This was one of the first images I took with a digital camera. It's an Anhinga, a fish-spearing, southern-swampy watery sort of bird. The scientific name is Anhinga anhinga, a slightly slightly repetitive name name originating from a Native American term for the bird -- which is, of course, anhinga.
Anhingas spend a fair amount of time spreading their wings in this eerie pose, reminiscent of a Karate Kid preparing for his big Crane kick. Known, among other things as the snake-bird, it looks a bit like a cormorant, but is not much related. These birds prefer fresh water, they have very pointy beaks, when they are moved to speak, they sound vaguely like a clarinet -- one raspy note, low on the scale.
When they travel in packs, they are known as "a kettle of anhinga." Sometimes, when you look up, you can spot one simply gliding around on a thermal at high altitudes, barely flapping its wings, like a vulture or an eagle.
I suspect they have rich imaginative lives, the anhinga, going from sea-level to cruising altitude for their own mysterious purposes. I wonder if soaring is a relief for them, a break from the hard work of sinking into the water and chasing fish. I wonder if they compare which vasty blue space they like best: the one with air or the one with food?
In its heyday, did workers at the Lumberteria stand behind acrylic sneeze-guards, wearing capacious aprons, waiting to dole out big spoonfuls of nails and staples onto the customer's tray? Did customers stroll past displays of hardware, sliding their trays along the metal railing, idly chatting to the workers about Elmer's versus carpenter's glue, about the freshness of the pine, about the quality of the plywood?
The Lumberteria building (currently for sale) is located in Paducah, Kentucky.
My friend L is a social worker. As part of the job, she takes case notes about clients, jotting down health history as well as the occasional personal detail. What kind of detail, one might naturally ask? Her answer: "Oh, you know. The very long single rattail braid. Or -- you know -- poor dentition."
I love this phrasing. The delicacy and precision of "poor dentition" over any one of the less kindly descriptions of gappy or discolored teeth.
There are no metal kennel gates for Lilly to chew at our house. Her teeth have continued to deteriorate regardless. She has, for instance, a strangely porcine obsession with acorns. Despite -- or maybe because of -- the bitter, tannic flavor, she seems to enjoy rooting around the yard and snarfling them up. The raw acorn of course, is a stout oaken nugget quite capable of standing up to the odd tooth, so along with the bitter chunks of acorn meat, she chows down on her own teeth.
Also, though it squeezes at my heart to remember it, we helped loosen at least a couple of those teeth for her. She's got a spry way about her. When encouraged, she'll tear up her toys and haul ass around the house, all spring-loaded mischief. But the enthusiasm has a downside. At first, we did not notice that this fierce little tug-of-warrior was leaving the odd tooth fragment embedded in her fuzzy toy after an evening's frisk.
There she'd be, shivering a little with excitement, holding Cry-baby Lamb-chop clamped between her jaws, the light of battle still shining in her buggy eyes, despite the little smear of blood on the greyish fur of the toy. Like a kid refusing to admit chill after hours in the lake, she'd want us to continue yanking on the toy. She'd want to go on sliding on the hardwood with her back legs braced, growling.
Smiling her jack-o-lantern grin in a Platonic ideal of poor dentition.
The Cornell Cooperative Extension web-based seminar ckasses for agriculture started with "Beginning Farmer 101." Naturally.
It was an excellent class. I enjoyed it very much, and was sad to see it end in November.
Would-be farmers like me -- having taken the intro -- were encouraged to learn more. We could sign up the following semester for either:
While I might eventually decide to use a Back-Pack for Pesticide Application, I'd just as soon wait before learning my poisons.
Does it even bear saying that I would never willingly take a class to explore the Feasibility of any of my Ideas? When exploring the feasibility of my ideas, for crying out loud, I want to end up with a basket of apples, not a plan of action.
So, it's Understand the Business, Tax, and Regulatory Implications of Our Farm for me. The first hour of the webinar was devoted to risk management. Farming. Risk. Seriously?
Farming IS risk: drought, pests, soft markets, hard soil, bad luck, and plague. Broken fences, floods, hail, wandering livestock, honey-bee collapse, the neighbor's marauding dogs, trespassers -- these few just off the top of my head.
Still, my impatience only goes so far. Unlike a lot of beginning farmers, Jeff and I aren't betting the farm -- on the farm.
In a rare moment when the tired investment metaphor actually jumps up and does its trick, this eccentric farming endeavor of ours is precisely where the phrase "minimizing one's exposure" nearly makes sense.
Most farmers borrow money in an effort to pull dollars from the ground (or pluck pennies from the trees). But Jeff and I aren't starting in an unleveraged position, thankfully. We aren't investing in livestock. We have no plans to sink funds into buildings. We will not be signing mortgage papers for tractors or combines or agitators or seeders. This year's farm budget might touch the lower end of the cost of a busy sailing season -- making our exposure laughably small:
(*The reference is from John Webster's The White Devil. "Stop her mouth with a sweet kiss, my lord. So/ Now's the tide's turned, the vessel's come about./He's a sweet armful. O we curled haired men/Are still most kind to women." Not much related to shovels and loppers and rakes, but I like it anyhow.)
The real investment this year will be some hours and sweat and a good chunk of brain-time. We can afford that much.
The small dog comes trotting to my desk, the sound of her feet like small-arms fire. The addition of metal taps could not make her noisier on the wooden floorboards. Her small, flattish face has an expression of urgency.
"Oh no! Is Timmy in the well?" I ask her.
She replies with a dismissive snort. She hates it when I am facetious.
I tilt my head to the side and gaze deeply into her goldfishy eyeballs. "What is it, Lilly? Tell me, girl!"
She snorts. She's not having any of my phony-baloney.
Backing up with a lot of unnecessary ball-change steps, she gives me a look of as much impatience and disbelief as she can muster. Which is considerable.
If I insist on finishing the sentence I am typing -- especially if that sentence turns into two or three sentences -- she lunges with both front feet held out straight. She delivers a canine judo chop with her chilled ratty little feet.
If I continue to ignore her, she will be so moved as to give a gruff bark. It's five o'clock, dammit!
And after all -- really, truly -- who am I to resist her blandishments? I might be her Food Goddess, but it's evident my little disciple demands that I kick my divine self into gear and dish up the goods. It's dinner time already.
Joy. What IS that stuff? Ineffable mood? Attitude?
Describing what joy brings to any activity is like trying to answer, "Why Jell-o shots?" "Who would do Parkour?" or "What happened to the undercarriage of your grandfather's car?"
That is, you can answer, but you can never really explain. And like many another, it's a quality easily identifiable at ten paces.
As an illustration, take a look at this strangely joyless rendition of the goofiest, happiest of dances:
It's easy to imagine these people are on their last legs, and that the Chicken Dance is the only part remaining of their memory of life above ground.
This flying lawnmower (yes, I know this video has been around for ages. And yes, I understand how they did it. Don't be a buzzkill, bro) on the other hand, is utterly joyous:
So many things in this world are alarming. And childhood is difficult.
Should toys be this frightening, even for plucky British youngsters?
Within the first days of Lilly coming to stay with us, we discovered that she was an excellent watch-dog.
If someone rang the doorbell or knocked on the door, she was up and barking, sometimes before she was even awake.
One memorable UPS delivery ended up with Lilly somehow summersaulting off the couch and landing upside-down between the side-table and the couch-leg, stuck like an angry capsized turtle. She remained there, wriggling and barking wildly, until I un-wedged the table. By the time I got to the door, the UPS guy was in full retreat, swinging himself back into the truck, probably having visions of three or four huge mutts tearing up the furniture in their eagerness to get to him.
Naturally, I wanted to turn Lilly's useful canine instinct into a party-trick.
One evening, playing with the small dog, I gave the wooden floor a few experimental knocks and called out "Helloooo?"
Lilly was off like a stick of dynamite.
A few minutes later, I did it again and got the same rewarding noisy reaction. She was ready to tear someone UP.
This went on for a while.
By the, let's say the sixth time, she barked less explosively. As she raced to the door, she kept glancing back to keep an eye on me.
Seventh time, she barked, and stayed nearby. She studied me as I stifled my hilarity to call out "Hellooo? Who's there?" By the set of her ears and by the wary, suspicious look in her eye, it seemed as though she might be catching wind of the game.
Eighth time, she bounced up, barked once, and then came over and gave my knocking hand a decided nip. The message being emphatic: Do. Not. Freakin. Mess. With. Me.
Of course, I continue to mess with her.
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