Monday, April 21, 2008

Field Guide Installment #1: April

We haven't named our 10 acre morsel of the world. We have decided that we have to become acquainted with it's personality and temperament before this can be achieved. Perhaps this will require an entire revolution of the Earth around the Sun with close observation in each season. Until then, it has been an immeasurable serendipitous thrill to explore our "territory." Discovering each newly blooming flower is a launching of a lifelong camaraderie knowing that these plants will be annual harbingers of the coming warm weather. I have decided to blogument each topographic unearthing and adventures on a monthly basis.

Common Buttercup

(Ranunculus acris)

The common Buttercup or "little frog, This flower is acrid and not the first choice of browsing animals. It can cause blisters and digestive irritations. I have quickly learned that almost everything that grows on our land exists because it is inedible to deer. The buttercups shiny look comes from a additional layer of cells just beneath the surface, giving it that just polished appearance. The Nez Perce of the Pacific Northwest call the buttercup 'Coyotes Eyes'.

According to legend, Coyote was tossing his eyes up in the air and catching them again when Eagle snatched them. Unable to see, Coyote made eyes from the buttercup.

After Ansel learned that he would probably get a stomachache from eating a buttercup, he has told me on several occasions, "My tummy hurts, but I didn't swallow a buttercup."

Satin-flower/ Grass Widow
Olsynium inflatum
there are masses of these flowers blanketing our slopes. Corey plucked a small vase of them while I was napping on my birthday. I can look out my kitchen window and see thousands of these blossoms peppering the hillside. They appear so fragile and short-lived, I was sure that they would come and go in just a few days. It has been three weeks however, and they are still going strong. Just a reminder that you shouldn't judge a flower by its willowy stem.

common mullien (Verbascum thapsus)

These leaves look and feel like velvet (not velour or veloux which I detest) There is a smidgen of controversy as to whether or not these plants are considered a noxious weed and I will update you in subsequent field guides as to our personal opinion. Corey seems to think they are full of charisma. These plants will grow long flowering stalks in the summer that die and remain stalwartly dead all winter. I personally found them a little aesthetically ob-noxious until I did some research and learned that they are a magical plant. You will all soon be camped out in our woods begging for a bestowal of even just a portion of the power of the mullein.
Mullein has been used since ancient times as a remedy for skin, throat and breathing ailments.
It was first recommended 2000 years ago against pulmonary diseases, and thus has remained one of its primary uses, especially against cough and croup. Leaf or herbal teas were used for expectoration, consumption, dry cough, bronchitis, sore throat and hemorroids. Leaves were also smoked against pulmonary ailments. Oil from the flowers was used against catahrrs, colics, earaches, frostbite, eczema, warts, boils, carbuncles and chilblains. We all suffer from chilblains now and then, don't we?

The best news of all is that the Mullein has been linked to witches and the plant was also widely held to ward off curses and evil spirits. The flowers provide dyes of bright yellow or green, and have been used for hair dye. The dried leaves and hair were made into candles , or put into shoes to help with insulating them. The dried stems were also dipped into wax to make torches.

Needless to say, we now have our medicinal arsenal pretty much well taken care of. No more hoarding and stocking up on torches and hair dye.

Paper Wasp

(Polistesfont> Hymenopterafont)

Emmy received her first hymenoptera sting last her own bedroom. These beautiful critters keep finding their way in and subsequently dying. I haven't seen as many this week and I am hoping that the warmer weather has been keeping them happy outdoors.

Western Conifer Seed Bugs

Leptoglossus Occidentalis

These bugs prey on seeds of coniferous trees and are considered minor tree pests. They do not bite or sting . They use their little beaks to stab and extract the sap from the trees. I find a few of these in my house every day. I know that they are harmless, but they still catch me by suprise. In reality, I have to remind myself that we are the intruders.
pending identificationpending identification
identification pending
White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
We cannot take a walk without sighting groups of these graceful animals. When they leap, their fluffy white tails look like peace flags. I hope they know that we come in peace. I once experienced twinges of guilt when I disturbed these creatures. However, we recently visited the Hogle Zoo(I mean the Abu Garub for animals)and the staff brought a hawk in to scare the monkeys. They explained that it was beneficial to the monkeys and termed it "enrichment". Now that I am more informed, I know that I am truly enriching the deer when they scramble at the sight of me.

Deer Tick
Ixodes Scapularis

Unfortunately with the deer come these nasty bloodsucking hitchhikers that apparantly only find my hemoglobin to be at all appetizing. I find at least one thumbing a ride every day. I read that Guinea Fowl can eradicate two acres a year of the nasty vermin. 5 years and we could be tick-free! The down side is that the hens are extremely loud and may disturb our neighbors. We are the only family sans canine and so I don't think we can receive any legitimate complaints.

Fort Salty (in Progress)

I think it appropriate to the field guide to track the progress of our fort. Ansel provided the nomenclature.

Friday, April 18, 2008

My Kryptonic Birthday

I am making no attempt to be cryptic about the fact that I was once a half -blown science nerd. I have obviously since managed to rid myself of most of the incriminating cerebral evidence. I once had the periodic table memorized in song form and would hum it in my head in my spare time. If you think I am kidding, then my attempts at fooling you all into believing that I am a normal human being is working nicely. I became 36 at 2:27pm last Friday. 36 is a square and triangular number. Krypton is the 36th element on the periodic table. It is one of the noble INERT GASES which are located on the far right column of the P.T. This family has the "happiest" elements of all. WHY ARE THEY HAPPY? According to the Bohr description of electron shells, happy atoms have full shells. All of the inert gases have full outer shells with eight electrons. The fact that their outer shells are full means they are quite happy as they are, not reacting with the other elements. The question is, does it make me more or less of a geek that I will now metaphorize my life with an inert gas? Now that I have arrived at my kryptonic age, I am going to daily identify 8 "electrons" in my life that leave me feeling abundantly full of happiness. I know that I must insert some photos before I lose those of you who can't follow thoughts without illustrations (myself included).


I am a PYRO and Fire brings me joy (just ask my camp counselors)

Corey bought me a cake, not because I like cake, but because, in his words "the cake is just a vehicle for your candles." I think he is just monitoring my fire addiction in a safe environment.



WATCHING ANSEL TRAIPSE MERRILY DOWN A TRAIL (We went to Coeur d'lane today and hiked on one of my favorite trails by the lake. It was a gorgeous day.)


Watching the boys in my life run and play next to a large body of water

Corey took the day off and even offered to take me thrift shopping after our hike. This was no small sacrifice on his part. I didn't need a 9th happy electron, so I turned him down.


ROCKS. I even love rocks more than fire


A birthday rock chosen just for me



EMMY'S ever-evolving smile (her teeth are growing on a daily basis)


SAVANNA "posing" 99% of the time we attempt a photo

I guess what I am trying to say is that, like krypton, I believe I have come to a NOBLE and inert place in my life where I feel full and happy. My joy is not precluded by a "when or if only" but is a daily arrival of sorts
So when I broke my tooth during my birthday dinner, did I let that "grumpy" electron tamper with the stability of my krypronic day? A little. But not very much.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Birthday Boy Blues

When it comes to birthdays, Ansel really got the short end of the pinata stick this year. My consolation is that I believe it can be strongly debated whether anything can actually out-traumatize one's actual birth day. And the silver lining is that his birthdays can only get better. I, personally, have no memory of my 4th birthday, and am therefore counting on March 6th, 2008 being a day that isn't a severe impediment to Ansel's healthy psychological development. In actuality, there is a more than remote possiblity that the rotten day was a blessing and tool in forming his future stoic adult character. To quote a line in the Princess Bride, "Life is Pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something." What better time to teach your children this than when they are young and impressionable, and especially on their birthday? In conclusion, Ansel received a priceless gift on his 4th birthday. A big dose of reality.

Corey thoughtfully moved into our new house while Ansel and I were in Utah for my grandfather's funeral. We returned the night of March 5th and the following day was Ansel's birthday. Poor little guy had to endure much of the day unpacking boxes and finding things necessary for survival (please tell me that you all just give up with the organized packing and start throwing things in unlabeled boxes and that the things that are randomly thrown in at the end are usually the things that you really NEED).

Occasionally, I do plan ahead and had ordered his cake before we left on our trip. It was ready and waiting. The sun was shining and Ansel was able to literally dig into his cake on our new deck. The truth is that he wasn't on the deck with his cake because it was such a beautiful day. Do you see that blue frosting around the edge of the cake? It had some lethal dye that left everything within a 10 foot radius cobalt blue. Not a good idea for a new house. I banished him and his cake outside and in my defense, I swear that Ansel's tongue is still a little blue. But that is not the reason for this Blog Title.
I had also thoughtfully pre-purchased these candles that were ingeniously engineered to radiate fantastic flames in their respective hues. The tragedy was that they didn't work and reeked like an 18-wheeler diesel truck. I didn't even have back-up candles and Ansel had to pretend to blow them out after the traditional birthday singing (he's a pretty good thespian, don't you think?) Note his blue lips.
A picture is worth a thousand words. And a thousand coughs. And a thousand ear-aches. And a thousand sniffles. Ansel was not a picture of perfect health. He had contracted the "too many cousins playing together" flu in Utah and couldn't eat much of anything on his birthday(except for the blue frosting, of course. Is anyone ever too sick for frosting?). For those of you who need reminding, Ansel also couldn't eat anything on his 3rd birthday due to Streptococcus. Come to think of it, he coughed and wheezed so much on his day of birth that he had to have his lungs vacuumed out. Ansel may not have this day burned into his memory, but he may have some scarring from this burn he received on a wood-burning stove in Utah. He must have been accompanied by some pain-relieving angels, because he didn't even tell me that he had recieved this injury until I found the 3rd degree blister later that night. He is not usually a 'suck it up' sort of boy. (Photo taken on his birthday)

I love you Ansel and promise better birthdays in the years to come!!