Friday, June 30, 2017

June Book Report

Summertime...and the reading is easy - or at least, eases up. Only eight books read this month.

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher about her time making Star Wars and subsequent life always being known as Princess Leia was about what I expected. An okay read, but I liked Postcards From the Edge better.

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins. I finally got on the train. Compared to Gone Girl, but Gone Girl is so much better.

The Winds of Change by Martha Grimes. Reading through the Richard Jury series and enjoying them.

Brakus by J. B. Millhollin. Jeff is my former attorney and, like my brother, has, in retirement, become an author. I love mysteries and wasn't sure what to expect from this author's first book. I thought it started a little slow, but I was hooked before long, and I did not figure out the ending! Good job, Jeff.

The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O'Neill was my least favorite read this month. Orphans fall in love as children. Leave the orphanage and lead separate lives before reconnecting as adults in Montreal.

The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve. I will always read anything Shreve writes. This is one of my favorite books this month. Set against an actual happening in 1947 Maine. After an unusually wet spring, a dry, hot summer leads to a catastrophic fire season along the coast.
A young mother saves her two children by lying with them in the ocean. Her husband is away helping fight the fire and is reported as missing and presumed dead. She miscarries the baby she was carrying, but must forge a new life for herself and her other children. She gets a job and falls in love with the pianist to whom she rents a room. He leaves for concert performances and her very badly burned and abusive husband returns.
Excellent writing and storytelling about resilience and doing what one has to in order to survive.

Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout is my other favorite book this month. As with Shreve, I will read any and all written by Strout.
This book is a companion to her 'My Name Is Lucy Barton' and consists of a series of short stories about the characters from that title. The stories intertwine enough that the book reads somewhat as a novel.
As one review states: "Explores the whole range of human emotion through the intimate dramas of people struggling to understand themselves and others." I really like books like this and Strout's writing is the best.

The Old Wind Shades by Martha Grimes is the next in the Richard Jury series. I did not like this one as well only because of the subject matter.

If July is as hot and humid as usual, it will be another great month of reading.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Lightning to the Left of Me, Tornadoes to the Right

Here I am, stuck in the middle with you. (Paraphrasing Stealers Wheel, Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan)

Yesterday afternoon was one of those typical Iowa June days - hot and humid with a cold front coming in - ripe for thunderstorms, wind, hail and chances of a tornado. And our state saw it all beginning with hail and a tornado in the Southwest corner - moving our way.

We were lucky in that the thunderstorms stayed south of us and the tornadoes stayed north - with reports of funnel clouds as close as Fontanelle and Lorimor. (There was a tornado south of us which stayed along the Missouri line.)

I did not even go out to start taking photos until the first/worst had passed. This was around 7:30 p.m. By then, some had reformed (as in formed again, not cleaned up their act.)

Billowing thunderheads.

Setting sun shining through.

Mammatus clouds.

Still a lot of wind up there.

Soft as a baby's blanket. Reflecting the setting sun.

Still plenty of clouds, but calm over the pond at the end of the day.

Early a.m. view to the west. Pink sky from a fiery sunrise this morning.

View to the east. The sunrise was even more red when I got up at 5:30 a.m., but by the time I got out there, it was already losing some of its fire.

"Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning." We do have chances for thunderstorms again late this afternoon and evening. We could use the rain (only got a quarter inch yesterday), but if it turns severe again today, I hope we are once again stuck in the middle.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The New Moon

                             The New Moon
                               By Zora Bernice May Cross
                                      (1890-1964 Australia)

What have you got in your knapsack fair,
White moon, bright moon, pearling the air,
Spinning your bobbins and fabrics free,
Fleet moon, sweet moon, into the sea?
Turquoise and beryl and rings of gold,
Clear moon, dear moon, ne'er to be sold?
Roses and lilies, romance and love,
Still moon, chill moon, swinging above?
Slender your feet as a white bird's throat,
High moon, shy moon, drifting your boat
Into the murk of the world awhile,
Slim moon, dim moon, adding a smile.
Tender your eyes as a maiden's kiss,
Fine moon, wine moon, no one knows this,
Under the spell of your witchery,
Dream moon, cream moon, first he kissed me.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Kohlrabi - Fun to Say; Good to Eat

I don't remember when Mom first grew kohlrabi in her garden - it was after I left home - probably in the early to mid 60's. I know I had never heard of it nor eaten it before she started growing it.

It has such a fun name which comes from the German word for cabbage, kohl, and turnip, rabi. I know when I first heard of it I thought it was rather exotic and it seems I remember my kids liking and trying to say call a rab be.

Two bunches of kohlrabi were all I got at the local farmer's market yesterday. In past years they sold for $1.00 each. This year they were $1.50 a bunch which was three = 50 cents each.
I took the above picture before I peeled the last one because I think it is interesting the way the stems and leaves grow. (Organically grown by my favorite vendor, Bridgewater Farm.)

There are recipes for cooked kohlrabi, but I have never had it cooked, only raw. I'm not even interested in trying it cooked because it is just so very good peeled and eaten with a dash of salt. In fact I ate two yesterday as soon as I brought them home.

Just as kohlrabi reminds me of my mom growing them, I also associate them with my sister, Betty. She loved eating raw kohlrabi from mom's garden.

She was probably the one who got me to try them.

Addendum: Forgot to add: they're also good for you.

Monday, June 26, 2017

It's A Jungle Out There

The North side of our house gets little attention. "Our" part of the space on that side is only a foot or so from the foundation but early on we started caring for it because it was too narrow for the park's lawnmowers to mow. So we mowed it. The first year here, in addition to the ferns and snow-on-the-mountain I had moved from the farm, I planted some impatiens.
There were three hosta plants already growing. I did not like the one with giant leaves. My niece said she would take it so I dug it out.

When the peonies, roses and clematis all bloom at the same time, it is lovely. Technically none of these plants are ours. The rose and peony were here and the neighbor next door planted the clematis on the trellis over their sidewalk. Which is another reason I rarely go on that side of the house - I feel as though I'm trespassing because I have to walk down 'their' sidewalk.

In addition to the three snow-on-the- mountain plants* and the three ferns** I also brought some columbine*** and lily of the valley****. This is how the north side looks today. The plants have grown out nearly to the sidewalk. It almost does look like a jungle out there.

*Starts brought to Iowa from St. Paul when my daughter lived there.
**Starts from the home of a dear lady in the old farm neighborhood.
***Starts from my sister-in-law, Ruthie and niece, Kristi.
****Starts from both my Grandmothers.

(It has long been a tradition to move starts of plants from one home to another - especially when they were originally starts from loved ones.)

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Dirt Roads Rock

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again..." Actually I dreamed I went rock hunting again because I did.

I went back to the dirt road where we used to take the grandkids in the pickup and come back with a LOAD of rocks.

The rocks are still there, waiting to be picked. Only now I try to limit myself to only a few.

I come home with more pictures than rocks. (Flower of what we called Jimsonweed, though it has many more, interesting, names.)

Where once a farmstead stood.

Lush Iowa countryside, wild oats and tiger lilies on a perfect June day.

Those cows wondered why I was taking a picture of them. "Haven't you ever seen cows before?" They thought I was some city woman. Little did they know!

A spot where the East Nodaway River runs North.

The Swallows did not appreciate me on their bridge. Soon the sky was full of diving, churee whistling birds trying to drive me away. They succeeded!

Home with my treasures washed and arrayed. Hard to choose a favorite.

But I think it has to be this one - a smooth 2-3/4" by 1" greenish-gray stone with a perfect thumb rubbing groove. An elongated worry stone.

Of course what I was really hoping to find was something like this unusual specimen found by a rock hunting friend of ours. I could say he is lucky except it is just as much persistence as he goes hunting several times a month.

I enjoyed yesterday's adventure so much, I may just have to look for some more dirt roads and rocks and perfect Iowa summer days.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The View From Lynam Hill

Not that anyone calls it that anymore, but when my Great-great grandfather William settled north of Brooks, the steep hill was known as Lynam Hill.

At the bottom a flat old dirt road runs west and crosses Walter's Creek via a very scary bridge. (No guard rails on either end.)

Looking down over the edge you can see by the way the weeds along the bank are flattened that there has been some recent high water going downstream.

A good looking field of corn grows right up to the river's edge.

The blooms on the Chicory are vying with the June sky for title honor of "brightest blue".

And look what else was blooming - ditch daisies! Just what I've been looking for and this time I had my shovel with me!

They're home and planted. If they grow as I hope they do, I will think of them as being from Lynam Hill - well, nearby anyway.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The "Y" of Gore

I've always been grateful that I was born inquisitive. I assume there is a part of my brain which makes me so, but I don't know where it is located.

I get inquisitive when I read about a place. I want to go there; see it for myself. I get inquisitive about words when I don't know their meaning. That happened this morning.

I read a story about a car accident: "The Patrol says they were traveling north on Interstate 29 at around 4-p.m. near the Whiting exit (mile marker 120), when for reasons unknown, the car drove off the road and into a gore, rolling over several times before coming to a rest on its top in the gore."

Gore? What do they mean? Did they mean to say gorge?

To me gore meant something a bull did like during the Running of the Bulls in Pamploma - or the blood and such as a result of being gored.

Or maybe Al Gore or Lesley Gore (It's My Party).

Maybe if I had remembered my sewing lessons I might have figured it out. A gore is "a triangular tract of land, especially one lying between larger divisions."

So if you come to a Y intersection, like the one of my youth South of the river bridge where US Hwy 34 and State Hwy 148 split near Spring Lake, the triangle of land in between was a gore. 

The gore referred to in the news story in the upper left corner - triangle formed by I-29 and K42.

I love learning new words and as perplexed as I was by this gore and its definition, it is one I will probably remember.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Hullo Summer

Another Solstice, another Summer and while this post is about neither, the poem does make me think of the summers of my youth.

Summer was all about freedom and fun.

This is today's poem from The Writer's Almanac. It's another one that speaks to me which I wish to archive here.

The Arrival of the Past
    By Scott Owens

You wake wanting the dream
you left behind in sleep,
water washing through everything,
clearing away sediment
of years, uncovering the lost
and forgotten. You hear the sun
breaking on cold grass,
on eaves, on stone steps,
outside. You see light
igniting sparks of dust
in the air. You feel for the first
time in years the world
electrified with morning.

You know something has changed
in the night, something you thought
gone from the world has come back:
shooting stars in the pasture,
sleeping beneath a field
of daisies, wisteria climbing
over fences, houses, trees.

This is a place that smells
like childhood and old age.
It is a limb you swung from,
a field you go back to.
It is a part of whatever you do.

Summer was a
barefoot adventure.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Early Morning Marauder

I've been casing the place for some time, coveting what's there, justifying the pillaging in my mind, plotting how and when I would act, timing my purloining for the least chance of discovery.
Very early in the morning seemed like the best idea, especially as I am usually awake by five a.m. - light enough to see, dim enough I might not be recognized. Just in case, I'd wear my black hoodie.

Along the south side of our little bungalow on 4th Street in West Des Moines, clear on the back corner, barely visible in this photo, grew some orange and yellow, daisy like flowers with a brown center. My neighbor across the drive way, Bernice, told me they were gaillardias.  I'd never heard of them. I did not care for them at all.

But tastes change over the years. I learned that the more common name for gaillardia was blanket flower. I would see them growing wild when we traveled in the western states. The common name was said to refer to the colorful blankets woven by Native Americans. I began wishing I had some growing in my yard and even tried planting them when we were still on the farm. They didn't grow.

In  the last two or three years there have been many trailers moved out of the leased-land park where I live. Near where those homes were are all kinds of perennials, including, in one spot, some gaillardia. Last year the park owner sprayed to kill weeds growing where some of the trailers had been. I thought for sure he had killed all the blanket flowers. But a couple weeks ago I noticed some still blooming along the sidewalk.

It was then I started thinking about liberating a few plants. Today was the day. I awoke around five and decided I would walk down there with my trowel. All was quiet, no one out and about although there were lights on in the house across the street from my plunder spot. Then I saw that homeowner a ways down the street walking her little puff ball. What should I do? Her back was to me, but she might turn around at any moment. Once I bent down to dig the flowers I would be behind a dumpster. What the heck? I'd go for it. If she saw me, she saw me.

I dug a few plants and left, wondering the whole time if she was watching me walk away. Chances are she didn't even care. I've set them out near the sundial - they are a sun-loving species - and am hoping they will thrive. And if they don't, do I have the nerve to go back for more? The way I look at it, I'm saving them from being sprayed with weed killer again. (Justifying my pilfering.)

The last time I referred to myself as a marauder I was a preteen and my sister and I were the Midnight Marauders sneaking into the cellar for a bottle of grape juice to go with our crackers for a midnight snack. Now I am a septuagenarian Dawn Marauder. They do go easier on old folks in lock up, don't they?