Tag Archives: garden

Looking for Bats

If you’ve been following the weather news in the US this summer, you know that we’re having a strange year in the PNW.

Let me tell you what it looks like out here in Hood River:

Cicadas and katydids everywhere, but no grasshoppers or praying mantids.

No frogs, no salamanders, and the lowest water levels I’ve ever seen.

Hot, hot, hot, and as dry as old bleached bones.

Early pears and late tomatoes.

Eight solid inches of dry, shifting dust before my trowel turns up fertile soil.

Forest fires and droughts and worry, worry, worry.

Spiders EVERYWHERE, people.  EVERYTHING IS SPIDERS.

Blond freeway shoulders and crispy tree branches.

Algal blooms in lakes and even in the sluggish parts of the mighty Columbia.

Last month’s fire-blackened hills, still dark and barren and dry nearly six weeks later.

The mountains bare-faced and black on the horizon, ominous and brooding.

In short, it’s been a year for making sure that small children know the emergency preparedness plan, and scratching out anxious lists of evacuation supplies, and conserving every drop of water, and looking out of car windows and wondering how our beautiful home will survive this.

My touchstone through this trying season has been putting our flock away for the night.  In the cool breeze of dusk, I slip my feet into a pair of Robert’s old shoes, comically large on me, fill a quart jar nearly to the top with sweet-smelling scratch, and climb the terrace steps to the chicken yard.

I listen to the crickets and the calling of the poorwills and the nighthawks, I smell the neighbors’ barbeque cooking away, and I fill the hopper for the hens, who add their gentle berka-berka-berka chattering to the vespers.  I refill their water bottle, the cool liquid on my fingertips nearly salvation after a day of pseudo-desert living, and slot it back into place.  “Goodnight, chickens.” I murmur as I secure the henhouse roof, completing my task.

I put away the jar and the shoes in the sunroom, and as I walk barefoot across the deck to go back into the house, I stop and rest for a moment on the bench.  Often one or both of the smalls will join me, and we keep a steadfast vigil on the little patch of twilight sky to the northeast, over the confluence of the Hood and Columbia rivers, with its little border of aspen and pine.

Breathless and silent in the fading light, we wait.

Every night I wonder if they won’t come, if something has happened and they’re all dead somewhere or fleeing to better hunting grounds.  But every night, they come.

Fluttering across the clearing so fast our limited human eyes can barely see them against the darkening sky, the bats make their first forays into the night air.  They are most likely long-legged myotis bats, we have learned, this swift-winged vanguard of the night, but it doesn’t really matter what kind they are.  What matters is that they’re there.

Every night, without fail, the bats come out to feast on the crepuscular insects and spiders that have overwhelmed us this summer.  Even though these temperate bats are sensitive to human disturbance, and rely heavily on imperiled forest habitat and fleeting, drought-banished dew to survive, they have never failed me.

The piping voices of the tree frogs may be silent this year, and the afternoon frighteningly devoid of the chipping whir of grasshopper flight, but the bats are still here, and doing fine.

And, as I wait for rains that may never come, or may totally overwhelm the parched soil and wash away houses, bridges, cars, and human lives into the rapids, the bats bring me some fragile reassurance.

I look up, with faith and trembling, and when I see those tenacious flying mammals racing silently and chaotically through the dusky sky, I know that I am seeing part of that wild invisible web that sustains our fragile lives on this planet.  I know that I am watching nature take one of her courses, albeit a tiny one, and I feel a corresponding, wicked-winged speck of hope flash across the clearing of my heart.

Because maybe, just maybe, if the bats can make it, there’s some hope for the rest of us, though we are truly grounded and insensate by comparison.

And that is why I take time out of my busy day and away from my life of artifice to look for the bats.

What do you look for, to give you hope in these dark days?

Find the Magic

We spent our weekend (our WHOLE weekend, friends!) cleaning and reorganizing the house.

Yep.

That means there was plenty of dust and laughter and reminiscing, and lots of frustration and more than a little yelling, lots of going up and down stairs and hefting and hauling, some sadness and some serendipity, and the smell of vinegar and the sound of the Pandora station I created to bridge the gap between Robert’s taste in work music and mine.

It also means that the smalls spent the weekend Being Tested: listening, following directions, performing difficult tasks, staying focused, managing their compulsions to derange sorting piles and run around unaccustomed places, being responsible for their choices, and proactively communicating their own needs.

Unsurprisingly, then, today everyone woke up feeling pretty grumpy and low-energy.

On grumpy, low-energy days, even ones that you have earned by dint of hard work and awesomeness, it can be difficult to find the magic in your life.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

So this afternoon, while I was feeling like ugh and yuck and blerg and blah, I walked around my home and captured these little bits of magic:

artwallAn updated art wall (now with figural art, perspective cues, symbols, and some child-written labels!).

knitting in progressA big project edging toward completion.

soft toys in a rowRe-discovered pretend friends.

new saltNew salt, white and pure and beautiful.

lettuceLate-planted seeds racing toward the sun.

garlic harvestThe first garlic harvest of the year, laid out to dry.

toys put awayCreative tools ready for new inspiration.

took and henhouseA laying flock.

reading nookA quiet, comfortable hideaway for book lovers.

spring raindrop baby dollSweet reminders of a spring well-spent.

blackberry blossoms and ripening fruitAnd the promise of blackberries to come.

Happy summer to you and yours!  May you find the magic wherever you look!

 


Stay tuned for more on the knitting!

Soft toys from L to R: homemade rocket ship (following this tutorial), sea turtle, warty pig, trilobite from PRI, and manatee from Sea World (from a trip I took in my childhood; I would NEVER go there by choice).

Toys from top L, clockwise: train, dragon, bushel basket, American maple hardwood school blocks, rocket ship, homemade storage cubbies.

Reading nook: The Hare and the Tortoise, Goodnight Oregon, C is for Cthulhu, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  Basket is an old one from Ten Thousand Villages, shark bean bags are homemade based on this photo.

Spring raindrop baby was homemade, inspired by the work of a now-retired Etsy seller.

 

Catchweed Bedstraw

flowers and tall grasses in my yard

Since we moved home to Oregon, I’ve been brushing up on my plant ID.

Our backyard in Hillsboro, in a late-90s HOA-administered cookie cutter neighborhood, was pretty boring:  Grass, some broadleaf plantain, more grass, dandelion, grass, moss, Russian thistle, grass.

But here?  Here it’s chaos.  There are things I still haven’t identified.  Things that were deliberately planted here by some previous tenants unknown, invasive foreign specimens, wild native plants I’ve never seen before.

Things with names that the smalls can’t render and I revel in, like catchweed bedstraw, Siberian bugloss, red dead nettle, snow-in-summer.

Things I was ecstatic to discover, like yarrow and violet, oxalis and lemon balm.

Things that are good to eat, like miner’s lettuce and dandelion and dwarf black cherry.

Things that make good pollinator habitat, like butterfly bush, white clover, black medic.

Things that the chickens are welcome to destroy, like English ivy and Himalayan blackberry.

Things that are useful to my apothecary cabinet, like pineapple weed, broad-leaf plantain, Oregon manroot, and wild madder.

Things that perfume the evenings and are a balm to my soul, like lilac and rose.

When I was a small child, we had a picture book called Grindle Lamfoon and the Procurnious Fleekers.

If you know it, you already know why I brought it up– looking at a backyard full of wild-growing, escaped and never-tamed possibilities reminds me of the moon and its tune.

If you don’t know it, it’s basically a hippie allegory from the first back-to-the-earth movement: the protagonist can’t afford a fancy storebought costume for the big party, and while he’s moping about this, the moon sings him a song about the beauty of wildflowers and the DIY ethos, and he is so inspired that he makes his own fancy costume for the party, staying up all the night to do it, thus starting a DIY revolution in his community and making a stand for individualism and creativity.

“These things from the woods
are much greater by far
than expensive made costumes
and Fleeker-made cars.”

Grindle Lamfoon and the Procurnious Fleekers

red poppy and various grasses in my chaotic yard

So go on out there and look around this week, people.  See what there is.