Sunday, August 30, 2015

Exploring the underbrush

Walking down the path behind the barn these last few days brings the changing color into sharper focus. The muted oranges and ambers of the canopy become more pronounced with each passing day. 

We took a misty walk this afternoon. The rain over the last few days was easing off to the east, but the lingering moisture made the trees weep.  

The earth smelled damp, and rich with rotting leaves and limbs.  Off the beaten path, the ground was spongy and I could see hundreds of mushrooms in the undergrowth. I decided to do a challenge offered a few times by one of my blog buddies which was to take a normal picture and one of the same subject with the Hipstamatic app I use so often.  

You should be able to tell which one is which below. Your thoughts?

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Hay is for chickens

We started planting our winter garden this morning. Beets, kale, turnips, and lettuce. We also planted a few hills of pumpkins. I'm thinking it might be a little late for pumpkins, but we'll see.

I weeded the blueberry bushes and spread pine-bark mulch around the roots.

The tropical storm Erika is headed into the Gulf of Mexico. The sun warmed the morning up nicely, but the radar showed these waves heading toward us. I wasn't sure how long the rain would last so I decided to cut the grass.

I bought a few bales of hay to spread in our chicken pen to freshen up their space. I unloaded one bale in the ergonomic wheelbarrow to haul down to the pen. The sun seemed to be spotlighting the hay so I snapped a quick picture.

By lunchtime most of my work was done. So I spent the afternoon reading. I hope your day has been as enjoyable as mine.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Productive morning

I hadn't planned to work in the garden this morning. I only went out to dump a scoop of corn under the apple tree for the deer. But when I glanced over at the garden (I use this term loosely), it looked pitiful.

With weeks of rain, we couldn't do our weeding work and several tomato plants sprawled on the ground. One morning I went out in the rain to feed the chickens and noticed the fallen plants. When I stepped into the garden, I sank up to my calfs in garden muck. So the weeds grew unimpeeded.

But today, the garden had drained and the soil was tillable so cranked the old Troybilt and dug mountains of weeds.

I righted all the plants and trimmed all the dead and dying leaves and branches off. When I left, I upgraded how the garden looked from pitiful to sad.

Mud caked my work shoes so I stopped by the hosepipe and washed my feet, shoes, ankles and calfs.
When I walked toward the porch, a butterfly perched on a lantana blossom. She gently waved her wings as if the nectar gave her a buzz. I pulled the camera from my pocket and snapped a few pictures, before she wised up.

All in all, it was a productive morning.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Five-mile creek

A few nights ago I'd just posted my blog and was searching Netflix for documentaries to watch this coming weekend. Jilda had just posted her blog and pulled mine up to read before we headed to the living room to wind down before bed.

She looked at me OVER her glasses and said, "I love the forks of the river too, but you REALLY need to find another place to shoot pictures." The next morning my blog buddy Julia commented that she liked my photos but would like to see ones shot without the filters.

I was thinking about those things today when I finished up at work. Instead of my normal stop at the forks, I decided to run by a park on Five-Mile Creek. It's owned by the City of Graysville but is only a few miles from where I work.

The weather was remarkable and I had not pressing appointments or chores, so I rolled the windows down in my truck and drove to the park.

There's a two-lane concrete bridge that spanning Five-Mile Creek. The bridge is part of the old highway 78 which was the main thoroughfare from Memphis to Birmingham.  I vaguely remember traveling over this bridge when I was in grammar school before the new (old) highway 78 was finished.

My family was headed to Birmingham one morning after breakfast and we got behind an eighteen wheeler that grinded gears to slow down before crossing the bridge, and then groaned as it slowly crawled up the hill on the other side of the bridge with its load of steel.

The city cut a path down to water's edge to make it easy for people to get down there and fish or put a canoe in the water.

The rocks blocking entry to both ends of the bridge are perfect for high-school graffiti.

I decided I liked the place. The next time I go, I'll throw my fishing equipment in the truck and see if the small-mouth bass are biting.

So Jilda and Julia, am I on the right track?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

National Dog Day

I think my muse went out west to help fight forest fires last week because I've been in a slump. Normally I stockpile ideas for my columns the weekend before they are due. But today I spent more time tapping that typing.

Not giving up easy, I took a steaming cup of java in one hand and my laptop over the other shoulder, I made my way out to the screen porch. Sometimes a slight change in venue gives me better reception. But that didn't happen today. More tapping.

I noticed the morning light filtering through a Mason Jar that was filled with gardenia stems. The stems are from blossoms Jilda broke off in the spring and put in jars. They not only smell amazing, but they also dress up the house considerable.  But when the blossoms dry up, she doesn't toss the stems. She puts them in jars of water and sets them on the screen porch. By summer's end, all the stems have roots sprouting from the ends like gray hair.

Today when the light came through, I realized the water hadn't been refreshed in a few weeks and was now the color of amber. I noticed something wiggling among the tiny roots.

Upon closer inspection, I could see the jar was full of mosquito larvae swimming around like tiny seahorses.

I watched them for a while and briefly considered writing a column about how we all undergo many changes in our lives...but I finally tossed the larvae, put fresh water in the jar and wrote my column about it being National Dog Day.

As your friend, I advise you to hug your puppy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The best camera

I pulled into the parking lot at the forks today. Normally there would have been people sitting in lawn chairs, with kids and dogs running about, but today there was no one.

I coasted up to the edge of the pavement and rolled the window down before turning the key off. Looking down river I could see a tinge of gold edging into the leaves of the oak and hickory trees. It's a subtle shift but it will become more pronounced in the coming days.

The sky was blue as a pool, and sitting up there about 30 degrees above the surface was a 3/4 moon the color of bone.

I tried to snap a picture, but without my "good camera" it's hard to tell just how magnificent it was. But I've come to realize the best camera is the one you have with you...maybe I read that somewhere but it's true.

The beauty of camera phones is not the quality of the picture, but the fact that you usually have one with you at all times allowing you to capture incredible moments because you had a camera in your pocket.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Work ~ My column from Sunday's paper

For the first time in many years, I’m doing work that I love which makes it fun going to work.

This past week it got even better when I moved into a new office at Bevill State. My old office wasn’t much bigger than a broom closet, but I work part time, so I guess that a spacious office with its own bathroom wasn’t practical.

The new office is a little bigger. It has two large bookshelves and floor to ceiling windows. My heart soared when the planner took me around there and asked if I liked it. I would have hugged her on the spot, but I didn’t want to freak her out and blow the deal before I got the key.

Last week I moved my books, binders and phone to the new space. The view outside the window is of the courtyard, full of crepe myrtles the color of watermelon. Though I don’t spend much time looking out the windows, I have to say that having them makes going into the office even more enjoyable.

My last few years with MaBell were grueling. My team, which consisted of me and three other guys, were responsible for hardware maintenance on all the mid-range computers in the continental U.S. If a computer failed, one of us was on the phone, coordinating technicians, parts shipments and manning the outage line.

You would not believe how snippy upper-level management gets when they are losing thousands of dollars every hour a computer is broken. If the outage was extended, the responsible manager forfeited bonus money. There were days I went home wound tighter than a tenor banjo. It was a thankless job. I think working as a credit collector would have been more enjoyable.

At Bevill State, I work helping people over 50 years old find work by getting them training and helping them get their ducks in a row so they can find work.

This much I know for sure. The people who come through our program, improve their skills, and get aggressive in their job search are finding jobs. Almost half the people I’ve worked with are now gainfully employed.

We helped a woman recently who had not worked in years. She’d gone through a nasty divorce and was having a hard time making ends meet. She was told during that ordeal that a woman her age and with her skillset was unemployable. Those words were tough to swallow.

She attended a BTW 50+ session, and we were able to offer her a training scholarship to attend truck driver training. She aced the course. A few days after she got her Commercial Drivers License, she landed a job delivering produce to military bases around the south.

She called me the day she landed the job. I got a lump in my throat as I listened to the pure joy in her voice. My heart soared along with hers.

Don’t tell my boss, but I would do this work even if I didn’t get paid. The new office with windows is just an added benefit.

Courtyard drama club last spring

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