Creek Jots ~ Sept 22

Flying Free
Image by fred1st via Flickr

* To reach the rambling wild grape vines Ann had been fretting over all summer, I had to drop a couple of two-inch ironwood saplings that leaned out over Nameless Creek.  Standing in the water, we filled a five gallon bucket with sweet-smelling black grapes but had to tie the dog on the bank. He doesn’t know grapes are forbidden fruit for dogs, and he dearly loves them. We made nine half-pints of jam from three pounds of grapes; there’s nothing like it.

* When we were done with the grapes, I stayed behind, leaning up against a cherry at the edge of the pasture. The call of a raven had stopped me in my tracks, and I used that as an excuse to take in the gray of a chilly fall day. Finally, high above the north ridge behind the house, I spotted the source of the RAWK-call, a ghost-bird flying lazy circles lifted by a steady wind from the south. The ceiling was so low that the black bird, through short segments of its arc of flight, went to gray, or disappeared entirely for a second or two. And from his perspective, so did I. Higher, riding the same kettle of rising warm air, a hawk; and barely skimming the tops of trees, a turkey vulture. Altogether, it was a good day for soaring.

* The black rat snake seems to have given up trying to get the hen eggs. i don’t know if it’s the white leghorn rooster that deters the serpent, or the sublethal thrashing I think Ann gave him the last time she found the snake in the nesting box with an egg in his mouth. But I expect to see him back next year, a few inches and a few ounces larger still.

* Yesterday, a half hour before what rain we’d get all day had commenced, I managed to till up a few of the empty patches of garden and sow some winter wheat as a ground cover. It will green up nicely before the frosts come, a fact hard to imagine this balmy morning when we had to open the windows to cool off the house.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Well thank you Elaine. I generally find that doing these little vignettes from daily life is the surest way to put my tiny rag-tag band of erratic readers soundly to sleep.