Sunday, December 30, 2007

Critter cam?

Chipmonk creeping through the holly.

Fox lurking in the houseplant... preparing to pounce.

Chipmonk hiding in Mom's Christmas tree.

Fox and chipmonk divide the crumbs from Mom's table.


My sister's dog's toys, up to no good and pretending to be caught on the critter cam (my sister's idea). I had to be coaxed into the idea, but my brother got me going by taking the first pic above.

Isn't that a nice holly plant he gave us for Christmas, by the way?


I just noticed that the chipmonk is hiding between examples of Mom's smocking, Mom's tatting, and Mom's crocheting. There is even a ceramic Santa she painted, in the background. She also made the ceramic napkin ring holder and the angel in the last pic, as well as the boxwood Christmas tree on the table. She's pretty crafty!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Better late than never

Santa brought 1/4 inch (.6 cm) on Christmas, but waited until yesterday to deliver the main gift: a whole inch (2.5 cm) of rain!

You know you're deep into drought when just an inch of rain makes you so happy. Of course, when you're this far gone, one inch doesn't help that much, but we'll take every little bit we can get.

We still need something like 12 - 15 inches (30 - 38 cm) 24 inches (76 cm) to catch up. I don't think it's going to happen. Weather experts are predicting more dry, dry, dry, at least through spring.

But I can't think about that now... it may rain again tomorrow.


I was wrong about the rain deficit -- it was worse than I'd thought.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

From all us turkeys.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


Geckie loves her (very fancy) humid-hide. It's filled with moist sphagnum moss and helps her shed her skin.

Plus I think she just likes the getaway. She's still not eating much though.

Click the pictures for larger leopard gecko-ness.


Did you see the Friday Ark?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Foggy bottom

The sun is a boor
who seines the slithery mist
then throws it away.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Latest game cam

We haven't had a bobcat picture in quite a while. This one seems particularly well-fed.

He probably ate all our chickens, but he sure is handsome.

Tentative fawn. Click to see the larger version... you can still see some spots on the haunch.

The fawn in the foreground is too dark and the deer in the background is too light, but I thought the focus was reasonably good on both of them.

It's gotten warm again lately, which means the animals have to be closer to the camera to trigger it. The weatherman was expecting a high of 75° yesterday, but I'm not sure it reached that here. (That would be a record high.)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Happy thoughts, Anita, happy thoughts!

Remember this purple wall?

It's in the garden I went ga-ga over on the Shoals tour in 2006. Lavish slobbering was carried on here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.

That gardener, Phillip, started his own blog, called Dirt Therapy. You should check out his Christmas decorations. This one in particular just makes my mouth hang open. Isn't it amazing that real people do this, and not just when they're expecting a visit from magazine photographers?

Anyway, now he's tagged me for a meme about "eight things that make you happy". So here are some recent happies:

Girls Dominate the Siemens Competition. Woohoo!1

The library left a message that my copy of An Ice Cold Grave is waiting. Yay!

Latin Via Proverbs.

A little birdie told me that we might be getting a few really nice knives for Christmas.

My daily email from The Writer's Almanac (which is really more of a Reader's Almanac if you ask me). Each entry includes a short poem, and "Literary and Historical Notes," which often contains biographical tidbits about writers or artists (on their birthdays). Example from December 4th: "It's the birthday of poet Rainer Maria Rilke … who made a career as a poet by seducing a series of rich noblewomen who would support him while he wrote his books."

Stephen Duffy & the Lilac Time have a new album, Runout Groove. Had to get it from, but that's ok because it was dispatched in a hurry.2

Brittlestar's new one is out soon too. Well technically it's already "out" but due to my computer-with-not-one-ounce-of-spare-memory problems, I'm forced to wait for the hardware version.

The last one, I think I'll expand into a separate post.


1 Must... resist... saying... "You go girls"!

2 You can listen to some of it on their myspace page.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Devil's walking stick

Devil's walking stick, Aralia spinosa.

I grabbed onto one of these on a steep trail once, and really wished I hadn't. Floridata calls it "one of the most viciously spiny things in the vegetable kingdom".

Since then I've been a lot more aware of them. But until I looked up the latin name just now, I didn't realize that this was the same plant I'd been trying to identify since the spring.

Before the leaves fell off, and also when in bloom, it reminded me of an oversized elderberry. (But prettier, really -- click the top link.)


Edited to correct a typo. Too anal to let it stand once I'd noticed it. Sorry sorry sorry.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Signs that might be omens

Just after leaving the house, I spied a large kettle of vultures. Maybe someone had left a dead calf again. You know, in that place just down the road where old sofas go to die? But the Purifying Ones streamed out on high before I reached them.

I had a passenger when I spotted the biggest gathering of crows I'd ever seen in my life. Fifty at least, I'm sure, and what in the world were they doing downtown? But once we cleared the next building they were nowhere in sight, leaving me the only witness to the murder.

On the way home I drove towards a sun dog, so bright that it fooled me, until I noticed the other sun.

Back at base, with atmospheric optics too low to photograph, I was on my way to consult some sacred chickens about some eggs. A wedge of Canada Geese flew directly overhead. Not uncommon at this time of year, but combined with the other events of the day, I had a feeling I was going to get bombed from above. Didn't happen though.

Lucky me.



Nifty vulture facts.

Roman superstitions.

Collective animal words.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Guitar (and other stringed instrument) heroes

Unless otherwise indicated, the links will load (from YouTube) the same videos that are embedded... hopefully that will help if you're reading thru Bloglines.

Youthful enthusiam: the Tuttle kids play the Beaumont Rag on mandolin & guitar. Holy crap. This would be good even if they weren't little kids.

(Click here for more of their videos.)

Unusual guitar playing, part 1.
An old favorite: Stanley Jordan. Karen hates jazz. The only time Karen can listen to anything resembling jazz is if Stanley Jordan is playing it. This is more bluesy anyway (Willow Weep for Me). Warning, this one is a little longish.

Unusual guitar playing, part 2.
Something new (for me): Andy McKee. He's his own rhythm section.

Lightning banjo: Just ignore the schmaltzy intro (Oh hi, I'm completely surprised that there's a camera on me!) - the song (El Cumbanchero) is great. (Todd Taylor, also a bit longish.)

Deb, are you that fast yet? ;)

This one is for Sabine, since she's learning the Ukulele (Jake Shimabukuro):


Oh my. Makes me wish I'd kept up lessons. Maybe someone will give me a Bill Asher Lap Steel guitar for Christmas (Ben Harper series, please Santa).

Video link here if you can't see it. Isn't that a beautiful sound?

If you don't know me in real life, you may not be aware that I'm famous for acquiring musical instruments that I never quite learn how to play.

Piano - well that was my parents', so possibly that doesn't count. I took lessons for 2 years or so when I was a kid. I could probably still play Chopsticks.*

Classical guitar - check. I still remember many chords, including my favorite, Em7!

Electric guitar - check.**

Violin - check. Never even got my grandfather's old one fixed; I quit while I was ahead and gave it to my cousin, who does know how to play.

Dulcimer - I can play Amazing Grace and Go Tell Aunt Rhody (probably not without mistakes).

So... I could probably not learn to play lap steel without actually owning it.


Ok, one more. Because I know Maktaaq can't get enough of YouTube.

South African Teaspoon slide guitar man, Hannes Coetzee:


* I blame this all on my little brother and sister, who yelled, "Shut up! We're trying to watch TV!" every time I tried to practice.

** I blame this failure on the guy changing his mind at the last minute, and not selling me his Les Paul. I ended up with a pawn shop imitation that really wasn't that bad, but every time I played it I could only think, "This is not my beautiful Les Paul."

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.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

What big eyes you have

The better to see you with, my dear!

The Christmas Village craft show is coming up and I've been busy busy busy.

See you soon...

...when there's time to get out and about.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Lazy game cam

The game cam is triggered by heat, so when the air is warm there's not much action. These photos are from the last two months.

We thought this was a fox at first, but it's a reddish coyote instead. Here's how you tell the difference: Foxes have black "leggings" and ear tips, and white tips on their tails.1

Other than bobcats, I think turkeys are my favorite game cam find. We get most pictures of them on dark cloudy days.

I love this photo of their tailfeathers! I'm always excited to find turkey feathers on the ground, but finding them still attached to the turkey is even better.

The weeds might be getting too tall for good critter pictures.

It looks like this deer has a tick in her ear.

The weeds are definitely getting too tall for good critter pictures.

Extreme close-up... the deer can evidently hear the trigger mechanism, and are more curious than you'd think.

Dang. The only spotted fawn game-cam picture ever, and he's already exited the frame.

Not-so-wild Deere and Bush Hog.

1You can look at the Red Fox wiki if you don't believe me.