Of Bees, Snake Doctors, and Many Things Yellow

In the wildlife preserve that is my home, a change of season is rapidly approaching.  Approaching but not yet here and in all likelihood, we will not experience significant temperature and humidity changes for another six weeks or so. 

I calculate the middle of October, or thereabouts, before any serious changes.  There will be some cool mornings followed by blistering afternoons. Maybe a frost in late October followed by a forty or fifty degree temperature increase by afternoon…but it is 2020 and I will not wager a bet or even venture a guess on anything weather related. 

The calendar tells me it is slightly less than a month from the Autumn Equinox but it is still ‘dead of Summer’ hot and humid with myriads of mosquitoes and gnats in my little piece of heaven. 

As I type this, a hurricane is pumping tropical air our way, but the crystal gazers of weather say lower humidity is filling in behind it.  I hope their crystal ball is not broken but trust them no more than a midway carney playing three-card monte or a fortune-teller named Momma Amelia.

I predict that mosquitoes and gnats, along with the humidity, will be with us well past Indian Summer…maybe well past Christmas.  Such is the world I live in.  Since it is 2020, hurricanes may be with us until the new year.

Despite the heat and humidity, there is a difference I both feel and see.  The sunlight is a bit more golden, the wind angling from a slightly different direction, the days a bit shorter and myriads of yellow wildflowers of different types are blooming with bees working them with a frenzy driven by the change of seasons. 

It is as if all the insects have decided they must “make hay while the sun shines.”  Even the “snake doctors” residing at the lake where I meander are more numerous and in an eating hysteria. They are voracious and eat just about anything, mosquitoes, tadpoles, fish, other insect larvae, and even each other.  With the numbers of mosquitoes present, I would say dragonfly cannibalism has been placed on the back burner.

Yellow is the color of the season.  Bees, bugs, caterpillars, and butterflies seem to incorporate yellows and golds to match the sunshine.  The new wildflowers are yellow, Black, and Brown-eyed Susan, the bane to my existence, goldenrod, and varieties I have no clue as to their names.  There are none of my favorites, my sunflowers. For some reason, not one planted survived. The curse of 2020…or deer and raccoons.

There are colors other than yellow, some purple or light blue, maybe a hint of pink. The white and pink Abelia shrub attracts black and yellow butterflies…or is it yellow and black butterflies? There are black and blue ones also.

South Carolina - State Butterfly - Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail…the SC state butterfly https://sites.google.com/site/southcarolinauplandbutterflies/

I have massive Pokeweed with purple berries the birds seem to ignore but not my t-shirt as I saunter past. More than once my bride has panicked “What have you done to yourself?” “Nothing my love…this time at least.” I understand her concern.

Insects are not alone in their frenzy.  I just startled a chipmunk with a mouth stretched tight with sunflower seeds, cute little chubby cheeked thing. A squirrel was seen burying a black walnut in my wife’s planter.  Will he remember where it is when he needs it?

I’ve seen evidence of my wild turkeys and deer. They have been absent all summer but may be on the move. There are tracks and scratches everywhere. I know the turtles are moving, their yellow and orange splotches shining in the sun. I moved three from the road today and two from the path I was cutting.

Eastern Box Turtle | South Carolina Public Radio
Eastern Box Turtle with a leaf stuck to its shell

It won’t be long until the long vees of ducks and geese will be seen. I wonder if the old coot at the lake will stay or make his migration. Where do coots go in the fall?

I am reminded of the fable of the grasshopper and ant.  The ant worked his behind off all summer long while the grasshopper jumped and sang the summer away.  As the seasons change, I feel much more like the grasshopper than the ant.  I admit I don’t jump quite as high and my song may be a bit off-key. I also admit I haven’t gotten a lot done this season.

Well, there is the rest of the summer to make hay…or cut wood…or put in the fall garden…or clean-up the yard that I’ve allowed to revert back to an old-growth forest.  Yep, there is time…right after I jump and sing and after a short nap.     

From 1934 The Grasshopper and the Ants

Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies The Grasshopper and Ant,
http://www.youtube.com

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3-Y9SE4wsP0I2tn3R8VkrP6WR89h6xUmPGnjRksOLNSeBKswbUoCgHNsY

The image of sunflowers is from https://www.housebeautiful.com/lifestyle/gardening/a27545572/save-the-bees-plant-sunflowers/

Getting’ Away From it All

 

I once heard Jerry Clower, “The Mouth of Mississippi”, a Southern comedic philosopher of sorts, described visiting kinfolk who lived back in the ‘sticks.’  He was a city boy from Liberty, Mississippi, population seven hundred or so.  He described a trek down a ‘holler’ split by a creek into a heavily wooded area on a narrow footpath.  Miles and miles he went,  hopping over stumps and climbing up banks with only animal calls, bird twitters, and the babble of the creek to accompany him before finally arriving at a rustic, moss-covered cabin.  As he stepped onto the low front porch, he saw a piece of paper thumbtacked to the front door.  It was a single, scrawled sentence, “Gone to get away from it all, be back soon.”

Old house 3

Abandoned Home on Chinquapin Road at Langford Circle

Once upon a time country folk had already gotten away from it all and didn’t need to trek far.  They might go hunting in the woods, picking blackberries or fishing on a riverbank.  The weekly trip to the general store was a big deal.  They were in the middle of their getaway…or the middle of nowhere.  I guess those times have changed for some folk.

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One of the small waterfalls around our ‘little piece of heaven’

When my bride and I moved to 3300 Highway 11, the scenic Cherokee-Foothills Highway, we were in the sticks.  On land that was described as gently rolling, I learned real estate agents lie.  Thirty years or so later, you’d still think we lived in the sticks if it just wasn’t for the traffic and the golf courses.  Like Daniel Boone, I feel civilization squeezing in.

The land around us is covered in hemlocks, black walnuts, and a mostly hardwood forest.  Mountain laurel and rhododendron, wild iris, blueberries, and wild azaleas are abundant. Tall hillsides form the basin our hundred and twenty-year-old farmhouse sits in. Cut by ravines, ‘hollers’, and seven year-round streams “my little piece of heaven” is the perfect place to “get away from it all.”

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Mountain Laurel will soon be joined by Rhododendron

The peaceful, scenic former Cherokee trading path, Highway 11,  winds past lakes, deep green mixed forests, peach farms budding pink, nearby small mountains, and hollers with names like Hogback, Glassy, Table Rock, Rocky Bottom or Mush Creek.

Spring @ Table Rock -- Hike 2 to the Rock - Tue, Nov 3 2020

Table Rock from across the lake

And golf courses…I forgot…golf courses.  The path has become too well-traveled.  Transfer trucks, Harley Davidsons, and big tricked out pick-up trucks with glass packs pulling bass boats have been joined by BMWs and Mercedes with golf bags nestled in the trunk or bike racks on the deck lid.  It makes me want to get “further away from it all.”

The self-quarantine due to the Corona-19 has not stopped the traffic noise but it certainly has made me ponder the wildlife preserve my wife and I have created.   You might want to read in “too lazy to cut anything other than pathways between the wild strawberries, honeysuckle, and blooming clover”…and the ferns…the ferns that are taking over.  The problem is my bride.  She doesn’t want anything cut that “might” put off a brief flush of color no matter how small the bloom or how fast it disappears.  Still, it is one of the reasons I try not to venture out where people are…that, and I don’t want to die on a ventilator.

 

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One of the overgrown pathways and the fern that ate my yard

Retirement has made being stuck at the homeplace easier, or is it just being lazy? We’ve spent hours watching playful chipmunks, newly born, playing under the bird feeders.  They mingle with the mourning doves, robins, and sparrows on the ground while purple and goldfinches, cardinals, grosbeaks, nuthatches, tanagers, and woodpeckers jockey for position to eat black sunflower seeds or suet from the feeders.  There has been a squirrel or two dozen also.  I don’t bother to shoo them away anymore; I just buy more feed…the money I ordinarily would be spending on walk-in dining or “boat drinks” now goes toward bird feed.

Grossbeak

My first rose chested grosbeak

I caught a flash of brown sprinting across one of the flat areas behind the house.  Fox? Coyote?  I only caught a flash.  It would make sense if either.  Deer and turkeys returned to the flat behind the house that is cut by a rocky stream leading out of my own holler.  They were visible in the early spring through my kitchen window and I’ve seen tracks in my garden.  The deer and turkeys are absent right now, but they’ll be back as soon as their newborns are older, hopefully staying out of the garden.  A red-tail hawk is teaching her little one how to hunt, perched on a stick up in my yard waste pile.

As darkness descends the night shift takes over as hootie owls call to each other from the hillsides around us.  No lightnin’ bugs yet or whipporwills but soon….  Two mornings in a row I’ve found my suet feeder torn down and holes dug in the pathway leading to back gate   Make that four days in a row and it is Rocky Raccoon, too smart to get nabbed in my gum.  It appears he enjoyed the meal I left.  He was in no hurry to leave.

Raccoon STANDS stock still like a human when it is caught sneaking ...

Not my picture but it could have been.  He didn’t seem the least bit scared.

With all the wildflowers, or weeds, obscuring my path, I’ve had to be vigilant.  Mr. No Shoulders has made an appearance in the protein-rich environment.  I’ve had to move the black rat snake away from nests and almost stepped on him once.  From years past I realize, he is persistent.  He is also hardheaded, there are plenty of field mice to feed on…maybe house mice too.  I guess baby birds are easier.

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Wild ?

My bride and I have rediscovered a joy that had been missing…our morning walks…strolls…saunters.  I do my fitness walk and then she joins me for a slower, mental fitness walkabout ramble.  “Ooh look! A butterfly.”

Sometimes we hike our hilly property, but more likely we walk around the nearby lake.  The normally busy non-denominational “Look-up” Christian camp it sits in is deserted and wildlife and wildflowers are abundant…without the sounds associated with people…except from the distant highway.

Lake

Lake Chinquapin

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An interesting tree on a steep hillside

We have taken to counting the turtles we see sunbathing on the docks and downed trees at the camp.  We do have “a little piece of heaven”  to get away from it all.  Yesterday there were twenty-six turtles and my bride took pictures of them all.  Next week I’m sure she will have them named.

Turtles (2)

Turtles sunning on a downed tree

All images were taken with my Android phone except for Rocky Raccoon, which explains the less than perfect presentation.

Rocky Raccoon courtesy of The Daily Mail  https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7864069/Raccoon-STANDS-stock-like-human-caught-sneaking-backyard-night.html

Linda in white dres

The prettiest flower of them all, my bride, Linda Porter-Miller

The feature image is of the honeysuckle choked bell in front of our home.  The picture was used for the cover of the book “Through the Front Gate”.  The book and others may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2SZmtwsbKyfX4PZGu3fFgPr9WRCtr-lE_LKs9rliC9ztLwWzG0TZu8AEo

 

Deafening Silence

 

I’ve been outside three times this morning…and it’s not yet seven-thirty.  The puppies woke me way too early.

I am troubled by the silence…the sounds I don’t hear.  I seem to be drawn to the quiet like a moth to a flame.  Everything is muted, even the vehicles climbing up the grade toward Hendersonville.

I don’t understand the silence and I am a bit disturbed.  Usually, the birds and bees are active by this time, chirping and buzzing.  But nothing is moving…just the toad that keeps trying to find a way into my house and the mosquito he must be chasing.

I don’t really mind the toad and admire his persistence.  I wish he would nab the mosquito. The blind puppy dogs seem to mind, picking up his scent and leading me to his location.  Waiting patiently for their “good dog” treats after I remove the interloper to his normal habitat.   Where is that damn mosquito?

Now I am looking at the bird feeders and they are not attracting any kind of activity…squirrels included.  I squint into the pre-dawn light to see if they were emptied during the night.

Did some spaceship descend from the heavens and abduct my wildlife deciding they didn’t need my toad?  I’ve seen too many end of the world movies.

My murder of crows has been quite active recently but not this morning.  Why I wonder?  Why are gatherings of crows called murders?  As I ponder, I realize I really have seen too many horror movies and am crazy as a loon.

It is as if the very air is absorbing sound.  Not a leaf moving.  The citronella torches I just lit are burning straight up, reaching toward heaven.  The heavily scented smoke defies gravity, swirling neither left or right as it disappears toward space.

It has been hot and dry…for us.  I think that makes us all crazy…wildlife included.  Mid-nineties in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  Pre-dawn has become after dawn and there is no dew on the grass at all.  We need rain badly and a break from the heat.  It is as if the wildlife has already hunkered down in a cool place for the day.  Maybe that’s why the toad continues to break and enter.

Maybe it just my diminished hearing or my increasingly bad mood.  I find myself anxious and a bit depressed.  Am I depressed because of…or is because of why I am depressed?  I don’t know.  I don’t know if I even make sense.

What I do know is the silence is as oppressive as the building humidity and heat.

According to the local weather guru, there is hope on the horizon.  Rain chances increase late in the week.  Nothing for sure…just like life.  Maybe what rain we do get will wash away the silence…or maybe I should get off my ass and make some noise.

The featured image from https://dahni.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/words-matter/

Please take time to like Don Miller’s facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/cigarman501/?eid=ARB0OtYgbYydIVtqtxaOGKECb-AvbbILtPybDOE835b4sChVMzC7w_vB9jqu161yiZWOmbn134yI6lwT

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

 

 

Little Bastards: Deja Vu…Again

 

Heat and humidity have drawn out the gazillions of itchy, bitey, stingy and just irritating little bastards that make Southern summers challenging.

It’s early June and I’ve already run afoul of a red wasp.  Ugly thing.  A refugee from a 1950s Japanese horror film with a sting as fiery as Godzilla’s breath.  Popped me right on top of the hand and sent me inside for a poultice of chewing tobacco and baking soda.

Chewing tobacco and baking soda?  The old-time remedy draws out the poison…maybe, I don’t know.  As I create this masterpiece of literary art my hand is still swollen, red and itchy…and painful…did I mention painful?  Did I mention I hate the taste of chewing tobacco?

Why Noah?  Did you have to bring the little bastards on board two by two?  Couldn’t you have replaced them all with a couple of unicorns?

Challenging it is.  Wasps, yellow jackets, Russian hornets…are Russian hornets payback for winning the Cold War?  “Big bastards they are,” said Yoda in my head…or was it Dr. Suess.

A memory flashes from a decade ago.  On an early morning run and despite the low light, I saw the B52 sized insect invading my airspace.  I zigged. It did too.  I zagged.  The hornet followed my movements like a GPS led, nuclear-tipped cruise missile and exploded just as hotly.

My upper lip and its stinger intersected at a point some two miles from my home.  By the time I returned to my recliner and my too familiar poultice, I could see my upper lip poking out beyond my nose and felt the fire from a thousand dragons burning hotter than a Game of Thrones episode.  The pain was exquisite…and long lasting.

Some of the little bastards of summer don’t sting.  They are just irritating.  Gnats…Gah…zillions of Gah…nats.  I just returned from my early morning walk with the remains of thousands of gnats strained through my teeth, rubbing gnats out of my eyes and sneezing from gnats snorted up my nose.  Challenging…yes, and I’m ignoring mosquitoes and deer flies.  They are irritating too.

Nothing matches my war with yellow jackets.  The original little bastards.  They lie in wait in high grass, under the pile of matted leaves I should have raked up last fall.  They buzz in looking for moisture…and anything they might sting…usually me.

They remind me of the villainous Borg from Star Trek fame.  Yellow jackets…and the Borg, are of one mind, a hive mentality, and seem to have my DNA on file.  If one little bastard gets angry, they all become angry…all angry at me.  A buzzing, stinging cloud of pain and agony with one intent, to cover me in baking soda and chewing tobacco and put me to sleep with Benadryl.   Resistance is futile…just run.

I remember stepping into a yellow jacket’s nest soon after we moved to our little piece of heaven.  Satan’s spawn rose from the ground, I slapped and ran.  They go for your legs trying to take you down before moving in for the kill.  I decided slapping was futile and ran to the house howling at the top of my lungs.  My wife locked the door in my face.

“Don’t bring them in here!”  she shouted.  Thank you, my darling.  I guess love doesn’t conquer all when it comes to stinging insects.  More chewing tobacco and baking soda.  Later, calamine lotion and Benadryl.  “Little bastards you are,” said Yoda.

I turned into a pacifist and conservationist in my old age…except for my personal war with yellow jackets, wasps and hornets.  With most animals, crawley things, and insects around my little piece of heaven, I tend to “live and let live.”  Not yellow jackets.   “Die you little bastards, die!”  Huh, that wasn’t Yoda.

I’m girding myself for battle despite the knowledge Mother Nature’s minions will ultimately win in the end.  Mother Nature always wins.  Nevertheless… spray cans of wasp and hornet killer are locked and loaded.  Despite the futility of resistance, I will go down fighting…

Note to self: Check your hoard of chewing tobacco.  May the force be with you.

For more of Don Miller’s wanderings, go to his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LOo22BkM94

Crime Sprees, Black Snakes, and Killer Birds

 

Pondering the meaning of life,  why nature can be so cruel, and the evil of man began with the theft of a trailer and continued with the murder of four wren hatchlings we had been monitoring in their little nest perched precariously above the front porch fan.  Four wren hatchlings we had been protecting from attacks from below when we should have been more concerned with attacks from above.

I find I’m much more distraught about the loss of four birds than the pilfering of my trailer.

I watched as a  juvenile black rat snake climbed the front porch swing chain looking for a way to traverse from chain to fan to what his reptilian brain saw as lunch.  I moved him…and later, the big brother he brought with him a half dozen times before my minuscule brain realized that if I took down the swing, he’d have to find another restaurant.

Sneaky snake must have enjoyed our time together.  He still hangs around as if waiting for me to pick him up again.  Ride me, Daddy?

It didn’t bother me the snake was trying to dine on jeune oiseau…after all, he was a snake doing what snakes do.  More importantly, I had stopped him.  The killer birds…I didn’t know I needed to stop them.

I never knew sparrow parents would attack wren young and kill them to ensure there is a steady food source for their young.  They must be new to the neighborhood.  There is no lack of food sources.  My wife has made sure of that.

I saw them hanging or flying around but was too stupid to realize they were up to no good.  We found the little broken and pecked bodies on the porch floor and with their distraught parents flitting about, felt their loss. 

I am telling myself, it is the way of nature.  I haven’t convinced myself.

And then there are the evils of man.  The trailer was just one of several grand heists over the years.    Bad people are found everywhere…and bad birds too.

The thefts began with a tractor stolen from the middle of my “hundred-acre woods.”  I ran out of fuel and didn’t return to where I had left it, literally in the middle of my forest, until a couple of days later.  I couldn’t find the John Deere and Winnie the Pooh wouldn’t help me look.  I guess Winnie was trying to get his nose out of his honey jar.  My nose was just out of joint.

An antique FJ 40 Landcruiser was taken from my front yard.  It was returned much the worse from wear.   A beautiful piece of Japanese engineering turned into junk.  The one time it ran after its return, “Kamikaze Cruiser” caught fire.  I hope the thief joins my beloved cruiser and burns in hell…well…metaphorically, I reckon…may be.

Not that everything has been “take, take, take.”  A would be Robin Hood decided to share the wealth.  A stolen pickup truck with two weeks worth of trash loaded in it, missed the curve at a high rate of speed, flipped and crashed into my creek.  It was laying on it’s top mocking a dead cockroach, two weeks of trash scattered hither and yon.  The old Ford had taken down my fence and my billy goat stood on top of the truck’s bottom as if he had ruled triumphant in a game of king of the hill.

I felt satisfaction when I learned of the malefactor’s capture, a young man found battered and bruised at a nearby restaurant frequented by our local constabulary.  I doubt the owner of the totaled truck got any satisfaction and I was left to clean up the mess that was left and mend my own fences.

There were other occasions to call the authorities.  Enough occasions to put together a pattern.  Every deputy who came out to investigate uttered the same family name.  “I’ll bet you  ‘Old so-and-so’ is responsible.”  “Old so-and-so just got out of jail, bet he’s at it again.”

I’m not going to say the name because I really don’t know if they stole my trailer or not.  If they didn’t it would be a first.  True to form though, as I met the deputy about my trailer, he brought up the same name again.  “You live pretty near Old so-and-so.  Bet it was him or one of his sons.”  Now grandsons.

I still haven’t seen my trailer, but the backcountry crime family tried to strike again.  This time it was my neighbor.  I slept through most of the event despite the blue and red lights flooding my yard at one until three A.M.  My neighbor filled me in.

A young man with the same last name as the redneck crime lord, a grandchild, was apprehended attempting to steal my neighbor’s travel trailer with a truck the boy had stolen earlier and elsewhere.  He even posed for a picture before attempting to flee after he realized no one wanted his autograph.

Attempting to escape in the stolen truck the clown prince of crime found himself reduced to running when the vehicle broke down at the scene and caught fire.  Poor baby.  He was later found hiding in a kudzu filled ditch…kudzu covering blackberry filled ditch.

I wish I had seen his dismay when he dove face first into the ditch only to find his soft landing impeded by blackberry thorns.  That had to smart…I wish it had been multiflora rose.  I do feel great satisfaction envisioning his surprise landing and ask for no forgiveness as I smile.

It seems the torch has been passed from one generation to another.  Grandfather to son to grandchild.  I wonder if the godfather of redneck crime is proud.  The old man showed up and according to my neighbor, just shook his head as if to say, “I thought I taught him better than that.”

My father told me once he could tolerate a thief more than a liar.  The reasons for his comment will remain between my father and me but I was in the wrong.  I understand his sentiment but would pose to him, “One might go hand in hand with the other.”

The image of the angry bird is from https://twistedsifter.com/2012/04/40-actual-real-life-angry-looking-birds/

Further tomfoolery may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

“No Unloved Flowers”

 

“A weed is but an unloved flower.” ― Ella Wheeler Wilcox

There are no unloved flowers on my little piece of heaven.  My bride makes sure.  From wild morning glory to thistle; she loves them all…much to my vexation.

My little piece of heaven is a wildlife refuge; a jungle, the bush, the wilds, at times a rain forest.  Ninty acres of tangles, bramble, and bushes.   No area is more tangled than in my backyard.

No animal is unwelcomed, no reptile reviled, not even the juvenile black rat snake I’ve twice moved from the porch as he tries to find a way to the wren’s nest built on the fan.

Squirrels and ground squirrels battle cardinals for the sunflower seeds I carefully place in the bird feeders…bird feeders Linda Gail…they are bird feeders.  Make that squirrel and bird feeders.

A passing raccoon looks up and briefly contemplates making them raccoon feeders.  I’m sure she’ll be back once she comes up with a plan to scale the deck the feeders rest under.

More importantly and to the point, there is no blossom too small not to be called a flower.  Miss PE has never met a weed; flora, fauna or human.

If it were cold it would be blackberry winter, but it is already blackberry summer.  The white blooms are so bright they seem to glow in the dark.

It is the spring grass cutting season and my bride’s proclivities bring us into conflict.

I have spent a goodly portion of my life cutting grass, endlessly walking or riding in mindless circles.  From cutting hay in fields of tall fescue or oats as a youngster to the well-manicured Bermuda playing fields of my coaching career.  From pristine lawns of zoysia…to, my weed-filled yard.  No more mindless circles with Miss Linda in control… she is, most certainly, in control.

Don’t cut the clover, bees and rabbits love it.  Stay away from the small yellow flowers put off by the wood sorrel that’s mixed in with the white blossoms of the wild strawberries.  Nice little red strawberries that taste…they have no taste at all.

Those little purple thingies…No! No! No!  We have plenty of Vinca minor and periwinkle.  They put off bigger purple thingies!  The wild violets and purple basil, No! No! No! Not unless you want to lose a body part.

Don’t touch the milkweed, butterflies feed on it…except that’s not milkweed, it’s burnweed.  It never blooms and the butterflies have plenty of other plants to feed upon.  We will have these stalky things all over the place.  Six feet tall if an inch and not one butterfly flying about its blooms because there are no blooms.  Not going to argue, who knows it may bloom this year.

We have plenty of butterflies on other blooms.  Butterflies and bees, and yellow jackets building in the ground under the grass I’ve been forced to leave uncut.  Mosquitoes by the gazillions hiding in all our greenery.

Please don’t misunderstand.  I love wildflowers, real wildflowers.  Our trillium, the wild sweet peas, the honeysuckle, wild iris, and other plants I have no name for.

I don’t like pokeweed.  The birds don’t seem to like it either. And dammit, the privet is blooming…it is quite pretty.  Pretty like my bride and a big pain in the butt to control.  You are free to think about what I am thinking but I won’t say it for fear she might hear.

She was right about the native honeysuckle.  I suggested we trim it up a bit…to the ground?  Oh no!  My fences are now covered in yellow and white. The yard smells wonderfully no matter which direction the wind blows and I just saw three hummingbirds and a half dozen butterflies buzzing about.  See, we don’t need those spiky things.

The red-throated anole likes to hide in the honeysuckle.  He suns himself on the gate, bright green in the sunshine. He blows out his little red-pink neck before running for cover when I approach. I hope he continues to hide well. My persistent black rat snake is now stalking him I think.

I must face the music.  She’s right about everything…even when she’s not.

In case there is not enough color in the yard she’s made friends with a local nursery owner…flowers in baskets are everywhere.  She can’t drive by the nursery without turning in.  Cana lilies and begonias because our Tiger lilies and old-fashioned begonias haven’t bloomed yet I guess.  Caladiums in and around the irises that are just now blooming.  Colorful baskets of cascading blooms because…just because.

Despite the color they add, my yard will look like a jungle until fall when she finally lets me clean it up.  Gee.  I was hoping for a long summer anyway.

The image is from https://phys.org/news/2017-05-dandelion-seeds-pipette-lab.html

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

 

 

 

 

 

Silly Little Birds

 

With forecasts of impending storms this weekend, we decided to move Linda’s spider plants indoors from the front porch to avoid the possibility of hanging baskets being blown all over “hell’s half acre.”  As soon as the plants were tucked away safely in the hallway two silly little birds began to flit and flutter hither and yond leaving my bride and I to shake our heads and question, “Again?”

Opening doors and turning on outdoor lights while extinguishing indoor lights solved the problem.  I wonder where they will spend the night since we moved their first choice of accommodations.

It is an act that plays out often around our house, usually in the late fall rather than spring.  A silly little bird hunkers down for the night in a spider plant, waits patiently as we move the plant indoors and then decides to take flight.  I should probably say something about the silly little man who forgets to check the basket to see if there is anything in it besides a spider plant.

I don’t know how many generations of Carolina Wrens we’ve raised on our front porch, but they come back, year after year, to lay their eggs and add to the population that brings joy to “God’s half acre”.   I’m sure we have become multi-generational…to the point, we’re running out of room.

I make primitive art out of interesting pieces of hollow wood and old tin.  Interesting to me at least.  More primitive than actual art, and more decorative than with actual functionality…except to our silly little birds.

What was to be bird feeder became a bird house before I could even fill it with seed.

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A painted gourd that looks like it might have been created by a three-year-old has raised multiple clutches over the past decade…except for this season.  They have avoided it this year…so far.

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A sheared off piece of wood with a hole makes a great place for a nest.  I think they like my artistic endeavors…although they did make a nest in a discarded boot I left unattended for a minute or two.

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Now the silly little birds have moved beyond my ability to create.  They have built a nest on top of the fan that helps to keep heat, humidity, and mosquitoes at bay as we sit on the front porch.  Don’t believe the fan will keep anything away this year…except maybe us.

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Addendum, I found this today.  Won’t be using the chipper any time soon.

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Silly but fun to watch.  Silly but they bring much joy.  I just hope their latest construction lasts until the end of hatching season.

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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

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A Quiet Before a Storm

 

Despite the overcast skies I decided to hike my old logging roads.  I needed to walk them, I haven’t since the snow apocalypse and the following high winds from before Christmas.  I wasn’t surprised or disappointed.  I have downed pine trees everywhere.  With a tractor and chainsaw, I will prevail…if the tractor runs. When I bought it back in the day, I was told: “nothing runs like a Deere.”  They lied…I guess John Deere even produces lemons on occasion.

I walked slowly up the incline, climbing over and ducking under downed trees along my route.  The three-hundred-foot elevation gain over about a third of a mile caused me to huff and puff a bit.  The temperature was noticeably cooler, the clouds seemed closer and denser.  The weather folk says it is going to be a minor winter event…my knee says maybe not.  Is there a difference between a single throbbing knee weather event and a double?

Stopping along the crest of a ridge to catch my breath, I was surprised at the quiet.  Just my inhalations were heard.  I fought to bring them under control…it seemed important.  Silent and still, not a hint of a breeze.  Even the hum from the distant four-lane seemed muted.  A quiet before a storm?  The birds seem to be hiding, as are the squirrels.  Not a chirp, not even the caw of a crow or a squirrel rustling the leaves disturbed the silence.

I continued to listen as I walked and searched the trees for movement.  There were signs.  Disturbed leaves from turkeys looking for seed or a grub.  The silent deer stands on the portion of my logging road that is not really mine.  They stood quietly, like empty watch towers…no game in sight.

Up to Chinquapin and then down to a second ridge crest.  I lost the old road for a moment and wondered what footprints my own feet might be following.  Five hundred years ago this was a Native American trading route.  It was still the land of the Cherokee, black bears, and the Carolina panther…today they have all had to make room for golfers and cyclist…and a moonshiner or two.

It is so quiet.  It is easy to walk and reflect on the thirty years I have resided here.  Reflections that make me smile…little that makes me frown.  While the Cherokee have moved north, the wildlife is still here…maybe they are reflecting too.  Reflecting on a quiet before a storm and the wonderful place they live.

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The Toad in the Corner

 

I am bad.  I continue to smoke my one cigar a day…unless it turns into two…never more than two.  I just executed a mental eye roll.  Normally I sit under the massive tulip poplar in my backyard and enjoy an adult beverage while I feed my addiction.  Do I enjoy the cigar due to my addiction or because of the joy it brings me? That is a discussion for a later date.

It’s been hot and humid, and I’ve taken to sitting on my back stoop instead of taking the long, sweaty twenty-five-yard walk to the tree and the chair sitting under it.  My picture should go beside the definition of lazy in the latest dictionary.  It is more about the mosquitoes infesting the shrubbery around my normal imbibing location.  There doesn’t seem to be as many bloodsuckers at my stoop and I may know one of the reasons why.

I sat watching the smoke curl from the smoldering end of my stogie, contemplating nothing more than my navel when I saw her.  In the corner where the rock wall and foundation meet, where the leaves have built up due to my earlier admission of laziness, a large toad had backed herself into the corner and is also watching the smoke curl from the cigar.

She is an American Toad…I think.  Could be a Fowler’s but I am not an authority on amphibians…and don’t want to be but I am better versed in toad activities than I once was.  Thank you, Google.  Despite my research, I don’t even know if she is really a she but shes are usually larger than hes and she is one of the largest toads I’ve seen.

Toady has been in the corner for weeks now.  She sits patiently waiting for the darkness and the relative cool of the evening.  I see her often sitting under the flood light, bathing in its glow or waiting for a juicy morsel to fly by?

I check on her often…not just when I feed my addiction.  I don’t know why I check.  I guess to reassure myself that all is right in the world.  I have seen her around for years…maybe it was her, all American toads seem to look alike.  Well, she was still there five minutes ago at least.  Looking fat and sassy from a night of eating mosquitoes I hope.

I’ve not named her because I worry Herbert the Rat Snake and his kin are skulking around waiting for a meal.  As I understand it, from the extensive research on toads I tried to reframe from doing.  I probably could name her.   Seems she is not too tasty…does Mr. No Shoulders have taste buds or does Toady just give him gas?  More research to come and maybe I have named her.

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