Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Spooky Graveyard

When I was a child there were few outdoor Halloween decorations.  They were usually very simple consisting of Jack O'Lanterns, straw bales and scarecrows.  Nowadays there seem to be more elaborate displays, even out in the country.

We drove by a rather modest house with an expansive display of a graveyard.  There were ghosts and witches, skeletons, black cats and the Grim Reaper.  I stopped for a few photographs.

This is less than a fourth of the display area.

Several graves had been desecrated by spirits unknown.
This person definitely did not Rest in Peace as the tombstone says.

A ghostly carriage filled with frightening passengers

I wanted to take more photographs, but could see out of the corner of my eye a man coming out of the house with his little white dog.  He was walking toward the display.  I pretended that I didn't see him and quickly got into the car.  It's not that I am not friendly, but my husband was driving and we had errands to do.  I knew he would not appreciate waiting while the gentleman told me about every single display, where he got them, and how long it took to assemble.  And I just knew that was what he intended to do.  I felt terrible about it, even though I don't think he realized I saw him.

So we drove off without even telling the man how much we enjoyed his hard work.  Perhaps I'll go back out there this afternoon.  And listen impressively.

It's hard to think of celebrating anything when so many of our citizens are suffering.  We offer our thoughts and best wishes, and some money as well.  May their lives soon return to normal as they grieve their losses.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Downtown Festival

Not surprisingly, Transylvania County celebrates Halloween in a big way.  The day begins with the Vampire Run with most participants in costume.  And all day long there are vendors, games, contests, activities and music in downtown Brevard.  We especially enjoy watching the children, most of them in costume.

This guy was moving so fast I didn't catch his full photo but I thought it was a great costume.

Only the bravest would enter the toy store (O.P. Taylor's) underneath this giant spider.

One of many Batman costumes.  He was obviously delighted to pose.

John Deere tractors for tots.  This little guy didn't even ask anyone to hold his binky.

Hunger Games quests abounded.  (Much of the action was filmed in our county.)  This was an archery target as the children tried the Hunger Games survival tactics.

The Great Pumpkin Roll began at the top of Jailhouse Hill.
(Wouldn't they roll better if the stems were removed?)

Despite the many children's activities, this little toddler was content to play with one of the cones.

I couldn't help but wonder how one distinguishes the relevant truths from the non-relevant ones.
I should have attended the services to find out.

I love going to these small-town festivities.  The folks are always so friendly.  It's nice to live a town where  several blocks in the center of town are closed to traffic so the people can party.

Our thoughts go out to those affected by the monster storm that is hitting our eastern coastal areas as well as affecting even more of our country.  Our weather here has turned winter-like overnight with high winds removing the last of the autumn leaves.  Our dogs love it and we don't mind.

Stay safe, everyone.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fridays Are Golden

We have had a perfect week of warm and sunny days with cool nights.  The dogs thrive in this weather and we have made several trips to places where they can run and romp.

They are looking at two fishermen by the lake.

Sprinting after a recall.

Ellie sits for a breather

Lucy is all smiles

This hill is so steep that Lucy is practically crawling

I am on a mission to have a name eliminated from the press.  There is absolutely no need to ever mention, much less quote that vicious witch with the long blond hair.  You know, AC.  The one with the evil vitriolic mouth, the mean-spirited one with the cackling laugh.  She doesn't deserve to share our planet much less be thrust in the spotlight.  So while I am a proponent of free speech, let's not talk about her.  Please.

So Ann evil one...our mailbox flag is perfect for you

Elections are at hand.  And such a political season I have never witnessed.  And I hope never to witness again.  Many citizens are already casting ballots.  I urge you once again to learn as much as you can about every candidate.  Do not be swayed by political advertisements from special interest groups.  Look at each candidate over his/her life; learn what his/her priorities have been, and try to determine who will best represent the interests of all of the people.  As for President...much is at stake as the two candidates and their platforms could hardly be more different.  And keep in mind that some members of the Supreme Court are aging and will likely be replaced within the next four years.  And they are appointed for life.

Research the backgrounds of the local candidates.  And if your state elects justices of your state Supreme Court, do not vote blindly.  These judges will make a huge difference in the way you live your lives, folks.  And while I never recommend a straight-party ticket, if you so vote remember that you must also vote for President.  That office is not included in the straight-party ticket.

It is rare for me to quote such a despicable person...totally evil devoted friend of Adolph Hitler.  But take the words of Joseph Goebbels as a warning:
If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it...It thus becomes vitally use all powers to repress dissent, for truth is the mortal enemy of the lie.

Our political quote this week comes from essayist H. L. Mencken:
Under democracy one party devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed, and are right.

Several comments from my last post wanted to know if we plan to name our new bear.  Yep...we already did.  His name is Barack but we call him Barry.


Keep an eye on the weather and think of those in harm's way.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bear on a Truck

We knew we needed a bear.  The real ones occasionally wander by, but we wanted one that would stay with us.  There are tons of bear options here in the mountains.  There are several chainsaw carvers, resin bears, concrete bears and wooden bears.  We didn't know what kind of bear we wanted but were sure we would know it when we saw it.  A new neighbor a couple of blocks away had several beautiful bears.  We asked where they got them.  They gave us the name of the carver.

Last spring we visited the carver near Cashiers.  We stopped and looked at the artist's work and chatted with him about what we wanted.  He assured us that he could make one for us.  In August the carver called to say the bear was carved and drying at his home.  Then he would treat the wood and stain it.

Two weeks ago the carver called to tell us the bear was ready.  He delivered it to our house on a huge truck.

The bear on a truck

We did not get the bear from nearby Uncle Buck (here).  We wanted a brown black bear and wanted a bit more detail in the carving.  So where did our bear come from?

The Bear's Den, of course.

The bear is sitting on a stump.  Both the bear and the stump were carved from a single, very large log.  The heavy piece was moved from the truck to our yard.  And we love him.

I think he likes our yard.

We are pleased with our new bear, visible from several rooms in the house.  He was never intended to look real, but we didn't want a "Disney" bear either.  Isn't it great to commission something and get exactly what you wanted?  We definitely have an eclectic art collection in our yards.  But beauty is still in the eye of the beholder and we think all of our tacky stuff is beautiful.

Monday, October 22, 2012

And Then She Flew

I saw her before the little birds did.  Rapidly she dived from the tree to catch a Titmouse at the birdfeeder.  She missed her target and was unable to pull up before she crashed into the side of our house.  My husband was startled by the loud thud as the hawk (we think it was a female Sharpshinned) hit.  The dogs were very surprised to see a very large bird lying on the deck not a foot from their bed.

We all stared mesmerized by the beauty of this magnificent bird.  I grabbed the camera to catch a few snaps through the window.

This was just before she took flight.

Not quite ready to go but fully alert.

Immediately after the strike.  Note how she is already looking right at us.
(I didn't want to put this photograph first.)

Dazed, she got on her feet right away.

I stood by the window breathlessly waiting to get my first picture of a hawk taking to flight.  Alas, I was distracted for only an instant...the very instant she decided to fly.  Despite missing the photo op, I was nonetheless thrilled to see that this wondrous bird was not seriously injured.  And thankful for the opportunity to see her so close.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fridays Are Golden

Bright sunshine, pouring rain, wind and calm.  That has been our weather this week.  The Golden Girls hate rain.  They don't like walking in it and they especially don't like getting dried off.  So they are not excited about the crazy humans who insist they need to take long walks, rain or no.  Afterward they spend a lot of time in their beds.

Despite the fact that we have two large beds in both the den and the great room, the dogs are almost always sharing the same bed thanks to Lucy.

Lucy starts by taking her half of the bed from the middle.

As she stretches out, Ellie is pushed further and further off the bed.

Finally Ellie's head is under the chair.  Only her hind quarters are on the bed.

You know how sometimes you bring something into the conversation that is totally off subject?  Usually it's because you have seen or heard something interesting and want to share it with your friends.  Well, blogger friends, I just need to show this to you for no reason whatsoever.

We took the architect's tour at the Biltmore Estate.  The tour takes you all the way up the spiral staircase to the observatory room.  And from there it takes you up a wrought iron spiral staircase to the roof.  And then to the highest areas on each side of the house, about eight stories up.  The day was perfect, sunny and mild.  The mountains were clear and you could see forever.  Some had never seen our mountain color and even described the view as a religious experience.

I took several photographs of the beauty and then my attention was caught by the gargoyles up there.  They are smaller gargoyles than the large ones visible from the ground and can barely be seen except for those at the top of the mansion.  And I thought to myself that at least one of the architects had a great sense of humor.  So there I stood, silly me.  Most on the tour were filled with awe looking at the mountains with their impressive Autumn views and I'm laughing at the gargoyles who have exposed boobs.  To my credit, I was laughing silently and did not once point at the boobs.  So while I definitely have not grown up, at least my decorum has improved over the middle school kids.

This was my favorite.

Time is passing by as we approach this very important election.  Early voting began here in NC yesterday.  I'm hoping that we might get a little respite from the constant ugly advertising since we are already voting.  Probably not.

Today's political quote comes form sci-fi author Orson Scott Card:

If pigs could vote, the man with the slop bucket would be elected swineherd every time; no matter how much slaughtering he did on the side.

And this from political comedian Jon Stewart:

You have to remember one thing about the will of the people; it wasn't that long ago we were swept up by the Macarena.

Whatever is going on in your lives, I wish you well.  Enjoy this fall and do something fun every day.  Laugh out loud at least once a day even if you have to struggle to find the humor.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Color in the Community

Some call them "leaf peepers" and some call them "leaf lookers."  Lookers or peepers,  tourists fill our mountains this time of year to see the Autumn color.  It's great for our little town which relies heavily on tourism.  It's not always so great for those of us who live here year round.

We are blessed to live in our own quiet community, away from the busy highways.  While we travel through the mountains during the week, we don't often leave our community on weekends.  And we find plenty of color right here.  Plenty of breath-taking distant mountain views a short distance from our house.

The following photographs were taken right in our community, away from the crowded highways.  The colors are very nice right now.  Next week will bring the peak of the color to our area.  It's really is better in the mountains.

Now, if we can get the rain and wind to hold off for a week or two...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Better Than Summer Blockbusters

Amazing!  Four of my favorite authors have recently published or will soon publish new novels.  And here we are in beautiful active Autumn with less time to read.  I don't watch much television, so I treasure the evenings when I can settle down with a good book.  And there is reading aplenty.

Pulitzer Prize winner Louise Erdrich has written The Round House.  The novel is set in North Dakota on a Native American reservation.  It drew me into the story within the first few pages and did not lose my interest throughout.  If you have read any of her other novels, this one will definitely not disappoint (like Shadow Tag disappointed me).  A horrible attack on his mother leads a young boy to discover the truth.  Read it.  I promise you it's a good read.  My other favorites by Erdrich include The Master Butcher's Singing Club and The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse.  I very much enjoyed them as well.

Author JoAnne Harris is probably best known for her novel Chocolat which was made into a successful movie.  Her newest book is Peaches for Father Francis and continues the stories of the same characters. It is the third book about them, the second being The Girl With No Shadow.  I must admit that while I enjoyed both of those books, they are far from my favorites by this author.  My favorite JoAnne Harris book is Five Quarters of the Orange, a book I like so much that I re-read it regularly.

I have only just begun Peaches for Father Francis but it feels like visiting an old friend.  Vianne Rocher returned to Lansquenet which she left four years before.  The village has changed a great deal with a community of Arab immigrants coming to live there.  So far the story involves the interactions and prejudices of both the Islamic immigrants and the villagers.  Central to the story is Father Francis Reynaud, the priest who so resented Vianne when she and her small daughter first opened a chocolate shop during Lent across the street from the church.

The Secret Keeper, Kate Morton's newest novel will be released October 16.  If you have read any of her  previous novels (and I recommend you read them all), you are surely looking forward to this one.  Set in England, the story moves from the time before WWII to the present.  I have read three other novels, The House at Riverton, the Forgotten Garden, and The Distant Hours by Kate Morton and have thoroughly enjoyed all three.  Great writing and interesting character development in all of them.

Most eagerly awaited of all the new books is Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver to be published on November 6.  I know of no other author whose research is so extensive or who writes so wonderfully.  I have loved all of her books but my favorite is The Poisonwood Bible, another book I re-read from time to time.

If I were forced to name a favorite author, it would almost certainly be Barbara Kingsolver.  I am most particularly interested in this upcoming publication because the setting is in the Appalachian Mountains!  And the story involves the effects of global warming, an issue that concerns me a great deal.  I can assure you that Kingsolver has done her research and will not disappoint.  I can't wait for this one and if I haven't finished the others I will gladly put them aside in order to read it.

I have a wide reading interest, so I can always find a good book.  At a given time I have three or so books in progress.  But it is rare that four of my favorite authors publish new books in less than six weeks.  Yeah!!!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fridays Are Golden

Rarely do we take only one dog anywhere.  So Lucy was quite surprised when my husband took Ellie and left her behind.

She looked at her leash hanging there, confused because she didn't go with Ellie.

She ran to the dining room window as my husband backed out of the garage.  He stopped briefly.

Hooray!  He's coming back to get me!

Her smile faded just as quickly.  My husband had stopped only long enough to adjust the rear camera as he backed out.

Oh dear!  He is really leaving me behind.

Her eyes followed as they drove down the street, looking sadder and sadder as they left.

I cannot believe it!

Ellie was headed to the veterinarian.  That morning we had discovered a very small "hot spot" on her right hip.  Goldens are particularly vulnerable to these reactions to irritation or insect bites.  Once begun, the areas can increase at an unbelievable rate and become more difficult to treat.  And given their double coats and long hair, the spots can be overlooked in Goldens until they become quite large.  We were very lucky on two fronts:  1) my husband spotted the area when it was the size of a quarter; and 2) our vet managed to squeeze us in that afternoon.  The area had already increased in size by the time she saw the vet.

The usual treatment...shave the area and apply ointment.  Because she had a mild temperature elevation, She was given antibiotics to take at home.  Fortunately Ellie is not one of those dogs who would continually lick the area so she did not have to wear a cone.

It's amazing how quickly these areas can spread.

Ellie was very happy to be home.  And Lucy was glad we were all together again.

We are still having much cooler than average temperatures.  Fortunately, the Golden Girls thrive in cooler weather.  The leaves are beautiful with promise of better color to come.

Another political debate is over and next week our state will allow for early voting.  There was a time when I bypassed early voting...I love the excitement of being at the polls on election day.  But this year, my vote is too important to risk anything that might keep me from casting my ballot.  So I will vote early.  (And I wish I could vote often.)

I am finding it difficult to understand how there could be undecided citizens among us so if you are one, please enlighten me.  The platforms are so different, the approach to the welfare of others so different, the methods of improving our economy are so different, the energy policies are so different, and concern for the ecology is so different that there should be compelling reasons to vote for one candidate or the other.  I urge all of you to exercise that precious right and vote for the candidate of your choosing.  The stakes are high.  The vote you cast this year may effect the decisions of the Supreme Court for decades to come.

Our political quote this week comes from Voltaire, a man before his time.  During the 1700s, he advocated free speech, civil liberties, and separation of church and state. long as the people do not care to exercise their freedom, those who wish to tyrannize will do so;
for tyrants are active and ardent, and will devote themselves in the name of any number of gods, religious or otherwise,
to put shackles upon sleeping men.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Guarding the Nectar

A green hummingbird finial tops the nectar feeder in the front yard.  Much larger than a real hummingbird, it serves as a lookout perch for the various birds who want full possession of the nectar.  We have so enjoyed the hummingbirds this summer but most of them have left now with only a few stragglers remaining.  It seems so non-productive for them to spend so much of their time fighting off other birds.  Hardly anyone gets to eat much.  It would seem to be in their best interest to share so everyone can leave on the long journey in the best of shape.

This seems to be a preferred spot.

Although they often use the bill for a perch.

Crouched and ready for a fight.

Proudly assuming authority over the feeder.

As we enjoy watching our migration bringing us other birds, we also are saddened to see the hummingbirds leave.  We will keep the feeders up for two weeks past the last sighting.  Then we will eagerly await the spring migration and these lovely little visitors nesting in our woods.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Parsley Surprise

Every year I plant a little box of fresh herbs.  The deck gets plenty of sunshine and is not accessible to the animals who love to eat the plants.  I love clipping the fresh herbs for seasoning and garnishing the fresh summer vegetables.

A few weeks ago, something shot up from the box and grew like crazy.  At first I thought I must have a weed but decided to let the plant keep growing.

It topped the deck rail by more than a foot.

It bloomed!

Several blossoms on the stalk.

When I followed the stem to its origin, I was surprised to find that it was an offshoot of the flat-leaf parsley! I've grown herbs for years and have never seen parsley bloom.

Here is the parsley plant from which the blossoms began.

Three things about autumn trouble me:  1) the summer tomatoes and corn are gone; 2) the fresh herbs cannot tolerate the cooler nights and give up; and 3) the hours of daylight are dwindling.  I can purchase greenhouse tomatoes but they don't taste the same.  I can purchase high quality frozen summer veggies but it is not the same as selecting them from the market and cooking them fresh.  I can buy fresh herbs but it's not the same as clipping my own.  Alas, I am totally powerless with regards to the dwindling daylight.  I will burn lots of candles and start the fire often.  I will wait until the winter solstice and count the increasing milliseconds of daylight.  I can be happy that we now live in sunny North Carolina instead of gray Wisconsin for the winter.  And I will enjoy the wonder of the changing season and be thankful that we are safe.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fridays Are Golden

Our dogs give us pleasure and we have fun with them.  We even enjoy them when they are quiet.  Often their positions and expressions make us smile.

Lots of floor space, but Lucy needs a pillow so she uses Ellie.

Two dogs strung out in tandem.

Ellie is pretending she did not bring a tennis ball upstairs.

Don't even think of making me get up.

October is upon us and we are having perfect autumn weather with chilly nights and sunny days.  There's a bit of color here and there.  Needless to say the Golden Girls are loving the crisp morning air.

I am an advocate for democracy, but the rhetoric I have heard from "the man in the streets" this week has led me to believe that Sir Winston Churchill had it right:

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

Here's hoping that you and your loved ones are safe from harm.  Think a while about those who are not and if you can help them, then do so.