Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Foot-Paw-Prints


On a recent frosty morning when I stepped out to fill the bird feeders, I saw this on the deck railing:




Can you guess who it was?

It was these two scamps:




These two are regular visitors, taking advantage of our tendency to forget to bring in the feeders at night. The one on the deck floor is very large (a parent?) and the one on the deck rail is small-to-medium sized (offspring?)
 
Such beautiful fur, and lovely markings.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Fragile Winter Sky

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On Sunday, I stopped briefly in “my” meadow, just as the sun was setting.


There’s something fragile about a winter sunset. Even though the clouds of a winter sky often seem heavier than those of summer, their color seems to fade more quickly, and the colors tend more toward pearl and gray, rather than blue and violet.

Still, it is beautiful.

And the colors of a winter sky seem to better complement the muted colors of field and forest. In the fields, the dried corn stubble has lost its golden undertone, and shows silver-grey against the black soil. Across the meadow, the woods look black, except where the lingering oak and beech leaves add notes of dun and taupe.

Muted colors for the end of autumn.

Of course, at this time of year, we see all around us the fragility of life itself, as leaves die and fall, birds flee the cold and dark, the life-giving sun seems paler and more distant, and we enter the long period of darkness that is winter.

As I sat and watched the sky, I became aware of a slight, very slight, movement at the edge of the field, near one of the tree “islands” that is a haven for birds and animals. I looked closely, peering through the dusk. And then there it was: A ring-necked pheasant, a male.

As I raised my field glasses, it crouched down and tried to become invisible. I assume that it’s one of the poor captive birds that hunters raise and release here in order to kill them. That’s a fragile existence―

I took a few quick photos and moved on, leaving the bird crouching in the gathering darkness.

I Wish the Hawk Would Eat the Sparrows (Redux)

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A few minutes ago, a juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk dashed across the yard and flung itself into the maple that overhangs the hedgerow.

It ruffled and preened itself, then spread its wings and tail – apparently it had gotten wet. Had it been caught in a passing shower, or bathed itself in our little brook? Or had it had a tussle with a prey bird, perhaps on the wet grass? Its crop didn’t look full, as though it had eaten recently… It flew to the top of the mulberry, where it was almost impossible to see amid the brown and gray branches.

As the hawk had flown through the yard, the House Sparrows at the feeder burst into the air, and headed into the wisteria, where the tangled branches offer some pretty good cover. It’s not entirely secure, though; we’ve watched Sharpies clamber through the wisteria in pursuit of their prey (smaller birds).

I hope that next time the Sharpie comes through, she’ll catch the sparrows by surprise and manage to catch one. The House Sparrows are not native to this continent; they were brought here in a foolish project to establish breeding populations in American of all the birds mentioned in the works of Shakespeare. (Stupid.) The House Sparrows displace many native species, taking nest cavities and food from native birds. They are messy, loud, and aggressive.

They make excellent nibbles for hawks.

Here’s an old bit of doggerel that I wrote a couple of years ago about just this topic:

I wish the hawk would eat the sparrows,
break their bones and suck their marrows,
pluck their feathers, pull off their heads,
rip their flesh into little shreds!

They eat all the birdseed. They cause other birds stress.
They poop on the window and make a big mess.
They poop under the awning when weather gets cold
and poop on the top of it when it’s unrolled.

Among our birds, these finches are trash;
they haven’t even got panache.
Their incessant tuneless discordant chatter
drowns out the birds that really matter.

They don’t even belong here, you know;
they were brought from the Old World long ago
as part of a plan to bring to our shore
birds familiar in Europe of yore.

The reasons now seem bizarre and absurd:
The plan was to establish here each bird
mentioned in the plays of Avon’s great Bard.
Now we have sparrows in every yard.

That’s why we also have the Starling,
a good mimic (and Mozart’s darling).
But our bluebirds became the sacrifice
to someone’s idea that the starling is nice.

Who thought our landscape would be more pleasant
with introduced birds like the Starling and pheasant?
The House Sparrows and Starlings have adapted so well
that their destructive numbers continue to swell.

If I had a tiny bow and some tiny arrows,
I’d shoot all the pesky, nasty House Sparrows.
I’d mince them fine and put them in boxes
then set them out to feed the foxes.

But as I have no bow or tiny arrows
to eradicate my hoards of sparrows,
I call upon our neighborhood raptor
to chase, and pounce, and grab, and capture.

More bad poetry about house sparrows:
http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/2009/08/chewing-fat.html

© 2011 Quodlibet. Dissemination, re-use, or duplication prohibited except by express permission of the author.I pay attention and I will find you if you cite, republish, or use my work without credit or without attribution.

There Is No Life Outside of History


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“There is no life outside of history.”

That phrase struck me as profound. It was offered by Karen Chase, Linden Kent Memorial Professor of English literature at the University of Virginia, speaking about the opening paragraph of Charles Dickens' 1859 novel A Tale of Two Cities. Professor Chase was part of a panel discussion the book on an older episode of The Diane Rehm Show (October 20, 2010), to which I listened as I prepared Thanksgiving dinner.

“There is no life outside of history.”

We are part of history, influenced by history, and influencing history. We are in history, of history, and carried in the inexorable flow. We cannot resist history, we cannot deny history, and we cannot exist outside history.

It is a profound understanding.

If you haven’t read A Tale of Two Cities recently, or (gasp) not at all, here’s that remarkable opening paragraph, which surely is the best-ever opening to any novel in the English language:


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. ―Charles Dickens (1812 - 1870), A Tale of Two Cities (1859)
Here’s Professor Chase’s complete quote, for context:


“There is no life outside of history. That everybody lives in time and that previous incidents in history have everything to do with contemporary incidents that [Dickens] may not want to discuss openly.”
You might enjoy listening to the entire discussion:

http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2010-10-20/readers-review-charles-dickens-tale-two-cities

If you haven't read the book, do so. It is profound. It will enrich your understanding of history, life, and love.

Beautiful Broccoli

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Three Ways to Peel a Clementine

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What Omnia saw:


 What Justine saw:


What Katie saw:


Different perspectives of the same idea.
Each one is interesting.
Each is part of the whole.
Each one is worth considering.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Evening Rest

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On my way home from a meeting the other day, I stopped at a favorite pond just as the light was beginning to fade. 

As I opened the car window to take in the air and to listen to the evening, I heard geese approaching, their wild calls filling me with nostalgia.

In a few minutes, a small flock of Canada Geese glided over the tree tops and set down on the water. The glided to and fro on the glassy water, as stately as galleons.

Monday, November 21, 2011

"To Acquire the Bird"

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I enjoy reading about music, books and ideas, cuisine, and birding, and I've found some nice  blogs that offer some great information and photos.

My favorite cooking blog, Baker's Banter from King Arthur Flour, offers clear prose, helpful photos, and a forum wherein readers can share questions and ideas. That blog has, in large part, inspired me to photograph and write about about my own cooking experiences (check the "Recipes" heading in subject index below). I enjoy The Old Foodie, which is an amusing, fascinating, highly addictive exploration of food history, food in history, the evolving language of food, and the history of cooking. A lovely read for those of us who love cooking, eating, history, and language.

The best birding blogs, rich with detail and beautiful photographs, are also excellent teaching tools, and have helped me refine my identification skills and deepen my understanding of bird behavior. Check out David Sibley's blog for expert tips on identification and behavior, or the Colorado Field Ornithologists' Photo Quiz for some real challenges! The Stokes Birding Blog is a great place for beginning birders to learn more about commonly-seen birds (especially feeder birds), and the photographs are exquisite.

Of course, the above-named blogs are written by expert, elite birders, who have literally written the books on birding. There are many others, written by birders of all skill levels and with all sorts of motivations for birding. Following blogs on these topics is a nice way to learn more about how other people experience the pleasure of birding. Some bloggers have a zeal for photography, and use their blogs to share some amazing photos.

And of course, some bloggers write about their chasing and twitching and ticking and dipping -- that is, their efforts to find rare birds and check them off on their lists. For many birders, this is the raison d’être of birding: to tally the greatest numbers of distinct species they have seen. They keep track of the species they've seen in particular towns, counties, states, and countries and all sorts of other metrics. While I find their efforts interesting, I'm often struck by their seeming indifference to the bird they're chasing, other than its value to their lists.

For example, this morning, on the blog of a birder in a distant state, I read the author's essay about his efforts to "tick" a rare hummingbird that he had never been able to add to his state list. The essay detailed his excitement that one of the birds had showed up not five miles from his house, and his successful trip to see it. He had leisurely looks at the bird, took some nice close-up photos and shared them in the post, and discussed the niceties of differentiation between this species and a bird that is very similar.

But he seemed not to even notice the bird itself as a living creature, other than as a "tick" for his list. He wrote nearly 1000 words about this bird and his efforts to see it, with plenty of detail about his lists and the relative width of the outer tail feathers (important in identification of this species), Fine. But where was his sense of wonder and delight at this bird's amazingly long journey, a thousand miles out of its typical range? Where was any comment at all about the beauty of the bird, about the subtleties of color and plumage? Where was any remark about the fortitude of this tiny bit of feathers, flying so far on its grand adventure? Not even a word or two about its behavior during his brief observations? Nope -- for this birder, this was all about getting the bird on his list. In fact, it was this sentence stopped me in my tracks:


I put a call out to some of my other like minded birding acquaintances, and soon had a full carload ready to head out before dawn yesterday morning to acquire the bird.

To acquire the bird. To get it, to have it, to own it, to acquire it.

To acquire it?

That seems rather limited, and bit sad.

Friday, November 18, 2011

“I’ll Catch Up Tomorrow”

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Last night, well after midnight, I finally got too sleepy to work any more. I checked my email accounts (six) one more time, and of course, there were tons of new messages waiting for me. About half of them would require some response, and probably a third of them included some new item for my growing to-do list.

I'll catch up tomorrow, I said to myself.


--------------------------------


"I'll catch up tomorrow," she said hopefully, though she had her doubts. The others were not fooled. They knew all too well that more email would arrive overnight, overflowing the inboxes and flooding the servers and making her escape impossible, though she was armed with current passwords and the strongest spam protection on the market. Her only chance of keeping her head above water would be to labor through the night, dispatching one message at a time, but everyone could see that she was fighting sleep after weeks of intense research and writing. She was suffering, too, from a severe singing deficit, which left her depressed and irritable.

Catch up? Impossible. No one ever “caught up.” It was a fantasy, and a dangerous one at that.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Underfoot

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There are little bits of beauty all around us. Look around.

Once in a while, look down to see what's underfoot, on the beautiful earth where we tread so casually.

Not for your Thanksgiving Table

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Seen in my neighborhood late on this cloudy, rainy, November afternoon:


These four birds were part of a flock of about a dozen, up the road across from the reservoir. We have plenty of wild turkeys around here. The habitat is good for turkey: wooded hillsides, plenty of oaks, grassy meadows, and fields under tillage.

One day several years ago, we watched 29 turkeys parade single file across our front lawn, saunter down the walk at the side of the house, and settle themselves down in the back yard for an extended session of preening and napping. Twenty-nine! After an hour or so, they got and up stretched, and continued toward the back of the back yard, but they were brought up short by the fence. They just stood there for the longest time, seemingly unable to figure out that they could 1) fly over the fence (they are very good flyers!), 2) go out through the open gate that was right in front of them, or 3) turn around and walk out the way they came. It began to rain, and they looked pretty pathetic. Finally, D took pity on them, went out to the yard, and gently shooed them out through the gate at the back of the yard.

Fun facts! Turkeys are among the fastest fliers of our land birds. And...they roost in trees. High up in trees.

People love to make jokes about wild turkeys ending up on the Thanksgiving table. But you wouldn't want to roast one of these birds; they are dry-fleshed and gamy, unlike the domestic birds bred for the table, which are bred to be fatty and tender. If you are ever lucky enough to obtain a wild turkey, don't try to make it into a Thanksgiving centerpiece. Instead, braise it with red wine and good-flavored stock, starting with a soffrito of leeks and root vegetables. Serve with mashed potatoes and green beans.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Beef Pot Pie

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Is there anything nicer on a cold night than a home-made pot pie? Chunks of tender meat and sweet root vegetables, folded into a savory gravy and tucked under clouds of home-made biscuits?

Pot pie is easy to make, especially if you have the right leftovers on hand. Last week I made a nice pot roast, with plenty of vegetables in the gravy, served with boiled potatoes. Now, the leftovers are fine on their own, but they also can form a great base for a very nice, quick pot pie. And if you make time-saving cream biscuits as described below, you can have it in the oven in 20 minutes.

Start by preparing the filling. Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Cut the leftover beef (or chicken, or turkey!) into bite-sized pieces, add the leftover potatoes, and (cheating on this one), half a bag of frozen mixed vegetables. (Normally I would cut and cook fresh vegetables, but it was already 7pm and we were hungry.) You can also use other leftover vegetables you have on hand, especially peas, corn, carrots, winter squash, green beans and the like. Choose vegetables that are not too strong-flavored (no broccoli here, please), and which will hold their shape. If needed, stir in some well-flavored stock to moisten the filling, as the biscuits will soak up some of the gravy during the baking. Turn the mixture into a casserole that is 3"-4" deep. If it's too shallow, the filling will spill over. If it's too deep, the biscuits will not brown and rise evenly. I ended up with about 5 ½ cups of filling, which was just right for this old-fashioned casserole dish.


Put the casserole into the oven before you make the biscuits to heat the filling thoroughly. This is very important. If you put raw biscuit dough on cool or even warm filling, the biscuits will bake properly on their upper surfaces, but will end up undercooked on the bottoms, which is unappetizing and wasteful. When the filling is heated to 400˚F or so, the biscuits will cook from the bottom and the top, and they will be perfect. This is the secret to good pot pie!

While the filling is getting hot, make the cream biscuits. Combine:

2 cups King Arthur All-Purpose Flour (don’t bother with other brands)
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons sugar (optional, but I add it)


Add all at once 1 ¼ cups heavy cream:


Blend quickly. The dough should come together easily to form a rough ball. If it looks like this…

 …then you need more liquid. Add a bit more cream – say, a quarter cup:


That's better:


Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface:


Knead with a very light touch just until the dough is smooth and cohesive, about a half-dozen turns, or about thirty seconds:


The goal here is simply to distribute the ingredients and smooth out the dough a little. Over-kneading will result in a tough, chewy biscuit. This is altogether a different sort of kneading than is used when making yeast breads.

Roll or pat the dough into a circle about ¾” thick. As with the kneading, use a very light touch. It’s better to end up with an irregular shape than try to manipulate, re-roll, or re-knead. With biscuits, less handling is always better.


Cut the dough into any shapes you like, depending on the shape of your casserole dish. For my round dish, I could have simply cut the dough into rounds or wedges, but I remembered that I have this heart-shaped cutter:


Remove the scraps from between the cut shapes:


Now, what to do with those scraps? Don’t bother re-rolling and re-cutting; they’ll just get tough. Enjoy them as they are! Put them on a little baking pan and throw them in the oven to bake when you take out the filling. Here they are - overbaked by about five minutes. They were a bit crunchy, but still good!


OK, back to the pie. Remove the hot casserole from the oven – the filling should be boiling hot. If it isn't, give it a stir and return it to the oven for a few more minutes. Here's the bubbling hot filling:


Put the biscuits carefully on top of the hot filling. They will start to cook at once, so plan carefully before you start laying them down.


Put the pie in the oven and bake for 10-20 minutes, until the biscuits are as brown as you like them. The timing will vary depending on the size of the pan and the size and thickness of the biscuits, so watch carefully after just ten minutes. Here’s the pie, ready to serve:


Notice that the biscuits are nicely puffed on their lower surfaces, incidating that they cooked all the way through.

This beef pot pie was delicious! And so easy to make from leftovers and “pantry” ingredients. It took about a half hour of prep time, plus about 15 minutes in the oven.


All my recipes may be viewed here:
http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20All

They are further organized as follows, with some overlap:

Breads http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Breads
Desserts http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Desserts
Fruits http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Fruits
Main Dishes http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Main%20Dishes
Meats http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Meats
Soups and Stews http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Soups
Vegetables http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Vegetables

Tamarack

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One of my favorite trees is a large tamarack that soars above the house. The tamarack, also called larch, is unique among conifers in that it is also deciduous; that is, it sheds its leaves each fall and grows new ones in the spring.

At this time of year, the tamarack’s needles are a gorgeous gold, contrasting in hue and texture with the pachysandra that curves around its trunk:


I just like that.

“Wit is the outward mental casing of the man”


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“Wit is the outward mental casing of the man, and has no more to do with the inner mind of thought and feelings than have the rich brocaded garments of the priest at the altar with the asceticism of the anchorite below them, whose skin is tormented with sackcloth, and whose body is half flayed with rods. Nay, will not such a one often rejoice more than any other in the rich show of outer apparel? Will it not be food for his pride to feel that he groans inwardly, while he shines outwardly? So it is with the mental efforts which men make. Those which they show forth daily to the world are often the opposites of the inner workings of the spirit.

―Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers, Chapter 20.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Annoyed


I just got home from rehearsal…and I wish I could shake my annoyance. Granted, I had a horrible day – one thing after another went wrong, or broke, or spilled, or was late, or wrong, or – and there was too much SIWOTI floating around to do anyone good – and I was hoping that the rehearsal would be a time of refreshment and renewal. But I came home annoyed instead of uplifted.

The music is good. The director is [redacted]. I was in good voice tonight and was musically prepared.

But.

The person sitting in front of me never marks her scores as we all are required to do. She. Never. Marks. Her. Scores. I don’t think she has ever marked her scores in the three or four years that she has been in this ensemble. It’s unfair, of course, since supposedly we are all subject to having our scores checked by the section leaders (a policy that I endorse), but I don’t even care about fairness. What matters is this: She makes tons of mistakes because she has not marked in the phrasing, breaths, early cuts, and other important information that the rest of us have marked in. Then she asks her neighbor for the information, but she happens to sit next to a clueless person, who doesn’t always feed her the right information, so sometimes the errors are compounded instead of corrected. And the constant talking drives me nuts and makes it hard for me to hear what's being said at the podium.

The person behind me never shuts up. When she’s not singing, she’s talking. She. Never. Shuts. Up. She has a joke, a comment, a complaint, about everything. She never shuts up!! She doesn’t even whisper – she talks. Her constant stream of consciousness, which resumes as soon as we stop singing, makes it a real challenge for me to hear the director’s instructions. And then, when we are about to start singing again, she doesn’t know where we are, or what to do, because she has been talking the whole time! And so she asks her neighbor, and there is a whole whispered conversation right behind me. This happens oh, ten or fifteen times during every rehearsal. And she taps her foot on my chair.

In fact, this is the chattiest choir I’ve been in for a long time. There’s a constant buzz of voices whenever we stop singing. It is disrespectful to the director, to the music, to each other.

Then there’s the group of singers who sit in the two rows behind me. They seem to be in the ensemble for the purpose of competing to see who among them can sing the loudest and with the brassiest sound. They never sing really quietly; at most, they will shut it down to mezzo-piano. Perhaps they get away with it because they are in the back row. Maybe they just can’t sing quietly. I don’t know. But they get into this sort of vortex with each other, especially in loud passages. In this case, it can really be overwhelming; one of them has a particularly penetrating voice, and pretty soon they are all wailing away like so many Valkyries. (That’s not really fair; I love Die Götterdämmerung and don't mean to malign the Valkyries.)

And once ― just once! ― it would be so nice if everyone returned from break on time.

And did I mention the coughing? Why is it that whenever we stop singing, twenty or thirty people start to cough, cough, cough??? Actually, there’s a simple answer for that; they are singing improperly (too loudly, too harshly) and causing all sorts of vocal strain. The vocal cords excrete mucous to protect themselves from trauma; the singer coughs off the annoying mucous (more trauma!) or clears the throat (more trauma!) which just makes the problem worse. Some singers were actually holding their throats after we sang a particularly robust passage this evening – it should never hurt to sing. If it hurts to sing, you’re doing it wrong. Get some help from a voice teacher! And please, stop coughing. Just stop.

OK. That feels better.

If you find yourself annoyed after having read this, then perhaps you're one of the guilty ones. Sorry to annoy you. [/s]

Here are some tips to make the next rehearsal a little easier for everyone:

1. Follow the instructions from the director. First and foremost, MARK YOUR SCORES. It's not too late. Please. I am ready to rat on you.

2. Be quiet during rehearsal. Just be quiet. Do not talk. Do. Not. Talk. Sing when you're asked to sing; sit quietly the rest of the time. You might learn something.

3. Take responsibility for yourself. Pay attention. At the very least, know where the director is working so you are ready when he calls on your section to sing.

4. Learn to sing properly so that you do not cough for three hours.
 
5. Come back from break on time. A ten-minute break does not mean that you leave the break room when ten minutes have passed. It means that when ten minutes have passed, you are back in your seat and ready to sing.

6. Stop kicking my chair.
 
This is, after all, an adult choir.

********

Morning Reflection:

Perhaps that was a long rant, perhaps disproportional to the topic.

Well, no.

A choir is made up of individuals, but all must have a common understanding and a common purpose. When we choose to join a choir, we essentially agree to stop being individuals during those few hours of rehearsal and performance. And that means that we agree to adhere to the standards, customs, and rules that enable us to be a truly unified choir. (I've written about this subject at length on Quodlibet; check the "Chorister" and "Rehearsing" subject tags to the right.)  Although if you're the sort of person who is reading the rantings of a confessed/obsessed chorister, then none of this information will be new to you.


More of my essays on the life of a chorister, and more about choral rehearsals and choral music, may be found here: http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Chorister

Shadow Bird

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On a sunny afternoon last August, I had the awning closed over the west-facing kitchen windows. A bird lit on the awning and sprawled out in the sun, spreading its feathers and opening its beak so as to absorb maximum amounts of vitamin D.


Not sure what it was. Wrong shape of bill for a house sparrow or finch; too small for a robin, though the bill would be good for robin. No hint of a crest, such as on a titmouse. Atypical behaviour for Carolina wren, which does hang around the deck. Hmm.

Hunter’s Moon


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Hunter’s moon over the meadow, November 9, 2011.

The harvest moon is the full moon which occurs nearest to the autumnal equinox. The hunter’s moon is the first full moon after the harvest moon.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Traces

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On a recent frosty morning, when I stepped to the edge of the deck to hang up the suet feeders, I saw this beautiful image:


It seems that a mourning dove had alighted briefly on the deck rail, perhaps to see if the seed had been put out yet.

Friday, November 11, 2011

After the Storm

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Though nearly all the snow from the late-October storm has melted (there are still a few patches in shady spots), we are all affected by the accumulated debris left by the storm.

Outdoors, the debris includes millions of cubic yards of broken trees and limbs brought down by the heavy snow. Many homeowners are faced with the prospect of repairing roofs, gutters, fencing, and gardens damaged in the storm. We were lucky: we lost some large limbs from a favorite oak tree and from my beloved red mulberry, but we did not lose any entire trees, and our house and cars were not damaged. Though the generators are now quiet, these beautiful late-fall days are marred by the whine of chain saws and the grinding roar of wood chippers, noise that I expect will continue for some weeks.

Indoors, there’s a big mess to be cleaned up, too. When our power was restored after 11 days, I was grateful to have a washer and dryer as I had something like fifteen loads of laundry to do. (Lots of sheets and towels; K and three of her HC friends were with us during the outage, as HC had also lost power and had been entirely evacuated.) Once the lights came back on, I was dismayed to see how dirty the house had become; I spent a morning dusting, vacuuming, and putting stuff away. As I cleaned, washed, folded, and dusted, I became keenly aware of how difficult it must be for people who must live without the privileges of reliable electricity, running hot and cold water, and the money to pay for something as simple as a vacuum cleaner.

It was good to be able to bake bread again.

My office ought to be declared a disaster area. Not because it’s dirty, or messy, but because it is overcome by storm debris ― namely, the many research and writing projects which languished during the power outage. I’ve got a lot to do in the next few weeks: In my “for-profit” office, I must prepare a proposal for a big literature review for a major client, then do the research itself and prepare the report. I’ll also be working on researching and writing several technical papers for my other major client. In my “non-profit” office, I’ll be researching and writing program notes for a choral concert; preparing for an important board meeting next week; compiling statistics and data in preparation for a grant review panel; revising and re-designing a publicity piece for a non-profit; and drafting a marketing plan. There are other things, but those are the highlights.

Oh, and lots of music to work on for one, two, three, four, five upcoming concerts.

Oh, and Thanksgiving is just two weeks away, which means shopping, baking, and cooking in anticipation of K’s visit. And she might be bringing friend, or two, or three. That will be nice.

I won’t be writing much here for a while as I deal with my own storm clean-up, but I’ll try to post some images now and again.

Here are a few pictures showing the snow accumulation early in the storm and late in the storm. I've chosen these pictures, taken from my kitchen window, because this is the view I enjoy while I'm doing most of my office work.