Having taken her out just at grey dawn, it was nearly 11AM before I took the Mighty Dachshund out again. Despite the heat, she wanted to porch sit after draining and dumping, so I took my place in the swing and she assumed her spot at 1:30 just beyond my right foot. Unnoticed at first, the slightest of breeze was coming from the west end of the porch. A few oak leaves were aflutter at the edge of the woods, 30 feet away, but few leaves through the woods seemed to be moving. Only here in the clearing did the breeze seem free to move.
The breeze soon died, much to my displeasure, but then revived a bit stronger. This time, I spotted movement in the quaking aspen tree about 50 yards in front of me and on a lower level of the ridge. Its top was higher than many of its oak neighbors growing higher on the hill, though. As I watched, there were times that the moving air seemed to come in a layer no more than 20 feet thick, staying near the ground and not rising beyond the lower limbs of the trees. Other times, all movement was at the crowns of the trees and air near the ground seemed dead. Some breezes were narrow in scope and slithered through the woods, or my little clearing here, while not affecting the leaves only a few yards away. I was reminded of a snake crawling along or of pouring water from a bucket on a stubbly hillside and watching it divide into multiple rivulets as it encountered small obstructions on its way downhill.
As a kid, I learned to watch the quaking aspens when I began hunting, to see if there was any breeze. Aspens, even the species out west, I believe, have a flat stem on their leaves, making them very sensitive to the slightest breeze. I learned that they don’t indicate wind direction very well, though, only the movement of air. Often, you can see an aspen tree all aflutter with dancing leaves while their round-stemmed neighbors indicate no breeze at all. Aspen trees are true poplars, unlike the member of the magnolia family which we call yellow poplar here in the east. Like yellow poplar, aspen is a relatively tasteless wood, making it good for bowls and wooden utensils. Few craftsmen seem to use it, though, perhaps because it requires hand tools, rather than power tools, to work it best. It tends to string and fuzz with power tools. It IS the predominant species used for oriented strand board (wafer board), though, and it’s used for pulpwood, too.
The plantains are still coming on like gang-busters in the area around the porch (and everywhere else, for that matter), and the little bumble-bees are working them prodigiously. I see a few honey bees at times. I don’t know if they’re from the swarm I saw recently, having found themselves a home, or if some local guy has bees.
The birds seemed quiet today. Maybe they’re saving their voices in the heat. One warbler seemed to be the exception and a boat-tailed grackle that lit in the closet oak for only a few minutes. The latter didn’t have a very melodic call—more of a subdued caw, like a quiet crow.