Search This Blog


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Good Neighbors

Bow enjoying a cookie sent him by a neighbor
Yesterday, there was an internet outage. It was a beautiful day, though, so both Bow and I spent a lot of time outdoors, he in the outer pen, and me just wandering around outside.

I saw a box turtle that was around fifty years old.

I spotted a Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly on a purple milkweed in the pasture.

The milkweed there is surrounded by poison ivy, so I could not get very close.

The video of the butterfly embedded below is worth watching, if only for the bird song and other nature sounds.

I spent some time in the front yard recording videos and podcasts for my Anti-Romaticism series, and then I went out into the backyard to be with Bow. But about then, Bow started to show concern, and there was a smell of smoke in the air. So I went into the house and back out through the front door, to try to find out where the smoke was coming from.

The view of the fire from my pasture

The smoke led me down the path in the pasture to the southern border of my property, where the air was thick with it, wafting across the property line.

About this time, I could hear sirens. The local volunteer fire department was on its way.

The view of the neighbors' field from te road

Try as I might, I could not see into the neighboring field well enough to understand what was going on there, because the trees and shrubs are so thick at the border. So I walked back down the path and up my driveway to the road, and down the road to my neighbor's field. I stood at the side of the road, and this is what I saw.

The fire was under control. It would not spread to my land. But the field was black and charred, and plumes of smoke still wafted in the air.  I went home and reported to Bow that all was well, It was about time for lunch, so we forgot all about it and concentrated on our food.

Today, after lunch,  I attended a neighbor's open house with my daughter. A lot of other neighbors were there. Somebody mentioned that burning field yesterday. "I was thinking of you, Aya," somebody else said. "I know you stay indoors a lot, so I thought you might not know what was happening."

I guess I have a reputation for being a recluse and a shut-in, but Bow and I actually do spend a lot of time outdoors,  so much so that he gets his required vitamin D, and I am getting a bit of a tan.

"What caused the fire?" I asked.

"As near as we can make out, they were out baling the field,when both the hay and the combine caught fire."

Aha! "I thought it was something like that," I said.

So we had refreshments and talked about local vegetation. "What's that orange flower that blooms out beside the road right now?" one of the ladies asked. "Butterfly plant?" "Milkweed?" "Butterfly milkweed." "Yes, that's the one." And another person was talking about yucca and how to get rid of weeds surrounding it. Hey, I know these plants, I thought. I am not a complete newby anymore.

One of my yuccas in full bloom

They talked to my daughter about her choice of college and about dorm life, And when we left, the hostess sent cookies for me to give to Bow. "Tell him they're from me!"

So I did.

Bow was happy.

Monday, June 12, 2017

A Mulberry from the Pasture

I went for a walk this morning, because Bow said I should.

 The mulberry tree that grows by the path is giving fruit now.

 I picked a ripe mulberry and brought it back for Bow to have.

I did not plant this tree. It just grew. It gives fruit. I give the fruit to Bow. Maybe someday I can have a moat around the pasture so Bow can pick the fruit himself.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Bow and the Roofer

After the storms come the repairs. And repairs bring with them repairmen. And repairmen are strangers, and strangers need to be displayed at.

I had been enjoying relative peace and quiet. When Bow is outside resting after a meal, he is usually very mellow.

I have enjoyed watching the milkweed flower by the path bloom, one little floret at a time.

Yesterday afternoon it was almost completely open. But this morning tragedy struck.

Some creature came and bit off the flower head. Now it will never turn into a seedpod to propagate its kind. My friend Kathy says common milkweed also spreads through rhizomes, but this is purple milkweed, and it depends more on its seeds.

I made a video to remember this flower by.

There are still other milkweed plants with intact flowers on my property. But I will miss this one.

On my walks there are still other things to see. Like this yucca that is blooming. Or the surprising number of pears on this one branch of the second pear tree.

There is the occasional box turtle.

Or a rabbit that pauses to look at me for a good long while before it disappears into the underbrush.

But with the advent of the roofer all that has to stop, because Bow is not going to be calm, and he has to display how very big and strong he is.

And viewed from outside the outer pen, it looks something like this.

The roofer is on the roof top, working by the chimney. And Bow is down below, watching and then displaying.

All the rabbits and turtles and deer for miles around can hear Bow displaying for the roofer. But other than that, it is fairly quiet around here.

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Storm and its Aftermath

On May the 27th, two days ago, I had just finished putting the last touches on my video of the essay "Who Are the Flowers For?", when a terrible wind arose and felled one of our trees.

It did not happen that fast, of course. I noticed that the sky was getting stormy, so I went to look out through the glass of the front door. But Bow was very upset about the weather. So I went back in the pen with him.

Bow vocalized at the storm while it lasted, his hair standing on end, and afterwards, we groomed. And all was right with the world, except that one of the trees had been pulled up and thrown across the internal gravel road that leads from my house to the county road.

The tree that fell surprised me. It was not the tree I would have expected to fall.

The dead oak tree still stands

 In our front yard, we have a dead oak tree. It has been dying for years, and this year when spring came, not a single green leaf sprouted. People have been  telling me that I had better have it felled, or else one day a storm will bring it crashing down on the roof of my house. But that is not the tree that fell. The dead oak tree is still standing tall, and a smaller, younger, vitally alive poplar (or cottonwood) had been brought low in the prime of its life. Such is nature.

The next morning there was a power outage that lasted all day. Having nothing to do indoors, Bow and I went outside, he to the outer pen, and I for a walk. The strange weather brought out other animals from their usual places of hiding. I saw a snapping turtle nesting right in the open, where she could easily be spotted.

The mother snapping turtle had laid her eggs and was in the process of burying them.

I left her alone and proceeded on my walk toward the barn and the path that leads to my pasture. But before I got there, from a distance, I saw three round objects in the grass. At first I did not know what they were. Then it dawned on me that they were armadillos.

They kept rooting around, oblivious of my presence, until one of them stood up on its hind legs and started sniffing the air for clues of my presence.

They did not seem to see very well,  but soon another of them was standing up and sniffing.

Then the third armadillo also decided to sweep the air for clues of a strange presence.

For a moment, it looked as if they were planning to march away single file.

But instead, they scattered in all different directions. So I went on my walk along the path and checked on the milkweed plant, which unlike the felled poplar, was still standing, though it was bowed now and its stem was white with stains from its own milky sap. .

Nature is remorseless in its arbitrary choices, felling the young and the vital and overlooking the dead and dying. On the way back from the pasture I spotted the snapping turtle mother again. Having buried her nest of eggs, her maternal  duties were done, and she was off to do something else.

The storm had caused so much destruction. For others in more populated spots, it had not only felled trees but thrown buildings around. The power outage we suffered was as nothing to the much longer outages that others in our region had to go through. But the plus side of it all was that nature revealed itself to me yesterday. I got to see sights I'd never see if the storm had not brought out our most exotic looking wildlife from its hiding.

To top it all off, an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail allowed me to get close enough to take see it in all its glory, even though its tail end was a bit damaged. Or more precisely, perhaps because it was damaged. It was able, however, to fly away afterwards.

Eventually my mowers came and cleared away the fallen tree. The power came back on, and we no longer had to sit indoors in the dark.

The road was littered with sawdust and with fresh green leaves from the tree.

If you'd care to count the rings, the age of the tree cut down in its prime will reveal itself. As for me and Bow, and the snapping turtles and the armadillos, life goes on.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Familiar Guests

Bow likes having guests. But the guests that come need to somehow feel familiar, like family. Sometimes the guests are people that he has seen before many times. Others, he has only ever heard on the phone. But it helps if he knows them in some way, and if he feels they are not entirely strangers.

My daughter graduated for high school this weekend. Two family friends, Paul and Adonna, came to visit. Bow had never seen them before, But their voices he had heard over the years.

Bow was particularly drawn to Paul, whose voice was very familiar.

Over the past ten years Bow and I have been trapped in the pens. Any phone conversation I had during the first twelve hours of the day, Bow was a witness to. His hearing is very good, and he can hear everything the other party is saying, even if the phone is held to my ear and not his. Therefore, people who have been in our lives over the long term, even if only by sporadic phone contact, are not considered strangers.

The high pitched, excited vocalizations Bow made when Paul first appeared, and at various points during the visit are different from his display vocalizations. He did display, also, every once in  a while, letting us all know he is strong enough. But the excited, high pitched vocalizations are what happens when Bow is trying to talk to someone without spelling on the glass. They are his speaking voice.

It's so important not to be a stranger in order to be accepted by Bow. But there are other ways to meet and learn to know one another, besides visiting our house. That's why some people Bow has never seen before are already not strangers when they finally meet in person. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Bow's Relaxing Day

Bow had a nice relaxing day today. He went outside and basked in the warmth of the sun, He ate plenty of good food. He met with his friend Charla who brings the bananas and had a nice long visit with her, both indoors and out. And he engaged in plenty of grooming,

In the middle of the day, when he was tired of being outside and was getting a little antsy, I had only to mention to Bow that we could work on clipping his nails, and he immediately settled down and became calm and focused.

Chimpanzees need plenty of tactile contact with others and the opportunity for social grooming. Sometimes people tell me this, because they think I don't know it, and that Bow is somehow deprived,.But yes, it's true. Bow needs contact and socializing and grooming. And he gets that, every day. Which is why he is so relaxed and calm and content.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Cooperation and Competition

The weather has been very warm, and there has not been any rain in the past few days. Bow takes advantage of the opportunity to sunbathe.

Lately the glass door to the outer pen has been sticking, and I need Bow's help to open and close it. Yesterday, after basking in the sun for a good, long while, Bow let me know he wanted to come back inside.

I reminded him as he was coming in that he would need to help me close the glass door.

He went out into the corridor, but after I had locked the metal grid door, he came back and closed the glass door for me. I thanked him. Now that's cooperation!

This morning as I was letting the dogs out, I noticed a butterfly in the garage, It was just sitting there on the floor. I don't know how it got there.

I opened the garage door, but it did not fly out.

I coaxed it onto my hand and took it out. It was a pipevine swallowtail.

I put it down by the tulip tree, Later I came back, and it was not there any longer. I hope that means our cooperative effort, the swallowtail's and mine, was successful.  I hope that I helped it to survive.

The irises at Orchard House are still blooming, while those by the lagoon at my house have already faded. The landscaping at Orchard House is wonderful. It's as if the flowers are cooperating by taking turns being in the spotlight.

There are new flowers blooming there at every part of the season. I think someone should just buy Orchard House for the flowers alone. I am planning to sell it at auction by the end of the summer.

Nature is full of cooperation, and equally full of competition. It would not work without both, The free market is that way, too. You get what you pay for, but only when you and not someone else does the paying. There could not be life without death. All the bad stuff that happens when we make a mistake is what makes success possible. Negative feedback is important.

On my walk this afternoon I saw fresh signs of a kill. Feathers scattered everywhere.  Part of the flesh of the bird seemed to have been just left there, amid all the feathers. Was it the heart? It's probably not the heart. But suddenly I remembered that line from a Disney movie: "Bring me Snow White's heart!" Why the heart? I've always wondered. Wouldn't the head be easier to recognize?

Speaking of trouble with recognition, just around the bend in my path, after the remains of the bird, I thought I spotted a milkweed plant! But I had been wrong before, The last time I thought I had seen a milkweed plant that had not yet bloomed, it turned out to be dogbane. However, my friend Kathy confirmed it. This time it is milkweed!

That bodes well for the butterflies.