Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The sounds of summer

Lawns mowers on a Saturday mornings.
Crickets in the cool dark nights.
Tree frogs signing for all they are worth.
Come August it will be the katydids shrieking through the night.
The splashing of the neighbor kid in the pool.
The plong, plong of a basketball against blacktop
The tick of a sprinkler
The dawn chorus

For me, the ultimate sound of summer will always be the insistent call of the Whippoorwill. I await the first call in the spring. Never knowing if they will come back to my mountain or may go elsewhere. After I hear the first one, sometimes, distantly at first, then I know that they made it safely back from their winter sojourn. They usually arrive by mid-May. This year they were late.

They were quite loud last night on the mountain. I first heard it while I was in the basement. I looked up and paused….listening. It was only the “will” part. I came upstairs and opened the back door. It seemed to be coming from the front of the house. I walked through the foyer and opened the front door and the sound exploded into the house. It was somewhere in the trees across the street. Really close. I quietly opened the door and went out to sit on the front steps. Any movement I made and the bird stopped calling. Maybe it was in the new damp mulch in the flower bed by the street....

I sat like a statue and listened to the calling for a long time. Then I heard other answering calls coming from the woods. I counted 4 birds. My bird was suddenly silent -- gone. I never saw it fly.

I came back into the house covered with mosquito bites but full of the sound and happy, ready for bed.

I surfaced from sleep to the call of the Whippoorwill at 4:15a. He was settling in after a full night of bug hunting. I rolled over to join him for another 40 winks, before I started my day.

"Háwê." Hekaya'tí háwê. ökwënöhtö' ne' N-awëníyu' huwênö' kayásöh ukëistö wíyú. Kanyu' hatháha' ne' wai nê shô hutênút. Kakwékö nae ne yöëtsate' ne'hu wai nê shô N-awëníyu' huënö'. Ne' n-áyönishe't kës ëötënúta'k ne' khu ëyöëtsaték, ne' khu nê hëkâhkwë'sék, ne' khu kës ne kê' ne kwë'kúnyë' ëwötwënôta'k. Nêkê wênishæte' ne' nae n-utyênu'kta'ö he työhe'.

"He said." To put it simply, he said. We know that the voice of God is abundantly beautiful. His speech is only song. The whole world is nothing but the song of God. As long as his song (orenda) lasts, the earth will continue, the sun will always set, and the whippoorwill's voice will be heard. Today is the day of creation.

Genesis 1:27 translated from King James into Mingo by Maris Pierce 1835.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


So, I bought a Craftsman lawnmower from Sears. It has large wheels to manage “hilly terrain.” And comes pre-assembled, a big plus. It also came with a quart of oil. Yay. We had more trouble figuring out how to work the fancy new (non-drip) gas can spout than the mower.

My friend Diane, popped over to give counsel and advice.

She started mowing and I started lopping forsythia. Within 20 minutes, who should arrive but a landscaper. He walked the yard with me. He said he does bushes, lawns, stonework, mulching, everything! Wahoo. I hired him on the stop. He said he would have a crew at my house within 2 hours.

As I stood with him by the truck, the neighbor across the street came running over to see if he would mow for them also. Then the neighbor cattycorner from me came down to ask about driveway sealing. He does that too. So after 11 phone calls, and 1 lawnmower that is now residing in my garage, I now have someone to manage the lawn…and seal the driveway. He got 4 jobs from my one phone call.

The crew showed up and did a fine job. Winthin a few days they showed up again to start trimming my 14-foot forsythias. I came home that night and not only were they trimmed but shaped. Craig from Total Exteriors is the bomb!

Monday, June 18, 2007

I am going to break down and buy a mower.

I have now been looking for someone to mow my lawn for 3 weeks. Of the 6 people I called, only 2 bothered to return my call. Both declined the job because their schedules were full. One did offer up the name of a fellow who was just starting up. That guy did not call either.

What is up with that? Why has it suddenly become so hard to get tradesmen to even be interested enough, heck polite enough, to return a call? So much for the “free estimate”. You are suppose to get 3 estimate for any job. Bah! How can I do that if no one will call back? Some of my friends give the job to the first person that calls or shows up.

Another example. Back in the winter, a piece of the fascia came loose. I called a recommended contractor. He called back, he showed up. He fixed the piece that was flapping. He called and told me there was a piece on the other side of the house that was loose and he would be back to repair it too. That was in January. The loose piece has now ripped away from the house. I found it in the driveway. I called and nagged him. He still swears he will be back to fix it. At least it admitted that he has bigger jobs at the moment.

It is so frustrating. I am not saying that everyone is bad. My plumber, electrician and painter are fabulous. I feel like I need to keep a herd of people on retainer.

I have 3 more calls outstanding as of today. If you know of a good landscaper…please let me know. The grass is ankle high again. Sigh.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Monday, June 11, 2007

An Accident Waiting to Happen

As I came around the curve of the road I saw a van pulled over to the side with its flashers on. In the same instant I noticed a small black Toto-like dog in the on-coming lane. The dog was looking confused, glancing around, taking a step forward then a step back. I assumed the dog was lost and the people in the van had been looking for him. I stopped the car in my lane expecting the van door to open and the dog to run in front of me.

As soon as I stopped the dog came toward my car. I waited. The van took off. The cars were now lining up behind me. I put on my flashers and hopped out-still in the middle of my lane. The cars started to go around me on the berm. The dog had tags. I bent down to read them. There was a name and local phone number. The rabies tag, however, was from a city 3 hours away. Yikes.

The dog tried to jump into my car; I reached down the boosted him up. He knew all about cars and had obviously been in one many times. I got back in and pulled off to the side of the road. I looked in my rear-view and saw a large truck had been protecting my back.

Traffic was now flowing steadily in both directions. I waved as the truck went by. I called the number on the tag. A man answered the phone.


“I think I have your dog.”

“Gus?” “You have…Gus? “ The voice sounded perplexed.

“Honey where is Gus?” There came a mumble through the phone that sounded like porch.

“Where are you?”

I looked around. “I am across the street from Lundgren’s Landscaping.”

“That’s me.” The voice continued, “I’ll be right down.”

I waited in the car, petting the dog and talking to him. Finally a wiry man in grass-stained jeans came down the long drive. Gus saw him and started to wag not only his tail, but his whole back end. I shouted across the street.

“He knows you.”

Traffic was heavy in both directions. The man waited to cross. I watched the traffic in my mirrors. Many minutes passed. Finally there was a break in the traffic and the man approached the car. I opened the door. Gus leapt into the man’s arms.

“Wow,” the man said, “there is a lot of traffic.”

“Your dog was in the middle of the road.” “He could have been hit.”

“Thank you, thank you, how can I thank you?”

He walked back across the street with Gus licking his face.

The moral here is: Please, watch your dog, I don’t want to have to call you.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Birds on a wire…or is that birders on a rail?

“Pileated crossing the road,” Diane screamed around a bite of cookie. The quiet young man across the aisle looked up with amazement. A giant black and white bird with a red crest zoomed across the street in front of the bus. There was no time to get the binoculars on the bird before it disappeared into the woods. Everyone sighed, and then the chatter began again. I high-fived Diane. “Excellent. Good eye.”

I was at the 2nd annual Sussex County Birding and Nature festival this past weekend. It was in Vernon, NJ at the new Appalachian Hotel. The festival was Saturday and Sunday. There were birding trips, full or half day, as well as dragonfly and butterfly walks.

I went on a full-day birding trip on Saturday to Stokes State Forest and a half-day trip on Sunday to local Vernon hotspots. The special thing about this festival is all of the breeding birds. I did not see anything new-new but seeing the birds setting up house is great. One of the highlights was a neck-craning view of a Blackburnian Warbler. We also had very good looks at a Pewee (you usually hear them), a Chestnut-sided Warbler and all the locally breeding vireos. We saw many Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. I don’t know what our totals were, I wasn’t keeping track, but I would guess for the weekend it was in the 200s.

Next year I am going on one of the dragonfly walks. I discovered that Sussex County, NJ has more species of dragonflies than any other county in North America. Hey, finally a bug that does not bite, or sting, or crave blood in any fashion.

The festival was lots of fun. I saw people I had not seen in a while, birds I had not seen in a while and met some new friends. Put it on your calendar for next year.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Black Flies, Little Black Flies

Can we talk about Black Flies for a minute? I didn’t grow up with Black Flies. I was blissfully unaware. I had heard of them, of course and laughed at the Canadian folk song, but no first-hand experience. Let me tell you, it is all-true!

I always forget that at this time of year up here on the mountain we are infested. It only lasts for a few weeks, thank heavens, but it is dreadful. Oddly, they do not seem to bite the neighbors—only me. Isn’t that swell? They are tiny, well, black flies. They seem to prefer ankles and elbows. They can bore through clothing. They bite through jeans. They get in your hair and nibble on your scalp. If that is not bad enough, I swell up. Yup, allergic. Grrrreat. When I went to Alaska, fearing the worst, I took all kinds of bug spray, antihistamine, even a bug net. No need. I come back to the east and what do I find? Black Flies. Sigh.

Now, I am well aware of the consequences and (after the first bite) take precautions. But there always seems to be some sliver of skin sticking out and they hone right in on it. Urgh. As I write this, my right foot and ankle has 4 bites, and there are 4 on one arm 2 on my side and several in my scalp. Thank Heavens for Benedryl.

I am gardening in heavy pants and a sweatshirt. It was 94 yesterday. I don’t want to kill every living thing on the property with pesticide, so I muddle through. It will be done soon. It will be done soon. I have to keep telling myself that as I gear up to battle nature. So, if you have Black Flies in your neck of the woods, you have my sympathy. If you don’t, want some of mine?????