Here in Cody…
…the crab apple trees are in bloom,
as are the Serviceberry bushes and more.
…leaves on all the trees are popping out like mad.
…the air is full of the scent of newly opening lilac bushes,
and full of the songs of birds pairing up,
and the morning songs of those already feeding babies
(half of a shell of a robin’s egg was found today).
…the irrigation ditch is full and the battle is on between tree owners
and those that might like to use them for a home, or a dam.
…tree swallows are debating about a nest box,
swooping around and tentatively landing to see if it is available.
…people are outside in their yards, sprucing them up,
waving to neighbors, enjoying the warmth.
…a killdeer fakes a broken wing as I drive by,
making me wonder if the nest location is the best one to have found.
…the days are growing longer and warmer, yet the nights are still cool.
T is for Taylor
And T is for Thank You for your patience. I’ll get those new products up in the store just as soon as I can. I’ve been a bit distracted by a sick dog of late who is going to be fine. Our 12 year old girl, Taylor, is going to be with us awhile longer. I put together a page about it today in relatively little time. I’m getting faster at this hybrid stuff (paper + computer). No matter how it’s done, it still comes down to documentation and story.
New Product Coming Soon
Another lovely day of snow found me working on a kit I’ve had in mind for awhile – a Date Stamp Companion kit with 4×6 and 6×8.5 Templates/Clipping Masks and Frames as well as Word Art. All to match the Digital Date Stamps.Coming soon to the shop!
The Best Way to Keep Field Notes
Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it. ~Julia Child
This past year I’ve spent time reading much on Julia Child – just wanted to learn more about her and how she accomplished all that she did. I came across the above quote in one of the books and scribbled it down because that’s the secret about following your passion.
The other secret, though, is contained in the books that share her methods on how she became such a great cook. She took notes. Field notes, if you will. Repeating a recipe umpteen times with notes on what worked and what didn’t – her observations – and (I imagine) thoughts on what to try next.
Simply jotting down observations deepens your interest in literally any subject you find you’re passionate about.
But where to start?
My ability to record life in words really started back in the 8th grade (some of you already know this story). In 7th grade, I was friends with Diane – another tall girl who towered over everyone else in the school. There were three of us who actually could see each other literally standing out in the crowd walking through the halls between classes. The other tall girl, though, was a grade or two ahead of us. Just sticking up like we did made us into a unique, unspoken group.
But the summer after 7th grade, Diane’s father was transferred to Japan for his work. We wrote each other letters. And somewhere along the way, we started a friendly competition to make the next letter longer than the last, until we reached 300-400 pages of regular notebook paper. Many of the teachers asked to see what I was always scribbling about. I reluctantly showed them, and they wisely all pretty much ignored it – though a couple of them told me I had to at least keep my grades up to keep writing during class. Fair enough. They knew the value of simply writing.
What those reams of pages filled with the nonsense of Junior High did, though, was form the habit of documenting life. And that’s the best way to keep field notes; make it a habit.
The notes I keep now
I have tons of interests – many of which have stemmed from just paying attention and the result of being a life-long learner. I keep lots of notes on lots of things, but the main focus for me now is kept on my other blog, Geyser Watch. I keep tremendously interested in my passion for the Geysers of Yellowstone through the notes I keep. That blog still has much growth to come to it, but on the opening day of the winter season, I decided to keep a notebook of the Geyser Times as well as the weather and other observations that weren’t certain enough to post to Geyser Times that I noticed. I wanted to better know if a particular geyser wasn’t logged because it didn’t erupt or because the weather was so bad, it couldn’t be seen. And I wanted to easily see the notes added in by others.
I wanted to put these observations online back then, but I knew myself well enough to know that I needed to form the habit first – to make sure I could add it into my morning routine. That time also gave me better insight as to what needed including and what could drop by the wayside. That habit shifted from the notebook to online and now gets updated daily on the Daily Geyser Notes page.
So how do you start keeping field notes?
- Find something you’re passionate about.
- Find a place for your thoughts and observations to land. (notebook, computer, ipad, whatever works)
- Make it a habit. Daily at first, until it’s fully integrated into your routines. (routines are just habits linked together)
It feels a bit silly at first, until that collection starts to build page by page, observation by observation. Make it a habit and you’ll not only develop good field notes but you’ll keep your passion for the subject strong. Once you do this for any area of interest, it easily translates to other interests.
Phenology update and more
I’ve been a bit quiet here lately mainly because so much is happening behind the scenes. We currently stand in the face of some huge choices that will bring about equally huge changes. Yet I’m not yet free to share all of it, so I’ve just been quiet.
As it seems this chapter of our life is closing and another one ready to start, I’ve found myself working more at working to record the daily life we lead right here – right now.
This push has also shown me very clearly the priorities for documenting life. For me, the words come first. The stories. They always have – which is why when I departed from that, it felt wrong and uninspiring. Next comes the photos. Third is simple, repetitive designs and finally I look at product.
I am falling back on the idea of Project Life. Going week by week. But not with 16 pockets in a 12×12 page protector to fill.
No – I adore the smaller size. But to keep true to my style, I use my iPad/Zagg Folio combination to keep a running journal in a writing app – sorted out by weeks. We’re in Week #17 – here’s an example of the writing and the photos for it from early this morning. More to come on this later.
23 APRIL 2013 – TUESDAY
5:30 AM | We slept in a bit longer – Mike’s going to start work from home this morning since he brought home his laptop. Let the roads clear of snow and those afraid of driving on snow. I slept fairly hard and feel somewhat back in the land of the living this morning after a day lost to Fibromyalgia. Outside we have 3″ on the ground that fell overnight and I have to look at the dark part of the old stump outside the window to my left to see that small snowflakes are falling. The house is chilly at 58 degrees. Mike says that Rhad actually crawled under his leg last night to stay warm. Right now, Rhad is next to me all curled up in the down comforter we use as a winter nap blanket on the couch.
I’m so very grateful for spring snow. We’re only getting a few inches at a time, but it melts in between, sinking into the ground. All of them have finally gotten us off the track of 2002 – the minimum year for moisture, and we’re climbing slowly toward the average line. My hope is to see these winter snows just shift to rain as the temperatures rise. Easing into a wet spring is ever so much nicer than white-knuckling it through a dry, fair weather one.
I found the first Pasque flower yesterday on the property. Though it looks as though it’s been there for a few days now and is starting to fade. The pollen has even dropped onto the petals. It wasn’t in the usual spot for the first one – but rather half covered by a tangle of last summer’s grass. I grabbed the camera to, of course, document it.
Then I walked over to the road that marks the north side of the property, for on the north side of that road, a bank of bare, decomposed granite is the home for the first candy tuft. Such a wonderful sign of spring – it seems like nothing could grow here, but suddenly, all these little white dots defy that belief.They make me think of tiny bouquets that has been tossed about.
More and more aspen trees are testing the weather by sending out just the first tip of their catkins. All of them are in a holding pattern right now until warmer weather arrives again.
The tree company working for our electric company has reached our property and removed many trees under the power lines. It is the right thing to do, but the gaps always will take a bit to get used to. One of the areas they cleared will likely become a highway for animal movement. I’ve not bothered with the trail cam in awhile – as with all the roaming dogs around here, we see less now. But walking the property yesterday with one of the workers, I notice another tree we might try.
Phenology Update 14 April 2013
We have a new bird that showed up last week at the feeders. The bright yellow bill caught my attention as did the stripes on the head. Turns out to be a White-crowned Sparrow. We usually don’t see many sparrows here, so this one has been rather unusual.
Reading up on them, they normally hang out by willows – none of which we have on the property, but just over the ridge in almost any direction is a creek full of them. Perhaps the spring snows has brought him to the feeders. Another source said they often crowd out Juncos from their nesting spots – and we have lots of juncos and places for them to nest.
The other day while cleaning up the bird feeder leavings from the ground below the deck, I came back from hauling yet another bushel full to the dumpster to find nearly 30 Juncos milling about in the freshly exposed dirt. We have lots of Juncos – many will stay and nest here under the juniper bushes or brush piles we have yet to dispose of. I’ve been watching them pair up and chase each other. And picking up trash that blew in from the renters next door in our valley, I had the chance to sit quietly and watch a pair check out the appropriateness of a juniper bush down there. A piece of trash was in there, so I quietly moved in, removed the piece and stepped back. They hardly even moved.
And, for the past few months, Mike and I (and the dogs) would hear an odd screeching noise. Just once. In various places in the house. Not a critter in the house, because there wasn’t any pitter patter of tiny feet on the other side of a wall or ceiling. It came at all times of the day and night. We debated what it might be – a bat? We listened to all sorts of bat sounds on the internet and that wasn’t it.
Then I checked the owl sounds. That was it. Which one, we’re not sure, but it was an alarm call. Only once – so just enough time for you to get ready to really pay attention again. Of course, now that we’ve identified the odd sound, we’ve not heard it again. It’s not surprising to hear an owl who’s found a good food source. The rabbits, birds and now chipmunks that are out and about would be just right for an owl. I’ve checked around the property for pellets, and found none…yet.
The Woodpeckers are drumming away each morning and pairs have been seen going from one tree to the other, checking it out, doing some test drills. And on that walk to pick up trash, I noticed a tree that’s not doing well. Turns out to be absolutely filled with neat, tidy rows of holes – sapsucker holes. I imagine we’ll lose that one this year, but will continue to watch for the sapsuckers on it.
Also saw the first robins back – splashing in a puddle in the driveway left by one of the spring snows. There were three of them. Hard to get photos of them as this batch isn’t habituated to humans. They’re skittish and spook even when standing far back from the front door where I took this photo with a zoom lens (photo’s also cropped). As soon as I lowered the lens, they bolted. sigh.
I love spring snows simply because they’re sort of magical – like this morning – you wake to a world covered in an inch of white and by afternoon, it’s soaked into the soil. Each inch like this leaves behind it a touch more green. It reminds me of some sort of mixed media effect that only shows after the initial application has disappeared.
We saw a bull elk not far from the house the other day, already starting to show the nubs of this year’s antlers. Mike is stopped some mornings to let the herd of 300-400 cross the road in front of him. It actually happened twice last week. They were on one of the old ranches in the area as we headed to dinner one night – many of them are starting to look a bit scruffy as they begin to shed their winter coats. The deer around here are doing the same.
I need to get out and check on the first plants around here again – after living here for nearly 20 years, I’ve found where the first flowers are usually found, which aspen trees send out their catkins first, etc. I really need to add in a map of the area with the locations on it to add to the phenology notebook.
Get outside to see what’s happening in your neck of the woods.
The Myth of Spring
“Man, I wish spring would show up!”
I overheard this lament again in a store the other day. But it is spring. The birds are all singing their courtship/territorial songs. Chipmunks are out as soon as it warms even briefly during the day chasing each other around to start the business of building families. The deer have started to shed their winter coats and look a little rough around the edges for it. The aspen are starting to send out their catkins – haven’t you been sneezing, too? Spring is all around us!
“There shouldn’t be snow this time of year!”
But the snow that falls now soaks gently and more deeply into the soil. It has a different quality about it, haven’t you noticed? And there won’t be many more days left to watch the snow fall in huge flakes while the wood stove puts out glorious heat; I do some of my best work in that situation.
So where does this myth of spring come from?
I think spring is suffering from Single Story Syndrome. That it only comes in one stereotypical form that’s promoted by the merchants who already have lawn chairs and shorts out in the aisles. I even saw bedding plants out – when our ‘safe date’ (safe from frost) here is June 7. Makes zero sense and most folks have enough sense to not buy them.
What do I mean by Single Story Syndrome? It comes rom this amazing Ted Talks that is much deeper than the seasons, but it still applies. Go ahead and watch…I’ll wait:
When we don’t pay attention to the details of the season – when we allow others to tell us the stories of nature, we risk the manipulation (and turning it all into a political statement at times) of the true story. The real stories are far more complex and interesting.
Spring and winter will continue their tug of war – especially here and in other parts of the country that are still expecting snow. Don’t fall into the trap of the myth of spring because you’ll miss it. It’s a fun back and forth that gives us the joys of both seasons for a short time. Keeping a phenology notebook protects you from the myth of any season and opens the door to thoroughly enjoying the reality that always awaits you outside.
Working today on my phenology notebook (among many other projects). Lots of work to transfer the digital record over to the analog notebook, and I’m liking how it’s coming together. Not long ago I found the old notebook I kept when we had been in this house for only a couple of years. That was back before I stopped recording things for awhile. I entered in all the older data to the list here on the site. Now I’m hand writing it in this notebook, and found a system for adding in photos.
Using Becky Higgins’ 4×12 pocket pages, I snipped off the top pocket carefully through the middle of the seal line. Then I folded a piece of scratch paper over, slipped the plastic pocketed page in the 3 hole punch and created the standard sized holes for this. If you don’t help the punch along with the double layers of paper, it can’t get a good bite on the plastic and you just end up messing it up. But with the paper support, it cuts the holes extremely well.
And with that third one I cut off? It works on it’s own in these smaller binders.
Rosy Finches Return
On Sunday, the 24th, the Gray-crowned Rosy Finches returned in the same numbers as before – around 100-125. The flock had split up, but then group after group descended on us for over an hour, much to the disgust of the other regulars who hung in the trees nearby, watching the crowd.
Part of the flock lifted and headed in the direction of another known feeder in the area. Those that stayed shared pretty well with the Evening grosbeaks, chickadees & nuthatches, as well as with the Downy woodpeckers. This continued for the bulk of the time before the rest came back in.
In checking up on these guys, it seems they’ll be heading north soon to nest in Canada and Alaska, so maybe they’re hitting all the feeders to load up for the journey. I’ve seen one today at the feeder, along with many (well 7 or 8) Red Crossbills, (who still have not shown up with fledgelings yet, but I suspect they are not far) and the other usual suspects at the feeder. But seeing one Rosy Finch means the rest are near here somewhere. Hope to see them crowding around again – you might, too, if you keep half an eye on our webcam.