See, Hear, Taste, Touch

Rosy hummingbird moth on bergamot, Blue Ridge Parkway

See the tiny hummingbird! I know some of you have seen a hummingbird MOTH like this one and jumped to the logical conclusion it was some rare kind of wee bird, hovering exactly like its namesake. These are the darndest things to get a decent photo of, being only about an inch long through the body, in constant motion, and wings whirring a hundred times a second. This is the clearest shot I’ve got, taken on the Blue Ridge Parkway a few weeks back, shot at 1/500th of a second.

Hear the Screech Owl? No, me either, thought that was why I ran inside yesterday morning to grab my cell phone to fire up the recorder app. By the time I got back to the porch, no owl in the maple tree just outside the front door, just creek babble, lots of crickets, and a distant morning bird. Still, it’s sorta peaceful, and you get to share an acoustic half-moment from Goose Creek. Listen here.

Taste the Spoiled Milk: This was no accident. We polluted perfectly good milk for a good cause: to enhance the fauna of bacteria and yeasts, alter the chemistry and taste of the milk, and create something I’d never known about until our neighbor offered us a starter for this yogurt-cousin, Kefir. The taste and thickness apparently depends on how long you let it sit at room temps. I added a touch of cold coffee to a half-pint in my first taste testing, and it went down easily. We’re still experimenting, but the reports of digestive system change for the better might make it worth exploring if you’re lactose intolerant or have other more serious GI issues. I’d never heard of it; it’s been in the human diet around the world for may centuries. I still have so much to learn before I grow up.

Touch Typing: Or some approximation thereof, with the new Kinesis Freestyle keyboard. I’ve used an ergonomic keyboard since they first came out for the consumer market (Microsoft Natural) but thought I’d spin off in a different direction for a change. The Freestyle keyboard is in two halves, the distance between, as well as the angle of each and the pitch, is therefore independently customizable. There are additional “docks” into which you can clip the keyboard halves to more securely anchor them in the exact configuration you find that works for you. The Mac version has keys for copy-paste I have grown quickly used to. Quickly finding the home keys without looking–I have NOT quickly gotten used to, old dog, new tricks.

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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. Report back if you have success on the kefir. My fiance loves it, but at $3-$4 a bottle (which for him is one serving in spite of what the label says) we don’t keep it around much…

  2. I tend to pick up a bottle of kefir a few times a year myself. Blueberry and pomegranate seem to be the mix I like best. In the frig it seems to keep a while after opening without any degradation in taste.

    Don’t know if it makes me any healthier or not, but, I like it.

  3. Thanks for the audio! I couldn’t pick up the bird in the distance, but I loved the sound of Goose Creek, you lucky folks. Your photo was so good! As the spouse of an aspiring bird photographer, I know a good shot when I see one!

  4. Kefir is very easy to make- much easier than yogurt. You just get the grains, put them in milk, cover loosely, and strain the grains out of the milk about once a 24-hour period. What you have strained out is kefir!
    We just store ours in glass jars in the fridge. Once strained it lasts about 4 or 5 days in the fridge.

    When you first get your grains, you have to gradually increase the amount of milk you put them in until you get the consistency that you want. But even when the kefir gets “thicker” than it should, you can still drink it, you can even make cheese out of it. My husband and I have been making kefir for about 7 months now, and it’s great!! You can put fruit in it, put it on cereal, smoothies, or just drink it straight. And despite being slightly intimidating at first, it’s actually really hard to mess it up.

    And if you go away for a week or so, you can just put the kefir grains (in milk) in the fridge to slow down their production. That way, you don’t have to worry that it will spoil because nobody is straining it daily. Or I suppose you can get a “kefir-sitter”….