Friday, September 30, 2016

Goldenrod and Purple Wildflowers

Driving home yesterday I can to a stretch of road where the boughs of trees form a shady tunnel through which travelers pass. As a left the shade, I noticed purple wildflowers(Liatris scariosa I think) nestled in a patch of goldenrod.

For once, there wasn't a car behind me so I braked and pulled off the edge of the road. I waded into the waist-high Johnson grass on the side of the road and leaned in close to the color on the bank and shot several photos. The wind was blowing which caused motion but I liked it anyhow.

It was a good Friday. I hope yours was good as well.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Advice for taking better pictures

I've been taking pictures for over 40 years. I got my first professional camera in Panama in 1972. It was a duty-free shop not far from the docks where tourists disembarked from cruise ships to shop.

People from Europe, the Orient, and North America would shop before passing through the Panama Canal on to distant destinations.

The shops smelled of incense, cedar, and aromas I could not name. The stores carried hand-carved boxes from India, porcelain from China, stereos, and cameras from Japan. 

I decided on a Canon FTb with a 1.2 lens. I think it was $120. That lens alone would cost upwards of $800 today, but I digress.

I bought that camera and I studied the settings. It was fully manual, so you had to turn on the light meter before adjusting the shutter speed, F-stop, and of course the focus.  Different combinations yielded different results.

For years I thought good photographs were the result of capturing the angle of light and the perfect combination of manual settings.

After I got out of the Army, I landed a job as a writer and photographer at a local community newspaper. My pictures were in focus, and the settings were near perfect, but my pictures were – ordinary. Now and then I'd get a good shot or two, but as they say, "Even a blind pig will find an acorn or two."

Then my lovely spouse gave me some of the best advice I've ever had. JIlda told me, "Don't fret so much about the settings, look at the subject and make it look as good as you can." 

It took some time to get it. Mainly because I'm bull-headed, as my mama used to say, but I kept thinking the magic was in settings.

As it turns out, Jilda was right. When I started looking at the subject of the picture and how to make it look as good as possible, the quality of my photographs improved dramatically.

Here's a picture of an autumn leaf on the path this evening on my daily walk.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Grateful deer

I cut grass in the fields this afternoon. The sun was hot, but there was a gentle breeze that made things

Under the apple tree, I cut the engine and pulled a bottle of Gatorade from my cup holder and drank in under the shade. Leaning back in the seat, I could tell by looking at the sky off to the north that it's almost October. The sky is bluer here in autumn.

Before cranking up the engine to finish my mowing chores, I stood on the running boards and pulled a couple of hard-to-reach apples as big as my fist. After a brief inspection, I tossed them on the ground near the trunk of the tree.

Later this evening as Jilda was cooking butterbeans and cornbread for supper, she looked through the kitchen window above the sink and I heard her say, "They're down there."

When I stepped to the garden door, the ever-cautious doe and her fawn were munching on the apples I'd pulled for them. They looked grateful.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Moving fast

When I sat down to brainstorm ideas for the column this Sunday, I realized it was the first Sunday in OCTOBER.

How can this be? Auld Lang Syne is still echoing in my head and this weekend we'll be looking for pumpkins.

Life moves fast so don't blink. It's a wonder all my pictures aren't blurry.  Let me be the first on this year to say to you,
Merry Christmas.

Monday, September 26, 2016


I sharpened my pruning shears this week. They will be pressed into service this winter when the sap drops in the fruit trees. Pruning is vital for the health of trees as they age, and in a sense, it’s important for people too. I’ve neglected pruning chores the last several years because of an unfortunate incident while cleaning our front windows. I fell from a 10-foot stepladder. The only injury from the fall was to my pride, but it made me mindful of ladders
and my trees suffered.

Halfway down the sun-dappled path to our barn stands an apple tree we planted in 1980 when we first moved to our property in Empire. We bought it from Stark Brothers, and it was not cheap. Neither of us made a lot of money then because I had just started with Ma Bell, but we decided to invest in the future.

This tree did not let us down. Through the years, it has consistently borne fat juicy softball-sized apples. We don’t spray our apples with any chemicals, so they look splotchy when you pick them off the tree. A few swipes down the legs of my blue jeans turn them into apples worthy of being featured in a Southern Living photograph.

Several years ago, I began noticing that woodpeckers apparently love the bugs in apple wood because the bark on some of the larger limbs looked as if they had a bad case of acne. Because I wasn’t pruning, newer limbs began growing in new directions, making the tree look gnarly and off balance. This year, two of the larger branches gave up the fight and collapsed under the weight of the apple harvest. It still has a lot of beautiful apples left, but before next year I’ll need to rent a lift and do some serious pruning. I’m not sure it will survive.

We’ve already planted younger apple trees to take its place, but they have big baskets to fill.

As I sat down to write this column, it occurred to me that as we age, people are similar to fruit trees in many ways. When we are young, we grow in many respects. We try new experiences, pick up habits, meet friends, and find jobs. These things seem right at the time, but we reach a point in our lives when we need to do some pruning.

Old habits that were useful when I was 30 no longer add value to my life. The things I loved to do when I was 22 no longer bring me joy.

Both Jilda and I have collected souvenirs and knickknacks through the years that we loved. Looking at these things now, it’s sometimes hard to remember where they came from and why they are still collecting dust on our shelves.

Like our old apple tree, we’ve reached a point in our lives where we need to do some serious pruning. We started earlier this year by decluttering our house. Getting rid of “things” wasn’t easy, but taking a long, sobering look at our lives and pruning old routines is even harder. In the end, pruning is a job worth doing if we want to continue to grow.

Sunday, September 25, 2016


Both Jilda and I are sitting at our computers staring at the screen as if we were trying to conjure ups some words from the ether, but it wasn't happening.

She asked me what I was writing. I looked at her as if she were speaking Sanskrit. When I asked her what she was writing about, she looked almost as befuddled, before saying, "We need a vaycay!"

Our niece just returned from five days at the beach with a tan, fresh eyes, and I think she was a little taller.

Soon after both of us hit UPDATE tonight, we're going to have a conversation about going on a vacation before the holidays. I think we both need to get away from this heat for a few days.

If anyone reading this post lives in the mountains, or somewhere up north where the weather is cooler and has a spare bedroom for rent, please let me know. We are quite, easy to talk to, and non-smokers. We'll give you our American Express.

The picture below was the only thing I shot today. I was
going to write about the weather again,  but I tired of it before I ended
the first paragraph. It's a sad picture of the last of our garden.
The heat has been too much for it this year.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Golden Rod

We went out of town for a brief overnight stay so we've put in some asphalt miles today and I'm a little road weary.

There's not a great deal of color yet, but we can always count on the golden rod.

I hope you all have a great weekend.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Cooler weather coming

The weatherman swears cooler weather is moving in this coming week. Theoretically, the highs will be in the 70s during the daytime and 50s at night.

I read where this has been the hottest year on record. Maybe the people who say it's just a cycle we're going through and that climate change is a myth. I truly hope they are right.  Because if they're wrong, by the time they realize the error, it may be too late to turn back the tide, as it were.

Anyhow, I do welcome the news of cooler and I'm posting an encouraging picture to coax it along.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

First day of autumn

Today was officially the first day of fall. I had back-to-back meetings which left little time outside. That's probably a good thing because even though the temps are not in the triple digits, with the humidity, it feels like it.

The weatherman said a few minutes ago that by next week the highs would be in the 70s and lows in the 50s. If I'd been in the same room with him I'd have kissed him on the mouth...not really, but it's safe to say, I'm very happy that cooler weather is on its way.

After all my meetings today, I needed a little time by the water so I headed the backroad home and stopped by the lake.

Smith Lake is pictured here. A few hundred feet beyond where this picture was taken is the earthen dam. Below the dam is where I fish for trout. I don't come to this side very often, but I decided to stop by today and get a fishing report.

There were fishermen pulling boats onto the ramp, but most of them looked hot and testy. I've learned that these guys don't like to talk when it's hot and they haven't caught any fish, so I gave them a wide berth.

I hope the first day of autumn (first day of spring for Jo-Anne and Alphie Soup who live down under.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A child's mind

I was off today, but Jilda had an early-morning yoga class where she works and needed to roll out of bed at 5 a.m. in order to drink a cup of coffee and get ready to hit the road.

As the coffee dripped, I got a buzz on my phone. When I looked I saw the International Space Station would be passing overhead in three minutes.

I stepped out barefoot and walked down toward the mailbox to get a clearer view of the morning sky to the north. The sky was dark, but off to the east above the horizon, I could see tinges of magenta and a color I could not name. 

A few steps further and I looked toward the northwest. A moment later, I saw the ISS gliding across the morning sky. I stood there until it passed silently below the horizon. I spent time thinking about that miracle of modern technology today.

This afternoon Jilda and I picked up our great nephew Jordan from school. Once home, I told him I'd seen the ISS and he was curious. I showed him the app on my phone which gives the time the  station appears in the sky, the direction, and the angles.

We talked a bit about how often the space station circles the earth. When I told him it was traveling at a speed of 4.76 miles a second, I could see the wheels spinning as he tried to wrap his mind around that. We talked a little about the size of earth and that the space station circled earth about every 90 minutes. I answered several questions with help from the calculator on my phone. It was hard to judge what pieces he understood.

Who knows what all he will remember, but I think it's important to share things that are at the edge of his comprehension. 

After sitting there a long while I imagined he was thinking about space, physics, the theory of relativity, and what not, but he broke the silence and asked me if he could play with the box behind the couch in the laundry room. I smiled more at myself than at him, and said, "Of course." 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Remembering Ol' Buddy

I was devoid of ideas tonight so as I often do, I start flipping through old photographs. 

Looking back at pictures taken during the month of September seemed like a good place to star. Last year I had some good photos, but none of them resonated.

I wandered back through the years and came upon a picture that I took in September of 2007. I took the photograph while walking through the woods with Ol' Buddy. He was a gnarly little dog with questionable heritage, and a cantankerous disposition. 

Ol' Buddy belonged to Jilda's mom who spoiled him rotten and he bit almost me every time we visited her. But Ruby loved Ol' Buddy and that was that. I could get along with him, or sit in the front yard swing and eat leftovers. I decided to make peace with Ol' Buddy so we learned to get along. 

He was my constant companion for many years and rode in my truck everywhere I went. And when he fell ill and died, I wept as if I'd lost a child.

We've had a lot of good dogs in our lives, but Ol' Buddy was one of the best.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Front Yard Sitting ~ my column from Sunday's paper

I bought a new garden bench for the shady area in our front yard. I bought it because it was a great deal on something I’d wanted for a long time, but I got a time machine in the bargain.

We have a big yard, but I knew at once where I wanted to put the bench. There is a place
under the mountainous water oak in our front yard that stays shady ten months out of the year. Even in August when it’s hot enough to bake a quiche in the cab of my truck, it’s not bad sitting under that oak.

All of our citrus and tropical plants that we bring inside when the weather gets cold spend the summer under that tree. I settled the new bench amongst the greenery and it looks as if it’s been there forever.

That first evening, both Jilda and I poured a tall glass of sweet tea and went out to give the new bench a try. Just then, our niece drove over the hill in front of our house and tooted her horn. We waved in stereo.

A few minutes later, I heard our great nephew Jordan running up the hill ahead of his mom. He had to come and inspect the new addition to our front yard. He nestled in between us and a smile spread across his face. “I like it,” he pronounced.

Jilda stepped inside and got him one of her world-famous homemade lemonade popsicles. He was in heaven.

As we sat there enjoying the evening, it occurred to me that people don’t sit on their front porch or in their front yards anymore. I’m not sure if it’s fear or they don’t want to breathe un-air conditioned air, but I rarely see anyone at home sitting outside.

When I was young, almost everyone in our community spent the waning moments before dusk on their porches. My great grandmother was a professional when it came to evening porch-sitting.

She had a small can that sat on her porch banister not far from her swing. In the can were cedar wood shavings along with a unique blend of other ingredients. Each evening when she went out to enjoy the remainder of the day, she’d light the shavings and a little smoke that smelled of expensive incense, wafted across her porch driving gnats and mosquitos away. I don’t think I’ve seen a gnat-smoke, as she called it, since then. She’d sit out there until dark listening to mourning doves and whip-o-wills calling to each other.

Almost all of our neighbors spent evenings on the front porch. You could hear them calling to each other across the evening stillness, asking about family and friends. It’s how we kept in touch. Kind of like Facebook without a computer. These days, the velocity of life has increased exponentially leaving little time to sit out in the front yard and visit with neighbors. I’m as guilty as the next person, but I can tell you I think our ancestors were on to something because during our time sitting on our new garden bench, it seemed the stress from the day melted.

When Jilda and I stood to go inside for supper, we both felt a little taller.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Happy with the sumac

Even though there has not been a hint of cooler weather, autumn is inching toward us. I know the autumnal equinox is four days away Helios didn't get the memo. Thankfully we did get a brief shower yesterday evening and last night but apparently Hyades played a practical joke on the thirsty people of Central Alabama because there was barely enough rainwater to pour out of the mop bucket.

But still, the subtle colors of autumn are materializing like a polaroid print.  You can see it in the oak, hickory, and ironwood. But the sumac really began showing out the last few days. 

This morning after brunch, I headed to the store to pick up grapes, apples, and a few things on the menu for dinner. On the way down, I passed a small grove of sumac. When I glanced in the mirror, there were not cars following me, so I slowed to a stop and backed up. Sliding the gearshift into park, I left the engine running and stepped to the edge of the road to snap a few pictures. You can get away with this on a country road.

I'd forgotten about the pictures until I sat down to write this evening. 

Some years when the weather's right and we get plenty of rain in late August, I would put our fall color up there with most any other place on the planet. But in years when Hyades is on holiday, we have to be happy with the sumac.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Apple News

There's an apple tree in the field that we planted in 1980 when we first moved here. We bought it from Stark Brothers, and it was not cheap. Neither of us made a lot of money then because I was just getting started with Ma Bell, but we decided to invest in the future. 

This tree did not let us down. But the last year or two, it began to show its age. Woodpeckers love the beetles the peck from the bark, and their relentless pecking left some of the branches pocked with holes and as a result, they weakened. 

This year, two of the larger branches gave up the fight and collapsed under the weight of the apple harvest. 

It still has a lot of beautiful apples left this year, but before next year, I'll need to rent a lift and do some serious pruning, and I'm not sure it will survive.

We've already planted younger apple trees to take its place, but they have big baskets to fill.
The apples will be ready to pick in a few weeks, and we'll enjoy them while they last. Some of our friends may be disappointed this year because we won't have as many to share.

On another note, we played again today at a small community festival. Our bookings had been thin, but then we booked four in one day.  

I hope you've had a delightful weekend so far and you have a restful Sunday.


Friday, September 16, 2016

If today were a fruit

If today had been a fruit, it would have been a peach. It was hotter than lava, but  we chose to look on the bright side. The sky was deep blue with purpose and pinguin clouds drifting toward the east.

We were in bed until 7:10, but were both awake long before that so I rolled out and fired up the coffee maker.

We decided to walk early and the dogs were happy about that decision. By the time we'd walked two laps, I was dripping wet and we both had other chores that weren't going to do themselves so we headed back.

I unloaded the equipment from last night while Jilda whipped up cheese grits and bacon. No matter how bad things get, a steaming bowl of cheese grits with crisp bacon will set you right.

When we took the dishes to the sink for dishwasher loading, Jilda glanced out the window and said, "LOOK."  There was a doe under the apple tree, and as we stood there and watched, I noticed her fawn a few feet away munching on ripe persimmons. I snapped a photo with my camera, but they were so far away, you couldn't really see them so I snapped a few mental pictures.

Tomorrow we play another arts and crafts festival at a local community center. These are our favorite gigs. There are rarely many people, but the ones who do come a genuine.  

I hope your day was a good one.

Sunset on the marigolds


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Late night

It's way past my bedtime, but we had a gig tonight south of Birmingham for a community arts alliance. I love these folks because they support original music.  Some places only want cover tunes, and I get that. Most people that go to restaurants and bars want to hear familiar songs. 

The people tonight were gracious, and they booked us to play for another function in October.
We both are bone tired tonight, and we're off tomorrow, so we plan to sleep least until 7 a.m.

I hope you all have had a remarkable day.

Late summer peppers

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

I'm not sure what happened officer

The butterflies are still here. Normally they would all be gone except for a few stragglers coming from Tennesse, or further north that stop and feed on the few flowers that are left. 

But this year, they're hanging. Today when I walked out front where there is no lawn, I noticed a swarm of swallowtail butterflies all over the ground. They scattered like a covey of quail when I approached to snap a photo, but this one looked stoned. I think these blue beauties are getting high on the fermenting persimmons in my yard. I can see the headlines now. Local resident arrested for getting underaged Papilionidaes stoned. 
The headlines might read: 

Bubba Busted for getting Butterflies Blasted

Dateline: September 14, 2016 Empire, Alabama

Really, officer I'm not sure what happened. I was just walking around the yard minding my own business when all the butterflies began swooping and swerving all around. Yes, I did find it odd that they were being overly friendly, but I thought it was the patchouli oil I was wearing.
The sheriff said, "Tell it to the judge."

I guess you can tell it's been a slow day here in Empire.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


It's interesting how dependent we are on technology these days. Today at work, I tried to send my the project lead and email to give him a status of several outstanding action items when the message wouldn't send. I clicked on my browser and tried to hit the college website, and I got an error.

I'd just talked to the head of IT at the coffee machine and he didn't say anything about the network being down. In fact, he was on his way out the door to one of the outlying campuses.

When I stepped down to the technology lab, everyone was scurrying around like mice on a sinking ship.

Apparently, someone had accidentally cut one of the provider's fibers and the entire network for the college was in the dirt.

Heading back to my office, I busied myself making calls and doing my case notes. When I finished that, I pulled my coffee mug from the drawer and headed back to the break room for another cup of coffee.

Down in the technology lab, things were frantic but all the excitement in the world is not going to splice a cut fiber optic cable any faster, so I went back to my office and did some non-technological planning.

At one point, when I paused to collect my thoughts, I realized that years ago much of my work involved doing things of a non-technological nature. As I looked out the window as students eating lunch in the courtyard, they were unaffected by the outage. They were reading books, and talking face to face.

At noon, I locked my office and went to a Chamber of Commerce meeting. It was a good diversion and the speaker was from the Community Foundation and his talk was inspirational.

After lunch, I worked for a while longer preparing for a workshop next week, and then I headed home. When I walked out there was still a rumble coming from the technology lab. Maybe they'll have the network up by morning. I'm hoping the tech-gods were with them this evening.

Foxtail grass at the edge of my garden

Monday, September 12, 2016

Rick's Law ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Rick’s Law: All projects look simple before you start the work. It’s when you hit your first “Hmmm” that you realize the job is more complicated than you thought. 

Jilda and I were sitting on the back deck recently watching butterflies flit, and hummingbirds do battle over the blazing star blossoms.  As we sat there sipping coffee, we heard the faint whisper of air escaping around our garden door. We knew losing “bought air” was expensive, so I decided to replace the old door.

As Jilda collected her things for work, I told her I would go to the hardware store to find a door.  “Do we need to call the carpenter,” she asked. “No, it’s a piece of cake,” I replied.

Once in the hardware store, my eyes glazed over like a kid on the toy aisle at Walmart, and I started drooling a little. The hand tools, sanders, saws, and compressors would come in handy, I thought. I wanted to sweep my arms and say to the clerk, “I’ll take one of each of these.”  I would have still been there, but a beeping forklift backing toward me broke the spell. I headed back to the garden doors.

It only took a moment or two to find the door, and I was about to tell the guy to ring it up when I noticed the door came in two sizes. He looked at me and asked, “What size is your opening?” “Hmmm.” My first instinct was to say, “I need a door to fit a 72-inch opening.” Only a complete amateur would drive 19-miles to buy a door without measuring the old one, but I hated admitting it. I decided to fess up and tell him I hadn’t measured.” He didn’t tisk, tisk, but I saw it in his eyes, so I made the long drive home in an empty truck.

The next morning after coffee, I measured my old door and headed back to the hardware store locating the right size door.  Then another realization hit me – I had a choice between a right-opening door, and a left opening door. “Hmmm.” I studied both doors as if I were trying to decipher hieroglyphics. My door opens to the right, so I selected the correct door, slapped down the cash, and headed home with confidence.

Looking through the rearview mirror at the door in the back, it appeared to be the correct one. A haunting thought hit me. If it looks right in the mirror, there’s no way it can be right because a mirror turns everything around. “Hmmm.”

When I got home and looked at the door, I realized my original perspective had been wrong. I should have pictured it from the outside instead of the inside. This door swung the wrong way. Thank goodness this was BEFORE I unloaded the door which weighed just slightly less than a Ford Focus.

The truck engine was still ticking with heat when I was back on the road again. 

It was fortunate that new guys were there to help me unload the wrong door and ensure I got the right one for the job. By the time I had the right door, I’d driven a total of 120 miles. That’s when I decided to call a carpenter. 

He came the next morning which was fortunate because there was no way I could have completed that job by myself. It took a skilled carpenter and me five hours to complete the work. By the time we finished, both of us had sweated so much it looked as if someone had sprayed us with a hosepipe.

I’ve never claimed to be a carpenter, but falling off this turnip truck was enlightening, and it’s when I first conceived Rick’s Law.

I was so engrossed in work on the door that I forgot to take pictures.
But as the storm clouds swirled just before yoga class, I did snap a few pictures.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Simple things

My great nephew Jordan who lives next door is the happiest kid I know. The only time he isn't smiling is when he's studying or when he doesn't feel well. Otherwise, he's smiling. 

I'd been cutting grass, and trimming a dead limb from the apple tree just prior to his visit yesterday afternoon. Sitting in the shade of the backyard, I was letting a breeze out of the northwest cool me down. I heard him giggling before he crawled through the doggie door to
join me. He was holding one of Jilda's world famous homemade popsicles. 

Once outside, he had to have the scoop as to what I'd been up to. Experience has taught me that I can't give him the short answer because he wants verifiable details.  If I tell him I did something, he'll go check and give me feedback. And if I was blowing smoke up his britches leg, he calls me on it.

But, I gave him the lowdown on what I'd done that afternoon. I'd taken off my sunhat and laid it on the bench beside me while I cooled down.  He settled on the bench beside me and picked up the hat with one fluid motion. 

He asked if I'd like one of the popsicles. It looked really good so I told him that I'd love one. He sprang off the bench and went into the house to fetch me one. When he came back, his mom and Jilda were with him.

We all sat there and talked for a long while. When the conversation lagged, Jordan posed for a picture. 

I love these simple times. With the world going crazy, it's easy to get drawn into the drama. Twenty years from now, the drama will still be here, but the actors will have changed. But I'll hold on to these simple moments for as long as I live. In the vastness of time, the love of family, friends, and a smiling child are the only things that truly matter.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Autumn leaves are brown

I once believed cold weather and an early frost were prerequisites for autumn leaves, but with cooler weather still weeks away, the falling leaves are brown.

On our walk down the path behind the barn, we faced an obstacle course of spider webs strung across the path to trap unsuspecting moths and other flying critters but what they catch most often is my walking stick.

On the way back up the hill, Jilda was ahead of me with the dogs in her wake. The path, which is hard-packed clay mixed with sand, served as a backdrop for Mother Nature's confetti. I thought the contrast was striking.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Good day to fish

This morning was a "Get Out Of Jail Free" morning with nothing on my calendar. When I asked Jilda what she had going, she had a pile of dress clothes that needed ironing. I asked her if she wanted me to take them to the cleaners for pressing, but she told me she enjoys the zen-like state she falls in to when she does that chore.

Well then. There was nothing left for me to do but go fishing. Ten minutes later, I was in my truck and on the road for the short trip to the river.

Part of the fun of any fly fishing trip to the Sipsey Fork of the Warrior River is stopping by the fly shop to get the fishing news.

It's almost as much fun hearing Randy tell about catching fish is it is to catch them myself. He's been fly fishing for many years and knows when and what the fish are biting. I could have stayed there all morning, but the sun was already getting warm, so I headed to the water.

Once in my waders, I walked down to the water's edge. The air was already in the mid 80s but I could feel the cool water on the light breeze.

Wading in, the cold water felt good on my shabby knees. When I was almost waist deep, I pulled the thermometer from my fishing vest and held it under the surface of the water for a minute. When I pulled it up, the mercury read 51 degrees.  Up river, a mist hung over the water like a cotton blanket. Out of the mist a Great Blue Heron waved toward me above the water cruising for a trout breakfast. 

I fished for a few hours and got strikes, but none took the fly. I've gotten out of practice, and that's something I want to remedy in the coming months. When the weather cools off, in autumn, the fishing is better. 

Even though I didn't catch any trout, I felt taller when I waded out of the water. It was a good day to fish.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Cooler climes

The blinky bank sign read 99 degrees at 4:38 this afternoon. When you add in the humidity factor the "feels like" temperature feels as if you're dancing on the surface of the sun in a sweatsuit. Bla, bla, bla. I know you're sick of hearing it from me because I'm sick of saying it. So, that's all I'm going to say about that.

Here's a picture I shot in September a few years ago. I think it was cooler then. Does it look cooler to you?

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Things that are worthwhile

Ever since we built our house in 1983, we've had trees in our house. The great room has a pitched roof with floor to ceiling windows across the front. It is 14 feet at the apex, so there is room for the trees to grow.

Springtime after the danger of frost, we move the trees outside, and they seem to rejoice, but
who wouldn't? Yes, we've had these trees so long that we come to think of them as old friends. 

We have a  lemon, lime, grapefruit, and orange trees. We also have avocado trees grown from a seed that Jilda's mom rooted in a cup on her kitchen sink.  It's over 10 feet tall now. Some of the other citrus trees are even taller. 

When people visit us for the first time during the colder months, they are intrigued by all the plants are overhanging the edge of the couch and mantel. They provide an atmosphere that one doesn't find just anywhere. 

But through the years, none of the trees have ever bloomed and/or bore fruit. Then, a few years ago a friend told us about Meyer lemon trees. They are small trees that originated in China and are thought to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin or common orange. 

We bought one but based on our history of citrus trees, we didn't bet the barn on it would bloom.  We hadn't had it long when we noticed buds developing, and soon beautiful flowers blossomed all over the tiny tree. 

Apparently, we didn't do something right the first year because all the little lemons fell off before maturing. However this year, it was loaded with blossoms, but the fruit didn't fall.  

It's hard to imagine that these tiny branches are supporting fruit, but we have eight full-sized lemons on our tree.

Soon they will be ripe, and we plan to make lemonade. Maybe we'll get a few more trees to keep this one company. 

When the season's change, it's a pain moving them inside and then out, but as is often the case, things that are worthwhile often don't come easy.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Bewitching charm of the blazing star

The Phoebis Trite, with all its might, tried leaving Alabama. 

But the bewitching charm of the
blazing star,  caused  the Lepidoptera to miss the southerly breeze.

It may have to winter here.  If it's as warm this year as it was last year, it will be fine.

I know I've posted a lot of butterfly pictures, but they are still everywhere. It seems in years past, they flee before now, but I could be mistaken.

It seems wrong not to acknowledge the gift of their presence here.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Feel like dancing ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Something happened this past week that made me dance a little jig. Last Thursday after work, I decided to take a walk. Our collie, Caillou, loves walking in winter, but he is less than enthused in August. Maybe the mink coat he wears makes him lethargic when it gets hotter than Lucifer in latex.
But Hook, the new kid (short-haired bulldog) in town was excited, and we set out down through the shaded part of our field to get some exercise.
After about 30 minutes I started wilting like a rose after the prom and on the last leg of the walk, I stopped for a moment in the shade behind the barn.
There’s an old Ford pickup parked down there that was once blue as the summer sky. The automaker
built the old beast when Bill Clinton was in the White House, and it was the last truck Jilda’s dad Sharky had owned before he died. We can’t bring ourselves to sell it, but Mother Earth is slowly reclaiming in.
As I stood there leaning against the truck, Ol’ Hook ran up to the door and started sniffing. I said, “What is it, boy?” But he is deaf as a post, so he paid me no mind.
I figured a chicken snake had probably crawled inside, so I opened the door slowly to have a look. There was a snake skin under the seat, but I didn’t see a live snake.
Slamming the door closed, I started to walk on toward the house when I felt something burning on my ankle and then several more around my knee. The pain branched through my body like a vine.
WASPS!!!!! I screamed along with a combination of words that would not be appropriate to print in a family newspaper. I also did this little dance that would have gone viral on social media had someone had the good fortune to film it.
Hook is very protective of us and sensed my pain. He went after the wasps to get revenge for their treatment of me. I dragged him by the collar away from the truck as I limped toward home.
I don’t consider myself mean spirited, but those guinea wasps will die horrible deaths.
All the way home I thought of creative ways to smite them. Setting the truck on fire is one option, but that would be problematic.
Hosing down their habitat with wasp spray is effective, though I’m not sure they will suffer like I did. Afterward, I plan to jab a stick through their dripping nest and stick it up by the truck to serve as a harbinger to other wasps.
Once I was back in the house, I sat on the couch, put ice packs on the knee, and watched the hummingbirds feeding on sugar water just outside our great room windows. This past time always soothes jangled nerves. After a while, when the pain subsided, I felt better.
As I surveyed the red spots where I’d been stung, the melody of an old song came to mind, “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing,” and I had to smile.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Cleaning my keyboard

mnbvcxzzxaqaQ nbvbnbvcxzxcvbnmgfdsvcxzasdfghjhgfdsaxxz. Oops. I was cleaning my keyboard. I started to delete it, but then I realized the Department of Homeland Security might be monitoring my computer so I thought I'd save them hours of trying to decipher the code.

Of course, if I were up to no good, typing in a strange code that meant something, but only Bubba who is planning a domestic terror act of freeing chickens down at the chicken plant to protest the cost of eggs at Walmart, I might dismiss it on my blog as something as harmless as "I'm cleaning my keyboard."

Seriously, it's a little scary when you think of all the information that's out there. Have you ever Googled your name? Or your street address. When I searched for my name, I got 1.5 million hits. Obviously all of them are not about me, but the first several pages were.

I never saw a Google Mapping Car drive by our house, but apparently, it did because there's a street view of our house. You can't see much because, all the trees and shrubs, but looking down the road past our house, you can see my nieces dog standing in the middle of the road as she frequently does.

All those ads you see on Facebook as you're posting pictures of your cat and those sponsored ads when you search for the nearest Starbucks are not random ads. They are ads tailored to what they think you might be interested in based on your search history and the things you "Like" on Facebook.

I'm sure the DHS has a lot of smart tools that are not available to the general public, so there's no telling what they know about us.

All I can say is this. Don't post, search, or do anything online that you wouldn't want to appear in the local paper because there's a good chance someone or some machine is logging somewhere.

And if you're reading this Bubba, kdjafsapioertieuraiodf;lkefjaoiyefpoiaejkdnaytr0398yrua'lkd
nvaslkdnvkjskjfasd;lfkjlkasdfjai. Set 'em free.

DHS this is REALLY just a butterfly enjoying a mushy watermelon.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Roll Tide

College football started this week and Alabama plays USC tonight. Following a team for years, has taught me to be happy when they're winning, and support them even more, when they are having a down year.

Thankfully, the University of Alabama has had some good years lately, winning four national championships since 2009. Not a bad run.

I'm not sure how well our team will do tonight, but we have popcorn ready, and cold drinks at the ready.

Time will tell if they will be up or down this year.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Old books

I'm reading Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald and I'm blown away at how beautifully he wrote this. He uses words I've heard all my life but had never heard in the context he used. I guess there's a reason it's still selling over eighty years later.

On another note, I learned about perspective today. I bought a garden door to replace the one on the back of our house. The years have been hard on the old door, but it's served us well.

The hardware store had the perfect replacement, and I looked at the picture to make sure the double door swung to the right. When I got it home and took a closer look, I realized the picture was from a different perspective which was outside looking in instead of the other way around as I had assumed.

Oh well, it would only be a 40-mile round trip and as I often say: Every day is a school day.

After finishing our walk this evening, Jilda and I were cooling on the backyard benches. A butterfly strafed me on its way to the butterfly bush. They are tanking up for the trip south
I know I used a butterfly a few weeks ago, but this is all I have tonight.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

New addition

The income I make from writing is my mad-money. It's what I used to buy tools and toys. I've had my eye on a garden bench all summer, but it was a little more than I wanted to pay. But today when I went in the hardware store to look a replacement door for the back of the house, I noticed they had the bench on sale.

After I had decided on what door we wanted, I realized that I hadn't measured it. There were two sizes of the same door available. Rather than choose the wrong door, I decided to put off the purchase until I got my ducks in a row.

On the way out, I looked at the bench one more time. After sitting down on it I decided to do the deal, so I whipped out my mad-money and bought that puppy.

A few moments later I was heading home with the bench in the back.

I couldn't decide where it would live, so I placed it by the front walk to show Jilda when she got home from work.

When she arrived, I was sitting on the bench sipping ice water. She smiled as she came up the walk. I think it will be a good addition to our yard.

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