Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Letter B

Nadine over at In Blue Ink is handing out letters. The challenge is to list ten things you like beginning with that letter. So here goes:

1) Berries. OK, this one is a given, but I might as well get it out of the way. And it is oh, so true. Going strawberry picking is something I often choose to do for my birthday. There is very little better than fresh sun-warmed berries.

2) Birds. Yes, also a freebie, but also something I truly like. The proof is in the pudding, right. See... here and here. Photographic evidence!

3) Books. I love books. I just finished Jean Hegland’s Into the Forest and before that, The Hungry Tide by Amitov Ghosh. A big thanks to Turtlebella, who wrote the review that piqued my interest in the latter.

4) Bungalows. Craftsman-style bungalows, the real thing. Not just any little saltbox the realtor decides to market that way.

5) Birches. We have seven paper birches planted around the edge of our backyard. The white peeling bark is a nice visual contrast to all the glorious green.

6) The beach. I should qualify that, though, if I am going to be honest. I don’t really care for bathing suits, and abhor laying out in the sun. It burns us. However, deserted beaches are a great place to walk. Lake Huron has some beauties.

7) Blue jeans. There is nothing more comfortable.

8) Burritos. Specifically the catfish burritos we used to get every Friday from the funky little Mexican place around the corner from our old apartment. We don’t get them as often now that we have to drive there.

9) Bechamel sauce. Yeah, I’m starting to reach here, but moussaka wouldn’t be the same without it. Mmm, creamy, pasty, good. There was a Middle Eastern restaurant right next door to the Mexican joint. We ate well when we lived there.

10) Bagginses. Nerd alert! But, seriously, who can resist a Baggins?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Saturday's Big Adventure

A few weeks ago, I had a work day that involved a meeting in a small town, and field reconnaissance of a potential project site. On the way to the meeting, my boss and I drove through the countryside, over rolling hills, forested and agricultural. We passed a deer farm that raises red deer, which I believe are actually more like elk than deer. And we drove through a windfarm. I was in awe.

SodaBoy and I had driven through a smaller windfarm before, but the scale of Acer Ridge is enormous. There must be 200 turbines. I immediately wanted to share it with him. So yesterday, after consulting the internets, we found a state park near the windfarm that we hadn’t yet hiked, and set out for a multi-purpose adventure.

After driving through the turbines for a while, we turned off the main road and stopped to take photos. These structures are amazing, just gorgeous, all clean lines and beauty. They are HUGE, about 400 feet tall. I have a visceral reaction... I love them. Part of it is what they symbolize, of course. Zero emissions, clean energy. And they support family farms through lease payments to the landowners who can continue to farm the land all around them. Wind, win.

Then we continued on the state park, which promised a long narrow gorge lined with 350-foot vertical stone walls and a 50-foot waterfall. Due to our late start, long drive, multiple turbine photo stops, shitty park maps, and another distraction I am about to describe, we never actually saw the waterfall. But that’s OK, because we had a much more intimate experience with the park than simply viewing some falling water.

We started our hike by walking along the gorge trail, ignoring the sign that warned “trail not maintained.” Babbling brook, beautiful northern hardwood forest, native wildflowers (Tiarella cordifolia or foamflower below). Simply lovely. Then we came to a spot where a small tributary joined the creek, and decided to follow that for a spell. Remember the vertical stone walls? Yes. That is from where the small stream runneth. We ended up scaling the entire 350-foot vertical wall, in the exact spot where running water and algae covered rocks made it the most slippery. Brilliant!

It was pretty harrowing at points, with the sliding shale and the water spray and the swarming bugs. We got bit to pieces during that climb, because all hands were focused on clutching the cliff face for dear life. We didn’t get many good pictures on the ascent due to the lack of solid ground, weak lighting, and again, the bugs.

SodaBoy took this one of me scaling the stream cliff near the top, when it got easier and we knew we were going to make it. There were plenty of other sections where we were literally hugging the cliff face. In this shot, SodaBoy had already climbed the section I was climbing, and was at the top, but the picture shows some of the steepness. It was getting late when we finally got to the rim trail, so we didn’t get to explore the rest of the park.

On the way home we made one last stop, of the totally incongruous and utterly unplanned variety: a casino resort. I had never been to this facility before, and it is enormous. We did not gamble, but ate dinner at their huge buffet and then walked around taking in the sights. The buffet was of the variety where you wish you brought a book so you could hang out and eat all day. We mostly focused on the seafood and Mongolian grill. The gambling areas stretched for acres, and were thick with smoke and jammed with people. This place does a great business.

It was almost 10 pm when we arrived home from our adventures, happy, tired, and eager to download the cameras.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Weekend Fleurs

Geranium maculatum, wild geranium (above), and Elaeagnus umbellata, autumn olive (below). Both growing in the woods out back. The non-native and invasive species dominate in these urban woods, so the few natives like the wild geranium bring great pleasure. The openings are syrupy sweet with the fragrance from the autumn olive flowers now.

Come fall, I'll fight with the birds for the berries.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Bloodsuckers 'R Us

I just had to pull another engorged deer tick off Elijah, the third one this season. Oh, the horror. Now I am all itchy and snuffly, the result of my cat allergy that only kicks in with too much close contact. Plus I did a horrible job with the plucking, and there are parasite remnants in my cat, and I feel guilty for torturing him, and guilty for doing a lousy job at the torturing to boot.

I also feel all creepy crawly, like I am personally crawling with ticks. It is, of course, entirely possible. We took a walk on the deer paths before dinner, looping back to a requisite stop at the catnip knoll, where Elijah lolls and we pull garlic mustard. I could just as easily have ticks as him.

It is definitely time for an application of those neck pesticides. I am none too fond of the stuff. I always forget I've put it on the beast, and pet him, thus contaminating myself with the chemical stench. Can't get the stink off, he's been hanging round for days...

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Violation! Violation!

We were rudely awoken this morning by the sound of a neighbor across the street mowing the lawn. It was 6:50 am. Who ever heard of such a thing? I could have sworn there was some sort of city ordinance about not mowing before 8 am, but when I did a half-assed search of the internets, I didn't turn up much. It much just be common decency that would make such demands. I did determine that you can't let the grass grow longer than 8 inches. Good thing SodaBoy is out mowing now, or we might have been in violation on that one.

The second crappy thing to happen today involved another neighbor, and another noisy tool: a chainsaw. Even ickier. The woods behind our house are owned by the university, so this morning when three men starting cutting out a large tree, I went up in the woods and asked them if they were with the university. Seems reasonable, right? They own the land, they can cut trees if they like. Silly me. It turns out my next door neighbor had hired them.

These neighbors have been very nice to us. They actually came over one day this spring when I was at work, and asked SodaBoy about removing another tree. The tree in question is dead, and is right along the apparent property line between our yards. The neighbors weren't sure exactly where the line was, and they wanted to get an OK from us to take down the tree. I kind of like having the dead tree there, as it provides great wildlife habitat, but since we don't know exactly where the property line is either, and they were so nice about it, we acquiesced. I suppose it could become a hazard eventually, so it did not seem like a wholly unreasonable request.

However, they did not ask us if they could cut a large living tree from the university property. And the tree cutting crew today did not touch the dead tree we'd talked about. They only cut away at a tree they had no right to touch. The tree was partially down, having apparently blown over in a storm years ago, before we ever moved in. But it was still alive today, and fully leafed out over most of it's branches.

I was furious about the situation. My blood pressure and heart rate surged. Those woods were one of the main attractions for us in buying this house. We've always been prepared for the possibility the university could develop back there. We just weren't prepared for random neighbors to treat it as their personal woodlot. I called university security, and they seemed concerned, agreeing to send someone right out. Although two squad cars appeared fairly quickly, the officers didn't do shit. They simply informed the tree cutters that they were on university property, and then left. They didn't even talk to the property owners.

Today I lost all respect for my neighbors, and learned that university police are huge pansies.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Deed is Done

When I was young, I went through a phase of being rather anti-marriage. I am a child of divorce, which could have been a contributing factor. I am not religious. My opinion on the matter evolved: first I swore I would never get married, then after I joined the high school chapter of Amnesty International, I revised my stance to allow that I could get married if it would help provide a Green Card to someone in need. Even later I went through another phase of not wanting to marry because I didn't want to partake in an institution that was not offered equitably. Finally I arrived at the conclusion that I might marry if I'd been with a partner for ten years or more. Those magical round numbers...

Well, SodaBoy and I have been together a long time. We started dating in March of 1997, so our ten year anniversary has come and gone. We have talked about marriage over the years, but neither of us wanted a wedding. The thought frankly horrified the both of us. So we ignored the issue all together and carried on as we wished, sharing our lives in every other way. We bought a house together last year.

This weekend we went down to the courthouse and did the deed. It just seemed senseless for SodaBoy to go on with no health insurance when we know we want to spend our lives together. I still don't really "get" the whole thing. Nothing has changed. We are the same people in the same relationship, except now he can have health insurance. It's madness really, but there it is: I've bought into the system. The man has won.

The courthouse thing was actually much more entertaining than I'd expected. We had to go through an airport-style metal detector screening to get inside. Weddings are done Saturdays at 8:30 am, and everyone just shows up at the same time. There was one couple in front of us; the groom was escorted through the prison tunnel in shackles by a squadron of heavily armed guards. The shackles were left on during the vows, and he was escorted back out immediately after kissing the bride. The judge sort of laughed at us for having no rings. With the couple behind us, the bride was a no-show. If I wasn't so eager to get to breakfast and a nap, I could have hung out and watched the proceedings all day.