Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Winter Wonderland of 2014

Winter once again grips Elmira Pond in a glorious winter wonderland. Ice cycles form like spun sugar and snow heaps in piles white as salt. Trains trundle past, trailing snow like dust and eagles wheel in a goose-less blue sky. Clouds stall at attention in the presence of a cold snap as if standing by for marching orders. Not a vapor breathes from the pond. Crisp. Clear. Cold.

Elmira Pond is frozen champagne.

From my Rocky Mountain tamarack bog in northern Idaho, I toast 2014 farewell. Thank you for another year in what is still paradise--a place of rest and hope. I open my arms to welcome the bold embrace of 2015 and I dare to say to all, dream big! It feels like a good batch of bubbly coming on!

A look at the final day of 2014 on Elmira Pond:

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Here’s What’s on Top of My Christmas Tree – What’s on Yours?

A red star still clings to the Crow Tree outside. Crows are avoiding my gift of baubles. I even called to one in my most welcoming caw-caw voice. He responded in kind, caw-caw, but flew on past. I added ribbons. I think I need cracked corn.

Nonetheless, I'm also showing what tops my indoor tree, a wee fake thing in a plastic basket. I put up a few of the kids' ornaments--the crystal ballerina, the Christmas kitty, a wreath made of green-painted puzzle pieces. A tiger in a star tops all the mementos.

Last year my eldest went to India for an environmental journalism class and stayed at a tiger refuge. When she returned, I got a lovely scarf of apricot, market spices and the tiger ornament. He's a grand addition to the tree and deserves top billing.

Geoff Le Pard over at TanGental introduced me to the charity blog event. It's fun and it's a good cause! All you need to do is share what's on top of your tree, post it and pingback to the original post at Hughes Views & News

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Crow Tree

Gifts for Crows
Last week I began paying attention to the murder of crows that shows up and leaves one by one. Busy, and not birds to linger, the crows are in constant motion as a group. One walks, one pecks at dried seed pods, another wings past. And so it goes.

Today, I've decorated a tree by the fence where the crows often gather as they pass through Elmira. It's my giving tree. They can nab any bauble that catches a crow's fancy. Will they leave me a gift in return?

Linking up with Abracabadra for Wordless Wednesday. Photos by Charli Mills

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Murder on Elmira Pond

Attempted Murder Strolls Onto the Scene
The Arrival
Murder in Progress
Murder Most Black
Not as Innocent as Snow
Criminal Thoughts?
Or Misunderstood Birds?
Hiding Evidence?
Or Seeking It?
And the Murder Flies Off
Yes, a murder most fowl showed up on the grassy banks and icy shoreline of Elmira Pond. A black murder of crows against the winter cloak of white.

American crows become the prominent bird of winter, not just because they are so easy to spot, all black on white. They remain when all other birds have left.

Well, the migrators have left. No more Blue Heron to harass, no mother merganser with her tuft-headed brood, no more diving osprey.

With the seasonal guests gone from the shores of Elmira, the crows have moved in, roosting in the pines and plucking at any opportunities that remain.

Crows are both predators, as well as prey. They are bothersome in the spring when migrators are nesting because they like to eat eggs. A single crow can devour an entire nest as if it were a super-sized fast-food meal.

As scavengers, they will eat anything--deer roadkill, discarded crackers, frogs, fruit, snakes and field mice. They've been known to collect shiny things, too.

I've heard stories of crows hoarding all manner of things like a pack-rat. I've even heard tales that you can play a game with a crow and leave shiny objects as a gift and see if the crow gives you any in return.

It's a tempting game to set up. And winter would be the perfect time to play, while the migrators are away. I'll keep you posted on any results.

One thing that photography teaches me is to observe. When I first spotted this group, there was but one crow walking down my driveway. Then more and more showed up and as a group they plotted and winged their way to the pond.

Then flew off.

It was an interesting movement and the course of these photos took less than five minutes. What they were up to, I can't say. They committed no actual crime.

Murder is the name for a group of birds from the Corvidea family--crows, ravens, jays and magpies. It originates from folklore and superstition.

It is said that crows will gather to decide the capital fate of another. Perhaps this gathering was the Corvidea version of a murder trial.

Many superstitions about crows perpetuate because they are ominous black scavengers. Imagine more gruesome times when battlefields, prison towers or plague-ridden towns were full of Corvidea accompanying the dead.

No wonder murder most fowl seemed appropriate.

Today, however, we know that crows are highly intelligent and social birds. They mate for life and stay together in close-knit families. They will even help out strange crows and speak over 250 different calls!

I often hear a crow call and ponder what bird is making that noise in December and then a crow flies over. I'm always surprised when I learn a new crow call.

Scientists monitor crows for the impact of certain human diseases. For instance, crows are a huge indicator of West Nile Disease. Since 1999, 45 percent of American crows have succumbed to this disease.

In a sense, they do foretell.

Today, they are simply fun to welcome to the pond. And so photogenic with black wings beating against a white background.

I'm linking up this (wordy) post with Abracabadra for Wordless Wednesday. You can find beautiful and thought-provoking photos through her generous post.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Make Memories

Make the kind of memories that you can sit by like a warm fire.

Gratitude is an attitude that is cultivated. If you need to start by making lists, go ahead. There's no wrong or right way to be thankful.

Sometimes it's the big things I'm grateful for--my husband who says he loves me in between talking in his monster-truck voice and pestering me for pancakes when I'm trying to write.

Other times it's the little things, like that last roll of toilet paper tucked behind the spare towel in the sink cupboard when I forgot to pick up more in town.

Always, I'm grateful for the memories I've made with my children at the Thanksgiving holiday. It's a collective effort, something we all have contributed to. And it's been enhanced by the years when the Hub's sister drove up snowy roads from Kansas to Minnesota with our nieces and nephews. Or the years that we had new friends of the children around the table, and gained a son-in-law and his family.

Elmira Pond has smelled the aromas of the turkey and sides wafting from the house over several Thanksgivings now. We have neighbors--new friends--coming over in a few days.

For the first time in 26 years, we will not have any of our three children at the table. But it's okay. It makes me grateful for extra turkey and pumpkin pie!

And, it makes my thankful for those warm memories that I can light up in my heart and still enjoy. I'm happy for my children who have strong wings to fly so far from the nest. I'm happy for our memories of Thanksgivings past and happy for the ones to come.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: November 19, 2014

November 19 is UNICEF's World Toilet Day. The message is that we can't wait while 2.5 billion people lack access to the improved sanitation we take for granted.

To spread awareness of this cause, I'm posting photos of the outhouses next door to Elmira Pond. The Elmira Schoolhouse had one for boys, one for girls and one for teacher.

Millions of girls in the world today are denied access to school because of the lack of basic sanitation. THINX is an innovative panty company helping to overcome this deprivation.

Truly, we sit on porcelain thrones every day.



Student Privies

Teacher's Private Toilet

View of Elmira Pond From the Student Privies

Linking up with Abracabadra for Wordless Wednesday. Photos by Charli Mills.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Empty Winter Pastures

Frozen Over
Snapper Follows Todd Like a Puppy
The Horse Whisperer
No Accessible Water
A freeze has come early to Elmira Pond.

Todd crunches across the frozen blades of grass with a two-by-four to try and pound out a hole so the horses can drink. Already the ice is too thick for that.

Plan B has Todd hauling buckets of water to the mares. Each horse empties a 5 gallon bucket. They are thirsty, the grass is going dormant and their owners are mid-divorce each claiming the other is supposed to pick them up.

It's frustrating because we have no feed and now no water. Finally, one side shows up with a horse trailer and they are gone to a winter barn with water and hay.

Already I miss their presence. Grendel has sat at the window, looking for them. The pastures are empty and we await winter.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: November 12, 2014

The descent of winter upon Elmira pond comes in killing frosts, a dusting of snow and a southern slant to the sunset.
Sunsets Shift South and Goes Behind the Ridge by 3:30 p.m.

Water Won't Be Open Much Longer
Horses Will Go to Winter Barns

Their Coats are Thick for Winter

First Snow on Elmira Pond

Foraging for Grass That Will Now Go Dormant

Linking up with Abracabadra for Wordless Wednesday. Photos by Charli Mills