Monday, June 30, 2014

Some Are More Equal

George Orwell's fantastic work Animal Farm contains one of my favorite quotes.
"All animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

Today the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) handed down yet another decision that corporations are people too.  Oh, and they have more rights than you do.  Today's ruling from the conservative right indicates that the corporations are even more equal than the rest of us.

If you are expecting a long rant from me, you are mistaken.  There is so much wrong with today's decision that I won't even comment at all.  Just looking at those faces above fills me with rage.

So I turn my attention to Mother Nature.  I pet our dog and watch our birds.  The Pileated Woodpecker has fledged and I might be able to get a photograph.

Goldfinch standing in the bird bath staring at me

I'm not even going to listen to "Newshour" tonight, even though I'm sure they will have my favorite SCOTUS commentator Marcia Coyle on to discuss today's rulings.  Instead of the watching the news I will stream episodes of "As Time Goes By."

I will listen to my iPod while I do some knitting.  And I will review the next selection for my book club.  I liked it very much, by the way.

  I will have a glass (or two) of wine.  And I will breathe easy again.

For a while.

Friday, June 27, 2014

We Love Lucy

Our contractor built primitive tables, chairs, and benches from the trees felled to build our house.  Placed near the creek, they provide a nice resting spot for relaxing and thinking.  I don't think she does a lot of deep thinking, but Lucy loves to visit the area as well.  She rarely climbs on top of any of them like Ellie did, but seems to enjoy resting with her front paws on them.

Lucy smiling in the sunshine

 She seems quite proud of herself as if this has been an accomplishment.

Another month has almost gone and July is closing in, bringing the second half of 2014.  We have had quite warm weather here in the mountains; more like August than June with afternoon thunderstorms almost every day.  The strawberries are gone but the blueberries are ripe and delicious.  The SC peaches are sweet and luscious and we have fresh corn and wonderful local tomatoes.  The camps are filled with children of all ages and we see the camp buses shuttling them here and there.  Life is indeed better in the mountains.  Summertime...bring it on.

Today's quote is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow again:

"Then followed that beautiful season...Summer
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light.
And the landscape lay as if newly created in all the freshness of childhood."



Monday, June 23, 2014

Raining in the Mountains

Transylvania County averages more rain per year than any other county in NC.  In fact, parts of our county are designed as temperate rain forests.  We average nearly 80 inches of rain annually, even more in parts of the county.  We do have years of drought, but this year our rainfall is a bit above average.  For the past week we have had rain showers almost every afternoon.  They are scattered showers and come in bursts, leaving high humidity behind.  The rivers are up and the forests are lush with green.

"The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain."
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

We have  a sunflower that blooms all year long.  Even in the rain.  It is a medallion made for us by one of our WI neighbors.  She is a periodontist and stained glass work is one of her hobbies.  She finds it relaxing and it helps maintain manual dexterity she needs for her occupation.  We find it beautiful and welcome especially on rainy days.

 The perpetually blooming flower

Wherever you are, I hope you are getting just the right amount of rain.  As the poet said, "let it rain."

Friday, June 20, 2014

Remembering Ellie

Tomorrow is the first day of summer.  It is also the anniversary of our dear Ellie's birthday.  We never celebrated dog birthdays except with a little extra attention.  Tomorrow we will mark the day with extra sweet memories of our wonderful dog.

Ellie was a joy from the first day we brought her home.  Playful and loving, she was also very eager to please.  Training her was very easy and she consistently followed commands.

From early on, she loved her stuffed animals.  Her favorite was a little yellow duck that she carried with her everywhere.  And then the most dreadful thing happened.  Ellie discovered a weak spot on a Christmas stuffie and found total delight in disemboweling the toy.  She systematically destroyed every single stuffie she owned.  Total disaster, but she had one heck of a time.

Six-month-old Ellie with her little yellow duck

 She loved the snow, so living her first years in Wisconsin was special to her.

Seven-month-old loving the snow.  She's looking at my husband, waiting for a release from her down/stay

 When we moved to the mountains of NC, Ellie forgot about the suburbs of WI and happily took to the mountain trails of Transylvania County.

Trail around Lake Ticoa here in our community

 Obviously, we have tons of photographs of our Ellie.  But the following one is my very favorite.  This side of the house that has the library, one of the guest bedrooms and baths, and my study is a dog-free area.  When Ellie decided I had been in my study too long, she would come and stand wordlessly at the hallway door.  Those gentle brown eyes would plead with me to come play with her.  And she almost always carried two tennis balls, much the way she carried the little yellow duck when she was a puppy.

I took this picture while I was sitting at my desk.
It was a scene that repeated itself almost every evening.

So while we still miss Ellie, and still grieve for her, we are so glad she was part of our lives for ten years.  She was the perfect heart dog and I smile as I remember all the good times with this magnificent dog, gone too soon.

Author Agnes Sligh Turnbull summed it up:

"Dogs' lives are too short.  Their only fault, really."



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Another Woodpecker Fledgling

One pair of our Red-bellied Woodpeckers has a fledgling.  The baby bird is almost as big as the parents, although it does not have any red on it.

Waiting in the tree

 It blends in rather nicely with the tree bark

 The adult male, showing off the red belly that gave him his name.
His head is much more noticeably red than his belly.

The Red-bellied Woodpeckers lost one of their fledglings last year when a hawk swooped down.  The little woodpecker flew right smack into the side of the house and broke its neck.  So sad, although the parents did have another brood of two later on that summer.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Our Most Common Bird

The American Goldfinch is by far our most frequent visitor.  They live here year round.  They are among the first birds to get their bright summer plumage despite the fact that they do not nest as early as many other songbirds.  Like the early buds and flowers, the brightness of the goldfinches heralds the coming of spring.

At any given time, the feeders are full of finches

 Like other birds, they welcome the water we provide

 The trees are often filled with twenty or more

 This cardinal shares the feeder with a goldfinch and seems none too happy to have her photograph taken

While we get very excited with the sights of migrating visitors, it is the bread-and-butter birds like the goldfinches, chickadees, wrens, nuthatches and titmice as well as our woodpeckers that we treasure most.

The single downside of having so many goldfinches is that we occasionally get an irruption of Pine Siskins.  They come in huge numbers and flock with the goldfinches.  They are noisy, messy, and just plain rude to one another.  Fortunately we haven't had them this year.  So far.

Friday, June 13, 2014

We Love Lucy

Since Fridays are usually "Lucy Days," and Sunday is Father's Day, it is fitting to show you Lucy's father, Chance.  His full name is American/Canadian Champion Dichi One Final Chance.  By age two, Chance had enough American Championship points to add the name "American Champion" to his name.  He won his Canadian Championship at age five.

His name is almost like a history.  Obviously the American/Canadian Champion prefix is because of his championship awards in the US and Canada.  The Dichi is because he was bred at Dichi Golden Acres.  And I have no idea why he became "one final chance."

Northern Flyway winner
(photo from Dichi Goldens Website)

Saulte Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada

Lucy's father is described on the Dichi Website (here) as a very happy dog who loves to be with people.  He can always make you smile and has a fun-loving personality.  Our Lucy definitely inherited his personality.  She loves people and she loves fun.

When we went to select our puppy, Lucy immediately ran to my husband and started chewing on his shoe laces.  Then she ran over to greet me.  The other female went to a corner of the room.  So we chose Lucy.  After we chose her, the breeder brought out another almost identical female with a little collar on her.  He was keeping one of the females for show and breeding.  The puppy and Lucy were difficult to tell apart and the breeder said he had a hard time deciding between the two.  He had made his decision only an hour before we arrived.

Here is Lucy, already happy on her first day with us.

She was such a tiny little thing, especially compared to our Ellie.
(You may want to click and enlarge to appreciate the difference)

There are those who criticize people for buying from breeders when there are so many dogs available for adoption.  I pay them no mind.  These dogs were to be our "retirement" companions and we while there are no guarantees, we wanted dogs with long family histories of good health.  We wanted a pet, another dog to join our home with Ellie, another Dichi Golden.  We did not care to show or breed but we wanted dogs from the healthiest stock we could find.  We did a lot of research and bought from the best breeder in Wisconsin.  And we have never regretted it for a moment.

The quote for today is appropriate for our Lucy.  French author Gustave Flaubert said,

"Exuberance is better than taste."

And our Lucy is definitely exuberant.



Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Enjoying the View

Our house does not have a view of the distant mountains.  We have a lake view only in winter if we look out the top floor and stand on tiptoe.  (In other words, we don't have a lake view either.)  But what we do have is the forest, coming right up to the deck and porch.  We have our bird feeders overhanging the deck and bird boxes in the trees.  And we have birds galore, nesting in our trees and coming to our feeders.

I sit on the deck a lot.  To read or to watch the birds.  And every now and then I see the birds feeding their little ones.  And what a treat that is.

The Downy Woodpeckers are our first woodpeckers to fledge and come near the feeders to be fed.  Soon they will be followed by the Red-bellied Woodpeckers and then the Pileated Woodpeckers.  We haven't seen our Hairy Woodpeckers for two years since the tree with their cavity blew over in a storm.  I hope they will come back.

So no matter how frustrated I become with politics or life in general I can always get a respite on the deck.  And for a while, all's right with the world.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Even Here in the Mountains

The NC General Assembly has been very busy in this short session.  It took only three days with no open discussion (and no debate) to overturn the moratorium on fracking (hydraulic fracture of shale to obtain natural gas under pressure from chemicals) in our state.  So much for transparency.

The new law does not have a lot of specifics limiting companies wanting to extract natural gas from our shale.  Governor McCrory is fully supportive of the new law, called the "Energy Modernization Act."  The new law prohibits local governments from making restrictions on the oil and gas exploration and methods.  The law also allows for "compulsory pooling,"  allowing fracking under the property without the landowner's consent if a certain percentage of nearby landowners have sold fracking rights.  Gives new meaning to "drill, baby, drill" doesn't it?

And this from the party whose battle cry has been, "get big government off our backs."

 Prior to passing the law lifting the fracking moratorium, the General Assembly passed a law prohibiting individuals from disclosing the chemicals used in the fracking process.  The original bill made it a felony to disclose this information but the final law makes it a misdemeanor.  The law gives gas companies the ability to pursue criminal charges against persons disclosing what they learn about the specific chemicals used in the fracking process.  Firefighters and police officers could be forced to sign confidentiality statements in cases of accidental contamination and would be forbidden to disclose chemical exposure.

And yet one more insult to Western NC, the General Assembly has allocated more than half a million dollars to explore the possibility of natural gas deposits in seven Western NC counties.  It is of note that these counties are very near the Eastern Continental Divide.  In other words, they are near the very origin of fresh water; where the water begins.  You might ask why the state would pay for exploring the possibility of natural gas.  Isn't exploration part of the gas/oil company's responsibility?  Is it a coincidence that our Governor worked as an executive at Duke Energies for 28 years and received tremendous contributions from them for his election?  Our former US Representative is now a lobbyist for Duke Energies and many NC appointments went to former Duke Energies employees.

Someone sent me this and I can't recall who sent it or how to credit it.  But sometimes I feel as if the General Assembly is the mother bird, big oil/gas is the favored one, and the rest of us are being stomped in the head.

On a totally different subject, my sister-in-law was born on D-Day.  Not just on June 6; but on June 6, 1944.  She and my brother live in Oregon and to celebrate her hallmark birthday this year, she did a long zipline tour atop the trees in the Cascade Mountains.  You go, girl!

Friday, June 6, 2014

We Love Lucy

Lucy loves to be on the deck overlooking the woods.  There are some wonderful sights and smells to be found there.

There must be something on this rail

 Poking her head through she looks down at the ground below

 Squirrels and chipmunks, crows and skunks seeking the leftover seeds
[Definitely time to get out the leaf blower and scatter them into the woods.]
You may need to click to enlarge and see the varmits

 Always happy to be outdoors

Today is D-Day, the 70th anniversary of the Normandy invasion by Allied Troops.  We would be remiss in not mentioning this fateful day, the beginning of the end of World War II and a day of great sacrifice on the part of so many.

Part of the Normandy cemeteries
(photograph from the Internet, not credited)

Our quote comes from Admiral Nimitz:

They fought together as brothers-in-arms.  They died together and now they sleep side by side.  To them we have a solemn obligation.

When I reflect on this day, I recall my parents telling me about it, and about the war itself.  And how our entire country came together in the war effort.  A nation united in a common cause for the good of humanity.  A nation united---what a wonderful thought.  Today our leaders are so divided and partisan with little regard for the good of humanity.  Would that we could come back to a real United States of America.  Let that be our solemn obligation to the brave soldiers who died on this day.



Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Blooming in the Woods

Our woods are full of Mountain Laurel.  Some years they are fuller and more beautiful than other years, but they are always welcome.  Mountain Laurel, kalmia latifolia, grows wild all along the eastern states.  It is the state flower for Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

Mountain Laurel in our front yard

The bear looks out at the laurel

 This one is visible from our guest bedroom window

Our community has restrictions on cutting down Mountain Laurel.  The wood has become very valuable as more and more companies build custom railings and fences from the branches.

This photo is from the Internet, but plenty of homes in our community have laurel railing

The Mountain Laurel is in the same family as the blueberry.  But it bears no fruit.  The flowers are enough for me.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Orchids Inside

The house itself and the outdoor gardens at the Biltmore Estate are so enticing that people sometimes fail to visit the greenhouse bordering the walled gardens.  And they miss a wonderful sight.

The 7,500 square-foot greenhouse, with its forty-foot high glass ceilings is a sight to behold.  There are many varieties of exotic plants there, but we were particularly interested in seeing the orchids.  The initial order for orchids in 1895 was for 800.  Today the greenhouse is home to far more than that, each one more lovely than the one before.  I did not write the names of any of the orchids, simply admired them and grabbed a quick photograph of a few.

 The ferns, palms, and other exotic plants making up the very first order for the greenhouse cost $1,600.00, quite a fortune in 1895.

 The 12,000 square-foot basement underneath houses the heating system for maintaining the tropical warmth of the greenhouse.  The boiler fed heating system originally used coal and was manned round the clock to hand stoke the furnaces.  The system now uses natural gas.

 The greenhouse is a perfect winter respite when the weather is cold and dreary.  It is pleasant in summer as well albeit a bit humid as one might expect.

 This orchid blossoms into insect-appearing blooms.  Fascinating. (You may want to click to enlarge)

 And what could make a visit in the greenhouse with these showy plants appear even more lovely?  A soloist playing beautiful music.  Her wonderful performance echoed throughout the greenhouse.  What a treat.