Showing posts with label Indigo Hill. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Indigo Hill. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Twenty Years Ago Today

Wednesday, September 11, 2013
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Twenty years ago today, on September 11 (years before that date became associated with something less happy) I got married to Julie Zickefoose here in Marietta, Ohio at St. Luke's Lutheran Church.

We had a light-hearted wedding with music on guitar and piano and fiddle—and got hitched on the upswing of the clock for good luck. Afterwards we repaired (with 200 of our closest family and friends) to the Whipple, Ohio farm Julie and I already owned and we had more music and a pig roast, or as we called it (to sound "more fancier" a rĂ´ti de cochon)

It was an incredible, life-changing day.

We were standing on the precipice of our lives, looking into the future...



Here we are (below) two years after the wedding, birding at Ding Darling NWR in Florida. I'll spare you the Then and Now comparison.

(photo by our dear friend, the late Dr. Hugh P. Smith).  

It's been a wonderful two decades—not always easy, of course. Then again, what is? One thing that sticks with me is just how fascinating and fascinated Julie really is. I'm fortunate to have shared this journey with her.

And now we are four.


Today I am thinking about happy things and beloved family and friends, and feeling lucky as heck to be right here, right now.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Autumn Eye Candy

Thursday, September 20, 2012
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 An anvil thunderhead catches the evening sunlight.
Looking through my iPhoto library I realized that I had some very nice eye candy images. Here are a few that I collected in recent weeks.

 Macro shot of a past-its-freshness-date purple coneflower.

 Macro shot of daughter Phoebe's eye—she leaves these on every camera in the house.


White hibiscus flower—from the plant along our garage wall that the indigo buntings nested in very late in August.







Glory rays—that's what my Great Aunt Lolly called them—coming from the cloud-covered sun.

This image, taken with my iPhone 4S, looks almost like a painting. The blood moon was rising over the neighbor's pasture and the low-light gives the image a pleasingly grainy feel.

Soon the broad-winged hawks will all be well on their way to South America. I digiscoped this one from our tower using my iPhone.

Another iPhone digiscoping capture of a brown thrasher from the tower.

Streaks from the West, heralding the end of another beautiful August day at Indigo Hill. How I wish I could stay home and never miss another sunrise or sunset!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Happy Birthday to Liam!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011
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My best pal in the whole wide world is William Henry Thompson IV and today he turns 12. I've known him his whole life, and he's known me, his dad, his whole life. We even formed a two-guy club called The Hotdog Brothers.

We do manly things like cook over campfires, and play pool, and throw the football, and spit, and pee outside. We are The Hotdog Brothers, YES WE ARE!

Nobody can do goofier or funnier things than Liam—like making cow's udders on your shadow on a winter's afternoon.

Liam, as he's known to most, has lots of other names, too: Popo, Shoomie, Brostie, Jonesie Boy, Stupendous Man, and many others. He is an artist and has an artist's heart and sensitivity.



Liam's best friend in the world is his big sister Phoebe. He's never know a world without Phoebe, which is lucky for him.He really adores Phoebe, and she him. She's taught him about the world, helped him with his homework, encouraged him to do new things, and even defended him at times from being picked on.

In return, Liam makes Phoebe laugh—a lot! Sometimes he acts like Uncle Feely, which can be annoying. But Phoebe puts up with it because she knows Liam loves her, and she can use this to get him to do things for her.

Any camera lying around in our house eventually gets filled with monkey-cam photos like this.


Liam is also an animal lover. Chet Baker, Boston Terrier, is like the brother that Liam never had. They play like siblings, with Chet play growling and Liam squealing out giggles of pure joy at the things Baker does.
Liam is the main fan in our house of our pair of Chinese dwarf hamsters. They like to sleep in Liam's hand while he reads or watches TV.

Liam cuts his own swath through the world of fashion and style. And because he's so sweet, he gets away with ensembles that a lesser being might not. For example: giant foam finger, fedora, camo shorts, green Crocks with white socks. Perfectly Liam!


Chicks dig Liam—especially older chicks, like Phoebe's high school friends, who loved having Liam along as part of Phoebe's 15th birthday last summer.

Even though he sometimes trudges to the school bus, Liam likes school. And school likes him, too.

For Halloween this year, Liam and Phoebe were pumpkinheaded monsters. Their costumes were amazing. It was Liam's concept made into real costumes by his mom, Julie.

There was quite a haul of candy. Above, Liam and his cousins Gus and Jake do a bit of candy trading after trick-or-treating.

Ahhh Liam! That's my boy! He's a dreamer, yes, but I'm so proud to be his daddy. And I'm so thankful that my own dad, William H. Thompson Jr, got to know my son, his namesake.


Happy birthday, sweet boy! I hope you someday get to feel how wonderful it is to have a child and to celebrate their birthday in a special way. Every year with you, Liam, is sweeter than the last.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Full Moon Meadow

Monday, July 18, 2011
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The moonlight on the landscape has been amazing in this wetter-than-normal summer. Now, with the symphony of bird song slowly winding down as summer peaks and wanes, one of the comforting things I relish most is a long summer evening, when dusk hangs on endlessly. Fireflies, whip-poor-wills, and luna moths take over for the hummingbirds, cardinals, and butterflies. Nature's daily shift change. We sit and watch it all unfold, like the blooms on an evening primrose.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Man, Dog, Morels

Wednesday, April 27, 2011
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Oh how I wish our wonderpup, Chet Baker, Boston terrier, could be trained to find morel mushrooms using his highly sensitive nose. That would make him truly useful in ways that transcend his utility as a companion animal and terror to the bunnehs.

I LOVE all of spring's wondrous bounty: the returning songbirds, the hillsides bursting with blossoms, the greening of the landscape, the warmer weather, the almost vastly improved Pittsburgh Pirates...but right up there in my top five or so spring things is the ephemeral appearance of edible fungi.

We'll be eating morels most nights this week thanks to the wet spring and warming temps of recent sunny days. It's good to be alive.

Photo by Julie "Don't Say Anything Mean About Chet Baker" Zickefoose.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Persimmony Pursuit

Thursday, December 23, 2010
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When the fall colors paint the woodlands we know that soon the trees will be naked. Perhaps the only redeeming thing about this transition from blazing scarlets, oranges, and yellows to bare leafless branches is that it reveals a delicious fruit treat known well to woodland sprites and observant humans: the persimmon.

Phoebe, Liam, and Chet on our persimmon quest.

Off we go to the site of last year's best persimmon tree, out at the end of the meadow. Once there, we turn our eyes skyward, hoping to see this:

Persimmon fruits stand out against the sky in the leafless persimmon tree.

After locating the source tree, we scour the ground below it for "drops." These are persimmons that have already fallen. Conventional woods wisdom holds that persimmons rarely fall before the first hard frost. And if they DO fall before that event, they will be bitter and not fit to eat. This autumn the persimmons we found—well before the first hard frost—were perfectly juicy and delicious.

Phoebe and Julie looking up and down for our quarry.

We shake the tree, gently encouraging it to share. As the small fruits (about the size of a large grape or a small Brussels sprout) drop we try to catch them. If they make it to the ground, they seem to disappear—their warm orange hue blending in with the leaf-covered ground.

Tenacious persimmon.


We gather them up in handfuls, sneaking one or two into our mouths "just to check them for eatability." Here's how to eat a persimmon: You squeeze the insides out of the persimmon's skin, and then begin the exquisite process of divining pulp from seeds. The seeds, which are the size of pumpkin seeds, but thicker, are most of what's inside the fruit. One by one these are ejected onto the ground. Animals that eat the persimmon fruits eject the seeds another way. Scoured by the mammals' stomach muscles and digestive juices, these seeds are the start of a new generation of persimmon trees.

The late-season haul from the line of wild persimmons in our east woods.

In our east woods there is a line of persimmon trees, all about the same age and size. These were probably "planted" by mammals that visited some older, now departed persimmon tree day after day in the fall and early winter. As they chewed up the fruits and took in their pulpy goodness, yesterday's seeds came out the other end, thus ensuring that this symbiotic relationship would continue in our patch of woods into the future.

Knowing all of this makes me thankful that I'm part of this giant web of life.
Happy holidays to one and all! May your new year be full of wild and delicious fruits.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Winter Ritual: Building the Brush Pile

Saturday, December 4, 2010
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It was a combination of factors that got me rolling on this outside project on a recent Saturday. Bad weather was headed our way. The bird feeders needed to be restocked with food. And we were all rotting our brains with too much TV and computer time.

Phoebe and Julie elected to go for a run, so I grabbed Liam and we launched the annual ritual that is the building of the brush pile.

Our sycamore tree on the edge of the yard to the west of the house lost several large branches in a late-summer wind storm. We pulled these brown-leafed monsters out of the tree and broke them up into manageable pieces.

First thing is to build a skeleton to support the brush pile. I used a cinder block to help hold one of the larger "bones" of the skeleton in place. Then it's just a matter of building a messy tepee of sticks, branches, and boughs.

Liam is really good at hauling the brush pile materials.

We laid most of the branches on the northwest-facing side of the brush pile. This will offer more protection from the elements for birds using the brush pile (our weather does most of its attacking from that quarter). And the open side faces the house, so our views of the brush pile denizens will be more clear and open.

After the holidays, we'll add our tree and wreath to the brush pile, giving it a bit of green to liven the scene.

Liam was proud of what we made. And so was I. We went inside to fix some hot chocolate and by the time we walked back into the studio to look out at our handy work, there were the usual suspects using the feeder. More importantly, there was a newly arrived fox sparrow kick-scratching through the seeds and leaves beneath the brush pile. Now that's what I call instant gratification!

Then, taking a celebratory swig from my mug, I burned my tongue on the too-hot hot chocolate.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cooking Lunch in the Woods

Wednesday, December 2, 2009
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This image and most on this post were taken by Julie Zickefoose.

The borders that were most likely to be breached having been thoroughly posted, Liam and I headed down the valley toward Beechy Crash. Beechy Crash is so-named because in 1992, when, with the ink still wet on the real estate papers, we first hiked this land of ours, we discovered a huge sandstone and shale ravine crisscrossed with fallen, giant beech trees.

An early spring hike to Beechy Crash a few years ago. One of these people is Sharon The Birdchick Stiteler.

Most of those fallen monsters are gone now, rotted back to the soil by the combined effects of time, weather, and the ravine's moist embrace. Just upstream from Beechy Crash is a flat spot where an old logging road once passed. This is the spot where our food cache was waiting, where there was plenty of firewood, and a fire circle of stones I'd gathered a few years earlier.

Halfway down the hillside, Liam and I met with the girls and Chet Baker, who initially barked at us gamely, as if he did not recognize us as a part of his roaming pack.

The kids raced down the hill. The parents proceeded more carefully.

Once the light bulb of recognition went off in Chet's head, he ran headlong for us and gave us warm dog kisses.
Chet Baker strikes a majestic pose.

I moved downhill ahead of the others, wanting to get the fire going. This day was mild enough that we did not need the fire for heat, but that is not always the case. Once last winter we went for a long, cold hike down this same valley with friends. The four kids (two from each family) all got soakers falling into the stream. A front blew in and the temperature dropped as we headed home, but home was a long way off. In a moment of clarity I forged ahead of the group and built a fire along the path—at this same spot where we were heading today. I'm not sure a warming fire was ever appreciated more by chilly hikers.

By the time Liam, Phoebe, Julie, and Chet arrived, I had this cooking fire going—at least slightly. The kindling on the ground was still a tad moist from recent rains, but with some newspaper we got things burning soon enough.


Out came the hamburgers, onions, frying pan, beans, cook pot, utensils, and we were cooking caveman style!
When I was a kid, growing up in tiny Pella, Iowa, sunny fall Saturdays when my dad was home, we'd load up the station wagon and drive a few miles out into the country for a picnic. Sometimes we'd invite another family along. We'd toss a football, or perhaps hike or fish a little. But the highlight was building a fire and cooking out. Hotdogs were a staple, but we'd sometimes add other dishes like corn on the cob, or my mom's potato salad. And always there were the s'mores.

Now I find it particularly gratifying to try to make some of this same kind of memory with my kids. Julie and I were laughing about my caveman like tendencies, loving the challenge of cooking a meal in some remote spot. She said "My dad used to take us out for long country rides in the car all the time. But we never got out of the car much, and if we did we certainly never cooked a campfire meal. This is WAY more fun!"

The caveman with his caveman meal cooking on the fire.



Caveman not able leave fire alone. Must poke it to make flame big. Fire good!

Liam, I do believe, has caught the bug, too. He loved stirring the beans. And his cooking "jones" has been documented before by his mom.

Of course we had to share our food with Chet Baker, who behaved like a perfect gentleman even though we were far from civilization.
Please dew not take pitchers of me beggin'. It ain't dignified, but I am helpless to resist hamburger.

Everyone agreed that the burgers and onions tasted fine (even without ketchup!) and the beans were nicely smoky. The s'mores were pleasingly gooey and messy.



After the meal was consumed, the paper plates burned, the gear washed and re-packed, the fire put out (by the Hotdog Brothers with an assist from the stream), we headed for home, stopping only once, to say hello to our old friend, the beech we call OK 1902.

This old tree has done well for itself in the 107 years since it felt the bite of a farm boy's pocketknife.

The sun was sagging behind the western hills now. It was time to get home and savor a day well spent.

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