A Hostage Situation

I loved my grandpa and he loved purple martins.

I shared his love purple martins too. These colony nesting birds make their homes in man-made houses on tall poles, eat on the wing and sing beautiful songs all day.  And I could, and have, spent hours just watching them zoom in and out of their homes.

In the year after he passed away, I was explaining to John the necessity of me traveling three and a half hours north to our family’s cabin where the purple martin colony that Gramps spent years attracting, taking care of and recording their activity was.

John looked at me and said, “Alright, but you realize that you are being held hostage by your dead grandfather’s migratory birds, right?”

I laughed and went and took care of the martins.


Last week I was standing thigh-deep in the lake in my underwear holding up the purple martin pole so that it’s three tiers of gourds and their precious cargo didn’t go crashing into the water with John’s words ringing in my ears.  I could have laughed but my arms were too tired.

You see the cabin is on a flowage and on years that the water is high, the base of the martin pole is underwater. The martins don’t mind. In fact since they have eschewed the identical set up on land for many years in a row, I’d say they prefer it that way. Perhaps they just like to watch us squeal when we wade out to crank the whole colony down and check the nests when the water is cold and the wind is high.

In any case, one hazard of a pole being sunk into the water is that winter is often unkind to it, and by the time spring has come and the ice is gone, the pole develops a serious lean.

The preferred method of dealing with this lean is to run to the local hardware store and rent a trash pump. A trash pump being a fairly large pump that you can pump water and any other debris that might be floating by directly from the lake, through the pump, back out a four inch hose. Then, using a handy and ginormous wand my dad created, the water gets funneled to a one inch pipe and the resulting jet of water can be used to dig out the sand at the base of the pole. I was promised that “in less than five minutes” you can push it back to vertical.

It started out swimmingly. I, a novice to this project with only pants in my bag, was in charge of starting and stopping the pump as well as checking the status of the lean from dry land.  My mom, in her experience and shorts, was in the water directing the jet and pushing the pole.

Then suddenly, with the help of a gust of wind, the pole started rapidly descending toward the water. Mom threw the wand down to grab the pole. I shut the pump off, threw my jeans in the grass and jumped into the water and before I knew it, there I was. Thigh deep in a northern Wisconsin flowage in May in my underwear with the words “you are being held hostage by your dead grandfather’s migratory birds” ringing in my ears.

Following that flurry of activity we had some minor issues with the pump that were eventually resolved, though it took a shovel, a canoe paddle, two wire stakes, a wooden bench that had floated to shore, approximately 37,000 hours of me or my mom standing holding a pole attached to a dozen gourds full of nests of Purple Martins, (did I mention they are cavity-nesting birds…basically dependent on man-made housing, just like what we were about to accidentally dump in the lake, for survival?) and a large amount of sheer stubbornness.

All the while as we pushed and schemed and figured how to get the pole upright, the martins swirled around us, calling to each other and even popped in and out of their chosen gourds. I guess it’s true. I am being held hostage by my dead grandfather’s migratory birds but I have to admit, I’m loving it, cold water and all.

 

 

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This Moment: Mother’s Day

A Friday ritual. 

A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week.

A simple, special, extraordinary moment.

A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

An Empty Vessel by Vaughan Mason, Written by JJ Marsh

Warning: This is not a happy story.

I’m sure you’ll figure that out as quickly as I did when you read the first page and see that Nancy the main character is sentenced to be “hanged by the neck until you are dead.” However as this fairly short novel backtracks into the lives of the condemned woman and those around her, it paints a rich scene with well developed characters making it a worthy read despite its macabre topic.

Would I recommend it? Yes. The book explores topics ranging from war time jobs for women during WWII, abuse, women’s roles in the home afterward, family obligations, innocent until proven guilty, the death sentence and the advantage that being “pretty” gives you in life all without lecturing on any of them. I think it would make an excellent book club choice!

 

But what’s with that book title Jessie?

So glad you asked! JJ Marsh has taken a fictional character out of her Beatrice Stubbs Series and written his book! How cool is that?!? You can find more info about this on her website: http://www.beatrice-stubbs.com/relaunch/2019/03/10/an-empty-vessel/

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

discovered this book because I’m a proud member of Rosie’s Book Review Team!

 

Prussian Blue?

I thought about asking y’all to guess what this is but, honesty, it’s random and I’ve never seen it before so instead I’ll just tell you.

Maybe you can tell me why you think it’s blue now.

This is a close up shot of a shovel that had been at the bottom of a fire. (It was thrown in to burn out the handle that had broken off inside.) When I pulled it out the next day I found this brilliant blue color on parts of it!

John’s theory is that the iron in the shovel reacted with potash from the fire and created iron hexacyanoferrate better known as Prussian blue pigment. He also admits that this is not exactly his type of chemistry (the internet was heavily utilized in the theory making tonight) so other ideas are welcome!

Personally I have no idea why but I can tell you that the color was a beautiful surprise hiding in the ashes!

The Doll Maker by Celine Jeanjean

Sometimes stepping back into a fictional world is like coming home or snuggling under a cozy blanket. Reentering the world of Damsport with Longinus and Rory is more like slipping on your favorite summer dress. But then, as you pull on the comfortable fabric, ready for a sunny day of adventure, you absently slide your hands down your side and discover that your favorite dress, the one you’ve worn again and again, has pockets that you had never even noticed before!

Would I recommend it? Yes! In case the pockets in dresses reference wasn’t for you, let me be plain. I have always enjoyed this series but as it goes on and the characters continue to grow, I fall more in love with the world, the characters and Jeanjean’s writing. Start with The Bloodless Assassin and enjoy the ride!