Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sad Sunday

We drove into Birmingham yesterday to visit our old friend Louis. He was one of Jilda's chair-buddies for the three years she underwent infusion treatments for her immune system condition. Our friendship with him is the best thing that came from the time she spent in those chairs.

I've written about him before. He attended our Thanksgiving dinner the last few years and our summer fish fries. 

The last six months his health has gone south. We went to see him yesterday in the nursing home, and he was unresponsive. He'd lost lots of weight. It broke our hearts seeing him that way. We sat for a while and held a one sided conversation. Then we said our goodbyes.

We decided to stop by the produce stand on the way home. We picked up several items including a watermelon that would have required its own zip code had it been a piece of land. The helper grunted when he picked the melon up and again when he hefted it into the car for us. 

My grunts were louder and accompanied by some foul language when I hauled it inside the house after arriving home. The things we do to enjoy fresh fruit – I thought to myself.

I awoke a few minutes later than usual this morning. Even if we stay up late, the dappled morning light seeping in around the shades forces my eyes open. I laid there a few minutes breathing deeply, taking an inventory of the morning aches and pains. Not bad I thought, so I slid out of bed and started the coffee maker gurgling.

We read two Sunday papers, as we sipped coffee and listened to cello music on the stereo. It was a good start to a Sunday.

After our walk, Jilda decided to cut the watermelon. We called our nephew Jordan over for a photo op. He loves watermelon, and this one almost outweighed him. We thought he'd make a good benchmark for gauging how big the melon was. The picture was a hoot.

As Jilda cut the melon, I sat at the table and observed. I felt the phone buzz in my pocket. Pulling it out, I saw that I had a new email.

Touching the screen, I saw the new missive was from Louis' friend James. His note said that Louis had died this morning. 

I waited until the kids had their watermelon and went back home before telling Jilda the news. Tears filled her eyes, and she said "I knew it would be today. I'm not sure how I knew, but I did." 

A while back before his health got so bad, Jilda talked to Louis every day. Before hanging up, she always said, "I love you, Louis." He responded, "I love you more." We will miss our friend.

RIP Louis.

Our niece Alesha, Jilda, Bert, and Louis during better times.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Remembering July in Telluride

I've been thinking about Telluride, Colorado this week. This afternoon while grilling veggies and Conecuh Sausages, the heat index was 100+.  Standing there as the aroma of eggplant, squash, and zucchini wafted over me, I realized the heat from the grill made it a little hotter.

I didn't have a picture for my blog tonight, so I was flipping back through photos of July's past. I stopped on pictures from July of 2010. Jilda and I spent the week of the Fourth of July in the mountains of Colorado.

My friend Wes and I went fly fishing. That was back when I was getting back into the sport, and I'd never had an opportunity to fish anywhere other than the river here at home. I loved that experience.

On the night of the 4th, we walked together to the city park to watch the fireworks show. As we stood there, it was chilly. I'd never been cold in July, except for the summer that I worked in the package store before starting the job with MaBell. I always volunteered to stock the coolers when the weather was hot outside...but I digress.

While standing there in Telluride waiting for the fireworks to start, snow began to fall. It only snowed briefly time, but it left a lasting impression on me. These days whenever the temps begin to rise in July, I remember the time Telluride when snowflakes fell on my face while watching fireworks on Fourth of July.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Monarch Morning

I know that it is theoretically possible for there to be a more beautiful creature than a butterfly, but I can't name one at the moment.

This morning after our early walk, I stopped at the garden (if you still call it that.) The rain and heat have made it almost impossible to keep it maintained. The heatwave over the last few days has dried out the soil and the tomatoes seem to be making a comeback, but weeds have taken over. It will take a great deal of early-morning work to get it back in shape. But I digress...

Before going through the backyard gate, I stopped for a moment to look at the Old Maid flowers. They are the old heirlooms that know how to survive wacky summers in Alabama. When it's hot and dry they thrive. When it's cooler and wet they thrive. They keep our house colorful till autumn.

Just as I turned to head inside for water, I noticed a monarch butterfly flitting between blossoms. I took this photo with my phone.

Even after sliding the camera back into my pocket I watched the butterfly dancing on the flower. The movement of their wings is almost hypnotic. It's almost a pulsing motion.

Turning to walk back inside, I thought to myself, there's not much better than a Monarch Morning.

Thursday, July 20, 2017


I know a few weeks ago when I posted a picture of my great nephew Jordan with this plant that volunteered to come up in our backyard that I said it was a watermelon.

That post may have left you with the impression that it was, in fact, a watermelon growing in our backyard. But you would have been mistaken.  The bigger the plant got, the more it looked like the squash plants in our garden plot.

After Googling pictures of watermelon plants, this one looks nothing like them. I should have known that as I've grown watermelons in the past. I assumed that the plant was the result of Jordan and me eating watermelon on the backyard bench. Apparently, that was not the case.

I put a tomato cage around this plant when it was small to keep the chickens from scratching it up. With all the recent rain, the squash had a growth spurt and it's now grown through the top hoops of the tomato cage.

As you can see, the plant is blooming so it will not be long before I'll confirm that it is, in fact, a squash plant. If not, I will tell you that you were again mistaken :)

More to follow.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Red wasp saga

A few weeks ago I filled the tank of the tractor before bush hogging chores. My nephew came by later to help me work on one of the implements. He noticed that the gas cap was missing. Well crap, I thought. I hadn't tightened the cap, and it fell off while I was working. Stuffing a rag in the opening to keep out dust and critters, I made a note to pick up a new cap at the tractor place.

Today was an errand day. The tractor place is a good 30 miles from here, but my calendar was free, and it was a lovely day, so I drove. 

Stopping by the co op, I picked up some wild bird seed and egg cartons. We supply our family and friends with fresh eggs, and egg cartons are the last things that are returned.  

At the tractor place, I lusted after a new lawnmower. I'm pretty sure I drooled on the model I
looked at. 

When I got back home, I headed to the barn to put the new cap on the tractor tank.  Once I heard the satisfying click when I put the new one on, I turned to walk back to the house. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a bird's nest on the workbench. Gingerly stepping over to have a look. I saw that the eggs had already hatched and the nest was empty. 

I made a mental note to show the nest to Jordan, who loves this kind of thing. My mind was elsewhere as I turned to head on when all of a sudden, I felt a stabbing pain on the back of my head. "DAMN RED WASPS,"  is what I said as I hurtled out of the barn. A second red wasp was in pursuit.  Snatching the ball cap from my head, I smacked that flying devil down and stomped him into the red clay of the barnyard. Other's were buzzing about looking for something to torment.

My head throbbed in the afternoon heat. After cooling off, I headed to the store for wasp spray. I was on a mission. At Walmart, I found a two for one sale on the spray, so I bought them both.

Once home, I headed down to the barn for a showdown. A stream of petrochemical based poison and the nest was history along with the offsprings that were throbbing inside the little nest cells.

I don't kill critters for the fun of it, but if one hurts my family or me, things will end badly for it. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

On the road again

Today was all about asphalt. Sessions in Northwest Alabama had me on the road early. I stopped by the coffee house and got a mocha for the road. The drive was uneventful. It's not uncommon to see deer or wild turkey on stretches where there are no people in sight. But today it was just me, blue skies, pillow clouds, and the miles that lay ahead.

The last time I had a workshop up there, it rained so hard in places that visibility was not much further than the front bumper. But today I think I could have seen a gnat in the next county if I'd cleaned my glasses.

On the way home, I made sure there was no traffic behind me before snapping a few random pictures of the road ahead.  I'll let the picture describe conditions at that time.

Monday, July 17, 2017

AC or not AC

Electronic guts of my AC
On Mondays, Jilda leaves for work before I get home in the afternoon. When I arrived around 5 p.m. the house seemed warm. Our collie Caillou wears a coat thicker than a mink. He doesn't summer well.  He met me at the door panting. 
Placing my laptop and backpack on the bench by the door, I stepped into the hall to have a look at the thermometer. Had Jilda left the setting too high, I was going to fire off a
chiding text. She mindful of our critters, and rarely makes a mistake, but I checked.  The thermostat was set to 74 where we keep it during the day, but the temperature said 77.  Hmmmmmmmm?
I could feel the fan blowing away, but the house was too warm. When I stepped to the deck, my heart sank. The outside unit would normally be whirling away doing its magic. It wasn't. 

I went out and tried to jumpstart the fan by turning it with my screwdriver, but no go. Last summer, ants got into the unit which prevented the compactor from working properly. There were no ants. 

I noticed an electronic box next to the unit. It contained fuses as big around as my thumb. My thinking was that something might have caused one of these fuses to blow. 

I pulled one out and headed to the hardware store. In the mean time, I called my nephew who knows every craftsman worth knowing within 30 miles of where we live. The temps will be close to 100 tomorrow and I knew every AC tech in Alabama had packed schedules, but I sent my nephew a text. Less than 5 minutes later, my cell phone chirped. It was a local AC guy. He said he was slammed but he could come tomorrow and check our unit. When I told him I was on my way to get some replacement fuses, he said it was doubtful this could be the problem but was a good thing to check.

Once I arrived home, an evening thundershower was over the house. Sheets of rain poured off the metal roof. Unfortunately, the AC and the fuse box were in the drip line. 

In a moment, the new fuses were installed, and I was shaking rain off my head and hands. Stepping into the hall, I turned the unit back on and said a prayer to the AC gods. 

Nothing happened for over a minute. But then the unit kicked on. When I stepped to the back deck, the outside unit was purring like a Nordic kitten.  If there has ever been a happier human on this earth, I'd like to shake his/her hand.

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