Archive for the ‘Nature Study’ Category

I don’t like wattlesnakes

February 21, 2019 @ 5:43 pm | Filed under: , ,

note: not a real snake

A WordPress update caused some hiccups for me yesterday and I broke my whopping two-day posting streak. The noive!

Ah well, here I am on a Thursday afternoon, finishing up my last BraveWriter Arrow of the year. I think that makes a total of 17 Arrows I’ve written in the past two years. Wow, it’s a lot when I add them all up! This one’s on By the Great Horn Spoon, a most beloved novel in the Wiley-Peterson household. I just revisited the old post in that link—written FOURTEEN years ago, can you believe it?—and am sitting here cracking up at poor little four-year-old Beanie:

It’s been a rough morning. Our wagon tipped over while fording a river, and we lost fifty pounds of salt pork and our only shotgun. Then Rose took sick—cholera, we think—and died before we could do anything about it.

My girls are undaunted by this stunning double tragedy. They push on across the prairie, estimating the number of miles to the next fort. Maybe we can trade our mule for a new gun.

“At least we still have the fishing pole,” says Rose. She seems to have accepted her own death gracefully.

“I don’t like wattlesnakes,” announces Beanie.

Jane cracks up. “Who does? Remember when I got bit, back before we crossed the Platte?”

Of course now I’m remembering our actual in-real-life wattlesnake (or racklenake, depending which of my toddlers you asked) encounters. We’ve had more than our share!

this one was all too real

February, 2012:

Then something will happen to remind me why I don’t go hiking more often, like OH SAY A RATTLESNAKE WILL APPEAR ON THE TRAIL THREE FEET FROM MY CHILDREN.

Rose and Beanie spotted him at the same time—they were in the lead, fortunately; they’re sharp-eyed lasses and I was distracted by a hot, red-faced, cranky Huck. If this had been the part of the trail where Huck suddenly charged ahead and we larger folk had to scramble to catch up, he’d have been on that snake before any of us saw it. It was lying quite still at first, stretched out across our path. Rose had just enough time to ask “Is it real?” before it twitched, and I took in the triangular head and the rattle and hollered EVERYONE BACK UP IT’S A RATTLER GRAB THE LITTLE ONES!! (I used more exclamation points.)

We edged back a yard and stood watching it. Huck, who’d been begging me to carry him, now clamored to be put down. Not a chance, pal. The rest of us were still and silent. After a long moment, the snake began to move; it slid across the trail into the underbrush.

“This is the best thing that EVER HAPPENED TO ME,” Rose declared.

August, 2012 (you’ll note Beanie’s shift to a more wattlesnake-inclusive position):

“I adore rattlers,” said Beanie.

The firemen raised their eyebrows. “Well, maybe don’t adore them,” one said.

“From a distance,” said another.

“Me don’t like racklenakes,” announced Huck.

“ME EITHER,” declared his big brother in the firmest of tones.

ME EITHER, reiterates their poor mother, all these years later. Neither the wattlers nor the racklers. Nor, for that matter, the rubber kind, which have given me no less than seventy minor heart attacks over the years.

december 2: feederwatching

December 2, 2018 @ 2:48 pm | Filed under: ,

I took this photo a couple of weeks ago; most of those glorious leaves have fallen now and the sky is hung upon the bare arms of the trees. Light glows from behind the clouds. I hadn’t realized how much I missed clouds, all those years under the clear blue Southern California sky. Here in the Pacific Northwest, the sky is painted by Maxfield Parrish, shot through with light. Even when it’s overcast and gray, there’s a glow behind the veil.

I made a list yesterday of things to write about. I’ve tucked so many stories in drafts this past year! But everything on my list feels like work. And I’m trying really hard not to work today.

So I’ll talk about Project Feederwatch instead. 🙂 Are any of you participating this year? We missed it last year. And our San Diego feeder attracted rats, so we abandoned it. But here, the birds are putting on quite a show. Our count days are Monday and Tuesday. Last week we counted 25 goldfinches, a flock of bush tits (we lost count at 25 but I think there were more), a handful of house finches and juncos, a female Northern Flicker who visits the suet feeder every morning, a downy woodpecker, two chickadees, two scrub jays, and some starlings. A highly satisfying count. The best view of the feeders is from my studio window, and it amuses me no end to come in here and find the chairs pulled out for better viewing. Huck and Rilla spend a lot of time in here, watching the show.

If you’re interested in taking part in the project, it’s not to late to join for this season. It takes a few weeks for the packet to arrive, but you can download a data sheet to tide you over. Once you get your registration packet in the mail, you begin entering your bird counts online. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology uses this data to “track long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance.” I think it’s open to U.S. residents only (and costs $18 to participate), but there’s a Canadian version linked on the site.

I fill our two tube feeders with sunflower seeds. One suet feeder holds a peanutty cake, and the other is a suet-and-insect cake that the woodpeckers seem crazy about. We scatter a bit of millet on the ground for the juncos, and they clean up any sunflower seeds spilled by the squabbling goldfinches. We also have a mesh sock full of nyjer thistle for the finches. But my favorite is when they descend upon the big pot of cosmos and pick out the seeds from the flower centers.

I keep watching for the varied thrushes who began visiting our yard last winter. No luck yet but I’m hopeful!

I would love to hear about the birds that visit your yard, feeders or no!

A high tide week in May

May 25, 2018 @ 5:36 pm | Filed under: , ,

Sick kids this week, and lots of IEP stuff going on. But golden hour doesn’t begin until 8pm these days, so I’ve managed plenty of long, rhapsodic evening walks. The light is glorious. I’m completely enchanted.

Huck, Rilla, and I are still reading The Penderwicks and lots of poetry. They finished learning the Willow Cabin speech from Twelfth Night and have begun If music be the food of love. play on. We spent a few weeks immersing in the history of Ancient India, and next week we’re starting an exploration of ancient numbering systems. Rilla helped me prep for it and we’re both pretty excited to dive in. And we’re doing watercolors almost every day, because I’m addicted. Strawberry number two was ripe today. We’re anxiously awaiting the arrival of this lovely book: Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses. (Amazon influencer link.) I’m in no hurry at all for the tide to go out.

 

May 14

May 14, 2018 @ 8:08 am | Filed under: ,

Hello hello hello hello!

Today is my 24th wedding anniversary. You know I gotta post that pic I always post. 🙂

Still crazy about this guy. (Understatement.)

We celebrated Mother’s Day by…cleaning the garage and basement. Yes, I am THAT woman: the one who saves the grungiest jobs for the day her family lives to do her beck and call. 😉

My gift was a really lovely surprise: a couple of weeks ago I posted a pic on Instagram of some perfectly GORGEOUS flowers (Hayley Mills voice there, obvs) I spotted in a neighbor’s yard on one of my walks. I learned that they are called Lewisia (after Lewis of Lewis & Clark) or, commonly, bitterroot. I adore them.

I swooned hard again when I saw them at a nursery the week after—but I was there for garden starts and I Firmly Resisted the Temptation to Indulge. And then the other day after my first post-treatment mammogram (all clear, hurrah!) Scott surprised me with a detour to the garden center. Unbeknownst to me, he showed my Insta photo to an employee…and now I have my ownty-downty little bitterroot plant. Bliss.

pretty in pink

March 30, 2018 @ 8:14 am | Filed under: , ,

Flew home from Virginia on Tuesday and have spent the week catching up on Everything. Catching up—and taking as many nature walks as humanly possible. Rilla and I have been casually tracking the waves of blossom here in Portland—first came the crocuses and hellebores; then the flowering plum and pear trees, with quince close behind; and now everywhere is a sea of daffodils and grape hyacinths, and the bees are tumbling in the cherry blossoms, and the first tulips are filling their cups with sky. When I left for my trip last week, Klickitat Street was a froth of pink and white, giving way now to a veil of soft green.

Why am I inside right now? Goodbye, I have to go for a walk. 🙂

Tree Mapping

March 20, 2018 @ 3:57 pm | Filed under:

“You are doing TREE-mendous work!”

That’s what a neighbor said to us today when he and his dog passed us in the park where Huck, Rilla, and I were using printouts of the Portland Tree Map to identify the blossom-laden trees we’ve been swooning over these past couple of weeks. Does your area have one of these?

I mean, this is just heaven on a web page as far as I’m concerned. Whenever I move to a new part of the country I have a burning need to learn the names of All The Things as soon as possible. I’m a little slow out of the gate this time around, but then again I wasn’t exactly up for long leisurely walks last summer or fall. I was scrolling back through my Instagram the other day and came across a caption from October in which I talked about how happy I was to finally be able to take a walk around the block again. These days I’m averaging almost four miles a day—because spring.

“Children should be made early intimate with the trees, too; should pick out half a dozen trees, oak, elm, ash, beech, in their winter nakedness, and take these to be their year-long friends” (Charlotte Mason, Home Education, p. 52).

Happy First Day of Spring, my friends!

“If a kiss could be seen I think it would look like a violet.”

March 2, 2018 @ 8:19 am | Filed under: ,

March 1. Sunshine today! Went for a walk down Klickitat with Scott and then another longer one in the other direction with Huck and Rilla. Violets, grass daisies, daffodils, crocus in abundance. Pussywillows budding over a mossy stone wall. Still plenty of puddles for wading in, which was important because Huck wore his rainboots. Rilla exclaimed over each new patch of moss.

Found our first Portland geocache and stopped in the rock store to admire the thundereggs, geodes, shells, and fossils. Debated the merits of the hypotenuse (a slanting street, thick with cars, the shorter way home) versus the quieter, mossier, puddle-strewn right-angle lanes. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know which we chose.