Friday, February 25, 2011

A new face has appeared on the property.  We're used to the big gray squirrels, the ones Fritz hates and calls tree rats, but the other day I looked out and this little guy was bounding around looking like he was having the time of his life.  He's less than half the bulk of one of the big grays and while no more athletic, he seems to have a great deal more energy.  Red squirrels somehow pass the Fritz White Glove Test, because he doesn't hate them the way he does the others.

Here he's below the seed feeder.  It's engineered so that if anything heavier than a woodpecker gets onto the ledge where the seed comes out, the seed is covered up and the intruder is dumped onto the ground.  Not the little redhead, however.  He's discovered how to balance in just the right place so that he can reach the seed without triggering the automatic eject.  He scoops the seed out of the feeder and saunters down to the ground (or surface of the snow in this very severe winter) and feeds at his leisure.


Late last fall, Fritz planted greens in the cold frame, watered them and we let Nature take its course.  That course very quickly turned to serial heavy snow storms.   The three garden terraces, the cold frame and even the compost bin disappeared completely.  We had to go up the hill a couple of times to shovel out the area in front of the solar panels that was piled so high with snow that the snow blanketing the panels had nowhere to slide down into.  But we generally hadn't the energy to dig all the way over to the cold frame, so it remained completely buried for over a month.

We went up earlier this week after several days in the 40s or 50s had reduced the snow cover somewhat and carefully shoveled a path over to the frame, scooped the snow off the glass and there it all was, having been growing without sunlight for well over a month.

So here it is: spinach and lettuce in the upper part of the bed, bok choi and kale at the bottom.  And it's so good.  


I've been to a number of productions this year where the old and, I feel, somewhat tired topic of updating theatrical and operatic productions has come up again.  There is a very determined, extremely vocal segment of the audience that views producing plays in any period other than the one in which it supposed to be set as some kind of artistic high treason.

Theater audiences have traditionally been more adventurous, more accepting of experimental or reinterpreted stagings.  I suspect that playgoers have simply written off the possibility of seeing Hamlet, for example, dressed in late medieval garments ever again and they're ready to get on with it.  But that kind of acceptance doesn't come easily to the more conservative crowd that frequents opera and, especially, ballet.  I'm a radical in that I not only like but I practice the new production styles and I'm heartened to find a bit less knee-jerk rejection with each passing season.  But there's still resistance and skilled, thoughtful designers and directors are still booed savagely with some degree of regularity. 

So, here's one small comment on the issue of "updating." For the vast majority of the long history of the performing arts, audiences saw characters on stage dressed in styles contemporary to the audience. The concept of historically researched costuming is only a little over 150 years old, and wasn't adopted universally for some while after it had began.

For a glimpse of what Shakespeare looked like on the English stage of the 18th century, go to Google images and type in Quin as Coriolanus. Here's the first image you'll see, top row, left.  Everyone's in standard English court costume of the period.  Nobody looks remotely like anybody from the Roman Republic, and nobody was disturbed in the least.

When people say that opera should be staged as the composer intended, in my experience they generally mean "the way it was done when I first saw it at age seventeen" which for any opera written before, say, 1950 is NOTHING like what the composer knew.  In fact, if we could and DID exactly replicate the productions that Verdi, Bizet, Wagner or Mozart knew, audiences would most likely find them grotesque and laughable.  On one or two occasions, even Wagner found productions of his work grotesque and laughable.

Art always pushes forward, it will not be stopped.  It always relates to or reacts against issues and realities in the culture if its own day, not the past.

Red squirrel: the only squirrels in France are red ones. The somehow seem more, I don't know, natural than gray ones. They're not as abundant as American grays, anyway. I understand the UK has a problem with introduced grays taking over the niche previously occupied by the native reds. This hasn't yet happened here, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time. I used to see black squirrels in CA.

Cold frame: Amazing! We have nowhere near the harsh winter you have and I still don't have my lettuces and radishes in. Soon, very soon.

Production design: I have no opinion. ;)
Fabulous natureshots. Recommended listening/viewing: Lanchbery's Till Eulenspiegelish job on 'The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin' for Ashton. Recommended reading: Tove Jansson's story of her co-existence with a squirrel on a Baltic island in The Winter Book.

They're out culling the greys in the Lake District to let the reds take over.
We've seen news items here on the effort to halt the gray squirrel advance in England. Fritz is cheering them on (those culling, not the squirrels) and as reds are in the minority here, I'm pretty happy to have one as part of the wildlife among which we live.
I still think that the greens in the cold frame are the coolest thing ever. Since the iPhone and iPad, that is. Hee hee.

As for squirrels, Mason just about had his very first one in his mouth yesterday in his Grandma's back yard here in Idaho. Yikes. I had to do an intervention.
I remember building a cold frame like this one. It was a delight to get things to grow so early into the year.
Excellent red squirrel photos. I especially like the top one. W have a cold frame that I tried to use exactly once. Everything in it dried out and died. Not sure how to keep it watered during sub-freezing temperatures. Your results make me want to revisit the question.
Doug, it went for a month without being watered. to some extent, it creates its own atmosphere, rec circulating by condensation on the glass which drips onto the plants and soil, which give up moisture to condensation, etc. We watered it with a little liquid fertilizer after we cleared it; two days later I took handfuls of snow and placed them in between the rows to melt in slowly.

Part of it may be that the rock ledge is under a very thin layer of soil up on the hillside. Water from snow melting a little further uphill may have run under the frame on the rock and watered the roots that way.
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