Sunday, April 21, 2019


The sky was remarkable today. Last night was chilly, but once the sun cleared the trees things warmed up fast. 

When I walked down first thing this morning to check on the bees, they were moving slow. A few hours later when the temps rose, I went back for another look. All four hives were in a frenzy. Bees flying off in every direction. 

In years past, I kept all the property mowed. This year, I'm creating meadows by leaving swaths of clover and yarrow. After things stop blooming, I'll probably have to mow the grass with the big tractor, but the bees will appreciate the nectar. 

When we walked today, Jilda suggested we go and look at her brother's roses. His place is perfect because several years ago, he cut most of the trees on his property and his yard gets full sun for most of the day. Apparently, roses like that. 

We could smell the aroma before we got to the bushes. I'm a bit envious but I wouldn't give up our trees to have better roses so I'll have to be content to envy his.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Bee stuff

I ordered a book from a second-hand book store earlier this week, and it arrived today. You may have guessed that it's a book about bees. I checked the ebook out of the library a few weeks ago and read the first part, but I wanted to highlight and make notes in the margin. Library ebooks are not jiggy with that. 

My friend Danny came across the book at the thrift store and sent me the link. I ordered it immediately. The title is A Book of Bees by Sue Hubbell. It's a beautifully written book about a woman who is a beekeeper. 

This week I added boxes on the two new hives. This box is where the bees make honey for me. Anything below the top box is to feed the little buzzers. 

When I took the top off the first hive there were bees there and they were working, but the number of bees looked fairly small.  When I took the top off the last hive that swarmed, they were busting at the seems. They'd filled the bottom two boxes with brood eggs, larvae, and honey. 

I haven't looked inside the original two boxes yet but I plan to do that tomorrow. I've been taking an online course from the Ohio State Beekeepers Association. It's teaching me what to look for and how to keep my hives healthy. 

So far, I've enjoyed this endeavor. I can't wait till the honey starts flowing.

This picture was taken before the last swarm.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Stormy weather

It's rained all day. Earlier in the week, it was warm enough to swim. Tonight the weatherman is saying the county to the north of us could experience snow flurries.

Last night the radar looked ugly. Jagged lines of red and orange raced toward us with each sweep of the radar.  We saw some lightning and Caillou heard thunder and wanted to get in Jilda's lap. She hated not to oblige, but he's a beast. Our lights blinked a few times but they held strong. 

When I looked out this morning, there were limbs everywhere. Also, the old hemlock tree that I'd planned chainsaw down today was on the ground. When we walked, we found several other trees that had blown down overnight. 

I'm thankful we didn't have any real damage.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Blustery day

Today was blustery. WeatherFolk have been jabbering for days about the potential for bad weather. While Jilda was finishing lunch, I stepped onto the deck with a small bag of roasted peanuts and a glass of ice tea.

The sun was warm, but I could hear the winds aloft pushing clouds across the sky. The wind chimes on the back deck were playing the tune of an angry minstrel.

After lunch and a short nap, I headed to the middle school to snap a few pictures of a snake show. Each year, a guy brings a variety of snakes to the school to give the children nightmares (just kidding.) Most of them love seeing the snakes, but only the brave ones agree to handle them.

When I arrived, there were kids everywhere. The school board had decided to send the kids home early to beat the line of storms that were pressing down on the area. I'll have to shoot the snake show another day.

When I started to exit the parking lot, I noticed a bank of red clover with scattered yellow flowers mixed in. With the sky as a backdrop, I knew it would be a good opportunity for pictures. I snapped a few.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Color this time of year

Jilda and I both had doctors appointments this morning. Mine was a semi-annual checkup. The one in the spring is a fasting event. No food after midnight. When I don't have coffee in the mornings I get a little "snip'afied." Is that a word?

The lab got me through quickly and sent me to the doc for some therapeutic spanking (just kidding.) His physician's assistant came in and grilled me. She also did a memory test. Have you had one of these? They gave me five words to think about and then gave you some simple math problems. 

She then told me a short story. After the story, she asked me questions. Then, she asked for the five words she'd given me when she started the test. I answered everything correctly except on question. The trick is to actually listen. 

When the doctor came in he said all the lab work was great and that he would see me in the fall.

It was a beautiful day. On the drive home, I saw horses grazing in a field so I stopped and snapped the picture below. The color this time of year is remarkable.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Bee knowledge

The bees haven't found these yet. They are all over the blueberries bushes and the tulip poplar blossoms, but not this baby. It's hidden on the east side of the house in the shade of a sweet gum tree.

Bees are not easily fooled. They are nectar sleuths. Just the fact mam. Where do you keep the rhododendrons? 

I fretted when I added the newly swarmed hives. I thought going from two hives to four within a few weeks might put pressure on the things blooming here in early spring.

Apparently, that fret was ill-founded. They need a bee traffic controller when the sun comes up.

Bees are tidy creatures. The abhor slothful ways and they are not fond of things unclean. Even when it's too cold to forage they will leave the hive long enough to use the bathroom instead of doing their business in the hive.

I still have so much to learn about these critters.

Maybe I'll put up a sign tomorrow with an arrow pointing to the rhododendrons.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Barns ~ my column from Sunday's paper

The recent rains have felt tropical.  One moment the sun was blazing with white clouds drifting across an azure sky and the next it was raining so hard I had to drive with my emergency flashers blinking.

The humidity felt like a steam room. It reminded me of Panama in 1971. The light was incredible. I shot several pictures for the paper but also some for myself. One of the last scenes that caught my attention was an old barn just off of Bryan Road in Sumiton. Did I mention that I love barns?

I had a few minutes to kill, so I pulled over to the edge of the road and off switched the engine. My boots crunched on the gravel as I walked around trying to get the right angle. 

Over to the right, I saw the landowner about to walk out to make sure I wasn't up to no good. I held the camera up and pointed to the barn. He got the message and went on about his work. In the past, I’d passed the barn a gazillion times, but the light never seemed to be right. Today, it was. 

The pasture was full of grass with yellow flowers. Later, when I did a Google search, I found the grass was called buttercup flowers. I’ve always called daffodils buttercups, but these weren’t daffodils.

When I was a kid, we had a tool shed, but we never had a barn. I’d seen hundreds of barns on the roadside with “See Rock City” painted on the tin roof, but I’d never been inside one until the first time I visited my cousin Marvin. His family lived on a farm, and they had a barn out in their pasture. 

I think the structure had been red at one time, but time had stripped it down to the color of ash. Inside were stacks of hay for the horses and cattle. Their barns were their own bouquet of earthy smells - fresh hay, dried corn, cow manure, and other smells that I could not name. 

My cousin and I spent time in that barn working. Some would consider the chores we did backbreaking, but I enjoyed the labor. After work, we found time to jump from the hayloft onto piles of hay. Those summers working on the farm were fond childhood memories.

Fast forward to the first time I ever set foot on the property where Jilda and I now live. It was in the spring of 1974 (I think.) I parked by the mailbox, and we walked down the long drive to the old house on the property. The hollow was filled with dogwoods in full bloom. They looked like clouds beneath the canopy.

At the end of the road were ancient oak and hickory trees. Behind the old house stood a red barn that looked older than father time. There was a cottonwood tree next to the barn, and the sticky lavender blooms smelled like grapes. 

Jilda and I both fell in love with the property that day, but I think it was the barn that spoke to me on a seminal level. It's like the faded wood was saying: Hey, this is important – take a moment to consider my role in the fabric of your life. 

We both knew at that moment that this is where we wanted to be. We were broker than the 10 Commandments then, but I felt somewhere in my core that someday this place would belong to us. It was a twisted road, but it happened.

Did I mention that I love barns?

Sunday, April 14, 2019


The wedding I mentioned last night was in Gainesville, Florida. We have been there for a few days but I don't write about "being away from home" on this blog. 

I have aggregators that syndicate my blog on Twitter and Facebook. I think it also does a hieroglyphic on a cave in Egypt as well, though I've never personally checked. So, I don't want to advertise to the world that we are away from home...but I digress.

We were in Gainesville and had free time on Saturday morning for some sightseeing. We'd planned to go to the Butterfly Museum but discovered it's near the University of Florida campus and they were having their spring training football game. We chose to do plan B which was the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens.

The time of the year was not optimal because many of the things won't be in their prime until later, but it was still beautiful.

We wandered through the paths as if we were lost in an enchanted forest. There were oak trees that looked as old as time. Bamboo forests, herb and butterfly gardens, and a labyrinth.

I shot over a hundred pictures, but I will start off with one I took in the butterfly garden.

Saturday, April 13, 2019


Jilda and I attended a beautiful wedding this evening. It was the daughter of two of our dearest friends. The event was remarkable and brought people together from around the country.

After the wedding service was a mixer while the food was being prepared. There were probably 350 people standing, sipping champagne and laughing.

Jilda and I both met a lot of new people and the common question was: how do you fit into the picture?  The stories about how people are connected were simply amazing. 

The reception was out of a storybook.

At the end of the father/daughter dance, a recording came over the speakers. It was a recording of the bride when she was an infant. She was talking to her father.

In the context of this event, it was one of the most moving things I've ever heard. The recording of that conversation brought tears to the eyes of everyone in that room. 

I love weddings. For some reason, they give me hope.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Eerily beautiful

Jilda and I had the opportunity to visit a place we'd never been a while back. The historic district of Micanopy, Florida. As often happens, we found it by accident.

We were heading to an event and took the wrong exit. When we turned to go under the Interstate and head back in the other direction, Jilda saw an old sign pointing to a historic area. 

We thought we'd venture a few blocks to see if there was anything to see and found a beautiful old village. It was close to a nature preserve. 

There was a historic battle there between the U.S. Army and the Seminole tribe. Reading the historical account made me sad. 

The trees in Micanopy were hanging full of ash-gray moss. The strands of moss blowing in the wind looked like lace scarves. 

It was beautiful in an eerie sort of way. 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Wild daisies

Tonight my head is empty. I've tapped the letters off the keys on my laptop and nada. Thankfully, I had a photo I could use. 

I came across these wild yellow daisies this morning. I know they were wild because there were empty wine bottles lying about and they all looked as if they had hangovers.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Getting beautiful

 On the way home yesterday, the rain had moved off to the north leaving a Monet'ish scene on the lake near the house.

When I pulled in to take a picture, the ducks thought I was bringing them food. They squawked out of the water to greet me but when they realized I did not have food, the plopped back into the lake. I have the feeling they said unkind things about me as they swam away.

It's getting beautiful around here.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

I love barns

It felt like Panama here today. One moment the sun was blazing with white clouds on an azure sky and the next it was raining so hard I had to drive with my emergency flashers blinking. The humidity felt like a steam room. But the light was incredible for most of the day. 

I shot several pictures for the paper, but I also shot some for myself. 

There's an old barn not far from where my sister lives. I had a few minutes to kill, so I pulled over to the edge of the road and switched the engine off. I walked around to get the right angle. 

Off to the right, I saw the farmer about to walk out to make sure I wasn't up to no good. I held the camera up and pointed to the barn. He got the message and went on about his work.

Barns are special. Each time I look at a barn, it speaks to me on a seminal level. It's like the faded wood is saying: Hey, this is important – take a moment to consider my role in the fabric of your life. 

When I do take time, it seems to slow my mind down. 

Several years during summer, I would spend a few weeks with my cousins who lived on cattle farms. Their barns were an aromatic bouquet. Fresh hay, dried corn, cow manure, and other smells that I could not name. 

I so worked hard doing chores that it made it easy to fall asleep each night.  

Spending time in barns was a good way to spend time in the summer. 

Did I mention that I love barns?


Monday, April 08, 2019

Cruising down memory lane

I had a memory drift today. One moment I was stopped at the red light on Highway 78 at the Bryan Road intersection in Sumiton, and the next I hung a right down memory lane. 

A blinking bank sign showing the time and temperature is there now, but in the late 1960s, a Mug n’ Cone drive-in sat there. Back then, that restaurant was a cruising hot spot for local teens. I smiled at the memory.

On weekends, the parking lot of that place was abuzz with flirting teenagers and rumbling engines. That was during a time when gas was cheap, and cars were thirsty.

The other places on the East Walker cruising circuit were Sherer’s Drive-in, which sat close to where the Sumiton Post Office now sits, and Bills Park and Eat, which is across from Walmart. Randy’s Crème Cone in Dora completed the circuit.

The cruising began at dusk for those teens with early curfews, but countless cars circled that parking lot until well after closing time.

No self-respecting teen would dare drive a dirty car through that parking lot during the rumble-fest. If a dirty car did drive through, it was probably someone’s parents, and any teens in the car were probably hiding in the backseat.

There was a pecking order of cool. Popular teens with flashy cars were at the top of the list. I was closer to the bottom. I had a 1946 Plymouth coupe that my brother had restored. The old coupe wasn’t on the cool radar for the girls, but the old maroon Plymouth with moon flipper hubcaps often got a subtle nod from the guys.

The car wasn’t as cool if I ever turned the engine off. A weak battery meant the car wouldn't crank unless I had someone to help me push it off so I could pop the clutch and crank the motor.

My first date with Jilda was on my graduation night in May of 1968. Dad loaned me the family's, Plymouth Belvedere. It was a four-door but with all the windows down and the radio cranked to a deafening volume, it worked.

After high school, I enrolled at Jeff State Community College. I flunked English and algebra and scrapped by the other subjects with Cs. The one outlier was world history; I loved the teacher, and I aced the subject…but I digress. My parents paid for the first term at college, but they started the no-pass, no-play rule early on. If I wanted to go to school, I’d be paying for it myself. I got a job.

The main benefit of having a job, other than having money to go to school and eat, was that I had enough left over to buy a car.  I’ve written about this car in the past, so I won’t go into detail, but it was a 1965 Impala SS. The motor in the beast was larger than Rhode Island. I measured fuel efficiency in gallons per mile. I was willing to overlook the mileage because that car was beautiful.

The thing about cruising when we were young is that with four wheels and a few dollars in gas, we could be part of something bigger. Something exciting. We had fun. It made us feel alive. 

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Lesson learned

This evening, Jilda baked chicken with garlic, cherry tomatoes, and chickpeas. Sides were corn on the cob and shredded zucchini. Like most of the things she prepares, it was scrumptious.

We've both put in a full day, so when after we ate dinner, she had some things she needed to do, so I cleaned up the kitchen. I'm not much of a cook, but the Army taught me how to be helpful in the kitchen.

After basic training, Uncle Sam shipped us out to advanced communications training. I was anxious to get started, but as it turns out, classes didn't begin until the following week. The Army is not big on slackers, so I spent a week working in the mess hall.

I peeled mountains of potatoes, shredded cabbage, sliced tomatoes, and washed a million four hundred thousand pots and pans that week.

I also cleaned the grout between the kitchen floor tiles with a toothbrush. I earned that duty because I washed the pots and pans quickly. Silly me thought I would get to take a break when I finished. I mentioned, Uncle Sam, is not jiggy with spare time. The mess sergeant told me he had a special job for me. That's when I cleaned the grout.

I was born at night, but I wasn't born last night. I learned quickly that the task at hand should take just long enough to fill up the time allotted. No more and no less. Lesson learned.

Sorry to drag you down this backstreet memory, but I remembered it while washing the dishes this evening.

I did get a picture of our azaleas today when we were walking.  They are about to put on a show.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Coal fest

We had our first public performance of this season. We played a private event on Thursday, but today was the Coal Festival. Did I mention that we live in the heart of coal country?

My granddad was a coal miner, and Jilda's dad was a retired coal miner. While coal seems to be falling out of favor as an energy source, it was something we had in abundance here where we live.

Coal gave local miners who weren't afraid of working underground, a chance to make a living wage. Most of the miners I know worked hard and being around less than optimal working conditions came with costs.

Today, organizers of the festival wanted to pay tribute to local miners. We were happy we had a chance to open our festival season for folks who aren't afraid of a little hard work.

Friday, April 05, 2019

A little sad today

We had errands in Birmingham this morning, so I started my chores early. When I stepped down to throw some scratch feed to the chickens, I only heard one.

Over the last six months, owls and other critters have killed all of our hens except two. I discovered when I stepped into the pen that only one hen has survived. 

I searched around, and I found the mutilated remains of one halfway under the feed shed. I'm guessing by the looks of the carcass that it was a raccoon. I know these furry critters are cute to look at, but when their survival instincts kick in, they are vicious...especially to docile chickens. 

Before we left for town, I called my nephew and made arrangements for him to take the last chicken until I fortify the pen in my yard. He has a secure place at his house, and he will keep Sweety Pie until we get our pen secured. 

A little sad today.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Ink in the blood

I was busy again today. A friend asked Jilda and me to perform at a quarterly retired educator's luncheon. I love teachers but we couldn't stay for lunch because Jilda had to work this afternoon, and I had a luncheon with my coworkers at the newspaper.

Many newspapers are struggling these days, but our newspaper is doing well. One of the problems with media today is that people get breaking news on their phones and by the time the paper arrives on their front steps, it's old news.

What our paper does differently is that we focus on the local news that you don't get on your phone.

I love newspapers. I get the Birmingham News delivered three days a week and the Mountain Eagle (local paper for which I write) six days a week. I also have online subscriptions to the Washington Post and the New York Times.

The meeting today was to give us a feel for how the paper was doing. He also talked about several exciting things that are in the future. I'm encouraged.

I think ink must be in our blood because Jilda and I both have worked on and off for newspapers since we married in 1974. I came across the picture below from the late 1970s when she worked at The North Jefferson News.

I know I've rambled tonight, but that's how it sometimes goes.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Wednesday report

As I stood at the sink waiting for the coffee to finish dripping, I gazed out the garden door to the south. The sun hadn't reached the horizon, but the first rays of the day tented the top of the hundred-year-old-oak in the barnyard golden.

Mother Nature still hasn't made up her mind whether she wants it cool or warm. This morning she was leaning toward chilly.

I had an early appointment in town, so I hopped on my chores early. The chickens met me at the gate. They were ready for their food.

One of them let me bend over and pet her. That's the first time this has happened willingly. After gathering the eggs, I stepped to the backyard fence and headed down to check on the newly captured swarm of bees.

It was too cool for activity outside any of the hives, but I leaned over and placed my ear against the brood box and listened. I heard a drone at first, but as I stood there listening, I felt them vibrating inside.

I left some sugar water to help them through the chilly weather until more things begin to bloom. When I went down this evening, the quart jar was licked clean.

Yesterday when I captured the swarm, I set up my good camera which does video. Samantha also video'd from afar. This morning, I put it together and uploaded it to YouTube. I'll provide a link below. It's a little over two minutes long. I doubt it will win any awards, but I thought it was important enough to capture

Link to YouTube video.

I drove by this yesterday before I captured the swarm. I can promise the bees on this old farm were rejoicing.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Droning on

I haven't slowed down today. During the morning, I covered a city council meeting and did two interviews.

After that, I headed into town to run some errands, each lunch, and attend a content meeting the paper. 

I delivered out signed tax returns to the accountant who is filing electronically and I stopped by the post office to mail the money we owed to the IRS. I paid extra at the post office to track the check. The postal clerk said she would require the person who accepts the parcel to send back a thumb as proof of delivery.

After lunch and the content meeting, I headed home to write. 

My head was buzzing so I decided to take a short walk before settling down in front of my computer. I noticed that the activity around one of the original hives was way down. I frowned. 

When I started back up toward the garden, I noticed Ol' Hook looking into the peach tree. He's deaf so I wasn't sure what had caught his attention. When I got under the tree I saw what he was looking at. It was another swarm of bees. 

We have now doubled our investment. 

Instead of writing, I had to swing into action to capture this swarm before they headed off into the woods.

Jilda was working and I knew she would have a hissy-fit if I tried to capture the swarm alone, so I called Samantha who lives next door. She sounded excited.

A few minutes later we had the camera set up and she was shooting video on my phone. The operation went seamlessly...I hope. If I go down in the morning and the bees are gone that means I didn't get the queen.

Putting the video together will take a little time. I'll post a link when it's ready.

This weekend, we will plant more wildflowers, clover, and other stuff bees love.

Sorry to keep droning on (pun) about bees.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Black snake

This afternoon, I pulled the truck through the garden to haul topsoil and potting mix to the back gate. We hope to start planting our raised beds this weekend.

As I approached the gate, I noticed a black snake darting through the grass. He saw me and slid under the tiller for cover. 

Ol' Hook was with me, but he walked right by the snake without even a glance. I'm glad because he would have made short work of that little critter had he seen him.

I put Hook in the back gate and stepped back to get a closer look. He was poking his head out the other side of the tiller to see if the coast was clear.

The only camera I had was my phone.

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