Monday, July 28, 2014

Garden assistants

This bumblebee is on it's way to help pollinate my tomato plants. 

As an educator and spokesperson for native plants and pollinators, I always downplay the Sting Fear. Most native bees are solitary, not social, like European honeybees, so they don't typically sting…no hive to defend…solitary bees need to live another day to lay more eggs, not die while stinging you… While foraging, bees (and even wasps!) are usually too busy to sting yer *ss or any of your other body parts. Many stings from native bees occur when bees accidentally become trapped in clothes. I also just learned that many native bees' stingers are not strong enough to penetrate human flesh. 

Nevertheless, my foot found an insect that could pierce flesh on Saturday evening. Though it hurt just a little, it now itches madly.

Years ago, I was stung by a wasp (a guess) will doing field work. I was stung in the *ss. It felt like the most searing multiflora rose thorn I have ever known. And that's what I believed it was until I turned and saw a flying insect near my *ss. 

I worked a bit longer with my volunteer group, then decided to take it easy, and then asked everyone to head back to the parking lot. Within the next hour, my face and lips swelled and became pale. My palms itched. I felt woozy. I felt scared, too, but once I was back at the office I nibbled my lunch with a quiet volunteer. At least I could swallow.

Another time while doing field work, we must have stumbled on a bumblebee nest. A very irritated bumblebee flew into my face and clung onto my lower lip. I shrieked, dropped my pack, and ran. The bee followed and grabbed onto my lip again. The bee and I parted ways. My lower lip felt odd, not stung, but let's say, "touched by bee". 

This afternoon, Beren pointed out a bumblebee on a friend's driveway. I carefully picked it up and put it in the mulch. 

On another recent afternoon, I showed Beren that he could gently touch bumblebees while they forage in our garden. I'd rather he learn thoughtful awareness then the alternative:

"I've got these vines climbing on my fence with every bee known to man flying all over it. How do I get rid of them?" a male customer asked. The young sales clerk hopped up from behind the cash register, "We've got something for that." Another customer and I gaped at each other. 

Really? If you dislike bugs so much, pour some concrete and spread more grass seed.

Here's a tour of some goodies in our vegetable garden. The dill is hoppin' with flies, bees, and wasps. The wasps are almost too big for the dill. 

And last, though not a pollinator, some photographic evidence to defend the honor of potentially frightening bugs. An assassin bug species (by my best, novice identification) sucking the life juices out of a brown marmorated stinkbug. You know, wasps do good work in the garden, too.

Friday, July 25, 2014

I got all that sweetness

It's happened.

Gendered division of labor in the household.

I have no idea where many, but not all, of our hand tools are. 

I discovered a yellow jacket nest in the yard. Jared offered to spray it after dark. He's reading Beren bedtime stories, and I'm writing. I'm making no move on that nest.

Nothing is hard lined. I had a reaction to a wasp sting while doing field work about six years ago. And, this morning I used a hand saw to cut down a mildewy closet door to fit into our garbage can. 

I do the laundry and mend our clothes, but I also use the chainsaw and string trimmer. In fact, it's my job to change the brush blade to the string trimming head and back again come autumn. Yet, Beren still insists that the chainsaw is "Papa's". Meanwhile, Jared cooks many of our meals and wipes out the tub before we bathe.

But still, I feel it. Things are shifting.

Upon becoming a homeowner, Jared regularly takes out the chop saw for projects. Today he made a set of outdoor blocks for Beren. A few weeks ago, he added a ladder and a "firecat pole" for sliding down to Beren's swing set. On the other hand, I'm really good at cutting cheese triangles, and Jared is "getting better", Beren tells me.

For modern folk, and I'll let you define "modern", is there something about having children, or buying a house that changes things? Or is it just me?

Couple quotes...

Did you have a bunk bed when you were a kid? Beren asks Jared.

Nummies usually make me feel better, but this time they didn't, Beren tells me after a particularly bad fall.

Many, many body related inquires...where does poop come out of a beetle? Where does your poop come out of? Does pee come out of there, too? Why do you make milk inside of your nummies? 

And last, "I got all the sweetness out of your nummies."

We have passed through the newborn days, infant days, toddlerhood, the twos, and now we're deep into the threes. 

We recently spent an evening with a few families and children all along this journey. It gave Jared and I a moment to reflect and say...remember when? And then joke that we hardly remembered when because of the short term and long term memory loss from sleep deprivation and the fleet and agile passage of time. Fleet and agile, in hind sight, anyway.

Practicing latching on, having lots and lots and lots of milk much that the bed sheets and any spare scrap of fabric around the house smelled of milk. And then hitting our stride and then, surprise, having a baby so distracted by the unfolding world that he would not nurse, except in the middle of the night. And then, suddenly we could go out without having to figure out where to nurse AND change diapers...we could make it long enough without nursing and a diaper change. And then suddenly, a seemingly demanding child, verbally demanding nursing, sometimes in places I wished he didn't. 

All along the way, there were frustrations, tears, and lots of joy. Lots of peace and mutually sleepy moments, feeling that love. Feeling that uprightness, "the heck with this, I'm nursing my child as long as I feel like it." 

Until we get all the sweetness out. It hasn't been easy, nor simple, at times. But still, there's been all that sweetness, and more to come, I bet.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

What Are You Thinking About?

"Oh look, Jamie had her baby," I said to Beren. He wiggled in next to me and peered at the iPad. 

We flipped through a Facebook album featuring blurry photographs... a smiling father cradling a newborn, a beaming big sister (though quite small herself) sitting cross legged, arms outstretched to receive her newborn sister. A bigger brother cradling his newborn sister. Tiny newborn finger wrapped around big brother's finger. 

Beren did that in the hospital, too. I was startled at his powerful grip. Wasn't he just floating in space for nine months? Aren't those fingers even younger than nine months, and still, such a grip?

My chest tightened and my eyes welled as I looked at those big, dark newborn eyes. Round face. So small. Swaddled.

"What are you thinking, Momma?" Beren asked. 

I didn't answer. If I did, my voice would be thick with emotion.

"What are you thinking, Momma?" he asked again, almost chiding me.

"I'm thinking about babies, Beren. What are you thinking about?"

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Rain of Sound

On my hour long commute to my part time job, I listen to NPR. I don't enjoy it. 

I don't enjoy the music the radio has to offer either. I'll flip through, maybe catch the last couple bars of a Rolling Stones tune, if I'm lucky. A Meatloaf song if I'm really, really unlucky. Golly, I dislike Meatloaf more than, well, probably as much as I dislike The Who.

"Oldies" - late fifties to mid to late sixties rock (late sixties is pushing it) the songs that taught me how to sing in tune, as I sang along on lonely car rides, are hardly played. Oldies are now the 1970s, 80s and 90s, the radio announcer or the robot on "Ben FM" tells me. 

"Tellin' me more and more..."

Ben is wrong. Radio-ready disco and funk are not oldies, nor do I enjoy listening to it. Disco makes me feel uncomfortable. Could it be that I'm Catholic? Back to NPR.

"About some useless information..."

Remember car radios that had difficult to depress buttons that would send an orange bar shooting across the dial?

Right now, I'd rather listen to the rain, but instead I hear my overtired child whining. He tells my husband, "I'm not tired." I hear his footfalls on the steps. A half hour later, he's asleep.

But on the way I home, the Middle East is in the news. Heaven knows what happened to 200 African girls. Haven't heard about them. Slaves, prostitutes, and unwilling wives, I'll guess. Ukraine? Who knows, but I do know that peacocks are being killed in a suburbs neighborhood somewhere in the USA, so says NPR. Ocean acidification. Medical cannabis. 

Maybe I should tune back to disco hits and learn a new way of singing. "Young and sweet...only seventeen..."

Nah. I'd rather listen to the sound of biting my own nails. I should do that next week. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Master Dirt Time

Dirt time. 

Dirt time is a concept Jared and I learned about in Tracker School. You'll be a good tracker if you spend dirt time on it. Practice.

Over my lifetime, there are so many things I've learned and not spent dirt time on them. There are few that I have. I spent a lot of dirt time learning traditional darkroom skills. Now my darkroom is in pieces, much of it stored in a huge plastic bin, about the size of a walk in shower. In fact, I bought that bin late in my pregnancy so I could take baths in our walk in shower.

The bin of photography equipment sits on my parents' back porch. I was supposed to move it before last weekend's family reunion, but kept forgetting until it became a good place to stage a case of Aquafina. I hate bottled water, but it was a good spot. No one tripped over my photography bin/labor tub.

I spent a lot of dirt time on Kung fu, and I rarely have time to practice. "Practeese make perfect," Sifu told me. I spent a little dirt time on Kung fu about a week ago. Four foot long stems of rye that Jared scythed down got tangled around my ankles as I took to the field. Everytime I kicked, rye grass flew. Everytime I fell to the ground during 36 Steps of the Monkey, rye grass poked me. Beren told Jared I was "doing something fun." It was.

I played in bands for awhile. Played in one for years. I played guitar, sang sometimes. I played violin, but never really felt that good. Jared and I began to learn some folk songs. I sang. He played guitar. I "gave" my violin to Jared. My lyrics folder is somewhere on the bookshelf, I think.

I spent a lot of dirt time with Newcomb's Wildflower Guide. I haven't picked it up but once lately. I lean on Jared for the tough IDs. I'm more interested in caterpillars and butterflies lately. Bees, too. 

It seems like human nature, always trying something new. It seems rare to be a master. I suppose I would not be so moved when I met a master, that is, if masters graced every city corner and country cottage. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I was climbing and climbing

I knew I didn't feel comfortable, but I did it anyway. 

The indoor jungle gym at a local kids museum was one and half stories tall. "Would you like to go in there?" I could barely hear Beren's reply, "Mm hmm," over the clamor of children and parents. 

I read the rules of engagement. Nothing about height requirements to disqualify us, nor age. Under three, an adult companion was recommended. Most of the other children appeared much older than that, seven, say.

I almost walked out the room, but asked Beren again. Yes, indeed, he wanted to go in. Ok, don't hover, I thought. 

I walked Beren to the entrance of the labyrinth and let go of his hand. In he went. Within three minutes, I broke rule number two on the list: keep an eye on your child at all times.

I noted there were four exits from the jungle gym and one exit from the room. I shouted Beren's name into the labyrinth. Who could hear me anyway?

An older, smoky voiced woman told me he'd be fine, he'd come out sometime, and that she put here three year old nephew in there. 

"I can't see my kid, and I'm flipping out," I said to two other mothers and one father. Jared will kill me, I thought. No one replied, perhaps their eyes were trained on their own reappearing and disappearing kids. 

A staff person drifted by, and I repeated myself. "You can go up there," she said. "Yes, but if I do, and he comes down, I'll never find him. I'm flipping out." I described his clothes, and the young woman clambered into the gym.

She returned several minutes later. "I found him, but he wouldn't come down with me."

Good but bad. He was having a good time, he was unwilling to be escorted by a stranger, and/or he was immbolized with fear. 

I'd later learn that at least the first was true, and I hope that the second was, too. I've begun what I hope is a subtle but powerful confidence building when it comes to strangers. "Don't go with anyone other than Momma or Papa..." "You didn't want to talk to that person you didn't know. That's fine. You don't have to." I never chide my child into making nice with a stranger. And lots of adults do try to make nice..."your hair...blah blah..." "high five! No? No high five?" Nope, sorry. 

I felt a little more relaxed having had some word about my child. An adult manager came by, "Everything ok?"

"I can't see my kid, and I am really upset. I don't want to go in, in case he comes out," I said yet again. "It's impossible to keep an eye on him in there." I added, as a sort of apology. No other parents seemed concerned.

The young woman told the manager that shed gone in and Beren wouldn't come out.

"I'll go in," said the manager. Another young employee asked if I could bribe him down. If only, I could see or hear him.

Suddenly Beren appeared in one of many climbing areas. I shouted his name, and he looked at me. "Come down. Come down over here."

Luckily for me, he listened and descended. Hopefully, I thanked the employees. If not, I hope they understand. It probably happens frequently.

"See!" said the husky voiced woman. "You got him!"

I grabbed Beren's hand and pulled him to another section of the museum. He came willingly. My heart pounded. We colored with glowing markers under black lights, and I soon forgot the labyrinth.

I later asked Beren if he was scared in the jungle gym. I can't recall if he said yes or no. I probably wasn't listening because I was really asking myself. I told him I was scared, that I couldn't see him. 

"Was it fun?"

"Yes, I was climbing and climbing!"

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Stick with us, we got some plans

My stubbly lawn

Checking the mail and hanging laundry are two of my great joys of new home ownership status.

Mail...I don't share a mailbox with landlords any more. It's mine. All mine. When the red plastic flag on the mailbox was busted, it was my problem. When Beren and I sawed it off with a hacksaw and then I couldn't find a matching bolt and nut to repair it and felt hopeless and ineffective. My problem. When rain trickled into the resulting hole, my problem. 

That I had to use masking tape to temporarily fix the flag so the mortgage payment would be picked up by the mail lady, was my problem. My problem until my Dad gave me two, yes two, matching bolt and nut sets to fix the mailbox flag. Then I put the flag on upside down, my problem and I don't care because it works.

All the junk mail, including the coupons and offers I will never use are mine. I wish they wouldn't arrive, but I open them anyway. Maybe there's something good? Nope, I don't need a lawn service, blinds, or my driveway paved. We're good. It's our house, so it's our choice. Though the size of the bank account does make many choices for us. 

On top of this Highlands mountainside, my laundry dries. It dries quickly. This means the circulation is good. The air moves, it's not stagnant, though it is filled with mosquitoes. The laundry smells good. It's fresh, rough and stiff, just like the line dried laundry I grew up with. 

Then, another joy is not mowing our lawn. We don't have a mower. A neighbor asked if we wanted to borrow one. Nope. They're nice folks, interested folks. They slow down to observe the tree we had taken down in front of the house. Nosy. 

But, you know what's great? It's my stinking tree. It's my house. I can stop mowing, I don't live in the 'burbs or town. I live on a farm road. There's lots of farm yards here, filled with chickens, cats, and weeds. My yard is one of them. 

My yard. Nope, I don't need a mower. I'm whispering in the bumble bees' ears. "You think this white clover is good? Stick around. Stick with us. We've got some plans for this place."

Our place.