Eat Local

Front Yard Cooper's Hawk

Front Yard Cooper’s Hawk

This morning, both Anne and I were leaving for work at about the same time. Before we each jumped into our respective cars and headed out, we stopped to converse for a bit, all the while standing out front on the sidewalk. While we were speaking, we both noticed a steady stream of some sort of stuff that was gently floating down from above. It was falling from our front yard maple tree. At first, I thought that they were leaves or bits of leaves that maybe some squirrel was ejecting from its burrow. It is fall now, but the particles seemed too small to be whole maple leaves and they floated way too slowly to be falling leaves. Then I wondered if the falling particles might be sawdust, like the stream of falling sawdust that is created by a carpenter bee as it chews its way through wood, but what ever it was that was falling, it was too large to be sawdust. We moved closer to investigate this phenomenon and try to figure out what was really coming down.

What we found was a pile of tan and grey feathers scattered across the pavement. Looking up, we saw that more feathers continued to rain down upon us. Then we spied their source, a raptor eating breakfast on a branch. We both tried taking iPhone pictures of this bird, but I knew that that wouldn’t work out too well. So, I went back into the house to get a real camera and took the above photograph. It turns out that the raptor was a Cooper’s hawk. We see them routinely in the neighborhood. They mainly eat birds and must really appreciate all the avid backyard birders in the neighborhood, what with the large number of birdfeeders around. The prey was a Mourning Dove that was likely plucked off the peak of our next door neighbor’s roof. They like to congregate there in the morning and I can regularly hear them cooing.

Bikes, Birds and Brunch

We launched earlier than yesterday’s crack of noon, for today’s bicycle ride. We wanted to beat the heat. We rode though Forest Park, which was more crowded today than it was yesterday. The Tour de Cure was running down Lindell Boulevard and there was another cancer related charity event, a walk that was circling the Muny Mile. With some slogging, we made it through the park and on towards Tower Grove Park. Halfway around Tower Grove, we elected to head over to Local Harvest for brunch. Rather unusually, it was not crowded. I found out later that the restaurant has reduced its hours to just the weekend. This might explain why it wasn’t overflowing, as is normally the case, other people might have thought it had closed altogether. After brunch, we circled the other half of Tower Grove Park. We saw the Green Heron in one of the lily ponds in front of the Piper Palm House. He looked to be a yearling, he was smaller than normal. Returning to Forest Park, we saw the egret next. He was fishing in the lazy section of river that flows through Steinberg Prairie. I was having trouble getting a good picture of him, because he kept disappearing behind an island, but then the Blue Heron swept in and flushed the egret back out into the open for us. The Red Eared Sliders seemed oblivious to the whole thing.

No Anchovies

Northern Anchovies at the Monterey Aquarium

Northern Anchovies at the Monterey Aquarium

I like pizza. If anyone ever suggests ordering pizza, I’m instantly onboard with it. Immediately after someone suggests ordering a pizza, then the next logical question is what do you want on it? I’m pretty easy-going about this question, I’m fine with almost anything, anything but anchovies that is. Tomorrow is Turkey Day. Cooks all around America are slaving in the kitchen, preparing for tomorrow. So, what to you do for dinner tonight? You certainly don’t want to overburden the already stressed chefs. Typically there are only two possible answers. Either everyone goes out to eat or you order in. If kids are around then the only real choice is to order pizza. Just be sure that you don’t order any anchovies on it.

We’re going out tonight. Dave is motoring down from Purdue as I write. When he gets here, we’ll head on over to South Grand and have dinner at Lemon Grass, our traditional pre-turkey meal. Unfortunately, the originator of this tradition, Dapper Dan, won’t be joining us this year. He’s staying in LA. Even so, we’ll all carry on. Anne had the day off and spent it in the kitchen. In addition to all of the other things that she did today, she baked a ginger snap crust that will be filled with pumpkin. She had enough leftover dough to make ginger snap cookies, including two large hand turkeys. A hand turkey is made by tracing around your hand. I didn’t know this until last year, when my boss marshaled all of us to make paper hand turkey cards for his boss. I decorated the ginger snap ones. And I helped. We wrapped them up and presented to the neighbor kids, along with a few of the more plebian cookies for their parents. They seemed to like them, at least while we were speaking with their mom; they were munching on their parents cookies. Gracie remarked within earshot, “They’re warm.” No mean feat considering how cold it is here. We had to break-off this front porch conversation when Anne began to shiver.

In lieu of hand turkey cards, this year my boss had me present some results to his boss. Things went well. My boss’s boss even liked my jokes. I was rewarded with more work, for which I am thankful. It was a skeletal crew at work today. At one, I saw my boss’s boss’s boss, as he was headed out for the holiday. He wished me a happy Thanksgiving and I tongue-in-cheek expressed my admiration of his leadership. He was leading us out the door. I soon followed his lead and began my Thanksgiving holiday.

Look at Me Girls, Look at Me

Male Yellow-Shafted Northern Flicker

Male Yellow-Shafted Northern Flicker

Saturday afternoon, when I was bicycling in the park, I came upon the above pictured flicker. He was perched atop a street light and was easy to find. (You can tell that he is a male, because of the black malar coming off his beak.) First, he would call out, wicka-wicka-wicka, then he would pound his beak against the aluminum street light housing, rat-a-tat-tat. Then he would pause and I could hear another male flicker, not too far off, repeating his message, wicka-wicka-wicka and then rat-a-tat-tat. After the other bird was done, this little guy would begin the call and response again. It wasn’t until after several rounds of this that I realized that the other male flicker was at the adjacent street lamp, just fifty yards down the road. I never saw nor heard any female flickers, but they had to be there, because why else would these two dudes be strutting their stuff?

A spring or two ago, Anne was in the classroom, but the window was open and it was a beautiful spring day. Just outside, a male cardinal was perched on a tree branch, singing his heart out. It sounded like who-it cheer, who-it cheer, cheer-cheer-cheer; cheer, who-it-who-it-who-it-who-it; wheat-wheat-wheat-wheat. Anne whistled back to the bird and then interpreted for the class, look-at-me-girls, look-at-me-girls, look-at-me-girls, look-look-look. One sad individual asked her, “Where did you learn to speak pigeon?” I say sad, because not only was he unable to distinguish between a cardinal and a pigeon, but he failed in his hometown, which is also the home of the Saint Louis Cardinals.

One last spring story, this one is from the plant kingdom. I got up and out of bed this morning early enough to beat today’s rain and go for another bicycle ride in the park. There were no wildlife encounters on this ride, but I did hear a number of interesting, if unidentifiable bird calls. This spring story comes down to what I saw, while climbing the last hill on the way home. There was a green sheen on the raised tread of my bicycle tire. The green was from the pollen that all of the plants and trees have been busily pumping out. Today’s rain ought to give some momentary relief to all of the allergy suffers in town. Oh by the way, they are also forecasting snow for tonight.

Happy Earth Day!

Forest Park Earth Day Festival

Forest Park Earth Day Festival

Our Saturday was a full day and night. By the end of it, I was sore, tired and sunburned, my bad. To make matters worse, I didn’t sleep well, when I finally did make it to bed, too much caffeine during Saturday night’s trivia contest. So, it shouldn’t have been too surprising that on Sunday morning, we both rolled over and went back to sleep and missing our planned Trailnet group bicycle ride. This old saying comes to mind, “If you want to soar with the eagles you can’t hoot with the owls”. After sheltering in place all morning, we finally launched on our bikes at the butt-crack of noon.

Our destination was the Earth Day Festival in Forest Park. We’ve been attending this festival for years now. Trailnet was there, operating not one, but two valet bicycle parking lots. That was our first stop. We quickly bumped into Susan, our across the street neighbor, and fellow Team Kaldis member. Next we met Kitty, one of Dan’s friend. Anne recognized her from the back, because of her rather distinctive hairdo. She is married now and they are soon visiting LA.

Year’s ago Anne (Citizen of the Year) and I were driving Kitty and Dan to the bus station. They were on their way to either Philly or Alabama; I can’t remember which trip this was. Kitty’s cell phone rang. It was her mother with some last minute detail. Afterwards Kitty told her mom that her python had escaped its cage, but not to worry, just leave the bedroom door closed. A minute later her mom called back with the news that Kitty’s bedroom door was open.

Anne and I had some nachos and then went in search of Pat from Saturday night. She had gotten up early and led the Earth Day parade. Joanie arrived then too. Leaving Anne in good company, I headed for home. I managed to stay up until Anne made it home too, but I was already in bed by the time she stepped out of the shower. I guess the weekend had finally caught up with me.