Friday, April 30, 2010

The gold coin of sun
Slips into twilight's dim hands:
A day swiftly spent.

Here's to a delightful weekend for everyone!  Temperatures here are forecast to be in the mid-80's F (29 C.)  Amazing....again!  I almost can't believe it, but this marks my 102nd post since I began my blog January 13, 2010.  Thank you all for your friendship and your artistry.  I so enjoy you all!  See you Monday!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thursday Gratitude Post

I am falling behind on my thank you's and my outreach/replies to many of you!  Spring just seems to put a monkey wrench into the works and wreaks havoc with reciprocity.  Please forgive me!  I'll gradually catch up!

Beth--I so love your Blue Ridge Blue Collar Girl! Your sharing brings so much joy!  Thank you for stopping by to visit my blog.  I am honored.  Thanks so much, too, for your comment on your experience with Word Press!  Greatly appreciated. I believe I'm on my way to shifting (slowly!)

Carla--love your blog, too!  Sacred Witness  Have a safe and enjoyable journey to your new home in Georgia!

Others, all...MM just dashed out the door, with the admonishment, "Time to go to work!"  So I am back out to the Back Forty, again, after posts!  So, further blogging (and gratitudes) will have to wait until this afternoon when we return home from "posting" to regroup.  Here's another of those shots from the sunset photo-shoot the other night!  Just can't seem to leave them in the drawer!


A Post

Today will be a "snapshot" day out here, JOTOLR!  (as opposed to a "photograph" day)  I thought you'd enjoy seeing a few snaps of our working conditions, the boss, the help, the green, the leaves, and the work-in-progress.  So here we go--this is where we go to get our fenceposts.  It's on the backside of our 200 acres. 

We have a grove of Black Locust that has grown up over the years and encroached upon the pasture fringes.  Locust is a very hard and durable wood and makes marvelous fence posts.  This is the first part of post-processing:  gathering the posts and using the skinnier parts of the tree for firewood for next winter, letting it dry over summer.  We are, in effect, "recycling" and using what we have here on the farm. 

Once the trees have been cut, we must peel the bark (using an adze), dig the holes for the posts and then tamp them into place firmly.  Each hole is around 18 inches deep and wide enough to accommodate a post that is probably 14-16-inches in diameter. 

Filling the hole, we use a combination of small rocks, and hard clay.  Each post is tamped into the ground solidly, using what most people refer to as a spud bar.  It's a heavy iron rod with a 3-inch diameter end used to pound the surrounding dirt back around the post.  Fencing is fun, but it's hard work, too.  We are actually salvaging some metal posts and wire which we put up fifteen or twenty years ago.  It's been in place all that time, but we no longer need it.  So, we are disassembling it for use in the small milking facility we're building. 

Remember the little ditty:  Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, Or do without?  That's exactly what we're doing.  What I find interesting is that the old posts and wire are so much heavier than the modern ones we can buy.  Lots more metal in the old ones and the cost nowadays exceeds $5 PER metal post; and a roll of wire, 330 feet in length, is about $200 a roll, today!  It pays to recycle!

The Office

The Working Conditions 

The Help


The Boss --He's 79 years young! Will be 80 this coming January!
What a guy!


Post Processing

Black Locust


The Pay? 


The Value?


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Thank the Powers That Be

Clerical note, here....I just got back from the south pasture where MM and I were cutting and hauling locust posts/firewood and dragging limbs off into the woods.  Whew!  A hot tub's going to feel GOOD! 

Just for laughs, I checked Blogger and the Image Upload fiasco, and guess what!

There were so many complaints on that new Image Upload on Blogger, they disabled it this afternoon.  Yea!  I put plenty of less-than-complimentary comments on the Help Forum, as did many, many others!!  I thank you all for your generous support and your valiant efforts to help me.  Suggestions and really valuable  assistance and insight came from so many of you!  Oh, you are wonderful!  And I have saved every single one for future reference! 

But, I will not give up on blogging!

I LOVE YOU ALL!  For the moment, we're good to go, back to normal.  But I don't trust Blogger now, and I am definitely checking out Word Press.  And Flckr, too.  I believe they are much more "professional" in the way they manage their publishing platforms, more so than Blogger which sometimes seems like a bunch of reckless jockeys who try things out just for the heck of it.  I am most unhappy with that image upload business this a.m.  Part of learning to blog for me has been to push this old brain and make it keep working.  Learning to manipulate the various toggles that let you do different stuff is just part of the challenge;  I still have to think of something to write about, plus mix and match the photos. (as you all take for granted and do so well!)  Point being:  for me, there's plenty of challenge without this kinds of boondoggle created by Google staff! And if they did it once, they'll most likely do it again.  Those of you who have Word Press, if you get a chance, let me know in a one-liner how you like it (or not!)

Anyway, perhaps I am ready to move on to the next level, to reach farther,  and learn more.   Seems like what happened this morning was a pretty juvenile way to approach a major change in software that has likely affected thousands of people. There was no warning, no polls taken as to whether a new method was needed, no complaints about the present being less than adequate....all in all:  a really dumb thing!

Word Press seems a bit daunting, but I'll plunge in and see where it goes...I am seeking that black background, for sure.  I'd like to have three columns instead of two....but I'll have to begin at the beginning!  Another adventure in store for this old lady! :-))

Again, thank you, lovely friends!  You are much appreciated.  Here's more produce from last night's photo-shoot.

This is only a test....

I am still trying to figure out this new Blogger routine, so I thought I would add a couple more photos from last night's foray.  Sure is slowwwww!  Maybe that's by design.  All us dial-up types our here JOTOLR slow things down on the 'Net.  We want BROADBAND!

Beyond Words...

The sunset last night--once again--was beyond words.  Spectacular seems a bit "tinny" to my artistic ear...More like "grandeur, magnificence, surreal...I had been watching the local news on TV--something I don't do very often, but wanted to catch an update on the on-going hearings concerning the mining disaster investigation. (No longer IN the NEWs, but still on our collective minds, here in West Virginia.)

I happened to open one of the Roman shades just to savor the last of the day's rays,  and caught my breath.  The sky was beauty beyond words. I grabbed my camera and flew out the door.  How many times have I done that!??  It was cold.  The wind cut into my comfort layer and let me know that winter still had a grip.  Nonetheless, I persisted. 

I came back with way too many photos, as usual, and this morning Blogger decided (apparently) to try out a new format/process for uploading photos to one's blog.  I have struggled with it all morning long and have found no way to NOT upload all 364 photos I have put on blogger since I began, every time I want to upload just one!  When I try to upload one photo, I have to wait for the entire batch of photos from my blog-- to upload. This is not fun. 

If it always takes this long for every photo I upload, I may have to re-evaluate the process of blogging!  We shall see....i really don't know what to do.

Thank you so much for all your comments!  It's so rewarding to know the topics we choose "work" for others besides ourselves! 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Civic Pride and Beauty

Last week MM and I went to “town.” We needed a few things such as a Farm Use sticker for the truck. (The poor old thing never gets used except to make a pig-food run, so we down-prided to “farm use" instead of the higher-priced license.) And it was the first day of Early Voting for the county, so we were Johnny-on-the-spot with that, too.

Of course, the mission led us to the courthouse. While MM was inside taking care of the license issue, I was outside with my camera. (never without it!)  It occurred to me that most of what caught my eye invited me to look up. I marveled at the unique architecture. The colorful, well-kept exterior unquestionably spoke to the civic pride reflected in the structure. I was particularly charmed by the artfulness of the brick work, and the original desire (obvious) to create something beyond mere functionality.
We mostly don’t do that any more. We don’t often—in our rush-rush society—want to pay for art. Art has become—instead of part and parcel of our lives—a luxury we can’t seem to afford. (but we can afford war..) Take note of the education programs that are being reduced to mere functionality—math, science; and reflect on the deplorable demise of art and music we are witnessing as between 100,000 and 300,000 teachers nationwide are being laid off right now because we “can’t afford them.” Class sizes are being doubled. As a former teacher, I cannot fathom what it would be like to “teach” in a classroom of 45-60 “students.” Believe me, that’s crowd control, not education. But that’s what’s coming. And art class? Music? Band? Forget it. We don’t have time or the money for art…Art is a “frill” and we seem to want a no-frills education system.

Yet, look at these photos of this incredibly lovely building that speak of times when art WAS part and parcel of what our society was “about.” Next time you’re in town—wherever you live—look up! Look at the figures that decorate the OLD buildings. Spend time looking up! Compare them with the “new” buildings with their no-frills exteriors. How much joy do they inspire compared to the old?

Those creative gestures of yesteryear--those pieces of artwork (located high overhead, by the way, where most folks never even notice them, decorating an upper story world with aplomb)— honor us with their fine craftsmanship and pride in what today would be flamboyant and wasteful exteriors,

Maybe we should ask ourselves about the “education” it took to produce such buildings, such brickwork, such woodwork. Such artwork. Maybe we should probe the philosophy and motivation that resulted not only in this kind of attention to detail, but this love of and respect for art.

When MM and I were in Rome, viewing the remnants of the ancient world, I couldn’t help reflect on the underlying belief system that recognized art—in and of itself—as a much-needed facet of living. It was restorative for us, still, in 2005, to sit beside the fountains, the ancient buildings, the pillars as others have done for millennia.. I felt in some small way, that I, personally, was being acknowledged as a human being even among the titans that ruled the world then.

Art is FOR the people. Shouldn’t we ask ourselves why and how we have arrived the stage where “profits” and “efficiencies” and “bottom lines” have all conspired to expunge beauty?  Maybe we should be re-thinking our process.  Why should art belong only to the well-to-do? Our neglect will be expensive. I don’t believe we can accept tunnel vision as our destiny. We are not all scientists, mathematicians…nor are we serfs, with the fruits of our own labors belonging to others…perhaps we need to ask ourselves what we are really working FOR…who benefits from our labors? Do we?

Yes, dear readers: look up. Then look into the future—the future of this nation’s youth, our systems of education, our values for the “liberal” arts…. What do you see?

Monday, April 26, 2010

An Embarrassment of Riches


After this past weekend I have an embarrassment of photographic riches. The season is so beautiful. There is so much to photograph, so little time to share it with you until the next curtain rises on more of spring. It’s a visual feast!

If I were a painter, I believe I would choose impressionism as my genre. This choice probably originated with my mother (who was a painter) and her love of Renoir and Monet. There are fragments of my mother’s joy (at least in my mind) which “inform” the photos I took Saturday and Sunday. And, there is always the elastic debate between “realism” and “impressionism” which also has a way of “informing” every photograph. We choose our own realities, don’t we? So, what is “real’ for one, becomes “impression” for another.

I cannot possibly begin to show you all the photos I took! Nor am I able to share with you the multitude of fragrances that enveloped me as I walked over the land, each particular one dizzying by itself, but taken all together, completely intoxicating!

So, instead of words, let’s take a virtual mini-hike, today, with only a few of the photos I “found”…each one for me, worth a thousand words! Let’s begin on the cowpath leading east out here JOTOLR.

 Cowpaths are the easiest of trails to follow. The cows have a way of knowing where to walk with the least effort. The Shawnee followed the buffalo trails here in the Appalachians as they made their way south from Ohio and then, back north again on their annual hunting expeditions. These were their "cow" paths. We are walking toward what I call the East Field.  Beyond the cow-groomed pasture, the wildness takes over.  Of course, "Progressive Farmers" are instructed (informed) to cut all vagrant brush, poison the rampant multi-flora rose, Tartarian Honeysuckle and the tire-puncturing wild Crab Apple.  We are not "progressive" out here least in the farming sense! So, the "despicable" Russian Olive, the Flowering Wild Crab Apple with its thorns the multi-flora and the honeysuckle, all remain sources of amazing perfume!  Here are, without comment, some other "impressions..."

Now, we're on our way to the pond where I found too many photos! One was this tiny, delicate Crested Dwarf Iris and my always-appealing cattails. 

The Scarlet Oak is the Chartreuse Oak right now.  It held its scarlet leaves late into the winter.  I'm amazed that it's ready to begin again so soon!  Below is a Catalpa sprout.

And then...the clouds!  Oh my!  What a show!  I could not keep that shutter still!  Right up to the doorstep!  How fortunate I am to live in
this paradise!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Rainy Days Ahead

We sure could use a bit of rain. Showers and thunderstorms are in the forecast. Since winter left and summer arrived, we’ve gone from wet and muck to dry and cracked—instantly!

Here’s hoping you have a gentle weekend coming up, with the right balance of whatever your garden needs!
See you Monday!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Morning Commute and Earth Day 2010

Have you ever asked yourself if all this flying here and flying there is necessary? I know. I’m going to sound like the dinosaur I really am, but hear me out, please!

Business executives have taken the morning commute to a whole new level. Vacations seem to get farther and farther afield. It's a kind of snobbery that lets us into the club that has the wherewithal to go farther and farther afield.  It takes—in some cases—half the vacation to GET “there.” It used to be that jobs were close by, easily reached within a half hour or less. It was a BIG DEAL to go visit a national park. (Did you watch the Ken Burns series on our national parks? If not, you missed an incredible series. I encourage you not to miss it when it comes around again!)

Out here JOTOLR, we see the remnants of the “morning commute” every day. They linger over our farm, long after the planes have gone beyond the horizon. Every morning, as I look toward the eastern sky, it is streaked by unnatural lines of vapor that mar the view. If you think that vapor is simply WATER vapor, think again.. “Commuting” produces massive pollution which drops down over all of us, leaves ugly contrails in an otherwise pristine sky, and nobody, it seems, questions why we keep doing this.

Why, with, modern technology—like video conferencing, for example--are business executives still dashing back and forth across the skies, using up fuel, and polluting the world with noise and fumes? Why aren’t they saving money, staying put, and using the miracles of modern communication to conduct business? Why are vacationers seeking destinations that are farther and farther away, more difficult and painful to reach? So far away, in fact, that “getting there” all too often takes most of the so-called vacation, but the joy out of going at all.

The bottleneck that Iceland’s volcanic eruption has created should be a wake-up call. Of the flights that were cancelled, I wonder how many passengers could have simply stayed home and done business with new technologies, or chosen a vacation closer to home. I wonder how many vacationers, sleeping in the airports, thought about the train tickets they could have had, to potentially satisfying destinations that were much closer to home.

Yes, we have traveled to the Far East, to Australia, to New Zealand, to Hong Kong, to Rome, but, in recent years, we have also declined free trips to London, Paris, Prague, and the Carribbean because the discomfort of air travel now outweighs any scenic value of going in the first place.  Furthermore, it’s too stressful. When MM and I traveled in the Far East, we went by freighter. We were one of six passengers on The American Mail. When we went to Australia, we were the only passengers. The Lemnos was a Swedish ship, carrying cargo from the Far East to Australia. It was on its own mission and we simply “caught a ride.” I don’t argue that it was an adventure back in the earliest years of the 1970’s!

And, I am sure, most people who are still sitting in the airport waiting to get home, could call this latest air debacle “an adventure.” But I wonder if it isn’t time, to re-think this whole travel game. Maybe this Earth Day 2010 should be the beginning of some serious reflection on the topic of over-selling travel. Maybe light rail should be on the table; maybe high speed rail could breathe new life into domestic sightseeing…maybe video conferencing with 3-D glasses, would make the experience so life-like that nobody would WANT to take the sardine flight to North Carolina daily! Maybe we’d get some sense back into this escalating game!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Who Let the Dogs Out???!!!

I just returned from my a.m. walk. The grass, having received a small shower, was completely wet. So, it gave me a chance to step softly and wait patiently for what might be seen by going slowly and silently. Or so I thought.

Overhead, I was surprised that my gentle presence had startled a pair of Wood Ducks. They circled, having lifted off the pond, but their alarm whistles didn’t seem to raise concern for anything else, as they winged by me. Wood Ducks usually nest in trees above the pond (but sometimes on the forest floor tucked way back into the brush); and when flight time for the ducklings is deemed appropriate, the parents push them out of the nest (or they jump) onto the surface of the water below. It’s quite a delightful thing to watch.

As I crept up toward the gate to the pond pasture, carefully looking in all directions, way down the hill, in the grass I saw a slight movement and stopped. Adjusting my sight (bifocals)(had unfortunately left binoculars home),  it was possible to discern the shape of a nesting turkey tucked back under the Tartarian Honeysuckle. In the process of carefully putting my body into reverse so as not to disturb her, my ears were accosted with the unnerving howl of what, locally, is called a “Rabbit Beagle.” Actually, it’s also a Turkey Poult Beagle, a Bobwhite Beagle, a Whipporwill Beagle, and a Pest Beagle.

And yes, we, too, have inquisitive Border Collies. But we don’t turn them loose on the world, and , by golly, when we say “Sit,” they sit. When we say, “Let go,” it means stop whatever you are doing and come, “To me.” And when we hike about the farm during this time of year, they are ON THE HEEL or ON A LEAD.

People who say to me, “Oh, we have a XXX (dog), but he really needs “room to run” have no regard for the destruction their beloved pets do as they plunge through spring.

It’s the animal equivalent of clear-cutting! Nothing nesting on the ground survives a dog’s curiosity! I do not mince my words here: letting dogs do as they please, undisciplined in the spring (or ANY time for that matter!) simply curbs or eliminates the chances for seeing wildlife and the chances that wildlife will want to nest at all on such a property..

That said, we did take the Border Collies to the pond the other evening with friends. And yes, they romped and played and swam and did what dogs do: made a lot of noise, crashed through the brush and made general pests of themselves! But we were on a trail that we take often and predictably. Wildlife have been conditioned to that behavior on our part. It’s the trail we always use. Occasionally, as we made our way to the pond, I would call the dogs up and make them heel for awhile, letting them know who was in charge. Point being: they are under control. Also, even in their swim, all activity was at the closeby shore, not at the back of the pond, where their destructive force could harm nesters..

Turning a dog loose on the land, to “let it run” anywhere it wants, is unacceptable. Further, not keeping the pet up in its own home/yard at the end of supervised playtime, is also unacceptable. “Letting a dog run” should only be done when (1) the master has complete control, even at a distance, and with (2) in open fields where the dog can be watched/seen. Even there, Meadowlarks nest in open pastures, so “running” isn’t the best idea. The dog should never be allowed to burrow into potential nesting habitat, especially during this time of year. Cats, too, can wreak havoc on bird nests. Feral cats are a problem on farms, out here JOTOLR. While they can usually make a good living cleaning up all the rodents of one kind or another, , they also make meals off of songbird babies.

So, if I have ruined your day, I’m sorry! But every time a vagrant “Rabbit Beagle” croons out here JOTOLR, in our woods, I know it’s on the loose, unsupervised.. This time of year, it signals a pillaged nest of one kind or another and the master’s nowhere around.

Seems to me if we want to have a positive affect on conservation, it’s our responsibility to be good stewards of both wildlife and our own domestic pets.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Nose Knows


When I step outside, the fragrance is enough to knock you down! We have lilacs just to the west of our 360-degree wraparound porch. And they’re in BLOOM! We aren’t talking lower-case bloom. We’re saying IN BLOOM!!! Their scent is beyond words!   I brought some inside for a nose treat.

But there are other blossoms that reward the nose, as well. The creeping flocks, for example. The visual impact is startling with its intensity, and then to have fragrance, as well, makes it doubly appreciated. Scent is one of the tools the plant uses to attract insects for pollination/reproduction. We humans simply enjoy the by-product of the process.

Nosegays, tussie-mussies, and the art of perfumery could take up an entire book (and many have been written) but suffice it to say that masking unpleasant odors, using combinations of herbs, incense, flowers, and bark (natural oils of one kind or another) was a business as early as 4000 years ago, and it has continued through the ages in one form or another. Some of the earliest perfumeries were located in Cyprus, Mesopotamia, and Egypt, as well as in Rome and Greece.

Tussie-mussies and nosegays were used by both men and women throughout several centuries well up into the 1800’s as defense against the shockingly odiferous outdoor circumstances of open sewers and crowded conditions. Body washes and deodorants are 20th Century inventions. Fragrant herbs were strewn on castle floors atop the bones and other discards from banquets to cover what must have been major assaults on noses.

Here are a couple of websites you might find interesting :

and, for information about nosegays and tussie-mussies, and “Talking Bouquets, the language of flowers,” try this:

Talking Bouquets

Finally, while some flowers have no apparent scent, their charm is undeniable. Who needs scent when a clever design greets the eye. After all, just looking at this Bleeding Heart with its little secret pouch, never fails to make me say, “Aaaaaahhhhh.”

Monday, April 19, 2010


I know. There’s no such word as “skyscape.” But, as far as I’m concerned…there should be! Just as with a “land” scape or a “sea” scape….there’s a whole world made from combinations of clouds and light.

When I was little, I loved to lie on my back and watch clouds as they rolled and roiled overhead. Often I would imagine the changing shapes to be animals as the clouds billowed and re-formed. What I saw overhead through my child’s eyes was an ever-changing menagerie.

I’ve always thought the clouds that form over the Appalachians are some of the most beautiful anywhere. Throughout the summer, as we wait for approaching thunderstorms, watching them build into towering cumulus mountains, we see the beautiful--awesome-- forces of the natural world. Sometimes the clouds are quite ominous-looking, with winds aloft that are fierce.

Other times, they are tufts of torn-off vapors that travel lightly, mere feathers against the blue bowl overhead.

Skyscapes are often used to suggest beautiful worlds beyond. Indeed as the Hubble Telescope has penetrated the farthest reaches of our universe and beyond, we begin to see skycapes we’ve never known existed. We are now able to experience the wonder of unexplored galaxies, even universes , through powerful lenses that capture the dramatic and breathtaking grandeur of “worlds beyond.”

 Today's photos are  linked only by the thread of their being more “skyscape” than "land"scapes."  They represent only a few of the myriad moods of my outdoor world, out here Just Off the One-Lane Road.

Friday, April 16, 2010


One of the best yard decorations of the year has arrived!  Butterflies.  Maybe the swallowtails have been here all along.  Do all butterflies migrate?  Or do some overwinter here and hatch in the Spring?

There are over 180,000 species of butterfly!  Over 11,000 in the U. S., alone and 10,000 in Australia. (When we lived in Cairns, Australia, I was amazed at not only the variety, but the size.  They were HUGE!  And with gaudy colors of every hue.  I still have one which I found in the Outback on the road. It's royal blue with black margins and still, after all these 39 years, tucked into my Australian scrapbook, it retains its unimaginable iridescence.)

And, to my European friends, you have so many I don't recognize!  Let's compare our prettiest ones over the summer!  I'd like to locate a butterfly migratory map somewhere.  If anyone knows of such, please advise!

I've always wondered how the butterfly got it’s name. Haven't you?  Did some rural dweller believe it was attacted to butter? Did it eat butter? It seems we are left to speculate as there appear to be scant records for the appellation. Wikipedia proposes color played the main role in linguistically deciding that this lovely insect, with its scaled wings (scales provide the color) was most often yellow (or variations of yellow) and it “flitted” or “flew” from flower to flower. The Old English word for fly is “fleoge” as in “fledge.” So with the “buttor” color most prominent, plus the “flying” behavior, we have arrived at buttorfleoge or butterfly.

Here’s hoping you’re off to a delightful weekend! The weather service has issued an exceptionally high fire danger warning here in the Appalachians, so be very, very careful! We are still over the normal amount of rainfall for the year here so far, but with anticipated winds of 30 mph, humidity will be diminshed and wildfires are possible.  So, take care, and put off any burning!

Thank you all for visiting this past week! I’ve enjoyed you so much!  Your comments are  nourishing, your interests so diverse, your knowledge incomparable, and your friendship's a treasure! 
See you next week!  (Where did this week go?!)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

When Is A Weed Not A Weed?

And just what is a “weed," anyway? It seems cruel to dig up a dandelion in full bloom. It’s like turning the lights out on a beautiful day! It’s just as vibrant, just as joyful in its own way, as say this azalea, isn’t it? Just because it grew voluntarily, with no fertilizer, no special care from me, and puts its sunny face right out there, risking being stepped on by all manner of clumsy, insensitive clods, doesn’t mean I should abuse it further and decline its beauty simply because it wasn’t planned and pampered by me.
No, indeed. Our yard right now is FULL of those very DANDY LIONs. I LOVE them! It makes me focus on the simple things, the things that come my way totally by accident, that color my world, ask for nothing, and humble me with their beauty. They invite me to their potluck celebration, and I didn’t have to bring anything!

Of course the Azalea is a WOW! But have you seen the wild ones that come a little later, that have tucked themselves back in the woods where they’re rarely seen? The orange ones are breathtaking, to be sure! Same with the pink ones. And the Mountain Laurel will soon be visible again, too. Are they weeds?

All are volunteers! No work to cultivate them! They pop out unexpectedly, bringing inner sun to the floor of the woods.

And, of course, who could forget the redbuds that are in bloom all across the Appalachians right now? What a splash they make! No one would call a redbud a weed! Yet, it, too, is a volunteer that creates its own space and asks for nothing.

And the Ajuga...well, it does get a little rambunctious in terms of numbers, doesn't it...but who really cares?  What's wrong with a little more color than one had originally anticipated?  As long as the spaces are taken up by something! 

Then again, just what IS a weed? It seems to me we need to study on this question. Maybe we need an attitude adjustment. Are there any weeds? Truly? Not in my yard! Every flower is welcome. I refuse to deny any. Besides, how interesting or beautiful is a vast expanse of green, blemish-free lawn? Not to mention how much weedkiller it takes to stamp out all these so-called weeds? Oh…and how much gasoline does it take to keep mowing them all summer long? Is it really a “weedy” lawn…or is it a carpet of free flowers, each with unique and special qualities? Where does one draw the line?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sounds of the Country

Most of the time out here JOTOLR it’s very, very quiet. Quiet, that is, except for the intriguing sounds that emanate from our friends in the animal and bird worlds.

This time of year, the progression of unfolding springtime yields the joy of familiar sounds that mark our year. Of course, it begins with various birds declaring territory (and you thought they were simply celebrating, didn’t you!) Indeed, those males whose song is most appealing get the pick of the females seeking to nest. We humans reap the benefits of their courtship as we are treated to a vast symphonic presentation of love declarations. Once a year, the full throat of joy rings loudly throughout the forest canopy.  One cannot help but smile!

There are the usual and commonly anticipated voices of the titmouse, the cardinal, the song sparrow, the robin, the mockingbird, the blue jay, and others. We expect to hear these males every year. On the other hand, I wait for and then celebrate the song of the wood thrush that warbles into the depths of the close-by woods of newly leaved maples and locusts. The pileated woodpecker’s percussion announces its choice for a nesting location even though I cannot see the bird itself. The towhee is also among our anticipated guests.

Strangely, the wren’s call is not among the birdsongs this year. I must assume that this past harsh winter claimed that voice. The vacancy won’t last, however. I’m quite sure we’ll have an intrepid pair sometime again soon. They will nest at least twice, if not three times each year. Busy little beavers that they are!

Annually, though,  I wait with some trepidation,  wondering if I will ever hear the plaintive call of the whippoorwill again,  whose voice has been sparse and diminishing these past few years; same with the bobwhite, the scarlet tanager, the Baltimore oriole, the killdeer. Many of the sounds grow fainter and less numerous as pollution and habitat destruction impose their might..

Already, I’ve caught the echo of the wild turkey tom, gobbling furiously in our woods, looking for those three hens I saw earlier this month.

And the bullfrog populations are in full throat, now. They are a study all by themselves and I’ll wait for another day to dig into it. Meanwhile, there’s a wonderful website All About Frogs that you should visit for all sorts of information, some weird, some just interesting. It’s well worth a few moments. I thought the following had particularly resonance:

What sound does a frog make in YOUR language? Here is a list of some of the different ways people think frogs sound around the world!

Afrikaans: kwaak-kwaak
Arabic (Algeria): gar gar
Catalan: cru�-cru�
Chinese (Mandarin): guo guo
Dutch: kwak kwak
English (USA): ribbit
English (GB): croak
Finnish: kvak kvak
French: coa-coa
German: quaak, quaak
Hebrew: kwa kwa
Hungarian: bre-ke-ke
Italian: cra cra
Japanese: kerokero
Korean: gae-gool-gae-gool
Russian: kva-kva
Spanish (Spain): cru�-cru�
Spanish (Argentina): berp
Spanish (Peru): croac, croac
Swedish: kvack
Thai: ob ob (with high tone)
Turkish: vrak vrak
Ukrainian: kwa-kwa

Before reading the (above) list, I'd never even thought about the sound interpretations in other languages, ego centrist that I must be! 
Sun up to sun down, the crescendo is building out here JOTOLR. It's definitely not quiet.  That's for sure! the way, if you’d like to begin a hobby of watching birds and being able to identify their distinctive calls, take a keystroke over to Amazon and order yourself a good guide which includes not only good visual ID tools such as markings, migratory routes, etc. but also a CD that lets you hear the birds and identify them for the sounds they make without even being able to see them. A CD of birdsongs allows you to “see” in another dimension!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Apple Blossom Time and Other Short Takes

The apples are in bloom. It’s always scary. A mean old frost could pinch those delicate flowers and we’d wind up with no fruit. So far, though…it’s promising!

I met this little fellow on the way to the pond the other day. Looked (and acted) like it had newly awakened from the long winter’s nap. I’m not a snake fan, believe me, but these creatures contribute mightily to the job of pest control. So, I give them a wide berth and generally speaking, leave them alone to do their job.

These are Creeping Flocks. When they bloom, there’s nothing shy about them. They are a visible shout both from a distance and up close!

We now have Tree Swallows in the Purple Martin house. That’s OK. They do an equally good job of bug patrol as do the Martins.

We also had a starling in the stovepipe bashing around a couple of nights ago. Apparently, it landed on the top of the chimney and in peering down, a gust of wind came along and created a downdraft sucking the starling through the chimney and into the metal stovepipe. It flapped and bashed around for a couple of days, (I tried releasing one when this happened before and wound up with a panicked bird flying through the house and lots of unwanted calling cards, so I decided to simply wait this one out.) Things are quiet now and we have one less starling.

Our strawberries are planted and my 12 hanging baskets are up with Petunias and Dusty Millers.

The Redbuds this year are SPECTACULAR! 
Finally, I hope you’re enjoying spring as much as we are! Warm days, cool nights, and life unfolding in a Fabulous Reality!