Letter from Birdland | Home again, home again

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Hello, Birdland! We just arrived home after a two-day drive from upstate New York where we basked in the warmth of a visit with some of our oldest and dearest friends.

We were there for a wedding, and it was a little like being in a time warp. The youngest grandchild was the spitting image of his mother when we first met her as a toddler. The oldest two are now young men. And our friends, the grandparents, were exactly as we saw them last, a decade ago at another wedding.

We stayed for days of celebrations at their log cabin in the mountains and the wedding venue, a farm with a beautiful selection of cabins and yurts and an amazing two-story cordwood roundhouse. It had glass bottles embedded in the walls that shone like jewels in the daylight. We ate and drank and danced and visited and wished our friends joy.

On the way home, our route hugged the Mohawk River (and the Erie Canal crosses and recrosses the Mohawk). We stopped at a combination rest area/museum where we could see a lock and read about the history of the canal. The lock looked like an iron bridge with no road. We could see how the water “stepped” down. We didn’t see it in action, but you can see a video at eriecanalway.org/explore/boating/locking-through.

At home, we found that the ghost lilies have all but disappeared. Their once-fresh pink trumpets have fallen or dried to a faded crepe. But the seed heads are swollen like green marbles. I’m glad we were home a little last week to appreciate them.

Ghost lilies, with their mysterious blooming cycle, are among my favorite flowers. (You may know all about them, but if you’ve been reading my letters for a while, you know I’m obsessed, and have to write about them at least once a year, so bear with me.) They come up in late spring, but only the leaves. They begin as little nubbins poking out of the ground, lined up like the pages of a tiny book, then grow at an alarming rate until the strap-like leaves are about 2 feet tall. They stand for a while, collecting sunshine to store in the crisp bulb below for the later blooming, and then just fall over and fade into the earth.

But the flowers below are biding their time, letting the parade of other blooms come and go. Then in mid-August, they suddenly send up their blossoms with no leaves, just clusters of pink trumpets on a stalk with a haunting aroma. I’ll pick them for the table, and they perfume the whole room. The ones I picked before out trip are now dried, and I’ll replace them with the black-eyed Susans that are blooming abundantly now.

We’ve been traveling so much that I barely remember the projects I have going, but I came home to a pile of raspberry leaves I had drying on the counter. I’ll brew a pot of tea this morning as soon as I finish my coffee (only one cup every morning) and take my walk with Michael. My husband and I survey the yard every morning, checking on the fish in the pond, the bees in the hive and the chickens and turkey in the coop.

Our flock is small, down to three hens and a rooster, all seramas (the teacup chicken, called such because of its tiny stature). Two of the hens managed to hatch one baby each, who follow their mamas around the coop. The third had started a clutch in the upstairs brooder coop. I admit I hoped she would when I put in fresh hay and left the door open. I robbed her nest before we left, so she had only three eggs left. She is now setting those, but I don’t know if she added to her clutch or not.

Now that she’s settled on the nest, I’ll close the coop before the hatch, so the babies can keep safe in there for a few weeks, until they’re feathered out. I can put the chick food there for them, as well as the small water basin, so they don’t have to fight the rest of the flock for food and water. That system works pretty well. With luck, we’ll perhaps double our flock in about three weeks.

Travel in beauty; hatch in peace; blessed be.

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