I’ve done twice before.  Down by the wigwams, I spot a little hole in the path – it doesn’t look like a hole made by water, maybe a snake hole?   The same frog I saw in the jewelweed yesterday hops away from my approaching feet exactly as it did yesterday.  I take another look at the oaks around the locust tree – there are exactly two of them, and they have straight trunks like the oaks at the corner of the property.  One of the oaks is growing straight through some of the branches of the locust tree, which is multi-trunked, and whose branches are dead where the oak tree grows through them.  Among the red willows, which crowd the path between the swale from bug land and the ridge around bug land, there are numerous maple saplings.  In bug land itself, numerous maple seedlings have sprouted; it looks like poison ivy coming up, which I see numerous places along the path, particularly before the feed channel and along the strawberry patch.
State of the Creek:  Several frogs leaping into the brown pools of water.  See a white flower fall into the water; must be a blossom from the locust trees.
The Fetch:  Bring along a smaller stick today, one of several I had found on the rug in the music room.  Mway makes more fetches than I care to count.  As she runs through the goldenrod and sweet grass, you can hear the plants whipping against her body.  Mway plays “Put it down!” twice; on the last toss it takes her about thirty seconds to find the stick in the goldenrod.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Surprised by So Many Locusts

May 18, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  Work early afternoon, and when I get home Moi has managed, on this rainy day, to burn all the trash, some of which has been piling up in the walled garden and around the outbuilding, as she admits, since Christmas.  Moi has to go back to work from late afternoon into the evening, so she and Mway go upstairs to take a nap, and I go to my own room to rest.  They’ve now gotten up, Moi has gone, and Mway is looking at me imploringly and following me around the house, wondering about her walk.  I’m ready to take her out (at about 4:15); it’s not raining hard, but I’m not looking forward to getting my feet wet from walking through cold wet weeds.
State of the Path:  Cold enough today for the denim jacket.  Note the bare spots of ground, ringed with weeds and high grass, where the trash had been lying.  Just beyond the walled garden, a number of hedge garlic plants are bent over from the rain and sticking out into the path.  Feel the cold of wet rain seeping into my socks, and decide to skip the side paths today.  Two honeysuckle bushes flank the path before the sumacs, and from either side nearly meet each other in the middle.  Beyond the sumacs, the sweet grass is bent over and bejeweled with water droplets.  The path is a little muddy down by the wigwams and over the seeps of bug land.  I take a look at the green flowering shrub – but no change from yesterday.  Under the pin oaks, I see movement in the jewelweed, and think for a moment it might be a mouse or a vole.  I part the jewelweed, and a frog hops away from me deeper into the weeds.  Just beyond the tree stand, two honeysuckles bushes (which I partially trimmed back the other day) do meet each other in the middle of the path and form an archway just high enough for me to pass under.  I look out at the trees along bug land (the ones which are now in white flower) and can just barely make out (as much as my old contact lenses allow) that these are indeed locust trees, like the two I’ve already noted closer to the creek.  Just a little ways ahead, I stop under some oak trees, noting what I think are about two or three smaller trees and one huge tree growing along the creek bank, and try to decide whether the leaves are pin or black oak.  But when I look straight up into the crown of the big tree, I’m puzzled to see, at the very top branches, leaves that look like locust leaves.  I step forward a little to change my angle of view and finally realize that the big tree is a locust tree, which is hedged in by the two or three smaller oaks.  Walking along the ridge around bug land, I look back at the trees along the creek and am surprised to see (judging from the white flowers) how many locusts there are: they are all lined up along the edge of bug land, with their tall skinny trunks leaning outward.  Moi’s willow is there among them, leaning even more precariously than the locusts.
State of the Creek:  You can see the water flowing over the rocks today, but the pools remain dark and still.
The Fetch:  Bring along the “pro-quality” stick, again because that was the only one on the bench.  But Mway fetches it today like it was any other stick, more times than I care to count, even catching it on a bounce on one toss.  Toward the end of her bout of fetches, we play “Put it down!” twice.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hedge Garlic Eyebrow High

May 17, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  Work late morning, early afternoon.  When I get home about 3:30, I mow the lawn, lucky to get the mower started and get the whole lawn mowed before any rain comes down.  Immediately after, I take Mway for her walk about 5:30.
State of the Path:  I’m tired after mowing the lawn so I just take the main path down to the creek and back.  Some of the hedge garlic is eyebrow high now.  See a robin running down the path.  Note that there is a many-trunked maple growing at the edge of the sumacs.  On the main path between the sumacs and the maples (which I don’t often take, because I usually take the side path along the orchard), seems there’s a lot of grass and wild mustard crowding the path.  Before the pin oaks and along the seeps of bug land, I note green flowers starting to come out on the shrubs there – I’ve been wondering what these shrubs are, because I know they’re not honeysuckles or Russian olives; I suspect they’re elderberry shrubs, and the green flowers look to me like they could turn into elderberries eventually – I’ll have to keep an eye out.  Coming up along the ridge around bug land, I look back at the trees along the creek, and see so many trees with white flowers on them now.  Moi tells me these are locust trees – I’ve determined myself that there are two locust trees down by the creek, but I didn’t realize there were this many, and of course I have no idea what kind of locusts these are – again I’ll have to keep a watch on these.  Here and there I think I see new types of wildflowers coming up – but it’s too much for me to take in, so I just walk by and postpone any attempt at identification for another day.
State of the Creek:  Don’t look too much at the creek today, except to note that lying on top of the still pools of water are a lot of fallen flowers – probably petals off the many honeysuckle bushes that, even though I’ve trimmed many of them, just seem to get bushier and bushier everyday.
The Fetch:  Bring the “pro-quality” stick today because it was the only one on the bench, though I must have mowed over about ten sticks that Mway has left lying about in the yard.   On the first fetch, Mway lugs the big stick back, drops it, then picks it up and flings it at my feet so it whacks my lower legs.  After that she only fetches the stick one more time, and I’m glad about that.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bring Back Specimen of Unidentifiable Flower

May 16, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  Work all day today, and unfortunately when I get home it’s still light out.  Mway’s outside when I arrive and greets me enthusiastically at the back porch.  I let her in the house, and inside she starts pacing around the kitchen, huffing and panting with excitement.  Moi, seeing her in this state of anxiousness, asks her “Why don’t you bark, Mwayla?”  I say, “She knows that I don’t like her to bark.”  Mway continues pacing, huffing and puffing, as I put on my walking clothes.   Again Moi asks her, “Why don’t you bark?”  And I explain, “Mway responds differently to you and me.  She barks when you’re taking her for a walk, but she knows I don’t like her to bark when I’m taking her for one.”
State of the Path:  I ask Moi, before Mway and I take off, if she’s noticed the new flower in bug land growing among the point blue-eyed grass.  She says she hasn’t, but tells me to bring back a specimen for her to look at.  Outside I note that some of the hedge garlic is now chin, and even above-the-chin, high.  Down by the wigwams, I notice what I think is the first white flower on a multiflora bush – the bush is growing beneath a grape vine, which (if I remember now correctly) must be growing up on one of the maples.  Other than that I’m unable to note anything today except to remark to myself that I probably only know the names of less than 1% of the plants that have come up so far this spring – the land on which I’m walking seems to be such a kaleidoscope of vegetation that it would take me months to catalogue all that is growing here.  I also note that, despite all these plants coming up, the path which Moi, Mway and I’ve walked so far this year is still apparent and walkable, with even bare patches of ground in parts of it, and this is so partly because of the water that gushed down the path this winter and spring, which gushed down the path for the very reason that that’s where we walked.  Coming though bug land toward the pines, I pick one of the flowers Moi asked me to bring back.  When I pass through the opening in the ridge around bug land, it falls out of my pocket, and I have to go back and pick another flower.
State of the Creek:  I note that in some of the pools of water in the creek, the moss growing along the bottom and among the rocks looks very dark and thick. On the crest of the skating pond, I hear a loud croak coming from the creek, which sounds to me like the croak of a bullfrog – but I don’t see anything.
The Fetch:  I bring along the “pro-quality” stick, because that’s the only one I saw on the bench on the back porch.  Despite all her previous excitement, Mway only makes one fetch today.  Back in the house, I show Moi the flower specimen.  She doesn’t know exactly what it is, but thinks it might be a kind of point blue-eyed grass.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Try to Answer Moi's Question

May 15, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:   Moi and I both work tonight, but at separate places (Moi also has Jazz’s shower to go to).  I take Mway out about 3:30.  Earlier today I did some wash and hung my clothes outside – and I realized how much I enjoy hanging up clothes: just being outside without being surrounded by weeds.
State of the Path:  Moi asks me today (instead of me asking her something) what kind of tree it is that she’s hung her jar candles on.  After consulting these notes, I tell her a boxelder, but when I’m out by the old orchard, I see that the jar candle is hanging on a different kind of tree – maybe a sumac or a scraggly black walnut, a pity of a tree whatever it is, with a skinny crooked trunk, leaves only growing on a few branches, and a grape vine growing over on top of it.  Later I see that Moi has jar candles on two other trees down closer by her wigwams – these are hanging on, I’m not sure, what look like small ash trees, small trees intermixed with the maples.  I scare a robin out of a multiflora bush by the hedgerow – the second time I do this (but I forgot to mention it before).  Wherever I see a fresh green blackberry shoot coming up, I step on it to keep it from growing.  Down at the feed channel before the skating pond, I take a closer look at the honeysuckle bush I have to cling to to cross the channel and what’s growing around it.  The honeysuckle grows right into a Russian olive shrub, which grows right into another shrub, let’s call it a red willow, and they all grow right into a cedar that stands behind them, and there’s also a multiflora bush mixed in there somehow, because you see its briars sticking up in the air.  Then behind the cedar, there are some more honeysuckles bushes, all this in front of a huge maple growing along the creek.  In bug land, just before the pines, there are some new blue flowers that are spreading across the grass among the point-blue-eyed grass.  I’ll have to ask Moi if she knows what this is.
State of the Creek:  When we get down to the creek, Mway wades into it and takes a drink of water.  Minnows are back in the pool at the log jam.  A few water striders, frogs, along the way.  At one place the water of the creek is only about two feet wide, as it passes over rocks between the more permanent bank where the path is and a grassy buildup of dirt on the other side, over which the water would pass if the water were higher.
The Fetch:  I bring one of Mway’s smaller sticks today, one I found among a bunch of others in the music room, all shedding their bark on the rug.  After about four fetches, Mway, instead of dropping the stick at my feet, holds it in her mouth, growls, and backsteps, indicating to me she wants to play the game where I whip my hand and tell her “Put it down!”  Usually I only do this once, but today I do it a second time, a third time, and finally a fourth time, before I turn around and we take off down the path past the sumacs back to the house.  Along the path, on either side, are a bunch of dead blackberry canes.  Today I encounter a living cane with new leaves blocking the path, its tip growing into the dead canes on the other side of the path.  I pull it aside, so that it leans away from the path.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Saved by Honeysuckle

May 14, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  I have to work both day and night today, from about 1:30 to 4:30 on one job, then from 5:00 to 10 on the second.  I also have to pay my fine at the courthouse today.  But I make some time to take Mway for a walk today, around noon.  Since Moi has taken her out this morning, and will take her out again tonight, this amounts to a bonus walk for Mway.
State of the Path:   See blossoms on the black raspberries by the old orchard.  Some of the fleabane by the hedgerow has pink flowers.  Despite my “worries,” see plenty of blackberry shoots coming up between the dead cane from last year.  Note how the path over the seeps in bug land is still brown and muddy, despite grass coming up on either side of it.  See new flower near the honeysuckle I cut down the other day? – kind of a cross between a cheese and a fleabane?  Note another honeysuckle with pink flowers, growing up on the creek bank.  Almost fall jumping the feed channel to the skating pond, saved by clutching the branches of the honeysuckle that I cut back the other day.
State of the Creek:  Hear a few frogs jumping into the water, but mostly it’s into the feed channel.  Approaching the ashes and the big oak, hear my radio birds again.  I look for, but don’t see any, cardinals.  I suddenly see two birds, though I can’t tell what they are, flying through the trees on the other side of the creek; it startles me when I hear them distinctly singing “Over here!” “Over here!”
The Fetch:  Bring along “pro-quality” stick.  Figure Mway doesn’t need to do a lot of fetching on this walk.  After one of the fetches, she tosses the stick at my feet, and it whacks me in the upper part of my foot.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Rush Report: Rabbit, Squirrel, Brambles, Etc.

May 13, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:   I limit my work today to that which I have to do tonight (tomorrow I may have to work day and night and may not even have time for a walk; we’ll see), and take May out about 1:30 for a leisurely walk.  However, when I get back, Moi, home from her work this morning, points out to me that the Boy has received a notice of an impending bench warrant because he failed to pay a fine this month, and I’ll have to take care of this before work tonight, so my report of my walk, unlike the walk itself, will not be so leisurely.
State of the Path:  Mway and I both see rabbit in back yard.  See squirrel going up a tree behind the walled garden.  Take side path along old orchard.  A lot of the blackberry brambles remain flattened from the winter; wonder if they’ll spring up in this area like they usually do.  Down at the creek, figure there must be more black walnut trees down here than I realized.  Hard to tell, because so many of the trees are tall and it’s hard to see their leaves.  Take side path by skating pond, clutching the honeysuckle branches to keep my balance as I jump the feed channel.  See more phlox – but we don’t get as much as I see these days, say, along road sides.
State of the Creek:  Water a little higher.  Coming toward the big maple, hear pecking sound.  As I get closer, pecking stops.  But after looking for sometime, spy my redbellied friend among leaves on a high branch.  Flitting about the shrubs, a female cardinal, who seems to be trying to get the attention of the woodpecker.
The Fetch:  With smaller stick, a well chewed one I found in the living room today, more fetches than I care to count.  As she spins around between fetches, Mway’s heedless about what she might trample on, including the stick that once had fungus on it, still lying in the clearing, that gets bounced around beneath her paws.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Rush Past Burdock, V-turn into Clearing

May 12, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  Work tonight, have additional work beforehand.  Moi, working all day, breaks to come home for a nap.  I don’t have a chance to take Mway out until 2:30, and then I’m in a rush, so just take her for a short walk.
State of the Path:  I take the reverse route, going down the path by the summer house, where there are big burdocks growing in the path.  I go this way to check out what I know to be some black walnut trees, and to compare them to the tree I was looking at yesterday.  The black walnuts look like the tree down by the creek, so I’m pretty sure that’s a black walnut too.   Continue on down toward the strawberry path.  This part of the path, which we seldom take anymore, is not so well worn.  Make a V-turn into the clearing.
The Fetch:  Bring the “pro-quality” stick; Mway makes less than five fetches.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Feet Get Soaked

May 11, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  Work late morning, afternoon.  I take Mway out when I get home, about 4:30.  It’s cold and rainy, and I wear my denim jacket.  I could justify not taking her for a walk today, and could just throw the stick in the back yard, but I do like to walk in the rain, and would have no hesitation at all expect for my poor quality boots.
State of the Path:  The chickens run up to me as I step off the back porch, looking for a handout, as they do on almost every walk, and Mway runs through their ranks.  When I see the trash that’s piled up near the outbuilding and in the walled garden, I consider that it would be a good time, according to Moi’s thinking, to burn it today, but then I decide against it – I mow the lawn, Moi burns the trash, goes my line of thinking (by the way, I did finish the lawn last night, and I’m glad I did because it looks like there would be no other chance to do it this week).  It’s not raining when we first step out, but by the time I’m at the sumacs, I feel my socks going damp.  While Mway’s sniffing a weed, a rabbit runs in the opposite direction – Mway doesn’t see it.  Down at the corner of the property, I look at the oaks again, and I start counting how many young trees there are, and I consider making an inventory of all the trees along the creek, but that would entail, I think to do it right, more work than I’m prepared to do right now.  There’s one small tree growing right along the creek bank that looks like some kind of ash to me, and careful not to fall over the bank, I reach out to count how many leaflets are on the compound leaf – I count 14; now if I can find something in Audubon that matches that, perhaps I can make an identification, but leafing through the book just now, I don’t see anything that comes close.
State of the Creek:  By the time I’m walking by the creek, it has started to rain.  The water in the creek’s not much higher than yesterday, but the rocks that were white and dry are now wet.  Most of the swale from bug land is dry.  By the time I’m walking along bug land, my feet are soaked, and I realize there are two Russian olive bushes I should trim back, because they jut fiercely into the path.
The Fetch:  I bring along a small stick today, and Mway fetches it more times than I care to count.  I toss the stick first as I’m walking across the clearing, and Mway fetches it in no time.  My second toss is a kind of underhand throw, and Mway, not seeing where it went, runs in the wrong direction.  I call out to her and point in the direction where the stick is, but she continues searching where she is in the higher weeds.  I finally have to go over to the stick myself and pick it up.  On another toss, she bounds off in the wrong direction again – but this time she doubles back in the right direction and manages to snatch it up as I’m walking toward it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Threats to the Path

May 10, 2010.  Monday.
 Situation:  Work this afternoon, come home and take Mway out about 4:15.  I bring along one of her smaller sticks that she left in the yard.  I plan to mow some, if not all, of the lawn this evening, and that is one less stick I will run over with the lawnmower.
State of the Path:  As I walk along I consider how, in particular, the golden rod and the grasses are threatening to erase the path.  Definitely the path is still there, traced out by our foot steps and Mway’s paw prints, and in some spots you can even still see bare ground, but the weeds and grass are growing higher everyday, and most of them simply spring back up after you step on them.  The biggest threat to the path, blackberry brambles, has not yet emerged in a major way, at least for now.  Down at the corner of the property, I look again at the oaks, and I still cannot make up my mind whether these are pin or black oaks (although because of the habitat, and because their trunks are straight, I’m inclined to say they’re pin oaks).  The two trees where the deer stand, I should say, used to be, because only two dangling boards remain, are I believe some kind of ash trees.  Along the creek, I hear one or two birds making a racket – like the sound a radio makes as you sweep the dial.  I’ve heard this kind of racket before, and I believe the birds are cardinals, but they also could be redwing blackbirds – I should go back to listening to Moi’s birdcall app on her iPhone.
State of the Creek:  The water in the creek keeps getting lower and lower; in some places most of the creek bed is dry exposed rock.
The Fetch:  Mway fetches the stick more times than I care to count.  A number of times as she’s spinning around at my feet while I reach down to pick up the stick she barks right into my ear and even tramples on the stick as I’m trying to pick it up.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Despite Myself, Look at Some More Trees

May 9, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  As usual, work all day today.  When I get home it’s still light out, and, although Moi tells me Mway’s already eaten and I wouldn’t have to take her out, the dog follows me around the house so much as I take off my work clothes, I decide to take her out anyway.  It’s about 7 pm.  I put on my father’s denim jacket, it’s that cold out.
State of the Path:  Out in the back yard, I notice that leaves and seeds from the maple and branches from the birch have been blown down by the wind the past couple days.  After that, though, I stride straight down to the creek – don’t feel like looking at anything today.  I do stop, however, near the young hickory, subject of our inspection these past few days, to look at the trees surrounding it.  Moi had told me she thought there was a large hickory on the other side of the creek, which would explain the presence of a younger tree nearby, but this morning when she looked, she saw that the tree she was thinking about was a maple.  When I stop, I first look up at the big trees in the hedgerow.  Unfortunately, from where I’m standing in the path, I can’t see the leaves very well; the light is dim, and my contacts are nearing the end of their shelf-life.  I almost decide to just forget about it, but then I step into the weeds to get a little closer to the trees.  When I do, I can finally make out that the big trees in the hedgerow, or at least three of them that are right there in the vicinity, are oaks – probably the same kind of oaks as what I’ve been calling pin oaks, the smaller trees being relatively new trees that have come up in recent years near the path and that have surely been spawned by these older trees.  To tell you the truth, I’m not sure whether these are pin oaks, or black oaks, or some other kind of oak – that’s something I hope to clarify eventually.  The only other tree that I see nearby is a medium-sized tree closer to the creek, which has those nondescript leaves that are characteristic of an ash or a hickory.  Although the leaves on this tree do not look exactly like the gangly leaves on the young hickory, I tell myself that this must be the older hickory that spawned the younger specimens nearby.  Then I wonder to myself where Moi saw a maple down here.   After I look around, I see that there is indeed a large maple growing on the other side of the creek.  And now that I’m writing about this, I realize that there is another tree down there I should have looked at – the tree on which the deer stand is located.  I can’t recall right now what kind of tree this is, or if I even looked to see what kind of tree this is.  On the rest of the walk up to the clearing, I don’t really look at anything, except to notice that on the honeysuckle bush below the ashes that I’ve previously called a bella honeysuckle the pink flowers are turning yellow, just as the white flowers on the Morrow’s have been turning yellow.
State of the Creek:  I don’t look too much at the creek today, except to think to myself that it looks awfully low in places.
The Fetch:  I bring along one of Mway’s smaller sticks, and don’t bother to start counting the fetches.  But it seems to me she only fetches it about five times.  On one fetch, the stick falls into a shrub at the border of the clearing, and Mway has to stick her head into it, maw first, to extract it.  Mway shows no signs of being hit on the head yesterday with a stick.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Can't Believe They're Hickories; What's This Looks like Virginia Creeper?

May 8, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:   Moi tells me that Ezra has told her that the strange tree down by the creek is a hickory.  I’m willing to believe him, but this surprises me somewhat because I think of a hickory as a big tree. Of course the tree down by the creek must be a young tree, and as Moi has pointed out there are a couple other young trees down there like it too.  In the Audubon, the hickory that most resembles what I see is the shagbark hickory, although on our young specimens the bark is not so shaggy.  But the leaves, “pinnately compound…5 elliptical or ovate,” match what I see, as well as the twigs, “ending in large brown hairy buds.”  This morning Moi is upset because she can’t find Squeak, the cat that we just got this past year.  Squeak never goes outside because she is afraid to, but Moi can’t find her anywhere in the house and fears that Squeak ventured outside and is now hiding under a bush somewhere, scared because it is raining.  Moi wakes me up with this news, and after I help her open up doors to look for Squeak, I go back to bed.  Moi later wakes me up to tell me she finally found Squeak: she was trapped in one of Moi’s closets.  Moi is working all day today, and we both work together tonight.  I take Mway out about 4:30.
State of the Path:  I bring the Audubon tree book, but I don’t crack it open the whole walk.  In the old orchard, I notice there’s a new plant that’s taken over covering the ground.  It looks to me like Virginia creeper, but it looks odd to me because the leaves are so big.  Some of the hedge garlic is now about as high as my chin.  The wild cherry along the side path now has clusters of white flowers.  I see buds on the raspberries and the blackberries.  I take a look at the hickory, and just have to shake my head at thinking this young tree, with leaves that look so gangly, is a hickory.  I go over the feed channel, surprised at how easy I find the footholds and get across, and at the ridge at the opposite end of the skating pond, I see, as I’ve been expecting any day now because I’ve seen it in past years, some newly blooming phlox.  In bug land, the Russian olives look almost snow covered with their white flowers.
State of the Creek:  Despite the rain, the creek is not that high.  At the log jam, I notice a branch of the honeysuckle I had cut lying in the water, but as I’m walking along the creek, I also notice on the water a lot of maple and oak leaves that have been blown down by the wind today, and also honeysuckle flowers that have been shed from the bushes.  Beneath the ashes, I hear a trilling sound that I think is my friend the woodpecker.  But when I look around for him I can’t find him.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, I toss one of Mway’s smaller sticks that she had left in the kitchen after an earlier walk.  On about the fifth toss, as Mway is spinning around and I draw back the stick, I suddenly hear a bonk.  It seems to be that I must have hit Mway in the head, but I don’t hear her yelp or respond in any way.   I throw the stick, and she fetches it but only brings it halfway back.  I walk over to it and toss it again, but she doesn’t go after it, and I have to walk over to get it, worried that she has really hurt herself.  But when I pick the stick up, she starts spinning around, coaxing me to throw it again, and I don’t see Mway bleeding anywhere.  I toss it again a couple times in the opposite direction, until Mway decides it’s time to go back to the house. I look again at Mway, and she certainly isn’t acting like she hurt herself, but as I walk back I’m concerned.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Tree That Doesn't Look Like Itself

May 7, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  Like yesterday I work tonight, and have to do some other work in the late afternoon, so I take May out about 12:30.  I bring along my Audubon tree book, with the hope of identifying at least one or two trees today.
State of the Path:  The first tree is the fairly young one growing up near the outbuilding that I mentioned the other day.  It’s growing right at the edge of a cement slab that used to be the foundation of a small outbuilding connected to the springhouse (now the chicken coop), which was ravaged by poison ivy when we moved in and I had to tear down.  On the slab are a couple of rusting metal coolers, which we don’t use for anything, and growing over them are some grape vines.  The tree has distinctive leaves, tooth-edged and deeply lobed, almost like a maple, with the leaves varying in the way they are lobed, like a sassafras tree.  I soon find a photo (page 237) that matches exactly what I’m looking at – it is a photo of a white mulberry.  But when I read the entry for that tree I get confused, for there is yet another photo of a white mulberry (page 154) that looks nothing like the other photo or what I’m looking at – what kind of tree is this, that doesn’t look like itself?  Just beyond the white mulberry, there are three big trees, which almost hold up the outbuilding – they are covered in shrubs and vines, and I look up to see what kind of leaves they have; these trees are some kind of ash or hickory, I’m not sure.  Past the walled garden and just before the pig pen, I see Virginia creeper coming up.  The next tree I try to identify is the one that I mentioned before just before the pin oaks near the creek.  It has drooping oblong leaves, that seem to come in triplets, with two more smaller leaves on the same stem behind it – I find nothing like it in the Audubon.  As I walk along the creek, I’m happy to make acquaintance with the wider path at the log jam.  I see the branches of the honeysuckle I lopped off yesterday lying on the ground, and I don’t miss that particular bush at all.  At the head of the log jam, I see the tree growing there is another locust of some kind, and around its trunk too is growing a honeysuckle.
State of the Creek:  Mway goes into the creek just behind the big log at the log jam, explores on the opposite bank for a while, then reenters the creek above the jam, and walks along in the shallow water.  As I approach the big ash trees, I hear a pecking sound – and lo, soon I see a woodpecker pecking at the dead trunk of the big maple on the other side of the creek.  I think this is my redbellied friend, but he looks a lot bigger and his beak has grown.  Mway scares him off from the trunk and he flies off to a more distant branch, where he starts trilling away in anger, but I do get a chance to see him briefly, pecking away at the dead wood just like a woodpecker should.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, I stand at one edge and throw one of Mway’s smaller sticks.  She fetches it more times than I care to count.  Today I make a conscious effort to try to get her to run across the whole length of the clearing, because I note today that the grass and the goldenrod (each taking up about half the clearing) is starting to get higher, and I’d like to use Mway as much as I can to keep it tramped down, though I know, at least in the case of the goldenrod, that it will be much higher before the end of the summer.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Deploy the Limb Chopper

May 6, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  Moi told me today that on her morning walk Mway was carrying a large stick in her mouth and Moi accidentally hit it and jarred it against her.  Back at the house Mway has crept under the bushes beside the house and won’t come out.  Moi has gone to work, and soon I’m going to check in on Mway.  I work tonight, and I plan to leave early to do some extra work, so I should be taking Mway for a walk early in the afternoon today.  I end up taking Mway out about 1:30.
State of the Path:  Moi has come home from work, and when I tell her I want to take the limb chopper, or “loppers” as she calls them, to some of the honeysuckle bushes, she encourages me to not only trim back but to take down the entire honeysuckle bush by the log jam.  It takes me a little time to find the loppers, but when I finally do, I take off on the walk with the sole determination of trimming more of the honeysuckles.  First I cut off some of the thick branches of the honeysuckle along the old orchard, then I go down to the creek at the log jam.  The bush there is growing around what I’m pretty sure is some kind of locust tree.  I lop off the branches as close to the ground as possible, until there is nothing left but a stump, and that gives us at least another foot of pathway along the edge of the creek where Moi believes the ground is getting undermined.  I trim a few other branches under the ashes, then I go to the honeysuckle on the other side of the feed channel.  Ironically, to straddle the channel, I have to grab hold of the honeysuckle to support me.  So when I’m on the other side, I only cut off some of the higher branches, betwixt and between am I about whether this bush might in the end actually be useful in crossing the channel.  Walking up toward the clearing, I notice the first signs of poison ivy coming up beneath the goldenrod next to the strawberry patch.
State of the Creek:  As I’m walking along, in anticipation of hearing and seeing some frogs leap into the water, I suddenly hear a splash behind me, much louder than the plopping of a frog, which stops me in my path.  When I turn around, though, I see nothing.
The Fetch:  I’ve brought along a small stick I found on the porch, and Mway, as enthusiastic as ever, fetches this more times than I bother to count.  After one of the fetches, as Mway is spinning around and I’m bending over to pick up the stick, she barks right into my ear – and I’m almost loath to go on.  But I realize this was only an accident of timing, and I continue tossing the stick until Mway decides on her own that she’s done enough.