Friday, May 29, 2020

Catching Up with the Lane

Dateline: Cattaraugus County, western New York state

  A few days ago it was still early spring. I walked up to explore the lane, unseen since last autumn. Here, still on our land, was an apple tree I had barely noticed before (there are so many, mostly planted by birds, mostly not over-generous with fruit), shouting, "Look at me!" Well who knows, we might actually get a harvest. On the other hand it might be fooling me and not be an apple tree at all.


A little further up and - wow! Rudolf's had a facelift! A brand new head! And nose.


Which is definitely an  improvement from last year.


These wildflowers - garlic mustard I think - were everywhere . They look a tiny bit like British nettles but they're not. They are however originally from Europe and an invasive species. But try stopping them. Actually America is full of invasive species, brought in by European settlers. Who I suppose were an invasive species par excellence.


The streams were full and babbling.


And the lake at the top of the hill seemed more photo-friendly than usual. Perhaps they thinned out the trees? Or a storm did.


All seemed very quiet. Nobody going to work or school of course, except the farmers and builders.



It's all very different from palm trees and bougainvillea. I had forgotten the scent of wet leaves, of woodsmoke, the kissing sounds of scurrying chipmunks and the muted colours. But ready-steady-go for the fastest few weeks of growth season outside a speeded-up nature film. Western New York needs to catch up and fast. Just watch this space.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

It's Early Spring!

Dateline: Cattaraugus County, Western New York State

  So last weekend it was goodbye to Florida and a whole month later than usual, we set off for the (semi) frozen north.  No relaxed and prolonged road trip this time but a two day marathon, just getting from A to B as fast and with as few stops as possible in a rented minivan piled high with sandwiches and bottles of bleach. We had one night in a hotel, "Don't touch the lift buttons whatever you do!" "Well how are we supposed to get to our room then?" and other snippets of topical conversation. Although our drive turned out to be remarkably trouble free with sunshine most of the way . We did have some laughs - the sign that said "Welcome to North Carolina" and another straight after it, "Stay Home!" And the dad at the rest area struggling to put a mask on a reluctant two-year-old. What times we live in!
 And here in Cattaraugus County it's early spring revisited.


Yes the daffs are still going strong. (They tell me it was snowing here last week). And the apple tree that got split in half is still refusing to give up.


Can we bottle that scent? Hubby asked.


 But, I ask, why does the creeping phlox refuse to grow in the flower beds and instead goes awol in the grass?


We had a bit of a shock when we got to the entrance to our drive.


The hole, evidently washed out by snow and rain, wasn't as wide as it was when it happened before, a few years ago, but enough for the tow truck come to fix hubby's car battery to get stuck. Luckily someone was on hand with a tractor. Or they would have needed another tow truck. Which would also have got stuck. Etc.
  Meanwhile we have some new squatters. Robins, judging by the turquoise eggs. These, of course, are giant, imperious American robins that flock together, unlike the sweet little British ones. Funny that both have red breasts and blue eggs though.


 Right on top of the motion detector lights over the garage doors. I fear that, now we're back, the door opening and shutting might be too much for their nerves. They thought they'd moved into a quiet neighbourhood. I know how they feel, with all those lawnmowers. But they went to  a lot of trouble with the nest, a veritable Mcmansion. The top part is stylish smooth mud, like pottery. Even the birds have been watching all those home renovation TV programmes. We wondered why the lights kept going on and off.

Friday, May 15, 2020

King of the Flowering Trees

Due to current circumstances we've stayed a lot longer in Florida this year and it's had its compensations. Previously my neighbours would tell me about a wonderful tree at the end of the road that flowers in spectacular fashion in the summer. They would give me the sort of knowing look reserved to year-rounders and say, "Ah but you'll never see it bloom. Too bad."
  Well this year we have. Here it is, not quite at its best yet but getting there, the King of Florida trees, the Royal Poinciana.


This was one of the earliest blooms and spotting it got me all excited.


I feel quite smug. To reflect the words of the Queen Mum, I can now look my year-round neighbours  in the face. I may not get to experience all the feelings of summer superiority that come from empty roads and beaches and uncrowded restaurants. Well in normal times at least. (Also the little matter of hurricanes and steamy humidity.)  But I have seen the Royal Poinciana.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

When there were Car Shows

Just a little nostalgia for a time just a couple of months ago when you could go out to something interesting and not worry about how many people you might meet.


The car show was at a local dealer's. I just love all that detail on those American cars.


What confidence they had then! And what happened to those pastel colours?


A new kind of confidence. Someone wasn't bashful about showing their politics.


When bad taste

Was good taste


And people had a sense of humour


Well they still do

Social distancing? What's that?


More exhilarating fins


I think he's left over from last year


A cool car for a sailor


Oh I get it


It's one of those amphibious ones - an amphicar.


Sometimes I wish I was four years old again.


And how's that for a sofa?


And to think we took events like that for granted.  Well maybe next year?

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Bird Brains Rule

The local avian population seems utterly undaunted by viruses and lockdowns. These ibises were finding something interesting in the back garden - insects or grubs maybe.


I wonder where their friends were. Perhaps these two had gone awol and weren't telling anybody. "Don't let on we've found the only place without the posh lawn." They haven't been the only visitors. There have been plenty of customers at the bird bath. They all have different tactics. The doves just perch on the side and take an occasional dainty sip. The other day I watched a blue jay fly down from the orchid tree and dive straight in, spend some time splashing the water all over the place, fly back to the tree and repeat the process at least six times while screeching at the top of his voice, "Look at me!" . (It reminded me of the bluejays up north before we got the jay proof bird feeder. They would shovel all the seed off the feeder and onto the ground with their beaks for their accomplices to gobble up.)  And once there was a small black bird who just sat in the bird bath, wings whirring like clockwork. The mocking birds, being mocking birds, do a little of everything.
  There's a hawk's nest round one corner (take my word for it).


and a screech owl's round another. A red shouldered hawk likes to fly low and mean across the back garden, keeping a beady eye on the bird bath
  But funniest of all are the woodpeckers. The streets resound with their rat-at-tatting which never seems to be on wood but on metal. Or some stuff they put on new houses. Since the new house was built down the road, woodpecker holes have appeared all over the front. They've tried patching them up, bird scarers on the roof, a different kind of trim. Nothing has worked. We see the woodpecker brazenly working away in broad daylight. (Possibly a downy woodpecker like this one.)


Yesterday we strolled past the house and they had workmen in, patching again. This morning there were two new holes.
  Another friend, wanting to deter woodpeckers from building a nest above her balcony, with the potential aerial hazards that entailed, braved the hardware store to buy two large fake owls and spent all day rigging them up. The woodpeckers just laughed.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Told You So!

Well it didn't take long. As I (sort of) predicted below, the restrictions on our re-opened beaches have been lifted. 


You may now park, bring a picnic and even, mirabile dictu,  a towel with you. It will be interesting to see what happens. I hope we don't have to copy California and close the beaches again because there are just too many people going there. It's a bit hard when the weather's glorious and there's not much else to do. I note that the dog beach will still be closed which may lead to more dog-related aggro as has happened in the past. I will have to control my inner vigilante. The dog owners are probably desperate, having promised Fido his very own beach when they moved down here.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Our New Normal

Today something momentous happened. Our Florida county decided to open its beaches again. This is not, however, without its complications. They have opened the beaches only for worthy activities like walking, running and - what was the other one? Oh yes, swimming. And surfing. Though this is hardly California. So you can go on the beach provided you a) Don't come by car (the car parks are still closed but I suspect the neighbouring streets are going to get a mite clogged up), b) Don't sit or lie down or, presumably, stand still  and c) Don't even think of bringing a beach chair, a picnic or, heaven forbid, a towel. I wish them luck with policing that. 


Meanwhile the local citizenry here on the island, understandably because of its average age, is being largely very responsible about social distancing. When we walk we give each other wide berths and try to disguise cautious suspicion behind big smiles and "Hello how ya doing?"  At the supermarket they've set up a one-way system around the aisles and told everyone to stay six feet apart. The staff carry on as if nothing's the matter, cheerful and welcoming behind plastic shields at the checkout. They remind me just a little of flight attendants trying to pretend there's no cause for alarm.  It's still a bit of a stressful experience. The other day I strapped on my mask (a really pretty designer one with flowers sewn by my clever neighbour) and sallied forth. First I went the wrong way down a one way street and had to go into surreptitious reverse. Then traffic came to a halt as one customer of  a  certain age pondered which brand of salad dressing to get, while another stared at the empty loo roll shelves as if trying to cook up a miracle. In the end I made the decision to overtake and inadvertently stepped backwards into the woman behind me who was tailgating, "Ewwww. don't do that!" she squealed. Well you needn't have got that close I thought uncharitably. Then in the next aisle I gave plenty of room to a maskless man. He glared at me, "It's not leprosy you know!" You can't win.
  "Actually", hubby said when I got home, "It's worse than leprosy. These days you can cure leprosy."
"He didn't look as if he'd be receptive to a biology lesson", I said and wearily carried on disinfecting the orange juice cartons. Such is the new normal.