Sunday, May 21, 2017

Seeing red #phenology

No, not as in getting annoyed or angry, like a bull at a matador's cape, but as in confirming a report of a scarlet tanager in the neighborhood. The Daughter Person, a day or two ago, mentioned she had seen a tanager at the feeders. Now I know it's hard to mistake a male scarlet tanager for almost anything else, but I hadn't seen one myself so I put the report in the "unconfirmed but hopeful" file.

male scarlet tanager
male scarlet tanager
Photo by J. Harrington

This morning I cleaned and refilled the hummingbird / oriole feeders, two nectar, one grape jelly, with fresh contents. Less than an hour later there was a bright, bright, red bird, brighter than a male cardinal, at the grape feeder. His arrival cheered me considerably on this otherwise dreary, damp morning. Now, if only some orioles would show up with greater regularity. I've tried feeding dried meal worms in past years and it didn't seem to help much. There's still the option of half oranges if need be.

female Baltimore oriole
female Baltimore oriole
Photo by J. Harrington

I've been reading recently about native plantings to help attract birds and butterflies. My experience has been that whitetail deer and pocket gophers nibble branches and roots, making it really hard for the plants to produce blossoms and eventually fruit. It doesn't seem to work well to let nature just play its hand but I don't like to use pesticides, herbicides, fungicides etc. unless there's no option. There are also some very knowledgable folks out there blogging about ecological gardening and permaculture. Probably time for me to apply the philosophy embodied in the epigram "The best time to plant a tree was thirty years ago. The second best time is today." As I get older, I think more and more about what kind of ancestor I want to be. As long as we're in this mode, have you ever read the story about The Man Who Planted Trees? You might enjoy it in one form or another.

Finally, at the risk of being guilty of bait and switch tactics, Minnesotans should be seeing red in the old-fashioned way, as in getting angry. Take a look at Dennis Anderson's column from yesterday. I agree with him but don't think he goes far enough. We need to find better ways to decide how to manage growth in a sustainable fashion. Once upon a time, Minnesota had a state planning agency. That agency, and others, tried to fashion a vision and a consensus about how a future Minnesota should look and work. We can't afford the continuing battles between mining and pipeline proponents and environmentalists and recreation-based job providers; those between some farmers and water users and protectors. Think about how close we are to a legislative session ending without an approved or approvable state budget. That's an outrageous waste of our tax dollars. When I moved to Minnesota decades ago, Minnesota had a reputation as being the "state that works." We can't count on that any more. We need better processes, less competition, more cooperation and communication to get away from seesaw "winner take all" politics that flips every two or four years. How do we "git 'er done?"

Inventory for Spring


By Wendy Xu


Feeling rich for one moment for using money as a bookmark
Feeling deceitful for making public some opinions while neglecting others
Feeling disordered at the sight of three statues conspiring in a row
Feeling insufficient for having a lukewarm reaction to news
Feeling important for having been offered a seat at the table
Feeling apologetic for nonetheless tuning out an argument
Feeling blue for identifying some people who don’t respect you
Feeling like a knife slipping into a pool of water for bearing 
disagreement
Feeling redundant for moving in a similar direction as others
Feeling angry for imagining the opening of the passage yet 
unopened for you
Feeling antisocial for declining further missives from home


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