Tuesday, July 13, 2010

An Old-Fashioned Getaway

I went camping frequently as a child. I remember the thrill of anticipation as our old pickup truck chugged down forgotten county roads, kicking up dust and gravel. We'd pick a campsite shaded by tall canopies of trees. Once our camp was in order, I'd spend my time scouting around for interesting insects and flowers to add to my collection. We were up with the chickens at 4 a.m., because everyone knows the fish bite best in the early morning hours. I'll never forget those early morning sounds: the gentle waves lapping rhythmically against my grandpa's old aluminum boat, the slap of the wire fish box hitting the water surface and then sinking below, waiting patiently to be filled by bluegill, bass, and trout. Dawn is a magical time to be out on the water.

Seized by a fit of nostalgia, I decided that a quick camping trip was in order. The heat had broken, our schedules were clear, and I'd just been told about a state park with great camping and hiking that was only 40 minutes from our house.

We set up our tent in the waning light of the day. Only a few campsites were occupied, so we had some much-desired breathing room. We read for a while, and then turned on our propane lantern and set up our Scrabble board. As the darkness intensified, the sounds of tree frogs filled the air. I hadn't realized that there were tree frogs in Indiana, but the sounds were undeniably coming from above and later research showed three varieties of tree frogs that live in Indiana: the green tree frog and two types of grey tree frogs.

Against the obbligato of croaks, we played Scrabble. The light from the lantern drew moths of all shapes and sizes. Moths are phototactic, which means they automatically move toward light. There are many theories about why this occurs, ranging from navigational reasons involving the moon (which the moth mistakes your light for) to nutrient-gathering (the moth thinks your light is a big pale flower). It was charming and somehow otherworldly to be playing Scrabble in flickering lamplight, nudging moths out of the way in order to spell words. They clung to our clothing and hands, too. I felt very much like the "moth whisperer," moving my letters around with moths adorning my fingers like dark jewelry.

I was just able to capture this photo of a wild delphinium as the sun was setting.

We had a poor night's sleep due to forgetting a crucial article (AIR MATTRESS) but it was easy to forget our burning eyes and sore backs as the light filtered through the trees so nicely.

My knee is better, so I was able to hike around 4 miles. I was surprised to see this rather large burl protruding from a small tree. Burls are caused by an attack on the tree by insects or environmental stresses. The wood of a burl is very unusual, with twisted and whorled grains. It's considered unusually beautiful and it's prized by furniture makers and wood sculptors.

Such pretty veining and bold colors in this little leaf!

Lichen attached to many of the trees on our trail.

I usually find these empty shells around, but this shell contained a live cicada, crawling slowly up the tree trunk. It's a little late in the season to be in this state, so I'm sure it will molt soon.

Here is an interesting link if you'd like to see it in action:


This swallowtail butterfly has beautiful coloring. The wings are covered with very tiny scales and, in many cases, employ cryptic coloring, aiming to look like a leaf or a pair of eyes.

This Midland Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta) was heading for an unknown destination. You can see by the various shades of brown on his shell how easily he blends into the leaves on the forest floor.

After our walk, we shook out our thick plaid blanket and spread it beneath a shady tree. In the dappled sunshine, we relaxed and read for hours. What a pleasant way to end our old-fashioned getaway!

This week, I worked doggedly on my commissioned project. My husband's co-worker had requested a difficult pattern, and I wanted to have a polished finished project. The knitting was easy, but there were so many knitted pieces to seam together. As I worked, I realized that this pattern could be modified to knit in the round...the legs, and then rapid increases for the body. I didn't want to experiment with this particular project, though, so I gritted my teeth and seamed for days. I'm not terribly pleased with the final result, just because the seams look so bumpy. My husband's co-worker was happy with it, though, so I'm glad, and ready to move on to something new!

Blueberries were on sale this week, so I had to buy some for one of our favorite desserts.

I have a wonderful blueberry muffin recipe that I've modified just a bit. I'll include the original but show my modifications. This recipe comes from my go-to site for good food: recipezaar.com.

Best Blueberry Muffins
Makes 16 muffins

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature (I reduced to 1/4 cup)
1 cup sugar (I reduced to 1/2 cup)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
2 cups flour (I used half whole wheat)
1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon raw sugar (granulated is fine), mixed with
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter and sugar together, then add eggs one at a time, beating after each one. Beat in vanilla, baking powder, and salt. With a spoon, fold in half of flour, then half of milk; repeat. Fold in blueberries. Spoon into greased muffin tins and sprinkle topping onto each muffin. Bake 18 - 25 minutes.

They are so good. I had a warm muffin and a cold glass of milk yesterday and it was the perfect way to end a meal. Those blueberry stained fingers are a bonus!


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