Ever since last month’s ice storm, the surviving birds have been in search of food. Normally at this time of year, trees would be budding, flowers blooming in the sea of verdant spring to which we are accustomed. Not this year. Everything is dead or brown. Or both. Our palm tree lost all its dozen fronds. Our oaks remain frozen in time, covered in ugly brown leaves that will not fall. The earth itself doesn’t know what season it is. It’s the ugliest I’ve ever seen Texas in my life because it was the coldest and the iciest it had ever been.
However, the cottonwood tree has begun putting out these yellow pods, for which the birds have gone crazy.
I’ve never seen so many birds on the branches of our cottonwood before. They stay for several minutes, then fly off, just as another drove comes to feast.
I do hope things will soon return to normal, in every sense of the word.
The weather keeps getting stranger and stranger. Last month, I saw more snow than had ever fallen in Austin in my life. This week will be the lowest temps we’ve ever weathered, dipping into single digits. We received a text from the county at lunch, urging folks not to travel for the next several days. The grocery stores are bare of meat, eggs, and milk.
Only days ago, spring had begun its first bloom, and now this.
Our oak tree, which had just begun to bud and stretched over 20 feet into the air, is now bowed down to the grass, branches breaking off every few hours.
Every home in our city has broken branches in its yard.
And our holly bush appears frozen in time, if not weeping from the sudden frost. Strange days indeed.
This morning, before church and before coffee, I caught not one, but FOUR doves in our cottonwood tree.
I wonder what this guy did to deserve such isolation. Perhaps he was in quarantine for the ‘rona, or bird flu.
The others gossiped about his lack of hygiene.
Then this little guy showed up (upper right hand corner), and though his breast looks yellow here, he looked lime green to the naked eye. Not sure what kind of bird he is, but he belted out a chirpy song, unlike the coo of the doves.
As some of you know, our fig tree (a cutting from my husband’s grandfather’s tree many moons ago) flaunts her fecundity each June, and then promptly closes shop within the month. This year, she held on to her small green figs until the very end of June, when they plumped up all purple and big as softballs, in some cases.
As soon as you twist one off a branch, a sticky milk spurts out, and it’s quite itchy. Even three rounds of vigorous Soft Soap won’t make it go entirely away. Nature’s weapon.
This was Thursday morning’s haul.
I’m always surprised by how few people have ever eaten a ripe fig, but it makes sense, since you never see them in the stores. They die after 48 hours, so you have to eat them quickly. As neither my son nor my spouse are fans, I have had to force myself to eat 3-5 figs daily, just to fulfill the chintzy gal inside me, who cannot pass up free food. Plus, it’s healthy!
Sometimes I have to add them to a salad, so I don’t get so bored.
I gave a bushel to a Facebook friend, who sees me post them daily, and tried to offer some to the new Asian family across the street, but he thought I was asking him to come trim my tree. Eventually, I spoke with the wife, who was happy to try some, and I packed a dozen in a to-go box for them. Another 10 were given next door to our Indian neighbors, who thought at first we were offering “pigs” last year. They said they didn’t eat meat and politely declined. But once we got past the consonant confusion, they were down with a pile of figs.
Lastly, the neighbors behind us actually can see the purple orbs as they hover on branches above our fence. We told them to snag whatever they like, since the abundance is overwhelming, and I packed up another box for them and passed it over. It will be 107 today, and zero chance of rain, as usual, so I don’t know how long this tree will keep pumping them out. But until then, I’ll keep reaching for the figs (except the top branches; those are for the birds and squirrels).
I got on my hands on a tall stack of vintage Nat Geos this weekend, all from the 20s and 30s. And yes, even in 1928, they had colorful pictures of bare-breasted tribal women. Odd.
In this particular article about Michigan, “Mistress of the Lakes,” they declare Detroit a “City Without Slums.” Now that’s quite the declaration. Clearly things were going well in 1928. One of the manufacturing jobs listed, in addition to cars and gold pens, was the lumber industry. And let me remind you, if you’ve never read a National Geographic article, they are loooong. There was no TV yet, not everyone had radio. So this article on Michigan alone goes from page 269 to 325. Crazy, right? I won’t read it all. But I’ll share these picshas.
The curiously-coiffed gal above is the assistant cook at the lumberyard, who retires to the rear of the cook shack at noon each day to sound the call for “dinner,” which is what we call lunch.
Into the room, the men would file for nourishment. A unique feature of the lumber camps was absolute silence during eating. They maintained that it prevented arguments, which could lead to “brawls, broken dishes, and broken heads,” none of which that cook up top would want to fix. For those with misophonia, who lose their minds when forced to listen to others eating, this would have proven a challenge. But mental conditions were not coddled in their day, so group masticating it was.
The author of the article asserts that strong and faithful horses were better able to do certain lumber camp work better than “any motors,” but I imagine that didn’t last long.
While it was not uncommon to see huge rafts of pulpwood float downstream for consumption of paper mills, much wood was loaded onto ships and processed throughout Michigan.
This particular vessel below has just discharged a cargo of one million board feet of rough lumber from a Canadian port, which Saginaw’s mill will finish for ready-cut houses. Per michiganhistory.leadr.msu.edu, Saginaw hit its peak in the Lumber Era during 1882, with 1,001,274,905 board feet of timber cut in mills along the Saginaw River.