Wednesday, November 30, 2011


We've had rain for days now…and yesterday evening, our first snow—big, wet flakes that chilled your neck and drenched your face and eventually managed to accumulate an inch of slush on the ground. 

Today I had to do some errands and when combined with my usual loitering, gabbing, and a stop by a local used book store, managed to swallow the entire day. And a pretty day it was—bright sunshine throughout. Cold, though. And of course the river is now up. 

About 4:00 p.m. I managed to make it back to the cottage for a late lunch. Turkey soup, which I gulped, because I wanted to make a quick run upriver before sunset and see if any Canada geese were poking about the backwaters. Dusk comes early along the river.

As it turned out, the geese were absent from their usual hangouts. But just before the sun slipped below the ridge on the west side of the stream, the foamy current washing through the flooded timber turned into a fiery molten gold. Lovely. Worth a rushed meal and short drive.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


On this day after the day after Thanksgiving, I've been sitting benumbed at my desk, still lethargic from repeated doses of turkey-feasting tryptophan, watching my favorite member of the Original Red Hat Society hang upside-down and eat. 

No, it isn't one of the middle-age neighbor ladies acting out while on a pumpkin pie suger high. I'm talking woodpeckers…pileated woodpeckers; females. Big ol' silly looking birds who were wearing red hats and feeding with much ado and gusto long before those women who sometimes take it upon themselves to suddenly invade your favorite country café, swiped the headgear idea for their own group. The upside-down hanging ORHS member in my yard is feeding on a suet block.

(Y'know, there is a rather remarkable resemblance…)

Anyway, I just want to write and say we have survived another Thanksgiving. Thanks to preplanning and prep work the day before, I didn't exhaust myself cooking this time around. We managed to forego the heady excitement of a kitchen fire this time, too. And there were no territorial squabbles in the kitchen, not even minor ones during the last hour when space becomes tight and the pace turns near-frantic as the bird comes out of the oven to rest under its foil tent, the dressing goes in, pies are readied, the green beans are stir-fried, potatoes mashed and gravy made. Even the dogs and guests behaved.

The menu: The centerpiece was a 22-lb bird, brined overnight, which I put in the oven at 9:30 a.m. and had ready three hours later. I also made cornbread and oyster dressing, mashed potatoes, giblet gravy, baked sweet potatoes, steamed brussel's sprouts, sautéd broccoli, green beans with ginger, garlic, and sesame seeds, creamed artichoke hearts, a fruit salad of cooked cranberries with bananas, oranges, pineapple, apple and grapes. Myladylove did pies—one apple, two pumpkin, one mincemeat. Plus we had various relishes, pickles, and cut veggies for munching. And of course, ice cream and whipped cream for pie topping.

I'm not kidding when I say that until we received word about 11 a.m. that Myladylove's son and his girlfriend were on their way, we actually were fixing everything above and figuring it would be just the two of us. And those side dishes were not in small amounts, either, but commensurate with the size of the turkey—based the notion we'd be able to feed, oh, two dozen or so hungry folks should they suddenly appear at the door. Not that such a crowd was possible, considering everyone was out of town except for the one son and his gal. 

But to both Myladylove and myself, part of the fun of the Thanksgiving table lies in its abundance…so a refrigerator stuffed to the gills for a week afterwards with leftovers in various bowls and boxes, is all part of the celebration's plan. 

That said, I wish we could always set our feast before a crowded table. I'd like to end the day with not a single morsel of leftover food. Such meals are always best shared…the more, the merrier. And there's nothing I'm more thankful for than family and friends. However, some years the logistics just don't work out. And in my case, the huge extended family I grew up in—grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins galore, inlaws and outlaws, and those familiar and welcome faces who surely belonged to some branch of the ancestral tree because they always showed up to eat—well…that joyous, laughing, wonderful throng has been too long gone to their eternal reward. What few third and fourth cousins remain are scattered to the far corners. Nor is the count much better among friends. Alas, I miss them with all my heart, and never more than during the holidays. 

But I don't want to end this post on that note because we had a great Thanksgiving. The food was excellent (if I do say so) and the company warm and loved and wonderful. As fine a day as we've enjoyed in a long time. Moon-the-Dog was here to share it, and the son and his lovely lady brought their Jack Russell, Snoopy. 

That's my report. Now, the ORHS pileated has just flapped off. I'm feeling something of turkey-and-dressing jones coming on. Myladylove will close her bank branch up in another fifteen minutes, and be home twenty minutes after that. I know she'll want lunch immediately. And she loves Thanksgiving leftovers almost as much as I do. 

Soooooo…one must strike fast when opportunity presents. There's just enough time for me to dash to the fridge, snatch a drumstick and a dab of oyster dressing and pop them in the microwave, gobble everything down, and then set about warming up an array of dishes for our leisurely meal together, while pretending like I haven't eaten since breakfast. Remember, mum's the word. 

And belatedly, though no less sincerely, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!       

Monday, November 21, 2011


Yesterday was drizzly with a bit of fog, though quite mild for this time of November. A good day for staying home and staying in, which is exactly what we did, though that wasn't the original plan. 

We'd intended to do a bit of running around, visiting a half-dozen stores, buying various items for the Thanksgiving table, maybe do a little Christmas shopping, check on some hardware for a wood-burning stove we're thinking about putting in. Have lunch out and make a day of it…which is pretty much what did Saturday, and why we were both so worn out before yesterday even started. The dreary weather turned out to be all the excuse we needed to scrap our plans, build a nice hearthfire, and den up.

Not that we rested much. I started us off with a pancake breakfast, using my favorite century-old recipe I got from an aging northwoods lumberjack, whose father was also a cook in the lumber camps of Michigan's Lake Superior country in the late-1800s, when axe and crosscut saw were felling the vast tracts of virgin white pine. Not that we had plans to work like those hardy men, of course! Still, one can not expect to laze around without a proper nutritional foundation. 

Actually, Myladylove decided to shampoo all the carpets, move some furniture about, sweep kitchen and bath, move more furniture, and work on her beads while carpets dried…after which we put most of the furniture back into its original positions. 

Somewhere in there I finished making the six quarts of mincemeat I'd started the day before. Then—between furniture wrestling—I did a few things in my workroom. Later, I baked a casserole dish of seasoned brown rice and when it was ready, sautéd beef chunks with onions, garlic, and peppers for a late lunch/early supper. In the evening, Myladylove baked peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies while we watched the last of the NASCAR championship race. 

Not the most exciting day to report…but as you likely noted, we certainly ate well. And today I get to do most of that running round we dodged yesterday. Oh, joy!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


The cloudy, rainy, mild weather which began Sunday continues. Except for an overnight rise of the river of perhaps two feet, due mainly to a single hard shower which began about 7:00 p.m. and drummed on the roof for a good 45 minutes, there's not much to see in the way of seasonal change here along the river. 

The yard is fairly covered in leaves, mostly from the many sycamores. I still have roses in bloom. The little weeping willow's narrow leaves are just now turning a cheerful lemon yellow.

Every once in a while, the sun pops out through a hole in the gray canopy. It never stays long, just a quick appearance sufficient to add a greenish hint to the river, brighten the rusty leaves which lie in heaps on the island across from the cottage, and add a dramatic glow to the whitewashed trunks of the big sycamores along the banks. 
Feeder birds are, so far as I've witnessed, the usual gang…various sparrows, house finches, gold finches, titmice, chickadees, doves, downy, hairy, and red-bellied woodpeckers, cardinals, robins, Carolina wrens, nuthatches, blue jays. Oh, and the pair of pileateds which, every so often, flap in like pterodactyls to hang and hammer awhile at the suet block.

I did hear a bird singing yesterday morning which I didn't recognize, though it seemed vaguely familiar, making me believe that I should have been able to name the songster. Try as I might, I couldn't catch a glimpse of the mystery performer. Whatever the bird, it's song was loud and musical, as brightly swinging as a robin's, and much appreciated on such a dreary day. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011


It's cloudy this morning, the risen sun muted behind a heavy overcast thick as an old wool sock. The river is dark in the dim, flat light, not green but something of a tarnished gray, like old pewter that's badly in need of a polishing. 

We're supposed to get rain starting early this evening and more rain over the next few days. Not particularly cold, though—the highs for today and tomorrow in the mid-60s˚F, the 50s on Tuesday, and still only down in the mid-40s Wednesday and Thursday, at which point the sun is predicted to reappear. Not bad for the middle of November in Ohio; I remember plenty of years when we'd already had a snow or two by this point on the calendar—some years a substantial snow.

If I've learned anything about weather over the years, it's that you'd best accept what you have and try not to grumble because it can always get worse.

I've been watching a great blue heron fishing in a riffle below the cottage. So far it has taken three small fish—minnows, really—plus a fourth about the size of my opened palm. This latter fish took some maneuvering to get properly placed in the mouth, head pointed down the gullet, before being subsequently swallowed. Prior to starting the procedure, the big bird waded to the very edge of the rocky shallows, I presume as a safety measure should his hard-won catch get accidentally dropped.

After eating the largest fish, the heron hopped up onto a large log that's down along the edge of the shallows. It's behavior I've noticed often—following a more substantial meal, a heron will often take a rest a bit away from the water. Sometimes this is on a handy log or rock, or they amble a dozen feet up the bank into the edge of the woods on the island; at other times they might choose a low overhanging limb, or occasionally, a limb that's 30-40 feet above the ground. 

I know the feeling—more than once I've sidled lethargically away from a supper table after consuming an overly hearty meal, found a comfortable seat nearby, and spent some time in pleasurable discomfort contemplating this latest overindulgence. That old heron and I share more in common than just a love for rivers and fishing….

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Late yesterday afternoon I answered a comment from "Giggles" regarding the pileated shot I'd run with that post. I said I hoped to capture a better shot of the woodpeckers now that I'd started resupplying suet blocks as part of the fall/winter feeding routine—and mentioned that the big birds had already begun returning to the dooryard as part of their daily routine. 

About then, I casually looked out my deskside window. Huh? What's that in yonder box elder tree? 

In one of those amazing coincidences you hate to mention because it sounds too hokey to be true—there, even as I proclaimed my pileated portraiture intentions, sat one of the very birds themselves, perched on a limb perhaps twenty-five feet from where I sat. Actually, herself, since the pileated in question was a female. She was busily whacking away at what remained of a suet block which I'd put out the day before, and which sometime during the night, the raccoons had dragged up, wire cage and all, onto the limb.

Just as I grabbed my camera, the male pileated flew in. Unfortunately, I had the setting on "autofocus," which was problematic given the lighting conditions. While the lens was busy seeking this way and that, as I fumbled at the switch, the female flew off, leaving only the male for my through-the-window shot.

Is this image better than yesterday's? Giggles gets to make that call…but I think so. Though it's still not the one I'm after—one of those every-feather-in-detail poses which was not going to happen here given the backlit situation. 

However, the annual game of sneak-and-snap has just begun… 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Another sunrise, and a really pretty one, with the sky to the west all in shades of coral and turquoise and mauve. When I walked around to the front of the cottage, the view upriver was spectacular, a great swath of salmon-pink that seemed to arch over the water above the leaning sycamores.

"Don't you get tired of living out here with the same old boring view?" a city-dwelling visitor once asked.

No, I don't…because no two days are ever the same. There's always a new sky, new colors, new pattern, new light. Each morning dawns differently. Each day unfolds in its own unique manner, special because it happens only once and will never be repeated.

Now the dawn colors are gone, replaced by golden sunlight which varnishes the tops of the sycamores on the island across from the cottage and sets the feathery crest of the pileated woodpecker yammering and hammering his way up the corner hackberry to glowing fiery red.

I'm battered and aching in pain from another all-day session of wood-splitting yesterday—but I'm excited, too, because there's a brand new day ahead, and I have a first-class view!