Weekly Photo Challenge: Color

COLOR!  Wow.  Great photo subject!  It is now April, and color is slowly returning to the palette of the Wisconsin landscape.  Lawns are still brown and dormant, but the little Scilla Siberica is pushing up bright green and blue in my garden.  Hooray!  I’ve been posting black and white photos for months.  It’s time for a change!  I am definitely agreeable to embracing the rainbow…and you can take that as a political statement, too, if you’d like. 

Happy April, everyone!  And Happy Birthday to my son, Joshua – thanks for making my life more colorful!

Out Like a Lamb

You know the old saying.  “March comes in like a lion….

…and goes out like a lamb.” 

The truth is, it’s about 30 degrees cooler today than it was a few weeks ago. 

What do we know about anything, really?  Not much.  We like to think we do.  It’s all an illusion.  Oh, I know we’re doing the best we can, or trying to, at least most of us.  I like to think that I’m wise and helpful and loving, but I also know that every decision I make sends ripples in motion that might end up hurting life in some way.  I don’t know that dwelling on that will improve anything, but I don’t want to dismiss it, either.  How do you keep a humble attitude and continue to make choices?  Meekly, I guess, as if you’re set to inherit the earth and all the effects of those choices. Because, really, aren’t you?

Waking Up

We visited two different marshland wildlife refuges this week.  The turtles are coming out of their winter sleep!  I found one sunning itself on a country highway and gave it a lift to the other side of the road.  Painted turtles can live to be quite old if they don’t get squashed by a car or eaten by a raccoon.

The snapping turtles at the Wehr Nature Center have a favorite log for sunning.  They stay off the roads.

This wood turtle is a pet at the nature center.  I like his smile!

Sandhill cranes, Canada geese, wood ducks, and red-winged blackbirds are pairing off and getting ready to start having babies.  The red-winged blackbird is one of Steve’s favorites for its distinctive song.  The first time he described it to me, he said it sounds like water.   Some people say it sings, “Purple TEA” or something like that.  Once you recognize it, though, you won’t need to describe it.  It is simply the red-winged blackbird’s song. I love how they stall in flight and land grabbing one slender stalk, which sways dramatically, but never breaks.

Chipmunks are awake from their winter sleep, too, but they’re too quick for me to photograph.  I did find a fuzzy spring friend who moves at about my speed: pussywillows. 

And now, it’s my pleasure to introduce a guest photographer to my blog.  Steve took this picture just before we climbed back into the car to go in search of dinner. 

Enjoy the beauty surrounding you in this wonderful world.  Enjoy waking up to it each moment, becoming aware. 

Spring is Sprung!

Spring is sprung; the grass is rizz….

I wonder where the flowers izz?

Well, that’s the only flower I could find in my garden today, but it’s 73 degrees out, and soon, things will be busting out all over!  I took a group of kindergarteners to collect maple sap from the trees, and the spout on the south side of the tree refused to give any.  The north side was flowing slowly, enough for each kid to taste a drip.  Buds are opening, and sap’s first priority is way over the heads of the little kids.

Tomorrow, we plan to spend the day outside.  We actually have job interviews at a living history museum called Old World Wisconsin.  Their season starts in May, and their exhibits are 19th century homesteads featuring working farms, home crafts, and costumed interpreters (please pick me!).  I would love to work and learn and get paid there!  With Steve, too!  But I can’t count my chickens before they’re hatched.  In any event, it’ll be lovely visiting the site and camping out the rest of the day somewhere in this gorgeous weather.

I think of all the tiny, tender green shoots pushing up through the dead leaf litter, and the words of a song pop into my head: “Up from the ashes grow the roses of success.”  Now where did that come from?  Oh, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, the movie musical.  Based on the book by Ian Fleming, no less.   A corny video of a bunch of crackpot inventors is available, but I’m not going to include it.  I do like to rejoice in the hopeful and positive example of nature.  Life goes on.  Death is part of it, but not the whole.  Green sprouts are a lot more sturdy and virile than they look.   All will be well.  And maybe I’ll be re-employed soon!

Sap Rising

Yesterday I went to another Maple Sugar presentation training.  This one was a “Living History” demonstration.  A theater veteran of 35 years took on the persona of “Amos” and told the kindergarteners how he would go with his father and grandfather, beginning at the age of 10, into the woods for a month every year to make maple syrup. When the daytime temperatures are above freezing and the nighttime temperatures still dip below, the sap starts rising in the trees.  We’ve had some very warm nights now, and the leaf buds may already be popping, which means our maple syrup season has been shortened by several weeks.  Once the leaves come out, the sap turns bitter.  It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup.  You have to keep your fires going continually to boil it down.  One hundred years ago, it wasn’t unusual for a farm to have 700 taps going at once, so collection and boiling was an intense process.  The kids got pulled out of school and lived in the Sugarbush camp while the sap was running; they spent their time making spiles (spouts), tending fires, collecting buckets and stirring buckets of boiling sap.  And they didn’t bathe the whole time!  (Kindergarteners get a kick out of hearing that!)  For extra energy during the work day, they kept a chunk of Jack Wax in their pockets.  This is maple syrup that has been poured out on some clean snow and frozen into a hard candy.  The kindergarteners got to do a taste test, comparing real maple syrup with two different pancake syrups, and sampling maple sugar clinging to a Popsicle stick.  Real maple syrup is not as sweet and sticky as the high fructose corn syrup blends, and it has a more distinctive flavor.  It’s delicious, but it’s expensive because it is very labor intensive to produce.  Here’s another little factoid: squirrels like maple sap.  They climb into the tops of the trees and bite off the end of a twig and just lick away at the running sap.  I have yet to see this, but I’m hoping I might catch my little friend in the sugar maple outside my bedroom window doing just that.

The trails were very muddy out there in the woods, but the moss was very green.  Spring is in the air!

Boiling the sap over a walnut & hickory fire

Just to reassure you, tapping trees for maple syrup doesn’t hurt the tree.  The bark scabs over and the tree keeps producing plenty of sap to stay alive.  Trees that are big enough to hug (36-45 inches in circumference) are big enough to tap…and then to thank with a appreciative embrace!   Enjoy your neck of the woods, wherever you are!

While the gettin’s good…

All of our snow seems to be falling on Europe this year, so we’re going to seize the opportunity to do some spring hiking in February!  “Let’s get while the gettin’s good!”, as they say.  (They who?  Not really sure who says this any more…)

Here are some early spring photos from my walks this weekend:

First robin in a ginko tree

Red-tailed hawk feathers

Fertile farmland

Blue and gold (for Helen)

Enjoy the white stuff, my friends across the pond!  I’m going mud walking!