Saturday, September 30, 2017

On Goldenrod Pond

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 29, 2017

Home cooking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Time to prune

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

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

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

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

We picked these three years ago in October

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


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

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

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

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

I hope your autumn is without ragweed.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Yellow mushroom

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 25, 2017

Cotton fields

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Good for the soul

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Saturday stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope you all have had a great day.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Sad hat

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 21, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Festive lights

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

This is America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 18, 2017

Predicting the weather

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Fungi tales

We walked later yesterday and the temps and humidity were brutal. The cool spell last week spoiled us. But the weather here is such that you can swim for a good chunk of autumn. We decide to walk a little earlier this morning to keep mold from growing in my ears as I walked.

And speaking of fungus, I spotted some this morning as we walked. There was a gentle breeze out of the southwest and it felt almost pleasant in the shade. After a few laps around the barn, I looked as if I'd swam in my clothes. The upside is that I managed to get my steps in today. I also snapped a picture for the blog.

I also wanted to mention that for those that read my blog last night and asked to see a picture of ZuZu Petals. She slept through the festival yesterday but there was a picture of their family on his Facebook page that I put on last night's post for those who asked to see her.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Small town festivals

We heard the music while I was pulling the lawn chairs from the truck. And by the time I clicked the button locking the car doors, we smelled the aroma of hickory smoked BBQ. 

It was the Foothills Festival by the courthouse square in the county seat of Jasper. We went late to hear John Paul White. He is a songwriter/musician from Florence, Alabama. He was half of the duo The Civil Wars. He's won Grammys. This young man is an incredible talent. 

We found a place in the shade away from the main stage. Though it was 4:30 p.m. The temp on the asphalt was hot as a welding rod tip. A gentle breeze out of the west kept it pleasant there on the corner. 

I know they had snow cones there because I saw several kids with blue tongues and teeth. One kid carried a disco dinosaur. It was a small dinosaur with a battery-powered disco ball in its stomach. I didn't see that coming.

After we sat, we began seeing friends we haven't seen in too long. As we sat there I got a text saying that some of our friends were eating at a restaurant a few steps down the street. 

We hadn't seen our friends in forever. He's struggling right now with cancer.  Seeing him and his lovely wife was a gift.

I love small town festivals. They make me feel more connected. Alive. Grateful.

My nephew was there with his family. They have a new baby that's younger than the apples on our table. 

The baby was the hit. People weren't interested in the music or the popcorn, but everybody wanted to pinch that baby's jaws.  Her name is Zuzu Petals. Yes, that's not a mistake. Zuzu Petals. Any of you that are a fan of It's A Wonderful Life might recognize this name. Jimmy Stewart's daughter's name was Zuzu. And Zuzu had given Jimmy Stewart some rose petals that he carried around in his watch pocket. When he came back from his encounter with the angel, he looked for the Zuzu's Petals in his pocket to make sure he was really back. 

It's been a delightful Saturday.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Thank You

My mind was a vacuum tonight. I sat and typed the letters off my keyboard but no words came to mind.

I clicked on Google and searched for holidays celebrated today. There were 19 holidays. National Hug Your Boss Day, National Linguini Day, and National Cheese Toast Day were all contenders. But the holiday that took my ribbon was National Thank You Day.

By nature, I'm a thankful person, but I still don't say thank you enough. The Walmart checker who rang up the shopping cart of the turd in front of me today without slapping them nakid' and hiding their clothes. She deserved an award or at least a thank you.  The garbage man that runs each Friday morning who hauls off things that we toss in our can all week. That can is toxic by Friday. Also, the bank teller who pointed out that I'd cheated myself out of a hundred dollars on my deposit slip today. She didn't laugh or say point out that her daughter in grammar school was better at math.

Or the people who read my blog each evening. I haven't said it in the past, but I truly thank you all for being my blog buddies.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Uncle duty

My day at work was winding down when I got a call on my cell. When I looked at my phone, it showed the picture of my niece. She never calls me at work. Humm, I thought. Something's up.

She sounded stressed. Her mom, who usually picks up my great nephew Jordan was stuck in an unending meeting at the board of education and she wouldn't be able to pick Jordan up from school.

One of my "uncle duties" is to fix things. When she has a flat in the boonies and needs someone to change it for her – she calls me. When she needs a new fridge, she asks me to go with her so that the salesmen (yes it's often men) don't jack her around. I cosigned for her when she bought her first new car.  I'm not whining. I'm actually flattered that she asks for my help.

Today she asked if there was any way I could run by the school and pick up "the kid."  I told her I could. A few minutes later, she called back and said her mom was supposed to pick up my great nephew Anthony too.  "Not a problem," I can handle it.

When school lets out, it's a madhouse. Hundreds of "walkers" come out to the front walk so that their parents, grandparents, and uncles can collect them. I"m on the approved list for all my nieces and nephews.

I picked the boys up and buckled them in the truck. I handed my phone to Jordan and told him to do a selfie of us all and send the picture to his mother so she'd know I'd picked up "The Packages."

He took the picture below while I was stopped at an intersection and with a few taps, sent the picture to his mom.

I smiled as we drove toward home, "That little turd knows more about my phone that I do."

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Snake tale

It was overcast and chilly here today. The temps didn't venture out of the 50s all day. The storm day Monday made our week wonky again. Jilda had to go in early this morning and then again this afternoon. 

We decided before lunch to walk. Stepping outside, I realized a short-sleeve tee shirt wasn't going to get it, so I went back inside and dug through the plastic storage tub where I store my sweats shirts and pants. I pulled out my favorite sweatshirt. I bought it over twenty years ago when we were in San Francisco.

The sweat shirt felt like an old friend as I pulled it over my shoulders and shook it on. This is dog weather. They could relentlessly chase deer and rabbits without getting so hot they step on their tongues.

This afternoon when Jilda headed back to work, I decided to get the rest of my steps. After a few laps through the new walking trail, I circled the barn to head to the house for water. At the edge of the barn, I saw an old friend. It's a chicken snake almost five feet long. He'd been in the barn but was headed for the old truck which is parked a few yards away. 

I think he was about to shed his skin for the last time because his eyes were blue. Normally the snake's eyes are black and see everything around them. I think this snake heard me, but I don't think he saw me.

I moved in close to snap a picture. The advice I gave him was to get in that old truck fast before Ol' Hook came back from the chase. The dog is not a fan of critters.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Random post

We didn't have an indoor bathroom in the old camp house in Sloss Hollow where I grew up. We did have running water in the kitchen. Mom was thrilled to have that. Before the city ran pipes to the community, everyone got their water from wells.

Our house had a well with a concrete opening above the ground. The bell assembly had once been attached to that concrete which allowed people to draw their water from deep within the earth. When we got city water, dad shoved a lard can down the opening to keep small critters (or kids) from falling down the well.

My dad preferred spring water. Each evening in the summer when he got home, he'd walk the 300 yards down the old red-rock road and drink from the spring.  I only drank from the spring when I was THIRSTY. The water bubbling up from the earth was sulfur water. When there are layers of coal just under the topsoil, it's no wonder that some of the springs would be sulfur water.

It smelled and tasted like rotten eggs to me, but my dad was convinced the spring had medicinal properties. I took his word for it.

I have no idea what dredged that memory from deep within the folds of my memory. I don't question the ideas, I simply serve as the scribe.

Here's another mystery – out of over a hundred thousand pictures, I chose the one below at random. I opened Google photos, put my cursor on the edge, closed my eyes and dragged it downward.

When I opened my eyes, it was one of Jilda and me eating an ice cream cone in Lynchburg, Tennessee seven years ago. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Listening to the rain

The rain tonight sounds like popcorn popping on our roof. The oak, hickory, and pine trees out back are swaying in the wind like hula dancers.

So far, the lights have not flickered. Maybe I can say that when the storm is nothing but a bad memory.

We put on our rain gear and walked today. The dogs weren't nearly as excited and they usually are. The Yorkie worked a few steps and then refused to move. Jilda had to put her under her raincoat and take her back home. Caillou the collie hates to get wet too, but he couldn't stand the thoughts of Ol' Hook walking with us alone, so he walked out of spite.

I didn't have a picture for today, but I found one from September of last year.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Weather ready

It seems these last few days the folks here in the south have spent a great deal of time watching the weather. 

It looks like it might sweep over us sometimes tomorrow or Tuesday. It will be much weaker, but there could be wind and rain. 

I bought a new generator just in case we lose power. We've been through a lot of storms here. The things we've learned are: 
Keep your food cold 

  1. Have a way to charge your phone charged. 
  2. Make sure you have propane in your grill.
  3. Check the date on your water filter
  4. Sharpen the blade on your chainsaw
  5. Fill the gas tank on your vehicles

Our home at that time was totally electric. in 93 when the snow storm hit Alabama. We lost power for over a week.  The temps remained below freezing. We slept in our coats.

After about the sixth day, the sun came out. Jilda and I laid on the floor by our garden door and let the warmth of the sun seep into our bones. When I looked at her, the only thing that came to mind was, "We look like street people." Neither of us had bathed, and I hadn't shaved. 

When the power and phone came back on, I called Country Gas and ordered a gas-log fireplace and a space heater. We also installed a gas range. 

Extended power outages are rarely fun, but they are much easier to weather when you're prepared.

Random picture

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Spicebush Swallowtail

This morning felt like fall. The thermometer rested on 49 this morning. Last few years, it didn't get that cool until November.

We decided to walk the dogs early. They were ecstatic – barking and nipping at each other. Caillou ran out through the field then suddenly fell over and began to roll in the grass. It was a picture of pure joy.

I pulled the phone from my pocket to snap a picture, but as I approached he sprang to his feet and launched into the underbrush after a squirrel.

Before sliding the phone back into my pocket, I noticed something on the ground ahead. It was a Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly. I'm not sure if the cool weather made it lethargic or it was not afraid of me.

Seeing this little guy made a good day even better.

Friday, September 08, 2017

No fan of the vet

We received a letter from our vet in the mail last week. It was a reminder for an annual checkup for our tiny dog Taz.

I looked over the letter to her lounging on the couch. It's her couch. Even though she weighs less than a bag of corn meal she OWNs the couch.

Taz is no fan of the vet. No matter how sweetly the vet and her assistance coo at her, Taz looks at them as if they were excrement.

Today was no different. Whenever I pick her up and head to the truck with a towel, she knows the ride will not be something she will enjoy.

When she arrived there was a cat howling from somewhere deep in the bowels of the kennel. Taz went on high alert. She must have imagined they were skinning that cat alive. "Will I be next?" She began to shake involuntarily.

When the vet came into the room, Taz promptly peed on the floor. A vet tech hustled in a few moments later with a mop. When I put Taz on the scale the digits settled at 10 pounds.

The vet laid out the syringes to give her the shots and I told her she might want to put a muzzle on Taz. She looked at the little critter doubtfully but slipped a muzzle over her snout.

The shots went smoothly. Taz barely flinched. But when the vet began to trim the pups toenails, she turned into a furry chainsaw. Without the muzzle, she would have bitten everyone in the room including me.

When the deal was done and I paid the tab, she was more than ready to get back into the truck.

I'm just glad I only have to take her once a year.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Mother knows best

The vines of the grapes we planted 15 years ago drape across our back fence like a shawl. Late each summer, clusters of sweet green grapes hang on the fence daring us to pick them and eat them warm off the vine. I always take that dare. Most of the grapes never make it to the house.

The drought last year changed that. There were only a few grapes that made it to my mouth. This year there were none.  We've babied it this year with rich compost. There's been plenty of rain and we hope next year it will fruit again.

It seems that the muscadine vines were unaffected by the drought. Each day we've walked the last several weeks we've enjoyed a few handfuls of the wild grapes. These grapes are deep blue and are sweet as a Grapico.  

I guess Mother Nature knows best when she does her sowing.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Lantana love

The weather was beautiful here today. The temp was in the low 80s but as the sunlight waned, the mercury dropped into the 70s. It hasn't been this cool during the day since April.

I was on the road early this morning for a gig on the local community access channel in Northwest Alabama. We have a workshop next week, and this appearance was to promote that event. When I go in early, I get off early.

Jilda taught an early morning yoga class to the staff where she works and afterward had a dental appointment. She was home when I rolled into the driveway.

Grabbing a glass of water, we both sat in the Adirondack chairs on the back deck and watched the clouds. We were short on words but with skies the color of aquamarine and with a gentle breeze out of the west, we didn't need many words. Just being there felt right. We noticed a Kaleidoscope of butterflies swarming the lantana bush.

We'd transplanted the bush in early summer. I fretted that it was too late to move it. But the bush had not room to grow.  We moved it to the back fence where it had plenty of space and sunlight for most of the day. Like most fretting, my lantana anxiety was for naught. The plant is now twice the size it was before the move.

Before the sun took its final bow for the day I stepped down for a closer look.  Just so happens, I had my phone in my pocket and I snapped a picture. Did I mention that I love this plant?

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Storm watch

I've checked in with our friends who live in Florida today. Hurricane Irma is a beast. The weather-folk fear they'll have to create a new classification if she keeps growing as expected. 

My friend Brian is staying. He lives inland north of West Palm Beach. He's already stocked up on water, batteries, and can food for his family. I was in the military and I've eaten my share of food from a can. I'm not a fan. But given the choice between food from a can or roadkill, I'd choose the can in most cases.

Peg, who lived near Washinton D.C. for years moved to Florida a few years ago. When I sent her a note today, she's thinking about heading north to weather the storm in Atlanta with her daughter.

If the storm takes a southwestern path, it could come into the Gulf of Mexico where the water is as warm as hospital soup. Warm water is hurricane fuel. It's like moonshine in a fireplace.

When Hurricane Opal slammed into the Panhandle of Florida in 1995, the storm stomped across the tongue of real estate in Florida and made its way straight up through Alabama. The winds were still hurricane force when it reached here. When the eye passed over Empire, it felt as if someone were sitting on our chests as we lay in bed.

The next few days will be interesting.

On a lighter note, when Jilda and I walked our barn road yesterday morning, a shaft of morning sun highlighted a sweet gum tree in the canopy. The leaves got a jump on autumn. 

For my blog buddies in Florida, keep your eyes on the skies and don't hesitate to flee if there's a chance it will come near you.


Monday, September 04, 2017


It’s painful hearing the stories and watching the images coming from Texas. It’s hard wrapping my mind around disasters of this size. The impact is astounding. Everything from the inconvenience of being without lights and water, to where can I find a diaper?  Where can I find food for my baby?

I saw one news clip that showed a convoy of trucks pulling boats to help with the search and rescue. But boats are only the first step in rendering help. Recovery from devastation of this size will take years – even decades.

The young folks in the cosmetology school at Bevill State swung into action. They sent out an appeal to the community. The items on the list included baby food, toothbrushes, razors, and other toiletries. In my bathroom vanity, there were several unopened oral hygiene kits from past visits to the dentist.  I put those in a bag with a few other things. I tried of things to send to someone who has nothing. When I handed the bag to the cosmetology instructor, it seemed so insignificant.

The eyes of the world are on Texas now. It warmed my heart when I read that Mexico had offered supplies and manpower to help with this epic event. There is a lot of contention between our countries right now. But it seems they are looking past politics and to the people in Texas that are hurting. Seeing that gave me hope.

Looking ahead, the area around Houston will get through this. It took New Orleans years of recovery after Hurricane Katrina soaked that city. But things change after destruction of this scale. Some people will leave and never return. Too many painful memories can make a place uninhabitable – the scars too deep. They’ll move on and start again somewhere else. 

The tornadoes that devastated Alabama on April 27, 2011, changed us too. Jilda and I were fortunate during that outbreak. We’d lost power earlier in the day, but we didn’t need a weatherman to tell us it was bad all around us. The sound of sirens echoed through the day and into the night. We lost trees and didn’t have power or phone service for days. But we still had a dry bed to sleep on and food in our cupboard. It felt petty to complain then. 

Driving through the Town of Sipsey today, you can still see the path of destruction. On the hillside overlooking the Warrior River are trees that look as if they have bouffant hairdos. Wind ripped the limbs and leaves off the few trees left standing. The next year all that came back on the trees was a little leafy cap on top.

Tragedy often brings out the best in people. The stories of heroism always put a lump in my throat making it hard to speak without my voice breaking. I’m seeing those stories emerge from Texas too.

My Facebook timeline is filled with people urging their friends to pray for Texas. I agree they need our prayers. But my mother-in-law Ruby used to say something that’s always stuck with me. “Praying is good, but you have to put wings on those prayers.”

The Salvation Army and many other agencies are all mounting relief efforts to help those in need. I smiled and thanked Ruby for her advice as I made our donation last night. 

A local church put up these markers for the nine people who died near where we live on April 27, 2011.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Trying something new

While reading a book entitled "Several Short Sentences About Writing," the author suggested something that had never occurred to me. I stuck my finger between the pages to mark my place and pulled out a sticky note to jot down a reminder - "Video some of my columns." He suggests that reading your work out loud will help refine your writing voice and make you use better words. The end result is your work become easier for readers to read. 

A few weeks ago a colleague suggested a blog she thought I might like. Sean of the South. Like me, Sean is a columnist who has written several books. 

His work blew me away. His blogs/columns are conversational, but he manages to put emotion into his words. 

He also does videos of him reading his stories.

After reading his columns and watching a few of his videos, I decided to try doing a video of my column that ran in the Sunday paper today.

It took a few hours to record 500 words. While reading it aloud, I found several places where the words felt wonky. The rhythm seemed off. 

I knew right then and there that this exercise would benefit me in a lot of ways.

Hopefully, it will help me get better. 

This picture is one of some yellow flowers growing among rocks on the roadside. It has nothing to do with the entry tonight, but I like the way the light fell on the scene.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Fungi condos

The last several weekends have been crammed. We had fun but come Sunday evening it felt as though we had no weekend. 

This week we've declined several offers to do things. The entertainment section of the paper was jammed with cool things to do. Jilda and I made a conscious decision to veg-out this weekend. Do mindless home stuff that required no thought. We could do stuff or not. Either choice was right.

This morning Jilda made eggs in a basket. For those who haven't had these, it's bread with a hole punched in the center. She toasts this in a frying pan and then drops an egg in the hole. She also prepared Conecuh Sausage to go along with the eggs. It was a perfect way to start off the day.

After breakfast, we went for a brisk walk. The temps had dropped about 15 degrees from last Saturday. When we rounded the barn, I almost stepped on a patch of mushrooms. I'm not sure what kind they were, but a name for the picture sprang to mind.

I called the fungi condos.

Friday, September 01, 2017

The season begins

A squeaking sound roused me from a deep sleep this morning. I laid there listening. Sliding out of bed, I stepped silently to the living room trying not to wake Jilda. I stood for a long time, before deciding that what I heard was a remnant of a forgotten dream.

I laid back down and listened. Before falling asleep, I heard it again. Sliding on my slippers, I stepped to the front windows and peered out. The light of false dawn was seeping through the window from the east but I still could not hear the squeaking. Opening the door, I stood on the stoop. The wind aloft sounded like rushing water at times. I could hear the chimes on the side screen porch tinkling, but no sign of the squeaking.

Before closing the door, I heard the wind coming through the trees and then I heard the squeaking. One of the limbs of the Rose-A-Sharon bush next to the house brushed against the edge of the metal roof. Bingo.

I didn't want to deal with it last night, but I made a mental note to trim the shrubs back to prevent future mysteries.

College football kicks off full force tomorrow. Alabama plays Florida State at the Georgia Dome in the Kickoff Classic. Some schools choose weaker opponents to begin their season. It seems these last several years, Alabama has bucked that trend and picked on colleges their own size. It should be a good game. If you don't have a preference, please pull for my guys.
Roll Tide.

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