Monday, December 31, 2007

Change of Seasons

This is what we like to see on the last day of the calendar year. We're twelve days into winter, the most contemplative season of the year. Something about the sensory deprivation of the black and white scene is actually very stimulating to that contemplation. Maggy and I have decorated our holiday tree in black and white the past few years. [You can imagine how hard it is to find black decorations.]

Sounds and Spirit's Sunday program, Cycles, was a beautiful tribute to changing seasons - particularly winter, and including a section honoring crones - wise women over 50. That's me.

Thanks's to Bill and Belinda's advice I'm in the process of downloading it. Yesterday I tolerated the two hour download of an upgrade to my Real Player. Now I'm downloading the show. It seems to be able to download 30 seconds of the show every two minutes. It's an hour long show. Do the math. Maybe I'll go get ready for work.

Yep. I'm going to work in an office today. It's the first day of my new job as Dryden Town Supervisor. And I'm excited.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Holiday in Progress

I'm so happy to have Maggy home for the entire week. There's no better way to celebrate the end of the year and beginning of a new year. Part of our celebration is an extraordinary gift exchange.

Apparently we each buy about six gifts for each other. Nothing extravagant. There's usually potholders or dish towels for Momma, socks for Uncle Bill, paperback books for everyone. But it makes a festive display on Christmas Eve and a delightful mess Christmas morning. In a tiny tribute to environmental awareness, most of our wrapping paper is plain white kraft paper and the ribbons are real fabric ribbons that are reused so often they're acquiring that "remember when" quality.

At the town staff lunch Monday we were talking about the best/worst gift ever received. At the time I couldn't think of anything in the "bad" much less "worst" category. But this one might seriously take the prize. Bill gave me a radio controlled rat. Keep in mind that Bill and I have known each other for about thirty-five years. He always gives me some kind of toy. This one is meant as a new game for the cats. And they do seem intrigued.

We topped off the day with a wonderful dinner including roast beast, potatoes, extravagant out-of-season asparagus, salad and incredible lemon meringue pie and chocolate pecan pie. We're fortunate indeed.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Deer Damage

More and more often lately, as I run outside in my stocking feet to chase deer away from the Rhododendrons, Holly, fruit trees or even the bird feeders, I think I should try hunting shooting again. I really wouldn't have to hunt. It's more like shooting fish in a barrel around here. But it's been a long time since I shot a gun and I'm not sure I can actually hit anything any more. The sound alone would deter the deer for a few days. But eventually I'd actually have to kill one to convince them I'm serious.

David says he's going to take up hunting in 2008 and quotes the New York Times on the impact of deer overpopulation on landscaping and such. Frustrated as I am by the damage to my shrubs, I'm more concerned about the impact of deer on the forest ecology. Years ago I thought I'd like to have a hemlock in my yard. So, I set out to find one in the woods to transplant. When I couldn't find one taller than a foot but less than five feet, I began to realize the impact the deer were having on forest regeneration.

From Cornell Department of Natural Resources:

Research is showing that white tailed deer populations of more than 14 deer per square mile can have a harmful impact on forest health. Many areas of New York have 16 to 40 deer per square mile. This impact is commonly seen in the lack of diverse seedlings and young trees in many forests. If your forest has an open understory, chances are it is actually in a path of decline, rather than vigorous health.

I don't know how wide their range is, but when I see eight at once in my yard, I'm guessing there are more than 16 per square mile.

Deer damage cannot be repaired easily. All forest owners should prevent and reduce deer damage to maple, ash, hickory, walnut, oak, and other seedlings. Deer have a lower preference for some species, like beech and black cherry. This means that over time, the composition of tree species in forests may shift to just a few different kinds of trees, rather than the natural diversity that existed before deer became overpopulated in New York in the last 30 years.

This confirms my observations. Beech and black cherry saplings abound. Even White Ash is doing fine, except for the "ash dieback" and the threat of the ash borer. But maple, hickory, walnut, oak and hemlock just don't have replacement seedling coming along. I should probably stop trying to protect my ornamental shrubs and devote the time to protecting some saplings in the woods.

The impact of the loss of the understory affects habitat of small mammals and some songbirds. Not to mention that the deer can easily decimate wildflowers such as Trillium and Mayflowers. I don't recall when I developed this non-anthropocentric viewpoint. But the health of the ecosystem is more important to me than the fact that I have to fence my fruit trees for protection and drive 40 mph or less on the way home to avoid hitting deer.

The problem is too many people, not enough wolves. I don't think the neighbors will let me have wolves. In fact, I don't have enough space to induce wolves to stay even if the neighbors cooperate. So, we have to be the wolves.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


This is my new best gadget friend. Bill gets little prizes from a number of organizations he donates to. He usually passes them on to me. And I usually pass them on to the Salvation Army store.

But for some reason I was inspired to try this little flashlight that clips on the bill of my hat. (Yep. That camo hat is my new best wardrobe accessory.) The little flashlight is GREAT! I can go down to the cellar to flip a circuit breaker without groping for the cellar light. I can walk out to the chicken coop before sunrise with a water bucket in one hand and kitchen scraps in the other. I guess I could even use it to read in bed if I were inclined to go to bed with a hat on.

I was using it yesterday as I was repairing a lamp socket. You know, if you've turned off the electricity to the lamp, it's hard to get enough light to see what you're doing and you certainly don't have a free hand for a flashlight. It worked like a charm. I heartily recommend it for anyone whose eyes are as old as mine.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Blogs I Like

Blogs I like have ...

...fairly short posts most days. I don't have a lot of time in the morning. If I'm going to visit a dozen or so folks, their posts have to be reasonably concise. Sure, we all need to say something longer once in a while. But on a daily basis I don't have time for sermons.

...and links. This is the truly magical difference between blogs and print media. To make the post short enough to catch my attention, yet maintain the all-important detail, I need links.

But not just links. I have a slow, dial-up connection and I'm not going to invest the time in clicking a link if I don't have a clue that it's leading to something I care about. Give me a sentence or two describing what's interesting about the link.

Considering all that, my new best blog friend is Mental Multivitamin. For one thing, her logo is irresistible.

And I like the "On the Nightstand" feature. Here's mine.

Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott

A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini

Timothy, or Notes of an Abject Reptile, Verlyn Klinkenborg

The Canon, Natalie Angier

Assault on Reason, Al Gore

Like M-MV, I often resolve not to go to the library or buy more books 'til I catch up on the stack on the nightstand. But I never can keep the resolution.

Like me, M-MV is a mother, pianist, birder, photographer, seeker of truth and much, much more.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


Leendalu may be right that every blog should have a poet laureate. That sounds like a huge commitment. I can probably only manage "the poet I'm enjoying most at the moment." At this moment it is Joy Harjo, featured last night on The Newshour.

First let me say a word about a news program that features poetry regularly. Cool! I've long since given up TV network news. For spoken information about the outside world, I rely on CSPAN, The Newshour, Public Radio. I also read quite a bit: magazines, books and internet articles. But reading is different. I'm inclined to skip over topics that don't seem appealing at the moment. TV and radio encourage me to listen to things I didn't expect to be interesting but often are - like poetry.

Anyway, in case you're reluctant to click over to Joy Harjo's page, here's one of the poems that caught my attention (pasted here, unabashedly without permission, from the PBS Poetry Series page.)

To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you. And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear,
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.

Saturday, December 01, 2007


Maggy sent me a link to the New York Times article The Chicken and Rice Man. As she said, "this story actually brought tears to my eyes - it's so nice to read about people who do good things just because."

Jorge Muñoz, who makes $600 a week as a school bus driver, provides a hot meal every night at 9:30 to dozens of hungry, usually homeless, men. He started three years ago delivering eight brown bag snacks of fruit and cookies three times a week. Word spread among the men who needed meals and Jorge's friends who could donate food. Jorge and his mother began making hot meals from the donated food. And so it goes.

What I like about this story is that Jorge didn't start by thinking about how to pay for it, or how to solicit donations or investing in a commercial kitchen. He just started making meals. What I fear is that the NYT publicity will make the whole thing fall apart.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Yesterday a friend told me about the Willard Suitcase Exhibit. When nearby Willard Psychiatric Center closed in 1995 hundreds of suitcases were found in an abandoned building. Craig Williams, a curator at the New York State Museum, uncovered details of the lives of the owners of a few of the suitcases.

For example: Lawrence M was committed in 1916 at the age of 38 "because, according to his records, he had been heard 'singing, shouting, also praying, claiming to hear the voice of God and seeing the angels...' " [I am reminded of Socrates, "...a man who beholds the beauty of this world... will desire to spread his wings and fly upward, and because he gazes upward, like a bird, and cares nothing for the world below, he will be considered mad."]

But Lawrence did not fly. "... he became the gravedigger at Willard's cemetery in 1937, when he was nearly 60 years old. He dug more than 600 graves for his fellow patients over the next 14 years, and continued to work as Willard's gravedigger until his own death at age 90. He, too, was buried in Willard's cemetery, where the deceased did not have headstones, but instead were given cast-iron markers with numbers. Eventually, these markers were removed in order to make it easier to mow the cemetery."

The traveling version of the exhibit has been called "The Lives They Left Behind." Oddly, the NYS Museum calls the exhibit "Lost Cases, Recovered Lives." Recovered by whom, I wonder. Not the people who owned the cases, all of whom are apparently dead.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Maggy's Boy Friend

I have to try to write this without embarrassing Maggy ('tho that ship may have sailed with the headline.) Our holiday was enriched by her friend, Andy. I enjoyed talking with him. And I enjoyed how content and relaxed Maggy was with him around.

We like the same kind of beer. And movies. He's the kind of person who asks, when he gets up to go to the kitchen, "Can I get you anything?" But here's the clincher. I asked him to retrieve the stepladder from the garden (where weeks ago I was using it to pick pole beans) and change a bulb in the outdoor light fixture. It turns out that he probably could have reached the fixture without the ladder. But that's not the point. I noticed this morning that he had stored the ladder in the tool shed instead of leaving it right where he used it, as I undoubtedly would have.

The dreaded bus carried them safely back to New York last night.

I've liked every boy Maggy's brought home. (There haven't been that many.) But (here's where I probably embarrass Maggy) I kind of hope this one's a keeper.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sound and Spirit

One of the many pleasures public radio offers me every week is Ellen Kushner's program Sound and Spirit. Unfortunately for me, here in central New York, it is heard at 6:00 PM Sundays when I'm often busy with other things. The broadcasts are available online. But they're .pls files and apparently I don't have software that recongizes them. can anyone help me with this?

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Several evenings in the past week or two Murphy was on sentry duty in front of the kitchen door staring intently into the night. I never could see what he was looking at and I chalked it up to wishful thinking on his part. But last night it became clear. Apparently I'm being too generous with Jake's evening meal and this 'possum is cleaning up for him.

I have a kind of soft spot in my heart for opossums. They're so intently focused on finding food, they seem - well - not too bright. I'm not happy that Jake is allowing this (he's hunkered down just to the left of this photo.) When I got a look at the 'possum's teeth and claws I could understand. Jake's pretty aggressive but he's figured out that this isn't going to be his last free meal so he seems to be willing to share.

I understand that opossums have fairly tough lives, but every bowl of cat food he's eating represents one or two mice or a whole handful of slugs he's ignoring.

Opossums seem like a design by committee. They have prehensile tails, thumb-like digits on their back feet, 50 teeth (!), thirteen teats (asymmetry is unusual in vertebrates) and two vaginas (or, in the case of males, a two-prong penis.) Really! One can only speculate on the adaptive advantages of that.

I'm now trying to figure out why this article, Evolution of Marsupials, sounds so much more plausible than Marsupial Evolution and Post Flood Migration.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Philosophy

It was, once again, a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat. Following the incredible onion soup and homemade bread, the repast featured a most wonderful Plainville turkey, accompanied by Brussels sprouts with sage, greens with champagne vinaigrette. All the regular players were there: mashed potatoes, gravy, baked squash, cranberry sauce, stuffing, apple pie, pumpkin pie.

The newest guest at our table is a friend of Maggy's and a pleasure to have around. Observant, witty and comfortably at home in the world, it didn't surprise me to hear that he had been philosophy major in college. But I got confused as he tried to describe to me his job in merchandising for the online presence of a major fashion retailer. I'm not mentioning the name cause it will drive up my hit counter in an unhelpful way. Maybe it was this employment connection that led to his interest in the morning parade sponsored by you-know-who.

Maybe I found the explanation this morning. Some random free time surfing starting with the ever favorite Blog Around the Clock and wandering through Pharyngula (I don't mind if links to them drive up my hit counter) led to The Brooks Blog and this post: Employers want philosophers. Thom Brooks says:
There has been much talk over the years of "what can I do with a philosophy degree?" ... I will never forget speaking with a former FBI Director in Connecticut who said that after lawyers and accountants, the third most in demand group for the FBI were philosophers..."because philosophers think outside the box and we need critical thinkers like this to solve cases." This view of philosophers as best able to think beyond current paradigms (coupled with general high dissatisfaction with the quality of the vast majority of business students) has also led philosophers to be heavily in demand in business management, especially marketing.

You know how I feel about philosophy - the love of wisdom. It's the silver bullet, the sine qua non. Why, oh why, don't we teach philosophy as soon as our children can speak and every single day thereafter? You can start before that, but it helps if the child can ask questions. Say what you will about the importance of religion, it's really all about philosophy.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. What could be better than taking a few minutes or an hour or a whole day to think about things for which we're thankful? There have been years in my life when illness, grief or financial struggles made it hard for me to focus on things to be thankful for. But I'm a "glass half full" person and every year I find myself more deeply serene and more eager than ever to see what's around the corner.

It's no accident that my life is filled with wonderful things. I strive to surround myself with the beauties of nature, the richness of lasting friendships and a constant effort to understand more about the world around me. I take personal responsibility for building an increasingly satisfying life for myself and my family.

Yesterday I came upon this quote from an unknown source.

Be careful of your thoughts,
they become words.

Be careful of your words,
they become actions.

Be careful of your actions,
they become habits.

Be careful of your habits,
they become character.

Be careful of your character,
it becomes your destiny...

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Local historian, Carol Kammen's article in Saturday's Ithaca Journal Today It's a Blog; Tomorrow It's a Source Document lends an interesting perspective to blogging. Kammen says:
"I regard blogs today as our new version of those old black diaries dating from the 19th century found in historical societies. The difference is that the diary writer's audience was generally him or herself while the blog opens up a conversation with family and friends, and also with general readers."
Carol comments on Simon's Living in Dryden blog:
This blog is kept faithfully and is illustrated; the writer researches his subjects, comments on local activities and has a very keen personal view, which is fun to read.
Of Five Wells she says:
This blog is kept by a woman who has a farm, a horse, cats — much about cats. She is ecologically conscious and attempts to live as independently as possible. She is also active in the community in numerous ways, all reflected in her blog. I respond to her strong, happy female voice; she cheers and inspires me.
And I'm flattered. It's not self-aggrandizement to say that's just what I wanted Five Wells to be: "a strong, happy female voice." Those Victorian diary writers knew they were not special people. They just wanted to write. I started writing three and a half years ago to brush up my writing skills, never expecting anyone to read it. One by one friends and family and others found and enjoyed my stories. My voice and style adjusted to them.

I more or less mastered the "dates of wars and treaties" version of history in high school and college. I never cared much for it and I've forgotten a lot of it. But I love the stories of how people lived and thought in other eras.

19th Century Diaries, at A Victorian Passage, describes historical "rules" for diary keeping (which might well apply to blogs as well.)
  1. "One must not attempt too much. A country school-teacher, leading a humdrum life in a little village, does not need a diary large enough to set down the doings of court and king; but she will probably find much pleasure in jotting down a brief record of her daily life."
  2. "You don't have to buy a diary. A blank book will work just fine."
  3. "Be regular at it for the first year and you should find it a habit to keep up your journal, but only if your entries are brief.
  4. "Ask yourself 'What happenings in your life are worth recording?' "

If the blogs you read regularly are losing their luster, take a look at the 2007 Weblog Awards. It's strictly a popularity contest. But you can get a good idea of what other people are reading.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Halloween in Dryden

Last night Dryden was Small Town America at it's best. I had the pleasure of judging the Costume Contest sponsored by the American Legion. It's harder than it sounds! So many kids! So little time!

In addition to the many happy, cute kids, there were some good candidates for America's Next Top Model.

The highlight of the evening was a ride on the fire truck. It seems to have a practical value, too. It's poignant to watch a parent handing his child to a firefighter. But no doubt it helps children become accustomed to help from the firefighters in the scary costumes.

I dressed in the spirit of the evening - sort of a Mary Poppins witch. Watch out, Simon and Kathy. This is my next headshot. And Maggy, I'm sure this will be your desktop wallpaper today.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Here's how it looks outside this morning. The thermometer on the tree at the left says 30 degrees.

Here's how it looks in the kitchen. The porch plants came in. The cats are confused. Murphy and Jake can't see each other well enough to fight through the glass door.

It's a good thing I won't need to use the kitchen much this week. I imagine it will be a while before the plants each find their way to their places around the house. They all need pruning and fertilizing. Many of them need repotting. Sigh.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Remember my baby chicks? Here they are as grown ups. I bought pullet (female) chicks. But I'm always happy when it turns out that one is male. I wonder why they don't sell a package like that. Some of us would be willing to pay extra for it.

This rooster is substantially larger than the wicked old rooster. I'm seriously hoping he throws his weight around. I let my guard down for a second yesterday and the wicked old rooster BIT me! Actually broke the skin!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Planet in Peril

I was surprised last night by the quality of CNN's special Planet in Peril. The segment I watched focused on species loss. It went beyond the usual statement that we're losing species at an alarming rate and explained why it matters. Using wolves in Yellowstone as an example, the narrative and excellent photography showed the effects of the absence of wolves in that ecosystem, the resulting overpopulation of elk, the effect of the elk overgrazing, the loss of habitat for birds and small mammals at so on. Wolves have been successfully reintroduced into Yellowstone park and there is strong evidence of the area's return to balance.

I'm looking forward to seeing the three issues Planet in Peril addresses in addition to species loss: global warming, deforestation and overpopulation. Species loss is deeply affected by global warming and deforestation, both of which are affected by overpopulation. We've seen what happens to other species when overpopulation peaks. The death rate in the overpopulated species rises as a result of food shortage and disease (or increased predator population.) Usually the population declines until balance is restored. But sometimes, the habitat is so damaged by the overpopulation that the species does not recover in that area. Which scenario do we think will apply to human overpopulation? Are we prepared to deal with either one?

Thursday, October 25, 2007


In response to my wordcoud, Leendalu asked me what hobbies I enjoy. I realized I don't talk about hobbies enough and readers may have gotten the impression that it's all cats all the time.

My gardens claim most of my hobby time in the summer. Growing flowers is good for my soul and growing vegetables is moving me closer and closer to self-sufficiency. I save seeds and come the apocalypse I fully expect to be able to feed myself. And just myself, so don't ya'all come lookin' for help. Unless you have a cow to share.

Did I mention that I collect coins? I like the look and feel of cold hard cash. I've managed to remain debt free all my life (except for a year after college when I owed my mother $2,000 for my new car. Yep. In those days you could buy a cute little Ford Pinto right off the showroom floor for $2,000. And gas was 29 cents a gallon. Can you believe how old I must be?) Anyway, I'm sure you know that in the event of an economic collapse credit cards, bank accounts, even paper money will be of little value. Those penny jars will be more important than you realize.

I don't have sheep these days, but I have quite a store of wool from the days when I did. I spin yarn on a lovely fairy tale spinning wheel. And weave beautiful blankets and clothing on my handloom. We'll be well-clothed as well as well-fed. We may produce a surplus and I'll consider bartering. Especially if you have sheep... or silkworms... or maybe rayon.

I don't really count handling firewood as a hobby, but as exercise I've got to say, it beats running or weight lifting. Oh, wait. It is weight lifting of a sort. The point is that as oil prices climb, we'll be okay. I have oil lamps and beeswax and plans to build an ice-house so when the powergrid fails we'll be looking for someone to trade with for tallow candles. Or perhaps solar rechargeable batteries will be improved by then.

Lest you think all my hobbies reflect a fear of the future, let me hasten to say I have no fear - just caution. Chance favors the prepared mind. And I replenish my inner strength with artistic hobbies. I paint, embroider and read and sometimes recite poetry for the sheer beauty. I have a book of poetry for two voices that I'd love to share.

I have to say, over-all, it's a good life.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Pop Culture

The Barnes and Noble website has a whole new look including a search term cloud. It's a good reflection of pop culture and I'm happy to see that I have some connection to many of the terms. It's nice to see Al Gore, Alan Greenspan, Bruce Springsteen, Doris Lessing. Seeing Bible, Bob Dylan and Britney Spears on the same line is a bit of a jolt.

I love wordclouds. When I discovered them last year I wrote that they're like brain screenshots.

I'm not surprised at this depiction of Five Wells. This is a personal blog, so what's conspicuously absent is Campaign, Campaign, Campaign, Campaign, Campaign. Did I mention I'm running for Town Supervisor? And it's spilling over into my personal world.

But this blog reflects all the other things that loom large in my life: garden, honey, Maggy, time, zucchini, tomatoes, Charlie, bees. It's harvest time.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging

And I know it's Friday 'cause every morning Murphy makes me clear the top of my desk for him. Yep. There he is, sleeping on my desk calendar. You just know when he wakes up he's gonna stretch and push that little pile behind him off the desk onto the floor.

And Tang... You know how Tang likes boxes and bags. Last week I bought a pair of pants and left them in the shopping bag 'cause they need to be shortened. I left the bag on the counter in the studio next to the sewing machine. Good thing the pants are wrapped in tissue paper.

If this were hide and seek, Murphy would be winning.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Sorrow for the dead...

October 4, 1996 was a beautiful fall Friday, much like yesterday. At the high school, concern grew as administrators, coaches and teammates were unable to contact two cheerleaders who had not arrived on time for school. It sounds trivial in retrospect, but if you don't go to school, you're not eligible to cheer at that night's game. The Dryden community waited in horror as police investigation over the next few days revealed the the grisly attack and murder of these two beautiful girls.

At that time, my daughter was a cheerleader and my son was captain of the football team. Those days had a profound effect on our lives as they did on the entire community. Maggy's in New York now. So she asked me to honor the memory of her friends this year.

It's impossible to describe how vivid the memory of those days is.

I walked up the hill a bit to my parents graves and recalled this essay by Washington Irving.
"The sorrow for the dead is the only sorrow from which we refuse to be divorced. Every other wound we seek to heal- every other affliction to forget; but this wound we consider it a duty to keep open- this affliction we cherish and brood over in solitude...

...Ay, go to the grave of buried love, and meditate! Then weave thy chaplet of flowers, and strew the beauties of nature about the grave; console thy broken spirit, if thou canst, with these tender, yet futile tributes of regret; but
take warning by the bitterness of this thy contrite affliction over the dead, and henceforth be more faithful and affectionate in the discharge of thy duties
to the living."

Monday, October 01, 2007

Animal Meme

Like Dan, I often ignore memes. But I found myself clicking to page two of his story about his cat Nicky. Good thing I did 'cause at the end of his story I found I was one of the ten people he tagged. This one sounds like enough fun to take a shot at. The idea is to answer the following questions.
  1. An interesting animal I had
  2. An interesting animal I ate
  3. An interesting animal in the Museum
  4. An interesting thing I did with or to an animal
  5. An interesting animal in its natural habitat

1. They're all interesting. But first place is a toss-up between the Coturnix japonica who always made me laugh with his sneeze-like crow and the painted turtle who had lost a leg in some earlier tragedy. He thumped around the house and always showed up in the kitchen at suppertime, usually with a dust bunny on his nose, to stare at me like a puppy 'til he got fed.

2. Well, I didn't eat the whole thing, but at the best Chinese restaurant in town I once ordered Duck Webs. Apparently you can put enough sauce and MSG on anything and make it edible. Oh, wait! I just remembered the platter of delicacies my Greek friend ordered on my birthday. After we'd eaten about half of it I asked what it was. She said, "The head of a cow." I thought that might be some sort of mistranslated idiom. But, no. It was every soft part of the head of the cow: tongue, cheek, brains and, my personal favorite, eyeballs.

3. It's been a while since I've been to a museum. But at the Paleontological Research Institute, there's a painting of a Mastodon overlooking Cayuga Lake. My friend Bill painted it when he was a student in the 1950s. He went up to where Ithaca College now stands for a view of the lake. For the painting he raised the water level considerably to reflect how it looked when there were Mastodons here.

4. You know how people ask you to water their plants while they're away? My best friend in grad school asked me to feed her spiders over Christmas vacation. Yeah. Jumping spiders - her lab animals. Dozens, maybe hundreds of Phidipus audax each in its own test tube. The big ones had to get a house fly and the little ones four fruit flies - all alive, of course. I could slow the flies down with a little CO2. But it was tricky to get the test tube opened and drop in the flies before the spider jumped out.

5. Again, they're all interesting. But when I find them on the dill in the garden, I can never resist bringing Swallowtail butterfly larva into the house to watch. All lime green and lemon yellow with black stripes. They're really beautiful.

Now the hard part: to tag other people who will have stories to tell about interesting animals.

  1. Wit's End
  2. Ellis Hollow
  3. Maggy
  4. Natural History Artworks

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Stupid mistakes

For future reference, it turns out that if you leave your jump drive in your pocket, so it accidentally goes through the laundry, it doesn't seem to matter.

After the laundry incident, I left mine on the desk with the top off for a few days, kind of dreading the inevitable test. I'm happy to report that it seems to be fine with files intact.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Food Policy

Wow! If Cory can keep this up, Food Karma Alert may become the definitive site for food policy. Take a look.

[Hat tip: What's in Rebecca's Pocket.]


Okay. Who thought this was going to be a good idea? Hail! The noun, not the verb. It was very noisy on the windows and the roof. The cats were more upset about it than they usually are about thunder.

I once heard someone question why hail is always described as being "the size of..." something else - usually golf balls. This hail was the size of petit pois. I have to say I've never heard it described that way on the news but it fits.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Charlie's Dentist

As if my own recent dental work wasn't enough, I called Dr Jeff LaPoint this week to check Charlie's teeth. This is no small project for a 900 pound client who doesn't sit down. Notice that the drill is a cordless 14v DeWalt. (He's not really using it as a drill. It has a little horizontal spinning disk to file the points on the teeth.) Notice also that Dr LaPoint's hand is entirely inside Charlie's mouth.

Then notice how calm Dr LaPoint is. That's 'cause Charlie's sedated. As Maggy and Dr Ambis well know, sedation is really for the protection of the dentist. The scary looking halter isn't nearly as restrictive as it looks. Charlie's entirely free to bob his head up and down as much as he likes. And he did. Dr LaPoint was remarkably patient, even amused by Charlie's attitude.

The bottom line is that Charlie has "the teeth of an eighteen year old." This is good for a twenty-five year old horse.

And the excessive drooling we had noticed...? Turns out that was probably "Horse Fungal Saliva Syndrome" or "Slobbering Horse Syndrome" (that's a creative name, isn't it?) The articles said it's caused by pasture or hay with white clover. Dr LaPoint says it's likely to occur on newly cut grass. A fungus on white clover produces an alkaloid which causes the drooling but apparently has no lasting ill effects.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


I'm often reassured by increasing awareness of, for example, the ubiquitous presence of sugar and salt in prepared foods, nutritional advantages of whole grain over white flour, the amount of gas used and pollution generated by transporting food products across the country. But once in a while there's an OMG moment when I do a double take and ask, "You mean people didn't know that?"

Here, from Fake Plastic Fish, is Plastic Is Made From Oil - You Knew That. I simply can't believe that any of my friends are among the 72% of people polled (PDF) who don't know that plastic is made from oil. I'll grant a huge margin of skepticism for the fact that the poll was sponsored by Archer Daniel Midlands in support of their project to make "bioplastics" from - wait for it - corn!

Still I think it's possible that some people don't know where plastic comes from - or goes - or the harm it does in between. Once you get a grip on that, you may want to follow Fake Plastic Fish's investigation of where plastic exists in her life and how to eliminate it.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Leslie's House

It was no surprise to catch Leslie on a ladder yesterday. But I''m really glad I got there in time to record the all-important color samples before she painted over them. I'm sure Leslie will want to remember them and I know my sister will want to study them. Which one would you choose?

Confused? Can't see the difference, you say? Believe me when I tell you, it's not the photo.

Here. I've sampled them and labeled the RGB values. See? No, really. Do not adjust your set. They are, shall we say, very similar.

So similar, in fact, that I think the color the painter suggested was altogether different. It looks great though, doesn't it?

Here's the next great decision she faces. My sister will like this one, too. The porch ceiling color. Visible only, I should point out, when you're sitting on the porch looking up.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Oil Paintings

Last weekend at the Etna community yard sale, I bought these two oil paintings. The "Fall Bouquet" is signed "D Ramsey" and the barn simply "Alexis."

I should have taken a minute to ask people at the yard sale if they knew who had donated them.

I can ask the postmaster, or the people at the fabulous "Soup and Salad Supper." But I'll enjoy the paintings even if I don't find out more about them.

I might mention that I also bought a drill bit, a copy of I Capture the Castle, a towel rack, a Pfalzgraf platter, two lovely glass dishes and a couple of pieces of fly paper. Yes, there was fly paper at the yard sale. And I need some. We really hate to waste anything in this neighborhood.

Later this morning I'll be at the Freeville Festival. I hope they have a rummage sale.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging

Apparently while Maggy and I were at the store, the house cats invited (or at least allowed) Jake to come in through the open window. Jake didn't venture far from the windowsill where he knew he could make a quick escape. Isn't he pretty?

Murphy wasn't happy that we were using the table where he often sleeps. Maggy says, "Remember when the cats weren't allowed on the table?"

Sunday, September 09, 2007

In Her Hands...

Warblers are "tunnel fliers." Because they live in the woods, they tend to fly toward a light spot. This one, being new in the neighborhood, was particularly unaware of windows. I can't easily tell you what kind of warbler it is. Bill knew it instantly. The name included "green," "yellow," and "throat." But I can't say in exactly what order. Peterson's Field Guide has a section for "Confusing Fall Warblers." That's close enough for me.

Anyway, B wanted to be sure the cats didn't hurt it. She guarded it for a while, then finally picked it up. It waited long enough for me to get my camera. But when someone suggested getting a box to let it rest in, it took off.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Bees and Honey

I'm not sure what it is in the air that says "late summer." The relaxing drone of the crickets, the rattling of the poplar leaves that sounds like constant rain, the sun a little lower in the sky at midday. But here, above all, it's the scent of honey in the air. Even if I never harvested honey, I'd want to keep bees just for that scent.

A week or so ago I used these pieces and tools to make this new section for my beehive. Frankly, the bees could manage just fine without my help. But if I give them these wax frames, they can spend more of their time making honey instead of wax. And they'll make it in neat rows that make it easier for me to handle. If the weather is good, they'll make more honey than they need for the winter and I can take some.

I've been using the last of the honey I harvested years ago (honey keeps forever) to sweeten the syrup I'm using to can the delicious, locally grown peaches I bought at BB Farms on Route 13 near NYSEG. Goldenrod honey has a stronger flavor than most people are used to. It's a flavor that says, "This is definitely honey, not sugar." To me it says, "Extra special home-canned peaches."

I like "my" honeybees and I'm often disappointed with people's casual references to bees as a nuisance. I'll hear it most often this time of year when yellow jackets are so active. Let's get this straight, friends. Yellow jackets are not bees. In fact, all wasps are "not bees." Stirred Not Shaken has a couple of good pictures - one bee and one "not bee."

You may remember the term "wasp waisted" describing tightly corseted Victorian women. It comes from the fact that wasps' abdomens appear barely connected to their thoraxes (chests) by a very, very thin "waist." (photo credit: Whispers in Nature)

Bees, like me, are pretty substantial around the middle. Once you've got this shape distinction clear, don't forget there are bumble bees, sweat bees, carpenter bees and more in addition to honeybees. (photo credit: State of North Carolina)

Under the "nuisance" heading, I might note that wasps can sting repeatedly. Bees generally die when they sting. So they don't do it casually. In fact, in thirty years of beekeeping, I've only been stung by a honeybee once. I don't believe I've ever been stung by any other kind of bee. But I seem to get wasp stings every year.

In their defense, wasps, like bees, are important pollinators. And unlike bees, they feed insects to their larvae. Anyway, with the general understanding that everybody's just tryin' to make a living, I'll live and let live with wasps.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging

I know there's a special interest out there in cats in sinks. In fact, somewhere I have a picture of my cat in the sink. I've taken pictures of Tang in lots of places. He never misses a chance to climb into a box, drawer, suitcase, etc. But this one was new. When I started the laundry yesterday, Murphy took the opportunity to relax in the empty hamper. How relaxing could that be?

I used to grow these Gladiolus (-es? -i?) in a raised bed in the vegetable garden.

But trying to reclaim the space for vegetables, I created this bed outside the garden fence. And I'm glad I did. What a gorgeous approach to the garden. And deer - even rabbits - don't eat them.