Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tree of Many Talents

When we moved to Appalachia in 1975, I was amazed at how many plants were the same familiar varieties as the ones I'd left behind in the Pacific Northwest.  But others were new to me.  And many of the trees bloomed profusely. (Very noticeable to someone coming from the Evergreen State and Douglas firs.   Among these new-to-me specimens were the catalpa (or catawba) trees.  Planted for their beautiful flowers and huge, heart-shaped leaves they give deep shade and protection to birds, butterflies and people.  Now they seem to grow wild throughout our region.  Sometimes, they are used in making guitars--tonewood, as it is known.  Their fragrance attacts insects...and people!  A member of the Trumpet Vine family, they grow rather rapidly, and ours are having a bonanza bloom this year. It's as though the tree has donned a wedding dress!
As the flowers recede, it becomes clear as to the origin of the nickname for the catalpa:  cigar tree
When I'd ask about these beautiful trees, the remarks were rather uncomplimentary and recurring:  folks would say they're a very "messy" tree with the long bean-like "fruit" --or cigars, as they are called--"messing up" the yard.  
But the green worms?  That was another story.  The Sphinx moth caterpillars love the catalpa and according to champion fishing-philes make the best fish bait!  So much so that some avid anglers even plant whole orchards of catalpas just to have access to a cache of these dynamite green fishing worms, which apparently bass find irresistible.
I guess we've cleaned off the caterpillars a bit too religiously each year and so now have none!  That's probably a good thing, though, as too good a foothold for the worms results in complete defoliation and over several years could kill the tree.
But this beauty (below) succumbed to weather elements and is no more. 
  Only a stump remains whereupon we've allowed another plant to take hold, replacing the catalpa:  it's a Trumpet Vine. 

Monday, May 28, 2012


 Have you ever thought about the fact that too much of what we Americans celebrate is connected with war...?
Let's take a look:
Martin Luther King day in January is of course, about the Civil War...the endless Civil War.  The war back in the 1800's we are told,  was about "economics..."  But it was also about CIVIL rights.  And we're still at it, today.  People are fascinated with the "Civil War" (witness the popularity of Ken Burns's series on it).  How can we continue to glorify the killing of 618,000 men on a battlefield, anywhere?   Much less "celebrate".   Today, we are using high tech pilot-less drones from afar to "take out" suspected/labeled "terrorists" but also innocent human beings, calling it "Politics...  Collateral damage...Casualties of war..."
Presidents' Day?  Perhaps this is unfair, but most of these men who were president,  presided over a war of some kind or other during their tenure...after all, war makes the economy run...small wars, big wars, police actions, skimishes...war.
I find it ironic that we celebrate Mother's Day in the first half of May only to have the last half of the month (Memorial Day) celebrating the taking away of the sons (mostly) of mothers...commemorating the "ultimate sacrifice."  We go through the almost mechanical motions of "paying tribute" to those who died supposedly fighting for our freedom..."
July 4th celebrates our inability to engage in meaningful conversation to arrive at a decision to be independent from a "mother" country...And I can't help but notice that the phrase "bombs bursting in air" gets the loudest applause and voice at NFL football games...
Veteran's Day in November speaks for itself...but doesn't include the following facts:
We spend $160 billion every year to keep 310,000 troops in 150 countries around the world...
Call me anti-American if you wish (I'm anti-colonialist and believe we can use the resources we spend overseas on military right here at home), but I keep asking...
Apparently, I am not the only one asking questions....
Go here for something you probably didn't hear about...because the MSM doesn't want you to hear about it...Amy Goodman's Memorial Day Special is a real the video which took place in Chicago at the NATO summit, May 20th.  It's embedded in the story, "Memorial Day Special:  U. S. Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan Return Medals To NATO at Chicago Summit."

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Brit in Tennessee

My blog post for this Memorial Day weekend is to direct you to this lady's blog.  It is--IMHO--simply sure to WAIT for the music, as the commentary is made more dramatic (if that is possible) with the musical background.  Read the poems and the quotations she has chosen to accompany her photographs.  I've not sought her permission, but it is my hope she will be gladdened by my recommendation...

The post is poignant beyond words...causing me, at least, to once again question:  is there ANY value to war?   Any at all?  Shouldn't we humans by now be done with war?  Or are we still too primitive and barbaric?  And please don't point fingers at the "other guys" and say, "They started it."  Didn't Mother tell us "Charity begins at home...?"

And, BTW, thank you Jim of Wayfarin' Stranger blog,

for directing our attention to this anthem of beauty...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Water Dynamics

Last night, it rained.  And rained. And rained some more...  Not your little spotty shower and then it's over.  No, no.  This was a regular ditch-digger, truly a frog-strangler.  Matter of fact, in the midst of it, several tree frogs did decide to celebrate the rain--at least for awhile--and gave voice to their location...not having yet gotten to the "strangler" part, I'm assuming. 

I was out on the porch, hulling strawberries, MM was drawing plans for the picnic shelter we plan to erect in our new neighborhood park.  Whisps of vapor-laden air wafted past us with each passing dark cloud.  It was almost as if the whole world was having a bath. The music of the rain was magical.   Born in Seattle...I confess my love of a good old-fashioned drenching!  It's what brings the greenery...and the flowers.

But how much is too much? Hmmmmmmm.  The forceful dynamics of water can alter original plans!  This is called "a wash(out)".   We wound up with about 2 inches of rainfall in a comparatively short amount of time....and it looks like....

We could be in for more!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Lights Out?

Let's admit it, dear readers....we all take the sun for granted.  And nothing even remotely resembling its disappearance is on the horizon, give or take a few billion years.  Nothing suggests it won't rise and set as usual.  On the other hand...what is not predictable is what the sun will DO over the next two years to our technology driven world.   Specifically, according to the latest National Geographic magazine which arrived in yesterday's mail, we're looking at the not-so-remote possibility that heightened numbers of solar flares and supersized solar storms could take down our entire society, dependent as we are on electronics in all facets of our world.  And that, folks, is not simply scare-mongering.  We are just at the beginning of a two-year cycle that will run through the end of 2014 in which heightened solar activity could drastically change our lives. In recent years, technology and science have allowed us to develop more sophisticated tools with which to study the sun.  Those various studies have revealed that we may be in for a catastrophic lifestyle adjustment.
Here's one "take" on the possibilities (from the NG article):  "The morally right thing to do once you've identified a threat of this magnitude is to be prepared...Not preparing for it has intolerable consequences."  Karel Schrijver
When the National Geographic gives the Sun center stage on its cover,  with an accompanying headline that reads, "Solar Super Storms:  How they could impact our high tech world.."  they're not pulling their punches.  It's the real deal.  Time to plan for interrupted food delivery systems, water/sewer, and all the things that makes life "go."
For an overall "take" on the situation go here:
I admit  Demitria's website looks a little suspect...but don't judge a book by its cover.  There's good information here.   Especially since the folks at National Geographic largely agree.  You see, over the past few years, we've been able to study the sun in more detail and that has given us new information.
 And, no....we're not talking here about the Mayan calendar predictions.  Forget that and all the crazy stuff associated with it.  We're talking about the fact that our power grid, our water and sewer systems, global business...could all come crashing down and we could be facing TEOTWAWKI.  All within 20 minutes of a solar storm.  And this risk continues for the next two's just beginning.
If you haven't had a chance to page through the National Geographic, do take time to do so.  Read the article.  Don't just "do" photos.  Then start thinking about how you can improve your chances for survival, if not comfortable survival.
Here's a direct quotation from the NG:
"A solar storm like the one that took place in May 1921 would today turn out the lights over half of North America.  One on the order of the 1859 event could take out the entire grid, sending hundreds of millions of people back to a pre-electric way of life for weeks or perhaps months on end.  In Kappenman's words (solar storm expert), we're "playing Russian routlette with the sun."
As for preparedness?  Well, the reason the power grid might not be easy to fix is that we haven't manufactured enough components of the power grid to be ABLE to get it up and running quickly.  Air travel would instantly come to a complete halt.  Where you are at the moment of warning, will have a lot to do with where you wind up.
It's recommended that you store both food and water--preferrably a year's worth or more; and think about how you would survive a technological "drought."  It just may be "lights out." and life will most certainly change.  At the very least, such an event would certainly create a set of interesting dynamics.  You know those satellites that circumnavigate our earth and predict our weather, and every other facet of life today?  They can't be kept aloft without electronics....
And you know why nobody's been talking about this?  They're afraid we, of the unwashed masses, will panic.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sacrificial Lamb

I'm going to pollute this blog for a moment.  Can't help it.  I am soooooo angry!  If you have a Chase credit card, cancel it. It's a men's club, pure and simple... 

Guess who was the first to be thrown under the bus at JP Morgan Chase in this $2-billion loss...A WOMAN!  Upper management--Jamie (cute name) Dimon says it's all HER fault.  It's not just a glass ceiling.  It's a glass ceiling designed to come crashing down on the head of any female who risks working on Wall Street or any other corporate high place.  If you don't know this, it's time you learned, sisterhood! 

And it was probably women who instigated all of the following, too:

Where Do Butterflies Go?

The trickster Buckeye!  The eyespots are (it is said) an attempt to steer a predator away from the body of the butterfly and lead the hungry attacker to choose the tip of a wing as opposed to the body of the butterfly.  But I've often wondered how the butterfly could fly with a big chomp out of one wing! 

These lovely creatures arrived early this year.  Or so it seems.  Often they don't materialize in West Virginia until early summer. 

They get nectar from well-known plants such as Queen Anne's lace, sunflowers, milkweeds, ironweed and clovers.  This time, the butterflies were gathered en masse on our multiplier onions going to seed. Probably "tanking up" before the rain.    These were both flitting from one allium to the next, landing only briefly to grab a sample.  I'm not sure what this other  lovely
creature is. I believe it's a Red Admiral.  They are very quick fliers and they don't spend much time resting.  If indeed it is an Admiral, they generally prefer fermenting fruit, dung, and carrion over flowers.  But sometimes desperate measures are needed so they gather nectar from thistles, milkweed, dogbane, red clover, ox-eye daisy, Queen Anne's lace and lilac.  And obviously....onion.

 Butterflies don't fly in the rain. Rain is potentially lethal for these delicate creatures.  Sitting here looking out the window, it's a frog-strangler in the making,  and it occurred to me to wonder what happens to butterflies when it rains....Just Google it!  There are many entries to interest the naturalist.  One in particular caught my eye:
  written by Professor Michael Raupp, Entomologist at the University of Maryland. 

So, butterflies are (we hope) taking refuge under the broad umbrella-like leaves we have this year--larger than normal!  Be safe little fragile creatures.  We'll look for you after the storm!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

It isn't easy being green....

Green really isn't green.  It's more complicated than that.  You'll see.  Go here for 61 renditions of green.  Each then morphs into MANY more!  So follow out at least one.  Never thought green could be so..prevalent, so mystifying!  Guess Kermit was right all along:  "It isn't easy being green..."

In spite of the complications, though, this time of year, everything does seem to be a shade or pigment or hue of "green.'   We are wrapped in greenery.  This year--more than ever I remember--it's an Appalachian jungle out here JOTOLR.  The myriad shades of green boggle the mind.  With all the rain and fog we've been experiencing, the lushness of the foliage is astonishing.  Even the lichens seem to be flourishing.
Maybe it will inspire us all...a "green" environment; a "greener" world....but's more complicated than that...isn't it?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Speaking of lightning...

Back tomorrow!  Lightning melted my modem!  Frontier just came out and restored my connectivity.  So, I'll be back tomorrow!  Promise.  It was a doozy of a storm!!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

April Showers Bring....Strawberries?

Already.  I don't ever recall having strawberries the first week in you?  And these aren't the only ones.  Call it an "anomaly" or a "trick of Mother Nature" or climate change....whatever...this is not "normal."  Then, again, "normal" or "average" years are always a surprise in some way.  Things are never "normal" ...How dull it would be if predictions were always right on the money!
Betting on the Kentucky Derby, anyone?  It's not "normal" to have this long list of contenders with no favorites!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


This is the time of year I find myself becoming very narrow-minded.  I am all eyes.  I have eyes in the back of my head.  Under each footfall.  I've come to expect startlement even though I've anticipated the appearance of these lovely, though dreaded, creatures.  I've mentally cataloged all possible places where they may be hiding. 

The chicken coop is number one on the list.  When I enter the coop to collect the eggs these days, I am focused on those "very narrow fellows" that populate our wild yard and outbuildings.   

Shoot!  I don't even trust the hose these days even though has been lying dormant in the same spot all winter long.  But it's black, with a yellow stripe, and is coiled (even the word gives me shudders!) right next to the peonies where I am likely to tread.

Day before yesterday, I was dragging a pile of sticks to the edge of the woods and accidentally brushed the end of a snake's tail with the bundle, which I had not noticed was sticking out into the pathway.   What was particularly unnerving--aside from the distance between the head and the tail-- was the speed with which the head poked up above the Lamiastrum at my intrusion!  The head was nearly 4 feet from the tail.  And talk about FAST.  I mean  F.A.S.T!!!!!  Black snakes are slow critters.  They eventually move when prodded.  This was not your typical slo-mo black snake.  There's only one kind of snake I know of that has lightning-fast responses:  a Black Racer. Same general family of snakes but...different.  If you'd like to know the difference (other than fast) between the Black (Rat) Snake and the Black Racer, go here:

It is legendary that if one has "black" snakes on their property, they won't be bothered with the venemous copperheads.  That said, it doesn't entirely inspire confidence in me that we are supposedly free of poisonous snakes because of competition with other snakes.  However, it also must be acknowledged that in 30+ years of living here JOTOLR, MM and I have never encountered a poisonous snake anywhere on our farm.  So...who knows?  Nevertheless, I am not willing to trust such folkloric claims.

There must be something in our  respective DNA's that either accept snakes or is reflexively terrorized at the sight of them.  I fall into the latter category.  I have no control over that lurching, gut-wrench feeling I get when I encounter them. 

On the whole,  I am grateful for them and would rather have them than not.  But, my narrow-mindedness is a summer trait that I know will be a part of my life forever. I flinch and run at the sight of one.  Reflexively.  It takes all the power I can gather to remain rooted long enough to get a photograph of a snake!

And I respect these animals.  Both the Black Racer and the Black Rat Snake are valuable assets to the farmer, so when I bumped its tail and it reared its indignant head, I did apologize as I made FAST progress in the opposite direction from where it was heading.