Monday, January 30, 2012

Fish Tales

The sight is almost like a mosaic as you peer down into the vats.  Lots of fish shimmer in the sunlight.  Where can you see such a sight?  At the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education.

The Bobby Setzer Fish Hatchery is located there.  Three varieties of trout are bred and released from this hatchery.  Trout eggs are stripped from the females and fertilized by mixing the eggs with the fluid containing sperm which has been stripped from the males.  The eggs are protected at the fish hatchery and allowed to grow into fingerlings about five months later.  At that stage, the fingerlings are moved to very large outside vats called raceways.

Walking past the raceways is amazing.  One raceway might hold really small fish and another may hold fish large enough for dinner (or breakfast).

Informative signs are all along the raceways.  This one explains how the trout are bred.

The mountain streams of North Carolina are well known as excellent trout waters.  Every year trout fishermen and women come here to fish from all over the country.  Local fishermen and women also love to catch these fish.

 Larger fish in a raceway

The Davidson River is a favorite among trout enthusiasts.  It runs through our county and the water is perfect for trout.  Another big bonus of the Davidon River is that the Bobby Setzer Fish Hatchery is on a branch of that river and regularly stocks the river with trout.

 This one was quite large.

Each year this particular fish hatchery stocks about half a million trout in fifteen counties in western NC.  The stocking waters include eighty streams and lakes.  We have three different trout species in our area.  The most popular is probably the Rainbow Trout.  It is not native to North Carolina but was brought here in the late 1800s from the Pacific Northwest.  The Brown Trout is also a favored one and it is not native either.  It was brought here from Europe in the late 1800s as well.

Is there a native trout in our mountains?  Well, sort of.  The Brook Trout is indeed native to western North Carolina.  Except...well...the Brook Trout is not really a trout.  It is a char.

We travel to the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education quite often.  It is located in Pisgah Forest where a CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camp once stood.  The scenery is beautiful and John Rock rises above the area with trails to the top.  It is fun to wander around the raceways and see the various types and sizes of trout.  The parking lot is adjacent to the river where lines of trout fishermen and women hope to catch a big trout.  In summer we can watch fly fishing lessons for a new group of trout fishers.  Some of the early casting is rather funny to watch.  Thank goodness they don't have any hooks at the end of the lines.

Another draw for us is the usual presence of Turkey Vultures.  We have seen dozens of them roosting in two large trees near the raceways and flying above.  We did not see any on this particular trip, but we did see a very large black bird.  It was either a raven or a really large crow.  Since both are found in the area, we weren't sure which it was.  I'm sure a real birdwatcher could look at the tail and immediately recognize whether it's a crow or raven.

 Too bad I had the wrong lens on the camera.

We are indeed lucky and blessed to live around here.  Really, it's true...Life is better in the mountains.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Fridays are Golden

January 21 was "Squirrel Appreciation Day."  I don't know if that is one of those "Hallmark Holidays" or not.  I didn't look for cards and didn't receive any in the mail.  We don't celebrate Squirrel Appreciation Day. Because I hate those beady-eyed little devils.  I'm not at all sure why I have such a dislike for squirrels.  Perhaps there was a childhood incident that made me feel this way.  I'm not afraid of them.  I simply do not like them.

The only way I ever liked squirrels was when my momma would cook them up.  My daddy was a hunter and we ate the deer, squirrels, rabbits, pheasants and doves that he hunted.  (Yes, in North Carolina there is a legal dove season and yes we do shoot them and yes we eat them.)  My city-boy husband was absolutely amazed to hear that I had actually eaten squirrels.  Not only had I eaten them...I LOVED them.  I haven't had any squirrel since I was a child but my momma's stew was such a treat.  Momma even cooked and served the head in the stew and one lucky person would get the head to crack open and eat the brains.  That's DEFINITELY not a good idea now given the possibility of contracting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Enough about about the Golden Girls?  I began this post with squirrels because our dogs are excellent squirrel dogs.  (Forget about hunting dogs that will tree a squirrel for you.  They hunt by observation.)  They do their hunting from inside the house.  And occasionally out on the deck.

The girls look out at the rain.  They are actually looking at a squirrel.

 They don't seem very excited.

 In fact, they are lying down on the job.
But their eyes are still on the squirrel and they are at the ready.

 Why so nonchalant about the squirrel?
He's running in the tree.  He's not on the deck or railing.

A squirrel on the  deck is another story!
 As you can see in this terrible photogaph, this squirrel is VERY frightened at the dogs.
Honestly, I think if he had fingers he would salute them or thumb his nose.
To their credit, the girls do at least stand when stalking a squirrel that is on the deck.
And if we open the door they chase the squirrel off and prance around proudly.

And so we have reached the last Friday in January.  Many a New Year's resolution has fallen by the wayside.  While I never make New Year's resolutions, I do try to think of things I can improve on.  In this past week I have seen a great deal of anger on many levels.  Too often we let anger continue to fester and just cannot seem to learn when to let it go.

So I leave you with a quote from Buddha:

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else;  you are the one who gets burned.

Good luck to those of you in Florida as you take your turn at watching the mud-slinging.  As for everyone?


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Glad It's Not Our Turn

Go, Florida.  It's your turn to hear the rhetoric and see the endless attack ads.  Now that the South Carolina Republican Primary is over, the money speaks in Florida for a while.  Unfortunately, none of us will get a break from the never-ending politics.  "News" networks have twenty-four hours to fill after all.

Most of the campaign speeches are regurgitations of previous orations.  There seems to be little that is new.  On the other hand, I have in fact learned a new word.  I heard it for the first time yesterday.  I'm not at all sure how often I might be able to use it, but I'm always happy to learn a new word.

The word is "prebuttal."  Prebuttal is a term used to describe an already-prepared response to an anticipated criticism.  Last evening the President of the United States gave the annual State of the Union Address to Congress and to the American people.  Prior to the speech, dozens of members of the opposing party gave prebuttals against what they thought the President might say.  Afterwards, many of the same people gave rebuttals.  So we had prebuttals before the speech and rebuttals following the speech.  (Would it have been a "buttal" if )someone made a response DURING the speech?"

The airwaves are flooded with misinformation and false accusations as they are in each election year.  They always seem to get worse every election but that might be a perception.  It becomes harder and harder to glean the "half-truths" contained in the advertisements.  (Actually, some of them don't have even half-truths.)  One individual has contributed (legally, thanks to the Supreme Court) five MILLION dollars to a candidate and is prepared to contribute another five MILLION dollars.  In spite of all the money, are these really the best candidates money can buy?

Enough ranting.  Let me just say that the political process has become very much like a sign we see on a trailhead in DuPont State Forest.  I will share it with you:

It pretty much sums up my feelings about politics in America today.  In truth, I am curious as to how the bin gets filled with horse manure.  And what happens to it afterwards?  Smart as they are, I don't think the horses can be trained to use a horse toilet.  I didn't see any shovels around to gather the manure.  And I know for a fact that people don't have to pick up horse manure on the trails.  While I must carry doggie poop bags, I have to walk around the much larger piles of horse manure on the multi-use trails.  (I still don't understand why I can't simply use a stick to get my the doggie poop off the trail.)

So the issue of the horse manure bin remains a mystery.  But I think I might be able to find the answer to that one.  I'll never find an answer as to how so many people can be so swayed by a television advertisement.  I want to shout to them to learn about the candidates, recognize the rhetoric, get informed, and stop letting the very rich buy our political process.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Rainy Monday

Don't you just hate it when you have lots of errands to do and it is pouring rain?  So you fortify yourself with a couple of cups of coffee and go out to run errands in the rain?

You know that sick feeling when you look at your car in the garage and a tire looks flat?
And the tires are less than six months old?

 So you walk to the rear of the car thinking it might be just an illusion?
But it's not...and the tire is flat as a pancake?

And don't you just hate it when your mountain town is too small to have AAA service located in town?  So the nearest service provider is in a neighboring county?  So it's going to be a long wait?

And your husband asks you what you ran over, subtly insinuating it must be your fault?  And he keeps reminding you that he has never had a flat tire?



Friday, January 20, 2012

Fridays are Golden

January is flying past.  Life always seems to quiet down a little in January.  After the holiday rush we enjoy a slower pace.

The Golden Girls enjoy the crisp weather and especially seem to enjoy the high winds we have had this week.  They run and run and then they sleep and sleep.  When we are in the great room, the blue bed is favored by both dogs.  (You may recall that this bed is next to my husband's chair.  Thus there is often a hand reaching down to pet the dogs.)

Lucy settles in for a nap.

When Lucy is in the blue bed first she doesn't have to share.  But if Ellie is in the blue bed Lucy will plop down regardless of whether or not there is any room.

 Lucy, I think you are hogging the bed, pushing Ellie against the wall.
Your point being....?

Ellie was lying on the blue bed.  Lucy squeezed in and gradually took over, pushing Ellie under the chair.

 Lucy, you are taking all of the bed and Ellie is squished under the chair!
Your point being...?

Thank goodness the South Carolina primary will be over tomorrow night.  Perhaps that will give us a respite from the continuous political advertisements.  Our divisiveness is compounded by these ads most of which are erroneous and all of which are very negative.

We have a neighborhood knitting group that meets monthly.  We usually talk about neighborhood gossip, knitting, grandchildren, books, and food.  I was surprised when the conversations turned political.  And I was REALLY surprised at the positions some of my neighbors took.  For the first time some of the discussions were pretty heated.  I learned a lot about some of my neighbors that Monday.  I actually refrained from joining in for fear of what I might say.  After all, it wasn't as if anything I might say would change any minds.

One of my favorite essayists is John Muir and I thought of his words as I listened to the rhetoric.

We all flow from one fountain Soul.  All are expressions of one love.

I don't know if I will live to see the day that we can live as if we are from one fountain.  At times it seems impossible with all the differences among us.  All of us need to try to think of one eternal fountain.  We are all tributaries of that fountain.  And we must try to act like we are.  Whatever affects one of us affects all of us.  On that note:


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Now the Nation Knows Our Secret

Transylvania County is home to  miles and miles of biking trails.  Bicyclists come from across the country to ride on our mountain roads or to ride off-road on our many trails.  Pisgah National Forest and DuPont State Forest together have more than 600 miles of trails designated for bicycles.  Add the winding mountain roads, and back roads, the miles seem never ending.  Most of the mountain trails rise quickly with spectacular descents.  Bikers can ride on rocky mountain trails interspersed with sand and slickrock to make for a challenging ride.  While most of the bikers are very experienced, novice bikers can find some easier trails to ride.

[LATE ENTRY:  The original wording paraphrased from a news release indicated that there are "bicycle-only" trails.  A wise reader (thanks Randy) indicated the trails were actually multi-use.  My husband who does volunteer trail work in Pisgah confirms that there are no trails specifically for bicycles.  Bikes are allowed on many of the trails, along with hikers and occasionally horses.]

One of our "Land of the Waterfalls" brochures features bikers with the promise that
"The only pressure out here is in your tires."

Yesterday the January/February issue of Bike Magazine went on sale.  This highly-read issue includes their "bible of bike tests."  Last October Brevard hosted the staff of Bike Magazine as they spent most of the month testing gears and bikes on our roads and mountain biking trails.  The January/February issue features Brevard and surrounding county and proclaims on the cover "Transylvania County: America's best kept secret."

The cover from The Asheville Citizens-Times

Every business in town is eagerly awaiting the result of the spreading knowledge about our bicycle culture.  It certainly will stir interest in those bikers who have never heard of our county and town.  While Brevard citizens are already accustomed to seeing competitive cyclists in our town we are likely to see even more of them this spring.

I have only one little concern about the bikers.  Most of them want to ride the trails in Pisgah National Forest and DuPont State Forest.  What's my concern?  The road from Pisgah to Dupont goes straight up the nine-miles of steep mountain curves from downtown Brevard to my house.  So when I'm going twenty miles/hour behind a bevy of bikers, I simply remind myself that I'm retired and should not be in any hurry.  Going downhill is not usually much of a problem since the really experienced bikers will descend as fast as a car.

As the county business owners prepare for the increase in cyclists, I will prepare as well.  I will try not to have to go downtown on weekends.  I will take my special freezer packs to the grocery store so the foods will stay fresh on my longer drive back up the mountain.  I will try to experience the beauty of the surrounding mountains while I drive at a much-reduced speed.  And I will be part of the culture that welcomes these bikers.  For the most part, the bikers are quite courteous, they do not litter, they respect the land and the trails, they ride single file on the highways.  So I say a big "welcome" to bikers who come to enjoy our mountains.

[NOTE:  The welcome does not extend to those who ride those super-fast and noisy high-speed motocycles, commonly known around here as "crotch rockets."  They take the curves at dangerous speeds often leaning into the oncoming lane.  They pass cars in an unsafe manner, make so much noise they disturb the quiet and drive so fast they never appreciate the beauty around them.  We can do without them, thank you very much.]

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Sun Still Came Up This Morning

Thousands of very excited fans filled up legendary Lambeau Field for a playoff game between the Green Bay Packers and the NY Giants. 

This photograph and following photograph from Internet

Sunday before the game

Few people could have guessed what kind of game they were to watch.  The Packers had a stellar season and home-field advantage.  And when the home field is Lambeau, that is a real advantage.  (Name another  football town in which the people line up in freezing weather to help shovel snow from the seats and aisles preparing for the game.)  Game tickets had sold out and scalpers were making a lot of money.  Everything went well until the teams took to the field.  Dropped balls, fumbles, inadequate defense, an offensive line that couldn't protect the quarterback...all these problems plagued the Packers.  It was a painful experience for the team and for the fans.

A dejected Aaron Rodgers reflects the mood after the game.

And so a season ends.  Bright with promise with so many early wins and brilliant plays.  It's never fun to lose, but it is really awful to play so poorly.  The Packers beat themselves while the Giants observed.

But you know what?  It was a football game.  A football game.  And so we move on.  Where better to go than to the higher mountains.  (OK, Rocky Mountain readers...these are high mountains to us.)  Winter in the mountains brings  fewer visitors, especially to the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP).  Much of the BRP near us is closed to traffic.  For us that is a good thing.  Closed to traffic means OPEN to pedestrians!  If there is snow it means open to cross-country skiing or simply walking in the snow.

One of our favorite winter destinations is the Cold Mountain Overlook.  The parking lot is kept open although the BRP is closed in both directions.  I love the mountains in winter even without snow.  The air seems so crisp and clear.

A mountain view seen while walking along on the road.

 Cold Mountain itself.  (Yes THAT Cold Mountain)
Elevation 6,030 feet

 And looking in the opposite direction

 You just stand and take in the view.

For some reason, the people walking on the BRP are the nicest folks around.  All of them seem to love dogs and all the dogs seem to be friendly.  Strangers stop and share their feelings about the beauty.  No one seems irritated.  No one seems rushed.  And that is good.  It makes me smile.  The mountains will do that to you.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Fridays are Golden

What an interesting week this has been.  The unsettled weather has brought us sunny days and stormy days, highs above normal and highs below normal.  Tornadoes in some parts of the state.  Today is bright and cold and the dogs just love it!  They do not like rain and especially do not like being dried off when they come in.

We can always depend on our Lucy for comedic relief from our concerns about almost anything.  She has such a well-developed sense of humor that we often end up laughing at her antics.  Ellie is typically more reserved although she has been known to crack us up.  She often carries tennis balls around with her.  She brings them upstairs and I immediately throw them back down.  She knows full well that balls are for the den and when she brings them up she acts as if she doesn't even have one (or two in many cases).  The other day she appeared with a tennis ball and a chew toy in her mouth.  Her expression seemed to say, "What tennis ball?  I don't see a chew toy!"

Goofy Ellie pretending she has not broken any rules.

 Mom, why are you looking at me like that?
Because, dear Ellie, I have a feeling you will be drooling soon.  That was one reason for getting Golden Retrievers...they aren't supposed to drool.

Goodness knows we need a little comedy now and then.  We are fortunate enough to receive two networks on television stations that are in South Carolina.  We are unfortunate enough to receive two network stations from SC.  You see?  SC is having a Republican Presidential Primary on Saturday.  There is no air time available for purchase on either of these stations.  Not one minute!  The air time has been bought up by candidates and PACs and the ads are negative and non-stop.

We don't watch much network television, but we do like to check the noon "news" to get the weather conditions.  Of course, every advertisement during the "news" is related to the Saturday primary.  I can only hope the "MUTE" button survives this election.  It surely is used quite a lot.

Presidential election years are always important, and never more so than this year.  There are times when I think the problems of our country are so huge and complex that we will never be able to solve them.  Times when I want to throw up my hands in disgust and draw into my own little community.  After all, our retirement is secure...why worry about all the rest of the people in this country and around the world?  Because like it or not, we are a part of the larger community.  We must continue to do our part to preserve that which is important to us.  Even when we are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problems, we must do our own part.  This was never more true than exercising our civic right (and responsibility) to become involved in politics.

Martin Luther King, Jr., once said words to the effect that faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.  And that is what we as Americans must do.  Take a step even if you cannot see the top.  Educate yourself on the issues and the candidates and go ahead and take a step.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Our Next Holiday

It wasn't until 1983 that Congress passed a bill to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. with a Federal holiday.  The bill was vociferously opposed by many Senators and Representatives, most notably and loudly by North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms.  President Ronald Reagan had threatened to veto the bill.  He relented when the numbers approving passage would override his veto.  He signed to bill into law.

Many states did not want to have another holiday in general and some of them did not want to honor King specifically.  Various names were developed to avoid calling the holiday Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Martin Luther King, Jr. has been dead for more years than he lived on earth.

While I was too young to care much about the landmark 1954 civil rights case of Brown v. Board of Education I was an eager participant in marches promoting the enforcement of the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964.

I had quite an awakening when I realized how segregated my life had been.  I grew up in a mountain town with a very small black population.  I never attended school with a black person until I went to college.  I assumed that the separation of people by race was everyone's preference.

My parents were basically good people, but they resented King, his marches, and the Freedom Riders.  To them, northern agitators were stirring up problems in the south.  After all, "our negroes" were quite happy with the way things were and would be uncomfortable going to school with whites.  Despite the feelings of my parents, at an early age I was mesmerized by the speeches of Martin Luther King.  I admired what he said and his words gave me more understanding of racial problems than any other single thing.  Perhaps my sharpest and most painful memory was the sight of young children attacked by dogs and fierce flow from water hoses.  When I watched it crying, my parents were not pleased and sent me to my room.

I have since read the three volumes of Taylor Branch's histories about the civil rights movement.  I can highly recommend these books although they are very lengthy and in great detail.  I can assure you that whether you lived through the movement, or read about it in school, these books will shed light on how things were and how they moved forward.

 Parting the Waters chronicles the happenings between 1954 and 1963, and earned Branch the Pulitzer Prize for history.

 Pillar of Fire covers the years 1963-1965.

 At Canaan's Edge, the final book in the trilogy covers America between 1965 and 1968.

It will take you quite a while to read the entire trilogy, but it will definitely be time well spent.  I am fascinated by the history of blacks in the south.  [NOTE:  I do not use the phrase "African-American."  Most blacks are no more African than I am Irish.  In general, we do not refer to people based on the home of their long-dead ancestors.  I really hate it when I hear people talk about an African-American in the UK, a person who has never even visited the United States!)   I especially love reading about the local Civil Rights Movement and our area's involvement in the Civil War.

Here in the mountains, there was little slavery and loyalties were divided house by house (and often within the same house) during the Civil War.  The women left behind were more often threatened by the scalawags who remained than by the Union Army.  There were slaves in western North Carolina, generally brought to the area to serve the wealthy plantation owners who came to the mountains for a respite from the hot summers in South Carolina and Georgia.  With a few exceptions, slaves who might have died here were buried in separate, often unmarked graves.  There were some cemeteries that allotted a portion to be used for blacks, but the graves were usually not marked by name.  One of our local cemeteries contains a large area of graves marked by stones with no engraving at all.  These stones mark the graves of the black slaves buried there.

 This section of the cemetery is marked by a large stone with the following plaque:

If you wish to honor Dr. King, then make next Monday a day of doing service.  And if you want a more comprehensive understanding of the Civil Rights Movement in America, start reading Branch's books.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Skunk Below the Deck

Our bird feeders and water are mounted on our deck.  Since we do not want to attract raccoons, bears, or flying squirrels we move all the feeders to the garage every evening.  In winter we also dump the water out of the bird bath to prevent freezing.

Last week my husband was getting ready to dump the water when he looked down.  He called me outside.  What do you do when you see a skunk directly below you?  Well, you surely do not dump a pan of water on him or startle him in any way.  And if you have a blog, you grab the camera for a few photographs before the skunk ambles on his way.

The photographs are not especially good ones.  I didn't take a lot of time to change the settings for a nightime picture.  I both feared and wished the skunk would move on right away.  I'm posting them anyway since I suspect you have not looked directly down at a skunk.

He stands near a drain to eat leftover bird seed.  Thank goodness he is much too large to fit inside the drain.

 He moves away from the drain.

 NOTE to husband:  Get the leaf blower out and blow those seeds into the woods.

The skunk family is made up of eleven species, most of them common throughout the United States.  Known primarily for their lingering and noxious spray, they are also vectors of rabies.  That is especially a problem here in the southeastern US.

Dog owners are always fearful that their dogs will encounter a skunk.  A terrible skunk story came from my husband's co-worker.  She was dressed and ready for work.  She stepped outside to call the dog only to see the dog chasing a skunk right into the garage.  The skunk released its spray directly under her car!  Dog, car, garage and the woman reeked of the  skunk odor.  They never were able to completely rid the car of the odor.

We have been very fortunate so far, but we keep a skunk de-odor kit in a pail ready for immediate use.  While there are several remedies, the one with hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and mild liquid soap seems to work better than tomato juice, beer, or even commercially available products.  You can find it here.  We do take some precautions to avoid interaction with skunks.  We close the garage door at dusk when we bring in the bird feeders.  We never let the dogs off leash at night.  We wear headlamps and scan the driveway and street before taking the dogs out at night.

When you choose to live in the woods, you have to expect encounters with the animals whose habitat you are invading.  But we hope to continue to respect the skunks from afar and not up-close-and-personal.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Fridays are Golden

We think our girls are very smart.  So we decided to give them "educational" gifts this year.  We picked up a couple of toys into which we put little treats.  Both toys require that the dogs figure out a way to get to the treats.  One toy is a hard plastic bottle.  A rope is attached to the stopper so the dog has to push, not pull, the rope while turning the bottle slightly upward.  If the bottle is turned completely upside-down the stopper again covers the opening.  So there is a very fine margin between tilting the bottle enough to get the treats and tilting it so far that the stopper drops to cover the hole.

Both dogs were really interested.

 Ellie decides to use the rope as a chew toy.

 Ellie gave up on the bottle and Lucy checked it out.  Neither of them ever figured how to get the treats out of the bottle.  They had no further interest in it, so another wasted twenty bucks at the pet store.

 Lucy worked with the other toy but didn't seem to grasp the idea.

 In a quick minute Ellie figured out how to get to the treats.

 Lucy immediately joined her and started snatching the treats as soon as Ellie got them out.

 Bored with one toy empty of treats and the other toy which never gave up any of the treats, the girls went back to squirrel duty.  One of their favorite activities is guarding the deck.  They know how I hate those beady-eyed little monsters.
I am fairly certain I heard Lucy complain, "Next year they will probably give us clothes!"

The puzzles are designed to keep dogs busy especially when you are away.  These two toys would not keep the girls occupied very long.  Once they ate all the treats (in a matter of a few minutes) they had no further interest in one of the toys.  They totally ignored the toy that had stumped them.  They were not interested in it despite the visible and aromatic treats inside.  Fortunately, our dogs have no separation anxiety at all.  In fact, I think they rather like being in charge of the house.  We often leave them all day and hire a dog walker to drop by the house and take them for a walk.

Here it is 2012!  And so we begin a new year.   Hal Borland, best known for his nature books and his editorials in the New York Times had an interesting take on the beginning of the year:

"Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us."

So friends, let's just keep on going on.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Our house was a bustle of activity over the holidays.  Our last guest left early yesterday morning and now the house seems quiet and empty...even more so as we take down the Christmas decorations.

We don't do a lot of outdoor decorating...just wreaths and bows here and there.  But I do love to drive around and enjoy the outdoor decorations at other houses.  I cannot believe the number of inflatable decorations that one can buy these days.  When the stores open for after-Christmas sales, the inflatables are grabbed up quickly.  We even saw one in which Santa was on a ladder and a little puppy had pulled down his pants as he climbed up.  (Boxers for Santa, by the way.)  But there are still people who put out lots of light displays and those are the ones I love best.

Our daughter loves the outdoor decorations as much as I do, so we drove around aimlessly looking at houses.  One in particular drew our attention.

The gecko takes time off his regular job.

 The yard was filled with figures and lights.

 Elmo greeted us but we didn't tickle him.

 And a pink pig dresses up with reindeer antlers.

We saw the display in daylight.  Of course, we drove back that evening to see everything in lights.

 We were not disappointed.

I love decorations that people have in their yards year round.  I have seen cement figures of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and all sorts of animals.  The most popular around here seem to be the two frogs sitting beneath the umbrella, the little boy and girl kissing platonically, and a fair number of little boys peeing.  While I might not want all of these things in my yard, I just love the fact that other people do.  Art is truly in the eye of the beholder and people might look at the things we have in our yard and vow they would never put that in their own yards.  I like that.

I wish we were all as tolerant of other people's beliefs as we are of their taste in art.