Sunday, January 20, 2019

Without my help

Today, I rested. It's rare that I have a day without a ton on my calendar. There was stuff I could have done, but I decided to let it wait.

Strangely enough, the wind still blew, the birds still dined at our feeders, and tonight the full moon rose. All without my help.



Saturday, January 19, 2019

No much to say

I choose to post a picture tonight in lieu of words. Sorry. I'm whupped.  I'll do better tomorrow.


Friday, January 18, 2019

Chicken trauma

An owl got one of our chickens yesterday. Chickens are vulnerable to a number of predators. Weasels, opossums, raccoons, and hawks.

I know it was an owl because yesterday afternoon right at dark, I heard the chickens. That's rare with these chickens. They are hens and so they don't crow at daybreak like roosters.

When I stepped down to check on them, an owl was in their coop eating corn from their feeders. Once the owl saw me, it flew up to a low branch of a nearby sweet gum tree and observed me.

After putting the chickens into their coop and latching the door, I stepped back inside my house for my BB gun.  I didn't want to hurt the owl but I wanted him to know I was unhappy. I fired several times into the tree. One of the shots must have gotten close because he flew away.

I'm on call at the paper, but Sunday I plan to put up netting which is a deterrent for hawks and owls.

On the lighter side, Jilda and I went to one of our favorite restaurants tonight. The food was off the charts. The paper had given me a gift certificate to this restaurant for Christmas and it seemed like a perfect time to use it.

The only pictures I took today were of more moss and lichen. Heading into the archives, I found this picture of sparrows munching birdseed off the back deck banister. I love these little critters and they would never hurt my chickens.


Thursday, January 17, 2019

Lichen bouquet

We walked in the rain today. Normally, the dogs are ecstatic, but today I think they wished they had sweaters. 

On the first lap, I noticed what looked like a bouquet on the ground. It was a beautiful piece that had fallen off of one of the dead limbs on the ancient oak down by the barn. The limb it fell from once had a tire swing attached to it.

The swing has been gone for years but you can still see where the cable attached near the trunk.

Years of swinging children rubbed the bark off the limb where the cable was attached. The oak is so noble, it holds on to its limbs as long as possible.

You can see lichen growing on the limb. When I saw the lichen bouquet this morning, it didn't touch it. I wasn't sure if it was toxic. Neither was I sure if it was harmful to the tree.

I did a Google search a few minutes ago and found that there is nothing to fear.

The bark of trees such as the live oak provides a stable surface for lichen growth. Lichens may, in fact, help live oaks by discouraging insects and fungi. The long strands of lichen provide nest-building material for birds, as well as camouflage from predators.

I was so happy to read this.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Green velvet

The walk this morning was "chillified" as my grandmother might have said. The sun was out, but the wind out of the north punched a hole through my sweat pants and shirt. It made me glad I'd put my gloves in my pocket before heading out.

I was a bit distracted because I had no clue what my column for Sunday's paper would be. As much as I preach the Be Here Now sermon, I was not there during the first part of my walk. 

Then on the second lap, I looked to the side of the barn road and saw a tree the wind had blown across the road years ago. We chainsawed it away from the road but left part of it in the hollow. The end closest to the road is the one I saw.

Pulling the phone from my pocket, I snapped a picture. I know my lovely spouse will call me a copycat because she took moss pictures earlier in the week, but since the green velvet of moss is about the only color now, it ends up being a frequent subject of our pictures.



Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Rain = No fishing

One of my goals for the new year is to go fly fishing at least once a month. So far, that hasn't happened. Since late December, we've had torrential rain at least once a week. When it rains that much, the lake rises so they have to run the turbines at the dam to keep water from breaching the dam.

We had an editorial meeting today at the paper. Afterward, I headed home the long way around which took me by the dam.

I pulled to the water's edge and watched. Normal the water is as green as an emerald, but when it rains this much it turns the color of chocolate milk. The places where I normally wade is under ten feet of water.

I've come up with a solution to my issue. If I don't get a chance to go in January, I'll go twice in February.

The picture below was taken earlier in the fall before the rain set in.








Monday, January 14, 2019

Getting garden ready

We had seed catalogs in the mail when we returned from our short vaycay. These days, seed catalogs are like the Sears and Roebuck Wishbooks when I was a kid. Each page is a wonder.

As I peruse the pages, I start thinking about places where I can plant grapes, pear trees, or walnut trees. I'd love to have a yard full of walnut trees, but I fear we'd never get to crack any. They grow slowly.

Last week, I went to the hardware store and bought what I need to build raised beds. I will build those this coming weekend and start planting thing we can plant early

It is my intention to get garden-ready this year so we can enjoy fresh veggies all summer long. The past few years, the weather has dictated the outcomes but that's because I didn't do my homework prior to planting season.

Thanks for the birthday wishes, but my actual birthday is tomorrow the15th.



Sunday, January 13, 2019

Cutting the vaycay short

I think the gods have a thing about my birthday getaways. Three years ago when we went to the beach for my birthday, I broke the Honda key in half while trying to open the plastic around a case of water. Jilda had left her keys at home in Alabama so that her brother could use my truck while we were away. Her Honda has one of those anti-theft ignitions that won't allow you to crank the car with just the end of the key that goes into the switch. It wants the top part too. The car would not crank. The spare key was almost six hours away.

We fretted most of the night and the next day, I pieced the key together, and we left for home two days early. :)

Two years ago, we went back to the beach, and everything was going great until Jilda started having flu-like symptoms. Again, we left early and came home. After a visit to urgent care, they confirmed what we suspected – she had the flu.

Last year, we had booked rooms at the beach.  Snow and ice moved into Alabama hours before we were scheduled to leave. We canceled our reservations.

This year, we decided to go to a hotel we've been reading about. It's a five-star spa hotel in Florence, Alabama.

By the time we pulled out of our driveway, drops of rain had begun to splatter on the windshield. it wasn't much at first. We looked at each other and said, "it's not going to rain.'  By the time we reached Florence, it was raining so hard I had to slow to a crawl.

We spent most of our time in the hotel room reading. Yesterday evening, we dashed out to a place that has some of the best fried chicken on the planet. We don't eat a lot of fried stuff, but what the heck, it was my birthday vaycay. It was scrumptious.

Had the weather cleared, we were going on some tours today. The picture below explains why we packed our bags and headed home early.



Saturday, January 12, 2019

Planning ahead

This year is a significant anniversary for Jilda and me. On Cinco de Mayo, we will celebrate our 45 anniversary.

We went to Ireland for our 25. That was a trip to remember. The people there treated us like family. One the second evening we went to a pub after they stopped serving dinner. The woman tending bar talked to us for a while. Jilda asked her if there was another place to eat. 
It was a small two-pub town and the other pub didn't serve food. 

The woman told us to hold on a moment. She went out the back to her house which was behind the bar. She brought us two plates of food from her own table. She wouldn't accept payment. 

 We were there for ten days. Every twist in the road was a wonder.  Cliffs, pastures, garden fences built from rocks as old as time. Even in the muted light of May, the images were breathtaking 

I said all that to say this – Ireland is on our shortlist of places to go on our 45 anniversary in May.


Friday, January 11, 2019

Seeing pictures

Yesterday evening I took several pictures. I was so taken by the massive oak at sunset that I overlooked another shot I tood a moment later of the farm pond. It didn't turn out too badly either.

I was taking a picture today and one of the subjects was a woman that Jilda and I have known for over 40 years. When I saw her, she asked how I was doing. I responded as I always do, "I'm livin' a dream." She said I think I'd be living a dream too if I got to drive around and take beautiful pictures of trees. She asked how I managed to take so many good pictures. I guffawed a good bit. She said no, seriously?

I told her that I learned to use a camera and take pictures over 50 years ago, but I'm just now learning how to "see" pictures.


Thursday, January 10, 2019

I love trees

Jilda's car has been in the shop this week and I've been her private chauffeur. Today was a long day for her so I took her in early and then I headed out for my appointments.

I was writing a news story when my alarm chirped. Saving the documents, I grabbed my phone and headed back to where Jilda works to pick her up.

It was 5:30 p.m. and as I drove up the mountain road I looked off into the distance at the western horizon. It almost took my breath away.

When I turned into the long driveway where she works, I saw another photo op. Looking quickly in the rearview to make sure no one was on my bumper it was all clear.

I pulled to a stop, rolled down my window and snapped a few frames to share with you tonight. As you may have guessed, I love trees.

Passing this one by without noticing it would have been almost sinful.


Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Windows

We had windows like the ones below in my childhood home. Each autumn, we put putty around the glass to keep the winter wind out. It helped, but you could still see the curtains rustle on blustery days.

The thing is, I don't remember ever getting that cold. When the weather was chilly, we bundled up, When it was hot, I got as close to nakid' as I could get.

On rainy days, I spent a lot of time by those windows watching droplets scroll down the glass. The windows in our old house had tiny bubbles that you could see when the light fell on the glass.

A few years ago, I had a chance to replace all the windows in our creative space with new double-pane windows. I chose to leave the old ones in place.

The new windows aren't nearly as much fun to watch when it rains.





Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Making a difference

Back during this past summer, I wrote a short piece about Marlene who is a greeter at Walmart. She wears a tiara every day. She started several years ago when someone gave her tiara. She wore it to work as a joke. Everybody loved it so she started wearing a tiara daily. That was 17 years ago. 

The story resonated with local readers. When the article appeared in the paper,  I shared it on social media. The piece lit up my Facebook account. The article got over 1200 shares. She got a private message thank you from the CEO of Walmart.

The local TV station also saw the article and contacted Marlene. They asked if she'd be interested in letting them do a segment on The People of Alabama. She agreed.  

The segment aired this past week and the last time I'd looked, it had been view by close to a million people. She's signing autographs.

Marlene told Jilda the last time we were at Walmart that all the attention was because of the story I wrote. 

It was nothing for me to snap a picture and take a few minutes to capture her story. But for Marlene, it set off a chain of events that became significant in her life. 

Sometimes we don't realize that even the small things we do can make a difference in someone's life.



Monday, January 07, 2019

A gift

I rolled out of bed at 6 a.m. and wobbled to the kitchen. Once there I stood at the counter looking at the coffeemaker as if it were an apparition. My brain was in slow-mo.

Pulling the filter holder out, I realized that I hadn't prepared the coffee the night before. I shook my head to clear out the cobwebs and headed to the deck to dump yesterday's grounds.

The compost bucket sits on the railing to the left of the door. Peering eastward through the trees in the hollow, I saw scarlet clouds on the horizon. 

I pulled the phone from my pocket and snapped a few pictures. Then I stood there a long time watching the colors change.

As I walked back inside, I realized that forgetting to make the coffee last night was a gift.



Sunday, January 06, 2019

Symmetry

Our chickens are always happy to see me. This morning when I went down to feed them I had a colander filled with scraps of lettuce and tomatoes leftover from dinner last night. They've learned that the colander means they'll be getting a treat.

They make low guttural sounds when I bring them treats. On days when all I have to offer them is scratch feed and high protein laying pellets, they peck my shoes. They are also quite fond of my college ring.

Most of the chickens we've had in the past were fearful of humans. Whenever I stepped into the pen, they fled to the far corners until I filled their feeders.

These hens are friendly. They follow me around. I can sometimes pick them up without them going postal.

Each morning when I walk back to the house, I'm carrying four fresh eggs. That doesn't sound like a lot, but this past week I gave two dozen eggs to the people I work with the at newspaper office. I make a delivery every few weeks. Now that the produce stand is back open, I'm going to ask if he'll sell them for me in exchange for produce. I think this arrangement has a certain symmetry to it.








Saturday, January 05, 2019

The best vantage points

It seems like weeks since we've seen the sun. Today there was not the first cloud in the sky. The wind was cool, but the sun was warm on my face.

After a few laps of our walk, I laid down. Caillou must have been enjoying the sun too because he came over and flopped down beside me. Jilda snapped a picture.

When I was a kid, I spent hours lying on my back watching the clouds and listening to the sound of the breeze or many the caws of a murder of crows in the distance.

I'm not sure what happens when we get older, but for some reason, we don't take the opportunity to view life from the best vantage points.





Friday, January 04, 2019

It's a boy

We had a gathering this evening. It was a "reveal party" for my nephew and his wife. This is their second child. The first one in our great nephew Antony. 

After we ate, they cut the cake. The bottom layer was blue. Anthony was ecstatic that he's getting a little brother.

I didn't have a picture today so I dug through the archiver and found one from ten years ago. I took it one weekend when we visited Desoto State Park in North Alabama.


Thursday, January 03, 2019

My friend Ray

My old buddy Ray died the week before Christmas. I've known him for as long as I can remember. He never finished high school, but he was an incredible carpenter.

The year after I retired from MaBell, I decided to remodel the house. We spent weeks rebuilding the decks, building arbors, and putting concrete siding on the house. He showed up at 7 a.m. daily and worked until quitting time.

Every couple hours, he'd take a break. We'd find a shady spot in the backyard and sit for a few minutes. He drank ice tea from his thermos and smoke unfiltered Camels. He never ate lunch because he said it slowed him down.

When we started back to work, he'd stand for a long moment organizing his actions in his head before reaching for his hammer or saw. He measured carefully. After make a mark with a flat pencil he kept behind his ear, he would study the marks just to make sure they hadn't moved. When he cut and placed the wood it always fit snugly.

A few years ago, I had a little work that needed to be done. When I called him, he said he'd been having problems with his heart and that he wasn't doing much work.

Several times when Jilda and I passed his house after that, we'd see him out on his porch swing or sitting on the tailgate of his truck. He had always been thin as a reed, but the last time we saw him at the grocery store, he looked frail.

When we got word just before Christmas that he'd died, we were saddened, but not surprised.

I always admired Ray. He was a craftsman, and as straight as his ruler. If he told you something you could take it to the bank. I never heard him cuss or talk badly about anyone. I will miss my friend.


Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Pictures

I came across a rare family photo tonight. It's one taken about 50 years ago. I think it's the only one in existence. In the picture are not only members of my immediate family, but my dad's mother, father, brother, sisters, and their families. The only three not shown are my older brother Neil was taking the picture, my cousin Carlton was probably off smoking, and my baby brother Darrin who had not yet been born.  I'm kneeling second from the left.

The picture was taken beside the house where I grew up in Sloss Hollow. I never noticed it until this moment, but my dad (top left) is reaching behind my sister to pinch his brother Pete's ear.

Sometimes when I take pictures of people someone protests. "I look a mess." Or, "I don't look good in pictures," I hear both of these great deal.

What I usually tell them is this: 50 years from now, you will thank me for taking this picture of you and your family.

Pictures are important. They help you to remember when your mental pictures begin to fade. I remember the dress my baby sister was wearing as she sat in my grandpa's lap the day this picture was taken. I remember that my cousin Randal (far right standing), who is one of the brightest people I've ever known, often carried a pen and paper in his shirt pocket.

Ten of the people in this photograph are dead now.

It would have been easy to have stayed at the table and had another piece of fried chicken and skipped the picture, but I am grateful we didn't.



Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Happy New Year

I sat tapping keys for a long time this evening. I wanted to write something profound. Something that would resonate with my blog buddies. Something they would take with them. That didn't happen.

I then looked at my camera for a recent picture. A picture that would elicit ooooo and ahhhhhhs. Nada.

My fall back goto muse box of instant ideas was empty.

Pulling up Google photos, I scanned backward eight years. The random blue confetti sky picture I chose sums up my thoughts for the New Year up nicely.



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