Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Ring

 I am reading on the sofa. Mom is reading in her chair.

 Only, when I look up, she is not reading. She is sleeping. It is the bain of her existent. "I cannot sit here and try to read without falling to sleep," she says. That probably has something to do with getting up most days at 4:30 a.m.

 But as I stare at her, across the sun-filled living room, I see that her left arm is raised. Even from across the room I see that its color is no longer normal. It is shaded toward purple, colored with the years of work, tinted with toil. It is the proof of 86 years. Even from my seat, I see her golden wedding ring shine in the early morning light.

 In a moment she wakes and looks at me. Subconsciously she knows she is being watched. She smiles and lowers her hand to her book. She is reading about Queen Elizabeth.

 I tell her to stay as she is, leave her hand where it lands. I go for my camera to record the moment.

 I ask her the story behind her wedding ring. "We bought them at Zechman's," she tells me. "I think it was on the right side of what is now the Market Square building," That's the current home of the Miamisburg Historical Society.

 "How early did you buy them?" I ask. Mom and Dad were married on November 24, 1945.

 "I don't know. I just don't remember. I'm not sure Dad even asked me to marry him. We just started talking about it," she smiles.

 Dad's ring was gone years before. Back in 1987, when we first moved to Pinehaven, Dad's arthritis swelled his knuckles to the point that he feared he'd have to have the ring cut off some day. So while he still could remove it, he did. He placed it in Mom's jewelry box.

 Our house was burglarized less than two months after moving in. The jewelry box and all of its contents were one of the things taken. The ring was never replaced. "It wouldn't have been the same ring," Mom said.

 But Mom's ring has been on that finger for nearly 67 years and I suspect it's as much a part of her as the finger itself. And though the link is broken - Dad died last May - I know that there is some connection that is eternal. I think of the ring Abraham Lincoln gave to Mary. "Love is eternal" were the words engraved on the inside.

 While Mom's ring has no engraving, their lives together, their day-to-day existence, is their story. My brother and I are a continuation of that story, proof of something solid beyond gold.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Moon, Jupiter & Venus

 It is as lovely an evening as winters allow. At 6:45 pm it's 31° and a west wind is lazily blowing from almost due west. That's where things will happen in just two and a half hours, where the moon and Jupiter will gather in the sky, just 3° apart.Even now, they're cozying up in the southern sky, high above the back porch, and I've come out to enjoy the view. Besides, placing the garage between me and the wind is a smart thing to do.

 The moon and Jupiter are already plenty close and the little bit of difference between now and 9 pm isn't enough to force me back outside so close to bedtime. So I'm standing in PJ's and a robe as it is, covered with a hoodie and a winter coat, and angling the camera atop a tripod for the best view I can get ... now.

 There above me, the moon nears its first quarter and displays a ragged bunch of craters near the terminator. I can't quite see them with my natural vision, failing as it is, but if I punch some telephoto into the camera, they resolve nicely.

 The evening is quiet and there is still a blue-black glow in the west. I don't hear a dog bark and even the traffic seems stopped for now. It is still the supper hour, I suppose.

 A wide view from this vantage shows Jupiter (l) racing the moon across the sky for its close-up meeting with the moon. To show both in the same frame, I can't use the telephoto, so both objects are small - about life-size, I'd say. Even without a telescope, if I push the camera to 20x on Jupiter, the four Galilean moons show themselves.

 You'll have to look at this picture with your lights turned down low. That bright "star" is Venus, commanding the south-western sky at the same time. I am shooting around the dinner bell,  silhouetted by the westerly glow. In the distance, the winter-bare maples stand stark and cold.

 It is a gorgeous evening, made even the better because it was predicted to be cloudy. Two of the brightest planets and the moon are putting on a free show. It's the best kind.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Cottage Dill Bread

 Right off, I have to admit we cheated a bit. Our Cottage Dill Bread, which left our house smelling like pickles all day yesterday, was produced mostly in our automatic breadmaker. We figure the mixing and kneading phases can be easily automated ... and why not?

 We've wanted to make this again for quite some time. The first time we made it, a year or so ago, it didn't quite turn out. Mom wonders whether she added all the ingredients in the correct amount. It looked great until we baked it - and that we do quite traditionally in the oven - when a small section of the top dimpled and fell. Even so, the bread was wonderful.

 Here's the finished product, just sliced. Oh, the wonderful aroma! It would drive a pregnant woman mad!

Cottage Dill Bread

1/2 cup water (warm. about 100°)
2 cups white flour
1 tablespoon dry milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon margarine (or butter)
1/4 cup cottage cheese (we prefer Michigan brand)
1/2 tablespoon dry onion
1/2 tablespoon dill seed
1/2 tablespoon dill weed
2 teaspoon active dry yeast (or 1 teaspoon fast rise)

 A few notes on putting the ingredients together: We combine all the dry ingredients in a large measuring cup (minus the yeast). I mix the water and the cottage cheese to blend it thoroughly before pouring it into the bottom of the breadmaker's pan. I pour the dry ingredients atop the liquid. The margarine goes in on top of the dry ingredients and the baking pan is placed in the breadmaker. The yeast is them added to the special dispenser on the breadmaker (which adds it later).

A note about the yeast: I prefer the Fleischmann's active dry yeast. I also had some Montrachet yeast left from winemaking (about a teaspoon) and I added that, too. I didn't want it to get old and I thought it would work well in this way. It did.

When the dough is made (almost 2-1/2 hours), we take it out, knead it gently on a floured pastry cloth, form it into a single loaf, and place it into a greased bread pan. Keep it in a warm place for 30 to 45 minutes. It should double in size.

Bake it for about 30 minutes at 350° until golden brown. If you tap on it with a knuckle, the loaf should sound hollow.

Mom smears the loaf - all sides - with margarine while it is still warm. That softens the crust. This bread is best served warm and eaten at once.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Grave Matters

 On a foggy, misty winter's day, I often enjoy a walk at the cemetery. The place was made for silent contemplation. I love reading the inscriptions of the stones, the text further muted by the rain, washing the carving out to a uniform black on the oldest stones.

 There are two cemeteries, back to back, just north of Pinehaven. Less than two miles away, William and Susanna Sholly, the original owners (builders, actually) of this house lie quiet at Holp Cemetery. The house passed to their grandson, Orville Shell, in 1929. The property transfer came six months before the stock market crash and the start of the Depression. I wonder if he was happy to have it? He kept it a dozen years.

 Here I am near the north edge of the cemetery, looking south. Those dark tombstones stick up out of the ground like stumps. In the distance, pines divide the cemetery nearly in half.The southern section was first used and is full. Where I stand the graves are sparse and mostly new. These are mostly my contemporaries at my feet.

Across Chicken Bristle Road stands Slifer's Presbyterian Church and to its rear and south, the Slifer's Cemetery stands. These graves are among the oldest I know, well back into the early days of the 19th century. Most of the stones are single, thin vertical slabs of sandstone, many worn by the weather, automatically erasing themselves with each new storm through the eons.

 How black these old stones become in the rain! Gray in dry weather, they immediately darken when wet. Over the years - two centuries in many cases - the stones have begun to lean, half the time throwing their engraved face to the sky. Like the inhabitants below, they are disappearing from our memory. They were; that is the best we can say.

 The largest, most elaborate memorials, stand the least. It would seem each generation of young people target the cemeteries for their pranks and the larger the stone, the more magnificent the tombstone, the more targeted it becomes. While the smallest stones still stand - and those placed level with the ground, while erased by the weather or overgrown with grass, remain intact - the tallest obelisks invariably lie on their sides, else thrown up against neighboring stones.

Because of their incredible weight, they will not soon be righted.

If there is a lesson here it is this: let your life be your memorial. Nothing else will stand the test of time.

Day to Day

 How the pond changes each day is enough reason to walk its perimeter. Now liquid as a spring day, now frozen hard, now broken and dashed about by the breeze. This winter is even more erratic; it can change in a few hour's time.

 Yesterday (01/26/12) the pond was enveloped in a cool (42°) fog. It worked its wispy fingers through the pine branches and scattered across the icy surface of the pond like a lighter-than-air skater. The scene moved. Though I have seen these pines almost daily for a quarter of a century, I do not think I have ever seen them exactly the same twice.

 On the opposite shore (west) the white pines stand in a firm row, with a single gap, as though a front tooth was missing. The pond holds some ice though it struggles for the surface, covered by a moderate rain. The atmosphere is white with a foggy mist.

 I saw that a bag of fish food was left on the bridge area, the top torn open and spoiled by the rain. Nuggets of this food - about the size of Purina Dog Chow - litter the eastern surface of the pond. Someone feared that the fish wouldn't have enough to eat. But the winter is mild and the fish, I imagine, are safely slumbering the months away, not quite asleep, not quite fully awake with their opaque roof hard overhead.

I will continue walking the pond when the weather permits, even slightly. It is a scene that changes as surely as the sun crosses the sky.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Winter's Sunrise

 Already the cold has begun to abate. It was 30° as I began my walk, 35° as I ended it. I came into the house damp with sweat. A heavy long-sleeve shirt, hoodie and winter coat was too much. How quickly it changes. A few days ago it would not have been nearly enough.
 And yet I am happy for the break. It is breathing room. As I walked, sky still clear and blue overhead, the southwestern horizon displayed gathering clouds that spread upon me and lowered as I walked. It was like having a thick gray woolen blanket pulled across my head.

 As I walked out our driveway, the Shell farm, across the field to our east, shows the heavy gray cloud deck moving towards Dayton. Even so, there is a slit at the horizon and the sun glows orange at about 8:15 am. It is going to be a dark, solemn day; there is no doubt about rain approaching.

 And yet as I turn around and hoof back Sam's lane, the northwestern sky is still a lovely baby blue. Puffy cumulus begin to dot the atmosphere along with jet contrails, businessmen already on their way to heaven-knows-where. I love the bare trees just now, thin black branches etched against the cool blue. It is a bracing time of year, one I would not want to miss even though I hate to pay to heat the house.

 A little farther back and the tree which stood at the right of the previous picture now command the foreground. In mere minutes, the clouds have moved and new contrails blossom. It is deadly quiet this morning. Not a dog barks (the cold air, the rising sun must mean time to crawl back into their bed of straw and sleep). And yet, as I turn to walk back out the lane I hear something that reminds me of thunder - it cannot be. It is a ponderous boom, due west of me, and must be some work being conducted near the village. As I walk further it repeats a single time. And both times I stopped in my tracks,  turned around and watched the sky. I saw nothing.

Now, though, is a good time to take a panorama of the sky, now before the clouds have given the atmosphere a common, boring, thick gray. I start on the north, swing eastward, favor the sky and not the horizon, stop when the frame holds a thin smear of sunset at its right edge. The shot covers about 100°.

Trouble is, a panorama that dismisses the rule of holding the camera level, means that the shots must be stitched together at odd angles producing a weird result. And yet, dismissing this, the sky was my subject and the sky takes center stage as it should.

We'll have a cloudy day. Later rain will begin to overspread the area (not snow as the temperatures of a few days ago would have suggested). By evening it will be raining and we'll have a rainy night. What? Half, three-quarters of an inch? It will be wet, muddy again. The pond's ice will melt. Winter is on the calendar but spring keeps snatching the very air.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Winter Tests the Water

 As I said on Friday, the weather was taking a sad turn. Those days in the 40's ... 50's even ... slid into the teens and seemed to stick there. Friday (01/13) had a high of 19°, a low of 14°; Saturday (01/14) managed a 28° high but slid to 16° overnight; and today (01/15) we topped out at 29° but fell to a frigid 7° overnight. I've always thought Farmersville seemed to lie in a deep meteorological hole, one bent on pooling cold air at night. I have both digital and analog thermometers and they agree very closely.

 The Farmersville-Jackson Twp. Pond is another indicator I use. Due to its mass, it responds slower than any thermometer in my arsenal. But it also holds its readings longer ... a sort of natural well that preserves the average, never the instantaneous.

 So, as the cold air poured in, the pond's surface drew tight. Soon it was frozen fast. I think these are some of its prettiest times.

 That hard surface, while undergoing its transition to solid, even holds the wind on its surface. Waves are frozen there. I have not seen a bluer sky - above and below - any truer than todays. It seems to have opened clear to outer space.

 The ice is very thin and wouldn't support any weight. On the western and windward side, the ice is blown clean and clear. On the east, the snow has collected and is banked against that shore. It transitions about halfway across from clear blue to powder white.

 The beginning of this transition zone can be seen by walking to the southern edge. Here there is ice; here there are snow flakes beginning to collect. Underneath it all, green algae still blooms, caught there by the warm temperatures earlier in the month (56° on 01/06). Along the edge, unseen, I imagine frogs are deep in their winter slumber, unaware of the hard world gathered above.

 This clump of pines on the eastern shore is always my favorite. Today their reflection shows only on the blue ice. Winter has come to the pond finally.

 I am nearly alone here today. A man walks two dogs who find today's upper 20's pleasantly warm. In the days ahead we'll have the pond washed clean by rain again and the process can begin anew. Winter is still making tentative steps. It is testing. It hasn't shown its harsh side yet.

Friday, January 13, 2012


 Ah, those pleasant days are going to continue all winter? Wrong!
 Yesterday, a mild enough rain (mid-40's) took a bad turn late in the day, carried on a howling west wind, driving temperatures into the teens, forcing the rain to turn to snow and chilling me through to the bone. I slept little last night,  winds howling to 40 mph and bands of snow beating against the panes. This morning the windows are frosted, the ground is strangely white and only slowly has the wind begun to abate.
 This leads to hungry birds. One of my first jobs of the day was to pick the suet feeder up from the ground and attach it by its chain to the usual hook on the maple branch. As I watched, a birdhouse gourd came crashing from the same tree, splitting open when it hit the ground, scattering its top, lightweight and empty, like a skull cap, across the yard to the east as though it was running from something; and the bottom, weighed down with a mud-bottomed nest, sat there immobile no matter how hard the wind blew. The top is gone; the bottom is there still.
 I'm used to a huge Red-bellied Woodpecker tentatively arriving at the feeder, hanging back until he feels I am no danger (always near the kitchen window it must seem to him), hanging back until other birds spy him and move politely away. But today's Centurus carolinus is not the usual one; he is too small. Immediately I called him Junior.

 I do not remember this bird from many years ago (though in recent years they have become quite common). I understand their range only goes a few hundred miles north of here (to the mid part of the lower peninsula of Michigan). But this new one to me is smaller than the usual, probably a young bird.

 Also called a "Zebraback" for very obvious reasons in this shot, the bird is an avid insect hunter in warm weather but depends on feeders in the winter when dependably provided. I have heard the larger one very often and I would describe the call as almost a bark, an incessant chuck-chuck-chuck.

 As is his nature, he prefers hammering on bark and he'll take morsels of suet, when he pulls them loose, and peck them against a tree branch. Here 'ol brown eyes' is finishing off just such a treat.
 This young woodpecker has not developed the same fear of me that the older one exhibits. He is skittish, to be sure, but remains on the feeder even when I stand not far inside the window with camera in hand. Or maybe he is just particularly hungry today and has decided to stick it out?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


 January 10: the average temperature should be 28°. Think of a high of 38°, a low of 18°. Think of snow flakes tinkling against the window pane. Think of deep snow.
 Today was, instead, pleasantly warm, sunny and calm ... a spring day with a high of 51°. And so goes the entire winter. So far there hasn't been a single measurable snow in Farmersville. We've had a dusting - a mere trace - and that disappeared almost before it fell.
 And so, at the pond today, Mom and I were not bothered by winter at all. We half expected to see spring flowers pushing through the soil.

 The pond, as you can see, is a beautiful, nearly ice-less blue. The surface is as smooth as a mirror. It simply could not be a more restful day.

 Among the white pines on the west side of the pond (shown on the left of the first picture), pine needles blanket the ground and long cones lay atop that blanket to a soft, spongy thickness. On a day such as this, sun slanting through the branches, it would be a good place to take a nap.

 I have seen this view a hundred times - no, a thousand, surely - and yet I am forever stopped in my tracks. What is there about a reflection that takes our breath? Surely it is why deep thought is called "reflection". Part way across the pond you can see the water pushed up against a thin area of ice, slid to the east side of the pond by an imperceptible breeze. The prevailing wind, when there is one, works the ice, and pine needles and leaves to this side. Other years, I'd find the pond on this day thickly enveloped in ice.
 But today I can stand here, unmolested by the wind, free of winter care and enjoy the scenery in peace. How can there be unrest anywhere in the world when scenes such as this present themselves daily?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Losing My Sole

 I've never been called a "clothes horse" or confused with someone who follows fashion. I have no interest in such things. Price and durability is all that matters to me.
 I did have one brief lapse in the 1960's when the Beatles era was in full swing. I lusted for, I bought ... a Nehru jacket. I wore it a few times at most. For where do you wear a Nehru jacket? I felt like an ordained minister.
 That said, I have since that time had only one brief brush with fashion. For Christmas in 1994 (I believe) I was given a new pair of Nike "Air Bound 3" shoes. They were gleaming white and had a thin trim of "mineral green", a color I found particularly appealing. Grass stains would melt to insignificance beside that earthy green, I thought.
 That is, had I worn them. I like them too much to wear them. I was enough to know I owned a pair of Nike Airs.

 In the intervening years - probably 17 to be fair - the shoes have stayed mostly in their bright orange box, on the floor of my closet, safely tucked away, available for those rare times when I wanted to be seen in a good pair of shoes.

  In recent years, I've bought, worn and wore out quite a number of athletic shoes. Most were bought on sale, shoes that reached the end of their lives or the end of their season. The last pair I bought was a canvas shoe from Wal-Mart, just $17.99. I have been wearing them for the past year until I found my toenails turning mysteriously black. The shoes, a half size too small, are also clearly too short for my feet. As I walk in Sam's driveway, my feet drive into the front of the shoes, push on my toenails and driving them to damage.

 I showed my toes to Mom last night and she was a little horrified. "Quit wearing those shoes! Throw them out!" she told me. "You're going to ruin your feet!".

  I had a new pair of canvas shoes awaiting me. These I purchased at Target in recent months - my size, even - as an end of season clearance, as summer slid into fall. I paid less than $5. They have sat in the closet along with the prized Nike's, awaiting a time of need.

 The time of need is now. Black toenails do not become me. But, thought I, after all those years of disuse, why not get out those beloved Nike's and take a walk? The day is clear and sunny. Sam's driveway is dry. My feet need good shoes. And so I grasp the prized orange box, take it downstairs, carefully peel back the tissue paper (yes, they are still packed exactly as I got them), loosen the laces and slide them onto my receptive but sore feet.

 It is heaven. The shoes feel like slippers. I am ready to walk!

 I grab my hoodie, pull on my winter coat, walk proudly out to the end of Sam's driveway. I feel like a Lipizzaner stallion, lift my gleaming white feet a little higher, walk proudly.

 I am not a hundred feet back the gravel driveway when I feel like I am walking on something. I lift my left foot to look at the bottom of my shoe. The sole has delaminated, rotten rubber crumbles to the ground! What!? I figure I'll walk on and see if I can move forward with the sole dragging. I cannot. The other shoe lets go.

 I have lost my soles. My shoes have literally exploded.

 I clomp - that is the best word for it - back to the house. Mom is at the sink and asks why I am back to soon. I lift my shoes with the dangling soles. She laughs. "You shouldn't have waited so long to wear those," she says.

 My Nike Airs, worn only a few times before today (and then mostly indoors), are gone. I look at the box more carefully. The original price was $84.99 but they were purchased on sale for $49.99. Made in Indonesia. I suppose the warranty has run out.

 On both pair, the sole has completely pulled away from the shoes. Flecks of rotten Neoprene fall to the floor.

 I pulled on my "new" pair of shoes from Target. At less than $5 they offer me a fine walk. Not so proudly as the Nike's but more comfortable, indeed. As I walk behind the barn I find an air bladder lying on the gravel. Another twenty-five feet and I find another. The Nike's have left part of their sole behind.

 It is a Sunday morning and I have lost mine, too.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


A day begins:

 It is January 5 and I am taking out the trash just as the sun rises. Above me is a dark cloud, scooting in from the southwest and overspreading Pinehaven. I know the sun will barely rise before it is hidden again but I am so enthralled by the cloud deck that I don't care. This is a scene that makes me stop in my tracks.
 And because I was present for the beginning of the day, I am present for its end:

 The sky was lit throughout the day by jet contrails, hundreds of them, all at the same time. I do not remember a moment when the sky wasn't literally crossed in all directions by them ... thin streaks, just made, and wide bands, beginning to blow apart in high altitude winds. The sunset, I am sure, will light them with fire. And I am not wrong.

 Will I ever tire of that tree that stands besides Sam's driveway, that lovely form that shades me on my summer circuits, that seems to stand through all storms with only a small branch given up now and again? The sky is literally fire - down low - and ice - up high ... and it glows with such an ember that I think the world is somewhere aflame.

 And yet as quickly as the sun sets and that flame extinguishes, the moon rises cold and white in the east. Pinehaven's bricks chill in the night air as the moon begins to cast shadows of tree branches. The catalpa seems to hold it's hands of gnarled fingers high. I would be frightened of it in the dark if I did not love it so.

And another day passes:

 This is a summery winter, warm beyond comprehension, and so I can enjoy the evening sky with no more than a light coat. I walk behind the garden, set my flashlight on the burn barrel - it will serve as my astronomical desk - and marvel at the clear sky. To my unaided eye it is almost pure black but for Venus's beacon in the southwest. Yet with the camera and a little time, I can cause the horizon to brighten again, as though the sun had reversed his course. The pines, still holding their needles, and the deciduous trees, devoid of leaves, provide a frame for this beautiful shot. Standing there, it is not one I can see. Only the camera can absorb enough light to show it to me.

 Turning around, placing Venus to my right rear, the moon rises high, clear of the catalpas only a day later and pushing closer to full (though three days away as I shot this scene on January 6). Look there at 8 o'clock, that bright speck on the moon. Is it the edge of a crater reflecting the sun back to me? The same bright spot is on other shots, even though the moon is not at the same place in the frame (thus it is not a defect in the CCD nor some other digital artifact). It is real. It is brighter than its surroundings. It is on the moon.

 Now to the back yard where I can see Pinehaven as a whole, sitting lone beneath the moonlight. A hint: turn off your lights, look at your monitor in a dark room, click on the photo and enlarge it if you want, and enjoy the geometrical forms in the night. Let you eyes adjust - as I did when I stood there - and allow the scene to come up.

 This is unusual to be able to enjoy the sky so well in January. But we are so far without winter and I may stay outside as long as I like. A winter's sky is matched by no other season.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Pinehaven Webcam Now Online

 I've activated a webcam in a north second floor window, looking towards the hen house and looking down from atop the pines. It's interesting to watch the angle of the sunlight change as the sun moves around the opposite side of the house.

 I've found the camera (a D-Link DCS-930L) works fairly well in low light but not at night. Even with last night's going-on-full moon, I saw nothing but black once the sun had set.
 I'll leave the camera running 24 hours a day except for when I am doing tests or building images for time lapse weather study. The webpage will automatically update once per minute and provide a current view.
 To have a look, click here.

Added January 7, 2012 ... here's a time lapse made yesterday from 8:38 am to 11:49 am. While the scene seems static when looking out the window, there's actually a lot of movement. The trees are swaying in the slight breeze and the sun is circling the house on the south, casting wonderful shadows.

Added January 8, 2012 ... and here's another time lapse made later the same day (3:37 pm - 5:37 pm). I think the angle of the shadows are interesting in both videos.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Red-bellied Woodpecker

 Our suet feeder, hung on a branch of the maple tree just outside our kitchen window, is our prime way to watch birds close-up. It's usually serving the common sparrows, wrens, chickadees, nuthatches and the titmouse. We have the downy woodpecker as a regular visitor, too, both male and female.
 All of them are fairly tame at this point - or maybe just hungry as winter gets colder and windier - and they'll continue eating while I photograph through the glass. One of my favorites, though, is the most skittish: the Red-bellied woodpecker.

 You can see, even in this shot (the best of the past couple of days), that he's hungry enough to stay but he's looking over his shoulder all the while. Next to the pileated woodpecker, which I haven't seen in years and then only a time or two, this guy is the most fearful of people.
 About 10" long, he's one big bird. I love the white/black stripes on his body feathers. But, of course, that orange-red head commands attention all around. He has beautiful, piercing rust-brown eyes. Look how his rough, gray feet clamp onto the wires.
 Something as simple as a suet feeder produces these regular visitors. Though the common birds require no more than a passing glance, the woodpeckers command our attention at once. I'll hear Mom yell, "The big woodpecker is on the feeder," and I'll come running with my camera.
 What could be better on a cold, cloudy, winter's day than seeing the bright, sunny head of this wonderful bird?