Saturday, April 04, 2020

Garden stuff

Jilda and I worked outside for most of the day. I've tried to order potting soil from our local provider because I can pay with a credit card over the phone, and the crew will load it in the truck. But they ran out, and there's no estimated delivery date. So, I went to plan "B."

The tractor has a bucket on the front, so I went into the woods on the back of our property and got several scoops of "woods dirt."  Had Jilda's mom Ruby still been living, that would have been her first recommendation.

It was chilly this morning, but after the sun came out, it got too toasty for us to work. We'll get up in the morning and plant cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, squash, strawberries, potatoes, and sunflowers.

There's a lot of other things that we'll plant as well, but I didn't want to bore you.

Our niece Samantha and her son Jordan are doing a garden too. They are soooo excited. Even though Sam's older brother Haven lives about 12 miles away, he decided to break up a garden spot for his family too.

Today, he and his family came up, and we all sat around outside to enjoy the sun and each other's distant company.

Haven and his wife Alesha have an infant son, Aiden. Alesha laid down in a hammock. She disappeared into the bottom, but young Aiden was alert and didn't miss a thing.

Friday, April 03, 2020

The way my brain feels tonight.

Some days my brain feels like a fishing cork. 
Not a new spongy one, 
but an old one that's spent too much time in the river. 
Hard around the edges. 
Fish make fun of it.
That's no cork, that's a soggy turd.
Yep, that's the way my brain feels tonight.

Fortunately, I snapped a picture of our new crabapple tree that is now in bloom

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Out of words

I've written stories for the newspaper in the last few days about how COVID-19 impacts our community. The people I interviewed were friends. Two have the virus and are in quarantine. The other friend lost her mother last Friday, and her family buried her on Monday.

Tonight, I'm out of words. I usually write my column on Wednesday, but I still haven't come up with an idea that resonates.

The plan is to get a good night's sleep and start fresh in the morning.

Y'all stay safe.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

More important things to share

I saw a thread on social media today bashing journalists. As a journalist, it bothered me. When I sat down a while ago to write, I wrote my thoughts on the situation.

After several paragraphs, I paused and began to backspace the words from my page. I decided there were more important things to share tonight.

While inspecting the blackberries bushes at the edge of the garden, the Tigertail Butterfly almost landed on my finger.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Discover something interesting

When the rain moved out during the early hours of the morning, it left a cold front in its wake. It was over 80 degrees f one day last week, but today a warm sweatshirt felt good.

Jilda walked ahead. I stopped several times to look for new growth on the trees and shrubs we planted earlier in the month. The forestry service apparently knows the best time to sell trees. All of ours survived.

The light was drab, which made the color around us muted. Sometimes, that's not a bad thing. When I rounded the barn and walked to catch up with Jilda, I looked back over my shoulder and saw an untaken picture.

This ancient bicycle leaned against the outside of the barn. I have used that old bike for a photo prop for the past 30 years. I'm guessing my nephew recently used it to take a picture of his boy, who is approaching bicycle age now.

It looked as if the old Schwinn has been there forever. Maybe it has been. But for some reason, it just registered in my consciousness today. I snapped a few pictures.

I hope you discovered something interesting in your life today.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Spring in Empire ~ my column from Sunday's paper

On Tuesday, we got a short reprieve from the rain, and when I walked down to check on the bees, things looked different down toward the barn. The green leaves of the tulip poplar trees made the sky seem even bluer. Springtime has arrived here in Empire.

That evening, we sat on the sofa watching the weather people chattering about storms coming out of Mississippi. We stayed up past our bedtime watching, but the weather gods must have gotten bored because the storms moved off to the east.

This morning as we drank coffee, a ruby-throated hummingbird zipped, dipped, and sipped sugar water from the feeders.

Later, when I stepped down to get the morning paper, I noticed that the dogwoods in our yard had decided to make their debut. The blossoms looked as if they’d been carved from bone. The buds had been on the cusp for days...taunting us. Na Na Na Boo Boo. But then, today, they unfolded. This is how I know it’s spring.

It was the dogwoods that made me fall in love with this farm 50 years ago. I’d heard that the owner wanted to sell seven acres with an old house and a barn.

We were broker than the 10 Commandments back then, but when I told Jilda about it, she agreed that it wouldn’t hurt to look.

We parked the old Plymouth Valiant on the edge of the main road (if you could call it that) and walked to two hundred yards down the barn road. It was about this time of year. The redbud, wild honeysuckles, buckeye bushes, and the dogwoods were in bloom. It smelled like heaven in the hollow.

I’m not sure how long it took us to walk those two hundred yards, but neither of us said much though we did gasp a great deal. Just before we got to the barn, a covey of quail exploded in front of us. I almost had a hygiene issue right there. Jilda and I laughed so hard we had to sit on an old log and catch our breath.

By the time we returned to the car, we both knew that somehow, someway this place would be ours. I knew in my heart that we’d found a place that one day we’d call home.

It wasn’t a Hallmark moment, because it took time. Jilda’s dad was still working, and no one could pinch a dollar like he could. But, he knew the value of land. When Jilda and I rode with him back up to the farm, it was an easy decision for him and Ruby to buy the property.

I think he would have deeded the property to us that day, but he still wasn’t totally convinced that Jilda and I would stay together. I’m sure he believed we still had some growing up to do.

Later, when I’d proved my worth, they deeded us the land. It was a gift that we will never be able to repay.

I thought about that this morning when I realized the dogwoods were blooming.

Walking around the tree, I searched for the perfect angle. The sun was just rising over the eastern horizon and doing what it does best in the morning – which is to show us that life is a circle going round and round.

Even during the darkest times, springtime comes, the sun rises, and the dogwoods bloom.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Azalea toll

It's been a beautiful day here. We drank coffee on our newly liberated screen porch. It was cool this morning, so the ceiling fan whirring overhead had to go. We sipped as the morning sun Cezanne'ed our yard.

The azaleas along the bank next to the road in our yard have bloomed in waves. It started early last week with the white ones. The pink ones followed. Today, we noticed a couple of the crimson ones. I expect them to be out in force next week.

We're thinking about charging an azalea toll for those passing in front of our house.

On a less upbeat note, I noticed several days ago that one of my beehives had little activity. That's not something a beekeeper wants to see in lat March.

This afternoon, I donned my veil and gloves to have a look. It was empty. When I called my beekeeper buddy, he had several theories, but the bottom line is we now need to get a new batch of bees for that empty hive.

I hope your Sunday has been a good one. Stay safe.

Saturday, March 28, 2020


The thermometer crept past 80 degrees (F) today. It's been beautiful. I needed a few pieces of lumber today, so I called our local hardware store and asked if I could order and pay for our order and then have the yard people load it on my truck without having to get close to anyone.  They could, and they did.

When I got home, Jilda was ready to walk. She was walking ahead with Taz, the wonder Yorkie, when she raised her arm in the HALT gesture that we both use from time to time.

When I looked just in front of her, I saw a chicken snake about five feet long. He and his family live in the barn. His family has lived there for as long as we've been here. They feed on mice, moles, voles, and other small critters.

We gave him a wide berth and shooed the dogs on around the barn so they wouldn't bother him (or her).

When we walked the second lap, it had moved on.

I posted a picture on social media, and the comments ran the gamut from – Ah, he's a friendly fellow, to KILL IT!!!!!!

Our neighbors are members of the "If it crawls, smite it" club. As long as the snake stays here, it will be safe. I can't say what will happen if it goes elsewhere.

Friday, March 27, 2020


Today was convert our greenhouse back into a screen porch. We needed muscle, so I hired a helper. Our great nephew Jordan showed up after lunch, and we dove in.

Not only did we have to remove all the frames and plastic, but we had to move all the citrus trees, ferns, bougainvilleas, and other assorted plants we protect from winter's bite. There is a split-leaf philodendron that in ancient. The plant was a gift from grandmother to her mom when they moved back from Chicago in 1965.

When it got too big for Jilda's mom to manage it, she gave it to us. It's in a large pot and weighs slightly less than Chevy Corvair.

Jordan helped me drags everything off the porch, and then he swept a winter's worth of dead leaves and then cleaned the tables, chairs, and the glider.

He earned his keep today. By the time we were finished, we were both whupped. He walked with me down into the garden to check on the beehives. Last year on this day, I captured my first swarm. I'd been a beekeeper for less than two weeks. Alas, there was no swarm today.

Jordan took the opportunity to rest on the garden bench under the oak tree. I think if I'd left him there, he would have napped. 

The school year has ended for the kids in Alabama. For some kids, that might mean an extended vacay from school. That's not the case. His mom is a stickler about reading, writing, science, and complex mathematics.

When he left here, he had to hit the books. Maybe I should have let him grab a nap.

Thursday, March 26, 2020


I had to take two pictures for the paper today. I took both from a distance. When I returned to the truck, I bathed in hand sanitizer. I hope my camera is not allergic.

On the way home, I noticed that the wisteria was in bloom. Wisteria is one of the most beautiful plants in the south. The blooms are violet and hang down like bunches of grapes. The aroma smells like the grape bubblegum that I loved as a child.

Pulling to the edge of the road, I snapped a few pictures. The light was wonky so I wasn't sure how the photographs would look. But it turns out, they looked OK.

I tried to grow wisteria once. I planted a twig by the side of our house. It spread faster than COVID-19.  Soon we had a canopy of wisteria vines, but not flowers.

After a few years, it decided to grace us with blooms. By then, I'd made up my mind that I needed to admire this beauty from afar.

The plant is beautiful and smells like my childhood, but I cut it ALL down and dug up the roots.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Then the sun rises and dogwoods bloom

The storm that moved through last night got bored here in Empire. Not much to demolish, so it moved off quickly to the east.

This morning as we drank our coffee, a ruby-throated hummingbird dipped in and sipped from the feeders.

When I stepped down to get the morning paper, I noticed that the dogwood in our yard had decided to make its debut. They had been on the cusp for days...taunting us. Na Na Na Boo Boo. But then, today.

I had to walk around to get a good angle. The sun was just rising over the eastern horizon and doing what it does best in the morning – which is to show us that life is a circle going round and round.

There will be dark times, but then the sun rises, and dogwoods bloom.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020


The rain moved out early this morning, leaving an azure sky. Don't you love that word? Anyhow, I'd taken a break from writing and went out for a walk. 

My intention was to get a picture of the blooming blueberries with the sky and clouds as a backdrop, but then this pesky raise back swallowtail kept photobombing my pictures. I tried to shoo the little flapper away, but he was persistent, so I decided to take one with him in it.

It was a warm and turbulent day today. The wind chimes on the back deck have worked hard. The long D chime sounded like a church bell. Dong. Dong. Dong.

This evening the atmosphere is churning. One moment the wind out of the south is warm. The next moment, the wind shifts, and it's much cooler coming from the northwest.

Radar shows the worst part going just north of us. My fingers are crossed that it jumps everyone and heads out to an empty sea.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Slow news day

All I have today is an old limb covered with moss. It's Jilda's birthday and we celebrated here. I'm thankful I ordered her gift over a month ago and stored it in the dark part of my closet.

Still keeping our distance. 

Y'all stay safe.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Staying connected

We did videos today. Jilda promised her Monday night yoga class that she would do classes online. We'd never tried doing that before and wasn't sure how it would work. Turns out, it was OK. 

We'll premier it tomorrow evening at 7 p.m., which is what time yoga class begins each Monday evening.

We think it's important to try and find the new normal. It's a moving target right now. For us, it's maintaining a connection with the people that are important to us. 

We've called our family, friends, and neighbors these last several days. Just checking in. 

When we were younger, we did a better job of staying connected. I think smartphones put distance between people. Instead of making eye contact with people around us, our eyes are glued to tiny rectangles of glass. 

The glass has not been as appealing these last few days. 

I hope you all are finding ways to stay connected to those you love.

I think this is a crabapple tree. It's the first time
it's bloomed since we've lived here. 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Honeybee art

Honeybees are remarkable creatures. Had someone told me this before I got my first hives, I would have agreed, but not really understood. Now I understand.

I had a box on one of my beehives that was a mess. I realized it late last summer. It was the first box I assembled after becoming a beekeeper and didn't understand the value of using wood glue and extra nails. When I tried to lift the frames out to harvest the honey, they fell apart, and the comb with the honey flopped sideways. As I said, it was a mess.

When I asked one of my honeybee mentors, he suggested that I leave it there over winter and fix it this spring. "They can eat the honey to help sustain them during the winter," he said. That made sense to me.

Last week, I opened the top, and the box was still a mess, but the bees were working with it. They weren't happy, but I lifted the messy box off, put it in my honey trailer, installed a new hive that I recently built, and closed it up.

Once in the honey house, stripped the messy comb and honey out of the frames and put it in a big aluminum baking pan. Then I took that pan full of wax and honey and rigged up a temporary box on the hive and closed it up.

On Wednesday, I went back out, removed the pan and the temporary box, and replaced the cover. Now the hive is like all the others except it has sturdy boxes and frames. 

The bees had removed all the honey from the comb in the pan and put it on the new box I'd installed when I started this process.

I put the pan in the honey trailer and took it to the honey house. The bees swarmed after me saying unkind things about my mother.

Today, when I got a chance to look at the pan of wax, I was amazed. They not only removed the honey but were transforming a pile of wax into a piece of organic art.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Find joy in your day

My black truck and Jilda's blue Subaru were both yellow today when I went out to plant some potatoes and elderberry bushes. Each time a wind rose up out of the west, it sent a yellow cloud of pine pollen drifting across the yard.

Thankfully, the rain moved in this afternoon. Now the pollen that was on our metal roof is now on the back deck. Hopefully, the rain will clear the air for a few days.

I noticed that the wild honeysuckle bush in the back yard is blooming. It's a beautiful plant that is native to the hills and hollows of the south. I would share a picture of it, but Jilda called dibs on the photo.

I looked into the archives tonight. Flipping through Google Photos, I found this one taken of Jilda and me a million years ago. I needed to smile.

I hope you managed to find some joy in your day.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Beauty around us

Jilda and I sat on the back deck this evening to get a dose of vitamin D. It was 82 degrees. The skies were restless with banks of clouds rolling across the sky. One moment the sky was ash gray and the next it was a brilliant blue. It couldn't make up its mind.

A swallowtail butterfly as big as my hands flitted around. It seemed as restless as the sky because each time I tried to snap a picture it flitted just out of range of my lens. Maybe tomorrow.

A young chameleon crawled over my toes and up the banister. From there he did a death-defying jump to the rosemary plant below.  He was on a mission, but for the life of me, I couldn't tell what it was.

Our great nephew Jordan came over to give Kodak a run. The young dog met his match because, after about 30 minutes, the panting pup came up and sat beside me with his tongue lolled out. He looked up as if to say, daddy, you can send that kid home.

Jilda and I had a few steps to go before reaching our daily goal so we decided to walk a few laps around the property. On the last lap, I noticed that the azaleas are blooming. We have pink, deep red and white. The white one was the easiest to get to so I took a picture of it.

As your friend and advisor, I suggest that you take time to see the beauty around you.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Wednesday stuff

I wrote my column today taking two posts from this blog and combining them into a hopeful message for the people here who read my column in the newspaper.
Afterward, I worked on the farm. It's easy to get lost in the work. It's what I needed today. Checking on the collard plants, I noticed that they are putting on seeds. We will have seeds to plant this fall.

This afternoon, I took Jilda into Birmingham to pick up some specialized meds that she takes. The roads weren't as crowded as they normally are. 

We had a contest with each other during the drive over and back to see what things are in bloom. South of town, the dogwoods trees are on the cusp of bloom. The redbud, yar, and ornamental cherry trees were on fire.

When we got home, one of our friends had sent us a message saying that we should record a copy of our song The Storm Brings Out the Eagle. We haven't practiced it in a long time but decided to give it a shot. The link to the video is below the lyrics.

The Storm Brings Out The Eagle 
When the horizon fills with clouds of the storm 
Small Birds seek their refuge 
When thunder rolls and the wind is born
The weak await the deluge 
But the storm brings out the eagle 
To challenge the wind and the cloud 
Yes the storm brings out the eagle 
Soaring high and free and proud 
Defiantly facing the fury 
Determined to see it through 
May all the storms of your life 
Bring out the eagle in you 
When your trials are many and your triumphs are few 
And your fire is down to an ember 
When your spirit grows weary, and your lost and confused 
There's something that you should remember 

 HERE is a YouTube link. 



Tuesday, March 17, 2020

This too

This morning I covered a city council meeting. Everyday life in our small part of the world will change over the next several weeks. Things are hard for our local officials. They are struggling to make the right decisions. No matter what they decide, someone will be unhappy. At this point, I think it comes down to make the best decision based on the information you have.

It's not the kind of story I enjoy writing, but my job is to write the truth as I know it. That's what I strive to do. 

I came home, wrote the story, and submitted it. Afterward, I turned my phone off and distanced myself from social media and the news. 

The sun came out after lunch, and the temps inched up. I'd bought a bag of parched peanuts a few days ago, and I grabbed them as I took a glass of sweet tea onto the back deck.

A curious honeybee landed on my glass and sipped the condensation on the outside. After cracking a few peanuts, I had to be mindful when I took a sip of tea.

The eagle that has a nest a few hundred yards to the west of where we live circled overhead. I'm guessing she was looking for a snack for the eaglets. 

Jilda and I have seen more redbirds the last few days than we've seen years. Maybe they realized that we needed to see them now. 

This evening, I checked the weakest beehive. I feared that it would not survive the winter. But when I pried the cover off and pulled up one of the frames, it was FULL of capped honey. I was thrilled. Hustling to the honey house, I grabbed one of the new hives I built and installed it. 

It's a troubling time for the world, but all the fretting and worrying will not change a thing. 

There is one thing I know – life goes on. If you don't believe it, step outside and look, listen, and smell what is around you. 

Having said that, let's all be mindful and be as safe as we can. It may have been Rumi that said, "This too shall pass."

Monday, March 16, 2020

Never too many trees ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Jilda and I had a special chore on our list a few weeks ago. The local Alabama Forestry Commission folks had a tree sale at the farmer’s market in Jasper. Even though our farm has thousands of trees, we felt we needed more. I’m not sure a farm can have too many trees.

We headed out before breakfast to get a good place in the line. We got there at 8 a.m., which is when the sale started, but we were late. I’m guessing there were already 75 people standing with check in hand waiting to get their trees. The wind out of the north had us wishing we’d worn long johns.

The sun was out, but the line formed on the shady side of the farmer’s market vendor stalls. Someone made a management decision for everybody to reform the line on the other side so that we could wait in the sun. A worm of people sidestepped across the stalls. The warm sun on our backs brightened everyone’s mood.

The Walker County Beekeepers had posted a list of all the trees and shrubs that would be for sale. So, the night before, I did my homework and printed out the list to take it with us. On the back of the sheet, Jilda had sketched out a rough map of where we would plant our new arborbooty (Is that a word?)

One of the items on my list was a black gum tree. They are beautiful trees that turn deep crimson in autumn. The main reason I wanted one was to connect me to my past. My great grandmother that I mentioned in my column last week had one in her back yard. She’d fray the end of a small black gum limb and use it for a toothbrush.

By the time we got to the front of the line, they were out of some of the trees on my list.

We did get a crabapple, a plum, redbuds, a holly, two pawpaw trees, and a bucket full of sourwood. We also got a white fringe tree which some people call a grandpa’s beard. They bloom in late spring and early summer. The fragrant blossoms turn the color of lace and hang down like grandpa’s beard.

Some of the things we planted grow fast, and we’ll enjoy them next year. Others take much longer to mature.

We’ve always loved trees and shrubs, but we doubled down this year because of our bees. Many of the successful beekeepers we’ve met have a variety of flowers and trees that provide a floral banquet for their bees.

Jilda’s sister Nell usually gets us trees or shrubs for our birthday. Several years ago, she bought us a pecan tree and last year she bought us a walnut tree. She laughed as she put the tree in the back of the truck and said, “Neither one of you will live to eat walnuts off of this tree.” I smiled at her words.

Without knowing it, Jilda and I subscribe to the old Greek proverb that says, “Society grows great when old men (and women) plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

Note: I haven't taken a picture of the things we just planted, but I had this picture of the apple tree that we planted almost 40 years ago. 

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Blooming time

After the rain moved off to the east, we decided to take a walk. It was colder than yesterday, but still short-sleeve weather for me. 

Our great-nephew Jordan came over with his mom Samantha to get outside for a while. Jordan ran and wrestled with Kodak while we ambled to see what all started blooming.

All of the things we planted last Sunday survived and are now blooming. I was happy to see that all of the blueberry bushes we planted in the fall survived. We now have 22 bushes. It will take a few years for the ones we planted in November to start showing out, but I'm encouraged that they all survived.

Down by the barn, I noticed the buckeye bush is blooming. Many other things are blooming that we cannot name.

I'm hoping the sun returns tomorrow. I have a few chores with the bees that require sunshine.

Happy Sunday.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Which path do you prefer?

Coronavirus craziness abounds here. I refuse to participate. Even if we needed toilet paper now, I'd use a Tractor Supply catalog before going to the store and buying a roll of TP. That's just the way I roll - pun intended.

When we went to the store yesterday for our regular weekly visit, many of the shelves were bare.  What struck me as interesting is that the things on our list seemed plentiful. There was hummus, cucumbers, carrots, and buttermilk. Thankfully there were plenty of choices for beer and wine. 

Who knows where this thing will lead. This much I know for sure, we won't survive by being crazy and beating up on each other.

I saw a video on social media of a street in Italy. With his window open, a man began singing a folk song about the city. A few seconds in, people from all over the city joined in. It was a beautiful moment.

When tragedy strikes, we have two paths before us. We can go crazy. In this scenario, the strongest often survive. But the other path is much different. 

One of my friends posted on social media today that she has extra hand sanitizer, food, and over the counter meds that she would share with anyone who needed them.

Another reached out to elderly people in the community and volunteered to run errands so that the those who are more vulnerable would not be exposed.

The second path is people coming together to help each other through. When we take this path, we all have a chance to survive.

Which path do you prefer?

The picture below has nothing to do with this post, but the bees love these little suckers.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Snow week

On this day in 1993, we had the deepest snow on the ground that we've had since the state began keeping records.

I was at work that morning, and Jilda kept calling to tell me what was coming. I thought she was exaggerating, but when my shift ended, I headed out. Had I waited for another half hour, I would have been trapped on the Interstate.

When the white stuff stopped falling, Birmingham had 13 inches. Empire is north of Birmingham, and I can tell you we had more snow than that.

We lost power during the night, and they didn't come back on for almost a week. Today that would be aggravating, but in 1993 it was a problem. Our house was totally electric. Electric lights, stove, and furnace. The water froze, and the batteries that boost the signals for our landline phones died, so we didn't have phone service either.

Fortunately, Jilda's brother, who lives next door, had propane heat and a gas range. Thanks to him, we had food to eat.

We stayed here, but we were bundled in layers of clothes and wrapped in quilts.

When the sun finally came out, Jilda and I went to the garden door and laid down on the floor to let the warm sun fall on our bodies.  I had ice crystals in my beard, and neither of us had bathed since the power went off. We looked like homeless people.

As soon as the power came back on and the roads cleared, we went to the local propane place and bought a gas fireplace, space heaters, and a gas range.

We haven't had snow that deep again, but we're prepared if we do.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Beekeeping Thang

Jilda and I walked around to check on the trees and shrubs we planted this past weekend. Everything looks happy. All of the new blueberries bushes we planted except one survived and are blooming. Each day it looks more and more like spring.

Today was a workday for Jilda so she headed out after lunch. I finished up a few stories I'd been working on and decided to check on the bees.

All four hives are buzzing. One of the hives had a box that was my first to assemble...before I actually knew how to assemble them.

Last year when I tried to open it up and have a look to see what was going on, it came apart. I'd fretted about what to do. One of the old beekeepers told me to let it stay on over the winter and deal with it before the honey flow in the spring.

I went down this afternoon with a plan. I removed the defective hive and installed a new one. The defective hive was filled with bees. With a leafblower, I blew them out and took the old hive into the honey house (don't you love the name of my new workspace?).

Three of the frames were filled with uncapped honey that they'd collected this year. I cut all the honey and comb out of the old hive, put it a feeder and placed it back inside the beehive that I removed it from. They won't be happy, but they'll take that honey and place it on the new hive I installed this afternoon. I know this sounds complicated, but it wasn't that hard.

All of the equity I've built up this spring by feeding them sugar water is gone. One of the bees stung me on my thumb.

I'm excited about this whole beekeeping thang.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Fresh spuds

We have pieces of washing machines that were used a few years after washpots and a few years before automatic washers and dryers. 

My mother had one of these beasts when we were growing up. It had a bottom that filled with water and soapsuds and an agitator as big as a Ford Focus. It smacked the clothes around, knocking out the red clay in our dungarees and overalls. 

After rinsing the suds out of the clothes, there was a wringer on top of the machine with two rolling pins that squished all the water out.

People stopped using these old washers in the early 60s. Most of them found their way to recycling places or into landfills.

The people that lived on this property years before we moved here in 1980 didn't believe in landfills or recycling. When they finished with something, they rolled it into the hollow.

We've hauled off mountains of junk they left us. But we're into reuse. Whenever possible, we repurpose things. We found the bottoms to a couple of the old washing machines I described above.
Instead of carting them to the recycle place, we pressed them into service as raised beds for our garden.

In the last several years, we've grown onions, tomatoes, garlic, and herbs. A few weeks ago, we planted potatoes. We noticed last week that they were pushing up through the compost and mulch.

This morning, when I walked by, I decided to snap a picture. 

Soon, we'll be enjoying fresh spuds. Have you ever eaten potatoes that you grew yourself? I personally think they're better than the ones you buy in the supermarket.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Name that color

I woke up in the night to get a sip of water. Before I fell to sleep, I had the misfortune of remembering that I needed to get started on our income tax.

I thought once I retired, my tax picture would become simpler. That has not been the case. My part-time work freelancing complicates things. 

I finally feel to sleep, but I had a few hours early this morning before headed to meetings for the paper. 

Hitting the ground running, I knocked out all the easy categories that I track, so I'm on my way. Another hour or so and we'll be set.

This evening, Jilda made fish tacos. They were scrumptious. As we ate, I noticed a remarkable light coming through the garden doors. 

Stepping outside, the clouds were on fire. I wish I knew the name of this color.

Monday, March 09, 2020

Spring is near ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Jilda and I have been dog-earing seed and fruit catalogs since the first of the year. This year we’ve added flowers, fruits, and veggies that attract bees. We’re worse than kids with a Sears Wish Book at Christmas time. When we tallied the orders, we realized we’d knocked a dent in our debit card. We’re getting ready for spring.

I’m not fretting because when the fresh fruit and vegetables begin showing up on our table, it makes it all worthwhile. I’m not sure you can put a price on a sandwich made with a fat tomato that you grew yourself.

I think my love of gardening got passed down through my DNA from my great grandmother Liddy Watson, who lived next door to us when I was in grammar school.

She lived in an old camp house with tar-paper siding. It had a porch all the way across the front. She had a rocking chair on one end that gave her a good view of her garden.

The front of her house faced east. When the mid-morning the sun made it comfortable, she’d sit out there, sip coffee, and talk to her plants. When I wasn’t in school, I’d go down and keep her company.

She had buckets, tin cans, and old slop jars on the banisters. When there was no space on the rails, she’d use coat hangers to hang more from top supports on her porch.

When I would ask her about a plant in a particular can, she’d give me the common name and whether she ate it or used it as a treatment for some ailment.

The two plants that I remember are primrose, and flaxseed, both of which she said helped with her rheumatism. 

I spent a lot of Saturday mornings during the spring helping her get her garden ready. When the signs were right, she’d send word to a neighbor who had a mule and plow that it was time to break up her garden.

Over the coming weeks and months, she’d plant enough food to feed herself and a developing country in that small plot. There were softball-sized tomatoes, corn, pepper, green beans, okra, cucumbers, and black-eyed peas. I spent a chunk of my youth, helping her pick peas and shell them.

What she didn’t eat or give away, she canned so that she could still enjoy the food when her garden “gave out.”

Each spring, I think about my great-grandma. She gave all of us kids simple gifts that she bought from the coffee man (peddler) when he came by each month. But I think the most precious gift she gave me was a love for gardening.

I wrote the paragraph below in my journal last night. I think it says it all.

"The march continues. Things that have slept all winter are waking and reaching for sunlight. Yesterday there were tiny purple crocus flowers at the edge of the flower bed, and today the collards that we planted last fall in the old bathtub by the backyard fence are in bloom. Colors we’d forgotten during the gray of winter now remind us that spring is near."

Sunday, March 08, 2020

Working on the farm

The time change makes both Jilda and me cranky. I can't wait to read what our blog buddy Joe has to say about it...but I digress. 

I had work to do, and I got at it after coffee. Back during the fall, I bought some laying boxes from Tractor Supply. They were constructed of pressboard and held together with staples. I knew better, but I didn't have all the tools and supplies to build them myself, so at a weak moment, I bought three.

If I had written a check, the boxes would have fallen apart before the check cleared. 

I finally saved up and bought the tools and supplies I needed, so this morning I built laying boxes that will be here a while.

On Friday we bought trees. In the truck as we drove home were redbuds, sweet shrubs, holly, plum, pawpaw, sourwood, fringe tree, and more.  Today was planting day.

I dug holes with the posthole diggers, and Jilda hauled buckets of water all over the property. It will take a few years for them to start showing out, but had we not planted them, they never would have.

I ran out of time before adding hive boxes to the four hives, but I did spend time in the honey house getting everything ready so that I can add the boxes tomorrow weather permitting.

This evening my bones are weary.

Saturday, March 07, 2020

Getting warmer

The last two days have been remarkable. Warm sunshine with a cool breeze out of the north. Yesterday afternoon, we called our great-nephew Jorda to see if he wanted to join us. He did. By the time I slid my shoes on, and grabbed my hat, he was climbing the backyard fence. Oh, to have energy like that again.

We walked again this morning and by the second lap, it was warm enough to roust the bees from the hives.

I hustled in and made some sugar water to feed them these last few cool days of winter. Soon, there will be so much pollen and nectar that they will forego the sugar water and gorge themselves on what Mother Nature serves up.

While Jilda made lunch, I stood on the back deck to soak up a little more sun. Just then, a female honey bee landed on the banister. They are getting used to me now so I got up close with my iPhone and snapped a few pictures.

Tomorrow, I plan to open up the hives and have a look to get a feel for how well they weathered the winter. Fingers crossed.

Friday, March 06, 2020

Beyond the reach of lens and shutter

I wish I were a poet
or at least had a poet's 
way with words.
There is so much in this image
that I can't describe,
and my camera can't capture.
Subtle hues and colors 
beyond the reach of 
lens and shutter.
Mother Nature
is an old master.
She is poetry in motion
without writing a word.

Thursday, March 05, 2020

The sun came out today

The sun returned today. It's been a while since 
I felt the need for sunscreen, but after days of rain, it finally stopped. 
Jilda had to dash to her vehicle when she left just after lunch, but by the time home just after three, the sun was out.
The light seemed to light up places deep within. 
The next few days will be much warmer.
Tomorrow morning, we head out early to buy trees.
Forestry Department is having a tree sale.
Crabapple and sourwood. Spruce, Black walnut and Crepe Myrtle
These are trees the bees love.
Did I mention that the sun came out today?

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Spring is near

The march continues.
Things dormant yesterday
Are alive today
Yesterday violets
Today collard blossoms
Colors you'd forgotten in the gray of winter
Now remind you that spring 
is near

Tuesday, March 03, 2020


 We headed out early this morning to vote. We weren't the first, but we got in and out quickly. Our polling peeps all know us, but they still follow procedures. They look at our photo ID and verify that our names and addresses match.

They gave us a sticker that says, I Voted. I popped one on my shirt, and Jilda put hers on her eyeglass case, and we snapped a selfie outside the building.

Since I reached the age where I could vote, I've voted in every election without fail.

To me, it's more than a right – it's a duty. I'd feel like I was cheating on my taxes, or parking in a handicapped space.

If it was election day where you live, I hope you voted.

Monday, March 02, 2020

The first day of March gives me hope

Driving down Interstate 59 South below Tuscaloosa this week was an experience. It had rained for days, but the sun peeped through the clouds in the early afternoon. The redbuds and a tree with white blossoms were popping out. Seeing the color after months of grey brought a smile to my face. Knowing that March is only a few days away gives me hope.

I know that February is the shortest month of the year, but it seems to last longer than all the rest of the months combined. I know part of the reason that I feel down is that in the past, I’ve lost a lot of family and friends during February, but it’s more than that. It’s the quality of light on most days, and it’s usually rainy and cold.

When it’s cold in February, it seems to penetrate to the bone like a bruise.

What I love about March is that it comes with a promise. Spring arrives in just over two weeks. Soon, we’ll be planting early crops in our raised beds, and I’ll be cussing the tiller. Apparently, the old machine enjoys winter more than I do because it has to be coaxed to life. I’d get rid of it, but we use the old beast to plant the in-ground garden.

It had rained while we were sleeping last night. The skies looked promising this morning, so after coffee, we put on our warm clothes for a walk. Before finishing the first lap, the rain returned along with wind out of the northwest. The last leg of our walk was more of a run.

Even with the thermostat higher than we usually keep it, I shivered.

For lunch, Jilda made a pot of potato soup with small chunks of ham. There is something about warm soup. It seeps down deep into places and warms the soul. Hot soup gives me hope.

This evening, when I sat down at my office desk to write, I glanced up at the calendar on the wall. With my felt tip marker, I X’ed (is that a word?) off another day. “Only three days left in February,” I mused. This made me smile.

And then when I looked through my office window, I saw the sun shining on the yellow bell bush that’s just outside. It looked electric.

Reaching a stopping point, I put on a sweatshirt and my walking shoes. The dogs know the cues, so they were waiting by the door when I headed outside.

Just outside the backyard fence, I noticed that most of the blueberry bushes I planted in January have blossomed.

I was in no hurry, so when I reached the area where we have our beehives, I noticed that they were beginning to stir. I sat for a long time in the chair to watch. It was still cold, but the sun felt warm on my back.

When I looked up from where I was sitting, I noticed pink peach blossoms popping out on the ends of the branches.

By this weekend, the tree will be in full bloom. As I sat there, my spirit felt lighter. I could see March at the end of the tunnel.

Sunday, March 01, 2020


We're getting almost a dozen eggs a day now. Some are light brown, some are dark and some look as though they've been bleached.

There's nothing like fresh eggs but there's no way we can eat that many, so we share. We give them to family, friends, and others. Jilda's sister Nell has more chickens than we do. She has a fridge on her carport and every other week, she calls Jimmie Hale Mission which is a place that provides hot meals and a temporary bed for homeless men.

While we won't have enough for them to make a special trip from Birmingham to our house, we talked about taking excess eggs to Nell's house to add them to what she gives them.

The thing about fresh eggs, they are not like what you get at the supermarket. When you crack them open, they are much richer. The color is different. And yes, there might be a little poop on the shell. That happens. If it's bad, I wash the eggs, but if not I leave it. I think everyone should know where eggs come from.

There is something rewarding about being closer to the source of your food.

O.K., I'm rambling. It's time for hot tea and a pillow.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Weary bones

Yesterday when we walked, the sun was sinking low. We were mostly in the shade except for shafts of sunshine that made it through the trees.

A patch of sunlit grass before us looked like neon. The earth around us is coming alive.

I've been leaving jars or sugarwater on the back deck for the bees to feed on until more things bloom. Today there were thousands of bees buzzing around. They are used to Jilda and me. I sat on the steps today, drinking tea and eating parched peanuts. They were curious but do not bother us.

Soon, we'll start having the great-nieces and nephews over for summer fun, so this morning, I built them a feeding bench down in the garden.

This afternoon, my neighbor came over, and we cleared the rest of the junk out of the old house. I'll call Monday and have the recycling place come and take the dumpster away.

Soon, I'll start on the second phase of the project, which will involve building shelves, workbenches, and other improvements.

Tonight, my bones are weary. I'll get Jilda to mix up her magic potion that she puts in the bathwater. I always feel taller when I get out of the tub.

Friday, February 28, 2020


The woman who sold us this property in the 1970s had rented the farm out for years. The people who lived there didn't bother to take their garbage to the dump. It was too easy to toss it next to the house on the "old lady's" land. 

When they moved on, others moved in and continued the practice.  

Since Jilda and I have lived here, we've hauled off mountains of old bottles, cans tires, and other debris to the landfill. 

Each time it rains for an extended period, it unearths things we've missed. This soda bottle has been hidden under the leaves for decades. If you look closely, you can see the shell of a snail in there. The snell probably died when Nixon was in the White House. 

When Jilda and I married, there was no trash pickup, but it never occurred to me to simply toss the garbage in a hollow, or off of some deserted backroad. We always took our trash to a landfill.

I'm about to make an analogy here, so stick with me. One of the things I love about honey bees is that they are so tidy. I've only been stung a few times, but one time I'd been mowing grass and I was ripe if you know what I mean. I walked down close to the hives to watch them for a few minutes. 

I sat on my folding chair under the peach tree, and a honey bee came up and hovered for a few seconds and then popped me on the neck. I wasn't happy, but I understood.

Bees are serious about keeping a clean hive. One job of a worker bee is to remove the dead bees from the hive. They only live four or five weeks, so when one dies, they drag her our and toss her off the entrance ramp.

A honey bee will die before it defecates in the hive. 

So here's my point, I wish people were more like honey bees. 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

The camera you have with you

I had to cover a city meeting tonight for the paper. After supper, I put on my jacket and headed out. Arriving early, I sat in the truck listening to a book by Walter Mosley.  

I didn't sleep well last night so I've been dragging today. I rolled the window down to let some cool air stir. It felt refreshing on my face.

When I glanced at the sky, I could see the moon with Venus on its coat tail. It was a quarter moon, and if I'd had my big camera with me I could have placed it on a tripod and gotten a much better picture. But I'd left it at home.

Pulling the phone from my pocket, I noticed that light from the city hall provided foreground light in the trees near the street.

The picture made the moon look full, but the light in the trees in the foreground looks surrealistic.

I'm not sure I would have noticed that if I'd had the professional camera. I read once that the best camera in the world is the one you have with you. I tend to agree.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Off to the races

It's been cold and rainy here again today but apparently, the trees and shrubs don't care. When I walked out this morning to get the paper, I noticed that the Carolina Jasmine on the front arbor was blooming. That was promising.

Later when we walked, we had to bundle up because the wind out of the northwest was cold. Before we finished the first lap, it started drizzling.

After lunch, Kodak was still antsy so I took him back outside for a while. When I walked down by the bee yard, I noticed that the peach tree has started to bloom.

A few warm days and things will be off to the races.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

By my window

Wheeling through the Starbucks drive-thru this past week, I had to stop and shoot a picture after I placed my order.

I'm not sure about the name of this ornamental grass, but it was striking. Rolling down my window, I snapped a few frames.

An impatient driver waiting to place her order for her caffeine fix for the day tooted her horn and gave me the palms up, "WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING????? CAN'T YOU SEE I'M DYING FOR A CUP OF COFFEE!!!!" look. I'm sure you've seen it before.

I lipped an apology into my rearview, but she was already inching toward the speaker. I get it. I've been where she was sitting before, and I was just as annoyed, but still, I hope like me, she took a moment to admire the ornamental grass there by her window.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Decluttering again ~ my column from Sunday

A few years ago, I read a book on decluttering. Jilda and I spent weeks going through our home. With each item, we made a conscious decision on whether the piece was important and added value to our lives. The answer to that question meant the item would stay, go to the thrift store or the dump. The house felt larger when we finished, but now it seems small again.

One thing that many of us baby boomers struggle with is holding on to things "in case we need them someday." Usually, someday never comes, and we're stuck with closets, storerooms, and sheds that are hazardous to enter. Who needs mini storage when you have a barn?

Jilda and I are decluttering again, but we've expanded the effort to include the old house. I mentioned last month that we were beginning to get rid of all the junk in there, but the project was taking forever.

After a month’s work and several trips to the dump, I could hardly see that we'd made a dent. I decided to kick that project into overdrive.

I called Farley Recycling and placed my name on the waiting list to get a dumpster. We’re not talking
about one of those wimp dumpsters that restaurants use but a REAL dumpster.

My phone rang last week, and the woman said my name had come up on the list. I gave her directions to our house, and about an hour later, a truck showed up with an orange beast. It holds 30 cubic yards of junk. I could put Rhode Island in that dumpster.

Then I called a neighbor that does day-labor work. He came yesterday to help me clean out the rest of the junk in the old house and the barn.

When he rolled the wheelbarrow into the dumpster with the first load, he asked, "Are you going to throw away those old headers?" I told him they were going to be recycled. He asked if he could have them. I told him, of course.

By the time we finished, he also had an old chair, an old fence charger, bedsprings, and an apartment refrigerator his truck. These were things that we were tossing.

The old saying, "One man's junk is another man's treasure," came to mind.

When my helper and I had finished, I leaned on the trailer and sipped water. He tapped a cigarette from a pack in his pocket and smoked while he secured all his "treasure" on the bed of his truck. It felt good to finally see progress on something that Jilda and I've wanted to do for a long time.

Soon, I'll be able to store all my beekeeping tools and organize the spare hive components in the recovered space. I will also use one room to process honey. We will call it the Honey House. 

There will also be enough room for a writing space, an art space for Jilda, and an exercise room to use in bad weather.

It occurred to me as I walked back to the house for supper that getting rid of clutter opens up life for a lot of opportunities.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Beautiful place

It's been overcast today. The temps reached for 60 degrees but didn't quite make it. The wind out of the northwest made long sleeves feel good.

I tried to take pictures, but everything looked flat in the gray light.

I looked through old pictures tonight trying to find one for this post. I came across this one that I took somewhere near Carmel, California in the summer of 2005. We took our niece Samantha with us. She'd never flown before.

It was a remarkable few days. I'm happy that Jilda and I got to share them with Samantha and she had the opportunity to see a truly beautiful place.

Saturday, February 22, 2020


We sometimes cast shadows.
Without realizing it, 
We pass between light
And the path we follow.
Life happens somewhere in between.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Ice Cream Cones

There are few troubles in life 
That cannot be sorted out
 With an ice cream cone. 

You can feel the weight of the world 
On your shoulders 
And see no way out.

But an ice cream cone can change perspectives
The inner child can see long-forgotten possibilities
The path becomes clearer with ice cream running down your chin.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

An old cold rainy day

Mother Nature can be cruel. A few weeks ago it was almost warm enough to swim. Then the rains set in. The river has been up and down.

Today, rain fell in sheets. Normally, that's not that big of a deal, but today it was also cold. I'm surprised that we didn't see snow flurries.

While my friends up north would probably giggle, at me whining about a temp of 42 degrees, it felt a lot colder with the blowing rain.

This evening, we cranked up the fireplace while we ate dinner. The warmth felt good on a level that's hard to describe.

I'm looking forward to sunny skies this weekend.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Million years ago

I shot this picture of Jilda a million years ago. It was not long after we married. We lived in a single-wide trailer without air conditioning. It didn't have much insulation either, which meant that winter winds blew in through our living room around the windows.

Both of us worked. She worked at a dress shop, and I worked as a reporter for a weekly newspaper. I'm sure that we probably qualified for food stamps, but it never occurred to us to check in to it. The poverty, we thought, was for those who were less fortunate.

We scrimped and saved. She's always been a great cook. A bag of butterbeans, a pone of cornbread, and some chicken or fish would feed us for days.

Things went south on my 25th birthday. I was fired. For the next year, I pumped gas for my cousin and drew unemployment. 

A gentleman that visited us often in the newspaper office worked for the phone company. He visited me at the gas station and asked if I would be interested in a job. I almost hugged his neck. 

On January 3, 1977, I started a new job with MaBell. It wasn't always easy, but the job made it possible to build the home in which we now live. The company also paid for my bachelor's and master's degrees.

I know I've written about bits and pieces of this story before. But tonight, as I was looking for a picture to post, I came across the one below, and it triggered the thoughts for this post.

Happy Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Something good for supper

It's rained today. At times it was so hard that I had to slow to a crawl to be safe.  One of my appointments was with a man who will be 93 next Tuesday. He was a veteran.

When I walked into his home, I could smell fresh coffee brewing. His wife met us at the door and took me to the living room where her husband sat in a recliner. He doesn't hear well, so he didn't hear me approach. He was watching the birds feed on his back deck. He was smiling.

After introducing myself, I sat down to talk for a while. He was pleasant. When I asked him questions, it seemed to take him a moment to flip through the pages of his memory before he answered.

On his walls were pictures of his medals and the ship he was on during WWII. When I asked him about his service, he remembered bits and pieces.

Life has been good to him, he says. He lived through the Great Depression, but his mama and grandmama both had milk cows, chickens, and big gardens. Unlike so many, he had food to eat most of the time.

When I asked him what he wanted to do when he grew up. It's a question I always ask those I interview. He got a big smile on his face. He said I want to eat something good for supper.


Monday, February 17, 2020

Rainy days and Mondays ~ my column from Sunday

Driving to an errand yesterday, I heard the lilting voice of Karen Carpenter singing Rainy Days and Mondays Always Get Me Down. I loved the song when it first came out and still love it because it hits close to the mark. Did I mention that yesterday was Monday, and it was raining?
The poor folks in Australia have raging wildfires due to the lack of rain, and with us living through a drought a few years ago, I swore that I would never wish away the rain. And I never have, but rainy days often make me feel a bit melancholy.
It started during the summers when I was growing up in Sloss Hollow. A rainy day back then was a wasted day. I remember sitting on the arm of a chair in the living room with my head leaning against the wall, watching raindrops zag their way down the window pane. Time seemed to move in slow motion.
I remember thinking that I would have to spend the day inside instead of roaming the fields, fishing Horse Creek, or swimming in the strip pit at Powell Hollow. The only time during the summer I spent inside was when I was eating or sleeping. I was no fan of roofs and walls.
Yesterday when I got home, the dogs were ricocheting off the walls. Jilda met me at the door saying WE HAVE TO GO WALK THESE DOGS. 
I sat down on my bedroom bench to put on my socks, and the new pup Kodak ran in, grabbed a sock off my foot, and ran out the doggie door. I’m guessing he thought that would speed me up. It didn’t.
Reaching into the sock drawer, I pulled out another pair. I’d just slipped on my shoes when the sock thief came back in to see why I hadn’t followed him. The sock was soaked.
When we started walking, rain dripped off the hood of my raincoat and onto my forehead. Down toward the barn, we noticed a new pond in the lower section of our field. An instant later, Kodak was in the middle of it. He was having a large time. Apparently, the rain didn’t have the same effect on him that it has on me. I haven’t looked, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he has webbed feet.
As we walked, I realized that it wasn’t just a rainy Monday that had me down. It had only been a week since we buried our collie Caillou. But as I watched our new dog Kodak having the time of his life playing in the puddle, I had to smile as an understanding came over me.
Life is interesting. I think the Good Lord knows how much we love our critters, and also knew that Caillou would not be with us that much longer. I feel like that’s why Kodak showed up when he did. But the new pup has big paws to fill.

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