Friday, December 26, 2008

Stupefied by the labor of digestion

Bluh. I had to relax and do genealogy all day today, to recover from yesterday's intense gluttony. Bluh. Diet starts again next week, I guess.

I am much too lazy to send handmade cards for Christmas, so it's a wonder that I receive any.

My Mom's cross-stitch. I forgot to ask if she started these last Dec 26.

Cutie-pie niece designed this card from my sister's family. (My brother-in-law says he's the handsome one in this drawing.)

Mt artist friend included one of her dogs on their card.

OK, this one wasn't homemade, but my brother knows how much I love Edward Gorey!


Stupefied by the labor of digestion: Stolen from Anaïs Nin's diary, which was featured on the Writer's Almanac today.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Creative Outsourcing

Hmm, there's something different about the office this morning...

I think they've brought in some outside contractors.

"Umm, your drawings may be a little late...

... we kind of had an incident."

I guess he heard there would be no bonus this Christmas.


This happened at an office in Birmingham today. Raccoons really did pee on the drawings and poop all over the desks. Animal control wouldn't come, since the racoons were indoors. Did you know that private critter control starts at about $450 per hour?!

(I didn't take these photos - Hubby's co-workers sent them to him.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Cleaning ducks

We've been thrilled lately with plentiful downpours, cloudbursts, thunderstorms, showers, drizzles, sprinkles, and mists. Over six inches of very welcome precipitation over the past two weeks or so. (I'm sure that only seems like more rain than we've had in the last two years.)

Our Muscovy ducks don't much like the water. You'll find one in a pond only if you've thrown him in there yourself. They don't particularly like the rain either — they'll retreat to the porch to stand under the eaves to stay dry.

But the recent rain has often been at night, when the Muscovies like to be in the (uncovered) pen.

Boy, are those ducks clean!


Submitted to the Friday Ark.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Winter thrush

The Hermit Thrushes have returned for the winter. They're silent here, for the most part — you only spot them from their movements.

(Nothing to see here, just a bump on the branch, move along, move along...)

They desert us in summer, breeding as far north as mid-Alaska.

Wood Thrushes have an opposite agenda:
1. Arrive in spring.
2. Sing like a lovesick fool all summer long.
3. Shuffle off to Panama once the days grow short.

Someone once told me: the Hermit Thrush is rusty on his tail, and the Wood Thrush is rusty on his head. I can never recall which is which in the field, though. There are easier distinctions anyway, especially when you aren't usually in a position to be peering down on their heads or tails. (The Wood Thrush's spots are much darker, for example.)

During migration it can get confusing, with the Veery, Swainson's Thrush, and Gray-cheeked Thrush also thrown into the mix. I'm afraid I may have fallen out of practice in telling them apart without having a field guide handy.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


What are the odds?

In Georgia last month, I visited some relatives and searched through photos for ancestors. I came across this instead.

A pint-sized Valentine!

Like Braveheart, but with a cow.


Ang mentioned in comments that heart patterns on livestock aren't completely uncommon. So I did a little searching and found these online:

British piglet, also named Valentine, beyond cute.

Japanese chihuahua, named Heart-kun, exceedingly adorable.

Cat and another cat (not quite as well-defined, still charming).


Updated again:

Check out Northview Diary's cow, Mandy, who has a cute little white heart on her side.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What the storm hath wrought

We could have used all this rain last spring or summer, but it's still welcome.

Even if last week's storms are going to cause a little extra work. I wish I'd put something in there for scale - this tree was huge. I had to hop up on it to get over.

This ex-Sycamore was definitely dead already.

I think the fish and ducks and flittery little birds would like this a lot, but hubby thinks it needs removing.

Collateral damage... I wish it hadn't taken two live trees with it.

It's amazing how fiercely the Sycamore balls still cling, this time of year.

Except for this one.

Flocks of Cedar Waxwings celebrated the rain. (Click to enlarge.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Recent culinary adventures

It's kind of embarrassing to admit, but we've never cooked a roast before, other than in the crockpot. (We call it crock roast.)

My husband and I have contrasting cooking styles. I describe his as, "Throw it up in the air - it'll probably come down a roast." I believe his description of my technique includes writing a book on how to cook a roast before ever opening the oven.

We eventually worked our way through the wilderness, with the help of hasty phone calls to relatives. It was tasty.

Homemade buttermilk and butter from this past weekend.

We'd made butter once before. Or actually, I made butter once before, while someone else sulked and refused to participate, because I'd started without him.

Anyway, it's very easy, if you want to try it. There are lots of detailed tutorials on the internet, but the simple version is:

1. Buy heavy whipping cream. Bring to room temperature.
2. Pour into a jar with a lid (and ample headspace).
3. Shake it.

That's about it. You have to shake for about 20 minutes, and you have to rinse it when it's done. From the small cream container, you'll get butter equivalent to one to two sticks.

Now, if I could only find someone with a cow, I could make it from fresh cream, mmmmm. I've had it that way, once, and oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, was it wonderful.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Covered Bridge Festival

I was a lot more impressed with this costume before I learned that they sell them at pet stores. (I'd thought that the impatient lady at the other end of the leash had made it herself.) Still, it was cute, if you like clothes on dogs. He didn't seem to mind much.

The "Covered Bridge Festival" is held in Oneonta (Blount county) every October. I'm only two months late in posting these pictures. On the bright side, if you're sorry you missed it and are eager to attend the next one, well, now it's only ten months away.

That's the main shopping street in downtown Oneonta. Annie's old store was just there on the other side of Regions bank, just beyond that inflatable green turret. It's Fred's store now - the Eureka shop. (Eureka as in "aha", not vacuums.) I think it's the best shop on the street, but of course Fred sells my handmade soap there, so I might be a little biased.

The next street over, there's an antique car show. People in Alabama seem to hold antique car shows at the drop of a hat. I suspect that antique car people just like to socialize with each other.

You can see a video of one of the bridges, and a bit of the festival, and a cute kid, here. Not my video - it's from Thicket magazine, a very good new(ish) magazine about Alabama.

Another article about the festival is here. It includes photos of all the remaining Blount county covered bridges, as well as my friend Barbara (whose name people always spell incorrectly).

There were previously four covered bridges here, but one burned down. I should say, one was burned down. That's the scuttlebutt anyway: Ne'er-do-wells partying near the bridge were reported and forced to leave. The bridge suspiciously burned down shortly thereafter.

I'm not sure why the article refers to an "accident" that closed a bridge temporarily last year. According to the newspaper, there were deliberate, heavy-duty, meant-to-destroy acts of vandalism on two of the bridges. I'm not sure if rural areas have more than their share of misbegotten miscreants, or if the teenagers here are just really, really bored.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Should have known better

"Look! Something caught a rabbit!"

While I was bent trying to focus on the fur (proud of myself for spotting something so well-camouflaged and so small), my husband got the bigger picture.

"The rest of him's over here."

OK, ew.

"Did he escape, but get mortally wounded? Did he just crawl over there to die?" (Latent detective tendencies in high gear!)

"Well, probably not. His head is missing."

Had we blundered up and scared a predator away in mid-snack? Hubby moved the carcass a little, and it was stiff. So, no.

Jasmine discovered some strewn rabbit guts, and happily gobbled up several bits before we noticed and tugged her away. Yuck, Jasmine.

On down the path, I had an idea. "Hey, let's get the game cam and put it there, to see if any critter comes back later to finish his dinner." (Latent detective tendencies on fire!)

I'd been moaning about moving the camera for some time now. We were not getting anything interesting where it had been stationed for the past several months.

While hubby was setting up the camera, I found more evidence.

"Maybe if I put this on the blog, a bird expert could tell me what type of bird this feather came from..."

OK, so a raptor (owl? buteo? accipiter?) was probably not going to come back to finish off the rabbit, but surely we'd get some cool wildlife shot of hungry scavengers.

But I really should have known better.

The only one who came back to finish anything was Jasmine.

Bad dog!

Oh, well.


If you want to see the Cottontail in full headless gory glory, you can click here. He's missing a portion of his side too. It's bloody. It's not for everybody.


On the feather, I was thinking "owl" but I really have no idea. (So if you do, please post a comment.) It seems similar to the photo on this page titled "Great Horned Owl feather". That would be cool, since we've never seen one here before.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Surprise visitor

I spotted an anole on the wrong side of the glass. I'm not the best at reptile-wrangling, so I was surprised when I easily convinced him onto my hand.

"Poor thing," I thought, "he's so weak he can barely move."

Then he sprinted up my arm and onto my shoulder. Running headlong towards the face of an apparent predator doesn't seem like a good survival tactic, but it was hilarious. Watching that little anole face moving so quickly towards my nose really made me grin.

I ran outside before he could leap off. He stayed put. I leaned against a wooden post, and he slowly ambled off. He even stuck around to pose for a portrait.

One post away, his vardøger seemed satisfied.


I forgot to mention the scientific name. The Carolina anole (or Green anole) is Anolis carolinensis.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Fungophile (or not)

Lentaria micheneri

I thought this fungus would be fairly easy to identify, but not being a true fungophile (or at least not an educated one), I apparently neglected to perform important field tests.

Lentaria micheneri

I didn't touch it, so I'm not sure if it was tough, brittle, or pliable. Was the surface felty, soapy, smooth, or otherwise? I don't have a clue.

Lentaria micheneri

I didn't sniff it - did it smell typically mushroomy, or more like newly-dug potatoes? Or perhaps like beans? I'm not even sure how "mealy" smells.

Lentaria micheneri

I sure as heck wasn't about to taste it. So it may or may not be bitter. Or peppery.

Lentaria micheneri

I didn't try to collect spores. I didn't cut a sample to see if it dried a different color.

So all I had to go by were visual clues and a knowledge of the habitat.

I thought it might possibly be Clavicorona pyxidata, but that one grows on rotting logs, and this one didn't appear to... though the log could have been beneath the leaf litter. I should have checked.

Clavaria fumosa was another possibility, but the habitat does not seem to fit. That one grows in open places, and mine was in the woods.

I briefly felt certain that it was Ramaria acrisiccescens, but that one's only in the northwest US.

Then I found Lentaria micheneri. The only description that lists "salmon" as a color possibility. Plus it mentions oak and beech and leaf litter, which was spot-on for the habitat. So that's my best guess.


So, what's the word meaning "mushroom lover"? I thought fungiphile, but Google kept asking me if I meant fungophile. Online dictionaries don't recognize either, and all my real dictionaries are still packed up in boxes somewhere.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


We take a break from regular blogging, to bring you this blatant ad:

Here is a coupon code you can use online, if you'd like to order some soap:
10109081199 .

It's 10% off, good through the end of the year. Shipping is $5.95 per address, no matter how much you buy.

The site is here.

It could use some major updating, I know! It should look all spiffy with lots more pictures and fading-in-and-out doodads, but to be honest, I haven't changed it much since I started it 10 years ago. I need to either learn all the new html, or break down and pay someone else to do it for me. On the bright side, the site is written so simply that probably still works on the Dark Ages version of Windows.

Anyway. I hate it when I read a blog that makes me feel like a crumb if I don't buy something the owner is selling, or make a monetary contribution to their tip jar or some such. So I hope this doesn't seem like a high-pressure sales job. I love you whether you buy soap or not!

Do feel free to pass the code along, if you know anyone you think may be interested - it's not limited to the blog.

Now, I have to go get ready to overeat all day. Happy Thanksgiving!


Updated -
We are through with craft shows for the year, but here are the places you can buy the soap locally:
The Eureka Shop, Oneonta (next to Regions Bank)
The Golden Temple (Five Points South location), Birmingham
Bowie's Pharmacy, Curry/Jasper
Gower Paints Plus, Ohatchee
The Rural Heritage Center, Thomaston

These stores may or may not still have the soap-
Hospital Gift Shop, Oneonta
The Garden Shop, Homewood

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Surly beasts

Cheating a little - this was taken before the big freeze. (Click to see it larger.)

We stopped just in time to spot this flock rounding the corner up ahead. I wanted to talk turkey, but they were not agreeable.

The two on the right were torn between joining their friends on the open road, and turning back to the brushy path at hand. In the end, they remembered that saying about birds of a feather, and ran to catch up.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Poor ducks

When we are away from home and return after dark, the ducks sometimes elect to spend the night on the pond. The next night, they're usually back in the pen, waiting for us to close the door. No harm done.

Recently though, after we came home late several nights in a row, the ducks refused to return to the pen at all. We tried herding them off the pond, but they were having none of that.

Duckie (1, 2) disappeared. If I'd laid bets on which duck might be picked off first, it certainly wouldn't have been Duckie, the flightiest one in the group.

Then Runt disappeared. Then Bluebill. Dagnabbit, we were going to be stuck with only male Runner ducks left, and wouldn't the female Muscovy just love that, come springtime? And why won't those dumb-as-a-box-of-rocks ducks come back to the safety of the pen at night?! You'd think they'd notice their comrades getting nabbed.

Then Runt reappeared. I don't know where she'd been... she didn't look injured. I am guessing that something chased her, and it took her a while to find her way home again. I held out hope for the other two girls for a few days, but it looks like they're not coming back.

I'm not sure what's getting them... coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, or turtles. Or something else our game camera hasn't caught here yet.

I'm going to try tempting them into the pen in the afternoon, with corn. But they have to be in the vicinity of the back yard to see it, and I can't have fed them too much in the morning, or it won't work. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Spider poetry

One morning we awoke to find that spiders had woven diamonds during our sleep.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Teakettle frostflower

I've written about Frost Flowers before, but I don't remember ever seeing them this early.

This teakettle was formed from the stem of a White crownbeard flower (Verbesina virginica). Dr James Carter has the definitive page on Frost Flowers. He's also done a lot of fun experiments on extruding ice from pipes (also here).

The forecast was for 23°F last night (-5°C), but here in our glacial little microclimate, it was 13°F (-11°C) when we woke up this morning. Too bad it's not always 10° cooler in the summer too.

Friday, November 21, 2008

War of Wealth

Geez, y'all stop collapsing the world financial system, would you?

This is a poster from a 1895 play. I'm not sure if today's equivalent would be War of Wealth, War on Wealth, or War for Wealth.

Wikipedia has a handy reference of Economic disasters in the US that includes 16 incidents labeled "Panics". I guess since the last one was in 1911, somebody thought it was high time for a good old-fashioned panic. Many panics seem to start when the Joe Moneybags of the world try to grow even filthier rich, by means of dodgy schemes designed to swindle everybody else.


Here are a couple of money-saving tips that I learned by accident.

#1: Discounts.
Hubby had a few medical tests a while back (he's fine). The bill was substantial, about $1000. I always feel a little cheesy doing it, but since we have one of those BigNameGasStation credit cards that rebates 1%, well, why not use it. I've learned to tolerate a little cheese.

"Can I pay over the phone with a credit card?"
"Yes. How much would you like to pay?"
"All of it."
"I can offer you a 20% discount for paying the entire amount."

I'm sure if I'd written a check, they'd have happily cashed the whole thing.

#2: Look closer.
Counterfeit $10 bills have been passed in Oneonta recently. Who's risking a felony charge for $10?! ("Teenagers" comes to mind.)

This is another thing I love about small-town living. The bank teller not only told me about it, she showed me the bill in question. I would never in a million years have caught this bill as a fake. It just looked and felt like one of the new tens that had already seen a lot of wear.

She told me there were two ways to spot it as a fake: look for the plastic security strip by holding it up to the light, or check that the glossy "10" (in the lower right) changes color when the bill is tilted. But who does that kind of thing for $10 bills? I check the strip on $50s and $100s at craft shows, though it always makes me feel so rude. Hubby's been saying that I need one of those currency-checking pens instead, but the teller told me that counterfeiters now use paper that the pen doesn't detect.

Bottom line, if someone hands you one of the newer bills that seems like it's seen a lot of wear... take a closer look.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cat puzzle

cat boxing

A purrfect fit? (Sorry, can't seem to stop myself when it comes to bad puns.) In a change from the normal procedure, George has crawled on top of Ginger in this picture.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Seven things

While I was gone, Twinks asked me to do a meme. I'm supposed to list seven random things, but since I'm contrary, I'm going to list seven things that happened during my lost four months. It's longer than my normal posts, but since I'll be out of town for a few days, feel free to read in shifts!

1. I joined The Gym.
Really, that's what the gym in Oneonta is called: The Gym. I joined with a friend, and wheedled my way into a good deal via a long-term, prepaid, early-hours contract. I can't say I've lost any weight, but I feel in better shape. I'm getting to know my friend a lot better too, since we gab for about four hours a week more than we used to.

2. I thought I'd found a diamond.
People with a five-carat diamonds don't shop at Wal-Mart, I suppose, but I was momentarily dazed by the karmic thrill of it all. My mother lost her engagement ring stone over 40 years ago, and I imagined it had returned, with interest! Turned out to be only a cubic zirconia though, drat. Here is how you tell the difference. I couldn't read a newspaper through the CZ, and was already dreamily wondering how long the police would have to hold it before it was deemed unclaimed. The dot test worked like a charm, though. Like a big, balloon-bursting charm.

garden that got away

3. The garden refused to bend to my will. Again.
I had fun with the Zinnia experiment though. I got a late start, and Powdery Mildew crept in when we left town for a week. The grass got way out of control, as usual. Somehow I still managed to grow a few flowers to donate to Hospice. Maybe next year I will finally have my act together enough to get them there throughout the blooming season.

4. I won a major award.
Because I could remember the Alabama state bird, mammal, fossil, etc., when an emergency preparedness expert spoke to our wildflower group. OK, the award wasn't really all that major, but I basked in the egghead trivia glow anyway. Then a guy even more pointy-headed than me whined that my answer of "some kind of whale" to "What is the state dinosaur?" wasn't up to par. "The Basilosaurus cetoides is the state fossil, not dinosaur!" he moaned. I hugged my MRE and ran out of the meeting room.

5. We let Anatoli go. He'd developed a lump that we decided may have been from improper nutrition or insufficient sunlight. Since he was wild-born, we figured he'd fare better on his own. We saw an unusually high number of anoles this fall, but I was never sure if any of them were Anatoli.

6. I had to wait in line to vote!
There were all of four people in front of us when we arrived at our polling place. An elderly couple let us cut in front of them though, since the man was still searching his wallet for ID. There were a few local issues on the ballot so turnout was very high. The tallies from my precinct, not exactly what you'd call a democratic stronghold, included:
Obama 45, McCain 450
Figures 52, Sessions 442 (US Senate race)
Tag fee increase: Yes 59, No 392
Wet/Dry referendum: Yes (Wet): 226, No: 270
The ratios for the whole county were similar. I still haven't figured out how Vivian Figures, a State Senator from Mobile, received more votes than Obama. Most people in north Alabama weren't even familiar with her. I read that her budget was $22,000; the incumbent Sessions spent multi-millions. (I have loved her ever since I read that she was able to get the outdated, misogynistic Alabama State Senate dress code changed... the one that said women couldn't wear pant suits or slacks on the Senate floor!)
We needed the tag fee increase ($15), which would have gone strictly towards road maintenance. I had a feeling it wouldn't pass, but I was surprised at the resounding defeat.
I'm glad we stayed a dry county. I wouldn't mind alcohol sales in stores or restaurants, but didn't want a bar across the street from us. Rural counties don't have a lot of regulations, so it could have been a real possibility.

7. Alabama football, woohoo!
I had to say that before we play Auburn and Georgia Florida, just in case.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Like Braveheart, but with a cow.

A cow with heart.

If this were my cow, I'd name it Taurhartt, though only rednecks familiar with ancient languages would get the joke.


The cow lives on the mountain between us and Springville, but we usually only take that scenic route on Homestead Hollow (craft show) weekends.

I believe MountainMelody actually lives much closer to this cow. But if she can post photos of downtown Oneonta (see last April) I can show this!

P.S. to Fred: You should see this pic from May also. I keep forgetting to tell you about it.


A family member of the owners has commented and told me:
The cow is actually a steer, his name is Valentine (good one!), and he's a pet (not potential steak).