Friday, March 29, 2013

Fridays Are Golden

Spring is still waiting in the wings around here.  Our temperatures remain about 30 degrees below our normal for the season.  We should be having balmy 60s and many days we don't get above the 30s.  I fear that everything is so ready that a few days of warmer sunshine will send everything forth at once.  And one of my favorite things about living in NC is the gradual unfolding of spring.  Farmers and gardeners have hands itching with the desire to plant.

The dogs are happy enough with the weather if it isn't raining or isn't too hot.  They really enjoy the brisk mornings and play like puppies.  They play inside as well, but only in the den.  Wrestling, toys and balls are not allowed in the great room.

As regular readers know, Ellie LOVES tennis balls.  And almost every day she will sneak one or two of them into the great room.  She knows better than to play with them or ask anyone to toss them.  She is content to hold one or two in her mouth until the drooling makes it unpleasant.  She is fully aware that the balls belong in the den so she pretends she doesn't have one.  She rarely looks directly at me when she has a forbidden tennis ball.

Her mouth is open because she has a tennis ball in it.

She looks the other way when I call her name.

Lucy doesn't care a whit about tennis balls unless someone is throwing them.
She nestles next to Ellie to enjoy the sun.

This has been a busy week for most.  The NCAA Tournament is winding down and I no longer have a dog in the fight.  My only interest now is in which team DOESN'T win.  (I'm not writing the name of the team out of respect for KB.)

On a more serious note, Passover began on Monday and Christians have attended Holy Week services in their churches.

And the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has been listening to important cases relating to equality for all citizens.  I wish someone would reference the grand pig Napoleon's rule he made in George Orwell's Animal Farm.  (Perhaps that is one reason I'm not a lawyer.)  As the pigs began to enjoy their authority, they changed one commandment to read, "All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others."  [Note to SCOTUS:  This is America, not Animal Farm.  None are more equal than others.]

Spring is the season of hope, a renewal, a fresh start.  So today's quotes are about hope.

Martin Luther King:
"If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all.  And so today I still have a dream."

And from one of my favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver:
"The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for.  And the most you can do is live inside that hope.  Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof."


Monday, March 25, 2013

They Are Turning Yellow Already

I mentioned in a previous post that one of my favorite songbirds is the American Goldfinch; this for no other reason that that the goldfinches molt and turn yellow so early in the year.  We know that spring is here when the goldfinches turn.

Not all of them change at the same time and it's always a treat to see the variations in yellow among the males.

We have to rely on the calendar and the goldfinches to confirm that spring is here.  Like most of the rest of the country, we are having temperatures far below normal for the year.  High winds and blizzard conditions have hit the Midwest again.  We won't get out of the 30s here today although our normal high for the day is in the 60s.  The skies are gray and we are having little flurries of snow intermittently.

Nonetheless, the trees are budding and the goldfinches are turning yellow.  And so we know it is spring.

The American Goldfinch is the State Bird of several states, including New Jersey, Iowa, and Washington.  It is found in most states either as a summer resident or all-year resident.  Here in NC, they stay with us all year.

Interestingly enough, the birds put on their summer plumage quite early, but they do not start nesting until June or July.  The reason is because they are truly vegetarian and must rely on the thistle, milkweed and other plants to produce the seeds they need to feed their young.  So despite the early molting, they are among the latest nesters.  Some songbirds are ready for a second brood by then.

This one seems a bit brighter than the others.

The goldfinch is one bird that does not raise the young of the Cowbirds.  A Cowbird may leave an egg in the goldfinch nest and the egg may hatch.  The goldfinches will feed the large intruder, but the Cowbird chick cannot survive on the all-seed diet of the goldfinch and will not live.

Pesky Pine Siskins tend to flock with American Goldfinches during an irruption.  And this has been a significant irruptive year for them.  We have taken in all feeders except the suet on several occasions but those pesky siskins keep coming back.  Perhaps they will move on soon.  We hope so, because we definitely want our goldfinches around without them.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fridays Are Golden

One thing that I have learned during my long life is that everything is relative.  North Carolina winters are mild.  Although the higher elevations have more cold and snow, they still have periods of milder weather every winter.  Even so, when the temperatures are 20-30 degrees below normal for the season, people complain of cold.  In the coffee shop, in the drugstore, in the grocery store everyone talks about how cold it is.

Yesterday the weather reporter on an Asheville television station reported that it was "bitter" cold that morning (it was 22), and that even at noon the winds made the cold "brutal."  (The temperature at noon was 37 with 3-4mph winds.)  We moved from WI seven years ago, but I still remember what "bitter cold" and "brutal winds" are.  When I told our WI daughter, she did not think it humorous at all.  She works in downtown Milwaukee where the tall buildings create wind tunnels to make the weather even worse.

Fortunately the Golden Girls love the cooler weather and are quite frisky playing outdoors.  And they also want to play indoors at times.

Lucy pleaded with me to get down on the floor to play.

I did and threw several tennis balls for her.
She gathered three of them close to her to tell me playtime was over.

Most of their hours are spent like this.

This weekend marks the beginning of Holy Week for Christians.  It appears the new Pope is walking the walk.  Rather than holding the Holy Thursday service at St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis will do the service in Casal Del Marmo, a youth prison in Rome.  There he will wash and kiss the feet of twelve of the young offenders in the manner in which Jesus washed the feet of the disciples in humility.

And on Monday at sundown Jews will observe the beginning of Passover.  It seems fitting then, that our quotes this week are Jewish proverbs:

A bird you set free may be caught again, but a word that escapes your lips will not return.

When you have no choice, mobilize the spirit of courage.

A half-truth is a lie.

Don't sell the sun to buy a candle.

People are like grasses in the field:  some blossom, some wither.

Pride is the mask of one's own faults.

Whatever you will be doing and whatever your weather,


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Monday, March 18, 2013

One of a Kind Brooch

I have three favorite songbirds, the chickadee, the wren, and the goldfinch.  I love the chickadees because they are such friendly little birds, always the first to try out a new bird feeder or birdbath.  I love the wren because it likes to nest nearby and hops from chair to deck to railing, providing a lot of entertainment.  And I love the American Goldfinch because it puts on its summer coat ever so much earlier than the other birds.  Even though they are among the latest nesters in our area.  The gradual increase in yellow is a definite sign of spring.

Imagine my surprise when my daughter gave me a pin showing a goldfinch on the glass.  Then she surprised me even more when she told me it was made with one of my own photographs.  She had taken one of them and sent it to a woman who makes all sorts of interesting jewelry and other items.

My pin with my own photograph.

The pin was made by Elaina Louise Studios, an Esty shop.  I checked the address and found that she has temporarily closed her shop due to her son's hospitalization.  But she will return soon and you can find her here.  Meanwhile, let's all give a special thought to her son.

If you are interested in a special gift you are certain to find something there.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Fridays Are Golden

The Ides of March!  And so quickly time flies.  We've had a good week with heavy fog burning off to bright sunshine.  Temperatures have been much lower than normal, but the Golden Girls love the crisp air.  They were delighted last Sunday to have dinner an hour earlier than usual but quickly accustomed themselves to that.  Won't be so easy when we go back to Standard Time.

For some reason, Ellie put her chest and paws on a large rock.  Perhaps she liked the warmth.

Lucy photobombed this picture of Ellie.
Wait, I think she has something in her mouth again.

Come here, Lucy.  Have you picked up something again?
omph, If I don't look at her she might not notice.

She had picked up a piece of pine bark.  Honestly, her mouth is like a vacuum cleaner attachment.

I put them at a sit/stay because I had noticed a neighbor walking his dog.
They are VERY interested in what's going on in their road.

But they stay put nonetheless.  You can tell they don't like it from their solemn faces.

It seems appropriate that this week's quote should come from St. Francis of Assisi:

"While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart."

So peace and love to all of you.


Monday, March 11, 2013

A Good Trilogy

Do you enjoy the series "Downton Abbey"?  If you do I can assure you that you will equally enjoy these three books by author Phillip Rock.

The first book of the trilogy was originally published in 1978 and the others soon after.  They were bestsellers at the time and are enjoying a revival thanks to the success of the PBS television series.  In fact, the cover of each of the re-released books contains the phrase, "Before there was Downton Abbey, there was Abingdon Pryory..."

The Passing Bells begins the trilogy.  Set in England in the summer of 1914 this book involves the complexity of the war and its effect on class barriers as both servants and family members of an English manor head out to serve.  The trilogy focuses on the lives of the Greville family of Abingdon Pryory.

Circles of Time follows the family in the post-WWI years and the re-building after the war.  This was my favorite and if I could read only one this is the one I would select.

The final book of the trilogy, A Future Arrived follows the family and its younger members in the 1930s.  At the end of that decade, war again threatens their futures.

My neighbor lent me Circles of Time and I was more than halfway through it before I realized it was the second book in a trilogy.  (Don't you just hate that?  But to his credit, he didn't know it was part of a trilogy either.)  Even before I finished the book I ordered the first book.  I enjoyed it although I already knew what lay ahead for the characters.  The writing is excellent and the plot lines held my interest throughout the books.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Fridays Are Golden

We try not to say the word "squirrel" around here.  We use several words instead.  If we DO say the word, both girls run to the door so they can go out on the deck and chase away the squirrel.  The squirrel moves on as soon as the door opens but that doesn't stop the girls.

Lucy stares at the squirrel who has jumped into the trees.

Ellie was a bit slow and missed the whole thing.

I asked for a pose and she obliged.
Er...Mom...the sun is a bit bright and you forgot my shades.

Lucy stands in triumph, confident that she alone has rid us of the little pest.

We have a couple of brush piles deep in the woods.  They are great for little animals and birds during the winter.  Last week my husband did a bit of pruning and took the branches to a brush pile.  Dang!  Wouldn't you know that an industrial squirrel promptly used them for a new nest?  No good deed will go unpunished I suppose.

Dratted squirrel.  I see the fresh green branches.  We didn't intend to update your condo.

Once again our weather has had its ups and downs this week.  Our local newspaper announced that March came in like a lamb...covering everything with its fluffy white fleece.  And we are expecting near-record highs over the weekend.  You figure.  And hard as it is to believe we switch to Daylight Saving Time this weekend.    I don't like it.  I don't like it.  I don't like it.

This week's quote is from the Dalai Lama:

"Compassion is not religious business, it is human business.  It is not luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability.  It is essential for human survival."

Let us all hope we can find more compassion for the plants, animals, and people who share this planet with us.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Again Arnold Delivers as Promised

Fragrant yellow blossoms in the dead of winter.  That is what Arnold Promise witch hazel brings to our yard.  The yellow blossoms give hope for the arrival of spring.  The fragrance fills the air.  And both of them bring us joy.

The wonderful smell of witch hazel is often a treat to winter hikers in the NC mountains since it grows wild here.  But Arnold Promise is a bit different.  Developed at Harvard University's Arnold Arboretum, it was established in 1928.  A hybrid witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia) Arnold Promise can grow up to 20 feet tall.

Extract from boiling the bark, tender shoots, and roots of witch hazel make soothing ointments for rashes, cuts, abrasions and even hemorrhoids.  Its astringent and soothing properties make it excellent for barber shops.  (Remember the smell when you walked past the barbershops of old?  That was likely witch hazel.)

But mostly, our Arnold Promise just makes us feel good.  

February delight for the senses

We can see it through the library window and smell it all over the front yard.

Arnold Promise can be a bit difficult to find.  It blooms in January-March, earlier than most nurseries ramp up for the spring season.  When the blossoms fall off and before the leaves appear, it's something of an ugly duckling among the other blossoming spring trees.  But it has lovely leaves, turning to a beautiful bright orange in the fall.

Try Arnold Promise if you live in USDA zones 5-9.  It will deliver much joy to your winter.  I promise.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Fridays are Golden

March is trying to decide whether to come in as a lion or as a lamb.  The weather has been dreary most of the week with only one sunny day.  Today is cooler than average and the clouds look as if they will deliver rain or snow to us.

Lucy seems completely recovered from her severe muscle strain and is really anxious to romp and run.  Today is the final day of her restrictions and all of us will be glad.  She is one antsy dog.  The veterinarian gave us pills to have in reserve if she re-injures the back as she becomes more active.  Oh, we hope not.

When can I go out and play?

The usual snooze photograph.

This week's quote is from Anne Morrow Lindberg:

"The most exhausting thing in life is being insincere."

Wow!  I'm going to have to feel a bit more sympathy with Congress.  They must be totally exhausted maintaining all that insincerity.  (You HAVE written your Senators and Representatives, haven't you?)