wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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Endangered Missouri Sturgeon

In the tiny town of Fort Benton, Montana, we like to stay at an RV park that is close to the rodeo grounds beside the Missouri River. Last year, after a long day’s drive, we took a walk to the river. At this point, we are about 200 miles from its headwaters.

The sun was slowly setting, and so was the moon. See the evidence? The cliffs along the riverbank are warmed by the last rays of the sun and if you look hard, you may see the moon sinking  in the sky, amid the branches of the tree.

Geese are honking from the direction of the grassy islands in the river. Later that night we would hear the coyotes howling near the same place.

 

The Missouri is a powerful river in places. It is the longest river in the U. S. flowing for 2,341 miles before joining up with the Mississippi River just north of St. Louis, Missouri.

I had been so focused on the geese flying along the river, I hadn’t given much thought to what might be under the water. What a surprise to read on this poster, that there are sturgeon in the Missouri.

If you would like to read about the two kinds of sturgeon and how to tell them apart, you can click on the photo above and it will be easier to read.

I have to confess, I had known nothing about these sturgeon, not even their names (pallid and shovelnose). The pallid sturgeon is endangered and lives mainly in this river system. It grows to a length of five or six feet and can live to be about 40 years old.

On the picture I thought it looked a bit shark-like, but that mouth on its underside is mainly for feeding on the river bottom.  Whew! Otherwise I wouldn’t be putting my toes in that river.

Who knew that these creatures lurk in the depths of the river!?


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Quilted Aquarium

At last, at last, at last! I’ve finished the fish placemats after working on them for weeks. After sewing strips together to represent the pebbly ocean floor and the sea, I had to cut out shapes for seaweed, rocks, various kinds of imaginary fish, and a few turtles thrown into the mix.

These all had to be ironed on with “Heat and Bond” and then sewn into place with a small blanket stitch.

Then the batting and backing were put on and the quilting began.

Today I finished the binding around the edges.

There is a set of four, with a darker ocean floor, and a set of six with a lighter floor.

Don’t look too closely. There are mistakes all over the place, but after the first blob of gravy drops on the placemats, that won’t matter anymore.


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Underwater Quilting

No, I didn’t quilt these placemats underwater, but I felt like I was drowning in my work at times. Here are two finished and six not finished placemats I worked on while at the quilting retreat.

I wanted to make up the scenes as I went along, so no two placemats are the same. (The one below is finished except for the binding.)

However, you may notice a reappearance of the dark invader, my Darth Vader fish, in several of the placemats. His job is to see that you don’t eat too much at one sitting.

Miss Prissy Fishy below lets the others know that she has special protection from Darky. Who knows what favours she supplies?

So Darky concentrates on other unearthly looking fish for his supper.

And yet, he must wonder why he has no friends. Look at them scramble to get away.

“Miss Prissy Fishy,” says Pretty Boy, “why are you ignoring me?  See how talented I am. I can touch my toes. And anyway, don’t you know that good things come in small packages?”

“I heard that, Pretty Boy,” bubbles Darky, “but in the case of eat or be eaten, just remember that size matters. Oh dear, now look what I’ve done. I’ve upset Little Blue Wonderfish.”

Disclaimer via Darky: Not responsible for any fish swimming upside down.


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Will You Be My Chum?

We have five species of salmon on the Pacific coast. Some, like the chinook, sockeye, and coho are highly prized. The other two, pink and chum, are also delicious when they are in their prime. The pink has softer flesh and is good in a barbecue or steamed, smoked, or canned, while the chum is mostly used for canning and smoking. It is also being used for its roe.

After spending four years in the ocean, the chums will swim up a river to spawn. On their way from the ocean to the river,  chums go through  dramatic changes in the shape of their body. The head features change so the jaws are more curved and pronounced, the males growing teeth that serve them in their aggression and dominance over other males. This toothy look has earned them the nickname “dog salmon.”

The flesh also begins to break down, enabling patches of fungus to grow on the skin.

Here is one that has those patches all over its body. What was once a silvery salmon is now looking more like a barely living fish cadaver.

The chums make their way upstream, often in pairs. The female lays her eggs in a gravel bed and the male fertilizes them. Then, exhausted from their long journey, they waste away and die, littering the banks of the river and getting hung up on rocks and log jams.

Of course, in nature, not much goes to waste. Usually the eagles occupy these trees that overlook the river, but now they are the resting place for seagulls who have gorged themselves on the stinking flesh of the chum salmon.

There they are at the dinner table on the far left side of the stream.

On the opposite shore, to my disgust, I see fishermen throwing lures into the river in hopes of snagging the dying, putrid chums which are too exhausted to take the bait anymore.  A month ago, some of these chums might  still have made a tasty meal, but now? If you don’t want to eat carrion, why torture these dying fish?   Fishing, is a fine sport, but this???  This has nothing more to do with fishing. I don’t know what to make of it. Words fail me!

Below is a 13-second video of the salmon on the other side of the bridge from which these pictures were taken. The chums are most likely already spawned out but are still going through the motions until they exhaust themselves. You may notice that most of them are paired up. The noise in the video is, unfortunately, made by the cars going by on the bridge behind me.