No, actually, it's a bud emerging from a potted gerbera daisy that we thought was dead and gone. Just goes to show you never know.
Just a sliver of the hundreds and hundreds of (what I think are) Savannah sparrows on holiday. Incredible.
Since my post on The Mad Scientists' Club, I've become acquainted with a few more young adult books that I criminally missed as a young adult. To make amends, I'm sharing them with you. Do not repeat my crime of ignorance.
First: Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham (first published in 1955). This is a biographical novel about the amazing Nathaniel Bowditch--indentured servant, sailor, navigator and mathematical genius who lived during the turbulent years of America's founding. It is absolutely inspirational.
Next we have When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson (first published in 1967). Initially, I pegged it as a conventional ghost story. But because it is so beautifully written, I continued to read--and discovered it to be far more than I thought. One of the most original and happy stories I've ever read.
Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce (first published in 1958) is in much the same vein as Marnie. Despite the terrible title, I was never tempted to put it down. You're thinking it must be a ghost story until the main characters start arguing about which one of them is a ghost. The ending is too beautiful to guess, though the author drops important clues throughout. A better title for this little masterpiece would be something like A Time Travel Mystery or The Timelessness of Intergenerational Love. . . . Okay, I see the problem that the publisher had with compacting the story into a title.
Finally, there's The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke. Published in 2000, this book came out after I had been published myself, which is no excuse for my not having read it. It's one of those books that you never want to end, which is a crazy thought coming from someone who won't wade through long books. Endearing, unpredictable, magical, uplifting--any cliché you want to use in praise of it works.
So, these are my recommendations. I hope that a few lucky readers on your Christmas list find them under the tree.
--Such as granddaughters, for instance, are already on top of this whole Christmas thing.
Others are not quite feeling the spirit yet.
This 1961 book for boys is, in fact, very good. Author and U.S. Army veteran Bertrand R. Brinley was at one point (to quote from the jacket copy) "a methods and procedures analyst for Lockheed Aircraft's engineering department." His expertise gives an aura of credibility to otherwise improbable but satisfying adventures of a nerdy group of preteen boys.
I have the 40th anniversary edition, whose cover blurb notes, "original text restored." That phrase speaks volumes, as some of the chapters feature tools, settings, and modes of transportation that are dangerous for adults, not to mention children. Also, the freedom with which these boys embark on their missions is almost inconceivable today.
In other words, it's worth reading if only to remind us what was once possible.
He's looking okay, what? (The whole harrowing story here.) A few minutes after this pic was taken, he flapped out to sit on a plant below:
--and later flew off for good. :)
This is the kind of thing you're likely to find when you dig in a previously undisturbed pasture. Yes, it's one big honking earthworm--one of many I found digging a hole for a peach tree. I trust they will help us obtain many wonderful peaches that the cows in the nearby pasture will, hopefully, ignore. O.o
Let's say, just as a thought experiment, that the builder haphazardly mows the lot next to your property--oh, about once a month. Then let's suppose that during that month of growth, a lone milkweed springs up just in time for a momma Monarch to lay an egg which then hatches into a ravenous caterpillar which sets about eating and getting fat. Then let's say that a random person such as your granddaughter discovers said caterpillar on said milkweed and marks it with flags for rescue right before the next mowing. If I put this string of coincidences in a book, would you buy it?
Nah, me neither.
UPDATE (10-7-17): So, when I checked on the goober later that day, I discovered that he was gone from the milkweed. It was not entirely eaten, but he was . . . gone.
While I was wondering what to tell my granddaughters, I happened to glance at a tall grass weed about a foot away. And there he was, no longer eating, but stretched out in preparation for the Chrysalis Hang (not a scientific term). Since he was in imminent danger of being cut down, I uprooted the weed and brought it inside:
Unfortunately, I neglected to factor in the stem collapsing due to lack of water. So when I checked on him later that evening, the stem was empty and the caterpillar was crawling up another piece of furniture, looking for a steadier stalk.
After numerous mishaps, including dropping the goober several times, the girls and I managed to fabricate a stick that he found marginally acceptable. So he began the process of forming a chrysalis:
And finished up a few hours later:
After taking this last photo, I moved his wire cage to a protected spot on the back patio where we hope to see a monarch emerge in about 2 weeks.
So, just in time for Halloween and horror movies that I hate, one of the cows in the pasture behind us has a baby and will you look at that sweet clown face?
I tell you, God is the funniest guy I know.
I, for one, can hardly wait to see what happens when it rains.
On the left is the ditch in our backyard as of a week ago. Today's pic on the right shows the gradual progress in replacing the crabgrass with orange sedge, water ferns, and purple love grass, mostly. The clumps on the landscape fabric on both sides are strawberry tops mixed with corn husks and soil. From experience, I know these tops will sprout and send roots down through the fabric. We're gonna fill those black stretches with strawberries.
The excitement stems from the fact that this is a drainage ditch. It looked like this one month ago, when we had our last rain:
And I can hardly wait to see what doesn't get washed away when this happens again.
Update: Corn husks. The enormous field adjacent to our property was mowed a few days ago. It's SOP for the country, but this suburbanite is goggling.
My first book, Chataine's Guardian, was published in 1984: the beginning of one wild ride.