Tree Inspired

Trees are no stranger to this blog. I’ve chatted about a spruce planted during my 4-H days. I’ve mentioned bald cypress and their tricks with needles that make a Northerner think they’ve died.

And this year I’ve highlighted the neighborhood apple tree from twig, to bud, to bloom to fruit. I’ve even mentioned roots more than once – in reference to the need for a water supply in either the form of a refreshing rain or help from humans.

This takes roots to an entirely new level. They’re exposed. Naked. Embarrassed?

I’m thinking this is great inspiration for the engineers who create playground climbing structures.

What's under the stump?
What’s under the stump?

Apples are in season. Visit an infant orchard in Hiding Places.


Corn Belt

Corn belt. Wheat belt. Cotton belt.

In historical times, when I attended elementary school, we studied the major crops of the different regions of the United States. One year we even prepared product maps. Remember them?

I specifically remember a comment that my salmon jumping off the Washington coast looked like he was going to swallow the apple in the center of that same state.

Corn, cotton, wheat, rice, tobacco decorated vast areas in the center of the country. Photos of manufactured products — steel, cars, planes, and books highlighted other areas.

We did not, however, create a “corn belt” quite like the one this thin, seasonal restaurant greeter wears.

Corn fashion statement.
Corn fashion statement.


Cue the spooky, space epic, movie soundtrack.

Coming closer...closer...
Coming closer…closer…

We’re being invaded. Or is that the moon rising in broad daylight.

A few days ago I visited the sculpture park. To see what I could see and gather a few more examples of public sculpture to share on this blog. This park is known for large items. As I started up the grassy slope it first appeared as a white bump, perhaps equivalent to a mushroom popping up in spring grass.

It’s not spring. It’s bigger than a mushroom — much larger. Fine red lines interrupt the smooth white surface.

Step, step, step. I continue climbing up the gentle hill to see what I can see.

It looks back.
It looks back.

A Tale of Misfortune

You see photos of them in Kansas tourist literature.

They made an appearance after a tragedy in Ukraine.

Row after row of tall, green, sturdy stalks holding sunflower heads. Outlined with rim of yellow to attract pollinators, the seed heads mature in long summer days.

It went a little different in my garden.

They sprouted in a row. Critters nipped and snacked on several. A few (three) survived with stalks pushing the forming heads above the tomatoes. The shortest blossomed first. As they matured they drooped. One over the fence to greet the neighbor, another over the tomato ring to entangle with the vines.

When are they ready? Do I wait for them to dry on the stalk? I inspected one head, found formed seeds. I picked it to dry and set it aside on the patio.

It vanished. The thief left a mess of shells. Ah…should I blame chipmunks or squirrels?

The very next day I watched the thief in action. He wore gray and used his tail for balance as he skipped along the bent stalk. Chomp. Chomp. He carried away the smaller of the remaining heads.

Within minutes he returned with a friend. This time they pulled the seed container down and nibbled along the edges.

No seed will be saved by human to plant next year. Hope they enjoyed their treat.

Squirrel Snack Machine
Squirrel Snack Machine

Taking Off

The great autumn move will soon take place. Here in the Mississippi flyway we get our share of seasonal travelers.

I’ve spent many winters in the area north of my present location and I can’t say that I blame them. Especially those that have summered in the northern reaches of Canada among the very cold lakes and inlets of the Arctic Ocean. Food sources will soon disappear to cold weather, ice, or snow.

So they pack their stomachs with a good meal, round up their friends and neighbors, and head south. Leaders guide the flock with a few well-timed honks, squawks, or calls. (Depending on species.) It’s not a direct flight. They keep a sharp look-out for fields or wetlands able to supply another good meal and rest area.

How far will they go? Hundreds of miles? Thousands? As far as it takes?

This flight demonstration team stays year round to entertain St. Louis visitors.



Seek and Point

The world can be a dangerous place. It’s a canine duty to alert their humans to the hazards.

Large, bulky items such as a strange human on the front lawn earn a verbal alarm. Other substantial threats can be found visually on a quick circuit of the primary world boundaries. This same sentry circuit will often rid the property of smaller hazards also — rabbits, squirrels, the cat from down the street.

Then the real work begins. A careful member of any security detail pays attention to the small things. Little items the humans my discount, or not notice, need extra attention. Yes, I’m talking crickets, toads, and the rare invisible baby zombie. A girl can’t be too careful. Who will feed, water, and pet me if the monsters take over?

No hazard is too small for a closer look.
No hazard is too small for a closer look.

Meet a collie team of security “experts” in Starr Tree Farm. Available in ebook or paperback.



After the meeting

The United States is a nation of do-it-yourself. It may be the pioneer spirit. The large number of people that grew up rural – where it was between difficult and impossible to find exact parts and the people that understood them.

But we do little things on our own all the time. Think back to the last church or community meeting you attended. Chairs in a roomy basement or gym. An announcement near the end to the effect  “would a few volunteers please stay and stack the chairs”

In some organizations this works like a well oiled machine. You could almost tell which kids were in Scouts by their efficient, don’t need to tell me twice, behavior.

In the public sculpture below the artist has taken the phrase “stack the chairs” literally and large.



During the Summer

The schools are back in session. Those that tried to get a start on the teaching/learning by opening during August may even get an increase in student attention span now that most public swimming pools are closed and that final family cook out (or wash out, depending on the weather) is history.

Now the oral and written reports with the “what did you do this summer” begin. Teachers will receive the usual – a family trip, visiting relatives, a trip to a local attraction, or a description of a day working for parents.

Some of the students have sprouted — gaining inches in height. There’s a reason parents do back to school shopping. Other things have sprouted and gained maturity.

Today’s photo was taken in late May. It looks pretty bleak. A hint of things to come but not a charming vista.

Giving a Hint
Giving a Hint

Spring and summer have worked magic in the orchard. Blossoms, leaves, fruit set and thinned. Solid globes growing on sunny days and through the warm nights. Roots drinking the warm rain to feed leaves and fruit. Harvest is coming.

Orchards are opening to the public. Early varieties are ready to harvest and others in queue behind. Visit an orchard. Drink in some fresh country air – it will have a note of crisp in a few more weeks. Enjoy. Learn. Savor fresh fruit of the land.

What sort of people start a new apple orchard? One answer is in Hiding Places. It’s available in both ebook and paperback formats.


It Takes Two

Not all fishing is created equal.

Today the equipment includes rods and reels. Waders and bright artificial “flies” hooked to a vest decorate a solitary man along a trout stream. One or two humans share silence watching lines from opposite sides of a small boat.

In our modern era the incentive can be as much about going to a quiet place, enjoying the scenery and fresh air as much as bringing home supper.

This sculpture on a college campus reminds us of a distant past. Success meant a protein addition to parched corn. At least one thing remains the same. Technique is passed from one generation to another by imitation.


Fresh fish for supper?

You can get a whiff of a Friday fish fry in Starr Tree Farm. Available as ebook or paperback from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.