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Archive for April, 2016

Many years ago, when I just a little tyke, my father the Biologist thought it would be pretty cool if he taught me the scientific names of the local creatures. Dad didn’t just rattle off the names, though, and expect me to remember them. He taught me by telling stories about them, slipping in the names as if he just made them up himself. The Hyla crucifer was one of my favorites, both because I liked the sound of the name rolling off my tongue and because I loved frogs. I would see the Hyla crucifers, otherwise known as tree frogs or spring peepers on the trees around our cabin, but when late afternoon and evening came, the chorus of peeping would begin and so would the stories as we wound down from our busy day. The noise they make is actually the mating call of the male of the species, and here in the north, it is a sound that makes us all smile, because when we hear it, we know that it is one of the first signs of spring. For some reason, frogologists or taxonomists or whatever you call those smarty-pants scientists who study amphibians, changed the name/genus of the Hyla crucifer to the Pseudacris crucifer. I tried to find out why, but it was way, way, WAY above my head, and I guess it really doesn’t matter anyway because nobody told those stories like my dad did. What does matter is that the long winter is finally over. Out behind the chicken coop and through the trees, there is a small swamp on our property. During the day, the ducks splash and quack and can be noisy enough, but each evening, about the time I close up the coop for the night, that swamp becomes alive with the chorus of the peepers. This year, there are so many that the sound is almost deafening, but it really is music to my ears. It shows me that all is right in my own environment, which is about the only thing that I can control to some degree in a great big world that seems to be getting crazier by the day. Those peepers can drown out political promises, rantings and ravings, and despite the fact that they are cacophonous, can bring a peacefulness that soothes the soul. Welcome, spring. I thought you’d never get here.

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I hope the title of this week’s column doesn’t confuse anybody. I collect a lot of things, but I absolutely, positively DO NOT collect chickens! If you ever stop by and notice brightly painted ceramic chickens and/or roosters gracing my kitchen windowsill or placed artfully around the house, they are not a collection, but gifts from people who think that I should collect chickens and/or roosters. The last time Cousin Dee Dee visited, she brought me her own rather large collection of chicken tchotchkes, telling me she was downsizing and didn’t have room for them. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I didn’t collect chickens, because all she would have had to do is look around and her feelings would have been hurt. Either that, or she figured out that I was a pushover when it comes to poultry. I could only politely and quietly murmur something about not knowing where to put them all. The cousins took care of that problem, dusting off the top of the china cabinet and arranging them neatly in their new home. Those chickens weren’t going back to Michigan no matter what. I was so happy to have the top of the china cabinet dusted that I didn’t say another word. That really was the last bit of free space I had left, but my sister reminded me at Christmas that I still had plenty of vertical space, this being said as I unwrapped my gift, a beautiful and brightly colored framed rooster print. I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but I hope that well-meaning friends or relatives will not give me any more presents anytime soon, or I will have chickens piled in the corners and roosters up to the rafters. I must admit that this non-collection is starting to grow on me, though, just like the chickens out in the coop. Real live chickens are something I DO collect, and any day now I will make a trip to the farm store for a few or maybe even more than a few baby chicks. I am thinking that ten would be a nice even number. Inside or outside, when it comes to chickens, it seems there is always room for one (or ten) more.

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