Friday, May 29, 2009

The Other Side of the Road

The lake is beautiful, amazing, peaceful, wild, wonderful, but the other side of the road serves beauty of a different flavor. Miles of farm fields separate us from civilization. Farmers here rotate their crops - corn, soybeans and winter wheat are the usual crops. This year is my favorite - the winter wheat.

Winter wheat sprouts deep emerald green, fading to a luscious golden tan when harvest time comes. The fields become an organic lake, waving in the breezes, rippling much like the waves on Wheeler Lake. Throw in some amazing storm clouds and even Van Gogh would have a field day painting such a scene.

An old abandoned homestead is gradually being overtaken by foliage. Rusted metal tops of the barn and silo offer interest among the wheat.

Where did this family go? Kayla and I walked through the tiny house. There was a tiny, filthy refrigerator, an old wringer washer, a couch and a chair. A rusted iron headboard was propped against one wall where boxes tacked on the wall houses bird nests. An odd back room had a million tiny red dots meticulously spaced on all the walls and even the ceiling. A jumble of old Ball jars littered the floors. We left deep in thought.

Outside the wheat welcomed us back, waving in the Southern breeze. A storm was coming from the west.

The farmers always use Roundup in their fields before planting, which makes them glow golden for a bit. Still, the weeds persist. This dandelion doesn't know he's not supposed to be there.

The vetch surrounds the wheat fields, draping the edges like holiday garland on a Christmas tree.

Bold thistles announce their presence deep in the middle of the fields. Thistle is a farmer's bane, but the birds love the seeds and I think they're quite beautiful. The purple thistle and vetch are quite fetching with the golden tan wheat.

The storms are moving closer and it's time to head home. Before leaving I spy a low place in the wheat field where water has gathered. Through the zoom lens I notice ducks floating there and take several shots. Looking closely at these images after arriving home I was fascinated to see not only mallards but wood ducks, and a mother mallard and her babies. Flitting about among the ducks were red winged blackbirds and meadowlark. The storms came roaring through as I looked at the photos, and it was good.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God.

Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.

- Anne Frank

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Black Butterflies, Take 2,

The lantana and asters really know how to attract the butterflies. By July our sidewalk will be so thick with butterflies that traffic literally stops to watch them. Actually, they're usually watching me taking photos of them. "What are you taking pictures of?" Some stop their car and walk up to watch and I enjoy telling them about the plants and helping them identify each colorful flutterby. Well, those I can ID myself anyway. The black ones are a challenge, as I've already stated. Here are a few photos to show you what I mean. Feel free to ID them for me - we'll compare notes and see how off I am in my research.

I've been catching up on John's blog at Born Again Birdwatcher today. His series of posts about Japanese Gardens is food for thought, and his photos are exquisite. Reading these posts and immersing myself into each photograph I could feel my shoulders relax and I felt calmed. Nature in all her forms is critical to our well being. Butterflies have their scientific purpose of pollination, but their unscientific purpose is simply to bring JOY to the world. Gardens invite us to stop and feel, really feel, the world. And no garden would be complete without butterflies.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Butterfly season is beginning. Already I've seen a Buckeye, copious migrating Monarchs, a Tiger Swallowtail high up in the trees, and a Comma Angel Wing. More will be coming. I struggle with identification of some of the black swallowtails. Some are Spicebush, some are Pipevines, some are Red Spotted Purples, some are female of another species. For the life of me I cannot keep them straight. Some guy on Flicker chastised me for improper identification so obviously I need the help of experts. So....what is this one?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Recycle, recycle, RECYCLE...

Sunday afternoon Carroll and I, operating as Bay Hill Conservancy - the non-profit organization that we founded - hosted a community educational program about recycling and litter. Our guest presenters were Lynne Hart and Tanjie Schrimsher from Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful. Bay Hill Marina was our gracious host. Lynne and Tanjie gave powerful presentations on litter and recycling that really stuck with me.

One of the things I cannot get out of my mind is something called the Great Garbage Patch. This man-made disaster is twice the size of Texas, or perhaps the size of the United States. It's garbage floating in the Pacific. You just have to see it. I urge you to link through and read about this. I've learned that the topic has been on many programs, including Oprah, but not being a huge TV watcher I've missed it totally.

Arriving home and preparing dinner after the program I was very mindful of what I was discarding and what I was recycling. All day Monday my brain had the same running thought - this "thing" that I'm pitching...will it end up in the Great Garbage Patch? Will this piece of plastic be the death of some sea turtle? Will a baby albatross die because of me? Guys, this has been keeping me up. I pride myself on being "Green." We don't have curbside recycling pick up here so we schlep it to the marina or into town. I do it happily, as do many. Still, here are some things from just Monday that made it into the trash - these do not appear to be recyclable in my area...if at all.

The bird seed bag.

The sliced cheese wrapping.

The plastic bag inside our box of wine.

The wrapping around my colby-jack chunk of cheese.

The orange doohickie cap thingie I had to pop off my new ink cartridges. I'm not sure about this one and have to call as there's no triangle and number stamped on it.

However, the onion bag from Publix is recyclable - yay!

I immediately bought reusable bags. Normally, I get plastic bags because I clean up after Baylee during our walks and they are perfect for the task. Still...landfills are a huge problem as well so I carry my reusable bag with pride and will only take the occasional plastic bags as needed.

I even bought this cute little bag at the CVS Pharmacy.

Truly, I'm not obsessed about it but am certainly more mindful after Sunday's program - especially after reading about The Great Garbage Patch. Good heavens. Please, please, please let's all work together and take better care of our planet.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Lake Guntersville and the butterfly

I'm back from Lake Guntersville in beautiful, exquisite Northeastern Alabama. Oh, my goodness what a gorgeous area this is. Gently rolling Appalachian foothills, this area is worth the 2 hour drive from my house every time. I really wanted to meet and visit with Eve of Sunny Side Up, who just moved to Grant, Alabama, but my work schedule didn't allow extra time for that kind of fun. We'll meet soon though, and you can count on a double-blog extravaganza! In the meantime, from my balcony at the amazing Lake Guntersville State Park Lodge I had the perfect view toward Grant. Somewhere in those tree-filled hilltops covered with misty clouds is Eve's house. Hello Eve!

The ESPN/Bassmaster's Expo was fun. Lots of huge bass were caught and I made lots of contacts. The best part, truly, was discovering what the B.A.S.S. organization is all about. Sunday morning waiting for my boss to wake up and join me for breakfast (he was an hour late) I opened up my BASS Times Magazine and boned up. What I discovered was an amazing organization that is incredibly conservation and ecology oriented. I mean, yeah, there were the ads for jigs and all manner of fishing accouterments that I couldn't identify, but the articles were eye-opening and smart. Very smart.

So, okay that was my weekend at Lake Guntersville. Lots of deer, lots of hills and rocks, lots of fishermen and fast boats. Following all that excitement and movement I was ready for the peace of my house by the lake. Pulling up into the driveway I was happy to see my Virginia Sweetspires in full bloom. Those dirigible bumblebees were drunk on the nectar, running into me and the house with loud thunks. Thankfully, there are no bumblebee police to pull them over for drunk driving - LOL!

The butterflies are beginning to show up. This delicate Comma Angel wing graciously allowed me to follow it about and fill up my flashcard with photos. There were a few skippers flitting about as well, but this brand new beauty made my day.

Enjoy the peace of the butterfly and have a wonderful, lovely, stellar weekend. It's good to be home.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Gone Fishin'

Okay, technically this is NOT a fishing boat. But I think it's down right purty. This baby cruised westward last autumn. It's one of the most elegant yachts I've ever seen on this river. The river channel is about 2 miles away across the lake. I'm just leaving you all with a nice boaty, lakey photo for the weekend because I'll be off-line about 4 days. The website I work with,, has a booth set up at the ESPN/Bassmasters Tournament at Lake Guntersville State Park, and I'll be there. It's supposed to rain. Big surprise. We've had so much rain I wouldn't be surprised to see an Ark float by soon. But...I'M NOT COMPLAINING since this is the obvious end to our 3-4 year drought. So enjoy your weekend and I'll chat with you all later next week.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


On the twisty two lane road leading to Wheeler Dam this abandoned bait shop always catches my eye. While not being a fisher person myself, the ambiance of the sport is comforting. Humans have fished for ages as a source of pleasure, relaxation and sustenance. One cannot compare soft, still mornings at dawn drifting with the current, casting one's lure into a silent lake with anything else. Fishermen have told me tales of eagles landing in trees above their head, ospreys catching their own fish oblivious to the boat's presence, and raccoons and skunks slinking to the water's edge to drink in their presence.

Wheeler Lake is known for its bass fishing, but we've observed men with nets and racks setting up for catfish, and heard stories of alligator gar, and kids love to catch the bream and sunfish. Catfish at the dam reach tremendous weight - up to 300 lbs. With all this activity going on, why then did this "one-stop bait shop" close? It's not been in service for quite some time, by all appearances.

However, at one time fishermen crowded these aisles to get minnows and crickets, tackle and night crawlers, shad guts and fiddleworms. Oh, and don't forget the ice. Laughter and fish tales and back-slapping and friendship. And secrecy...don't let your other buddies know where you'll be fishin.' The sound of ice poured into coolers. Who remembers huge ice chests filled with ice and water within which all the bottled soft drinks could be found? You had to reach into the chilly depths to snag the drink of your choice. Coca Cola, RC Cola, Dr. Pepper, Orange Crush, Root Beer. Coca Cola's bottle shape was designed specifically for this process - it was the only one with fluted sides and was easily distinguishable from the top.

The fishermen would fish all day and meet back here the next morning to brag about what they caught the day before, and so it would begin all over again. Traditions of men make me nostalgic for the past. True's Food Store after school where we'd get a snow cone, a Dr. Pepper, a Moon Pie, and those tiny waxed bottles filled with colored sugar water, or Pixie Stix before walking to my mom's dress shop to do our homework. I took for granted the innocence of that time when we could walk from home to downtown, about 2 miles, through the woods without fear. When we could walk all over the hills and valleys in our small town without checking in every 5 minutes, as long as we were home by the time the streetlights came on. Backyard cookouts and catching lightning bugs. Simple pleasures. Simpler times.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Tick Tock, New Dock

You've all been waiting patiently for new photos of the dock, I'm so sure. Here are a few. Up top - no dock. The barge rumbles in and sets posts as anchors into the muddy river bottom.

The welding was my favorite part, undoubtedly.

Foreman Mark holds a post with a strap while the crane pounds it with a huge weight, which you can see below.

Each post is leveled by Mark, using his level and bare hands pushing or pulling the post as necessary while the weight booms down over his head. Talk about trust.

Just a cool-o, neat-o shot of Mark welding pre-dawn. It's not crisply focused because I didn't have time to set up the tripod. This is the best hand-held shot.

Someone welding on the second level.

An iron skeleton.

Camaraderie and respect.

Balancing act. These guys could give our Olympic gymnasts a run for their money, except for all those flips and splits, that is.

Another cool-o, neat-o welding shot.

Laying down the metal that will become the concrete form; cutting it to size.

There's such abstract beauty in the building process.

How many men does it take to pour concrete on a dock? I counted a dozen, counting the guys trailing up the bank to the cement truck.

A view from a neighbor's dock due east.

This guy had a really long pole attached to a squeegee thingie to smooth the wet concrete and I suppose get out the air pockets. Stop me if I get too technical.

Buffing and finishing the concrete. See the guys standing on the boat working on the lower section? The concrete was poured several weeks ago and more work has been done but I'll save that for another day. I know, I's completely captivating. It has been for me, anyway. I burned 2 DVDs of photos for the owner of the company just for grins. I have no use for the photos but maybe he can use them in presentations or something. It was such fun taking them and getting to know these guys. Thanks for indulging me.


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