Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Barrens

Barren as in pine barren and also as in not fruitful.

The photo above shows a view across one of the lakes in Glacier National Park taken this summer when I traveled with my grand-son.  It might be St. Mary's Lake, but I am not sure enough to validate that.  While it is expansive and magnificent, I am sure you will notice the gray trees in the distance covering the entire hillside.  These are just a few of the many acres of dead trees throughout the west due to pine beetle damage  There are over 600 species of beetles in Canada and the United States.  The western pine beetle, Dendroctonus brevicomis is the one destroying forests in our Western lands.

According to the Forest Service, "In 2009, acres destroyed by the mountain pine beetle -- mostly in the forests of Wyoming, Montana, Colorado and Idaho reached a historic peak of 9 million acres. Since, the numbers have been tumbling. About 6.8 million acres of forests showed pine beetle damage in 2010, and 3.8 million acres was affected in 2011."

While we were in the park, we talked to the rangers and they admitted that less and less was being done to reduce the spread of the bugs.  They have noticed the forest lands repair fairly rapidly with new plants and that many animals and other insects benefit from the reduction of dense pine lands and the access to new and different growth.  Of course, we all know this means an increased danger of forest fires and an increased danger of mud slides.  But, it does look like this infestation may be eventually running its course if left alone. 

If these forests were commercial in nature, I am sure that pesticides and various pre-burn strategies would have been used with still much of the same results we now are seeing, and perhaps, even more harm being done.  There are those in Congress that want to take these lands and sell them or lease them for the economic value they hold.  Having these acres sit idle like a homeless druggie is anathema to some in Congress.  To them EVERYTHING is a resource to be turn into a profit.

I, of course, am totally and wholly against selling or leasing any more of our national lands than we already do.  There are those greedy citizens who sign the federal lease of land for their cattle and then refuse to pay that lease or refuse to follow any restrictions placed on these precious lands so that they are grazed sustainably, and it now appears we do very little to enforce them to pay their way or adhere to the lease.  Why would we let them destroy even more of this precious natural land making it available for commercial applications and removing valuable habitat for rare and endangered species?  The grasslands as well as the forests are so important to various rare and endangered birds and need to be protected.

And shortly after I wrote this post I came across this.

Friday, September 12, 2014


They are not afraid of me.
Half the time they do not even see me.
But after twenty minutes of sitting in the hot sun
And getting the awful photos below, I moved to a more camouflauged area.

Nice one, Tabor, on the zinnia...too bad you missed the bird!

This little plastic stool stained with paint projects was moved to the shaded shelter of my guara plant.  While there are those that seem to think I have good padding in my sitting area, sitting on one of these for a while is painful.
The guara plant behind in this photo puts out little butterfly pinkish flowers at the ends of long stalks.
This plant has more than outgrown its place.  It starts out small and delicate and then tricks you by taking over the bed.
The little pink flowers bob in the wind, hard to photograph.
The hummingbirds do not seem to have trouble drinking from them, though.

Anyway, I sat, closer to the Zinnias, crouching under this quara and a hummer comes buzzing by.
In slow motion they fly like ballerinas.  To my human eye they fly like bombers or bullets with great maneuverability.
I lift my camera slowly to capture him hovering just above a zinnia.  Snap!  He is not in the capture!
He suddenly turns and flies my way.
He pauses just a foot from the top of my head.
I hold my breath, do not move, too close he hangs for any camera shot. Is he wondering what this odd dark shape is beneath the guara plant?  I hear the hummmmmm.
Then he does a close fly over and I can feel the breath of his wings on my hair and I can hear him buzzing just behind my head, perhaps drinking from all those pink blossoms?
I dare not turn.  I wait like a statue.
Finally his sound disappears and I am alone again patiently waiting for a photo opportunity.

He eventually returns.
I have the camera on the sports setting and therefore the afternoon light is too bright, so I get this grainy shot of him resting on the dying sunflower.  If you look closely (well, really really closely) he has yellow pollen on the end of his bill.

Then he is off again to my zinnias.

Not up to National Geographic standards, but at least you can recognize that it is a hummer!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Fall Babies

In the spring of the year, we begin to see the box turtles crossing the lawn.  On the rainiest of days they start to cross the highways.  Many of us on FaceBook post warnings to friends and relatives to be careful in their driving to avoid that lump in the road that may very well be a turtle and not a pile of mud from the back of a truck.

I find them hiding near my flower pots and husband finds them in his garden and his mulch pile.  They are docile and easy to pick up and observe although they usually pull in their heads and you have be very patient if you really want to see them.

They come in various sizes but ours usually look like this one in the photo below crossing the lawn this summer.

We have had some luck in feeding them tomatoes and strawberries.  We had one fellow who was missing the claw from his front leg, perhaps in a battle with a raccoon or fox?  We named him stumpy as he hung around most of the summer and even returned the next year.  He loved our apple slices.

Yesterday we had some men helping with the mowing in the yard who came across this...

It does not look like much.  The black at the bottom of the photo is the edge of our driveway.  The hole itself is about 2 inches deep and 4 inches wide.  An anomaly in the surface of our yard that would be missed by a less discerning eye.  The young man who edges the driveway knew immediately what it was and call my husband over.  Perhaps you will remember our finding a snapping turtle digging a nest at the side of another road out in West Virginia.  Clearly that loose gravel is just the terrain they look for.

Soon they found this fellow in the dirt nearby.

Then when they moved the soil away in the hole they found THREE more little ones.

About the size of a half dollar and hatched into the world without a clue.  They had to depend on their instincts and their camouflage for survival.  I set them loose in my flower garden (the soaker hoses can provide some water) but I am sure they are on a journey out of my yard.  Within hours they were all gone, hidden in some foliage or even on their way down into the ravine.  I should have put a dab of fingernail polish on them to see if they return!

Saturday, September 06, 2014

The Face of the Storm

As the days shorten the sun leaves just a little earlier, giving me time to finish dinner and hurry to the dock to see what the sky is talking about this time of year.  There are people who hang on to the very last hours of the summer sun pretending fall is not chasing in their wake.

Eventually the sunset is a peaceful palate of beauty.  

Sometimes just over your shoulder you can hear the deep throated growl of a late summer storm (or a pretender of one) that hangs out and shows his cool new autumn clothes.

And sometimes I can see the face of the storm itself!

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Ashes and Dust

Paleontologists at Dinosaur National Monument

Some look to the past 
as if reading fractured bones 
can predict the future 
better than tea leaves.

Looking for the footprint of God
Looking for the spark of life

Some pick and mold and touch
and smile with wonder
at the magnificent puzzles
left behind for us to solve.

Did the owners
of these bones
have the sentience
and think they could rule 
their future world,
before the star bombs and volcanoes
tossed them again and again
choking their skies with ashes and dust?

Will looking into the past
save us from
the wars about to come
down around our ears
tossing bodies of man and child
and then 
covering them/us in ashes and dust?

Is our future written in our past? 
Is it too frightening for most to accept that we are only visitors in this universe?

Wednesday, September 03, 2014


My cup runneth over 
with words of concern and kindness 
gestures of love and hope 
with falling rain for my garden.

It was just a drizzle, but enough to give the drying flower beds hope.  Enough water to cool the leaves of plants and fill the buds of flowers with thirst quenching water.
It was enough to drench plants with pearls and diamonds.
It was enough rain to intimidate those small insects that had forgotten what rain is or perhaps this insect was one of those that was born between the rains.

Some text stolen from here

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Here She Comes

She is pungent pepper and sage that was crisply fried 
She is heart of oak with just a hint of Cabernet 
She is burnt chocolate that is chalky and slow to melt on the tongue 
She smells smoky and ghostly dusty and seared with lost angels' wings
She does not make you work for the sight of her beauty but she is a terrible tease 

All that is green now makes a bed for the brown that falls from above
Crunch and scutter become the new percussion sounds
At the end of the day
And everyone else (except for black, bold crows) becomes quiet and waits
For the grand entrance that is slower
Than gooey molasses across the fondant of Halloween candies

Every year, like her lover, I wait patiently for her arrival 
And watch as she drops calling cards hither and yon

in the weeds
of my life
Mixing sarcasm and flattery 
Just to keep me on the edge 
And to keep me distracted 
Before she shoves that first cold caress in my face
and then giggles with the cold dawn that seals her arrival.