Thursday, April 28, 2016


Apparently this is going to be one of those on-again, off-again weather days—dark, cloudy and looking like rain one minute, only to turn sunny and bright the next. The wind is gusting and I regularly hear not-too-distant thunder rumbling. But so far only a single brief drizzle has fallen. 

None of which is a complaint. It's April, and this is typical spring weather here in southwest Ohio. I actually rather like moody and mixed days. Though such capriciousness is playing havoc with the cutting and fitting of materials needed for a little bit of remodeling I'd hoped to finish on the kitchen today. 

Because I have no garage, carport, or even a shed big enough to serve as a workshop area, the back of the pickup is stuffed with plywood, 2x4s, and similar building materials and serves as my rolling "lumberyard." The tailgate is a makeshift workbench. And I must set up any power tools—drill, sander, circular or saber saw, along with the sawhorses—out in the open…which means I have to keep an eye on the sky and be quick get things into the dry should I think it's about to rain.

Unhandy, frustrating, and more than a little risky given the price of good power tools—especially given my tendency to become focused on the task at hand and oblivious of my surroundings. There's a better than even chance I'll forget to pay attention and stuff will get wet. I have no illusions when it comes to my propensity for distraction… 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Recent warm weather and the occasional rain has really popped the hostas. Their leafy green clumps have shot up like magic. Some are already well over a foot high.

The photo was made a few days ago, just as the late-afternoon sun was starting to sink behind the tops of the tall sycamores on the island across from the cottage. Myladylove and I were sprawled in our pair of deckside rockers. Tired and fairly bummed. After working all day on various kitchen remodeling details, we'd come to the joint conclusion neither of us liked the paint color we'd chosen and just applied to one wall. We'd now have to buy something else and do the job over.

Looking around, I noticed how low-angled sunlight glowed through the semi-translucent leaves of a nearby hosta and made a couple of casual shots…click, click. Frankly the image turned out way better than I expected. Simple, straightforward, compositionally strong.

Wish I was even half this pleased with the kitchen wall.


Sunday, April 24, 2016


It's chilly out this morning, 39˚F as I write, though predicted to warm considerably by midday. The sun is bright and the sky a high, cloudless blue. Because the temperature of the air above the river is cooler than that of the water, a silky veil of fog has been created—soft, ethereal, lovely. I decided to make a photo or two before the rising sun burned this temporary overlay away. 

That red bit in the upper center of the image is a male cardinal who was singing loudly the whole time I stood on the deck fiddling with the camera. 

I saw him sitting there, heard him of course (you can't NOT hear a redbird singing 20 feet away!) but never thought to include the bird in my photo. Guess my pre-coffee brain couldn't handle dealing with multiple compositional elements. That he ended up in the shot anyway was only by accident. 

Alas, no artistic decision was employed…just dumb luck. 

Friday, April 22, 2016


Age and beauty. The more you attain of the first, the greater amount of help you'll need to retain the second. Just ask anyone in the cosmetics industry. Or last year's hottest fashion model. 

Closer to home…if that flaming conflagration of birthday cake candles now sets off the smoke alarm, all you gotta do to dissuade yourself from thinking you're immune from the process is to take a long honest look in the mirror. Though not something I'd recommend if you're already on antidepressants. 

Time always wins in the end—even with cheese and wine. The highest mountains eventually yield. Still, being past-your-prime doesn't inevitably mean a spontaneous loss of beauty. 

Earlier this morning an aged dandelion bloom caught my eye. The bright yellow flower head had gone to seed. The remaining fluff ball had lost the majority of it silky-white "parachutes," which looked not only sparse but a bit damp from the dew.  


I've gone to seed. Turned rather white on top. And lost a worrisome number of parachutes to life's prevailing winds. Moreover, I've lately been avoiding mirrors except to shave—and I then tend to look a bit sparse and damp myself.

I can't decide if there's a message here…or whether I want to know. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


"Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly…"

I hate to say it, but Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein got it wrong in the latter part of their lyric for the Show Boat tune, "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man." Of course, they probably weren't all that familiar with nuthatches.

If you're a nuthatch, flying is optional…as is gravity. 

Should a nuthatch wish to get from one portion of a forked tree trunk to another, it could hippity-hop down one and ratchety-climb back up the other. Or it could just keep its wings tucked, fling itself in the intended general direction, and trust the rest to luck and levitation. 

Nope…birds don't always gotta fly! Not if you're a nuthatch!   

Monday, April 18, 2016


I've been watching a pair of hairy woodpeckers busy themselves in the dooryard as they investigate a fallen box elder and several dying ash trees. While quite similar to a downy, the hairy is a notably larger bird and sports a longer bill.   

Hairy woodpeckers are always a treat. A generally common species throughout this corner of Ohio, they're fairly unusual visitors here along the river. Downys, pileateds, red-bellieds, and flickers are the daily fare. Hairys are infrequent visitors—though not as uncommon as yellow-bellied sapsuckers, and certainly not as rare as a red-headed woodpecker. 

I expect the reason for their relative scarcity is, in part, due to the woods hereabouts, which is merely a thick river-corridor belt of mature trees. Probably not sufficiently extensive to suite a hairy. My backyard pair were likely curious strays who followed the streamside timber down from a much larger expanse of floodplain woods which begins a half-mile upstream.

Too, when compared to their look-alike downy kin, hairy woodpeckers seem a bit wilder, easier spooked, less tolerant of houses, people, traffic. A thoroughly sensible and quite understandable attitude.   

Regardless, I'm glad they found their way here. Hairys make me happy! 

Saturday, April 16, 2016


Right now my yard is a riot of violets. Thousands of 'em, all a'bloom! 

Yes, violets are invasive, but ravishingly so. Neither ugly nor harmful, just merely prolific. Common wildflowers which are uncommonly comely. 

Every April I await their coming. Violets signal spring—and to my mind are all the more dear for this vernal connection. They are fundamental to the burgeoning season. I welcome their lovely purple-blue invasion.  

So ravish me…please! I truly don't mind. 

Friday, April 15, 2016


A lot of waterfowl enthusiasts claim a drake wood duck is hands-down the handsomest of all American ducks. In fact, many birders place a male woodie near the top of the list as one of our two or three prettiest birds, regardless of category.

I don't know if I'd go that far—our perception of what constitutes beauty being such a fundamentally subjective call. But I'll agree that a male wood duck in full regalia is astonishingly colorful—perhaps even gaudy…a feathered rainbow who seems to know he's elegantly imposing as he paddles in stately splendor along the edge of an April stream.

The above photo certainly doesn't do justice to this striking fellow. Not enough "reach" with my 300mm telephoto to properly fill the frame. But the best I could manage during the minute or so it took for the pair (note the far less colorful hen swimming a few yards to his rear) to cruise past the cottage near the island's tangled bank. 

One of the things I look forward to every spring is watching pairs of wood ducks on the river. Alert and easily spooked, they aren't the easiest birds to photograph—and the truth is, I've never really tried. Maybe this year I'll make doing so a project. I'd like to be able to post a really day shot. The gorgeous woodie deserves a more worthy portrait of his royal attire.      

Thursday, April 14, 2016


It's sunny here today. Which makes it the second sunny day in a row! I believe this sets a record for the month! 

Various weather intelligentsia claim we'll reach a blistering mid-60˚s high! Moreover, they predict even warmer weather for tomorrow and fo several days thereafter.

I'm trying to not get my hopes up too much…but  could April finally be coming around to acting and feeling like spring?

Apparently the birds and squirrels think so—at least they seem inordinately energetic this morning. 

The resident pair of Canada geese have been flying up and down the the river, honking full-volume to beat the band.

Nuthatches, cardinals, bluejays—practically the whole feathered host of dooryard regulars—have been working the seed feeders and the cracked corn I scattered out earlier. 

And the squirrels, either the Silly Seven or Nutty Nine (frenzied bushytails being difficult to count) are dashing about, chasing one another, leaping through treetops, and occasionally thundering across the roof like deranged buffalo.

Yup. Spring fever has indeed afflicted everyone—myself included. I awoke in a mood of constructive inspiration. So overcome, in fact, that I'm now fixing to head to Lowe's and procure materials for a backsplash and wall covering for the area over the kitchen sink. 

Will wonders never cease! 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Spectacular sunsets are not regular occurrences here along the river. Oh, we have the occasional gaudy display. But because we're located in the lower part of the landscape (rivers don't flow on hilltops, you know) we're generally below the best view of any final dusk lightshow. 

Sometimes, though, the Master Painter throws up a sunset so spectacular and all-encompassing that even us folks in the bottom of the barrel can be properly awed…and last night's offering was one.

The photo doesn't come close to doing it justice. Not in color-range, vivid intensity, and knock-your-socks-off wow-factor. A pathetic attempt at best. You really had to be there! 

Moreover, it was one of those wrap-around, everywhere sunsets where the spectacle wasn't located only in the sky's western quadrant, but splashed from one horizon to the next—north, south, east, and west. Fiery colors which drenched the full 360˚ canopy. All the light, all the sky, suffused with yellow-pink-orange-lavender and a thousand hues in between, and here and there, just for artistic contrast, intermittently laced with streaks of glowing turquoise. 

A genuine "Oh, my!" sky.


Saturday, April 9, 2016


Another weekend morning…and another morning landscape white with snow. Snow which fell during the night and continues to fall. And of course, the concurrent cold temperature that goes with it—26˚F when I checked earlier, with the day's predicted high to reach only 38˚F.

This is getting to be an unnecessary and unwelcome habit. As much disheartening as it is annoying. Where's spring?

Admittedly, it isn't much of a snow as snows in Ohio go. Probably less than an inch, though it's currently snowing more at this very moment—a fine sifting blizzard, swirling about thick and furious, so perhaps the grand total has yet to be determined. 

But depth isn't really the issue. The problem is timing, season, and our collective expectations. We all want and expect green, but we keep getting white! Where was this snow—paltry though it is—back in January or February, or even March? But April? Sheesh! Why decided to show up now!

And really…temps in the mid-20s˚F? Come on! After all those lovely near-70˚F and above days served up during the year's first three months, why turn wintry now that we've rounded the corner into this first full month of spring? Such shoddy behavior is simply unacceptable. Who offended the weather gods?

As someone on Facebook said, rather succinctly: "Go home, April…you're drunk!" 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


Another cold spring day. The current temperature is a chilly 27˚F. Plus a dusting of snow arrived during the night.

Not our usual April weather! The violets, daffodils and tulips are looking pretty wilted. Luckily most of the latter have not yet bloomed. 

Still, today is more congenial than recent offerings. There's no appreciable wind. Skies are blue and clear—not a cloud in sight. And best of all, a beaming-bright sun affords a marked psychological improvement over yesterday, which was cold, windy, damp, and darkly overcast.

On the down side, my pickup is in the repair shop. I have no doubt it's affliction will turn out to be expensive…the cost of which, if my history regarding such matters holds true, will doubtless consume every penny of the recent tax refund check. I just wish I knew how these nefarious cosmic forces always seem to know the exact balance in my bank account?

In the meantime I'm temporarily grounded. No wheels, no mobility, no running up the road to ramble for an hour or two along a nearby trail—checking on birds and wildflowers and the burgeoning greenery, while keeping a much-needed vernal tryst with a favorite woodland.

Huh. I suppose I'll just have to bide my time and do some actual work. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016


What a difference a week makes!

Last Sunday I got up to bright blue skies and almost balmy temperatures. Indeed, the midday high exceeded 70˚F. As perfect a spring day, and as perfect an Easter morning, as anyone could wish.

This Sunday morning I arose to find the ground white with snow. Snow! Geeze! And cold—26˚F last time I checked. Brrrr! I immediately built a fire in the woodstove. 

Of course my best friend Frank (God, how I miss him!) used to say that spring hereabouts never really gets settled in until you'd seen snow on the forsythia blooms. Well my forsythia is a yellow riot, scads of bright gold flowers on every arching branch—and the ground below them is fairly covered with snow, somewhere between a dusting and a skiff.

As usual, my dear old pal was right.