Saturday, October 21, 2017

Spiders

I'm not sure if it's Halloween or some kink in the DNA of spiders that brings them in October, but they're everywhere.

I went to the shed this morning to get a shovel to plant a gardenia that we'd rooted from a blossom this past spring. When reached for the sharpshooter hanging just inside a door, a spider the size of a chihuahua dropped from the shelf next to my hand onto the floor and scurried under my new tool chest. Hmmmm. I considered diving in after the "recluse'ive" spider but decided against it. I did tell him his day are numbered.  I usually don't squash things just for the heck of it, but those spiders bite.  And the wound often needs medical attention. So they don't have free reign here.

We had to run to Birmingham to pick up my new shades and some things at Costco. As we walked out the door, Jilda said "Wow. Look at that." It was a spider web in the shape of a heart near the apex of our roof.

I snapped a picture. I think that one is a garden spider. If so, it might live if it doesn't get too close.  But I'll keep my eyes on it when I bring the citrus trees in.

How about you. Are you a live and let live person when it comes to spiders or do you smite them?




Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday Stuff

Today has been delightful. Jilda put on sweatpants and a light jacket when we got ready to walk.

Soon well bring our citrus trees inside along with other tender plants. The inside of our house shrinks, but it's pleasant sitting among the foliage.

I finished the training on podcasting and began taking inventory of the things I'll need to produce them. I think I have most of the hardware. But content and branding will require thought and planning.

Yesterday when I took my mail to the mailroom at work, I walked by the college library. They have a table outside where they place old books they no longer need. They are free to a good home. Often they are textbooks or other books that are of no interest to me. But yesterday, they had several books that I scarfed up.

The first one that caught my eye was Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I read that book 40 years ago. It's a classic. A copy still rests on our bookshelf of old and cherished books. But I got this copy for my great nephew Jordan.

His nanna had surgery yesterday and she called to ask if I could pick him up today. Not a problem, I said. 

I put the book on my front seat so that it was the first thing he saw when he climbed into the cab of my truck.

He'd read chapter one by the time we pulled into the drive at home. It might be a little advanced for him but there's also a chance he might be able to wrap his young mind around it. I could kick myself for not getting a picture of him reading it. But I didn't

So tonight is a picture I shot in October of 2010. I call it Spider Moon.


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Podcasting anyone?

I'm learning how to do Podcasts. I subscribed to a few that interested me a few years ago but lost interest. It seemed like a passing fad. I thought that about blogging too.  But I was wrong.

I'll be celebrating my 12 blog-a-versary in December. Except for a few days when storms blew my electricity to South Carolina, I've blogged daily.

Recently I began following a blog about songwriting. The creators of that blog suggested a Podcast that also dealt with the topic. I subscribed.

When I began looking I found that not only is the medium surviving, it's thriving. There were several that I now listen to on a regular basis.

So, I thought why not learn how and see if I can use Podcasting to complement my blog. I'll tell you more once I get a little further along.

This picture is from October 2012. I pass this pond sometimes when I have business near Birmingham.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

October Monarchs













We're having a family gathering here later in the month so we've been cleaning the house room at a time. That's how we're spending our off days. 

In the past, we've waited to the last minute to do the cleaning and by the time company arrives, we're so whupped we don't enjoy them as much as we should.

We wanted to get the day off to a good start so we decided to walk first thing. Today was the first day since winter that we've worn long-sleeve shirts when we walked. The dogs were ecstatic. 

The Old Maids are looking ragged, but I won't cut them down until after the first frost.

I think the Monarchs are happy with that decision.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

It's all about the light

Today is a picture day. I worked late this evening so I had to look back in my archives for a picture. I searched for Autumn leaves. This was the first picture it returned from the thousands of pictures in my files.

I shot it last October. The oak and hickory stand on the hillside overlooking the Sipsey Fork of the Warrior River. This was taken about 9 a.m. in the morning. The sun had just risen over the trees to the east. It looks like late afternoon light, but the evening sun comes from the opposite direction.

The one thing I've learned about taking pictures is that each frame is all about the light. Once my eyes picked up on that one fact, my pictures improved.



Monday, October 16, 2017

A lot to love about October ~ my column from Sunday's paper

There’s a lot to love about October. Aside from high school and college football, the month has much to offer. The colors alone are worth the price of admission. If you don’t believe me, take a walk in the woods and “see” for yourself. But there are also some great festivals in October. And then there’s Halloween.

Halloween was one of my favorite holidays as a kid. It was right up there with Christmas. Back when I was trick or treating, we didn’t buy our costumes. One year I decided on an old pair of overalls and a plaid flannel shirt. A red bandana tied around my head seemed just the ticket. Using fireplace soot, I made a black patch around my right eye. I thought the getup was a great pirate costume, but none of the other kids “got it.”

The houses in our community didn’t do much decorating like people do today, but they all had candy. The candy in those days was made with real sugar. My bags were full enough after that night to keep a sugar buzz until Thanksgiving.

After Jilda and I married, we became one of those houses where kids hit the candy jackpot. We bought candy by the bushel. On Halloween during the ‘80s and early ‘90s, our doorbell jangled like a bluegrass banjo. The next morning, our candy bags were empty. Except, of course, the handful of Mary Jane candy that I held back. I love Mary Janes. It’s one of my favorite pieces of candy. I once lost a tooth while eating that tacky stuff. But it was worth it.

These days we buy a little candy, but we end up giving most of it to our great nephew, who lives next door.

A few years ago, Halloween fell on Saturday. My nephew, James, asked if we’d do a birthday weeny roast for his son, Stone. Stone was born on Halloween, and it’s haunted him all his life. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.) We agreed. And a tradition was born.

Each year toward the end of October, we have an outdoor party. Some people dress up, but most just show up for the food and fun.

We pull out all our lawn chairs and benches so that our friends and family can sit around the campfire. There’s no better aroma than hickory and oak wood burning on a small fire.

A few years ago, we did a hayride for the kids. My nephew, Haven, has a tractor and a large trailer. We filled the trailer with bales of hay and a herd of kids. The adults with good knees jumped on the trailer to help supervise the ride. Haven pulled us around the property. Most of the kids had never been on a hayride. Before the ride was over, he drove the tractor under the apple tree in our field. Each kid had a chance to pick their own apple from the tree.

Through the years, Halloween has gotten a bad rap. A few mean people tainted candy and hurt some kids. Evil has no conscience. Churches also became vocal about the spooky holiday. Something about celebrating Pagan holidays, but I’m not sure what all the fuss is about.

All I know is that I never once thought I was turning my back on the Good Lord when I was stuffing my face with Halloween candy.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Can mushrooms cry?

The weather is changing. Even though it was still warm today, you could see changes in the sky. And there is a promise of rain A front dropping down from Kansas City or somewhere up to the north and west.

We walked early. A quick text to our niece Samantha and her son Jordan confirmed they were in. So we walked a few laps around the Empire Walking Club track (a private joke.) We actually walked around the perimeter of our farm. It's a good walk.

Climbing the steep sides of the hollows gets the old heart pumping. On the second lap, Jilda noticed something by a stump from a tree we lost in a storm a few years ago. It was a mushroom. She didn't have her phone, so she pointed it out to me. When I took a closer look, I found it interesting. It has a weed growing through the cap. When I leaned in closer to snap a photo, I noticed a drop of water. I'd never seen that before. It looked like a tear.  

Can mushrooms cry? What could have made it that sad?





Saturday, October 14, 2017

Chores

We had chores on our to-do list we've been dreading for months. My shed is a disaster area. It should have been condemned. A wiser man would have struck a match to it, taken the bucket loader on the tractor, loaded onto the truck, and hauled the debris to the dump.  But that's not what happened.

Cleaning the guest room was also on the list. That where gifts land. The room is rarely used so each time there's a birthday, graduation, or other gift-buying occasion, we put the gifts in there until they can be wrapped and delivered.  We never invite company over during Christmas because we have no place to store the stuff.  Cleaning that room was long overdue. 

We also, we have a deep freezer. Its been in our laundry room for years. In the past, we cleaned it out and defrosted it annually. We missed a year. Then another. The last time I looked, frost was creeping around the lid. It was so bad that the lid wouldn't seal. I was beginning to worry that it would break free during the night and freezer would cover everything in a frosty crust. We wouldn't be discovered until the next power outage and our frozen bodies thawed.

So, those were the chores on our list today. I considered calling in drunk, but I didn't We got busy after breakfast.

Jilda headed to the guest room and I headed outside to the shed.  We both worked until lunch. By mid-afternoon, we'd checked all three chores off our list. Tonight I feel like I"ve run a marathon. But I ran down to civilization, picked up some Chinese food, and we are kicking back.

I actually feel taller tonight.


Friday, October 13, 2017

Old Maids

I have fresh Old Maids (zinnias) in a small porcelain vase on my bathroom vanity. They are pink, burnt orange, yellow and red. Jilda picks them every few days from the patch on the edge of our garden.

We start picking them in early summer. There aren't many at first, but thanks to the warm sun and summer rain, they flourish. They do better than any other flowers in our yard.

These are perennials. All we have to do next spring is to dig around them and work a little compost around the roots. They return the favor with beautiful bouquets until frost.

The rain these last few weeks turbocharged the grass. When we walked this morning, the dew on the grass soaked my sneakers. I knew it was time to mow. 

This afternoon after the sun dried the grass, I hopped on the John Deere and let it do its thang. When I cut close to the Old Maids, the butterflies had a fit. 

The weather is changing. Soon we'll have frost and I'll have to mow the Old Maids down for the coming winter. But they'll be back.


Old maids from 2014




Thursday, October 12, 2017

Do something fun

I've felt a little down today. Folks I've been working with the last three years heard that my grant was not renewed. Several of them stopped by the last few days to make sure I was OK. The thing is, I don't have to work. I work because it's enjoyable. I have a feeling the next few months won't be as much fun.

I'm already thinking about moving my personal items back to my office at home. There are shelves of books to consider. I'll leave my college diplomas up until my work there is complete. But I'll move the potted plant this coming week.

In a few months, someone else will sit at my desk and watch through the window at the kids performing Death of a Salesman on the Courtyard. 

I'm putting out feelers – looking for opportunities for writing, or a job where I can take pictures. I love doing both. 

After work today, I decided to walk. The sky was cloudy for several days after Hurricane Nate passed through here, but the last few days have been sunny. Today was cooler than yesterday. This weekend should be even cooler.  I'm not breaking out the longhandle underwear yet, but maybe it won't be long. 

During my walk, I came across another interesting growth on a fallen limb. This one looks like a mushroom blossom. 

Both Jilda and I are off tomorrow. We are planning to do something fun. As your social advisor, I recommend you take the day off and do something fun too. Tell the boss I said it was OK.



Wednesday, October 11, 2017

New Ray Bans

The ragweed has been brutal this fall. And my eyes are the proof. I wear contacts and they don't play well with irritated eyes. I can wear my regular prescription glasses but during daylight hours, the sun makes me squint. 

I kept telling myself to buy a pair of prescription sunglasses. I'm picky about my shades. I know I could have gotten a cheap pair somewhere, but sunglasses are more than about protecting your eyes. Or at least they are to me.

I've been looking for a decent pair that would make me happy. Today, when I went to pick up my new contacts, I browsed the sunglass section while the fetched my order. I found a pair of Ray Bans. I've never bought a pair of Ray Bans. I own two pairs but one pair belonged to my younger brother and my mother gave them to me after he died.  
My sister also gave me a pair that she'd had since Clinton was in the White House. Young people stop me in malls to ask where I found those glasses. When I tell them they are antique, they skulk off. But, I can only wear these shades when I'm wearing my contacts.

The Ray Bans I found today are exactly what I've been looking for. I keep my mad money in my wallet. It's the money I earn writing my columns and doing my sideline work. When I saw the glasses, I whipped out a few crisp bills and ordered the glasses. The ones on the showroom floor aren't prescription so it will take them a week to put my lenses in there but I'm excited.

As your sunglass consultant, I urge you to NOT settle for cheap sunglasses. Save your money and get the ones that make you feel like a rockstar even though you're an old fart.



Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Red Leaf

It's been dungeon dark today with intermittent rain. I walked outside a few times today at work to try and snap a picture for tonight's blog, but the sun seemed to be playing hide-and-seek. Later this evening before going home a downpour splattered on the cobblestone outside my window. I knew it would be an archive kind of night.

When I got home I scanned back through pictures from last year and came across this picture of a sweet gum leaf doing what it does best.

It made me think of the old saying, "Red leaf in morning, SAILOR YOU'RE TOO DAMN CLOSE TO THE SHORE!!!!!!!!" 

Sorry, I couldn't resist.



.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Autumn color

I see the colors of autumn even though is hotter than a blistered baby on the beach. This past weekend, the festivals we visited had pumpkins, dried corn stalks, mums and bales of hay. 

The colors are earthy and comforting to the eyes. It's hard for me to pass by an autumn display without taking a moment to take it in. More often than not, I'll shoot a picture.

The weatherman swears this coming weekend will be cooler, but I'll believe it when I see it. I hope autumn is in the air where ever you are.



Comment Moderation

Hey Folks,
 In an effort to combat the Online Gambling Spammers, I'm enabling comment moderation. Google says that doing that allows the Google system to learn the spammers and put their comments in Spam automatically.

Let's hope that works.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Hurricane-smurricane

Hurricane Nate made landfall last night near Biloxi, Mississippi. Biloxi is just over 50 miles from Mobile. When hurricanes come into Mobile, it affects our weather here. Even though we are over 250 miles inland, the wind rolls over our state.

This was not a major storm and we didn't expect damage. We were correct. But the rain started before we went to bed last night. The winds were normal, but it rained all night. I could hear it ticking on the roof.

Sometime in the night, the wind picked up. I could hear the Rose-of-Sharon brushing against our bedroom windows. We have shades, but I could see dancing shadows around the edges. The streetlight in our front yard captured the movement of the wind as his swept through the branches.

This morning, I stepped onto the screen porch to see if any trees were down.  Only one branch had fallen on the front walk.  But it wasn't much bigger around than my thumb. We were lucky. The one thing that I didn't expect was that it was still muggy. It was that way all day.

We ran out briefly to get a few things for supper this evening. When we drove by the blinking bank sign at 3:30 p.m. it was 80 degrees. 

This evening the winds have died down. Radar shows that the clouds are moving off toward the northwest. Watch out, Lisa and Jack.

Other than keeping an eye to the sky, today was uneventful. That was exactly what we needed today. Around noon, we took a long nap.

It's been a restful day.

The picture below is not from today. I shot it earlier in the year when we were on the coast. 



Saturday, October 07, 2017

Festival O' Plenty

Jilda and I both are about festival'd out this weekend. We played at the Frog Level last night and I do the website for The Frog Festival here at home.

We go there early today and I shot over 200 pictures.  When I got home this afternoon, I had to ice my knees. We both looked at each other a few minutes ago and exchanged looks that said, "Tonight will be an early night."

I hope you all have had a remarkable weekend...but I hope your knees don't hurt as bad as mine.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Small town festivals

Playing festivals is the best part of being a singer/songwriter. Tonight we played the Frog Level Festival in Fayette, Alabama.

Fayette is a town situated not far from Mississippi. The city is doing a lot of things right. They have old buildings that they've restored.  I see improvement in the downtown area every time I visit.

After we played our set, we sat on a bench not far from the stage and had shrimp Po' Boys. Our friend Fred went with us so he could keep an eye on the sound crew, but this time he didn't have to. They were a great crew.

We have another festival tomorrow closer to home so this will be a short post.  Do yourself a favor and go to a small town harvest festival. The food alone is worth the trip.


Thursday, October 05, 2017

Inner voice

I'm doing a success story on a lady who came through my program back during the summer. She's worked for years at a national grocery store chain. A reorganization from corporate HQ mandated restructuring. All that looks good on paper, but pencil pushers rarely see the down and dirty results of those decisions.

My candidate was one of those who got the letter. You've been an exceptional employee, but we're letting you go. Don't worry, you'll have access to COPRA insurance.  Obviously, I'm making this part up, but I've worked in management and I can work out how it usually goes down.

My candidate walked away, with a stack of awards and commendations for her years of work with the company. 

Before she came to my workshop, her inner voice had chided her into submission. I've actually heard those conversations myself. They tell you "You're worthless. Who's going to hire someone as "OLD” as you? You'll die broke" and so on.

One of the main things I do with people who have been devastated by situations like this is to tell them how remarkable they are. And that they are worthy of finding a great situation.

This lady attended every meeting we had. She took notes, and she did her homework.  She landed a job a few weeks ago. 

When I talked to her today, she was a different person. She smiled. That made me happy.

This evening when I got home, it was getting late in the day but I needed to walk to get my steps in. A few hundred yards down our path, I saw a patch of yellow flowers with some purple things mixed it. I didn't have time to research and identify what they were, but I did get a picture.





Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Persimmon Forecast

Our great nephew Jordan was still having issues today. His mom started to school with him but he still didn't feel well. She called and asked if I'd pick him up.

Jilda taught an early morning class for the staff where she works, but when she got home, I headed out.

On the way home, he told me about things he'd been learning in school. He described the difference between similes and metaphors. I thought he'd just learned the terms. I wanted to check, so I asked him to give me an example of a simile. He said, "Aunt Rick smells like a rotten egg." Hmmm, I thought. He went on to say that an example of a metaphor is, "Aunt Rick IS a rotten egg." Holy crap! I couldn't believe he was learning this stuff in the 4th grade. Why he calls me Aunt Rick is a story for another time. 

When we got home he laid around for a while. Jilda cooked homemade spaghetti which is one of his favorite meals. He has eaten like a bird (simile) since he got sick last week. But he ate two bowls of spaghetti. Well, after looking at his shirt, he ate a bowl and a half and was wearing the other half bowl.

Jilda got an email that talked about how a woman does a forecast for winter by looking at the innards of persimmon seeds. We decided to do a science project and Jordan was in.
We have persimmon trees in the front yard and down in the field near the apple trees. When we walked down there, we found a ripe persimmon as big as a golf ball. It looked like a tiny pumpkin. 

When we cut open the seeds, three looked like spoons and one looked like a knife. We compared his results to the forecasting sheet. Apparently here in Empire, Alabama we will have a cold and blustery winter with three snow events. He loves snow so he was VERY happy with this forecast.



Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Being of service

I learned last week that my grant at the college will not be renewed when it ends January 31, 2018. I didn't see it coming. While I only work three days a week, I've invested a lot of energy in what I do. But so it goes.

I'm currently looking for other part-time projects where I can use my skills to help people. I read once that a best use of our time is to be of service to others. Truth is, helping others is one of the most rewarding jobs I've ever done. 

One of the women that came through my program lost her job in August. She is brilliant and has a stellar work record. Budget cuts are brutal and this round put her on the street.  She was devastated.

The first coaching session I let her vent. The next one, we got down to business. She was driven. Her son is still in high school and her husband is struggling with a disability that limits his career options. 

A few weeks ago she got a nibble on one of the resumes she submitted. They called her for an interview and she asked if I'd do a mock interview with her.  I looked at the job description and asked her questions I thought the HR manager might ask. 

As it turns out, the questions I grilled her on were very similar to the questions they asked. She nailed the interview. She starts work tomorrow at a salary more than what she earned in her last job.

When she called to tell me the news, she sounded like a different woman. No longer did she sound beaten or depressed. 

The sound of her voice telling me she'd gotten the job, is why I love doing the work I'm doing. I will miss it.

This is a random picture. If you're looking for a connection
to this post...move along. There's nothing to see here.








Monday, October 02, 2017

Eternal search for lost things

Jilda and I lose things. It seems the older we get, the more we find ourselves searching. I’ll bring something into the house, put it on the table and it disappears. When I ask her where she moved it, she swears she hasn’t seen it. That’s when the squabble begins. Often I have no one to blame but myself.

When I work on the truck or lawnmower, I head to the shed to fetch tools. About half the time, I can’t find the wrench I need. My hands are the only ones that touch those tools, but that is no comfort. I use bad language. There’s a good chance I’m on the devil’s “A-List.”

Jilda is as bad. She devotes a significant portion of her life looking for her reading glasses.
And our house is not that big. Back during the first part of summer, she found a 10-pack of reading glasses from Home Shopping Network. When her package arrived, she had a smug smile on her face as she opened it. “By George, I’ll be able to find my glasses now,” she said triumphantly.

In late August, I heard her storming through the house mumbling. When I asked what was up, she said. “I’m looking for my reading glasses!” “Didn’t you buy 10 pairs a few weeks ago?” I asked. She wheeled around and gave me a look that said: And what do YOU plan to cook for dinner. I clammed up and started helping her search.

Fast forward to this past week. While petting our collie Caillou, I pulled a flea off his ear. His hair is so thick that fleas are rarely a problem, but I knew it was time for some meds.

On Monday, I stopped by the local vet and bought a flea pill that cost more than my first car. The vet tech saw me flinch when she told me how much it was and explained that it was an expensive med. I started to ask if I could pay for it on the installment plan, but I was afraid she’d fail to see the humor. I took the pill home.

Caillou is finicky about taking meds, so Jilda fixed a special mix of rice and hamburger meat so that he would take the tab without a tussle. When she got ready to put in the pill, she couldn’t find it.

She called me at work asking where I’d left it. “On the table, where I leave everything,” I said. She looked, and it wasn’t there. I asked if she’d thrown the bag in the garbage by mistake. “I didn’t, but I’ll look.” She took the bag of trash outside and went through everything. No pill.

I racked my brain trying to retrace my steps for the previous day. I could not remember for sure where I’d put the pill. When I got home, I went back through the garbage. It had gotten a little ripe sitting in the sun, but I knew that pill had to be in there somewhere. It wasn’t.

Back inside, I stood at the sink scrubbing the stink off my hands. I chided myself for being so forgetful. While drying my hands, I glanced through the window into the backyard. Sitting on the workbench outside the shed was a paper bag. In the bag were things I’d bought for an oil change for my lawnmower. I knew before I walked out that the pill would be in the bag. Drying my hands, I stepped outside. When I reached into the bag, the pill was at the bottom.

The hard part was telling Jilda where I’d found the medicine.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Unconnected

My Internet connectivity has been spotty all day. When I did get on long enough to check for outages, it seemed there were thousands of reports from across the southeast.

I decided to move to plan B. Forget the Internet and read. I'd stopped by Starbucks yesterday and picked up a New York Times.  

Jilda and I sat on the couch and read three newspapers.  It's interesting to see how each entity handled a particular topic. 

The news comes at me in real-time. If something happens, my phone buzzes in my pocket (when the Internet isn't down) and I can check the latest. A lot of the younger people prefer consuming their news that way. But there's something about a newspaper that is inviting. The smell of the ink on paper, the feel of the thin pages in your hand, the sound it makes when you fold pages back so that you can read the funnies.

Newspapers are struggling. The only exceptions are local newspapers that report who attended Joy's birthday party or how the home team did on Friday night. 

After we read all three papers from cover to cover, we stacked them in the recycling bin and went for a walk.

It was much cooler this morning with a nice breeze out of the west. The dogs were happy. They played nip tag. It's a game where they chase each other and nip each other's rear-ends. They are hilarious to watch as they pay on cooler mornings.

When we rounded the barn, Jilda spotted a Monch Aster next to the trail. I snapped a picture for the blog tonight. 

It was a good day, even though we spent most of the day unconnected to the outside world.

Monch Aster

Saturday, September 30, 2017

On Goldenrod Pond


Today was chore-filled. Both Jilda and I had long lists. We often tackle them together, but we needed things a Costco and that store is 50 miles away. 

We decided to divide and conquer. Jilda compiled the list as we sipped our second cup of coffee. A short time later, I was on the road.

The good thing about getting at Costco early is that it's not nearly as crowded. I've learned the layout to the store and picking up the things we needed was a seamless experience. There was one snag. A story ran in a national magazine about Conecuh Sausage. When I approached the cooler there I had to stand in line to get ours.  

On the way home, I passed the pond not far from our house. I spotted color out of the corner of my eye. When I looked in the mirror, there wasn't a car behind me, so I backed up. Sliding the gearshift into park, I left the engine running and stepped out.

I moved around a bit trying to find the right angle. This one suited me. I call the picture "On Goldenrod Pond."  I know it's lame playing off the title of Henry Fords last movie, but I couldn't help myself.

Both of us are tired this evening. Chances are, bedtime will come early night tonight.



Friday, September 29, 2017

Home cooking

Jilda's mother was an incredible cook. Most days she prepared lunch for her baby son that worked close enough that he could smell what she was cooking if he'd stepped outside. He ate at Ruby's Diner daily.

She was a domestic meat and three place. She'd cook sweet corn, fried squash, and fried chicken livers. Or ribs and kraut. Somes days it would be pork chops and potatoes. Baked chicken, roasted potatoes, fried green tomatoes, and slaw. She always cooked a pone of cornbread as big as a hubcap.

For years, Jilda worked at a clothing store nearby and she too would pop in to lunch with her mom. That was when I worked south of Birmingham and rarely had an opportunity to have lunch with my mother-in-law. But Jilda often called me at work to tell me what they were having. If she'd been close by I would have smacked her :)

Jilda got that cooking gene. Some people dislike cooking, but she loves it and it shows.

Our great nephew Jordan was still under the weather, so he stayed with us this morning. His favorite thing that Jilda makes in meatloaf, corn on the cob, and butter peas.  I'll give you three guesses as to what we had for lunch today. She also made Jordan's favorite drink – lemonade. He was one happy camper at meal time.

Jilda's brother got off a little early today, so he stopped by to eat. Call him anything, but don't call him late for lunch.

As we sat down to eat, I had  a thought. Pulling the phone from my pocket, I snapped a picture of the meal and texted it to Jordan's mom Samantha.  Did I mention that meatloaf is one of Samantha's favorite meals too?

Was that evil? If so I learned that from my wife.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Time to prune

The drought last year was brutal. Thousands of trees in Central Alabama died from thirst. We spent a fortune on water bills, but we poured water to our fruit trees. We knew they wouldn't thrive, but we hoped they would survive.

The blueberries bounced back and we had a decent crop this year. The grapevine didn't make it. The peach, pear, and apple trees made it through the drought. In years past, we got bushels of both. We got one peach off the peach tree, and not a single pear or apple this year.

I plan to rent a lift and prune all the trees. There are dead limbs and deformed branches that have to go.

I'm hoping that next spring they will come back with a new lease on life. 

We picked these three years ago in October

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Ragweed

Our great nephew Jordan was feeling puny today. The ragweed here is brutal right now. A few weeks without rain has encouraged the invasive weed. The flowers of ragweed resemble the dandelion flowers that have gone to seed. I think these are called rosettes.  These are the white cloud that people pick and blow into the wind.

Ragweed, on the other hand, are a little more gnarly are blowing them in the wind is not as inviting.

For years, goldenrod was blamed for allergies this time of year. I'm sure there are some people who are allergic to goldenrod, I doubt this beautiful plant as hard on the sinus cavities as ragweed.

When I walked over this evening to take Jordan a jar of Jilda's world-famous lemonade and an oatmeal raisin cooky, I saw a bumble bee feeding on the goldenrod pollen.

I hope your autumn is without ragweed.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Yellow mushroom

Hummingbirds are at war with yellow jackets this time of year. The tiny birds are in a feeding frenzy getting ready to migrate south to Mexico and Panama. And the yellow jackets...well, they're just being yellow jackets.

The birds and the bees both love the sugar water we put in the feeders. While the rubythroats are bigger than the yellow jackets, they respect them. Whenever a jacket asserts its right to a feeder, the ruby's dart in and out trying to avoid the confrontation.

Ol' Hook thought yellow jackets were fair game. And had there been only one of the little beasts, he would have been fine. But when you mess with one yellow jacket, they bring the family to the fight.
After Hook got into a nest of them a few weeks ago, he gives that nest a wide berth. He seemed to look at us as if to say, "The devil is in that hole. Don't get too close to it!"

I poured gas down the hole after they attacked the dog and that was the end of that nest. I was afraid one of the kids visiting us would walk too close. Nothing good would have come from that. I'm a "live and let live" guy, but don't hurt me or mine.

Jilda noticed more yellow jackets on the other side of the yard near the dogwood tree. Today when I got home from work, I stepped over and stood for a long while. I did see a few of the yellow devils, but the nest is somewhere else. I'll have to spend some time locating it this weekend.

I did see a mushroom under the dogwood. I wasn't sure if it was yellow, or the setting sun painted it that color.



Monday, September 25, 2017

Cotton fields

My job took me to Fayette today. That's in the western part of Alabama. It seems like every house has a tractor. Rows of cotton seem to stretch to infinity. In years past, it was a crop that took a lot of manual labor to take it from seed to the tee shirt on my back. But these days, machines do a lot of the backbreaking work.

Picking cotton was one of the first gigs I had when I was a kid. My friend who lived next door made it sound like making a pocketful of money picking cotton was easy.

It didn't take me long in the hot September sun to realize there was NOTHING easy about picking cotton. But that was a valuable life experience. A few years back when I was thinking about taking a part-time job, I knew without question that I did not want to be a cotton picker.

But driving through cotton always makes me feel nostalgic though I couldn't tell you why.  A late morning appointment kept me from leaving in time for a leisurely drive and didn't have time to tarry on the way up. But after I finished my coaching sessions, I had time to stop and take a picture on the way home.

I pulled the truck off the edge of the road in the high weeds and flipped on my flashers. That wasn't necessary because traffic on those roads is almost non-existent. I stepped over the ditch separating the road from the fields and walked a few rows into the cotton.

After taking the picture, I stood for a long while listening to the wind and watching the clouds. Off in the distance, I heard a hawk. Shielding my eyes against the evening sun, I looked into the sky trying to find the bird. I never did see it but I knew it was there.

Seeing the bowls of cotton reminded me that even though it was still hot as a road flare, that autumn would be here soon. When I buckled back into my truck and cranked the engine. I wiped my forehead with a KFC napkin slipping the beast into gear. I thought to myself, autumn can't get here soon enough to suit me.
.





Sunday, September 24, 2017

Good for the soul

We had big plans today. We were going to Costco in Birmingham, and afterward, a stop a Starbucks for a Sunday edition of the New York Times was on our list of to-do items. But none of that happened.

Instead, we walked early to avoid the heat of the day. The path looks different in the early morning sun. When we walked the back loop which meanders through the woods in the hollow down by the barn, I came upon a mossy rock about the size of a football. The angle of the sun highlighted hairy spikes that I'd never seen before. I

 squatted and shot a picture with my phone in portrait mode. When I use this setting, the picture has depth of field which often adds interest to photographs. I'm just now experimenting with that feature so there is a learning curve but I like the results I've had recently.

I hope you Sunday plans involved sipping coffee on the screen porch, reading the Sunday paper, and taking a long nap. Sundays like this are good for the soul sometimes.


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Saturday stuff

We had grilling on our minds for this evening. We had Conucah Sausage in the fridge but we needed veggies. I'm talking onions, peppers, and other goodies. 

We headed out to Aldies just before lunch to pick up some of the things we needed. We remembered to bring our bags, but standing at the door we realized we'd forgotten the quarter for the cart.  RATS! I pulled everything from my pockets. I had my pocket knife, my wallet, cough drops, breath strips, chapstick, and my phone. But no quarter. Jilda was perusing through her bag. I started to head back to the car and search through the dash pocket for change when a good Samaritan came up and said take my cart, please. Apparently, the same thing had happened to her and someone gave her their cart so she was paying it forward. We thanked her and headed inside.

When we headed out after picking up our things, we gave our cart to a lady who was searching her bag for a quarter. 

As I walked to the car I wondered how many people passed that cart to the next person. 
That was such an inexpensive way to make people smile. I plan to do that every time I shop there.

We made one last stop at our local produce stand. There are things they sell there that are the best so we don't take chances by buying elsewhere.

On the way inside, I noticed a stack of warty pumpkins. These are autumn decorations. One particular pumpkin was a weird little dude. The colors were beautiful. I snapped a picture for the blog tonight.

I hope you all have had a great day.


Friday, September 22, 2017

Sad hat

When I got ready to cut the grass today, I looked for my lawnboy hat. I hang it on the top-right hook of the hat tree just inside our front door. Yet today it wasn't there. Hmmmm. My mind went on a journey.

The hat is much too big for Jilda and the dogs rarely wear hats so I felt sure the only clues available to solve the hat mystery was buried somewhere deep in the gnarly folds of my brain.

As I began to concentrate on where the hat could be it seemed like the light dimmed.  
For an instant, I thought that old age had robbed me of the ability to think and see at the same time. But then I realize I'd closed my eyes. 

After that confusion cleared, I remembered wearing the hat earlier in the week. I'd cut the grass around the barn. I'd also used the weedeater down there and I'd taken a break sitting on the edge of the front porch. I do that occasionally. It's a good place to contemplate about life, love, and what not. 

Today, when I walked down there, the hat was waiting patiently on the edge of the porch. It looked a little disappointed that I'd returned so soon.



Thursday, September 21, 2017

Watchful

My neighbor called yesterday asking if I'd heard dogs barking the night before. She thought someone might be prowling around her house.

I hadn't heard any dogs. They weren't mine. But when I remodeled our house a few years back, I added a lot of insulation. The siding boards on top of the insulation are made from cement.  Hearing things outside during the night does not happen very often. 

My dogs stay inside at night. There is a doggy door that allows them to come and go, but they rarely move around after they settle in unless something is going on outside. They take their watch duties seriously.

Once when someone drove into our yard late, the dogs let me know. By the time I got my shoes on and stepped to the door, the late-night visitors were backing out the drive. Two dogs tipping the scales at a hundred pounds each aren't that inviting. My dogs are inside my fence, and would not bother someone unless they tried to come into their space uninvited. 

I would not have a mean dog. But having dogs that are watchful is a good thing – especially when you live as far out in the sticks as we do.



Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Festive lights

We have colored lights around the top edges of our screen porch.  Sensors are set to turn them on when the daylight fades into dusk. 

A neighbor once asked why we left our Christmas lights up all year. "Those aren't Christmas lights," I said. "They are festive lights that keep Zombies from slipping into our house at night while we're sleeping and sucking our brains out through our ears with a soda straw." The neighbor took an involuntary step backward and searched my face looking for a sign of mirth. "You think I'm kidding, but I'm as serious as a brain tumor."  I went on to explain that I'd seen it on Facebook so I knew it was true.

OK, I'm lying about that. I made it all up. It came to mind this morning while writing my column for the Sunday paper.  

I went out to the porch this morning at 6 a.m. when Jilda headed out to teach her morning yoga class. As I sat there contemplating topics, I noticed the tiny colored lights. I love those little lights. 

Jilda and I went to a Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco and they had these lights strung on their dining veranda. We fell in love with them.  When we got back home, one of the first things we did was string these festive lights around our screen porch. 

I think they're working because I haven't seen the first Zombie since we strung the festive lights.




Tuesday, September 19, 2017

This is America

My buddy Danny and I were on the road early this morning. We had an appointment to shoot Facebook and Cable TV ads with a company in the northern part of the state.

We practiced our script on the drive up. When we drove through a small community called Nectar (such a sweet name for a community) Danny spotted a produce stand with mountains of sweet potatoes out front. Apparently, he and his wife love sweet potatoes as much as we do.


It took about an hour in the green room to get all the pieces video'd. Afterward, we headed back south.


We'd also passed a sign that said there was a historic covered bridge a short distance down a side road. 

I decided to have a look at the bridge. You don't see these every day. The brief side trip was worth the time. It was a beautiful, well-preserved bridge constructed of wood and metal. It was built in 1927.  We snapped several pictures and then headed back to the main road.


As we drove, we watched for the roadside stand. We saw it ahead and I hit the blinker to turn in. That wasn't necessary because I think we were the only car for miles on the two-lane.


The old gentleman minding the stand greeted us as we walked in.  A giant chicken fan over on the side of the tin-roof shed kept the air moving. It was hot in the sun but the stand was like an Oasis.

I walked around and looked as Danny gathered the things he wanted to buy. I noticed a sign by the exit that said: Put your produce in a bag and put your money in the cashbox. They still sold produce on the honor system when the owners were away from the stand.


Danny bought a basket of sweet potatoes, Vidalia Onions, and a basket of vine-ripe tomatoes. 


Standing there in this produce stand in the middle of nowhere was something I needed at this moment in my life. Things seem crazy right now.  Politics, the weather, and world news are enough to make a sane person crazy. But here in the "real world" people are growing pumpkins, potatoes, and tomatoes in their gardens. And they are willing to share their abundance with the people passing by on the honor system. 


As we stepped back into the college SUV and pulled out of the parking lot, I thought to myself, "This is America."








Monday, September 18, 2017

Predicting the weather

There is an art to predicting the weather. Even with all the newfangled satellites and meteorological equipment, predicting the weather is still unpredictable. 

Hurricane Irma was a head scratcher for days before making landfall. They knew the storm was massive and the general direction it was heading. But no one had a clue whether it would go up the east side of Florida or come into the Gulf. 

While I would never wish bad clouds on anyone, I couldn’t stand the thought of that beast coming into the Gulf and hitting Texas.  Hurricane Harvey had already made a mess of things there. I kept hoping it would curve eastward into the Atlantic and fizzle out. But that didn’t happen.

Our local meteorologist kept saying Hurricane Irma would go up the east coast of Florida. I’m not a weatherman but saw the storm ravish that state’s west coast.  The tropical storm passed through Empire, Alabama on Monday night. 

After the storm, I fretted about our friends who live in Florida. We’ve now heard from most of them. I got a text last night from my friend Brian who lives near West Palm Beach, Florida. They decided to weather the storm. After boarding up their home, stocking up on food, and water, they hunkered down. The text last night said they made it through OK, but the power is out, and they’re not sure when it will come back on there. 

The fascination with weather extends back through the ages. The Babylonians tried their
hand at short-term weather forecasts hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. Early civilizations understood a great deal about climate, but history tells us it was a crapshoot back then too. 

I remember Mr. Plunkett was a weather guru. He was our next-door neighbor in Sloss. One September I was sitting on his front porch with him and his two boys Joe and Johnny. It was late afternoon. He rocked forward and spat a stream of snuff into the red clay dirt and predicted that it would be a cold winter. During those days, weathermen rarely predicted rain until they heard it thunder.

But Mr. Plunkett would listen to barking squirrels, watch their activities.  He also studied the size of acorns to gather information before making his predictions. After careful observation, he would say, “It will be a cold winter this year.” Or, “This fall will be a wet one.” I wish I’d been smart enough to pay attention and see if he was right. He followed that up with, “If you don’t believe me, just read the Almanac.” No one argued with the Almanac in those days.

The best I can remember he was right on the money about half the time. His batting average was as good as those of weather forecasters today.

I thought about Mr. Plunkett today as Jilda and I did our morning walk. As we walked under the oak tree in the barnyard, she exclaimed, “Look at the size of that acorn!” Leaning over, I picked it up. It looked the size of a robin’s egg. I looked into the canopy trying to see if there was a squirrel up there. I rolled the acorn between my fingers like a marble. And I wondered what Mr. Plunket would predict for the coming winter.
Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book “Life Goes On” is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at rick@rickwatson-writer.com

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