Friday, November 30, 2007

Multi-purpose gifts

Dear in-laws, we thank you for the fruit!

And so do the cats.

George especially. She sits in the box and seems particularly content, at least until someone starts flashing a camera around.


Submitted to the Friday Ark.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tree Quiz


That's my dainty size 6 next to the largest leaf in North America. Identify the yellow leaves on the lower left for extra credit.

A big hint to how this tree got its common name.

Answers below.


1. American Beech Tree with a personality problem. (Fagus grandifolia.) The smooth carving surface often tempts woodland vandals.

2. Around here this tree is known as the Cowcumber, but more commonly it's called the Bigleaf Magnolia, Magnolia macrophylla. I've read that they're rare, but it's one of those plants that tend to be locally abundant when you do find them.

Extra credit: Sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua.

3. Hophornbeam, Ostrya virginiana.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Holiday company

We had visitors over the long Thanksgiving weekend.

They weren't very sociable though.

They kept to themselves a lot.

And were a bit stand-offish at times.

They had a little tussle right in front of us.

A handsome family, though.

It was hard to pick a favorite portrait.


River otter, Lontra canadensis or Lutra canadensis.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Childhood fears

1. Drawbridges. They were apt to open up suddenly, while you were right in the middle.

2. Foxes. They were cunning and evil and just waiting until your guard was down, so they could stalk and eat you.

3. Lava. It might spew out of any slope with no notice, and race downhill to burn your feet off, and then where would you be?

4. My dead step-grandmother. I'm sure that someone meant well when they told me she was looking down on me from heaven.

5. Driving unawares. I'd be navigating a busy dream-intersection, and suddenly realize that I didn't know how to drive.

6. Driving unawares in underwear. Always where Meighan Boulevard and Noccalula Road met -- the widest, busiest intersection in town. And me in my slip.

7. Every monster from Jonny Quest. But particularly that huge robot spider.

8. Accidentally poking my little brother's brains out. I was warned about the soft spot on a baby's head, but in my mind it was a paper-thin membrane that I was constantly in danger of breaking.


I was tagged by the Shady Gardener for the "8 Random Things" meme, but since I'd already done the "5 Random Things" I decided to change it to the "8 Childhood Fears" meme, which I just made up.

So, what scared you as a kid?

Monday, November 19, 2007

100 year drought

Normal view in fall.

I-wish-it-would-rain view.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Julia Ann of the broken heart

Julia Ann, about 1880 I think

She was born in Jasper county, Georgia (red dot below), just before the government did a snatch and grab on the Cherokee land (in gray) that lead to the Trail of Tears.

Jasper county had been Creek Indian territory up until about 30 years earlier, but by the time she was born, even the Creeks in west Georgia had been gone for five years.1

She was the 6th child, born to parents who had emigrated from North Carolina. Her family had been in America since her 13-year-old immigrant ancestor came from England to Virginia in 1660.

She married William at age 20 (he was 27), and nine years later (in 1860), she was living in Atlanta's Fifth ward (purple area below) with her husband and two children. I believe she had already lost two other children, either in childbirth or from illness at a young age.

Atlanta was booming, with a population of 10,000. There were "3,800 homes, iron foundries, mills, warehouses, carriage and wheelwright shops, tanneries, banks and various small manufacturing and retail shops."2

Whitehall Street, Pre-war Atlanta (near Julia's home)3

Her husband was a carpenter, and their neighbors included a clerk, a printer, other carpenters, a shoemaker, several blacksmiths, a wheelwright, and an attorney. (Lawyers must not have been paid quite so well back then.)

Then came the war. Four years later, "...only 400 structures were left standing. Atlanta was a ghost town of rubble and ashes."2

I don't know how or when the family left Atlanta. I can't find any record of her husband during the war, though he would have been of fighting age (35).

On the next census, in 1870, the family was in DeKalb county, just to the east. Her husband is now a miller, and they have four children. Among them is my great-great-grandmother Martha, age 15. They live just down the street from her future husband, Turner, who's 17.

By 1880 William had become a farmer, and he and Julia live next door to Martha and Turner, who have two children of their own already.

Sadly, the 1890 Federal census was destroyed by fire.

By 1900 everyone had moved to Chattooga county, living in the charmingly named Dirt Town4. Julia and William were living with their son and his family. They've celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Julia reports to the census-taker that she has given birth to six children, four of whom lived to adulthood. This is the last paper record I have of her, seven years before she died at age 75.

The Tragedy, February 1907
Written by Kate, who was born in 1901.
"When I was 6, we were eating supper one night and my Grandmother Julia had just set the coffee pot down by her chair when my younger sister, Bertha [age 2], tripped over it, scalding herself very badly. The next day she died. Grandmother Julia died that night also."

1It was Georgia's governor who forced them out, not the federal government (this time).

2 History of Atlanta

3Now Peachtree Street

4A.k.a. Dirttown, not in existance today. Right near Dirt Seller Mountain... It's no wonder they also had a Broomtown nearby.

P.S. You might have noticed, I've gotten interested in genealogy again.

Georgia county formation maps - extremely cool.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Spider heaven

The only good thing I can think of about the drought is that mosquitoes weren't much of a problem this summer. Bugs were down overall, I think.

One day before we had a frost, there was an explosion of tiny flying things. You may have to click the picture to enlarge it enough to see, but it was clearly spider heaven.

Now that it has frozen and warmed up again, the explosion is of those ladybug look-alikes, Asian ladybird beetles (Harmonia axyridis).

Harmonia! If ever a species needed renaming, it's this one. How about Discordia detestabile. OK you can tell I don't really know Latin, but you get the idea.

Monday, November 12, 2007

My excuses

If you've been really busy yourself, and haven't had much time for blog reading, I imagine you're pretty happy with me. I saved you from having to read a lot of monotonous complaining that mainly boiled down to:

1. How busy I've been.
2. How dry the weather still is.

Then when I was finally done with craft shows for the season, I got sick (the only cold I've ever had that didn't respond to Cold-Eeze), and spared you the misery of having to suffer through that too.

One unusual thing - a strange-sounding Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio) has been hanging around. First we heard him during gray days, far away. Was it a coyote? An oddly-voiced turkey, we decided. Then it got closer over time. Not a turkey. A weird coyote. Finally we figured it had to be a screech owl, but not the normal calls - a combination of several of them. Bark, tremolo, whinny. And LOUD, boy is he loud for such a little critter. He wakes us up at night. I have my old camera charged up now, ready to run out and try to record the sound if he visits again.

I was sure that the local fall colors this year were going to be dark brown and light brown, but what leaves that remained did manage to look nice.

We hadn't had any rain, so all the Walnut leaves were still hanging on, until one windy day last week when they all dropped at once, and it looked as though we'd grown a yard of fluffy yellow grass overnight. I hate that I missed that picture. I thought I'd wait til the next day, since my throat was on fire, and it was still cold and windy, and this was bad but pneumonia would be worse, you know? But by the next day the leaves had become dim and crispy and not magical at all. Oh well.

The Juncos are back. The White-throated Sparrows, Butter-butts, Sapsuckers, Kinglets, and Waxwings too. People keep reporting irruptions of Red-breasted Nuthatches, Purple Finches, and Pine Siskins, but we haven't seen them yet.