Saturday, November 10, 2012

A November gift

Today was a gift.

I suppose that every day is a present that God gives us, but he gift-wrapped this one even more special than normal.  If this mid-November Saturday had been gray and rainy no one would be surprised.  After all, we are in the waning days of fall, winter is looming on the next calendar page.

But today is one I dream of all year.  Perfectly sunny, warm, and all in tints of yellow.  

I walked around the yard soaking up the sounds and views around me.  The slope to the boat landing leads to the back waters of the Alabama River.  Much of the year it is muddy, but today the water came up to the bottom of the landing.  It is hard to tell, but the shiny place at the bottom of the picture is the river.

The birds and squirrels accepted today's gift with a playful attitude.  They sang more, chattered to each other, played in the big oak.

I've always heard that robins signal the coming of spring, but that would be if you live in more northern climates.  Our yard was full of robins today. 

As I roamed around I found my way to the top of the hill in our yard.  We share a driveway with Daryl's parents.  This is where the drive splits, theirs to left, ours to the right.

At the back of our hill is a small burial plot.  A few years ago when Jackie's cat, Scarlett, died I buried her at the base of a tree.  It was just me and her on a rainy day I'll never forget.  I placed a small piece of flagstone on top of her grave as a marker.

When Shiloh died we buried her next to Scarlett.  They would never have been this close to each other in life :)   Scarlett's stone stayed flat for years, but Daryl stood the stones up and I like it that way.

One day I'd like to put a place to sit and reflect and enjoy the beauty on top of our hill.  And when I am gone and cremated I want my ashes scattered or buried there.  Not because I want to be buried next to my dog, but because I can't think of a better resting place for the earthly me.  

The eternal me will already have gone on to endless days just like this one.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Nut farm

This week I was using our lawn mower to clean up the yard.  Kind of a once a month weed cutting and leaf mulching chore.  For the first time in the ten years we have lived in this house I was struck by how many nuts we grow around here.  

I have mentioned the black walnuts several times.  They are green when they fall from the tree and the ones in the picture are just a little smaller than a baseball.  After they lay on the ground for a few days, they begin to turn black and you can see that on the one on the right.  The black part eventually falls off and leaves a hard shell with a walnut inside.

We also have several hickory trees.  The outer shell of the hickory nut is very hard, thick, and just like a round wooden box.  It is in segments and falls off leaving the softer shell with the nut inside.  This is a favorite of the squirrels and we can hear the hard shells falling from the trees all day long.

The pecan crop in our yard is pretty good this year.  In most years the worms get to the pecans before we can pick them up.  This year, we seem to be ahead of them.

My favorite nut in the yard is the acorn.  Most of the oak trees around here are in the woods, but we have a couple of them at the edge of where I mow.  In my very limited experience, the larger the tree, the smaller the acorn.

Here is why I like the acorns best:  they are just so cute!
I can either look at it like a beautiful, intricate creation of God,

or I can think of it as a little VeggieTales-type character wearing a funny hat knitted by his grandmother:)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I voted for Twinks

About 30 thirty years ago Daryl and I were part of the Farm Bureau Young Farmers, which at the time was an accurate description of us:  Young Farmers.  I don't remember the entire purpose of the organization, but I do know that it was an attempt to promote farming in our area.

One year we organized a beauty pageant.  I have no idea what that might have had to do with farming, unless we were attempting to recruit beautiful young women to drive tractors and ride horses.   And, while I don't remember very much about that event I do remember the name of the winner:  Twinkle Andress.

Daryl fell in love with the name Twinkle and decided that day that if he ever had a daughter her name would be Twinkle Greer.  I, on the other hand, was not so sold on that name for our daughter.  I have forgotten the story that the original Twinkle told us about her name, but we had no such story and the name didn't fit in with our other children's names.

How would it sound to say, "I'd like you to meet my children, Ben, David, and .....Twinkle."

Daryl was serious, though, and I tried to find names that would work with Twinkle.

Twinkle Ann.  Twinkle Louise.  Mary Twinkle.  I was trying.

As it happened, though, when we had our little girl, level heads prevailed and we gave our daughter two family names: Jacqueline, after my dad, Jack, and Anne, after me.

Jackie grew up knowing that her "almost" name was Twinkle.  In fact, Twinkle was one of her nicknames.  Other people heard about that and started calling her "Twinks."  Twinks was part of her email address for years and sometimes, even now, a friend at church will ask me how Twinks is doing.

It seemed a shame to have a name be such a part of our lives and never have a family member wear it.  So, when we named our cat, Twinkle was an easy choice for us all.

The original Twinkle grew up from her beauty pageant days and became a wife, mother, business owner, and....a politician.

When I saw her name on the ballot today I did the natural thing:

I voted for Twinkle!

Monday, November 5, 2012

No eggs

I have chickens for one reason: Fresh Eggs.

As a side benefit, it is fun to have them around.  They are interesting to watch, they eat my scraps, and it makes our little space feel like an old fashioned farmstead.  But, they aren't smart, they aren't pets, and they are a lot of work and expense.

So, without the eggs we just wouldn't keep them around.  Over the past couple of months their egg production has gone from a dozen a day, down to five a day, and now only two chickens are laying occasionally.  And we are feeding 25 of the little girls!

It isn't their fault, though.  They are just too old to lay eggs.  Over the years we have found that chickens are good layers for about a year and a half.  For six months after that, they do okay.  By the time they are around 3 years old, their working life is over.

If I had been paying attention, I would have added some young hens to the brood about a year ago.  I wasn't though, so here we are -- store-bought eggs in the refrigerator.  Yes, it's true.  I had to buy eggs.  In the past 15 years that has happened to me only one other time!

About three weeks ago I placed an order for 25 baby chicks.  I chose three different breeds:  two of them are good layers and don't mind the cold weather and the other breed lays the green and blue eggs.

One morning last week at about 7:00am, we got a call from the post office asking us to please come pick up our baby chicks.  When I walked inside, I could hear the little peepers.  All 25 of them came in a box that is about 12x10x5 inches.

When I first set them up in their box in the basement, they were so noisy that I could easily hear them all over the house.

As it turned out, they just weren't warm enough. I turned on their heat lamp and aimed it into the box.  They grew calmer and quieter.  Within a few minutes they were all just standing still soaking up the warmth.  As they got warm, they got sleepy.  One by one they began to close their eyes -- and lose their balance!  One would fall over and knock down the few standing next to it.  Then they would stand and start the process again.

The poor little critters were just exhausted.  Within a 48 hour period they had been hatched from an egg, put in a box with strangers, shipped from Texas to Alabama on a truck, spent the night in a post office, and then plopped down into a cardboard box.  With full tummies and a heat lamp they settled in for a nap.  When I went back down to check on them, they had all spread their little wings and laid down flat on their stomachs, heads stretched out in front.

I would find myself tiptoeing around the house, trying not to wake the sleeping babies.  I was careful not to bang any pots while I was cooking.  That lasted about a day and then I remembered --they are CHICKENS, for Pete's sake!

Do you know how long it takes a baby chick to get old enough to lay eggs?  SIX MONTHS!  Due to my mismanagement on the farm, I'll be buying my eggs for six more months!  I don't plan to let this happen again, though.  In fact, I am pretty upset with myself to be in this position!

I feel a little like Scarlett O'Hara in this clip:

"As God as my witness, they're not going to lick me.  I'm going to live through this.  And when it's all over, I'm never going to be hungry again, no nor any of my folk."


In some of Scarlett's other words, "Fiddle-dee-dee!  I'll think about that tomorrow."

Saturday, November 3, 2012

October full moon

It was the night of my favorite full moon, the one in October.

He called me on the way home from work.

"I'm bringing home a party.  Wieners, buns, marshmallows, Hershey's bars, and graham crackers."

He cut some firewood, pulled up the fire pit, a chair for him, a chair for me, and built the fire.

Then he waited for the fire to get to the perfect wiener-roasting temperature.

We made our hot dogs and smores, drank our Coke and root beer.  As the beautiful, huge moon came up, we saw it through the trees.

And we celebrated autumn.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

My lizard handler

When I found a gecko climbing the stairs last week, I had just the boy to take care of the intruder for me.

Daniel loves bugs.  Lizards, too.  And he is totally fearless about picking them up.

Even when they turn on him!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A wandering herd

Every few days a herd of horses comes to visit.  They live down the road from us and seem to just wander around.  Last year there were seven, this year there are nine.

Some days they wander the country road and wind up here.

Where the green pastures grow.

Monday, October 29, 2012


Today, I am thinking about everyone in the path of Hurricane Sandy.  

When the wind and rain begin there is nothing to do, but sit it out and wait for relief.

Jackie sent this picture from her back patio in Philadelphia.  Stay safe!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

First Fire

One of the best things about our house is the big fireplace.

And one of the best days of the year is our first fire of the season.

Cozy, warm, crackling happiness.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The way we roll around here

Once upon a time, about a hundred years ago, my father-in-law said,

"While I was cutting grass in front of our yard today I found a little bag.  I guess it is yours so I put it on top of that post beside the road."

It wasn't mine.  It's not my style.  I don't leave bags in their yard.

Every day for the next fifty years or so I noticed the bag on the post and said to myself,

"I wonder whose bag that is.  Someone should move it.  And look in it."

But then I stopped noticing the bag.  It became part of the landscape.  A decoration of sorts that seemed at home on the post in the field.  Oh, occasionally I would see it again and say to myself,

"I wonder whose bag that is.  Someone should move it.  And look in it."

Then, one day last week the time was right.  I took a picture of the bag and my conscience would not let me walk away with only a picture.  And, besides, what if there was money in the bag?  And no identification? And the money could be mine!

So, the bag came down.

With the tips of my fingers I carefully opened it, ready to jump away if a snake should come slithering out of the inside pocket.

Here is the inventory of the contents:  Nail polish remover, a Constant Comment tea bag, half of a big silver hair clip, an empty bottle of Estee Lauder Youth Dew lotion, some Mary Kay moisturizer with the end cut off of the container, a hair scrunchie, and a man's sleeveless tshirt.

No snake, no money.

And I think it must have belonged to my mother-in-law. Because it seemed like her type of things and it was in her yard.

Just call me Sherlock Holmes.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A new lens

I got a new lens for my camera and had to get out yesterday and play a little bit:)

The chickens were puttering around in the yard when they suddenly ran back into their house.  When I looked up, I saw this hawk flying around.  This is the rascal as he left the premises. 

This tree stand sits at the edge of the woods right beside our driveway.  I get some silly satisfaction when I jog pass the hunters sitting there in the winter.  I just wave and tell Bambi to run the other way.

The tree stand is just to the right of where I'm standing to take this picture.  I was playing around in Photoshop to make the picture look old.

I never get tired of the moss in the trees.

Chicken photography is so difficult.  These girls just won't stand still.

The walnut crop is just wonderful this year.  That is if your idea of wonderful is having hundreds of rotting black baseball size ankle twisters in your yard!

We have traveled a lot this year and in the past month I have been away more than I've been home.  In the words of Johnny Cash, "I've been everywhere, man"!  I have pictures to share from San Francisco and Yreka, New Orleans and Cozumel, Lanai and Oahu.

It sure feels good to be home, though.  It felt good to get out in my own backyard, taking in all of its beauty and imperfections.  

And, speaking of imperfections, I think I will get started on those walnuts...


Wednesday, October 17, 2012


What happens when Ben and Abbie and David and Sarah all have a chance to be out of town at the same time?

You have Grandcamp!

For two days we...
wore crazy hats,

ate popsicles,

acted like a chicken,

ran with the chickens,

and laughed with the chickens.

We took good naps,

made silly faces,

played "Walnut Toss",

smiled for Minnie (through the trampoline net),

and we went to school.

:::   :::   :::   :::   :::

Nobody can do for children what grandparents can do.  Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.
                                                                                             Alex Haley

And grandchildren sprinkle stardust on us, too.

What a blessing.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Today was not what I had planned.

I thought I would clean house, run one errand for Daryl, do laundry, cook dinner, plan meals for the next week, pay bills and the like.  This plan was made several days ago.  It was in writing.  It was purposeful.  I shared my plan for the week with Daryl, he shared his plan for his week with me.  Everything I planned to do was in support of our common goals.

Ready, set, go!

But, the errand that should have taken 45 minutes from leave home to return home took 5 1/2 hours instead. I called Cathy to share my frustration as I drove in literal circles around our three county area and she spoke loving, calming words to me.

She helped me understand that while my job title might be 'homemaker', today my job was not at home.  No one will go hungry or undressed, the bathrooms can wait until another day be cleaned.

Plans are just that.  Plans.  Not unmovable stone mountains.

I knew that, really, but needed the reminder.

Thanks, sis.

Thanks, God!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Beautiful fruit

I am the vine 
and you are the branches.
If you stay joined to me, and I stay joined to you
then you will produce lots of fruit.
John 15:5

I pray that my fruit is a beautiful as this we saw in Napa last month.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thankful Thursday

I cleaned my bathroom today.

That may not be big news at your house, but it is around here.  I tend to keep it picked up, slightly swiped regularly, but not what I (or anyone else) would call cleaned.

I had a little laugh at myself when I realized that I am trying to moisturize myself into looking younger.

I have night cream, day cream, extra-emollient cream (it is so good that it will soften my feet), microdermabrasion cream, eye cream, cream to fade age spots, cream to cover up age spots, creams with names that I can't pronounce because they are in another language but someone told me they are creamy and good for aging skin.

I even have one called Precious Cream.  I haven't opened it, yet.  Because it is precious.

The years that brought the age and the wrinkles that need the creams have also brought great blessings.  I noticed a deeper wrinkle yesterday when I looked in the mirror.  The great thing is that the mirror was being held by Lily as she put makeup on my face.

I am so thankful for the blessings of the day I had yesterday.  I spent special, one-on-one time with two of our grandchildren and talked with and hugged the other three. I had meaningful conversations with two of our children, two of their spouses, my mother, both sisters, a sister-in-law, my mother-in-law, and my husband.  I feel a peace that completely passes any understanding I could have had in my youth.  I am aware of the perfect, total, and complete love that God has for me.

I am learning to love the skin I am in.

I just want to keep it moisturized.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Shiloh's last stand

 Our sweet Shiloh took her last look over her domain yesterday.

She had been sick for several months.  We gave her steroids, we gave her antibiotics, we fed her hot dogs, we put ice in her water, and we let her sleep in the house every time she wanted to.  And yesterday morning she let us know that she had gone as far as she could go.  She sat at the top of a ridge looking over the creek, both of us knowing that it was her last look at her territory.  She was calm, peaceful, and regal to her very end.

Shiloh was my friend and constant companion.  She refused to be trained to walk on a leash or ride in the back of Daryl's truck, but she was with us every minute possible when we were outside.  She was a homebody, but her home included about 50 acres.  She ran and swam over every bit of those acres during her life and had a life most dogs only dream of.  When dogs run in their sleep, most of them are dreaming of adventures.  Shiloh was reliving hers.

Last night Daryl dug a grave for Shiloh on the Indian mound next to Scarlett.  We raked the dirt over her resting body and then stood there arm in arm remembering her, grateful that she was free from her suffering.

Later, as we laid in bed holding hands, we shared our favorite memories.

     We thought of the times she swam upstream in the river, never tiring.

     And the time she dove right into a beaver den, just checking it all out.

     There was the time that Jackie forgot to close the door to our house tightly.  No one was home all week so Shiloh nudged the door open and spent the week having the run of the whole place.  Jackie came home first to find every bed slept in by a muddy dog, toilet paper covering the den floor, some of our clothes had been taken outside and used as a bed, hats had been chewed on.  We have often thought of how much fun she must have had those days.

     She had learned to be a friend to cats and a herder of chickens.

     We wondered how, with all of her wondering in the woods, she was only bitten by snakes three times.

     We could not think of one time in her whole life that she ever showed any real anger.

     We wondered if she ever caught even one squirrel.  Or if she ever intended to anyway.

Many years ago John and Anna had a collie that had health problems and he had to be put to sleep.  His name was Ace and he had not been active for several weeks or months before he died.  David, not knowing that Ace had died that day, told us at dinner that he had seen a strange thing while walking around the farm.  He had seen Ace running down the road with a white towel tied to his neck like a cape.  The only explanation was that David had seen Ace's freed body doing what he had wanted to do in life.

Last night Caleb came out and took the kayaks up the river.  When Daryl and I saw him pull the kayaks out of his truck and walk them down the boat ramp, we looked at each other with the same thought.  We know that if Shiloh had an opportunity to do what Ace did, she would be running ahead of Caleb, jumping into the water.  Reveling in her renewed energy and health.  I would like to have seen it again.

We miss you, sweet girl.