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Brad's Blog

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May 1
    The library week here has a literal hump in the middle--the same number of hours, but running from 2-7 Tuesday to Thursday, compared to 12-5 on Mondays and Fridays.  Also the two hours of afterschool program is on Thursdays, making this really over the hump for this week.
    I brought clay and suggested they could make a spoon setter for their mothers (1 of 16 actually did).   I read a picture book called " Mama don't Allow," and had them sing and play rhythm instruments along.  Also they did the motions for "Oats, peas, beans and barley grow."   For the younger ones I started a "slow race," planting seeds from about a dozen vegetables, to see which one grows the fastest in the 3 weeks we have left (with tentative plans to chart their progress).  It all went well, and the kids were courteous and well behaved.
    But afterwards, there was a sense of, "Well, that's my one trick.  What do I do next week?"  Fortunately there is a month break before starting the summer reading program, to gain a handle on this scheduling thing.  On the other hand, I have a little over a month to learn all the routines well enough to run the library by myself for almost two weeks in June.   At least I'm feeling more capable than my second day there...
    I applied dormant oil spray to our orchard this morning.  It's the only way we treat our trees.  I'm not even sure if we have the bugs it's supposed to kill.  But there were fewer aphids last year after doing it.  The cherry buds are swelling, awaiting the next stretch of really warm weather.

May 2
    Besides concluding the first week of library work, I spent the morning working on reattaching the deck at our cabin.  Then immediately after work I left for the wedding practice, and stayed for the banquet, and didn't get home till late.  The actual event is Saturday.  The bride's march was selected by the bride to be Greensleeves, which is my big hit on Youtube, although she was unaware of that...  Since I'm playing it with my sister in law (on electric piano), it's a little trickier than playing it by myself.

May 3-4
ospreys
    At both my son's wedding and the one on Saturday, an important ritual of the dance part is the Chicken Dance.  Perhaps it happens at dance halls everywhere, but I think it's included at weddings for the young at heart--cluck, cluck, wing flap, shake butt, clap.  Anyway the whole wedding went smoothly...  Before going to the church, we stopped to view Post Falls (which disappears by midsummer into the hydroelectric system).  I was taking pictures of this osprey on its nest on the special platform above a powerline, when I saw its mate flying in with a fish.   Shortly after this shot, one of them flew off to another nearby pole to eat the fish, while the other stood guard.  I would guess this means there are eggs but no babies yet...
    Today I caught a short glimpse of a pileated woodpecker, while going for a walk at the end of the lake.  At the place where we parked there were dwarf waterleaf flowers about to open.  I've seen them other places in Idaho, but not so near to home.  Wildflowers don't travel much, so to see new ones you've got to travel where they might be...  
    We started hearing lots of frog mating calls from the marsh at the lake end.  Every once in a while they'd all go quiet, which was quite startling, being so orchestrated.  I'd just read an article on how amphibeans (particularly frogs) around the world are taking a heavy hit, particularly from a fungal disease.  The population sounded quite healthy here...
    My back has done its semiannual back sprain event, so my activies are curtailed at a time when the weather is quite jaunty.

May 5
    My back is improving fairly quickly, possibly because the library job forced me to be active and keep it moving (carefully).
    Running a library is a bit like juggling--you learn to juggle a few balls, then keep adding balls you've got the whole effect.  It doesn't seem as dazzling as juggling, but it's as complicated.  Curiously, much of the work is procedures related to checking in, routing materials to other branches, such that actual human interaction almost seems a  break from the serious business.  I did a lot of checking in, reshelving, covering new books, and preparing packets for kindergarten registration today.  I also had a busy hour reading, singing, and crafting with preschoolers.  We made magic corn plants--rolls of newspaper, taped to stay together, then with slits cut into it, which, when pulled out from the middle, makes a frizzy looking corn plant.  I remembered it from a birthday party in my youth.

May 6
    We had the first sprinkle in a couple weeks.  The piles of snow are just occasional anomalies now (but some are still 3 feet tall, mostly berms from plowing).  I glazed two kiln loads this morning, partially motivated by the library program kids' little projects I said I'd have ready for Mother's Day.  Then after lunch I supervised my son finishing the under structure of the revised deck at the cabin.  Then I went to the library, and soon after work the day ended.
    I did get an interesting email from a musician acquaintance this morning.  The local bluegrass society May newsletter included a note from the president suggesting musicians other than true bluegrassers should leave the organization.  Because I usually play in a duo, and play old time rather than the tight harmonies and fast instrumental breaks typical of bluegrass, I figured that included me.  I also figured a lot of other musicians would feel slighted by it, and following the first rebuttal email, stressing the value of the variety of music which is being played at the Bluegrass venue, several others have joined in defending a broader interpretation of the music as well.   This Saturday is the Spring String Thing workshop, so it will be interesting to see if it's a hot topic there as well.
    The fact is that bluegrass, like any genre of music, enjoyed its heydey (1940's-50s), and after that musicians either tried to recreate that sound, or take it to new places.  In my case, I like the prebluegrass music, but don't restrict myself to play those tunes in the style of the period, which makes my niche very small indeed, and bluegrass is the closest relative.  Jonathan Hawkins and I enjoy playing at the Bluegrass Thang because there is a large audience of attentive and respectful listeners, which is hard to come by for any musicians.  But we only play there once a year, so it's not a great loss if we were to stop appearing there.

May 7
    A full day in the pottery, 5 hours in the library, then about an hour of gospel music practice with a local church group before supper...  I'd left the door to the pottery open during the kiln firing today.  Depending on the season, or state of the pots, I'll let some of the waste heat from the kiln help dry the pottery.  It's been cool and rainy, so that might have been a good idea, if I'd intended it.  But the freshly thrown pots from this morning prefer a little slower drying.   I caught it in time, and covered the ones that need a foot added, but it was lucky I remembered to check.  A few too many balls still being juggled...

May 8
    Every day I work in the library is 5 hours, but the fastest 5 is doing the Library Club, as I just learned it's called.  I have one hour to get both sections prepared, then two hours with the kids, an hour to clean up, and theoretically an hour to plan the next week.  However, I find myself staring into space a lot that last hour, unable to keep on task, getting over the adrenaline rush of trying to keep 17 kids roughly on their own tasks.   So I think I'll have to move my planning hour to another day...
    In the pottery I attached the feet to the pots mentioned yesterday, and cool wet weather we're having may help slow the drying process, which will help the additions stay attached...  
    The first planting in the garden is coming up, and we've had spinach from the greenhouse.  One of the projects with the younger kids in the Library Club was a vegetable race--we planted various seeds last week, and only the broccoli had emerged by today.   There's two more weeks to see which plant grows the fastest.

May 9

This is the view of the millpond today, at full pool with runoff pouring off hills like the snow dappled ones in back, and the leaves still slow to emerge from the cool spring.  This day was one of those cool ones--a fire in the morning and more wood tossed in later as well.  But there was plenty of sun this evening as I walked...  The first shooting stars, yellow violets, and trillium were in view today.  The ospreys are building a nest on a power pole just south of the road that divides the lake from the millpond.  Most of the sticks have "old man's beard" moss on it (like in this linked photo), probably to provide a bit of insulation for the eggs.  I think by climbing the ridge a good view of the young may be possible...
    In our yard the lilacs
are still tiny buds, an easy comparative measure of spring through temperate climes everywhere.

May 11
    I attended the bluegrass workshop today, and there didn't appear to be a lot of conflict left over from the group president's "bluegrass or leave it" message, which I wrote about earlier this week.  The people teaching the workshops put on a concert at the end which included  a few non bluegrass tunes, such as "Sentimental Journey."
    Frank Delaney stopped by with a musician friend, Kevin Sweeney, who'd been in New York in the heyday of the 60's folk revival, including playing with Bob Dylan, and being at Washington Square Park in the Village when Jesse Colin Young, Phil Ochs, and many others were getting their acts together on the streets. He also mentioned playing at the Gaslight Cafe. A quick search at Amazon reveals Son House recorded a record there in 1965--I was thinking I'd seen some other group with a record made there, such as the Greenbriar Boys, whom he mentioned also played there...   It was a nexus of its time just as San Francisco was for American rock music.  We were both on our way to other places, so didn't get to visit long, but it was an interesting brush with history.

May 12

    My walk today had many Mother's Day themes.  A Canada goose couple had their new yellow goslings, very similar to this photo from a year or two ago, only with 7 goslings....  The ospreys were still working on their nest.  I saw 4 eagles soaring together, still working out their nesting arrangements.  And the red necked grebes were hauling material to their floating nest, which I'll be able to observe from a high trail along the shore...

May 13

    Today was preschool story hour.  An hour is a long time to fill to amuse people of this vintage.  But I squeaked by.  One of the better ideas was to have a muffin relay, using a small plastic pan resembling a muffin tin (actually for mixing up water colors), and putting in some craft fur balls (to simulate muffins).  Then I sang the "Muffin Man" nursery rhyme, to get them on the theme, and watched as they carried the muffins from one end of the room to the other.  One of the younger participants got about half way across and gave the fur balls a toss, to general amusement. I also read them a few picture books, sang some songs with them, and showed them a book on the lifestyle of butterflies, showing them one of my photos, and talking about the baby geese they could see at the Millpond (using the photo just above).  So I think, for my part, I'm trying to be true to my own interests in what I do with the story times.  That, and the changing seasons, should provide a bit of material...
    It was a short pottery day today, loading a couple bisque kilns, and sending a wedding order of 44 goblets off (always hoping the shipping goes well).  The weather was still cool today, but the week promises to shoot into summer temps by weekend...

May 14
    My son just sent me this ski video made last weekend with some of his friends--he's the one with the beard and green coat with white vertical stripes, appearing about a minute into the video, then laced throughout the rest...  He's contemplating moving to Colorado for next season...
    Excuse the zeal of a recent convert, but my back was getting to the point that I had to do something, and a friend recommended a chiropractor, and I went today and now I feel better.  I'd gone to one years ago with the same back stuff, but he only lightly tapped a couple places on my spine and said I'd need about a dozen treatments (I never went back).  This guy popped my back in the middle once with heavy pressure, then had me twist to one side, at which point he applied strong pressure to me, then I switched to the other, and I walked out of the office feeling good and walking totally upright.  He estimated 1-3 more visits in the next week should do it.  His claim was that the bones need to move in the pelvic-spinal attachment area, and mine had sort of seized up at an angle.  If I can start gardening and carpentry in a week, it will be well worth it...  
    I am sore now though, after standing 5 hours with my library job, then an hour and a half music practice with the gospel group.  
Post Falls Idaho
    We used to say about weather in N. Idaho--we got 3 seasons in Northern Idaho, and temperate isn't one of them.  We're still keeping the house closed up to keep the heat in, but predictions are that by tomorrow we'll be keeping the house shut to keep the heat out.  I stopped by Post Falls today and never saw so many flood gates open and the water pouring, mist rising 50 feet above the falls...  It's a lot more fun to see a natural falls, but the West prizes hydro more than scenery...

May 15
    With my newly improved back, I transplanted tomatoes and cabbages out to the garden today.  It's still possible there'll be a frost after this warm spell is over, but hopefully it'll be nothing a light cover can't protect the tomatoes with.  I also planted green beans, that do much better at germinating when the weather is hot.  The cherry trees are blossoming now.
    In the Library Club, spirits rose with the temperature, but most of them still managed to produce some version of a sock puppet today.  Next week is the last of this session, then there is a break before the Summer reading program, and preschool outreach start.  These are definitely the most challenging facets of my library job...  Before I took the job, I'd already volunteered to do some songs for the summer program, which morphed into a full 45 minutes of entertainment at two libraries.  I'm more aware of the challenge of this idea from trying to hold their attention for even 10 minutes at a time in a small group...

May 16
quemiln park
    Because chiropractors seem to like to do things in series (and I hope there's a good reason beyond stretching out the payments),  I went for my second adjustment today.  I'm not arguing with success, which I've had little enough of lately otherwise with my back...  Anyway it gave me an excuse to make my annual spring pilgrimage to Q'miln Park, just south of the river off Spokane Street (the photo above was from another year).  The water was pouring down a side channel that I'd only ever seen a trickle in before.  But it's the flowers and rocks I love there.  Local rock climbers favor the 50 foot cliffs, with permanent carabiners at the top...  The Spring flowers were at their height--particularly these shooting stars, which only grow small and stunted locally where I've encountered them:
Shooting star flowers
A local name for these beauties in central Idaho is Bird's bills...
    True to form, it got so hot today that we kept the house closed to keep the heat out.  I'm going to put on a couple screen windows as soon as I finish this.   I guess it got around 80 (27 C).  That feels hot when I hadn't even dug out the shorts yet...

May 17
    One of our older cars, which I took in because the "Check Engine" light was frequently flickering, stalled today when my son was driving it, 30 miles from home.  So we ended up towing it home ourselves, in spite of the possibility of damaging the transmission, traveling the back roads as much as possible.  The towing rope is a very primitive device, a band of nylon webbing with a big hook on either end.  If tension was released, it would tend to disconnect.  I finally stopped that by looping part of it over the towbar, and using a rubber tie-down to hold the other end in place.  I'd just taken the car in to a local mechanic, who replaced the fuel filter, but couldn't find anything major.  When he mentioned fuel, I'd remembered noticing the fuel pump was making a louder sound, and since the fuel filter didn't fix it, I asked him to replace the fuel pump, which was scheduled for Monday. The good part of this story is that now that whatever was wrong has failed, they should be able to identify it correctly to fix it...
    This evening I took the bluegrass awards photos, which I'll try to post tomorrow.

May 18
   
    The photos I took at the bluegrass awards ceremony last night are at this link http://www.sondahl.com/events/INBA2008.html
    I  finished transplanting cabbage family plants to the garden today.  As I was digging the grass around the edge of a plot, I noticed that the soil was pretty dry, considering the 3 feet of snow that was there a month ago.  It helps substantiate my theory that a lot of the snow around here just evaporated.  Clearly, from the current flooding, there's a lot of snow up high that's doing the melty thing, but there never was a lot of run off here in town, and there hasn't been much rain this spring.  
    As I walked up the ridge, I could see some of the ridgetop starting to brown out as well, even as the spring flowers are still coming on.  I don't think it's particularly significant--just an observation.  One of the flowers checking in today was the calypso orchid, like the archived photo shown above.  I got a slightly improved photo of it--always a challenge since it grows in the dim light of full woods...    The camas is just opening now, and checking last year's blog that makes us 2 weeks behind this year.  Our cherry and pear trees are blossoming, but the apples still have a ways to go...
    The red necked grebes were also working on their floating nest with sticks and muddy goop.  They both seemed preoccupied with its construction.  I just read an article online that says they build the nest, then copulate on it, which could explain their urgency :-).  

May 19
    This week has a lot of everything in it, but I'll probably survive a day at a time.   I had the final preschool story time.  I combined a Pete Seeger story called Abiyoyo, morphing the monster into a giant moth (ala Mothra, who fought Godzilla), for purposes of having a bug related story, needed for the buggy summer reading theme.   There was a small turnout, but the older ones seemed to pay attention.  They also paid attention to a reading of a story book version of the Kate Shelley bridge washout, peppered with insignificant details of my growing up near the place where it happened.
    I also managed to squeeze out a couple dozen mugs, take the mower to get unnecessarily repaired (I just need to learn how to lower the blades), and pull grass by the roots out of a section of garden.  The weather remains fine...

May 20
    It rained a good part of the day, the kind of rain that makes robins rejoice in its worminess...  I was putting in a long work day, so I barely noticed...
Part of the work included sitting for 3 hours in case someone might drop by the school to register their kindergardener, and give them a packet of materials on the library.  I gave out one packet...  While waiting, I got to watch the 4th grade presentation of a "historical" play on Lewis and Clark, which mostly seemed to hinge on whose name was first, Lewis or Clark...
    Such events always remind me of the wonderfully illustrated stories by Robert McCloskey of Homer Price and Centerburg Tales.  The relevant story is of the historical tableau put on at the school for the town's centennial.  In it, we learn that the town of Centerburg started by the help of friendly Indians, who showed the settlers how to eat an edible fungus and not starve to death the first winter.  In gratitude, the town was named Edible Fungus, but later it somehow got changed to Centerburg...  As I recall, the kids' chant went, "50 lbs. of edible fungus, saved the settlers from starvation, helped the founding of our nation..."
    Our car that broke down last weekend, got a new fuel pump, and runs again, but still with engine light flickering on and off frequently.  I think it's reached the "nickel and diming you to death" stage, and it's time to shop for another car...

May 21
    I had the kindergarten tours today, and read them another Robert McCloskey story, called Lentil, about a boy who saves a town celebration by playing  "She'll be coming around the mountain," on the harmonica (which I played also, for effect).  Then we all sang the song together...  That and the Kate Shelley story mostly held their attention, and the teacher must've bragged it up because now the 2nd grade wants to do a tour next week as well...
    Today my ski obsessed  son left to explore Colorado as new terrain to conquer...  He'll meet my other son in Denver, where he and his wife are going to attend a wedding.  
    I learned today I was accepted for Art on the Green, the area's largest art fair, on the first weekend in August.  I applied before I got the library job, so it seems like one more ball to juggle...  Fortunately the library job is getting less daunting as I conquer more of the routines...
    We've gotten over an inch of rain in the last two days, making the grass and garden very happy.  

May 22
    Today the afterschool library program finished.  The energy level of the participants was such that flexibility was a key to getting through the hour...
The same stories that held the preschool and kindergardeners enthralled didn't work with the 1-3 graders, but then, when the school kids visited, they were under the velvet fist of their teacher, whereas this was the end of year party.  I took popcorn and lemonade, and had some balloons.   All the kids enjoyed a competition I thought up of having 3 of them blow into straws making bubbles  in a bowl with water and dish detergent in it, and when an egg timer ran out, they'd measure the mound of foamy bubbles for height to choose the winner.  We also played a game they suggested of bouncing balloons without touching anyone or anything else (if you do, you're out) , and finally musical chairs (live guitar music).  We made paper hats either Napoleon/pirate style, or by scrunching newspaper over the head and taping it to make  a hatband, then wrinkling it up to make what the kids called a "funky junky" hat...
    As soon as the mess was cleaned up, I started filling registration bags for Summer Reading program, so there's really no end to this process.
    Meanwhile in the pottery I started making pots which might be stored in boxes till the big fair in August, assuming they aren't needed sooner.  From various appointments in the last couple weeks, the theoretical pottery mornings have been perforated timewise, which hasn't been an issue yet, since we're well supplied with pots, but could be when orders come faster in the summer.
    If it were 10 degrees warmer it would be muggy out, instead it's clammy.  My traveling son passed through a tornado warning area in Wyoming, and is van camping in snow at 9000 feet tonight.  I weeded the garden that's planted, and hope to plant the big garden this weekend...

May 23
    My work today included introducing a stage magician to the K-3 graders, who had a program related to the Summer Reading program.
    I think my first experience with a stage magician was in South Dakota, when I had my first summer job of posting the weekly summer calendar around the SDSU campus (when I was about 12).  Included on the calendar one week was a stage magic program, and part of my job was to hand out the programs.   Then I got to watch the show.  It had the classic "sawing a lady in half" trick, and best of all the guillotine.  I volunteered and got to stick my head through it as the blade passed through me without incident.  While my wife was at seminary, I took up magic as a hobby, and put on a couple shows for the seminary kids, combining music and magic.  But magic requires foolproof gimmicks, good sleight of hand, and great patter, so I finally gave it up (0 out of 3 is sort of bad).  The magician today clearly took it seriously, as he even had it lettered on the side of his van.  But like all arts, I'm sure it's a tough thing to make money from.  This show which he developed especially for the local libraries may only be done a handful of times...  But live local entertainment, even inferior to the top talent shown on the media, still has a special aura...


May 24
    I had a bit of spare time this morning, so I added two music videos: Sam McGee Stomp   and  
Daisy Bell .  Then I worked in the library this afternoon, and planned to mow the lawn this evening, but didn't get started before the rain began.  Things are growing fast and green, and the lilacs are about ready to open.  The high water on the rivers and lakes has closed a lot of the waterways to boats, or limited them to no-wake.  That and the predicted rain have cast a shadow on the first big weekend of late spring...

May 25
     I recorded two more videos on Saturday,  Don't let your deal go down (an old time version), and
If today was not an endless highway--a Dylan standard.   Then I read about Utah Phillips dying.  I was doing the folk music DJ thing at St. Olaf's NPR station when his first record "Good Though" came out.  Even though he kind of got carried away on the train theme, there were some great songs on the album, and the very funny story of Moose Turd Pie.  Although a lot of humor is in the telling, in short the story involved railway workers out in the woods, and the one who complained about the food most had to cook.   So, Utah was the cook, and didn't like it.  He decided to cook up a Moose Turd pie, sure that someone would complain and that person would have to cook.  So when he served it, the first guy took a bite--he yelled, "My God, that's Moose Turd Pie!          It's  good though..."
    When we moved out to the Northwest, my wife's family lived in Spokane, and while visiting their next door neighbor one day, I was amazed to meet Utah Phillips in the flesh, who was then living in Spokane.  He was wearing a leather beanie with a propeller on top, and I was too shy to tell him I played some of his tunes in a similar style.   A while later he had a concert at the Women's Club, and I dragged the family along.  Unfortunately he had a profane vocabulary, and tended towards fiery rhetoric (he was a member of the IWW--wobblies) so we finally walked out on the concert, as unsuitable for our preschool kids.
    He was a great songwriter.  I think his best known song was "Rock Salt and Nails," a fairly misogynous lyric with a pretty tune, sung by Joan Baez--"If the ladies were squirrels, with a high bushy tail, I'd load up my shotgun with rock salt and nails..."  But another real pretty one was "The Green Rolling Hills of West Virginia" sung by Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard...
Anyway,  from the album, Good Though, I recorded my version of two of his songs:
I'm Going Away  and  Queen of the Rails .  In spite of his being kind of an "ornery cuss," he clearly had a romantic side, romanticising the life he led hopping freights with songs like these, even as each describes death in the railroad yard and lost love...
    All that was an aside from the serious gardening today, planting potatoes, corn, green beans, carrots, peas, and squash.  There's still room in the garden for second plantings of corn and peas.  I don't till the garden any more--just hoe out the weeds, and turn the soil where a root vegetable is planted.  The manure I usually get hasn't arrived yet, so if it does, it'll go on as a top dressing.  

May 26
    The Memorial Day holiday was most pleasant.  We had relatives over for lunch.  As usual through the summer, we also get the most pottery customers around this time of the day...   But that's a good thing...
    The green beans are popping up in the first garden, and the yard begins to resemble an  Henri Rousseau painting, of the jungle sort.

   

May 27
    The hardest thing about this new job is the calendar thing...   If you click on my calendar link at the top of the page, I list two or three things, some of them months away.  But with the library job, I've got meetings happening outside library hours all the time, and have to plan strategically to get my pottery work done.  I mention this because I made 50 mugs today, then later looked at the calendar and saw I was booked up tomorrow morning...  Fortunately they were dry enough to add handles this evening.  It does make for some long days...


May 28
Rathdrum Prairie
    When you drive the back routes to the towns around where I live, you can still see vestiges of the prairie which gave the area (Rathdrum prairie) its name.   The yellow flowers are balsam root, the lavender ones are wild phlox.  These places are rapidly disappearing to development.  It reminds me of  a reproduction we had when I was growing up,  "The Prairie is my Garden" by South Dakota artist harvey Dunn.  I never saw real prairie around Brookings--it had all been farmed, so I was impressed with the many flowers in the field of the painting, as I am still impressed by the many flowers in the natural prairie today.  

    So, after complaining about the calendar yesterday, it came back to bite me today...  I'd written down my classroom visits on my home calendar when they required going in early, but not the ones during the regular work day.  So I got there today, forgot to look at the calendar, and all of the sudden there's a first grade class coming in.  I quickly called my wife to bring my guitar, grabbed the books I've been using, and started in on the tour...   At one point the teacher started explaining to the kids in more detail about reading levels of various sets of books, and I went into the story room and moved furniture to make room for them.  In the end, it went smoothly, but it's the kind of thing that works its way into nightmares...

May 30
    I missed a day blogging because we had a god daughter and her sister visiting.  We also had our first thunderstorm of the year, with about a half-inch of rain to keep things green for another week or so.  
    Our guests left early this morning, so we went for  a walk to the mill pond.  There were a couple gaggles of Canada geese, one with babies still yellow--the other where they look like awkward teenagers.   The red necked grebe was sitting on its floating nest.  The Columbia virgin's bower  and camas were in bloom.  In our yard, the lilacs are finally opening, irises and peonies are about ready to start, and columbine are going full tilt.  I hoed the garden, leaving a lot of volunteer cosmos and poppies everywhere, as they finish out the summer blossoms.  A few mosquitoes are emerging in the evening, just to make it clear this isn't paradise...

   May 31
    We've got a friend named Fred who, over the years, watched the swallows at this time of year, how they were looking for nesting material.  First they tried putting out some cotton balls, and the birds seemed interested, but didn't take it.  Then he thought of his duck feathers.   He ties flies, and had a lot of duck feathers.   The swallows went for the duck feathers.  So now each year he puts out some feathers for the swallows, and up to 30 of them gather to collect the feathers, even snagging some in the air.  
    He claims they sit on the powerline line and chitter at him, expecting him to get the feathers.  This sounds a bit of a stretch, but considering swallows are smart enough to migrate long distances and return to the same place to breed, they might easily learn a good source for nesting materials.
    A neat thing about this story is that Fred developed this relationship just by sitting and watching the world around him.  A year ago, I didn't know red necked grebes build floating nests, or that they seldom fly in the summer.  When I read it online, the written observations clicked with my own, but I'd never really connected with it before.  
    There's a lot of stuff in the world you never notice unless you pay attention.  I took some photos of a rainbow yesterday (I may post them tomorrow).  A while ago, I realized that inside the rainbow is considerably brighter than outside the bow, probably from the millions of little droplets prismatically reflecting light inward, but it's not something I've ever read...
Books read, and films of note.

Avalanche by Patrick McManus.  A locally grown writer of national stature, McManus is at his best describing oddball backwoods characters.  His latest forays have been mysteries in backwoods Idaho.  There's enough local color to satisfy, but these books remain a curious amalgam of humor and detective fiction, rather than being great at one or the other...

The Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett.  The final book in the stories of Tiffany Aching, of how the young witch interferes in the primordial dance of winter and summer, and gets the personification of winter infatuated with her.  

Film: 3:10 to Yuma (1997)
Since I never saw the 1957 movie this was based on, I didn't come into it with a chip on my shoulder, and so enjoyed it immensely.  The tension and action crackles throughout, laden with violence that eventually carries its own moral code.  I wasn't a big western fan growing up, and I'm not sure why they're still being made, but it must be a setting to work out timeless issues (mostly male).

Flush
, by Carl Hiaasen.  This is another juvenile novel, by a Florida novelist who likes to use environmental issues--this time illegal flushing of human wastes by a gambling boat.  In his adult fiction, he's quite humorous--with these kids ones the humor seems less, as the kids deal with complicated social and family issues.


The X Factor by Andre Norton.  Back before Star Trek and Star Wars, a few authors paved the way for those type of universes.  Andre Norton was my favorite--creating worlds peopled with mutants, telepathic fuzzy companions, long lived lizard intellects, space patrol and space pirates--what's come to be known as space opera.  Even though, like most authors of the time, she didn't envision a lot of even our current technology, a blaster and a stunner were good enough to get her characters in and out of a lot of tough places, and her compelling narrative hasn't aged a bit in 40 years.

A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett.  Another of my favorite authors, his Discworld fantasies, an alternate universe where the world is disc shaped, full of magic and trolls and great humor, are the best series of the sort I'm aware of.  He wrote a subset of 3 novels about a young witch named Tiffany Aching, and I think this is the best of the lot.  While telling an engaging adventure tale, the author helps us remain soundly attached to the young protagonist...

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