Friday, March 27, 2009

Meadow's A'Bloomin'

Several years ago we began planting daffodils in the meadow, envisioning spring color where there were only dead weeds and grass. And the daffodils haven't disappointed us. This first shot was taken on March 17 as an early bud thrust up from the ground.

I marked that one plant and checked back on March 20. Not a whole lot of difference but for the swelling of the flower, the thinning of its enclosure and the unmistakable yellow showing through.

Now, a week later on March 27, the flower is fully open. We've had pleasantly cool weather - even cold at night - but a few showers have brought the bulbs to life. The meadow is alive with sunshine even as it rains!

A pretty white daffodil always enchants me, too. The squirrels - of which we have plenty - do not bother these poisonous bulbs so we are able to enjoy them year after year. They've expanded in number through the years and I envision a time when the eastern side of the meadow is carpeted with these golden flowers.
Their time is short - maybe a week or two at most - but it is the shortness of the season that makes them all the more endearing. Enjoy them while you may. Soon the weeds will awaken and the green leaves of the daffodils will be hidden again until next spring.
We appreciate them as much for their brevity as their color. That which is most fleeting is most appreciated.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

After the sun sets ...

Driving home on Thursday evening from a meeting in Miamisburg, I happened to turn the corner at the end of our road just as the last light from the sun was fading. I looked down and along the creek (Little Twin Creek) and the still-bright reflection was beautiful against the nighttime woods. I thought I would come back at about the same time and try for a picture. Here it is:

This is a gentle creek for all of the years I've lived here but for one. On that night it overflowed and spilled across the bridge and covered S. Clayton Road. At 3 a.m., Sam and I got into his old truck and surveyed the surroundings, mostly underwater. But otherwise, this tranquil spot looks forever like this picture.
This is where the blue heron often stands, the one I wrote about in Pinehaven. I have seen "him" many times in recent weeks, standing there, bent on watching the water flow at his feet. I've seen him flying over the house, too, legs bent back and folded, trailing behind him like two twigs. Every now and then, I see two.

After I got home and parked the car, I walked across the road and out into the corn stubble, set up the tripod again and shot back towards the house. What an eerie, haunted sight this house is at that time of evening! I'd almost be afraid to live here if I didn't!
Look at the two first floor windows, lit by candle lamps in each and slightly backlit by a light or two within the living room. As I stood taking the picture, a dog to the south saw (or heard) me and barked incessantly. Otherwise, the scene was serene and still.
What a wonderful time of day, when most return to their homes and set about preparing their nest for another night. We are all birds in that respect, returning to our usual roost. I am happy to call mine Pinehaven.

Monday, March 16, 2009

"Spring" Sunset & Maple Buds

Last evening (03/15) I walked to the field behind Pinehaven to shoot some sunset photos and as I walked back towards the house, I noticed how pretty the reflection of the sunset was in the garage window. So I kneeled down, making sure to keep myself out of the reflection, and took this sunset picture by facing east.

In the bottom middle window you can see through the door on the other side of the garage.
Now, have a look at the neighboring farm behind us and the fiery sky as the sun touched the western horizon. Spring is just a few days away and already the sun has moved notably north.

A look across one of the woodpile from our work in the fall was taken while the sun was a little higher. These pictures are posted here in reverse order to how they were taken.

Earlier in the afternoon we walked at the Farmersville/Jackson Twp. Joint Park and I noticed one of the maples was already budded. We managed 63 degrees yesterday afternoon though we've broken our record high in the past week and made it as high as 77. The trees are certainly responding. Another few weeks and we'll have leaves.
I think already of the morel mushrooms getting ready to pop up. That will be in the next three to four weeks. It is an exciting time, this coming alive again, and I only dread the constant mowing.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Cherry Winks

If you haven't guessed it by now, I love dessert! It doesn't matter what it is as long as it's sweet. But there are few cookies I love more than Cherry Winks. I remember these from when I was a kid: a soft, chewy, nutty cookie with a coating of crushed corn flakes and a few prominent pieces of cherry atop.

Today Mom decided to make a recipe. She thinks they turned out "a little hard" but they're sweet ... so I love 'em just the same. In her defense, she was baking cookies and making lunch at the same time. Try that at her age (83) and you'd be hard-pressed to pull everything off to perfection, too.
But we had a great lunch at Pinehaven today - sweet potatoes, dressing and gravy (all vegetarian, of course) and white rice. For dessert, Jell-o (with fruit) and - you guessed it - Cherry Winks and coffee.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Spring ... the final evidence unfolds

I first measure spring with robins. Their numbers have been increasing of late and now I never look north from the kitchen window that there aren't several robins feeding on the lawn. But if robins are the tick marks on spring's ruler, the final proof is measured when the first pussy willow explodes into bloom.
I noticed the first catkins yesterday and this morning they had filled out and become as soft as cotton balls.

This pussy willow was purchased many years ago at a local nursery and it was labeled as having gray catkins. That was true the first year but every year since they've looked substantially like all the rest I've seen. I was duped, I think!
I remember planting the bush by the neighbor's lane at the south side of our property, probably in the early 1990's, and the plant has grown there with just a few trims since. Each year when it blooms I notice a distinct increase in my own allergies. That's not to say it's this plant but rather if the pussy willow is blooming, so are other things unseen. My body detects this subtle change before I see it in the world around me.

Looking at the catkins from the sunny side (south), they look even more white. They'll look like this - fuzzy and warm - for a few days and then explode in bloom. They'll become covered in yellow pollen and then the leaves will come. From that point on, the bush is nothing spectacular; it's even nondescript, quite boring.
But now, early in the season, it's the only thing visibly alive besides the early greening of the fields of winter wheat and the slightest blush of the lawn. Yet in the next month, all of that will change. A quiet explosion is about to take place.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Hale-Bopp: A Flashback

Back in March and April of 1997, Hale-Bopp was the comet that took our breath away. I wrote about it in Pinehaven, how I'd stand out in the cold night air to get a picture of it; how I went out in the middle of the night to have a first look; and how I watched it pass slowly to the west and at last disappear below our horizon.

Here, then, is one of the pictures I took on a night a dozen years ago. I wanted to get it posted on the blog, mostly for posterity. I keep misplacing it and if I file a copy here, it'll survive my fragile mind.
This picture was taken above the pines at the northwest corner of our property and was late in the apparition. I was especially taken by the two tails. Back in the days of film photography, the stars stand out especially vivid. I don't remember the exposure time but it was probably a minute or more.
A few days ago when I tried to find Comet Lulin, how sad it was that whatever I saw was questionable at best and probably no more than a common star (as though any star could be common). But comparing it to Hale-Bopp, it was a mere smudge at best. Hale-Bopp stood out against the sky! It could be seen without even looking at it, invariably out of place and spectacular in its majesty. How I'd like to see another of those while I still can.
I remember my grandfather telling me about Halley's Comet in 1910 (he was just 12) and how the tail stretched across the sky. Hale-Bopp may not have equalled Halley's, but it was spectacular in its own right and probably a good deal more colorful. But most importantly, I was there to watch it work its way across the night sky.
Halley's was my grandfather's memory; Hale-Bopp is mine.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Pinehaven Milk Pie

Throughout my life, I've heard Dad often mention his own grandmother's "Milk Pie". He always talks about with it with a little sadness - not to have tasted it in the past 70 years - and a good deal of drooling. His talk about this special pie has become almost a family tradition in itself.
A week or so ago my cousin found the recipe and sent it to us in the mail. My great-grandmother, Amelia Schmidt, is someone I never met as she died before my parents were married. But here, all these years later, comes her original recipe to our mailbox.
Actually, Amelia's recipe had no amounts shown. So the recipe is a compilation of two family rceipes.

I decided I'd give it a shot and here's a picture of the result. My Dad said his grandmother's Milk Pie "was a little sloppy" and that's certainly not something we wanted. This pie turned out to be more of a traditional custard pie. In fact, some old-time recipes call this a "Buttermilk Pie".

Above is a shot right after the pie came out of the oven. Though the recipe makes two 9" pies, I cut in in half and made just one. Better to see whether we like it first. We do!
Dad remembers his grandmother cooling the pie on their back porch. Once it had cooled, it was quickly finished off.
Because the recipe is an antique family-favorite, we're adding the Pinehaven name to it! Here's the recipe along with my notes:

Pinehaven Milk Pie

2 unbaked pie shells (Pet brand is great unless you want to make your own)
1 stick margarine - softened
1-1/2 cup sugar (probably too much; cut to taste)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
Grated nutmeg; pinch of salt

Mix butter, sugar and cream well
Add flour, eggs, buttermilk, lemon juice, vanilla, pinch of nutmeg and salt
(eggs can be pre-beaten if desired)
Whisk thoroughly
Pour in pie shells; sprinkle top with more nutmeg (it'll be really juicy!)
Bake at 350 degrees; 1 hour (I found this done in 50 minutes when baking one)
Test with a knife in the center; filling should not stick
Top should be golden brown
Makes 2-9" pies

Note: The filling will not seem to fill the pie shell. It will expand when baked and contract again when cooled. I put a pan beneath it to catch any overflow though there was none. The end result is a rather thin pie.