Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Tired fingers

I've spent most of the day today writing and my fingers are tired. My blog buddy Fran at  Fishducky
asked me to post the picture of Jordan and the gigantic watermelon I shot last Sunday. So below is the picture.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Zen ferns

Do you believe in Zen ferns?  I KNOW. It's a stretch but stay with me. Yesterday as Jilda and I were heading to yoga class, the setting sun lite up our fern and fountain. We were running late for the free class she teaches at the local community center. 

I took a second to take it all in. There are not many things more beautiful than scenes painted by evening light. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Thoughts from the garden ~ my column from Sunday's paper

During the last few weeks after planting our garden, it looked manicured. The tomatoes had grown from small seedlings into bushy plants that required cages to keep them upright. Watching our garden grow is a favorite summer past time. It’s a simple joy that’s hard to describe to someone who’s never grown a garden. Most of the time there is no better stress reliever. But gardens are bounty or bust.

Several mornings toward the end of May, I’d walk down to the garden. Leaning against the fence with a steaming cup of coffee hooked to my finger, I’d sip while surveying our work. Closing my eyes, I could taste the bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich on toasted bread with mayo. A BLT in summer is like heaven on wheat bread.

One morning I noticed some of the top leaves of my heirloom tomato plant missing. Beneath the plant were tiny green balls of poop. After a few minutes, I found a hornworm as big as my index finger munching on my prized plant. The worm was enjoying an early morning meal of tender tomato leaves. His day went south. With my free hand, I plucked his squirming body from the vine. Squashing his head between my thumb and forefinger, I tossed the remains over the fence into the backyard. The chickens raced toward the tender green prize. The fastest pecked the worm up and was off to enjoy its special breakfast.

The peppers, squash, and tomatoes were doing great until the rain came. After weeks of showers, the plot was a mess. One day when stepping into the tilled soil, the mud sucked the shoes from my feet. I tried for a while to keep the garden maintained, but plants like people can’t survive with too much water. Weeds, on the other hand, seem to thrive in soggy soil. Soon the blossoms fell off the squash before forming fruit, and all our beautiful tomatoes started splitting open on the plant.

The dry days these past few weeks gave us hope that the garden would survive, but that looks doubtful. I’m thinking about plowing it under and planting another crop with bush beans, cucumbers, a few more tomatoes, and squash. The Farmer’s Almanac says that now is the time for late gardens.

Gardens for us is more of a hobby. The same was not true for our parents and grandparents who grew up during harder times. Gardens were essential. A bad year in their gardens meant bare pantries and less food on the table during the fall and winter.

I used to help my great-grandmother tend her garden when I was still in grammar school. She’d put on her sun bonnet in the mornings and wander through her garden picking what it offered up that day. By the time we finished gathering each morning, her straw baskets were brimming with vegetables. She’d be huffing and puffing from exertion by the time we carried it all into her kitchen. I asked her once why she worked so hard in her garden. Her answer was simple – “I like to eat.” That pretty well sums up why Jilda and I have a garden each year.

Ol' Hook supervising the new garden plot

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.

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