Sunday, January 26, 2020

Now and then

Tonight I am
Out of words.
It happens from time to time.
I would fret, 
but time has taught me
that it happens
now and then.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Faulty fridge

This morning when we walked if felt like snow. The air was moist and it was sarcophagus quiet. Both of us understood that the forecast called for sunshine, but Sol didn't get the memo.

We only made a couple laps because we had to go fridge shopping. We bought our current fridge about five years ago. It had to be replaced within a month and the replacement has had several problems.

When the ice maker quit last week, I watched YouTube videos trying to troubleshoot the issue but nothing I tried helped.

With bee season approaching, I need to buy a used fridge for the old house where I'll be processing honey this summer. We decided to move the current fridge down there and buy a new one.

After our walk, we loaded up and went to town, Jilda had searched Consumer Reports for a recommendation. We found it and it will be delivered on Friday.

I didn't have a picture, but when I searched back through photos, I found this one from January 2011. It was a snow day


Friday, January 24, 2020

Wonky week

Friday is normally my off day, but the holiday on Monday threw my schedule off. I ended up writing three stories and my column before lunch.

Jilda put the hominy-chicken soup on the stove to heat up while we walked. The sky looked almost turquoise. It was a beautiful day, but the wind out of the north was still biting.

When we got to the barn, I snapped a picture contrasting the mossy tree trunk and the old rusty discs.  Something interesting that happened on our walk, but I'll let Jilda share it.

My sister had outpatient surgery today, so this evening Jilda made some Fagioli soup and we took her some this evening.

You might have guessed that when it gets cold here, we eat a LOT of soup. I think it's good for the soul.


Thursday, January 23, 2020

It's the least I can do

The tractor resting in the barn hasn't been cranked for over 10 years. Harry Trueman was still in the White House in 1948 when it rolled off the assembly line.

I ran across it in the late 70s. That was back when my hair was thick and my money was thin. Jilda's dad Sharkey knew a good deal when he saw one. When I told him about the tractor and that it came with a plow, cultivator, bush hog, and turning discs. He reached into his wallet for his folding money.

He paid the old farmer $900 and I drove the old tractor home with him following behind with the flasher flashing.

We used that old tractor for years. We raised potatoes, tomatoes, and enough okra to feed most third-world countries.

Each spring, I would have to coax it to life. I'd drain what little gas was left in the tank, take the carburetor apart, and blow trash out from the tiny jets. And after charging the battery, I'd twist the key in the ignition switch and push the starter button which was down by the gearshift, the old beast would grumble to life.

It was sputter and shake until it woke up, and then it was ready to get to work.

The old engine wasn't that powerful, but some old engineer with a sharp pencil figured out horsepower, gear ratios, to provide the maximum power needed to pull a plow that was sunk knee-deep into Alabama clay.

When the soil was moist, the engine RPM would drop so low that you could almost count the revolutions, but I never had to look back to ensure that everything was working properly because the aroma of freshly turned soil hung in the air like baking bread.

My nephew Haven bought a tractor several years ago and it has all the latest "stuff" on it. He didn't have a place to park it so he asked if he could park it in the vacant stall in the barn. He left me a set of keys so it was hard to say no. That meant that the old workhorse was put out to pasture, so to speak.

Fast forward to this morning - As we walked, I looked into the barn and saw that the tires on the old breast were flat and time had dry-rotted the rubber.

I made a decision, to spend a little money and put the old tractor back in service. Now that I'm getting older, I feel a kinship to the old workhorse. I think it deserves as much.






Wednesday, January 22, 2020

National Shelfie Day

Today is National Shelfie Day. The idea is to promote reading. People are encouraged to take a picture of some of the books on their bookshelf.

I pulled several that I've read in the past year or so. I haven't read the Salman Rushdie book, and I'm only about halfway through the Beekeeper's bible, but the rest I've read.

The picture on the upper left is a pencil drawing that Jilda did of our niece Samantha when she was just a tike. The picture to the left is of her mom and dad, but the candle is blocking her dad.

The small picture is of great-nieces and nephews. The on the right is now old enough to drive.

I hope today has been a good one for you.

#NationalShelfieDay



Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Kodak gets tutored

When we booked the rooms at Mentone, we had three dogs. All of them are seniors and set in their ways. When we go off for the weekend, they all lay by the windows and watch for our car to return.
When we did return, they greeted us and the house looked like it did before we left.

That all changed when we got Kodak, the hurricane dog. He's less than a year old he's like the Energizer Bunny that through some kind of malfunction, got overcharged. I could walk to the mailbox and he would rearrange the furniture the 90 seconds I was gone.
There was no way we were going out of town and leaving Mr. Pandamonium in the house.

The local vet does boarding and both Jilda and I decided that was the best course of action.

We talked to the vet about his "enthusiasm" and she suggested that we get him fixed. That sounded like a plan, but she didn't have an available date until mid-February. We'd have to wait.

When I went to pick him up yesterday, the vet tech told me that they had a cancellation and that they could do the surgery immediately.

So today, Kodak got "tutored."

When I picked him up, he was thrilled to see me. It's early to tell if it will calm him down, but we are hopeful. I wish I could bottle that energy. I have friends who would pay top dollar for it.


Monday, January 20, 2020

Looking up

My phone buzzed this evening before we headed out to yoga. It was my International Space Station tracker app telling me the craft would soon be in my line of vision.

The sun had already dipped below the horizon, but the color didn't get the memo. I know I've taken pictures from this exact spot under similar circumstances before, but I can't help myself. I have to take a picture.

Standing on the south side of the house, I was blocked from the breeze out of the north, but it was still cold.

I looked toward the southwest. The ISS appeared from toward the sunset. Had I taken the picture with my Canon camera, there's a chance you could have seen the craft, but it was much too small for the iPhone to capture.

I snapped the picture anyhow. I never tire was watching things in the sky.


Sunday, January 19, 2020

Perplexing questions

Blogging nightly has a downside. When we talk about traveling, we both fret about the news stories describing how criminals learn on social media that you're out of town. While you're out of town, they break into your house and steal all your Doobie Brothers' records.

So, to guard against that, we don't advertise on social media (or our blogs) when we're out of town.

But, I must say that Mentone is an eclectic little town that we love visiting. There are a few restaurants there that are amazing. We ate out both nights and the food was incredible.

It's an artist community. The small store on the main street has incredible art, books, and things you won't find anywhere else on the planet.

You can't blink while driving through town or you'll miss it. In the scheme of things, it might not be a blip on the radar of some people. But there's something there for those who look.

Yesterday, we stopped at a scenic stop overlooking the river. I shot several pictures there. Just past that stop, we passed a place where a massive rock caused the road builders to turn the pig trail into a divided highway.

Walking up, I stood beside those rocks and considered their history. It's hard for me to work out in my mind just how they came to be there. How is it that rocks that were probably contemporaries of dinosaurs wound up near Mentone, Alabama. I also wondered that if the dinosaurs had been in town this weekend, would they have enjoyed the blackened trout for dinner as much as I did?

Perplexing questions.



Saturday, January 18, 2020

Against the wind

We had an opportunity recently to visit Mentone, Alabama. It's a small town in the northeast corner of the state and a stone's throw from both Georgia and Tennessee.

The place where we stayed was built in 1927. There's a picture on the wall of an old vehicle hauling the lumber to build the lodge from a nearby sawmill.

We drove along the edges of Little River Canyon and stopped at several overlooks. It was rainy and the wind out of the north was biting. We flipped our collars up braved the rain. There weren't many other people stopping but a few strong of heart and spirit :) We made quick friends with a number of them. There's something about facing the elements that bond people together.

I think I'd like to return in summer and maybe sit on a rock close to the water's edge and dangle my bare feet in the icy water.


Friday, January 17, 2020

It's a dance

Our blueberries and fig trees are on the cusp of bloom. It's much too early. In fact, cold weather is barreling in.

This time of year when the weather warms, it coaxes anxious vegetation out, and when cold weather returns, it bites the tender blossoms.

It's a dance.

Today, when we walked, the roots of the old oak tree looked like they had on green velvet sweaters.

I'm out of words tonight. Y'all have a great weekend.


Thursday, January 16, 2020

Work day

Today was a workday for both Jilda and me. I did many things, but few were interesting enough to interest you. That happens sometimes.

It was warm enough earlier in the day to feed the bees. After lunch, I headed out to take a picture of the mayor standing on a bridge that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It's way past its expiration date so the mayor applied for funds to have it replaced. He got the grant and he was happy.

On the way down to shoot the picture, I rolled down the windows of my truck. The sky was winter blue. If that's not an "official color," it should be.

I took several pictures for the paper today, but none for me. I realized that tonight when I sat down to write.

Looking back, I found a picture that I took seven years ago today.


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Life is quick

Birthdays.
At first, they come slowly.
Then later unexpectedly.

Your knees begin to squeak
and you have trouble hearing in crowds.

When you're young, you won't listen to elders,
because you think they have nothing to say.

If I could get a message through 
to the generations that follow, 
it would be this:
Life is quick.





Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Close to the stars

This evening is the eve of my 69th birthday. I've found myself lost in thought today. It rained a good bit, but there were moments.

At one point, I walked outside. I'd bought a bag of parched peanuts the last time I was at the produce store. I took the bag out with a glass of sweet tea and sat on the back steps to think about life and whatnot.

Kodak snuggled in next to me and watched with great interest. I've spoiled him already. I ate a peanut, and I'd give him a peanut. We talked for a long while and he seemed to listen as long as he got a peanut every now and then.

As I reflect back over the years, the thing that's hard to wrap my mind around is how quickly time has passed.

When I was younger, I thought I had a feel for just how precious my time was, but in retrospect, I'm not sure I did.

I've had good times and life has been good to me, but I think I believed that I'd be forever young. Maybe that's how I should have been. There were good times, but I sometimes dwelled on bad times.

But from this vantage point, I wish I had understood then that the Ferris Wheel goes round and round. Some of the time you're at the bottom, but at other times you're close to the stars.


I took this picture today when I drove into the office. It has nothing to do with the post tonight, but that's how it goes sometimes.

Monday, January 13, 2020

The sound of the surf ~ my column from Sunday's paper

NOTE: I planted the seeds for this column in a post here last week.

This week I needed an idea for my column, so I went on a quest. As it turns out, I didn't have to venture too far. Inspiration was hiding in the old carved rosewood box on my dresser.

Hidden underneath some old pocket knives, political buttons, and mismatched cufflinks, there was a seashell the size of a thimble. I think it's called a ladder horn snell shell. Picking it up gently, I held it up and stepped closer to the light coming through the bedroom window to get a better look.

Timeshift – all of a sudden, I was shirtless, wearing cutoff fatigues, and combing the beaches in Panama in the fall of 1971. I was stationed at Ft. Sherman at the time.

An overnight storm in the Atlantic had washed up coconuts, mountains of seaweed, and teakwood from who knows where. There in the surf was the seashell. Sitting down, I analyzed the artifact as if it were a gemstone.

Instinctively, I held the tiny shell up to my ear to see if I could hear the ocean. Looking back, I realize how wacky that was. The ocean was close enough for the surf to wash sand up my shorts. There was no way I could have heard sounds coming from that shell.

This shell wasn't the first one I'd ever found. I'd been to Florida several times as a kid and found shells there. Also, one of my duty stations in the Army was near the New Jersey shore. On those beaches, you were more likely to find a pull-off tab from a can of Budweiser than a seashell, but I did find a few small ones that I kept as souvenirs.
Jilda and I spent New Year's Eve 1999 at the beach with friends. A storm before midnight sent torrents of vertical rain that lashed the windows. Palmetto and palms gyrated in the wind and scratched the side of the house as if they wanted inside. The power winked out, and we toasted the New Year by candlelight.

The next day, the tide was angry. On our morning stroll, we picked up bushels of shells.

It was a remarkable time. We still have many of those shells in baskets throughout our home.

During my years working for MaBell, I had opportunities to travel. The trips where I would be gone more than a day or two, Jilda went with me. We visited the sea in New England, Washington, Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and California. We have shells from each of these places. We also have shells from when we vacationed in Ireland.

Back in the fall, I went through a time when I woke up at 3 a.m. It was as if an alarm went off somewhere. My eyes opened, and it took every trick in the book to fall back to sleep.

There's a conch shell on my nightstand. It's about the size of a baseball. One night when sleep would not come, I noticed something in the light from the digital alarm clock. Reaching over, I realized it was the shell. I had forgotten about it.

Quietly picking up the shell, I held it to my ear. After a few slow breaths, I could hear a gentle roar. After listening for a few minutes, I placed it back on the stand, and soon I was asleep.

There's probably a scientific explanation for that sound, but I prefer to think of it as the sound of the surf at the ocean.


Sunday, January 12, 2020

ArtsyFartsy

Jilda and I got a call from the community foundation on Friday. They are planning an exhibition of local artists. They asked Jilda for copies of some of the Christmas cards. She's hand-painted our cards each year since the first Bush was in the White House.

I was happy the foundation asked to exhibit some of my photos, but I was thrilled that they asked her to display her work.

The problem for both of us is deciding which pieces to select. Mine is easier because I simply flip back through my archives and decided on three pictures.

Jilda's task is harder because she always sends out ALL of the cards she's painted. I've scanned the cards each year so she's recreating three of her favorite cards.

I will show the three I submit after the exhibit opens. I can say it's been interesting going through the archives.

Below is a picture that I like that did not make the final cut. I've used this one on my blog so forgive the repeat.


Saturday, January 11, 2020

Marked Safe

The last thing Jilda and I watched last night was a weather forecast. Bad idea. I woke up just after midnight with a nightmare. My heart was pounding. It took a minute to fall asleep.

The morning was pretty much shot as we stayed glued to the TV watching the weatherman. Three people in a county to the southwest of here died when a tornado touched down in their rural community.

My cellphone buzzed at 12:38 p.m. saying the National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning for my area. We rounded up the critters and headed to our safe place.

We heard the chimes on the back deck doing an angry tune and thunder rattled the knick-knacks on the mantel. Our lights fluttered as if they couldn't make up their minds whether they wanted to stay or go with the wind. Thankfully, they stayed on. After about 20 minutes the storms moved off to the east in a huff.




Friday, January 10, 2020

Eyes to the skies

The local weather people have been jabbering all day and point to computer models of what might happen tomorrow.

A system moving through could affect almost everyone in the central U.S. One weatherman said we could have 70 mph straight-line winds with baseball-sized hail. I'm not excited.

This afternoon, I gassed up the vehicles, bought gas for the chainsaw, and made sure we had batteries. With wind velocity that high, there's a good chance there will be power outages tomorrow.

Hopefully, it will remain aloft and not do any damage.

For our friends west, south, and north of Central Alabama, keep your eyes on the skies tomorrow.

This is an old picture. I did it in black and white to make the clouds look more menacing. 

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Bee stuff

The bees have been giddy today. I had pounds of honeycomb left when I harvested the honey this past summer.

Last week, I watched a video on how to render it down to where it could be used to make candles, lipgloss and other useful things.

The first thing the woman in the video says was that the best way to get honeycomb ready to process is to let the bees clean it.

When the days warmed a little, I put cookie trays of honeycomb on the back deck. In the last few days, the girls swarmed to the cookie sheet.

By this evening, most of the comb was the color of ivory.

We have a beekeeping conference the first part of February and I'll be starting down the path to become a master beekeeper. It will take a few years to complete all the steps necessary, but I'm excited.



Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Kid talk

I got a frantic call from our niece, Samantha this afternoon. She was in a bind and needed me to pick up Jordan (our great-nephew) from school. 

I'd completed my writing for the day and I was about to take Jilda to work. Looking at my watch, the timeframe worked out. 

Hustling to the car, I ran to the school, picked up the package, and headed back home for Jilda.  

We picked her up and then discussed what we should do to kill a little time while she taught her classes.

We decided on Starbucks. He loves the cake-pops and hot chocolate. 

Often when he's with us, he has his iPad and he can entertain himself by playing Minecraft, and watching videos on history. But today, his Nana had locked his iPad in her office.

He was tired when we dropped Jilda off and he got quite in the back seat. When I stopped at a stop sign, I flipped the rearview mirror down so I could see what he was up to. He was sound asleep.

I debated on whether to wake him at Starbucks, but he woke up when I pulled into the parking lot.

We sat for a long time and talked. 

We discussed why there is no longer a milkman. I told him there were many reasons but one was that more and more women worked which left no one at home to fetch the milk from the front porch.

We talked about the trend starting during WWII when women went into the workplace.

We talked about Impeachment. The electoral college, and so on. The thing is, at 11 years old, he had a good grasp of most of these topics. I know, because he explained his understanding of them to me. He was not far off.

When we picked Jilda up from work, I had Jordan give her a recap of the things we talked about. 

I think I'll ask him to leave his iPad home more often.


Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Listen to the sea

Jilda and I spent New Year's Eve 1999
at the beach with friends.
A storm before midnight sent
torrents of vertical rain that lashed the windows.
Palmetto and palms gyrated in the wind 
and scratched the side of the house 
as if they wanted inside.
The power winked out.
We toasted the New Year by candlelight.

The next day, the tide was angry.
On our morning stroll, 
we picked up bushels of shells.
It was a remarkable time.

There's one of those conch shells on my nightstand
when I miss the sea,
I can pick up that shell and listen.


Monday, January 06, 2020

Water lover

It's been a while since we've had a dog that likes water. The last one was Ol' Blackie. He was a mix-breed dog but he had Lab in him

Every time it rained and turned the low spot in the field into a pond, he was in the middle of it. He would splash around and grunt. The temps were no deterrent. It could get so cold the pond would have a layer of ice and Ol' Blackie would dive in.

Neither Caillou, Taz, or Ol' Hook share our old Lab's enthusiasm for getting wet. Enter Kodak.

Last last week it rained for days. I looked out one morning and our pond was back. A while later, we put on our rain gear and headed out with the critter.

One the first lap, Kodak made a B-Line for the water. He was tentative at first, but before long he was splash around and trying to coax the other dogs to follow. They didn't. So, he enjoyed it by himself.



Sunday, January 05, 2020

Sunlight on a rusty relic

We spent time today moving all the Christmas decorations to the barn. We took the tree down last weekend but plastic boxes as big as steamer trunks were stacked in the corner. I would have done it several days ago but I didn't want to get soaked.

So today was the day. This evening, my bones are weary. Jilda drew me a hot bath with all her magic Juju Elixer. I let the hot water loosen up the stiff joints. When I stepped out, I felt taller.

The afternoon sun made the weather perfect for walking. Calling our niece Samantha and Jordan, I asked if they were up for a walk. They were.

It was a delightful stroll. 

When I rounded the barn, I saw sunlight on the old tractor discs. The light falling on the rusty relic was beautiful.

I hope you found time to do something enjoyable today.









Saturday, January 04, 2020

Beautiful sky

Stepping out this morning to dump coffee grounds into the compost bucket rain was still dripping from low-lying clouds.

Still half asleep, I fretted that today would dreary. But while Jilda and I sipped steaming coffee and read the morning news, I noticed a shaft of light on the birdbath outside our great room window. When I saw a fat cardinal perched on the feeder preening, I smiled.

The wind out of the north kicked up and flapped the flag on our arbor. When I stepped outside to dump another scoop of seed in the birdfeeder, I headed back inside for my vest.

My phone chirped. Our friend Fred needed a hand sometime today on a project. After we walked the dogs, I went over and helped him move and secure an antenna. I held the antenna while he secured the guy wires. The one thing I noticed was the sky. It was remarkable all day.

This evening, we met friends at a restaurant not far from the newspaper office where I work a few days a week. We laughed until our cheeks were sore.'

I should have taken a picture today, but I didn't. So, I went back to a photo I took nine years ago. As you might guess, it's a picture of the sky.






Friday, January 03, 2020

Reading

I'm reading a book entitled, "All the light we cannot see." I checked it out over the weekend from the library. It came highly recommended. The timeline goes forward and backward a few years, but the setting is in France and Germany prior to WWII.

Anthony Doerr is the author and I'd never heard of him. The work earned Doerr a Pulitzer Prize in 2015. 

So far, I'm a quarter of the way in, and I can already tell why the work is acclaimed. His descriptions take me to another place. 

I stopped reading today and took some notes. I've always thought I had a decent vocabulary but reading this book has me yearning to expand my understanding of the language.

After I'm through, I'll pass on my final notes on this work. I'm thinking I will recommend it to my friends.




Thursday, January 02, 2020

It's raining

There are places on the planet that are starving for rain. Some of my friends and blog buddies in parts of Australia have devastating wildfires. I wish we could share a little of our rain with them.

I walked the dogs alone this morning. Suiting up in my sweats, a full-length raincoat, hat, and rain boots, I coaxed the dogs out. They weren't thrilled as they usually are, but there was business to take care of - there was no avoiding that. 

It was a short walk. I let the dogs in on the side porch that's doubling as a green room. The plants were thankful for the rain that the dogs shook off their shining coats.

Once inside, I sat down at my office desk. At times, the rain roared on the metal roof, and other times, it was more of a thick mist. 

Jilda left for work after lunch. I knocked out a couple stories and the first draft of my column for Sunday.

I received a check in the mail today for some contract work I did for a local city. After a warm shower, I darted out to my truck and headed to the bank. 

On the way home, I swung by the Forks of the river to see how the water was flowing. It is evident before I clicked the gearshift into park that the water was up.

I stood there for a moment and watched as mocha-colored water flowed downstream. I snapped the picture below and sent it to the paper. I'm not sure if the editor will use it, but I wanted to document this moment in time.

If the rain falls this hard tomorrow, I'm putting life vests on the chickens.

Y'all stay dry and warm.


Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Up again

A decade is behind us. A decade is before us. When thinking about tonight's post, I thought about the past ten years.

One of the most significant things that happened ten years ago was that I retired from AT&T after 33 years of service.

One day I was commuting an hour each way to my job. Working eight to ten hours under a blanket of stress. The next day after retirement, I slept in. Actually, I didn't sleep. I woke up at my normal time, but as I lay there with my head on the pillow, I let it sink in that my life had changed. From this day forward, I was the boss of my life.

So the decade that started (actually it started in March) was one about doing things we'd put off for years. I fished, Jilda and I played music, we traveled, we volunteered, and we had fun. We laughed a lot.

The years were not without casualties. We lost family, pets (who were family), and friends. We cried a lot.

But that's part of life. If you hang around enough, stuff happens. You either whine about it, or you suck it up and deal.

It's the people who find ways to get through the low tide that I admire. There was a song back in the 70s that said something like:
Funny how life is like a wheel
First your down
Then your up again.

I hope the 20s find you Up again.











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