Sunday, February 27, 2011


Last Saturday I went to Alabama and delivered the quilt to my Aunt.  She was absolutely thrilled to have it.

After seeing it thrown over her bed, she's now toying with the idea of using it as a coverlet instead of as a real quilt.  

It was so good to be at her house again.  As the day went by, it became painfully obvious to me that our days with Aunt Dean, Uncle Earl and Aunt Mildred may be numbered.  Uncle Earl is failing fast and to see this old frail man rather than a bigger than life, gregarious man is very hard.  I think he's about 86 now.  He had been outside most of the time but got tired so he was taken back inside where he would be more comfortable and could take a nap if he wanted.  I stopped in where he was sitting and we were talking a bit -- sometimes he's not too aware of things, but is always smiling.  At any rate, I gave him a hug and told him that I loved him.   He looked me straight in the eyes, knowing very clearly who I was,  and said something to the effect that we've had some good memories, haven't we?  And then he told me he loved me, too.    I've never not known him, of course.  He and Aunt Dean got married when I was pretty much a toddler and he's been around ever since.

Aunt Mildred is 89 years old, has Alzheimer's and is nearly stone deaf, though physically pretty mobile.  While she may or may not recognize your face, its very hard to have any kind of conversation.  But when I stood in front of her and greeted her, she looked up at me with a huge smile, reached for me to give me a big hug and said "come stay with me sometime.   You used to stay with me."  And she was totally right.  I spent many, many happy hours at her house as a child, practically being kidnapped by her and Uncle Jay for a week or more at the time.  Aunt Mildred and Jay took me to the first live concert I'd ever attended and I couldn't have been more than 5 years old.  It was a bluegrass artist named  Rebe Gosdin and his band, sponsored by Martha White Flour I think.  They performed in the gymnasium of the local high school.  At any rate, I won a box of blueberry muffin mix and I had to walk across that huge floor to get it after getting a gentle push from Aunt Mildred.  And Aunt Mildred made me my very first pair of shorts which I could only wear at her house, because I wasn't allowed to wear shorts at home.  And she played games with me, and her neighbor lady had tea parties with me, and I was cherished.  When my first marriage was in shambles and I was on the verge of going nuts, she came to my house and stood directly in front of me, shaking her finger at me and telling me to never let any man drive me crazy, that I was worth more than that.  Then she hugged me and left.  All in all, I don't think she was there five minutes.   But, afterwards, I found the courage to leave that sad marriage and move on alone, not remarrying for twenty years. 

Mortality is something we all have to deal with sooner or later.  It's not an easy subject to approach or understand or discuss.  I lived across the country when my father died, so didn't get to see him in his last days.  When my mother died, I had been caring for her every other week 24/7 for a year, and I was also holding her hand the night she died.  Had someone years ago told me that I'd be able to do that and let her go so easily, I would have told them they were crazy.  But she was old at 96, her body was worn out, particularly her heart and she just had no more desire to stay on this earth.  During the time spent with her that last year, I came to know her in ways I never thought possible.  I got to hear her rants, her stories, her worries, her wishes and whatever else passes for conversation between a mother and daughter in such intimate proximity.  I had to make choices and do things during that time that ordinarily I would not have even considered, but it was the right thing to do at the time.  So, when the time came to let her go, I told her goodbye, I told her that I loved her and that it was okay for her to leave us and go see Daddy and Rhonda (my niece) and Granny and Grandpa and everyone else that would be waiting for her.  It took a couple of days for all seven of the children to be able to do the same thing, but within hours of the last son saying goodbye, she left us.  There's not one single thing I did for her during that year that I regret.  And I would not trade that precious moment of her last breath for anything.  

So, do me a favor, okay?  Go visit your loved ones.  Tell them thank you for all the things they've done for you and and for what they mean to you.  Look them in the eye and tell them you love them.  Go on, do it now, while you can.  

Y'all take care.  

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bath Time

With warmer weather upon us, even if for a short time, it was time to get the sprinkler pump back in operating mode.  Hubby went out and primed it again and then turned it on to run for a while.  You should have seen the birds' reaction to it!!!   

I had two pot saucers sitting on the back patio from where my plants had been removed due to the cold weather.  There was already a bit of water in one of them and as the sprinkler kept hitting it, it soon became a most popular bathing spot!! 

Hey, who knew chipping sparrows could twist so well??

And this little guy just had to get his chest into it!

The little guys weren't alone.  There were a couple of mourning doves and one cardinal that joined them.

To see such simply joy was a real delight.  

Y'all take care.  

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Brrrrr and More Birds

Oh, what a glorious day it is!!   I think spring is flirting with us a bit.  I know she'll be arriving soon, but we can't be too optimistic that our winter is over just yet.  We may have another cool spell. 
I don't know why that rain/falling pressure indication comes from because our forecast for the remainder of the week is glorious. 

I went on a birding trip to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in north Alabama over the weekend.  It was very cold and there was still snow on the ground from a couple days before.  But with sunshine, you can conquer lots of hurdles.  We arrived on Friday afternoon and after checking in at the motel headed off to Cave Springs.  

We then traveled to another area of the Tennessee River where we watched sandhill cranes arriving to spend the night.  The light was wonderful and they just kept coming in small flocks. 

On Saturday morning, it was again very cold but bright and sunny.  We went over to an observation tower for a good view of hundreds of sandhill cranes feeding.  

While there, I also saw my first horned lark.  What lovely birds.  The refuge manager met us at 7:30 and then proceeded to lead us on an extensive tour of the refuge, including some gated areas not open to the public.  We had been hoping to see whooping cranes, as they had been seen in the area previously, but we had no luck until the afternoon when we had all but given up hope.  There in the distance were these glorious big white birds!!   We were so excited.  We were very far away, but with the binoculars and spotting scopes, we were able to see them clearly and enjoy the view.  We also saw them again from a different angle by traveling further along the river.   I have no pictures of them because my camera lens just isn't enough to pick them up at that distance. 

Four whooping cranes have been killed this winter in southwest Georgia and eastern Alabama.  An investigation is underway and I truly hope the perpetrators are found and prosecuted.  There are only a few hundred whoopers left in the world, and to have four killed needlessly is a devastating blow to the population. 

On Sunday morning, we were up and off again.  We took a road along the river and it was glorious.  We parked the vehicles and walked for the longest way, seeing many red headed woodpeckers.  I had seen them before, but never so many in such a small area.  Their heads were blood red and they were already having territory and mating disputes.  

While there, a flock of many thousands of grackles arrived and settled in trees and the field across the way.  Something startled the flock and they rose as one group with a great whooshing sound.  As they whirled and turned, the sounds changed but it was awesome!!! Then the flock spread over us like an umbrella as they tried to settle into the trees above us, before moving along.  

After a very satisfying walk, we checked out of the motel and headed back to the visitor center observation area.  We again saw many sandhill cranes in the early morning light and numerous sparrows.  A walk through the swamp rounded out our trip.  

It sure was hard to end our trip and start the long drive home.  My traveling companions and I broke up our trip with a stop at some ponds where we saw a couple hundred scaup and three Ross's geese  that flew in shortly after we arrived.  It made for a great break from a boring drive. 

I'm realizing now that I've downloaded my pictures that I did not have the settings on my camera where I had intended.  One of these days, I hope to get that routine down better.  DUH!!!  

Y'all take care. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Frigid Frustrations and Falling Leaves

I get so frustrated these days.  I have a Nikon D60 dslr camera.  I know it's pretty much an entry level camera and that's okay, because I'm an entry level dslr user!!!
But I absolutely know that the camera is capable of lots better pictures than I seem to be able to pull out of it.  I've been scouring the manual as well as another book on the D60 and just seem to be going in circles.   There is so much information to be absorbed!!   The camera came with two lenses, an 18-55 mm and a 55-200, both with vibration reduction and auto focus.  So, I ought to be able to get at least some decent pictures.   I do okay with landscapes and such, but taking pictures of moving creatures is a whole other story!  

I really like photographing birds, but the 200 mm lens is woefully short for that kind of thing and I will not spend any money on a better lens until I at least come close to mastering the use of this camera!!    I've taken one so-called class but was very disappointed with it.  I already knew about 90% of what he covered and he was very disorganized.  Thankfully, it didn't cost a bunch. 

On to other things.  We've had a cold winter thus far, with numerous nights below freezing.  That is not the norm for us here near the coast.  Right now its about 45 and drizzling rain.  We have considerably more cold weather in the forecast.   My potted plants are all sitting in a group in front of the garden house, just in case they have to be taken in again!!  

In a week or so, it'll be time to get any pruning done and to finish applying compost, new topsoil and new mulch to the flower beds.  Actually, February 14 is the traditional day in the south for planting the potatoes, peas, etc.    And tomato seeds can be started then also.   I doubt sincerely that we will have  a garden at all.  We normally travel quite a bit in the summer and we're never home to harvest whatever we might have planted!!  

I have numerous live oaks in my yard and that's both a good thing and a bad thing.  Good in that it has green leaves year round and is wonderful shade and the birds love them.  Bad in that they don't shed their leaves all at one time, but in waves, thereby making it necessary to rake leaves numerous times over the course of the winter and early spring.  

They've been raked once already in late November and are being raked again now.  Then give it two or three weeks, depending on the weather, and it'll be time to rake them again.  In a heavy leaf year, we sometimes gather up between 50 and 75 bags of leaves on top of what we can use in the back area as mulch.   We have a couple of people who are happy to take them off our hands, and even come help rake them, too!!  

Y'all take care. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Birds and Birds

(First off, let me say that I did not take these photos but obtained them from free stock photos I found on line.  No copyright issues here.   Sorry I wasn't able to find what I wanted on all of them.)

These are the birds that I’m seeing in my yard these days.  A ruby-crowned kinglet has been here all winter long.  In the same tree, I normally see a yellow-bellied sapsucker, too.  

Many birds flock to the feeders at various times of the day.  There are blue jays

 and cardinals

and goldfinches

 and chickadees

and titmice, pine warblers, chipping sparrows, mourning doves, and some other kind of sparrow that I cannot identify.  Drives me crazy, but thus far no luck with it.  There are many bluebirds in the area but we have only one nest box up so far.  They frequent the feeder with the safflower seeds but because of where it is located, I don’t see them from inside the house.  

We also have red-bellied woodpeckers that are here year round and they will visit the feeders.  

Today I counted six male cardinals and there were some females out there, too.   The downey woodpecker doesn’t approach my feeders, although he’s a frequent enough visitor to the yard.  Obviously though, they will frequent feeders as shown here.  Looks like a suet log.  

And yesterday I saw a brown thrasher.  They are such beautiful birds, but, oh so secretive!  We will continue to see them through to late fall. 

My friend, the Birdlady, has been out of town and I’m so glad she has returned.  I was going through withdrawal symptoms because I hadn’t been birding for over a week!!  We’re going to have to make up for that.

I haven’t mentioned my Hubby lately but he is doing quite well at the moment.  Let’s hope and pray that this good streak continues for a very long while.  He has gone to a bridge tournament this week so I’m on my own for a few days.  Most of the time, I’m very content to have some alone time when he’s away.  I don’t have any idea how he feels when I take off on a trip, but he never complains about it.  After all, turn about is fair play and he was a grown man when I met him, so he can deal with it.   

I hope everyone stays safe and warm during this nasty storm that is sweeping across the country. 

Y'all take care.