Tag Archives: spring

Writing Prompts Challenges

The last time I remember working with writing prompts was fourth grade. Mrs. Adams would put a line of pictures along the blackboard. Each student chose one to write a story about.

My books now trace themselves back to an idea about a plot or a character. I don’t think of these as writing prompts, but suppose they are. That is what a prompt is: a topic idea to build a story around.

goat show writing prompts

This is a good writing prompt for me, being at a goat show. Rural topics are a big challenge for city dwellers.

A writing buddy likes writing from these prompts and talked me into trying a weekly prompt. We trade off weeks coming up with an idea.

My writing prompts are usually some happening like picking up a coin. Hers are one word. The latest was Cursed. We tend to drive each other mad as the prompts force us to approach our writing from a new angle, get out of our comfort zones.

writing prompts fawn

Could you use this picture as a writing prompt? This fawn is old enough to start losing its spots and be on its own, but young enough to not race away when come across by a vehicle.

Cursed was such a word for me. I’m not much interested in the horror, occult or similar topics. I like much more practical, everyday topics. What could I do with this one?

The thing about a writing prompt piece is its rough draft quality. Many times the piece is written in a short time with no editing review. I came up with this one:

 

I stand assessing the enemy. I am bigger than the enemy. The enemy has vastly more members. I have weapons to attack my enemies. They have only their roots.

And, in the end, the enemy will win.

I know before beginning, the enemy will win. The enemy always wins this war. Still I get ready and go out to do battle hoping to delay the inevitable.

Smart people are supposed to learn from their mistakes. I fight this battle every year refusing to learn, or accept, my defeat.

Every fall I put up barriers to stop the enemy. Every spring I put up more barriers. The enemy’s numbers are reduced, but the army still comes.

Every spring I plow up the legions of tiny enemies. Every summer I dig and pull hundreds of my enemies. The enemy regroups and launches a new assault.

Why don’t I admit defeat? Why don’t I give up and surrender?

Each winter I consider quitting. I tabulate the costs in time and money. Both are precious commodities.

Spring wafts into view. The land greens. The air lightens. The birds sing. The seed racks and transplants arrive in the stores.

I am doomed, cursed, fated to fight the war another year.

Why? Why can’t I admit defeat? Why can’t I resist spring?

That first sun-ripened, sun-warmed tomato is why.

 

Yes, it is gardening season here. My spinach and turnips are sprouting. Flood cleanup has delayed putting the Buttercrunch lettuce in.

writing prompts floods

Nothing like ending a drought with six inches of rain and a flood. This might make a good writing prompt, but not until cleaning up is a distant memory.

I wanted to see the ravines in flood for the Carduan Chronicles. Wading through the water wasn’t an option.

Ozark Seasons Reflections

After living up near Lake Superior where winter arrived in October and stayed until April, the Ozark seasons had great appeal. All four seasons showed during the year, but none were extreme. Waist deep snow for six months would not be missed.

In the North, the cold is dry. The air is sharp, bracing. Snow comes in many varieties. Each layer settles and is covered by the next. Sometimes ice even appears in clear air sparkling like diamonds drifting around.

Ozark seasons winter

For those who have lived in snow country, the big impression from this picture is cold. Setting the shivers aside, snow makes a tree look so dramatic.

Ozark cold is a damp cold. It slices through jackets dousing you in ice water. Snow and ice storms blow in, drop layers and blow elsewhere. Rarely does the ice or snow stay for more than a few days as warmer air arrives to turn them into mud. Temperatures creep up only to drop again with the next storm.

Spring in the North arrives around the middle of April with the break up of river ice. It slowly spreads green across the landscape. Sudden, severe frosts can arrive even in June.

Ozark seasons spring

Early spring leaves have a blue tinge in their green. The ephemeral plants shoot up quickly from stores of food in their roots. Other plants are slower to appear making the green carpet sketchy.

Spring, my favorite of the Ozark seasons, doesn’t arrive in the Ozarks. It argues with winter for weeks. A single day can be wintry in the morning and spring in the afternoon or vice versa. These arguments can erupt into thunderstorms.

Ozarks spring can be a few weeks long. The wildflowers appear. The trees leaf out. Or spring can seem only a few days long to be replaced with hot, summery days making the spring wildflowers trip over each other in their hurry to bloom and set seed.

Northern summers don’t get very hot. Highs in the eighties are a heat wave. July is the prime time. August brings fall and night frosts again.

Ozark seasons summer

Green is everywhere over an Ozarks summer. Over the summer the green changes shades and mellows until late summer green has a yellowish tinge to it.

Summer in the Ozarks stretches from sometime in May to August. So much happens over an Ozarks summer, there seems to be little time to stop and admire the hills. The plants and animals charge ahead at full speed.

Every plant is its own shade of green making the hills a collage of light to dark green mixed as though tossed for salad. Heat makes leaves droop. Humidity smothers plants and animals. Thunderstorms gather the humidity into towering clouds then drop it accompanied by pyrotechnics leaving the air so full of moisture animals almost need gills.

Ozark Seasons fall

Nothing announces fall in the Ozarks like the blazing crimson of the sumacs. It seems to glow.

One day toward late August, it is fall. The day before was summer. Now the day has a cool fall feel, the night has a frost sharpness, although it doesn’t frost.

Sumacs blaze crimson. Virginia creeper and poison ivy hang red garlands from the trees and wrap their trunks with color. The year is winding down in a mad flurry of wildflowers and activity as birds migrate, raccoons and woodchucks fatten up for hibernation and storms change from puffy cumulus clouds to sheets of stratus clouds.

One cycle of the Ozark seasons is over and winter comes again.

This is an essay draft for the upcoming Ozarks book. Exploring the Ozark Hills explores the seasons through individual topics and is available now.

Spring Garden Tour

Spring in the Ozarks this year is a yoyo of temperatures. But frost date is fast approaching and my garden can begin in earnest. First comes a garden tour to see where the garden is and plan for the future.

My garden is waiting. I got knocked over by the goats and hurt the back. Now I’m ready for my garden tour.

garden gate

I took a chance last year and used PVC pipes to frame my new garden gates. They are light weight, swing easily on their hinges and fasten with bungee cords.

Last year the new gates went up. The PVC is strong and light weight. The gates are a delight to open and close. They show no signs of wear.

Before putting in the garlic last fall I manured the bed. This spring the garlic looks wonderful.

garlic patch

The garlic looks the best in years. Goat manure does work wonders. I plant the cloves in fall and mulch heavily.

The beds marked out and mulched are still almost weed free. Potatoes are in three of them but not up yet. Frosty nights have slowed things down.

planting beds

The garden is mostly organized into definite beds now. They are not raised beds. Planting the potatoes went easily with the potato beds already marked out and mulched. They do make good places to distribute wood ashes from the wood stoves. Potash is good for the garden. Hot coals can be a problem in the mulch.

Gardening season didn’t really end last fall. Spinach came through the winter in the raised bed and is now producing a nice crop. Some lettuce, radishes and carrots are growing well. All can take the light frosts. The stone wall makes a warm place to sit and relax for a time to think during my garden tour.

raised garden bed

The stone raised garden bed does have drawbacks. But the pluses are spinach all winter with a bounty in spring as well as other greens. Some of the covering problems are getting solved.

Strong gusty winds took their toll on the plastic over the shade house. This was my first garden task. It is now repaired and protected. The inside gets toasty warm on sunny days.

shade house/greenhouse in garden

Covering the shade house with plastic was an experiment over the winter. Wind is a definite problem especially this spring. The arrangement does work well as a greenhouse but stabilizing the plastic will take some work.

Pepper seeds need warm temperatures to germinate well. The warm shade house should do nicely with blankets over the seed trays at night.

garden greens

Fresh greens really dress up a meal as salad, potherbs or stir fry. The shade house/greenhouse gave my chard and beets a head start.

In the meantime various greens are doing well. They include chard, beets and turnips.

Lovely daffodils graced the flower corner. Iris are on their way up along with the lilies.

daffodil flower

My daffodils once graced the town planters but were destined for the trash when other plants replaced them. I enjoyed their bigger than wild blooms this spring.

A field of garlic chives is rising. A few weeds managed to grow in amongst them so I won’t escape tedious weeding.

garlic chive patch

I like garlic hives. Bees, butterflies and other insects love garlic chive flowers. They do seed freely.

There are weeds in various places. The dead nettle is a bee attractant, one of the first nectar plants for them. The chickweed is a headache but edible and tasty when young and succulent.

dead nettle

Dead nettle may resemble stinging nettle but is a mint loved by bees and bumblebees. It seeds freely and become a nuisance.

Not all the work of rearranging the garden got done before the ground froze. It will continue slowly over the spring and summer. The bamboo needs attention and corralling. The last of the paths need weeding and mulching.

My spring garden tour is over. Now I can complete my garden plans. Most of the garden is ready and waiting. Gardening season is beginning. Both of us are ready.

Mystery Trails In the Mud

Early spring in the Ozarks is a battleground between spring and winter. Spring comes blowing in for a few days calling everyone and every thing outside to bask in the sunshine. Winter blows spring aside bringing out the warm coats.

A spring rain went through leaving the road with muddy patches. The patches had trails in them.

These marks looked like something had crossed through the mud during the night. Possibly they were small water channels.

trails in the mud

The trails in the mud look like someone drew them with a stick. They are different sizes and cross over each other.

Some water was still running down the road on the hill. The water tended to fan out in a sheet, not follow a channel. The trails were not made by water.

The snakes are again out. I haven’t seen them yet, only heard lizards streak under cover rustling dead leaves as I walk past. These channels looked rather small for a snake.

Walking down the road I think I found the creatures making these marks on the road. Earthworms.

As the birds and other creatures, earthworms go looking for partners in the spring. They must keep themselves moist or die so a rainy spring night would be perfect.

earthworm on road

This stranded earthworm is one of the trail makers. Now the road is drying out, the wind is blowing, the gravel is drying the worm out. The worms come out looking for a mate but need to be back off the road just after dawn. this one needed a helping hand.

The different sizes of trails were made by different kinds of earthworms. The native worm is small, possibly reaching six inches in length.

Nightcrawlers are monsters. They often reach a foot long and thicker than a pencil.

Earthworms are valuable members of the soil community around here. They are also relished by my chickens. The sun and cars are death sentences for a worm.

I walked down the road a ways finding a number of worms still out on the road. I tossed them into the leaves along the roadside.

Winter moved in again. The road was hard and cold. No worms ventured out.

Spring returned. Now all the worms are waiting for another little rain storm to blow through.

Then more trails will be left in the mud on the road. More earthworms will need rescuing.

Tom Turkeys in Spring

Last fall a group of wild turkeys started hanging out in our pastures. At first there were five of these tom turkeys. Later there were four.

The four grazed on grass seed. These tom turkeys stayed together with few arguments. They quickly became celebrities for people driving by.

When the grass seed was gone, so were the four turkeys. This was expected but disappointing as it was enjoyable watching them. Wild turkeys especially tom turkeys are wary birds and I rarely see them let alone get a chance to watch them.

two tom turkeys

The wild turkeys are back. These are from a group of four toms hanging out together for now. Spring is coming.

Winter, such as it was, is almost gone. Warm days keep whispering of spring. Spice bush and sassafras buds are swelling. Pawpaw flower buds are too but more slowly.

Cardinals mobbed the bird feeder when cold, snow flurries and ice ruled the area. Now cardinals come by but not seriously. Instead they are in the wild plum patch and other brushy areas singing loudly as the males establish their nesting territories.

Woodpeckers are drumming in the woods. In cold weather they feast on peanut butter at the bird feeder. Peanut butter consumption has dropped as the temperatures have risen.

And the tom turkeys are back in the pastures. They pace across the same areas. The group shows signs of breaking up.

Now the four chase each other. They stay more spread out. One was spreading his tail practicing for next month.

There are several groups of hen turkeys on the hills around and above the pastures. A dozen come out into the pasture early some mornings and flee when I come out to do chores. I catch glimpses of others fleeing up into the woods from other pastures.

tom turkey with tail spread

This tom turkey knows spring is coming. He is practicing spreading his tail and chasing the other toms.

Sometime in March the group of four will separate. Gobbling will sound over the pastures early in the mornings. The hill pasture is a favorite strutting ground for tom turkeys calling for the hens to come and visit.

My fingers are crossed these four turkeys will remember me a little. I must cross the bridge and go through the trees lining the creek to get good pictures of tom turkeys courting with their tails spread and wings fanned surrounded by adoring hen turkeys.

Mayapples

Little umbrellas sprouted across parts of the forest and ravine floors in hopes of rain. These little umbrellas are wrinkled and green as they shove their way out of the ground then through the dead leaves.

mayapple sprout

Mayapples grow in large clumps so the Ozark forest umbrellas come up in groups.

Reaching a few inches tall, the umbrellas begin to open. A large single leaf spreads out from a thick greenish white stem. As the stem lengthens to almost a foot tall, the leaf loses its umbrella look becoming a lobed mayapple leaf.

mayapple leaf opening

Viewed from above the single unfurling Mayapple leaf looks like an umbrella opening up.

Not all mayapple leaves are singles.

Double leaves emerge with a conical pale green top. Two leaves wrap like a cloak around the stem. Dracula and his companions are rising in the woods.

mayapple sprout

Some Mayapple umbrellas look like green figures wrapped in cloaks rising from the ground.

These cloaks too unfurl like umbrellas. The tall stems are topped by two leaves. Dracula’s head droops down on a lengthening petiole as the leaves rise above it. It swells and shows cracks.

mayapple plant with bud

Once up the two leaves rise over the mayapple bud like giant wings.

The cracks widen as the cone splits apart spreading out into a single white flower. The mayapples are in bloom.

mayapple flower

Even though mayapple flowers are large, over an inch across, they are hidden under huge green leaves. They are only under pairs of leaves, not single leaves.

Mayapples come up about the same time as the morels. Mayapples are inedible, poisonous except for the ripe fruit unless you are a deer or goat. I’m not.

Morels are a different thing. Enough rain. Warm weather. Mushroom feast.

Welcome Rain

Waking to the sound of rain makes a delightful morning. The rain pattered on the roof. It ran from the house gutters. Oops, water ran out over the sides necessitating a climb onto the roof to pull leaves out. Still, the rain barrels are full.

Walking outside the air is moist with that earthy wet smell to it. It caresses the skin and invites me to go walking. The pond in the ravine behind the house again has water in it to the delight of the frogs.

dripping redbud flowers

Insects are hiding from raindrops as big or bigger than they are. Nectar is watered down. Rain is dripping off the redbud flowers.

California’s drought is in the news and has made it to our local market. The store advertised California strawberries on sale for the week. Then their supplier told the store there were few strawberries as the fields had no water. The shelf was empty.

News articles report on the latest arguments over who gets what water and how much. Others complain about having enough water for green lawns and swimming pools. The rest of us wait to find out what will happen to food prices if the Central Valley can’t raise enough produce to supply our stores.

Water problems go back decades in California. Most of Southern California is a desert or near desert. As the population increased, water was brought:

  • from Owens Valley leaving its lake totally dry although some water is again filling it,
  • down an aqueduct bringing water from the north but only spawning thirsty towns down its length siphoning much of it away,
  • the Colorado River which must be shared with neighboring states and Mexico but making Imperial Valley an agricultural wonder,
  • wells into an aquifer now being emptied letting the ground settle destroying it for the future and possibly bringing salt water into the groundwater.

Drought isn’t confined to California. Drought here in southern Missouri doesn’t make the news, isn’t as bad but just as real. It means making choices here for me, my animals and my garden.

The raised garden bed is always thirsty. My newly planted carrot and radish seeds are watered in thanks to the rain. The peas are reaching for the trellis sides of the shade house. The remaining weeds are lush. At least some are edible.

Most of my garden is buried under straw mulch. Although I started using mulch to squelch the weeds, I find it is an excellent way to keep moisture in the garden. Water buckets are heavy (I have no hose.) and the fewer of them I have to carry the better for me, for the rain level in the rain barrels and the creek we pump from when the barrels go dry.

wet dandelion seeds

Dandelion seed heads are fluffy balls on sunny days. Rain has collapsed the parachutes into white blobs on drooping stems.

The pastures are emerald green. The trees are blushed with green as their buds open releasing leaves. Wildflowers which looked dry yesterday drip with water this morning.

Without rain there is no hay crop. Winter will come again. My goats eat about ten square bales each over that cold season.

Spring rains are important as plants are growing, blooming and seeding. This takes water and lots of it. Here in the Ozarks, spring is the wettest part of the year. This morning is a welcome down payment.

Spring Spicebush

Cold spring weather has really slowed things down in the Ozarks. Even the birds stopped singing for several days.

Every time the weather warms up for a couple of days, plants start growing rapidly. Now wildflowers are getting ready to open in a rush. Spicebush flowers are heading the charge.

Johnny-Jump-Up

Only an inch or two tall, Johnny-Jump-Ups grow in sunny areas of low growth. They are the first violet to bloom in the spring.

Low growing plants in sunny areas are green and lush with the rain that came by. A few are even blooming. But their flowers are small and noticeable only because of their numbers.

Spicebushes are tall. Far back in the big ravine they tower over my head a couple of feet. Greenish yellow tips their twigs.

It’s quiet back in this section of the ravine. The wet weather creek is dry again. Wind roars through the trees on the hills but doesn’t stir the air here.

Now and then waves of crisp brown leaves roll down the hillsides on errant gusts. The waves break against the bottom of the ravine and dissipate.

spicebush buds

Most spicebush flowers are still buds lining twigs.

Wandering through the group of spicebushes I find a few still short enough for me to see their swollen buds. Most are fat yellowish green globes lining twigs.

spicebush flower

Spicebush flowers are interesting to look closely at. The stamens look a bit like little clogs or feet inside the petals.

Some buds have burst open. When all the flowers open, each group will be a little yellowish green pompom bouncing on twigs swaying in any breeze that makes it down into the ravine.

Far off on one hill sounds the laughing call of a pileated woodpecker. A few small moths flutter from one hiding place to another. No insect hum breaks the silence.

toothwort buds

Toothwort (wort means plant and its leaves are toothed) is getting ready to bloom in the Ozark woods.

Walking back I let the silence surround me. Above me the tree twigs show swollen buds by their fat hazy look. On the ground other plants are preparing to bloom. In another week, if the weather stays warm, the silence will be gone replaced by the many sounds of spring.

spicebush flower clump

A few spicebush pompoms are open.

Perhaps I will wander back in a day or two while the silence is still there. By then the spicebush pompoms should be open.