Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Seen from various trails

We've been back over a week from our first Kentucky trip of the summer, and the good news is that we've played a lot since then, with the side effect that I haven't blogged much. I've been working hard on a weed guide (St. Lynn's Press, 2011), with photos by Sheila Rodgers. Next spring, when anyone wants to see all those lovely (and unlovely) weeds I discuss in A Weed by Any Other Name, I can just send them to this guide.

Jessica Walliser, though, has already told us about the good bugs and bad - well, insects, since "bug" is something of a technical term. My in-laws, for example, are hosts of a bee tree in their yard, which was full of activity during our visit (see above, definitely good, both the bees and my in-laws). Not far from Bardstown, near the even smaller town of Boston, KY, we found a new hiking location, which featured these millipedes (yes, that's Emily's hand holding one of them - no crawly-phobes in our family!), lots of wildflowers, and even (drum roll, please) Fossils, with the bonus that it is a 3 mile loop with no crowds. No, I'm not telling where it is, exactly. (OK, I would if you asked nicely)

(See how this butterfly's head is out of focus? That's why Sheila is taking photos for the weed guide - she's good! She doesn't take photos like I do.)

Back here at home, the tomatoes are ripening, the kale is still surviving the heat, the peas are still luring the girls to eat a vegetable (if only "on the wing," since they don't eat them cooked). The chickens are laying, and the squashes and pumpkins are taking over the garden. Midsummer, with all its lush excess, is upon us.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Hunting and gathering

The season of harvest may well be autumn, but June is definitely a season of plenty in its own way. While the garden bears a few early snap peas, plenty of well established herbs, and kale I can put daily into my ration of eggs, the wild outdoors has its own delights, even beyond the strawberry plants we have hidden around the yard.

I grew up with a cherry tree across the street, and June, then, was the season for gathering cherries and making pie. Near Ithaca, one of the state parks on the lake featured several mature cherry trees, and while Brian climbed for their fruit, I would stand on picnic tables and gather on tiptoe. Those cherries, too, went home for pie. Perhaps Brian has kept his eye on this tree earlier, but this week when I arrived at soccer practice, ten girls and Brian were off on the edge of the field - not looking for a wayward ball, as I first thought - but cherry picking. Some of the girls weren't too sure about it, but they believed in their coach, and were soon talking (tempting?) their younger siblings into trying the fruit, too.

This week, too, Hazel got her own idea of gathering. She recently attended a birthday party at which the party favor/craft was making little aquaria, with plastic toy inhabitants but real water, in small containers. Since then, she had the idea that she wanted a real fish swimming in it. Years ago, Brian and I kept fish - hand-me downs, I think, from some departing student - and still have the aquarium, though the residents departed (some to friends, some to the earth). I'm not actually keen to keep fish again, but I also figured that letting the girls try to catch them with nets would be relatively harmless, and might give us a resident fish for a week or so, when we could re-release it.

Don't hold your breath - we haven't caught anything, yet. Recent rains have made the streams so fast that the water bends our nets even in the deeper, more slow-moving sections. The pond, meanwhile, has plenty of fish too smart to be caught 3 feet from the bank, and even Emily seems too squeamish about the muddy bottom to go further. But the process itself, in my view, is the goal - ideally to wear them out on the idea of having fish, but keep the nets as a gentle way to hold whatever critters we might find.

And, starting now, we've entered the season when I know we will find plenty.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Gardening at the playground

The pool opened this weekend, and for two full days it was hot, sunny, and perfect for swimming. We could hardly complain - I was actually relieved - when the clouds rolled in Monday afternoon, the thunder clapped, and the rain poured down.

What I didn't expect, but was really happy about, was that when we got home, the girls immediately put on their raincoats, grabbed their scooters, and zipped down the street to their friend's house. Though A. is in kindergarden, the only problem with her is that Emily and Hazel compete for her attention. Both of my girls seem to crave the chance to be big-sisterly with her.

When Hazel got a call for a playdate elsewhere, that left Emily with A., and I took them to the community center playground. The mulch was wet, everywhere, and the thunder boomed distantly. They took shelter under the play structure, and soon had built a little house (from larger mulch pieces), a wall (from sweetgum balls), and a garden (from transplanted maple trees and grapevines, growing all over the playground).

In reality, these plants will probably wilt from lack of water, not this week, certainly, but by August. But perhaps, I can imagine, someday the play structure will feature a swinging vine and some wild grapes.