Thursday, July 13, 2006


I've never seen a Kirtland's Warbler. And the truth is, if I met a Kirtland's Warbler face to face, I probably wouldn't recognize one. The only birds I recognize are the familiar ones, the robins, the bluejays, the cardinals, the oreoles. But, every now and then, I see an unfamiliar bird and turn to my Bird Book to try to find out what it is.

There is nothing more useless than a Bird Book. The pictures or sketches never look a thing like the birds you see and, besides, they tell you that the appearances of these birds differ with age and sex, as if you know whether the bird you saw is an adolescent or an old duffer!

But I hear that the Forestry Service is giving Guided Tours of Kirtland's Warbler's nests and this might be an interesting trip to take, to see the little bird that is indigenous to Michigan and nowhere else, that has sense enough to go to the tropics in the cold Michigan winter, even before retirement.

There is so much in the world that I have not seen or done. It is frustrating, and I don't have time now to accomplish much of what I have missed. Yesterday, I was thinking about the couch in the living room of the Farm. It was an old brownish monstrosity, sitting in its corner like a sulking hulk. It's upholstery was prickly and uncomfortable and one was inclined to itch a bit after sitting there for awhile.

It was a mohair couch and this brings me to another frustration. You see, I don't know what mohair really is and I'm too lazy to look it up. Are there herds of Mo's running around somewhere and we use their hair to make couches? And why is it so prickly? No wonder Mo's are an endangered species and you hardly ever run into mohair any more.

One thing I did do. I attended the Traverse City Cherry Festival, a first time for me, and very pleasant it was. First, the scenery in that corner of Michigan is beautiful, even though the view is being obscured by rows of lavish hotels. I bought a sweat shirt at the Festival, and came home with cherry juice dripped onto everything I wore, so the sweat shirt will undoubtedly come in handy.

The best thing at the Festival was the Cherry Pit Spitting Contest. I didn't join it, even though I am an expert cherry pit spitter. It's an inherited trait, I understand. If your family is good at pit spitting, there is a good chance you will have inherited the gene. One doesn't get rich with this ability to spit a pit a good distance, but it is a good way to show your contempt. If someone says or does anything you don't agree with, just spit a pit in his direction. It doesn't win friends, but it gets the hatefulness out of your system.

The Cherry Festival is held yearly. Then, in lower Michigan, we have the Peach Festival and, of course, the Apple Harvest, when the cider mills offer those yummy doughnuts and cider, along with a hefty amount of killer bees that come with drinking the cider anywhere outdoors.

My father-in-law loved gooseberries. They are another item I am not sure I have made an acquantance with, but he loved gooseberry jam. No one holds a Gooseberry Festival, as far as I know, nor is Rhubarb heralded in this way. On our farm, we had a great crop of rhubarb. The trouble is, no one really knew what to do with it. Mom tried, cooking it up with a ton of sugar, hiding it in pies, etc. But rhubarb is the bane of the good cook, because no matter how you dice it up, it's still sour.

One of the mysteries I cannot solve because I don't want to waste Google's time is that of the tiny corn. I see it on buffets and at banquets and it's so darned cute. I always have visions of these tiny little cornfields, tended by wee little elves, and harvested in the fall for the market.

Fancy restaurants go in for oddball items like this teensy corn. And I love to read their menus. Have you ever gone to a lush restaurant and really studied the menu? Man, these people are true Shakespearean writers! I have seen entrees that are described so delectably that my mouth has watered on the spot!

However, it is a struggle sometimes to order the food they describe. For instance, if you order the Delicioso Estravaganza, composed of "fresh, tender, young baby beef from local farms, delectably smothered in a bed of rich greens and covered with a blanket of spiced sauce." who can bear to eat it? Poor baby! Once alive and well, now laid to rest in rich greens and covered with a sauce blanket! It would be heartless to even think of ordering it!

My mind wanders through these thoughts on hot summer days, when the sun attacks you when you step out the door, and the humidity is like a miasma hanging over you. Your best bet for survival, other than spending your summer months barricaded with your air conditioner blowing, is to find a good shade tree. That is what I missed most in Florida, a shade tree! Those lovely live oaks make wonderful shade trees, but they are missing in most subdivisions there, because they take a hundred years to grow. You can plant one, but it will take the next generation to enjoy it. The best they can do for shade, without a live oak, is a palm tree...and let's admit it, they look graceful, but the shade they cast wouldn't keep a kitten cool.

Even in the North, the first thing the builders do when erecting a subdivision is clear the place of trees. Then the new homes are barren until they plant a few shrubs or trees and these, being young, are not much for sitting under with a good book.

In search of shade, folks go to great lengths. They erect things, like cabanas, or set tables around, topped with huge umbrellas. These do provide shade, if you can get them to stay put, but they dearly love windsurfing and often take off on you to land in the backyard somewhere.

At the farm, we had this runty pine tree in the front yard that did its level best to provide shade during the summer months. It also dropped body parts on the person sitting below, bombarding them with cones, pine needles, sticky pieces of bark, and all manner of items. It was a gathering spot for bugs, and if you spread a blanket under that tree, it was a Declaration of War with the ant soldiers trying to protect their turf.

I read Gone With the Wind, that Civil War epic, while waging a civil war with the ants. Sprawled on my blanket, I met the Man of My Dreams, Rhett Butler, while flicking away hundreds of tiny warriors bent on biting me in any place they could reach. It has always irritated me that I have never met Rhett Butler in real life, or any man close to reaching those heights. He was so dashing, so debonair, so romantic.....well, bah! I'm convinced he's out there somewhere, but I missed him.

It has been my fate to meet hundreds of ants, but no Rhett Butler!

Well, enough of this! Time to go in and put the pot on for dinner. At the Farm, we called it Supper. And we never had Lunch. That was Dinner. Mom went through the same biscuit-making, gravy-stirring hard work three times a day, every meal, feeding all those hungry people. No wonder the ants loved taking bites out of that plump, well-fed flesh!