Saturday, July 04, 2020

Can't wait

While the coffee dripped in the carafe this morning I stepped down to the garden to check on things.
Everything is showing out, except for the sunflowers. The picture below, I took a few years ago on the 4th of July but so far, this year's crop has not bloomed yet. Jilda says have patience. I shall try, but I love sunflowers and so do the bees.

I hope you all have had a great day.

Friday, July 03, 2020

Slow down

When our elderly neighbor across the road began having health issues a few years ago, I started keeping a closer check on him. His only daughter was an attorney and lived out west. When I would see a change in him, I would send her a text or give her a call. It was the neighborly thing to do. She was grateful.

When he died, I helped place his dog in a forever home, and kept an eye on his place until she could figure out a path forward. His grass grew as fast as mine, so each time I mowed the lawn, I'd cut his. That way, the place didn't look abandoned. Looking abandoned in rural areas is an open invitation for ne'er do wells.

The last time she came home, she gave me some of the things that her dad loved. There were some tools, a few books, and the swing that sat in front of his house.

After hauling the swing home, I placed it on the edge of the yard in the shade of a sweet gum tree.
Jilda and I soon learned that the sound of a squeaking chain is intoxicating on warm summer evenings.

Since the coronavirus hit, we've spent more time at home and we've paid more attention to our place. One evening while swinging, Jilda said, I think this swing would be better if it was sitting over there. She pointed to the opposite edge of the yard.

I never question her taste in the positioning of yard-thangs, so we stood and wagged it squeaking to the new location. A moment later, when we sat down, I knew she was right because it was positioned to watch the setting sun.

A few days later, the Mandevilla we'd bought was on one end of the swing with its tentacles winding up the swing poles. One the other side was a raised bed of cucumbers.

Since then, the plants seem to be in a race to see which one can form a canopy over our heads.

In the future, when looking back at the year 2020, there will be plenty of ways to curse it, but there will be other things that would not have happened had we not slowed down.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

All in a day's work

I spent most of the day writing stories for the paper. After coffee and a short walk, I was on the screen porch under a whispering ceiling fan tapping keys. After several hours, I was brain-fried.

After lunch, I headed down to the honey house and put new wooden handles on our cultivator. Jilda's dad gave us this tool over 40 years ago.

This spring, when I pulled it out to lay off some rows for the sunflowers in our garden, one of the handles broke. OH NO!  I thought to myself that there is no way I could find replacement handles for a tool that most people consider obsolete.

When I went inside to break the news to Jilda, she said, "No worries, Lehman's has those."

I thought she was kidding, but she whipped out her phone, went to the Lehman's website and searched for cultivator handles and there they were.

A few days later, UPS brought the new handles and left them on the screen porch. When I got home and saw the box from Lehman's, it made me smile.

I got the handles replaced, but it was too hot outside to give it a test drive. I'll do that tomorrow.

My next project is to get the cement mold out and pour some new Peace stepping stones. I think I could use some more peace these days.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Hot bees

We woke up this morning to the falling rain. After starting the coffee, I stepped over to the garden door and looked across the garden toward the barn. A light mist hovered just above the grass, making the field look ghostly.

Wednesday is the day I write my weekly column for the paper, so I took the laptop out onto the screen porch to work.

After finishing the first draft, I had several (no contact) errands to run, so I put on my hat and hustled to the truck.

Jilda had lunch ready when I returned. After that, we treated ourselves to a nap. Life always seems better after a nap.

Sure enough, when we woke up, the clouds had moved off to the south. It didn't take long for the atmosphere to get steamy.

I walked down to the bee yard to check on the girls. One of the hives had a beard of bees hanging off the front. The hive was a swarm that I'd captured, so it started out with fewer bees than the other hives, so I narrowed the entrance gap. This makes it easier for worker bees to defend the colony against robbing from yellow jackets, wasps, and honeybees from competing hives.

I thought the hive was vented from the bottom, but when I checked, it was one of the older hives I bought in the beginning. With rising temps, no screened bottom board, and a reduced entrance, I knew immediately that the bees in the colony weren't getting enough air.

I put on my bee suit and returned to the hive and removed the entrance reducer. You could the pitch of their humming changed.

Later, when I walked back, there weren't as many bees hanging out front.

Walking back through the garden, Jilda was picking squash for supper. She called to me to say the girls had finally found the Old Maid flowers in our garden. I snapped a picture for you to see.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

A special gift from Ol' Hook ~ my column from the weekend paper

Through the years, Jilda and I have had our share of pets. We’ve had cats, chickens, tropical fish, and dozens of dogs. One thing we’ve learned is that they sometimes bring you unusual “gifts.”

Not long after we married, we lived in a trailer in a mobile home park where the Sumiton Elementary School now sits. We didn’t have an air conditioner, so during the summer, the windows were always open.

The screens were old, and the one in the window over the kitchen sink was barely hanging onto the frame.

One afternoon Jilda was standing at the sink washing dishes. Alleycat (the cat’s name) jumped from the ground outside and onto the edge of the sink through the window. The cat had done this trick in the past, but this time she had a small copperhead snake dangling from her mouth. Jilda’s scream made the hair on my arm stand on end.

I rushed into the kitchen, whacked the snake with a broom handle before balancing it on the broom, and taking it outside.

Not long after that, our German Shepard, Duke, brought us a baby rabbit. The dog had gently captured the tiny critter from a neighbor’s rabbit pen. Other than being slimed with Duke slobber, it was unharmed.

I took it home, apologized to the neighbor, and kept Duke on a short leash after that.

Through the years, there were other “gifts,” but this week, Ol’ Hook took the prize.

Our niece Samantha and her son Jordan were visiting from next door. We were all sitting on the back deck, enjoying the afternoon sun.

An Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly fluttered up and landed on the butterfly bush in the flower bed. It was yellow and black with an intricate design on its wings. The critter was almost as big as my cupped hands. Jilda stepped down to get a better look. Pulling the phone from her pocket, the butterfly seemed to be posing.

After Jilda stepped back onto the deck, Ol’ Hook spotted the dreaded butterfly. I’ve mentioned before that Hook is a deaf pit bull with a mouth big enough to swallow a Ford Focus. He launched off the deck, and before any of us could stop him, the butterfly disappeared. Chomp, chomp, chomp.

All four of us watched the event unfold and did a chorus of “Oh, no!”

Hook came up onto the back deck and looked at us all as if to say, “Threat averted.”

If the story had ended there, it would have been a sad one, but it didn’t. After a moment, Hook began coughing and then opened his mouth like he had something hung in his throat.

Just then, the butterfly flew out of his mouth and up into a nearby tree. It sat there for a few moments before heading down to feed on the zinnias in the garden.

We’ve told several people this story, and they all looked as us like we were pulling their leg. Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I would have been skeptical, too.

The gift here was a story that will be told for years to come. I only wish I’d had the foresight to capture the event on video.

Monday, June 29, 2020


It's been years since we planted watermelons. Early in the spring, we met one of our friends to give her some eggs, she reciprocated with four heirloom watermelon plants.

That afternoon, I took the tiller and broke up land that we've never used as a garden before. The main factor was that the plot gets over 9 hours of sunlight each day.

We knew within a few days that they were happy. You could stand still and almost see the vines grow.  Each morning brought more yellow blossoms.

We noticed a few weeks ago that there were several melons the size of goofballs. They've grown steadily since then.

This morning the rain moved off to the east and gave us a few minutes to get in some steps. We swung by to check on the melons and I snapped the picture below.

We need to do a little research to learn the right time to pick them. We are soooo excited.

Sunday, June 28, 2020


A few years ago, Jilda and I spent our anniversary in Fairhope, Alabama. Don't you just love that name? 

Fairhope is less than an hour from the Gulf of Mexico, but it's nestled on the shores of Mobile Bay. It's a magical place, or it seems that way to us. 

We've been to Fairhope many times.

When Hurricane Fredrick slammed into Mobile on September 12, 1979, it left much of the telephone company's infrastructure in tatters. 

Construction crews went down first to set new poles and string miles of telephone cables. It took months for them to get the facilities ready to do mass restorals to the communities around Mobile. 

I was in the next wave of crewmen who went in to reconnect homes. I spent weeks hanging 40 feet from the ground on telephone poles.

After a few weeks, I went home one weekend and loaded Jilda up along with our German Shepard Duke and took them back to Howard Johnsons with me. 

She was a hit with the crew. She was cute, and she could cook. Each day while we worked, she'd go to the grocery store, buy up whatever she needed to feed 14 hungry phone guys.

After dinner, we would load up and drive over to Fairhope, sit on the pier, and watch the sunset. It was a beautiful thing.

If we did not live here, I would lobby for a place in Fairhope.

I shot this picture the last time we visited.

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