Friday, April 30, 2010

Now streaming, from your local watershed...

Last weekend, as this coming one, weather predictions involve both rain and sun, and though we all tend to hope for perfect weather for our own plans, I do like for it to rain during springtime. It sounds silly to say that - it is going to rain, or not, no matter what I prefer - but I like to have it on the table that rainy days aren't all bad for outings. Sure, I'm not a fan of cold rains, and I'd rather not have a cookout in the rain. But except for when I've lost a rental car key in the ocean and I have to wait outside for a locksmith, most of the time getting wet doesn't bother me much.

So Sunday afternoon, we headed for a favorite local park, even though dark clouds were gathering to the southwest. We started walking in the stream, which was not at all pristine, but we could at least see the rocks to step on, and headed upstream until I heard thunder. Unfortunately I, being the grownup, had to make the very boring and responsible decision that we would turn around and head back toward the car.

As it turned out, we decided instead to head to the picnic shelter when the rain came, and huddled under the center of it, listening to and watching the storm. I wouldn't have minded being a bit warmer while we watched, but in any case it was a great storm to see from a dry spot. You probably can't see the raindrops in this photo, but let's just say that the fountain wasn't really wetter than anywhere else, for a good 30 minutes or so.

Afterward, the girls wanted to head right back to the stream. We'd seen a water snake we wanted to look for again, and I'd wanted to go past the place where we'd wisely turned around when it thundered. The stream, however, had other advice for us - I was immediately reminded of Bridge to Terabithia when I saw it, and once again, making the boring, grownup decision was left to me: no more walking in the stream. Reasons, that we couldn't see rocks to step on, just for one, were asked for by the intrepid Emily, but reason was pointless. I wasn't going in there, and the girls weren't either.

I'm sure all streams get muddy in a storm, no matter how healthy they are. And in our neighborhood of Pittsburgh, I'm grateful that the storm and sewage systems are separate, so when I see muddy water like this, I can reasonably assume that it really is, at least mostly, mud, rather than something far more foul to write about.
The bottom photo, taken very close to the top photo, is the same stream, minutes after the storm. This is a stream we couldn't play in, one which made me feel icky just thinking about touching, even though I'm not easily icked out. If only I felt really confident that mud was the only issue!

At a regional water authority meeting I attended a couple of months ago, I raised a bit of a debate by suggesting that our goal, in water treatment planning, should be that I should be able to take my kids to any stream in the area and let them play in it. And someone from the water authority tried to clarify, Did I mean except not during or after a storm? Her guess was not accurate. Of course I have no intention of letting either child get carried downstream and drowned. But yes, I meant it, and I explained that I might not be exactly normal that way, but I think during a rainstorm is a fine time to play in a stream, because you're already planning to get wet, so why not?

So last Sunday, I was just a bit bothered. Muddy water and wet clothes, fine - but, what else was in that water? I can judge, easily enough, the safety of the water for crossing, and if drowning is the fear, then once you walk away from the stream safely, you can take a sigh of relief. What creeps me out is the invisible problems, the pollution which, when we walk away from the swollen stream, is still with us.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bare Necessities

Since about last September, we've had our eye on kayaks. Though it didn't - and still really doesn't - fit into our budget, with the beginning of summer we decided to test the water, so to speak, with one kayak.

I would like to be able to say we "need" kayaks. Pittsburgh is blessed with a number of great waterways, and though hiking through them is fun, some spots can't be accessed that way. Apparently 2nd grade is when the concept of needs vs. wants is discussed at school, so I recently got to look at this question through Hazel's eyes. Hazel's list of Needs includes a tent - above dictionaries and soccer balls and watches and calculators, all of which are hardly luxuries, but still are categorized as wants in her view. Can I justify thinking of a kayak this way?

Still, kayaks are not tents. Tents might, for example, represent a bare-minimum form of shelter. Hazel probably thought of them that way for this assignment, but that doesn't take away my joy at the idea that at some level, camping might be a necessity rather than a desire. Camping is a skill, and a tent representative of it, which implies self-sufficiency and ability to get along without all the other objects we normally have access to in our homes. (The girls used to ask me if we were rich, sometimes, and I would always answer that by any reasonable worldwide standard, we are indeed very rich, no matter how our homes might compare to others nearby.)

Whether it was necessary or not, today we got to test out the new kayak, the latest luxury item in our home. It was a long-anticipated event, and even though we're still a long way, equipment wise, from being able to pack up the family and head downriver together, this is a good start. I still feel like I "need" a new reel mower - the beloved Brill, despite my adjustments last summer, doesn't work, and I have my eyes on Fiskars' Momentum, a new model of mower. But the kayak is something for all of us to enjoy, if only, for now, one at a time, so the mower waits its turn, for a little while at least.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Chicken bath

Finally, for your amusement, the bath. Yes, that's 4 chickens in that pile, because baths seem to be a group activity. Perhaps it is the Roman Chicken Bath.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dirty Birds

With the nice weather lately, some people get into spring cleaning. While spring cleaning never interested me overly much indoors - why do anything indoors when the weather is this beautiful? - I've cleaned out the coop, and am getting ready for gardening. Spring cleaning *outside* seems like a wonderful idea. I've even pulled a few dandelions, just as something to do while watching the chickens forage, even though I rather like their yellow cheeriness and uppity persistence.

The chickens, too, seem to be inspired to clean up. Of course, they can't do anything about their coop, alas, but for some reason an onion bed full of rich, peat-moss soil seems to be their favorite spot for a good old-fashioned feather cleaning dirt bath. The first time I saw them do this, it looked like they were having seizures, but now that I've watched how much they love the process, it no longer looks so involuntary - more like self-indulgent. This afternoon, I sat in the yard, Tiggy lolled in the sun, belly up on the back porch, while the chickens lolled in the garden. Some of us were twitching more than others, but all of us were enjoying ourselves thoroughly.