Monday, September 30, 2013

Chilly Little Hummers

Fall is here!  The katydid symphony is much quieter in the evenings and we are seeing more of them on the screens.

Some of the hummingbirds have left and we see fewer of them at the feeders.  The ones who remain seem very chilly in the mornings.  They fluff up their little feathers in an effort to stay warm.
Little round body and tiny legs.

Fluffing up to stay warm until the sun is brighter.

We love these days of early Autumn.  We can see spots of color here and there.  The wildflowers along the road make our drives more happy.  We're awaiting the woolly worm predictions, although the ones we've seen around here are mostly brown, predicting a mild winter.  Here's hoping they are correct!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fridays Are Golden

Our dogs lead rather structured lives.  They know all the cues of various activities.  They go for walks at regular times.  When it's time for a walk, my husband goes out to the garage to change his shoes and grab some poop bags.  The Golden Girls run to the doorway, waiting for him to come inside and put the leashes on them.
They always stand so close they have to move when he opens the door.

They love to play and run in the woods behind the house.
They both invariably want the same stick as if it's the only one in the forest.

They know when suppertime arrives.  At 4:30 every afternoon.  (Changing to standard time is confusing for them.)  They rush downstairs when my husband gets up.  Our dogs have no satiety center and given a chance, they would eat themselves into obesity.  They get measured portions twice daily and they are both at healthy weights.  [Would it surprise you to learn that Lucy (red collar) outweighs Ellie (blue collar) by a pound and a half?]  I won't dwell on it, but I really get frustrated with owners of overweight dogs, especially those who moan about the dog's arthritis or joint problems.  They eat what you feed them, folks.  They exercise when you take them.
Lucy stands on the shower/grooming table.
She watches my husband measure the food.

While Ellie stays closer to the food.

The girls always love the onset of Autumn with the cool crisp mornings and nice days.  They will soon be given more freedom to run and play off-leash as the snakes find winter resting places.  Before the onslaught of leaf peepers we will take them to places in Pisgah National Forest where they can roam and investigate the wonderful smells.

I love Autumn in the NC mountains more than any place I have ever lived.  The last few years we were in Wisconsin, I rather dreaded Autumn because it heralded months of gray days and snow.  I had come to hate snow, seeing it through different eyes than when the children were smaller.  (And I was younger.)

Today's quote is from B.C. Forbes, founder of Forbes Magazine.

"Believe in yourself, your neighbors, your work, your ultimate attainment of complete happiness.  It is only the farmer who faithfully plants seeds in Spring who reaps a harvest in Autumn."

He was talking about living your life, not about farmers.  Believe in yourself and work toward your ultimate goal of happiness.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Favorite Fall Visitors

For about three weeks in the spring and again in the autumn, we are treated to visits from Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.  Typically the males arrive first and stay a couple of weeks.  The females then arrive and the males depart for their winter homes.
The birds arriving in the fall are not as brilliantly colored as the spring migrants.  But they are lovely nonetheless.  We are so happy to see the first one arrive and then await others.  We saw our first male last Sunday.


I do envy those of you lucky enough to have these birds all summer.  And are able to see their young and watch them grow.  But we happily take what Mother Nature will send us as the birds migrate for winter.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Fascinating Read

I saw a Jon Stewart interview with Bill Dedman on The Daily Show a couple of weeks ago.  The Pulitzer Prize winning author discussed his new book, Empty Mansions, a biography of reclusive heiress Hugette Clark.  The book is co-authored by Paul Clark Newell, Jr., the grand nephew of Hugette's father.  As Dedman talked, I remembered a television spot I had seen about the woman who owned three mansions and had not occupied any of them for decades.  Dedman had done the story for NBC news.  The book completes the story of this absolutely intriguing woman.  I could not put it down and I'm sure my husband became tired of hearing me say, "Honey, you won't believe this."

Hugette (pronounced ooo-gette) Clark was the youngest daughter of infamous Montana Senator William A. Clark.  William Clark is considered one of the richest American men ever.  Born in 1839 he amassed a fortune in copper and railroads.  His story alone is worth the price of the book.

But it keeps getting better.  Hugette, born in 1906 was briefly married and divorced.  The last known photograph of her was taken in 1930.  After 1960, she rarely left her New York City Fifth Avenue apartment (the largest apartment in the city) where she spent her time painting, and collecting art, dollhouses and dolls.  In the mid-1980s, Hugette was hospitalized for reconstructive surgery on untreated skin cancers on her face.  For whatever reason, she decided to remain in the small hospital room rather than return home, although she certainly could have gone home.  She seemed so upset about leaving the hospital that the doctors decided she should remain there although there was no medical reason for her to be there.

And so it was that Hugette Clark spent more than 20 years in the hospital with 24/7 private nurses.  During that time, her New York apartment, a large mansion and estate in California, and another estate and mansion in Connecticut were carefully maintained by staff, many of who had never met Hugette.  She remained mentally alert and reasonably healthy, spending her hours corresponding, buying expensive dolls, and by all accounts seemed quite content.  She particularly enjoyed watching cartoons.

Hugette gave very large gifts to her employees and children of old friends.  In fact, her day nurse was given more than thirty MILLION dollars over a ten-year period.  And that did not include her salary or other gifts to her children.  (What a lucky day when she was next on the assignment list and began to care for the richest woman in America.)  Criticized by many that taking such money was unethical, the nurse considered that she deserved everything she got.  "I love Madame and do everything for her," she said.

Hugette Clark died in 2011, just a few weeks shy of her 105th birthday.  She had written two very different wills within few weeks of each other, one leaving almost everything to distant relatives, the descendants of her half siblings from her father's first marriage, and one leaving them nothing with the bulk of the estate to her day nurse.  The latest will was contested by her distant relatives and interestingly enough, last Friday's issue of the New York Times reported that a settlement had been negotiated just before a jury trial was to begin.

It's been a long time since I was so interested in a biography that it actually kept me up into the night reading.  But this one did.  The story of the Clark family in general and Hugette in particular is compelling.  Think about this:  William Clark was born when Martin Van Buren was the 8th President of the United States.  His youngest daughter Hugette died in 2011 when Barack Obama was the 44th President, more than 170 years later.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Fridays Are Golden

September is flying by!  Sunday brings the Autumnal Equinox; and autumn officially begins.  The weather around here does feel like autumn and we are loving it.  The Golden Girls love the cooler weather, but they also love the sun as much as I do.  Like cats, they move around during the day to grab the best rays.

Ellie snoozes in the sun

Lucy loves cuddling in the sun next to Ellie.

They even love to lie in the sun taking a break from running.
Look at those smiles!

We all need to slow down a bit and enjoy the autumn.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

"Adopt the pace of nature:  her secret is patience."


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Crib Blanket

I never did any knitting until I retired to NC.  And then only because I was invited to join a neighborhood knitting group.  "You don't need to know how to knit," I was told.  "We mostly talk and eat."  I decided that just as I wouldn't join a book club without reading the book neither would I join a knitting group without learning to knit.  And so I did.
I find knitting to be very relaxing.  Some patterns are so simple they can be done while listening to audiobooks or watching TV.  Other patterns are so complicated one can only count out loud and move the "lifeline" as often as necessary, hoping against hope that it won't be needed.
A "perfect storm" of events led me to my last project.  Our local knit shop was going out of business.  Prior to the closing, special customers were allowed to come in for an appreciation sale before the markdowns began for others.  Near the time of the sale, my neighbor told me her son and pregnant d-i-l had just told her their anticipated first baby is a boy.  She had three sons and one of the sons already had three sons so she was really hoping for a girl this time.  She lamented that she didn't knit well enough to make something for the baby.  In fact, she had started three blankets only to rip them out again.
As I walked through the yarn shop, a bright royal blue caught my eye.  A machine-washable blend of acrylic and wool, it would be perfect for a boy baby born in October.  I did not tell my neighbor what I was doing so I felt no real pressure to complete the project.
And here's the finished product:

You can appreciate the size when it is lying on a queen-sized bed.

Not only will this serve as a blanket for the crib, I think it might become a comforter for a toddler during cuddle time or naptime.

My friend cried when I gave it to her.  She had just visited her son and d-i-l and said they had painted a chest in the baby's room that very color of blue.  She can't wait to give them the blanket when she goes up after the baby is born.

The pattern was easy.  The knitting was fun.  Doing something surprising for a friend?  PRICELESS

Monday, September 16, 2013

What It Was...

Andy Griffith is a name familiar not only to those of us in North Carolina, but also to thousands across the country who know him from"No Time for Sergeants," "The Andy Griffith Show" or "Matlock."  Andy was a real homegrown boy, attending the University of North Carolina and living his final days in Manteo, NC.

Long before he was famous in television or movies, Andy (known as Deacon Andy Griffith) humored us with his stories.

Perhaps the most amusing of his stories was a rube going to his first college football game quite by mistake.  You can click HERE to listen to Andy tell his funny tale.  I've heard this narrative all my life and I still find myself laughing out loud.

Here is the text, taken from "Our State" magazine:


It was back last October, I believe it was.

We was going to hold a tent service off at this college town, and we got there about dinnertime on Saturday. Different ones of us thought that we ought to get us a mouthful to eat before we set up the tent.

So we got off the truck and followed this little bunch of people through this small little bitty patch of woods there, and we come up on a big sign. It says, “Get Something to Eat Here.”

I went up and got me two hot dogs and a big orange drink, and before I could take a mouthful of that food, this whole raft of people come up around me and got me to where I couldn’t eat nothing, up like, and I dropped my big orange drink. I did.

Well, friends, they commenced to move, and there wasn’t so much that I could do but move with them.
Well, we commenced to go through all kinds of doors and gates and I don’t know what-all, and I looked up over one of ’em and it says, “North Gate.” We kept on a-going through there, and pretty soon we come up on a young boy and he says, “Ticket, please.”
And I says, “Friend, I don’t have a ticket; I don’t even know where it is that I’m a-going!” I did.
Well, he says, “Come out as quick as you can.”
And I says, “I’ll do ’er; I’ll turn right around the first chance I get.”

Well, we kept on a-moving through there, and pretty soon everybody got where it was that they was a-going, because they parted and I could see pretty good. I could. And what I seen was this whole raft of people a-sittin’ on these two banks and a-lookin’ at one another across this pretty little green cow pasture. Well, they was.

Somebody had took and drawed white lines all over it and drove posts in it, and I don’t know what-all, and I looked down there, and I seen five or six convicts a-running up and down and a-blowing whistles. They was. And then I looked down there, I seen these pretty girls wearin’ these little bitty short dresses and a-dancing around, and so I sit down and thought I’d see what it was that was a-going to happen. I did.

About the time I got set down good, I looked down there and I seen 30 or 40 men come a-runnin’ out of one end of a great big outhouse down there. They did. And everybody where I was a-settin’ got up and hollered! And about that time, 30 or 40 come runnin’ out of the other end of that outhouse, and the other bank-full, they got up and hollered.

And I asked this fella that was a sittin’ beside of me, “Friend, what is it that they’re a-hollerin’ for?”
Well, he whopped me on the back and he says, “Buddy, have a drink!” “Well,” I says, “I believe I will have another big orange.” And I got it and set back down.

When I got there again I seen that them men had got in two little bitty bunches down there real close together, and they voted. They did. They voted and elected one man apiece, and them two men come out in the middle of that cow pasture and shook hands like they hadn’t seen one another in a long time.

Then a convict come over to where they was a-standin’, and he took out a quarter, and they commenced to odd man right there! They did. After a while I seen what it was they was odd-manning for. It was that both bunches-full of them men wanted this funny-lookin’ little punkin to play with. They did.

And I know, friends, that they couldn’t eat it because they kicked it the whole evenin’ and it never busted.

But, anyhow, what I was telling was, both bunches-full wanted that thing. One bunch got it and it made the other bunch just as mad as they could be! Friends, I seen that evenin’ the awfulest fight that I have ever seen in all my life! I did!

They would run at one another and kick one another and throw one another down and stomp on one another and grind their feet in one another and I don’t know what-all and just as fast as one of ’em would get hurt, they’d tote him off and run another one on!

Well, they done that as long as I set there, but pretty soon this boy that had said “Ticket, please,” he come up to me and he says, “Friend, you’re gonna have to leave because it is that you don’t have a ticket.”
And I says, “Well, all right.” And I got up and left.

I don’t know, friends, to this day what it was that they was a-doin’ down there, but I have studied about it. I think it was that it’s some kindly of a contest where they see which bunch-full of them men can take that punkin and run from one end of that cow pasture to the other without gettin’ knocked down or steppin’ in somethin’.

Speaking of football, did you see those Packers yesterday?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Fridays Are Golden

We are enjoying some gorgeous weather around here.  The mornings are cool and crisp and the days are sunny with the occasional shower.  (Of course, one of those showers popped up just as I was leaving the salon after my hair cut.)

I am filled with political rhetoric, but have decided that Golden Fridays should be kept golden.  And I'm sure you thank me for that.

Thank goodness our Golden Girls have no worries about the world.  Their concerns are primarily whether or not they will get dinner.  With amazing regularity, they sit at my husband's knee beginning at 4:00 every afternoon until he feeds them at 4:30.  Near 9:00 pm they begin to wander around to remind us that it is time for their last trip outside and then bedtime.  We've never had dogs more eager to go to bed than these two.

The dogs are comfortable with  rules and routines.  They know what parts of the house are dog-free zones.  They know toys are for the den and not the great room.  (Well, Ellie makes an exception for her beloved tennis balls.  To her credit, she does not play with them except in the den; merely carries them around with her.)  For no reason I can discern, they always take their chews to their beds to work on them there.
Believe it or not, Lucy always goes to the bed with her name on it.
She also has a tennis ball for safe keeping.

Ellie is slower and more deliberate with her chew.

You would think her jaws would be sore, but she is not often seen without one or two tennis balls unless she is sleeping.

Today's quote is from physicist Albert Einstein.  In case you didn't believe he was a real genius, reflect on this statement from the early 20th century:

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity."


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Day of Remembering

The tree survived.
And so does our spirit.

Today we turn our thoughts to a tragic day in American history.  No one could have predicted the years of strategic errors and loss of life that would follow this day.

Monday, September 9, 2013

You Don't Belong at the Hummingbird Feeder

We have several hummingbird feeders in the yard and hanging over the deck.  The one we have hanging on the deck is a Droll Yankees and we watch this one more often than the others because of its location.  This feeder has a center "ant trap" to keep ants from entering the feeder.  It collects water when it rains and surprisingly enough, many of our birds drink from it.  Believe it or not we have seen tiny hummingbirds challenge these much larger birds.  And in every case, the larger bird retreats.
The chickadee hangs on.

The goldfinch, upside down to get a drink.

The titmouse is not after a drink at all.

There was an insect caught in the trap.  Easy pickin's
(You may need to click and enlarge)

It always surprises me to see other birds at the hummingbird feeder, especially when they are there to get a drink.  It seems so awkward.  And within three feet of the feeder is a large birdbath ever so much easier to access.  Who knows?  Maybe they don't want to drink bath water.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Fridays Are Golden

Autumn is definitely in the air around here.  A few of the leaves are turning and some are already falling.  The mornings are crisp and the days are mild and sunny.  What a welcome respite from our rainy summer.

There is a very old cemetery not far from us.  It is a country community cemetery not associated with a church.  There are still occasional burials there but that is rare.  The cemetery is well off the highway and surrounded by large areas of open grass and trees.  The girls love to go there and run off lead.

I know that some people think it is disrespectful to allow dogs to run free in a cemetery and we never do if there are other people around.  As for me...I can think of no better way to share my final resting place than with happy joyful dogs.  Especially since we are very sensitive about where they go.  (And always have a supply of poop bags with us to carry away anything they might leave.)

Ellie leads the way with Lucy's ears straight up.

A gravel driveway goes around the cemetery.

Lucy finally runs out of steam.

Do you think they are happy there?

Today's quote is a poem by Helen Hunt Jackson.  She was a 19th century American poet and writer.  She was appalled at the government's treatment of Native Americans and was an activist on their behalf.  Read about her if you are not familiar with her life.  She was quite a woman.

By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer's best of weather
And Autumn's best of cheer.

We are definitely having the best of weather and there is a remarkable cheer among folks here in the mountains.  We are between tourist seasons so the town is our own once more.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Woodpecker Sittin' on a Rail

As the young Pileated Woodpeckers learn to feed themselves, their navigation systems are not quite developed.  They flutter around, sometimes landing on a chair or on the shingles and once even on the umbrella.  Most often they fly to the deck rail.  And they sit and try to figure out how to get up to the suet feeder.  They are fun to watch and after some missed attempts and fly-bys, eventually they land on the feeder and enjoy the suet.
Little female seems surprised to have landed on the railing.

She looks up at the feeder.  It seems far away.

Today marks a very special day for some of our readers.  Rosh Hashanah signals the beginning of High Holy Days for our Jewish neighbors.  Called the "Jewish New Year," Rosh Hashanah begins this evening at sundown.

A common Rosh Hashanah greeting is shana tovah u'metukah which means, "a good and sweet New Year."  And so to all of you, Jewish or not, I wish you a good and sweet new year.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Thank the Laborers

Look around you.  At your house and its furnishings, at the roads upon which you drive.  Everywhere you are, look around and thank the workers who brought these things about.

Enjoy today and be grateful.