Looking Toward Spring

 

As I reached an age of wonder, I often wondered what my grandmother was looking toward as she gazed out of her window at her world.  During the gray days of winter, once her chores were completed, she often sat by the window in her bedroom looking out over her rock garden.  The garden was gray and brown…and bare.  No hollyhocks, iris or lilies…no butterflies.  Just the remnants of last year’s spring, summer, and fall.  Like her plants, my grandmother seemed to wilt and turn gray herself in the winter only to be reborn again in the spring.

Many winter afternoons were spent with a patchwork quilt, sewing quietly with WBT AM playing softly in the background…until some thought of spring crossed her mind and, once again, she would peer out of her window. Other days she might sit with her Bible, a crossword puzzle or the latest Readers Digest condensed anthology.  She would read, gaze out, read some more and repeat like the seasons.  Nannie would begin her rebirth as soon as the seed catalogs began to arrive RFD.

Later in life, she sat with her easel in a sunroom that had become her bedroom, surrounded by her plants and books, and would apply acrylic paint to a canvas board.   She created colorful remembrances based on memories of springs and summers past.  Flowers and birds were favorites…as were the ponds and lakes she fished in.

I understand why she looked toward spring.  I look toward spring myself when the blues and purples of crocus, periwinkle, and violets add color to the browns of winter.  Their blues and purples replacing the blues and purples clouding my own mind.

Looking toward spring until the reddish blossoms of a redbud tree and the pinks, oranges, and reds of azaleas replace bareness, brown and gray.  Till the yellows of buttercups and forsythia mimic the brightness of the sun.  Till the dogwood celebrates the blessings of Easter.  I look toward spring.

The birds bring color too.  Redbirds and woodpeckers have been active all winter as have robins and tanagers, battling the squirrels for the sunflower seeds I put out. They’ve been joined by gold and purple finches.  Their colors growing bolder as the days grow longer and their need to mate becomes stronger.

A pair of nuthatches are working hard to hatch their clutch and they wait, upside down, as I load the feeder near the house I fashioned for them from a hollow log.  I didn’t know I was fashioning it for them but they have taken it over for the past few years.  Returning like the spring.

Mourning doves coo softly and despite their name, I smile, not finding their call to be sad at all.  They are waiting until I leave before feeding on the seeds that have fallen upon the ground.

It won’t be long before the coos, chirps, and calls will be joined nightly by the lament of the whippoorwill or the “hoot, hoot, hoot” of owls on the far hillside.  They add their own color to the darkest night.

It was still cool this morning as I walked my familiar route.  The signs of spring were everywhere…yellow pollen fell from the trees onto the greening grass and swirled in the light breeze.  I worried about my bear friend I sometimes see on this rarely traveled road.  He’s more scared of me than I am of him…right?

A single turkey flushed from a thicket, climbed high, higher, highest to the crest of a hill.  Later, on the way back, a blue heron wading in the nearby the stream took to the air.  So sorry, I wouldn’t dare hurt you.  Huge wings gaining altitude into a cobalt blue sky.  The majestic bird only visits in the spring, so spring must really be here.

Soon butterflies will add their color to the wildflowers and plants I put out.  Yellow, red or blue and black wings will light upon blues, pinks, and whites as the season of rebirth moves on to the season of growth.

I know what my grandmother was looking toward and my heart smiles.  I am glad spring is here and the memories of her it brings.

Visit Don Miller’s author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

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Skeeter Killin’ Season

 

Got my first one of the season! March 26, 2019.  A little after nine in the p.m.  Little bastard flew in front of my computer screen and I squished him flatter than a toad frog on a four-lane. I had to clean him off the screen, but the screen needed cleaning anyway and I got him before he got me.  Let the war begin.

I am eccentric for many reasons, one of which is, I welcome Skeeter Killin’ Season with a smile on my face.  I celebrate Skeeter Killin’ Season like Christmas.  I drink toasts with Myers dark rum and tonic while doing a happy dance in honor of Skeeter Killin’ Season despite living in a target rich environment.  Not as rich as our coastal regions but still, very rich.

I live in the foothills of South Carolina and for most of three seasons we have the little bastards along with gnats, no see ums but you feel em, deer flies, horse flies, chiggers, ticks, hornets, wasps and yellow jackets.  All bite, sting or fly up your nose and at their best are just annoying.  At their worst, they are damn painful.

Why then, am I doing a happy dance?  A better question might be, why do I try to dance?  My dance resembles Joe Cocker holding on to a live battery cable and gets worse as I continue to toast the season with my adult beverage.

Skeeter Killin’ Season coincides with the sun rising higher and higher in the sky and staying there for longer periods of the day. Yes, it coincides with rising temperatures and humidity.  I don’t care…happy dance, happy dance, happy dance!

Never will I gripe about the heat.  I have found over the years I tolerate heat and humidity much better than the short, gray days and the cold temperatures of winter.  If this country boy has Deep Woods OFF, he will survive…and an air conditioner he can escape to.

I can’t escape the short days of winter.  I can’t escape the cold seeping into my bones and the depression quashing my will to survive.  There will still be the occasional depressing day but the sun, high in the sky, will beckon and the melancholy will be as short-lived as a late afternoon thunderstorm.

It is the season of rebirth, blooming colors of white, yellow, gold, pink, orange and purple.  Green leaves, green grass, green mold, and green mucous discharges.

It is the season of planting and playing in the dirt while anxiously awaiting tomato sandwiches running in Duke’s Mayonnaise, garden fresh corn on the cob and fried okra.  It is the season for rising spirits despite the stinging insects, heat, humidity, and allergies.

I still must deal with the skeeters and have tried about everything except a Bug Zapper…homemade traps, bombs, and sprays, lanterns with the smell of citronella wafting through the evening air…mixing with an aroma of OFF.  All with limited success or to no avail.

When the bloodsuckers are thicker than a cold bowl of cheese grits,  I try to forget a winter drive along the coast when I battled both the low winter sun AND the little sucking bastards.  On a lonely highway through black water swamps and pine forests, I felt the call of nature and pulled off onto a double track dirt road leading through a turpentine camp to relieve myself.  Damn, little bastards tried to take off with my man part while my wife laughed and laughed and laughed. 

Further musings and a book or eight can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Trippin’ Over a Root Revisited

 

I love days like today.  Spring ain’t quite here but it is close enough to see.  Jonquils and have popped up and shown their yellow heads, turkeys are active as are the red tail hawks, a pair of nuthatches are building their nest in the same box for the third year in a row.  A beautiful day.  Just the kind of day to fall flat on your ass.   I saw four Canadian geese and was reminded of a similar day two years ago when I fell flat on my ass and my front side too.  Enjoy the rewritten post from this time two years ago.

At exactly one point eight-three miles into my workout, according to my GPS app, I kicked a freakin’ root.  I wasn’t paying attention to the rock and root strewed path…I was paying attention to a half-dozen Canadian geese who were stopping by from…Canada?  When they landed, I watched and tripped over the root banging my arthritic toe.  The geese didn’t stay long, instead, they took off to another part of the lake.  It might have been the loud cursing erupting from my mouth.

As I hobbled on and gazed heavenward contemplating my pain and the distance my expletives might have traveled, I kicked another root.  Same foot, same big toe…the big toe I’m trying put off surgery on until winter comes around again and I am worthless…ah, more worthless.

The second kick was even more solid than the first.  Mortar Forker!  This time I bent over, hands on knees, in agony and stood still, waiting for the pain exploding from my toe to ebb along with the tears the pain it had brought.  I’m still waiting…sorta.  The neurons responsible for pain have abated from the torrent exiting through the top of my head to a trickle of electrical charges radiating outward and surrounding my forefoot.  Four hours later, the pain is still there letting me know…it is still there!

Did I mention, it’s cold.  Late March, less than a week from Easter.  A moist, northeastern wind makes it seem colder…not tongue stuck to a flagpole cold but it’s not helping the throbbing in my toe or the way I’m reacting to it.  No, I am not going to put an ice pack on it.  I just shivered.

Earlier in the story, just after I had kicked the second root, I finally straightened up and again looked heavenward.  I found myself peering, jaw slack and agape, at a hornet’s nest the size of a medium watermelon less than three feet from my face.  You might guess where this is going and it ain’t a good trip.

Despite knowing it was too cold for hornets, I backed up quickly…tripping over the initial root I had banged my toe on.  This time I went down hard on my butt, jarring my teeth, and decided to stay there.   As I sat, I contemplated…how badly was I injured and “Help I’ve Fallen, and I Can’t Get Up!” briefly ran through my mind.

Mainly, I contemplated, how had the nest survived the winter and how had I not seen it?  What?  I’ve walked this trail a hundred times since last spring…why am I just now seeing this thing?  It’s hugeeeeeee!

I pondered on the pain the little suckers could have wreaked…and the providence that kept them from causing pain to me or the hundreds of kids attending the camp at Lookup Lodge.  Maybe I should have paid more attention to the name of the camp instead of looking down at my feet…then that hadn’t worked out well when I watched the geese.  My thoughts didn’t help the pain in my foot but did take me down a pig trail memory.

On a very cool, late fall day during my early teaching career, I was startled when an entire class exited their room as if the devil himself were after them.  Kids yelling and screaming, slapping at themselves and each other.  Seems a “Little Johnny” had found a hornet’s nest and brought it to school for show and tell.  Probably should have waited until the hornets died.  As the room heated up so did the little bastards.  Ouch.  Some students were treated for stings, others for bruises caused by over exuberant classmates.  I laughed and laughed and laughed…until my toe reminded me of why I was sitting on my butt having the memory.  Fother Muck!

Image from http://goalorientedrunner.blogspot.com/2017/02/blog-post.html

For more of Musings from a Mad Southerner https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

My “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

This is a re-write, one I look forward to writing every year. My heart seems to sing and my hopes soar as I hear their call. I know spring’s rebirth is just around the corner and with it, mine.

Return of the Red Tails

I heard a shrill whistle from above and looked up into the February sky. It was a beautiful February day after a gray, rainy yesterday. Warmer than normal although the day felt cooler with a bit of a breeze blowing from the northwest. The sky was cloudless and of a deep blue color that poems are written about. Circling in the middle of the blue expanse was my red-tailed hawk.

I know she’s not mine any more than I’m hers but it’s the way I think of her…if she is a “her.” I believe she is her because of her size. She and I met several years ago when I got too near her nest and was dive bombed by either “herself “or her mate. A bright reddish-brown flash had me ducking low to the ground while uttering several expletives as I scurried to safety. For several days, I searched with binoculars until I found her nest high in an oak tree on the high hill behind my house and made a note to stay clear until her clutch had flown.

For the past several February winters, the red tails have returned to make repairs to their nest before beginning their courting flights as the days lengthen in the early spring. Soaring high into the blue sky while twisting and turning, the male makes steep dives around his mate before soaring back into the “romantic” blue sky. Soon they will retreat to their evergreen boudoir behind an ancient hemlock tree and their “acte d’amour” will begin for another season as the “circle of life” continues with an egg or three. Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate it.

I once wasted several cool, early summer mornings watching the red tail teaching her one offspring how to hunt field mice. Standing at the kitchen sink, a wide picture window affords me a view of a small open area between my backyard and one of the streams cutting my property. Sitting on a dead “stick up”, the red tail and her charge would wait patiently for movement, then, after erupting into a violent dive, return to their perch with the bounty of their exertions and share…until the fateful day when they returned and mommy hawk brushed the little one aside as if to say “This is mine, it’s time for you to go get your own.” There comes a time when we all must spread our wings and go off to do our own hunting.

My red tails are one of the harbingers of spring I check off as I await my “most wonderful time” of the year. Winters are tough on me and have become tougher as I approach the winter of my years. Soon everything will be green and colorful with rebirth. Despite my allergies, mosquitoes and the emergence of yellow jackets, it is the “most wonderful time” of the year.

As I knelt in my backyard, digging at some dormant plant needing to be moved, I paused to watch her catching thermals, soaring higher and higher. I realized we had survived one more season. It is a season of rebirth for us all. My grandmother lived for spring. In her nineties, I expected every winter to be her last but every spring she would rally, be re-born like the jonquils, to enjoy her “most wonderful time” of the year. In the February of her ninety-eighth year, winter won out as it will for us all. Until then I will await the return of my red tails, her memory, and my own rally and rebirth. My “most wonderful time.”

For more of Don Miller’s writings https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Ode to February

 

Not really an ode…I’m not a poet…some would say I’m not even a writer…but that may just be my depression kicking in…or not.

Too many days of long dark nights, cold and crisp, with the stars twinkling brightly…clear as a bell…seeming so close you might touch them.  Too many days with the sun low in the Southern sky…if it can be seen at all due to the gray days full of winter rains.

I’ll take short summer nights, hot and humid, with the stars obscured by the mosquitos in the air…a thunderstorm rumbling in the distance.  That was almost poetic.

February gives me hope…I know it is cold and crisp this morning and a polar vortex has the mid-west in its deadly, skeletal grip…but there is hope…here in the foothill of the Blue Ridge.  Long range I see afternoon temperatures in the upper sixties.  A chance of the low seventies?  “Hope along Sweet February hope along.”

If previous winters teach us anything, there will be plenty of cold crisp days in February but there will be many “Chamber of Commerce” days too.  Days to live for…sandwiched around days of “I wish I were dead”.  Just enough bright and warm days to keep me alive until late spring.

Soon the cyclist will come out of their winter cocoons, dressed in the newest, natty attire, mimicking colorful butterflies…sorry butterflies, I know you would not dress like you were on an LSD trip on purpose.  Golfers will don their own form of garish fashion and head to the links in hopes of breaking one hundred.  Lines of bass boats in gaudy metal flake will make the trek toward Lakes Keowee, Jocassee or Hartwell, searching for trophy bass.

All will converge on Highway 11, joining pulpwood trucks and farm tractors, creating a slow parade in front of my house.  A parade I will watch from the comfort of my garden.  Maybe I will put on a flowery Hawaiian shirt in gaudy honor of the colors I see slowly passing my home.

My garden has laid fallow since the first frost…way back in late October.  February will give me hope.  Tilling and amending, the smell of cow poop in the air.  Dirty fingernails from digging in the dirt, with sweat pouring down my nose.  The aching knees and muscles of time well spent.  Hopefully, the effort will lead to sweet and tart Cherokee Purple tomatoes dressed in Duke’s Mayonnaise, salt, and pepper, served between two pieces of Sunbeam Bread.  An ear of corn on the cob, or five, on the side…if I can beat the raccoons to it this year.

February makes me hopeful…hopeful that I will flower like the early spring jonquils and crocus.  There will be plenty of “Oh, damn you cold” days in February…and then there are the winds of March on days seemingly left over from January.  But…there is hope and where there is hope, there IS life.

The image is from Deb’s Garden, http://debsgarden.squarespace.com/journal/2016/2/28/early-spring-conquering-weeds.html

Books and further musings from Don Miller can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

A Hope of Spring

It is a lovely spring day…in the early winter.  We are only seventeen days past the Winter Solstice.  There will be many cold and gray days ahead before spring truly arrives.  Days like today give me a reason to hope.

The days have lengthened five whole minutes since the solstice.  Five more minutes of beautiful, bright sunlight.  I am still waiting for the sun to appear above the hill that shields my view.  The sun’s ascent shows pink above the pines.  It is a hint of the spring that will not truly come until late March…or early April.  Spring’s arrival will not come soon enough but there is nothing I can do about the calendar except hope.

As I walk, the morning is cool but not cold.  Bracing?  The lake I walk around seems welcoming as the sunlight finally touches it.  Flashing light shows in the ripples caused by a gentle breeze.  The sunlight is not warming yet, but there is hope for later.

Yesterday and today are those wonderful days, days that a person hopes for during winter.  Blue, cloudless skies following a wet week in a wet month in a wet year.  Temperatures will climb above sixty under bright, clean, blue skies.

Birds flitting and playing around their feeders.  Cardinals, titmice, chickadees, a couple of woodpeckers.  They seem hopeful too.  Squirrels chase each other around the base of a hemlock tree.  A truly glorious morning in what is going to be a glorious day.

A ride in the mountains and a stop at a nearby BBQ joint after church seemed in order.  My bride agrees.  The people on the streets of the small town seem happier than usual…maybe it is because I’m happier than the usual on this unusual January day.  They too bask in the sunlight.

There will be other hopeful days during this unhopeful season until warm and humid breezes find their way here to chase my blues away.  What a lovely spring day in the early winter.

Image of the winter sun is from https://www.thelocal.de/20180301/report-berlin-and-brandenburg-sunniest-german-states-this-winter

For more of Don Miller’s musings https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Swingin’ into Spring

 

It’s spring in the foothills of the Blue Ridge…and rainy…and humid when it’s not rainy.  Thank a low-pressure system located somewhere in distant Florida.  The weather liars say five more days of this on and off and on-again rain.  We’ll see if they lie.  I walked this morning and the air was humid…as in I was drowning in my own sweat by nine in the AM humid.  I need to go out earlier but, in a month, it won’t matter, it will be humid no matter what time I walk.

I’m drowning tonight.  Drowning my aches and pains with a dark amber liquid.  Watching my bride swing on the front porch, a Jack Daniels in my left hand and a cigar in the right.  Jimmy Buffett croons softly in the background reminding me “if we weren’t all crazy we’d all go insane.”  If this is drowning, I’ll gladly go to my maker.  Swinging back and forth going nowhere, with nowhere to go.  The smooth bite of the brown liquor, the aroma of burning tobacco, and the rhythmic creaking of the swing chain keeping time to the music.  Telling stories to my love who has heard them all before.

The tree frogs must feel the humidity building with the clouds to the south.  They are singing at the top of their lungs.  Their high-frequency chirping must be calling the rain because it’s beginning to spit a bit.   I love their song, so comforting, so soothing…so “nature-all”…along with the cadence of the raindrops falling above my head.

I look out at in my Garden of Eden…make that the Wilderness of Linda, Linda my bride.  With her jumbled greenery, there are biting or stinging rascals hiding in the darkness just outside my front porch oasis.  The overhead fan stirs the smoke from the three citronella candles surrounding the porch.  Citronella must work, I haven’t been bitten yet… which is a false sense of prosperity.  The little vampires are lurking, buzzing about somewhere.  I don’t think mosquitoes ever really leave our little piece of heaven.

Oops!  I killed my first mosquito and lightning flashes are followed by a distant rumble.  A spring thunderstorm in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  Close enough to be concerned, close enough to drive us in.

There was a time, some thirty years ago, before we air-conditioned our ancient farmhouse.  We sat on the front porch to escape the heat that had built inside the house during the day.  Sat talking about our workday, the kids we taught or coached, the dreams we had until we had to go to bed, heat be damned, ceiling fans working on high.  Early beginnings to another work day were the cause.

Despite being retired with no schedule, and no alarm clock, it’s too easy to escape to the air conditioning, to the TV with hundreds of channels but no programming we want to watch…or to the laptop I use to write this.  Sometimes I miss those days when we were simply swingin’ into spring.

More of Don Miller’s ramblings or a book or six may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

If you are interested in romantic suspense, “mommy porn”, you might want to try Don Miller’s alter ego, Lena Christenson, at  https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD19

The Smiles of Spring

 

It’s five in the morning.  I’ve been awake for an hour.  I sometimes awaken early, too early…a full bladder or my arthritic body forcing me out of bed.  I wish it wasn’t so, but this morning’s awakening is different.  My heart is glad and the sounds from outside have put a smile on my face.

Two barred owls have been serenading me for the past hour.  “Who-ha-ha-whoooooo!”  They are close, very close.  Close enough to wake me up.  Walking out to my backyard I have pinpointed the pecan tree outside of my back door and a close by black walnut they have perched in.  They are not the least bit concerned that I have crashed their party.  It is still too dark to see them but the pink showing above the hillside tells me the sun will once again rise in the east.

I wonder if it is a mating call…or just two old friends making contact again.  The romantic in me hopes it’s a lover’s serenade and their calls have changed a bit.  Their hooting has begun to overlap, and it seems they have moved closer together…maybe into the same tree.  My mind is filled with thoughts of owl porn or maybe they are just sharing a meal.  I’m sure field mice are plentiful in my wife’s backyard wildlife and weed preserve.  I smile wondering what wine goes with roast field rat.  Yuk!

The morning has grown brighter and my owls have grown quiet, their hoots replaced by the chirps of the day shift.  The early birds looking for their worms.

The sounds of spring make me glad and hopeful.  I don’t think my two feathered lovers are concerned about anything other than their lives…and loves.  I think I should be like them.

Don Miller is a multi-genre writer, which means he writes a bunch of stuff but has mastered none of it.  If interested you may click on the following link for more of his works.  Please be interested.  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Image of the mating pair of barred owls from  https://stevetaboneblog.com/2014/04/23/barred-owls-mating/  He appears sooooo angry.

Spring….

 

Spring is finally here in the Foothills of the Blue Ridge.  A high of seventy-one today if the weather liars are to be believed…and a high of forty-eight tomorrow.  Thunderstorms with copious lightning and rainfall moved through the area on the last night of winter.  Three to five inches of snow is expected in the mountains above us on the first night of Spring.  Come on Mother Nature…I have a therapist I can suggest who might help you with your dysfunction.

I awoke this morning with a tremendous pressure…on my bladder.  Five a.m. and like every morning I had to go drain the lizard.  I stepped out my back door…I live in the country, if I want to relieve myself out my backdoor it’s okay and I am conserving water.

The light from my hallway displayed scraps of fog, torn and driven by the light morning breeze.  It had been almost tropical the night before, before the storms.  This morning it was just a pea soup fog being rendered by the wind.  The fog was ghostly as it slid by in the reflected light.  The specter didn’t scare me, nor did it scare the big doe staring at me from across the fence.  I must not have been too terrifying either as I hosed the ground between us.

She stood facing me as if thinking, “Son…please cover yourself.”  Slowly I did, and she still didn’t move.  “No, not very impressed, are we?”  She just stood there showing me those beautiful brown eyes and “big ole ears” standing at attention.  She was as beautiful as anything I had seen since first seeing my granddaughter.

I decided to take a step toward her and she held her ground.  She let me move within a yard before her tail stood up and she leaped into the darkness.  A deer’s tail disappearing into the darkness may be one of the most delightful sights I’ve ever seen.  How in the world can you shoot one of these animals for sport?

I walk, daily, for exercise since my knees and feet have worn out.  As soon as it was light enough I went out for my five-mile commune with nature.  There she was again, this time across the road on my walking path.  Again, she stood as if to say, “What took you so long, come on, just follow me.”  I did.  I followed her beautiful tail until it disappeared.

The doe started me thinking about Native American “spirit guides.”  I know I run a chance of being called “Pocahontas” or rather “Walking Bear” by our Name Caller in Chief, but according to family lore, Native Americans blood courses in my veins…no, I haven’t had a DNA test, but Pocahontas may be a distant relative.  My thoughts caused me to wonder.  If I rate a “spirit guide,” I think I want it to be that doe.  Somehow, we seemed to connect.  We’ll see if she returns and if she does, where she might lead me.

Happy Spring Days and Nights.

Image from https://tsfphotoscartoons.com/2016/06/07/woods-in-the-fog/

Please stop by and visit Don Miller’s writer’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM  or his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/cigarman501/

LOVE IN A BASKET OF ZUCCHINI

It is February 1st. and I am looking at online catalogs. No not Spiegel’s or Fredrick’s of Hollywood, online seed catalogs. Burpee’s, Gurney’s and Park’s seed catalogs are the main ones but there are others. I remember my grandmother poring over her print and paper versions this time of year…along with the almanac…got to get those planting dates right. Like fishing by the moon and wind direction, she planted by the dates in the almanac and the moon. I’m not that scientific…is it scientific to plant by the almanac? Except for the cold resistant plants, I just plant after the last frost date for our area which is April 15. Well, I might fudge just a bit. I can’t wait to eat my first tomato sandwich and that translates to I can’t wait to get my first tomato plant or six into the ground knowing I might have to protect them during an early spring cold snap.

I flipped through the pages of my electronic catalogs comparing prices and I admit it’s not as much fun as flipping through real pages but everything I plant was there. As I compared prices one of the many voices in my head asked “Do you really believe you raise more produce than you could buy for the cost of seeds, fertilizer and other chemicals?” I answered, “I don’t know, maybe.” Another pointed out, “Don’t you remember the sweat running off your nose while you were picking bean beetles off your green beans and butter peas? You can buy beans you know.” “Yes, I remember but I don’t want to buy them.” To myself, with my real voice, I added, “And those f#$%ing squash bugs.”

What my voices are forgetting is the love that goes into it. Except for the zucchinis. I maybe the only person in the world who can’t figure out zucchini squash. People around me grow one hill of zucchini and have enough for the season and feed half of the population of China with leftovers. I’ve tried it all…well except chemicals like Sevin Dust…well maybe a little. I try to be “organic” and use “organic” chemicals and some of the chemicals work, but not on zucchini. One year it was squash vine borers, I fixed that with my wife’s old panty hose. “Now Linda Gail why would I know what happened to your pantyhose?” Maybe they weren’t so old. Another year its blossom end rot, or squash beetles or the plant itself just wilts away. I’ve asked everyone about squash bugs. Their answer is, “I don’t have squash bugs.” I know you don’t, their all on my zucchinis. I put good organic fertilizer in the hill, added some calcium or Epsom salts or both, never watering in the evening and then wait for the squash bugs to attack and start hand picking them off…after my soap spray fails to stop them. Well back to love.

My garden is bigger than I need because I like to give love in the form of fresh veggies. I also like the look on people’s faces when I present them with “care packages.” My wife, neighbors, my mother in law and her family, my daughter and her family and anyone else who happens by. I like to give away the love. I don’t give love to my brother because he raises his own and because…well he’s my brother. Tomatoes, potatoes, corn, beans, squash, peppers…that reminds me. Charlie likes hot peppers. I’m going to show him some love and order Scotch Bonnets. I just don’t give away much zucchini because I never have much. Just some for my mother in law who returns the love in the form of zucchini bread. Whatever love I have left I can or freeze.

My grandmother did the same thing. Grew it, canned it and gave it away…except for zucchini. I don’t remember her growing much zucchini. Maybe I have the “I can’t grow zucchini” gene. Well, just remember, if you get a basket of zucchini from me, I must love you a lot.

For more of Don Miller’s unique views of life, humor and Southern stories of a bygone time, try http://goo.gl/lomuQf