LIFE'S BETTER IN THE MOUNTAINS

Friday, May 22, 2015

We Love Lucy


We're a bit later than usual in planting our little herb garden on the deck.  This was the year for re-staining so we had to wait for the weather and the workers.  But we still have plenty of summer left to enjoy the fresh herbs in our cooking and salads.

Lucy is always quite interested when we bring anything home and the herbs were no exception.  She checked out each one as we put it in the garage.  She loved the smells.


Checking out each little pot




 No, Mom.  I was only just smelling them.  I didn't bother a thing.




 Any more in there, Dad?




 Oh, and flowers too.  Lovely


 Finally she tired of walking back and forth from the car to the garage, so she stood watching.

 I'll just stand here and guard these for you.

Since we live in the woods, we have little room for a garden, so we grow some herbs in containers on our sunny deck.  Fortunately we have a market nearby that sells fresh produce from local gardeners so we can enjoy the fruits of the labor of others.

This weekend is the traditional "kick-off" for summer in the US.  Memorial Day marks a time for us to remember all those who died in service to our country.  (As opposed to Veteran's Day in which we honor all who served.)  Memorial Day began as "Decoration Day" immediately following the Civil War.

Here in the south, especially in the mountains, most churches and family cemeteries celebrate a Decoration Day in which families of those buried there come together to clean up the cemetery and decorate the graves with flowers.  The hard work is usually followed by a huge potluck picnic.  Many families have family reunions on this day.

In cities and towns all across our country, bands will play and wreaths will be laid at the memorials to those who died in service to our country.  We will all fly our flags high and sing patriotic songs to celebrate this day.

Thus, it is appropriate that our quote of the week is about patriotism.  It comes from Robert Reich, political economist and former Secretary of Labor:

"True patriotism isn't cheap.  It's about taking on a fair share of the burden of keeping America strong."

Unfortunately there are too few Americans willing to take on a fair share of the burden.  We see a continuing divide among the very rich and the very poor, the haves and the have nots.  Let's all try to do our share for equality.

HAVE A MOST WONDERFUL WEEKEND, EVERYONE!  STAY SAFE AND SPEND SOME TIME IN REFLECTION

 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Mountain Canaries


One of our favorite year-round birds is the American Goldfinch.  Many mountain residents still refer to them as the "mountain canaries."  I've heard many stories of great-grandparents who would steal some of the fledglings and put them in cages for pet birds.  What a shame, especially when theses birds are so beautiful flying freely in the forests.  One of our much-anticipated signs of the passing of winter is the brightness of the male goldfinches.  No one is quite certain why they take on their bright plumage so early in the year when they are among the latest nesters around.

We've been plague by an irruption of Pine Siskins this year who flocked with our goldfinches and drove us mad.  Finally they have departed and we can once again appreciate our little canaries.


Note the chickadee at the bottom of the feeder




The feeder is filled




 A nice drink is always refreshing



Thank goodness the chickadees who took up housekeeping in one of our pottery birdhouses don't seem bothered at all by the presence of the goldfinches.  They are quite busy now trying to force the Red-bellied Woodpeckers away from the suet feeder that is hanging not far from the bird house.  It's an amazing sight to see the little chickadee fluffing up and trying to scare off the woodpecker.  And he always succeeds, even if he has to dive-bomb the woodpecker.  Most often the woodpecker will fly to a second suet feeder which is further away from the nest.

Silly chickadees.  It really was not a great location for a family, not four feet from a suet feeder and three feet above a bird bath.  But it does make for an interesting sight.  We watch them coming and going all the time and never cease to be entertained.



Friday, May 15, 2015

Fridays Are Golden


Mid-May already.  In many areas of the country spring seems to be finding it difficult to arrive.  Our Milwaukee daughter lamented last week's highs in the low 40s.   Unusually large snowfalls hit parts of the Rockies and there has been some severe weather throughout the southeast corridor.

But it is spring here in the mountains.  The roadsides are filled with blooming blackberry bushes and gardens are lush with beauty.  We are loving it.  If the profuse buds fulfill their promises, we will have abundant Mountain Laurel blossoms within the week.

Lucy loves this weather.  She loves to be outdoors, sniffing and running.  She does not like to be outdoors and told to sit for a photograph.  Unlike Ellie, who would sit and smile when she saw the camera, Lucy considers the camera a big bother.  It almost always signals that I want to take a photograph, and she is not happy to have to stop her wandering.


Ha!  Surely you don't expect me to smile, do you now?
Let's just get it over with.




 She gazes into the distance where the scents beckon her.


 There is one place in which it is never difficult to photograph Lucy.  Because she spends a lot of time there and pays little attention to what I am doing.  That's when she is snoozing on her beloved bee pillow.

 Easy, I just pretend I don't know she is there.


Whatever your weather, I hope spring will come soon to your area.  Designer Lilly Pulitzer said it well,
Despite the forecast,
Live like it's spring.

HAVE A MOST WONDERFUL WEEKEND, EVERYONE AND ENJOY WHATEVER SIGNS OF SPRING YOU HAVE 








Monday, May 11, 2015

Chickadees Nesting


In a previous post, I mentioned the chickadees were checking out one of our pottery bird boxes.  While we have plenty of wooden and gourd houses for living space, the chickadees took a liking to this ceramic one.  We wondered if they would actually use it for nesting.

Yes, they did.  And now the eggs have hatched, keeping the birds very busy.

(You many need to click to enlarge the pictures)


One of parents sits on a branch to the left of the bird house.
There is food for the babies




 The bird goes inside the house, then comes back out with something white in its mouth.
Sort of a white bubble




It is a fecal sac.  Many birds carry these far away from the nest to dump them.
Otherwise the sight and smell of them might attract predators.


Chickadees are year-round residents here.  Is this a Black-capped Chickadee or a Carolina Chickadee?  Usually one can easily tell by the location.  Black-capped Chickadees live in the north and Carolina Chickadees in the south.  However, we are in a small geographic area that both Black-capped Chickadees and Carolina Chickadees inhabit.  So which is this?  I have no idea.  The differences are very subtle and one needs the two birds side-by-side to truly determine which it is.  Add to that the fact that there is some cross-breeding and you have a real dilemma.

So it doesn't really matter what kind of chickadees we have, we love them.  They are among the most friendly and curious birds, almost always the first to try out a new feeder.  They don't seem to mind if we sit on the deck to watch them and they provide us with endless joy year-round.



Friday, May 8, 2015

Fridays Are Golden


It's definitely spring here in the mountains.  All sorts of wildflowers bloom along the trails.  The oak pollen is coating everything and people who have never had allergies before are sneezing with watery eyes.  So in spite of the wonderful weather, we must keep our windows closed and turn on the air conditioner.  Bummer.

We don't eat a lot of chips and snacks, so whenever a plastic bag is opened our optimistic Lucy always assumes it means a new bag of treats for her.  She runs into the kitchen and sits quietly waiting for something good to happen.


Oh, I can hardly wait!  But if I get too excited they will scold me and I really hate that.
So I'll sit here like a good girl.

 Sometimes she is lucky and the bag does contain a treat for her.  Other times she is disappointed as the bag fills a bowl and nothing is offered to her.



 Can you guess which was the case?


Sunday is Mother's Day here in the US.  Despite modern-day appearances, it was not begun as one of those "greeting card holidays."  Although suggested in 1872 by Julia Ward Howe, the real roots of Mother's Day in the United States began as one woman's tribute to her mother and to other mothers around the country in 1908.  Anna Jarvis pushed hard to have Mother's Day declared an official holiday.  In 1914, President Theodore Roosevelt, despite vigorous opposition from some Senators (all male), declared the second Sunday is May to be celebrated as a national holiday to honor mothers in the United  States.

When florists and greeting card companies, most notably Hallmark, started commercializing Mother's Day in the early 1920s, Anna Jarvis was furious.  She was so angry with what she saw as exploitation of the holiday that she spent years attempting to have the holiday rescinded.  At one time she was arrested for protesting at a candy company.  But World War II boosted the commercialism with soldiers sending flowers, cards, and gifts to their mothers at home.  The candy, flower, and card companies spread the idea that good sons would remember their mothers by sending these products.  And thereby boost their sales.

Mother's Day has an even older history in many other countries.  In the UK "Mothering Sunday" was celebrated as early as the 1600s.  It was on the fourth Sunday of Lent.  Ancient Romans had celebrations for specific mother goddesses more than 200 years BC.

So while we can never escape the ubiquitous commercialism of the day, we can all be thankful for our mothers, loving the ones who are still living and honoring those who have died.






HAVE A MOST WONDERFUL AND SAFE WEEKEND, EVERYONE

 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Sometimes It's Just the Right Thing


I have a good friend who gets very frustrated when she can't immediately recall every little detail of something or the name of a book or movie or some other relatively un-important fact.  I try to console her that all of us begin to lose our instant recall as we age and that it doesn't mean anything except that we are getting older.

My friend developed a couple of "memory recall tests" and when she can't remember something or a word does not come immediately to mind, she uses one of the tests to make certain her mind is still functioning well.  Never a fan of the BeeGees, she decided to use the four first names of the Gibb brothers as one of her memory tests.  An especially good example since only three of them were part of the singing group.

It is of note that this friend is a crossword puzzle expert.  She does several complex puzzles every morning with her first cup of coffee.  She subscribes to the weekend NY Times in order to do the crosswords.  (She says the Monday through Thursday ones are too simple.)  BTW:  she does them in ink, not pencil.

The last time my daughter visited, she and I were laughing at the friend's latest lament.  She had forgotten the name of one of our old bosses.  About ten minutes after the call, she called again to tell me the name.  My daughter and I decided it would be fun to provide her with a visual of one of her memory tests.  The two of us thought about a cross-stitch piece since my daughter is quite skilled at this.  We thought first of little bees surrounding the names.  Then we thought of a finger with a knot tied around it.  Finally my daughter thought of making a crossword puzzle.  She scribbled the names and realized there were several ways to make them intersect.  So the design was born.  Perfect for a crossword junkie.

My daughter did the cross-stitch and I had it framed.  The color in the photograph is not true.  The matting is actually more of a newspaper gray.  Incidentally, the white border is part of the canvas.  The framer was blown away by how perfectly square it was.

The Gibb brothers crossword.

It was not my friend's birthday or any special occasion when I mailed it to her.  I did not even tell her something was coming.

It was a total surprise, made even more fun because her daughter was visiting at the time and had no idea what on earth it meant.  My friend was delighted.  Sometimes the smallest things can mean the most to your friends.  The crossword is hanging in her kitchen and she delights in telling visitors where it came from and what it means.

Special thanks to my daughter, my frequent partner in schemes for helping me give the perfect gift.