Maple Seeds and Chipmunks

On Tuesday, May 28th at 10:03 a.m. EST, I pushed “send” and launched my manuscript into the next phase… working with my publisher – a major step in turning the spiral bound version into a real book!

I am self-publishing the book with the help of a publishing service, iUniverse, which will help me move the manuscript through the editorial and design stages.  If all stays on track, Cornfields to Codfish will be available in the fall. 

Strangely enough, the first stop for my manuscript is the Philippines.  There, the content will be analyzed to check for libel and copyright infringement.  I’m guessing this is all completed via computer programs that compare my writing to information on the internet.  In two or three weeks, the manuscript will return to Indiana for review by English-as-first-language editors.

In the meantime, I’m working on one final section for the book – a collection of recipes, ones that relate back to the essays in the book.  So just when you think you’ve come to the end of the book, voilà, a little icing on the cake!

I thought I would send you a draft of “Mushroom Risotto,” but that writing took a turn and meandered to a place far from the actual recipe.  I didn’t have time Thursday to pull in the reins and make it suitable to send to you.  Rather, I dropped the reins and let it wander and gallop.  I’m not sure what I’ll find when I seek it out again – hopefully something salvageable that I can call “Mushroom Risotto” in the back section of Cornfields to Codfish.

Today is a Sunday with clouds but, as of yet, no rain.  I fully intend to weed the front of three flower gardens and plant annuals in them.  The perennials in most of the plots are established and few weeds are able to anchor among them.  Every year I fill in the spaces with additional perennials, but in the last couple years those plants haven’t come back. 

I attribute this to the shuffle in the ecosystem in my backyard.  I’m overrun with rabbits.  Seven years ago, I was writing about a family of fox that lived in our backyard.  They were intriguing, and… they were above rabbits in the food chain.  We had two seasons of fox living in the rocky ledge around our property.  Then, late that last summer, a neighbor saw a dead fox on the road by her house, and the following year, no fox family. 

So, the woodchuck returned to his apartments from whence he had been ousted by the fox.  Woodchucks are the equivalent of what Dad calls horses, hay burners – only woodchucks are perennial burners.  A perennial can only take so much continual trimming by these buck-teethed, wide porky creatures before it’s snuffed out.  The wide swathes of empty space in my flower gardens reflect a couple hundred dollars worth of plants that survived only long enough to provide a salad bar to the woodchuck.

That was a couple years ago.  Today, we have an abundance of brave rabbits, with no woodchucks in sight.  Rabbits are just another buck-toothed, heavy-duty nibbler, porky with long ears. 

Procrastinating the move to the flower garden, I took my coffee and a book of essays to the deck.  It was a book that had been on my shelf for nearly a year.  I didn’t think I would get anywhere by picking up the 732-page Anna Karenina that I’m tasking myself with.  The constant pull of all those weeds and baby maples that needed to be pulled wouldn’t let me sink into that story. I only had attention for two or three pages at a time — before the vision of a two-leafed maple sapling interrupted.

Our property is surrounded by maple trees and every fall millions of single-bladed helicopter seeds spin to the ground and lodge themselves in my flower gardens.  Even after a fall cleanup, a hefty number of them spring up as baby maples the following spring.  Every year.  Every single year.  If I take a hoe to them, I only succeed in trimming them, which forces the root to go deeper and for them to regrow stronger the following year.  The most effective method of removal is on my hands and knees, pulling each three-inch-high seedling from the ground with constant steady force so that it doesn’t snap off, leaving the root to go deeper.  I’ve had four pulling sessions so far this spring.  I’m about to head out for, hopefully, one last time. 

With my feet propped up and a blanket over my shoulders, I hugged my book and my coffee in my lap.  Sudden, jerky movements caught my peripheral eye.  A chipmunk was on the deck.  It was rummaging along the edges then darting nearer and nearer to me.  My vocal shooing and flicking of my hand were mere second-long distractions to this little beast. 

The last time I lived on a farm was in 1988, yet my intolerance for rodents – which for me ranges from rabbits and raccoons to rats and chipmunks – has not changed.  I don’t find these critters cute.  They are nuisances and their close proximity to my house in the city takes up a lot of brain space.  So this chipmunk on the deck became intolerable.  I stopped short of throwing something at it.

With my legs up such that it couldn’t run up my blanket, I watched it.  Often I muse at the differences between Bill’s people and my people in his people’s soft spot for animals.  Bill’s mum was a wild animal lover through and through – birds, mice, badgers, hedgehogs. However, I grew up with rabid skunks and raccoons that Dad would shoot in order to protect our family and our livestock.  And, several months after harvest, I would witness corn cribs being emptied and the ensuing dance my dad would have with rats and mice at the bottom of the crib.  Hence the yin-yang of Bill and me: He has a lovely soft heart when it comes to all animals.  I have the heart of a farmer when it comes to rodents. 

I’m quite OK with these small critters remaining at the edges of our properties, but once they move to the flower gardens – and now the deck??  Still, I watched the chipmunk.  He was working hard to dig something out between the boards of the deck.  Quick little fingers magically produced one of those helicopter maple seeds.  He flicked it around so the blade was facing out. And… he ate the seed!   He actually eats maple seeds!  These nuisances without a heart that have me standing on my head for hours in the flower gardens – they are chipmunk food!  This twitching striped rodent is on my side!

Long live the Chipmunk! 

God save the Chipmunk!