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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

SUMMER READING AND NATURE

My Mother curled up on her lawn in Birmingham, Michigan
 when she was about 18 years old.She loved to read. 

Having a place to curl up and read a book has become one of the treasures of summer

When I think of summer activities the first one to pop in my mind is reading. Probably this idea was born during an unusually hot summer like the one we have been experiencing lately.


Non-fiction books are my favorite. Within this category my interests run high is many directions. I thought I would recommend a few good summer reads. The following three nature books are diverse starting with the life of an environmentalist, secondly, living with nature, and lastly, gardening with nature. Hopefully you might pencil one on your "to read" list.

A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir
by Donald Worster, copyright 2008, 544 pages
  • His thousand mile walk
  • Author noted environmentalist writer
  • John Muir, pioneer of environmental movement
  • Environmental battles

A Country Year
by Sue Hubbell, copyright 1983, 240 pages.
  • Bee keeper
  • Living alone in Missouri Ozarks
  • Self taught naturalist
  • Ex-librarian -- fifty year old woman

by Wendy Johnson, copyright 2008, 464 pages
  • Wild and cultivated world
  • Green Gulch Farm and Zen
  • Lasting terms of agriculture are on nature's terms
  • Garden practices
Enjoy!




Sunday, July 22, 2012

PRIMITIVE STONE/ROCK ART

OLD THREE STORY COMMERCIAL BUILDING

While out playing camera sleuth last evening I came upon a beautiful example of primitive stone/rock art. Almost hidden from the community it offered a great repose from the commercialization of the town. It was both old and new in its presentation.

The stone/rock art is a retaining wall that runs about thirty feet along the side of an alley. Its height is about 15 feet at its highest. Across from the wall is an old three story commercial building leaving a narrow pedestrian alley running between the building and the wall.


Above is the first glimpse I got of the stone wall -- part shadow, part sun. Upon closer inspection I noticed the diversity of the old stone and rocks and the few human touches that looked recently added. One recent addition appeared to be a narrow garden bed at the foot of the wall.


Given the types of stone work within the wall I estimated the age to be from about the time of the early 1900s. Rather primitive yet absolutely beautiful with the color variation of  rocks and stones. One metal window with a cross-hatched screen was inset in the wall, rather a mystery as to why. 


Large boulders are found along the bottom tier of the wall. Their beauty can be viewed above. Notice the bottoms of inset blue bottles behind the plants


This middle wall section with the pottery sun is filled with what I call a cement mix with gravelly type stone. The sun is a newer addition inset with a newer cement mix.


Art work pieces adorn the wall -- a hanging metal pot -- a  small blue container inset in the rock wall, gives one the human art feeling. The wall part behind the blue planter is gravelly but without the colors or beauty of the lower two thirds of the wall. Yet its crudeness lends itself to the human and natural drama of the wall.

The wall is shaped with nature and appreciated by the human mind. Beauty can be just around the corner in the least likely spots.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

DROUGHT


Hearing that the drought is affecting crops in 29 states, Kentucky being one of them, I thought I would visit some local gardens to see how the corn is doing. Corn and soybeans are suffering the most under the current dry spell. 

A photo of  local garden corn told the story around here -- as you can see it was drying up before producing full ears of corn. 

I guess this will mean higher costs for corn and soybean products -- which really are found in most processed food. 


Sunday, July 15, 2012

BROKEN CONNECTIONS


Queen Anne's Lace are bursting forth in my wild fields. They are almost ephemeral as I gaze at their gauzy lace flower heads moving with gentle breezes that are almost constantly flowing across my ridge. 

Some folks are absolutely stalwart in their negative feelings about such a beautiful plant. I hear, " they don't belong here or they are from another country or they are not native." Even the U. S. government officials join the negative chorus of voices. For a minute, I almost feel like they are talking about human immigrants. 




The comments resonate over the air waves in an erratic pattern hoping to win the minds of the people that are listening. 

I walk in my fields. I look at my Queen Anne's Lace so beautiful in composure. "So you are the culprits of my field," I say to them -- "even though you are part of the field community -- adding  beauty, giving beneficial insects food, even homes to small predatory spiders doing what they always have done plus more of which I am unaware."


Are our connections becoming broken to the beauty of  life?




Saturday, July 14, 2012

ONE ROOM SCHOOL HOUSE OR ONE ROOM CHURCH?

For Sale Building

I have passed by this building many times since moving to Kentucky. 

It always appeared empty and had a worn sign by the road announcing it was the church of love. Yet, my gut feeling was that it was probably once a one room schoolhouse now converted to a defunct church. Its building  form matched those used for early one room schoolhouses. 

Yesterday as I rode by I noticed there was a For Sale sign in front of the place that I had not noticed before. Good, I thought, I can walk on the property and take some photos as the place was definitely empty.  

In back of this one room building were two outhouses -- one with a newer sign stating "women" and the other not marked. The building sat on about an acre of land which would have allowed kids to play a good game of baseball during recess. Windows lining the one side of the building allows sunshine to flow inside. An old brick chimney jutted through the front gabled roof -- probably once belonging to a wood stove. By now you might be getting the picture -- this was a primitive building that was probably built in the early 1900s.

I looked for some other clues that might tell me its age. As I walked around the place I noticed a small spot that exposed the original limestone foundation which was a popular material for old foundations 

Building foundation

To truly say this was once a one room schoolhouse I would need to visit the county court house and search old plat maps. This takes time. I didn't want this to turn into a research project -- I would rather leave that to the new generations. 


Many buildings have had different uses during their lifetime. Log houses are covered with weatherboarding, schoolhouses with vinyl, all to hide their original lives. 


But form is usually a major clue -- telling us its original use.  For now I am sticking with my theory that it was once a country schoolhouse.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

LOCAL GARDEN TOMATO


The time has arrived in our local Kentucky gardens when you can step along a garden path and pick wonderful sun-warmed tomatoes. Oh yes, don't forget to take the salt shaker with you so you can eat those tomatoes right in the garden. What a delicious treat, especially if you are a tomato lover. 

Do you ever get tired of eating home grown tomatoes?



Sunday, July 8, 2012

HOMEMADE KENTUCKY SCARECROWS

Usually at this time of year I am out looking for scarecrows. It is a nostalgic trip as it reminds me of my father constructing a scarecrow in our basement for our family vegetable garden. I was a tag-along with him when he hoed and planted. He encouraged gardening in my psyche by giving me a very small patch to plant. I remember hoeing my patch but results have long been forgotten. 

So, in light of the horrid heat I have not been out riding the roads. I decided instead to compile the few that I have accumulated over the last couple years and display them altogether as a post. I say few as homemade Kentucky scarecrows are becoming a rare breed. Most of those below have been featured in previous posts. 

I find folks who design their own scarecrows very artistic with a deep sense of humor. Perhaps you'll get a sense of this as you scroll through these fun characters.








Thursday, July 5, 2012

SILVER MAPLE LEAF PATTERN


Silver Maple Leaf under-sides with raindrops

As I sit here I can still hear the last rumblings off in the distance of the banging thunder storm that just went through my area. I am a thunder storm nut and revel in all the lightning , thunder, and pouring rain. Unfortunately my big brave Sal dog gets nervous with each clap and sticks to me like glue. I tell him to pretend it's a loud rock band in the sky.

In today's storm I decided to stand out on my covered front porch and take photos of raindrops falling on the Silver Maple tree in front of my house. My porch gave me cover from the pouring rain. 

Little did I know that my camera was about to teach me something about the leaves of my Silver Maple until I opened the results of my photos in Picassa. It was then that  I noticed the textured under-sides of the leaves were holding a multitude of raindrops while the upper-sides were smooth and acted more as a slide for the raindrops. At first this organization of the leaf pattern stumped me. 

The photo at the top is the whitish-green under-sides of the Maple leaves loaded with "held" raindrops of all sizes.. The photo at the bottom of this post is the green upper-side of the Maple leaves showing their slick skin with barely a drop clinging. It appears that Mother Nature has designed the leaves so that the under-side stores the raindrops for tree use while the upper-side slides the raindrops to the earth below. If that is true, I'd say that is darn good system on the part of Mother Nature!

All connected -- for the benefit of all.


Silver Maple upper-side slick green pattern



Sunday, July 1, 2012

ALBERTA'S (NOT SUSIE'S) APPALACHIAN CHAIR


Recently I was riding down my road observing the natural beauty of the ride when I passed by a home that had been boarded up for about six months. There standing by the side of the road was a lone old country chair. Placing things out by the side of the road signals to folks that the article is a give-away -- take it if you want it. I swung around and went back for it. I suspect that only someone like me would take such a chair -- it was rather crude for most folk's taste. 


I knew a little history of the boarded up primitive house --  the former resident had been born in the house -- she was about 70 when she up and left this home to move into an apartment. She never waved at anyone nor even looked in their direction. This is about all I knew about this unusual woman.

I do know her name though, it was Alberta (not Susie). 

Just think of the character Boo Radley in the movie, To Kill A Mockingbird, and you will instantly know her reclusive personality.  Cats, dogs, and chickens were her friends -- she did not talk with anyone that lived along the road. She lived a lifestyle reflective of early  Appalachian culture -- individualistic and sustainable.  She intrigued me.

So I grabbed the chair from the side of the road and brought it home to be placed in my yard until I could decide what to do with it. Here was a chair that had accumulated years of wear at Alberta's home. It was, a testament to a former culture, homemade and worn. Somewhere within the chair is a story, maybe I can retrieve it over time?

ADDENDUM -- Talked with a local man that knew the family that owned the above chair. The woman's name was Alberta not Susie. Alberta was born in the house referred to in this post. 

Alberta's mother lived there too -- her name was Omi Pigg. The local man used to sell eggs to Omi Pigg about thirty years ago. Omi was very friendly according to the local man and would always sit outside in the handmade chair. He said at one time it had a matching ottoman. 

The house never had running water and was brought in by bottles. There was a crude septic that was illegal. He figured that the house was at least sixty years old or more.