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Come Saturday Morning

34.7º N 92.2º W. Little Rock, in Central Arkansas, in the United States

5/27/17 – 6/3/17

Come Saturday Morning

It is the second Saturday after the schools let out for summer. The streets in my neighborhood are extra friendly to pedestrians and riders of non-motorized wheeled things. Pre-teen boys especially appreciate the locale, and I’m hoping some will ride by and grace the view out there. Last year a small group met up at the intersection near my house most of the Saturday mornings of the season. Boys of any age don’t much hold still, but I did manage to get this sketch of them.

Later I took a photo and did this painting of two of them who lasted as a pair longer than the others. They put me in mind of a song of 1970.

Come Saturday Morning

Come Saturday morning
I’m goin’ away with my friend
We’ll Saturday-spend til the end
of the day
Just I and my friend
We’ll travel for miles in our
Saturday smiles
And then we’ll move on
But we will remember long after
Saturday’s gone

(Music by Fred Karlin, lyrics by Dory Previn)

 


Two Rivers Park

Two Rivers Park, Little Rock, AR, USA

We of the county and the city where I live were blessed in recent years to have had governmental officials who cared about nature and beauty and about our citizens’ ability to access those. These good leaders took actions to turn visions into reality. One result is our county’s remarkable Two Rivers Park.

I live in midtown and I can get to the park in 15 minutes, thanks in part to a new pedestrian bridge at its eastern tip. You can see the bridge in the lower right hand corner of the photo if you enlarge this photo.

This huge (1,000 acres) park is a peninsula bordered by the Arkansas River on its north side and the Little Maumelle River on its south. The two rivers converge at the tip of the park; thus its name.

There are 450 acres of mostly wooded wetlands and 550 acres of open fields.

This incredible getaway place offers both paved and dirt trails for walking, cycling, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Also there are canoe launching, fishing and picnic areas.

If you want to have a big vegetable garden you can rent a tract there, and be in company with other community gardeners.

Deer live there year-around, protected. The haiga/haiku below was inspired by one of several encounters with the deer.

The deer will watch you calmly unless you come too close; then they magically melt away and become invisible in the high growth of the fields.

Hundreds of Eastern bluebirds are there sometimes. Can you imagine looking across a field and realizing you are seeing hundreds of bluebirds? And other wildlife of course. It is a paradise for birdwatchers, photographers, artists, and nature enthusiasts.

There is also an area that showcases native trees by transforming some of the fields into a walkable Garden of Trees.

The park is a connected part of the Arkansas River Trail, which is a fantastic story unto itself, a topic in a later blog post.

 


Speaking of Bluebirds

© 2017 dosankodebbie

One thing does lead to another. Serendipitously my friend dosankodebbie in Japan posted this photo of her latest etegami today. If you don’t already know about etegami, it is Japanese postcard art done according to certain guidelines. One of my favorite kinds of art to do, and to look at. There is a great Facebook Group, Etegami Fun Club, administered by Debbie. If you are interested in learning (free!) how to do etegami, go to dosankodebbie’s online summary.

 


In the Green Cathedral

The butter lilies in the back yard have been coming and going for a week.

 Once again, great gratitude to the previous owner of this house. The lilies line the back fence. I’ve lived here about 20 years and they’ve never failed to rise up out of the ground and add their glory to creation.

 

 


Copyright 2017 Ruth Byrn

Akashic Pasta

34.7º N 92.2º W. Little Rock, in Central Arkansas, in the United States

5/15/17 – 5/26/17

High Calorie Out-of-this-World One-Dish Pasta Meal

Here is a recipe that came to me from the akasha and is good eating.

If you are an experienced cook you will know the proportions you like for the ingredients. If inexperienced, be generous with everything and then adjust according to your taste. If you are watching your weight you should not even read this.

Kalamata olives enchanted.jpg

Ingredients
Penne Pasta, cooked and drained, but still hot
Smoked Gouda Cheese, cubed. Prep it ready to stir in and go melty in the hot drained pasta.
Fajita Chicken Strips, cooked, cubed. (If frozen, defrost.)
Tomatoes,  whole medium fresh (or canned) diced. Include the juice.
Green Peas, fresh (or frozen and defrosted), uncooked or slightly cooked.
Kalamata Olives, whole, pitted, drained
Mayonnaise (be generous)
Seasoned Rice Vinegar (be generous)
Salt

Directions
Stir everything together in a big bowl.


Good Manners in Enchanted Habitat

A friend who grew up in California and moved here observes that we in Enchanted Habitat have at least three nicenesses she’s never noticed anywhere else.

One, I have named the Mandatory Entryway Compliment (MECompliment).
When we as a guest enter someone else’s home, we always, somewhere near the front door, find a way to say something that sounds admiring about the place. Such as, “Oh your yard is so nice!” or “Oh, hardwood floors are so wonderful, aren’t they!” Women usually include the exclamation points. Also, even if it is the tenth time we’ve been there we find still again something else nice to say, or at least find a new way to say a previous thing.

Only if the householder might be our mother or BFF might we exempt ourselves from the MECompliment.

Or if we want to be covertly rude.

Next, there is Making Small Talk About The Weather (MSTATWeather). My grandmother taught me how to do it and why, and this ability has served me all my life. But it only works in the company of people who also know how to do it. Unfortunately not everyone does. It would help us if more did. It takes at least two to tango here, and if you are the only one doing MSTATWeather, and the others think instead that what you are doing is really talking about the weather, then you’re going to get some odd looks if you persist.

 (Never expect a Californian to MSTATWeather. California doesn’t have weather to begin with. Here, we have real grist for the mill.)

The reason for MSTATWeather is the same as one of the reasons for MEComplimentit gives people something socially safe to talk about. Further, MSTATWeather can be counted on as an inexhaustible subject if need be. The MECompliment is not meant to last as a discussion topic, and is is about five degrees toward personal, so you have to be a tad careful. But the MECompliment is the one that also has secondary purpose. When you say a MECompliment to your host/ess, you are sending a clear signal that your feeling about them is positive–without being obsequious. Is that a clever folkway, or what!

Our third niceness reported by my friend, I call Never Taking The Last Piece (NTTLPiece). No one ever taught me NTTLPiece, I just always knew it. I assume it is a genetically transmitted behavior. The last hors d’oeuvre, the last ear of corn, the last glassful of wine in the bottle, the last spoonful of the mashed potatoes. No matter how much we secretly want it, we will decline it. And then there it is, one lonely little serving that the hostess has to do something with after everyone goes. Unless someone in the party was not from here.

My Californian friend tole me this true story:
After a potluck, one little square of exquisite homemade lemon bar remained. A woman was trying to get someone, anyone, to take it. This woman genuinely didn’t want it herself, and she was not from here originally. My Californian friend said to her, “You’re not going to get anyone to take that. They’re all from here and they never take the last piece of anything.” The woman said, “Oh God, that’s why my husband does that!”


From the Creatures Gazette

Cicadas Gone ‘Til 2028

Last appearing in May/June 2015, the 13-year cicadas will not appear again for 11 years more.  Although this strain is only one of the cicada types inhabiting central Arkansas, it is likely the most numerous in terms of individual insects. Until 2028 fewer children will find and shudder at and show each other empty husks left hanging on tree trunks after the nymphs dig themselves out of the ground and free themselves to be real noisy insects.


Hooray for the Home Grown Farmers’ Markets!

They’re here and open again! Worth every penny. The only other thing to say is, I’ll be so glad when it’s time for tomatoes. 


Copyright 2017 Ruth Byrn

Now the Green Blade Riseth

34.7º N 92.2º W. Little Rock, in Central Arkansas, in the United States

5/13/17 – 5/14/17

Plantain

 Now the Green Blade Riseth, Love is Come Again  

My ancestors called this graceful plant Lamb’s Tongue. It is Narrowleaf Plantain, Plantago Lanceolata, aka Ribwort Plantain, English Plantain, and maybe other names.

It has a close cousin which also lives here: Broadleaf Plantain. Much of what can be said of one is true of the other.

Lamb’s Tongue is newly up and blooming here in Enchanted Habitat, on the roadsides, empty lots, uncultivated fields, and unmowed lawns. It grows fast. Two weeks ago it wasn’t there at all, and now it is leafed out and in flower knee high. I love seeing it. (Broadleaf Plantain must come up somewhat later than its cousin; I haven’t seen it yet this year.)

This elegant plant is astonishingly durable and very friendly to humans. It is documented to have existed in what is now Norway 10,000 years ago. It can and does live anywhere from dry roadsides to places as wet as rain forests. The oval-shaped part at the end of the long delicate stem (named “the ovoid inflorescence”, I learned) is made up of tiny white flowers that produce one or two seeds each. The plant also reproduces asexually by cloning. Needless to say it is widespread in the world.

It is native to Eurasia and was introduced to the U.S. from the British Isles, and is so common it is generally classified as an invasive weed, which strikes me almost as a personal insult.

Older generations of folk ate the leaves of both Narrowleaf and Broadleaf Plantain for food and also used them for medicine.

It was probably a staple in the diet and pharmacy of any Stone Age people who lived where it grew. It is high in calcium and Vitamin A, and can be eaten similarly to spinach or other food greens: young leaves can be eaten raw, and older leaves cooked.

Medicinally, science has shown that plantain extract has a wide range of good biological effects including wound healing, reducing inflammation, relieving pain, and acting as an antioxidant; further, it is a weak antibiotic, it modulates the immune system, and is an anti-ulcerogenic agent. Our ancestors made a remedy tea from the leaves for coughs, diarrhea, and emotional trauma. Also the leaves, bruised, were used directly on the skin for infections and as a pain reliever for injuries, insect bites, splinters, boils, and toothache. It is known as a drawing herb, said to have the power to pull out toxins and foreign substances from the body. Some herbal healers have said it draws out bad emotions and soothes the mind.

http://wildernessarena.com/food-water-shelter/food-food-water-shelter/food-procurement/edible-wild-plants/plantain-broad-and-narrow-leaf

Wikipedia.

Here are photos of Narrowleaf and Broadleaf Plantain, respectively, thanks to Wikipedia.

 

 


 

The Green Cathedral

My backyard is “too shaded” because of many big trees on two sides. Its grass is thin in places and never thick in others. This non-lawn and the flower bed and the shrub bed that have both been there for many years are home to a sequence of flowering plants that wake up spontaneously every year and bloom in their turn as their seasons arrive, with no help from me unless you count admiration.

Some of the flowers are wild and some are cultivars put in as long ago as half a century by the house’s one former owner. I will be forever grateful to her.

So far this year the backyard flowers have been Carolina Spring Beauty–here is an on-site photo of those from this year– plus Jonquils, Dogwood, Dandelions, Azaleas, Fleabane, Iris of three kinds, Hyacinth, Henbit, Violets, Roses, and Wild Strawberry blooms.

And some mushrooms, always exquisite. I repeat, I did nothing to cause all this wonder.

The one dogwood tree is old and elegantly thin. Having already quietly bloomed and finished, it is putting out leaves. Companion to the dogwood is its contemporary, a crape myrtle with multiple trunks, each six inches thick. The color of the trunks is unnameable, a neutral soothing color. Two of them have twined around each other. They will put out their watermelon-colored blooms later in the year when the sun rises higher.  Four large oak trees survive to live inside the fence. A years-old thick wild grape vine has formed an arbor at a far corner.

Lining the outside of the fence on two sides and part of another are tall oaks and pines growing in the neighbors’ back yards and overhanging my yard, and behind those trees are more big trees, altogether creating almost a forest around me.

Leading out from the house into all this (and back in) is a short stretch of flagstones with moss of a refreshing lime color that couldn’t live with more sun.

I like it that the yard is “too shady”. It is very green out there, the kind of green that can become part of you, the same as your breath, to renew and reassure you. I am put in mind of a song from high school glee club, the music and the words vibrating through us.

I know a green cathedral,
a hallowed forest shrine
where trees in love join hands above
to arch your prayer and mine.
Within its cool depths sacred,
the priestly cedar sighs
and the fir and pine lift arms entwined
unto the clear blue skies. 


Copyright 2017 Ruth Byrn


Uppity Women and Mystery Guests

34.7º N 92.2º W. Little Rock, in Central Arkansas, in the United States

5/5/17 – 5/12/17

Intrepid Inhabitants–The Laughing Ladies

 Uppity women are everywhere in Enchanted Habitat. I know their number is disproportionately large here. I can’t prove that because the Census Bureau doesn’t ask the right questions, but there is plenty of evidence. Examples shine out among just my limited circle of personal contacts. To wit: The Laughing Ladies.

This is a friendship group of four who range in age from approaching senior to unmistakably senior. They are all breast cancer survivors. They decided to raise money for the fight against breast cancer, and to do it in some fun way. (Uppity women never act for one reason only. They make everything count at least twice.) So they thought up what they wanted to do: raft rivers. Yes, really.

Then they did it in spades.  They named their project 4 Survivors, 4 Rivers, 4 a Cure. Their first river was in Colorado, in the Rockies. They whitewater (whitewater!) rafted the headwaters of the Arkansas. This is a photo of them there.

They also found their name in Colorado.  The Laughing Ladies is an historic name.  It was originally the name of a good times establishment during the frontier days, and yes, that means what you suspect.

After the Arkansas River exploit they rafted the Buffalo in Arkansas, the Roaring Fork in Colorado, and the Colorado in Utah.

They elicited from their sponsors thousands of dollars to give to the Arkansas Affiliate of Susan G. Komen. This Affiliate is a standout among worthwhile nonprofit organizations: you can bet on it that The Laughing Ladies would know where the money should go.

At the end of the fourth and final rafting trip they created and performed their finalization ceremony. It’s one of a kind. I’m pleased to make you privy to its content, with their permission.

The Ceremony of the Dime on the Colorado River was this: The four uppity rafters stood together on the bank of the Colorado. Each threw a dime into the river. They chanted in unison

We had a dime-good time

But we dime sure don’t plan to raft again.


The Ruby Crowned Kinglet

Six years ago this charming tiny bird alit like a grace note near me as I was sketching on the shore of Lake Maumelle.  It was about 4″ long. I did my hasty best to capture on paper something of its shape and markings and its posture, and how it caught the light, and I made some notes in my head about it, and then too soon whit!, it was gone. But thankfully there remained the thorn bush it had been in: something simple (and still!) that I could draw in surety to add to my sketch. Nature often lends a helping hand to try-hards. 

The time was mid-September, and later when I identified it in in the NGS Field Guide to the Birds of North America I learned that Enchanted Habitat is in the northern part of its winter range.

 

Here is a photo of the ruby crowned kinglet courtesy of Steve Creek, wildlife photographer par excellence of the Ouachitas. His blog is a must-see.


From the Creatures Gazette

Dog is not a Terrier:
Mystery Guest Remains Unidentified

 


The Baby Racers

In my friend’s fenced-in garden, which is on a slight slope and drains well, and where almost no other person ever intrudes, the baby racer snakes are awake from their winter. We’ve had frequent rains lately, and the snakelets have been wishing we had fewer wet days, and more of the new spring sun to bask in.

There is a new set of wee ones every year in that mid-town garden. I wonder if there could be a generational memory about the place being a safe and nurturing one for these babies. They apparently love wintering-over in the abundant insulating mulch my friend puts down, and they stay on into the warmer weather. Their gardener has also made them a rock pile nearby because snakes like warm rocks at certain times of the year, and because it gives them a perfect place to hide. If you want some tips for reptile-friendly landscaping and gardening, go here: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/documents/snake_landscape_brchr.pdf

When the racers are young they eat mostly insects and larvae and moths. The are nice pest eradicators to have in a garden. Later they go for larger meals such as rodents. They grow fast, and when they get bigger they move on.

They are nonvenomous, of course. They can get as long as five feet or so. Racers are common in Enchanted Habitat and throughout the U.S. They come in several kinds and colors: brown, black, gray (or “blue”) and shades in between. As adults they are notably fast in getting away from whatever might be after them; hence the name Racer. If you want to know more, here are a couple of good links.
http://www.herpsofarkansas.com/Snake/ColuberConstrictor
and
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coluber_constrictor


Beadwork You Won’t Find Anywhere Else

Here are some examples of the work of an Enchanted Habitat bead artist. She says these pieces are circa approximately 1980.

First, a beaded strip containing the symbols of the ancient elements: Earth, Fire, Air, and Water. (A clue: earth is the brown strip that envelopes the others.)

 

Next, a beaded pouch, front and back. Note also the jingle bells.


Copyright 2017 Ruth Byrn

Pecans and Pictographs

34.7º N 92.2º W. Little Rock, in Central Arkansas, in the United States

4/28/17 – 5/3/17

Pictograph Writing Lives Again.  Thanks iPhone!

My friend who lives in Mexico is the sister of my friend who lives in Enchanted Habitat.

Mexico Friend emailed to her sister, “There was a long #*&@^$# scorpion in my mop this afternoon. Stomped it when it fell out. Horrid thing. UGH!!” Local Friend replied by emailing the affirming dual pictogram, finger-drawn on her iPhone, shown here. Sisters have their own ways of communicating. Now we know the origin of prehistoric drawings: sisters leaving messages for each other. How nice to be able to write this way again.

Thanks to both sisters for letting me share this.

Enchanted Habitat does not have long #*&@^$# scorpions. We have wee little ones and I think they are cute, but I know I’m in the minority. Local Friend told me, “The one time I saw a scorpion, it came out of my flower bed onto the sidewalk, which was flooded. It. Was. Pissed. It was not cute. I was taken aback. The idea that it had been living in my hostas did not sit well with me.”

Ours are the Striped Bark Scorpion, the most common kind in the U.S.Scorpion enchanted.jpg, and the only kind in Arkansas. They are indeed small, about 2″ to 3″ long. Image by Charles and Clint via Wikipedia.

Their sting hurts ‘way worse than a bee’s, I can vouch for that. I was eight. I was barefoot. I was at summer camp. It was as if lightning struck my big toe and stayed there for twenty minutes. But their venom is not deadly unless you are supersensitive and/or allergic. I didn’t tell my camp counselor because I thought she might keep me from the boat ride. Over the years I came up with the theory that the unforgettable sting was somehow good for me, body and soul.

Our scorpions don’t go out of their way to sting. They are brave and stick up for themselves, but are not warlike. Living here all my life, much of that outdoors, I’ve been stung only the once. They eat insects, smaller arachnids and babies of their own kind, and are eaten by birds, reptiles, some mammals and large spiders.


The Local Turkey Vulture

Our subdivision of the city has a resident turkey vulture. In the daytime we do. At night, the references say, they congregate together in safe areas for sleep, and daytimes they go out individually on their own. Hunting, but not in the ordinary sense, you know. Let’s say they neaten the neighborhood.

I first noticed him or her last year. I was driving home, and there it was in the middle of a street beside a small dead thing.  I thought, Dang, a chicken! . . . No, a buzzard! After that I’d see it once in a while in the nearby streets, unhurriedly eating, and cooperatively lurching out of the street if I needed to get by. If I was away from the neighborhood and driving back, sometimes I noticed it up to the sky over our location, soaring around, waiting.

(Thanks to Steve Creek, wildlife photographer of the Ouachitas, for the reference photo for the drawing above. Do view his blog, it’s wonderful!)

Our vulture has returned this spring, I saw it down the street. A crow was there with it. The two of them were about ten feet apart, with a small dead thing between them, and each was hunkered down motionless with its head retracted into its shoulders. They were carefully not looking at each other. Stubborn was written all over both of them. I can’t tell you who won, because spending the afternoon waiting to see which one of them got to eat carrion isn’t my idea of a good time.

After the first sighting last year, I gathered some facts about turkey vultures. First, I had been ignorant, they are not buzzards and don’t appreciate being called buzzards. It’s vulture. When soaring, they can both see and smell their food below. Their amazing olfactory ability gives them advantage over the black vultures, who also live here and have to rely on their eyesight. Black vultures seem to be aware that that turkey vultures have this superior food finding sense, and sometimes follow them to the food. And of course, the easiest way to distinguish between the two, turkey and black, is that the turkey vulture has the red head. They don’t vocalize except for grunts and hisses; they typically raise two chicks a year; they have few natural predators; their range extends from the Canadian border all the way down through South America. It is illegal to kill them, thank heaven.


What Tree Is This?

If you took a fast look and said Oak, you can join me in the Erroneous Botanist Society. It’s a pecan tree, a young volunteer tree in a front yard in my neighborhood. It is “in tassel” now; I don’t know the terminology for that. Last fall it bore its first crop, two or three pounds of nuts, most of which the squirrels got. Whether it–or any pecan tree–will bear this year is complex question, and for that go to experts. University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture

I didn’t know until recently that the pecan is a species of hickory, or that it can live and bear upwards of 300 years. I did pretty much know it’s native to the south central and south eastern United States and part of Mexico. Pecan trees like the climate in Enchanted Habitat. They grow cheerfully here individually and there are pecan farms here.

My personal experience at pecan orcharding didn’t last long. Years ago I bought some acreage, and someone gave me a dozen six-foot Stuart pecan trees. This person had always wanted a pecan orchard and was living vicariously, and did not offer to help with the planting. I already had a full list of manual work to do, to turn the acreage into a farm, but I stopped everything to plant the trees. I interrupted the fencing project that would have kept my new little herd of goats contained. If you know goats, you know what happened next. If you don’t know goats (obviously I didn’t know them well enough) I will tell you that I worked hard to excavate twelve deep wide holes in that rocky soil, and hauled in half a truckload of good topsoil, so that the saplings would have a good start. And as soon as I got the trees in the ground and went to the house, the goats tiptoed over and silently ate them every one. I have only myself to blame.

Enough of the bittersweet, here is the  sweet. This is my pecan pie, and my preference in how to alter the recipe on the Karo Dark Corn Syrup bottle:  Add about 1/3 more butter than called for, and add a double-pinch of salt; subtract about 1/4 the sugar.


Copyright 2017 Ruth Byrn

You Win Some, You Lose Some

34.7º N 92.2º W. Little Rock, in Central Arkansas, in the United States

4/23/17 – 4/27/17

The Royal “Paulina” Tree

A block from my house is a flowering tree 60 feet tall of great beauty. I was alert for it to bloom this year, which it did and has just finished. Here are its blossoms.  Photo credit: By Famartin – Own work, CC BY-SA3.0,https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33009600

Despite its size and beauty I only noticed it last year when it was in bloom, and I began asking about it. I’ve lived here all my life and have never seen one like it that I remember. I learned that we commonfolk here in Enchanted Habitat call it variously. Princess Tree, Royal Princess Tree, Empress, Royal Empress, Paulina, Royal Paulina, Empress Paulina, and so on. Mix and match, take your pick. Wikipedia names it Paulownia tomentosa.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paulownia_tomentosa

Also according to Wiki, the Paulownia is native to China, and probably got to the U.S. in the late 1800s when its seeds were used as packing for goods shipped here. It likes the eastern third of the U.S. It can’t grow in the shade of other trees, but where it does grow it tries to take over and make a grove, multiplying by seeds and also sprouts on limbs and roots. Supposedly even fire and surface mowing can’t eliminate it unless repeated several times. If that’s true I wonder why we don’t have more of them.
The leaves are huge and are said to make good fodder for cows. The seed pods are pretty. The wood of this tree was and maybe still is used by Asian musical instrument makers. This fact reminds me of our own people of an older generation who used the beautiful dogwood tree for making fiddles and mandolins.

People who are against invasive non-native species don’t like the Paulownia; people who are into showy trees for ornamental landscape gardening, do. Chinese legend says the phoenix will land only in this tree, and then only if the current ruler is a good one. On both counts: I wish. When the time comes for her to land, I’ll be watching down the street.


The Hauling Garden
The moral of a story is more important than the story, right? So I’m giving you the bottom line first: If you want to grow vegetables that taste like anything, don’t grow them in potting soil.

Now the story.

My back yard has no place for a vegetable garden. It’s big, but shady. There are sunny spots but they only last half a day at most. Two years ago it came to me to create a moveable garden, a container garden on wheels, “So that the plants could follow the sun” would be the euphemism. Or in the vernacular, so that I could haul them around. I bought the biggest wagon I thought I could pull. It was black. It had deep sides. I bored holes in it for water to drain out. Here is how I envisioned the setup.

The wagon perfectly held the six huge plastic pots I bought. The pots held enough potting soil to exceed the remainder of the $budget, but oh well. Then I put in the seedlings. I thought, “And because the wagon’s sides are so deep, I can jury rig the supports these tomato plants will need.”

Of course tomatoes.

Vegetable=Tomato. Summer=Homegrown Tomato. Same as so many others in Enchanted Habitat and elsewhere: give me home-grown tomatoes first, last, and most of all. After I prioritized the list of tomato varieties I wanted, there wasn’t room for frills like beans or peppers. I rigged the supports. Store-bought tomato cages would not do for my tomatoes. I was sure they would be big. Scaffolding was what they would need.

And lo and behold, for once it looked like my actuality was turning out kind of like my plan. A little tweaking here and there as we went along, but after awhile there it was: prolific robust tomato plants eight feet tall, flowering and fruiting.
When I hauled them, it was one careful step at a time. The rig was heavy, and top heavy. The neighbors watched from their windows. But I didn’t care. The stink bugs loved them too, and I won that battle. Those tomatoes were beautiful.

But every one, of every variety, tasted like cardboard.

I stopped making myself eat them after they convinced me they were all only for show. Seeing them lined up on the kitchen counter looking like prize winners until they began to sag got to be more than I could bear, so I stopped harvesting them.
Denouement: For the last two growing seasons my source of home-grown tomatoes has been the Real farmer’s market across the river. So I have not been deprived of them, only the deep pleasure of growing them. And slowly I’ve been healing from my disappointment. By next year I might be ready to try the whole thing again with real dirt.


From The Creatures Gazette

Dog Rejects Insect

Anopheles, Aedes Return


Who Who Whooooo Left This On The Front Porch Last Night?
I believe it was an Eastern Screech Owl. It’s not a big feather, and they are the smallest of the four kinds of owls who are permanent residents of Enchanted Habitat. I found some nice information about our owls on this website. http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2013/jan/27/whooo-what-when-where-and-why-some-our-most/

The permanent owls in Arkansas are: Barn, Eastern Screech, Great Horned, and Barred. All except the Screech are big birds, 16″ to 22″ long. The Eastern Screech is only 8-1/2″, about the size of a quail. I’ve had only one opportunity ever to get a good look at a Screech Owl, and they are truly magical-looking little creatures. The one I saw came one night to sit on a wooden fence near the back patio of the house where I lived then. The night was dark, but there were yard lights, and the owl was sitting only about twelve feet from me. It stayed there for about fifteen minutes, apparently regarding me. It seemed very calm. If it was looking at, or watching for, something else, I was unable to discover what that might be. I was the only living thing out there that I know of. After a long time I decided to find out how close I could come to it. Moving slowly, I got to three feet away before if kind of shook itself and flew off. The next day I learned that something profound had happened to someone in my family.


Copyright 2017 Ruth Byrn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fire Ants, Fauna, and a Magic Wand

34.7º N 92.2º W. Little Rock, in Central Arkansas, in the United States

4/19/17 – 4/22/17

The Fire Ant Gauntlet

Watch this if you dare:

Want to guess how I got my ruler back?
Now let me tell you that three feet beyond this fire ant hill is another just like it, and then another, and another, and more–yes, truly–and this video was filmed not in the Central American jungle but in a trendy section of west Little Rock. About twenty of these giant nests of aggressive ants exist on both sides of a street directly behind a posh shopping center. I don’t like being gloomy but the truth is, that street has ‘way more than enough fire ants to kill a human, or dog, or whatever happened to be there and become incapacitated.
Fire ants haven’t always been in central Arkansas; only since the early 1950’s. They are invasive, and now inhabit the southern two-thirds of the state. For how they got here and why we can’t get rid of them, here is an information source:
http://www.aad.arkansas.gov/imported-fire-ants1
I wondered, Do they bite, or do they sting? I found out the answer is both and now I like them even less.

Creatures More Pleasant: Three-toed Box Turtle Terrapene triunguls
The charming box turtles are out of hibernation now, basking in the spring sun and foraging for berries, flowers, fungi, insects, worms . . . This little one was in the middle of a city street today, haulin’ ass fast as her wee three-toed feet could take her. I was in the car with a friend and we stopped and picked her up and took her away in the direction we hoped she was intending to go–they are determined about their chosen direction–and released her in a safer place. She’s one of the smallest I’ve seen.
I had not realized until today that I’ve never seen any really teensy baby box turtles. The reference below says the babies are secretive and rarely seen, and are something of a mystery to science. Also I learned they can live 50 years.  http://www.herpsofarkansas.com/Turtle/TerrapeneTriunguis )
Several different people have told me they had a box turtle take up residence in their yard that stayed for years and became a pet. In my yard they make it plain they’re just passing through. I’ve tried to please them into staying, but no luck. Maybe I’ve had too many terriers in the past. Their little shades are still here, the terriers, I almost see them frequently.

It’s Planting Time . . . Isn’t It?  Watch Out for Adages
We should question adages. One that comes to mind this time of year: The time to plant beans is when the oak leaves are as big as a squirrel’s ear. What exactly kind of oak tree? We have 31 kinds. Some have leaves twenty times as big as others. And all kinds of oak leaves develop in fast forward; at my age, the blink of an eye. ‘Way too short a window of time. I don’t just stand by, shifting from one foot to the other, waiting to plant beans. I have to think about it first. And then untangle myself from other business, then go get some beans from the Farmers Association, and so on. The winky time period applies also to the other adage we  have here about beans: Plant beans on Good Friday. One day? And by “planting” do we mean “starting seeds indoors” or “transplanting seedlings outdoors”?
Forget the adages. There is help for off-and-on gardeners like me: there is the OLD FARMER’S ALMANAC. Online! Free! http://www.almanac.com/
If you live in the U.S. or Canada, you can quickly pull up a lovely simple planting chart customized to your location. Here is a clip of it. It will show, in little colored graphics, the time ranges–yes whole ranges of time–for when to sow what, indoors and outdoors. And then it will show when you will be able to reap what you sowed. It includes about 30 favorite vegetables, and uses historical data from your local weather station to calculate your best range of planting dates. This first class website also has heaps more interesting information, which I’ll leave you to uncover for yourself if you haven’t already.
Here in Enchanted Habitat we enjoy an enchanted gardening climate:  just about any vegetable you could want will grow except, sadly, avocados.

Another Bad Adage
Before we forget about adages, there is a different one I especially caution you about because it could get you injured. Someone somewhere sometime once dreamed it that Cows can’t kick backward. Or maybe the airhead just assumed it. Cows can seem ungainly. Whoever fabricated this told it for a fact, and it then went the old timey equivalent of viral.
You can verify for yourself that this false belief spread and still persists. Do an online search for “Can cows kick backward?” and see what you get. When I was told it as a child, I believed it and remembered it. That’s because my very mother said it. Then long afterward I bought a little farm and soon a Jersey cow. I understood zilch about any of that in the beginning. Fortunately the cow was not only sweet but also smart. She knew right away I was just a doofus who would feed her a lot and let her darling baby suck all the milk it wanted. When I scrunched around  between and behind them in the close quarters of her stall, she didn’t kick me. Later, in the barn lot, I watched veeerrry thoughtfully as she aimed expert powerful warning strikes in the direction of the geese who were thinking about nipping her and her baby in the rear.

Cow Stick . . . or Magic Wand?
One thing does lead to another. Speaking of milk cows, before we leave the subject let me show you my mother’s mother’s mother’s cow stick. She loved her cows. (Somehow that trait skipped two generations and then came to rest in me. I also inherited her uncontrollable Scots-Irish hair.) Even when she was very old she still kept two milk cows. Every morning, rain or shine, almost until the day she died, she escorted them from their little barn into the woods-pasture to graze. In the late afternoons she went and got them and walked them home. My great grandfather whittled this cow stick for her. You can see by its size how mean she wasn’t. I figured out, you don’t actually use a cow stick, you just have one. It’s a metaphorical thing. This magic baton made its way to me. I employ it once in a while, although not to do with cows.
Here’s my great-grandmother, along with great-grandfather and their daughter who was my maternal grandmother.