MudSong Eighteen: The dark angels

Barn Swallow from The Arm & Hammer and Cow Brand Baking Soda "Useful Birds of America."

Barn Swallow from The Arm & Hammer and Cow Brand Baking Soda Useful Birds of America.

 

Angels
—R.T. Smith

High in the April barn
the swallows are worshiping
dry straw, the gold motes
ascending, so many
dusty wings. If there is
milk cooling like moonlight
in brimfull tins, if
flies circle in the shadow
of Hereford drool, if sprigs
of henbit and sage cloister
in the corner, the birds
still swirl like the very
essence of vigor. Backlit
to dazzlement by afternoon
sunlight, they embroider
the air. Here in the steeple
beneath the weathercock’s
windblown ache and swing,
the dark angels create
order, the choral rush and
flutter of wings. Their
eyes are smooth as a thumbed
rosary, and where mortals’
bones would channel marrow,
they have only the buoyant
and holy air. Nevertheless,
the blasphemous farm cat
hungry for sacrament slinks
up the ladder’s rungs — his
sepal eyes, thorns for claws,
a rose petal for his pagan
and ravenous tongue.

 

(In case you didn’t guess I’m trying to catch up on the MudSongs before March’s end!)

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The eighteenth day

black swallowtail butterfly

statesymbolsusa.org

The second black swallowtail of the year.

A wonderful radio show on WERS about the urbanologist.

Weeds by the dozen: galansoga, a fireworkish burst of gone-to-seed grass, and more grasses–tall, Easter green, each with a little fist of white roots.

Late Blight: cue Mass freak out

Today late blight, the bane of tomatoes, potatoes, and the Irish, was confirmed by UMass Amherst out in Franklin County. This disease, caused by the pathogen Phytopthora infestans, was the microscopic culprit behind the famines that decimated Ireland in the mid-1800’s. While it has the potential of being every bit as devastating now as it was then, we are lucky to have a much more diversified diet than our forebears (though not nearly diverse enough), as well as various lethal weapons like copper sprays and other vicious stuff that stops, or at least slows, the disease in its tracks. However, despite the odds that are in our favor, we’re not quite able to control the weather, and any cool and rainy summer days can ignite a few late blight spores hitchhiking in the wind and rain. After a few get going it doesn’t take much for the blight to cause a major and often heartbreaking infestation.

To illustrate the nature of late blight, let me offer a brief lesson in contrasts. Tomatoes are beautiful–

Heirloom maters

and late blight is not.

More late blight lesions

Late blight lesions on tomato stem, leaf, and petiole

Roma tomatoes affected by late blight

Mugshot of affected Roma tomatoes. Credit: maine.gov. Previous blight photos from umass.edu. Luscious heirlooms from marycrimmins.com.

Like lots of deadly things, late blight is pretty fascinating. Continue reading

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