Saturday, April 30, 2016

Festival Season begins

Twenty years ago we would have played the Natchez Trace Festival and accepted the invitation from
one of the folks there to come to their farmhouse for an all-night pickin' party. But today, it was all Jilda and I could do to drag our rear ends of the car when we got home this evening.

We always have a great time. One of the sound guys said, "We have a woman who loves your music and wants to play the harmonica on one of your songs." We've had these offers in the past and some of them turned out badly, but the folks in Kosciusko have been so kind to us, we agreed.

We played one of our songs in the key of G, and though she'd never heard the song before, played it like a professional. Both Jilda and I were blown away.

I know it will be an early night tonight for both of us. I hope your weekend has been a good one so far.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Gig Face

Jilda and I have been getting our gig faces on this week. We've practiced hard this week. A funny thing about practicing any particular skill. You work for months without noticeable improvement and then without warning you can do things you could not do before.

I know my blog buddy Joe over at Cranky Old Man can identify. He's a guitar player too and I'd be willing to bet he's experienced this same experience.

Over the coming months, we will play somewhere almost every week. Several of you have asked about us posting videos. We've done a few but I haven't been that happy with most of them. We now have the equipment and software to make that happen and it is my intention to put something together over the coming weeks.

It was a beautiful morning here, but storms moved in this evening making our dogs crazy. I'm asking the vet for doggie downers so that we can sedate them next time storms are forecast. I did manage to shoot a picture of the rhododendron that lives next to the house. It's one of my favorite plants.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A mystery

Last night Jilda made black-eyed peas, mac & cheese, and cornbread. We thought our nephew and his family that just moved back from Mississippi was going to supper with us, but as I glanced through Facebook while the tea was steeping, I noticed pictures of them eating at Golden Rule BBQ. 

I doubt their supper was better than ours, but that's beside the point. We had a ton of leftovers that I was putting up after we ate.

When I opened the door to the cabinet where we store the plastic containers, about ten of them in varying sizes tumbled out with lids following on their heels.

Gathering up all the polyvinyl chloride containers, I wiped them off and then sorted through for a few containers large enough to hold the leftover food.

Selecting two of the containers was the easy part. When I tried to find matching lids, there weren't any. I took every bowl out of the cabinet and every lid, and none of them fit. Plan B. I got two containers that were a little smaller, but their lids were not where to be found.

As it turns out, we have a cabinet full of useless containers. I think the tops exist, but they are in stealth mode or perhaps they only live in a parallel universe. It's a mystery.

I would invest in a company that manufactured plastic bowl with tethered lids that cannot be separated.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Remembering April 27, 2011

This afternoon during a lull in the meeting I was attending, I rolled the chair over to the window to have a look at the clouds. The crystal-clear skies were blue with fluffy white clouds lazing to the east.

This day is etched on my mind like a cheap tattoo – April 27, 2011. The National Weather Service confirmed 363 tornados that day. They spread from Texas to New York and 317 died as a result of those storms.

The one that flattened most of Sipsey, the small town about five miles from here stayed on the ground and came within a few hundred yards our our house. We were fortunate.

We had no power so we were in the dark that evening the sound of sirens in the distance wailed into the night.

Today, I sat for a long time in silence remembering those who were not as fortunate as we were.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A simple meal

It felt like home here this evening. Jilda put spare ribs, potatoes, and sour kraut in the crockpot to slow cook all evening while she went to work. When I came home at 4 P.M., the house smelled like her mother's kitchen.

The dish is one her mom "threw together" from time to time along with a pone of cornbread.  I'm thankful Ruby taught Jilda how to make it.

Laying down my laptop bag, I stepped over to the crockpot and lifted the lit. A soft cloud rose, and I leaned my face almost into the crockpot to savor the aroma. I pulled a long spoon from the drawer and steered the concoction to ensure it wasn't sticking to the bottom. But Jilda had put it on slow-cook, so the ribs were tender, and they fell apart as I steered.

I turned the oven on 425, pulled a bowl from the pantry and tossed in the meal with a little flour, two eggs, a scoop of mayo and a few cups of buttermilk.  Soon after, I heard the oven beep saying it was at the right temp. I poured the mixture into a skillet greased with coconut oil and about 30 minutes later when Jilda walked in the door everything was ready.

A simple meal was just what my spirit needed today.

The picture below is one I shot yesterday afternoon just before our yoga class.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Thunderstorms ~ my column from Sunday's paper

The other day when we walked the air felt as thick as grits. Halfway up the hill on our return lap both Jilda and I were huffing. It should have come as no surprise because thunderstorms were moving in. Even though they were still one day and two states away, I could feel their power.

When I was in Panama in 1972, a tropical storm swept southward over Cuba and into the Caribbean Sea. Sleep was difficult the evening before the storm made landfall because it felt as though I had a weight sitting on my chest.

The wind and rain swept through during the night on Friday leaving an angry surf and clouds the color of mourning doves.

Several of us ventured down to the shore in swimsuits on Saturday for a first-hand look at the ocean. Ten-foot waves drove inland, and I tried a time or two to body surf, but the force of the water slammed me down hard. For days afterward I dug sand from my hair, ears, and other places.
Once I realized that body surfing was unwise, I found a palm tree that had washed up with the tide and sat for a long while. Off in the distance, I could see cloud to cloud lightening, but it was impossible to hear thunder over the roar of the sea. I’d never felt so small before.

After breakfast on Sunday, the guys in my barracks went back out for another look. The tide had taken the palm tree away to some other shore.

The force of the pounding waves had dredged up long buried shells with exotic names like

Gaudy Natica and Fighting Conch. It was beautiful, but also a humbling experience.

When we go to the ocean, these days I always look for seashells, but usually only find picked-over pieces of shells. 

But once when we spent New Years with our friends Kaye and Ron at their new house in Blue Mountain, Florida our luck was much different.

A tropical depression had formed in the Gulf and was moving toward the Panhandle, but we didn’t let the storm dampen our spirits. We feasted on lobster, crab claws, and some mighty
rad gumbo as the storm raged outside. Through the south-facing windows, you could see lightening jabbing the ocean offshore.

The next morning the clouds had moved off to the east leaving blue skies and a warm sun. 

The temps were in the low 50s, but we put on our sweatpants and headed to the beach.  I walked a little ahead of the others and spotted a Horse Conch, which is a beautiful shell. It was in perfect condition. Soon I heard Jilda squeal as she found a shell as big as a saucer.

Even though it was too chilly to swim, all four of us were in the waist-deep surf snatching shells from the sand. By the time we headed back for lunch, we had a treasure trove. 

We shared shells with friends and family, but we still have baskets filled with the shells we picked up the day after that storm.

We live in a strange and wonderful world. Storms can sweep through leaving a path of death and destruction, but sometimes they leave a trail of beauty in their wake.

Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book Life Changes is available on You can contact him via email at

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Peep show

I was saddened to lose the peep a few days ago, but as luck would have it, another one hatched out. I backed the lamp away, put water, and a small amount of food in the cardboard box and this one survived. I didn't mention it earlier because I was afraid it too would make it.

Today, I put the new peep in the yard with the mother hen and the older chicks. It immediately fit in with the siblings as they scratched and peck the ground. Each time the mother hen scratched away the pine straw, all three chicks would rush under her feet pecking at anything that moved. They are fun to watch.

After a long while standing in the pen, they became accustomed to my presence, which allowed me to creep close enough to snap a picture. The last time I tried to shoot one, I walked up close and one of
the tiny peeps freaked, wiggled through the chicken wire, and ran with wild abandoned while its mother tried to flog me.

After a few tense moments, the little bird wiggled back through the fence, and all was calm.

Today was a restful day. I hope your day was a good one too.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Another Saturday night

I worked in the garden and yard most of the morning, putting cages on the tomato plants, watering plants on the deck, planting more herbs and lettuce. 

Autumn leaves that fell after the last raking last fall had collected to the side of the house. I raked up several wheelbarrows of leaves, sweet gum balls, and pine cones. I used to let these decompose to fertilize the soil until I almost stepped on a copperhead last summer. Now I keep the area swept with a yard broom.

On the side of the house, I noticed the rhododendrons has begun to bloom. I snapped a picture of the first one. When it blooms fully, it will be the size of a soccer ball.

Tonight we attended an all-class reunion for our local high school and howdy'd up with some old friends. It was fun, but the bed is calling.

I hope your Saturday was a good one.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Blue-sky Friday

Thanks for all your comments and encouragement about the young bitty, but unfortunately it didn't survive. The crude incubator I fashioned from cardboard and a shop lamp apparently didn't keep the temperature in a good range during the critical hours after the baby hatched. I buried it in a place of honor in our critter cemetery. Also, I'm looking for used incubators now so this won't happen again.

We do have two small chicks that survived. One looks like the cotton from an aspirin bottle and the other is the color of rust. The mother is so protective, I can't get close enough to take a picture just yet but I should be able to get one soon.

On a lighter note, today was an incredible day. We got our walk in early this morning and the dogs were ecstatic. A cool breeze out of the west made if feel as if we were somewhere in the mountains or standing at the park on the east end of the Goldengate Bridge in San Francisco.

Down at the barn, I looked up through the oak and hickory trees and all I could see was blue skies. I pulled the phone and snapped a picture. It won't win a Pulitzer, but you might get a feel for how nice today was.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Fingers crossed

One of our chickens has been setting on eggs for over three weeks. I noticed on Tuesday that some of them little ones had hatched. The proud mother is fiercely protective so I couldn't get close enough to see them closely.

When I went out yesterday to check on the babies, I noticed a snake in the pen. That's never a good sign especially when there are baby chicks involved. So I went into the pen to de-snake it. I think it was a rat snake but it eats all kinds of tiny critters so I whacked it on the head with at small piece of plastic pipe. It wasn't hard enough to hurt the snake, but it was hard enough to make it sull up in the corner.  I grabbed my work gloves from the shed and grabbed it around the neck.

I took it down to the barn which is over a hundred yards away and released it there. If it comes back to the chicken pen, things will not turn out well for it.

After the snake incident, the setting hen abandoned the nest and two tiny peeps trailed after her. There were about 10 eggs left in the nest.

I don't own an incubator, but I decided to try and hatch any peeps that were close to hatching. Putting them in a cardboard box in my shed, I put a lamp in the box to keep the temps withing hatching range.

When I went out after work today, I saw that a tiny beak had pecked through the shell and was working its way to freedom. An hour or so later when I went out, it had broken free and was huddled under the warm glowing light.

I should know by tomorrow morning if it's going to survive. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I'll do better tomorrow

OK, I have nothing to say tonight. I've tapped the backspace key until my index finger is sore. Sometimes you just have to say, "Hey, I'll do better tomorrow."

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Stop and smell the daisies

I'd made up my mind yesterday to haul the riding lawnmower to the repair shop to replace the blades and do a tune up. Just before I left, I did a YouTube search on how to replace the blades.

I've done this procedure on my old lawnmower and it was a pain, but the video showed a new way that looked much simpler.

About 30 minutes later, the blades were replaced and I still had the $75 in my pocket.

Today, I cut the grass down in the field between the house and barn. I was in my own little mowing world when I saw a small patch of wild yellow daisies. I steered hard right and avoided cutting them down. Pulling the phone from my pocket, I snapped a few pictures while the engine idled.

Now we can stop and smell the daisies when we walk each day.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Eating Naked ~ my column from Sunday's paper

I’m going to start eating naked. I know this will be problematic when eating at most local establishments, but if the food folks took one look at my clothes after a meal, they would understand.

It’s not due to age or senility, both of which are ongoing matters with me, but because for as
long as I can remember I’ve dropped food on my clothes while eating. When Ma Bell first promoted me to management, I dreaded the change in dress code. I knew that wearing a suit would be an issue. I could see the writing on the wall, or more to the point, the stains on my tie.

As a result of my inept eating, my ties looked as if they had some form of a malady, which manifested itself in greasy splotches. The local dry cleaners frequently worked overtime shifts to keep up with the demand. A small country could have offered free health care for what I paid the dry cleaners.

I guess a raincoat while I ate would have solved the problem, but that would have made me look even stranger than normal. Instead, after meals, I would remove the stained tie, and roll up my sleeves, which made it appear as though the “real work” was about to commence.

Ties rarely figure into my wardrobe these days, but food down the front of my shirt hasn’t slowed a bit.

When we don’t have company, I slide the tablecloth on my end over far enough so that when my food falls it drops on wood and not on the tablecloth.

The idea for this column came to mind as I was trying to think of a writing topic. Our friends Jon and Diane Mayhall brought us a gift bag full of goodies the last time they visited. In the bag were a loaf of raisin bread, a jar of peach jam, and a bunch of other goodies.  This morning Jilda toasted a slice of the raisin bread spread with cream cheese and jam. She brought the treat along with a steaming cup of coffee to the screen porch where I was writing.

An idea was forming in my head as I reached for the toast. I paused a moment enjoying the aroma before taking a bite. Just then a blob of jam the size of a quarter dropped off the bread, rolled down the front of my shirt, and onto my sweatpants. Afterwards, the shirt looked as if it had a sticky zipper.

I don’t think I’m alone here because I often see folks at restaurants wearing napkins to protect their shirts. I’ve thought about doing this, but I feared I would look like a graceless hick. Apparently they care more about their clothing than they do about what someone might think.

One thought that came to mind was a new invention. It would be a type of cone made of plastic much like those cones used by veterinarians to keep dogs from licking surgery sutures, except this cone would catch food particles before the fall to your shirt.

Or, I could go with my original idea and simply eat naked.

Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book Life Changes is available on You can contact him via email at

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A good day

Jilda and I are both bone tired this evening. The almanac and weather forecasters said that after April 15, chances of a killing frost were slim so this morning we bought tomatos, peppers, eggplant, and several varieties of herbs.

We spent most of the afternoon working in the garden. We also bought flowers for the planters in front of the house. They should do well as the temps warm over the coming days.

This evening, Jilda poured some epsom salts in a warm bath and I soaked my aching bones. I didn't shoot a picture today, but I had one of the front of our house taken a few years ago.

I hope this day has been as good to you as it has to us.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Wildflowers for Grandmother's Grave

Jilda's last remaining aunt passed away recently and the family had the memorial service today. Aunt Betty had asked Jilda and I to play at her funeral and her daughter honored her wishes.

The ceremony was short and simple. The rain had moved off to the north, and the sun peeped down throught the clouds from time to time.

Before the service, I snapped a photograph of Aunty Betty's great grandaughter picking a bouquet of purple wildflowers for her grandmother's grave.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Don't quit the day job

Today was mostly uneventful. Jilda did get a great hair cut from her new stylist, and I got a case for my new phone, but otherwise not much happened here in Empire. the way to get the case, I did pass by a pink dogwood in full bloom. I was on a narrow forgotten back road. I don't recall the last time I passed a car on that old road.  

The pavement is rough, but those with good shocks or driving a truck, there are things to see. At one point at the crest of the  one of the hills, you can see to the next county. Lakes and cattle dot the horizon to the west. The sunsets there are spectacular.

But today was cloudy and the view as limited, except when I rounded the curve and saw the dogwood. I rolled down the window of my truck and pulled close enough to the tree to pick a blossom.

I posted the picture on Instagram (rickwatson) and it got some love from my followers there. We'll see if it passes muster with my blog-buds. 

Yes, No, Don't Quit the Day Job?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Movable Feast

I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but I had never read A Movable Feast by Earnest Hemingway...until this week. The book is set in Paris and other parts of Europe in the early 1920s.

I was saddened to reach the end.  He drew me into the language. His quest for mots justes, the French term for using the right word or expression, is part of the reason why his work survives. 

I guess I've always thought that any old word would do as long as it gets the point across, but after reading this book, I think there's much to be said for being more discriminating when selecting the right words. Reading this work was sobering.

Flashback to this past Tuesday: I was on the way home from the workshop up in north-central Alabama when I saw a field of yellow flowers off in the distance with white flowers in the foreground. Pulling off the Interstate, I steered the truck off the emergency lane and into the grass.

I sat on the tailgate for a long while in the warm afternoon sun watching the clouds and the wind making the flowers dance. The shifting light changed the landscape every few seconds.

This has been a delightful spring. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Opossums in the hen house

When I went to feed the chickens yesterday, I found feathers in the roosting shed. The other chickens were spooked. I knew this could not be good.

When I searched further I found the mutilated carcass  at the corner under some privets I left to provide shelter.

I was heading to work, but I took the time to bury the poor bird. It was the one tame enough to peck scratch feed from my hand. I was not a happy boy.

Experience told me it was either a racoon or a possum so when I returned from work in the afternoon, I pulled the humane trap from the shed, and I went back into the house to fetch a can of sardines. 

This morning when I looked out the garden door, I saw mister opossum in the trap. 

After breakfast, I loaded the trap into the back of the truck. The critter now lives in another zip code.

This afternoon I cut the grass and came upon a stump on the new property that had some kind of tall plants with red tips. The picture wasn't that good, but it's all I have today.

I hope there were no opossums in your hen house.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

I'm happy

Rain splattered the windshield as I pulled from the driveway this morning. The wipers swept damp pine pollen off to the side. The skies looked as if it might rain forever.

I had a workshop in northcentral Alabama. The mile markers ticked down as I approached the Mississippi state line, but I took exit 16 toward the campus.

The rain had stopped and the sky turned a lighter shade of gray but still no sunshine.

I use an overhead projector for my presentation, so the room has to be dark for the screen to be visable. Midway through the session, I could see sunlight through the blinds at the back of the classroom.

When I loaded my boxes and wheeled them outside, the sun was out and the rainclouds had moved off to the east.

I finished a little early so I decided to drop by the local paper and howdy up with the folks there who run our stories about the program.

They were delightful people. I thought it would be an in/out scenario where I'd step in, shake hands, and hit the road. But after about 45 minutes, I felt like a long-lost friend. It was a good experience.

A few miles from home, I saw a tree in a pasture. I've been trying to get a picture of this tree for some time but the light was never right, or an impatient driver would be on my tail so I took mental pictures.

Today, the light was good and there wasn't a car in sight. Pulling to the side of the road, I stepped out and shout a few frames.

I'm happy I did.

Monday, April 11, 2016

These hands

Have you ever taken a good look at your hands? Hands hold subtle clues that can tell the story of your life.

This came to mind yesterday when I went to war. Not with a third-world country or people who talk funny but an enemy much closer to home. Privets.

After a long afternoon in the trenches, my hands were full of briars from blackberry bushes
that thrive among the privets out back.

After a warm shower to wash the blood from my arms and the weary from my bones, I went to the medicine cabinet for my splinter kit.

Before I began digging the tiny barbs out of my thumbs and fingers, I knew I’d need visual aids. The only time I have to wear glasses is when I want to see. But even reading glasses didn’t bring the briars into focus. Opening my office drawer, I pulled out a magnifying glass.

The magnifier showed every spot and wrinkle on my hands. It made the briars in my hand look as big as railroad spikes sunk to the hilt in the flesh. Once the needle started digging in, I whimpered like a scolded puppy.

After all the briars were out and the antiseptic applied, I picked the looking glass up again to have another look at my hands.

On one knuckle I saw a scar from when I was a kid helping my dad and brother put up a fence around a new chicken pen. A round faded scar on the back of my hand is where I clawed a patch of poison ivy until it bled and got infected.

I got the thick callouses on the tips of my left hand when I was in the eighth grade. Those tough fingertips allowed me to painlessly play chords on a steel-string guitar.

I then started thinking about all the jobs these hands have done throughout my life.

One of my first jobs was picking cotton. This was before farmers picked cotton from the air-conditioned cabs of their tractors.

The going rate in those days was three cents a pound. My next-door neighbor, Mrs. Plunkett, who was a skilled cotton picker, gave me some valuable advice. “Pick hard when you first jump off the back of the truck because cotton is heavier when it has morning dew on it.”

I worked as hard as I’ve ever worked and after a long day of dragging a nine-foot cotton sack, I had picked 101 pounds. My paycheck for that day was $3.03. I quickly learned that cotton picking would not be a vocation I would pursue.

During the summer of my junior year in high school, I caught chickens “professionally” for a few months. The work was at night with a crew of chicken catchers. We’d herd the squawking birds to one end of the chicken house and grab four fowls in each hand before lugging them back to the 18-wheeler truck for their last ride. Each morning when I got home, my arms and hands looked as if I’d wrestled a bobcat.

After a few months, I marked catching chickens off my list of potential careers as well.

I could go on, but suffice it to say I’ve done a lot of things with these two hands.

My mother used to say, “If you keep your hands busy, you won’t have time to get into trouble.”

There was more wisdom in those words than I understood back then. I took her words to heart. If you don’t believe it, just look at my hands.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Chip away

The decluttering thing we started over a month ago has morphed. We finished in the house, but the trend seems to have spread to the yard, and onto the rest of the property.

I've been at war with privets which have taken over. I'm snipping the small ones with pruners, and lashing the larger ones with a chainsaw. The mountain of debris is growing.

Today I took it easy. The new property had holes everywhere made by roots of downed trees that have rotted through the years.  

I worried that one of the kids would step into one of them and hurt a leg, so filling those holes has been on my todo list for a while.

Today, I used the front-end loader on the tractor to scoop up huges chunks of fill dirt. Then with a long-handle shovel, I filled the holes and tamped them tight. Once the grass covers the new earth, you won't know there was ever a hole there.  

The works was less grueling than lugging a chainsaw that weights just slightly less than a Subaru, but after several hours I was tired and ready to call it a day.

After a warm shower to wash away the dirt, I put on my sweats, poured a glass of red wine, and retired to the deck to watch the sun go down.

I was tired, but it was a good kind of where you get to check something significant off your list.

Hope you all have a remarkable week.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Some days are diamonds

John Denver said it best with the song, Some Days Are Diamonds, Some Days Are Stone. Today was definitely a diamond.

It was our buddy Fred's 57th birthday. When we called him earlier in the week to ask if he was doing anything special for his birthday, he said no. So obviously we invited him over today to celebrate.

The day was another beautiful spring day. It's like the spring days I remember as a kid where the wind is chilly but the sun is warm.

Jilda and I headed out just before lunch to buy the fixings for dinner this evening. We passed this pond and I swerved to the side of the road to snap a picture.

When our guests arrived, we fired up the grill and burned steaks while Jilda whipped up Black Forrest Trifle for dessert.

We had Celtic music on the stereo as we broke bread togeather. We sat for a long while talking, remembering, and laughing.

Before dark, we walked down the barn looking for a place to do some music videos in the future.

Tonight, as we cleaned the kitchen and got ready to wind down, I looked to Jilda and said, today was a diamond.

Visit Jilda's blog to see the group picture.
Caillou kept his eyes on the steaks.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Beautiful day

What if I told you today was a beautiful day? And that each moment more flora, fauna, and what not arrived. What if I were to tell you the sky was blue, and wispy white clouds cross the sky like goosedown blowing in a gentle wind? 

I could get a artsy/fartsy with my descriptions and while you could conjure up a familiar picture in your heads, you would still not grasp what a beautiful day it was today. 

Maybe this picture will help.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Five years ago

Five years ago this month I finished renovation work on the barn and the old house at the back of the property. I was looking for a picture to post tonight and came across the ones I'd taken during the project.

The old structure which was almost a hundred years old had almost reached the point of no salvation. It was listing to starboard and much of the siding near the ground had rotted.

The carpenter we've used for years pulled a Camel cigarette from his plaid shirt pocket, sat on the tailgate of my truck and looked at the barn for a long time. I've known him long enough not to bother
him while he's "studying."

After a while, he said, "I think we can save that old barn." Pulling the tape measure from his pocket, we took meticulous measurements.

He gave me a material list and then called a cousin who owned a sawmill and ordered the siding. We started off by ripping off all the old siding up to where it was solid. Then we replaced the foundation and the seals with treated lumber and get it as level as we could before replacing the siding with rough-cut sawmill lumber.

The work was slow, but it was a mild spring and we kept slamming nails. When it was finished, I was very happy we'd saved the old barn.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Timid tree

The old apple tree in our garden is slow to bloom. It's been frostbitten in years past and knows the fickle ways of Mother Nature. So it patiently waited.

The yellow bells, baby's breath, daffodils, and blueberries have a more optimistic outlook which is costly some years.

Jilda had a routine doctor's appointment at 11:45 this morning. Normally we get them as early as possible to free up the afternoon, but sometimes that is not feasible.

Afterwards, we lunched at one of the best restaurants in Birmingham. Niki's Seafood has incredible food at night, but they also have a cafeteria during the day that stays as busy as the airport at Christmas.

Once home,  I had to finish two columns that were due today. Sometimes the pressure is the only initiative I need.

When I hit send on the second email, I headed outside to do a little more cleaning before the rain arrived.

Down in the garden, I realized the apple tree finally started blooming. I hated to break the news to the timid tree that the weatherman is saying we could have frost this weekend.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Clearing land

A few years ago I kept most of our property looking like a golf course. Every few weeks I'd go down to the barn, fire up the old 8N Ford tractor, and do blissful bush hogging. I say it was blissful because, well, it was. Sitting on that old tractor with an ancient engine chugging along at the speed of life. 

We had storms that blew a mountain of trees down and the only place we had to put them was in the hollow behind the house. The debris changed the landscape. Then, the tractor that was built when Harry Truman was in the White House developed a mechanical problem. 

It took a while, but privets did what privets do. They take over the world. I'm convinced, if not for old tractors, chainsaws, and weedeaters, privets would consume the earth and choke out humanity. That is their job, and they do it well.

My brother-in-law bought a new tractor and asked if he could park it in the barn. He gave me a key and said I was welcome to use it when they didn't need it for their work. A deal was born.

When spring crept in around us, I started the chore of setting the property right. It took a few years to grow up, and I'm hoping it doesn't take a few years to clean it up.

The last few days I've worked until dark with clippers and power tools. Soon I'll be able to run over what's left with the tractor. In a sense, I'm continuing our decluttering project by decluttering our land. Already I sense that it is breathing easier.

The mountain of debris is still there, but it's dry now, and I'll burn it in the coming weeks. By summers end, it should begin to look like it once did. It is my intention to keep it from falling so far in the future.

I shot this picture on campus today.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Monday thangs

Normally I post my column from Sunday's paper on Monday, but as it turns out the post I did last week about the sweet gum stump seemed to resonate with you, I used it as the seeds for my column.

Rather than giving you a repeat, I decided to post a picture of a dandelion instead. I saw it this week while walking. The setting sun to the west lit it up like a Japanese lantern in the grass.

Our yoga class was good tonight. I used muscles I'd forgotten I had. Tomorrow I will remember them again because I'm pretty sure they will be still and sore. Fun ain't cheap.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Nice day

Today was absolutely beautiful. The sun was warm but a breeze off the northern snows kept the temps perfect.

After morning java, we harnessed up the dogs and headed out for a walk. On the first lap, I noticed the azaleas on the bank in front of our house were  in full bloom.

I snapped a few pictures of the pink ones, but the red and white ones were nice too..That set the tone for the day.

We got a lot of things accomplished and bedtime will come early tonight. I hope your weekend was as much fun as ours.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Back roads

Yesterday was a fetch day. I needed parts for the riding lawnmower and some things for the garden. Unfortunately, these items do not exist in the same place, so I spent a good deal of time on the road. I decided the back road would be the best route home so when I'd rounded everything up, I steered the truck toward the roads less taken.

Out in the middle of nowhere, a jungle of wisteria sprang up and was hanging from the limbs of oak and pine. The wisteria blossoms looked like purple grapes.

Pulling over to the side of the road, I stepped out to get a better look. There were photo ops in every direction, and I had trouble deciding, so I picked a few angles and snapped away. 

When I stepped back into my truck, I flipped through the pictures and smiled. I thought as I signaled and pulled back onto the pavement, this is why I love taking the back roads.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Weather dog

Thankfully, all that happened last night was an ear full of thunder and a lap full of collie. Caillou is such a weather wuss but he is better than radar when it comes to predicting a bad cloud.

We were wound tighter than banjo strings as we watched intense red blobs creep ever closer toward the farm with every sweep of the radar.  The weatherman peeled off his jacket and rolled up the sleeves of his white shirt. He was wearing suspenders. I didn't see that coming.

As the storms moved eastward toward us, they spread out and grew less intense. Then the National Weather Service allowed the warning to expire and the eastern half of Alabama breathed a sigh of relief that was almost audible over the sound of the falling rain.

But even after all the warnings had expired and the TV station went back to regular programming, Caillou was still restless and never let his guard down. I don't think he trusted his life and the lives of his loved ones to a man wearing suspenders.

We moved to the great room to read for a while and unwind before heading off to bed.  A while later through the front windows, we saw wind lifting the branches of the trees out front like a kite. Jilda stepped back into the TV room to get one last look before switching the TV off. I heard her exclaim, "Oh no!"

It seems that not long after we headed to the greatroom, the storms fired up again. The clouds passed a few miles to the north, and another line of tornadoes dropped out of the sky.  We weren't in any danger, but Jilda and I both realized that we should pay more attention to our weatherdog.

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