Monthly Archives: January 2017

A politically active friend emailed to say she knows not to say “basket of deplorables,” but she wondered whether “basket of dopes” might be acceptable. I had not been impressed with Hillary Clinton’s characterization when she used it as a slur against her opponent’s followers. Setting aside the inappropriateness of commenting on people who’s views she disparaged, how does “basket” add to our understanding the characteristics of deplorables? Hillary can be brilliant when explaining policy, but her literary imagination is lacking; maybe that’s part of why she lost the election. And, with due respect to my friend, “basket of dopes” doesn’t have any wit either.

But maybe word play offered a way to assuage anxiety over anticipated consequences of the presidential election. I took An Exultation of Larks off the shelf and sat down with a pad and pencil. In case you don’t have this extraordinary reference, I photographed the cover and two pages: An Unction of Undertakers and A Sclerosis of Fast Food.

Mr. Lipton’s examples are better than mine of course, but here are a few of my collective nouns. Be a shrivel of critics. Feel free to write back with improvements on my collection or to add your own!

A poverty of know nothings

A craven of dupes

A grievance of voters

A copyright of believers

An insult of tweets or perhaps a dawn or a blackmail of tweets

A blind of ethicists

A corruption of advisers or perhaps a flattery of advisors

An injunction of liberals or perhaps a plaint or a submission of liberals

A treachery of governors or perhaps a flippancy or a hazard of governors

A hoax of climate scientists

A callous of insurers

A swamp of legislators  or perhaps a bog or a marsh or an obstruction of legislators

A voucher of schools

An apathy of law or perhaps an impropriety of law

An insouciant of cabinet members

An imbalance of billionaires or perhaps a disinterest or a profit of billionaires

A tightness of corporations or a parsimony or a Scrooge of corporations

A party of conflicts or perhaps a family business of conflicts

An inconvenience of facts or perhaps a finesse of facts

I hope this leads to a cordite of ideas!

Last Saturday was a miserable day of snow, subzero temperatures and gray light so dark you needed illumination all day. Sunday morning when the storm was over we had more than a foot of picture-perfect, spotless dry powder. The snow was so fluffy that my snow shoes couldn’t keep me on the surface, but it was impossible to stay indoors. I plodded around the meadow sinking knee deep with each step despite the snow shoes.

A winter sun, strong as it can be in January, tinged the shadows, lengthened by its low arc, blue. That sun’s photons also promptly cleared both solar arrays of their snowy blankets, and popped the electrons in silicon cells of the PV panels into action. My energy factory was fully operational by noon.

If you have to have winter, it should be like the day after the storm. By mid week, warm rain, falling at night, washed the snow away. I’m old enough to know that winter isn’t over in January. But I’m not too old to wish that a warm day with a strong breeze could hasten spring’s return.

Maybe it did. The ground is workable. Despite temperatures under 40, the sun was out. In an hour and a half, I cleared a 15 foot by 15 foot section of meadow of both Chinese wisteria and honeysuckle (Lonicera I presume japonica, i.e., no good!) roots. I’ve let the Lonicera vine get too firm a foothold in that north western area close to the house and under the Maple. It thrives as well  in the section of the meadow behind the western evergreen hedgerow and out to the road, but this is to be the year of trying to control the more open part of the meadow to prevent its escape into the boarder field.

I like to think I slowed the vine’s spread down. Slowing down a weed by pulling it up by its roots is a cherished concept of mine. I know eradication doesn’t work according to this metaphor, but I’ve held the notion so long I can’t remember when I did not use it as a mantra while weeding. Did I inherit this from my father? He preached trying to get all the root out when pulling weeds. But his battlefield was a lawn and his target mostly dandelions. You can slow down a dandelion by removing most of its tap root. Did I invent it myself? Whatever its origins, eradicating an invasive takes lots more muscle than pulling some of its roots.

Let the record show, however, that I found less than 3 feet of Bittersweet root and only one grub. When I’d finished the ground looked not dissimilar to terrain I’d seen in the Hill Country of Texas where wild boars are a nuisance.

Wildlife is reappearing as the days lengthen. Three robust squirrels with fulsome, twitchy tails have been prowling under the bird feeders. I can’t figure out their familial relationships: one seemed perturbed by another; these two ignored the third. A red squirrel has come out of hiding. Though I have not seen two together, its a good bet we have two red squirrels. I scared one down the driveway — that is in a different part of my yard from where I’d seen a red squirrel before; he darted across the road and through a hole in the neighbor’s stone wall suggesting he might live over there. One red squirrel is plenty.

I tried to snap a photo of the FIVE male Northern cardinals who are in residence. By the time I had my camera out (photo of three attached), two males had flown into the Douglas firs. Five couples increases the carry capacity of past years by one pair.

Three of five male Northern cardinals

Remains of a Blue jayThe Blue jays have not done as well. Carrying capacity has been two pairs. Earlier this year a Sharp-shined hawk had a jay for lunch. The pile of feathers was the tip. I had a rare sighting of the hawk recently. It perched atop the bird feeder with its back to the kitchen window allowing me to decide it was Sharp-shined not Cooper’s by the shortness of its tail. Needless to say, the entire meadow was silent of all bird calls while he visited. Had I not been on the phone, I just might have caught the hawk on camera; he sat for longer than I anticipated.

Looking forward to the breeding season, I emptied inactive nests from the four bird houses. One nest had been built by a Carolina wren, two were made by Tree swallows and one was an incomplete effort by House sparrow. I did not remove a sparrow’s nest from a Prairie rose bush. I also just admired the many insect galls attached to the stronger stems still standing in the meadow.

My book dealing neighbor gave me a book on moss gardening. I don’t need another project, but it’s encouraged me to be more accepting of what moss I already have. On my circuit around the meadow today, I photographed the club mosses in the path in the lower field and the moss that has taken hold where I’m allowing sedges to propagate under the three Amelanchier trees.