Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sanibel island is Noted for Shells


This picture gives you an idea of the number if not the diversity of shells at Sanibel Island, Florida. The beach is littered with caches of shells, even mounds in places. Having just returned from a wonderful few days there, it is very fresh in my mind, even though there were fewer shells there this time than any other time I have been. One woman on the beach said there were fewer shells in the fall than any other season. She did not say why. There were still gobs of shells but they tended to be much smaller in size. In a mound like the one pictured here we found tiny conchs, tulips and several other spiral kinds of shells. I did find a huge lightning whelk (about a foot long), but it had a live animal in it and taking live shells is prohibited. It had apparently been washed up in the tide and was digging down in the sand to escape the sun when I found it. (I will post that picture later.)After admiring it we waded out as far as possible and tossed it as far out as we could to make sure it did not come ashore again.
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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Pretty Funny Signs

While we are waiting for me to return from the beach, I found this for your entertainment. Some is fairly risque but all of it is funny. Click here to go to the site.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Voltaire Quotes

Voltaire wrote, "God is a comedian, playing to an audience too afraid to laugh."

And, "To succeed in the world it is not enough to be stupid, you must also be well-mannered."

And, "Let us read and let us dance ... two amusements that will never do any harm to the world."

I ripped these from the Writer's Almanac. I think they are just as applicable as they were in the 1700's. People don't change much, do they? I do think the last quote may not be exactly true. Reading may cause thinking (o no, Bob) and thinking tends to stir things up, a fact that many do not like.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Deer Shop and Go to Church

A Deer in the Target by Robert Fanning

I only got a ten-second shot,
grainy footage of the huge deer
caught in the crosshairs
of a ceiling security camera, a scene
of utter chaos in a strip mall store,
shown on the late local news.
The beautiful beast clearly scared
to death in this fluorescent forest,
its once graceful legs giving out
on mopped floors, think Bambi
as a faun its first time standing.
Seeing the scattering shoppers,
you'd think a demon had barged
into this temple of commerce,
as they sacrificed their merchandise,
stranded full carts and dove for cover.
And when the aisles were emptied
of these bargain hunters, who was left
but an army of brave red-shirted
team members, mobilized by
the store manager over the intercom
to drive this wild animal out.
I wager there's nothing on this
in the How to Approach
an Unsatisfied Shopper
section in the Target employee handbook,
but there they were: the cashiers
and stockers, the Floor Supervisor,
the Assistant Floor Supervisor,
the Store Manager,
the Assistant Store Manager,
the District Associate Manager,
the District Supervisor,
the District Assistant Supervisor
and visiting members from
the Regional Corporate Office,
running after it, it running after
them, bull's eye logos on their red golf shirts,
everyone frenzied and panting: razor hooves
clattering on the mirror-white floor tiles,
nostrils heaving, its rack clearing
off-season clothes from clearance racks.
All of them, in Target,
chasing the almighty buck.

A couple of years ago a deer burst through the plate glass windows at Auburn United Church on a Sunday morning and lead a merry chase till it was apprehended by the Auburn police. It is tempting to try to make some connection here (was the church deer praying for the shopping deer or vice versa?)but I suspect that it is more the result of deer being crowded out of their habitats and being forced to live in the city where things can become very confusing.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Collecting Seed




Fall is typically the best time for finding the most seed ripe for collecting. I enjoy participating in the American Horticultural Society Seed Exchange, so every fall I check around to see what plants I have with lots of seed. This year the definite winner was South African foxglove. In the middle picture you can see the little pouches of seed that have two sharp ears. Believe me, they are sharp and will get you if you are not careful. The pouch opens up as it dries and the small black seed pop out at the least shaking of the plant. The easiest way for me to collect seed is to get a bunch of large paper grocery sacks. These are not as easy to accumulate as they used to be since most stores use that infernal plastic and put in one item per bag. It would work almost as well to just carry the groceries in your hands. But I digress.
Take the bags to the garden and cut off the whole stem with the seed and drop it quickly upside down in the sack. Be sure to hold it upright till it is over the bag. This works well with all kinds of flowers and seed. When you are through collecting, close the top of the bag and shake to jar the seeds loose. I usually let them set in the bags in the house (it is dryer there) for a day or so, then shake again. Then I pull out the stems and throw them somewhere I would not mind having a few volunteers. I do NOT throw them in the compost. The seed can then be poured into a pan or bowl and allowed to dry a few more days before being packaged up for storage. It is very important that stored seed be completely dry or mold may start to grow on them and ruin the whole batch. I usually store my seeds in a zip lock or film canister (saved from when we used film)or other small bottle or jar. LABEL. This is extremely important. Put the name of the plant and the year collected at the very least. You will NOT remember unless you label.
Fleshy seed like the ones in the third picture need either additional drying to make sure they do not mold, or else planted immediately.
Collecting the seed when they are ripe is also extremely important. If they are picked immature, the seed will not germinate. Seed in fleshy fruit is typically ripe when the the fruit is ripe. If the fruit is edible, you can be pretty sure the seed are ready when the fruit is ready for eating, for example an apple or orange. If the fruit in not edible, it is best to wait till it drops off the plant and then collect the seed from the flesh. One time I collected seed from an osage orange. Eee Oweee what a mess!
Seed from daisy type plants or other seed that form in pods is ripe typically when the seed pod or flower dries and turns brown. Harvest too early and the seeds will not be viable, harvest too late and the seed will already be dispersed. Seed pods open to release the seed and when you notice the pods beginning to open, get ready to collect. If you have to dig the seed loose from the pod or seedhead, they are probably immature and will not germinate.
This week I saw some seed of Empress Tree for sale at the flea market. The green pods were sealed in ziplock bags and moisture had collected inside. I would guess that the seed in the pod might not be mature, but even if they were mature, they were likely to go through a heat in the bag and that would kill the seed.
Seed collection is a fun project and one that enables me to trade plants with people across the country and across the world. (I have sent and received seed from Reunion Island in the Caribbean).
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Friday, November 21, 2008

Chipmunk Holes



The chipmunks are about to take over . All through my flower beds there are holes and some of them are quite large. I see them racing about. Dora seems them,too, and she tries her best to get one. She did once that I know of. They are cute and I used to like them a lot more than I do now. I have started to blame them for any plant troubles I see. I wonder if they are the reason I had a half dead pomegranite bush this year and no fruit. Did they dig under the roots and cut too many of them off? I did a wee bit of checking and found out that Chipmunks are opportune eaters, that is they eat whatever does not eat them first. According to what I read, this trait can be turned against them by baiting rat traps with peanut butter. Don't set the trap at first and get them used to it, then when you set it you should get one. All the other remedies seemed like they might wind up poisoning Dora. I have not done anything yet, except wish they would move on or not multiply so fast. She might get in a rat trap,too, or get it caught on her little foot.
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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Anole with a Spot


I saw this little cutie the other day and was immediately struck by her(his?) beauty spot. It looks like she might have a giant freckle that refused to change to brown. I suppose it could be the result of an accident, but I hope next year that there are more of these unique anoles around. The other interesting thing about this one was that I actually saw it drink water.I had been watering the plants and there was one drop on the side of the pot. She just went up to it and touched her mouth to it and it disappeared, just like she was drinking through a straw. Serendipity. I have watched many different anoles many different times in hopes of seeing them drink, but this special sight just came to me when I was not expecting it.
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Is There a Purpose in All Things?

Is There A Purpose In All Things?

By this I mean is there a reason for everything that happens? Good Grief-I hope not. That would mean that God had something in mind- punishment or learning experiences - when babies are killed in car crashes, or when young people die in war, or when fires, landslides, and volcano eruptions destroy homes. I could not respect nor love a god who did things like that. I could be very afraid of him.
By the same token, He does not favor some of us over others. He did not make a lavish lifestyle in the United States to favor us over Mexico or Bangladesh. Lifestyles in the US are the result of many fortuitous occurrences, but not God’s favor. He does not love us any more or any less than other people in other places. In a war, everyone thinks God is on their side. (Bob Dylan said that.)
Where do the good and bad events in our lives come from if not from God? They come out of the Chaos from which God created the universe. Notice that both Good and Bad come from Chaos. The creation process did not do away with Chaos; it is still operational in our world as we can all bear witness of. There is a randomness to our lives that cannot be explained any other way, even if there is a truly micromanaging god. When God gave humans free will, there could be no taking back. It seems that the rest of creation has some degree of free will also and that throws another dimension in play.
Is there a purpose to all things is the wrong question. The right question is what is the purpose of God? That one has an easy answer. God loves and cares for us and helps us through all the good and bad that come to us in life. I believe what is important is our own reactions to the events and problems we face. That is what God cares about and is where our energy should be focused.

Monday, November 17, 2008



This is the plant that my dad called Shoe Make. You can see how a person unschooled in plant names might make this mistake, and it was a name widely known in Chambers County where I grew up. By any name Sumac has brilliant fall color and screams to be noticed on the roadsides and places where it gets ample sun. Sumac blooms in early summer with a big blousey inflorescence. Not only are the fall leaves beautiful, but in the case of Staghorn Sumac, the berries are also a knockout.They are a dark red and speak of the heat of the summer sun. They are said to make a great lemonade-like drink high in vitamin C, but I have never been brave enough to try it. Birds love the berries, and I am sure that is how this interloper came to my garden. I frequently pick the seed heads and hang them in bushes where I can see the birds eat them.
I recommend planting this on the edge of your yard or in some other place where you are not planning to grow anything else any time. While it is beautiful in most seasons, this is not a character for flower beds. I did not notice this plant till this year and you can see the size it got to. It has sent out suckers in the bed and even into the surropunding grass. I left it so I could enjoy it's fall color, but it will be gone (hopefully) by spring. I suspect I may be fighting it for several years to come. You know how these plants are always in groupings along the road? Well, there is a reason for that. It naturally forms clumps.
One note of caution. Not all members of this genus are friendly. If you see a Sumac with grey berries, keep your distance. It is Poison Sumac and will cause a rash on many people.
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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Suffering, Endurance, Character, Hope

As long as I am posting a few quotes, I might as well post this one:
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
-Romans 5:1-5 (NRSV)

Don't let the word boast throw you off. In this case it means to take pride in, or to be thankful for.It is not a word used much in the context of these verses, but the meaning here is still clear.I am always inspired by the complexity of life and the interconnectedness of it. In the natural world, ecologically speaking, I have pointed out connections before by saying the foot bone is connected to the leg bone.... Here is an example of connectedness in a spiritual sense. Suffering, mental or physical, produces endurance, which produces character, and character produces hope. I have never known anyone with character (as I define it) that was not hopeful. Character makes a person do the right thing even when to all appearances there seems to be little hope of a positive outcome.
All of us suffer. It is part of the human condition (but not human alone-animals suffer both mentally and physically). The important thing is how we react to it. Will it build up character or produce bitterness or hatefulness? The plain fact is that some suffer more than others. Is this because they have further to go to build character? I think not. I say it is completely random, the luck of the draw. Just as God does not care how much money we have because he looks on the heart, he is more interested in the effect suffering has on the heart than the suffering itself. This is not to say that He does not care about suffering, because He does. He provides endurance or whatever spiritual quality is needed, or a way to escape if the suffering becomes too much.
I do not believe everything happens for a reason. I believe in what I see, which is chaos for the most part. But more on that another time.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

P.J. O'Rouke Quote

P.J. O'Rouke said, "The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it."

You gotta laugh. It is so true.

Friday, November 14, 2008

November Skies

Some might say this is a picture of some power lines and a jet contrail. But I was looking past technology when I took this shot on US 431. It might be a picture of God working behind the scene, or God providing the backdrop for our accomplishments. It might be a picture of the mess up we made of God's created beauty. It could be a picture contrasting the ephemeral with the eternal. What do you think it is?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


This was such a fluffy healthy specimum of broomsedge that I just had to take its picture. These are especially beautiful in the early morning when frost sparles on the flowers. I guess this just goes to show that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


This is the final burst of glory from a plant that has been beautiful ever since spring.How this escaped the deer is a mystery.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Baccharis halimifolia or Groundsel tree

This picture is of groundsel tree (or bush). It is a shrub that may become as tall as 15 feet and blooms this time of year. I typically see it when driving past waste places or cut over woods. It blooms this time of year and is a real standout as not many other trees bloom in November and December. It is a dioecious plant, which means that male and female flowers usually appear on different plants instead of having both structures in one flower. They produce zillions of seed as you can imagine from this plant in flower. The seed have filaments that cause it to be buoyant and they float around like dandelion fluff, hence their wide distribution. They take 2 years to reach flowering size, but I recommend enjoying them from some other vantage point than your own yard, unless you want to grow nothing else. They are said to be good deer browse, but to me that seems doubtful as the leaves are poisonous to cattle.
I have made flower arrangements using groundsel and thought it was very striking. It lasted several days.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Stink Bug

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This is a large stink bug. Although it might be a stretch to say it is beautiful, it is certainly wonderfully made. This one has on a white belt. Perhaps it is going to a party, or maybe a stink bug convention. Left click on the image to get a closer look. It is resting on a Baccharis halimifolia (groundsel) flower. I did not disturb it because I did not want to test whether it stunk (stink, stank, stunk?) or not. Apparently the smell does not bother birds because they eat them readily. The stink bugs largely feed on plant juices (remember them on the squash plants?), but some eat other bugs. Another case of the foot bone connected to the leg bone....

Friday, November 7, 2008

More beautiful colors

Every year I take a picture of the trees in my Mother's yard. They are too beautiful to resist, and it does seem that they are especially beautiful this year. The purple is a purple leaf plum and of course the other tree is a maple. I believe she bought it along with a Japanese maple and I wonder if it is a sugar maple. Some maples in her yard she got out of the woods, but they tend to be different shapes from this one, and are prone to split. I rolled Mother down the road in her wheel chair so she could see these trees. Even though her eyesight is poor, she still enjoys the fall leaf display. And if you don't enjoy these beautiful trees and weather, there must be something wrong with your soul.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Election Thoughts

Whatever your thoughts on the winner of the presidential election, you have to admit that McCain was gracious and positive in defeat, and O'Bama was also gracious while acknowledging the problems that lie ahead. Those problems would still be there no matter who won. It is easy to blame the current administration for today's financial mess but the wheels may have already been in motion. Only hindsight will elucidate those answers. My daddy had a philosophy about politics that I still come back to again and again. He said if they were not rotten when they went in, they would be when they came out. His solution to this was obvious: if they are in, vote them out.
What I find amazing here is the peacefulness of the process. In spite of horsey rhetoric, when the winner is announced, people may go away mad, but they go away. They do not stage protest rallies and shoot people. Pretty soon things settle back into the antagonism that makes our system work. That is why it is good that the Democrats did not get a filibuster proof congress. Compromise forces people to think, and hopefully they will do that with the common good in mind.
I am happy to live in a land where Hope exists no matter who won. I am proud of our people who still feel that "one of us" means more than being either a redneck or an intellectual.It means trusting someone different from us who seems to have the country's best interests at heart.
I wonder if someone will listen now and stop wasting money on that stupid fence between the US (that means us) and Mexico.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Bright Color in Maples

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I may have to change my opinion that October in Alabama is the nicest month. Seems like so far November is taking that title. But, we do have a long way to go yet. The last few days have been outstanding with warm days, cool nights, low humidity, and bright blue skies. The maples are bright red and it is easy to forgive them their greedy ways when you see that color. I say greedy because their roots are near the surface and they coral most of the water and nutrients under their drip line. This behavior plus the numerous roots make it almost impossible to grow anything, even grass,under their shade. And there is also the matter of all those seed! Wow! They come up everywhere. They hide under shrubs and spring up half grown when you are not looking. They completely take over any pots they land in. But those leaves are nice. I am speaking here of our native species. The Japanese maples are much better behaved and if you get the rare seedling from a Japanese maple, you may want to keep it. Unlike our native maples which make seed in the spring, Japanese maples drop seed in the fall. They are ripening now. Japanese maples also have a lot of surface roots, but who would want to detract from their lovely aspect by planting something else under something that is already perfect. See what I mean?

Monday, November 3, 2008


Ever hear of balanophagy?. It means eating acorns. The other day my sister and I were rolling along on top of heaps of acorns on the sidewalk and she was wondering why people did not eat acorns. Deer certainly enjoy them. And squirrels, etc. I have not eaten any since I chewed some as a child and discovered how bitter they were. I remember hearing that during the civil war people made coffee from them, but I think I had rather have coffee weed(sickle pod) coffee. Both seem like they would be terrible.
But native Americans and people all over the world have eaten acorns since the distant past. They collected the least bitter acorns they could find. Apparently there is quite a range of bitterness. Then they are ground into a meal which is leached with water until the bitterness is gone. The meal can then be used in a variety of ways and is very nutritious (high protein). It was cooked on stone griddles or boiled to make a mush or soup. The one drawback to this is that after the meal is ground and wet, it spoils readily so this would have been a daily chore. Whole acorns will keep a whole year.
Bitterness is a key often used to indicate poison, and the poison compound in acorns is tannin. It can cause kidney failure, so if you are planning to do more than taste acorns , be sure to leach the meal well.

Saturday, November 1, 2008



A bunch of strange looking people showed up last night at my house.This one claimed to be a pink flamingo. They were all quite jolly and brought a lot of food with them, so we just settled in for a laugh fest.
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