Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Mulberry sky

The paper is doing a series of stories on addiction. My subject is a woman alcoholic who is in recovery. I interviewed her yesterday at her workplace but businesses sometimes get antsy about publicity, no matter how important the story is.

At any rate, she lives not far from the Mulberry Forks so I made an appointment to take pictures this evening there at the boat launch. It was on her way home. The pictures looked great.

After she left, I flopped down the tailgate of my truck and hopped onto the edge of the bed. The sky was beautiful.  I snapped several pictures of the river and the sky.

This is the one I chose to use tonight.


Monday, August 19, 2019

Into the sky

After class tonight, I carried the bag of yoga mats to the car while Jilda said her goodbyes to the students.

When I walked out, the Park & Rec field had manager had switched off the lights on the toy bowl football field casting the lot in momentary darkness.

I think it was serendipity because the darkness highlighted the sky off to the west.  Had the class lasted another few minutes, I would have missed something worthwhile.

Thankfully, I had my big camera in the car. Pulling it out of the protective bag, I snapped on the telephoto lens. It reached out past the parking lot and into the sky.


Sunday, August 18, 2019

Shed talk

The sky was cloudless most of the day. We didn't have a lot on our calendars so after our morning walk, I headed to the shed. 

It had gotten to the point to where when I took something down there to store, I would open the door cautiously, toss the item in and then close the door before an avalanche of tools, toys, and junk squashed me like a bug.

The temps were pushing 100 but the shed is in the shade. I would work 30 minutes before heading back inside to cool and hydrate.

By this afternoon, I started seeing real progress. Finishing will take a few more hours, but I'm on a roll.

I came across one old treasure I'd forgotten about. It's an RC cola bottle. I think it was an earlier one because I remember the later ones being different.

We'll hang on to this one.


Saturday, August 17, 2019

Eight pounds of fuzzy love

We napped today, but my sleepy bliss was interrupted. I heard snoring. At first, I thought it was a dream. Eyes opened and listening. 

There it was. Again I heard a snore and then a snub. It wasn't Jilda. She rarely snores. 

When I looked over, it was Taz who is Jilda's shadow. 

My wife rarely makes a step that her tiny shadow is not in her footsteps. 

She was on the love seat next to my sleeping wife - snoring. 

Sitting up on the couch, I picked up one of my beekeeping books and began to read.

Taz realized that I was awake, so she sat up and glared at me. She seemed to be saying - if you wake mama up, you're in big trouble mister. You'll sleep on the couch tonight.

As often happens, the phone rang. It was for Jilda. I handed the phone to her, grabbed a handful of pastitsio nuts, my glass of sweet tea, and headed to the back deck for an afternoon snack.

Taz was uninterested in the phone conversation, so she came outside with me. 

As I looked over at her, I realized that she is eight pounds of fuzzy love.



Friday, August 16, 2019

Barn dreams

My nephew Haven is a plumber and he has connections with craftsmen/women in the area. He has a carpenter that specializes in restoring old structures.

The carpenter works a full-time job and does contracts on the weekend. I'm hoping this guy can help me make repairs on the barn.

I'll start buying up the timbers and siding that I need. We also have scaffolds that make the higher work much easier.

There's no way anyone will want to work in this heat. Hopefully, the weather will break next month and bring cooler temps.

I dreamed about the barn last night. My mind does that. When I switch gears and start focusing on a project, the work starts showing up in my dreams.

Below are pictures from the restoration of the front and sides several years ago.





















Thursday, August 15, 2019

Next up

Now that the chicken pen is finished, there's another project I've been scooting down the todo list for about four years.

There was an oak tree behind the barn that lightning had smite'd many years ago. I kept telling myself that I needed to cut the dead tree down but I never did.

When storms swept through in the spring of 2015, the tree fell. Thankfully, part of it fell one way and the trunk fell toward the barn.

The very tip of the truck raked siding off the back of the barn. All the beams and rafters were intact, but the siding was gone. It could have been much worse.

The front and sides of the barn look great, but the rear wall bugs me every day when we walk. FIX ME. FIX ME. I DESERVE BETTER TREATMENT THAT THIS. I'VE KEPT YOUR TRACTOR DRY FOR ALMOST A HUNDRED YEARS.

I've contacted carpenters a few times, but I never managed to get a game plan together to make repairs.

At the first of the year when I noted the projects for this year, the chicken pen was close to the top, but just under was to fix the rear of the barn.

I'll use treated 6" x 6" timbers on the corners, 4" x 6" on the foundation. I can get these at Home Depot. The siding is another story. The sawmill where I bought the wood when I rebuilt the front and sides went out of business.

This week, I found a sawmill that does rough-cut siding for the sides.

Soon, we'll begin making repairs. I'll document the progress here.


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

I loved that guitar

We lived in a house trailer in 1975. It wasn't air-conditioned. We'd been married a year and we both worked at jobs that paid just over minimum wage which was $2.10 an hour.

I wasn't a whiz with finances back then. Even though we barely earned enough to eat and keep the lights on, I bought a Gibson Les Paul. It cost more than the car we drove.

The payments were low. It took three years but I finally paid it off.

It was a beautiful guitar. The design of the neck and the fretboard made playing the guitar feel almost like cheating.

A few years later, I got a job with the phone company and our prospects became brighter. We still weren't "in the money." but things were looking up.

As often happens when you live close to the edge, our car started guzzling oil. The engine on the old Plymouth Valiant was shot. We still couldn't afford a new car, so I did something that I still regret. I sold the Les Paul to a guy that worked with me at MaBell.

Scanning through some old photographs today, I came across this picture that Jilda took of me playing the Les Paul. I felt a twinge of sadness.

Did I mention that I loved that guitar?


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Incognito

We walked even earlier this morning. Even so, that air was thick and still. The dogs were giddy when we started but their enthusiasm waned after the first lap.

Jilda and I pushed on and got a head start on our daily exercise goals.

After we finished, Jilda went inside to make us protein shake with blueberries, and too many other ingredients to name.

I went out to feed the chickens and give them fresh water. The last chore was to fill the backyard containers for the birds and bees.

When I flipped over the watering dish, a small frog hopped onto my shoe. I wasn't expecting it and almost had a hygiene issue. When I lifted the dish a little higher to was out some grass and dead leaves, I noticed another amphibian except this one was incognito.

It blended in so well with the earth, dead grass, and leaves that I almost missed him (or her.)

Not much else to report from the homefront - Take it away, maestro.




Monday, August 12, 2019

Spider's web

I normally post my column on Monday nights, but my column came from seeds that I wrote on here last week so I won't do a repeat.

When Jilda and I were walking yesterday morning, we were on our last lap up the barn road. She was a step behind me but I heard her say LOOK.

When I stepped back I saw a spider's web that looked like vinyl record hanging by a silk thread. I wasn't sure if the light was good enough, but turns out, I think it was just right.


Sunday, August 11, 2019

Flowers and grass

There were a few things I needed to do in the chicken pen before calling it a wrap. They needed a roost and laying boxes. Before long, they will be leaving us gifts each day. 

There are only so many eggs two people can eat. We expect to get about a dozen a day. Soon we'll supply our extended family and our friends. 

Jilda's sister gives eggs to the Jimmie Hale Mission which is a home for homeless men. Once our hens get to crankin' we'll add some eggs to her donation. 

It was brutally hot today. I waited until the pen was in the shade before going down there to work. I took it in 30-minute blocks. I'd work until I felt like a wet sponge and then I'd go inside and cool off. It took about three trips down there before I finished.

We have a chair down next to the pen and I sat for a moment admiring my work. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see what looked like dozens of butterflies on our wildflower meadow beyond the backyard fence.

I've taken and posted a bunch of butterfly pictures, but I decided to use one of the flowers and the grass.


Saturday, August 10, 2019

Buckeyes

Buckeyes. They look like harmless seeds growing on an obscure tree here in Alabama but in the hands of a pre-pubescent kid they can be lethal...or at the least, very painful.

When I was a kid, we didn't have electronics. We did have a TV, but it was black and white. It hummed and crackled before the speckled picture materialized on the screen. This didn't hold a hyper kids attention long unless it was Saturday morning and there were horror movies showing.

So, we had to find other ways to entertain ourselves. We spent a lot of time fishing, hunting, swimming in creeks, and building forts. Yes, we were at war a great deal during those years.

One of my best weapons was a stick about 40 inches long and buckeye seeds.

You see, you can sharpen the end of a hedge limb and scrunch on a buckeye seed about the size of a golfball and you had firepower.

Even if the enemy was 50 yards away if your aim was true and the wind was right you could smack an enemy invader in the head. Believe me. I've been the whack-or and the whack-ee. When a buckeye seed whizzing at what seems like the speed of light smacks you on the head it hurts.

It's a thousand wonders I escaped childhood with both eyes, all my teeth, and only a few permanent scars.

I thought of this today during our morning walk when I saw buckeyes down by the barn.


Friday, August 09, 2019

Zelda

The air temp today was 97 degrees F. I couldn't do the physical work on my todo list, but whizzing around the farm on my John Deere...that's another story.

I cut a few acres of grass. When the green beast slung the last blade of grass out the side, I switched off the blades and drove toward the shade.

Pulling up close to the beehives, I switched off the engine. The engine ticked as it cooled. When the weather is this hot, wads of bees hang out on the outside of the hive.

With a hand cupped to my ear, I could hear the drone of bees inside the hive fanning their wings to cool the queen.

The honey flow is almost over. Most of the plants where bees gather nectar and pollen are withering in the blistering heat. Soon the dynamics of the hive will change and the bees will start making ready for fall and winter. Tomorrow, I plan to harvest two more hives. I hope they are as full as the one I did last Sunday.

After zen'ing (is that a word?) with the bees for a while, I pulled the lawnmower up to the house and switched off the motor.

As I swung off, I noticed a flurry of butterflies. Pulling my phone from my pocket, I stepped over to the garden to see if I could get a picture for tonight's blog. I did.

Meet my new friend Zelda. She's tending our zinnias. She loves Joan Jett, brie, and sunset flutters with her bestie.

After taking several pictures, I stood still and held out my pointing finger. Zelda fluttered around and almost alighted but she didn't want to seem "easy" so she opted for a sunflower.

I think I'm in love.




Thursday, August 08, 2019

Na Na Na Boo Boo

I spent most of the day writing. At first, the porch was my office and then I retired to my office. After Jilda left for work, I took a break and meditated for 20 minutes. Meditation is refreshing.

At my next break, I stepped to the back deck to sip sweet tea and munch on parched peanuts. Eating peanuts is a process. 

The dogs know the drill. Samantha's dog gets on one side of me and Ol' Hook gets on the other. I eat one peanut, then I give one to each of the dogs. They will sit there patiently for hours.

Today while I cracked the shells from the peanuts, I watched what seemed like dozens of butterflies. They were across the fence in the field of zinnias, and on the flowers in the bed next to the deck.

At one point, a tiger swallowtail almost alighted on the rim of my glass of tea. Slowly pulling the camera from my pocket, I was close to snapping a picture but it fluttered off. I'm sure it was singing Na Na Na Boo Boo.

I had to settle for two small bees on a pink zinnias.


Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Harvest time

My intention Sunday was to harvest honey from all my hives. After coffee, I suited up. While the bees are fairly docile most of the time they get testy when you start fooling with their honey.

I can't imagine why. It takes 60,000 bees a month to collect a super of honey. OK, just reading the previous sentence makes me feel a little bad...but I digress.

When I put on my coveralls, a long-sleeve shirt, my bee suit and leather gloves I headed in. By the time I popped the top of the first hive, I was pouring perspiration. Did I mention that bees are tidy insects? The only thing they dislike worse than sloth is a beekeeper that's sweaty. They were NOT happy with me.

The suit keeps me safe from stings but I thought I could hear them talking bad about my parents as I worked.

When I lifted the first super from the beehive, I grunted. It was heavy. Setting the super onto my cart, I went about some hivish routines.

I looked inside a second box, but instead of frames of amber honey, these were almost black. I was freaked. I imagined all kinds of disease, locusts, pestilence, and other maladies.

Closing the hive, I knew my internal thermometer was telling me the fun was over.

I pulled the cart back toward the house with hundreds of angry bees buzzing BRING BACK OUR HONEY YOU SCALAWAG.

When I pulled the frames from the super (the box that holds the frames) they were all filled with capped honeycomb. This is a beekeeper's dream.

When I harvested all the frames, I weighed the bucket. The scales showed 30 pounds.

Today, Jilda sterilized all of our jars and I drew six quarts and four pints of honey from the bucket and there is still a gallon left.

When I called the old beekeeper about the black honeycomb, he laughed. He said that all the honeycomb turns that color as it ages. I smiled when I heard those words.

Hopefully, it will be a little cooler this weekend so I can harvest the other hives.

I'ma loving this work.





Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Slim pickin's tonight

I spent most of the day behind the wheel. When I glanced into the rearview mirror this evening, my eyes looked like road maps. As I stepped out of the truck in the driveway, my knees squeaked.

This evening as I looked for a picture to use tonight, I came across this picture of a horse and buggy that I took a few weeks ago.

I wondered what it would be like to ride across the U.S. in one of these?


Monday, August 05, 2019

My brother Darrin ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Newspapers, broadcasts, and social media have been throbbing with stories about the opioid epidemic these last few weeks. A common sentiment is that it’s tragic.
My family felt the tragedy first-hand. My brother Darrin died of liver failure. His decline began with an
addiction to opioids. He was 35 years old.
In the beginning, the pills he took were legal. A freak storm covered Atlanta with a sheet of ice. Darrin slipped on a sidewalk and injured his back, and the pain was unbearable.
His doctor prescribed pain meds, which helped him sleep at night. The injury was one that was tricky. By the time his injury healed, he was hooked.
During the following years, Darrin didn’t get home to Alabama much. He was always busy at work or money was tight. I think he was keeping his family at a distance because of his addiction.
When he did come home, he seemed different. I knew without asking that something in his life had changed.
When doctors stopped refilling his prescription, he managed to find pills on the street. 
When he couldn’t find pills or didn’t have the money to buy them, he took Tylenol. Darrin told Jilda during one conversation that he took over-the-counter pills by the handful. 
He lost his job in Atlanta. The details were sketchy. He called me for help, so Jilda and I drove to Atlanta. We gave him some money and helped him load his belongings into a U-Haul. 
Darrin had a friend who lived in Houston, and he promised that jobs were plentiful. “I’ll get a job, and things will get better,” Darrin said.
As he drove away that day, I had a sinking feeling that came over me like a shadow. It felt like I was losing my baby brother.
For a time, things did seem to be better. He drove home for Christmas and a few other holidays during this time. He and his friend stayed at our house. It was his safe place.
He knew neither Jilda nor I would judge him. 
Each time I saw him over the following few years, he was thin as a reed, and his face was gaunt. He’d also contracted hepatitis. 
One evening, his roommate called to say that Darrin had been admitted to the hospital, and he was in bad shape. I drove my mom and sisters to Houston. 
When mother saw Darrin in that hospital bed, she wept. We stayed in Houston for a few days until his condition improved. 
Mother cried for most of the trip home. I remember her saying, “I won’t ever see Darrin alive again.” She didn’t.
The hospital released him into a halfway house in Houston. It was like a live-in hospice. I tried to convince Darrin to move home, but I believe he was at a point in his life that he didn’t want to be a burden to his family. 
He was dying because of the decisions he’d made in his life. Deep down, I think he understood that.
A few months later, Jilda and I drove to Houston to visit him in his new digs. He was weak but sounded upbeat. When I think back, the people who cared for my brother during the last days of his life were more than kind; they were saints.
In November 2000, the halfway house called and said that Darrin was fading. Jilda and I packed quickly. I was topping off the tank of my car, getting ready to head west when my cell phone rang. It was too late.
Darrin’s death made me acutely aware of the opioid problem. “Died in his/her residence,” became a common phrase on the obit page of the paper.  I know for a fact that many of these deaths were accidental overdoses of prescription drugs. 
Almost every family I know has been affected by this crisis. I don’t have the answers to this problem, but I think we can all agree it is time to work toward a solution.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

It's finally raining

The weatherman said yesterday that we had an 80% chance of rain, but that lying son of an unwed mother has lied to us before.

This morning I said some unkind things about his ancestors. 

Blistering would be an appropriate adjective for today.  Hellish is another that comes to mind. I have more, but you get the idea. 

Later, when Jilda looked at the weather for today, swine swore that we had a 60% chance of rain. 

We decided to take a different approach. Instead of doubting, we took him at his word. We talked about how nice it would be to smell rain on the wind.

We took our ferns off the screen porch and put them by the fountain so they could enjoy the impending showers.

As we ate supper tonight, Taz our little dog skittered into the tv room and jumped into our lap.

She never does that unless she's frightened.

We muted the TV and opened the door to the screen porch and listened. We both smiled when we heard thunder in the distance.

Suddenly, rain began drumming on our metal roof. 

I haven't heard a more beautiful sound in some time.







Saturday, August 03, 2019

No rain

We drove into Birmingham today to pick up my contact lenses. Jilda called our friends Kaye and Jamie to see if they wanted to have lunch at a nearby restaurant. They did so we did.

It's always good to see them. They both are creative types and I'm always amazed at the things they are doing.

On the way home on the Interstate, we drove through torrential rains. The speed limit was 70, but I moved over to the far-right lane and slowed to 45. There were many cars that saught shelter of overpasses. 

One SUV blew past us but hit a strip of water on the road. Fortunately, they maintained control. I'm sure the driver had a hygiene issue because he flipped on his blinker and moved into the lane in front of us and slowed to a reasonable thunder-storm speed.

As we got closer to home, the clouds dispersed. The gauge on our car that shows the outside temp went from 71 to 84 degrees as we got closer to home.

Our community has an umbrella of high pressure floating above. All the other communities around us have had torrential rain in the last few days, but the best we can manage is a sprinkle so light that we didn't turn on the windshield wipers when we drove in.

My brother-in-law is an amateur weatherman. People laugh when I say that, but he'd right more often than the high-dollar meteorologists on camera.

Anyhow, he said it will take a tropical disturbance in the Gulf to push our high-pressure area off to the east and allow us to get some precious rain.

I don't want anything bad to happen to our friends on the Gulf, but we sure could use some rain.

Below is a picture I shot with my DSLR camera yesterday at sunset. It looks almost mystical.


Friday, August 02, 2019

Chickens

My great-nephew Jordan was here before our coffee cooled this morning. He was ready and raring to put the finishing touches on the new chicken pen.

We did most of the work yesterday, but we still needed to install latches on the door and drape netting over the pen to keep owls and hawks away from the chickens.

It took a few hours and we were almost finished when Jilda called us for breakfast. She'd prepared waffles with slabs of bacon.

Jordan dropped the tools and sprinted for the back door. I shouted after him that we could finish after breakfast. The backdoor closed before I got the word breakfast out. Did I mention that he loves waffles?

Afterward, we went out and put the finishing touches on the pen. Once we were sure everything was ready, he went into the chicken house where they have lived for most of their lives and opened the little door to allow them into the larger pen.

They were skittish at first, but after the first two ventured out, the rest were all trying to jam through the door at the same time.

We videoed Jordan giving a brief explanation of all the work we've done to get the habitat ready for his chickens.

We've taken a ton of pictures throughout the process so we're hoping that he has a shot at winning an award during the 4-H event in September.

This evening, I walked down and sat for a while watching the birds.  They are a beautiful bunch.

Jordan told me this one was an Australorp. I had to take his word for it.


Thursday, August 01, 2019

something I needed to say

I spent the morning writing my column for Sunday. This was a tough one. A recent Washington Post article gave statistics on opioids. It was eye-opening for some.

The numbers were dated, but from 2006 to 2012, pharmacies in the county where I live distributed the equivalent of 140 pills for per person in the county. Most of these pills filtered through a handful of pharmacies.

During that time, it was not uncommon to read the obits in the daily paper that someone died in their residence. Had the person that died been elderly that would be understandable, but when they are 22 years old, that's a different story. It's almost always a code phrase for accidental overdose. I don't know how many people died as a result of opioid addiction.

My column was about my baby brother. He died of liver failure, but his decline started when he hurt his back when he slipped on an icy sidewalk.

Needless to say, the column while I'll post next Monday evening is not a happy one, but it's something I needed to say.

On a happier note, I saw another harbinger of autumn on our morning walk.




Please consider sharing

Email Signup Form

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required