Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Not an Eagle but an Osprey

Having lunch with our son Gerry and his buddies at the Johnston City McDonalds, Gerald was telling Gerry about the eagle. Immediately Gerry said, "I bet it was an osprey."

Sure enough, Gerald came home and looked up osprey on the Internet and found out it is the only bird that hunts for fish in the way he saw this big hawk doing yesterday. The Internet article said that it is often confused with the bald eagle.

Son-in-law Brian dropped in late last night to copy some records for the a local government farm office before he headed off to Lake Saint Louis. He was feeling great with this crop all in before today's rains. He didn't arrive home until 1:30 this morning, but I'm sure he would tell you it was worth it.

An Eagle at Woodsong

When I came home to the farm yesterday evening, Gerald was excited and disappointed that I had missed the excitement. A neighbor had phoned him, and he went out on the deck and watched the first eagle anyone have ever seen on our lake. First, he said it dive-bombed out of a tree and into the water and under and came up empty-mouthed. Then as he continued to watch, the eagle fished again in identical fashion and this time came up with supper. Watching it huge wing span as it came out of the water was quite a thrill.

We've already been excited about our new baby geese, who are being supervised and guided with the utmost care by their two parents. There were seven eggs, which Gerald has been watching for some weeks, and there were seven goslings hatched. We hurried down to see them, and the parents were already taking them for a swim. One little fellow had bravely (fool-heartedly??) gone out and away from his family to two ducks quite a way off. Then he took off all by himself--barely out of the egg and he was able to swim the great distance without trouble. But his parents and their more submissive brood swam out to him, and I like to think he was relieved to be back in their care.

We have held our breaths because last year the one geese family that hatched took the babies away the next day--we think to more isolated neighbor's pond. We also were afraid that predators would capture one or more of the goslings as so often happens to our ducklings. However, they are old enough now that we feel they are staying and also likely to survive since they are less vulnerable everyday.

We have at least four duck nests still around the house. Some have been deserted, and one was broken into early on by some creature. One mama duck is exactly in the spot in the day lily bed where last spring we had a batch hatched out on Mother's Day. I suppose it is the same mama duck.

I kept noticing a middle-size black bird with brown head at our feeder, and I wondered what it was. Ben Gelman's column came out just in time to tell me: the brown-headed cowbirds are back in the area! I don't think I had ever seen one. And if they destroy other birds' eggs, they aren't as welcome as they would be otherwise.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Easter Joys

Everything is beautiful in Southern Illinois right now, and it is impossible not to rejoice at the loveliness. I have no idea what the earth looks like at this time of year in Jerusalem where Jesus rose again, but here in the southern end of our state, nature seems to be applauding his resurrection. Jeannie and three children arrived Good Friday morning a little after seven after a harrowing trip down from Freeport through rain storms and fog. After an hour or so of sleep before Cecelie tried to join her in her bedroom, she was up for the rest of the day. She loved seeing the spring season here that is ahead of the northern part of the state: the flowering trees and the lavish green abounding everywhere.

We enjoyed lots of grandchildren visits with kids coming and going. Some left to sleep over with local cousins and then back the next day for more adventures: dying eggs, making nests outside with the plants and field flowers, fishing, riding the "mule" and the Taylors' "gator," hiking at the lake, watching the ducks and martins, and spending a great deal of time on a new game the kids have made up. I don't really know what the rules are or what they call it, but every time they come lately, I see pieces of paper with clues left all over the house. I've been picking them up since the house emptied. Example: Clue 3 says, "Go to the place you will find a real, cool game that puzzles your mind." As I clean out the area downstairs that we call the "art room," I am always impressed at how much writing/drawing/reading/creating practice the kids have gotten as they enthusiastically play as hard as they can while they are together. They never seem to run out of ideas for play. (I almost forgot one weekend activity. On Friday afternoon while Gma Sue was keeping her hair appointment and then going for the pizza, Gpa was in charge. It was in the 80's and hot. He'd taken the kids to the island and other such doings when he later saw them near the water's edge. He didn't have the heart to make them get out of the water when they couldn't resist getting in--street clothes and all. Some kids were washing their clothes in the machine in the garage when I brought the pizza home. I guess starting the swimming season early wasn't too bad a thing.)

Add to the mix of grandkids. the Taylors' dog named Fifi and the Eilers' dog named Lucky, and there is a lot going on when our family gathers. Rick did not get to come down with Jeannie as he coaches tennis as well as teaching math at the high school, and he had a tennis match to attend on Saturday. Since he also cared for their dog Leah, who has just given birth to six Shit-zu puppies, the kids here were really disappointed he and those seven dogs did not come. Everyone had wanted to see these babies.

Special weekend highlights included celebrating Samuel's ninth birthday with cake, several of the kids going to the Easter egg hunt on the lawn at Center Church, Lige and Trent playing by the creek at Wayside where they had spent Friday night in the Taylor camper, the women and girl cousins attending the baby shower for their cousin Tara up at Gerry and Vickie's house, meeting their Taylor cousins' other grandmother--G'ma Dot here from Florida, listening to Leslie sing, and finally worshipping together on Easter Sunday at Center.

We met the three Notre Dame softball players that came home with Erin at the shower on Saturday afternoon, but with warnings of possible storms, they left right after early morning worship at West Frankfort. Although I would have loved for them to be here with the other 18 family members for Sunday dinner, after hearing about the Eiler family's travel through the storm, I was relieved they did not delay leaving for their long trip back to northern Indiana. They were playing at Northwestern today.

We finished Sunday evening watching old videos, so Bryan Archibald could see Tara at age ten pitching and batting in the Marion park with her arm in a cast. Brian Taylor arrived back to join us after delivering his mother--G'ma Dot--to the airport in Saint Louis. Finally whoever was still here had a late night meal of leftovers from dinner. (I am still serving leftovers to Gerald and putting some in the freezer.)

We now have two Brian/Bryans in the family, but at least their names are spelled differently. Brian Taylor had started farming up at Wayside on Friday, and he stayed over to work at the farm on Monday. The fields are disked, and the anhydrous is on.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Fish from the Ocean

Living as we do on a small lake, it may seem odd that neither Gerald nor I fish. He has a fishing rod, but I doubt if he has fished four times in the over four years we have lived here.

Over at Pondside Farm, it used to be an ambition of mine to learn to fish and to clean them, so that I could take the grandchildren fishing, let them help me clean them, and then fry them. But I never did that, and I have given up the ambition.

However, good friends and neighbors, Jay and Winnie Payne, not only bring us fish, but Jay cleans it ready for our freezer!! And on occasion, Winnie has even called and told us she is bringing us fish and fixings for our supper. Winnie is such a good cook that I wouldn't dare tell her not to, or I'd be in trouble.

I don't really think anyone can fry fish so it is not tasty, but I know it is not necessarily good for us. So for years I tried to bake fish according to recipes, and all I ever got for my efforts was a stinky kitchen and a not very good fish meal.

We went to visit friends Sonje and Scott and Katie recently when they got back home from visiting her parents in Florida. We enjoyed all the photos of the HUGE fish Scott and his father-in-law's party had caught. Scott presented us not only with oranges but also with a couple of packages of fish he'd caught in the ocean. I was excited at the prospect of cooking fish from way out there in the deep. Admittedly I can and have bought frozen fish at the store, but that did not seem the same as fixing fish that Scott had caught.

I got up my nerve to fix the snapper, and decided to bake it with lemon and butter as Scott said he sometimes does. With the fish thawed, I realized that I didn't have a lemon in the house, and on the farm you don't jump in your car and drive to the corner grocery.

But I had lemon juice which I mixed with melted butter and probably put some sort of spices in the mixture. I can't remember now what I did use exactly; I started to say cumin, but that was what I added to the soup last week the second night I heated it up and thought it had been a bit dull the night before.

Then having recently heard a TV cook advise using capers on fish, I added some capers. (I'd bought them probably a year ago for another recipe, which I misplaced before I used them. I do that more than I'd like myself to do.) I'd learned from the TV cook that capers were pickled flower buds--the dictionary says from a Mediterranean shrub. Although I can't say Gerald or I liked the cooking smell, the snapper was delicious, and we enjoyed knowing we were eating healthy.

Monday, April 03, 2006

April Showers and April Storms

At the breakfast table on Saturday morning, we were treated to watching gentle showers out our kitchen window, an appropriate beginning for the month of April.

I was already prepped for April 1. On Friday I had gone into Katherine's to be around while she kept a re-made dentist appointment. The night before Samuel had become even more croupy as he had been progressively doing at night. She figured it was allergies from much outdoor play with Josh. But she was afraid to send him to school; and with the weekend coming up, she made an appointment with his doctor, whom he had not seen in quite awhile.

As soon as she got back from the dentist and hurriedly ate a sandwich, she took Sam to the doctor, where she said his office was crowded with other kids suffering the same symptoms. The doctor agreed it was allergies and advised to keep that cool steamer going at night, gave Sam encouragement to be faithful to take his allergy medicine right now, and assured his mother it was fine for him to play outside despite all the allergens in the air.

Samuel came home ecstatic that he could go get Josh for their usual after-school outdoor play. I saw him coming alone across the park, and he burst into Katherine's bedroom where we were visiting to announce: "Josh can't come over. He broke his leg riding his bicycle today!" As we were commiserating with poor absent Josh and also with Sam's loss of a outdoor playmate, Samuel added, "April Fool!" and Josh appeared in the doorway. We were appropriately amused and irritated even if the boys were jumping the gun with their tomfoolery by one day.

So as Gerald and I ate breakfast, I tried to think of an April Fool joke. Gerald mentioned that if I weren't going any place, he might like to drive the car to Pinckneyville to the softball tournament since it takes less gas than his pickup. Thinking of our ridiculous and almost unbelievable trouble with our beautiful new car (which now drives like a dream, by the way) I carefully mentioned that I had not wanted to ruin his sleep the night before, but somehow or other someone had evidently put a dent in our new car. Gerald acted appropriately also when I giggled, "April Fool!" Maybe his relief saved me from disaster, reckon?

After the shower, the weather on Saturday was so lovely that it was difficult to bear all the dire storm warnings as Sunday came to a close. After the flu and our trip, I had never recovered my energy level and by Sunday evening, I had not been feeling up to making the effort for getting out of the house and driving several miles to our village church for evening Bible study.

We had a quiet restful Sunday,however, and I had decided I was going to Sunday evening services at 6. And I decided the tornado and hail warnings weren't going to cause me to change my mind, tho I considered it. The sky was a very funny color, and that frightened me more than the TV announcers. I took along my raincoat and umbrella and carried them in with me altho I did not need them. We heard hard hard rain during the service, but going back to the car as I avoided the many puddles, again I did not need the raincoat nor umbrella.

As I drove home, I was meeting the cars coming from Arnold View Church. I noticed the last one blinked lights at me, and I wondered if my dim lights seemed that bright to the other driver. Almost immediately as I topped a hill, there was a tree across my half of the road. Fortunately there were no more cars coming and I could go to the other side. The peculiar twilight color was still ominously present, and it was really difficult to see the various limbs and trash that kept popping up in my lane. I was relieved to turn off of Sarahville Road and go west towards home although I still felt the danger of debris lurking in the deepening darkness. I was glad to get home.

While I was gone, brother Garry had called and reported on the huge hail he had gathered at their Union County farm on the banks of Clear Creek. He'd stuck some in their freezer to show off. We were so sorry to hear the TV reports of all the damage up at Christopher and Dix and then this morning to learn about the devastation and deaths in Tennessee.

April storms are as unwelcome as April showers are welcome.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Phone calls from Cecelie

Our youngest grandchild is now a very grown-up seven, and a phone call from her while she was on spring break was a welcome spring treat. She called Friday to tell me that later in the day they were going into Chicago to select her American Girl doll.

Feeling most of today's children have too many toys, I decided long ago that I would try to just buy each granddaughter one doll and that would be at age seven. (And with a few inexpensive exceptions, I have followed my own rule.) I started by buying the oldest granddaughter a special china doll from a special doll store in a nearby town. But a few granddaughters later, small china dolls were abundant many places, and by this time, the American Girl dolls were available. I think they are pricey, so I decided that such a doll might be better than a china one and might be helpful to mamas on a budget and something special for the seven-year-old.

I absolutely love the beautiful catalogs--better than the real dolls actually--and I love the concept of having a book for each doll. And when I was buying a couple at once, I was glad that particular Christmas that there were clothes to fit them in local department stores that were not as expensive as the brand clothes in the catalog.

Anyhow, Cecelie is seven and it was her choice to get an American Girl doll. And her mother decided a one-time trip to Chicago for the tea party and the musical/dance review offered at the store might be a special event for Cecelie to remember. Older sister Leslie and her girlfriend tagged along to shop in the area near the doll store. I am sure Cecelie enjoyed being the one tagged along with since she is usually having to attend her big sister and big brother's theatrical and musical events. And since Elijah had just returned from the Freeport seventh graders trip to Washington , D.C., it was neat for her to have some focus on her actitivies. So far, Cecelie does not think she wants to partake of the theater world, but she is a very fine actress, so we shall see. She is also athletic, and that may turn out to be her world.

In our Friday conversation, she was going that morning down to her neighborhood friend Tiffany's house, where they had a meeting planned with only girls allowed. They were going to have snacks, and Tiffany was going to continue to teach her to write cursive. I commented that was quite an achievement for a first grader, but she explained she had her friend to help her.

When we got in last evening from going to see the softball tourney at Pinckneyville, where our oldest granddaughter is assistant coach, there was a message on the answering machine from Cecelie. First she was explaining to her mother in the background that we were "not available." But evidently her mother quickly explained about leaving messages, and Cecelie did leave a very mature and delightful message thanking us for the doll and telling about her fun day. And furthermore, she added that when she had children someday, she was going to tell them about her American girl doll. What more could a grandmother want?

We have frozen at so many Pinckneyville tourneys in the past, that it was great to be there when the weather was just delightful yesterday afternoon. Although by the time Pinckneyville played Tara's alma mater Johnston City for third place around 4 or 5, everyone went to their cars and got out very welcome jackets. We sat on Pinkneyville's side out of loyalty to Tara, but I mentally cheered not only the Panthers but also all the girls we know and love from JC. There was no way that I wanted either side to lose, but someone had to do so, and yesterday it was Tara's team.

We could not take Tara and her husband out to supper as we would have liked to do, because they were quickly heading to South Bend,Indiana, where her dad, mom, and younger sister already were for yesterday and today's games on Notre Dame's Ivy Field. This was going to be Tara's only opportunity this spring to see the middle sister Erin play in the double header today.

We drove on back to Marion to eat supper, so that we could meet up with our youngest daughter and husband and children--the Taylors from Lake Saint Louis--who had made a very hurried trip down to get their camper opened up for the summer up at Wayside Farm. They were invited to the tourney, but the kids wanted to hang out at the farm and do all the fun things they do there. In fact, Trent was ready to leave the restaurant as soon as possible to get back to the camper and light the campfire he had already built. We were too full to go along for the s'mores and goodies over the campfire. Besides I had already talked to Jeannie up in Freeport, and I was eager to get home and hear Miss Cecelie's phone message.