Thursday, March 26, 2009

SPRING RAIN

Rain like the rustling of fine garments— Luminous, whispering rain; Voice of the Spring, sibilant and frail. Rain like the fluttering of wings— The glad sigh of Nature awakened. — Chant of the Spring Rain, Ray Clarke Rose Yesterday was a dreary, drizzly day along the river—though that’s not a complaint. We needed the rain. The wildflowers waiting beneath the leaves and duff need the moisture. The frogs and salamanders and earthworms were thirsty for a good wetting. Even the groundhog needed the grass watered so it would be induced to grow tall and tender, thus providing him with ample good eats. There’s no question we’ve gone far too long in this season of growth and resurrection without the many benefits of a good spring rain. The earth hereabouts is decidedly dehydrated. I noticed just how dry last week when I poked and raked around various planting beds while giving the yard its initial seasonal cleaning. More than once I actually stirred up dust! And when I dug several inches below the surface, the soil at that depth showed little evidence of moisture. Perhaps worse is the river, which is so low it’s almost shocking. As a guess, I’d say it’s already down to something nearing late-summer levels. Gravel bars are dry, revealed to air and sun. The mussels can’t have survived. Large stones normally underwater are exposed half-way and more, their tops sticking above the surface like the backs of beached turtles. How can you have spring without the gift of sufficient rain? Why, the notion is simply preposterous! They are the co-joined twins of season and weather—inseparable here in Ohio. Spring is green and greening requires rain. So when the rain did finally arrive, I welcomed it by donning a light jacket from time to time throughout the day, and taking several quick rambles around the house and yard and along my hundred or so yards of riverbank. There were plenty of birds to keep me company—titmice and chickadees, goldfinches, house finches, red-bellied and downy woodpeckers, various sparrows flitting through the trees and bushes. Looking a bit bedraggled, it’s true—but not seeming to care in the least. Robins warbled from the hackberry branches. Cardinals whistled in the evergreen hedges. And a song sparrow which I believe is casing the brushpile behind the stack of firewood as a nest site, sang with unbridled joy. Such glorious birdsong is capable of lighting up even the darkest day. Along the river, the mallard ducks and Canada geese seemed perfectly happy—though why would a little rain rankle any waterfowl? Too, the kingfisher noisily working the pool downstream didn’t appear to mind the flat, dim light, though it must have made the task of locating a target minnow more difficult. Even the squirrels took the weather in stride and spent hours chasing one another as they gamboled through the treetops—though their normally fluffy tails did become soggy and trailing, rather unsightly, which had the detrimental effect of making them look more like scurrying tree rats. Still, what does self-image mean to a squirrel? Nope…a good rain is a good thing in the spring. Though that sunbathing turkey vulture from yesterday’s post probably wouldn’t agree…

25 comments:

giggles said...

We're under a kind of fire watch here from not having enough rain this spring.... Not a good way to start the season if you ask me! So today, it is dark and dreary, and I do hope for a good soaking...and more on Saturday, too.... Hopefully enough to invite OUR sallys out for their spring "fling!"

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

Unfortunately, yesterday's rain wasn't really enough—better than nothing, but we could use twice as much rain and not be soaked. The river isn't even discolored, let alone up.

I haven't heard a spring peeper this year so far, or seen a single salamander—egg-mass or actual animal.

We're supposed to have a dab more rain this afternoon (1/10th of a inch) and maybe similar amounts later in the weekend. So perhaps we'll gradually get dampened up…after all, morel mushroom season is just around the corner, and you need moisture for a good morel year.

Gail said...

A good hard rain will arrive later today, here in the North East. A much needed rain as we are "red flagged" for risk of brush fires.

The photo of the branch with the rain drop is mesmerizing. I love it. :-)

Gail
peace.....

Rowan said...

The lines at the beginning of your post are lovely - spring rain is lovely too if it's soft and gentle. It's been a dry spring here so far but we are having some showers the last couple of days accompanied, unfortunately, by the traditional March winds. I hope you do get some good rain before the summer starts, so many creatures will suffer badly otherwise.

bobbie said...

It's a dreary, drizzly day in our neighborhood today, too. But I do not live on a river, and my small yard does not offer nearly the wonders as yours. But it is still nice, and we do need the rain so very much. We will all breathe a little easier if it gives us a good soaking.

Your posts are delightful.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Our second day of promised rain appears to have fizzled. I've been out and about since about 9:00AM and saw nothing other than the occasional drop on the windshield. Now it's sunny. More sowers are predicted for the weekend though, so maybe we will get some much needed moisture.

Hey, I just covered the camera with Glad wrap and took a quick shot. I'm glad you liked it—I thought it came out well.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Rowan…

Too dry here, terrible floods in North Dakota. Wish there were a better balance of resources. But no winds—though being along the river, thus below the little hillocks nearby, we seldom get winds even when our neighbors do.

I thought the lines of poetry went well with the theme. Glad you liked them.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bobbie…

I am blessed to have this riverside cottage—though there are certain worries attached as well as pleasures. But I do love it. However, I've also lived where most of my "yard" was a paved parking lot. A nice little yard with grass and flowers would have been a jewel. You have the right attitude—make the best of what you have. And I'll let you know when the inevitable rising water is about 2 inches from coming in my front door…we may be able to make a trade.

Right now, I'd settle for a day or two of moderate rain.

JMS said...

I gasped at your photo - stunning!

I delighted in yesterday's rain, too, though far too little. I've found that a rain dance sometimes helps.

giggles said...

Roll call! A PAIR! of WB nuthatches were seen flitting around for a short time today...a PAIR!

(Not a lot of rain, though...)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

JMS…

Hey, I'm pleased you liked my little droplet shot. I couldn't figure out how to depict rain except through a single drop.

Not enough rain here, either. I'm thinking I could really screw up the rain dancing business—flood myself out or something, get sued, lose cottage, go to jail…or invoke hail and snow, get sued, lose cottage, go to jail.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

My roll call is the same old crowd. But my goldfinches are turning golder by the day.

I had a coon get into the bucket where I store my suet packets last night (this morning, actually, about 3:00 AM) lifted the lid, which I have trouble doing, set Moon the Dog to barking. And my running feud with the squirrels cutting down my seed feeders is not going in my favor—today, they managed to cut the woven 100 pound picture-hanging wire I'd used last week. So I've escalated the fray by reinstalling with sections of coat-hanger wire.

These tree rodents are tough!

giggles said...

Yeah, ya know? The squirrels are really pissin' me off too. They initially didn't bother the suet, but they're into that now as well.... Nothing is safe.... I'm thinkin murderous thoughts....

JMS said...

Whatever you do, DON'T DANCE!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

I'm thinking burgoo stew, gravy, and cathead biscuits.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

JMS…

Okay, I'll hold off on the rain dance. Maybe I'll just do a soft-shoe-shuffle for showers?

KGMom said...

Nature seems to be providing feast or famine this season--as far as rain goes.
You have too little. We also in central PA too little.
But the folks in ND and MN, and in Manitoba just north, have too too much with the Red River overflowing.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

I don't understand why, but this so often seems the case—drought one place, flood the other. I feel so sorry for those folks being flooded from their homes in what is, for them, still really cold weather.

I wish we could distribute rain more evenly…

giggles said...

Burgoo stew??????? (If you don't tell me, I'll have to ggogle it!)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

Well, if you do Google it, you'll find a lot of info, though most of it will be centered around more modern burgoo recipe variations scaled way down and adapted to stovetop cooking.

Burgoo came over with the Irish and is at least a couple of centuries old. Essentially, it's a stew—if you want to be authentic, typically cooked outdoors in a big iron pot or kettle over an open fire—using whatever meats are available plus various vegetables. There are spices added. But the primary difference between burgoo and, say, beef stew, is the cooking time—which is long; all day, or more. Some cooks take upwards of 30 hours; and a lot will simmer their burgoo all day or overnight, starting in the afternoon a day earlier and finishing up about noon on the day they want to eat their burgoo. The final result is a blended concoction where no single part of any ingredient is distinguishable. Plus, it should be so thick that a big stirring spoon can be stood up in the pot's center.

Nowadays most recipes and restaurants use three or four meats—beef, pork, chicken, lamb/mutton. (And I mean all four in the pot at the same time.) The burgoos I grew up on were often made with wild game—rabbit, grouse, pheasant, quail, venison, groundhog, coon, even bear or moose or caribou if someone had been north on a hunting trip. But the one ingredient, considered essential, was squirrel—and I've eaten plenty of burgoos where the only meat in them was squirrel. There are those who to this day swear if a burgoo doesn't contain squirrel, it can't be called burgoo. Wild game is more in keeping with the burgoo tradition, and at least one famous restaurant still has squirrel in it's mix.

Besides the meats, the other ingredients usually included corn, carrots, potatoes, okra, onions, maybe cabbage and tomatoes—even celery, though this was a fancy modern addition. Some folks say you have to have lima beans in there, or peas, or some dried bean. The stew is thickened with a bit of cornmeal or ground dried beans.

Spices—besides salt and pepper—run the gamut from chili powder and paprika to nutmeg and cinnamon, with a lot of others as someone's "secret" touch. Burgoo is like chili, there are a million recipes and every one tastes a bit different. I tend to stick to the fairly traditional of nutmeg, cinnamon, paprika and a bit of cayenne. I'm not trying for heat, just spicy.

The real center of burgoo is the gathering—the group aspect—for a good burgoo is fixed on a large scale over a long time with lots of friends and family and fun between stirrings. That's why it's still so popular in a few parts of the country as a community event. And why, at least once or twice each year, I dig out my big kettle, build a fire in the pit, and set a pot of burgoo to simmering slowly…and about 12-14 hours later, after the main "pot watchers" have taken their nap, we ladle up bowl after bowl of rich, fragrant, tasty burgoo, sing a few of the old songs, count a few stars, and decide anew that life isn't half bad and that when it's all tallied up, it's hard to beat the pleasures of friends and family, music and food.

Does that answer your question? :-)

giggles said...

Ha! Indeed...

So my burgoo stew will have.... squirrel, rabbit, groundhog and a deer, if I can bag 'em all.... I asked neighbor if he still had any of his dad's guns? Eureka!

Now, I'm off to practice! (Oh wait....where did I out the dang camoflauge clothing?!)

(Bluebirds are checking out the box today...!)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

If I were you, I'd just sort of ease into burgoo with a white bread suburbanite version—pork, beef, chicken. Besides, wild critters are not especially toothsome in the spring. (The need for serious squirrel control can allow for exceptions, of course.) That way the firearms issue is negated, while camo attire is purely a fashion consideration.

However, seeing as how we've come to the camouflage fashion issue….

Earlier this morning I stopped by one of the local WalMarts to check their sporting goods department for a couple of those propane lighters which are great for starting campfires or grills. I also noticed they had all their camo stuff out in anticipation of the upcoming turkey season. As it happens, I'm currently in the market for a small camo bag to replace my old one—something just big enough to carry a camera, notepad, binoculars, perhaps a flask of water; nothing so large as a pack, but with a shoulder strap rather than a waist belt. So I took a look.

Now, here's what I found truly puzzling…in the midst of all this camo gear and clothing, I came across a rack of camo boxer shorts, in what the manufacturer's tag attested was the latest RealTree pattern. I suppose that your basic metro-male might be absolutely thrilled that—should camo boxers be on their "must get" list, they wouldn't suffer sneaky chic peer-embarrassment by being relegated to wearing last season's passé RealTree pattern.

Yet, try as I might, I don't understand the need for such an item. I hereby confess I've never once encountered a spring turkey hunter dressed in boxers. Such as sight is something I do believe I would have remembered. (Of course, it did come to me later on that if the fellow were wearing the latest RealTree pattern, he might been rendered all but invisible.)

Still, in the turkey woods I frequent—or used to frequent before I decided wild turkeys were smarter than most wild turkey hunters—I'd say sawbriars would be a real issue for your boxer-clad hunter. Having one's flesh lacerated into bloody shreds isn't condusive to quietly stalking the turkey woods. The wailing and shrieking tends to alert even partially-deaf turkeys. Fact is, in my experience, sawbriars are a real issue for hunters in full body armor.

So I ask you…why does any turkey hunter need camo boxers?

giggles said...

Huuuummm....I'll have to ponder that one and get back to you....besides the fact that anyone will do anything to sell anyone sumpin they don't need....

I do want to know though.... how do you know that you haven't run into hunters wearin' boxers, let alone the most current flavor of the month????!!!!

giggles said...

PS Just seems rather "queer" if you ask me!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

How do I know?

Well, camo is, by definition, worn to hide you, your shape, your hide, your underclothing—you as human. Camo is outerwear. It doesn't matter what color your boxers are if you wear them under your camo outerwear. Therefore, camo boxers must themselves be outerwear.

Trust me, if I'd have seen a turkey hunter skulking about in the woods wearing camo boxers as outerwear, I would have noticed.

Camo boxers are about as useful as a stealth toothbrush.

And I'm not going there on your second comment…