Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Chipmunk vs. Irises

We haven't seen the cute chipmunk we believe lives in a hole by the front doorstep for a week, but today we have new evidence chipmunk is alive. Near the hole six gorgeous little iris reticulata were blooming yesterday. Today all six are crumpled. While it's possible the warm weather caused an untimely flame-out of an iris, the two I inspected closely were clearly scraped and severed. Mean chipmunk.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Bonus Rodent Day

On one fantastic day over spring break, we not only saw this cutie (Eastern Chipmunk, Tamias striatus) who lives(d?) in a hole by our front porch, but we also saw a bunch of Eastern Grays (Sciurus carolinensis) at the wildlife preserve (although they were not the featured animals),
and our prairie dog and Vancouver Island Marmot made trips to the mountains, including Blackwater Falls.

Beaver Two!

At dusk this evening one of North America's largest species of rodent swam the muddy waters of the Little Kanawha River to sneak up on the Mister and me (according to me) or because we startled him/her (according to the Mister). After several minutes hiding under the bank below us (plotting to eat us, I'm sure) the beaver (Castor canadensis) lost interest in us and swam back across the muddy river. He/she was kind enough to scramble onto the base of a tree, revealing an awkward gait, a hefty body and a broad flat tail, and grab a branch. Standing in mud in the fading light watching a beaver on the far side of a river strip a small branch is not breathtaking excitement, but it did make my weekend.

The Mister is looking up beaver facts as I type, including the decision of the Catholic Church that beaver are fish and thus permissible on Fridays during Lent. That's a great segue into shameless self promotion; I know a fabulous book, A Taste of Heritage by Alma Hogan Snell, which includes some top notch recipes for beaver and beaver tail.

Dead Rodent Remover

Discovered a dead (and not recently dead) rodent on our side patio by the grill. It's either a large, dark mouse or a small rat. Very kindly the Mister "did something about it." I do love him.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Mom, I figured out the salad dressing

My mother and I have often spoken longingly about the ginger-soy salad dressing at several Japanese restaurants in Denver (strange as that sentence may read, my mother and I do often discuss food at length, and reminiscing over salad dressing is well within our conversational norms). I can now proudly announce that I've figured it out. Tahini is the secret. Except tahini makes it very different from what they serve at Japanese restaurants, but, somehow, I daresay it makes it better.

Better than Samauri Ginger-Soy Salad

Salad Fixin's
Salad greens*
Pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
Green onions
Carrot shavings

Salad Dressing
Soy sauce
Rice vinegar
Grapefruit juice
Ginger (we buy the paste, but fresh would be preferred)
Mustard (preferably a little honey mustard)
Wasabi powder (optional)
Black pepper
*One reason for posting recipes is to encourage friends to eat locally grown produce in season. It is not salad season here in WV (and I admit to buying bulk organic salad greens from CA at Sam's Club), but I am hoping that it might be salad season soon here and possibly wherever you may be.

Sparkling Occasion

The Mister put a bottle of house sparkling wine (Chateau St. Michelle Blanc de Noir) "for Monday night," last weekend. Monday night was the East Region NCAA Women's Division II basketball championship. The opposition, the Crimson Hawks of Indiana, Pennsylvania, played well and were ahead at half (an unfamiliar situation for the local fans. The Lady Pioneers have won 88 of their last 90 home games, and usually the domination is obvious by half), yet the Pioneers prevailed in the end. Upon returning home, humming "Country Roads", and fantasizing about somehow making it to Nebraska to watch the team win the National Championship, I pulled out the bottle of sparkling wine only to find out that the Mister had intended it as dinner wine (we had been expecting guests) rather than celebration wine. After much arm twisting, we drank it anyway. Good wine on a good evening.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

What to do in this one rabbit town?

The Mister has seen this rabbit on several occasions. I have not seen it yet, but for the most part he (or she) seems to be all that's going on among the small mammals (rabbits are not rodents) in town.

I bring this up because the NCAA East Region Division II Women's Basketball tournament is in town. We had 8 teams (mostly from PA and NC) here on Friday, 4 played again yesterday, and the regional championships (which include a school we know and work for) are tomorrow (Monday) night. I'm trying to figure out what the people travelling with the other teams are doing this weekend. I enjoy my life here, but I have a house where I can read and write and cook delicious meals (or eat delicious meals that the mister cooks). I have my tennis equipment handy so I could take advantage of the unexpectedly warm day yesterday. I have no expectations of entertainment. I am not a tourist. What does a tourist here do in March?

Our town is rural and small but not quaint. The coffee shop recently closed. Except for the "Common Place" and the dollar stores, everything is closed on Sunday. The physical beauty of the area is somewhat subdued in March when the hills are brown, the grass straw-colored, and the sky gray. Hiking at the local state park would just be muddy. There is mall, strip mall and big box shopping an hour away, but it's no different than shopping in PA or NC (although I do forget that many people like to travel and shop at comfortably same stores.) Bowling alleys and movie theaters are an hour away. Little historical museums are all closed for the winter. The birds are out, but the deer are shy in the day. And there's just one bunny in town. How are the basketball fans spending their days?*

*This is not intended to discourage anyone from visiting us. I think Sunflower Spinner and our parents can all attest that it is a very comfortable place to visit and read and meander and hang out and eat delicious food at our house. It's just not a place that offers many tourist attractions to motel-residents in early March.

Tom and Jerry

Just as boring and pointless as I remember them, and a little more mean-spirited. Okay as background for exam grading.

A House Like a Lotus

Yesterday I re-read A House Like a Lotus, one of my favorite "young adult novels" by one of my favorite authors, Madeleine L'Engle. Sadly, I believe that it is becoming somewhat dated and L'Engle's flaw of incredibly precocious teenage characters actually irritated me. L'Engle's heroines are always teenagers who read, travel, question everyone's motivations, and speak multiple languages. That I find this irritatingly unrealistic rather than inspirational suggests that either 1) I am out of touch with my teenage self when I wanted to be these characters and thought I thought deep thoughts or 2) that I have become jaded by my current job working with young people who have not revealed their capacity for thought or sense of the world. Both are probably true and both bother me. I want to expect teenagers to think.

Despite a heroine who thinks too much and speaks five languages, I still highly recommend A House Like a Lotus. If you find an old paperback copy, don't believe the trashy romance cover (as is illustrated above from Madeleine's webpage).

Sunday, March 4, 2007


Last Saturday was warm and sunny. On the hill behind our house, two chipmunks were rustling through the leaves chasing each other all day. The mister observed them on several occasions and captured a good shot of a quickly moving creature. Neither chipmunk has been seen since-- whether weather or cats we do not know.

The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin

I'm haunted by my ex-boyfriends' tastes. I've acquired a small portion of DirtDog's love for Brahams, String Songster's disdain towards Mozart, and Scottish? Stephen's passion for the Beatles, Iain Banks and Kate Bush. Stephen introduced me to Bruce Chatwin and I read On the Black Hill one magical weekend back in 1995. Stephen spoke of The Songlines as if, obviously as a literate person, I had read it. I had never heard of it, but had a hard time envisioning the author of a very quiet novel of brothers in Wales (On the Black Hill) exploring the depths of aboriginal origin stories. Stephen also introduced me to Dougie MacLean and other connections between Scotland and Australian Aborigines that I didn't understand but felt somehow magical, mysterious and apparent at the time.

I'm also haunted by the tastes of people who have appeared in my life perhaps only to inflict some new idea on me. I owe a great love of Where in the World is Carmen San Diego to a roommate I otherwise couldn't stand and I like LIVE songs on Jack Radio just because I associate them with String Songster's Ex Chemaine (whom I only met once). One more influential person was a gardening client in Philadelphia. She introduced me to great garden writers because she could tell from an annotated plant list I created for her that our styles were similar. She fed me fabulous fresh fruit as I worked in her garden, wanted to travel with my parents, and talked books with me as I planted her shrubs. She compared several other authors to Bruce Chatwin and discussed his early demise as if I (along with all other literate cool people) had mourned his early passing in 1989. I knew in my time gardening with her that I had found a kindred spirit and I'm still angry with myself that we don't keep in touch.
So Bruce Chatwin comes with baggage. To me, he's a haunted author. Haunted by great memories, but haunted none the less. I found The Songlines in the KU card catalog one day and felt tingly all over. I remember being physically relieved when it wasn't on the shelf where it was supposed to be. I checked out another Bruce Chatwin book but was never able to start it because of the weight of Stephen memories expecting me to love it.

That's all the backstory to the February book review (I pushed hard but didn't finish it until March 1).
One cold January day I was looking through the Mister's novels (hoping to find the two books that I started over the summer and somewhere lost in the move) and discovered The Songlines, a paperback he clearly bought for a college class but doesn't recall reading. And I read it. And I thought nothing about loving it for the sake of Scottish? Stephen. And couldn't recall the name of the kindred spirit in Philadelphia. So the biggest deal of reading this book is a change in status of my personal ghosts. Good to be able to read a book on its own merits. Sad to be unaffected by once-dominant emotions.

As for the book, its really good. It happened to me at a time when I'm teaching and thinking about human coevolution (particularly as pertains to agriculture) and the range of thoughts presented really resonates. Chatwin writes a tale, as if memoir, of traveling through Australia talking to (or not talking to) native people about their songlines, but peppers the last half with his notes from years of travel about nomads, pastoralists, hunters, the journey and the human condition. The book is short on plot, the characters are very realistic and very far from heroic, and there are several times that one wonders exactly when we'll get to the point and if we'll recognize it when we get there. Which, is, I believe, very intentional, as the point of the book, as with the songlines themselves, is that there is no linear destination and the journey itself is to be valued. Not a unique philosophy, certainly, and one prone to annoy me in a book (unless the journey is full of adventures that further the "journey is the destination" plot, which was not the case in this book) but very well executed in this case.
I'm having a hard time determining to whom I'd recommend this book. I'd suggest it for some time when you are hoping to feel intellectual and culturally challenged. It is the perfect book for a college lit. class because it is an overall enjoyable read, but it makes one feel that the world is so full of ideas and isn't it wonderful to be exploring all of these great anthropological-psychological-literary ideas from around the world? While I say it's great for a college lit. class for that reason, here I am at 34 feeling special for having read a book largely of ideas. I'm also feeling that my genuine intellectual friends (DirtDog, the siblings in-law) are just laughing at the suggestion that such a short compilation of notes really requires thought.

No rodents make appearances in The Songlines, although many marsupials do.
Digeridoo photo from the wikipedia commons.

Prairie Dog Travels

Our stuffed prairie dog (named, I believe, "Prairie Dog") likes to travel. He fits well in the mister's breast pocket and has been to Scotland and Mount Baker, Washington, among other places. Recently he has taken to joining in basketball games. Prairie Dog is a Glenville State Lady Pioneer fan and has cheered them on to victory at several occasions, most recently yesterday in Charleston as GSC outscored the West Liberty Hilltoppers 69-45 at the conference tournament finals. Prairie Dog then joined us for Indian Food and was a little sad to come home to a day of grading.