Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

Having arrived safely for the most part, at the end of the year, the general consensus is that we should all take stock of where we are and where we are headed, and make course corrections as seem appropriate. I guess this is okay, although I have always favored making more timely corrections as I go along and as I see what is needed. I seldom make New Years' resolutions as I try not to promise things I know I can't deliver or do not intend to deliver.even to myself.
When I was a child many members of my family smoked. It was frowned upon by the wiser family members, and one day my favorite aunt said to me, "You're not going to smoke when you grow up, are you?" I was caught. I had already decided that I probably would smoke and I did not want to lie to Aunt Thelma. I said the only thing I could:"Well, I don't know. I might." Time passed and I did smoke for many years. My opinion of trying to coerce the righteous answer has not changed.
So, although I know I should go on a diet, improve my posture, exercise more, keep my house cleaner, etc, I probably will not. I could make some resolutions I might keep, like eat more candy and cookies, leave the beds unmade more often, and eat out more often. (Why is it that everything relates to food?) But then, that wouldn't be fair, would it?

Happy New Year!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Venus, the Moon, Jupiter, and Mercury

Last evening there was a truly spectacular sight just about sunset. There was still some color in the sky and the moon was a tiny waxing crescent in the southwest. Higher above the moon was a bright diamond that most of us are familiar with: Venus.It was, as is often the case, the brightest object in the sky. Below the moon, about where the sun set, was the planet Jupiter, in a line drawn from Venus, through the moon and down to Jupiter. Below Jupiter was the planet Mercury. I had never seen Mercury before and would not have seen it this time except I borrowed Hannah's glasses. I had scanned back and forth till I despaired of ever seeing it. I meant to bring the binoculars, but got off without them.
There is only about a 40 minute window where the 3 planets are visible just after sunset and you need a fair view of the horizon. Jupiter was faint, but was pretty quickly located. As the sky darkened and we all searched for the elusive Mercury, it suddenly appeared! Just like that! Suddenly conditions were right and we saw it!
Venus will soon begin it's descent and transition to a morning star in January. Jupiter will soon sink below the horizon and Mercury will disappear also. Mercury is seldom seen as it is so near the sun, so this is a great opportunity. Last night (Dec 29) this beautiful sight was visible in all parts of the globe and according to what I heard, this was a very rare occurrence.
I remember as a child my daddy would often carry me as we walked home from the grandparents house in the evening.Sometimes he would point out objects in the sky. Seven Sisters is one that I remember. It is a cluster in the constellation Orion. I remember Haley's Comet which was tiny and Hale-Bop, which was bigger and lasted quite a few days. I am filing last nights sighting away in a special place in memory.
I hope you can get out tonight and create a wonderful memory for yourself. It's always better if you have someone to share it with.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Friday, December 26, 2008

Childhood Christmas Memories

I guess you can imagine why I have not posted for the last several days. I've been just a mite busy with family and holiday stuff-which is a good thing. as the years pass and the size of my family decreases, it focuses my mind on the family I have left. The second reason for the lack of recent postings is because my DSL was out for a couple of days and that is bad.I contacted ATT and they came right out and fixed it. It was the modem and according to the repairman, the modems are going out right and left. They must have reached their lifetime. Anyway, he stuck another one in and we are off surfing again.
For several years when I was a child, Mother worked in the cotton mill in the Chattahoochee Valley. The mill controlled many aspects of people's lives and was a big force in surrounding towns. The mill always sponsored a merry-go-round for children and (correct me if I am wrong) a beautiful Nativity scene. The scene was life size and the manikins were all in period dress, which moved in the wind adding to the realism. I was never allowed to go near the scene and we always viewed the scene from the parking area. Many years later I went down close to the figures and saw that they were not nearly so beautiful as they were from afar. During the first years that I saw the nativity scene, no one went near it and there was a general air of reverence in the parking lot. People looked on and whispered to each other. Sometimes boys would walk around to the backside but seldom would anyone enter the actual scene. As the years passed it became a common thing for people to interrupt the serenity of the manger and walk among the figures touching them, although I never saw anyone touch the baby.
The mill also sent a bag of toys and goodies for each child in a household with a mill employee. The bag I remember the most was the one that had a toy xylophone with a wooden stick with a red wooden ball on the end for striking the notes. There were printed pages of songs with numbers that I played endlessly. I enjoyed it for years afterward. Toward the end of the Christmas bag era, the mill started giving silver dollars to the older children which was much less exciting for the kids.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Unusual Rope Chair


This is an interesting chair ON SALE for only $600. Now, let's approach in an orderly manner.
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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Unusual Christmas decorations


These decorations were in a store window at Lennox mall. I thought they looked more like strands of DNA than Christmas decorations
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Saturday, December 20, 2008

You Can't Take a Picture!!


This store in Lenox Square had some lovely trees but this woman insisted that I could not take a picture of them.
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Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Then and Now


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When I was a child our tradition was to cut an Eastern red cedar for our Christmas tree. No one bought trees then: the pastures, roadsides, and railroad right-of-ways were full of cedars and my brother the hunter started looking for a good tree in October. By the time Christmas rolled around, he had a good one spotted and would bring it home. One year he was pretty hacked when someone beat him to his selected tree.
The lights we used on the tree were wired in series instead of parallel, and consequently whenever one bulb went out, the whole string blinked off. Daddy's assistance was required every time he stepped in the door. He got tired of that fairly quickly and let it be known in no uncertain terms that he didn't care if the lights burned or not.
We had some very old ornaments that I believe had come from my maternal grandmother. In fact, a few of those old glass balls are still around. There were some very dangerous icicle ornaments which were made from metal strips rolled off tin cans with a key. Daddy had unrolled the strip and stretched it out to make a shining corkscrew that glittered on the tree. I got quite a few small cuts off them, but never anything really bad. I was constantly warned not to touch them as they were sharp as razors.
The tree at my other grandmother's house was always tall and thick, but what I remember is the pile of presents under the tree for a large family of aunts, uncles, and cousins. The dinners were the big things and the whole family gathered to laugh and talk. The women gathered in the house and the men squatted in a circle outside. The cousins had a great time playing together unfettered by adult supervision. We frequently were drawn into corn cob battles. The team in the barn loft had an advantage due to the height, but the ground team had access to water to soak the cobs in. A soaked corn cob could make even a big boy cry.
All this is a far cry from the Christmas decorations at Lenox Square in Atlanta. But honestly, our homemade Christmases are still just as good in memory as they were then.

Animal Revenge

This is an example that illustrates what many of us think: animals are more like us than we would like to imagine.

Magpies are the only non-mammal that can recognize themselves in a mirror rather than thinking it is another bird.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hot Stickey December Weather

This hot sticky weather in December is about to get on my last nerve. This is yukkier than August.
Dora thinks since it is so warm it is her duty to chase armadillos and bark all night. I try to shut her in as soon as it gets dark, but she sometimes sneaks out before I know it. I am afraid that her barkey little mouth just announces to coyotes where she is. I have always thought to live your life in fear is a pitiful existence. She is certainly not fearful of the dark or what lurks there. But I think what she does is lacking in good judgment, equivalent to walking down a dark alley. One evening in December I heard her barking on the porch and opened the door to hear two packs of coyotes howling, one in the back, and one in the front.
Time is sliding on down toward Christmas and I have not done half the things I usually do to get ready for Christmas. I guess I need to work on my attitude. It's not that I don't feel Christmasy as much as it is a feeling of being sucked down a tube at great speed so that I can't stop myself or focus on anything before it is gone.
maybe the weather is to blame.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Meet Chester and Norbit


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Meet Barbara's goats, Chester and Norbit. Norbit is the smaller, more social of the two, and can be hand fed. They like almost anything, but of available local foods, they favor privet leaves and berries. They have a fenced area where they roam free but sometimes they are staked by their favorite privet bushes.
I had a goat once and originally employed Daisy to clean up the privet behind the barn. The longer she was with me, the better I liked her. She seemed to reflect me in many ways. Sometimes she was ornery for no reason, she did not always come when she was called, and she preferred strawberries above all else. I could read her emotions like a book and they said that rain really disgusted her. She would stare at me with her ears sticking straight out, as if I were to blame for the unsatisfactory weather.
While she lived with me she became the mother of twins, and she was a very good and careful Mother. Although she used to sleep with the dog before the twins were born, she took an active dislike to the dog afterward. She would butt at the dog and run her away. This perplexed the dog and she kept trying to be friends, but to no avail. I eventually found a home for the twins because I did not want to start a goat farm. Daisy cried for a week in the most pitiful bellows when I took the twins away. She whimpered for another week. Having grown up on a farm where calves were routinely separated from their mothers, you would think it would not affect me, but it most certainly did. Her grief was palatable, and I knew I had caused it.
It turned out that Daisy was right about dogs. She died when a rottweiler tore out her throat.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Gumbo Limbo Tree

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This is a Gumbo Limbo (Brusera simaruba) tree and is a new one I learned on my last trip to Florida. Another name for it is Tourist tree so named because of it's red peeling skin. This tree is a living fence post where it occurs. A branch stuck in the ground roots readily. Haitians use it to make drums,its resin can be used to make water repellent coatings and incense.It is semi-deciduous (where have you heard that word before?) in winter and blooms in winter also. Unfortunately I guess I was a little too early for blooms. It is said to make a nice shade but not when the leaves are mostly gone. This may be something only a plant person could be interested in.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas Lights at Captiva

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The beach in front of the Mucky Duck restaurant is famous for its wonderful sunsets. People gather there every evening in hopes of seeing the green flash that occasionally occurs just as the sun dips below the horizon. I have been there for sunsets when after the sun dipped down there was a moment of silence and then a spontaneous round of applause for the beautiful event.
The Mucky Duck has great food even if it is a bit pricey(but nearly everything is on Sanibel/Captiva) There is outside entertainment with picnic tables and gas heaters to knock the chill off this time of year.And there are adirondack chairs. The palm trees are decorated with Christmas lights. It does seem odd to see snowmen and Santa in a red flannel suit in the tropics.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sundown at the Sanibel Lighthouse Pier


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This is the lighthouse pier where people fish. A stroll down the pier is interesting, but not as interesting as the beach to me. The sunset needs no words.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sand Sculptures at Sanibel




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People these days build fantastic sculptures on the beach. These are not your typical kid's sand castles. Yes, sometimes a kid helps, but these are art forms that primarily adults make. My pictures are not so good as two were taken at night.It was too dark to find the mermaid with her scallop shell scales and I was sad to have missed the picture of it. But here is a sampling. The first is an alligator, the second an octopus,the third is one piece of a 3 piece sculpture. It is the castle part of the third picture that is a castle, a knight, and a dragon.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Deciduous Holly

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Just in time for Christmas- deciduous holly. Deciduous means it drops its leaves in winter. But it does not drop it's eye popping berries. I suppose the birds eat them in spring after they have fermented a bit, in the same way that birds enjoy regular holly berries about March. If I can remember, I am going to keep an eye on this one and see when the berries disappear. This tree is on US 431 between the Hinkle farm where the pecan trees line the road and before the passing lane when headed toward LaFayette. This tree grows in a hedge row and is in the end near the road. I first saw it one fall about 15 years ago. I stopped and collected a few seeds for germinating, which none did. In the passing years it has grown from a scraggly twig to the beautiful thing in this picture. If it were mine I would cut the other bushes away from it though.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


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This is a tree stump near the Sanibel lighthouse. Yes, the Sanibel lighthouse does look like a can of bolts, not your typical romantic lighthouse, but still interesting. The area around the lighthouse is typically shallow even at high tide and usually you can find good shells there. One there was a man-of-war washed up on the beach there and I have also found dinner plate sized star fish there. However, I recommend you enjoy starfish at the water's edge and throw them back. All sorts of unpleasant things can occur if you try to dry them yourself.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Dodder, a Parasitic Plant

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This is dodder, a parasitic plant I saw growing on Sanibel Island. As you can see, it has virtually covered its host plant and may have spread to adjacent plants. It grows from seed and must reach a host plant within a few days after germination or it will die. It detects nearby host plants by chemical "sniffing" and grows toward them preferentially. Dodder sinks haustoria (modified roots)into the tissues of the host and the basal part of the plant shrivels away. It produces prodigious amounts of seed and the seed remain viable for 10-50 years. They can be spread by animals and birds as well as cultivation.
Dodder grows in Alabama but in central Alabama it is kept in check by frost and must regrow from seed. I have known it by the name love vine, but other interesting names include strangle weed, devil's-guts,pull down, and golden thread. It is a member of the morning glory family but its flowers are insignificant. I never thought of it as a threat but more of an small nuisance. However from reading I have discovered it can be a mean pest in places and may require mechanical or herbicidal control. Anything that kills dodder will likely kill the host plant also, but this should be done before seeding begins.
Well, that is probably more than most people want to know,but it interests me because there are not many parasitic plants.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Wreath Making



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It's funny that when you start making wreaths almost anything becomes fodder for the wreath mill. From the picture you can see what an odd assortment we gathered for our project. First there is the wreath base which can be straw, vine, styrofoam or any number of things. To decorate the wreath, just look around. We used both natural and artificial materials. The greenery was fresh: magnolia leaves (and pods), red cedar,and jackson smilax. We used these because they were what was growing in our yards. Dried materials included all sorts of cultivated and wild materials such as sweet gum balls, magnolia pods,pine cones,wasp nests, foxtail grass, gompherea, and sea shells. Take a look at the picture and you will see a partial assortment of what we used. We also used purchased material and material from past wreaths.
This is a fun group project and we egged each other on to new heights of inventiveness. Someone suggested we should make wreaths and sell them to benefit a charity. Maybe next year we can start sooner and do that.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Shore Birds at Sanibel/Captiva




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If there were fewer large shells this time at Sanibel, there were certainly more beautiful birds. There were huge flocks in Ding Darling Preserve, but they were everywhere we went. The first picture shows an artificial platform for ospreys to nest on. I saw an osprey on the nest at one site. The beaches hosted large numbers of laughing gulls and terns which flock together. Pelicans soared over the water making dives for fish that left me wondering how they kept from breaking their necks. In the preserve I saw white pelicans which I had never seen before. Seeing an ibis fishing in the surf was a real treat, and the rosette spoonbills! O, they were gorgeous. At first I thought they were flamingos because of their color, but a birder with a huge lens on his camera set me straight and let me look through his camera. Wow!
But I guess my favorites are the little sanderlings that chase the receding waves on the beach. They go up and back and never get caught by a wave, but once I did see one get hit by a wave. Before it could recover, another wave hit. I was ready to jump to its assistance, but it turned out my help was not needed. It escaped to the dry sand and looked back at the waves as if it had been humiliated. Or maybe that was relief I saw. If you get too close to them as you walk along the surf, they take a detour around you and keep on with their business. I wish I had a movie of them. I find their movements both soothing and animating. For a picture of sanderlings and their behavior, click here.
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