I looked out at unplanted farm fields that resembled pizza with everything on it.

I watched a cliff swallow fly overhead.

I swatted a fly on my arm.

Like everyone, I have a complicated relationship with nature.

I saw a small tree suckering up from its towering parent. A tree rising from the ash.

Several turkey vultures circled above a dead animal on the road. Their flight is beautiful, an aerial ballet. The birds' mastery of the air makes me think that it would nearly be worth being a vulture to be able to fly like that.

Nature provides a show in HD. It's in 3-D, too, and there is no need to wear those goofy glasses.

Echoes from Loafers' Club

"Boy, that was a loud thunderstorm last night. I wish someone would have awakened me."

"Why?"

"I can't sleep through thunder and lightning."

Driving by the Bruces

I have two wonderful neighbors - both named Bruce - who live across the road from each other. Whenever I pass their driveways, thoughts occur to me, such as: the older you get, the harder it is to lose weight, because by then your body and your fat have become good friends.

I've learned

A true convenience store would be located along my driveway.

Batting gloves should be outlawed in Major League Baseball. The constant adjusting of those gloves by hitters adds length to games.

The easiest way to find a lost item is to buy a replacement.

The news from Hartland

The Chicken Dance Center offers a class in which students learn the hula in two shakes.

Local man's funeral had Minnesota Viking players as pallbearers. It was his wish that the Vikings let him down one last time.

Old Man McGinty, the youngest Old Man McGinty ever, walked three miles to school every day. The school was only two blocks from his home, but he knew a long way.

She looked up to me

I could only guess at her age and I'm not good at guessing ages.

She said, "Oh, my stars and garters!"

I've never known anyone outside books and movies who said, "Oh, my stars and garters!"

She had to stretch to be five feet tall.

She looked up at me, nearly a foot and a half taller, and said, "I've never been that tall."

I believed her.

Going home

It was the summer of his school reunion.

He walked into one of those big hotel rooms. People from every fool place were there, wearing nametags. He was impressed by the preparation of his classmates in charge of the reunion. He was more impressed by how young and fit his classmates looked.

People asked how he was with equal parts politeness and concern.

It wasn't long before he realized, with some relief, that his reunion of older graduates was in another room.

He'd recently lost his job of long duration. He growled that they'd never be able to replace him.

I thought about a couple of trees that had fallen in my yard. I wondered how I should replace them. I wondered long enough that a volunteer mountain ash grew in one vacant spot and a dogwood filled the other. They are a perfect fit.

When we think of ourselves as irreplaceable, we're wrong.

The man told me that the first thing he did upon arrival in his hometown was to drive by the house he grew up in.

It hit me, I can no longer drive by my boyhood home.

It was demolished and replaced.

I can still go home. There's a road that leads from my mind to my heart.

Hotwire

Elwood P. Dowd in "Harvey" said, "Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, 'In this world, Elwood, you must be' -she always called me Elwood - 'In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.' Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me."

I could have been pleasant. I could have warned him.

Relatives from the city were visiting. They had a boy my age. We went for a walk to explore the farm. Curiosity caused his hand to touch an electric fence in fine working condition. He jerked away.

"Get a shock?" I asked with a minimum of concern.

"I would have," he replied, "if I hadn't been too quick for it."

Nature notes

Jean Schlegel of Rochester asks why birds sing so early in the morning.

I thrill to the dawn chorus of birdsong. Many birds sing before sunrise, which is too early for some people to appreciate. Some scientists believe that early morning is the best time for males to attract females or to proclaim territory. The light is too dim to forage efficiently, so singing makes good use of a bird's time. Weather conditions are often calm in the early day, allowing songs to travel a good distance and human sounds are at a low point. Claude Monet said, "I would like to paint the way a bird sings."

Tom Belshan of Glenville asked why we see more turkey vultures than we did in the past?

There are a couple of reasons for their abundance. The banning of DDT and as deer and small mammal populations have increased, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of wildlife carcasses. The vultures' food supply has become plentiful, especially roadkill.

"Why don't turkey vultures stay here all winter?"

The turkey vulture lacks the heavy bill necessary to pierce the hide of dead animals. Since most road-killed creatures suffer wounds that create large gashes or openings in the body cavity, the mangled remains are an ideal source of food for this bird. When coyotes tear open the remains of a deer, it prepares a carcass for a vulture's visit. When the weather is freezing, the bills of the vultures aren't powerful enough to break into frozen carcasses in order to feed. Vultures migrate south to warmer temperatures where food is available to them.

"Does a bird sweat?"

No, it controls its body temperature by panting with opened mouth and via heat loss from featherless legs and feet.

Bill Courter of Jolley asked where our resident bald eagles migrate.

Bald eagles have a complex migration pattern dependent upon age, breeding location and food. They begin migration when waters freeze, usually migrating to open water. They return to breeding grounds when weather and food permit. Young eagles spend their first four years in nomadic exploration, some Florida birds wandering as far north as Michigan.

"How many bald eagles live to be a year old?"

Mortality is highest for eagles during their first years of life. Research estimates mortality as high as 72 percent within one year of fledging and that about one in 10 eagles survives five years.

Tom Jessen of Madelia finds a bat in his house every August and wonders why.

The most common time of year for bats to get inside a home is in August. The reason is because that's when the baby bats start to fly. New to that world, they can become confused and take a wrong turn. The mother bat follows her baby's cry and could get into the house, too.

Daniel Otten of Hayward asked how wild cucumber spreads.

Have you noticed white-flowering vines covering small trees and shrubs? Wild cucumber is a warm-season, native annual that becomes conspicuous in late summer. Its native habitat is along streams, swamps, moist thickets and roadsides. It self-seeds readily, germinating after the last frost. The large, alternate leaves are palmate with three to five pointed lobes. The vines can grow up to 30 feet, climbing onto foliage with curling tendrils rising from leaf axils. The tendrils coil when they touch anything, grabbing it for support. The plants are monoecious (male and female flowers on the same plant) and insects pollinate the flowers. The fruit resembles a small cultivated cucumber, but with spines. The fruits aren't edible, but can be used in dried flower arrangements. Each pod contains four flat black or brown seeds.

Meeting adjourned

How you treat others is a direct reflection of how you feel about yourself. Be kind.

Thanks for stopping by

"Rules for Happiness: something to do, someone to love, something to hope for." - Immanuel Kant

"It's wonderful that we live in a world in which there are things that can eat us. It keeps us from getting too cocky." - Gary Larson

DO GOOD.

©Al Batt 2013