Archive for March, 2015

Really Like My Rocks

One thing I really like is my rocks, and I HAVE rocks!

I have them in the house and outside.

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This pile is roughly 25 feet long and 3-4 feet high. These are mostly from wet-weather streams and creeks. I used these for edging flower beds and making paths.

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I carried in all these sandstone rocks for a reflexology path, and bought the river gravel.

I had several more gardens when I was younger. I even had a Kid’s garden for families and school groups.

My two remaining gardens (moon and butterfly) are plenty to keep me busy now.

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Notice how clean these stones look? That’s because they’re a little further from the highway, and are under a pine and a hackberry tree.

We live on a busy highway just outside of town. It wasn’t so busy until a few years ago when they started mining coal just three miles south of our house. There are two other mines in the area. One of them also hauls coal past our house. This translates into 24 hours a day of trucks “running” the highway. They do take off on weekends from Saturday afternoon until Sunday afternoon.

A tarp covers the bed of every truck. Apparently plenty of coal dust gets into the air anyway. Our old cistern and the rocks on it are turning darker and darker from coal dust. The cistern is 56 yards from highway with the end our house in between. Rocks from a stream my mother and I used to hunt are on the cistern and are dark now.

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Notice where the lower part of the rock chipped off, and what the natural color of the rock should be. All the rocks around it are also a matching dark gray color.

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I took this stone in the house and scrubbed it with soap and a tooth brush.

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 This shows how the rock won’t return to its natural state.

I do counts occasionally of how many semi’s drive by in an hour. I count them for 15 minutes and multiply by 4. The lowest number was 128, and the highest so far has been 164!

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This stone is farther back in the backyard. I’d be sick if it got covered with coal dust. It’s always looked like a Monet to me.

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And then there are what I call my “prehistorics.” They look like the faces and heads of prehistorics creatures. I have about 50 of them at the base of my moon garden.

Now, I’m thinking what to do about this situation. Where do I move my stones to that might also be affected at some point?

I want them where I can enjoy them.

Anticipation Rises

It had been so long since I’d seen the foxes that I thought they might have moved to another den. Then, when I least expected it, there lay the male fox napping.

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“As much as I hate to, I guess it’s time to think about getting up.”

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“No need to hurry, though. I’m not completely awake yet.”

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“A long slow stretch feels soooo good after being under the barn for so long.”

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“Nap’s over, and I guess it’s time to find our next meal.”

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Which would be the best route? Through the thicket behind the barn or

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across the backyard to the southeast?”

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Red foxes breed late January into February in Illinois. Gestation is 51 days. Since we live in southern Illinois, I assume these are more likely to bred in January and give birth in late March.

Gloomy Day Mystery

Sunday ended up being another cloud-covered day, with intermittent drizzle. I decided to go for a hike and ended up being the only one at Jones Lake.

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I followed the lake trail. Rose hips on the swamp roses added a little color to the gloomy day.

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 The clouds continued to increase during my hike, which changed the appearance of the rose hips on my way back to the truck.

It always amazes me how drops of water invert the view.

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 Here is my real mystery. I can’t explain why the light bands are reflected vertically on the water. Where did they come from?  The tree-covered hill would have a more solid appearance. The clouds wouldn’t be in bands either. I don’t see how my height compared to the water level would make a difference. Maybe there’s a scientific reason that would be way over my head.

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On darn, (being facetious) guess I’ll just have to come back to see if these reflections are still here.

Glide in For a Landing … and More

Today started out sounding like spring with a robin loudly singing in our front yard, and a great horned owl hooting to the north.

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The kitchen sink isn’t exactly my favorite place to be, but I often see interesting things while there. The window faces west.

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 Strands of silk drifted in on a light breeze and landed close to the porch. The silk measured approximately 3 1/4 inches long.

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I first suspected an adult spider had spun it because of the size of the silk … only adult spiders wouldn’t do this.  Spiderlings produce silk but don’t build a web.

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 Maybe it was the spiderling of a larger species of spider. Today turned out to be a sunny day with the temperature reaching 67. An eastern phoebe repeated its name in the backyard this afternoon.

So…. our days finally look and feel much more like spring is here in southern Illinois!

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The spiders had a surprise waiting for me in the evening.

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 The sun was getting lower, and I noticed spider silk reflecting the sunlight. I hurried out in the front yard with my camera.

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A light breeze added movement to the single strands of silk.

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The camera seemed to have a mind of its own as to how the pictures turned out.

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 I just snapped and snapped pictures with the light quickly changing.

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Then I noticed the dramatic effect on the other side of the highway. I stood on our hill and zoomed in for closer pictures of across the road. The speed of the sun lowering in the sky didn’t give me much time to do anything but quickly snap pictures. The reflected light shimmered with a light breeze.

Everywhere I looked, and as far as I could see, there were strands of spider silk.

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The breezes moved the spiderlings’ strands in the trees, grass and other dried vegetation.

I took thirty-eight pictures in eleven minutes before the sun sank to the horizon.

Then, when I remembered to check the next day, every bit of the spiders’ silk was gone.

I can’t imagine what the sky looked like with so many ballooning spiderlings! I sure wish I’d seen it!

Did I Take Those!

I don’t know what happened here — I actually took focused bird pictures.

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Three Canada geese stayed relatively close as Buffy and I followed the lake trail at Glen O. Jones Lake.

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 I had hoped to see a red-throated loon that was reported here Saturday. No luck.

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Loons are rarely seen in southern Illinois on their migration.

It took me 3-4 years to see my first loon after I started birding. A birding friend of mine called one afternoon, saying a common loon was at Jones Lake. Davis was in first or second grade. I called school, and they gave me permission to take him to see the loon. We ran out to the Blazer. I hurried after we got out of town. We were both on the edge of our seat. I screeched (not really) to a halt when I got where we could see the lake. And, there was the loon– not close and not far. We had no witnesses to our enthusiasm.

Common Split Gill

 The weather has finally moderated and I actually worked in the backyard this afternoon.

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This odd mushroom easily caught my attention and was easy to identify:

Common  Split Gill

Schizophyllum Commune

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It has no stalk, the cap measures 9 to 30mm wide, and it  grows on decaying wood. Apparently it’s whitish-gray when it’s dry and a brownish gray when moist.

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Its range includes Maine, south to Tennessee and west to north Dakota.

I don’t remember seeing one before, and will definitely keep an eye out for this small delicate mushroom from now on.

Bang, She Was Special

Everyone called her “Bang.” Apparently she broke several bats, playing baseball when she was young. She was my Girl Scout leader through high school.

Spring wildflower hikes were one of her favorite activities. She knew exactly where certain flowers grew and when to visit them.

I got married, moved away for six years and then returned to Harrisburg. Her husband passed away during that time. They had no children.

I was a Girl Scout leader for eight years until both my girls graduated high school. By then Bang was housebound with emphysema. Friends brought her food and ran errands for her. She wouldn’t let me. I was her entertainment — I’d hike alone or with my kids, and then fill her in on all the details. She relived her experiences through mine. Many of the places were ones she’d told me about.

Her health continued to deteriorate. She wanted one more outing. It had been years since she’d hiked. My husband drove us. (I definitely wanted a man along on that trip.) We topped the hill where the road deteriorated and became an adventure. Ron stopped at the top so Bang could take in the view of the wooded hills, down across the low part, over a small bridge and start up a rugged hill.

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Bang sat on the edge of her seat. Ron drove slow so she could see everything. The woods were all leafed out. He pulled up into camp and parked the blazer facing south. Her eyes were so big. She was transported to a place of her own.

I walked off. Ron did too. I returned two or three times with a flower to show her up close. So, virtually, she was alone in nature with her thoughts. We were probably only there fifteen minutes until we had to get her home. We were seven miles from her house.

I can still see the sheer joy on her face. Those few minutes transported her into nature, and her nature “friends” came to see her.

She passed away about a month after our outing.

These were a few of her favorite wildflowers.

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 Jack-in-the-pulpit

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Celandine poppy

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Virginia bluebells

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Twayblade orchid

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Shooting stars

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Purple trilliums