Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Around the house

On the Joe Pye weed: 
 Female eastern tiger swallowtail (intense blue along hindwings).

 Female black swallowtail (I'm judging by the 'cat eye' spots on the forewings). This beauty is missing the second set of yellow spots that is shown in my book...

 Eastern tiger swallowtails.

 Joe Pye weed from afar.

 Greenhouse, cardinal flower, and Bear Cart. We're not creative when we name our son's toys, e.g. Clicker Bear (a bear push toy that drums), Brownie Dog (a brown dog), Puppy Dog, Bunny Rabbit, etc.

Rudbuckia triloba in bloom. Vintage lawn chairs.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


I took the piece of rebar and plunged it into the trap. I missed. The groundhog attempted to exit the trap, but couldn't and so the animal faced me. I breathed deeply and struck again.

My intention had been to release the groundhog, but that seemed foolish, impractical. The groundhog was young and retained a cuteness - dark eyes, soft peppery colored fur. With teeth bared, facing the rebar, he was no longer cute. He had not been cute in my imagination when I struggled, gloveless, with a roll of 4' tall metal fence at 10pm the day before we went to the Catskills.

Hysterical, I returned to the house and announced to my husband, "I can't come back to nothing in the garden. To everything eaten. He's eaten the cucumber leaves. I fence one thing and then eats something else. My work, my work..." The groundhog had eaten kale, lettuce and beautiful Hungarian white poppy flowers until I fenced them off, then turned to okra, lupines, cucumbers.

"Maybe you should wait until tomorrow. This is crazy," he said motioning down with the palms of his hands. His 'hold it' gesture made me more determined and furious. I trailed into the darkness gloves in hand.

I already have a fence around our garden, putting up more did feel crazy.

I cursed the groundhog. I had baited the trap with apples, celery, lettuce, carrots, melon, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Sweet corn worked.

I took the piece of rebar and plunged it into the trap. I missed. The groundhog attempted to exit the trap, but couldn't and so the animal faced me. I breathed deeply and struck again.

The night before a friend who hunts avidly came over for dinner. "You should have told me. I could have helped."

"Invite you over and ask you to bring dessert  and dispatch the groundhog?" I asked.

"Oh, come on. It's me. You could have asked me," he said.

"I suppose I'll sharpen a stick," I said. It sounded very impractical. When would I have time to sharpen a stick? After my husband and I finished dishes, laundry, kitchen clean up, baby bedtime, mouse trap emptying and resetting, lunch pack-up for the following day - all of which took until 11pm?

"Yeah, maybe I'll sharpen a stick. I guess that's what I'll do." What I really was saying was: would someone please take this groundhog off my hands?

After another discussion, my husband and I agreed to release the groundhog the following morning.

And so when morning came, I loaded a few sticks and rebar into the back of the truck. I thought of my friend Marion who tried to drown a slowly dying groundhog struck by a car. The person who found the groundhog put a box over the creature, hoping he would die. A day later, he had not, so Marion tried a bucket of water. Then she succeeded with a rock.

I thought of the eight year old who killed a groundhog with a rock so he could eat. I heard this story at Tracker School.

I thought of a female farmer friend who also dispatches groundhogs.

The groundhog was fearless. He chattered at me and finally collapsed. Two more strikes and he was dead. I'm sorry, groundhog.

How did it get to be July 17th already?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

June 17, 2012

 Beetles mating on milkweed, Pole Farm aka Mercer NW aka Mercer Meadows

 Little glassywing skipper, Pole Farm aka Mercer NW aka Mercer Meadows

 Bee or bee mimic on a shrubby dogwood. I need to get out with some insect experts.

 Baltimore checkerspot on water hemlock. Previous years' photos of this butterfly are also on water hemlock.

Dun skipper.

The flight of winged creatures is enough to make me believe in God. Did you know that butterfly wings are clear? Their coloring comes from scales that lay upon their wings. I just learned that.
I wish I had my own swimming hole. 
A small waterfall at Hacklebarnet State Park.

Friends recommended the film, Babies, to us. Since we watched it, I've been recommending it.

In the opening scene (I hope I remember this correctly - it's been awhile since seeing the film, and we had an out-of-character screaming 1:45 am wake up today), shows an African woman inside her home. The floor is dirt. The space is airy, simple and clean from what one can see - the camera shows mostly the woman's large belly and breasts as she rubs a fine, brick red powder upon herself.

Later in the film, we watch her baby, now born, wade in ankle deep water. He squats and puts his mouth to the water and drinks. Throughout the film, he wears a simple cloth to protect his front and bottom.

My husband and I have watched our son drink from bath water in the same way. Our hearts fill to see him enjoy the water.

Toss the sippy cup, it's just to keep the carpet dry.

***

Here in New Jersey we're experiencing a heatwave and drought conditions. Summers are typically hot and humid here. Our trees protect us from the hottest hours of the sun. Hardly anything protects us from the biting insects, but the salve a friend and I made. Indigenous people would have done the same, bear fat, I've heard.


***


Another mother tells me she fears letting her son roam naked around their suburban yard. "Too many wierdos," we agree as our sons play together.


***


My car's thermometer reads 97 when my son and I get into the car at high noon. We travel homewards crossing black top, passing grassy lawns. I watch the temperature go down to 91. No wonder the earth is warming, where are the trees?


***


During the summer of 2010 while I was pregnant we went to the Redhawk Native American Arts Council's Pow wow at Sussex County Fairgrounds. Sweat rolled from between my thighs and wetted my socks. My underwear was soaked, my back was soaked. Under some very large trees near the parking lot, we found shade and a cool breeze that was nowhere else. We noted the trees' ability.


***


My husband and I swam in a spring-fed pool while hiking recently. We wore our underwear and me a shirt as well. I had to go in. We were hiking and driving all day. The trail was quiet, but I wore clothes anyway. We waded in. My husband went under. We swam until we were refreshed and then sat on the warm rocks, dripping. "Two girls are coming down the trail," my husband said. I grabbed my vest and put it over my soaking shirt. "They don't look like they give a sh*t," he continued. I felt awkward and avoided looking back. I was thankful for my soaked clothes. Our quiet moment, now peopled.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Butter Biscuits on the Bold Coast

Western Head Preserve, Cutler, Maine 
August 26, 2009
Maine Coast Heritage Trust, thank you.

I took a snack from my backpack. Butter biscuits, whichever brand, Le Petit Beurre or Leibniz, was on sale when we went shopping for the trip. 

All around were gulls, wind and sea sculpted firs, the reds and greens of northerly coastal plants readying for winter though it was summer's end, ravens calling from a hidden perch, the craggy, black rocks of the Bold Coast, and the smell of the water and my butter biscuits. 

How disturbing. How disturbing and artificial the scent. I can eat butter biscuits, whichever brand is on sale, because I can't tell the difference, one after the next. One has tried to distinguish itself by more deeply browning the edges of their biscuits. Nothing excites the primal appetite more than slightly burnt sugar and bread-foods. At least in the supermarket. 

Maine, possibly Randall Point, but my notes were poor
August, 26, 2009

Here I am on the coast. I could be eating fish over a fire with cranberries and huckleberries. I could be eating shellfish, but the signs have warned me away. I could be eating the foods around me, but I am eating butter biscuits made in Europe purchased in Princeton, New Jersey. Who knows where the package was printed. I could eat butter biscuits in January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, or December. I could eat cranberries now.

 Western Head Preserve

The diminutive plants of Western Head
Scale-like leaves protect the plant from desiccation and harsh conditions, but then again the plants are adapted to the harsh conditions, so perhaps they prefer the conditions.

I'll pass and have another biscuit instead. The sign warns of fragile vegetation, rare plants. I wonder if these species ranged down to Freeport, Maine, near the L.L. Bean store. I'll have another butter biscuit and check my field guides.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Getting out of the house with a toddler - Terhune Orchards, Princeton

Parking lot at Terhune Orchards
Having said farewell to our silver minivan in October 2011, I will now have better luck finding my car in the parking lot.

First, about half of Mercer County has a Princeton address regardless of its proximity to Princeton.

U.S. 1 business newspaper real estate listings crow, "Princeton address," though the location may be 20 minutes away from Princeton Township. I suppose that's desirable, otherwise it would not be mentioned. A Princeton address does not guarantee a Princeton Public Library card. Believe me, I've observed library staff informing an individual with a Princeton address that she just wasn't Princeton enough.

With that local trivia out of the way, I can say that going to Terhune Orchards with my toddler is a lot more fun than when I was on the other side of the counter. It was a decent place to work and a good way to earn a paycheck while I settled back into New Jersey, but it was still lowdown retail work.

While an employee, I helped connect people to their farmer. I answered important questions such as:

There are puddles here? 
Yes. It rained recently.
Oh. [Surprised.]
That's a statement, but a parent made that statement and put a question mark at the end of it.

What is this? 
Potted lettuce from the greenhouse.
How did you get it in here? customer asks while pointing to the pot.
We planted seeds in the pot.
Wait, lettuce grows from a seed?

What can I pick today?
Nothing is growing.
There is nothing to pick?
It's January, there is snow on the ground.
Customer leaves. Returns minutes later. Perhaps his companions in the parking lot pressed him to ask again.
What can I pick today? 

From a customer's perspective, my son petted a goat reluctantly, observed ducks, geese, sheep, and an ancient horse, rode a few decommissioned tractors. Inside the store, he nibbled on a free apple while I shopped.

I am rather unlike the hundreds of men, women and children who attend the farm's festivals. I would never want to be around hundred of men, women and children at a farm festival. A quiet weekday is just fine.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Puxatawny Phil, watch your step.

Groundhog in Hav-a-heart knock-off trap. Releasing the animal from this trap is not easy. 

During my pregnancy, my husband set the mouse traps. I promised I'd set and empty the traps for a nine month period after our child was born.

Our son is twice that old, and I am still setting and emptying the traps.

I also set the groundhog trap. The groundhog, a small but hungry creature, ate the lettuce to the ground. I placed deer fencing over the most vulnerable crops, discouraging the groundhog from freely eating everything. He or she continues to eat the lettuce by sitting upon the fence and eating anything that pokes through. The groundhog has also nibbled on the peas, kale, collards, and today - my wild lupines (Lupinus perennis).


Wild Lupine seed pods and foliage, Cowles Bog Trail, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, June 13, 2010


Having smelled groundhog droppings more than once, I'll be purchasing lettuce or replanting. The current lettuce patch will need the groundhog to be dispatched, multiple heavy rains, and significant regrowth before I consider eating from it.

Wild Lupine, Kankakee Sands, Indiana, June 16, 2010


Here is a list of my fences:
1. Hog fencing - stacked two up, surrounds entire garden
2. Chicken wire - stacked two up, surrounds entire garden. We started with one up, but a groundhog is a good climber. 
3. Chicken wire hoops with enclosed tops - surround individual blueberry shrubs. Requires one to yank rusty ground staples from earth and delicately wiggle the hoop so one does not dislodge the fruit. Hoops, despite best efforts, are collapsing, uneven, bent, and torn (oops with the weedwacker a couple years ago).
4. Plastic deer fencing - rotated around various crops. Held in place with red bricks, yellow bricks, bamboo, old sticks, rocks, and 2x4s. Early spring - strawberries, keeps catbirds and mockingbirds out. Also, keeps any birds interested in eating slugs out. Gulp. Post strawberries - onto whatever the groundhog fancies.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Heat

The car's thermometer read 95 at 9:30 p.m. on July 6, 2010. That's really hot.

Mention the words "summer" and "pregnant" to a pregnant or once pregnant woman, and one might hear groans. I was cookin' when I was pregnant. I was a very happy pregnant lady, but also a hot, sweaty pregnant lady. 

Mention "the heat" to a Sikh gas station attendant on the outskirts of the Pine Barrens and one might hear, "I love the heat. I love the sun. It is unhealthy not to sweat. Air conditioning is not good. Nature does everything right. I love nature."

***

On the hottest day of the past week, my husband and I took a siesta under the ceiling fan while our son napped. Later, we drank mojitos (I still can't get the recipe right) with friends by the kiddie pool.

Today my son and I squeezed into the pool together. I displaced a couple dump trucks and nursery pots, and a few times my son himself. I reluctantly got out, realizing after the second time my son toppled backwards and out of the pool, I was just too big.

In the afternoon, we joined the masses at Target, purchasing a sun hat, batteries, clothes, and envelopes. Numerous items went in and out of the cart. Too junky, too ugly, find it used...


Meanwhile, the parking lot contributed to global warming - our car's thermometer easily broke 100.