I stopped half way around the back path, while talking to Uriah. He had seen a black squirrel. With high hopes his nose was to the ground and he wandered in circle. We never had a squirrels living in our backyard. Too many corn fields void of trees. As son as the line of trees from town grew upwards and out, the squirrels used them as stepping stones, and just last summer they finally reached us.
The black squirrel was startled when I walked on the path with out singing out. He leaped from the smaller mulberry trees into the tall grass and scurried up on one of the older bog willows – Uriah leaped into the grass with his tail wagging. Immediately he was pulled into the hunt.
From my stand point I could see it going nowhere. The furry squirrel was already thirty feet ahead of Uriah and holding onto a much stronger willow. He looked back at us, still not confident enough to chatter his anger in our direction. Instead he leaped again and again from tree to tree. I continued walking. Without a back ward glance I whistled for Uriah, surprisingly he followed.
When I stopped, I looked out and up to where the land leans upwards, facing away and towards the south. The grass had changed color with the last dip in temperature, so the colors were muted beige, browns, washed out green. Closer to the ground it was very dry beige. What got my attention was a plant that gave me the illusion of a wispy, swirl of green, bright spring green.
When I spotted the sweeping, feathered branches, of what I thought was one plant, was in fact, two growing side by side. The main stem had the look of an asparagus, soft light green; the large plant was three fingers thick. The smaller, its height was the comparable to the first and its stem was only one finger thick. Both grew on a single straight strong stem, side branches swirled downward like a weeping willow.
Using my ski pole I checked for holes and large spider webs. So each step took a lot longer than just and easy stride into the unknown, fraught with a possible jaunt to the ER.
The plant was growing nearly fifty feet from the path, after my initial surprise at its color, Easter grass green, I noticed the ends looked as though they had started re-growing, looking very feathery, in an evergreen pattern. I touched one of the branches, soft and delicate.
I couldn’t spot any other plants in the area like these two. I hadn’t noticed it this past summer. It more than likely blended into the landscape, so I don’t know if it had any other type of leaves or flowers. I could see that some of its branches were bare, with points were there should have been something. Similar to a fake flower when it drops off you’re left with a pointed, naked end.
I moved away searching for another like it, somewhere in the trees or out in the open fields I found nothing. Unique plants, like certain people, seem to come out in the open after every one else around them peters out.
I will have to make a note to watch out for this plant in the spring, I would love to find out if it is a wildflower, or a tree.
The Queens Anne’s Lace on my property went to seed. Its white flowers turned brown and folded upward. If you were to touch all your fingers on one hand together and hold them upright, in that center pocket, the seeds and dried flowers wave in the breeze.
The large flowering head of the, Queens Anne’s Lace can have nearly 500 tiny white flowers. Nestled deep in the center of this lacey pattern is a tiny red or purple cluster of flowers -and without my glasses I see only a black speck.
I noticed that their thin tall stems, that were so green nearly a handful of weeks ago, are now turning a brownish to blood red, making them a spectacle sight in the field, standing upright as they hold onto the last days of summer.
My dog, Uriah moves in-between them. His nose is always stuck to the ground, searching for a rabbit, mole, mouse or even a field rat. His chase between those tall thin plants keeps the sparkle in his eyes and me on my toes. Having a mouse run up my leg is not my idea of a fun time.
I stand back in shorter grass, avoiding the low sticker plants. Last week I was still brushing off the grasshoppers and crickets. I had to step carefully to avoid stepping on the toads and bowing out of the way as yellow jackets dive bomb my head in their attempt to land on my skin.
The winds have shifted to herald in the change of seasons, but for the next few days we should have a few warm hours during the day, or so the weather said this morning on the news. For now the cool air sways gently over the tops of the Queens Anne’s Lace as I walk around them.
Some people pick Queens Anne’s Lace and bring them indoors. I leave them alone. Let them wave at me as I pass and turn their white flowered heads to the sun.
Besides my husband is allergic to them, even with the windows open he knows when they start to dry out. He will start sneezing; his eyes will redden and he hurries to shut all the windows and doors. I on the other hand will pull up a chair and watch the butterflies and bees dance with those well dressed flowers…
Tiny White Flowers
By Gerardine Baugh
Walk among my waving lace
Enjoy my beauty
If I grow in the discreet field my life is as it is
When I grow as a weed I never see the beyond the ground
Seen as a craft my flowers dry and live through winter
Beauty puts me in a vase
Superstitions keep me out side
Illness keeps me in a jar waiting to help
See me through a child
Who plays in an open field
Above my waving lace
Finding my secret pattern
Within tiny white flowers
Learning to count
Then to imagine…
“A Horticulture Information article from the Wisconsin Master Gardener website, posted 14 July 2008”
“Butterflies and Dragonflies of Illinois”
This morning, around 8am, I took Uriah out for his morning walk. The air was still and cool. I could hear the muffled chatter of the birds. A dog complained somewhere. He could be miles away. Around here, with all the open spaces sound moves across miles of fields, over the roads, past cows and horses grazing silently in early mist to land at my feet. Curiosity will have me speculating at each sounds origin.
Uriah ran ahead of me as I circled the back yard. I walked close to the trees to the north, near the old apple trees.
I felt someone, or something watching me. Peering intently into the nearly leafless bog willows I saw nothing. The dense summer foliage had changed over night, to naked branches weaved together in a haphazard maze.
Still, I felt something watching me. I tried to shrug it off and turned toward the house.
I took a few steps forward. My right side towards the trees, that’s when, just out of the corner of my eye I spotted him, a buck, standing quietly, about one hundred feet from me inside the tree line. He was the size of a large horse!
I didn’t move. Yet, I could feel him. He wasn’t frightened, neither was I…
I didn’t have time to react even if he charged. This is mating season, and crossing paths with a buck now can have direr effects.
His ear moved. Then he turned his head slightly in my direction.
I couldn’t differentiate between the tangle of trees and antlers on his head. He stood tall; his stance was similar to walking with a heavy crown on your head. All this time I kept looking straight ahead. I could only see him in my peripheral vision, he bended into the trees when I tried to look directly at him.
Time moved slowly. Finally, I noticed a slight breeze as it blew towards the deer explaining why I hadn’t caught his scent. Just as I was wondering if he was going to charge me, I saw his white tail flip; just slightly. He slowly started walking east. I took the hint and headed to the house walking west.
That’s when I realized, Uriah had decided to go check him out. I really wasn’t in the mood for irritating a buck today, or any day.
I whistled and Uriah did his bravado dance of scrapping at the grass with his hind legs. He squeezed out a couple of attempts at a growl. Then rolled his eyes, mouth open in a wide doggy grin he trotted over to me. His job is to keep the wildlife out of the backyard. He raised his eyebrows at me then he glanced around, as if to say, “No one here but us. I did my job, gimmee cookie!”
I gave him a choice of a Milk Bone, or a Liver Snap. Being Uriah, he ended up with both.
I grabbed my coffee, and stood out on the deck. High pitch screams circled above me and I could hear branches breaking. I love my morning coffee.
Early this morning the ground was frozen and the air was crisp, as I headed towards the path. I wondered if the water had receded enough to allow me to walk .
I was surprised to see the ground with only trickles of water still running freely. I carefully stepped on the grass growing along the edges, avoiding low hanging branches.
Frost airbrushed the shadows as I moved up and around the trees. I could see my breath added to the morning fog. I walked quickly. I was on a mission. “Walk the dog and quickly get back in the house to a hot cup of coffee.”
I reached the curve in the path that swings around and sets me on the path home. Stopping I looked up at the flock of birds screaming at me. I really shouldn’t group them together I saw robins, and starlings, doves and finches, woodpeckers and others that flew past so fast I couldn’t recognize them.
I took a deep breath, thanked the earth for the splendor set in this moment. Then, I asked, “Please show me your secrets.”
Nature is full of secret. You just have to slow down and look for them.
At that moment, when I looked up and away from my feet, and asked the question, “Please show me your secrets.” The clouds parted above me so that the sun, which was sitting near the horizon, slipped over my shoulders and lit up the farmer’s field.
Acre upon acres in front and around me brightened.
I could only describe what I saw as a patchwork quilt flowing out and across the land. Golden yellow leaves of soy beans, a deep green wave of grass, corn standing tall waiting to be harvested, 150 year Oak trees their twisted branches touched with that golden light.
The sun moved across the fields dipped low then slipped upward. I smiled and said, “Thank You!” At that moment a large hawk rose from the corn field, turned and flew towards me and landed in one of the larger trees to the south.
I took a deep breath, whistled for my dog and moved on towards home and my coffee…
Late morning, around eleven I grabbed my walking stick/ski pole and headed out to take a Uriah for a walk. First thing I noticed was the pair of old jeans that had been pulled out of the burn pile and looked as though someone had played a game of tug of war with them. Using the end of my ski pole I was able to slip under one leg and flip the pants over a drooping branch of an old bog willow. I just want to see how badly the animal wanted them. Will he reach up and pull them down, or walk away form them?
Tomorrow will tell.
Walking along the tree line wearing my fashionable bright orange jacket, I decided to slip into the denser foliage. Normally I wouldn’t walk into the woods. Ticks treat me like a free taxi ride. Today I don’t have to worry; the tempeture is barely sixty degrees. Fingers crossed I am hoping they are all snoozing. At least that’s what I am hoping, as I peer around some fallen trees.
“Hey, Uriah, give me a paw here, how do I get through these trees?” I stepped back and waited for Uriah to catch up to me. I patted his head and slipped him a milk bone.
Uriah looked up at me, caught a scent and stuck his head in a large hole. Eyes only, keeping his head buried in a hole in the ground. I whistled, he started wagging his tail and pushed past me.
I weaved a drunken path deeper into the wooded area, attempted to bypass the heavy vines that were tangling around my legs, while totally avoiding the wild rose bushes. I didn’t get far and I had to peel off the heavy thorns as I stepped on the vines in order to get past them. Uriah was already at least twenty feet ahead of me.
“Wait up” I called out; he stopped turned and rolled his bugging eyes. I could swear he was laughing!
Maneuvering my way through the vines, I stepped into a darkened clearing. The ground snapped and popped under foot like Rice Krispies. The air, damp and cool filled my universe with a heavy musk scent. I looked around half expecting a deer to jump out at me. Nothing moved. Uriah seemed unconcerned. The first thing I noticed was the deep black dirt, spongy with layers of moss, leaves and decomposing branches. The ground was damp, without a drop of standing water.
The remains of last September’s floods were evident everywhere. One of the older trees had fallen and was stretched out in front of me. Its bark had been scrapped and torn off in places. I knew that woodpeckers could tear into the bark; usually their damage consisted of uniform holes.
Round grey mushrooms, the size of grapes, were growing along the broken base. It was beautiful in its demise; it was feeding the area, with an array of bugs and sweet rotting bark. I spotted three different types of moss growing along its trunk. At that moment I nearly lost my senses and walked a little to close to the fallen tree. A warning came from above. A hawk screeched! That high pitch piercing sound that let me know I was moving in his territory. The blue jays added to the sound, and then a lone crow flew in-between the trees above my head.
Trees towering above me had large mushrooms growing in their branch bark ridges (where the branch connects to tree) standing straight up. Now I’ve seen mushrooms growing along the side of a tree, smaller mushrooms. These mushrooms were the size of a cantaloupe. Their base was the thickness of my fist and the tops like umbrellas. Once used by magical gnomes that are said to wander through this area. Hmmm! Maybe that’s were they store their umbrellas!
I moved away from the downed tree. The view around me was perfection. I stood, just staring until Uriah came by, sat at my feet and offered me his paw. Slipping my hand into my pocket I gave him another Milk Bone. That dog loves his treats!
Reveling in the deep woodsy landscape spread out in front of me- I was awe struck.
A carpet of three leafed plants, about a foot tall, spread out around me. I could see small tiny, tiny bright green sprouts pushing up through the rich black dirt while the sunlight tried to slip through the green canopy above me. A few more steps and suddenly the trees opened up to a field of grass, nearly up to my waist.
Nearly forgetting I wasn’t in Oz, Mother Nature sent in her tiny vampire mosquitoes letting me know it really wasn’t all that cold out, and in this kingdom they still reined supreme.
With that first slap to my forehead, the magic dissipated. Looking around I could see scat marking the base of some of the trees, and just the thought of poison ivy had me slowly inching my way back towards the short grass near the house. I’ll come back and take some notes, when the temperature drops a few more degrees.
“The Visual Dictionary”
“YouTube screaming red-tail hawk”
Four O’ Clocks! I love that flower.
Very fragrant, colorful flowers that open after four in the afternoon.
I planted it when I was a child, in a small section of dirt right outside our kitchen door on the westside of Chicago. First I would pound at that hard dirt to loosening it so I could poke a dozen holes in the dirt and place three seeds in each hole. One for the ground, one to grow and one for whomever came by that was hungry. I was happy when one or two plants grew a summer. Their fragrant flowers opened up after four pm, hence the name.
This year, I saw the seeds at the store and happily planted them this past spring. This past cold and rainy spring. Not a good year for any plants. But my Four O’ Clocks did take root. Three in the front of the house and four more around the dog kennel.
I will plant them again next year. Getting ready to do so means I need to collect seeds. I save money by harvesting seeds, which gives me the possibility of more plants.
The Four O’ Clock is a very elegant plant. From a single seed a plant will grow upward and then out into a small lacy bush, with two inch, trumpet shaped flowers– at least that’s how its suppose to be.
Uriah, my dog, has stepped on the delicate plants and they popped back up. An angry raccoon rolled in the ones near the front door, a little water and they are still in tacked. Luckily the raccoon didn’t break the plants apart.
Now with the weather cooling off, I check on them twice a day and bring in the black pea size seeds. I will roll them up in paper and hope a mouse doesn’t eat them by spring.
All my seeds are wrapped in paper then placed in a paper bag in the garage. Mold is one of the enemies when it comes to storing seeds. Add the mice, and my stupid mistakes; tossing them out, or forgetting and putting a piece of plastic in the bag. Still, if I have three seeds left by spring I will get one plant that will bloom for weeks and yield more seeds for me to plant.
With the cold weather moving all my Four O’ Clocks have wilted ending this season. And my collected bag of seeds is waiting for spring.
Curiosity can always get to me, and today is not an exception.
The farmers haven’t cut down the feeder corn,yet and I find it so mysterious, scary and beautiful all at the same time. When I get enamored by a thought I will end up acting on my curiosity, which is how I ended up wandering around my fallen, barbed wire fence, and standing in the sinking mud to get a, “good look” at the corn field.
There are other plants that grow along the edges of a corn field; Milkweeds, Queens Anne’s Lace and a multitude of weeds that as you step past them will deposit burs in your clothing, hair and along your ankles connecting to your socks and shoes making it a treat to remove.
None of that mattered.
I wanted stand next to the towering rows of corn.
Golden, browns and beiges streaked with green and yellows stood in formation. The large ears of corn still connected to the stalks. Some of the corn had deep orangey, yellow kernels peeking out. This is not the type of corn that if you squeeze a kernel with your nail it will pop a milky sweet juice. These kernels are hard. They may end up as Ethanol, livestock feed, a starch, sweetener or for use in fermentation.
I could see where a passing deer, or a hungry raccoon, possum, or Badger ripped off some ears and carried them onto my property and under a bush to feast. A few kernels were on the ground. I knew from years of walking around here, that tomorrow morning if I were to check they would be gone, eaten.
Pulling my feet from the mud, with a distinct gooey sound I stepped next to the first row of corn stalks, and looked up, at their waving tops. I tried to focus on the rows deeper into the field. They were so thick I could only see two ahead of me, and then they blended together like a wallpaper field, or a movie set with either zombies, or dreams being chased way.
“Hey Uriah can you chase away a Zombie?” I laughed as Uriah looked around nervously. “I guess not.” I signed as he seemed to take offense by ducking his head and starring at the ground.
The bitter smell of brown wet leaves, moved around me. Then drifting past as the wind picked up, racing the rain clouds into another county, allowing the sun to spread across my face. The sky brightened with white puffy clouds and a deep blue sky.
This is the moment I relish! The tops of this corn field wave around me as I stood quietly. Here in my old, mud covered gyms shoes, with wet socks while something crawls down my back. I am happy.
Corn moves my car…and then
Sweetens my dinner… and
Then eases through my digestive track
Looking as if it never left
“National Corn Growers Association”
“Kane County Farm Bureau”
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