Tag Archives: spring

Trying to be Spring Out There

It’s trying to be spring out there, but March has been going back and forth from normal to above normal and the above normal never sticks around long enough to get things sprouting faster. Hell, we had snow the other day and a number of mornings where I’m still scraping some pretty thick frost off the windshield.

Needed a walk out in the woods today. I’m horribly out of shape it seems.

If you look, a slight green is starting to show up. On some short plants, grasses poking out from beneath the leaf cover, skunk cabbage and if you look real hard you find the occasional tiny flowers.

Still not a lot and still no fungus amongus.

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The following gallery has nothing to do with spring, I just liked the way they looked.

By 3PM mostly cloudy skies had settled in. I wandered over to the edge of a wide heavily wooded ravine that has a tiny creek running through it and sat down on a log to finish a cigar.

Not far away I could hear the “wuk” of a pileated woodpecker, but never did spot it.

Directly in front of me a few small birds were going from tree to tree. They would start at the bottom of each tree and hop up the tree looking for bugs to eat.

And that was it. Nothing else was moving, no other sounds were heard. Dead silent.

I imagined having a house here on this high point overlooking the ravine. No neighbors, just quiet and woods and a small little creek.

Human interaction, whether one on one or one on many, is highly over rated. I imagine if I got to live in a place like this I would rarely seek it out.

The plan was to stay out till sunset, but the clouds weren’t cooperating and by 4PM I was back home.

The wife that had no plans for making dinner because she wasn’t feeling well made a nice little dinner and I was glad to be home. While washing the dishes in front of the west facing window I noticed the clouds were trying to break up. Of course the wife knew what this meant and at 6PM I headed out the door and made the one mile trip to the other side of the Fox River to a good sunset spot.

While walking down the shore I noticed four widely spread out fishermen. I could tell they were out catfishing by the long casts they were making to nearly the middle of the river. They each had three rods, big back packs full of fishing junk and chairs.

And no fish to be seen.

The furthest fisherman down the line was out with his girlfriend/wife and they shared a chair they brought along. I noticed he was casting as I approached. He was using a plastic bottle wrapped in line. I already knew he didn’t speak English, but I asked anyway if he had caught any fish. Everyone seems to know the word fish. He nodded and pointed to the carp on the ground. I showed him my camera and asked if I could take a picture. He grinned and nodded.

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Further down I sat on a log and waited out the sunset. The clouds had continued to break up and it was looking like the makings of a dramatic sunset.

But this spot is odd. There is an actual anomaly called the Fox Valley Effect and I won’t bore you with the details. Straight west there is almost like a bowl in the terrain. It does odd things to the weather patterns, but the primary thing it does is break up storms as they approach the Fox Valley.

As I waited out the sunset, as usual there were thick clouds to the north and south of me up and down the river, but directly in front of me the clouds were disappearing quickly. I’ve seen this happen here numerous times.

I waited it out anyway and even though the light show was a bit more subdued than what I had hoped for, it was still worth the wait.

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The First Week of February

It’s only the first week of February and we have had an unusually mild winter, but it is even more unusual to see the daffodils and a few stray gladiolas already poking their heads above ground.

They are jumping the gun.

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Normally this time of year the ground is frozen solid, there’s at least a six inch cover of snow and along the parking area is a wall of snow three to four feet high that doesn’t melt off till April.

This year there is nothing.

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The first week of February I usually don’t even go looking for sprouts. March 1st is more toward normal, but bird feeders needed to be checked and there they were, sprouting already.

This corner is protected from the north and west, the prevailing directions of our cold winter winds and in the mornings the sun, when it appears, beats down on this spot and reflects off the house walls. It’s the only small section of the yard that stays snow free through the winter.

I could see why they’re jumping the gun. Yesterday it was 45 degrees out and this morning when I found them it was 41. Not normal for the first week of February around here.

They are in for a rude awakening though.

The next 7 days shows a few days with highs of 18 and lows of 6, but a little further out we’re back into the 40’s again. Almost spring like. And it will still be February.

The first week of February and already a false spring. I’ll take it along with the unusually mild winter we’ve had.

As the wife said, “this is why we need to move south, imagine it like this every winter.”

I can imagine that.

And I can also start planning for that to happen.

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View from the Porch – Time for a Change, Spring and a Job

Don’t even try talking to me before I’ve sucked down a couple of cups of coffee. Coffee must be sucked down while I’m out on the front porch, with a cheap cigar.
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By 6:30 this morning, all four of the bald eagles had drifted up the river to their sitting spot below my house. This woke up the geese and ducks and got the crows all worked up, like usual.

Unidentified song birds were heard and more were already raiding the neighborhood feeders. A small swift predator bird slashed through the trees. No squirrels yet, but the mother/child feral cats my wife has been feeding and are living under our deck came out for their morning breakfast. They are infinitely curious about the other animals that walk in and out of the back door and it’s just a matter of time before they come in to check it out, I think.

And this will be the last time I mention any of this on a weekday.

Last week I applied for a job, starts out freelance with the conversion to full time if I’m liked. Being liked is a given.

One of the reasons I haven’t written down anything this past week is because my head-hunter, as much as I like her, committed a grave mistake.

For nearly 20 of the 30 years I’ve been in the graphic arts industry I’ve been a freelancer. When you’ve freelanced for this long and have pitched as many jobs as I have, when you pitch a job you want a very simple answer. Yes you got it, no you didn’t. Hoping on the front end and dwelling on the back end amounts to nothing. You learn not to do either. If you get it great, if not, on to the next one.

Three times in the last week my head-hunter contacted me to let me know “things are looking good,” “you’re still in the running,” “she’s leaning toward you.”

Stop it, stop it, stop it, either yes or no, skip the updates.

Out of the ordinary, this got me dwelling on the job to the point where it became difficult to concentrate on much else. The reason for that is because the last three years lining up work has been a bitch. It’s been a bitch for one reason alone, I’m 57 years old and nobody hires 57 year old men for shit. Plenty of minimum wage part time jobs out there for us, but that’s pretty much it.

I can already hear the rumbling, that’s not true, you haven’t tried hard enough, you need to go back and retrain… if that’s what you’re rumbling about it only tells me this, you don’t know or never talk to guys my age.

I was lucky to interview with the woman in charge of the graphics department. The lucky part was that she appeared to be in her late 40’s. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to interview with someone that could be your kid. You know you are completely wasting your time.

Towards the end of the interview she asked why I would consider giving up a long freelance career and take a full time job. I told her how freelancing has changed, that it’s next to impossible to get to anyone without going through a head-hunter. I told her how I’ve had three head-hunters in the last three years tell me that I’m too old for the graphics industry and I should find something else to do, they won’t even submit my resume.

I told her how one head-hunter looked through my portfolio and said, “based on your portfolio, there’s no reason in the world why you shouldn’t be working.” Then she read my resume and said, “you have to dumb down your resume.”

The woman I was interviewing with looked stunned, “so you’re telling me that if this job ever goes away, I’m effectively screwed?”

“Well, yeah, pretty much,” I told her.

I think that last conversation with her is why I got a phone call on Thursday letting me know I got the job.

I have noticed that there is a certain attitude appearing amongst those that are older and doing the hiring. A real “fuck the kids” attitude has appeared. At a freelance job I did last year I mentioned to the supervisor that the handful of freelancers brought in for the project averaged 50 years old. “I don’t hire kids,” I was told, “they don’t know shit, won’t get off their damn phones and whine too much.”

Bravo, bravo I say. A shame there aren’t more that age around doing the hiring.

So here it is, meteorological spring, signifying change. Soon green things will be sprouting out of the ground, fish will be moving on the river and creeks and I’ll be out there finding both.

The new job starts on Monday. If it does wind up full-time, that would be the first full-time job I’ve had since 1995. Talk about change, but it will be nice to let someone else deal with my taxes, pay for most of my health insurance and finally the self-employment punishment tax will be gone.

But the best part, aside from working for what appears to be a pretty outstanding company, is that the day ends at 4:30 PM. To get home I have to drive over three rivers. All hold fish worthy of pursuing. The last three hours of daylight during the warmer months is my favorite time to be out fishing.

Maybe I’ll just change the name of what I tried to do with this.

View from the River — has a nice ring to it.

I was going fishing,
the fish would be there

On March 1st, the start of meteorological spring, winter decided to make an attempt to assert its presence. Something it had pretty much failed to do for the previous three months. First rain, then ice followed by snow. We barely got a dusting where I live, but 50 miles north there was four to six inches of snow on the ground. For the next few days the daytime temps barely made it to the freezing mark.

Then on Tuesday the 6th at 1 p.m., it was suddenly 60 degrees. I was going fishing, the fish would be there. They had to be. It didn’t matter that all the melting snow further north had to make its way to the Fox River, then continue on down stream. It didn’t matter that the water temps in return would probably stay somewhere in the upper 30 degree range and the river flow would double in speed.

Skip the river, I’ll go fish a creek.

No matter how many times I go to a specific spot, there’s always something new to find even though I’ve practically stepped on it numerous times in the past.

The long slow stretches of the creek were sitting in the sun. No leaves on the trees yet meant more sun on the water.

Standing on the bank revealed a crystal clear creek flowing at normal levels with no signs of life anywhere. At least in the water. Floating around the woods and over the water was a bug hatch. Not a lot of them and my generic name for them is gnats. They’re small and annoying, all gnats are.

I slid into the creek and a test of the water with my left hand assured me the water was cold. Not an encouraging sign and yet, a few casts later, a creek chub with tons of fight and spirit took my little lure for a ride.

A few casts later and another one, even smaller, all but inhaled the lure.

I was starting to wish I had brought along the bait bucket. These were the first signs of creek chubs in almost 3 months. These creek chubs being here meant the predators weren’t that far behind, only another hour of fishing gave up nothing more than a couple of more creek chubs. There was one different hit that came from a hole more than eight feet deep, but keeping the fish on the hook wasn’t meant to be. I chalked it up to being another creek chub.

I decided to cut my losses and go fish another nearby creek. The walk through the woods back to the car is still uneventful. No signs of green things growing yet except for the mosses that cling to the bases of the trees. Not sure that counts as any real sign of spring.

The next creek had more of the same crystal clear water. A trip here a couple of weeks ago got me one 17 inch smallmouth that was totally unexpected. This time the first decent sized smallie came off at my feet. A couple of casts later and I was able to land one that was easily 16 inches. The wind was flopping the fish all over the place, so I settled for a shot with a little more detail.

The rest of the time along the creek was spent doing more daydreaming than anything else. Now and then a tentative tap would gain my interest, but the bulk of the time was spent watching the light change on the handful of poplar trees down at a bend in the creek.

After fishing the creek, the walk back to the car has me walking past a long narrow pond that sits in the sun for the bulk of the day. I was hoping to catch one of the bigger largemouth bass that lives here, or some bluegill or crappie, but the hand sized bass were next to impossible to keep off the hook. They were inhaling anything that looked like a meal.

By five o’clock I was done. I had overdressed under the assumption that at some point the temperature would start to come down with the setting sun. That never happened. As I drove up the long hill out of the creek valley and onto the flat land of the farm fields, it looked like fog lifting off the fields. There was a massive bug hatch. Not just over this one field, but every field I drove past had a white mist of bugs hovering a few feet above the ground. Apparently they too liked this cloudless sun drenched day.

When I got home I checked all my records from years past. We’re about 3 weeks ahead of schedule from what would be a normal March. With the long range forecast calling for more days in the 50’s and 60’s, I may have no choice but to go fishing again.

I See Green Things Again

The backyard of the house I rent sits in the sun most of the day.
Along the garage wall,
protected by a wide eave,
a few tips of daylily leaves
are making an effort to sprout.

Won’t be long.

Daylily Bud Saute
2 dozen daylily buds, white bases removed
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup olive oil
3 eggs
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper
I clove garlic, finely chopped

Saute the garlic in a little olive oil. Beat eggs, mix in enough flour to make a thin batter. Add the garlic, salt and pepper, and nutmeg. Add a teaspoon of milk if the batter is too thick. Dip the buds in the batter and saute until golden brown.