Monday, November 30, 2009

About Crows

The crows in their gatherings have been especially numerous and remarkable this year. I decided to check out why and this is what I found out.
Crows congregate in winter mainly to roost and the size of the congregation can be as small as a hundred or tens of thousands. An hour or two before dark, they congregate in a staging area where they call, chase, and fight. About dark they move to the night roost. There may be safety in numbers or there may be other reasons for these normally solitary birds to roost together. One involves conveying information. For instance,if a crow has had limited success foraging that day, it may want to watch which direction the best fed and crows are heading in come morning.
The crows usually stop congregating to roost in March and this is when breeding season starts. It takes about 4 months to select a mate, build a nest and raise the chicks to independence. This generally means that only one brood will be raised in a season. The unmated juveniles frequently help their parents with caring for the eggs and young.
Crows generally mate for life. The exception seems to be if the crows are mating for the first time and the nesting fails.Successful nests occur about 50% of the time and in rural areas, crows usually can fledge 4 out of 5 eggs originally laid. Juveniles do not breed in their first year; in fact females may be 4 to 6 years old and males 5 to 6 years before they form a pair bond. Crows live a long time- the oldest one known lived 29 1/2 years. In the wild they probably live 17-21 years.
When we were children my brother got a young crow somehow. He was always off in the woods if he was not doing chores. My uncle told him if he split the crows tongue it could talk. He did it and the crow died, maybe because it could not eat.
This is one of my favorite poems and it just happens to be about crows.


Crows startle the clouds
with grievances never resolved
and warnings blurted into thin air.
Once in a while, the cries of all those who tried to survive
pour from the funnels of their throats.
No wonder we never really listen.
Like most animals, crows tell the truth:
working hard to penetrate our tiny tubular ears,
they cackle on telephone lines while we watch TV.
Once I did listen to a crow, but even when I had heard
his whole story, there was nothing I could do.
Next, I thought, I'd have to listen to squirrels and coyotes.
I like to think I deal with my share of rotten truths
but I couldn't bear to kneel down in damp grass
and listen to the hedgehog or the mole.
Judith Barrington

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Still Angel Trumpets Left

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This is my last angel trumpet for the season (2009) The whole plant has not been killed yet, just the top has been bit. But still, I am sure this is the last Hurrah for this season.

Friday, November 27, 2009

November Has Beautiful Leaves



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There are still beautiful leaves in my yard, but I am expecting it to all be over in the next few days. The top picture is the blueberry bushes. They turned out in a nice combination.
The second is a dogwood that still has a few leaves. This dogwood escaped the ax a few years ago when all that talk about a fungal disease called anthracnose was going around. Advice was if you had a tree with the disease you should get rid of it pronto before it spread. This tree lost several limbs and I was feeling pretty sad about it. It was a mere chance seedling when we built the house 25 years ago. I left it because it was a dogwood and it was growing next to a stump that looked like it was going to be there a while. I hesitated and further reading turned up the suggestion to prune the affected limbs and see how that worked out. So with the passage of a few years, the limbs stopped dying, at least so frequently and it survives to bloom and fruit beautifully every year. Maybe it was not anthracnose at all, or maybe it was...
The bottom picture is a yellow bell, Forsythia. It is as beautiful in fall foliage as it is with spring flowers, and almost the same color. I am vexed when I see how some people trim Forsythia into square and ball shapes or just shear off the top of the shrub flat. This destroys the natural lovely draping shape of the shrub. Better to save yourself some work and enjoy the cascading branches filled with yellow flowers in spring. If your shrub is in a row or crowded by other shrubs so that it is not shown off to it's best, no problem. Stick some cuttings in the ground where you want a new shrub and step back. You may have to water if it turns dry but this will produce another lovely yellow bell in short order.The only care I ever give mine is to cut the similax vine out of it as well as any dead or damaged stems.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Franklin Tree in the Fall

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This is my Franklin tree in the fall. I should have taken the picture before most of the leaves fell, but you can see it has beautiful leaf color in addition to those beautiful flowers in summer. I am proud of this little tree,not only because I grew it from a mere seed, but because I had bought $30 twigs twice and they had died. I kept this one in a pot for several years but it was getting so large I thought it should go in the ground. A little research turned up the fact that the Franklin tree often succumbs on land that has had cotton grown on it, due to attack by a fungus. I eventually procured some fungicide and poured it all around and in the hole where the tree was to go. This is the beginning of its third year in the ground and it seems happy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Metasequoia in Alabama


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I have 5 Metasequois in my yard, one planted 3 years ago and the other 4 have been in the ground for 2 summers. We used to talk about our house being called The Oaks, but in years to come, somone may call it The Place Where the Metasequoias Grow. Or it might be called the Bald Cypress Homestead, as the 2 trees are so easily confused to the untrained eye. In fact, althought I am growing Dawn Redwood, I state that emphatically simply because I purchased them as such. The trees will have to be older before I can make a definite ID on them.
Metasequoias have cones that open and disburse the seed, bald cypress have cones that crumble. Metasequoia is said to grow faster and have more buttressing and fluting of the lower trunk. Both have beautiful fall color. As you can see from the color here, the orange/brown color is quite different from our other fall colors.
I expect these trees to grow from 180-200 feet tall, and they are already growing quickly.
My original acquisition of these trees was based on their romantic history. It was known from the fossil record by 3 species, but was thought to be extinct until 1944 when one was discovered growing in a temple garden in China. Most of the current trees originated as seeds from this tree although a small grove was also discovered. Trees in temple gardens are carefully tended and this may account for the discovery of another living fossil, the Gingko, also in a temple garden.
I like to think of these trees "lifting their leafy arm to pray" long after I can no longer lift mine.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving Thanks

Of course the sermon today was on being thankful,and the list included all the typical things:family, job,nation,home,friends,and nature. I started thinking about some of the smaller things that I am thankful for. The first that came to mind was coffee. Just to get an idea about how wonderful it is, all I have to do is skip one morning. maybe it is addiction after all. But I like it also for the aroma and taste. I often have coffee with friends and that adds an extra dimension to it.
I am thankful for beautiful sunsets. I see more of them in the cooler months and I suppose that is why it seems to me there are nicer sunsets in winter when the air is clear. Typically when I see a beautiful sky, a wave of peace and calm sweeps over me and I feel safe and loved.
I am thankful for my health and I realize that the luck of the draw has been with me so far. When it is my time I want to go suddenly, no lingering, while I am digging a hole to plant a tree.
I am thankful for my mother and the life she lived in front of all. Her love never wavered, and her hands reached out to help, even when the only thing she could do was to fold them in prayer. I am thankful that she was with me so long.
I am thankful for the animals. Maybe God put them here to remind us of how we should really live.They live in a different kingdom , but we should not fool ourselves into believing they are that different from us. They have many of the same feelings as we do and we can often see it in their eyes and their behavior. "When you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me."
I am thankful for tub baths and a warm (or cool) bed.
I am thankful that I was born at this time in history, and not some time before or after this. This is a good time, maybe the best there has ever been or will be.
I am thankful that I see as well as I do, and I am glad I have been able to receive care and appliances that help me see better, if not perfectly. Often when I see something beautiful, I try to remember it in case there ever comes a time when I cannot see. There is really nothing that compares with a water droplet hanging on a twig and reflecting the world in its surface.
Take some time and reflect about the little things that make your life so fine. Then tell the ones who help make it so.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


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This is a Cuphea and I have forgotten where I got it,but I do know I have had it for several years. It is a hardy thing as I do not pay it much attention until it flowers. And it is a late bloomer, giving some variety to all those mums. The Cuphea has many members and a big variety of forms. This one resembles one I grew several years ago as a potted plant which was called cigar plant. The flowers were smaller and orange with a red tip (cigars).Apparently the deer do not find it too palatable as they just tasted a few flowers on the end of the bloom spike and moved on. I also have a cuphea know as bat flower that has the purple tube and two large (compared to the tube) red ears or wings on the end. See one here
This one does not grow as well for me, perhaps disliking my careless ways toward it and seems to get smaller every year.
Mexican heather is also a member of this group.
For a look at some of the diversity of this group put in Cuphea in the search engine and look at images.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Home Remedies

I recently ran across a list of home remedies and I am expanding that list.
1)Hiccups: swallow a teaspoon of sugar. Don't dissolve it before swallowing. It will reset the irritated nerve that is causing the hiccups.

2)Cough: have some dark chocolate. Theobromine in dark chocolate has proven more effective than codeine without the drowsiness and constipation

3)Stinking feet: soak feet nightly in one part vinegar to 2 parts water

4) bad breath: gargle with some lemon juice, followed by a bit of plain unsweetened yogurt.(buttermilk might work as well). The effect last 12 to 24 hours.

5)Stop bleeding in mouth: bite down on a moistened tea bag.

6)Burns (small): ice first, followed by aloe vera. Tea also good here. It toughens the skin.

7)Tired puffy eyes: cool used tea bag in refrigerator and place over eyes.

8)Indigestion: peppermint candy or McDonald's vanilla shake (is this a HOME remedy?)

9)Stings: apply ammonia or chewing tobacco (eeuuew!) works though

10)Diarrhea: Tea made from sweetgum leaves or bark. drink plenty. Do not worry about eating.

11)Cut that opens up: when bleeding slows enough, remove membrane from inside egg and place over the cut. Do not wash either before or after the egg membrane is applied. As the egg dries it will pull the edges of cut together and facilitate healing like a butterfly bandage.

12)Dry up chicken pox: get a chicken to sit on the victims head

And I bid you a fond adieu .


Monday, November 16, 2009

Double Purple Datura


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This Datura is beautiful right now, and has been for a couple of months. This is one thing the deer won't eat because they know it is poison. It is a relative of the plant I used to know that grew in the cow lot and we called jimpson weed. It could get huge but the cows never bothered it. They did not even trample it over. They stayed away from it. I had tried to same seed of this one before but in the end had to get the seed from someone who lives farther south. Although I have had gorgeous blooms,it looks like there will be no seed this year either. The pods do not mature. Once when I visited a friend near Atmore, Alabama she had one of these that was about 10 feet tall. I have no idea what the difference is between mine and hers. This one is about thigh high.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Front Porch Mirrors

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This house in Camp Hill interests me because of the mirror on the front porch. Well, it is a lovely and well kept house also. Has anybody ever heard of a mirror on the front being some kind of tradition? I tried to look it up on the net but was unsuccessful.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Fall for Japanese Maples

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This is the view of my Japanese maple and bottlebrush buckeye. It will almost put your eyes out, it's so bright. The plant beside the yellow one is also a buckeye but is our red buckeye. It cheers me just to see it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sleeping Hibiscus


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This is Malvaviscus arboreus, called sleeping hibiscus, turk's cap, and several other names. I received it as a small plant from my Mother-in-law in south Alabama quite a few years ago. She had it growing in the shade of some giant oaks, and it was pretty spindly and had few flowers. I planted mine in full sun and it is more beautiful year after year. It speads by underground runners, but mine now occupies as much space as I am willing to give it.I keep it in check by ripping out runners after it gets growing in the spring and early summer. Frost cuts it to the ground in our area (zone 8) but it springs back each year and by late summer is putting on quite a show. It continues it's bloom right on till frost. It attracts literally clouds of yellow sulfur butterflies. This year there seemed to be a bumper crop. You have to keep a watch out for those sulfur butterfly larvae though. They seem to really enjoy the buds and blooms of other flowers (that is other than sleeping hibiscus)and will decimate geranium buds. Hummingbirds also enjoy sipping these hibiscus, but of course that is no surprise. I do not feed hummingbirds. I don't have time to sit and watch them anyway and I prefer to let my flowers feed them.
Sleeping hibiscus root like a house afire at any time of the year. If you have adequate space, they are well worth growing. They have no pests to speak of, and their dark green leaves and bright red flowers can start you in the Christmas mood already.
Oh yeah. It is very drought tolerant.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Backstreet of LaFayette, Alabama


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I remember the first time I saw what the buildings in LaFayette looked like from the back. What I actually remember was how horrified I was. I had seen them from the front and 50 years ago, they looked quite a bit better in front than from behind. (Maybe most of us do, too.) Then again, maybe not. But I digress.Fifty years ago, LaFayette was a thriving place, with all the buildings on the square occupied by stores. Now they are mostly empty and dilapidated, and no amount of window dressing is going to change that. I don't think they look much worse from the back than they did then.
What I do not understand is why someone in town does not come up with a plan to try to save the town instead of tossing a few flowers on the graves of the dead businesses. What would lead people to believe that a statue of a dead boxer will become a tourist attraction? If the town wants tourism, or anything else for its citizens, it needs to try to lure new people and business. It needs to provide suitable entertainment for it's children and teens, it needs to promote the value of education, and turn away from the easy route that does not work.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Chambers County Lake



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I always enjoy a trip over to Chambers County Lake, but especially in the fall. We used to go when the children were still at home and just wander around and look for bugs and leaves, etc. We never fished as far as I remember. We did picnic a couple of times, and usually fabricated some excuse for dabbling in the water in the spillway. The reflection of the trees in the water is a beautiful sight anytime but the colors of fall make it extra special. Sweetgums are great fall trees. There can be a myriad of colors on one tree, as there are on the one in the top picture. Purple, almost black, bright and dark shades of red, orange, and yellow, with some green thrown in for good measure. The bottom two pictures are of the race to the spillway. You can see and hear the water in the spillway by going here.

Friday, November 6, 2009


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The other day while moving some plants into the greenhouse for the winter, I discovered a flatworm under a pot. I do find them occasionally under pots and have often thought of experimenting on them. As I remembered from biology you could cut them in half and the one without a head would grow a new head. But memory being somewhat faulty, it turns out that growing new heads is largely limited to the planeria, which are members of the flatworms, but not the kind like this.More than half of flatworm species are parasitic, causing some serious troubles like Schistosomiasis, tapeworms and other type flukes. The one pictured here is a free living flatworm, found in shady moist areas like leaf litter and rotting wood. I suppose they eat detritis or other equally unsavory things, but an interesting thing about them is that many kinds do not have an anus. They push undigested food back out their mouths. Don't be too hard on them though, because they are a very primitive organism and lack either a respiratory or circulatory system. They just do the best they can. I made 3 videos of this one crawling about. The first one is somewhat fuzzy, while the other 2 are clearer.

Video 1

video 2

Video 3

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pumpkin on the Edge of Compost

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I have taken quite a hiatus from my these entries. It's not that I haven't been thinking, I just haven't been recording anything which for many purposes is tha same as not thinking. (If nobody knows of the thought, was it really there?) but most things I think (as well as most other people ,I suppose) is not really worth knowing about.This is one of the many reasons that I would not want to be a teacher:someone who talks all the time is bound to say some goofy and untrue things. Sometimes you are bound to have your mouth engaged while your mind is in neutral.
Mother died on October 24th, 2 1/2 years after her stroke. She held on as long as she could , but in the end she was completely used up, and prayed for God to take her. After a rough period of hours, she stopped breathing in her sleep.I have been at peace about the situation because I knew she was ready to go. She had lived a good and long life (92 years) and was well loved by her family,church and community. I think she loved me as much as anyone can love me, and she never waivered as far as I know in her Christian devotion or her prayer life. Her prayers are the thing that I will miss most.
Halloween has come and gone and as is my habit, I have set the jack-o-lantern to watch over the compost until such time as he takes a dive into it himself.I suppose this is a somewhat macabre, but I watch his face as the smile gets more crooked and his chin slowly folds under. In the end he will become good compost....
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