Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 in Review

A year has passed. I remember sitting at my office desk a year ago compiling a list of things I wanted to accomplish this year. They seemed important...even urgent. And then, life happens.

As it turns out, I hit a few of my goals, but I missed a few. There were some on which I made no headway.

We did get a new vehicle. We bought a car from our great-niece a few years ago when Jilda's Volvo was way past her "Use By" date.  The car we bought from her was a Honda. I know a lot of people love these cars, but it wasn't a fit for us. Putting our performing equipment in and out of that car was brutal.

Early in the spring, we bought a Subaru Outback. Jilda had a picture of the car she wanted on her vision board. The car we bought was the same color, with all the options of the car on her board.

Not long after we drove off the lot with that car, we crossed off another thing on my list which was to go somewhere we'd never been.

We spent our 45 wedding anniversary in Savannah, Georgia.  We fell in love with Savannah.

There were several projects on my list that we completed this year.

One of the things that did not get crossed off my list was to go fly fishing. I'd written that I wanted to go monthly. I did not go fishing a single time.

Some things we did accomplish this year was that I read 50 books. We spent quality time with friends. We refurbished the chicken habitat. We performed at some new venues. And we focused on our health. We became beekeepers.

While becoming beekeepers wasn't on either of our lists for this year, I am very happy we did. The more I've studied bees, the more I realize how important they are to our survival.

The thing is, a year is a good unit of time. If you measure shorter spans, then it's hard to know if you're making progress or spinning your wheels. If you measure too much time, you can lose sight of where you're going or why you wanted to go there.

When I think about the coming year, it is my intention to focus on doing things that make me a better person. And if I can do one thing that makes this world a better place, I would consider that success.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Every Day's a School Day ~ my column from Sunday's paper

For most of my life, I’ve heard the old saying, “Every day’s a school day.” I’ll admit that when I was younger, I didn’t get it. Like most young people, I thought I knew everything. But through the years, I’ve realized just how little I know.

I believe that the best way to expand one’s universe is to expand one’s knowledge. I’ve met people years older than me who embraced learning when others their age circled their educational wagons. The people who continued to learn seemed much more youthful and engaging.

The thing is, you don’t have to take up rocket surgery. You can learn things like home cooking, how to paint, or gardening. I read that the Walker County Extension service has a new Master Gardener class that begins after the new year begins.

All these things provide not only a chance to use a few brain cells but also opportunities for enjoyment. Who doesn’t love home-cooked meals or creating artwork for themselves and others? Becoming a gardener is something that pays dividends that far exceed the amount of time it takes to learn. An added benefit with gardening is that you get exercise, too.

I have a first cousin that is a few years older than me that recently graduated from college with his
bachelor’s degree. He has an interesting story, but since I plan to interview him for the Daily Mountain Eagle, this coming week, I’ll just say that he felt it was important to continue learning even though he is older than dirt. (Just kidding, Bruce.)

This past year, my wife Jilda took college classes on nutrition, meditation, and mindfulness. She also studied pain management, which helped make her more effective in her job.

I took an introduction to beekeeping at the extension service and learned ways to keep our bees healthy and happy.

This year for Christmas, I invested in a one-year pass in Master Class. It’s video training that we can take online and at our own pace. The offerings are from some of the best writers, photographers, filmmakers, musicians, and teachers. We are cranked.

The first class I took was one on portrait photography by Anne Leibovitz. She’s a photographer that’s traveled the world, taking pictures of musicians, actors, politicians, and others. It wasn’t so much about how to take better photographs but how to see. I believe this training will help me take better pictures.

I also signed up for classes on how to become a better writer and an introductory to making documentaries by Ken Burns. Burns is the filmmaker who recently produced the "Country Music" documentary on for the Public Broadcasting Service.

It’s not that I plan to launch into a new career in photography, or filmmaking, but learning new skills is fun.

Many of these learning opportunities provide a chance to expand your circle of friends. Meeting new people and being exposed to new points of view can be stimulating.

Another bonus is that while I’m focusing on learning, I don’t have time to think about all the negative noise around me.

Learning how to achieve world peace and true happiness may be out of my reach, but I would be happy learning how to tell better stories. 

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Decisions decisions

My birthday is a few weeks away so we're thinking about new places to visit. For years we chose the beach and it is always incredible in January. The crowds were down and the wait times at restaurants were not bad.

Then, churches all around the south started doing a youth get-away during the long weekend of Martin Luther King's birthday which incidentally is also my birthday.

The last time when we pulled into the hotel parking lot, I had to drive around for 15 minutes to find a parking place. Checkin was a nightmare. There seem to be millions of teenagers EVERWHERE.

Now don't get me wrong - I love teenagers. They're youth and energy inspire me. But I don't want them ALL in the hall of my hotel room playing folk songs on a guitar that was out of tune. 

So, we plan to go somewhere different this year. We're looking for a place with a drive time of five hours or less. 

We have several things on the board right now but it is our intention to make a decision tonight before we go to bed.

Below is a picture I took of the beach on my birthday in 2012.

Saturday, December 28, 2019


Jilda and I both enjoyed "downtime" today. It's something that's rare but essential. When nothing is scheduled. 

I read. Watched Joyce Carol Oats talk about her approach to writing. I took the dogs for a walk and later watched honeybees clean the wax I'd saved from summer when I harvested honey. 

Laying cookie sheets on the deck, I spread clumps of brown sticky honey wax that were the size of tennis balls. 

With a knife, I'd step out there every few hours and cut the balls in half...then in quarters....and so on. By this evening most of the wax was the color of piano keys (not the black ones.)

This evening, I started making notes in my journal. As you probably know, my first resolutions were written with a kindergarten pencil. Just kidding. But, I have done them for years.

I found a website where you can input a list of words that are important to you and the software will jumble those words into a kind of poster.  Things to think about during the new year. 

I hope your day has been as uneventful as mine.



Friday, December 27, 2019

Raking leaves from the roof

Each time we walked the last few weeks, I've noticed that the oak and hickory trees around the old house and barn are now bare. Tons of leaves have fallen.

During our walk, we wade through layers of dried leaves ankle deep. Over the coming weeks of winter, the elements will render them back into their basic components. The earth will rejoice. 

The leaves on the tin roof take more time.

"I've got to get those leaves off that roof," I'd say...and keep on walking. 

The next day I'd say, "I've got to get those leaves off that roof." And so on.

Well, today, we both got caught up with family, after-the-holiday-house-cleaning, and stuff. Jilda decided to use her free time by starting one of her online classes. I hoisted a ladder and a rake onto my shoulder with the intention of tending to a long-overdue chore at the old house.

The leaves in the gutters had begun to biodegrade. Underneath the top layer of dried leaves, was a layer of compost. I raked up a fistful and held it up to my nose. The scent was earthy - like what I imagine the planet smelled like before man discovered oil, coal, and polyvinyl chloride.

I'd almost finished when the rain moved in from the south. Standing on the ladder, I took a moment to rest. Raindrops began ticking on the newly cleaned metal roof. 

When I climbed down from the ladder, the dogs were waiting under the shelter of the front porch. We all made a mad dash for the house.

It felt good to complete a chore from my long-neglected todo list.

NOTE: I shot this picture in late September. This should give you an idea of what I cleaned off the roof this afternoon.

Thursday, December 26, 2019


The sunsets these last few days have been rare. Each moment the sky offers a different mix of color. The silhouettes of bare trees backlit by colors or red, orange, magenta, and other colors that have no name are both stark and stunning. 

We had an opportunity to rest up on this Boxing Day. I finished one of my online classes on photography. The class was by Anne Leibovitz who has taken portraits for Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and Life magazines to name a few. Her approach is not so much the technical aspects, but the how and why. She focused (pun intended) on new ways of seeing opportunities for pictures.

The next class I signed up for was writing short stories taught by Joyce Carol Oats. I'm excited.

During these last few days of the decade, do something for yourself. You deserve it.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas

I feel like a happy tic. I dare not step on scales for a few days, because they don't lie. I've visited with friends and family for the last few days.  And I ate.

Ham, fried okra, mashed turnips, collards, corn, turkey, dressing, fruit cake, pecan pie, sweet potato casserole, and warm bread with dripping butter were all on my plate at some point in time.

I've experienced the aroma of baking cookies, hot coffee, goat soap, chapstick, and newborn babies.

There is no sound more enchanting than that of children laughing. It's been a remarkable few days, but both Jilda and I are bone tired.

Today, I snapped another picture of fungi growing on a fallen log next to our walking path. Each of these looks as if they were carved from ivory. 

There is so much noise coming at us each day that it's easy to miss the beauty that is everywhere. 

The older I've gotten, the more I strive to recognize and acknowledge the gifts that are all around me.

Tonight, as I sat down to write, I reflected on the past few days. I'm thankful I took the time to hug my lovely wife and a bunch of candy cranked kids while also taking a moment to enjoy the gifts that Mother Nature sends each day.

Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Christmas Eve

Jilda and I just had breakfast with her brother and his family this morning. After breakfast, the kids came over and baked Christmas cookies. It's something she's done for years.

She gets everything ready, and the kids gather around the table and decorate. It's a bit competitive. Breeze is 14 now and she still enjoys it along with her three younger sisters.

Keeping a house full of kids entertained is hard work. By the time they left, we were whupped.

After a nap, we cleaned up the house. There was about an inch of cookie decorating sugar stars, dots, and granules under the table. It crunched under my shoes as I walked to get the vacuum cleaner.

This evening, Jilda whipped up a batch of Christmas fettuccine and watch A Christmas Carol. We've seen the original version, but our favorite is one with Patrick Steward that was released a few years ago.

This evening, we turned out the overhead lights, put on Christmas music, and blissed out.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Merry Christmas Eve eve

This is a slow news week. Most of the things we do at the paper have already been done. Last week I wrote a story about the importance of libraries.

As I was finishing up the story, the librarian mentioned that they were having Breakfast with Santa this morning for the kids.

That sounded like a good way to have some local content for the Christmas Eve edition of the paper.

Obviously, the picture was in color, but I'm taking some online training on photography. So, I decided to make my picture black and white for the blog,

Merry Christmas Eve eve.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Shopping in the rain

The rain fell hard today. It's been years since we've had ponds in the field between the house and the barn but today, I think I could have sailed on the south 40.

We had a little gift shopping to do. Rather than put it off, we wrapped up and headed out. We had the places we shopped to ourselves for the most part. 

We were home by lunch. 

Jilda wrapped presents and I watched movies on keeping bees. I learned how to make mead from honey to make a propolis tincture, and how to make lip balm using the byproducts of the beehives.

This evening, as Jilda cooked a country supper of navy beans, baked sweet potatoes, collards, and mashed turnips, I baked a pone of my world-famous cornbread. Well, maybe not world-famous, but it sure tasted good with a dollop of butter. 

Jilda is off this coming week. I only have a few appointments. We plan to enjoy time with our friends, families, and our critters.

Since I didn't have a picture today, I went back today in Google Photo to June 2004. I had a business in San Francisco. Jilda and our niece Samantha went with me. It was her first time to fly. 

I took this picture on the coast highway I think it was near Pebble Beach, but I could be wrong. All I know is that it is a beautiful place.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Time will tell

Our intention was to decorate our Christmas tree last weekend. The blue ice cypress was one we had a few years ago. After Christmas, I planted it in the back yard.  I dug it up last weekend from the back yard and hauled it inside.

Due to circumstances beyond our control, the decorating did not happen,

Finally, yesterday we cleared our calendars and Jordan came over to lend a hand. The tree was a little thinner than we remembered but Jilda is a master at making Charlie Brown trees look good.

When we started decorating, a thought occurred to both of us at about the same time. Kodak. The puppy.

We both realized that decorating the tree with priceless ornaments from 45 years of marriage would be unwise.

We went to plan B. which involved using ornaments with little sentimental value that would not be too unkind to Kodak's digestive system.

We made all the dogs go outside while we decorated. Not long after we started, I glanced out the wind and saw Kodak looking in. He was enthralled.

When I got up this morning, I expected the worst, but so far he sits nearby and looks at the tree.  We have our fingers crossed that he doesn't destroy it while we're distracted.

Time will tell.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Helping him find his way

Our great nephew Jordan spent much of the day with us today. He worked hard but then, he's not afraid of work.

One of the things he promised when we agreed to let him keep the chickens here was that he would help keep the pen clean. This was a "Clean the chicken coop poop day."

When I called this morning and told him it was time, he said he would be here in a minute. By the time I'd laid the phone down and put on one shoe, there was a knock on the door. It had not been two full minutes. He panted as he apologized. "I'm sorry I'm late, I couldn't find my coat," he said.

He'd gotten his shoes on, put on a jacket, and ran the 150 yards from his house to mine in less than two minutes, I kid you not. I can barely remember when I had that kind of energy.

We raked a couple of wheelbarrows of poop and soiled cedar chips, before spreading a fresh bale of cedar chips.

It's supposed to rain in a few days so he raked up pine straw and spread it in the pen to keep the chickens from having to walk on the muddy ground.

Part of what I do is teach Jordan how to use tools and how to work safely. These are not things they teach in school.

After we spread the poop on the compost pile, we walked down to the thinking bench and sat for a long time. The morning sun felt warm on our faces. We didn't talk a lot. He's worried about his Nana who is having some health issues. I thought it might help if he made her a gift.

Stepping to the edge of the woods, I pulled a rope of muscadine vine from a nearby oak. I snipped it free with my pocket knife and then showed him how to weave the vine into a Christmas wreath.

Who knows what he will remember when he gets older? It's hard to say if he'll hold on to any of what we do together, but I'm hoping it will help him find his way.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Fun assignment

I was at the elementary school early again this morning. A local Honda dealership donated 50 bicycles to the Head Start class.

I covered this assignment last year and I walked away smiling.

This year, my great-great-nephew Easton was in one of the classes and he got a new bike. He was ecstatic.

He is a delightful child. Normally, it takes young kids a while to warm up to me. I'm not sure if it's the beard, or what but most kids keep their distance until they determine if I'm friend or foe.

When Easton was still tiny, he was comfortable sitting on my knee. It made me happy to see him so happy.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Moon shot

Jordan's Nana called last night to see if he could spend the day with us today. Not much was happening at school, and he needed a break. We said, of course, he could spend the day with us.

After coffee, he and I stepped outside to feed the chickens. Kodak LOVES Jordan and it only took a moment and they were off to the races in the field and on toward the barn.

I watched them until they were out of sight. I could hear Jordan giggling so I knew things were going well.

Standing there, each breath sent a pillar of vapor skyward. After one of the long exhales, I followed the vapor upward.

It was then I noticed a half-moon directly overhead. I wasn't sure if my phone would capture a decent picture, but I gave it a shot. 

The picture would have been better with the camera, but I read where the best camera in the world is the one you have with you. It's hard to disagree.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Dog therapy

The rain moved off to the east before dawn. I had early appointments, so my internal clock went off early. The light seeping in from around the blinds foretold the nature of the sky today.

When I headed for the truck to head out, the winds out of the north sent me back inside to search for gloves.

The interviews I did were not easy ones, but they were important. They both concerned children and the problems they face here. Some of the things I heard broke my heart. 

When I got home, I put on my walking clothes and shoes and took the dogs out for a stroll. There's something about yapping dogs that is therapeutic.   

Monday, December 16, 2019

Fingers crossed

The weather people today have spent a ton of time pointing to the south where storms continue to pound Louisana and Mississippi.

It's heading this way. It's been unseasonably warm here today. When I looked a moment ago it was still almost 70 degrees and the sun has been down over two hours.

Thankfully, it was overcast for most of the day which kept it from getting warmer. Sunny days in December when the conditions are unstable can be brutal.

I made a mental list last night of things I needed to do today to prepare for storms.

  1. Gas for the generator
  2. Gas for the chainsaw
  3. Batteries
  4. And so forth

This evening before dark, I stepped out on the back deck. The dogs know something is up because they're making every step we're making. I took a back of parched peanuts with me. I'd crack one for them and then crack one for me. We spent time watching the sky and listening to the wind chinging on the chimes.

Before I came back inside, I snapped a picture of the field, the old house, and the barn.

We have our fingers crossed that it breaks up before it reaches us here in Empire.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

A gift that kept on giving

I started badgering my mom not long after Labor Day of 1964. I wanted a guitar for Christmas. Our neighbors had two cousins visiting from "Up North." They playing guitar. 

I heard them stumble through songs from the radio. They weren't that good, but something about making music resonated with me. 

Two of my cousins had gotten guitars the previous Christmas but by summer, both were dusty from disuse. 

I borrowed one. The following weekend, I went camping with my friend Donnie Pinion. He couldn't' carry a tune in a bucket, but he played beautifully. He taught me how to play Green Green Grass of Home.

School started back the following week after Labor Day and that's when my campaign began. I promised to keep her car spotless until I graduated from high school. I told her I would bring in enough coal to feed the StokerMatic until spring, and so forth.

That Christmas, I got some gifts but much to my dismay, a guitar was not one of them. I acted like I was happy and all, but I was disappointed.  

While my brother and sister had opened their gifts, my mother stepped to her bedroom and pulled my final gift from under her bed. 

In was a Tesco Del Rey electric guitar that she bought from Sears and Roebuck. Without realizing it, she gave me a gift that provided joy all of my life. 

I still have the guitar that I keep in a special case. A few years ago, I had it overhauled with new tuners and other parts that had worn from years of use. 

It was a gift that kept on giving.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

A good weekend

Jilda has been working on Christmas cards for weeks.  Earlier in the week, I mailed off the international cards. Today, I mailed off a bushel to friends and family that live here in the U.S.

I also mailed off our quarterly taxes. That wasn't as much fun.

Once home, we shoe'd up and walked the dogs. I know you're probably tired of reading about Kodak, but I didn't have a picture of me with him yet so Jilda shot one. It took a minute. He wanted to play and I kept talking while she was trying to shoot the picture. The final shot was a compromise. He looked good and I looked goofy. I also looked like a load in my cold-weather walking clothes.

This afternoon, we began decorating inside the house. My job involves carting the heavy boxes with all the stuff up from the barn. I then keep myself and the dogs out of the way.

She got most of it up today. We will finish up tomorrow. I'll shoot a picture of that.

It's been a good weekend.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Happy Friday The 13th

I know this will date me, but the last horror movie I watched was 2000 Maniacs.  That was when it came to the Sumiton Drive-in in 1964. 

Nope, I didn't watch the Godzilla movies, Psycho, The Birds, or Night of the Living Dead.

I didn't even watch the Attach of the 50 Woman, but I must admit, I did spend some time admiring the poster.

Later, as horror movies evolved, I was a little older and many of my friends when to see horror films, but I never was a fan.

This post really has no point except to wish you all a happy Friday The 13th.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Kodak's a keeper

OK. For those of you who were betting that Kodak would be living here, you can collect. I took him to the vet today.

He had no chip and except for a few general puppy maladies, he's healthy. He got his shots and on the way home, I stopped at the local hamburger place and bought him a burger to welcome him to the family.

When I let him out of the truck he ran to the gate that leads into the backyard where Ol' Hook was standing. Kodak was giddy.

Tonight, I covered a Christmas parade for the paper. It's fun watching kids watch parades.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019


I let the new pup outside last night before we turned out the lights. It was raining so I put on my big coat. As I stepped onto the front stoop, it crunched. 

This morning it was white outside. The accumulation was probably less than a half-inch, but it was beautiful. It was enough to make schools open a little later to be on the safe side.

Normally, I would have taken a few pictures of the snow, but today I didn't. 

Instead of snow, I pulled a picture I shot on the river in December of last year. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Old rainy day in December

Today was an old rainy day. When I got up for a glass of water sometime around 3 a.m. I could hear the wind in the chimes. I opened the back door and looked out over the field toward the barn. The sky was cloudy, but There were light spots where the moon was trying to shine through.

Sometime after 4 a.m., the rain came so hard that it sounded like thunder on the roof. Caillou, as I've mentioned before is no fan of storms. I coaxed him into the adjoining bathroom and closed the door. With the exhaust fan running, he settles down,

Jilda is training a new yoga instructor where she works and had to be there early. I did a few chores before heading to meetings. The temperature had dropped 15 degrees since the early morning.

And it's only gotten colder all day long.

There wasn't much of a chance to shoot pictures today, so I dipped into the archives and found this picture of a bluejay eating seed from the back deck banister. It was taken 15 years ago today.

Monday, December 09, 2019


A few weeks ago we had a new visitor looking through our great room window. The legs of the table in front of the window created a framed picture of a young lab-mix puppy. 

We thought at first he was just visiting and wanted to get in on the free doggie daycare that we do for our niece's dog Lady. 

Late that evening, he heard a car drive by and he ran as if he were running home to meet a friend. 
A day or so later he came back. I posted a picture of him on social media that was shared - a bunch.

He left again. We assumed his folks fetched him. They didn't. Now he's been in our yard for the last three days.

Ol' Hook has guard duty at night so he sleeps on a doggie bed in front of the window. He was still sleeping this morning when the throw-a-way stood on his back legs with his front paws on the glass. He was peering in lovingly at Hook.

Hook woke up and saw the pup and immediately headed for the door. We let him outside and he played with his new friend for hours.

I put another post on social media today but I'm not hopeful that anyone will respond. 

I'm hoping a local rescue group will help get us a discount with the vet when we take him in midweek for an evaluation. 

If he doesn't have any terminal issues, there's a good chance Kodak will become the latest pooch in the posse. 

UPDATE ON LAST NIGHT'S POST. I went to the doc today and he thinks I got a tick bite. The bite area was a perfect bullseye by this morning. He did tests for Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted fever and another tick-related condition. He cranked me up on antibiotics and steroids. I'll get the test results midweek.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Fingers crossed

Jilda and I were getting ready to go to the company Christmas party this afternoon. I felt something tender on my stomach.

Pulling my shirt off I saw a place on my right side. I'm pretty sure it's a spider bite. I pulled the decorations from the barn yesterday and I spent time on the ground. I'm guessing it's been warm enough for them to be active.

I have my fingers crossed that the meds I put on it will make it go away. If it's not better in the morning, I'll be having an unscheduled visit to my doc.

Meanwhile, here's a picture from December 2009.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Exterior Illumination

Neither Jilda nor I have slowed down today. She's painting Christmas cards, and I fed the bees, cleaned out the chicken pen, and did the exterior Christmas illuminations.

We have two small trees and one large one outside. We also have a Christmas pig and a Christmas chicken. They are hard to miss if you walk up to our house.

Last year they were on the ground, but this year we put them on our thinking bench to give them a little elevation so that passing cars can see them.

We decided to do the inside tree and decorations this coming week. Stay tuned.

Friday, December 06, 2019

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

Tomorrow is tree day. Usually, we got to a tree farm and buy a tree each year, but the one we planted last year didn't make it. So rather than spend more for a live tree that might not live, I'm going to dig up the tree we had a few years ago. 

It's a blue ice cypress. It was a lovely tree when we put it up the first time. It's grown a little since then so it is really pretty now.

Since Thanksgiving has passed, we've started listening to Christmas music and tomorrow we'll start decorating.

I didn't have a good picture today, so I chose one from several years ago. I took it on the day we went to get our Christmas tree. It's hard to see in the picture below, but it had started snowing when we got to the tree farm.

I hope your weekend is a good one. 

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Dreams are so mysterious

These last few nights, my dreams have been vivid. Although I can only remember snippets of them, I know they were special because I woke up smiling. Jilda has had a similar experience.

Maybe it's the angle of the light or maybe the approaching winter solstice, but something is different.

Last night as I got ready for bed, I put a pencil and a piece of paper on the nightstand. Again, I had a vivid dream. It could have been a dream that lasted hours, but all that I wrote down on the paper was - If I had another chance.

That could mean so little...or so much.

Maybe it was just a dream, but I can almost hear a song...almost see a book...or, a movie.

Dreams can be so mysterious.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Interesting for us all

Frigid morning.
Bees are no fans of frost.
But the evening sun 
Made it warm enough to swim,
Bees have but one mission,
They swarmed sugar water jars
And hustled home 
With man-made nectar.
Mother Nature 
Makes life interesting 
For us all.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Mamie Square ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Cleaning out the old house has been on our to-do list since Reagan was in the White House. I knew it would take a lot of time. I knew most of the things stored in the space were junk, but as we all know there is often some treasure in the trash.

Soon after moving here in 1980, the entire family began using that space for storage. When I started keeping bees earlier this year, it became obvious that I needed a space to build hives, harvest honey, and organize my beekeeping tools. That’s when cleaning the old house became a priority.

Jilda’s parents were the original packrats. Later, when we built our house in December of 1983, we had tons of stuff in our trailer that we didn’t want to put in our “new” home. Old dishes, Hurricane glasses from a trip to New Orleans in the summer of 1980, and other stuff.

There were books, clothes, fixtures, and furniture that wouldn’t work in the new place. We put them in the old house temporarily. We had every intention of having a giant yard sale and using the proceeds to go on vacation. That didn’t happen.

Later, Jilda’s brother used the place to store old chairs, lamps, and beds. Soon, his kids needed a place to store stuff too. These last few years, the old house became so full of junk that it was difficult to walk through it.

I had time this week to get started going through years of “I may need that someday” stuff.

Raking through the front room, I found boxes of stuff that Jilda’s folks had stored there. There were church bulletins, pamphlets, and appliances that were broken way beyond repair. There was a radio that did not have an FM dial.

There was one box in the corner that I pulled out to the porch. I wanted to make sure I didn’t pull out a slumbering rattlesnake. There were no reptiles in there, but down close to the bottom, I found an old quilt.

When I pulled it out, it was stained and tattered around the edges. I held it over the side of the porch and shook out the dust and debris.

Finishing up for the day, I gently folded the quilt and took it back to the house. Once Jilda got home from work, I showed it to her. Tears welled up in her eyes.

Jilda remembered the quilt from her childhood. She thought her grandmother had given it to one of the other grandchildren before she died.

Jilda’s grandparents were poor but resourceful. Her grandmother Mamie had made the quilt from scraps of cloth from old feed sacks. It was beautiful at one time, but time and mice had tattered much of the old quilt. Jilda held it like it was an ancient artifact. To her, it was an artifact.

She placed the quilt on the deck table and examined it carefully. The very center of the old quilt was in perfect condition and was still beautiful. She took her scissors and gently cut out a section from the middle.

She smiled as she restitched the edges. I wasn’t sure what plans she had for the “Mamie Square,” but we have a small table behind the loveseat. She took all the things off the table, placed the tiny quilt in the center, and placed everything back on the table.

It will take a while to sift through years of junk. I just hope we find a few more pieces of hidden treasure like the “Mamie Square.”

Monday, December 02, 2019


Today is an anniversary for me. I sat down at my computer on December 2, 2005, with the intention of trying my hand at writing a blog. I stumbled my way through and pressed publish.

My first posts rarely had pictures because it was hard enough to come up with the words.

I really had not made a conscious decision to write every day, but my early feedback was positive. One of my first followers was Brenda Rowley from Alphie Soup Blog from Australia. She's been kind to me through the years. She left a comment last week.

One day led to the next and I found myself writing a post every night. For the past 14 years, there has been only a few nights that I have not posted. Usually, it's because tornados come through and blow our power poles to South Carolina.

For me, the thing about writing daily helped me find my voice. Say more with fewer words.

I've written about this before, but about a year after I started blogging, my friend Dale Short had a column in the Lifestyle section of the local paper. He'd been doing the column for a while and was ready to take a break.

Approaching the editor at the paper, I pitched the idea of me writing the Sunday column. I took a few sample posts from my blog. He scanned them and said, I've had people approach me before when they wanted to write a column and they did for a few weeks but the deadlines come too quickly and I wind up with a blank spot on my page.

I told him I had a year's worth of columns already written. By the time I got home, he'd sent me an email and told me I had the spot. I've never missed a deadline.

Glancing at my Blogger statistics, I've published over 5100 posts and according to Blogger stats, I've had over 1.6 million page views.

Several months ago, I went to a writer's conference. There was a young man there at one of the roundtables who wanted to write. Several of the guest speakers there gave him good advice. My only input was to write every day. I'm not sure if he thought what I said was important, but I think the advice is sound.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Happy birthday mama

Today was my mama's birthday. Had she lived, she would have been 95 today. She enjoyed flowers. Her yard was covered in dozens of flowerbeds.

One was an old cast iron washpot she used for doing laundry before she and my dad got running water inside the house. Others were along the edges of the house on all sides, some were in coffee cans, and others grew around the giant water oak.

I'm guessing she didn't get many flowers on special occasions while all of us kids were home, but once we grew up and started families of our own, she got them more often.

Today was no exception. Jilda and I went to the cemetery this afternoon and decorated her grave with an evergreen arrangement with red berries. Jilda is a natural at doing flowers.

The sun was out today, but the wind out of the north made long sleeves necessary. After she did the arrangement, she tied a red and green plaid ribbon around the arrangement.

We stood at the foot of the grave for a long while. As we turned to get into the Outback, we wished mama a happy birthday.

Saturday, November 30, 2019


It's been warm enough to swim here today. The sun played tag with the clouds for most of the day. We hit the road early. I took my sunglasses but spent most of the drive taking them on and off. 

The first stop was Hobby Lobby. Jilda needed supplies so that she could get started painting the Christmas cards for this year.

This evening, my team played a wild football game but ended up losing a game we should have won. But that's the way it goes.

Tonight, I got a weather alert. When I looked at the radar on my phone, I saw that people to the north and west were getting pounded.

When I walked onto the back deck, the sky to the east was stary. But off to the west, I saw strobes of lightning and thunder rolled.

The windchimes play different notes when the wind is gentle. But when storms approach, the combination of notes sound almost ominous. 

The lights have flickered once, but I'm willing the storms to dissipate leaving behind a gentle rain.

Friday, November 29, 2019

The day after

Both Jilda and I were slugs today. I'm talking cold molasses in the veins. We slept in on the day after Thanksgiving. Jilda's brother called at 7:15 a.m. and we were both still sleeping. It's been a minute since we weren't up by 6.

Our biological clock is set to wake up when morning light seeps around the bedroom blinds.

We sipped coffee at a leisurely pace. When we shoe'd up for a walk, it was still overcast. The light was muted. The brisk walk was refreshing.

We spent much of the day doing routine stuff. 

This evening, I had an assignment for the paper to shoot pictures at a Christmas event. Jilda and our great nephew Jordan decided to join us. We got him a swirl of cotton candy as big as a hornet's nest.

Santa came roaring in on a firetruck. I shot pictures of kids with big eyes. 

The paper frowns on me using the pictures before they run in the paper, so I will refrain tonight. Instead, I'll use a picture of a piece of wood that Mother Nature has reduced to a piece of impermanent art.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm whupped. We had 20 folks here today. Most of them were kids. The thing about kids and Thanksgiving is that it's not really about the food. It's about having fun.

Our great-great-nephew Easton came with his grandmother and great-grandmother. He's in pre-school.

He was cranked but he was not a fan of the dogs. When I told him the dogs owned the farm and they only let us live here, he thought about that for a long time. Soon, he was fine with them being around.

Today was a couple of first for him. Zuzu which is my nephew Jame's baby daughter taught Easton how to go through the doggie door. He was ecstatic.

I managed to get them all to stand still for a few moments, but as you can tell by the look on Jordan's face (far left) that he really thought slowing down to take a picture was a waste of time.

I hope today has been a one for you and your family.

For those going shopping later this evening, you might want to read a post from a few years ago about shopping on Thanksgiving. CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019


A hard rain and strong winds overnight stripped most of the color off the trees here. There's a pin oak over near the edge of our property that is still beautiful. The blueberry bushes produced gallons of fruit in early spring.  We put over a dozen freezer bags that were as stuffed as a freshly fed baby.

We'll have blueberries in our morning protein shakes until next spring. But the thing about blueberries is that the berries are but one gift they provide. In autumn and winter, the leaves turn crimson and hang on for dear life. Then in spring, they are one of the first plants to blossom and provide nectar for the bees. 

I'm not sure if I mentioned this in an earlier post, but we doubled the number of blueberry bushes in our garden. We now have over 20 and I might add ten more over the next few weeks.

Our local produce place wants to carry local organic blueberries.

People tell me that at my age, I should be winding down. I would consider it if I weren't having so much fun.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The staff

The last several days have been hectic. We're having some of Jilda's family over for Thanksgiving. As with all gatherings here, we feel the need to spruce up.

Also, there is the turkey process. It has to be a fresh turkey. Not one gobbling, mind you, but one that hasn't needed a sweater since it....gave its life for the pilgrim holiday.

We've worked in the yard, on the screen porch, in the garden, and around the barn. Our niece's boyfriend commented that last time he ate with us: "Y'all need a staff."

Today, the newspaper where I work part-time invited Jilda and me to Thanksgiving lunch. We agreed. My nephew, who is the publisher, is doing a Christmas special for the online audience. He asked if we'd come a little early so that his film crew could video us singing the original Christmas song we wrote a few years ago. We were flattered to be included.

Jilda had to work this evening at her job at the rehab center, so we left after lunch. Once home, we both hit the couch for a nap.

The alarm on my phone usually wakes us both when it's time to get back to work.

Today, I woke up, but she was still dead to the world. Pulling the phone from my pocket, I snapped a picture while she was sleeping. She will probably smack me when she reads this post, but I'll tell her it was "the staff" that did it.

Monday, November 25, 2019

A salute to autumn

We'd planned to attend the last beekeeping club meeting of the year tonight. No bees stuff tonight – just a bunch of beefolk getting together and breaking bread to celebrate the holiday season.

Jilda whipped up a batch of spinach balls.  It's a favorite Hors d'oeuvre of mine. 

Today was a workday for both of us but the plan was that she'd knock off a few minutes early, rush home, spruce up, and we'd head out to pig out. 

She called in a panic. The Samburu Outback uses a key fob to crank the engine. The tiny watch battery in the fob was dead and the car wouldn't crank.

Plan "B". I drove up to where she works with the spare key. We got home, but it was too late to make the bee-thang. Maybe next year.

When I went down to check on the bees this afternoon, they had swilled two pounds of sugar water since daybreak. 

As I walked back, I leaned my head back as I walked to take stock of the sky. All the leaves have dropped from the sweet gum tree, but it looked like a monument standing against the cloudless sky.

I shot a picture and then whipped off a quick salute to autumn.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Walking on Sunday

When I slipped on a sweatshirt and started putting on my walking shoes this morning, the dogs went berserk. They were so cranked.

I know they are trying to rush me when they nip at my sox. Today, Ol' Hook pulled a sox off my foot and ran to the door. I'm guessing he thought that by stealing my sox we could walk sooner.

I get dressed first and get the dogs outside so that Jilda can get Taz ready. It takes a little longer for the Yorkie. She only weighs about nine pounds, and she's close to the ground. The dew or frost is on her belly, so she requires a sweater to walk.

When I stepped outside, I realized why the mutts were in such a hurry. It was a postcard-pretty day.

I walked around to the back and fed the chickens while I waited. The big dogs are in a different zip code by the time Jilda and Taz are ready.

Jogging in place, I did a 360 to try and take it all in. The only sound was the wind rustling leaves and the sound of my breath.

The blueberry bushes in the foreground are showing out now. Last week, I transplanted 10 new plants. This will almost double the number of bushes we have. It will take a year or so for them to produce in large quantities, but I'm from the school of thought that you cannot have too many blueberries.

Saturday, November 23, 2019


When I was checking for birthdays today, I saw some of my friends doing the 2009-2019 Challenge. They posted a picture of them from 2009 and one from 2019. 

When I looked at the two pictures, they look identical. It would have taken a magnifying glass to pick out the new wrinkles.

I decided to have some fun with the challenge.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Double dipping

I know I'm double-dipping, but Jilda worked today and I was charged with getting supper. Calling the local Asian restaurant, I ordered the meal we often have on Thursdays.

As I started telling the woman what I wanted to order, she recognized my voice. She said in broken English – I know you. She then recited what we always order. Before hanging up, she said "B redy in 15 minute."

It was raining when I pulled out of my driveway and a light fog was beginning to creep up from low places by the road.

I decided to swing by the lake to see how it looked in the muted light. It wasn't as brilliant as it was a few days ago, but it was still pretty darn good.

The duck volunteered to give me a guided tour, but I told her I had to pick up supper. She squawked as she swam off. I interpreted that to mean, "Suit yourself but I'm going to feast on the beauty of these autumn leaves."

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Late night Gig blues

Tonight's entry will be short. Jilda and I played at the Comer Museum tonight. It's about 90 miles south of where we live.

We've played at the museum before and we love those folks. Tonight, we'd play a while and chat a while.

We just got home and I have the late-night gig blues

The only picture I have was one I took this morning as the sun was waking up.

There's a saying about it but I'm too tired to remember.

Red sky in morning
Is never boring?

I forget.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Lost pup

It was a quiet morning. Our freshly poured coffee was still steaming on the coffee table as Jilda and I sat slowly becoming conscience.

All of a sudden, all three dogs went berserk. SHIELDS UP!!!! INCOMING!!!! MAN THE BATTLE STATIONS!!!!!

When I looked outside the window we had a visitor. It was a chocolate lab less than a year old. He was sitting there looking into the window. He seemed to be wondering what it must be like to be a dog inside those windows, lying on beds as big as clouds.

He got the message from our dogs that he was not welcome so he wandered off.

After coffee, I stepped outside to feed the chickens, the lights went off.

All of a sudden, all three dogs went berserk. SHIELDS UP!!!! INCOMING!!!! MAN THE BATTLE STATIONS!!!!!  The dogs hate it when the power goes off because it often means jagged lightning and thunder stomping ever closer. But this morning there wasn't a cloud in the sky.

Stepping back inside, I called the power company and reported the outage before heading back outside to feed the chickens.

When I stepped off of the back deck, there was the pup. I stopped in my tracks and then looked around. All three gates into our fenced backyard were closed. Yet there he was.

I opened the gate and shushed him out.

Before I came out of the chicken pen, he was back in the yard. Jilda, who'd walked out to the deck said that he'd jumped the fence. It's been a while since a dog young enough to jump our fence has come around.

I put this picture out on Facebook to try and find his mama and daddy. The post was shared 38 times. Hopefully, we will hear from his folks tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The beauty of that sky

When I stopped to get fuel this evening, it was dark-thirty as my daddy used to say. 

But the sun was stubborn and would not go gentle into that good night – to steal a phrase from Dylan Thomas.

When the pump was running, I clicked the keeper walked a few steps away, to remove a light pole and other stuff from the frame. Another truck was about to pull up, but he saw I was trying to take a picture.  He switched off his lights and waited to let me get a better shot.

I snapped a few quick frames and raised my hand in thanks. He got it. It didn't take a weatherman to recognize the beauty of that sky.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Evening falling

There is a small lake not far from where we live. I stop by there often to watch the ducks and geese that live there.

Sometimes near the edge of the water on the far side of the lake, largemouth bass will hit the top of the water to grab a minnow or a dragonfly that ventures too close to the surface. The motion is much too sudden to capture on film.

A few days ago when I stopped by, the action was much slower. The sun behind me to the west was painting one last picture on the autumn leaves on the far side of the lake.

There will be a few more chances to take pictures over the coming days, but the frigid weather that came through last week nipped most of the leaves.

I'm glad I managed to snap this picture.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

If you only look

The walking path 
Changes daily.
Some days mushrooms flourish.
Some days wildflowers 
Dance in the wind
Like free spirits on holiday.
Today was noisy, as we
Walked on a carpet of dry leaves.
Each day there is beauty,
If you only look.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Learning new things

I attended a beehive building class today. In the short time, I've been keeping bees, I've learned that beehive components are not cheap to buy. One beehive with the basic components can cost upwards of a hundred dollars.

My bee mentor told me that anyone with tools and basic woodworking skills could build most of the components for a fraction of what it cost to buy them.

The class early this morning great! We took 1 inch by 12 inch boards 12 ft long and when they came out the other end of the shed, they were the components I need to expand our apiary.

The good thing for me is that I already have most of the tools I need thanks to my father-in-law Sharkey. He was a tool man. He bought tools on sale even if he didn't need them.

I have tables saws, drills, routers, and most of the other things I need.

Learning new things is exhilarating. There were about 20 other new beekeepers there and we spent a few hours learning how to put it all together.

I can't wait to get some wood and build some beehives.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Damn the man

The rain was intermittent today. One moment it the sun was out and the next it was spitting rain. The sky looked confused.

Normally, I'm off on Friday, but the editor asked if I would consider shooting a picture. We didn't have a lot on our calendar so I told him I'd take the picture.

On the way home, I noticed the grass growing beside a plot of land where the trees had been recently harvested. It's like the reeds grow in defiance of the timber cutters.

Damn the man! We're going to grow as tall as we can before the winter becomes too cruel.

The stalks of grass probably weren't saying that, but those are the words that came to mind as I focused on this image.

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