Sometimes it is not obvious where a road will lead. When a road has not yet been built, it is not even obvious what route it should take to get from a known starting point to an envisioned destination. Our driveway is like this, stretching from the gates of our pasture to the building site for our house. Even before we selected a house site we wanted the driveway to take a scenic route, winding with the contours of the land rather than taking the shortest route. We knew its construction would encounter obstacles, such as bureaucratic red tape that required a survey, an erosion control plan, and a permit, as well as physical obstacles such as a creek that our path must cross. And we knew that planning and construction would take time. But from the moment of the first cut into red earth, we could see the path unfold as we had hoped it would, leading across a field, over a stream, and up a hill to the place we will live. It is good to see progress, especially when it manifests and validates our vision.
After a long period of planning, re-planning, and preparation, our builder has broken ground for our house. A notch in the hillside and a mountain of red clay feel like real progress. On a sunny Saturday after Christmas, we had to check it out.
After days of rain, a sunny Saturday out on our pond with Debbie’s parents felt like a trip to our own private state park. Grass showed the pattern of recent mowing, which left it short enough to drive through the field to our picnic table. We set up a tent for shade, put the kayak and canoe on the water, caught a few bass and crappie, and walked about confirming our primary choice of building site.
Annelise shows off her first fish, a small Pomoxis annularis, or “white crappie.” This tasty fish lives all over the eastern part of the country. It derives its common name from the Canadian French word crapet, which refers to many different fishes of the sunfish family. People also refer to crappie as papermouths, strawberry bass, speckled bass or specks (especially in Michigan), speckled perch, calico bass (throughout New England), and Oswego bass. Fans of Dave Robicheaux novels have heard Dave and his buddy Clete Purcell talk about fishing for crappie many times, though they always use the Cajun term sac-au-lait (literally, “bag of milk,” referring to their creamy white flesh). By any name, they are fun to catch and great to eat.
All three of the kids got the hang of the kayak within about three strokes of the paddle. I remember the great sense of independence I had being on the water alone at that age. I learned a lot of useful lessons, too, like what to do when a snake drops from a limb into the boat. Thankfully, our kids haven’t experienced that learning opportunity yet.
Debbie and her mother showed off their hats out in the canoe.
Grandpa caught the most fish, drawing a crowd with this small largemouth bass.
Debbie took one last view from our primary building site before we packed up to head home.
No bites, stings, poison ivy, or sunburn, and lots of fun made for a good day. We plan to visit this park again.
Air Traffic Control
A kingfisher pivots
his crested head
left and right
in a tree overlooking
Two pairs of mallards
like old friends
The ducks lift off
at once, their formation
rising from the water
to the southeast,
turning to climb
northwest, the way
a heron departed earlier,
as if receiving instructions
from the kingfisher
who has the space
above the pond
“There can be no doubt that a society rooted in the soil is more stable than one rooted in pavements.”
– Aldo Leopold
Happy birthday, Aldo.
Who needs invasive species when we have native smilax? This genus of more than 300 species, named for the forest nymph who was the object of desire for the mortal Krokus, thrives in temperate zones around the world. It is not toxic; its berries provide food for a variety of birds and mammals; it has medicinal uses in many cultures; and most redeeming of all, its Jamaican species, S. regelii, provides the flavoring for sarsaparilla and a component of root beer. Nevertheless, on a fenceline already compromised by deadfall, thorny smilax insinuates itself with cohorts such as honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica; invasive), muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia; native), Rosa multiflora (invasive), and Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana; native) to construct a formidable redoubt.
Will and I spent a couple of hours on a cold December afternoon clearing a section of fence and testing out a machete I received for Christmas. We removed quite a tangle of vines and trees. A close-up photo of the brush pile we built shows smilax, cedar, muscadine, honeysuckle, rose, and various weedy saplings. We will let these dry, then burn the pile on a rainy day in the spring. The work tired us but offered enjoyment and satisfaction, as manual labor on our land often does. Come check out our work.
Does anyone know the name of this flower? A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but I don’t care about smell. This is a noxious weed, and I don’t really care about its name, either. What I care about is an eradication strategy, preferably one that does not involve chemical intervention.
The vast unbroken expanse of these “flowers” grows on our building site and in the septic field. Both will be thoroughly plowed under and the surface re-seeded, so I’m not very concerned about those areas. However this weed crops up all over our pasture. Will mowing before it goes to seed eliminate it? Does each plant need to be pulled by hand? Chopped with a hoe? What if I walk the field with a blowtorch and burn off each stalk at the ground? Yes, I’ve heard of 2,4-D. I welcome a viable, non-toxic solution.