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)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Unidentifiable Flowers Among the Goose Grass

June 30, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  (Right now, as I’m trying to write down this entry, Moi, who just came home from Jazz’s and is upstairs getting things together for a 5-day job she has to do out-of-town, is interrupting me every few minutes, telling me about her last minutes with Atlas, showing me an Indian dress that Jazz got her in Nevada, boasting how after two weeks of spending time dog and cat sitting Jazz’s and Matt’s house is now clean and Atlas is a much better behaved dog.)  This morning I got up at 8, did the morning chores.  Squeak still refuses to eat the cat food I nuke for her; Mway started barking at me in anticipation of going out, something she usually only does when Moi is taking her out.
State of the Path:  It’s a cool morning, with a pleasant breeze (Moi is telling me that a frost is possible in the Northern Tier tonight).  The day lilies are not yet opened.  I walk along in a fog, encounter a spider web past the sumacs, which I knock down with my stick.   The dew is not too thick until I get to the seeps of bug land: there the grasses that I have to wade through throw some water onto my pants.  (Moi is telling me that Jazz and Matt found Hawaii to be very expensive: $150 a piece to take a cable car over a dormant volcano; Matt said it would’ve been more exciting to take a cable car over Centralia).  Along the creek I come across something that perplexes me:  two specimens of a flower or something on long stalks that look like white clover but are hard like a macaroon.  I’m almost afraid to touch them, because they look like something that could sting.  The stalks go all the way to the ground, but there’s some goose grass growing in the area, as well as another plant that I’ve been seeing around but don’t know what it is.  This latter plant has long tapered leaves that curl up at the stalk where they’re attached.  I don’t know if I have any hope of ever identifying what all this is.
State of the Creek:  Again we reach the creek without encountering the raccoons.  The pools of water are holding their own.  (Moi is handing me a Hawaiian shirt Jazz got for me; Moi’s afraid it might be too small for me.)
 The Fetch:  Again my muscles are sore as I bend down to pick up the stick after each fetch.  Perhaps I’ve been swimming too much in the pool, or perhaps they’re sore after spot mowing the lawn yesterday evening.  Mway forces me to toss the “pro-quality” stick and play “Put it down” more times than I care to.  (“When we’d play ‘Fetch it,’ “ Moi is telling me, “Sometimes he’d hide the thing under the laundry basket and make me look for it.”)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Narrow It Down to Fringed Loosestrife

June 29, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  Again the morning chores -- almost can do them now without thinking, although there are snags: a bug in the coffee water which I have to spoon out; Squeak turns a nose up at her cat food even though I’ve nuked it for the recommended 10 seconds.  By the time Mway and I are on the path, it’s a little before 9.
State of the Path:  Since I’m going to have to take Mway for a walk again this afternoon, probably after doing some work, I decide to just take the main circuit.  There’s more dew on the weeds than there has been for a while; my pants get fairly splattered.  I look at the Canadian thistle, growing up in competition among the yet unflowering goldenrod.  (Actually, looking through Audubon, I see there’s various types of thistle – Canada, bull, nodding; I don’t know exactly which kind mine is; maybe I’ll try to figure that out someday).  I observe a grape vine that’s growing up over a small maple tree at the edge of the maple grove.  The grasses at the seeps in bug land still lean over the path, and I have to wade through them again.  The raspberries, which seemed so numerous a week ago, don’t seem as much now, but they might be obscured by other weeds growing over them, and I don’t feel like walking through briars looking for them.  The path along the creek is easily passable, but then it becomes choked with weeds again at the swale from bug land and through the red willows.  Beyond the ridge around bug land, near the St. johnswort, a fly starts buzzing around my nose, and persists in doing so as far as the clearing.
State of the Creek:   On the way to the creek, Mway stops several times to sniff at blades of grass; my thought is that she’s catching a scent of a mammal, perhaps the raccoons.  When we reach the tree stand, I feel nervous about approaching the bank of the creek, and I see that even Mway hesitates for a moment.  But when the chalky brown water below the maple tree comes into view, we both see there are no raccoons there.  As Mway is splashing around in the water, I suddenly notice a new wildflower growing up amidst the multiflora bushes that chokes the creek.  It has a five-petaled yellow flower and dark green, smooth, elliptical leaves, and it’s as tall as my waist.  I don’t see anything in Audubon that matches it.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, after fetching the “pro-quality” stick several times, Mway wants to play “Put it down.”  I don’t feel like it and yell out “No we’re not doing that,” words which in Mway’s mind mean the same thing, and we end up playing “Put it down” several times.
Addendum:  After I come home from work, I rest for an hour, then take Mway out about 4:30.  I bring along the Audubon with the hope of identifying the new wildflowers I saw down by the creek.  At least this time, as I’m leafing through the book, I’m standing in the shade.  I go through the yellow flower section one time and don’t see anything I like (while I’m doing so, I hear a great crash through the weeds somewhere on the far side of the creek, a sound I identify as a deer being spooked by our presence).  Then I realize that most of the flowers are drooping down with the bottom sides up, so I turn one over and realize, as I didn’t before, that its pistil is largely red.  So I begin leafing through the book again, and I begin to narrow the candidates down to some kind of loosestrife.  The petals seem to look to me most like whorled loosestrife, but the leaves are not right.  But then I come to the picture of fringed loosestrife, and while the picture doesn’t look quite exact, I read in the entry that the flowers rise “on stalks in the axils of opposite leaves with leaf stalks fringed with spreading hairs” -- all true of what I’m looking at.  Then I read that the flowers are “usually pointing outward or even downward” [emphasis mine].  The only thing I read that bothers me is that the flowers are “minutely toothed” – okay – and “coming to a sharp point” – not okay – at least in my judgment.  My flowers seem to taper to a point.  Then I start walking along the creek, and not too far down, I see some more of the same flowers – and these, for whatever reason, look exactly like the picture; I figure that the flowers down by the tree stand may be wilted, so distorted a little.  Later, at the crest of the skating pond, I see even more fringed loosestrife growing, and also some on the other side of the ridge around bug land.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pools Best Called Puddles

June 28, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  Again, the morning chores.  I take Mway out a little after 8.  I think about putting a leash on her to avoid any encounters with the raccoons, but she’s not wearing her collar, so I don’t bother with it.  I have to work this afternoon.
State of the Path:  I survey the lawn and see that it hasn’t grown much in the past week: no need to mow it tonight.  I spot the fallen purple plums under the plum tree, but I don’t see any ripened plums in the tree itself.  Out on the side path, I see something has dug into one of the anthills; some sort of carnivore must be resorting to insects for food, and I think of the possibility that it might be the raccoons.  I don’t see any ants in the newly disturbed dirt, and I wonder if whatever dug it up might have been disappointed in its search.  As I look at the poor state of the jewelweed, I note that just past the cedar tree and just before the thickest area of goldenrod, there’s a stand of jewelweed that seems to be doing well.  Otherwise, most of the jewelweed all over the place looks bedraggled.  Down by the creek, much of the grass is brown, particularly beneath the giant locust tree with the oaks growing beside it.
State of the Creek:  Mway passes me on the path by the wigwams, and as we approach the creek, I hold my breath.  But we don’t encounter any raccoons.  Under the tree stand, I see that I’ve misremembered yesterday.  The water that remains of the pool there is all under the maple tree, not as I said last night.  There’s a bunch of birds in the trees at the hedgerow, but I can’t tell what they are.  I don’t take the side path, but I do check on the rest of the pools of the creek.  Most of them should now be called puddles.
The Fetch:  I realize that my muscles are just not awake this early in the morning, as I bend down slowly to pick up the stick after each fetch.  After a number of fetches with the “pro-quality” stick, Mway starts to play “Put it down.”  She wants to play it a couple times, but I only play it once.  On the path past the sumacs, I’m happy that I clipped many of the briars back the other day.
Addendum:  My work in the afternoon doesn’t take long, and I’m back by 2.  Moi says she’s coming home later this afternoon, without Atlas, and needs my help to siphon off some beer brewing in the basement that she and the Boy had made.  I take a nap, during which it rains, briefly, but hard.  When Moi arrives, I take Mway out again for a walk, about 5.  The rain has affected the plants: the weeds are leaning over onto the path, especially the grass down at the seeps at bug land, where it feels I have to wade through it.  The jewelweed seems more vibrant – it’s amazing to me how quickly they imbibe a little water.  And down at the creek, there’s a little more water in the pools of water, though there’s hardly been enough rain to restore the whole creek.  Up at the clearing, after Mway fetches the “pro-quality” stick a number of times, we play “Put it down” about five times.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pretty Sure It's a Canadian Thistle Out There

June 27, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  Last night Moi came home to work, with Atlas in tow.  She was distressed because sometime while she was down at Jazz’s with Atlas, the dog had gotten into her purse and ate a whole bottle of her thryroid medicine.  After trying to call several local vets, she finally got in touch with our vet, Lenny, who assured her that the medicine would not do Atlas any harm.  Nevertheless, the incident set the whole tone of her evening.  She was unable to get Atlas into Ezra’s kennel (I had to make a trip over to Ezra’s place, and succeeded in getting him in the cage).  Moi had one job to do in the afternoon, and ended up going to the wrong place.  Then we had our usual job to do together at night.  That went well, but her distress over Atlas continued over to this morning.  She seemed to be beside herself as she was getting ready to go back down to Jazz’s.  Finally, after taking Atlas out early in the morning, she got herself together and she and the dog drove down to Jazz’s.  Moi left me with the parting words:  “I’ll probably end up killing myself driving down there.”  I took Mway out after they left: just in the back yard to throw stick.  After that, I went to my work for the bulk of the day.  When I get home, about 6:30, I take Mway out for her afternoon walk.
State of the Path:  Before we head out on the path, I have to throw out some feed to the chickens.  When Mway and I get to the juncture with the side path, Mway starts to go down the side path.  I say, “Whichever way you want to go, Mway,” which she interprets as meaning that I want to go down the main path, so she turns around and heads that way.  After a few feet, she starts to slow down, and I can tell that she wants to poop, so I stop to let her.  As I’m standing there, I look out into the weeds and see a new flowering plant.  I don’t quite know what it is, but the name Canadian thistle comes to mind, and I think to myself that I should recognize this distinctive plant.  As I look up the name in the Audubon just now, I find a picture of it: I’m pretty sure this is what’s out there.  As Mway and I head down toward the creek, I become curious to see what the water is like – Moi said that it rained a little late last night.  I also become apprehensive about running into the raccoons:  I really hate to disturb them.
State of the Creek:  Down at the tree stand, Mway heads into the creek at her usual spot, and I follow close behind.  I’m grateful not to come across any raccoons, but I’m shocked to see that the pool of water has shrunk even further.  Now it’s all mud in front of the large maple tree, the tree that the raccoons had climbed up.  Further down the creek, I check on the rest of the pools.  They’re still all there, but not much so.  In another of the pools, Mway goes in to have another sip of water: I’m surprised she doesn’t get a mouthful of the bugs that crowd the one end.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, Mway fetches the “pro-quality” stick with her usual enthusiasm.  In contrast to Atlas, she’s a model of regularity, patience, and restraint: after all, she spent close to eight hours lying alone in the house waiting for this moment.  We play “Put it down” about five or six times.  On the way back to the house, I see some purple plums from Moi’s plum tree that have fallen to the ground.  I pick one up, and it’s all dry.  I look quickly into the tree, but don’t see any purple ones there, and I feel bad that Moi is not here to check her plum tree more closely.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

An Eruption of Growls

June 26, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  Again I have the morning chores and morning walk to handle.  Pour the water for the coffee, turn on the computer, heat up some canned cat food for Squeak and put it on top of the refrigerator (Moi says she won’t eat this unless it’s nuked for ten seconds; and today she doesn’t eat it anyway), open up the chicken cage to let the chickens out, see that they have water, and throw out some feed for them.  Mway and I are on the path by 9:15 or so.  I remember to bring along the clippers.
State of the Path:  Day lilies still in blaze.  I’m impressed by the amount of fleabane that has come up along the old orchard.  I don’t eat any raspberries.  If the honeysuckle berries were edible, I would eat some of them because there sure are a lot of them.  I wonder if the shrub-like plant I’ve been trying to identify is a type of honeysuckle because it seems to me that the buds are arising from leaf axils; could this be a later blooming honeysuckle, perhaps Tartarian honeysuckle?  The leaves and stems look pretty close to the picture in Audubon; but I’ll have to be patient and wait for the flowers to bloom more.  The jack-in-the-pulpits, though their leaves are brown, are still erect, and they’re holding onto their green corn-like fruit, waiting for them I guess to fall to the ground.  The elberberry berries are still green; I’m waiting for them to turn purple.  I go along the crest of the skating pond.  Although red grass is the main plant growing in the pond, some catty-nine-tails seem to be sticking up, even though the pond is probably dry.  See some mosquito-like bugs (mosquitoes perhaps?) stuck together, in mating position, near the feed channel.  Along bug land before the evergreens, the little purple flowers are still there; I’ll probably have to bring my Audubon along with me before I have any hope of identifying them.  The St. johnswort is still growing along the path beyond the ridge, and the poison ivy is doing well on the way to the clearing.
State of the Creek:  Mway approaches the creek before I do and heads to the pool under the tree stand where she regularly cools off and takes a sip of water.  Just as I pass under the pin oaks, I hear an eruption of loud growls coming from where Mway just went.  I hurry around the honeysuckle, worried that Mway might be getting hurt, and am relieved to see a mother raccoon and two of her children scurrying up the tree on the far bank.  As the raccoons cling to the branches and look down at me, Mway comes back to my side on the path.  We head down the path, and Mway starts to turn back, but I tell her to stay with me. 
The Fetch:   Up at the clearing, Mway fetches the “pro-quality” stick more times than I care to throw it.  We play “Put it down,” and it looks like she would like to play it at least a second time, but I turn around to head down the path along the sumacs.  Mway passes me before the end of the clearing, and while she runs to the house, I stay behind to clip back briars, goldenrod, sumac saplings, and whatever other weed is impinging on the path.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Plant Peed On Beginning to Flower, Still Unidentifiable

June 25, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  Last night Moi was home when I came back from work.  Atlas was with her.  Moi spent a lot of time telling me how she has been trying to train Atlas while down at Jazz’s, teaching him some basic commands like “come” and “stay.”  She feels she has made a lot of progress, although Atlas is still a lot to handle.  Because she feels more confident controlling Atlas, she took both dogs on the morning walk today, without leashes.  But she skipped throwing the stick, and back at the house Mway refused to eat anything.  Moi has gone back down to Jazz’s with Atlas.  I don’t have to work until tonight, so I’ll be able to take Mway on her afternoon walk.  It was nice to be able to get up this morning without having to do all the chores. I finally take Mway out about 2:45.  After Moi left, Mway slammed the door on herself in her room, so I have to let her out.  To finish up this entry, I have to remove Squeak from my office chair.   Squeak, who never goes outside, seems to like to sleep in the places I most use, like this chair, and the bathroom sink.  I’ve had to pick her up and move her a couple times already today.
State of the Path:  Mway starts sniffing the lawn, and I don’t see her again on the walk until I’ve crossed the feed channel and am walking across the crest of the skating pond.  I eat a couple raspberries by the old orchard, mindful of getting the seeds stuck in my teeth.  They are sweet and juicy.  I note that whatever the plant is I peed on a couple weeks ago is starting to flower, and there are a number of these shrub-like plants along the path, especially in the upper field.  I still can’t figure out from Audubon what this plant might be, but maybe in the coming days as they flower more I’ll be able to identify it.  The ground is like a bone, and with the heat and lack of rain keeping the grass and jewelweed beat down, the path opens up helplessly to my foot steps, which only have to contend with plants like goldenrod, grape vines, and briars, which seem to thrive in the dry heat.  A few butterflies – white ones – flutter about.
State of the Creek:  All the pools are still there, but they are shrinking even more.  The pool at the log jam has receded halfway across, and some kind of flies are buzzing around in the fresh mud.  A couple of the other pools are again crowded with water striders, who sit there squat in the water, with no room to stride about.
The Fetch:  Mway fetches the “pro-quality” stick more times than I bother to count, but probably less than seven times today.  Whatever the plant is that I’ve been wondering about, I see a couple of them coming up in the middle of the clearing among the goldenrod.  On the way back on the path by the sumacs, I regret again not bringing some clippers.  I have to tear back a briar jutting into the pathway with my gloved hands.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Goldenrod Scrapes Against My Thighs and Crotch

June 24, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  Same chores as yesterday, only about an hour earlier.  Some of the peeps have ventured as far as the spruce tree before I let the bigger chickens out, and they all gather together wherever I throw some feed for them.  Last night I worked, but Moi was home to take Mway for her afternoon walk, or at least to throw stick for her.  It’ll be the same situation today; I’ll have to go out shortly after noon to do some afternoon work also.  It’s about 8:15 by the time I’m ready to accompany Mway down the path.
State of the Path:  The heat doesn’t hit me as strongly as it did yesterday, but, again, it’s an hour earlier.  But though an hour earlier, there’s no more dew on the weeds.  I’m struck by how much the touch-me-nots (more specifically, spotted touch-me-nots) look bedraggled; where they’ve flowered, the flowers look withered.  Audubon describes the flowering period as July – October. Since they’ve flowered so early this year, I’m curious to see how they fare later on.  A lot of grape vines around the side path along the orchard; I’ve beaten down a lot of blackberry shoots, so the blackberry brambles don’t seem to be overtaking the path; at the end of the side path, though, the goldenrod is so thick that the path has all but disappeared: as I walk along, the goldenrod stems fall in front of my chest, scrape against my thighs and crotch, and spring back up behind me. Except for the fleabane and what I think is Queen Anne’s lace in the upper field, most of the white in the field is gone.  Something ruffles through the weeds down by the creek: probably a mouse or a vole, though it could be a snake.
State of the Creek.  Each of the pools that I noted yesterday is still there, but each one has shrunk a little, with fresh mud at its rim.  The newly exposed mud at the rim of the pool at the log jam seems buckled upward, as though something has buried itself underneath it.  Water striders crowd what little water is left in a couple of the pools.
The Fetch:   Again it seems like my muscles are sore as I bend down to pick up the stick; maybe I’m just not used to using them so early in the morning.  In contrast to me, Mway is a dynamo, fetching the “pro-quality” stick more times than I care to throw it.  After a number of fetches, she comes back to me holding the stick in her mouth.  I start to turn around, but I see she’s not following me: she wants to play “Put it down.”  So I turn around and scold her, “put it down!”  It’s the last fetch I want to do; as Mway brings the stick back, it gets caught between my legs so I almost stumble.  On the way back on the path, a briar catches on my shirt sleeve, and I think to myself that I must remember to bring something along on my next walk to cut these briars back.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Weeds Impinge Path, But Would Be Worse If We Had Had Rain

June 23, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  Same 9 am routine as yesterday:  turn on the computer, pour the water for the coffee, go outside let the chickens out, etc.  Mway’s ready whenever I am to go for her morning walk.  The only difference is there’s no turd on the rug in kitchen; that’s because I let Mway out late last night.
State of the Path:  It’s going to be a hot day today, feel the heat and humidity immediately.  Beneath the apple tree and along Moi’s garden pond, there’s a low-lying violet flower that looks something like gill-of-the-ground; a cursory check of Audubon doesn’t tell me what it is.  Day lilies by the walled garden are in full blaze.  The morning dew has almost already all evaporated.  I hear a mourning dove in the distance, then a farmer’s machine coming from the mountains.  The radio squeak of unseen birds: probably cardinals.  I realize as I’m walking along, that as much as the path seems hemmed in by weeds, it’s nothing compared to what it might be if the season were wetter.  Because of the lack of rain, the path is staying open, inviting our foot and paw steps with its beat down grass and dry white ground.  The elderberry flowers are turning into green berries; the red willow flowers, or whatever they are, are also turning green.  As I step across the board at the swale from bug land, I think about the deer we chased out yesterday, its absence now, and how disappointed it was to discover that what it thought was a perfectly secluded spot to bed down was a place visited by a human and his dog.
State of the Creek:  At the tree stand, Mway goes into the water, stirs it up; when I look at it it’s a muddy creamy color.  She steps over the dry rocks, which crackle under her paws, and exits the creek bed at her usual spot, below the red-berried honeysuckles.  I count the same pools of water as I did yesterday, then I hop over the feed channel, a little treacherous now, not because of water or mud, but because the foot holds are obscured by jewelweed and other weeds growing over them.  I look at the creek along the crest of the skating pond.  What’s usually one long pool of water has now shrunk into two smallish ponds, ringed by mud that was recently covered by water.  A dry wide outcrop of rocks, with the tire along the bank, is all that remains of the creek beyond the second feed channel.  It hits me today that most of the creek is now dry.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, I toss the “pro-quality” stick into the goldenrod; for some odd reason, maybe because the heat is affecting her brain, Mway dashes off in a tangent back down the path, and I have to call her back and walk toward the stick to reorient her.  After that, though, she fetches the stick with great accuracy.  We play “Put it down” once.  Walking back along the sumacs, I realize I should bring the clippers along with me on these walks, or another stick; the briars are getting thick here, and pretty soon they’ll be catching against me with every step.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Catch the Blurred Sight of a White Tail

June 22, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  I wake up a little bit before nine, go to the bathroom, turn on the computer, pour coffee and water into the coffee dripper, go outside and let out the chickens (the peeps are already out, having been able to slip through the cage), put out some feed for them, see that they have water, and then, while the water is dripping and the computer is going through its start-up grinding, I take Mway for her morning walk, before going to work some time today.  I notice while I’m wandering around the kitchen, a little turd drying on the rug in front of the door; it’s probably Mway’s, and I realize I didn’t do things quite to her schedule.
State of the Path:  We walk straight down to the creek; no side paths.  Again the dew is very light, the ground very hard, the dirt light in color, the grass in the path brown.  I look a little at the raspberries, but I don’t bother to pick any.  In bug land, I notice some purple flowers, but I don’t bother to look at them too closely.  Coming up to the clearing, I pull off a leaf of the St. johnswort and hold it up, but the sky is cloudy, and I don’t see any translucent dots.
State of the Creek.  Mway goes into the pool of water below the deer blind, which has shrunk a lot in the last couple days.  I look down at the pool of water at the log jam; its murky and very dark.  Up from the log jam, the creek is just a straight line of bare rocks to the tree stand.  Underneath the big trees at the center of the path, the creek is completely dry, and the next pool of water is where the path narrows.  It seems that all the water striders are crowded together on this one pool of water, so crowded together they have no room to move.  Then just as I’m looking to see where the next pool of water begins, I hear a great crashing sound coming from the swale of bug land.  I turn around just in time to catch the blurred sight of a white tail and some brown fur, the first deer this year that I’ve chased out of its resting spot while on a walk.  I walk forward to the board that crosses the swale, and I see Mway standing there, dwarfed by the red willows surrounding her.  She’s not moving, and while we stand there looking at each other, we can hear the deer gasping.  It sounds to me like the deer is hurt, and I surmise that it must have tripped over something in the grasses of bug land.  Mway and I move forward through the red willows into bug land, and I expect to find the deer floundering in the grasses, with a broken neck or something.  But when I look around, I see no sign of it.
The Fetch:   Up at the clearing, I stand in the trampled goldenrod and throw the “pro-quality” stick.  Mway fetches it more times than I care to count, or rather, more times than I care to throw it today.   I find today that I have a rough time bending down to pick up the stick; my muscles are sore, not so much from mowing the lawn yesterday, as from trying to restart the hot engine after emptying the basket and refilling it with gas.
Addendum:  When I get home from work late in the afternoon, Moi is home doing some work and errands (after which she plans to go back to sit with Atlas).  I take a nap, and about 5, take Mway for her afternoon walk.  It rained for a brief while around noon today, and I’m curious to see how it might have affected the land.  There are still some raindrops on the leaves, but by the time I reach the creek my pants are only a little splattered with water.  The touch-me-nots have no more vigor than they had before, and the creek water seems no higher.  I begin to count how many pools of water there are in the creek: one at the tree stand, another at the log jam, one beneath the black walnut tree, and a double one just beyond the high trees, which is divided by dry rocks.  There’s no water in the feed channel, and I don’t bother to take the side path along the skating pond.  Up at the clearing, Mway fetches the “pro-quality” stick with as much energy as she did this morning.  After our fetch, she rams the back of my legs with the stick, while trying to pass me on the path.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

So Dry No Dew, But Manage to Identify St. Johnswort

June 21, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:   Today I have to go to work as soon as I can get around to it.  But first I have to do all of Moi’s chores, including take Mway for her morning walk.  I decide to take her out while the coffee water is dripping and while my computer is grinding away to open up its unwieldy programs.  It’s about 8:45.
State of the Path:  This early in the morning I expect to be splashed by the morning dew, but I don’t encounter any until I get to the seeps of bug land, and even there there’s not much of it, which serves to emphasize how dry it’s been.  Again I touch the touch-me-nots, and again they don’t coil and twinge, and I realize how hard and dry the ground of the path is, and that because of the lack of rain, the path is easier walking than it normally would be this time of year.  I don’t bother to take either side path, and although the end of the upper side path is choked with goldenrod, just before the wigwams, I think I can even make out a trace of the beginning of the path that used to cut across the field, although further on I see there’s too many weeds to make any easy attempt at it.  The raspberries, though, are doing well this year, and I help myself to some down by the creek.  At the swale from bug land, the touch-me-nots seem heartier, but they are not in flower there.  I look more closely at the yellow flowers on the way to the clearing.  They have five yellow petals, with stamens and so forth the same color.  I don’t find anything in Audubon that looks like what I see.
State of the Creek:  The rocky areas of the creek are definitely dry, with no water trickling through them.  So the creek consists of a string of disconnected, unflowing pools, one or two of which Mway walks into to cool off and take a sip of water.
The Fetch:  Mway fetches the “pro-quality” stick more times than I care to count.  I note that the grass underneath the goldenrod is brown.  On the walk back past the sumacs, the path is becoming choked with briars.  In the back yard, I look at the lawn and wonder if I should wait until tomorrow to mow it.
Addendum:  I finish up work and get home about 4:45.  I guess I’ll take Mway for another walk, after which I’ll eat and then I’ll mow the lawn after I eat.  I take both side paths, just for the sake of trampling the weeds.  I see grape vine leaves that are bigger than my hand; some of the fleabane towers over my head.  Down by the creek, I hear a frog or two croaking down where I used to see the skunk cabbages; I see a frog crossing the path as it leaps into the water.  Mway goes into a pool, and I can hear some dry rocks crackling against each other as she steps on them.  Then I stop at the yellow flowers on the way to the clearing – I’ve brought the Audubon with me.  As Mway heads up toward the clearing, and with the sun beating on my workshirt and sweat coming down my face, I leaf through the pictures, eliminating one by one several candidates for the plant I see before me:  black mustard? – nope; hedge mustard? – nope; common wintercress? – nope; nodding bur marigold? – nope;  tickseed sunflower? – almost, but nope.  Mway comes back down the path, and starts staring at me, beckoning me to the clearing.  Then just as I’m about ready to give up, I come upon what I’m certain that I’m looking at: common St. johnswort.  5 petals on branched, terminal clusters; long, opposite, elliptic leaves.  And the clincher: I even see the black dots on the margins of the petals.  Supposedly the leaves have tiny translucent dots that can be seen in the light; I tear a leaf off and hold it up, but Mway is still looking at me, and I drop the leaf and move on.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ragweed, Touch-Me-Nots, Wild Carrot, and a Bunch of Unidentifiable Things

June 20, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  Work all day today.  When I get home about 6:30, no one is here.  The Boy has gone back to NYC; Moi has taken Atlas back to Jazz’s, where she finds it less stressful to watch him.  Moi has left a note on my computer monitor that says “Mway needs supper,” “Chickens need locked up.”  I find Mway on Moi’s bed.  After I put on my walking clothes, then go downstairs to put on my boots, gloves, and safari helmet, Mway comes down to the kitchen, ready to go for her walk.
State of the Path:  The chickens come running up to me, with their peeps following behind them.  Mway and I head to the path.  Just before the pig pen, in the middle of the path, I see the conspicuous plant with long spiked green flowers which I haven’t mentioned before because I didn’t know what it was.  But since yesterday, when I was leafing through the Audubon, I think I can confidently say that this plant is a common ragweed, to be distinguished from the great ragweed, which I’m more familiar with, because most years we have that growing in great numbers, to its maximum height of fifteen feet.  I haven’t yet this year seen great ragweed growing to that kind of height (except that one time by the summer house), but I do also see it coming up around the place, perhaps more than the common ragweed.  On the side path, I refrain from eating any raspberries, because I’m afraid of getting the seeds stuck in my teeth.  But when I get down to the creek, there’s a stand of raspberries with so many ripe ones that I cannot stop myself from eating some of them; I just make a point of chewing on the better side of my mouth.  All along the path, I notice how some of the plants seem bedraggled because of the dry weather, especially the touch-me-nots.  In fact I touch some of the touch-me-nots and discover that they lack all that spring which they usually have and from whence they derive their name.  Not one of the touch-me-nots which I touch twinges or coils up (like they do I guess to spray their seeds); and this suggests to me that these flowers have bloomed prematurely this season.  On the board on the ground near the wigwams, I see the pile of turds Mway left there yesterday.  Coming up to the clearing, I see several of the white flowers with fern-like leaves that I’ve seen before and didn’t know what they were.  But again, after leafing through the Audubon, I think I can confidently say these are Queen Anne’s lace, or wild carrot, which is a plant I think I should have recognized but perhaps didn’t because of how they were situated.  I see a lot more of the yellow flowers that I saw before, and judging from their leaves it seems to me that they might be what Moi calls goose grass, or bed straw, now in flower.  But the pictures I see in Audubon for bed straw and goose grass looks nothing like this.  I also see some violet flowers and lavender flowers growing just before bug land; but, right now, I don’t even feel like leafing through the Audubon to try to guess what they might be.
State of the Creek:  It seems to me that some of the pools in the creek are starting to dry up, as I notice some wet mud among the rocks.  Particularly along the crest of the skating pond, it seems to me that what used to be one long pool has now divided up into two smaller ones, with dry rocks in between.  Still I hear some frogs leaping into the water as I walk along.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, Mway fetches the “pro-quality” stick more times than I care to count, but not as many times as she was doing when Atlas was around.  When we get back to the back yard, I think about my chore of having to lock up the chicken cage and expect that I’ll have to wait a while before I have to go out and do that.  But when I get back, the chickens have already all gone back in their coop, and conveniently all I have to do is shut and latch the cage door as I’m walking by.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Atlas Leads the Way to the Creek

June 19, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  As it turned out, yesterday I never did any work in the afternoon.  I needed work on the brakes of my car and took it to Sears because they could work on it right away; but they couldn’t obtain all the necessary parts, so one of the workers gave me a ride home, and Ezra drove me and my equipment to and from work that night.   Moi had gone down to Jazz’s with Atlas yesterday in the afternoon; she came back early this morning, and she and the Boy (visiting from NYC) have gone to breakfast, I believe, after taking the Boy’s car to Kantz’s for an inspection.  Right now Atlas is downstairs sitting in front of the kitchen door, whimpering and barking occasionally, because I think he’d like to go outside.  Mway is lying down in the hallway just outside the office here.  I already took her out this morning to fetch stick in the back yard and then fed her (before Atlas arrived), but now I believe she’s waiting for a walk.  I’m waiting to hear from Moi and the Boy.
State of the Path:  Moi and the Boy come back about 11, and Moi, in a cheerful mood for the first time in days, decides to take both dogs for a walk, keeping Atlas on a leash, and not bringing the stick.  I follow along.  Moi seems to have gained some confidence that she can better control Atlas, as Atlas pulls her along down to the creek.  Both dogs take dumps and pees; Mway dumps on the board in the path near the wigwams.  Moi wonders whether she can take Atlas off his leash.  I tell her that I’ve taken both dogs on a walk before without leashes, but that was back at Christmas time, and that I had a stick as a means to put a leash back on Atlas before we came to the house.  Moi decides to keep the leash on Atlas.
State of the Creek:  At the tree stand, Mway goes into the water, and Atlas follows, with Moi behind him and managing not to get pulled into the creek.  I eat some of the raspberries that I see have ripened (I would eat more, but the seeds stick in my teeth).  Farther down the creek, Mway goes again in the water, and Atlas follows again.  This time Moi lets go of the leash, because the bank is high, but she’s able to grab it back when Atlas follows Mway back to the bank.
The Fetch:  On the way to the clearing, I ask Moi if she knows what the yellow wildflowers are (the ones I first noticed yesterday or the day before, and which are coming out now in more numbers).  She says, very provisionally, that they might be a type of crown vetch, but I don’t think so, and unfortunately I don’t have the leisure today to try to identify them.  Up at the clearing, Mway stops in anticipation of me throwing a stick, but of course we have none.  At the walled garden, after Moi and Atlas disappear from sight, I pull a stick from one of the dead sumacs on top of the barn wall, and Mway and I venture out onto the path again.  I take the side path along the orchard, just for the sake of a day’s trampling of the weeds, but then we turn back to the clearing.  Mway fetches the sumac stick as though she hadn’t already fetched a stick previously this morning.  I watch as the stick falls and rustles the goldenrod before it hits the ground, and Mway zeroes in on where it landed, then dashes back, with the goldenrod wiggling in her wake.  Where I stand to toss the stick, I look approvingly at how much of the goldenrod is staying smashed down.
Addendum:  Later in the day, before Moi and I both go to work, we take the dogs for another walk.  Or rather, the Boy takes Atlas for a long walk down to the creek, and when he gets back, I simply take Mway out in the back yard to fetch stick.  I use a small stick I find on the bench, perhaps one from a lilac bush.   After a few fetches, Mway starts to chew at the stick, until first it breaks apart in half and finally, after a few more throws, splinters into little pieces.  I find another stick in the yard, and she promptly chews that one to pieces too.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Atlas Returns

June 18, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  I have to work both today and tonight.  Moi has come back with Atlas; while she had a comfortable time sitting with the dog down at Jazz’s, now that she’s back she’s beginning to get stressed out handling the two dogs.   She has just announced that she’ll take Atlas for a walk, and after that she wants me to take Mwayla out.  Mway is now lying on the floor next to me in the office; Squeak is on the window sill; we can hear Atlas barking and Moi screaming outside.  It’s now 9:18.  After a while, I go to put on my walking clothes; but when Moi comes back inside with Atlas, she tells me she has to go into town to do some errands and that I can’t take Mway out until she comes back or Atlas will break down all the doors while we’re on our walk.  So right now I’m sitting here, waiting for Moi to return; it’s approaching 10:00.
State of the Path:  By the time Moi gets back and Mway and I set out on the path it’s after 10:30.  I’m too stressed out myself to pay much attention to what’s going on today.  As we approach the juncture to the side path, I tell myself if Mway turns left on the side path we’ll go down that way, otherwise we’ll go straight.  Mway goes straight, and I see after a while that she’s trying to get ahead enough of me so she can squat down and poop.  Along the creek, I see a new wildflower; it has tiny yellows flowers and little green burs.  It looks like something I’ve seen in Audubon, but I have no time today to check it out.
State of the Creek:  As I’m taking a whiz myself down by the creek, I hear Mway splashing around in one of the pools.  Then I see Mway coming up from an area of rocks, through a little pathway in the weeds that she must have made by herself doing this everyday.
The Fetch:  Mway and I continue trampling down the goldenrod.  She fetches the “pro-quality” stick more times than I care to count; I suspect that she’s trying to prove to me and to herself that she is better than Atlas at fetching, which indeed she is.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Something Like a Mayweed, But Not Like a Mayweed

June 17, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:  Moi has taken Atlas back to Jazz’s, where she finds it easier to dog sit him, although she’s going to have to come back this afternoon, with Atlas in tow, to work tonight.  I also work tonight (I worked last night too), and I’ve decided not to do any work this afternoon.  Moi has given me explicit instructions to take Mway on a good, long walk, so she won’t feel obliged to give her one when she gets back.  This morning, of course, I had to let the chickens out etc., and I threw morning stick for Mway out in the back yard, after which I fed her.  I take her out for a walk about 12:45, a moment that Mway has waited for all morning, lying patiently in the music room.
State of the Path:  I bring the hedge clippers along with me, figuring that a good, long walk constitutes clipping back some of the weeds.  I don’t clip anything, though, unless it’s something really leaning into the path: any kind of briar, like a multiflora or a blackberry, and some of the shrubs, the honeysuckles and the red willows near bug land.  A lot of the goldenrod needs to be cut down, but this requires more work, which I don’t feel like doing today.  Along the orchard and down by the creek, I help myself to any raspberry which I see has ripened.  Near the swale to bug land, I note again a wildflower I saw the other day, with tiny white flowers and fern-like leaves.  I wonder to myself if this might be mayweed, since I read the other day that mayweed has fern-like leaves.  But looking again at the picture in Audubon, I see clearly that, whatever this plant might be, it’s not mayweed; and I don’t see any other candidate among the pictures.
State of the Creek:  The only movement of water I see today are ripples caused by skating water striders and plopping frogs.  In one of the pools, I watch the striders for a while, as two of them skate over to a fallen flower petal, each of them rejecting it as something inedible.  In the water, I notice some lit up spots, the sun obviously shining down, but near them I see some foggy areas, like smoke plumes in the water – I can’t figure out what this might be, except perhaps for shadows caused by leaves.   
The Fetch:  This morning Mway fetched the “pro-quality” stick for a good, long time, and she does so again after we arrive at the clearing, where, also, we continue our work of keeping the goldenrod trampled down.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Atlas Stresses Moi and Mway

June 16, 2010.  Wednesday.
Situation:  This morning Moi wakes me up, distress in her voice as she tells me about her trouble handling the two dogs.  “What would you like me to do?” I ask.  She complains that Mway will not eat with Atlas around and explains that she has to go into town to pick up some paint and would like me to take Mway for a walk when she gets back.  Right now I’m sitting in the office, waiting for her to return; Mway and Squeak are sitting next to me; they’ve been able to claim the upstairs as their exclusive domain; Atlas will not venture up the stairs.  Moi comes home about 10:30, and I take Mway out, while Atlas stays indoors.
State of the Path.  It’s a cool, overcast day; only a little bit of dew remains on the plants at this hour.  In the distance some heavy machine is roaring and periodically beeping (probably Holtzapple or another farmer fertilizing or spraying his field).  I take the side path along the orchard, and think to myself that it would’ve been a good day to bring along the clippers and the weed whacker; one of these days soon I’m going to have to do that, but as I look at the mullein and the touch-me-nots I almost feel hesitant about cutting down any weeds.
State of the Creek:  As I’m eating a few raspberries, I hear Mway splashing around in one of the pools in the creek.  Down the path a ways, a starling flies out of a bush then disappears beyond the trees.
The Fetch:  Mway and I stand in the middle of the clearing and work together at stamping down the goldenrod.  She fetches the “pro-quality” stick a good number of times.  When we get back to the house, I can see Moi behind the kitchen door window, trying to keep Atlas from jumping up against the door and window.  She is shrieking at both dogs, at me, and at her daughter:  “Atlas, stay down!  Mwayla come in!  I’m going to break my wrists!  If I have to do this for two weeks, I’m going to kill myself!”  As Moi finally manages to open the door without Atlas leaping against it, Mway takes off to hide somewhere.  “I was just trying to eat breakfast!  I’m choking on a piece of bread!  Mwayla where are you!”  Moi screams, as Atlas squirms out the door.  “Here,” I say, taking Atlas’s leash from Moi.  “Give him to me, I’ll take him for a walk.”  Moi hands the leash over to me, and, as Atlas pulls against it, I manage to guide him over toward the summer house.  We go crashing down through the day lilies and speeding across the lane (where I manage to glimpse at the daisy-like flowers, which I conclude are oxeye daisies, because they don’t have the fern-like leaves of mayweed), then we go thrashing down through the goldenrod, Atlas gasping as he pulls against the leash.  “Slow down,” I yell at Atlas, as I trip over the anthill before the ridge around bug land.  Atlas keeps lurching forward, at times unable to see the path clearly where it’s choked with weeds, and I think to myself that I better not take him down by the creek because I’m liable to fall over a branch or vine hidden in the grass.  But as we move along, though Atlas keeps choking against his collar, he gets a better sense of how the path goes, and we head toward the creek, floundering through the red willows and stumbling over the board that crosses the swale from bug land.  Along the creek, I worry that Atlas will venture into the water and pull me over the bank, but I manage to keep him away from the edge, and he becomes satisfied with just pulling me along the path.  We turn at the tree stand, go up through bug land and underneath the maples, and in no time we’re back at the house, where Moi is wandering around the yard wondering where Mway is hiding herself.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sample a Raspberry, Look at Mullein Again, Plus Ragweed, Burdock, Crown Vetch, Atlas, and Unidentifiable Things

June 15, 2010.  Tuesday.
Situation:  Have to work this afternoon, Moi is down at Jazz’s, so the morning walk, along with several other chores, is up to me.  I take Mway out about  11.
State of the Path:  I decide to take the side path along the old orchard; yesterday when I was walking down the main path, I could barely see where the side path joins up with it: so I want to walk this side path as often as possible to keep it trampled down – it would be nice to keep it clear all summer.  The black raspberries are still ripening – I sample the blackest one I see, and it tastes good, but I think in a few days they will be sweeter.  I look at my mullein; definitely pinkish flowers that do not match the moth mullein in Audubon.  I look for the milkweed, but I can’t find it, and I can’t believe this abundantly flowering plant could have disappeared over night.  Then I notice that Moi, I guess, beat down a path to the frame of her new wigwam, just around where I believe the milkweed was: would she have knocked down the milkweed, so beautifully flowering, in the process?  Down by the creek, I sample a few more raspberries; there are blacker ones down there.  More touch-me-nots, especially down by the creek, are coming out; I’m still surprised that they are flowering this early in the season.
State of the Creek:  You have to look closely to see the water trickling between the rocks.  But the many pools, one or two of which Mway regularly seeks out to cool off in, are still brown and robust.  I look for signs of duckweed, as I had seen some growing earlier in the spring.  But I believe the season has been too dry for duckweed to flourish this year.
The Fetch:  I stand just in front of the most trampled area, again to help clear more of the weeds in the clearing, and between me stamping around and Mway spinning about, we’re doing a good job of keeping the goldenrod from overtaking the whole clearing.  On the way back past the sumacs and through the briars, I see one tiny, but very strikingly pink to lavender flower, sticking out of the brambles;  it’s so tiny and so inconspicuous among the brambles that I hold little hope of ever identifying it.
Addendum:  I didn’t expect to take Mway out for an afternoon walk, but when I come back from work about 4:30, Moi is out in the yard with Jazz’s German shepherd, Atlas, who Moi has reluctantly agreed to watch while Jazz and Matt are on their honeymoon (she has also agreed to watch her cats, but is keeping them down at, and making periodic visits to, the kids’ house, because the one cat, Spook, has never been trained to pee or poop in a litter box).   My plans are to mow the lawn, but Moi asks me to take Mway for a walk, and she explains to me that she doesn’t want Atlas to go along or run free because she’s afraid the big dog might wander over to one of our neighbors’ houses.  So I decide to take Mway for just a quick walk to the clearing.  We go down the seldom used path along the summer house, between the day lilies, greeted by a giant ragweed and meeting amidst the lilies five or so burdock plants the size of lawn chairs, then go past the pile of tree trunks and down through a field chocked with goldenrod, with an understory of poison ivy.  Mway is especially diligent about fetching the stick (and I suspect secretly relieved that Atlas has not come along; I hear Atlas, chained up beneath the clothesline, echoing Mwayla’s barks across the field of weeds).  After we come back to the house, I begin to mow the lawn.  One advantage of not getting much rain is that the lawn becomes relatively easy to mow; and I have the patience to look at some of the wild plants that are coming up around the house.  Along the perimeter of the lawn, I see a lot of black raspberries growing, some of the brambles of which arch out into the lawn and get caught in the mower or scrape against me.   Along the lane in front of the house (which was intended to be a shale road but which grass has overtaken and consequently has to be mowed), I recognize, from the research I did on honeysuckles, that the vine growing along the lane and now sporting tubular flowers with long stamen is Japanese honeysuckle.  Along the lane below the summer house, I spot some particularly pretty pink and white flowers with locust-like leaves which I’m later able to identify, to my surprise, as crown vetch (I’m of course familiar with crown vetch from a distance along highways, but I never knew we had it growing here or ever looked at it up close).  Growing out of some shale that has remained bare in the lane is a picture-perfect specimen (I’m well prepared to make the identification) of a moth mullein, complete with its white flowers with its brownish-purple markings, unlike the pink flowers of the who-knows-what-kind of mullein I’ve been seeing down on the path.  Also growing out of the shale, I see some daisy-like flowers, which I will, however, have to check on again, because I’m not sure whether they’re oxeye daisies or mayweed; I also come across a yellow buttercup-like flower, perhaps like the ones I used to see down by the creek, which I’m unable to identify.   When I go in the house for a break and for supper, I learn how stressed out Moi is about having to take care of big undisciplined Atlas.  The dogs have been fighting over food, and when we sit down with our own food in front of the TV, Moi, who has just been screaming at both dogs, finds herself sitting on top of the Audubon wildflower book, which, acting upon her nerves like the proverbial straw on the camel’s back, she picks up and tosses across the room.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Milkweed Flower, Fleabane, and Perplexing Mullein

June 14, 2010.  Monday.
Situation:  I have to work tonight (though it’s what’s called a “freebie”), and I should also try to do some work this afternoon.  So, since Moi didn’t take Mway for a morning walk, I decide to take her for one, to save me some time later today.  It’s about 11:30.  My walking clothes are still damp from last evening, not having dried at the foot of my bed.
State of the Path:  Day lilies are in bloom in record numbers, in front of the house, around the summer house, by Moi’s garden pond, and across from the pig pen.  (I had a couple spent blossoms in my stir fry this morning.)  Mway turns down the side path, but there is still dew or rain on the weeds, and I march straight ahead on the main path, Mway quickly following.  I look at the mullein, and I note definitively that its flowers are pink; so I think it’s not the moth mullein as pictured in Audubon, but I still believe it’s some species of mullein.  Just down from the mullein, I note another flowering plant; it has pink flowers in a kind of carnation shape, large soft leaves and a thick, perhaps hollow, stem.  I suspect milkweed, and, lo and behold, what I see is very clearly pictured in Audubon under the entry for common milkweed.  (I know milkweed, of course, with its pod, but I’ve never really noticed its flowers before.)  Down by the creek, I realize just how many black raspberries there are along the bank near the deer stand; some of the berries are starting to turn black, but they’re not yet ripe enough for picking.  Today, I also become suddenly cognizant of how much fleabane there is in flower; I see it in places all along the path; I see a rather sizable patch just before the clearing, and I even see a few flowers in the clearing itself.
State of the Creek:  Mway walks into the water in a pool beneath the large locust trees.  Despite the rain, the creek is still not that high; there’s just a little bit of water in the feed channel.
The Fetch:  Toss the “pro-quality” stick, standing a little ways into the goldenrod. The stick whips at the weeds as I wind back for one of the tosses, and Mway’s body whips against them as she dashes after the stick.  The fleabane jiggles as she runs past the flowers.  More fetches today than I care to count.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Manage to Fit in Moi's Birthday

June 13, 2010.  Sunday.
Situation:  Work all day today.  When I get home, Barb Dennehy is at the house, and over a key lime pie, we celebrate Moi’s 60th birthday.  Barb leaves about 7:30, and I take Mway out for her walk.  Moi comes along.
State of the Path:  While I’m looking at the mulberries on the white mulberry tree, wondering if they’re edible, Moi wanders over to the garden.  I take a step or two further to the plum trees, then wait for Moi to show up.  I point out to her a black walnut tree growing under the plum trees, and to my question about whether she wants that there, she says, “No, anytime you want to cut that down, go ahead.”  I ask Moi if she ever saw a jack-in-the-pulpit fruit, and she says no.  We walk the side path to take a look at some, and she is surprised by how they look, even wondering if they’re edible.  “It’s really getting to be jungle out here,” she says, as we walk through the ever narrowing path, approaching the thick area of goldenrod where the side path rejoins the main path.  “This ragweed is getting ridiculous,” she says, and I have to correct her, pointing out that the main weed where we’re walking is goldenrod.  I look for the moth mullein that I spotted yesterday to point out to Moi, but its flowers are not opened up on this overcast day, so I pass by it without saying anything.  Moi points out one of the flowering elderberry shrubs, and I say, yep, that’s what it is.  She wanders off into the field to look at something while I’m still looking at the mullein plant.  She catches up to me, and down by the creek, she notes the other elberberry shrubs that are flowering down there.  My feet are getting wet because it rained a little today, but my pants are not getting as soaked as they did a few mornings ago.  I tell Moi to watch out for the loopy grape vine, and she steps over it carefully, but a little ways away, she almost trips over some of the locust branches that are hidden in the jewelweed.  Underneath one of the locust trees, a dead branch is hanging down, stuck in some other branches, and when I walk underneath it, the dead branch falls down, thankfully before Moi reaches it.  Moi notices the white flowers on what I’ve been calling the red willows and wonders what kind of shrub it is.  “Red willow,” I tell her, with much uncertainty.  “No,” Moi replies, “They’re probably some kind of honeysuckle,” and I look, with some consternation, at the flowers that do indeed look a little like honeysuckle flowers.  As I walk along, looking carefully where we’re stepping, I see a few flashes of fireflies in the shadows of the weeds.  After we cross the swale to bug land, Moi ventures over to the feed channel to look at her sweet flag.  “I don’t know if these get flowers or not,” she says.  “I think they do get green flowers,” I say, “but maybe they’re too much in the shade of that honeysuckle bush.”  “Maybe,” Moi agrees.  Suddenly it starts raining hard, and we both hustle to get back to the house.  On our way up toward the clearing, though, Moi points to the ground.  “Here are some deer droppings,” she says.  “Oh, are those deer droppings?” I ask, knowing exactly what she’s talking about, and then looking at the droppings that for several days now I thought were rabbit droppings.
State of the Creek:  I see some water striders in the pool behind the log jam, and then, just as I think I see something rather lizardlike scooting across the water, Moi points out Mway’s gray body wiggling around in the weeds across the creek.  “I thought for a minute that was a wild animal over there,” she says.
The Fetch:   Although it’s starting to rain, I still stop at the clearing to toss the “pro-quality” stick for Mway.  I stand just a little ways into the goldenrod, so that she will trample a greater area of the clearing while she’s spinning around, and I see that the goldenrod stems do bend and are crushed under her paws.  Mway fetches the stick more times than I care to count, but gratefully, since it’s raining, not for too long.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Day Lilies, Red Black Raspberries, and a Mullein

June 12, 2010.  Saturday.
Situation:  Moi and I both work tonight, but at separate places.  I could’ve taken Mway out again this morning, for when I came down into the kitchen she was ready for one, but since I didn’t work this afternoon, I postpone it until now, around 3:45.  I have to arouse her from her nap with Moi.  When I open the door, Mway is standing behind it, ready to play the game where she pounces at the doorknob, knocking the door shut, then leaps at the transom window, a game the Boy and I unfortunately taught her to play many years ago (unfortunate because one time she bit the Boy in the nose) and have been unable to train her not to do it anymore.
State of the Path:   One rabbit runs across the lawn beyond the corn crib, another dashes down the path.  Mway misses them both, instead crouching in front of the garden pond to try to poop, but unable to do so if she thinks I’m too close behind her, so that she runs a little farther ahead to try again.  She succeeds by the time we get near the pig pen.  The day lilies just opposite the pig pen are in bloom.  A squirrel scrambles up the branch of a young black walnut tree, bending the branch considerably and making a lot of racket.  The black raspberries are now red along the old orchard; the blackberries out farther in the field are still green.  The goldenrod at the end of the side path is now chin high.  Just before the maples, I see a new wildflower; it’s weirdly shaped like a narrow pyramid, with white flowers on top.  For some reason, I think “mullein,” and when I look in Audubon, although it’s not common mullein, it looks damn close to moth mullein, although the photo doesn’t show its leaves and erect stem for me to be a hundred percent positive about this identification.  (Audubon describes the flowers as having a brown-purplish mark; I recall a pinkish mark, but brown-purplish sounds good enough to me.)  Down by the creek, there seem to be a lot of what I think are starlings, flying low through the bushes and trees, and scolding me nastily.
State of the Creek:  Mway wades into one of the pools in the creek; it’s deep enough that the water pretty much reaches to the top of her legs.
The Fetch:  Up at the clearing, I take my stance just in front of where it’s trampled down a lot, so that Mway, in spinning around, will help keep more of the goldenrod down.  She fetches the “pro-quality” stick more times than I care to count, but probably not as many times as she did yesterday.  When I get back to the house, I’m hot and sweaty.  The neighbor’s kids are in their McPool (which, however, I’m sure is bigger than mine, though I’ve never taken a close look at it), and I could hear their McScreams and McLaughter the whole time on my walk.  Moi tells me that I better hurry to get into our pool, for there are storms in the west of the county.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Take a Closer Look at the Plants I Pee On Again

June 11, 2010.  Friday.
Situation:  My work day looks pretty much like it did yesterday: I have to work tonight, but I also have some work I should do this afternoon.  So I decide again to take Mway for her morning walk.  It’s about 10:30.  I don’t know if Moi this time of year walks the whole path down to the creek like I do; she doesn’t outfit her walk with special walking clothes, so she doesn’t have the best protection against the vegetation.  I suspect that her walks are rather infrequent, which means that the path doesn’t get as trampled down as much as it could.
State of the Path:  I take a whiz on the same bunch of weeds by the walled garden that I did the other day, and I notice now that they are in flower, or nearly so: a cluster of white buds.  I take note that the stems of the weeds are purple and that the compound leaves that grow staggardly from the stems are shiny and smooth.  I think to myself that I should be able to identify these things; but a look through Audubon just now has revealed nothing.  I go down the side path along the old orchard; it’s amazing the difference an hour makes: although my boots are getting wet a little bit, there’s no longer any dew splattering against my pants.  I whack back a couple blackberry brambles that lean over on the path.  The honeysuckles that I clipped back a few days ago seem to have grown back to where they were before.  Just before the maples, I see a touch-me-not that has flowered; I’m surprised at this because  I think of the jewelweed as flowering late in August – I don’t see any others though, just this one.  The grasses down at the seeps of bug land have dried and bounced back, and I can again see the ground here.  I trip over the loopy grape vine again.  Coming up to the clearing, I see one little weed that has white flowers and kind of fuzzy little leaves; I have no idea what this is either.  Then looking up toward the clearing, I see a shrub that I never saw before that looks like it’s bearing brilliant white flowers; when I get close to it, though, I see that it’s a grape vine, whose reddish leaves were shining in the sun.  I wonder why a grape vine should be growing here, in the middle of goldenrod and poison ivy.
State of the Creek:  The water is lower again: hard to see barely a trickle through the rocks.  A frog leaps into the water as I’m walking along, and I think I hear a frog croaking by the crest of the skating pond; but last year as I walked along the creek, I’d see or hear a dozen frogs plop into the water, an indication of how dry this spring has been.   The feed channel is dry again; a cob web collapses into my face as I step across it.  I decide to check to see if there’s any water in the pond between the ridges.  I have to step a ways into the weeds; when I get to where the pond is, I see that it too is dry.
The Fetch:   Mway fetches the “pro-quality” stick more times than I care to count.  I note that the weeds in the clearing are most trampled down where Mway spins around waiting for my next toss, and where I’m also stamping around with my feet.   As Mway fetches the stick, I try to move my position forward more into the weeds to extend the area where they’re trampled down.  Mway helps me out with this, since she doesn’t always bring the stick all the way back, and I usually have to take a step forward to pick it up.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Snagging Briars, Dew-Splattering Weeds, and a Vine that Trips Me

June 10, 2010.  Thursday.
Situation:   Today I have to work most of the day, as well as tonight, so I’ve decided to take Mway for a walk this morning.  Moi hasn’t taken her out, because, as she says, it’s too wet in the morning; I’m braced for getting wet: after the walk I will change my clothes and take a shower.  Yesterday it rained steadily most of the day, and I’m curious to see what the creek looks like.  Outside my office window, I see more flowers on the day lilies by the summer house, but they haven’t yet completely opened up.  It’s now 9:14.
State of the Path:   Beyond the walled garden I’m immediately confronted by a path clogged with weeds bent over from rain.  A few of the weeds I notice are some of the remaining hedge garlic, but most of the weeds that clog the path are the tall grasses, let’s call them, the red grass.  I can see beads of water on their stems, perhaps rain from last night, but more likely dew from this morning.  My pants and socks immediately start taking in water, and as I brush past bushes, my shirt does so as well.  Although Mway starts down the side path by the old orchard, I just head straight toward the creek, my shirt catching on the frequent blackberry briars.  When I get down to the seeps in bug land, I’m suddenly faced with a path totally obliterated by flattened red grass.  I no longer can see the ground, and I can do nothing but wade through the sea of grass, guessing where the path might be from memory of past walks.  By the time I get to the creek my pants and socks are soaked.
State of the Creek:  The water again is visibly trickling through the rocks.  At places the sun shines down through the trees, causing the stationary pools to sparkle.  I trip over the loopy grape vine, hidden now in weeds.  There’s no water in the swale from bug land, which is now clogged with weeds and red willows, but there is water again in the feed channel, making me hesitant to cross it, but I do.  All along I hear birds chirping like a radio and scolding me, but I can see nothing flying but white butterflies, some of which I’m sure must be cabbage butterflies.  Coming along the ridge along bug land, I take note that some of the red grass here indeed has spikelets that are red.
The Fetch:  Mway fetches the “pro-quality” stick more times than I care to count; we play “Put it down” once, and she might have played it a second time, but I’m eager to get back to the house.  Walking along the path through the briars, I suddenly see a yellow bird fly into the sumacs.  I don’t get a long look at it – could it be a gold finch, like the ones I used to see along the back hedgerow?   Just before the walled garden, I catch sight of some day lilies (I knew a patch of them grew here, but I had forgotten about them), their orange petals opened for the day.   When I get back to the house, I decide to hang my wet pants, shirt, and socks on the clothesline; they will dry here better than they would on a heap at the foot of my bed.