Bridging confused seasons

This week’s April morning snow reminded me that the mucks will likely occupy a place on the door mat beside the sandals, probably for a double-digit number of days. The garden hose thawed in 80°F last Friday. Resting water froze again on Saturday. There is a groundhog somewhere who predicts eight more weeks of hauling water buckets.

We grouse about layers of sweaters, vests and coats, socks and boots. We never know what to tell visitors to wear, so we just tell them, “Come prepared for the weather. There will be hot chocolate or lemonade.” Pigs Nemo and Carlton have done their winter worst, rooting three acres of soil so that the pastures resemble a mine field. If this didn’t happen every year, we would despair of the unsightly furrowed ground.

“We’ll never be able to fix this,” commented Steve on the first spring with multiple pigs in the farm animal sanctuary. We stood on the front porch and despaired over upturned soil, bare of green grass and treacherous for foot traffic. A month later, after the first mow, the grass was green and patches of Grandpa Seitz’s bird’s-foot trefoil bloomed on the hillside. The garden was remarkably free of Japanese beetles. We realized that the pigs had feasted on more grubs than shoots. Now we grin and bear the brown ruts, knowing that there will be more than enough thick grass to cut when shorts-and-T weather settles in.

So…this snow. The sky is clear and the forecast predicts a high of 55°F. The barn and shed roofs are beginning to drip. The chickens and turkeys dodge the drops as they breakfast and the geese revel in widening puddles.

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20180419_072542In the cold shadows of the nature preserve, the colors are still blue, gray and purple. I cross the footbridge, going where a raccoon has recently come. Blue flag shoots and water grasses rise from wetlands, brilliant green contrasts to the white that coats the trees on the high bank and the land bridge between the old stone quarry and Cranberry Run. Thanks to Paul Nusbaum, the land bridge is clear of bush honeysuckle. This will provide a living lab for school groups to discover the differences between wetlands and running streams.

Here comes the sun. I’m off to work, away…and it’s alright.20180419_072730

Walk softly and carry a big tissue

20170204_093000Your accent is determined by where you live. More specifically, words are shaped by the temperature range in one’s part of the world. In North America, anyway.

I’m pretty sure that I’m right about this.

For example, people in the South speak with a drawl because the climate is hot. The further southeast you go, the slower the mouth moves because the lips have to from shapes against increased humidity. Move west past the Rockies and the load lightens, but it’s still hot enough for slow, lilting conversation.

The Great White North is famous for words like ‘about’ being pronounced as ‘aboot’. Frozen facial muscles can only stretch wide enough to form a small, round shape. Making an ‘oo’ sound retains more warm air inside, too, than a full blown ‘ow’.

I blame my Midwest nasal twang on the Great Lakes effect. Try as I might not to sound like badly-tuned violin, my sinuses are in such a constant state of flux that most words sound like mosquito in August. This year’s pitch and fall from cold dry wind to warm rain (thunderstorms this early February morning) make it especially difficult to round the tones.


20170204_111122Even the animals that graze on wintering roots and buried grubs in the floodplain run for higher ground when any door is opened. They are conditioned to sudden rainfall. We leave the outbuilding doors open, even on high blue sky days like yesterday.

Jimmy Toskr has no reason to speak at all. He snoozes comfortably in his hammock, stretching just enough to give the camera an eye that communicates well enough. There’s even an accent in there somewhere, one that will be quite vocal as squirrel hormones build outside in the treetops.

Listen and you shall hear

20170125_172422Water overflows in lower levels of the floodplain. Cranberry Run bubbles through the preserve, still held within its banks on its way to the Riley. There is a smattering of rain today but strong winds wipe away most of the drops before they make landfall.

That wind is gusting and swirling so that it’s difficult to say whether it’s blowing east of west, but the temperature is predicted to fall from the unusual balminess that’s been hereabouts this January. A hike is more of a slog right now and muddy boots and shoes are piled beside the front door. I saw a woman running last weekend, wearing just a sports bra and shorts as she clipped along, a site for July, not midwinter in Northwest Ohio.

The goats went all month without their coats. S’more shucked his after a week, but Mister Bill likes his fluorescent orange vest and kept it on until three days above freezing saw his tossed to the mud, too.

When the weather turns, they are quiet in their disgruntlement. Donkeys Buddy and Lucy are more vocal, hinnying plaintively. If that pitiful sound falls on deaf ears, they bawl and snort until apples are proffered. With mouths full and juice dripping from their chins, they snicker and quiet.

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Queen B holds court

Not so for the pigs. Rather, there is no common vocalization for all of the pigs that live here. Although the conversation usually has something to do with food, we know exactly who is sounding off.

Beatrice is the queen. She is usually very quiet since she doesn’t need to speak in order to be obeyed. She prefers to voice her opinion physically by pushing her way through or smacking on the front door. If that doesn’t get the required response, she bellows an alto “wahhhhhhhhhhhr-huh” until a) the door opens and she gets to come in or b) she is told to go to an outbuilding and she says something that I can’t repeat, even in porcine.

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Bob and Alphonse

Bob Barker barks, or he used to. Since his arrival a few years ago, the toothy boar has mellowed. These days, he humphs softly while being stoked across the bridge of his nose. When irritated, he mutters “MEEeuuurf” with a head shake.

Alphonse arrived at the same time as Bob, from the same horrific circumstance. He shrieked then and he shrieks now, just not as frequently. We believe that the trauma of early abuse left him emotionally unbalanced.

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Carlton

Carlton is a whiner. When he was younger and smaller, he could hop up on any bed in the house. Now his pot-belly is much rounder and closer to the ground. A repetitive “eeeee-rrr hmf hmf hmf” translates “It’s too cold/my feet are wet/she’s/he’s/it’s looking at/touching me.”

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Nemo and her friend Larry

Nemo is big; still a baby, but big. Her gestures are large and much of her communications are physical. For instance, I wear a jacket with an elastic drawstring. She draws back that drawstring with her teeth and releasese it to snap me in the thigh. At first, I thought this was an accident, until it happened every morning that I wore the coat.

Nemo’s voice is big, too. Her gutteral “whaaa” builds to a full-on roar when she’s hungry, which is most of the time. It takes a lot of food to maintain all that beauty. She and Carlton are friends. When Nemo eats, Carlton is usually close by, quietly snuffling up the leftovers. This is one reason why he can no longer jump.

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Sophie

Nemo may be the largest pig, but she is intimidated by the smallest. Sophie is currently petite, but was 40 pounds overweight when she came here. Walking was difficult for her and no veterinarian would spay her until she lost at least 40 pounds. We put her on a diet, one that did not include the daily bag of cookies to which she was accustomed. She never forgot that she once had cookies, though, and whistles a high-pitched soprano that builds to a kind of “hu-EE hu-EEEEE” until her breakfast is served.

Sometimes, everyone gets a cookie, even if they don’t all say “please” in the same way. We are enriched by their teachings. That’s thanks enough.

 

Butterflies beyond the heat islands

20150806_181856-120150805_151615-1There is no better cure for a bad case of the Mondays than a brisk walk in the open air. If your feet take you beyond the water cooler and out of doors to a concrete sidewalk, perhaps this virtual walk in The Quarry Farm butterfly gardens will transport you beyond your August Ohio heat island.

Late summer in Northwest Ohio means sweat that never dries, elephant-eye-high corn, even this year after months of heavy June and July rain, and the golden greens of mature plant leaves, the rich amethysts of ironweed and Joe Pye and the hot reds, oranges and burgundies of lilies, cosmos, Susans, zinnia and echinacea. The Gardener would likely list many more flora, but since she’s otherwise occupied in the gardens themselves, you are stuck with those plants that I can identify around the Seitz Family Pavilion.

Skipper

Silver-spotted skipper butterfly

Monarch under cover

Monarch under cover

Lucky for all of us, she always carries her phone. And because she does, she took photographs of the better-late-than-never butterflies that are moving from flower to flower.

Better still, she took video. So, find a park bench or an open window and take a virtual butterfly walk in the warm August sunshine. There is breeze today to keep the virtual mosquitoes at bay.

 

Our first number is, “The Dance of the Tiger Swallowtails.”

 

 

 

 

 

Tiger swalltowtail

Tiger swalltowtail

And what better image to leave you with, for today, than a giant swallowtail doing its level Lepidopteran best to pollinate every plant in the north bed?

Now go back to work, full in the knowledge that there are still butterflies in the world.