Friday, August 30, 2013

Fridays Are Golden

Labor Day Weekend is upon us.  The end of August and the accepted end of summer.  Our weather has been hot and very humid.  Miserable to say it in one word.  So the Golden Girls take advantage of the air-conditioned house.  They do not do well in the humid heat.

Last week it was a chair rung.  This week it's the stone hearth.
Makes you want to wake her up to prevent a crick in the neck.

Open-faced hot dog sandwich

For once Ellie has more than her share.

I hope you will enjoy this long weekend.  Even retired folks like us still love the three-day weekends.

In these days of hot rhetoric, it is wise to stay grounded.  Marcus Aurelius provides this timely quote:

"Everything you hear is an opinion, not a fact.  Everything you see is a perspective, not the truth."


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Important Anniversary

A march seen 'round the world.  And a speech heard 'round the world.

Fifty years ago today, the March on Washington brought together people of all races and riches.  To a person, the audience wore "Sunday best."  Men in suits and ties, women in dresses and hats, little boys in white oxford shirts, little girls in patent leather Mary Janes and lace-cuffed socks.  In spite of many hours of travel and little sleep, the people were inspired.  Change was in the air.  It was time.  There is little doubt that the 1963 march did more for advancing civil rights than any other single event.

The march and the gathering were peaceful beyond expectations

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the man with a dream

Dr. King's moving speech is often called the "I have a dream" speech and those are the most quoted words.  Interestingly enough, the dream part of the speech was completely extemporaneous.  The prepared speech did not include the phrases so often repeated.

This part of the speech came about when singer Mahaliah Jackson said, "Tell them about the dream, Martin.  Tell them about the dream."  And so he did.  Unscripted and from deep within himself he told us about his dream for our world.  And all across America, we listened.

The dream has not been fully realized but those of us who remember the '60s know that great progress has been made.  We still have the dream, and we must continue to make it come true.  We have a dream...

Monday, August 26, 2013

Three On a Tree

The Pileated Woodpeckers will soon stop feeding their young and the little ones will have to fend for themselves.  Unlike most birds, the Pileated Woodpecker fledglings are almost as large as the adults before they ever leave the nests.  We can tell the difference between parent and child in their eyes.  The adults have a well-defined sclera while the pupil fills the entire eye on the juveniles.  In most instances, the adults have smoother top-knotch feathers while the juveniles appear in need of grooming.

This year, one of our mated pairs of Pileated Woodpeckers had two fledglings.  We have been delighted to see them in the area.

Father (on the left) and his two daughters

One click of the camera is enough to send one of them flying away.
Soon to be followed by the others.

It is really amazing to see the parent feeding two juveniles at once.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Fridays Are Golden

We thought we were in for some sunny days without any rain.  Yesterday dawned bright and gorgeous.  Finally we were having some typical summer weather.  And then at 1:00 the clouds came out of nowhere and poured rain down upon us.  Heavy rain.  As in two and a half inches in one hour!  Fortunately when the rain stopped, it stopped.  The rest of the day was beautiful and we are enjoying a sunny day today.
Our Lucy loves to look out the windows.  The dining room window makes a perfect spot to make certain no one is walking on her road.  She periodically "patrols" the house, looking out the windows in all directions.  (And yes, she must stick her nose on the window to look out.)


In spite of a long walk, Ellie flies down the driveway to greet me.
She looks a lot like Lucy in last week's post.

Lucy love to snooze with her head on the chair rail.  Surprisingly enough, she never uses my chair or my husband's chair.


This is the last weekend in August.  Schools are opening their doors once again and the tourists will leave us for a while.  But they will be back to see the leaves.

Today's quote is appropriate for our time:

"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
Thomas Paine

The struggle to support our freedom these days is challenging and at times fatiguing.  And yet, if we do not respond to the call to action, many more freedoms will be lost.  So we keep up the faith and trudge onward.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Another Little Woodpecker

Regular readers know that our woods are filled with several types of woodpeckers.  One of my favorites is the Red-bellied Woodpecker.  We have two pairs of them and love catching a glimpse of their fledglings.  The fledglings do not have any red on them, either on their bellies or their heads.  I assume this makes it all the better to hide from predators.  The little ones have gray heads and unlike the Pileated Woodpeckers, the Red-bellied fledglings are considerably smaller than the adults.

Little Red-bellied Woodpecker in the tree.
Oh, so sweet!

I hope to get a photograph of the parent feeding this little one.  But it's a matter of patience and luck, as are most things in life.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Birds Being Birds

We are by no measure experts on birds or bird life.  But we do have lots of opportunities to observe them in nature.  We have three pairs of Pileated Woodpeckers who come to our feeders with their young.  One pair has two fledglings in this brood; the other two pairs had only a single one.  Both parents assist in feeding.
This is not scientific, but we have noticed a pattern in their approach to feeding.  Our first indication that the birds have hatched are the parents; filling their beaks with suet and flying off quickly in the same direction each time.  Later, we see the parent and fledgling deep in the woods.  As time progresses, the woodpeckers bring the fledglings closer and closer to the house.
At first, the parent seems always to feed the little bird from above, dropping the food into its mouth.  As the little one grows, the parent feeds the bird in a more parallel position.  Finally, the parent feeds from below the bird, forcing the little one to mimic eating on its own.
Parent on the left, little girl on the right

The parent makes three trips to the suet.

Our most amusing observations are when the parent comes to the suet and flies past the little bird waiting on the branch.  The little bird invariably sits there in disbelief.  When it realizes the parent is not returning to feed it, the bird makes several attempts to get to the feeder.  Often the initial attempts are not successful but very soon the little bird is sitting properly on the suet feeder enjoying a meal.

Watching the birds simply being birds helps us forget about the world's problems for a while.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Fridays Are Golden

Here we are in mid-August and the afternoon rain continues.  Now it is accompanied by much cooler than normal temperatures.  Yesterday's high was only 62 and this weekend is expected to break records.  There is little doubt that this year's weather has been the strangest in my memory.

While the Golden Girls do not like the rain, they are delighted and energized by the cooler temperatures.  They wake up ready to romp.

Here they come running down the driveway.

Grabbing a few of the rays to be found

Lucy looking out at the rain

Lucy flying back in a recall

You have likely read about our fair state or seen us in the national spotlight.  Our governor signed the oppressive voting legislation into law.  (Thank you SCOTUS!  First you allowed Citizen's United to buy our State election and then you struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act.)  Fortunately, the people are mobilizing and the protests are turning into action.

A quote has been in my mind recently.  It is frequently attributed to Helen Keller and other times said to be an anonymous one.  The words vary somewhat, but it surely speaks to all of us:

"I am only one, but still I am one.  I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and even if I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something I can do.

On this cool and rainy weekend, my neighbor is hosting her three grandsons (ages 7, 13, 15), each of whom is bringing a friend!  She is going to try convince them that Sliding Rock  (here) has been declared a Polar Bear test of courage for young men.  That mountain water is FRIGID in the sun and high temperatures.  I cannot imagine it in 60-degree cloudy weather.  So I'll not complain about being indoors knitting or reading this weekend.

Whatever your plans or weather:


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Wrong Lens, Bad Lighting

For some time now I have been trying to photograph one of our Pileated Woodpeckers feeding a fledgling.  I watch and wait, watch and wait.  More often than not the woodpeckers will slide to the other side of the tree for the feeding itself.

I was caught unawares the other day and grabbed the camera when I noticed a fledgling on the tree.  So here it is; bad photography but a sweet moment in time.  There was a time when I would not have dared put such photographs on my blog.  But regular readers know that I am a reasonably competent photographer.  If you are not a regular reader, click on the label "birds" and you will see some much better photographs.
Parent and child.  The youngster on the left, almost as big as the parent.

Ready to feed

A blur of motion as the little Pileated gets fed.

It's still raining every afternoon here.  Our plants in the front yard look like a jungle.  Bits of mildew appear on the screen porch.  We are praying there are no hurricane remnants to hit us this year.  There just isn't anywhere for the water to go.  The weather is wreaking havoc on the tourist industry, especially hiking,  kayaking and tubing.  The waters are just too high and dangerous and most operators were closed more days in July than they were open.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Fridays Are Golden

DogTV is a new channel available from Direct TV.  A free trial is available to subscribers.  The purpose of the channel is to amuse dogs and the programs vary to introduce dogs to sounds of children playing, street traffic, babies crying, and all sorts of other life sounds.  There is also a program called "Morning Relaxation."  I had it on the other day for the soothing background music.  And really cute pictures of sleeping dogs.

Morning Relaxation on DogTV

Works for Lucy

Works for Ellie

Ah, so relaxing!

In truth, our dogs don't watch much television.  Lucy watches dog shows briefly and is occasionally attracted to a program for a few minutes.  Ellie does not seem to notice the television at all.  And our Golden Girls definitely do not need a program to help them relax.  After a morning walk, breakfast, and a wrestling match, they zone out for most of the morning.  So thank you for the free preview, Direct TV.  But I don't think we will subscribe to this channel.

August is upon us bringing typical weather and continued evening thunderstorms.  We are under a flash flood warning most days every week.  Last weekend we had 48 hours without rain...the first time that happened in 23 days!

It is appropriate as we approach the anniversary of the March on Washington that we quote Martin Luther King, Jr. this week.  This quote is especially meaningful in today's political climate.

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Books and Readers

I can't recall a time when I didn't love books.  I love the feel of books.  I love the pictures in books.  I love marking my progress with bookmarkers.  Most of all I love reading books.
So it never occurred to me that I would ever enjoy an e-reader.  I had the usual reasons for not buying one:  it's not a real book, it's a computer; I won't be able to refer to past pages; I won't have a bookmarker; I won't see the cover when I close it;  I just know I won't like it.
What changed my mind?  One of my best friends loves books as much as I do and we have similar interests in books.  She bought a Nook and loved it.  So, looking around at the pile of books in my study, awaiting donation to a worthy cause, I decided to give an e-reader a try.  I bought a Kindle.  The style and mechanics seemed ancient from a technological standpoint but to my surprise, I actually liked it.  At first I downloaded free classics and soon my Kindle felt like an old friend.

The owners of my local independent bookstore probably have no idea that I have an e-reader.  I still buy almost as many books from them as I ever did.  That's because I still prefer the look and feel of a "real" book.  When one of my favorite authors publishes a new book, I buy the hard copy.  I want to relish and re-read the pages and I want to keep the copy.  No matter how much I use the Kindle, it doesn't give the same comfort as a book.

After several years of use, my Kindle periodically started having a large black band across the lower third of the page.  The band would disappear when I turned the page, but I still feared it was an ominous sign of impending demise.  So I bought a new Kindle Fire HD.  It's a tablet more than an e-reader and much more versatile.  I use it for electronic editions of the magazines to which we subscribe.  The pictures and graphics are amazing and there are usually videos and additional information in the electronic editions.  I use it occasionally for games and searching the Web.  Music purchased from Amazon is automatically downloaded to the Kindle Fire when the CD is shipped.  I could watch movies on it should I want.  I love the convenience when I have appointments and it goes to sleep when you close the cover.  Because it is backlit, I can read it without additional lighting.

But I still prefer my old Kindle as a reader for a simple reason.  Despite its ancient technology, the old Kindle allows me to move forward or backward from both sides of the book.  The Kindle Fire moves only forward from the right-hand touch and backward with the left hand touch.  (Of course, there may be a way to go forward and backward from each side, but I haven't figured it out.)

What kind of books do I purchase for the e-reader?  Anthologies, poetry, classics, biographies, and fiction if I'm fairly certain I don't care to own a hard copy.  Could I give up my e-reader?  Yes, fairly easily.  Much as I like it, it isn't nearly as important as my iPods, for example.  I could easily return to reading only printed books.  But it would cost me a small fortune and there are some authors I would likely not find, and that would be bad.  I'm more tempted to read a "new" author when an e-book is on sale than to purchase a hard copy.  So I'll keep reading my books, and I'll keep reading on my Kindle and when the black bar takes over completely, I will buy another one.

Are you still holding out?  Or do you have an e-reader?  Has it changed your reading habits?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Feisty Little Birds

We await the arrival of the hummingbirds each spring, tracking their migration to know when to put out the feeders.  We have only the Ruby-throated Hummingbird in our area although the occasional Rufous is seen now and then.

By August, our feeders are constantly in use.  And they are constantly guarded with many fights over the nectar.  It is not uncommon to watch for several minutes and notice that no one gets any food; they are too busy defending and fighting off the other birds.  They twirl up together like helicopters and occasionally one will fall to the ground or hit the side of the house.

Don't even think of feeding here!

Who's going to stop me?

Yeah, you and who else?
Soon three birds are in the fray.

This happens over and over again all through August and September.  One would think they would be more interested in saving their energy for the long flight soon to come.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Fridays Are Golden

August.  Summer is flying past us.  We continue to have sunny days and afternoon thunderstorms.  When the weather predicts "pop-up" or "scattered" showers, they invariably pop up right over our house.  And this weather has been especially favorable to the ticks and mosquitoes.  They are everywhere!

In the warm weather, we don't take the Golden Girls for long walks like we do in cooler temperatures.  We do let them romp around in the woods.  That way they can judge just how much running they want to do.  My husband took the following photographs.
Lucy loves the laurel and rhodo tunnels

Ellie patiently waits on the stoop for the go ahead

Lucy always looks at you to see if you are following along.

She really does not like a sit/stay.

Our lives go along peacefully despite the onerous actions of our General Assembly and Governor.  Our governor signed the new abortion restrictions into law last week despite repeated pre-election promises that he would never sign any law making further restrictions on abortion rights.  And he maintains that he did not.  He signed the recent laws to "protect women's health."  Never mind that it effectively closes all abortion centers in the State except for one.

A group of women protesting his actions gathered outside the governor's mansion.  They were dressed in retro fashion styles of the early '60s.  As they silently protested, Governor McCrory came out with two armed guards and DELIVERED A PLATE OF CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES TO THEM!!!  He smiled as he handed the plate to a surprised woman and kept saying to the group "God bless you, God bless you."  He did not take any questions from the group.  Just handed over the cookies and walked back inside the gate.  As one newspaper columnist wrote,  "The governor doled out sexism, chocolate, and a side of condescension."

The women placed the cookies at the mansion gates with a sign that read:  "Governor McCrory, we'll take women's health over cookies."  In response to massive complaints sent to the governor about his actions, his office issued this statement, "Sometimes a plate of cookies is just a plate of cookies."  Yeah, right.

Our timely quote for the week comes from Kahlil Gibran.  I try to keep it in mind.

"I have learned silence from the talkative, tolerance from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind;  yet strangely, I am ungrateful to these teachers."