Thursday, July 31, 2014

What's that smell

There are some jobs you put off. You have them. It's something that needs doing but for some reason you'd prefer to have an ingrown toenail than to do this task.

The compost bin that we used to recycle our household scraps, leaves, grass clippings, and other debris, was neglected for too long.

Then came the rain this past spring. Compost needs moisture, but when it gets too wet, it gets nasty and smells like an outhouse in August. People who've been to Washington during an election year will be familiar with the smell.

We had an outhouse until I graduated from high school, but many of you city dwellers had grandparents who lived on a farm or in the sticks. For those old enough, you've visited an outhouse in your life time.

They're similar to port-a-jons except they aren't pumped out every few days. In fact, when I was growing up, it was never pumped out. 

When it filled up, you dug another one, covered up the old one with dirt from the new one, and moved the structure. If your family had money, you might upgrade to a two holer, That way two people could........perhaps I've said too much.
Needless to say our compost pile reeked.  

Yesterday I put on clothes that I could burn, and rubber industrial gloves. With a clothespin on my nose, I cleaned out the compost bin. 

I warned Jilda away from the garden until I covered the "stuff" with leaves. 
This morning, my nieces dog came to visit. She usually lets Lady out each morning to use the bathroom, and after Lady does her business, she runs to our house to play with our collie, Cailoui.

When we opened the door to let Lady in, she had brown patches all over her coat. It took only a second to figure out what it was.

Apparently Lady had been enamored by our compost pile that was now conveniently on the ground and perfect for rolling.

She was outside as fast as she came in. She stood outside the windows looking in trying to figure out our problem.

This morning before coffee, I raked up a mountain of leaves and buried the compost. In a few weeks it will make great fertilizer, but I really wish my timing had been better in covering it up.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


My newspaper column is due Wednesday. I wrote the first draft Monday but I always like to let it stew for a day or two so that all the adjectives, verbs, nouns and pronouns have an opportunity to blend together like a good vegetable soup. 

This morning I took my coffee out to the screen porch to finish the second draft. A cool front moved in overnight. It was so chilly I had to step back inside and flip off the overhead ceiling fan. When I settled in, I noticed steam from my coffee drifted up like incense smoke. 

Often when I edit the second draft, I find words and phrases that fit like a cheap leisure suit. 

I've read that most people who write fiction do something similar. The first draft is for putting ideas on paper. If you fret too much on details you lose momentum, and get out of step with your butterfly-if-ic (is that a word?) muse. Best to get it down while it's fresh, no matter how sloppy it seems.

After the first draft, you take your editors knife for the second draft and whittle off the fat, tired, lonely words. What's left is a piece that hopefully is lean, stronger and punches the reader right in the gut.

When I'm completely satisfied is when I let my editor (Jilda) have a look.  She often points out faux pas that are so goofy they make me snort coffee out my nose. It's hard editing your own work.

Writing is tricky business. You have to find what process works for you and stick with it. My process involves tapping a lot of keys, listening to birds, and swilling coffee. Don't you want to write for a living :)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Another good day

The garden needed more attention today. That's not unusual for this time of year. Most people lose interest in gardening when the temps climb into the 90s, and weeds spread like a common cold at Walmart.

Also, the soil over the last few weeks baked harder than beginner's biscuits, and I could almost hear the roots gasping for air.

So before the sun cleared the pines to the east this morning, I aerated the roots of the tomatoes, watermelon, peppers, squash, and okra. 

Dried leaves left over from autumn from a shady area under the water oak would make perfect mulch I decided. So I raked and loaded them into the wheelbarrow, before hauling them to the garden.  

Each plant got a healthy pile of mulch around their roots to protect the area from the brutal sun of August. Uncoiling a length of hosepipe, I soaked the roots through the mulch. This should keep the area around the roots moist, so they need less water over time

Perspiration soaked through my clothes by the time the mail lady ran. Stepping down to the box, I pulled two checks from the stack.  Freelancer's love when money comes in instead of going the other direction.

Back in the yard, I saw a purple rose-a-sharon sunbathing, so I snapped a picture for the blog. I decided to have fun with Photoshop. I hope you'll forgive me.

A cool front moved through this afternoon, sweeping the atmosphere clean of the haze that hot weather puts there. Scattered white clouds made the sky look like the skies out west. 
All in all, another good day here in Empire.

Monday, July 28, 2014

An old Army Buddy ~ My Column from Sunday's paper

A dream last night about an old Army buddy sparked an idea for this week’s column. We haven't talked in over 20 years, but I think about him often.

Doug McGraw and I transitioned out of the Army in early spring 1973. I moved back home that spring and tried to find work so I could begin the next phase of my life. The phone rang one evening and my mom answered it. She chatted with someone for a while before calling me to the phone. It’s your friend Doug.

“Why don’t you come visit? The weather’s nice here in Virginia, and there’s a lot to see,” he said. That sounded like a great idea. I packed my duffel bag with a change of clothes, and fetched what money I had from between the pages of mama’s Bible. The only fly in the ointment was I didn't have a car.

The next morning I walked down the hill from our house to the main road and stuck out my thumb. Hitchhiking can be a tricky business and I'd mentally prepared myself for a long wait, but after a few minutes, a Lincoln Continental slowed. The gravel crunched under the tires as he steered off the road. The automatic glass on the passenger side whispered down and the driver leaned over to size me up through the open window. “Where are you headed?” he asked.  I told him I was on my way to visit an Army buddy in Virginia. “You're in luck. Throw your bag in the back and hop in,” he said.

As it turns out, the traveling salesman was ex-military and he was heading through Virginia on a sales call. He drove me to my friend’s front door. It was serendipity.

One of the things that brought Doug and me together in the first place was music. I played guitar, and he wanted to learn.

Often when someone thinks they want to play guitar, they see themselves in a room of adoring fans that shout out requests for the old songs that everyone knows and loves. The luster quickly fades when the tips of their fingers blister as if they were burned. This is when most people stop practicing. Soon their guitars are stored in the corner behind the exercise bike.

But Doug was different. He understood the price he'd have to pay and agreed to take the mangled fingers like a Marine. The hurt would be temporary, but the gift of music would be life long. So one weekend while visiting Fort Sherman, I went with him to buy his first guitar.

It was a long holiday weekend, and on Friday afternoon, we sat down to begin the guitar lessons.

We started with finger positions on the basic chords G-C and D. You can play practically any old country standard with these three chords.  He was a quick study and he “manned up” when his fingertips got tender.

We stayed up from Friday until Monday afternoon by swigging beer and chasing it with mess hall coffee.   We spent a lot of time that weekend laughing, cursing, and having the time of our lives.

By the time he boarded the train to head the 50 miles back to Fort Clayton, our heads were buzzing, his fingers were bleeding, and we were walking zombies, but he knew all the basic chords, and could play any song that Hank Williams ever wrote.

I plan to call Doug tonight to catch up on old times. Hopefully we can plan a road trip and meet somewhere in the middle. I'd love to brew some coffee, tune our guitars, and play music all night.

Zennia Art

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A days work

It was hotter than satan with a sunburned  here yesterday and the weatherman predicted it

would be even hotter today. 

I stepped down to the garden just after coffee to pick tomatoes, squash, pepper, and cut the okra. The soil crunched as I walked through it and  it was obvious it needed a drink. So I watered this morning too. 

After garden chores, I decided to make a couple stepping stones so I mixed up a 40-pound bag of concrete and poured two decorative stepping stones. 

Jilda called down from the deck to say that her sister Nell still had blueberries if we wanted to come pick them. Loading the truck with baskets, we headed out to pick berries.  A gallon later, and we both were wilted. 

By the time we got back home it looked as if we'd hosed each other down. I'm not whining about the heat, just making a statement. 

This evening when the sun went down, I pulled Jilda's Volvo and my truck into the back yard and washed them both.  

Right now, my knees are aching, and my muscles are sore, but I can look around and see the result of a day's work.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Caption this

When I  was in junior high school, I did something bad. I'm hesitant to speak of it even today because I think the high school history teacher, who was ancient at the time, is still living and I fear what he might do if he were to learn of my indiscretion.
I put my own captions on pictures in history books. Most of the captions I can't repeat here. I thought they were hilarious and they made my friends laugh. One friend laughed so hard he snorted RC Cola out his nose. Who knew history could be so entertaining.
I had George Washington saying something obscene on a painting of him  crossing the Potomac. The caption was infantile, but I'm guessing it would be funny to most grownups even now, and disturbing on another level. To pimply kids, humor is an artform.
I also rearranged the "Give Me Liberty or Give me Death" painting into something insightful and perverse. I was gifted at captioning pictures.
I haven't done any captioning in a while but I came across this old photograph of Jilda and me from the 1970s and I thought it might be fun to give you an opportunity to try your hand at captioning pictures..
So my blog friends, below is a picture of Jilda and me. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to caption this photograph.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A magical place

One afternoon this week, Jilda was working late and I'd been to community meetings. 

On the way home I came to a stop sign near the fork of the river. It's actually where the Sipsey Fork and the Mulberry River join to form the Black Warrior River that flows through the heart of Alabama.

Home was to the right, but a stones throw from the stop sign is the finger of land separating the two rivers where they join. I decided to swing in, as if often do, to see what was happening at the forks.

There's a public boat launch here but this particular spot is a unique place on this earth.

Native Americans made their home on this land back before Alabama became a state, but even now  standing there as gentle waters flow to the south feels almost magical. People congregate there year around. 

In the spring when trout, hybrid  bass and other species of fish head upstream to spawn, you can catch fish as big as small children.

My old friend Leo (white shirt) comes here every day. It's almost as if the water of the Black Warrior flows through his veins. He can look at the water, the angle of the sun, mentally calculate the air temperature and tell you if the fish are biting.

People come from all over, park their cars in the shade of pine and poplar trees and fish. Some come to stand and talk. Most just want to feel the magic of this place.  

Pulling in for a moment this week, Leo (pictured in white tee shirt)  told me they hoped to catch a few strip bass. 

Sometimes when you go down there, families with children running around barefoot will eat a picnic lunch on the grass. 
I love this place. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Doctoring up my Coke

While walking early this morning, a butterfly fluttered in front of me as if showing the way. Stopping at the front porch of the creative space, I sat for a while to watch. 

The flitting creature had the same idea and alighted to rest its wings a few feet on the lip of an old Coca Cola bottle the color of emerald.

It flexed its wings as if sizing me up. When it flew away, I continued looking at the Coke bottle. A memory arrived slowly in my conscientiousness like a Polaroid photograph developing.

I was 15 years old at the old high school during break time. Each day I'd buy a Coke and a pack of Tom's roasted peanuts. 

After drinking a few sips to make room, I'd pour the salty peanuts into the Coke and watch it fizz to life. Slurping the frothing soft drink was part to the fun. I loved that combination.
I tried several other things too. M&Ms, and the Kool Aid that came in multicolored striped straws also found their way into my Cokes.

School systems didn't worry that much about cranking the kids up on sweets between classes in those days. But then most of the kids that schooled with me, had stay-at-home moms and ate healthy breakfasts and dinners. 

It's funny what crosses your mind while out walking.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Things I've never done before

Just after coffee, I stepped down to the garden to do some weeding. I stayed on top of it early on, but got busy on several projects for the last two weeks which turned the garden into a jungle. 
I got into the Zen of garden maintenance and a while later my shirt looked as if I'd showered with my clothes on.

I went inside to hydrate and set in front of the box fan we keep in our bedroom for white noise at night.
I cooled off, but before I showered, I decided to do yoga. I've been on a roll the last several weeks and I wanted to continue the trend until it becomes habit.

I headed to the back deck, lit some incense, dialed up some meditation music on Pandora and started my postures.

About five minutes into the session, I felt a cool drop of rain hit my shoulder. Instead of fleeing inside, I put my phone in my pocket to keep it from getting soaked and moved into a warrior one. Looking into the sky, I could see sun off to the east, but overhead were clouds as thick as wood smoke.

The rain picked up, and I focused on the wind in the chimes, and rain ticking on the metal roof. 
I'd never done yoga in the rain, but it felt great. 

By the time I wound down, the clouds had moved off to the west (they usually move in the opposite direction) and the sun bore down

After twenty minutes of meditation, I picked up my mat and laid it across a banister to dry before going inside to shower.

I love doing things I've never done before. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Attack of the mutant flora

We compost. All the peach peeling, egg shells, asparagus stems, and other rot-worthy stuff, we toss in
an enamel bucket on the back deck and every few days I take it outside the back fence and dump it into the composter situated under our pear tree.
Each fall we take compost as dark as chewing tobacco and spread it over the garden. The pile usually gets warm enough during the decomposition process to kill most seeds, but every now and then seeds make it through.
We didn't think winter would ever end. Spring was slow in coming but once it arrived, growing things thrived.
We planted sunflowers, but we had one that volunteered (that's what my grandmother called it) to come up a few rows away. 
It finally bloomed this week and I snapped this photograph of my great nephew Jordan standing beside it. Jordan is almost four feet tall so you can look at this picture and do the math yourself.
I've never seen one quite this tall. The flower is as big as a dinner plate. Too bad an heirloom tomato seed didn't survive and grow a tomato as big as a beachball :)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ethics of an eye for an eye ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Life is messy. The view from the highroad is more scenic, but there are always detours, and I find myself on bumpy roads more than I’d like.

One part of doing right is being kind to Mother Nature’s critters. A good example is when I wrote recently about relocating the chicken snake caught in the nest of the henhouse instead of hacking his head off with a hoe.

Oftentimes doing the right thing isn’t cut-and-dried. This past week I caught an opossum (possum for short) in my chicken pen. It had already killed and eaten one of my new baby chicks. He came back the next night for a second course, but I caught it in my humane trap.

At first, the equation seemed simple in this case — an eye for an eye. The possum ate my baby chicks; now it must pay for that life with its own life. After all, it is my responsibility to do the right thing by my chickens and keep them safe.

While standing looking through the wire cage at the vicious critter and mustering the courage to carry out the retribution, three tiny possums no bigger than mice came from somewhere underneath. They nestled on their mother’s back as if it were a lounge chair and gazed at me curiously. The simple equation became more complicated for me.

My ethical compass swung northward, so I loaded the wire trap with the mama and three babies into my truck. The plan was to find a suitable place to relocate them.

After driving about five miles from the house, I came upon a secluded pond with lots of open space.

Steering to the side of the road, I stepped out, gravel crunching under my boots.

Out of the corner of my eye, a mama duck with a dozen small ducklings the size of my baby chicks came swimming toward shore.

Behind them were gentle V-shaped waves in their wake.

Watching the tiny critters for a moment was all it took to realize letting the possums go there was not the right thing to do either. Soon they’d be having duck for dinner.

After about 15 miles of asphalt, I came upon a bridge over a large creek. There were no houses for miles, and the area had been used from time to time as an illegal dump. Before giving it too much thought, I freed the family from the cage. Tumbling from their wiry jail, they cursed as they scampered toward the river.

Only Mother Nature knows what scathing labels they hissed on me.

Driving home, the circumstances surrounding the episode wandered through the maze of my mind trying to find a path to true north.

Did I do the right thing? It’s hard to say. Environmentalists might argue that changing the habitat of the possums at such a vulnerable time in their development was cruel.

Many people think I’m goofy for giving this kind of thing a second thought. Why not just blast the whole family with a shotgun and bury the carcasses in a shallow grave?

But for me, life is indeed messy at times and doing the right thing is not always easy.

The evening sky tonight. It has nothing to do with the post, but I wanted
to end with a picture.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Part of growing older

There was a time in my life when I could stay up for days. In fact, when I was in the Army, a friend wanted to learn to play the guitar. His barracks were located on the Pacific Ocean, and mine were on the Atlantic Ocean. 
That's me in Panama 1971
He bought a new guitar and boarded a train bound for the Atlantic. A few hours later he arrived. That was much easier to do because we were both in Panama. The Isthmus of Panama is about 50 miles across by train.
It was a long holiday weekend and he arrived on Friday afternoon. We sat down and began the guitar lessons.
We stayed up until Sunday afternoon when he had to board the train to head back to the Pacific. Our heads were buzzing, his fingers were practically bleeding, and we were walking zombies, but he knew all the basic chords, and could play any song that Hank Williams ever wrote.
Fast forward to now -- we didn't get to bed until after midnight last night, and my brain has been mushy all day. I guess that's part of growing older.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Worn out

We just rolled in after playing at Berkeley Bobs Coffee House tonight. Playing's the fun part, but then we have to help our sound man load up all the equipment. Wouldn't you know, our roadies took the evening off :)

Our old maids are coming in now so I grabbed a photo this afternoon.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Country living suits me

The rain moved in early this morning. I'd planned to do yoga on the deck while the coffee brewed, but as I twisted the lock on the garden door, I could see raindrops beginning to dot the deck. Leaning my forehead against the cool glass, I watched for a long while.

Opening the door to let in the scent of fresh rain seemed like a good idea.  It's been dry here, but we set record low temps this week. It's been like autumn. Even the light looked unsummerlike. 

I backed into the living room, turned on a Calm Radio station on Pandora, laid my mat on the floor, and started my practice with slow gentle breaths. 

By the time I eased through all the poses, I felt taller. 

After coffee, I stepped down to tend the chickens, and when I finished that, a trip through the garden seemed in order.

It didn't take long to find a ripe tomato as large as a softball. One look down the rows and it was obvious I'd need a container.

Stepping back inside, I fetched a straw basket that we've had for as long as I can remember, and headed back to harvest. There were tomatoes, pepper, squash, and okra.

If I'd put a pencil to paper, that first tomato would probably have cost $120 due all the time, tools and supplies needed to grow it. But the cost-per-fruit is now plummeting. 

Here's the thing: it would probably be more economical to buy the vegetables than to grow them, but there's more to a garden than economics. 

There's the exercise, the mental workout in planning, scheduling, calculating, and evaluating. There is also other factors like the feeling of oneness that comes when you have your hands in the soil. That's not to mention the Zen-like experience you feel when you get close to nature. 

The value of eating that first homegrown (your home) tomato on toasted bread, with a thin coat of mayo on both slices, has never adequately been calculated. Even supercomputers can't handle equations that complex.

I know country living isn't for everyone, but it suits me.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

It feels good to have my wheels back

I got my truck back today. It's been in the shop for over a week having the heads reworked. A few months back a strange sequence of events set into motion by perhaps, the harvest moon, but it culminated in burned valves on the heads of my truck.
It ran like a T-Model with oval wheels, but I could still drive it some. Then, week before last we'd taken Jilda's car in for new tires, and the truck chose that time to start REALLY acting up.
I managed to get it back to the shop. The shop owner's calculator actually smoked as he tallied up what the repair bill would cost.
My brother-in-law was kind enough to let me use one of his work cars. He's a plumber and doesn't have a lot of time to worry about keeping his work vehicles clean, but it was wheels when I needed them.
Today when I got back home with my truck, I pulled it into the back yard and cleaned it inside and out. 
It feels good to have my wheels back.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Fun morning

This morning I took our great nephew Jordan to his swimming lessons. This was his first week and he's still a little skittish around water. He loves sprinklers and the water park, but he doesn't like getting his face wet. Of course the first things you learn to do in swimming class is getting comfortable going under water.

Once there, I snapped a picture of Jordan and his young swim coach. Both could be models in upscale

It was actually cool this morning....upper 50s as I fed the chickens before coffee. So when he went in the water, he shivered until he went under. The water was warm, but standing wet outside was uncomfortable.

I sat on a lounge chair to watch. It was hard to tell which was bluer, the sky or the pool.

The lesson only lasted 30 minutes, and Jordan was ready for his towel when he stepped out of the water.
It was a fun morning.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sunset Screen Porch

I finished up my column on the screened porch this afternoon. The evening sun, even filtering through the lush foliage of our yard was bright.
I'm not sure if it's the angle of light, or something in the atmosphere, but it looked amazing coming through the screen.
I snapped a photo and then ran it through a photoshop filter to get this stainglass effect.
It's been a long day today, so I'll leave you with the picture.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Things break ~ my column from Sunday's paper

How is it that machines instinctively know the absolute worse time to break down? I think they have a type of mechanical intelligence that we humans can’t comprehend.

We have out-of-town company coming tomorrow, and our air conditioner decided to take

On Monday morning, I was in the yard tending to our new baby chicks when I heard something that was a cross between a howl and a moan.

Stopping in my tracks, my sonic radar zeroed in on the source. It was the outside fan of the air conditioner.

I stepped over to wiggle it. Of course wiggling stuff rarely works, but I do it every time something breaks. It’s like earlier in the week when I plunked down on the seat of the riding lawnmower. I turned the switch and discovered the battery was as dead as a doorknob. I’ve never actually seen a dead doorknob, but I digress. I wiggled the keys and tried to crank the beast again. Nada.

After wiggling the fan, it looked fine, but for good measure, I dusted off a mechanic’s trick my dad taught me, which was to spray a little WD-40 on whatever’s broke. 

That usually doesn’t help in situations like this either, but I still squirted a little juice on the fan shaft and wiggled it again just to show I meant business.

The morning sun was roasting the metal roof, so I stood there for a while until the unit kicked back on. The fan sprang to life, and I felt a smug sense of satisfaction as I went about my chicken chores.

Later that evening, I was concentrating on some writing and noticed the house felt a little warm.

The treatments Jilda takes have changed her internal thermometer, and she gets cold easily, so we don’t keep the house as cool as we once did.

But a closer inspection of the thermostat revealed it was set on 75, but the actual temp showing on the device was 78 degrees. 

I was temped to spray a little WD-40 on it, but deep in my gut, I knew the culprit was elsewhere.

Once outside, I could hear the unit buzzing like a swarm of hornets, but the fan wasn’t turning.

I poked a thin stick between the fan-guard spokes and gave the fan a nudge, and it started begrudgingly, but it didn’t turn fast enough for the unit to kick on and cool the house.

My mind ticked through all the steps it would take to get a replacement fan, and when I looked at my watch, I realized I wouldn’t have enough time before the parts store closed.

So, we slept fretfully with a box fan blowing warm air through the bedroom.

The next morning I swilled a few cups of java and headed to town in a borrowed car ... yes my truck died too, but that’s another story. 

The new fan and starting capacitor were pricey, but thank goodness, I’d wiggled enough stuff through the years to learn how to replace an air conditioner fan.

Before the sun began scorching the roof, the air conditioner was making the inside of our house as cool as a glacier.

I’m just hoping our water heater doesn’t get in on the act.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The chameleon doesn't mind

It was another warm day today. Moving early, the chickens were tended, the birds fed, and the screen porch cleaned. The baby chicks had called the porch home for the past few weeks, but it was time to move them to the big pen.
So they moved to a bigger wire cage and situated under the shade of oak, hickory, and pine...higher than the rest of the chickens. Hopefully they can get a sense of the ebb and flow of chicken life from that vantage point.
Afterwards, a cold glass of sweet tea, and a few moments on the stone benches in the yard seemed like the right thing to do.
A chameleon decided to sit as well. Pulling phone from a pocket, and snapping this picture seemed fitting.
Note: I rarely enter contests any more, but I did enter a few of my blog entries in a communications contest for my professional organization. I won a few second and third place awards, but it was a little disappointing.
The feedback on one of the submission was: I, I,  I. All you talk about is you, me  and I. "I" is not a compelling topic.
So I did the entry above without using the word I or me, a single time.  It felt stiff and uninspired. Perhaps I do say "I" too much. I asked the chameleon his opinion, and while his answer was a little vague, I think I understood him to say that he doesn't mind if I take about me.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A nice ending to the day

It was warm here today. The heat index at 2 p.m. was 107 degrees. The heat index is a combination of the ambient temperature along with the relative humidity.
When both numbers are high, the heat index shoot skyward. I didn't need a weatherman to tell me it was warm. I had some outside work to finish up, and when I came back inside, it looked as if I'd showered with my clothes on.
This evening we invited Jilda's brother and her niece over to have dinner with  us. We'd bought some nice thick steaks, marinated them with Jilda's secret recipe, and I fired those babies up on the grill.
After cleaning the kitchen, we stepped out to the TV room to watch a Christmas movie.....I know, it's July, but Jilda loves Christmas movies. This was a good one I'd seen before but we watched it again.
About an hour into the movie, I heard a roar on the roof. When I looked out the window, the sun was as bright as a stage outside, but it was raining hard.
I stepped to the back deck to see if I could find the rainbow, but the only gold I saw was falling on our squash and okra.
We went out to the screen porch and sat watching it rain for a long while. I snapped the picture below.
It was a nice ending to the day.

Friday, July 11, 2014

I just made that up

 You know what they say: Red star in evening, the sailors be singing....OK, I just made that up to go with the picture.
But I can hear lonely sailors in port, slamming down Singapore Slings and making up bawdy songs about flowers...OK, I can't actually picture that either.
So let me start again.
I spent most of the day in our long-neglected yard. A mountain of debris from countless windstorms in the corner of the yard had become a part of the landscape.
When things become a part of the landscape, they are less likely to attract attention. Without attention, they tend to remain an eyesore with limbs jutting out which make it look like a woody porkypine. Then there's always the fear of losing pets and small children.
Every time I cut the grass, I cursed under my breath and said, "Dang, I need to burn that crap."
But burning a pile of dead wood that big is a commitment. It's not something you can run out and do before breakfast. It takes hours of raking piling, and watching.
Today I decided was the day. I started early and watched mesmerized as the pile burned down to embers.
This evening, after raking and piling the stubborn ends of limbs and stumps, I headed in for the evening.
As I approached the deck, I stopped short and took this picture of red blazing stars (hibiscus) beside the deck, and the words of this old bar song came rushing back:

A young maiden fair and dear
A blazin' star tucked in her bosom........

OK, I just made that up.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ethics of doing the right thing

One of the sad parts of doing hobby farming and raising animals is that keeping everything safe and healthy is a battle.
I introduced four baby chicks to the big pen about a week ago and a hawk got one, and yesterday I found a few remains of another one.
Yesterday afternoon I baited a humane trap and did a few safeguards in the pen, hoping to curb the loss
of more young chickens.
This morning before sunrise when I stepped down the feed them, I flipped back the tarp covering the humane trap and an o'possum snarled at me.
I'd almost convinced myself that I was going to play hardball with critters and smite any that I caught in the act, but I noticed something else wiggling in the cage. Upon closer inspection, the possum had three babies.
That's when reality set in, and I couldn't even harm a snarling possum family, even though they had slaughtered one of my baby chickens. I decided to
relocate them.
I knew a perfect place several miles from my house. It's a beautiful pond with no houses in sight. Today, with the cage in the back, I pulled to the side of the road and walked around to open the door and take the possums out. When I looked at the pond, a mother duck with about 10 babies swam toward the shore.
That's when I started thinking about the ethics of doing the right thing.
In my situation, what is the right thing? Should I let them eat their fill of my baby chickens? When I relocate the varmints, am I transfering my problem to someone (or something else)?  It's hard to say.
I ended up taking the possums to the a small river about 15 miles from our house. I'm not sure if they'll survive.
This much I know: even with simple endeavours like hobby farming, you still have to make hard choices.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The sky in July

The sky had been remarkable this month. I guess sky each day paints a million pictures that are nevered admired.
We are too busy. We drive, we work inside, we cut grass, we meet, we talk, and we have smartphones hardwired into our lives, while the sky, like a full color Etch-a-Sketch, changes from moment to moment.
I'm not being preachy here, because I'm probably the worst of the lot.
But every now and then, when I least expect it....I look up and see something like this. I was so taken by the sky at this particular moment, that I'm surprised that I thought to snap a photo.
Now I'll have it to remind me to look up now and then.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014


I'd written a long post about fixing my air conditioner but when I read back over the post, it was as stiff as my knees on cold mornings.
It would be good to know why words flow at times like summer wine, and at other times they flow like chilled molasses. 
All I know is that I couldn't hit the send button.  backspacing that drivel into the ether was the humane thing to do. Of course I then sat for a long while staring at a blinking cursor. When all else fails, my rule of thumb is to type gibberish. The readers with either think you're hitting the sauce a little too hard, or that you bumped your head on the bow and you're drifting a little too far from the shore.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Re-learning good habits

The cold winter, followed by spring monsoons, teamed up to help me form some new habits. Had they been good ones, I would be as happy as a clam in a gin and tonic, but the habits I developed were only suitable for slugs. 

The habit of walking each morning was the first casualty, but the list is long and slothful.

At first, I couldn’t tell a difference in the way I felt, but then I began to realize my energy level was down, and my belt seemed to be shrinking. My guitar playing wasn’t as crisp as it once was, and the shed out back was a nightmare.

This morning I vowed to get back on the wagon, so I got up before six, punched the brew
button on the coffeemaker and stepped out on the back deck to get my thoughts in order. The clouds to the south were the color of salmon. After snapping a photo, I sat for a long while listening to the morning birds chattering and chirping in the pines.

Beginning this day with yoga seemed like a great idea. I searched for soothing music on the Pandora streaming service. 

Out of the dime-sized speaker on my phone came the haunting melody of an eastern flute drifting through the air like sandalwood incense. It made me think of bamboo.

I grabbed my yoga mat from inside and headed back to the deck. My mat was rolled as tight as a cigar, but with a smooth flip of the wrist, it floated for an instant like a magic carpet before settling on the deck as flat as asphalt. 

Often when doing yoga, my mind races, and no matter how hard I try, it seems like a drunken jabbering monkey in my head. I think of important issues like the lyrics to “Camptown Races,” and the price I paid for gas in 1969. But today was different.

I felt the breeze on my face, heard the tinkling of wind chimes, and noticed how my breath felt as I exhaled through my nose.

Forty-five minutes flew past without notice, and I felt a little taller.

After breakfast, I went for a long power walk. The dogs were ecstatic, dancing, yelping, and running rings around me. When the sun came out toward the end of my 45-minute walk, my shirt looked as if I’d been swimming, but I felt stronger.

I’ve written about habits before, but I think it bears repeating what Jim Rohn said on the subject: “Good habits repeated daily can lead to a successful life. Bad habits repeated daily often lead to disaster.” 

One thing I’ve discovered is that when I let things slide in one area of my life, I let important things in other areas slide too. To emphasize my point, my truck needs repairs, and as I look out the screen at it now, there’s enough dirt on the hood and fender wells to raise a crop of peanuts.

I have to continually remind myself that everything matters, even if it’s not screaming like a wet baby for attention. John F. Kennedy is credited with saying, “The time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining.”

When I stepped on the scales this past week and the needle zoomed to new uncharted levels, I realized the sun was shining, and my roof needed some attention. So, that’s why I started re-learning some good habits today.

Sunday, July 06, 2014


We have out-of-town company coming Thursday so we spent the day sprucing the place up. We keep a clean house, but over time, things begin to pile up.
I had a stack of unread magazines a foot tall on my desk. "I've got to take time to read these," is a mantra I repeat without conviction daily. As a result, they go unread for too long.
Having company come in occasionally is good motivation to declutter. I filed a few of the magazines I REALLY want to read, and I put the rest in a box to take to the thrift store.
I have a roll-top desk with about a thousand knick-knacks on it. OK, at thousand might be a stretch, but all the stuff on it, makes dusting a pain in the rear.
It's nice working from an organized and clean workspace. I hope you all have had a great holiday weekend.


Saturday, July 05, 2014

Time to shine

Even without a calendar, you can almost tell what time of year it is by the flowers in bloom. In late winter, just when you've convinced yourself that it will never be warm again, you'll wrap up like a chilled cocoon and walk down to fetch the morning paper. When you least expect it, you'll see it there in the early-morning sun....a buttercup.

All the leaves are brown, and the only thing with color is pine and cedar, but yet there it is. Like a ray of sunshine pushing up through the frosty topsoil. It's a harbinger, except with good news -- spring will one day follow.

Soon after the yellow bells, the azaleas come, followed by rhododendrons, bleeding hearts, and ornamental plum trees. Each flower, shrub and bush are awaiting its time to shine. It's a parade.

This week when we walked out on the deck, a blood-red blazing star as big as a saucer had bloomed out over night.

The richness of color, and the size of the bloom combine to make their arrival a special treat. Before we know it, the flowers will take a bow and autumn will step in for the second act. Each season, awaiting its time to shine.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Happy 4th of July

I know you're supposed to wait until it's dark to do the fireworks, but our great nephew Jordan didn't want to wait. I was hoping he'd be excited but see for yourself in the 15 second video what he thought about the fireworks.
Happy 4th of July.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Took my breath away

I could say the sky was stunning today, but even the word "stunning" seems limp as week-old celery and a sad descriptor of the day. The front moved through but we didn't get rain. But the temps and humidity dropped as promised. Jilda and I sat silently on the back steps for a long time this evening as the sun sank, soaking up the landscape that seemed to change each moment.

We could hear a hawk down in the hollow. His call sounded like a dart. We've had our eyes on the hawk after one kill a young chick we introduced to the big pen earlier in the week.

Often when something gets one of the chickens we wonder about the culprit. But I heard the big chicken fussing on Tuesday morning before coffee. When I stepped to the deck to investigate, I saw the hawk spring up from the pen and into a nearby tree.

I grabbed my shoes and ran out there, but I was too late. One the little chicken was gone. I found it a short time later and buried it in our pet cemetery.

This afternoon, we ran by the house of Jilda's older sister Nell. She's the one that loaned us the incubator and we returned it today.

She has an incredible farm. We left with flowers, veggies from her garden, and a tommy-toe plant in a three-gallon container.

I snapped a photo of her Tiger Lilly on the way back to the car. It took my breath away.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

No rain tonight

I walked out on the deck just now to dump coffee grounds in the compost bucket. Clouds off the the south and west danced with lightening, but I fear the tropical storm off the coast of Florida is pushing the low-pressure system off to the north.
I know this spring has been as wet as a thirsty newborn, but there's been no rain for a week and with the temps in the high 90s, the soil is getting dry as snuff.
So a rain would have been nice, but so it goes. Hopefully we'll get a short respite from the high humidity/temps. I'll get out early in the morning and water the flowers and garden to keep it hanging on until the next front moves through.
Today was treatment day for Jilda so we had to head out early. I put fresh water in the birdbath and the fountain before we left.
I noticed the rose-a-sharon bushes are blooming. We have a purple, a pink, and one with blossoms as white as fine china. I snapped a quick picture.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Borrowing an idea from a blog buddy

My blog buddy Keith over at Optimistic Existentialist wrote a thought provoking post about favorite books and asked his readers for their favorite book.
Most folks responding were like me and found it difficult to narrow the choices down to one. As I read his post, I thought of a half dozen books: The Hobbit, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Cat's Cradle, The Alchemist, as well as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
But no sooner than I had hit the send button, I thought of a dozen more. To me, books are not only a means of escape, but a respite from a world that's turning too fast.
If I know my friend Keith, he won't mind me advancing the discussion on my blog too. So I'll ask the question too. What's your favorite book of all time? Oh yes, if you haven't discovered Keith, check out his blog.

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