Monday, October 4, 2010

Energy, Alliances, and Going With the Flow

This past weekend Minnesotans around the state participated in the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society's annual Solar Tour. It's held in conjunction with the National Solar Tour every October. This non-profit organization was founded in Minneapolis in 1978. Thirty two years ago. It's a good thing that perseverance is listed among their values. It gives me yet another reason to feel hopeful about our tomorrows.

My neighbors, who have several photovoltaic panels on the roof of their house with which they heat their home and their water, participated in this year's tour. He is an electrician who also installs panels with the local company, RREAL, the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance, which is devoted to "making solar power accessible to people of all income levels." Honorable people, with a really fine objective.

An old friend stopped in while on the tour and then came over to see my place. I hadn't seen Alison since last winter. She has retired from many years of service as an employee of the local and regional library, a place I worked at briefly in the late '70's. For several years we both belonged to a woman's book discussion group. She and her husband just returned from a month in Africa. I look forward to hearing about it over coffee someday soon.

The rest of the weekend was spent on outdoor work, getting things prepared for the coming cold, as well as gathering flower heads for seeds in next year's garden.  The zinnias finally went into "that good night,"  but not before I gathered a final bouquet for my nightstand.

I had to do what is probably the last mowing for this year, adding the leaves and grass clippings gathered in the bins to the covering over the septic line. I followed with the straw. Straw comes apart in what are referred to as "books," small segments that are easy to handle, once separated from the bale. It was an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon and I find it oddly attractive, in a simple and efficient sort of way.

A pair of ruffed grouse have been feasting from time to time on the crab apple tree outside my kitchen window, stopping to sit a spell on the bird feeder next to it. They take turns eating and keeping a lookout from their perch on the feeder as they survey their kingdom. I tried a few days ago to sneak around the corner of the house to take their picture, but they weren't having any of it. I captured a few poor quality images this weekend, from inside, and will share a couple of them just because I love their looks and it was such a treat to be visited by them.

The squirrels, who appropriated the feeder earlier this summer, have recently formed an uneasy alliance with several large blue jays, all jockeying for position. I decided to adopt the  "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," philosophy, putting the birdseed out for whomever showed up. It feels more tolerant and doable for everyone. A large number of chickadees apparently have a similar philosophy, going about life in their quiet and unassuming way, unmoved by the alpha behavior that seems to be going on around them. Watching interactions in nature is often amusing, always interesting, in many ways mirroring human behavior.

The neighbor, who is a true gardener, explained to me how to prepare my squash for storage. I washed them with a "nine parts water to one part bleach bath," followed by a light coat of vegetable oil. I ended up with seventeen regular winter squash and nine Turban, or Turk's Cap, which I have been referring to as gourds. I found out they are, indeed, edible, often used for soups. I will continue to display them for awhile before storing them for future eating. I am still considering the possibility of drying a couple and then carving them for birdhouses. I think they'd make nice additions to the little development I wrote about this summer in, "The Queen of Birdland."

My sister, Chris, just called from her home in Texas Hill Country, wanting to say good morning. She was outside on this beauty of a day, doing some weeding, and thought of me and my summer of weeding. I never thought I'd hear myself say that I'm looking forward to winter, but I can see that nature has a way of providing for those much needed respites.

A black squirrel is making his way across the yard outside my window. What used to be a very rare sighting of these has turned almost commonplace. A few have made my yard their home.

A little chipmunk is living under my front porch. Many times I've encountered him en route. I assured him I don't mind sharing the space with him. Besides, he was here first. Perhaps it's a she and some young 'uns will someday appear on the scene and it will start to lose its charm, but I'll reach that bridge when I reach that bridge. I have said it before and will say it again. And often. It makes everything so much easier when you go with the natural flow of life.

The photographs are mine.


  1. I have enjoyed reading this post. Thank you for opening the door into your world; I love all I have seen and read. Your world is so different from mine, not just the reverse of season - but in the ebb and flow of them too. Chipmonks, squirrels, ruffed grouse - all magical to me! Love the colours in your first photo.

  2. I hadn't heard about storing squash - wish I'd known before bagging and freezing them.

    We're due for three days of sunshine this week, so I've decided Friday will be the day we harvest the green tomatoes, the rest of the green beans and the little squashes that probably aren't going to grow up. The chickens next door will get some of the greenery and the compost bins will get the rest. I'm looking forward to that day outdoors.

    We have a humane squirrel trap - just today we came home to find one, frantic in the trap. Husband took it to a nearby park and released it. Win-win, eventually, for all of us.

  3. Yes, going with nature, the flow. I like this post.

  4. Again, a fun post. I spent my day bringing in my plants, and getting out my halloween stuff. It's just that time, isn't it?! Going with the flow is peaceful this time of year...I love it!

  5. Pretty funny that we both had bird messengers today! I rarely have birds on the deck outside my window....much less a hawk. Love the fall colors up your way. Hope you're keeping warm. Have already cranked up the fire here in Illinois. It seems we only have 2 seasons. Was watching a movie on the environment last week called The Age of Stupidity...and it's confirming the 2 season theory.

    Thinking that the grouse have a message for you.

  6. I added myself to follow your blog. You are more than welcome to visit mine and become a follower if you want to.

    God Bless You ~Ron

  7. Marilyn, I so appreciate seeing life from another perspective in other places. It enriches and expands my own. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    Linda, I just came in from working in my own garden, putting more of it to rest. It feels good to have it winding down here. Another beautiful and very warm day. Indian summer.

    Jack, It's good to hear from you...

    Lynne, Yes, it's a great time of year. I'm thinking of a few Halloween decorations, too, just for the kid in me. :)

    MG, I love that we both had "visitors." I looked up Ruffed Grouse on an animal totem site and it was interesting... Your red-tailed hawk is very cool. The Age of Stupidity. I will have to see if it's available here.

    Ron, Thank you for visiting. Always nice to hear from new people.

  8. Never heard of a black squirrel or how to store squash, love learning new things.

  9. How to store squash is new for me, too. And, I have enough to share with friends and family. I'm really glad for that.

  10. I love your fall photos ~ it is truly my most favorite season. I just wish it stayed around longer!

    Hope you are having a terrific week Teresa!
    xo Catherine

  11. Hi Catherine! Yes, I do, too. It's such a great time of year and this year especially, temps in the mid to high '70's! Thank You! I hope you are, as well.

  12. My hat's off to the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society, for sure. Am ashamed to admit that I didn't know about them so thank you for writing about it.

    Those ruffed grouse are beauties. I think you live on a wild life refuge! Lucky you.

    Unfortunately, our garden wasn't as prolific as we'd have liked. I think it's time to "rotate the crops". I'm going out there, tomorrow, to see what else is left. I'm going to remember that lesson on wintering squash. Squash is soooo delicious.

  13. Cheryl, I do sometimes feel as though I live on a wildlife refuge. I am so blessed.

    I love squash so I'm glad it was abundant. I just put my garden to bed for their long winter's nap. It feels good. Loved the work, but glad for a break.