October Rain

October 23rd, 2008

Awoke to a cloudy darkness that gave way to heavy rain this morning.  It will be with us most of the day so the outside projects will wait.  I know it looks so dismal, but for some reason I enjoy rainy days… mostly.  Of course one time we lived near Seattle and had 96 days straight of rain! That’s a bit much.  Missouri rain is often intermittent, heavier and then gone almost as quickly as it comes. But today the storm system will pass slowly.

I think rainy days help provide a reason to relax inside or catch up on things we’ve put off for a while.  Of course it makes travel a mess, and next week we’re due for our first real frost and freeze.  Glad it’s not Halloween today.  I think three out of the last four Halloweens were cold and rainy here.  Hopefully it will be a decent night for the kids next week, and thank goodness it’s on a Friday this year. 

Rainy October day in Missouri

Oh, another bug question to figure out. Beetle Doc are you still around?!  I found this “nest” of some type when cutting up that oak tree the other day.  It’s very fibrous, with a small, dime-sized opening at the top and what appears to be some type of eggs or balls inside.  Is it an insect gall? A spider nest?!  I’m not sure what else it could be, but I laid it aside in the bushes.

Insect nest or gall

We still have a few things to finish up outside on the pre-winter checklist, so this weekend will be a good time for that.  Up until today I’ve been working on so many different projects, but sometimes I don’t pay enough attention to what the Yellow Lab is up to!  I caught him about to go for a swim in the pond a couple days ago.  I forget how much he loves water, and when I’m not looking he goes right in.   That must be his way of telling me we don’t train enough.  He’s two years old now by the way.  I swear he looks right through me…

Yellow Lab in October ready for a swim

Hints of Autumn Color

October 11th, 2008

The green leaves of summer are finally giving way to yellows and reds.  In our area the peak of Autumn color is usually the third or fourth week of October.  It’s such an enchanting time that we often wish it would last longer.  But the next few weeks will be a lot of fun.  I think I see a leaf pile in our future… 

 Early fall color in Missouri

The bees are still hard at work gathering whatever they can.  The roses have come into full bloom once again, and the bees have found their pollen.

 Pink rose and honeybee

And weekends!  It’s not enough that we have work to do outside, here in Missouri football fever has gripped the state as we watch our Mizzou Tigers play.   But that’s not until this evening, so for now it’s time to head outside and get a little more work done.  Have a great weekend.

A New Day, and a Tiger On His Tail

October 8th, 2008

Sometimes the world seems so small, especially when fog blankets the landscape.  At dawn we see the glow of light, and the sun rises, becoming brighter through the gray curtain of cloud.   On days like this the world awakens more slowly, or at least we may feel a closer, measured pace to the presence of life around us.   What does the sunrise represent?  Hope?  A new day, or a new future?

Sunrise through the fog in Missouri

Does it hold meaning for you?  I once read a story that framed the context of challenge by saying,  “In America we get up in the morning, we go to work and we solve our problems.”   And that’s pretty much a testament to action.  So often it’s that first step that is the most difficult.  But as we begin, as we move and as we take steps towards our goals, we are moving every aspect of our lives toward that new day.  With our action, opportunities will come, doors will open and circumstances will gradually shift toward our goals.  We don’t have to solve everything at once, but as we begin everything changes.   And we’ll get there.

Speaking of action, it seems the kitten and the yellow lab have become playmates.  The lab doesn’t quite know what to make of this little ball of energy.  The kitten romps and pounces, darts in and out and generally uses the retriever’s tail as a chew toy.  Instead of a “tiger by the tail,” this dog has a tiger on his tail.

 Kitten playing with Yellow Labrador Retriever

The kitten chomps and wrestles until the lab puts a big ‘ole paw on top of him.  Then a little  “reeoow!” screech and the cat darts away again.  We watch them closely, but he is amazingly restrained to the needle sharp teeth and claws of the kitten.  It will be interesting to see their relationship as they grow older.   When I imagine friendship between dogs and cats, I think of Sparky, no longer with us, as he walked with Justin.

Seasons Ahead

August 25th, 2008

So the Farmer’s Almanac is predicting “above average snowfall for the Greal Lakes and midwest” this winter?  I haven’t read the publication yet, but the news article says they believe much of the nation is in for a long, cold winter with a lot of January and February snowfall.  But not the National Weather Service- they’re predicting a more mild winter.   Either way, as we head through the tail-end of summer, many folks are already planning for the winter season.  

If the cool summer temperatures and moisture indicate anything, then maybe we will see a colder winter here in Missouri.  I was trying to remember some of those rural “signs” that people used to predict the coming season’s weather.   You know, like lots of acorns or nuts on the ground with squirrels running about more than usual?  Do you look for any particular signs in your area?

Of course the woolly worm caterpillar comes to mind, and wouldn’t you know it the town of Banner Elk, North Carolina has a Woolly Worm Festival each year in October.  We’ll have to wait and see what they find out this year.  Maybe the woolly worm will become the “groundhog” of the autumn season!?  

I haven’t seen any woolly worm caterpillars yet (I think it’s too early), but we should compare stripes or something when we find them. Supposedly the predictions of a cold or mild winter are based on the length of the black stripes versus the brown middle stripe.  My reach for a scientific explanation imagines that stripe length has more to do with the species type and growing season length or something.   But hey, I’ve learned never to understimate the mysteries of nature or human intuition!   And if the Farmer’s Almanac is right, getting a little extra firewood cut may be in order.

By the way, we finally picked our little apples.  They were a little chewed up because a squirrel beat us to them. But we sliced them up and tasted our first home-grown apples.  Yum! Maybe next year we’ll have a few more.

Playing Tag in the Woods

August 6th, 2008

We’re still on the road and seeing the marvels of this great nation first hand.  I don’t have time to write much, but will leave you with this picture of the yellow lab and a curious friend one evening.   See you soon!

Yellow Lab and the Deer

Thorny Notes

July 17th, 2008

I’ve been watching for thistle plants this summer too. They always come each year, whether by seeds floating through the air or by birds I don’t know.  But these are the gigantic five foot tall versions with big purple flowers on the top, if you let them get that far.  They’re kind of pretty, but if they become established you’ll have a mass of thorny vegetation that doesn’t do much good for anybody.  It can ruin a good hayfield, so I walk around digging them out when I see them.   I kept walking past a few small ones last month making a mental note to come back (which I promptly forgot about) and finally remembered to go dig them out this week.  They had not flowered yet, but were four feet tall already. 

Digging out tall thistle plants

The picture by the shovel shows their size, but look at the thorns on these dudes below!  They’re so sharp they go right through leather gloves. 

Thorny thistle plant

I was also driving by a field a half mile away and noticed a whole crop of these things near the shoulder of the road.  The man that lived there passed away last year, and the property is for sale.  If I get around to it, maybe I’ll stop by and try dig those thistles out.  Need to add that to my list…

Shades of Green

July 6th, 2008

Trees.  Those amazing mostly green things we so take for granted.  What would we do without them?  They bring to the world clean air, strength, beauty, shade, biodiversity and even help supply our energy needs in winter.  So much more than a simple list of course, but even so we usually just look at them, or through them.   Lately we’re enjoying the shade from our trees as the summer heat sets in.

Trees in summer in Missouri

But on August 1st we’ll look a little more closely while hosting the Festival of the Trees right here at Fox Haven Journal.  Nothing fancy, just an eclectic mix of pictures and words shared by creative people who appreciate the wonder and magic of Trees. 

So you are most welcome to join us, even if you think writing about trees is crazy.  But you’ve got to admit, they’re pretty darn useful.   If you have a treeish blog post to share, you can submit it through the online submission form, or through our Contact page.

Maybe we’ll find a pattern in the mix of submissions, and perhaps some kind of theme will emerge.  But don’t count on it; I’m still trying to put the puzzle of my own life together.

Vanity and Economic Necessity

June 16th, 2008

It’s hard to believe the flooding that has taken place just north of where we live. Our thoughts and prayers go out to so many people struggling to rebuild their lives. Our area saw incredible devastation in the ’93 floods, but not to the degree that water has risen and broken through levees further north. People that don’t live in this region complain about building in flood zones, but they know little of what it’s like to live in these states.  There are some areas that it doesn’t make sense to build in, but sometimes nature just goes beyond what we can conceive that may happen. 

In many areas, there would simply be no human presence or agriculture that has supported the nation for generations, without the support of strong levees built to hold back the water. Maybe that would be fine with some people, but these states helped to open up the west and build the nation we have today. I think now it’s time to lend support to rebuilding these towns, homes and levees, and rebuilding lives.

We have been away traveling and have only read the news about all of it this week. Where we live there has been little flooding fortunately so far. It’s strange to be gone from what you know day-to-day, and to see that people live mostly unaware of the chaos that takes place just a few hours away.

Many thoughts recently, and I wonder how long the grass is at home? Watching fuel prices rise has been staggering, and it makes me think how wasteful it is in some ways to be putting that many dollars in the tank of the car (or tractor). Cutting the grass is an incredible economic drain in terms of the cost, and with the price of fuel basically doubling over the past year it™s hard to justify riding the tractor more than absolutely necessary. I had cut back quite a bit already, and will do so even more this summer. But the rain has kept things green and growing abundantly so far.

With the cost of rising gas prices vanity fades away as economic necessity rises to the forefront. The grass will still need cut in many areas at times lest the woody plants begin to take over. Woody brush and weeds are not so bad in themselves, but once they take root it’s extremely difficult to go back and remove them. Some ask why do we need the grass and open areas anyway?

Well it provides many benefits to a larger property. The open areas provide places to walk and play obviously, and to enjoy the vistas that surround us. They also serve as navigable pathways in and around the forests, fields and orchards. And keeping the grass shorter reduces the number of insects or pests, especially ticks and chiggers. Many bird species are adapted to the open forest edges and areas, such as bluebirds. So it’s not all vanity or pride in having a groomed look along the driveway, but that is certainly part of it. I do enjoy the clean look of the cut grass, but only to a point. Some of our neighbors go even further, insisting on cutting the grass within inches around every obstacle that exists to obtain that suburban kept-lawn look.

But I’ve let that mindset go out of both practicality and economic prudence. If the grass is too short it opens the soil and slopes up to erosion more frequently, and then takes a huge effort to try and regain the soil structure. So leaving the grass longer or uncut in many areas helps protect the slopes and drainages. And now more than ever I simply don’t see the point of spending so much time and money for temporary aesthetics. And looking northward at the flooding is a humbling reminder that there are far more important things in life.

Relative Thoughts

June 12th, 2008

It’s kind of nice seeing a different part of the country and enjoying some time off.  Of course, I keep thinking how overgrown the grass and garden is becoming while we are away.  The weeds are the little stinkers that really take advantage of the time.  I swear there are weeds that grow a few inches overnight.  I walk by doing a double take thinking “Didn’t I just pull those out yesterday?”

Today I watched a garden/landscape crew of five or six people come in and work on the front and back of a house sitting on a half acre.  These guys were a whirl of activity for about 45 minutes trimming, cutting, blowing, sweeping and had that place looking amazing in a very short time.  I mused over the idea of what it would be like to have such a crew for our property.  Would I miss spending the time doing all of that?   Nah!!!  But I couldn’t imagine how much that would cost… and it would bother me not to do it myself.  At least for now.  :)

And it seems I forgot that when visiting relatives, everybody tends to eat a lot.  Especially me.  Food is somehow a universal language, and in the presense (or absence!) of smiles, memories and emotions, we share with each other over all kinds of food.  I don’t mind…  I’ve never met a food I didn’t like.  Well, except for sea urchin eggs.   But none of that this week fortunately, except that I think I’m actually gaining weight by the hour.    Not to worry I suppose, in a week or so I’ll be out working it off.  So it’s off to another BBQ!  Somebody’s got to do it and it might as well be me.

Summer Hiatus

June 7th, 2008

Well the humidity has arrived!  Temperatures well into the 90’s and it feels like summer.  Which is about time I guess. I loved the cool weather, but the rain and storms have been a bit much this spring.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen the grass grow so fast, which will be interesting since we’re taking a trip for a week or so.  There will be plenty to cut and trim when we return, and maybe the garden will have a few presents for us.  I have a few pictures waiting to share, so I’ll post them when I can.  But what’s a summer if not filled with fun and activity for the kids?  Even if that’s simply running around like crazy outside… which we seem to do a lot of .  Mostly me :)  See you soon.

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