Sep 17, 2005

Hummers, Early Risers, and Falling Back

Oh yes, a veritable smorgasbord of things for you to ingest.

I spent the morning surfing blogs, and found almost no updates. Seems people simply don't update their blogs on weekends, finding other, more important things to do than entertain us, the readers. So, I'm updating, as I try to do at least 400 times a year.

Let's talk about hummers, and I don't mean the big-ass trucks, either. Nature, by and large, is a mean old bitty. Ever watch hummingbirds? Tiny creatures, their feet are so small I'm surprised they can hang on to anything. Their wings beat so fast that when they soar by you it sounds like a huge angry honeybee, and their beaks are designed to reach deep into flowers and pluck your eye clean out of your skull, or something like that.

Don't get me wrong, I think they're beautiful, but have you ever really watched hummingbirds at a feeder? I have. I've got two feeders hung outside my back patio, and one at the front porch, and I have to fill them between two and three times a DAY. Bloody freeloaders, they really nark me. The feeders STAY busy, worse than a Starbucks Monday morning at 8, and the battles that take place are as fierce as any you could imagine in the animal kingdom, even though they're taking place on a scale much smaller than most. Males jousting with each other, jealously guarding feeders from wind-chime perches and females just trying to get a sip, while other females desperately crowd them out, jockeying for position at one of the four painfully fake plastic flowers on the base of the feeder.

What makes it worse is that there's a big, old white crepe myrtle tree just to the side of the patio which has enough small branches that even hummingbird feet can find safe purchase. They all retreat there when I step outside to refill empty feeders, and all I can hear is that angry, high-pitched chirping and the clench of tiny claws on branches from beasties eager to return to the sugar-fueled fray. Many is the time I've had to swat at glucose-junkie males who buzz my head, threatening to poke my eyes out if I don't get a move on the filling process, and many are the ear-piercing shrieks if I dally at my task.

Fall is coming on close, too. Not only are the monarch butterflies and the hummers moving south for the winter (like we ever really get Winter here) the pine trees are shedding needles everywhere, and the first spider lily of the year has poked it's scarlet head out of the ground and taken flower. I'm not sure what drove this diehard on, but it's well in advance of it's brethren, by a long shot. Usually I see dozens and dozens of pale green stalks and the next morning all is red waving tendrils, but no, this one had to be out front. If you look carefully at the bottom right of it's stalk you can see about five more of it's early-rising kindred.

I've always loved spider lilies, even from when I was a little boy. I can remember every September, when the yard would be filled with them, and I'd be out there, armed with a pair of scissors, cropping down one or two to be carefully wrapped in a damp paper towel, and that wrapped in foil, to bring red cheer to whichever teacher that year was my mother-surrogate.

Fall is well on it's way. The rainfall certainly isn't, I've got huge dead patches in the yard and I think the state is 18" below it's usual rainfall totals, so it's been a bit not-damp. My water bill is no doubt going to go straight through the roof in my desperate attempt to save rosesbushes, lilies and grass, and I find myself desperately wishing the rain would come and save me some money.

The cotton fields are being cleaned even as we speak. Huge humpbacked John Deere pickers rove back and forth, up and down the rows, leaving sparse, dappled brown twigs behind, almost cleaned of their load of garments-to-be, and a second pass soon will leave them all but empty, ready to be disked back into the ground to serve as compost for the rye grass that will refresh the earth's load of nitrogen and feed cattle, which will turn grass into waste that replentishes the fields for more cotton.

I'm sure there's some deep symbological meaning there, but I'm too unfocused to pull it out right now.

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