Saturday, January 31, 2009

Unknown Cactus: Cathedral cactus

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This is a beautiful old cactus.The spines along the edges of the stems make it look almost painted. I asked the grower how long she'd had it and she could not remember besides "several years". She reports it as very hardy but neither oF us know a name for it.

Someone told me this is a Cathedral cactus, but I was unable to confirm by looking at google images. A lot of different plants are called cathedral and rather than a specific cactus, I believe the term cathedral must refer to the growth habit. It sure grows in a way that reminds me of cathedral spires.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Lid Tree

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This Lid Tree has adorned my yard for several years now, and I add to it as plastic lids become available. The lids are on a chaste tree that is going downhill slowly and has quite a few dead twigs. I started this as an effort to cheer the tree up and back to health, but I don't think it is working. I enjoy it especially in winter when the wind blows and the lids swing and jerk about. No one has ever mentioned it to me and I am sure it is because it is so stunning that it leaves people speechless.
But after seeing the "Found" art at Jan Dempsey Art Center (in particular the one in the OA News made from plastic jug ring seals) I knew I must be onto something. I thought it was quite wonderful.
I am giving the Worst of Show to the melted plastic lawn chairs.
My Best of Show goes to Mary. Hers was a collection of animal and insect homes mounted on a hunk of wood. She must have been collecting this stuff for years and years. There were all sorts of shells, wasp nests, dirt dauber nests, bird nests, empty circada shells--O you name it.You need to examine it closely and for that reason, I am not supplying a bad picture of a wonderful piece. Go see the show before it closes on Valentines's day. The gallery is open most days. Maybe every day through the week. here are a few pictures to whet your appetite.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bottle Tree

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I recently put together this bottle tree. Although I was pleased with it, it pales by comparison to the ones on this website.The diversity is incredible . The original thought was that the bottles would trap evil spirits at night and then unable to escape, would be killed by the morning sun. But,if you are interested further, click on Mr. Felder's history link .

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Jackson Similax

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This vine's common name is Jackson's Smilax or Jackson vine. Taxonomists call it Smilax smallii, lately changed from lanceolata.Its cousins are vicious, with heinous thorns that will pierce and tear. When you are stuck by one of these thorns, it sends a chill over you similar to a wasp sting.This smilax however has no thorns except a few at the base. The stems which can grow 25 feet in a season have no thorns.These vines remain evergreen and make wonderful Christmas decorations. They have been used historically for this purpose. They are easily twined over the mantle or around a banister or a wreath.Unless they are kept out of the sun and kept watered or misted, they will not last more than a week or 10 days. Jackson's smilax was used before the advent of plastics and were quite wonderful for a Christmas season that lasted a week or less. It is not used as much now but is still a beautiful vine for decorating.The name is reported to have come into use when Stonewall Jackson came into town and the vine was used for decorating at parties and dinners.The vine is now used some to twine over entrances to homes.
The only way I know to harvest the vine for decoration is to yank it out of the trees. This is not always easy, but it can eventually be wrenched loose from it's lofty perch in the trees. I spot it after leaf drop in the fall. It is in the treetops gleaming a bright green . It has huge underground tubers like all other smilax vines, but these tubers are woody and are more like underground trunks than a dahlia tuber. The plant can not be popagated from these woody storage organs. Just get some roots and a piece of vine,if you want to move one to your yard.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Daffodils vs Jonquils

The question of what to call those yellow things that are starting to bloom now is a question that bothers some so I thought I would try to muddy the waters a little more.
Jonquils is a name that strictly applies to Narcissus jonquilla and a picture can be seen here. These have round leaves instead of the flat blades of the more common daffodils. Apparently these jonquils used to be more common but have now been replaced by daffodils. I have never seen any jonquils for sale (of course I have not looked everywhere) but I have seen them at old homesites. In fact there are some in my yard along with oodles of daffodils and paperwhites left in neat rows around what used to be the yard of the first house that was here. Jonquils are smaller than daffodils and intensely fragrant.
Many an old homesite is marked only by clumps of daffodils. They persist with no care, year after year. The house whose yard they graced, gone now, eaten by flames and fungi. Even the foundation rocks and chimneys are gone, pushed out of the way or confiscated for another purpose. Yet, each spring the daffodils push up through the fescue, through the kudzu, a bright remembrance of the lives that passed in joy and sorrow in this forgotten place.
And that is why I want you to plant daffodils in your yard. Plant them as a testament to the tenacity of life itself, and plant them as a remembrance of me.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Wordsworth's The Daffodils

I always liked this poem and this is a good time of year to review it.

W. Wordsworth

The Daffodils

I WANDER'D lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees, 5
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay: 10
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Outdid the sparkling waves in glee:—
A poet could not but be gay 15
In such a jocund company!
I gazed, and gazed, but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood, 20
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

My First Daffodil

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Daffodils may be my favorite flower. I certainly have loved them longer than any other. When I was a child I waited eagerly for the plump buds to spring open in my grandmother's yard. She had oodles of them dripping down the slope in the back of her house. They were even growing in a wide swath across the road around the vegetable garden. I picked huge handfuls and took them inside to Granny. As far as I remember Granny never had any flower arrangements except the ones I picked for her. Sometimes she seemed a little surprised but she always accepted them with a smile and found some container to stuff them in. I can see them in my mind's eye, packed in a tight bunch in a glass. They stood out in happy contrast to the dark dresser and the white vanity cloth that covered the dresser top. Granny liked flowers, but I suspect that she liked them better outside. I surely liked them inside and out, just as I do now.
Granny did have some plants in pots. One was an asparagus fern. There were others too, but she kept them in a flower pit in the winter and on the front porch in the summer.
Daffodils signal the end of winter for me. As I have often said, it is good that I do not live in a place with "real" winter. They start to bloom in January and February and unless you have many different late varieties, they are done by the end of March. Even though the weather may turn cold, even into the teens, and the creeping cold and wet has not left yet, daffodils give hope that it will be too warm very soon.
For years we planted more daffodils every fall, and now there are clumps everywhere randomly placed across the front yard. Just when you think you have the pattern figured out, they pop up in the wrong place. It was a wonderful tradition and only laziness keeps me from continuing. In the fall when they should be planted, the ground is often hard and dry. Some places require a pick ax to pierce. I never cut the front yard till the foliage begins to dry. By mid May the yard has begun to look ratty and unkept, but like my great grandmother who wouldn't allow the garden to be plowed till the poppies finished, I refrain from using the mower over the daffodils till they begin to dry. The flowers next year are worth a few weeks of untidy grass. Not that I care that much about lawns anyway. That's one of the good things about country living- nobody is going to complain about my uncut grass. The main reason to keep grass cut is to keep the snakes at bay. Someone once told me snakes hated the noise of a lawnmower. I rather think it comes down to not having enough good hiding places.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Even Pot People Get Cold

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Even a pot person can't stand piercing wind and 18 degree temperatures without a scarf and hat.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

No Pants Subway Ride

Now this proves that there are many amusing things in the world, not the least of which is humans. Watch peoples expressions as they view this spectacle.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Animal Friends Across Species Lines

You know that I am interested in animal stories and in particular animal feelings that seem to mirror human feelings and reaction. This link will lead you to a video about some strange animal friends.
So maybe it is not so strange when animals other than dogs cross species lines to make friends.
When the donkey Jack lived in the pasture by Mother's house, the dog from next door spent most of every day beside him. The dog's owner was rarely home and this was the only available option for the dog. When the donkey was hauled to a new home, the dog followed the trailer a long way down the road. I am not sure how the donkey felt about the dog, but at least he made no motion to kick the dog. He tried several times to kick me and other people.

Saturday, January 17, 2009




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I had heard of cherimoya but never seen it till this weekend when I ran across it in Kroger. I did not see a price anywhere and thought I would check at the register. I forgot. When I got home I checked my receipt and found I had paid $7.85 for this one grapefruit sized fruit. My reading said that this fruit is also called custard apple and that it has been called the most delicious fruit. I guess that person never ate scuppernongs. It was not bad, by any means, but to me the flavor was so mild as to be adequately described as sweet. The texture was more like pear than anything else I can think of. I suppose when it is riper it might be more custard-like.
This fruit was labeled product of USA so I assume it was grown in California. Or maybe Florida but I think California's climate may be more like the home Cherimoya hails from. It comes from the Andes, but will not stand frost. It has been described as liking to see snow in the distance. (Cymbidiums and Easter lily vine both require cooling before they will flower.)
They have a short shelf life and the produce manager told me that the fruits frequently ruin before they are sold. Fruits that are completely brown should be avoided, as they might not be suitable for consumption (what does that really mean??). They should be slightly soft to the touch when ready to be eaten. Cherimoyas can be held back from ripening so quickly by removing ethylene as well as storing under refrigeration. However refrigeration may turn the skin brown, just like in bananas.
Although the skin has beautiful markings, it is reported that eating it may cause paralysis for 4 or 5 hours, so you might not want to do that. (Wikipedia) The third picture down shows a piece of skin that has been nibbled clean. I did not know the paralysis thing when I was eating it. But I am fine. You can also see the large brown seeds in the same picture. I plan to try to germinate them and see what happens.
In conclusion , I would say this was a pleasant experience , both eating and learning about Cherimoya. The only unpleasant part was the price.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Pot Lady at Christmas

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The Pot Lady has been pestering me to put her picture in her Christmas dress on the blog. She asked me to make her a new Christmas outfit, said she wanted to be Scarlett O'Hara. (I think she has Halloween and Christmas mixed up.) Any way I did make her a dress from a curtain -a bathroom curtain. I think it is about time to say happy New Near and start figuring on preparing for spring. Right after this coming freeze is over.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Baby Chicks


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These are some baby chicks that my nephew hatched in an incubator that he made. The big orange ones are Rhode Island Reds (good laying hens) and the smaller ones that look like they might be related to quails are bantys. The one tiny one shown alone with protective hands to keep it from running away and falling, is a Seabright chick. It is also a banty, and the smallest of the 3 kinds. They are so cute. But messy.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Garden Sculpture

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There once was a lamp which was retrieved from a dump. It came into my possession and I determined to fix it. I could find nothing wrong with the cord or anything else really. It appeared to be a good new lamp, just would not light. I took it apart and finally got an answer to my question about why there was no off/on switch. It was a touch on lamp and apparently the touch switch was burned out. A check on the internet revealed that a new switch would cost about $20 and a new lamp of this kind was about that cost.
Not to be defeated in my quest to fix or reuse, I cut off the cord as long as I could and saved it because someday I may need to replace a cord on something. (Could this be why my attic is so full???) The body of the lamp was clearly a garden sculpture if I ever saw one, and I had just the thing to top it off- a gazing ball. So there you have the story of the repurposed lamp, except for the shade which I also have plans for. Show you that when I complete it! What fun!!!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Full Moon Tonight




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The Moon is full tonight and I hope you got outside to take a look even through it was pretty cold. The cold clear skies made excellent moon viewing weather. At one point I almost thought I saw a ring around the moon, but each time before I could focus on it it disappeared, so I can't be sure it was there. If you missed it tonight, tomorrow night should be as beautiful.
The photos are my feeble attempt to take picture of the moon with an automatic camera. Even though they look nothing like what I saw tonight, they are interesting. And eerie.
The first two have a vague underwater feeling, maybe something like from the poem The Highwayman..."The moon was a ghostly galleon, tossed upon cloudy seas".
The last two were caught with a flash and the oak limbs and twigs are clearer, interesting in a different way.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Chester and Norbit (Norbert)

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There seems to be some confusion about the spelling of Norbit's (bert's) name. I must get the correct spelling if I am going to continue to write about them. They are so sweet and eat all the privet bushes and smilax that they can find. They even have Barbara out cutting more.Talk about training!! Goats seek a high place for a lookout, and automobiles are just right for leaping on top of.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Mulch and Compost Ruminations

I pawed through my trove of seeds and found some annual poppies and some larkspurs. I cast aside the notion that I was going to add mulch to the flower bed before I planted it, and cast the seed instead. Larkspur and poppy seed should not be covered when they are planted as they require light for germination. All you need is some prepared soil, or some unprepared soil if it is relatively weed free and not too hard. They really should be planted in October, but since I didn't get it done then, now seemed like a good time. I just broadcast them over last year's mulch. Mulch in Alabama turns to soil and/or disappears so quickly that I am constantly reapplying it.
The other day on the radio I heard an Alabama gardener who said that because of our warm temperatures and abundant rain (most years), compost disappears very quickly. That it does. Which explains my desire to chop leaves and apply them directly to the gardening beds. Some gardeners like to dig small holes and put their potato peelings and strawberry hats directly in the soil. I have only done this once or twice and it works fine. The problem for me is that my beds are mostly random and I am always afraid of digging into bulbs or perennials.
Lots of my bulbs are up and some have the buds already. I saw one of the ole timey ones at Mother's house that will be open tomorrow. It is in a row that has been there for a hundred years.Those old daffodils are so hardy, and they bloom first. They start off quite short and the bloom stems elongate right along with the leaves so that by the time they are in full bloom, they are not short at all.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Raking, Chopping, Mulching, Composting: Keep Those leaves Coming

It's time to get started again in the yard and greenhouse. I have been busy with other things since about Halloween. Now my thoughts are turning toward what I need to do to get ready for spring. Every year I have more plans than I can carry through with, but that is good.The most miserable people I have ever known did not have anything they wanted to do. So I am doubly blessed I guess. I tend to get too many irons in the fire this time of year. (That may be a phrase that has lost its meaning to most people alive now.)
There is dead fall from the trees all around the yard. The leaves are still luscious and deep and rattle when I shuffle through them on a dry day. (When have we had one of those?)I bought a mulching mower this past fall to chop leaves with for compost or mulch. I drastically underestimated the volume of leaves. One pass across the backyard filled the bag, so after 3 or 4 dumps and reattachments of the bag, I wandered off to something more fun. But those leaves are still waiting and I do want to chop some more before the spring winds blow them all into the woods and make deep mulch under the shrubs. I've never understood why people are so zealous to rake leaves. Just leave them alone and by spring God will have put them where they need to be. They will be gone from the lawn by spring. This is definitely true for oak leaves, but it may not apply to thin small leaves like pecan. When pecan leaves get wet, they track right into the house and drop in nasty clumps on the floor.
If you have some oak leaves you can shuffle through, I highly recommend it as a way to reorient yourself to the important things in life.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Tomorrow, January 6th, is Epiphany.It is a commemoration of the arrival of the Magi, or Wise men, to see Jesus. In the Middle Ages a whole legend developed based on a few sentences in Matthew. The magi were promoted to kings and given names: Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar. There is little known about the magi, but people who study such things think they may have been from Persia (Iran) and were skilled in medicine and astrology. Some say that they probably arrived as much as two years after Jesus' birth. The gifts they brought were symbolic. Gold was for kingship, frankincense was for priesthood, and myrrh was for death.
I once heard a man from Ethiopia talk about the Magi and he said the Magi were from Ethiopia and that it took them four years to travel to and from Palestine and the result was that the calender in Ethiopia is years behind the calender in other places. I have never bothered to check the facts because it might mess up a good story.
Frankincense is a resin derived from several members of the Bosweillia genus. They are trees that grow in Oman, Yemen and Somalia. The trees often grow in such inhospitable places that they appear to be growing out of rock. The bark is scrapped and the resin oozes out and hardens into "tears". The resin may be harvested 2 or 3 times a year, but too frequent harvesting causes a decline in the trees as you might imagine.It is used in incense and perfume.
Myrrh is the dried sap of the Commiphora tree and also grows in the same region of the middle east as frankincense trees. Myrrh was used in embalming ointment but is now used in many cosmetics.In ancient times it was worth more than it's weight in gold.It was used to mask the odor of charring bodies at Roman funerals.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Reverse Santa

I found this funny tidbit.

Reverse Santa lives in attic, steals stuff
Monday, December 29, 2008

He's making a list. And putting your iPod on it.
Christmas is traditionally a time when a strange man descends from the roof of your house and gives you stuff. But one family in America were suprised to discover that, instead, a strange man had spent several days living in their roof and stealing things from them.

The family, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, did not realize they had an unexpected Christmas guest until the UnSanta - who had been in their attic for days - emerged wearing their clothes.

Stanley Carter surrendered Friday after police took a dog to search the home in Plains Township, a suburb of Wilkes-Barre about 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of Philadelphia. He was charged with several counts of burglary, theft, receiving stolen property and criminal trespass.

'When he came down from the attic, he was wearing my daughter's pants and my sweat shirt and sneakers,' homeowner Stacy Ferrance said. 'From what I gather, he was helping himself to my home, eating my food and stealing my clothes.'

Police said the 21-year-old Carter had been staying with his friends, who are Ferrance's neighbors in a duplex. But when they told him to leave, he apparently accessed the shared attic through a trap door in a bedroom ceiling.

We found a note labeled "Stanley's Christmas List" of all the items he had removed and donated to himself

The friends said Carter went missing on December 19 and they filed a missing person report a few days before Christmas.

Ferrance said she had heard noises but thought they were caused by her three children. She notified police on Christmas Day when cash, a laptop computer and an iPod disappeared, then called police again the next day when she found footprints in her bedroom closet, where the attic trap door is located.

In keeping with his role as a reverse Santa, Carter even kept a list of everything he took, said Plains Township police Officer Michael Smith.

'When we were going through the inventory of what he did take, we found a note labeled "Stanley's Christmas List" of all the items he had removed from the residence and donated to himself,' Smith said.

Carter was in jail Sunday at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility with a preliminary hearing set for January 5.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Another New Year's Poem

New Year Resolve

The time has come
To stop allowing the clutter
To clutter my mind
Like dirty snow,
Shove it off and find
Clear time, clear water.
Time for a change,
Let silence in like a cat
Who has sat at my door
Neither wild nor strange
Hoping for food from my store
And shivering on the mat.
Let silence in.
She will rarely mew,
She will sleep on my bed
And all I have ever been
Either false or true
Will live again in my head.
For it is now or not
As old age silts the stream,
To shove away the clutter,
To untie every knot,
To take the time to dream,
To come back to still water.

Mary Sarton

Friday, January 2, 2009

Another Abandoned House

This is what remains of my great grandparents home in Penton, Alabama. It is sad to see it in such shape, but I guess it takes more money and care to repair and sustain a place of this age than anyone in the family has.This was the first brick house (as opposed to brick veneer as we see for the most part now) built in the area.
The garden was to the right in the picture and that is where Joanne planted her annual poppies. She would not allow Ed to plow the garden until late, after most people already had theirs in, because she wanted to keep the poppies till they had finished their bloom. Poppies were not the only thing Joanne wanted to save. She left her Christmas tree up for months after Christmas, till all the needles were on the floor surrounding it. The ornaments hung forlornly to the bare branches. She said it made her sad to take it down and since it was in the living room which was not used much, she just left it, even refusing help to take it down.
Also to the right there was a small decorative fish pool for goldfish. It was not used in my lifetime but I remember it because I was always cautioned to stay clear of it. From the time I first saw it in a state of ruin, I hoped that one day when I visited there would be fish and flowers around it.
To the left in the picture was a smokehouse like everyone used to have, Typically it was used to cure and store pork and home canned goods. Joanne's was completely filled with stuff she was saving. Once I found some white hankies there with embroidery in the corner that said Havana. Some of my great uncles lived in Florida and made excursions to Cuba, which was not closed then. Those uncles smoked stinking (at least to my childish nose) cigars which I am sure came from Cuba. The smokehouse held other oddities that her children had brought back from their travels, but I believe she relegated them to the smokehouse because they smelled of cigar smoke. Even as a small child, I could feel the exotic tropical winds blowing through my heart (when I die, I hope I go to Sanibel)when I looked at those handkerchiefs.
My great granddad Ed was elderly when I remember him. He was mostly bedridden and required assistance to get up and sit in a chair. I was very afraid of him because he had a walking stick which he would use to grab me around the neck and pull me closer to him. Now I see that he just wanted me to come close and talk to him, but it terrified me. He was a religious man and was instrumental in getting the Church of God established at Penton. He had a friend named Mr. Swift and they often discussed religious ideas. One time during a discussion of reincarnation Mr. Swift said he wanted to come back as a water buffalo.While this is amusing in its own right, I am left wondering... Why?

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Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Gate of the Year

This is a favorite poem of mine, and I share it with you.

The Gate of the Year

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year
'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.'

And he replied, 'Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!'

So I went forth and finding the Hand of God
Trod gladly into the night
He led me towards the hills
And the breaking of day in the lone east.

So heart be still!
What need our human life to know
If God hath comprehension?

In all the dizzy strife of things
Both high and low,
God hideth his intention

Written by Minnie Louise Haskins

I had only known the first 4 lines of the poem, and recently found the rest of the poem, although I do think the first 4 lines are the best.
Here is some more info I found about the author.

This poem was written in 1908 by Minnie Louise Haskins, an American
lecturer at the London School of Economics, who wrote as a hobby.
"Born on 12 May 1875, Minnie Louise Haskins... was a popular member of
LSE [London School of Economics and Political Science], retiring in
1939 but then reappointed a year later to continue until 1944...

She penned The Gate of the Year in 1908. It was privately printed and
circulated in a volume called The Desert... The Gate of the Year
caught the public interest when it was read to the nation by King
George VI soon after the outbreak of the Second World War. She was
reportedly profoundly astonished to hear her poem being read by the
King in his Christmas broadcast of 1939, and, according to LSE
records, gave royalties earned from subsequent interest in the poem to
charity. According to press reports, it was HM Queen Elizabeth The
Queen Mother who first introduced the poem to the King.
The Gate of the Year by Minnie Louise Haskins [was] read at The Queen
Mother's funeral on Tuesday 9 April [2002]."
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