Saturday, February 28, 2015

Our Bubble

It's cold, people been saying it, making hay about it, FB feeds are full of it, especially the city New Yorkers. The native Minnesotan doesn't make too much of the cold, but I'm willing to point out that, here, it's cold all the time, so much so that when it is over 15 degrees F, we say it's warming. A few days ago, at a restaurant, the server said it was freezing out, and I laughed because, you know, it was 33 degrees below  freezing. Freezing (32 degrees F) is warm, here. To put our coldness problem another way (cue the northern gardener eye roll), the frost free date is solidly mid-late May. That's right, May 15 or 22.  

So how wonderful that I should discover a conservatory in our neighboring city, St. Paul, open to all citizens for free, or donation. It is not grand by world-class glasshouse standards, nor festooned with cutting edge design, but it is warm and humid. Wow. Such a simple pleasure. The indulgence was smile inducing. 

A stream with moss-covered stone and fern.

And palms.

Some tropical flowers.

Then, an extremely formal garden wing with standard forced bulbs and yet, amazing. 

The light, the humidity, the warmth just what we need.

It reminds us that spring, too, happens here by conjuring its sensation.

That artifice is in our nature.

And it thrills us.

At a cost.

But do not dwell on that.

Enjoy the glass bubble.

The fish tank.

And the overpopulating Koi.

Brightly colored birds.

And Orchids.

And be out the door by four.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What's Old Is New

One of my present tasks is to attend to thousands of well-kept magazines that my father-in-law left behind: National Geographic from 1918 onward, Life from the beginning to the end, Scientific American from the 1950s onward, Sky and Telescope from then to now, and so on and on. Among these larger lots are a handful of Organic Gardening magazines. Would any of you, readers and gardeners, be interested in one of a handful of lots of Organic Gardening magazine? Here's my pitch:

Old magazines are full of old printing techniques, laughable fashions, advertising with crude, unmerchantable copy, and outdated storylines. However, printing and fashions aside, Organic Gardening is 99.5 percent as fresh today as it was the year it was published. In fact, I leafed through one Rodale Press magazine from the 1940s the other day and was surprised to see the same problems and solutions printed then as you would see today (except their less than thorough take on sewage sludge as a fertilizer). Sure, the hybrid varieties touted then as an improvement may now be thirty years old, but the growing information is solid and the text is short and to the point. It's great to see articles on wild plant foraging, native plant gardening, chicken-raising, pickling, and all the other how-to know-how OG was known for back in the day that is de rigueur today .

Organic Gardening was printed as a half-sized edition of 8 x 5.5 inches. The paper used is nearly newsprint and yellowing from age, although each copy is fully bound and complete. You may notice the musty smell of an old magazine boxed in an old house -it's part of the charm. If you are interested in obtaining a year of OG, drop me a comment and email: It'll only cost you the shipping (USPS, flat rate).

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Tread Of Time

The night is dark but for the power company's safety lamp. It is dangerously cold near, below, or well below zero. The wind blows, not a howling, but a deep woooh through the trees. The whimpering of the iron porch rocker transcends walls, its complaint in every room. If you stare into the night, nose chilled by the cold relay of a double-paned window, you will see little, if anything, but the sodium lamp's sickly orange-yellow glow cast onto the woods and snow. Turn out the lights and sleep. Only daylight brings the ghostly imprint of Disney's dark dispatch, the tread of time debossed into crystalline water, our drive the Grauman's of faunal drama.

Our porch steps a barrier -for now.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Mink

Are you living, fully, if you always get the shot? Don't get me wrong, the shot is important, but that's its own thing. You cannot always have the camera with you, or the best one. Sometimes interesting things just happen. It's better to just be present for those moments, and for me, here, those moments often involve animals (after all, we don't have children).

I watched a large owl fly up the driveway, or should I say -flyway. I've seen a red fox happily pouncing on an invisible object. After years of trying to spot the bird responsible for that jungle call, I finally spied the pileated woodpecker straight up, atop a dead tree. There were the flying squirrels on a blustery, snowy night near the woodpile. A coyote at five ayem, a buck at four. A snowy owl in the woods. And now, finally, a confirmational sighting of what was only a black blur plunging through the deep snow last winter -a mink, Neovison vison.

When phone cameras fail. That center-image shape is it, one of a veritable Muybridge series of shots that succumbed to the common bug screen.

The best I have, cropped from actual pixel resolution, makes for a mysterious looking creature. As it first passed into my view I thought, huh strange looking squirrel, but only for a split second. It bounded from a tree to the recycling pile, then over to the rear steps, underneath them, then to the ac unit, then back to the tractor implements, then toward the cold room, then up this tree about 20 feet, then down it, and on and on over about three or four minutes. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Peckers Gonna Peck

The Red Bellied Woodpecker, Melanerpes carolinus. Often heard, but never seen, peckin away at the house trim. 'Nuff rotten wood out in the woods, you should give it a try sometime.

I's just tryin get a good look atcha.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

My Beating Heart

Some days I wake before we've rolled around to meet the sun.

By the time I get dressed for the cold, stumbling through, half asleep, the sun has breached the canopy.

A light snow fallen the night before drew me out from the warmth. The farm field, behind the scrim of trees, changes weekly from white to mottled gray to black and then white, again.

It is still.

No rustling of cold-crisp leaves, no creaking of timber, no muffled doof of dropped snow glops. There was a squirrel motionless, vertical, on a dead or dying red oak. Fixed on that spot for quite awhile, I say this squirrel did not make a move. To my right, then, an explosion of noise! My head jerks upward to see a squirrel bursting out of a leafy nest wadded into the crotch of another red oak, then scrambling into the branches of a different tree. I thought how rare that I should get out of bed before squirrels.

I was about ready to come in from the cold when Betsy came out dressed for a walk. Not too far she promised, just around the bend in the road. Outside for half an hour, not moving but for camera work, I was pretty cold, but I joined her. 

- I am the still squirrel and Betsy the exuberant one. -

 At the end of the drive, up slope, frosted pines, spruce, and aspen grow in the clearing.

Down slope, sumac curlicues tickle the sky.

I see a prop plane traveling northwest and I think how cold it must be in that cabin, single engine planes fly in pleasant weather, and then I understand -it's about the stillness.

Around the bend, a roll of hay, unused, under a willow.

And the matted grasses.