Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Always Sunny at Our House

We knew we wanted a large metal scupture for our fireplace in the great room.

We didn't know what we wanted but we knew we would recognize it when we saw it.  Our daughter and I were taking some trips around and about and we saw some beautiful work done by Grace Cathey from nearby Haywood County.  We decided to visit her with photographs of the fireplace and get some ideas.

Our house is an eclectic grouping of things we like.  Antiques sit right along contemporary or modern pieces.  We have no "theme;" we collect what we love.  The more we talked with Grace, the more convinced we became that a large brass sun would be the perfect art work for our fireplace.  She made some drawings and we selected one we liked.  There was only one stipulation...the eyes had to be just right.

[NOTE:  This requirement comes from my hating a very large stain glass window in our church.  Jesus is about fourteen feet high.  He is lovely except for his eyes.  HIS EYES ARE REALLY CREEPY!  I call it "Creepy Jesus."]

Grace assured us the eyes would look upon us kindly or she would redo them as often as necessary.

My very clever and handy husband make a mock-up with cardboard and newspaper to determine the size of the sculpture.

We commissioned the sun in July and were assured we would have it by late autumn.  Alas, our artist received a big request from the NC Arboretum so our sun took a backseat.

Finally, the sun was completed this spring and now hangs cheerfully looking down at us.  We moved the mantle clock and decided to go with large pillar candles since they didn't detract from the sun.

We just love it.  And the eyes are not creepy at all.

So now, even on the worst winter days, we will have sunshine in our home.  Here is a link to Grace's Website.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fridays are Golden

Ellie had a birthday Tuesday.  It was quite appropriate that her birthday fell on the first day of Summer because she has indeed brought so much sunshine into our lives.  She was born at Dichi Goldens (here).  After saying good-bye to our second English Springer Spaniel we decided a Golden Retriever would be quite suitable for our lifestyle.  One of the best decisions we ever made.

Ellie's first day in her new home.

Ellie is the kindest and most gentle dog you can imagine.

 She is an expert at finding the weakness of soft toys and quickly rips out the filling.

 She is so beautiful running in the wind with her gorgeous coat flying in the breeze.

 She loves to go hiking, especially on trails where she can be off lead.

Ellie loves tennis balls and often carries one or more with her.  This is one of my favorite photographs of Ellie.  She is not allowed into the hallway leading to my study.  I took this picture of her standing near the entrance of the hall while I was sitting at my desk.  She was silently begging me to come on out of there and play with her.

 The halcyon days are over.  Lucy arrived on the scene.  Ellie is extremely patient with Lucy.  Many people are surprised to learn that Ellie is the alpha in spite of her tolerance for Lucy's antics.

 Another of my favorite photographs.  Ellie leading the way on a brisk November day.  Ellie is two and a half and Lucy is four months old in this photograph.

We don't celebrate dog birthdays at our house.  But on those days you can be sure there is a lot of reflection about how much our dogs mean to us.  And some extra hugs for sure.

Ellie and I share a very special bond.  Sometimes she walks up and puts her head gently in my lap.  Other times she "talks" to me, wanting me to get down on the floor with her.  Truth be told, she would really love to be a lap dog if only we allowed her on furniture.  We share some wonderful times together.

The late Will Rogers once said, "If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." 

That's exactly the way I feel.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

And What Generation Was That?

A large sign appeared outside Bryson City in nearby Swain County.  Placed there by the Swain County Health Department, the sign displayed information about the services available to the citizens.  The department used $992 in federal funding to pay for this sign and one other advertising the services provided.  Three separate services were listed at the bottom of the sign, including the costs:  Adult Physical Exams $45.00, Family Planning at Low or No Cost, and FREE Condoms.

Can you guess which advertised service created a controversy?

Photograph from The Asheville Citizen-Times

Did you guess "FREE Condoms?"  You are absolutely right!  For the record...the Swain County Health Department has provided free condoms for more than thirty years.

This is serious business, folks.  It appears that many citizens assume advertising free condoms promotes sexual activity among teens.  [Last year a Swain County health report indicated that more than half the high school students in the county have had sex.  From 2004 through 2008, Swain County had the thirteenth highest rate of teen births among North Carolina's one hundred counties.]

Not to worry...the Swain County Board of Commissioners met and all of them condemned the portion of the sign related to condoms.  County Commissioner David Monteith says the sign "sends the wrong message."  He was further quoted as saying, "I come from a generation where you don't have sex until you get married." [ Hmmm...I wonder just what generation that might have been.]

In a very literal cover-up, the sign has now been altered and the section about condoms is a blank spot.  Commissioner Monteith was very pleased.  "As a Christian, I totally oppose sex before marriage and it was a shame to see something with Swain County's name on it advertising that."  The commissioner said he had received calls from parents who were embarrassed when they drove past the sign with their children.  (Oh, heaven forbid you might seize it as an opportunity to share your own views with your children!!!)

The Swain County Health Department will continue its practice of providing free condoms.  They will continue their practice of informing all recipients of the free condoms that the only sure way to prevent pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases is abstinence.

Thank goodness the health departments provide free condoms...for the poor who cannot afford other methods of birth control, for gays, and straights, for sexually active teens and even the elderly.

On a related subject, North Carolina's 2012 budget cuts all State and Federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Really Big Baby Bird

For more than a week now, we have known that one of our Pileated Woodpecker pairs has a fledgling.  The pattern repeats itself every year.  The parent will come to the suet feeder, grab a beakful of food and fly into the trees.  At first, the parent leaves the baby deeper in the woods.  Eventually, they bring the fledgling to a tree near the suet.  They will feed it there for several days and then the little one is on its own.

We call this the "launching tree."  All of our woodpeckers bring their young ones here in the last step before they have to find their own food.

And here is the baby!  She is a really big baby and actually seems larger than the parent.  Guess it's all that baby fat.

She pokes at the tree while she waits.  Good start.

Mom comes back with food, taking great care to position herself in a way that prohibits my getting a good photograph.  Much to my frustration, they sometimes move completely behind the tree.

You have to take my word for it.  Mom is feeding the big baby.

Compare the sizes.  Mom is on the right.

Once again, the mom is feeding the little one.  Trust me.

Both birds rest after the third feeding.  Baby is hard to see below the mom and moving to the other side of the tree.

Within a few days, the baby will feed herself.  We will watch like anxious parents ourselves as she makes her first attempts to get to the suet feeder.  She will be amazed the first time Mom leaves her on the launching tree and flies right past her without giving her anything to eat.  She will watch and finally decide to try it solo.  We watch anxiously until she finally makes it over to get some food.  The mother must be watching as well, because if the baby doesn't make any attempt to feed herself, then Mom will come back and give her a bite, hoping that the next time will be more successful.

Here's hoping I am on the deck with my camera.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fridays are Golden

You know what?  I've run out of words to describe the way Lucy uses Ellie for a pillow.  So I'll let these photographs speak for themselves.  Little Princess Lucy's expressions show that she doesn't see any problem.

The thought for the week is joy.  Mark Twain said that " get the full value of joy you must have somebody to divide it with."  Do something joyful and divide your joy with someone else.  And share in the joy of others.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Even More Fun Than the Migration

Every spring and fall we look forward to the migration and glimpses of birds that don't settle here.  After the migration we enjoy watching the courtship displays among our resident birds.  But best of all are the fledglings.  When they first hatch, the woods are filled with their constant chatter.  As they leave the nests we often glimpse their parents feeding them.  Finally they try to find food on their own.  We have little titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, downys, and goldfinches coming to the feeders.  They are very funny to watch as they peck away at anything they find to determine if it is a food source.

Down by the lake, the Barn Swallows have hatched and are ready to leave the nest.  As the birds grow the nests become more and more crowded.

These three are almost ready to go.

Oh, make that four!  Don't you love their little clownish pouty mouths?

Guess who will be fed first?

Yeah me, lady.  You wanna make something of it?

The brood from this nest has fledged so the swallows will repair the nest and lay another set of eggs.

We are fortunate indeed to witness the life of the birds in our area.  Almost makes up for missing the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks who seemed to have passed us by on their way north.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Major Festival

Always held during Memorial Day weekend, the White Squirrel Festival  brings the town folk and visitors together.  While we are known as the "Land of the Waterfalls," we are also famous for our white squirrels.  White squirrels (not albino) make up 37% of the gray squirrel population in town.  You can read more about them here.  The White Squirrel Festival is the second largest festival of the year, exceeded only by the Halloween Festival.  (We are, of course in Transylvania County.)

The streets are closed off and various vendors set up tents and booths along the street.  Many free games are set up for the children and the festival is always entertaining.  We almost always find some crafts that we must have.

A view from Main Street

 While there are various white squirrel runs and other games to play, the White Squirrel Derby tops them all.  There are many divisions for the soap-box derbies and many people have worked all year on their cars.  Various businesses enter the special derby for shop owners.

Looking down Jailhouse Hill where the cars will race.  No matter that the jail is no longer in the courthouse, we still call it Jailhouse Hill.

 You can purchase almost anything with a white squirrel on it.  Or simply purchase a stuffed toy.

A parking lot is set up for skateboarding.  This very agile three-year-old plans to take his scooter down one of the ramps.  He is not old enough to be in the area and I'm not sure who was supposed to watch him.  It was hard for me not to tell the little guy he probably shouldn't do that.   He fell on the way down, got up to see if anyone saw him.  Then he went to the ramp again.  I stopped watching.

One area had dozens of hula hoops and everyone seemed to have her own style.  I say "her" because I did not see one adult male pick up a hula hoop. 

I must confess that I do not particularly like people dressed in animal costumes.  I don't like the mascots for college ball games, I don't like costume parties, and I especially don't like clowns.  So you can imagine this costume head freaked me out.

It's amazing that I could hold the camera still long enough for a photograph. 

 I fear that some children might have nightmares after seeing this freaky head on the table.

That's more like it.  (Although in truth I didn't want to get anywhere near it.)

(This photograph from 2010 in "Mountain Express)

You may notice the people in the photograph have squirrel tails, ears, and whiskers.  They lost the record they won in 2010 for the most people dancing in white squirrel costumes this year.  Perhaps we should have stayed longer and participated.  Or maybe not.

Another weekend of small-town fun in the mountains.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fridays are Golden

I hope you aren't looking for action shots of the Golden Girls.  There is little action from them during this heat wave.  Strong afternoon thunderstorms have no effect on the temperature...just raise the humidity to almost intolerable levels.  The  heat wave seems to be hanging all over the eastern part of the United States.

Want me to fluff up your pillow Lucy?

Maybe if I just lie here she will go away.

Two gloomy Goldens lament the rain.  (But we humans are grateful for every drop.)

 I have to say, her head is not as good a pillow but it will have to do.  Yeah, I know there is another bed just like this one not two feet away.  But it has no pillow.

I can't believe it's Friday again.  Our lives have been in slow motion all week so how did time pass by so quickly?  I think we must be getting old.

The words of wisdom this Friday come from a rather unusual source.  It's printed on one of my husband's tee shirts:


Get to the point
Reach for new heights
Rise above it all
There is beauty as far as the eye can see
Be uplifting
Patience, Patience, Patience
Enjoy the view

I hope this is a good weekend for all of us, especially those who are facing great challenges in their lives.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

That Hose is Moving

Monday evening I opened the garage door and went out with the dogs.  I saw a black garden hose on a shelf near my husband's car.  I wondered when he had put it there because I hadn't noticed it before.

The dogs attended to business and we came back into the garage.  Just as I tapped the "close" button I noticed the hose move ever so slightly!  I quickly opened the garage door again and went inside the house.  I called to my husband, "There's a snake in the garage.  Come and watch it while I take the dogs to bed and then we'll get it out."  [Important note:  My husband is quite afraid of snakes.  That's nothing to be ashamed of.  He is otherwise fearless, hiking the most rugged trails, clearing brush from the creek, etc.  Snakes are about the only thing he fears.  We all have at least one thing that makes us freak out and for him it is a snake.]

The snake had not moved from the shelf when I came back out.  My husband was standing near the door and said it was a black snake and a really long one at that.  The snake was twisted around itself, not coiled, and seemed not to notice our presence.  (DUH!!! That should have given you a little hint, Carolyn.)  Dealing with non-poisonous snakes does not bother me at all if I see them and know where they are.  But a snake in the garage can find all sorts of places to hide even in a garage as neat as ours.  And I surely didn't want to be surprised in the future.  Besides, snakes are really happier in the woods.

We developed our strategy.  My husband suggested that we should take a broom and sweep the snake off the shelf into a large bucket he uses for clearing the yard.  I explained that the snake would immediately climb out of that and we needed something with a lid.  The very accomodating snake didn't seem to mind our discussions at all and remained where he was.  (How many clues do you need, mountain woman?)

I looked over at the largest recycle bin which contains wine bottles and other glass.  It was large and deep and had a cover.  So my husband emptied it and brought it around his car.  I put the bin on the floor directly under the shelf and handed the lid to my husband.  I explained that I was going to take the broom and "sweep" the snake off the shelf and into the bin and he would pop the lid on immediately.  At least three times I impressed how crucial it was to be fast with the lid.  I moved over to the side so my husband could be right at the bin and ready with the lid.  I counted to three and swept the snake off the shelf.

IT TURNED INTO TWO SNAKES AS IT TUMBLED OFF THE SHELF!!!  My otherwise fearless husband was so startled that he took a little dance step backwards, totally forgetting his role in putting the lid on immediately.  Great!  Now we had two snakes loose in the garage.  One of them slithered back to the shelving and the other one moved toward the garage door.  I told my husband to watch the snake on the shelf while I tried to find the other one.  I walked around his car and found a long pole that looked like a better tool than my broom.  I found the snake behind the other recycle bin and I poked and shoved him until he was cornered behind the large trash barrel.  I moved the trash barrel and prodded the snake out the garage door and onto the driveway.  During this time my husband was shouting, "Throw the thing over the wall!  Throw it over the wall!!  This snake on the shelf is moving."  I told him I almost had this one and he should keep an eye on the one on the shelf.  I worked with the pole and tossed the snake over the wall as planned.  One snake snake to go.

I went back into the garage where my husband was standing and I did not see the other snake.  My husband said he THOUGHT it might have gone behind and under the shelf.  I told him to stand at the rear of his car so he could see where the snake emerged when I started poking under the shelf.  Suddenly my husband shouted, "It's out!  It's out!"  I started to run to the back of my husband's car and RAN SMACK INTO HIM!!!  Once again, my partner had left his post and we had no idea where the snake was.  Thank goodness we knew it was a black snake.  So there I was, poking and prodding among the mops and brooms and wishing I had more sturdy shoes than the sandals I was wearing.  My husband had moved to the front of my car...the front of the front of my car asking such useful questions as, "Can you see it?  Can you find it?  We've got to find it!"

Finally I saw the snake's tail.  Poking and prodding, I managed to get the snake out of the garage and onto the driveway and then over the wall.  I don't know why it didn't occur to me from the beginning that the twisted nature of the snake could only mean one thing...there were two snakes locked in an embrace.  But it didn't occur to me and I was totally shocked to see two snakes.

Photograph from Savannah River Ecology Laboratory

All's well that ends well is absolutely true.  After such an adventure we are prone to think of how many things could have gone wrong.  We're thankful that I noticed the snakes in the first place.  It's one thing to see a snake from a distance...quite another to be suddenly surprised.  We are thankful the dogs did not participate in our antics, although next morning they were intensely interested in the smells on the turn-around of the driveway.  We are thankful the snakes were not poisonous or aggressive and we hope they do find a good nesting place near our house...just not inside the garage.  We are thankful neither of us had more than a glass of wine at dinner.

Most of all, we are thankful that we can still get into these Desi/Lucy situations and laugh about them.  And come out of them still best friends.  My husband once gave me a card which read, "Having the right partner makes all the difference."  So true.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Pink All Over the Mountains

We don't have to travel at all to see the beauty of the mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia).  Beginning in late May and continuing to mid-June, the blossoms of this plant add a touch of pink everywhere.  Mountain laurel is an evergreen shrub that is valued not only for its colorful display but also for it twisty vine-like branches.  The branches are increasingly used for bannisters on porches and decks.  We are so lucky...we can drive to different elevations and enjoy the mountain laurel at various stages of blossoming.

Right now you can look out any window in our house and see mountain laurel.

This photograph was taken through my bathroom window.

In the front yard.

Growing over one of our yard birds.

This is a photograph from last year.  My daughter's Poppet is sitting among the branches.
You may want to click to enlarge.

What on earth is a Poppet?  You can read about them here.  These adorable little things are two inches high and are typically given from one friend to another.  Many Poppet owners document their trips with photographs of their Poppet.  They are such sweet little things and always seem to make a person feel better.  A nice little talisman for certain.  Pleasing to the eye and comforting to the touch.  And small enough to fit in your pocket or purse.

Perhaps in a future post I will show you more pictures of my daughter's Poppet with our mountains in the background.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Fridays are Golden

How can time be passing by so fast?  It's June already. The weather in May and June is usually perfect here in the mountains.  Highs in the 60s and lows in the 40s.  Nice crisp morning air.  The key word is usually.  This May gave us record highs and June is starting out the same.  Our average temperatures for May were twenty degrees above normal!  Needless to say, Golden Retrievers with their two coats of hair do not do well in the heat.  They get their long walk early in the mornings now.  As the day warms up they go out to do their business and immediately turn towards home as if to say, "Can't we go back in now?"

We sit outside with them in the evenings and no one is interested in running and playing.  They just enjoy walking around the yard.

There are always really good smells by the walk.

Even fireball Lucy is not running around.

Ellie jumps on a chair to look over the yard.  Often I will sit on the bench and she will climb up, lie beside me and put her head in my lap.  She really would love to be a lap dog.

She sits and thinks in the evening shadows.  Does anyone besides me wonder what the dogs are thinking?

This week has brought even more disastrous weather across our country.  I look at the videos and cannot imagine the horror the folks are going through.  I have tremendous admiration for so many of our fellow citizens who speak with hope in their voices as they start the long road to recovery.  We should all learn a lesson from them...that we can always have hope no matter how dire the circumstances might be.

From Harvey Milk:
The important thing is not that we can live on hope alone but that life is not worth living without it.

And from Martin Luther:
Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.

And so we must never lose hope.