Boy scouts, do something good, don’t just beg

IMG_1826The laziest form of charity is taking something from someone else and then giving it to the needy. There is a little effort in gathering, but most charities make better use of money than of dented cans and expired macaroni and cheese, or even undented and unexpired goods. So why to these St. Louis boy scouts just beg for my cans rather than actually doing something? If they want to give money, they should give their own money, or do something that earns money. They should do things all through the year, not just right before Christmas. I don’t need to list here all the kinds of things boy scouts can do. They know. There are tons of fantastic projects, from putting out nests for native pollinators to tutoring students to visiting nursing homes to building trails. Find something to do. Stop begging.

The point is boy scouts should do something themselves and not just mooch off me. I am fully capable of choosing my own charities and giving to them generously. Lazy, unimaginative scouts are not part of the equation.

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Lab hike at Cuivre River State Park

DSC07222    Are your best friends in your lab group? Are there lots of friendships and activities in the group? If so, it sure makes all that pipetting go more smoothly, not to mention struggling with R or finding true significance in your data.DSC07228

We took a lab hike on Sunday, meeting up at the visitor’s center at Cuivre River State Park, about 50 miles north of St. Louis. Only six of us could go, jeff smith, Tracy Douglas, Suegene Noh, Cassie Vernier, Tony Cantu, and me. Cuivre River State Park is an interesting area because it wasn’t really glaciated, while the area around it was. It also is an Ozark-like island among rolling farmland. Like the rest of the Ozarks, it has occasional vistas, occasional dry creeks with limestone shelves easing the desolation of steep oak-dominated tick-infested forests, generally lacking in understory except for poison ivy. You earn your natural glimpses in the Ozarks.

In November, hiking is a bit challenging because the thick rustle of leaves covered everything, roots, rocks, step downs, all muffled by leaves. I was glad I brought my hiking poles for what turned out to be nearly a nine mile hike.DSC07193

We hit Frenchman’s bluff early. From there we looked down on the Cuivre River and on a farmer harvesting oats. A bit farther north, around Bowling Green, we might have seen an Amish farmer using horses.IMG_1824

Our food arrangements were casual. We brought something for ourselves and something to share. There was trailmix, apples, pumpkin muffins, jerky, and egg salad sandwiches. Peanut m and ms rounded it out.

I thought a little about safety and brought a bivi sac and a camping pad in case someone got left while others went for help, an unlikely scenario with six.

Levi, the dachshund/Pekinese mix kept things active. We passed a golden retriever and a dalmatian and a couple of other dogs. On this crisp day with brilliant blue sky, the park was basically closed and abandoned. We had to hike up the road a mile to even get to the trailhead. Outhouses were mostly locked. The visitor’s center was closed.DSC07202

We hiked and hiked, getting into the rhythm of simply moving. Here and there were signs of the humans that once lived in this six thousand acre park. We saw a stone well, and a bit of a wooden fence. I picked up a piece of flint that might have been flaked by the first people. I dropped it for another to find and wonder over.

DSC07248Birds were few. A northern cardinal, tufted titmice, and chickadees brought the woods a bit away from desolation. At first I only heard the shriek of downy woodpeckers, but later also saw a red bellied woodpecker, then a pileated woodpecker heavily flying across the path. A spider, a wasp, and a beetle, a poison oozing meloid, rounded out the natural life.

Maybe Wednesday we’ll go out again, for a real freeze may be coming. I hope it brings frost flowers!

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Halloween in St. Louis is for the jokes

Did you know the children tell jokes? Can you believe this was our third Halloween here already, although last year I was in Finland?

The jokes the children tell are not good jokes.  Here are a few.DSC06766


Why do witches ride brooms? Because vacuum cords aren’t long enough

Why didn’t the skeleton cross the road? Because he didn’t have the guts

What room can the skeleton not go in? The living room

What kind of bat is at the circus? acrobatDSC06799

Why was the dog chasing the skeleton? Because he wanted a bone

What is a fish without an eye? fsssshhhhh

Why did the vampire go to NY to see the Vampire state building

What kind of nut always has a cold? Cashew

What did the skeleton do with the donut? Suck the jelly out.

What kind of music does the mummy like? Rap

What did one hat say to the other? You stay here while I go on a head.DSC06808

What nationality is in the living room? American, What nationality is in the dining room? American. What nationality is in the bathroom? European.

Knock Knock. Who’s there? Interrupting cow. Interrupting cow who? burp?

Knock Knock whos there? queen queen who? Clean my room

Why couldn’t the lifeguard save the hippie? He was too far out.

What’s the vampire’s favorite dog? Bloodhound.DSC06820

Why did the cow jump over the moon? To get to the milky way

What’s your joke? The Rams. They’re a joke.

How do you make a tissue dance? Put a little boogie in it.

Why did the pelican get kicked out of the restaurant? He had a very big bill.

Why did the witch miss a lot of school? She kept getting expelled.

What did the witch say to the vampire? You suck.DSC06788

Knock knock? Whos there. Philip. Philip who. Philip my candy bag.

What was a witch’s favorite subject in school? spelling

What has ten letters and starts with gas? An automobile.

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Searching for frost flowers at Rockwoods Range

Frost Flower by Slomoz CC 2.0

Frost Flower by Slomoz CC 2.0

Frost flowers explode out of dying plants at the first hard freeze. I learned about them from our campus Record. Alan Templeton has some wonderful photos of frost flowers and knows just where to find them. The only thing is the day you go is not optional: it must be after the first hard freeze. October 25th might be that day.

I got up early and headed out of town west on 44. Alone. I got off at the Six Flags exit just past Tyson. Fox Creek Road isn’t exactly an access road, though it more or less parallels the highway. I drove a mile and a half to the trailhead and parked. I crossed back over the freshly asphalted road and took the left fork of the trail, less used and narrow, curving up along a streambed. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I saw the impenetrable nuts of a black walnut, round as golf balls, green and bigger. I heard a chickadee, then two. I quickly identified a near constant rattle as the sound of leaves falling through the branches. The trail wound up to some shallow limestone shelves in the dry streambed. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Alan had not said exactly how far I needed to go to find the best plants for frost flowers. It seemed early enough, before eight in the morning. But the puddle in the parking lot was unfrozen. Maybe it wasn’t cold enough, though the reports had said mid twenties out here towards Eureka. I kept going.

This is the thing about nature. What you look for might not be there. But what you find is always worth the journey.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Manila Bistro in Kirkwood

IMG_1755I don’t get the way restaurants here serve the rice all broken on a lettuce leaf, but if the rest is great, it should be OK. Here at Manila Bistro we won half the time. The pinakbet was delicious. IMG_1750I suppose the bitter melon was easy enough to find at Global Foods right down Kirkwood from here. The pork adobo had the suspicious taste of something like cornstarch. Neither dish was at all spicy. The hot sauce they brought in a nice little pot was siracha, or that is what it tasted like. The lettuce was iceberg crunchy, almost nice for a change.IMG_1753

IMG_1756I’m betting these owners can cook. Maybe it would be great if I better knew how to order Filipino food. But I’m determined to stop being so snobby about St. Louis restaurants and get out and try them! This was a good start, right on our way home from the park. Sadly, I couldn’t convince my loyal husband to stop at Global Foods.

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A bald eagle at Russell E. Emmenegger Nature Park

DSC06846We didn’t have time to go far, so a mile and a half loop above the Meramec River just off 270 and 44 sounded perfect. It wasn’t so easy to get to since we had to loop east on 44 after driving south on 270. DSC06847We got off 44 on Geyer Road, turned left on Cragwold Road which basically dead ended into the park, 44 roaring above us. How sad it must have been for the people that loved this bit of Missouri at Russell E. Emmenegger Nature Park OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA   DSC06851 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMG_1730 when that freeway sliced past. It wasn’t hard to find the trail, a long loop through the falling yellow and brown leaves, with red poison ivy on the ground and tropical looking paw paw in the understory.

The birds were quiet this Sunday afternoon right after we left daylight savings time. A chickadee warned against us, but did not sing. The falling leaves sounded like rain.

A young girl stood by the trail, tears on her cheeks, her arms folded defiantly across her jacket. I guess that was her brother and mother up ahead with the friendly poodle, and her father back at the car. Her day did not get any better as she ran with the dog, then fell splayed out on the trail, sobbing loudly. I hope she was just tired and not beginning the long, long life of the overly sensitive.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally we crossed from the woodsy side to the cliffs with the view. We didn’t walk up to the old Lemp mansion site. But the river was hardly visible. We looked instead at the scraped site of the old Chrysler plant, or so another hiker told us. We couldn’t identify the closer buildings, but they did not look fun.

I was glad to see the ridge side glades fenced off with a gentle warning as to their delicate side. I struggled to get a photo with the fence when Dave, looking up, pointed to the fully mature bald eagle soaring the river, then banking right above us! Its unmistakable white glistened in the autumn sun. I couldn’t focus, but got a distant shot back from the parking lot.

The roar of 44 accompanied us the whole way, so I don’t think this will become our favorite park. But I wonder if the limestone cuts here hold fossils. They would be good to collect since they are on a quiet dead end.

Missouri in autumn. Now if only the hunters would be more successful and bring down the deer numbers and the ticks that infest them.

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The other St. Louis art fair

DSC05981 DSC05983 DSC05989 DSC05999 DSC05993 Last year we rode our bikes to the main art fair, held in Clayton. We walked past block after block of garish or gripping, metal, canvas, paint, wood, and cloth art. We did not buy the three dollar water sold by non-profits. We did buy a large wooden bowl that had signs of an old beetle conflict, channels kept separate, stained by fungi. How many others knew the social story behind those marks?

This year we went to the brewery on Manchester and the tiny other art fair, Art Outside, for St. Louisans not participating in the big time event. We would boycott the name, Schlafly for that crazy Phyllis who pretty much single-handedly defeated the Equal Rights for Women Constitutional Amendment. But we don’t. It is the same family, not the same people. We no longer wondered that we knew no one. We are used to it now.

The best art was a pendant of a couple dozen cells of a wasp nest, most with tiny gleaming eggs in them. It was even labeled Polistinae. The young artist was entranced that we returned to look at it. But $840? Do you know how many tomatoes I could buy for that? I could even buy another pressure canner and have money for all the jars and fruit I cared to can. Yet, if we don’t buy it, who would? Someone who had no idea what Polistinae meant, no doubt. We didn’t tell her she could have simply put Polistes.

We got beer and bratwurst with sauerkraut, of course. But we split each. There were soft things for kids. There were old boxes with faces peering out of them. There was music. We walked through downtown Maplewood to get there.

Next year we’ll brave the crowds in Clayton, much as we liked this quirky alternative.

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