Monday, May 21, 2007

More signs of summer - or - All the animal at the zoo, they all ask for you...

More signs of summer:

I saw a half of a watermelon broken on the side of the freeway in Asheboro today. I don't know what happened to the other half. The days are getting much longer. The early evenings are warm and teeming with bugs. The scent of honeysuckle perfumes the air. I see honeysuckle blooms everywhere, along fence lines, in ditches, at the edge of the woods, along the road, and around old tobacco barns.

The quintessential symbol of the south is emerging once again. The magnolia trees are starting to bloom. Their shiny, stiff green leaves are the perfect counterpoint to the large, majestic, creamy white blossoms. There is a tall magnolia tree growing beside the White House. It overhangs the goat pasture. The kids love to chew on the fallen leaves. They seem to like the tough, crunchy, leathery texture of the leaves. A goat will chew on a leaf for about 10 minutes before it is small enough to finally swallow. That tree has blossoms all over it, but they haven't opened yet.

The strawberries are getting sweeter. Since most of what we eat is whatever is in season in the garden or at the farmer's market, we've been eating A LOT of strawberries. Strawberries and cream, strawberries and ice cream, strawberries shortcake, to name a few ways they've appeared on the table. The asparagus is done. The last spears were left to grow into huge, delicate looking fern-like plants. We are currently working our way around a new crop of rainbow chard, spinach, leeks, Vidalia onions, and more kinds of lettuce than I can name.

My friend Carly the kid.

The goats are still here for now. Sammy couldn't take them on Saturday due to equipment problems back at his farm. He'll probably pick up all of the goats, young and old on Monday or Wednesday. It will be a sad day when they leave.

I accomplished one more thing that I wanted to do while I was here: I went to the North Carolina State Zoo. Everyone has been telling me what a wonderful zoo it is and I should try to make it. It is only a few miles south of Asheboro, so I decided to spend my day off walking around the zoological gardens. Lee Tate was able to join me so together we looked at the animals on display. The weather was perfect, sunny and breezy, warm but not hot.

The zoo is divided into two halves, er, continents: North America and Africa. We parked in the North American Lot. We entered the park and followed the windy paths through Southern swamps full of cypress trees, carnivorous plant, alligators, turtles and snakes. Other areas of North America were highlighted like the central Plains, the rocky shores of the West Coast, and the mountains. The grounds of the zoo are beautifully landscaped in native wildflowers and plants. Each section had lots of trees to provide shade as well as habitat for the animals. The only downside was that almost every animal seemed to be on the same schedule. They were all asleep. We looked at cute arctic foxes, curled up in a tight little ball. Not quite sure what they looked like other than a bundle of fur. The endangered red wolf was lounging under a distant tree, yawning. The bobcats were snuggled up together in a corner of their enclosure. The alligators looked like sculptures. Don't they know we want to be entertained! The baboons were busy picking nits off of each other. I still enjoyed seeing everything.

My favorite feature was the tropical bird aviary. It is a huge enclosure filled with massive tropical plants and brightly colored birds. Scarlet ibises were perched in tall trees, looking down at visitors as they wandered through the aviary. Massive Victoria crowned pigeons strolled through the undergrowth. A kingfisher darted above our heads. Brilliant birds of green, blue and black fluttered around bird feeders placed near the pathways. There were many of birds you could hear, but not see. It was a well crafted exhibit. I also enjoyed watching puffins being fed. Their wings are perfectly adapted to let them fly through water as well as in the air. The smart ones stood near the staff member and would be conveniently fed by hand. By the time we looked at the bison in the Plains exhibit and the elephants in the savannah exhibit, we were pretty tired. It was also pretty crowded, with lots of families pushing strollers. We headed home around 3:00.

Tonight is another Dinner at the Dairy. Chef Chris is preparing another huge ham to serve with white kidney beans and fresh chard. I'm not certain what else is being served. I try to stay clear of the kitchen when my day off coincides with a dinner. I don't need to be in the way.

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