LOCAL VIEW –The Glory Days–

One of my daughters has a way of choosing just the perfect boyfriend to test my spirituality. I tend to breathe deeply, in a seething manner, when I first hear of her latest friend, but I think God forgives me, for mostly I remain mute. Then, after a great deal of spiritual endeavor on my part, just when I’m getting over whatever prejudice was stirred up, and am starting to really like the fellow, he suddenly is history, and I am introduced to the next poor fool aspirant.

After too much of such soap operatic doings, (seventeen years),  I find it hard to get as excited, or even as interested, as I used get when my daughter was thirteen. I’ve been worn down. The latest fellow is an illegal immigrant from Brazil. Big deal. I just sort of nodded from my computer when he first came into the house, until my wife gave me a hidden kick. Only then did I remember it is polite to shake hands and look interested.

But one interesting thing about the fellow is he had never seen leaves change before. He didn’t live far enough south in Brazil to see the occasional Antarctic frosts and snows of their far south, and had grown up where leaves pretty much stay green.  He was startled, even a little alarmed, to be driving about (without a licence) and see very strange things happen to all the trees. fol-1-img_4015

It is odd how you can take such beauty for granted, if you’ve seen it most of your life. I was glad I had an outsider to remind me to get out see the view. One place I like to go is the flat-lands of the Sharon Stretch (a good place to drive over 100 mph late at night, unless you meet a moose coming out of the swamp).fol-2-img_4017

It was so beautiful I forgot my errand, and got out to wander into the swamp’s blueberry barrens.fol-3-img_4018

It’s a good place to get the blue and orange reflected below, as well as above.

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These trees are called “swamp maples” and always seem to be the first to change, perhaps because the cold settles into the lowlands first. I call the flaring of color in the swamps “candy autumn” because it is sweeter, brighter and warmer than when the cold really starts to hit and hold.

Once I was out I wanted to stay out, but I had to get back and work. Back at the Childcare many trees were still green, but a swamp maple (which gets called a “red maple”, when they root outside a swamp), was peeking from the oaks.

Unfortunately I couldn’t even hang out with the kids, and see if they appreciated the beauty or just took it for granted, because I have tax problems to deal with. Nothing like sitting indoors and gnawing a pencil to make you appreciate your own back yard.

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Local View –Shadberry Rains–

I should likely start this post with a weather map, showing how even when a low swings out to sea, and a cold front pushes past with a following high pressure, sometimes the clouds refuse to depart.  (Also note the low way up by Hudson Bay. If you think it doesn’t intend to plunge south and plauge New England, you lack the pessimism necessary to live here. If you don’t believe me, move here. It is right about now that lots of immigrants start screaming and ripping their hair out), (and they haven’t even met our black flies.)

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This year has been typical, teasing immigrants (called “Flatlanders” around here) with balmy weather in March, seducing them into thinking spring is about to come this far north at the same time it came further south in their past, in the far away places they came from. As a bit of irony, temperatures hit 73° (23° Celsius) on April first, as an April Fool’s joke. And to totally tantalize the suckers from the south, a few trees such as swamp maples behaved as if they were about to burst into leaf, risking some early blooms. For proof, I offer you a picture from Farmer’s New Year (March 25).

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Yet here it is, nearly 40 days later, and the swamp maple still haven’t leafed out. As the Flatlanders scream, the trees go “bwah ha ha ha.”

The trees are a lot smarter than the people around here, which makes sense, as they’ve lived longer. Of course, psychiatrists will object to my saying that, stating trees don’t have brains, and can’t think. Perhaps that is what makes trees smarter.

Regarding psychiatrists, I will say this much: Some of the kids we have had pass through our Childcare have been troubled, and they have been to psychiatrists, and also they have been to groves of pines. Guess which did nothing for the child’s bad mood (which some call “mental health”), and guess which healed the child’s hurt heart when humans couldn’t?  (Oops, I gave the answer away, by using that word “humans”.)

People do have brains, but mostly it just gets us in trouble. For example, take the subject of “being in harmony in with nature.” This subject makes humans absolutely bonkers. In my time I have seen one actress hit by a bucket of red paint as she left a theater wearing a fur coat, and another actress sprayed with manure as she baked muffins in a pasture. (These ridiculous, yet real-life, cartoons come to you courtesy of Greenpeace.)

Whatever you may say about trees, they would never be caught dead doing anything like that.

We only have one life, but according to some the “One Life” goes on and on through countless incarnations, as our consciousness strives to be One with God’s.

I have enough trouble remembering where I put my car keys, and can’t remember what I was doing before I was born, but, according to some, a long, long time ago we ourselves were trees. If that is so, I can’t say we’ve learned all that much, in a million incarnations of evolution.

I got tremendous enjoyment from Tolkien’s trilogy when I came to the part where the “Ents” make an appearance, as “shepherds of the trees”. At our Childcare I have often regaled the children with tales and warnings about “walking trees”, even to the point where one young boy marched up to me one morning and informed me, “My dad says there is no such thing as walking trees.”

However Tolkien didn’t understand one thing about trees, and it is this secret: Their heads are in the soil, and their limbs reach up towards the sun. If a tree ever did wake up and walk, it would bring its limbs to the earth, rip its roots up, and you’d face a creature with a mane like a lion, but a mane filled with crumbling dirt.  It would see you without eyes…….unless, of course, it was a potato.

Which works me around to the subject:  I did get some potatoes planted today, with the help of small children at the Childcare. In theory it was a teaching experience. I’m never sure the youngest get what I am saying, which is that by sticking perfectly good food in the dirt we get ten to twenty times as much perfectly good food. It is the older kids, the hoary veterans aged four and five,  those who had the fun of digging up the potatoes last fall, and roasting them by a fire, who have a glimmer of understanding. The younger ones are far more fascinated by earthworms.

I also dared transplant into the garden four kale plants, and six broccoli plants, just to gamble and prove even old geezers like me can live at the edge. I’ve seen killing frosts even this late, but I glanced at the sky, and consulted Weatherbell (my favorite long-range forecast site), and I stroked my white beard and looked wise, but in the end I consulted the trees. (It is a sign of our times, perhaps, that mere vegetables are so much smarter than the mainstream-media.  I didn’t consult the mainstream-media at all.)

The carrots, beets, seedling kale, onions, garlic, fennel, turnips, seedling Brussels sprouts, and lettuce haven’t sprouted yet, nor will they ever sprout if I work too long and appear dull to the children, (for bored kids at a Childcare can trample a soft seedbed as hard as a parking lot in the twinkling of an eye), so I, as the wise master of small slaves, decided it was time to go for a walk, and consult the trees.

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Abruptly I was stopped by a lovely bloom I pass every year without ever bothering to ask myself what it is. I always assumed it was some sort of cherry, (or perhaps a relative of blueberries, as its small cherries had a blueberry-like look, at the ends of their berries), but I never bothered be sure because usually everything busts out in May in such a rush you have no time to sort things out. But this year spring seems to be in slow motion, if not in suspended animation, and I have had time for things I never had time for before. Apparently one is never too old to learn, because I learned this bloom was one I’d read a lot about. Can you name it?

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Some called this serviceberry. Why?  Because in the old days the ground was too frozen to bury people in the winter. (Old timers told me that back in the day they stuck all old people who refused to do their chores in the “Town Tomb” in the fall, and in the spring they’d open it and any who didn’t walk out would get buried. This is a subject for another post, but I may include a picture of the “Town Tomb” at the end of this post, if I ever find the time to take one.) When the ground was finally soft enough to bury people, they would have a service, with this bush blooming around the edges of the graveyard, so it was called serviceberry.

Because the bush blooms so early, it is also the first to have berries, so it is also called “juneberry.” As eggs are just hatching and voracious fledglings are demanding, these berries are for the birds, and I was brought up to avoid “bird berries”, and have never tried them.  I understand they are sour.

However the name I had heard much about, without ever identifying the actual plant it referred to,  was “shadbush”. Back a few hundreds of years ago shadbush told you the shad were running, and then all else was dropped. Few shad came as far upstream as these hills, but a wonder of ancient, local laws was that people had to drop all quarrels when the shad, herring and salmon were running. You could be a Hatfield, and could travel to the hunting grounds of the McCoy’s, but you weren’t allowed to fight your worst enemy, when you were fishing. (Strange but true, and perhaps an example for modern man.)

Shad, dried and turned to powder, was a local ingredient of a local wonder-food called “pemmican”. Pemmican was one third powdered meat, one third powdered nuts and berries, and one third pure fat. The hunters who carried this food could travel a week or two with breakfast, lunch and dinner in a small bag.  Apparently a spoonful now and again was all you needed, even while burning a lot of calories hunting. The ingredients varied from place to place, but it was common from coast to coast in America in the old days. Out west they likely substituted buffalo for shad, but eating three tablespoons a day didn’t seem to stunt anyone’s growth. When the first Europeans arrived in New England their men averaged around five feet five inches, as New Englanders averaged six feet.

The children regard me suspiciously when I tell them such tales. After all, I’m the same old geezer who tells them about walking trees. However they are interested in eating, and today they sampled wild mustard leaves, yellow dock leaves, and the inner part of the root of burdock. (These are the same kids who refuse to eat the really good food some mother’s prepare.) (One trick I use is to tell them, “You can spit this out if you want to. You probably won’t like it. Only grown-ups like it.” ) (To prove they are grown up, they try to like it even when they don’t.)

Locally the berry used in pemmican was usually blueberries, dried and powdered, probably because blueberries are easiest to dry, (but perhaps because blueberries have wondrous, modern stuff called “antioxidants” in them), (not that the word “antioxidants” was invented, back in the day.) But other berries were used as well, including a small berry that grows in the straw. Darned if I can remember its name, but the commercial variety is now as big as plum, while the native variety is as small as a pea. Whatever this berry-that-grows-in-the-straw is called, it usually blooms around now, but this spring has been so retarded I didn’t expect to see any. I checked, just the same, and there it was! The what-cha-call-it berry, blooming in the dead straw! (The children were not all that interested, likely because you can’t eat it yet.) (But they did tell me I was a dope, and the plants are called “strawberries.”)

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And this is how I entertain myself, as the dull, gray, wet day passes. It may not seem all that entertaining to Flatlanders, but then, I am not the one going absolutely bonkers, just because the leaves don’t come out in April.

It’s a damp day, bright May-gray clouds low,
With spring holding back like eyelash’s tears;
Blossoms blinking, wet and drooping, although
Most remain buds, and the forest appears
Like winter’s, except for a green haze
Indistinct midst wet twigs that string bright pearls
Like veils over depth-green hemlocks.
                                                                             This day’s
Drenched though rain’s stopped; boughs bow; and white curls
Of shredded fog stand still on the dark slopes
Of breathless hills.
                                       The clouds are so bright
That all wet things shine; even shadow gropes
With bright reflections.
                                                 The shrouded might
Of rebirth blends wild hope with foreboding,
Silence with the sound of blossoms exploding.

However I should confess that entertaining myself in this manner takes a lot out of me. I huff and puff planting potatoes in a way that is downright embarrassing. Where entertainment once knocked my socks off, now I just wind up too tired to take my socks off.

Wives don’t approve of husbands flopping in bed with dirty socks on, but neither she nor my children will take pity on a weary old man. Granddaughters, however, are different. When my wife complains about socks, and I whine I’m too tired, a two-year-old granddaughter springs into action:

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It all goes to shows you that, in terms of true intelligence, trees come in first, a two-year-old comes in second, and everyone else comes in a very, very distant third.

LOCAL VIEW —Not A Peep—

The frogs have gone silent. Spring is on hold
As the forest reverts to wraps of white.
The whining child complains he is cold
Despite the high sunshine’s dazzling light.

How fickle is hope. A weather-vane’s swing
From warm south to cold north invalidates
The misty-eyed vows made when hope was king.
Dethroned, he slinks to the shadows and waits.

Who will believe him, next time he strides forth?
Has he no shame? No sense of remorse?
And will I ever learn, or bet on the horse
That threw me? It is par for the course
That the whining child is soon seen heading
For the hills, to go joyously sledding.

There are many reasons the workers at my Farm-childcare are fed up with winter, and this is only one of them: (Or actually over 50).

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The spring peepers were singing for only a single day last week, and then the cold came charging back to shut them up. On Monday morning the drive to work crossed a dust of snow swirling on the frozen pavement. We were hoping the dusting would be only a dusting.

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The weekend’s howling winds had flattened the basketball hoops.

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And then it just snowed and snowed, until we had more than we got all winter, and pulling into work next day looked like this:

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About the only consolation was that, in December, it would have been pitch dark at 6:15 AM.

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We had to take things out that had been put away until next winter.

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Some children got more exercise than others.

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But the sun is as high as it is on Labor Day, and the snow can’t stay long.

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A great project will never be completed, as the shell-shocked grass gets back to greening.

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We had two successive mornings with temperatures down to 13 degrees (-10.6 Celsius) and nothing looked eager to bud out, however I noticed something, looking at the trees.

AS13 IMG_2411The lichen on the trunks of the trees had changed from an ashen gray to a very light pistachio green. I thought the kids might be interested in this, and told them to gather around, and explained a little about how lichen is actually two lives living together, a fungus and an algae.

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I went on to explain how lichen can live in the frozen north, is completely untroubled by frost, and grows as soon as it gets above freezing. I explained moss also is quick to respond to the slightest warmth.

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I can find this sort of stuff very engrossing, but when I looked up, expecting to see small faces filled with wonder, I saw my class was like April snow, and had faded fast.

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Fortunately my wife didn’t see this interlude. She would have reminded me I’m suppose to keep my eyes on the children, not on the lichen.

LOCAL VIEW —signs and omens—

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There are signs and omens all over the place, if you care for such things. I used to care, but have lost interest over the years, largely because I could see little advantage in glimpsing the future. I never got a glimpse clear enough to tell me what stocks to invest in, I suppose. Rather I’d get a vague sense of whether I was in for tough times or easy times, and there was no way to avoid either. Lastly, when tough times did come, they were never as bad as worry made them out to be beforehand, and actually turned out to be the times I brag the most about surviving, when reminiscing. (When I remember the good times it is often with the wistful sense I blew it, in some manner.)

The one time signs are helpful is when you are very discouraged, and in need of an encouraging word. Our fellow man sometimes can be pathetic, when it comes to encouraging us. Even the people trying to be kind will  propose some ridiculous diet or regime of exercise or ask you to contort yourself into yoga poses, when all you really need is a kindly glance. In such situations helpful friends can be downright depressing, and it is then that some sign, some bluebird landing on a nearby branch and singing, can be like a rope to a drowning swimmer.

Of course, if I became dependent on such signs I’d never get going in the morning. I have enough trouble getting started as it is, and if I needed a good omen before I proceeded I’d likely never get out of bed.

There was actually a time when I was young that I did demand life made sense, before I’d proceed, and I wound up very nearly paralyzed. I was deeply involved in the study of psychology, and at the slightest sign my behavior wasn’t adult I’d stop everything and analyse my every twitch. It was a good way to avoid getting a real job, and also acquainted me with the wonders of the subconscious, however in the end I had to get a real job even if life didn’t make sense.

At one point, before I got a real job, I was studying my dreams from every angle I could think of, and had a wonderful revelation. When you study dreams you, in a sense, make every action and every object within the dream be a symbol, and thus a sign. For example, if there is a road in the dream, it may symbolize “being-walked-upon”, (and you might even burst into tears when you have the insight that you feel trodden upon). The problem is that, before you get the first dream figured out, you tend to get tired and go to sleep and have another one. Studying all the symbols can get to be exhausting, and there is definitely no time left to look for a real job.

I had managed to arrange my life, as a young poet, in a way that allowed me to study dreams for days on end. Now I cringe, thinking of all the wasted time, but some good did come out of all the study. For one thing, I don’t waste time so much. I also suppose I understand the subconscious to some degree. However the revelation I wish to describe came after I had an overdose of dream-study, and decided I needed some fresh air, and went for a walk.

Because I’d been spending so much time analyzing objects in dreams, I was in the habit, and found myself analyzing the real objects in the real world as if they were symbols in a dream. I wasn’t trying to do it. In fact I was trying to stop. Yet I couldn’t. There wasn’t a leaf that fell that didn’t have some symbolic meaning. Maybe I didn’t know what the meaning was, but the meaning was there, as loud as thunder. I had wanted life to make sense, but now there was too much meaning, in every twig, in every birdsong, in every face in every passing car. It was a glorious and wonderful revelation, but I felt over my head and wanted it to stop. When it wouldn’t I went and bought a six pack of beer and got ossified, not to get high but rather to come back to earth. Then, when I awoke the next morning with a headache, I wondered why I had run away from the revelation. It was largely gone, though enough lingered to reassure me that life does make sense.

Due to that one event, forty years ago, I don’t scoff at people who gaze at stars, seeking astrological sense, or at teas leaves, or at the lines in palms, or at the entrails of goats. God really is in everything, even in the most dark, deplorable, and dismal situations. That is how the poet Wilford Owen was able to write, from the hideous trenches during World War One, “I too have seen God in mud.”

While I don’t scoff at those who seek to read things, I don’t have the time to follow them. Knowing the future doesn’t matter as much as how you behave when it gets here. The only time I adjust my behavior due to someone seeing the future is when I hear a storm may come, in a weather forecast, (and even then the forecast is often wrong. Also, these days, it is often absurdly sensationalized).

Rather than attempting to figure the Creator out, and know what He is up to, I tend to rest assured He knows what He is doing, even if I don’t particularly like it. This seems to open my eyes to beauty I’d otherwise miss. I don’t particularly like cleaning up after a snowstorm, but that doesn’t mean I can’t lean on my shovel and admire the view.

In this manner I’m able to admire the recent eclipse of the full moon, and the current conjunction of Venus, Jupiter and Mars in the morning sky, without getting all worked up and worried about  what it all means. I can watch the leaves change and fall without getting all worked up about the onset of winter, (though I don’t forget to stack the wood).

The glory of what I call “Sugar Autumn” is ending, as we move into the less brilliant but still  beautiful foliage of “Oak Autumn”. In parts of the woods without oaks, it is starting to be “Under-story Autumn,” where the tall maples have lost their leaves, but the young ones beneath are just starting to change.

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It seems that the Creator set up the ecosystem around here in a way that gives the young trees a little time to enjoy the sun free from the shade of their elders. The sapling maples  pop their leaves out a week before the taller ones in the spring, and lose their leaves a week after the taller ones in the fall. I’m sure a scientist can explain the reasons for this happening, but it doesn’t take anything away from the fact it is a wonderful design, and does allow the young time to grow, or at least subsist, until the old decide enough is enough and politely remove themselves from the sky by becoming increasingly rotten and the home of woodpeckers, or perhaps becoming firewood.

That is the sort of thing I contemplate, as I gaze upon Creation, and it seems wiser to me to appreciate beauty in this manner than to become worried, and in a sense to get in a fight with Creation. Too many people spend their entire lives avoiding what may never happen, and isn’t all that bad when it does happen. The reasons people give for the lessening of their lives are many, but it still remain a lessening. Some of the best advice I ever got may be the crudest, “Get over it.” For there are many ways to look at the moon.

And then the moon went on, westward through trees
Now bare of leaves, with a glance back towards me
Inviting. How could I follow? What frees
My feet to walk where the moon walks? What plea
Would it hear? All I could do was stand and yearn.

Once in a dream I walked those pearled highways
But for fool’s reasons felt I should return:
My mundane friends frowned on what disobeys.

Now like a grounded dodo I stand sad
As all wear armor and only in dreams
Does one walk nude in public. This world’s mad
And burdened by leaden get-rich-quick schemes.

But the moon’s not burdened. Midst the mad glow
Of cities it beckons those in its shadow.

LOCAL VIEW –FIRST SNOWFALL–

I had plans to finish up some work on the clapboards at the end of my 250 year old house today, but awoke to temperatures of 23° (-5° Celsius) and frozen slush coating everything. I was pretty grouchy. October 18 is too darn early for snow. However the sun was brilliant on the horizon, and there wasn’t a breath of wind.First Snow 5 IMG_0760

It is hard to remain grouchy when it is so gorgeous out, but I tried my best. If I am to achieve my goal of becoming a cantankerous anachronism, it will require hard work and practice. So I put on my sourest expression and looked for things to gripe about.  I noticed my wife had left my granddaughter’s baby carriage had out, and it was all soggy with snow.   First Snow 2 IMG_0755Also the phlox flowers in the garden were frozen.First Snow 1 IMG_0753 Furthermore, the above photograph was suppose to be artistic, with the snowy car in the background, but it only reminded me I have to trim that yew. Also rake the leaves, and it’ll be harder with them wet.

Even as I was grouching to myself about that the leaves began falling. There wasn’t a breath of wind, but sometimes they are merely frozen to the twigs, so that the first beams of sun melts them free, even in a complete calm. In fact one leaf, as it falls, can jar others free, and a slowly developing slow motion avalanche of color crisply slides down the side of the tree. Formerly I’d sigh, and wax poetic, but as a practicing grouch I now grumble about how all the leaves are covering my firewood and keeping it from properly drying. The heap of firewood is to the right of the road, in this picture.First Snow 4 IMG_0756 You can see all those messy leaves all over the road. It’s enough to make you roll your eyes to heaven.First Snow 3 IMG_0758

Oh well. I figure Sunday’s suppose to be a day of rest, anyway. I’ll get back to practicing my grouchy expression first thing on Monday morning.

LOCAL VIEW —BURNING LEAVES—

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(Click to enlarge and clarify.)

The cold air has charged south, and it is colder in south Texas near the Gulf of Mexico than up here in southern New Hampshire, near the North Atlantic. At 2:00 AM, as I’m stirred by insomnia (and aching muscles due to leaf-raking,) it is fifty degrees warmer here than at the same latitude in Nebraska, 52 here and 2 there. (+11 here and -17 there, Celsius.)

It’s all coming this way. The snow has covered Canada and expanded down into the northern Great Plains in the USA, (though it has retreated in western Russia.)

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However despite my dread about the approaching onslaught, I actually did live up to my resolution to avoid worry, and to enjoy the benign weather while it lasts.  This stuff has happened before. An article from The Weather Review in 1896 describes warmth on the east coast, as it hit minus fifty in Montana: http://docs.lib.noaa.gov/rescue/mwr/024/mwr-024-11-0414.pdf  (Article at bottom of page.)

I decided I should take care of the leaves in the pasture, before the snow presses then all down to a brown wad.

Most have to get a “burn permit” to burn leaves, (though many ignore the law), however the bureaucrats haven’t caught up to the farmers yet, and farms require no permit. If I was in the mood to worry, I’d worry about the inevitable fee for a farm-permit which our future will inevitably hold, but maybe I’ll get lucky and die first.

In any case, I took the easy route and burned the leaves out in the pasture, rather than lugging them all to the garden to use as mulch. (Rather than the drifts of leaves becoming a brown wad that kills the grass, the ashes will fertilize.) I was glad I did it, for it never fails to generate a lovely mood at the Childcare.

On the amber autumn afternoons
When the forest has finished disrobing
Before snow’s bed sheets tuck lullaby tunes,
When Geese, who want to spin the globe, wing
Silhouettes in western skies, my rake sighs
Dry leaves to piles, and I lower to light
One leaf with one match. The children’s bright eyes
Spot the sight, and all rush up in delight.

The flames spread, the rake scuffs, and hours pass
With nothing more needed, for few jobs draw
So many helpers as turning a mass
Of rustling leaves to hot, orange awe
And the sweetest smog and the quiet delight
Of sparks swirling up in a deepening night.

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 Photo Credit: http://ozarkhomesteader.wordpress.com/2009/11/09/burn-baby-burn-using-fire-in-the-garden/

LOCAL VIEW—FLYING SQUIRRELS

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(Click map to enlarge and clarify)

Last week’s storm has finally drifted up off the upper, right hand corner of the map, and the weak storm that followed it is has floated up to Labrador, with its cold front dangling down off-shore to a weak low in Georgia. That weak low will be invigorated by the first low plunging down through the Great Lakes and second low in the Mississippi Valley, and the merging low pressures are expected explode into a gale off shore.

All week long there has been worry and fret about the strength and track of a gale that doesn’t even exist. On Monday it looked like we could get a foot of snow, but by Tuesday it seemed the storm would go out to sea. Often the European model differed from the American GFS model which differed from the Canadian JEM model. Joe Bastardi pointed out where the models tended to go wrong, and what to look for and be wary of, and held a view all his own.

I was wary anyway, as the ghost of the Pacific hurricane Ana is in the Mississippi Valley, and I’ve always noticed such meteorological “ghosts” tend to add energy to storms. It is one of those cases where a sixty mile difference in where a storm forms and tracks makes a huge difference in the local weather. Considering the storm hasn’t even formed, the skill of forecasters is taxed to the limit.

Then last night’s computer models came out with a solution I wasn’t looking for at all. Rather than a single storm there would be two. This divides the energy and weakens the effects (until the two storms combine north of here, up in the Canadian Maritimes.   We might get  howling northwest winds after the storm passes, but the storm itself would be more diffused, with lighter east and northeast winds as it approached, which would be less likely to drag down cold air and make snow, and we’d be more likely to get cold rain.  Maine might get buried in snow, but we would dodge the bullet. (Maybe.)

That would be fine with me. I’m not ready for snow.  I still have potatoes to dig, and with the clocks changing next week it will be dark when the parents pick up their children at my farm-childcare, so I need to prepare to have bright fires out in the pasture for the children to gather around, with the emphasis of our childcare on the outdoors, as it is. Our kids tend to head home smelling of smoke, but have experiences children at institutional childcares miss, such as roasting potatoes in a fire, and learning to be careful near flames.

In a way I was helped by the last nor’easter, as it blew down a dead tree, which smashed into another dead tree as it fell, snapping the second tree’s trunk and making a sort of jumble I need to clean up in order to clear a much used path. That will supply some free wood.

However it also created an interruption, as the second dead tree turned out to be hollow. A member of the staff tapped on the side of the trunk, as this can bring life that was hiding within out, and sure enough, the faces of flying squirrels appeared above. We had no camera, but this picture gives you an idea how their faces look. (Photo credit: http://photovide.com/flying-squirrels/ )

Flying-Squirrels-2 Flying squirrels are quite common, but seldom seen because they are nocturnal, which is why they have such huge eyes. Most people don’t even know they are around, until they get into an attic and start gnawing everything they can get hold of, including electrical wiring, in which case people do not find their big eyes cute. (Photo credit: http://www.zappwildlife.com/flying-squirrels-athens-ga/ )

Flying Squirrels 3insulation-damage

However when they are out in the woods where they belong, they are definitely appealing creatures, if you ever see one.

I’d been telling the kids they were out there, because there were signs. I’d point out that the  pine cones were stripped of their scales, and were reduced to nothing but a central spike, and that beneath certain branches there were drifts of pine cone scales. Or I might find an owl pellet, and open the oval of fur to show the bones and teeth, and speak of dark events in the dead of night. However for the most part this was just a fairy tale told by the old coot who  watches over them. Small kids live in a dream, and fairy tales are real and reality is a fairy tale, in many ways. In some ways that may be a sort of wisdom, for reality does contain some strange marvels, such as a squirrel that glides from tree to tree in the moonlight.

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(Photo credit http://www.zappwildlife.com/flying-squirrels-athens-ga/ )

The forest is very alive at night, with many creatures preferring starlight to daylight. Besides owls, flying squirrels need to be wary of foxes and raccoons and skunks, as, like many rodents, they are near the bottom of the food chain. However an old foe, which only recently has returned to this area because it fur was so valuable that it was hunted to local extinction, is the American Marten, which is as at home in the trees as any squirrel. When I recently saw one early in the morning I thought it was a squirrel at first, and then did a double take.

American Marten am_marten(Photo credit: http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/45531.html )

When I’m walking in the woods, pointing at various signs and telling tales of how a flying squirrel can escape a marten when a red squirrel can’t, because they can leap into the air and glide to another tree, the children sometimes roll their eyes, as if I’m telling another one of my tall tales. I can hardly blame them. (One boy once confronted me with his hands on his hips and announced, “My Dad says there is no such thing as walking trees!”) However I find that introducing a bit of Tolkien wonder increases a forest’s enchantment, (and it also keeps kids from running off, if they think there might be a few orcs about.)

When they realized there was actually such a thing as flying squirrels, it made a bit of extra trouble for me, as they wanted to take their parents to the tree, rap the trunk with a stick, and have the two faces of the two squirrels peer out from above.  (At first the squirrels emerged and scampered about looking alarmed, but by the tenth time they only poked their heads out, and I think I detected some irritation in their faces.) What’s more, the parents wanted to see as well, even after a long day’s work.  They seemed to  forget I’d also had a long day’s work, and might want them to skedaddle and let me go put my feet up.

However I’ve got to admit it is a fine sight to see a parent and their child walking hand in hand, when the sun is so low it sits on the horizon and sends long stripes of gold beneath the boughs and between the trucks of the pines. I can’t help smiling, and thinking that maybe my childcare does some good, after all, and is something more than a predatory way of squeezing scarce cash from the skinny wallets of overworked parents half my age.