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Friday, January 31, 2014

Story By the Numbers- Effusia and the Magic Curlique Moon

I was tired of snow, and uninspired. I got some Facebook friends to help me choose pictures from my external hard drive. The series of numbers we got were 17-5-3, 13-3, 13-20, 7-14-2, and 21-4-8. I was thinking to share one picture, but no one wanted to be left out, so I now have five unrelated pictures, and I'll tell you a tale. (of some sort). And I had to work a little magic of my own. You'll see.

The actual pictures are photoweb/scenery/firstcurvebeach02, modeltrain/grass01, modeltrain/mvc-017f, gardenweb/r08/juncus6-04, and spw/people/kriegerdeb

Here we go.

Once upon a time there was a woman named Effusia who lived in a neat little white house with black trim. It was a lovely house, but the landscaping was somewhat bleak and boring. One day she scrubbed and polished and cleaned every corner of her little house until there was not a speck of dust to be found. (You can tell this person is not related to me.) This was most satisfactory and she smiled a big smile and made a cup of tea, and then she looked out the window, and said, "I like my clean little white house, but I don't like everything outside to be so white and bare. I'll have to take a trip."
And so, Effusia put on her kerchief, and her backpack, and she took a walking stick and set out to find some way to improve her landscape. She walked for several days until she came to a market where there was a sign that read Woodland Scenics.

"This sounds promising," Effusia said, and she walked right over to the man in charge.

"I can sell you some realistic field grass," he said.
"Well, I like that it's not white," Effusia said, "but it's very straight, and I was hoping for something a little more exciting."

"Ah," said the man, wiggling his eyebrows. "I can see that you are a very practical woman, but this is not ordinary grass."

"Right," answered Effusia. "And my name is Jack, and you are going to sell me some magic beans. I was not born just yesterday, you know."

"I would not dare to agree or disagree with that perspicacious statement, madam. But this is indeed magic grass."

"Oh, all right, I haven't got all day," she snapped, and handed over the money the man requested. "What's so magical about it?"

"If you dip it into the sea, by the light of the first sliver of moon in the first month of the summer of the very first year after it is purchased, you will see why it is desirable."

Effusia though about this all the way home with her package of straight brown grass safely tucked into her backpack. "But I don't live near the sea," she thought. "And apparently I have only one chance to make the magic work. I know what I'll do."

Oh dear, I forgot to tell you one thing about Effusia's house. It was only four inches tall and made of plastic. Effusia was no stranger to certain kinds of magic, which was why she was almost willing to believe the merchant.

So when she returned home from her quest, she simply picked up her house and carried it to the sea. She placed her house beside the water, where the last stretches of the tide would reach. "Now that's what a good foundation is for," she proclaimed wisely. Then she sat down to wait for summer. In the first month of summer, on the first night after the new moon, she planted her grass in the shallow water beside her little white house. Then she worked her own magic and popped into the house and went to bed.

A tiny silver, sliver of a moon, half a curlique of a moon, rose slowly over the water. But Effusia was asleep.

In the morning the moon had gone to bed, but Effusia awoke and rushed out the door to see what might have happened overnight. And this is what she found. Her straight brown grass had twined and vined and corkscrewed itself into the sand and created a yard filled with tunnels and curls and all manner of curious passageways.

"Most satisfactory," Effusia declared. "Now I can have another cup of tea." And that is just what she did.

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Birds-eye Speedwell

The other day when I featured buttercups, Carol of Duxbury Ramblers said she saw some speedwell hiding among them. She's right! And who needs more snow? So I bring you the Birds-eye Speedwell, Veronica chamaedrys, also known as Germander Speedwell.

birds-eye speedwell

It's so bright blue and stunning when sweeps of it fill the roadsides or meadows. It never gets this tall where I live, but on the last two New York hikes we've seen lots of it looking this healthy. Here's a closeup.

birds-eye speedwell

And, if you care, it can be distinguished from common speedwell by the sessile leaves (no stalks).

birds-eye speedwell

When they grow with the buttercups, it's my two favorite colors together.

See FLT- Fletcher Hollow Road to Delaware River
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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Golden Ending

The day was long and physically tiring, but the outcomes are golden. We have a driveway, and we have water.

The sun even came out for a while, before putting itself to bed.


I'm putting myself to bed really soon, too.

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Cup Full of Sunshine

The weather continues ditto, as do all other local status reports. That means I'm continuing to work at labeling and filing pictures from last spring's hike. Should have been done months ago, but at least I'm doing it.

How about some wonderful buttercups, Ranunculus acris?

photo label

These are "nothing special." At least in a botanical sense. They are called common buttercup (or tall buttercup). They aren't even native to the U.S. They are found in Michigan, but not as much as in the east. Buttercups seemed to be everywhere in the summer when I was a child.

Of course we all held the cups beneath each other's chins. If the yellow color reflected off skin we said the other person liked butter. They were great to gather in bouquets to take to our mothers because they didn't wilt before we even got home. And who isn't cheered by that pure yellow color?

The leaves are large and deeply cut.

photo label

I suppose because I don't see them all the time here, I am especially heartened at the sight of a roadside lined with the cheerful blossoms.

So, today, I share this sunshiny memory with you.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Houston, We Have Soup!

Where this blog post ends up is in the soup pot, but it's going around the bend to get there. Here we are ending with turkey noodle soup.

turkey noodle soup

Where this starts is with the water. The water we still don't have. But maybe we have someone coming to look at it tomorrow. If I can get the driveway clear, and if they get around to it.

What I really want to talk about is my attitude toward running water. Running water in a creek is nice. Running water in the house is nice (ok, when it runs out of the faucet on command, not out of broken heating pipes or cracked toilet bowls or drips from the ceiling below the upstairs bath). People are pretty much appalled that I don't consider it much of an emergency that we haven't had water for six days now. What will be the emergency is the cost to get it working again. Dealing with water not from a faucet, not so much.

You may wonder why I feel that way. The list of reasons is long.

I grew up in a house that had running water from a cistern. That water was conserved like gold. We could use it for washing and flushing the toilet (with country rules "if it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down"). There was no bathtub or shower. My parents took sponge baths in front of the sink, and I bathed in a tin tub till I got too big. For drinking, we carried pails of water from the barn where we pumped it by hand.

When I was maybe 11, the pump in the barn broke. Dad didn't want to pay to have it fixed, so we carried jugs of drinking water from town until I was 14. On her way home from work every day, Mom would fill a jug or two when she picked me up from school. When I was 14, Mom paid to have the well water piped into the house and a shower installed. Oh yes, and a water heater that was on all the time. Before that, if you wanted hot water you heated it on the stove or for a serious enough project, like baths or laundry or canning food, the gas water heater could be lit. But you had to remember to do it a good hour before you wanted the hot water.

For 22 years of life with Om we spent anywhere from four to six weeks of every summer on the road leading bicycle trips. I got to ride on a few, but I was usually the driver of the support vehicle (first a trailer and later a converted bus). The support person did all the cooking for the group. The cooking happened in a custom kitchen area of those vehicles. It had a burner/grill unit, storage, work space and water jugs. Every day, I filled the jugs. Actually, the trailer had a water tank for a while, but it had to be filled every day. Out of this kitchen, I produced three meals a day for anywhere from a dozen to 54 people. And did the cleanup. Can you say water conservation?

Then there is backpacking. Every drop of water you drink or cook with has to be collected, treated or boiled. Water to wash with is easier, but you have to go to it, it's not conveniently located in a nearby sink. You also have to lug water with you. Water is heavy. 8.35 pounds to the gallon, to be precise. Trust me, you don't want to add too much water to your pack weight.

Right now, there are two of us in the house. We have jugs filled with clean water for cooking. We have a large handy snow pile just outside the door, big pans, and a stove that works. We're flushing once a day. (TMI? Just being thorough in explanation.)

Ready? We're almost back to the soup. Last Tuesday, I took the turkey carcass out of the freezer and boiled it down, but didn't get the rest of the meat pulled off the bones. The whole pot went in the fridge. Wednesday, after work and after I had done some other chores, I pulled it out thinking I'd finish the soup project. Then I said to myself, "What are you thinking? You have no water and you're going to get four pans greasy and cover yourself in turkey grease to your elbows. Just wait until there is easy water again."

However, it's way past Wednesday, and I sure didn't want that stock to go bad. That would be a pretty big waste. So, today, I finished the soup, melted an extra pan of snow and washed all the dishes.

Don't misunderstand me, I won't mind a bit when water appears in a stream just from turning a handle. But it's not a crisis to acquire it in other ways.

Just for fun, here were some of today's visitors, a pair of cardinals, chickadees, and a nuthatch. There were also juncos and a downy woodpecker. They were all willing to share, except Mrs. Cardinal. She would peck at anyone who came near when she was on the feeder.


See Thankful for Water
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Sunday, January 26, 2014

And So it Continues

Yesterday I spent two hours trying to get the driveway clear. Here's what it looked like before.

unplowed driveway

Here's what it looked like after two hours of snowblowing.

unplowed driveway

What? You can't see much difference. And THAT is the problem. We now have the cars out and parked across the road. This picture is the most telling. This was immediately after I'd cut that bank. (Hint: it should be vertical, not with a lip)

unplowed driveway

Today, we went to church and then I stayed in. There are supposed to be two more days of this wind, with plunging temps. Should be interesting.

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Time Stands Still

Om and I went to a play tonight, in Muskegon (60 miles away). You may be wondering why we chose to do that when this storm isn't really over. Well, our tickets were actually for last night, and that wasn't going to be an option. They let us swap them for tonight. We allowed plenty of time and went out to dinner and got a good seat for the production (not reserved seats). It was downtown at the Frauenthal Theatre.

Frauenthal Theatre

The play was one I'd never heard of before we started looking for one we would both like. It's called Time Stands Still, by Donald Margulies. It's very thought provoking, and worth attending if you can tolerate a fair amount of rough language. Here's the poster. Usually, just flash photography isn't allowed at plays, but they said no photos at all, so I can't bring you any scenes.

time stands still poster
The basic plot is that of an injured photojournalist who comes home from Iraq, and her efforts to define herself for the future. Her boyfriend, whom she met in Iraq- he was there as a writer- had already returned to New York. She goes to his apartment to recuperate. There are only four characters in the play. The other two are a publisher who is their long-time friend, and his new, too-young girlfriend.

There is a lot of history between the three friends, but the young girl is naive seems out of place in the group, yet she serves to reflect back some of their self-questions and brings a note of truth to the play at a couple of points.

It was a good portrayal of modern angst from trying to figure out what one wants in life. At this point in my life, I'd say that all the characters were looking in the wrong places, but the play doesn't provide any answers. (A lot like "literary fiction," which I call "life is a sad enigma fiction")

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Allegheny Foamflower

We're having a genuine blizzard here. The stuff you don't want to hear about includes being on day 3 with no water, and now I got Om's car stuck sideways in the driveway so we are waiting for the tow truck, so I'm not going to work unless they show up, but the county has pulled in the plows and there are reports of tow trucks being stuck, so...

I'm pretty sure you don't want to see more pictures of snow. Can't say as I'm even interested today. How about a nice flower from last spring? I'm sorting hike pictures from New York and getting psyched out about the coming Finger Lakes Trail hike.

This is Allegheny foamflower. It's in the Saxifrage family, oddly enough. Saxifrages usually have a basal rosette of leaves and the flowers are clustered loosely on a slender stem. It can fill entire valleys making them look... no surprise... foamy. It likes damp, rich soil, so you may see it in muddy areas along streams

Allegheny foamflower

The leaves look very much like maple leaves.

Allegheny foamflower

It's also called false miterwort, because it is similar to true miterwort, but the flowers don't look anything alike if you look at them. these have five petals and very long stamens. Somewhere I have pictures of the miterwort, and if I come across them I'll show you.

Allegheny foamflower

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

I'm thinking about May

Yes, I like winter, but I'm thinking about spring hiking plans. Marie and I have blocked off a week plus. We have plans, but it includes what will be a completion of the Finger Lakes Trail for me. (She's missing a few pieces).

Here's what I have left to do, 45 miles. You can click and make it bigger.

How does that fit into the entire trail? Here's the overview map.

I've put the two red arrows (as also seen in the first map) at the east end so you can see the perspective.

I haven't done all the branches yet. I have done part of the yellow branch (over near the west end. It's Letchworth gorge, where I've taken you a few times).

I did the blue one that goes north toward Syracuse because that is where the North Country Trail leaves the FLT. All the black line west of there is NCT also.

And over the past three years, Marie and I have continued working eastward.

Going east the 2011 hike starts with Jackson Pond Campsite

The 2012 hike starts with East Pharsalia to Tucker Road

The 2013 hike starts with Shear Road to Barbour Brook Road

There are several hundred people who have hiked this whole trail. I won't be anything special, but I'm getting excited anyway!

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Salt and Pepper

Here's the salt.

horse in snow

Here's the pepper

horse in snow

But these items usually come in a set. OK, I can do that.

horses in snow

In fact, they pretty much posed only in a set.

horses in snow

And, yes, it was snowing that hard.

See Rural Living for a horse with no snow
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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Marshmallows on Weldon Creek

Today I was out doing assignments. Some days I have to really hunt for something to share, something just a little prettier or out of the ordinary. But this morning, I hadn't even arrived at my first work site, and I was stunned by this little nothing of a wide spot in a creek that I've crossed dozens of times without paying a bit of attention.

Every tussock of vegetation, probably sedges, is covered with a marshmallow pillow.

snow pillows on creek

You can see how they've built up with each successive sugary snowfall.

snow pillows on creek

An impressive collection of them.

snow pillows on creek

How do I know they are marshmallows and not just ordinary snow? Because there is a big toothy mouth gobbling them up.

snow pillows on creek

See North Shore Water Features for another marshmallow
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