January 12, 2019 Floyd
Cold and bitter are the wintry days that are here with a frigid wind cutting through mortal bodies, seeping into the very soul. Yet, close observation reveals many tiny specks of green, different plants that hug the earth tightly now, waiting for the warmer days of sunlight. One such plant is the common mullein, often seen as a weed instead of as the magnificent herb that it is.
The common mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is a herb that grows easily with few special requirements. It thrives in various places as long as there is ample sunlight. From soil-rich woodsy areas to wastelands, this edible plant with green-silver leaves is easy to grow, and for this reason, is a simple addition to any flower garden in need of tall, showy, yellow-blooming plants.
The plant is a biennial, meaning the leaves grow to maturity in the first growing season, and in the second year the plant produces seeds and then dies at the end of that growing season. For the mullein the first year consists of a growth of fuzzy leaves which radiate outward from a center, creating a rosette. These leaves may reach a length of a foot, so this velvety green-silver foliage is quite impressive on its own. In the second growing season a tall stalk, sometimes as high as two feet, emerges from the center of the leaves and then yellow blooms appear on the stalk. The taller the stalk, the longer the herb will bloom.
The blooms are a bright yellow, attractive especially to bees and butterflies and certain other pollinators. Sometimes resplendent for weeks on end, these flowers are bright and uplifting, adding pleasantly to any flower bed or herb garden.
The common mullein is native to Europe, Africa, and Asia but was brought to North America by the early settlers in the 1700's because of its great medicinal values. The Native Americans soon learned from the colonists how beneficial this herb is, and they too cultivated it for their own uses. Because of its undemanding growing requirements the plant quickly spread across the United States and by 1876 it was found along the Pacific coast.
And what is so special about this common wildflower? To early settlers, it had many potential uses, including these: respiratory relief, earache relief, antiseptic for skin infections, and soothing for bruises. The leaves and flowers have been included in salads, and the flowers have been used to create dyes for cloth. Mullein tea is an easy-to-make drink. Besides their outward beauty, the practical value of this plant has been utilized through the generations.
The common mullein has been called many names. Parts of the stalks and leaves were once used to make lamp wicks, so the plant was called the candlewick plant, and the Romans of long ago used the mullein to make torches. One legend claims witches used the plant to make torches, earning it the name hag tapers, while a contradictory tale says that torches made from the mullein would drive away evil spirits. It may also be called rabbit ears because of the velvet texture of the beautiful leaves, and probably for a similar reason it has been known as cowboy toilet paper. Other names are velvet plant, flannel-leaf, and big taper. So many names simply add testimony to the intense value of this too-often disdained common herb.
In the midst of these cold bitter winter days it's refreshing to ponder the wonders of spring that will be here sooner than we realize. Observing the leaves of the common mullein curled tightly against the frozen earth, still maintaining their striking green-silver luster, reminds us that spring is soon to appear. Until then, we need to be like the mullein, thriving in spite of the intense cold. For, you see, the mullein must have the cold of winter in order to bloom in early summer. This process, called vernalization, is absolutely necessary. The present wintry frigidness allows for the glorious blooming when the warmth returns to the land. There's a lesson for us in that!
Please note: The intent of this blog is to awaken an interest in all of us to learn more and more about nature. Do not attempt any medicinal uses of this or any other herb without consulting your own physician and thoroughly detailed sources.
Want to learn more about this delightful plant? Here are a few Web sites for getting started!
December 30, 2018 Floyd
The old year is soon to be in the archive pages, days gone by, memories made, lessons learned, inspiration gained. Where does the time go? To me there is no answer to this eternal question.
I reflect on the wonders of nature experienced through this year. There's no point in recounting them one by one. But, there are a few that stand out from the past few human-induced busy weeks
.On December 20th I was overjoyed to witness a quiet moment, stolen from the yard inhabitants, the white-tail deer that live here. Looking out the upstairs bathroom window I was able to silently appreciate the six deer that were lounging around in the backyard. Contentedly, they lay in the winter grass, chewing while they surveyed their kingdom. Through the glass I could see the individual strands of fur, and the light reflected in their eyes testified to their importance in the grand scheme of life. They were the real epitome of the season, a true peace on earth.
The other night after the sun had set and darkness walked the countryside I was out and about on a nightly ramble. (If you've never done this in winter and are in a place of safe walking, then I encourage you to take a chilly nighttime walk.) Through the ebony blanket came the sound of a hoot owl. Its primal call vibrated thorugh the stillness of the crisp air, giving a feel of nature's wildness that hovers here. As the owl's hoots eerily filled the air, I realized the specialness of the moment, sharing this primitive bit of time with the other night seekers
And tonight! Warmer than it has been in a while, the winter frigidness seemed to be held at bay, making the nightly outdoor escapade pleasant. Yet, the abnormal warmth did not diminish the stars' brilliance. The sky glowed vibrantly, the bright twinkles adding an extra dimension to the celestial canvas. Stars with their glistening radiance always create in me a sense of seeing into heaven's portals, tiny pinpricks in the sky that allow us mere mortals to catch a glimpse of the resplendent next world.
This year will soon be over, another chapter closed in this grand adventure of life. Looking back, it all seems so short, so quickly passed. Yet, looking forward into the new year, it is so far-reaching, open with expectations and possibilities. May the next part of each of our journeys be filled with love and joy and peace. May we grow in our appreciation of the wildness of nature, and may we be blessed with countless opportunities to be a part of the wonders of nature. Safe travels, dear friends, and joyous adventures!
December 9, 2018 Floyd
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
~ Robert Frost
December 8, 2018 Floyd
The air is cold, and the skies are cloudy. The feel of snow is here, seeping through layers of thick clothes, reminding the soul of the beauties and the dangers of frozen precipitation
.Instinctively, I want to eat, even though I'm not really hungry. And it's not just me. The cats and the dog and the horses all seem to have the munchies today. It's a survival reaction, the urge to add layers of insulation by eating. Cold affects all of us in the same way; the more natural insulation we have, the better we can ward off the frigid air. Sometimes this means the difference between living and dying.
There is also an indwelling thought that we had better eat now while food is readily available. Our primitive heritage shows itself, pushing to the forefront the idea that once the cold and snow and ice all blanket the ground, then finding food will be even more difficult.
Wild animals deal with this daily, and the winter months are especially brutal for them. Not only do they need the added insulation for self-protection against the biting cold, they also struggle to find food. They are now resigned to the occasional berries, acorns and other tree nuts, and whatever meager grass and evergreens they can find. It's a tough time.
Any safe food we can leave out for wildlife at this time especially is most helpful. And, any help we can give to our less fortunate human brothers and sisters is also valuable. Now is not the time to be selfish, but rather we need to respond to another primitive urge, that of being social creatures that join together for survival.
Enjoy these days. Let go of the guilt and savor those munchies. Be generous in whatever ways you can. Wherever you are, I hope you can feel the warmth in spite of the cold-in body and soul.
December 5, 2018 Floyd
Today's morning walk revealed a pair of blue jays flitting about in the pines. Their vibrant blues with black trim were a welcome sight amidst all the greens and grays. The biting cold didn't seem to diminish their zest for life, and their exuberance was uplifting, for sure.
Blue jays are unique birds in their own right. They were among some of the first birds noticed and recorded by the early European settlers in the New World. Considering their showy behaviors and intense blue plumage which is accented by black bands, it's no wonder these feathered flyers were so outstanding. They continue now to be among the most visible birds at backyard feeders and along wooded trails.
Possibly the most striking feature of blue jays is their plumage. They appear to be a rich blue. This, however, is misleading, for they are really brown. Seriously! The feathers appear blue because of the way their shape catches and reflects sunlight. The intense blue is really an optical illusion, but oh, what a pleasing misconception!
Some bird watchers consider blue jays to be bullies, for they often drive away smaller birds from feeders. They are often loud with their calls, sometimes obnoxiously so; they can even mimic the cries of a hawk, although it is not clear why they do this. There has also been some observation of them eating eggs and fledglings of other bird species, but the data does not yet clarify if this is a common practice.
Yes, jays are aggressive, and they don't hesitate to use their forcefulness to get what they want. It would be easy to personify these birds, for their intrusive behaviors are so often seen similarly in humans that make a successful mark on the world. Sometimes it is the ones that forge ahead against all odds that emerge in the lead.
Love them or hate them, we do need to give respect to these beautiful feathered neighbors. Once hindered by the clearing of forests in the eastern United States, blue jays adapted and learned to survive in more developed areas, including in large cities. They are intelligent, survivors down through time. Their beauty is surpassed by none, especially in the frigid winter when their intense shades of blue allude to brighter, warmer days.
Would you enjoy learning more about blue jays? Chek out these Web sites:
December 4, 2018 Floyd
The air itself seems to be awaiting the incoming weather. There is a biting crispness in the atmosphere, almost piercing the ears, definitely reminding the soul to prepare. Winter forecasts abound, bouncing around in the social realm; yet, it doesn't take a media outlet to verify moisture hangs in the air and cold seeps into the bones.
There is a specialness to winter. The anticipation of precipitation is probably most pronounced in the cold months, a wait-and-see excitement that continues to affect most long after the years of childhood have passed.
Plans of preparation are made, plans for heat and food and hot chocolate and sled rides. Warm beds are ensured for pets, and the farm animals are gathered in. Extra wildlife food may be put out, especially for the birds. Elderly neighbors and others that need special care are checked on, for this is the way it is-we look out for each other and never assume that all is well.
Winter can be a harsh time. The cold is frigid, and the wind can be unforgiving. Perseverance reaches a different level than in other seasons, and preparing ahead of the storm is a necessity. But, there is also a grand beauty to winter, a stark clarity of the overall power of nature and of our human fragileness in the face of that strength. Stay warm and safe, dear reader friends, and let your youthful spirits lift a bit as we look forward to the wintry days ahead. The anticipation of precipitation is upon us!
November 26, 2018 Floyd
Time passes, more and more quickly. Here we are almost to the tip end of November, yet it seems the year has only just begun. The seasons have rolled around once again with the fingertips of fall holding on for a few more days before the calendar beginning of winter. Time marches on.
In today's walks I looked for the beauty of nature. I am a spring-summer person. Fall and winter are not my favorites, but even I must admit that these seasons too have their purposes. The miracles of the creation are still here, continuing the natural life cycle of all.
Now that most of the rich, royal colors of fall have faded, the deep greens are shining forth. Pines and laurels and persistent grasses are the main colors now. Most everything else has subsided, so now the greens and grays and browns are bursting into view. I need to make a list of what is still green. I probably will be surprised and should gain a new respect for the growth that persists in spite of the encroaching cold.
And, that's the point, isn't it? Time marches on, and the seasons come and go. Life, though, continues on, if not for each individual creature, then for the life force. Energy abounds, flowing from one being into another, perpetuating the zeal for moving forward. All we can do is embrace each day for the opportunity it provides, hopefully adding some good to the overall grand composition.
November 25, 2018 Floyd
I saw a woolly bear today, black as black can be. The folk legends declare that this means a severe, bitter winter is ahead. Whether the caterpillar is the true indicator or not, the harsh winds of cold are upon us. Maybe the caterpillar, completely adorned in black, is speaking the truth.
Woolly bears, also known as woolly worms, are the caterpillars of Isabella tiger moths. In the adult moth form, these relatives to butterflies are a tannish-brown color with a vertical row of black spots on the body and tiny black dots scattered across the bottoms of the inner wings. The adult moths are relatively inconsequential, but the caterpillars are probably the most recognized caterpillars in America. Found in Mexica, throughout all of the United States, and across southern Canada, these bristly, harmless caterpillars are known by most everyone.
Normally, there is a brownish-orange band between the two ends of black. As the legend goes, the wider the band of orange, the milder the winter will be; therefore, a completely black caterpillar indicates a winter of severe weather.
True or not? It's hard to say. The folklore is not based on hard-core scientific research. Some would say it's all hogwash, not dependable at all. But, maybe there is merit in it. Beyond, but not excluding, the woolly bear, I personally believe the animal kingdom is more empowered with a knowledge of upcoming weather than the best meteorologists. After all, the lives of those in the natural world depend on their self-preparation. It would serve all us humans well to observe the actions of the wild ones around us, from the tiny to the majestic. Truth bearers or not, their daily lives are fascinating to watch and more real than any human productions.
Are you seeking more information about woolly bears? Check out these Web sites.
November 22, 2018 Floyd
Today, this day set aside for the giving of thanks, I thought on the blessing of peace that we have here. It is no small matter to live in a place of peace, where we don't have to walk in fear, where being outside alone in the great outdoors is a mostly safe, common choice.
In so many places in the nation and in the world there is outrageous danger, especially in being outside alone. Evil runs rampant, and the violence that some humans impart on other humans is beyond description. It is impossible to gain spiritual renewal from the joys of nature because people are in mortal danger. This is tragic and goes against the plan of the Creator.
So, on this day of thanksgiving, I reflect on the supreme blessing that I have enjoyed always, the pleasure of going outside and soaking in the tranquility that nature offers. To sit in peace and watch a butterfly land on a bloom, to take a walk with only the sounds of the forest chirping and singing and cooing and calling, to rest beside a babbling brook and feel with my soul the eternal motion of the water cascading over the rocks placed there eons ago-these are all gifts. These all lead to peace, a deep, in-the-spirit, oneness with the universe that supersedes all else.
I hope that, wherever you are, you too have your own spot of joy. My wish is that you too have a small bit of earth and sky and water that give to you the blessings of a sense of wonder in the magical moments of nature that remind us that we ourselves are so small in the grand picture. Humbleness of the soul is a tremendous part of peace within. Blessings to you, dear friend. Peace.
November 18, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
This is a most unique place, one of special opportunities to touch nature in so many ways, on so many levels. To be here is a gift, an experience that creates a sense of awe and humbleness. It is a place of quietness for the soul and inspiration for the artist and writer, while also exuding energy and adventure.
It has been our great pleasure and our tremendous honor to be a part of this wonderful bit of earth. We have so many memories here: discovery and joy and sorrow, accomplishments and injuries, lots of laughter and a few tears.
The observations are endless and can never be fully recounted: eagles, herons, Canada geese, mallard and merganser ducks and the other types that sent me time and time again to my duck resources looking for identification, the least bittern, otters, the chubby groundhog, the Velveteen Rabbit, and the bear.
Some became very personal to us: Goldie and Galahad, come spring I will be hoping you successfully nest your goslings this time; Osrik, once called Serena, thank you for being such a calm mallard, only protesting my intrusion of your space on the trail with one small quack; Mr. Bear, thank you for observing our fire pit steaks from a distance (as told to us the next day by a passing neighbor). And the beavers! The best meteorologists around! I will miss you most with your wise ways and amazing craftscritter skills.
The memories taken from here will always be a part of our lives. The lessons learned from absorbing the wonders of nature, lessons that strengthen the human soul, will never be forgotten, as they have become a part of who we are. Every day brings at least one gift, and our gifts from this place have been immeasurable.
The joy is the place is now in the hands of kindred spirits. There are no words to express how this helps. The new owners have the same vision, and the same desire to be a part of this most special place. They too recognize that the greater pleasure is being a part of nature here, not the intruder seeking to overpower and destroy. It is our gift that they came our way and felt the same love that we have. Now the essence of this place can touch more lives, enlarging the circle of pure goodness. This makes my heart happy.
November 6, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
by Carl Sandburg
The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.
And so it was this evening. The fog crept silently from the cove, moving downward over the lake. Without sound it soon covered the water with a veil of gray, adding a sense of enchantment to a place already most beloved.
The lake has many faces, and the one presented this evening at twilight was one of magic and fairies, of a place where the animals talk and where humans are the ultimate intruders. Still present but with lessened intensity, the colorful display of the trees' oranges and yellows and evergreens was overlaid with the lacy fog shroud. Moving truly on small cat paws, the fog crawled slowly across the water's surface, once again demonstrating nature's power on what will be.
Then the heavens were lit with amazing glory. The pinks and purples of the fluffy clouds created a unique magnificence, made even moreso by the contrasting darkening sky. The silent gray veil and the awe-inspiring celestial colors complemented each other perfectly.
Nature never sits still. There is always movement and change, energy transforming from one element to another. In today's twilight moments the ever-silent footsteps of the silvery fog inched along lowly while the heaven's roses spilled across the clouds.
October 30, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
To those with open eyes the wonders of nature abound. There is great beauty in these little glimpses into another world, a dimension of life that has nothing to do with humans, good or bad.
This afternoon while walking along the lakeshore trail to the Rock Garden I had such a moment in time. A large bundle of fur, and I mean probably near thirty pounds, was hunched over on the bank, right at the edge of the water. Coming closer I realized I was within ten feet of a massive beaver, possibly the patriarch or the matriarch of the beaver clan. The mighty creature was not alarmed by me at all and simply watched with its chocolate brown eyes.
After a few minutes it slid gracefully into the cool lake water, continuing to munch placidly on the bundle of twigs clutched in its strong front paws. Paddling peacefully, it actually started vocalizing with a unique chittering chatter. This was a special time to be sure, a close encounter with such a wild critter, one that seemed content to tolerate me in its world.
I continued along the trail, and the beaver eventually swam out a bit from the shore and then continued on in the same direction, making its own way toward the Rock Garden. There was no distress or haste, only the same mindset that I had-we both had work to do and our social time was over, at least for that moment.
What a joy it is to experience these events! I will always treasure this bubble in time that I had with this beaver. There are no meager words to capture the sensation of being so close and seemingly being accepted by this master craftscritter. Yet, there we were, the two of us suspended together in that surreal moment. It was my gift. Thank you, dear beaver friend.
October 28, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Simple Royalty-A Haiku
Feathered fleet paddling
A flotilla most regal
Fine geese elegance
October 25, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Some animals have certain adjectives that consistently describe their attributes-busy bees, clever foxes, curious cats, and so forth. For otters, the word playful easily comes to mind.
They are back here on the lake, these boisterous water mammals, complete with their merry personalities.It was about this time last year that we spent a few days happily watching these members of the weasel family, so today when they reappeared we were excited to see them back. They did not disappoint us with an energetic display.
Three otters cavorted in the lake water in such a carefree way, their sleek bodies diving and swimming so gracefully. It truly seemed that they kept looking to the shore,as if making sure we were being the appropriately impressed audience. It was impossible to not laugh out loud, for they were so entertaining.
Otters are found on every continent, except Antarctica and Australia. They have fur especially dense with the purpose of protecting their bodies from cold water and also for giving them extra buoyancy. Otters have the densest fur of all mammals. Their fur consists of two coats, the outer for protection against the cold water and the inner for trapping air close to the body for easier floatation and warmth.
Otters are somewhat social with the mother providing the primary care for the babies, which usually stay with her for the first year of their lives. Sometimes the father returns to the den a few weeks after the birth and helps with the pup rearing. In times of abundant food and favorable living conditions, otters may congregate together in larger groups. A group of otters may be called a bevy or a romp or when in water a raft. What a fun name for a gathering of these fun animals, a romp!
For more information about and adorable photos of these sleek mammals wih positive energy, check out these Web sites:
October 23, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
"Music acts like a magic key, to which the most closely tight heart opens," said Maria Augusta von Trapp once upon a time. Last evening we saw a demonstration of this in a most unusual way.
It was another perfect time to gather around the fire pit. The temperature was a bearable fall crispness, and the huge full moon illuminated both the land and the water. The setting was almost magical, and the orange and purple flames from the fire added just the right amount of needed warmth.
The Canada geese had landed on the lake earlier, coming in for their splash-down with their usual trumpeting calls. When we went to the Rock Garden with a load of wood for the fire, we saw them swimming placidly in the shallow lagoon to the left of the Rock Garden.
Later when it was time to light the fire and bake the potatoes, the geese ever so elegantly paddled away, cruising with their trademark grace through the channel water. We were glad they didn't fly but simply moved on to the creek and the bottom land.
A new addition to our regular fire pit time was the radio. Music had been missing from these most special times, so this evening we brought along the portable radio and a few CD's. The tunes certainly added to the relaxation.
After a while, in surprise, we realized the geese were coming back! Floating back down the creek channel, they came mostly in quietness with the occasional goose call. We could almost hear their webbed feet tapping along with the music! They stayed nearby the rest of the time we were there, close enough to be considered a part of our fire side party! What fun to at least imagine it was the music that drew them back! Music is a powerful influence on all souls, it seems.
October 22, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
We have now moved into the autumn face of the lake. The lake has many faces, different shades of the same being, presented in various ways. It is so easy to personify the lake because it seems so human in many ways.
Now the quietness of fall is here. The lakeshores lack the sounds of summer-the songs of the frogs, the chirps of the insects, the almost audible sultry heat waves. The quiet reigns now, not completely but almost. Yet, there is a sense of the time before, meaning the time before the winter sets in, the time before the deep winter rest that comes to the lake and the land.
Presently, the colors abound-yellows and browns, oranges and reds. These vibrant displays intermix with the constant greens and blues; the bright hues add a new visual loveliness to the natural colors of summer. Summer hesitated to depart, making way for autumn, but now autumn fills the scenery, making its presence known in all the splashes of warm colors on parade.
Many consider fall to be the most beautiful season, and this is correct in many ways. Nature's palette of paints spills over, dousing tree leaves with warm earthy colors. The brightness of reds and oranges and yellows are unrivaled in exuding energy, oozing a zest for outdoor pleasures while the temperatures are still bearable. Nature beckons even the hardest of hearts to partake in the glories of being outside one last time before the cold grip of winter grabs us all.
The dynamic colors and the crisp air fill one with a need to get outside, to do as our ancestors did, making a connection with our primal roots of being one with nature. Have you felt the pull? Does the mountain peak in your view call to you or the neighborhood park or the privacy of your own land? Don't neglect the urge! Get out there! Take a walk, a hike, or a strenuous climb. Whatever your level of opportunity is, seize it! Just move, and you will be amazed at the revival of your senses that will come with a session in nature! Enjoy! Breathe! Relax! Revive!
October 15, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
In the quiet twilight time there's nothing better than sitting by the fire pit, watching the flames dance and hearing only the soft sounds of the lake. This is another great blessing of this truly special place.
Gathering stray sticks is a relaxing prefire activity, a necessary task that doesn't require a lot of thought; thus, the mind can wander through mundane paths, allowing mental rest. This simple chore provides the fuel for the fire, while clearing the area of natural debris left behind by winds and rain. But, more than that, wood gathering is peaceful exercise, done at one's own pace and resulting in positive, useful outcomes.
The large native rocks have been placed strategically in a loose circle, creating the perfect fire pit for the now gathered branches to be lit. Flames of brilliant oranges, purples, and yellows dance in the darkening light, burning the dead wood while giving the fireside sitters the opportunity to be still and reflective. Inspiration comes easily here-answers to problems, artistic visions, renewed hopes and dreams.
The voices of the lake night speak softly here. Animal sounds, unidentified and intriguing, resound across the calm water. The flutttering of nighttime bird wings whisper by, and fish jump from the coolness of the lake. Beavers are most busy in the dark hours, and their water-slapping splashes give away their stealthy maneuvers.
Sitting by a fireside, especially at night, is one of the simple pleasures of life. The perfect place for roasting marshmallows on a stick or cooking hamburgers or steaks in a flat frying pan or baking potatoes in the hot coals, it's also an ideal time to live simply, close to nature's basic elements, even if just for an evening. Feeding the body with open-fire cooking or feeding the soul with restful inspiration, time spent by an outdoor fire is never time wasted. I hope you can find the time to do this for yourself sometime in the near future. You won't regret it.
October 11, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
William Shakespeare once wrote, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" (Romeo and Juliet). Thus is the case of Serena, the quintessential duck who must have a name change. This creature of splendid serenity will now be called Osric, a male version of Serena.
Last evening I finally had a bit of time to research ducks once again in an attempt to determine what kind of duck this calm one is. All visual portrayals point to him being a nonbreeding male mallard, meaning a mallard not in breeding season. Image after image supported this conclusion, along with a few written descriptions.
Osric has the markings of a male mallard, just without the defining glistening green head. Yet, this seems to be the appearance of the male when not in the season for reproduction. All other coloration patterns are in place, including the distinct blue band of color under each wing. This blue band is also found on female mallards, but alas, there is no other visual support for this one being a female; the mottled light brown feathers over most of the body are not present.
Subconsciously, I think I knew this duck was a male, but because of the tranquil nature I wanted it to be a female, mostly so that I could call it Serena. It would seem that all of my years of birdwatching would have forcefully reminded me that there are too many colors, even the rich brown ones, for this to be a female.
Now Serena has become Osric, which is an old Anglo-Saxon name that means "divine ruler." At this time, he does seem to rule the lake with his calm presence. In his wisdom he knows there is no reason to get excited over the small stuff, and in reality it's all small stuff. Regardless of the name, this is truly one of the calmest creatures, including all human acquaintances, that I have ever known. I watch Osric, and I seek to internalize his serenity in the hopes that I can make this tranquility a part of myself.
October 10, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
There is a fulfilling sense of bringing restoration to a dwelling, to giving it another opportunity to provide shelter and protection. The cottage here has been our joy to restore.
Once a community store the building is solid, built of concrete block and strong wood. The concrete block walls create an excellent temperature regulator. Once the rooms are cooled in the warm weather, they stay cool, and once they are warmed during the crisply cold days, they stay warm. There is also a sense of strength in these walls, a stability that has already withstood 60+ years. This place has endured for many years, and there is no reason to suspect that will change.
Cosmetic chnages have occurred here, though. Now the walls, inside and out, have been covered with warm pine boards. The rooms inside glow with the radiance of the yellow pine, creating a cozy feel of welcome and safety. In the grand room handcrafted beams adorn the ceiling with a rustic elegance, and a moveable cedar bar, also handcrafted, is another touch of rustic charm in the main room.
And the floor! If it could only speak, the tales of all the years it could tell! The original wood floor has now been sanded and revarnished, shining with a new warm luster! The marks of character are still present, but these add to, rather than take away from, the charm. How many countless feet visited the community store with steps of joy or weariness or indifference? Yet, now these boards are buffed and polished clean, barefoot worthy, with just the vague preservation of the years found under the gloss.
A kitchen is here now, and bedrooms too. A full bathroom provides all the present-day amenities, and a mudroom has plenty of space. New windows have replaced the old, and new French doors open onto a spacious deck that flows into the backyard.
The flat backyard is perfect for hours of play by the young and the young at heart, and a quiet stream meanders from the bordering woods, along the side of the house, and on into the lake on the other side of the paved road. The flat front yard is also large with superb parking space, and an old apple tree is on each side of this open space.
Yes, this is definitely a home, now restored with a crisp cleanness and numerous modern updates, many that are not mentioned here. The cozy atmosphere of this cottage makes the place charming and inviting all by itself, even without the lake and surrounding acres that provide a wonderful privacy. The sense of being away from it all is not hindered by the paved public road; rather, this low-traffic community road is a positive, providing easy access to not-too-far-away stores of modern conveniences. If there has ever been a place to have it all-privacy with nature and accessible conveniences, with a warm, cozy cottage and a private lake with trails and nature's beauty, this is it!
October 6, 2018 Floyd
Falling Leaves A Haiku
In the quiet woods
Cascading leaves sound like rocks
October 5, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Walking the trails beside the lake is one of the most relaxing ways to spend a bit of time. The sights are never exactly the same with each walk revealing a new glimpse into the natural world. Birds, turtles, fish, furry creatures, wildflowers, ferns, and mushrooms-these appear along the way, making the walks worth while.
Today, for instance, Serena, the quintessential duck, entertained us with her feather preening as she sat on a log in a shallow spot. Industriously, she twisted and turned, fluffing her beautiful feathers, causing the various shades of brown to glisten in the sunlight.
A great blue heron flew grandly around the bend in the lake and then dropped quickly behind the dam. We have found evidence below the dam of freshwater clams, tremendous in size, and this is probably a favorite morsel for the herons. Seeing these awesome birds stalk the lake's shallow water is quite the sight, and their patience is admirable. All the waiting, though, usually results in a quick darting jab with the long beak and the prey is caught.
Also today we saw turtles sunning on the logs and fish jumping from the water. Tiny ferns growing along the shady trail gave a silent testimony to nature's quietness, and the wild grasses are now adorned with tiny royal blue flowers, delicate but hardy. A squirrel scampered about in a tall tree, and a monarch flew from wildflower to wildflower.
Yes, the trails here are an integral part of the place. There is over half a mile of waterfront trail from the trail head at the cottage to the property's edge at the bridge. Meandering along the lakeshore, with a restful stop available at the Rock Garden, and then following the creek bank through the bottom land, this trail offers an easy calm walk or a brisk stroll.
Then there is the trail to the dam, also along the lake's shore. This trail is also an easy walk. At the end is the waterfall on the backside of the dam, one of the most beautiful sights to behold. Cool in the shade, this water walk is refreshing in so many ways, and a picnic table at this end too provides the perfect resting spot.
Walking the trails is definitely a highlight here. For those that don't like to walk or that can't, the sights can still be enjoyed. The trails are smooth enough for the golf cart, and ATV enthusiasts would love this property. Whether slowly or at a faster pace, traveling the land opens the many views of nature that are an intrinsic feature of Grist Mill Lake.
October 4, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Today is the day set aside to honor Saint Francis of Assissi, patron saint of animals and ecology. Whether one is Catholic or not, a love of nature means a respect for this humble man of long ago (1182-1226) who gave up a life of wealth and prestige and clothed himself in humility and poverty, helping the poor and restoring neglected churches in forgotten forest corners.
It is refreshing to know that the spirit of Saint Francis continues some 800 years later, that there are still people around who care about maintaining harmony with the environment and all its inhabitants. For the true nature enthusiast there is no other way to be.
Life here at Grist Mill Lake exemplifies this harmony. Our desire has been to cause as few disturbances as possible to the ebb and flow of the natural world. Wildflowers are left blooming, sharing their beauty with us and their nourishment with the insects and other critters. The beavers nightly continue on as master craftscritters, the fish jump from the lake's surface reaching for their insect meals, and the turtles repose peacefully on floating logs. We watched with wonder and joy as the herons nested and successfully hatched their egg clutches in the heronry high in the lofty sycamores. Ducks and geese come and go, filling the lake with their regal presences. Rabbits munch clover in the yard, and squirrels scurry about. Owls screech in the twilight hours, and the eagles soar majestically with their high keening call echoing through the air.
There is so much here to admire, respect, and preserve. There is no other place quite like Grist Mill Lake, a world unto itself. The harmony with nature that reigns gives such a peace to the human soul. Inspiration comes easily here, and the possibilities for personal growth are endless. Saint Francis would like this quiet, unassuming place, complete with its oneness with nature.
October 3, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Serena's serenity still holds high court here with the lake and its surrounding shores being one of the most spiritually calming places I have ever been.
Serena herself has become our mascot for peace, and we treasure her quiet, unassuming presence on these waters. We are not sure from where she came or why she is alone, but we watch for her each day, and our spirits lift just by observing her. She travels so quietly, sailing forth from the bank when we get too close, leaving a silent, rippling wake behind. Certain places are her favorites, but we are never sure which one will be her hiding place.
Serena is a duck, and she personifies the quintessential duck in body shape and coloration. Yet, she is also her own self. Unlike the other ducks here, she never flies or quacks; she is content to live each day clothed in her own classy quietness, having no desire to make her presence known or to prove that she rules. Yet, it is this very admirable elegance that sets her apart and places her on the queen's throne of Grist Mill Lake.
Peace of heart and mind and soul, these are distinguishing features of the unique pleasures found in this charming place. Here there is no room for negativity and sorrow or for troubles and calamities because the lake's realm is so filled with peace and positivity. It's impossible to not feel the saturation of oneness with nature, and this prevailing calm seeps into our beings with a thoroughness, as complete as water flowing into an empty void. Thank you, Serena, for being the tangible portrayal of the powerful, abstract spirit of unity and one accord that is here.
September 26, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
The faces of the lake here are numerous. This does not mean that the lake has multiple personalities but that, like the rest of us, she reveals herself only in bits and pieces. Today the rains fell steadily all day, and the water was veiled in the lacy curtain of falling liquid.
When it rains here there is a sense of privacy even greater than that felt each day. The water, the trails, the front yard itself, all have an atmosphere of being parts of a world of its own. Raindrops falling individually or as a huge sheet create the walls that block out the rest of the world, declaring no admittance to the everyday trials that bring troubles.
Peace leads the mind on rainy days here, soothing and refreshing to the soul. Few animals stir, and those who do are quiet and tranquil thenselves, also seeming to take the raindrops as their own stimulants for rest and repose.
These days speak to the artist in me. More clearly the words flow from my fingertips, and more clearly do I see the subtle colors and moods waiting to be captured on canvas or paper with paints or pencils or charcoal. The inspiration brought by the quiet rain-filled days is boundless, refreshing, pushing, all aspects needed to transform the pictures or the words in the mind to reality on the artist's blank surface. Peace prevails, and great is the fruit thereof. Rain on, sweet moisture drops from heaven.
September 6, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
This lakeshore place is special in countless ways. The unique features range from the natural to the historical to the inspirational. An abundance of wildlife, a variety of plants and trees, a private lake and spectacular waterfall, a rich history of community importance, a sense of personal privacy while being convenient to popular attractions, a serenity surpassed by none-these are only a few of the prominent elements of Grist Mill Lake. One other aspect that would appeal to many is the potential for living off-the-grid.
Off-the-grid living is a way of life that speaks to many for various reasons. The concept has varying levels of complexity, from being completely independent of outside establishments for basic living requirements, such as food and electricity, to simply having one's own well and septic system. The potential for off-the-grid living is definitely here on this property at whatever level the owner wishes to pursue.
The land is rich in water, including the spring that supplies the house with water and enough of a water overflow to turn a handcrafted, picturesque waterwheel. The water system has been upgraded recently; the spring box has been newly sealed from surface water, and new water line has been installed from the spring to the house. A new pump guarantees the needed water pressure for maintaining normal household functions.
The cottage itself is solidly built with concrete block walls twelve inches thick. These walls have been sealed with a water barrier, and new pine tongue-and-groove boards have been added to all the walls, inside and out. All the windows are new and are energy efficient. Handcrafted beams have been added to the grand room which also has the original wood floor, and the kitchen has been remodeled.The house has its own septic system.
The land is a rich loamy soil, perfect for gardening and making a pasture. Bottom land close to Frying Pan Creek allows for easy irrigation, if so desired. The 15+ acre lake itself is plentiful in fish, which are seen daily jumping from the water. Fruit trees are already here-apple, persimmons, pawpaws, and walnuts.
Off-the-grid living often employs energy sources that are independent of outside suppliers. Solar, hydo-power, and wind are the usual three natural means that are used to harness electricity. Solar and hydro-power options are definitely feasible here.
While this place can be as modern as one desires, it can also be a self-sufficient oasis away from society's demands. The privacy is supreme, even though stores of all types and eateries are close by; a major four-lane highway, Route 29, is just seven miles away. These characteristics are a desirable combination-excellent privacy and off-the-grid possibilities with close proximity to medical facilities and other necessary services. Grist Mill Lake is truly a most special bit of earth.
September 5, 2018 Floyd
Clover is a beautiful plant but is often overlooked because of its commonness. Yet, this is a pleasant ground cover to mix in with yard grass, one that is both easy on bare feet and a delicious food source for yard inhabitants. Clover, both red and white, deserves respect.
Both red and white clover grow quite well in most yard environments, and both add delightful splashes of color against the green grassy blades. Sadly, for a while many yard keepers only sought to eradicate this determined little plant, for clover was seen as a pest that disrupted the portrayal of the perfect lawn. Thankfully now though, clover is making a comeback, even in the most pristine yards.
If left unmowed, red clover grows a bit taller than white and in general has a larger bloom. Both types are enjoyed equally, though, by honey bees, butterflies, and other insects. These insects in turn do kind deeds for humans, producing honey or devouring harmful pests that do harm to flowers and vegetable gardens. There's not a sight more peaceful to the weary human than that of a rabbit, calmly munching clover without an obvious care in the world, clearly representing the truth that life has its tranquil moments.
Finding a clover with four leaves is considered good luck. There's reason behind this belief; according to The Old Farmer's Almanac, only 1 in every 10,000 clovers has 4 leaves, instead of the normal 3. A hungry rabbit or bare feet in the grass, here's a deserving hats-off to soft clover growing freely as nature intended.
September 2, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
It's always interesting when I see something in nature that exemplifies a word in our meager English language, and usually the representation better shows the true meaning than the word itself does. Here at the lake we are now seeing daily the demonstration of "serene," which has a denotation of "being calm at all times."
She is a lovely floating creature, a duck of insignificant coloration but with great beauty in mannerisms. We fondly call her Serena, the Serene One. She is always calm. Unlike the ducks of other species that inhabitat the lake from time to time, the mallards and mergansers and wood ducks for a short list, Serena doesn't become agitated when we get near. Unlike the others who will quack and fly at the smallest disturbance, Serena simply floats away, leaving behind not a sound and barely a ripple across the placid lake surface.
Just this morning I saw her at the edge of the lake near the Mimosa Flat, obviously hanging out in the water reeds at the shoreline. She saw me before I saw her, and she began her voyage across the lake to the overhanging shrubs on the far shore. She made not a sound, just set forth on her sail. She calmly looked left and right,left and right, as though checking the traffic on a busy thoroughfare. No one was coming, not a beaver or a turtle or a water strider, so onward she sailed, safely making it to the other side.
Her persistent serenity is an inspiration to me. She knows that most parts of each day are not worth expending a great deal of energy in excitement and distress. She never shows aggravation or anticipation. She remains calm, living each day here on the lake in her own serenity. The lake is like that, a place of immense peace. Serena has found hers here. There's plenty left for others to enjoy too.
September 1, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
We saw the eagle today, perched loftily in a sycamore tree on the far lake shore. It stayed motionless for the longest time, silently surveying its surroundings. Then out it soared with wings widely outstretched.
This majestic bird is the bald eagle, as we verified by its white head seen through the binoculars. It was here about this time last year and stayed into the winter months. Now it has returned, and its presence adds another element of regalness to the lake. Its high keening cry fills the air, and it seems proudly aware of the national symbolism that rests upon its strong avian shoulders.
Bald eagles are sometimes confused with golden eagles. Both are about the same size and have the same wingspan. Immature bald eagles even have a dark brown head like the golden eagle. Golden eagles are found primarily, though, from the Rockies westward, although their fall migratory trek may bring them briefly into some east coast areas.
We certainly enjoy the bald eagle that is here, and observing its behaviors is a wonder-filled experience. This is yet another example of the specialness of this place, this being able to see the daily behaviors of the national bird right from the living room windows. A gift, for sure!
If you would like to learn more about eagles, check out these web sites.
August 28, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
This evening I saw a leaf suspended in the air, held in place by a gossamer strand. The leaf hung there, motionless, catching the rays of twilight, as it seemed to defy the laws of gravity. For just a moment in time, for surely it will have descended to earth by morning, this weightless bit of nature appeared to do the impossible
.For just a moment in time...How many daily aspects of our lives are just that, a moment in time? Here at the lake we have witnessed so many extraordinary events, and most of those have been moments in time, gifts given to us because we are here in this special place, constantly aware of nature's ordinary workings. To us these occurrences are special, for we realize they are not so easily observed in other places.
The list is long and impossible to complete, but here are a few of our favorite things. The nightly frog chorus started in January, and these fine, deep voices, resounding from all around the lake, serenade us any evening we take the time to listen. There's nothing quite like the quacking of the ducks, and watching the various species has been most interesting. The Canada geese speak eloquently with their brassy voices as they make their splash downs each evening and sometimes when they depart in the mornings. Our days with Goldie and Galahad, the special pair of Canada geese, cannot be described with words but can only be conveyed from our hearts to those who have ever known, admired, and loved an animal.
The silent turtles basking in the sun, the butterflies fluttering here and there, and the almost-tame rabbit nibbling clover in the front yard, all have become a part of life here at Grist Mill Lake. Under the maiden blush apple tree, which still produces apples in spite of its vintage years, the groundhog sits and munches contentedly. Miss Kitty, our beautiful new feline friend, makes her appearances, unobtrusively, coming and going peacefully, gladly eating the kibbles left out for her.
The recollections could go on and on. Nature's gifts that we have received from the lake and the shoreline and the yard and the surrounding woods are immeasurable. Our desire is that the right group or person will also realize the uniqueness of this rare place and will have the means to make it his or her own.
August 23, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
A Tribute to Goldie and Galahad
The geese came in this evening, their loud voices filling the twilight sky. The joy this gave us is indescribable, to hear their heralding song as they made their splashdown.
Goldie and Galahad may be amongst them tonight as they swim quietly through the lake's waters, doing what geese do. I hope so. I can become emotionally attached to a snail, so it's no surprise that I grew to love Goldie and Gally as they endeavored to hatch two different clutches of eggs. The months involved gave so much time for observations, and my admiration for these two regal geese grew along with our anticipation of success.
When the first nest was destroyed by a predator, Goldie and Gally didn't give up. As nature allows, they tried again, nesting atop one of the dam piers for the second time.
I watched Goldie stay on her nest through pounding, pouring rain that lasted for hours and days. I watched her as she sweltered in intense heat, not forsaking her unborn goslings. Galahad so patiently stayed close by at all times, and his watchfulness was commendable. These two avian creatures exhibited a dedication to their young that surpasses that of many humans.
What happened in the end is still not clear. Goldie was on her nest the last time we saw her, although she and Gally had enjoyed a longer than normal swim in the cool waters. We took this as a sign that the goslings would soon appear. Gone for several days, we returned with huge expectations of seeing babies.
Alas, there were no babies. Three eggs had hatched, and one remained whole, left behind in the nest. There were also no signs of Goldie and Galahad.
Since then I have watched and waited diligently, hoping against hope that the geese family was thriving in the cove, safe from predators and watchful eyes. I haven't seen or heard them at all.
Goldie and Galahad, wherever you are, I send warm thoughts your way. If you have returned to the lake where you have already invested so much time, then I am happy and relieved. If you are somewhere else, then I wish you safety.
In the spring, if I am still here, maybe the two of you will return here and try again. Maybe then I will get to see your gray downy goslings, the family complete. And, if by then, someone else owns this gorgeous, unique property, then he or she can continue this story of you two, Goldie and Galahad, royalty portrayed.
I will always think of the time I spent with you in those months of your nesting endeavors. Thank you for letting me be a part, a tolerated observer in your lives.
August 7, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Mud can be a fascinating substance, especially when it reveals information. Today I was walking on the mud flat in the upper bottom, left behind by the creek water after the excessive rains. An astounding number of different animal tracks had been preserved in the mud, telling at least part of the tale of visitors.
There were tracks of ducks with their webbed paddlers, egrets with their distinct bird prints, and at least one turkey with its wide feet. The bottom land along the creek seems to be a favorite place for all these, and other, birds, probably in part because this arena gives them a bounty of food.
The beavers left the creek in the past few days to make their way across the mud flat. Their unique front paw prints were all over, indicating their travels. Something on the creek shores enticed them from their watery world, beckoning them onto the spongy shores.
Tiny deer tracks pranced all around in the mud. Maybe this was the fawn we saw a few weeks ago, nursing from its mother on the far shores of the cove. The mud flat is just across the creek from where we saw them earlier, so it's entirely possible it's the same small deer.
Turtle tracks were there too, two distinct types. One set of tracks had feet tracks on the sides with a squiggly dragging track between. Another set of tracks that are most probably a different type of turtle looked like two parallel lines of holes poked in the mud, continuing on for some distance and then appearing again farther along. We have seen various turtles here, specifically a huge snapping turtle and the smaller box turtles.
It was special to see these prints in the mud, revealing a tiny glimpse of how much life there is here in this place. Diverse members of wildlife travel freely here, as evidenced by the flow of feet through the mud flat. This one small portion of land with its muddy surface preserved, at least for a bit of time, these prints. Much to our delight we found them!
August 6, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Another water stalker has arrived here at the lake, and such a welcome sight this has been for us! This year we have not one great egret, but two with obvious intents of nesting!
The great egret is a magnificent white bird in the heron family. With long legs they stalk the shallow waters of lakes, ponds, and marshes, searching for food. Meat eaters, they enjoy fine dining meals of fish, amphibians, crustaceans, and reptiles. Their patience allows them to wait in a motionless position until the moment is right. Then they quickly grab their prey with their long dagger-like orange beaks.
Great egrets can be distinguished from other types of egrets by their orange beaks and black legs. The snowy egret is slightly smaller than the great egret, and it has a black bill instead of an orange one. The cattle egret is significantly smaller than the great, and it lives in fields more than in watery places. Juvenile little blue herons are also white, but their beaks are smaller and are a two-toned gray color; they have greenish-colored legs, not black.
It will be interesting to watch the pair of great egrets that are here now. Both the male and the female build the nest, after he picks the location, which is usually at least ten feet high in a tree. The nest is similar to that of other herons, a loosely assembled platform of sticks. Both parents will take turns incubating the eggs, and both with care for the young. So far, we have only seen them together, eating and wading. Time will tell if their mating intentions have come to pass. Nevertheless, we will certainly enjoy observing their pristine beauty against the backdrop of this most unique place.
Want to learn more about the egrets? Check out these Web sites:
August 3, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
The many faces of the lake continually fascinate us. In all seasons, in all types of weather, the glistening water here has a personality of its own, one that is as alive as any breathing creature.
The water has crisp days, cool and clear. Then it easily reflects the surrounding trees and the blue heaven with cotton clouds floating overhead. Everything around the lake has a sunshiny look, and the clear, halcyon, air creates an extra sense of freshness.
There are days of sultry weather with the rays of thermal energy radiating from the water's surface. All the creatures lay low, saving their energy for a cooler time, resting in the heat.
Some days are icy with a heavy frostiness dominating the lake. Ice may turn the water from liquid to solid, and the air becomes biting and brisk. Yet, even on these days, the life of the lake is beneath the frozen surface, as evidenced by bubbles and ripples. I have heard the current under the ice moaning, reminding the ones above that all may appear ice-bound but life still thrives.
And then there is the rain. Sometimes the rain falls in sheets, cascading from above, peppering the lake's surface with more water, more and more and more. The entire lake then becomes clothed in a gray shroud of color, and the pings of each raindrop leave their marks on the flat surface of the water. It is in these times of precipitation, light and heavy alike, that the lake becomes mystical and enchanted, present but as though seen through a clouded glass.
Yes, the lake has many faces, each special in its own way. To see this unique place in all weather is a gift, a token reminder of the impacts felt by the earth - from precipitation, heat, cold, and sunshine. Each facet has contributions, and all are necessary to create this world here in this distinguished place.
August 2, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Mimosas are stately trees, adding shade and beauty to any landscape. Mature mimosas have lofty branches that spread outward as they reach upward, providing a shady canopy for hot summer days. Also called silk trees, these charming yard gracers deserve a bit of positive notice.
Hardy mimosas can survive the cold winters of the north, but they grow most profusely in the warmer southern states. Their leaves and basic structure give them a tropical look, which makes them perfect for any landscaper who has a taste for the tropical breezes but who isn't blessed to live in such a place. They usually grow quickly, so this is another plus for making them a part of the yard. Able to resist drought, they flourish and bloom when other types of trees struggle.
Mimosas have a delightful puffball bloom that lasts for a few months of summer. The pink bloom has a most pleasant fragrance, one that appeals to butterflies and hummingbirds especially. If attracting these flyers is part of your desire, then the mimosa may be worth considering. As a child I loved to hold the light pink blossom to my nose, inhaling the delicate smell while feeling the soft texture, a reminder of the joys brought to our lives by nature.
Meant to be enjoyed, these enchanting trees with their frond-like leaves and alluring pink blossoms adorned in softness can add such elegance to any landscape. They remind us of tropical breezes and sandy shores, while thriving in our common backyards.
August 1, 2018 Floyd
The wind blows
Where it will
Landscape, water, time,
Little can stop the force
The invisible mover of
Man, Objects, Ideas
The wind blows
Where it will
Both to soothe and to destroy,
Will fulfill its purpose
The wind blows
Where it will
July 31, 2018 Floyd
Trees fascinate me. The oldest living creatures on Earth, they rise upward, perpetually defying gravity and the elements to raise their limbs heavenward. Huge, small, slender, sprawling, they come in all sizes and shapes, varying in strength and beauty; yet, they all rise, ever seeking the sky.
In the rural eastern United States we are blessed to have green all around us, all year. In the winter the evergreens, large and small, provide a beautiful contrast to the pristine snow and the dull grays. Spring and summer are dominated by a multitude of verdant shades, the crispness of green everywhere.
And oh the display in the autumn! Mother Nature really shows off then, painting the deciduous trees in vibrant hues of gold and orange and red. Some trees display splashes of silvers and purples, treats for the artists' eyes. Yes, trees know how to delight the visual world with their intensities of color throughout the year.
Trees have been honored around the world for eons of time. Their importance cannot be overstated; they provide oxygen for all living things, shelter and food for animals and humans, and many of the products people enjoy for the creature comforts of life. They prevent soil erosion. They also simply add great beauty to any landscape.
When I consider a tree, especially one of significant age, I wonder what tales it would tell if it could. Some trees have lived for thousands of years (I haven't met any of those yet), while others live just long enough to fulfill a specific purpose. Each one has value, a reason for being, as we all do. To respect a tree, to appreciate it in all its leafy glory, is a gift and a pleasure. To admire a tree for the life force it is and for the lives it supports is a blessing. Hats off to the trees!
July 26, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Today has been another day of special views of the lake inhabitants. Every single day brings us joy in seeing and hearing the wildlife that thrives here, and we count these encounters as our gifts, presented to us for our personal enjoyment.
On our morning walk we saw a chubby beaver reclining lazily in the deeper shallow water out from the mimosas, contentedly munching on a reed of lake grass. He seemed completely relaxed and gave us no recognition as we snapped a few photos. It was refreshing to have verification that the beavers are not only whittling away at the willows in the lake but that they are also eating the water grasses that we will be happy to see go. And, he was quite happy to be taking care of the situation.
I saw a pair of phoebes darting about over the water before finally flying to the one of the mimosa trees. A female mallard was sharing an old log in the middle of the lake with a squadron of turtles basking in the sun, and we saw a large fish make a huge splash while catching insects for a yummy breakfast.
While we were working at the dam this afternoon, a large beaver was spotted swimming in the deep water. He was navigating quickly through the tranquil lake water, until he suddenly saw us. Being close to the bank himself, he decided there was too much nearness, and he immediately dove underwater. His tail made a resounding smacking noise, his signal to the other beavers to beware. We were amazed at the immense size of this beaver. We often see the yearlings, and the other day we saw a tiny one swimming near the shore; this one seen today must be the patriarch of the clan.
The true joy of the day, though, came right at dusk. Six geese flew in, heralding their arrival with their normal honking song and their showy splashdown. We haven't seen geese here since the last time we saw Goldie and Galahad having their evening swim during Goldie's rest from egg sitting; this was on June 6. The outcome of the eggs and where Goldie and family went is still a great mystery, and I refuse to believe anything except a positive result from her and Galahad's devoted months of tending those eggs. But, oh the delight that we felt tonight as we watched the six geese make their usual grand display of lake landing, complete with goose song and water splashes. We have missed them so!
The evening air seemed calmer with the return of the geese. The frog chorus was a bit more lively, and the insect serenade was more harmonious. The geese are such an integral part of the lake life, so much so that having them back brings an extra layer of the normal peace. All is well.
July 16, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
The egret is back, its elegant white presence gracing the lake. It has been gone since the end of last summer, so its return is a pleasant surprise. There is nothing that compares with the simple beauty of this quiet, solitary water stalker.
The herons are slowly moving on, as is their custom. We counted only four today-two wading in the lake shallows and two in the heronry nests. This is common, that once the young reach an independent maturity they will seek another territory for their solitary lives. Their mating and nesting time in the heronry is the limit of their social interaction, and it seems for this group that time is now about over. Being a part of these past few exciting months as been our gift, a truly humbling experience of observing them from the lakeshore and even from the living room windows. What a joy!
It seems that the fish species are reproducing quite prolifically right now. Twice lately we have seen bubbling masses right at the edge of the water, and a hand immersed in the muddy froth can feel the tiny bodies rolling and churning. We have no idea what type of fish they are, but they are a sure evidence that the fish population is doing quite well here in Grist Mill Lake.
The beavers continue to cruise through the waters, and their lodge continues to expand upward. The frogs are everywhere, and the bullfrog chorus fills the air even before evening begins. A groundhog is quite comfortable eating the apples that fall from the Maiden Blush tree at the edge of the yard. Dragonflies abound, as do various types of colorful butterflies. All in all, the natural world here at Grist Mill Lake thrives, and we the human spectators feel honored that we are ignored.
June 27, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Sometimes we have opportunities to experience the rare moments with nature, and sometimes these moments come in the most common of places. Today was such a time here at Grist Mill Lake, memories that are forever captured in our minds as our glimpse into a Garden of Eden.
Every morning, early, mid, or late, we take a walk here, enjoying whatever we see along the lake trail. Always we see a member of the wildlife, and most mornings we see several. This morning was exceptional; there was an abundance of the animals out and about, and we decided the show was for us especially.
Two muskrats were at the beavers' newly cut tree at the head of the trail, and a beaver was cruising through the shallow waters. The water mammals have quite a bit of feasting to do on the branches of this red elm, fallen for their dining after much diligent work by the beaver clan.The young herons are now feeding in the lake waters too. This is the perfect place for them, ample acreage of water close to the heronry, secluded and protected as they learn to forage for themselves. We saw four of the youngsters, patiently waiting in different shallow spots for a tasty morning treat.
A pair of mallards were in the lagoon beside the Rock Garden, perched on a log, paying us no attention. The male wasn't quite as vibrantly green as normal, so they may be molting. They are usually timid when we get near, but this time they too paid us no mind, exhibiting no distress as I snapped picture after picture. Other ducks were in the cove, but they were too far away to make a positive identity. Their movements revealed their duck-family membership, though.
Several smaller birds made appearances too. A kingfisher was seen through the binoculars on the far shore, regal and striking. One small passerine, a perching bird, kept striking the water, obviously doing its own fishing. I saw up close another small bird in the small willows at the edge of Taz' field, flitting about. I am still trying to make an identification on this mysterious robin-size avian with its black head and back and rusty brown chest. There was very little white on it, and I'm just not sure what it was, but I will keep searching.
But the treat of the morning was a sight I have never actually witnessed in my many years of country living! A doe came out on the far side of Taz' field at the edge of the field and slowly made her way around the water's edge. Then from the screen of small trees a fawn emerged. Mesmerized, we watched as the fawn nursed. The doe looked right at us most of the time, but there was no fear, and we were honored to be a part of the baby's morning feeding. It was a most special time for us.
Every day of our lives we have chances to see nature all around. Today, though, was an outstanding day for us here at Grist Mill Lake, an exceptional time here in this most exceptional place, Grist Mill Lake, the perfect Garden of Eden for the true nature lover.
June 26, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Taking a walk with nature is truly a rewarding experience. The wonders of the great outdoors that are ours to enjoy are numberless and astounding. How often do we overlook the beauty that is around us, and how often do we refuse the gift, usually unconsciously, of the peace that a quiet walk outside will give?
I took a walk this evening along the lakeshore trail. The few minutes invested in this stroll gave a priceless gain to my well-being, as my soul soaked in the refreshing connection with the earth. A few moments, or hours if we have them, immersed in the natural world will remind us to let go of the manmade world's troubles so that we can stay in tune with what really matters.
The bird's song, the insect's chirp, the splash of the fish in the water, these all bring us back to the essentials. I was blessed today to be beside a beautiful lake, but I have taken profound walks in nature in the midst of a huge city. In some ways, seeing the green grass and watching the squirrels play in a city park is more profound than being in a deep forest, where I have also been. Maybe it's because the contrasts, bustling metropolitan streets and cool city garden, are side by side; whatever the reason, watching the pigeons beside the park bench or seeing the ducks splash in the fountains are excellent opportunities to behold the wonders of these amazing animals.
The point is wherever you are right now as you read this, I hope you have a chance to take a quiet walk and hold hands with nature. Breathe in and let it go, whatever burdens your soul. Take a few moments to absorb the connection with the Creator's masterpieces. Realize that the natural world holds the cures for most, possibly all, of the disruptions that plague our minds. Stay safe. Take a walk. Soak nature in.
June 23, 2018 Floyd
Foxes are wild creatures often credited with their cunning ways. Beautiful in color and quick on their feet, these elusive animals are adaptable to many habitats and so they thrive because of their resourcefulness.
Foxes live on every continent, except Antarctica. These members of the dog family are flexible, both in their physical bodies and in their lifestyles. Like cats, they walk on their toes and can even climb trees. They are quick, silent, and agile in their movements. Likewise, they can adapt to live in many environments from cities to open countryside to deep forests. Omnivores, their diet is varied, ranging from meat to fruits and vegetables to pet food.
Foxes can be friendly with humans, and ancient records reveal this has been going on for eons of time. On the other hand, foxes can carry rabies, so cuddling with the random fox is not recommended. There is a fascination with observing them, even if from a distance. Baby foxes, called kits, cubs, or pups, are especially entertaining.
Late last evening I had the opportunity to hear a parent fox bark repeatedly, most likely warning the kits that a stranger (I) was out and about. The kits here are a couple of months old, so the parents are probably teaching them night maneuvers. Both parents care for the young, which explains the raspy, harsh barks that seemed to come from two different places.
Watching these wild, wise foxes grow has been a most special experience. We can't get very close to them but watching from afar is a gift. Their intricate lifestyle is like that of all wild creatures, worlds of their own.
If you would like to know more about foxes and would like to see beautiful photos of them, check out these web sites.
June 22, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
It has been a captivating journey for us to observe the herons in the heronry over the past several months, from the initial nesting until now with the eggs hatched and the hatchlings quite impressive in size. Each day is a new revelation, though, with never a dull moment.
The youngsters are almost the same size as their parents. They become loud at times with their squawks filling the air, reminding the lake inhabitants that they're still there. They notice when we drive in, sending out the message far and wide. I would definitely recommend them as town criers, for these outstanding birds have voices that travel far right from their treetop homes.
The young often engage in fighting, just mock battles, I hope. They stand and beat their wings at each other, squawking robustly. This must be a normal sibling behavior, probably establishing all sorts of necessary standards. The parent often oversees this ceremony, usually with head held high, not interfering at all.
The parents seem to be feeding them still, but I am fairly certain today we saw one youngster fly. This was a momentous event, one that we have been anticipating for a while. They are so large now that they can be observed even without binoculars, so it shouldn't be too much longer before they are all flying about. This has truly been a gift for us, to be able to observe this wonderful part of their life cycle, up close and included.
If you would like to see some photos of the heronry and its occupants, visit our Facebook page, Sutherland LLC.
June 21, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Beavers are master craftscritters, and they also seem to be decent meteorologists. We have observed past behaviors that turned out to be predictors of weather events. Now is such a time.
A couple of months ago we noticed that the busy beavers were adding to their lodge. Steady building resulted in a beaver house that had more than doubled in height with the new upper portion actually up the bank, canopied by the surrounding tree branches.
A beaver lodge is fascinating, and this one is no exception. The original part is still over the water with their entrance undoubtably underwater, allowing for entrance only by them. The addition rises high above the original, equally wide and impressively covered with deleaved and delimbed branches, many quite large in width and length.
Why did these royal lake rodents do this? There is no definite answer, but it is interesting to me that now the area is gripped in an intense heat wave with temperatures abnormally high for the middle of June. Were they aware this was coming? Maybe so, for now their house must be cooler under its leaf shelter than it would be if it was solely exposed to the blazing sun and sultry air all around it. Another example of the wisdom to be found in nature's citizens, the ones that haven't lost touch with what's real and what matters!
June 20, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
There's still no sign of Goldie and her family. We hold to the idea that they are all, Goldie, Galahad, and goslings, hanging out in the cove at the head of the lake.
The cove is the perfect place, isolated from most predators by the marsh while providing ample food for the geese. This naturally protected area is the ideal location, since the goslings aren't yet ready to fly, and the parents will also have a flightless time while their feathers molt.
The creek flows beside the marshy cove, and the cove also borders the deeper lake waters on one end, so it will be easy to maneuver between the lake and the more sheltered habitat. The acres of available access to varying depths of water are superb for the geese and for the ducks that we observe.
We await then, with heightened anticipation, for our first glimpse of Goldie and her family. As we watched her on her nest for the two months of incubation, now too we wait, believing with a firm hope that all is well, that Goldie and Galahad's efforts have been rewarded with the births of their offspring, that soon we shall see the gray goslings swimming placidly with their parents.
June 12, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
The great blue heron babies are practically grown now! Grown but not gone yet, they create such a cacophony of noisy excitement all through the day, reminding us they are still there. The heronry is quite possibly the loudest nursery around.
It is amazing how quickly they have transformed from the barely visible balls of downy fluff into these full-size, long-legged, awkward birds. Mostly brown with streaks of white here and there, they are tall and gangly, and their unique beauty hasn't been revealed yet, as they are still nest-bound. The nests are full now, and how they are all fitting in the mostly-flat stick platforms is a great mystery.
The youngsters are also fighting with each other, just like growing siblings, and what a noise they make. They stand and beat their long wings against each other, using their long beaks to snap while their throaty voices squawk so loudly. One parent today stood serenely in the nest with its head raised high and its presence giving the assurance that such behavior is perfectly normal and to be expected. It seems that all sorts of important heron life details are being negotiated in these days.
The parents are still feeding the young and spend more time now away from the nest, fishing in the shallow lake waters or flying over the ridge, presumably to the river that feeds Leesville Lake. The babies get racuously excited when they leave and when they return, but for the most part the hatchlings wait quietly with short outbursts of sibling disagreements.The babies should be taken their maiden flight soon. Then they will be fledglings, not hatchlings. These young birds are already so massive in size it seems strange to refer to them with these words that suggest tiny wings and small voices. Nevertheless, the heron babies are just hatchlings still in the nest, soon to be fledglings with the ability to fly.
It has been our joy to watch this awe-inspiring process. From the nest building months ago to now with a constant anticipation that today could be flight day, we have been honored to get to observe, sometimes from the trail, sometimes through the front windows. This has been our gift, and we appreciate the opportunity to be the silent audience. That is a part of nature's beauty, the silent observation that in turn gives such peace to the soul.
June 11, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Goldie has departed from the dam pier, leaving behind three open eggs and one unhatched. Our hope is all is well and the family of five is now swimming placidly in the cove of shallow water on the lake's upper end.
Last week Goldie and Galahad took an extended swim in Wednesday's afternoon light, spending at least three hours together in the cool waters. Goldie seemed quite content splashing around, but there was a change in the amount of time spent away from the eggs. We noted then that maybe hatching time was drawing near.
The time frame does suggest that the eggs reached their eruption time, so we hold to this hope. The other bit of evidence is that one egg is still there on the pier, unopened and untouched. If something had raided the nest and eaten the others, then this one shouldn't have been left behind. It was probably just a bad egg that didn't mature properly for an unknown reason.
Now we watch the cove through the binoculars, searching for some sign of the goose family. The goslings cannot fly right after birth, and the parents have or soon will molt their feathers, making them land-bound for a while too, so they haven't flown away. We watch and we wait with anticipation for a sight of Goldie and Galahad's perseverance, for a glimpse of the joy of the gray goslings and their promise of life.
June 10, 2018 Floyd
The blueberries are ripening, their luscious blue fruit hanging from the slender branches of these perennial bushes! Delicious and nutritious, these delightful berries are now popular and so are relatively easy to purchase, if you don't have your own trees.
Blueberries have a sweet-tart flavor. They are tasty eaten raw, and they taste about the same whether fresh or frozen. They make excellent toppings to a variety of dishes-pancakes, jello with cool whip, and salads, to name a few. Delicious muffins and cobblers and cakes are made the better by adding blueberries to the mixture before cooking. Their uniquely pleasant zest enhances the taste buds regardless of how these tiny fruits are eaten.
Hands-down, there is no other common fruit that passes the blueberry in containing antioxidants. The powerful antioxidants protect the body against free radicals, substances that attack the body's cells and that contribute to cancer. Eating blueberries on a regular basis is an easy way to fight against these harmful substances.
There are many other health benefits to blueberries. They make the perfect snack because they are mostly water and are low in calories. The fiber in blueberries contributes to a healthier digestive system. The eyes benefit from the nutrients found in blueberries, as do the heart and the urinary tract. Blueberries lower both high blood pressure and the effects of diabetes. There is also strong evidence that these powerful tiny fruits can heighten cognitive brain functions, specifically in relation to Alzheimer's. The vitamins and minerals, along with the antioxidants, make the blueberry a must-have for a healthy diet.
Note: Blueberries are not recommended for anyone taking a blood thinner medication.
The goodness of blueberries cannot be overly stated. There is too much to declare here in this short blog, so please research this magnificently powerful fruit for yourself. A few starting points for the research are given below.
May 24, 2018 Floyd
The flame azaleas are such a burst of fiery orange. All azaleas are beautiful, but there's just a specialness in the sight of the rich orange color amidst the darker greens and browns of the forest.
Azaleas are small bushes that produce fragrant blooms in the late spring. There are thousands of varieties of azaleas, and they grow on several other continents besides just North America. Some are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves in the fall, while others are evergreen. Deciduous azaleas are found in the United States in different plant hardiness zones, but the evergreens are found almost exclusively in in the Atlantic region of Zone 6.
Growing in cultivated settings like gardens and yards and also wild in the woods, azaleas add color and charm to any place. Songbirds find safe nesting places within the small branches of these attractive bushes, and bees and hummingbirds enjoy sipping nectar from the blooms.
Related to rhododendrons and blueberries, azaleas are a hardy, attractive shrub that requires very little maintenance once they are established. Popular among gardeners and landscapers, nature herself also seems to have a fondness for these lovely small trees that give their explosions of color to the cool forest scenery.
For more information about azaleas and rhododendrons, check out these web pages:
May 23, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
I find birds in flight to be a tremendous fascination, not as fascinating as the Wright brothers found them maybe, but still it is a great wonder to me. Large like the condor or tiny like the hummingbird, these air-borne creatures are the masters of wind speed and overcomers of the gravitational force that keeps the rest of us tied to the earth.
Bird anatomy contributes to their successful defiance of the gravitational pull. Varying in number from species to species, birds have a certain amount of hollow bones, bones that give the needed support to the skeletal system but that are more lightweight than those of other vertebrates. The shape of the wings and the shape of the feathers also help each bird with the necessary upward thrust for air travel, as do the muscles, especially those in the chest.
These are the basic physical attributes that make it possible, but there's more than just the being able. What a joy there must be in having a superior view of all that lies below! What a different perspective the birds have as they swoop and soar, looking down on the rest of us, the mere earthbound creatures.
Today, while we were on the lake in the boat, Goldie and Galahad flew right by us, coming so close before they made a beautiful arc right above the water. Their perfectly synchronized turn illustrated how in tune with each other they are, how devoted they are in their life partnership. Each day we watch the determination of both of them in their valiant effort to bring these eggs to the hatching point, to have their goslings released from their current egg-shell nursery, another contribution to the evidence of the life force. We watched in silent tribute as Goldie and Galahad flew by, so close that we could see the individual feathers, seeming to say that they have accepted our presence here.
May 22, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
In nature's choir the bullfrog sings bass. The resounding call of this amphibian carries loudly across the lake, and often there are bass voices coming from all directions. One here, one there, one over yonder, they all contribute to the harmonious orchestra of the waterfront.Bullfrogs are fascinating creatures.
Members of the amphibian class, they are the largest frogs in North America. They are found naturally in the eastern United States but have been successfully introduced in the western states, all the way to California. They have also been released into other parts of the world, and this sometimes wreaks havoc with the native frogs in these places.
They sing their deep-voiced song during the day and the night but are generally more active at night. Feeding on insects, fish, small birds, and snakes, they are carnivores, or meat eaters. Bullfrogs, being amphibians, must live near water and are typically found right at the edge of a pond or lake.
Bullfrogs, like all frogs, lay their eggs in the water, and after a few days, these eggs hatch into tadpoles with gills and a tail. Over time the tadpoles grow into froglets-the gills disappear as the lungs develop, and the tail is absorbed into the body for the nutrients as the legs grow. Then the froglet becomes an adult. These are the three stages of metamorphosis in the life cycle of a frog: egg, tadpole, adult. Because they must lay their eggs in water and because their skin must stay moist, frogs always live in or near water.
Bullfrogs may grow to be eight inches in length. They are quite large compared to other frogs. To sit and listen to their song, though, I would declare that their voices are much larger than this. Their melodies fill the night air, louder than all the other sounds, suggesting a powerful presence in the lake world.
Want to know more about fascinating bullfrogs? Check out these web sites.
May 21, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
The rain came down in a pour, water descending from above. The wind blew fiercely, moving the rain sideways in a visible sheet across the lake, snapping tree limbs in the mighty force of the air current.
And there she sat, Goldie the epitomy of motherhood, protecting her four unborn children with all she had to give.
Goldie is a wonder. She sits on her nest atop the dam pier, hour after hour. She sits there through sweltering heat and torrential rain and high winds.
She is alone in her world, yet she doesn't seem lonely. There is an aura about her of knowledge, a knowing of what she is doing. She doesn't feel compelled to be with the other geese but instead is quite content to devote herself to the hatching of these eggs.
There is still some time left in this stage before her eggs will erupt with the goslings. I hold my breath in anticipation for her. With admiration I watch from afar with the field glasses, anxiously awaiting the day when her dedicated vigil is past, and she can swim the placid lake once more, teaching her babies in all she knows.
There is so much humans can learn from nature. There are so many ways in which the animals surpass people in proper behavior.
May 20, 2018 Floyd
I often reflect on how nature meets our needs, both physically and emotionally. From nature we receive food, clothing, shelter, and water; we can also find solace for the soul.
Art and music are two inborn desires that humans need. Granted some people are more talented in one or the other or both, but there is a basic need to have art and music in our lives. An absence of either of these affects the development of children and also creates levels of depression in adults.
Nature is the supreme artist, splashing buckets of color across the landscape. Pristine snow, sparkling indigo buntings, blaze orange flame azaleas, midnight black cats, earth tones galore-the color spectrum is limitless and always perfectly coordinated. Sculpture is found in the shapes of trees and rock formations, in animal body forms and the shape of the land. The Creator paints the skies with sunrises and sunsets, and the diverse textures in the earth and sky and waters appeal to our senses of touch and sight.
The presence of music is equally powerful. The sounds of our world enrich our lives and lift our spirits. The quiet babble of the gentle brook, the trilling aria of the small bird, the clap of thunder as it shakes the earth, and the many versions of the wind's song all quench our souls' need for melody. Insects call, frogs peep, bears growl, and turkeys gobble as they all raise their voices in the eternal chorus. Even the stars and planets emit music in the celestial realm. Rarely is silence found in the great outdoors, and our spirits respond to the call, a meeting of our inner selves with the music of the land and sea.
We only have to open our eyes and ears to see and hear. The beauty of the sights and sounds are ours for the taking, free to all who wish to partake. The artistry of nature has been given to us. Opening the gift is up to us.
May 19, 2018 Floyd
One of the simple pleasures of country living is watching rabbits. They are mostly gentle creatures that exhibit endearing behaviors, and these furry mammals can provide real entertainment for the nature lover.
Rabbits inhabit fields, gardens, parks, and backyards. Clover is one of the favorite foods, but these herbivores will munch on many other types of greenery. More cute than obnoxious, these grass bounders are quite adorable with their twitching noses and alert bright eyes. Big back feet and strong back leg muscles enable them to jump away with ease. It's difficult to feel anything but a smile when watching a white puffball bunny tail bouncing away, even when said owner has been in the garden.
This is an interesting, but somewhat disgusting to the human mind, bit of information about rabbits. According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, rabbits produce two types of feces, the hard round pellets and a softer form. The softer form is eaten immediately and then redigested. The reason for this is so the body can absorb even more nutrients from the eaten food. Nature has provided a way for the rabbits to obtain the levels of necessary nutrients for their high-energy lifestyle. Gross, but true!
These backyard cutie pies are common in so many places, and watching rabbits play is one of nature's antidepressants. Yes, Mr. McGregor has lots of trouble from the mischeivous Peter Rabbit in the beloved Beatrix Potter children's story The Tale of Peter Rabbit, published in 1902, but the joys of rabbit watching far outweigh the aggravations.
Want to know more about rabbits, including the common cottontails? Check out this great research site.
May 18, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Oftentimes the sunshine and the rain coexistent in the same day, both actually and metaphorically. This is one of the joys of summer, the sudden changes in the weather.
Last night was a time of torrential rain, as the morning's evidence indicated. Soggy heat marked the beginning of the day. The sun shone brightly and hotly, good for allowing outside work but miserable in terms of the humidity. And then the skies changed, and the heavy black clouds rolled in. Soon there was a sheet of water falling all around. The weather was not picnic perfect.
Then what a sight we saw. The parent wood ducks so proudly cruised around the lake, shepherding their nine baby ducks along. Yes, nine energetic ducklings have now joined the lake population, and their speedy swimming is a pleasure to watch.
Such is life so much of the time, the sunshine with the rain. It seems amazing to me that these tiny, fragile lives emerged victoriously from their egg shell homes, braving an entrance into the harsh downpour. But, this is exactly what they did, and now they are fulfilling their roles here, adding a new zest to our world.
May 17, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
The persistent desire to reproduce offspring abounds in nature because animals and even plants have the instinctive drive to maintain their species. Most animals and some plants also have the parenting skills needed to ensure the survival of their young.
Here at Grist Mill Lake Goldie is once again enthroned on the dam pier, an isolated place for her nest but very exposed to the elements. Last week we verified the nest occupancy, four beautiful, oval, cream-colored goose eggs. Goldie is taking her mother role seriously and seems dedicated to protecting her second clutch for the season.
There is a desperate hope that these eggs will incubate safely and with time will hatch into healthy goslings. Why she has chosen the same nesting location, fatal to her first clutch, is beyond human understanding, but we trust she knows what she is doing.
Galahad patrols the water, silently making his presence known from the pier to the lagoon. He is ever vigilant, and he seems sincere in his efforts to protect Goldie and the babies.
There is a spirit of eager anticipation over these eggs. When we found the remains of the last nest of eggs, broken and scattered, our hearts broke too, for our disappointment and for Goldie. Now we so much want this bunch to emerge healthy and full of life, the golden products of Goldie and Galahad's devotion.
May 16, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Wow! The babies are here! The baby herons, that is.The total for six nests is about twenty, give or take one or two. Their little fuzzy heads have been sticking up above the edge of the nests, and what a refreshing sight this has been. For the past several days we have heard a tinny squawking floating across the lake from the heronry, quite likely these newly hatched regal water stalkers announcing their presence to the world.
These birds are solitary hunters, but they come together in colonies to breed and raise their young. Sometimes sixty feet in the air, platform-like nests are built from sticks. Both parents incubate the three to seven eggs, and then both care for the offspring.
After several months of watching the stages, from courting to nest building to nesting, now the hatchlings are here!
This is exciting for sure, the joy of being able to watch the herons with the binoculars, having front row seats for this grand show! How many people have the opportunity of this magnificent nature observation right from the convenience of the living room window? A rare gift indeed!
If you want to learn more about herons or to see pictures, check out the web sites below. These are not our pictures, of course, but they do nicely show these grandiose birds in all their elegance.
May 15, 2018 Floyd
There are many wonders of nature that our ancestors knew and lived by that have slipped away, lost in the pages of time. In our rush of modern life with all its modern conveniences and advancements, much of what really matters to the human spirit has been sadly overridden by progress.
Let's just think in terms of the last 300 years or so, within the timeline of our nation's existence. The colonists and early explorers brought some wisdom with them and some they learned from the Native Americans. Basically everything was homemade, from preserved foods to woven cloth to handcrafted tools that were used to build all needed structures. Survival depended on being able to provide for oneself, and if you couldn't perform the task or trade with someone who could, then you did without.
There was a knowledge of plants that was passed from generation to generation. Plants that could be eaten were grown and preserved, a safeguard against the barren winters. Herbs, wildflowers, roots, and tree barks that had medicinal powers were gathered and used, oftentimes the only available cures. Each community usually had at least one person wise in nature's ways of curing powers.
Even within the last generation there seems to have been a regression of basic survival wisdom. Most humans have become so dependent on technology and even dangerously addicted to the social media connections. We are consumed by so many social obligations and pasttimes that we don't have time to take a walk with nature or to study a herb book. Mostly this hasn't been a conscious thought; it's just the way we have become, swallowed in the tide of progress.
The instincts and the wisdom of the hunters and gatherers don't have to be lost for all eternity. Small steps lead to great journeys. Let's challenge ourselves to learn something new about nature each and every day. Let's determine that we will know the difference between a phoebe and a robin, the difference between a bloodroot and a wintergreen. By taking baby steps, each day will become a learning adventure!
May 14, 2018 Floyd
This is one of my favorite poems by Robert Frost, the great American poet. He wrote of nature, the simple joys and lessons that come from being in tune with the wild outdoors. There is a powerful life lesson for each of us in this poem.
"A Minor Bird"
I have wished a bird would fly away
And not sing by my house all day,
Have clapped my hands at him from the door
When it seemed as if I could bear no more.
The fault must partly have been in me.
The bird was not to blame for his key.
And of course there must be something wrong
In wanting to silence any song.
~ Robert Frost (1874-1963)
May 13, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
The perseverance of nature is a truly amazing phenomenon. Time and again, in spite of every imaginable natural catastrophe, the earth's life force asserts itself, determined to continue on.
Forests do this after devastating fires with new grasses and trees growing, slowly but steadily, from the burnt ground. Floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes wreak havoc and death. Volcanic lava can sweep over the land with quickness and destruction in a matter of seconds. Yet, what emerges time and time again? Sprouts of nature reclaim their places and begin again the cycle of life.
Here at Grist Mill Lake there are smaller examples of life continuing on. Beautiful irises, once on the shore but now growing in the shallow waters of the expanded lake, are flourishing and blooming, their cheery yellow blossoms brightening each day. Other flowers, cultivated and wild, are waving their green foliage and colorful petals in the breeze. The heron eggs should be close to hatching point, and Goldie and Galahad Geese are exhibiting signs of a new egg clutch somewhere. Songbirds are flitting about, filling the air with their happy songs.
Rabbits are bounding around, no doubt doing what rabbits do best. Turtles are lounging on the logs, and a few have been seen in the upper bottomland, obviously creating nests for their eggs. Fish are jumping from the water, obviously replenishing their energy supply by feasting on yummy insects.
Spring and early summer are our days of merry reminder that life does continue on, that the oppressive forces that seek to destroy are not victorious. The wild creatures of flora and fauna are chirpy and chipper, determined and dauntless. Life and peace prevail here at Grist Mill Lake, and hopefully, they do too wherever you are.
May 12, 2018 Floyd
Have you ever thought about the diet of birds, specifically the smaller songbirds? So much of their lives, like that of most wild creatures, consists of searching for food.
Many birds are meat eaters, meaning they dine primarily on insects. Yes, this is quite different from our normal mental image of meat eaters, including ourselves who so often partake of hamburgers and steaks. Birds, on the other hand, devour bugs by the thousands. (Before you feel too sorry for the insect world, consider this. If all the insects in the world were placed on one side of a seesaw, and ALL the other animals in the world were placed on the other side, the insects would greatly outweigh the others. Thank goodness for birds!)
Being an avian meat eater, though, includes more than just insects. Many songbirds also eat spiders, snails, and earthworms. Robins especially favor earthworms, and this is what they are doing while hopping around our yards. If you watch a robin carefully, you can see it cock its head from side to side. It is listening to the earthworms crawling under the soil, hearing the path the worm is making so the robin will know exactly where to pounce.
Berries are another bird fine dining favorite, especially in the winter. These fruits of trees and bushes are their mainstays during the cold, barren months. In the summer songbirds will eat ripened crop fruits too. Cherries, peaches, apples, blueberries and other fruits all fall victim to birds' beaks. Cedar waxwings travel in large flocks most of the time, settling into orchards to eat as much fruit as they can. These birds are often seen as tremendous pests by farmers, but they do have an interesting characteristic that humans could learn from. Cedar waxwings like to sit in a line on a branch, passing the fruit from bird to bird, all the way down the line, making sure each one gets to eat.
I think of all the pleasure I get from watching birds and listening to their lovely melodies. In spite of their continual struggle to stay alive, they still have a song for the day, creating a bright spot for me. Filling the bird feeders to make their daily quests a little easier seems like a small price to pay to help these songsters a bit.
May 11, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
At a glance, roses are delicate flower blooms, soft petals of rich colors with a lovely fragrance. Yet, they are strong bushes that survive being exposed to brutal winter weather and that then burst forth with new life and beauty at the early touches of spring.
Like so many topics, a discussion of roses can become complicated, which is not the intent of this writing. The focus here will be more about the grandiose nature of this lovely flower. Roses, in a general sense, are either wild or cultivated. The wild ones have been around for thousands of years and still flourish in their original form. These usually have five petals per bloom. Hybrid tea roses are the other major group, and they include the majority of the modern roses, bred specifically for their hardiness and outstanding blooms which have multiple petals. A third group, heirloom roses, according to the Farmer's Almanac, are those that were introduced prior to 1867.Roses, regardless of their past, are delightful flowers.
Perennials, they spring to life year after year, filling our yards and woodlands with their alluring fragrances and their gentle beauty. Their petals are striking in aroma and elegance, and their greenery is emphasized by the vibrant bloom colors.
Speaking of days gone by, roses captivate our interest, prompting us to grow them, give them as gifts, breathe in their loveliness. Called the language of the roses, there are different meanings attributed to the different colors of roses. But, we don't have to know these meanings to simply enjoy the rare grandeur of roses. Roses represent nature's artistry at its finest, and they have a charm that softens the hardest of hearts.
If you want to know more about these noble flowers, check out these web sites.
May 10, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Life continues to reinstate itself over and over again. The heronry seems to have new energy, Goldie and Galahad Geese are extra vigilant, and the nighttime frog choir and beaver patrol are doing well.
The heron babies may be here! The trouble with nests sixty feet high in the sycamores is that it's difficult to be absolutely sure what is going on up there. I am fairly certain I saw one nest with little heads poking up often, and one bird seemed to be feeding babies. More observations will strengthen or weaken these conclusions. It should be about time, though, for the newborns to be here.
Today Goldie and Galahad intermixed with the other pair of geese for most of the day, but in late afternoon Goldie went back to the pier on the dam where she had made her fatal nest several weeks ago. Galahad faithfully patroled the waters nearby. They didn't stay here and later went back to the upper part of the lake. I so hope she isn't going to nest there on the pier again.
Another evening was spent around the fire pit, this time with steaks. It was a delightful time, the perfect ending to a long day of vigorous outside work. The frog choir kept us company. The frogs are quite comical, although I am sure that's what they say about us too. One beaver swam close to shore, quite content to ignore us, although I am sure he was aware of our presence. Like the frogs, he probably found us as amusing as we found him.
There is such a specialness to being so close to the wildlife, knowing they are fine with sharing the lake with us. All is well.
May 9, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Sitting by a fire beside a lake is truly a gift that I hope everyone gets to enjoy at least once, but hopefully many times, in his or her life. Such a place is a world of its own, and all the rest of life disappears, even if only for a while.
Tonight was both work and play. We needed to burn some of the limbs and twigs recently piled up, debris from the winter weather. A small fire in the fire pit, situated in the Rock Garden and made from massive rocks found here, was steadily maintained, providing a way to get rid of the wood and an opportunity to sit back and be still.
An outside fire isn't complete without marshmallows, and we certainly enjoyed some tonight. A few other snacks completed our not-so-nutritious meal, which we certainly savored.
The background music was perfect. A quartet of bullfrogs was most entertaining, a wonderful four-part harmony that filled the evening sky. Peep frogs chimed in with a softer melody, and several unidentifiable noises rounded out the performance.
It was a wonderful time. Nature by day is fascinating, but nature by night takes on an entirely different persona. Certainly a person's life cannot be considered complete until he or she has been able to partake of this simple, yet enriching, experience.
May 8, 2018 Floyd
The cardinal is such a striking bird, in appearance and in song and in mannerisms. They brighten any place they choose to be, and to see a cardinal is a joy beyond compare.
Both the male and the female cardinal are beautiful with a plumage rich in color and a sweet little tuft on top of their heads. The female is a soft brown with highlights of red along the edges of her wings and head, a quiet beauty. The male, of course, is the one who is so outstanding in his cardinal coat. He is easily seen, nearby or far away. His warm color doesn't change throughout the year, so he is quite prominent amongst the fall's panorama of colors, the snowy landscape of winter, the vibrant displays of spring, and the greenery of summer
.A cardinal's song is one of joy. It seems he is saying "What cheer, what cheer!,"as he sings for anyone who wants to listen. The female also has a lovely voice, and she is an accomplished songster in her own right.
Cardinals may migrate, but oftentimes in the warmer locations, they are year-round residents. Mates for life, they are often seen together. Aggressive defenders of their territory, they are, on the other hand, usually somewhat tame towards humans. Watching them is a joy, a simple, priceless gift.
One of the most outstanding birds in the eastern United States, the cardinal is a treasure, a feathered gem. Some say the presence of a cardinal is the spirit of a loved one who has passed over to the next life, and this adds even more value to these magnificent birds. Seven states claim it as their state bird: Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. It's no wonder, as the beauty and the charm of this amazing friendly flyer are unsurpassed by any.
May 7, 2018 Floyd
In the early evening light, there was a magnificent display of color, not from wildflowers or showy birds, but across the southeast sky. The most radiant rainbow was showcased against dark grayish purple storm clouds.
The colors of the rainbow were vibrantly crisp, so outstanding in their spectacular clarity. On the outermost edge the red and orange were warm like a sunrise. The yellow and then the green were also clear. Moving to the left, the blue, indigo, and violet gradually faded into the backdrop of storm clouds, but then there was a wide band of glowing light.
The optimal conditions lasted for a brief time, just long enough for us to stand in amazement, enjoying this beautiful gift. We felt so blessed to experience this glorious sight.
Rainbows represent hope and promise. The one today certainly emphasized the value of both uplifting forces. May each day, with or without a rainbow, be sustained by our firm belief in hope and in promise. And may we be extra thankful when we are gifted with a rainbow, a remarkable reminder of our dreams.
May 6, 2018 Floyd
I have been seeing quite a few indigo buntings lately. These perching birds are uniquely beautiful, and sighting one always fills me with a smile.
Male indigo buntings are actually birds with black feathers. The shape of the feathers, however, catches the sunlight in such a way that these songbirds appear to be a rich turquoise color. A dark turquoise, they are sometimes mistakenly called bluebirds. (Bluebirds are blue, red, and white.)
Female indigo buntings are a dull brown with a lighter underside. Her plainness means she is rarely observed.
Indigo buntings live in overgrown fields and at the edges of forests. They also can be found in the shrubs on the sides of country roads, especially if a field is nearby. Their leaves and grass nest is usually in thick vegetation, close to the ground.
Since their diet is primarily insects and wildflower seeds, they are especially beneficial to farmers. And to the bird watcher, they bring joy with their brilliant splash of blue.
May 5, 2018 Floyd
There's something exceptionally nice about being able to sleep with the windows open. To awake during the night and hear the wind blowing through the backyard oak tree gives such a sense of all-is-well with the world. To greet the day, even before my eyes are open, by hearing a bird singing a happy song is a gift, one of the simple joys of life.
To work with the door open, yes letting in a few bees but also admitting the sounds of outside, is another fine thing. The open door policy works well toward making the forced time inside more bearable.
Being able to plant a garden, knowing that in the days to come gathering the evening meal will be simple. Watching the fruit trees bloom is the reminder of the sweet days ahead.
The wildlife critters drop by for visits more often than the human neighbors. The animals quietly come and go, living their own lives, paying little attention to me. The raccoons, deer, turkeys, skunks, and the hawk fulfill their roles. The squirrels race through the pines, and the rabbits nibble in the yard.
Living in the mountains is a pleasure for which there are no words. Peace prevails, even in the midst of the storms, and the quietness nourishes the soul.
May 4, 2018 Floyd
I stood beside a small stream today and watched the water flow over the rounded stones. Two truths became evident. Each drop of water was there in that particular place at that particular time for just a nanosecond, touching those stones so briefly. The stones, on the other hand, were firmly established, possibly having lain in that spot for eons of time, having felt the caresses of an uncountable number of water droplets.
Here in the Blue Ridge Mountains there is the same sense of establishment. These mountains too have been here for an eon of time, standing tall and strong, sheltering and providing for the inhabitants, wild and tame. Sometimes called the gentle mountains, the Blue Ridge is unique in many ways, creating an oasis of place that is self-sustaining, peaceful, and real.
The Blue Ridge, which extends from Pennsylvania to northern Georgia, is a part of the larger Appalachian mountain range. The Appalachians are among the oldest mountains on earth and have existed longer than the North American continent itself. The eastern counterpart of the Rocky Mountains in the west, the Appalachians are rich in history, both cultural and economical. They also have a present-day importance, another option for those not interested in the metropolitan jungle
.I am blessed to live here. I hope you are too. If you aren't but would like to, the great news is there is still plenty of room.If you would like to know more, check out these Web sites.
May 3, 2018 Floyd
Wildflowers are natural floral arrangements that are often overlooked, yet their beauty often surpasses that of the greenhouse world. Usually hardy perennials, the wild posies are rich in color, yellows and blues and reds and whites and all their combinations.
The first flower of spring is usually the dandelion, bright with its yellow bloom and so imporant to foraging honey bees and other hungry insects. Another glowing blossom is the common buttercup, five waxy yellow petals that adorn yards and fields. Wild mustard also blooms yellow, as do goldenrod, tansy, and the yellow lady's slipper.
The blues and purples are not outdone by the yellows. Wild purple violets, sometimes called dog violets, stay close to the ground, their tiny blooms cool visions on a warm day. Periwinkle is another blue blossom that hugs the ground, making an attractive ground cover, often where other plants won't grow. Asters, blue salvia, heal-all, ironweed, and morning glories also display the lovely color blue.
In the woods it's more difficult to find reds and oranges, but there are some. Fire pink and bee balm are beautiful bursts of sunrise color, and Indian paintbrush and Indian blanket also bloom in warm red shades. Hummingbirds thrive on the red cardinal flower and trumpet honeysuckle, both having long, slender blooms that are perfect for the tiny flyers' beaks.
Against the greens of nature, nothing makes a more stunning statement than a pure white bloom. Queen Anne's lace is one of my favorites, but there is also a calm elegance to the pure white blossoms of the bloodroot plant. Trillium and chickweed have gorgeous white flowers, and nothing compares to the petite white violet. Spotted wintergreen only grows in the forest, but the members of the daisy family are found almost everywhere.
The list of wildflowers is an endless one. Often undervalued and mowed over, these delicate yet hardy plants are nature's way of brightening our landscapes and our days, refreshing our spirits with their, the flowers', persistent quest for life.
May 2, 2018 Floyd
Colors are such a part of our world, and nature herself creates the prettiest ones. Reds and blues and yellows, purples and greens and oranges, they energize us and remind us of simple pleasures.
In the spring everything seems so much more vibrant, probably because winter is gray and dreary. Then, like a breath of fresh air, the colors appear, sometimes slowly but sometimes like a bursting rainbow. Suddenly, we look around, and color is everywhere. Some displays are tremendous, like a tall tree full of so many blooms it looks like a huge pom pom. Other bits of color are tiny, a wild purple violet hidden in a crevice or a delightful dandelion hugging the ground.
Male birds don their most spectacular plumage. Goldfinches become an intense yellow, almost glowing in their handsomeness. I have seen two male indigo buntings this week, in different places, both of them wearing their dazzling turquoise suits. And turkeys! There is no comparison to these rascals showing off all their fine feathers in magnificent displays.
Yes, spring is the season for a rich eruption of colors, the primaries and the secondaries and all the possible tints and hues between. Spring is a time of new life and new hopes, and the colors show up to add emphasis to the promise.
May 1, 2018 Floyd
Nature has so many different ways that her creatures grow and develop. Each species is special, but some seem more outstanding than others.
Take frogs, for example, that progress through three stages of metamorphosis. The eggs are encased in a slimy coating. If they are fortunate, not eaten by predators or damaged by extreme weather, they hatch into tadpoles, which most of us are familiar with. There's a pond that I walk by most days, and it has been fun watching the life cycle.
In the past few weeks the tiny bullfrog tadpoles in the pond grew fat and jolly, and now their back legs have appeared. It's quite interesting to see them jumping from the pond banks into the water, their bodies still encumbered by the long tail but with their back legs propelling them through the cool water.
The tail will be absorbed by the froglets' bodies in the next few weeks, while the shorter front legs will grow. Their lungs will also finish developing, at the same time as their gills disappear. Then they will be full-fledged frogs, adapted for life on land but with a need to be near water.
Frogs are relatively simple creatures, at least at first glance. Their life cycle, however, is rather complex. The baby looks nothing like the adult it will hopefully someday become. Frogs definitely play important roles in the ecosystem, one of which is to fill the summer evening air with their croaking for me to enjoy.
April 30, 2018 Floyd
Taking a walk through the woods in the spring is one of the most refreshing ways to spend time. New life emerging brings a quickening to both the spirit and the step.
The sight of ferns always gives me a sense of calmness. Ferns grow, typically, where the land is shaded and water is nearby. The coolness of their environment, along with the ever-present melody of a flowing creek, is the perfect setting for peace and quiet reflection. It's easy to forget about the rushes of life when surrounded in the land of ferns.
In the spring as ferns begin to grow, they have a most unique shape. Before the fronds open, they are curled in a tight spiral, called a fiddlehead. As time passes, the fiddlehead will uncurl, revealing the fern's fronds. This stage of the growth is usually a short span of time, so taking those spring walks takes on a greater urgency. Spying fiddleheads is a special treat, one of many reasons to get outside as often as possible.
April 29, 2018 Floyd
Nature is a combination of chaos and order. The two blend themselves perfectly, creating the natural wonders that we observe and appreciate.
Consider the colors. Be it field of flowers or wind-tossed seas or distant horizon, the tints and hues are always an assorted array. Nature has her own idea of mixing and matching, and her combination of shades often defies the human fashion world's concept of acceptable. Nature's way is much more creative and visually pleasing
.Often we need to take the time to stop our busy selves and simply listen to the sounds of the wild around us. We may be surprised by what we hear-a whispering breeze, a fanfare of bird song, a cacophony of peep frogs, a chattering squirrel. Most of the time there will be a combination of many sounds, a riotous assortment of noises reminding us that we are not alone.
On the other hand, there is a fascinating order to nature, a series of patterns that repeat themselves over and over in many ways. In the early 1200's an Italian mathematician named Leonardo Pisano made many observations, including the way that certain numbers follow the same pattern in many aspects of nature. Referred to as the Fibonacci Sequence and also known as the Golden Ratio, the pattern is this: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, .... The rule is that each number is the sum of the two numbers that precede it. That is 0+1=1, 1+1=2, 1+2=3, and so forth.
The pattern, or a slightly varied version of it reveals itself over and over again in nature. For example, usually a lily bloom has three petals, a buttercup has five, and a daisy has thirty-four, all Fibonacci numbers. The seeds of a sunflower are arranged in a Golden Spiral, as are the seed pods of a pine cone. A starfish has five legs radiating from a center, and some spider webs are constructed in a Fibonacci pattern. Hurricanes, galaxies, and some sea mollusks, like the nautilus, are shaped in the Golden Spiral. There is an endless list of examples in nature that follows the Fibonacci Sequence.
Nature is both orderly and wild, a representative of definite mathematical patterns and carefree creativity. What a joy it is to explore all the many facets!
For more information on Fibonacci's Sequence, check out these Web sites:
April 28, 2018 Floyd
There is nothing quite like mountain water. A tumbling stream, a flowing river, a bubbling spring, it's all pure delight, appealing to the senses.
The sound of moving water moves the soul. It creates a sense of reverence, a feeling of greatness beyond ourselves. To actually stand beside a clear brook, listening to this voice of the earth, the harmony created by the flow over the rocks, is to experience one of Nature's free gifts.
The sunlight loves to catch the droplets as they roll along, forming a sheen of brightness. Dark days also play with the water, making a different scene, different but magical. In the moonlight water takes on another look, one that is treasured by the beholder even if it cannot be captured with a camera. The beauty is such that the eye imprints it on the brain, to be savored later.
Pure water has a taste like nothing else, immediately identifiable as a life force-essential, refreshing, energizing. The smell is undetectable, an invisible fragrance, so flawless that it is nonexistent. Cool, fluid, rippling power, the touch of mountain water hints at the primal connection between present-day humanity and our ancestors now resigned to history's pages. To touch is to feel, to feel more than the immediate contact but also the spiritual alliance with our past.
Water is a wonder, a mystical strength, life-necessary. Water, like fire, demands respect.
April 27, 2018 Floyd
The special gift for today actually came at twilight. I took a bit of time to simply sit on the deck in the swing and to just be still. In the distance a whippoorwill's song gave an elegance to the quiet country night, and the unhurried flow of the creek was the perfect accompanying melody.
The almost-full moon and the twinkling stars illuminated the darkness with an intensity that made the fluffy clouds white. Beholding the sky in all its pure majesty became the most beneficial part of the day.
The passing clouds were both white and purple dark, a unique combination in a sky lit by the brightly shining moon. For a moment one particular cloud became a perfect silhouette of a polar bear kissing a seal. The forces of nature were emphasizing the need for peace, the normal desire for unity instead of strife.
How often do we shun, mostly unintentionally, the tranquility that we could gather from a brief span of time spent in the presence of nature? How often do the rushes of life steal our joy that is so freely extended our way? How often do we lose what our inner selves seek so naturally? As spring enters our days with all its bursts of refreshing life, let us daily seek to capture at least one ray of nature's beauty, great or small.
April 26, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
The sun always seems to shine more brightly after the storm. The treasure of today was being able to sit at the picnic table beside the lake, soaking in the tranquility, hearing the songbirds softly sing.
Goldie and Galahad Geese were observed ahead on the trail leading to the upper bottom. They were quite peaceful, resting and nibbling in the grass. Hopefully, they are nesting. We may find our activities limited in the upper bottom for a while. It's not worth the risk of disturbing their second clutch of eggs.
The beavers are still industrious, and there is evidence of new willow selections being made. Their work starts as dusk approaches each evening and obviously continues on through the night. Each day it's always interesting to see the new additions to the lodge. The large limbs they are able to pile high on their house are quite impressive, showing how strong and wise these creatures are. Watching them swim through the water is entertaining, and they are becoming more familiar with our presence.
I saw a few honey bees today, such a special sight. They were working the deadnettle (a beautiful purple wildflower that smells like dirt). The bumblebees were happily sipping from the yellow wild creesy flowers, mostly ignoring me. These early blooming wildflowers are so important to the insects seeking nectar after the long winter. Spring is here with its refreshing reminder that life goes on.
April 25, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
This morning the rain continued its downpour, and the lake was still wrapped in its sheet of mist and moisture. Creatures of land and water maintained their seclusion, staying tucked into their places of rest.
The heavy rains of yesterday, last night, and this morning created an overabundance of water, and the boundaries of the lake expanded throughout the day. Caramel-colored lake water poured over the dam with such power that the falling waterfall actually generated a wind that swayed the branches of the trees on the backside of the dam. Tons of sheer force roared over the stone and concrete barrier with a mighty thunder. There are no words to capture what this was like-the power, the loudness, the volume magnitude.
Then the rain ceased, and the blue sky and sunlight peaked through the fluffy gray clouds. The birds sang once more, and the butterflies rode the easy breeze. The currents in the lake continued their journey toward the dam, but gradually it all slowed. The constant peace of this place soon prevailed again.
This evening the beavers cut through the calm waters, searching for the perfect trees to gnaw. The two pairs of geese, Goldie and Galahad and friends, meandered slowly from the shore banks down to the creek channel, where they soundlessly set sail. A pair of mallards floated serenely in the upper cove, and the peep frogs resumed their happy chorus. The cascading rush of tears from heaven and onward had already receded to the distant memories of this morning.
April 24, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Falling rain changes the surface of the lake, creating a cocoon of privacy with its sheet of cascading moisture. The mist rises from the water, and the inhabitants are tucked away in their places of refuge.
A few ducks were out and about today, but then rainy weather is ideal for ducks. They still were shy and elusive, moving away from the shore when we came near.
The chorus of peep frogs sang joyfully, its melody serenading the lake with a persistent song. The rain-clad day seemed to heighten the voices of these unique amphibians, so tiny individually but so powerful in their multitude.
A beaver, impressive in size, cut quickly through the water. It was so large that at first we could hardly believe it was a beaver. Nonetheless, it was the master craftscritter, serious about its business, paying us little attention.
Daily, the personality of the lake changes, some days warm and welcoming, some days frozen and icy. And then there are days like today, rainy and mysterious, unobtrusively filled with its continual life force.
April 23, 2018 Floyd
Songbirds are such fascinating creatures, and this time of the year they seem to be especially lively. Their songs fill the air all through the day, while their busy little selves are constantly searching for food and nest building materials.
I saw a phoebe this morning, perched on the edge of the roof. Phoebes are delightful little brown and white birds, modest in appearance but outstanding in personality. A quick way to identify a phoebe is to look for tail twitching. As it sits on a branch or fence line, it will twitch its tail up and down, up and down. They can usually be found with a water source, like a small creek, nearby.
Another bright, cheerful bird that often makes an appearance here, including today, is the American goldfinch. This morning a flock of them was busy in the yard, searching the recently mowed grass for seeds or insects. Their yellow bodies look like bursts of sunshine fallen to the earth. In the winter the females are much duller than the males, but this time of the year the transition is occurring, and before long the two genders will be very similar in coloration.
We are so blessed to have so many species of songbirds right in our yards. Add lawn observations with what can be seen on walks along park trails or through the native woods and you will have a fine collection of small bird sightings, complete with sweet melodies and vibrant displays of color. They are so small but so complex with noteworthy survival characteristics, ready to add moments of joy to our days.
April 22, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
The nursery in the heronry, high in the sycamores, continues to incubate. All seven nests were occupied today with a parent in each. Typical nests have three to seven eggs, so soon there should be an abundance of baby herons on Grist Mill Lake. Here's hoping!
Some great blue herons were seen swooping in. There's nothing quite like watching these long, gangly, yet stream-lined, bodies approach the nests. Somehow each feathered flyer knows exactly how to control wind speed and wind direction, along with body speed and body position, to correctly approach and land in the chosen nest. It truly is amazing to observe each bird arrive home to its own stick platform, sixty feet in the air in the midst of other heron dwellings.
The mallards were on the lake today, at least two pairs. A bittern was also seen in Taz' flooded field at the edge of the cove. Songbirds filled the warm air with their melodies, and in the distance, probably deep in the cove, the geese were honking. A turkey gobbled in the woods on the far shore. Grist Mill Lake was the happy habitat for various and sundry avian citizens today.
A tiger swallowtail flitted about the late-blooming daffodils, adding color to color. The vibrant colors of spring are so evident now, offering such a beautiful visual pallette to the eyes that are hungry to see. After the long, gray winter, the energizing array of tints and hues offers nourishment to the soul.
April 21, 2018 Floyd
The shrill call of the male whippoorwill easily caught my ear right at dusk this evening. Only the male makes the namesake call, while both the male and female have a softer clucking voice they use to communicate with one another. These mottled gray and brown birds spend their days sleeping and their nights hunting insects.
Members of the nightjar family, whippoorwills are almost never seen during the day. During the daylight hours, they sleep on the forest floor, blending in with the dead leaves. They do not make nests, not even for their one or two eggs, which are laid in a small indentation in the leaves. Both parents incubate the eggs and care for the young.
Whippoorwills are strictly meat eaters. They dine on moths and other flying insects, caught in flight during the night. These birds are rarely seen, and the most common observations are not the birds themselves but the glow of their ruby red eyes reflected in headlights.
These robin-sized birds are captivating with their aura of mystery and solitude. The calls of the males are so distinct that they give the hearer of the persistent song the sense of being allowed into the exclusive whippoorwill club, permitted to partake, at least auditorially, in the world of this plain, but majestic, night cryer. The warm summer nights are heralded by the clear song of this extraordinary feathered friend.
For more information, visit www.audubon.org and www.allaboutbirds.org. The whippoorwill is such a fun study!
April 19, 2018 Floyd
The wind is a major character in the grand picture of the natural world, its own entity in the forces that move and shake us. Warm, cold, gentle, ferocious, it is found in every environment on every continent and across all bodies of water, large and small.
Recent storms have revealed the mightiness of the wind. Large limbs and even trees themselves have been snapped in half, mere matchsticks in the presence of the wind. Human structures prove to be so fragile, surrendering to the mammoth gusts of air. As humans standing in the wildness of the wind, we are easily moved, swayed, brought to our knees, quickly reminded that we aren't all that we think ourselves to be.
Yet, the wind can also be the gentlest of breezes, barely forceful enough to ruffle a baby's curls. These tender puffs of air caress our faces and give cooling relief to our sun-heated skin. Swaying dandelions and gliding butterflies give testimony to the docile push of the wind.
Sometimes the wind comes with welcoming warmth, and sometimes it comes like a cold, cutting knife, dividing body from soul. Gales and breezes and typhoons, the wind marches across the land and the seas in its own style. Hats off to you, dear zephyr, windy friend; let us give you the respect you deserve.
April 18, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
The summer-like warmth of today brought an even greater serenity to the lake. The turtles were content on their basking logs, soaking in the revitalizing sunshine. Their cold weeks of winter submersion under the mud were surely forgotten today as the sun beamed on them. They always crowd onto the logs, sometimes as many as ten on a timber. From a distance a drifting log takes on the shape of an alligator.
The herons added to the turtle excitement by flying in and out of the colony. The incubators didn't sit as tightly as yesterday, possibly because of the warm air. These birds exhibit royalty in their own way. Their impressively long legs and slim, stream-lined bodies add to their stateliness. It is such a joy to be able to watch them constantly, from the front window and from the trail and from the Rock Garden.
The butterflies abounded in the warm breezes. There are enough wildflowers blooming that the butterflies and other insects are busy feeding, providing visual beauty to the rest of us as they do so.
The glories of Nature are so strong here, seen in the bright colors and the endless evidences that life in its natural forms flourishes here. What a rare privilege it is to be able to observe and contemplate, to be inspired by these wonders.
April 17, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Life in the heron colony continues happily along. There are at least six, maybe seven, heron nests actively occupied now. The parent sitting on the eggs, which can be either the mother or the father, sits low in the nest, while the other parent stands guard on the nest's edge or flies in and out with food. It is quite a busy production all through the day.
Goldie and Galahad were on the lake this morning, and Gally had a lot to say. Then they disappeared for a while. Now they are on back. It is interesting to speculate where they go and what is pulling them here. Research does reveal that the female goose returns to the place where she was born, so it is likely this is Goldie's birth place.
I so hope they have their second clutch of eggs and that they hatch successfully. Today when we were working on the backside of the dam we found a part of one of the first eggs. It was lying so white and broken in the grass at the edge of the dam. The shell had an amazing thickness to it, and there was a definite sadness in holding the shell that had once held Goldie's baby. Nature is not always kind.
The beavers have been especially busy this evening. It is amusing to watch them, each on a definite mission. There were three swimming industriously across the lake and up the channel. They never seemed to acknowledge one another with each just going on his or her own way. They acted like complete strangers, and there was no indication that they live in the same house. These master craftscritters do demonstrate human characteristics at times!
April 16, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
After yesterday's heavy rains the lake water is a muddy brown, the natural result of a downpour. Goldie and Galahad were not to be seen today, and I so hope they are doing well in their new nest somewhere, preferably here on the shores of the lake.
We did observe the herons today, high in their lofty nests in the sycamores. There are at least six, maybe seven, that are definitely nesting. They are sitting low in their large nests with mostly only their heads showing. The coldness of today's air requires them to settle in, cozy on their eggs, providing the needed body heat and protection to the babies in their eggs. Interestingly, the incubation is done by both parents, and once the eggs hatch both parents will feed and care for the babies.
A group of wood ducks were also observed here today. They too are in pairs and hopefully are in one of the nesting stages. They are quite shy and will fly at the slightest motion, such as raising the camera to capture their image. Watching them from afar with the binoculars is always rewarding, as they display their own regal presence here.
The peep frogs sang their melodious chorus in the late afternoon and continued on, serenading in the evening light. Another lovely voice that fills the night air is the whippoorwill, a most unique bird. Only the male makes the distinguished call, filling the warm night air. The female's voice is much more subdued but important nevertheless. Further reflections on this member of the nightjar family will be forthcoming.
April 15, 2018 Floyd
Nature really showed herself today with her fierce winds whipping all around and her heavy rains pouring down! So often we talk of Nature in the language of sunshine and rainbows and butterflies. But, like all of us, she has a tempestuous side too, and days like today remind us of her power.
During such storms, I always wonder where the wild creatures are. I am sure they are wiser than I would be if I was the one out in the fury, that they have snug and dry spaces where they have sought and found refuge. Such weather can be overwhelming to us humans with our mortal weaknesses, but to the critters it is probably not so bad.
Here's a toast then to the wild ones out in the raging winds and the soaking rains. Here's a note of respect for them in their wisdom of survival. Here's to hoping that if we are ever out with the forces of nature in our faces, then we too will have the forebearance to survive. Here's to encouraging one another, human and wild creature alike, to stay strong during life's storms, to press on with determination, and to soak up the sunshine when it abounds.
April 14, 2018 Floyd
One of the most versatile creatures in our part of the world is the crow. Often shunned and rarely appreciated, these birds do have their own unique personalities.
Their black sheen in the bright sunlight is unparallelled in terms of ebony beauty. Their glistening eyes usually glimmer with mischief and understanding, demonstrated by their knack for discovering and taking shiny objects
.The broad range of their vocal calls varies from comical to eerie. Once I heard the strangest sound, a cross between mournful and vicious. As it turned out, it was a group of crows, perched high in the tree, making an awful racket. The noise was so surreal and disturbing. Yet, sometimes the laughter in their voices is uplifting, reminding me to see the lighter side of life.
Yes, crows are more than what they are automatically assumed to be. Wise and funny and cunning, they may live to be fifty years old. They are adaptable to many living environments, and often they display human-like characteristics. A group of crows is called a murder, but their true nature suggests they need a more aristocratic name. The least we can do is gaze upon them with the admiration they deserve.
April 13, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Goldie Goose and Sir Galahad floated serenely on the lake this morning, although there were times of quite a bit of honking. This was mostly when they were out of sight.
This afternoon one of them, probably Galahad, was taking quite the bath in the creek channel right above the lake. Over and over he dipped his head and wings into the water, splashing so merrily. Yesterday's research revealed that this is a pre-mating ritual done by the male-taking a bath, either in water or dust. There are high hopes that Goldie will soon be incubating her new clutch of eggs, nature's second chance.
Activity in the heron colony, also called a heronry, across the lake is also promisingly pointing to new hatchlings. At least four herons are nestled deep in the large, lofty nests, and males are continually flying in and out. This is their routine during nesting; she nests on the eggs and he feeds her.
Today I saw the first tiger swallowtail of the season. Seeing the state butterfly with its unique beauty always brings joy. A tiny black butterfly of some sort fluttered by yesterday, but I couldn't make an identification. Today I also saw a sight I have never observed before, a tiny baby ladybug! It was exquisitely colored with dots of black on its orange wings, so perfect and so small. The wonders of nature are endless.
April 12, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
The beauty of this day was reflected in the animal behavior at the lake today. Life abounds here, and each day is a new revelation.The geese are in two pairs, definitely mating two-somes. They have been close to the shore today and have even been traveling somewhat together. Silently, their regal forms glide through the water, adding such elegance to the lake.
Both pairs have been quite vocal today, probably sounds of their mating behavior. Earlier in the day both sets were in the upper part of the lake, and their loud sounds filled the air. Later, they made their way to the lower end of the lake, sailing along with the evening light reflected on the water. Such beauty and such promise reigns, that in spite of the predators, goslings will still soon be a part of the lake population. Such joy in this hope!
The beavers were active this evening. We saw at least three swimming quickly though the water, even coming so close to us on the shore. The mischievious critters would dive into hiding as soon as the cameras came out, emerging again immediately once the cameras were put away. Their laughter was probably heard by all the lake animals.
The serenity of this place gives comfort and creativity to the soul. It is such a special opportunity.
April 11, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Tragedy has descended on Grist Mill Lake. But, the uplifting news is that in all her cruelty, Nature does provide a healing element.
Today, in my eager observation of Goldie on her goose nest, I was greatly distressed. The abandoned pile of down feathers fluttered sadly in the gentle breeze. A quick walk to the dam gave a clearer view, and sure enough, the evidence of shattered white egg shells silently told the tale.
But. now for the cheerful news! Research today has verified that if the nest or the eggs are destroyed, then the pair of Canada geese will nest again, usually near the original nesting site. I am fairly certain I saw this pair today in the upper bottom near the rain pond. They both were making communication calls with one another, so there is hope the new round of mating and egg tending is underway.
Predators for Canada geese eggs include raccoons, coyotes, and eagles. Interestingly, we did see the eagle last Friday, so it is very possible that he is the culprit. The location of the nest in the center of the dam would allow access only through flying or swimming. Hopefully, the new nest will be in a better protected area. Regrettably, it probably won't be as easy to observe, but all that mattters is that the goslings hatch and thrive.
April 6, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Goldie Goose continued her nesting today. The top of the dam doesn't seem like the ideal place for this, but I am sure she knows what she is doing. She is definitely safe from predators, and the greatest danger is probably from the weather.
Galahad Goose is taking his responsibilities as her protector very seriously. He glides along placidly on the water, sometimes close to her, sometimes a distance away. Often he seems to be taking the attention on himself, away from where she is. Yet, he swims close to where Goldie is at times. I am unsure if Gally is checking on her or if he is moving closer in response to a perceived danger. It is amazing how quickly he can sail through the water with his quiet stately presence.
It is a treat to be able to observe all this from the front windows of the cottage. A pair of binoculars enables us to easily keep an eye on the goose nursery developments, either from inside the cottage or from the trail. We so appreciate the gift that we have here, the being able to witness first-hand so many amazing facets of nature, such as the new goose nursery.
April 5, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Sometimes gifts are not immediately recognized. The gift for this day was such a present, which thankfully turned into the opposite of what it first appeared.
During the morning walk, we saw a goose on the largest pier of the dam. It seemed to be dead, lying stretched out with its head flat on the pier top. There were a few loose feathers around the majestic bird. The automatic thought was that it had died where it lay.
Later in the day we observed that it was still there, but it had turned and was now facing in the opposite direction! What a surprise this was.
As we worked on the backside of the dam clearing brush, the goose stood and then rested with her head in an upraised position. She was definitely alive and alert. Further investigation through the binoculars revealed that the quantity of loose down feathers was much larger than it had been in the morning, and now she was resting in this feather nest. She had also laid two, maybe three, perfectly oval white eggs!What a joy this is! What we had at first thought was a dead goose has turned out to be a mother bird, striving to bring new life into being!
This has been our gift for this day, a reminder that first perceptions are not always accurate and sometimes are even the exact opposite of what we think! And what a treat for us-to be able to observe this uplifting event in the life cycle of these regal birds!