Friday, October 29, 2010

Come Again Another Day


The ground was parched and dusty. The air was dry. We hadn't had any real rain in 6 weeks or more? And then... after a nice rain in Saturday, the "worst storm in 70 years" hit the mid-west on Tuesday. Sideways rain. 70 mile-per-hour wind gusts. Branches down, roadsigns flying, semi-trucks blown off the road. General craziness. I don't want to sound Naomi-centric, here, but I feel I did two things to precipitate this weather event.
1. I finally hired someone to paint the outside of our house, who started in the middle of last week, and is not yet finished.
2. I went to Minneapolis (for the 1st annual National Green Schools Conference, which was awesome) in a large rented van with students in it. Needless to say, our homeward travel was delayed. Also, we got to see our first snow of the 2010-2011 winter season, though it did not get that cold here... until last night, when we had a hard freeze (but no precipitation).

Friday, October 22, 2010

Falling into Spring?

I suppose the sight of a redwing blackbird, silhouetted against a bright blue sky, sitting proud on the highest branch of the aspen tree should be a vision of March or October. I guess their clear whistles slicing through the crisp air should remind me of spring or of fall... but really, I hear that noise and I think of early March, that first sunny day when it's still very cold but it feels quite warm, comparatively speaking. That day when the redwings first show themselves and you know that you're out of the woods... it's all downhill from there, so to speak... it seems a little wrong to hear it now, knowing that the cold months are just beginning. But here they are, five of them this morning, all perched atop trees, their calls piercing he chill. The message this time? We have a long trek through slush and ice ahead of us!

Also, still seeing a lot of robins and grasshopper. Can't think that I've seen a dragonfly in a while...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Notes to Self.

As of this week, I am still seeing:
  • frogs
  • monarchs (though not in the great numbers I was a few weeks ago)
  • grasshoppers
  • milkweed bugs
  • garter snakes
Also, notes from the bird world...
  • goldfinches are brown (have been...)
  • yellow rumped warblers are coming through.
  • juncos are here.
  • so are sandhill cranes, though I haven't seen or heard them, other people have been reporting it for a few weeks.
  • Geese are going crazy. I know that a lot of them stay around all winter, and a lot of the big flocks I've seen have been going north... but the amount of goose activity... the number of times I've had to stop class and just wait because 50-100 noisy geese were flying over in the past week has been quite high. Say what you will, something is going on with the geese right now.
Sometimes, we just need some boring record-keeping notes.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


The prairie is becoming increasingly crispy and brown; the trees in the distance continue to shed. Milkweed seeds beckon from across the fields, white half-released puffballs that catch the sunlight and practically beg you to come and grab them and toss... you feel their softness and weightlessness as you lift them skyward and open your fingers, keeping your hand up in the air as the last of the potential plants takes off and joins the world on its own. And you watch as they float in the air, gracefully hanging from their parachutes. They drift like big flakes of gently falling snow, until they land... everywhere... on my coat, the trail, the water... below, they adorn all sorts of non-asclepias plants... and I hope some land in ideal places for new milkweed to grow. Although they may be somewhat... well, weedy, they provide countless minutes of pure and youthful and worry-free joy.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Random Things From the Past Week or So...

The same class that found the dismembered deer leg also found this lovely specimen... a muskrat tail, severed from its former muskrat.
Woolybear caterpillars, appropriately dressed for chilly weather, are some of the earliest insects I see in the spring and the latest in the fall. We started seeing them last week and have seen several since... Another sign of autumn.
Witch hazel flowers are starting to bloom.

Monday, October 11, 2010


I suppose I have been neglectful in not mentioning that leaves are coloring and falling left and right. Maples are red and orange and, in some cases, naked. Ashes are purple and yellow. Oaks are slowly turning brown...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

So Cute!

Raccoon tracks are so cute. Like little baby hands, (at least, the front paws, if little babies had long claws).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Oh, What a Beautiful Morning

This morning I left home before sunrise (which is not unusual during the school year, especially as we get closer and closer to solstice) and I was rewarded with a lovely sunrise... of course, I watched the sun cast its glow on the bands of clouds from behind a car windshield, and with roads and powerlines in view... but there were these moments when I saw it across open agricultural fields, sprawling bur oaks peeking from the low hanging mist in the background... when it just seemed like proof that every ordinary day has extraordinary moments, and that mundane places are still kissed by the glory of nature.

By the time I got to work, the ever-changing colors of the sunrise had given way to the sideways morning light. (I suppose that happened during the approximately 30 seconds when I was driving east and looking straight into the orange orb in front of me, nearly being blinded despite sunglasses, and feeling lucky not to have crashed.) Anyhow, things were still lovely as the morning's frost accentuated the plants' shapes and forms, and played with the sunlight in a really beautiful way...
... and then melted (it got up to nearly 70 degrees today, at least a 25 degree difference between day and night)...
A short while later, we encountered deer -- one antlered fellow and seven companions. I kept thinking they would eventually get scared of us, given that we were hammering things into the ground, disturbing the peace and bird-song quite thoroughly, but they did not. In face, they got closer and closer, unafraid, challenging. (Well, we got not actual hoofing of the ground or anything...) These are clearly suburban deer, unfamiliar with gun and bow alike. (I took about 20 pictures, thinking each time that this surely would be the last, they would run away now, but eventually I gave up the photographing, and it was us that left before them. Smartly, they had left before we returned with students.)
And speaking of student-deer interactions... (Fivecrows, you may want to stop reading now. Consider yourself warned.) Later in the morning, one kid found a young deer's leg -- not just the bones, but flesh and all -- stuck in the fence that surrounds a property neighboring the one we were at. No photos, thanks. I actually was with a different group and didn't see it. But I can just imagine that animal's fate, tangled and suffering and waiting... although, the rest of it was no where to be found, so maybe it was quickly preyed upon. Happy thoughts (relatively speaking)!
I also took a picture of a big fat toad with a permanently grumpy facial expression.

Not photographed: wooly bear (sign of fall!)

ps -- Those of you who were wondering, in my yard the basil is still fine. The frost seemed to spare sheltered areas, and my yard has homes, trees, fences, etc. So we're still waiting on the "big one" in our garden.

Monday, October 4, 2010


FROST. Well, sort of. We had a patchy frost last night that seemed to mostly affect rooftops and vehicles. The basil in my yard, which I think of as very sensitive and the first thing to brown up in a frost, was verdant. It got down to about 41 degrees last night...

Friday, October 1, 2010

Here's a phenological mystery for you all...
I know this isn't a lovely picture, but that's not the point. The point is that I took it this morning. And it's a crabapple. Which flowered in the spring, and fruited, and is still bearing its fruit. And now, a few of its limbs have decided to flower again, for some reason unknown to me. I don't know what's going on, and Google didn't help me figure it out... see? A mystery.