Friday, October 21, 2016

waiting for the wind

waiting for the wind
silk parachutes packed in a pod 
bearing brown seeds

On a walk around Bonnefield Lake, I come across a little patch of milkweed, two different varieties. One has long, slender dark brown pods shaped like green beans or small catalpa pods. Some of the pods have split in half, revealing tiny golden seeds attached to the silky floss. Empty, the pod pairs curve around each other like a dancing couple.

The other variety looks more like common milkweed, only the pods are much smaller. The large, flat brown seeds are still packed inside like fish scales attached to a white silk cone.

As I walk under a grove of tall white pines, copper needles rain down on my head and my shoes slip on the mat of slick fallen needles.

Here and there, little groups of mushrooms that look like biscuits are pushing up through the pine needles. The underside of these mushrooms looks like a mustard-colored sponge. Edible? Well, squirrels have been biting off hunks, but then squirrels will eat half of a highly toxic buckeye, so I leave the mushrooms to the squirrels.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

black silk hanging down

black silk hanging down
an ear of dry field corn
ready for harvest

Harvest time in the monolithic fields of corn and soybeans in Iowa. The dry ears of field corn hang down, their silk tassels turned black, stalks red, husks bleached and brittle, leaves glowing like beaten gold in the late afternoon sun. There is a beauty here, though at the expense of the soil and water. So much better to grow organic, but farmers get locked into a way of doing things and it's hard to change.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

canoe glides softly

canoe glides softly,
rippling the mare's tails reflected
in the placid lake

Good thing we took the canoe to our local lake instead of driving 4 hours to the Upper Iowa River or even 15 minutes to Cedar Creek. As soon as we stepped into the canoe, the long patch on the side started spurting water. The only way to get in some paddling was to take turns soloing, leaning to the left to keep the gray gorilla tape above water. John looks like he's paddling through mare's tails reflected in the water. Kevlar canoe needs some serious fiberglass repair!

The little gazebo by the lake sits amid a patch of buffalo grass turned orange in autumn.

Above, cirrus clouds morph into fantastic shapes -- fans, feathers, mare's tails. I love these clouds.

Monday, October 10, 2016

standing in the orange chute

standing in the orange chute
waiting for the gate to open --
champion breakaway roper

On our way back from the Fall Festivals in Keosauqua and Bentonsport, we stop at Big Bend Livestock Arena, where a rodeo roping practice is going on.

A woman on a pinto is waiting for a bunch of steers to be unloaded into a chute, waiting to be released.

As she waits for the next calf to be released, she answers questions about rodeo competition. She's training her horse for breakaway roping, a competition with one calf and one rider, where the rider chases down and rope the calf around the neck as quickly as possible. The calf has a head start and is not tied down in the end, hence it “breaks away.” Breakaway roping, and roping of any sort, is hard to do and even harder to master. This woman is a champion breakaway roper.

I also learn the terms for team roping: header and heeler. The man watching beside his horse is a champion heeler. During heading and heeling competition, one partner ropes the steer's head and turns it to the left, then the heeler ropes the hind legs. Thus trapped, the steer goes down.

One man wields what looks like a giant pink fly swatter to urge the calves through the chute.

Each calf wears a horn wrap, a cloth headgear around its neck with the horns protruding, normally worn during competition to prevent rope burn and the risk of horns breaking.

However, as each calf reaches the head of the chute, the rustler removes its horn wrap. Didn't know enough to ask why.

A young boy practices roping a wooden "steer" with horns and four legs.

Fence shadows mark the passage of the sun as we head home.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

old leather suitcase

old leather suitcase --
Dr. Seuss, Bugs Bunny, Star Wars -- 
sticker nostalgia

Our next stop is Bentonsport, another 1800s steamboat stop on the Des Moines River, where old iron bridge crosses the river. The Fall Festival here is much smaller and cozier than the one in Keosauqua. It has the feel of a much-traveled leather suitcase.

Benton's Port was founded in 1835 as a steamboat port. It was dec many of the original buildings are still standing. In the few blocks that make up the village each house has a sign out front with its name and date of construction. The population has declined from 1,000 in the 1800s to 40 at present. The short main street is lined on one side with antique and crafts shops, the Mason House Inn and Greef General Store.

Only a few food stands here, one for fresh made lemonade, another for kettle corn.

Fewer trade booths, but they are mostly artists selling their paintings, photographs, handmade ceramics, quilts, braided rugs and old flour sacks. One woman is weaving on a floor loom.

A few tables are spread with antique tools, records and old CDs.

Instead of carnival rides, the main attraction for kids is a four-person cycle.

And then there's the ever-present teenager wearing torn jeans.

bust a balloon and win

bust a balloon and win --
but so many choices --
how's a girl to decide?

Perfect weather for the Fall Festival in Keosauqua, Iowa, clear and sunny, the Des Moines River running fast and high along the park. Carnival rides and games for the kids. Booths selling homemade food, crafts and antiques. So many choices!


Every street and alley jammed with cars, trucks and motorcycles.

Hotel Manning is still run as a B&B, with antiques in every room and lace curtains at the windows. Built in 1899, its Steamboat Gothic architecture mimics 1880s river boats. When the boys were young, we used to come down here for a wonderful Mother's Day brunch.


Saturday, October 1, 2016

surviving the fall

surviving the fall,
armored capsule splits open --
inside, eye of the buck

Almost all the buckeye pods have fallen now, some containing three seeds. Both the smooth interior and the rough exterior of the pods are beautiful. Most pods split when they fall and the shiny mahogany seed pops out, quickly eaten by squirrels with their tough teeth. Other pods survive the fall, slowly opening like an eyelid, revealing the eye of the buck.

One day I saw a real buck not far from this tree. Wonder what it thinks, seeing a buck's eye looking up at it from the ground.

This is the view from the other side, showing that each husk has three divisions.

The seed nestles inside a thick shell, soft on the inside, like foam insulation.

This partial husk contained two seeds. A darker circle near the dividing wall is where the eye of the seed was attached.

The tough exterior of the shell functions like studded armor. It starts out ochre, slowly turns burnt umber, then dries to cinnamon.

I collected as many shells as I could find. Only a few still held glossy buckeyes. But with the shells they make a lovely display of autumnal shades of  brown.