Sunday, April 29, 2012

Great Horned Owl - RIP...

The air in the house felt a little stuffy, but the temperature outside was dropping. A perfect night to open the windows, turn on the ceiling fan, crawl under the covers and get a good night's sleep with both dogs snuggling right in there, too.

Sometime in the middle of the night Big Daddy awoke and thought, "Oh, no. That ceiling fan finally bit the dust, and now I've got one more thing to add to my to-do list." And he went back to sleep.

A while later I awoke and thought, "I wonder why Big Daddy turned off the ceiling fan. It's not like him to get chilled in the middle of the night." And I went back to sleep.

When I got up early in the morning to let the dogs out, I realized we had no electricity. Strange, since the only time we might normally lose electricity is in the midst of a dangerous wind and thunder storm, but the previous night had been dry and calm.

So I used my cell phone to call the power company, anticipating a recording telling me they are aware of the problem and expecting it to be repaired by a certain time. Instead, I learned I was the first to report an outage in my area. And less than half an hour later, a power company lineman was at our house resetting the breaker on the transformer and showing us the reason behind the outage, which was limited to our house - a Great Horned Owl had been electrocuted when he decided to perch right next to that transformer.

He was such a majestic bird. Note the feathering on the right upper side
of his head, which gives the "horned" appearance.
The coloring on his underside was quite intricate. Note how the foot on the left appears drawn in.
His talons show how he was able to grab and hold onto his prey.
Note the zapped talon on the left where mega volts of electricity entered his body.

Here is what he would have looked like in flight. Again, the "horns" over the eyes and the white band under his head verify that he was a Great Horned Owl.
Here is another view of that zapped talon.

This is not the first owl to meet his demise at Le Rustique, but the other incident is a whole different story (saved for another day). Of course we would have liked to keep this owl, but it's against federal law to do so. Since this owl was so freshly dead and also intact (except for one talon), I was certain our local office of Missouri Department of Conservation would want to come and get it. It would make a great educational specimen. Instead, as they did with the other owl, they told us just to take it into the woods for disposal. And so, with a prayer for the spirit of the owl and a hope that he had not been the only one here, we took him into the woods.
We chose  a spot deep in the woods, but not in the densest area, and
we laid his body inconspicuously at the base of an old dying cedar tree.
The good news is that later that same day and throughout the night, we heard more owls sounding their beautiful hoots all around Le Rustique. We can only hope that those sounds are wafting the spirit of our owl to some hallowed land.

One of my favorite books of all time is I Heard The Owl Call My Name, a small novel by Margaret Craven (Copyright 1973). It was out of print for several years, but it's available again HERE. It's a beautiful read if you're interested.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Flowers for Leontien...

To Leontien: As you bravely face each day, please know that you are not alone. I add my flowers and my prayers to hundreds more - just for you.

You can follow Leontien's story in her own words at Four Leaf Clover Diary. And please add your flowers for her through the link below as she finds the strength to conquer breast cancer once again.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Walk In The Woods: Lewis And Clark Expedition...

Sometimes if you can just get a kid into the woods and let him do the talking, he amazes you. BumperT did just that recently. When #1Daughter's family last visited, we all went for a walk in the woods as soon as the rain let up. We headed straight to the waterfall, because it's at its showiest after a rain.
Our waterfall. The day before, it was flowing over the rock on the left as well.
By the time this next shot was taken BumperT had announced that we were all going to pretend we were part of the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery Expedition that left St. Louis in 1804 shortly after ceremonies transferring the Louisiana Territory to the United States.
BumperT, who had declared himself to be William Clark, casually informs BumperK that, as Meriwether Lewis, she was only going to live to be 35. He appointed her the primary scribe documenting the Expedition.

While Clark contemplates the dangerous and swift rapids of the Missouri River, his mother says she wants to play, too. He assigns her the role of Sakakawea and entertains us with tales of  controversy over the spelling and pronunciation of her name, for many years thought to be Sakajawea or Sacagewea.

By now I've been assigned the role of Charbonneau, husband of Sakakawea, close friend of Meriwether Lewis, and  experienced water traveler. Due to the latter, I am invited to accompany Clark on an exploration of a major fork in the Missouri River.

All forks lead back to the main passageway, and detailed exploration slows down forward progress. FaveSIL didn't bring his boots along, so the only logical role for him was as Thomas Jefferson overseeing the Expedition from afar.

As the group senses that they are getting closer to their goal of reaching the Pacific Ocean, members of the Expedition often step away to privately contemplate how this trip has changed them.

Success! We have reached the Pacific Ocean and opened a means of travel across this vast nation.
We know we are at the end because we have reached the barbed wire fence along the property line separating Le Rustique from the grass-fed cattle next to us. And besides that, PapaJ (aka Big Daddy)  has managed to portage the boat (aka the UTV) across perilous territory to pick up the crew and continue the overland portion of our tour.

The next morning, BumperT declared that he wanted to recreate the Expedition once again, because during the night he had remembered other important milestones he could teach us about. And more importantly, he wanted to see if we could find the opposite side of the big deer shed we found the day before (a side story for another blog.)

A smaller crew repeated the fun, but the return trip didn't go so well. Clark brought back a little more of the river this time, and we lost a member of the Expedition to a minor meltdown because we inadvertently laughed when she, too, filled her boots. Ah, the perils of the Corps of Discovery.

If you are ever in the St. Louis area or just want more information, HERE is a great place to visit.

And I'm linking up to Rural Thursday #14
It's a great place to read a lot of other rural stories and see some great rural photos.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Barn Charm: On A Parking Lot...

This barn sits on the back side of the parking lot for a local auction place. The man who drove up in his pickup to see what I wanted didn't appear to be very friendly, and his dogs were barking at me as they came from around the corner of the barn, so I didn't stay to chat and ask questions. Auctions are held next door to this barn twice a month, so maybe I'll stop by then and see if I can sneak a peek inside - with my camera in my pocket.
I'm always intrigued by this barn whenever I drive past, so I finally drove right in to snap a photo.
And that's all I got - just one photo.

Linking up with

Barn Charm ♥82♥

Friday, April 20, 2012

Setting Phoebe Free...

Two years ago, amid the cleanup of the big Gulf oil spill, #1Daughter took Bumpers K & T to New Orleans for a wedding celebration. One souvenir BumperK brought home was a water turtle that had been rescued, cleaned up and placed in a big tank with a gajillion others in need of a home.

The man in charge of the tank must have felt sorry for the little girl who has always wanted a dog, but whose mother is inexplicably "pet-free and proud."  And he gambled that the mean momma who would deny her precious children a dog probably wouldn't object to the opportunity to do one little thing to help out the wildlife rescued from the oil spill. He gave BumperK a turtle, and she named it Phoebe.

Phoebe made a lot of friends at her new home in St. Louis, but when it came time for fun stuff like soccer and scooters, she got left behind. At some point the little girl who finally had a pet-even-if-it-wasn't-a-dog began to think that Phoebe might be better off having friends a little more like herself. So a plan was hatched to set Phoebe free in Pondorie at Le Rustique.

BumperK and Phoebe

Phoebe contemplates her new home at Pondorie.

And before I could switch to video mode, Phoebe jumped right in.
Oh, joy. Mission accomplished. And believe it or not, the mean momma is contemplating a dog once a big remodeling project now in progress at their house is completed. All's well that ends well, right?

Okay, I know it's already Friday, but I'm still linking to Rural Thursday. I had a lot of trouble uploading these photos. I thought it would be better to post a day late than present pictures that were oriented both sideways and upside down. Be sure to check out all the other posts there - you know, the ones that were posted on time. There are always such a variety of interesting photos and stories.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Barn Charm: Rusty Roof and Rotting Wood

I'm beginning to worry about the state of many old barns in Smallville. Already one I photographed has collapsed, and most of the others I've found close enough to the road to photograph (without getting yelled at, as in Debbie's case) are either in dire need of repair or are probably too far gone to benefit from repair. Like this one.
Every building (and car, for that matter) on this property is in similar shape, but the folks who
live there have a number of horses that appear well-fed.
Can't we all come up with a list of a hundred adaptive re-uses for a barn? Maybe we could mail the list to the barn owner whenever we see one that is starting to slip - before it gets to this stage. Got any ideas?

Linking to
Barn Charm ♥80♥
I recommend you take a little time to browse some of the other sites linked up with Barn Charm - 
You'll see a lot of great barns (and some great shots of some no-longer-great barns).

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Walk In The Woods: Turtles And Mushrooms

The Missouri box turtles are on the move in our woods, and you can hardly go for a walk anywhere on the property without seeing them right now.
This guy is more out in the open than he'd like, but a turtle has to take a few risks
in order to move from his winter grounds to his summer hideout.

He stood perfectly still while I walked around him and knelt down real
close to his face for this shot. His shell is still dusty, meaning he recently
came out of hibernation in one of our more distant creek beds.
 According to Missouri Department of Conservation this particular turtle is a mature male, hence the brighter coloring on his head and forelegs. (And for the more observant, note the piece of Mozarkite at about 2:00 from the turtle.

The wet-weather or intermittent creeks are running just enough to keep parts of the forest floor damp, a prime condition for mushrooms to form amidst all the decay.

Devil's Urn or Devil's Cup popping up in an area we burned last month. Obviously  these
leaves just got around to dropping recently, or they couldn't be there in that condition now.
I'm excited now, because according to the Mushroom Expert the emergence of Devil's Urn mushrooms may be a precursor to the emergence of morels - which we have yet to discover at Le Rustique even using techniques my grandpa taught me as a kid while spending time with him in Michigan.

When I left the woods and made my way to our yard (Ha! - that's what we call it, because we mow it, but it ain't no real yard - just greener than dirt), I ran across another turtle - this time a young snapper.
This snapper was sassy. No sitting still for him. Every time I tried to pick him up out of the fourteen blades
of grass we own to get a better shot of his armored shell, he hissed and lunged with his mouth wide open.
When I was a kid, my uncle killed a snapping turtle that was "running" after us kids as we played in the backyard with hoses and a kiddie pool. His armor was at least 16" long, and he bit right through a broomstick my uncle used as bait. This little guy wasn't quite 3" long, but he wanted my finger to be his broomstick!

Linking to Rural Thursday...
Be sure to check out a diverse group of rural bloggers
who always have something interesting to offer.
Rural Thursday Blog Hop

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Dammit: A Mouse Ate My...

It was never my intention to swear on my blog. Not that I'm opposed to a well-deserved, well-placed salty word, I just figured I'd never be blogging about anything that bugged me enough to swear here. But dammit, a mouse ate my checkbook cover.
Not a polite nibble, but a thorough job of ruination.
And the reason that crazy, inconsequential act is worthy of a little swearing is because this particular checkbook cover has a story behind it. (You already knew that, right, because my favorite thing is always the story behind the story.) So here are the highlights:
  • Summer of 1998 we hosted an exchange student from Japan at our house in the city.
  • She brought gifts of silk and food - the former because it is a symbol of great respect and appreciation; the latter because she wanted us to know the simple pleasures of her life in her home country.
  • She gave me this silk checkbook cover and insisted I use it and think about her, rather than store it away as a keepsake.
  • She loves potatoes, something she had never eaten in Japan. Big Daddy made it his mission to introduce her to as many ways of preparing potatoes as possible, although we seldom eat them ourselves. We made a list of every potato dish we could think of, and she checked them off one-by-one as we worked our way down the list. (Okay, that was a digression that has nothing to do with the checkbook cover, I know, but I just had to tell you what simple pleasure excited her most about America - that and steak.)
  • We spent a wonderful summer together and shared many experiences, including motorcycle rides along the Great River Road, para-sailing behind a huge jet boat on the Illinois River, chats with my dad about some of the places we lived in Japan when I was a child, and on and on.
  • Over the years we've kept in touch less frequently all the time, but we reserved very special places in each other's hearts. I knew I could always track her down through her parent's home in Fukushima, Japan.
  • And then just over a year ago a horrific tsunami hit the city of Fukushima, in her home prefecture, unleashing a dreadful nuclear disaster. And I've been unable to find her or her parents since.
  • But each time I pulled that checkbook cover out of my purse, I said a silent prayer for her safety as well as that of her sister and parents.
  • And now, dammit, a mouse ate that checkbook cover and the silk-like lining in my purse (along with a snack baggie of mixed nuts, which I carry should I ever be stranded without food). And the fact that Big Daddy came to my rescue (as always) and caught the little interloper in a peanut-butter baited trap doesn't make this loss any easier on me.
So, Mutsumi Kanno, should you ever do a Google search on yourself and run across this blog, please contact us and let us know that you and your family are recovering from your terrible losses as you pass that one-year anniversary of life-changing devastation.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Barn Charm: Ominous Sky...

That barbed wire fence kept me from getting any closer.
I loved how this white barn stood out against the ominous gray sky. I wish I could have gotten it from another angle or two, but that barbed wire fence looked a little ominous, too. I can see that I need to invest in a powerful telephoto lens, as this is as good as I could get this without distorting it.

Linking up with

Barn Charm ♥79♥

Be sure to check out all the great posts with so many interesting barns from across the country.