Monday, October 31, 2005

I'm so tired


Those lines and this picture brought to you by my sister, and my sister's new camera (Canon Rebel XT), both of whom are back safely from their Caribbean cruise.

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias).

Friday, October 28, 2005

Middle age (is all the rage)

Lady driving large SUV: "How do you like your car?"

Lady loading groceries into small compact car: "Oh, it's great!"

SUV lady: "We've been talking about getting something like that."

Compact lady: "We had an SUV too, but traded it in last year. This car is so much better..."

I just knew she was going to say something about her improved gas mileage.

"... It's so much easier to get into and out of."

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Brown-eyed Susans

A friend of mine from Birmingham Southern College is trying to identify some of the wildflowers that are planted at the Southern Environmental Center's   Ecoscape.

She sent me these pictures to consider. I think it's Brown-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba). I told her I'd put the photos on the blog to see if any of my more knowledgeable plant friends had any better ideas.

Here's a close-up of the bloom:

And here's a view of the whole plant:

If you look closely at the base you can see the triloba part.

Compare here, here, and here.

You can take a virtual tour of the Ecoscape, or browse the Alabama meadow wildflowers.

We had a frost last night so this might be the last flowers here for a while!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Due to my recent good fortune, I've been working harder than normal.

So I was in the workshop, diligently working away...

... when suddenly I had the feeling that I was being watched.

The Blob?

The Thing?

Sinister alien invader cocoon?

Geez that window sure is dirty.

I need a better angle.


Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea).

Monday, October 24, 2005

My cup runneth over

Our Amazing Kitchen Soap is featured in the November issue of Cooking Light magazine!

It's very exciting. My sister-in-law was nice enough to send me this scan, since I still haven't received my copy yet. (My mail lady is possibly holding it hostage.)

I knew it was coming, so made plenty of extra Kitchen soap. What I didn't anticipate was that so many people would be ordering 10 or 12 at a time.

So with that and two big craft shows coming up, I may be too busy for a lot of blog writing or reading in the upcoming weeks.

But if I'm missing from here, just imagine me as that figure on the left of the page, with a big smile of gratitude on my face.

Oh yeah, I can also report that besides garlic and onions, the Amazing Kitchen Soap works well on other smelly odors you might get on your hands... fish... bleach... smoke... that odor you absorb when trying to wrangle smelly dogs who've been rolling around in things you'd rather not think about...

Friday, October 21, 2005

Black Walnuts

We've got a lot of native Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) trees around our place.

A couple hang over the path to the chicken coop. I've started wondering if I should be wearing a hardhat when I let the chickens out in the morning.

I'm not that wild about the taste of walnuts, so I haven't shelled many of them. It's easy to get the husks off - you run over them with your car. If you're driving down a rural road and see a line of black stuff in a gravel driveway, you know that person has walnuts.

But getting the meat out of the shell is a different matter. Not easy at all. Someone told me there was a specific type of cracker that would get the nut out cleanly, but I've never seen one.

There are a lot of things you can't plant near walnut trees, due to the toxic juglone that their roots produce. I guess they don't like a lot of competition.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

My sister's house, part 2

Earlier in the year I wrote about my sister's house. Here are some pictures I took at our dinner there earlier this month.

She told me once that she likes it when I mention her on the blog. Here's today's mention: When she gets home, I'm going to kill her for not calling or emailing from the cruise to let me know they're OK.

I'm hoping that they're far enough east that Hurricane Wilma isn't affecting them too badly. But still, I'm going to kill her.

She's got a green thumb

or two.

She has interesting little collections

and arranges them well.

Mom, already worried about bathing suits.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Buckeye butterfly (Junonia coenia)


My sister and her family went on a Caribbean cruise and took our Mom along.

Mom, never having been on a cruise before, was nervous of three main things:
1) a tidal wave
2) a hurricane
3) having to wear a bathing suit.

I kept telling her she had nothing to worry about.

Now there's Hurricane Wilma, and I'm the one who's worried.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Solar Homes Tour

The first weekend in October, we went on a Solar Homes Tour in Blount county. There are tours all over the country that weekend, but this was the only one in Alabama.

The the tour has been getting more and more popular each year. They had to split our group into two since it was so large. Our half started at the modified yurt.

Outside of the yurt, with solar panel.

Inside the yurt. (There was a lot of glare and contrast in this picture and the next. I tried to correct for it, but as a result, ended up with a few dark blotches where they shouldn't be.)

It's open on the top. The theory is that the warm air rises and can escape. I imagine it's closed in winter. It's not difficult to heat in Alabama... cooling is the main problem.

Where the walls meet the roof.

They stressed that incorporating passive solar principles is the most important thing to do. Basically that means you design the house to take the most advantage of the sun, before you ever spend a dime on technology like solar panels. One of the ideas was to grow grapes (or something similar) over the windows for shade in the summer.

The same idea, at a different house. I think I'd prefer blinds though, so you could still look out the window if you needed to.

Some interesting space-saving stairs at the same house.

Most of the houses were heated with wood-burning stoves.

This was a ridgetop underground house. It's open on two sides and underground on the others. I think this one was my favorite of the ones we saw. We missed seeing the last house on the tour though, which was supposedly the best. (It was running late and I had to be somewhere else.)

Colorful bumper of one of the tour guides. I so wanted a Prius when I bought my car 5 years ago but hubby was vehemently against it. (He worried about repair issues.) Click for a larger image.

A stray dog came along with our group.

Zorak wanted to come too!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Toot, toot

That's my own horn you hear blowing...

Dana, who writes for the online southern journal called Dew on the Kudzu, interviewed me about our soaps. I feel like such a celebrity!

I've never met Dana before, but she grew up not far from here. She's now living in Chicago, which is why her blog is called Southern Gal Goes North.

Here's a link to the interview if you want to read it.

No autographs, please...

Friday, October 14, 2005

Almost forgot

I almost forgot to link to the new issue of "I and the Bird". (Which is fairly rude, considering they linked to one of my posts!)

So go and enjoy the feathered friends: I and the Bird.

Ready, aim...

I came across this interesting looking leaf spot during a short walk recently.

Here is is again, on a different leaf from the same tree (a Chestnut Oak).

This is the kind of thing that we got calls for all the time at the Master Gardener Hotline, where I volunteered this past summer.

But without all the Cooperative Extension's plant books and other resources, I'm at a loss. (And this is one of those occasions where Google brings up too many choices to be useful.)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Highly collectible art

My nieces hadn't drawn me anything in a while, so I put in a request when we were all at my sister's house for dinner.

Budding Artist #1, 2nd grade.

Her drawing:

"Those are the mountains on top," she informed me. "At the bottom you can see the dew drops on the grass." The sun was setting, of course.

Budding Artist #2, 1st grade:

Her drawing:

"That's my sister Windy on her horse," she explained. She has neither a sister nor a horse, but never mind. "They are riding into a canyon. There are birds in the sky. The best part is that you get to finish part of the background yourself."

I didn't have the heart to tell her that I didn't have any crayons, especially none as fancy as theirs.

But wait, there's more on the back:

On the right she'd written "Windy" and the name of her horse, "Seray," which is evidently pronounced "Sarah".

On the left she'd written several other good names for horses.
Stally (the "a" is like the "a" in "at")
Stalllie (the "a" is like the "a" in "father")
Chratr (She told me how to pronounce this, but I've forgotten.)
Lexiy (pronounced "Lexy")
Asyay (I asked her how to pronounce this one, but she had forgotten, just minutes after she had written it out.)

I like to think that she is taking after me in some small way, since I spent half of the fourth grade thinking up really good names for horses. (No, I never had one either.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Hidey Spidey


I see you.

This is a Black and Yellow Garden spider, a.k.a. Black and Yellow Argiope, a.k.a. Golden Garden spider, a.k.a. Golden Orb Weaver, a.k.a. Writing Spider (Argiope aurantia).

She was in the middle of the path where I was walking, and I wanted to photograph her in the middle of her web. But Jasmine had other ideas and disturbed it, making her flee to hide among the leaves.

According to this website, these spiders eat their webs every night and rebuild the next day.

The males of the species look quite different.

They look a bit scary, but aren't dangerous unless you're a fly.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Unknown snake

Hubby accidentally ran over this snake with the bushhog last week. I came to the conclusion that it's a lot harder to identify snakes with no heads.

At first I thought he was a Cottonmouth, but the tail is wrong. (They have odd tails, which narrow down from the body somewhat abruptly.)

Anybody else know what it is?

Hubby said he remembered something about being able to tell whether it's a poisonous snake or not by the scales on the tail. So I took a picture of that.

Turns out he was right. At the tip end of the snake, if the scales are divided in two, like here, the snake is not poisonous. If the scale is unbroken all the way across, it is a poisonous snake.

Memory tip:
Two scales = two words: Non-venomous.
One scale = one word: Venomous.

Please post a comment if you know the identity of this snake! The part of him that was left was about 2.5 feet long. He was in some tall grass not far from a drainage ditch.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Fall at last

Between Thursday and Friday we had over an inch of rain, and temperatures dropped, from the previous sweltering conditions down to the chilly 50s. (That would be "the chilly area between 10° and 15°" for my Celcius friends.)

We'll be at Homestead Hollow with our handmade soap again the first weekend in November, so keep your fingers crossed that it won't rain on us then. The second weekend we'll be at Christmas Village in downtown Birmingham (and won't care if it rains or not since it's indoors).

Jasmine is the one enjoying the cooler weather the most. It's hard being a Great Pyrenees in the Alabama heat, I guess. She loves winter, and is ten times more playful when she can cavort without getting so hot. She's been exploring in the woods again, and has found a green baby hoodie, a plastic soda bottle, and a piece of ceramic corn. (It goes with the ceramic tomato and the ceramic green pepper that she's already brought us.)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Homestead Hollow

We are set up at the Homestead Hollow craft show this weekend.

But we are not in our normal spot - they moved us.

We are in space "Barnyard 201", which is nearer the front of the show than we normally are.

This picture is from a couple of years ago, but our booth looks pretty much the same.

Just look for the royal blue tablecloths with the white lace covers.


It's been so dry. Jasmine thinks it's a treat, because she can go places that she normally can't. She likes to bark at fish.

Something eats the mussels and leaves these shells near the pond's edge. But we've never managed to see who's doing it. Bird? Muskrat? Raccoon?

The happy little creek is low too.

Today we're setting up at Homestead Hollow for the craft show this weekend.

So of course it's supposed to rain!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Snake skin

Hubby found a snake skin lying just like this in the yard.

About three inches of the tail end broke off when we picked it up. Still pretty long! We think it was a Gray Rat Snake (like the one I wrote about before, here and here). It was in the vicinity of the duck pen.


It smelled really... snakey.

Serpeniferous? No, that's not right. Serpenoleic? Serpenodoracious?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Beautyberry progression

The Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) was fantastic last fall. This year I was able to figure out what the bushes were when they first bloomed.

The blooms appear along the stems in bunches.

They're in this green-berry stage a LONG time.

Finally the berries are ripe, and flower arrangers everywhere rejoice.

But this year we had such a dry September that I had a hard time finding any decent berries to photograph. Everything's so droopy.

The scientific name Callicarpa comes from the Greek words kallos (beautiful) and karpos (fruit).

Other words using this root include:
calligraphy (beautiful writing),
calliope (beautiful voice)
and callipygian (having a shapely butt).