Friday, July 25, 2014

My Heart's Just Not In It


The garden is doing SO well this year!  But, it's a bit overwhelming to me.  I just can't keep up with it right now.  I had also hoped to be blogging a little more often, showing new projects and new topics but I just don't have it in me.  I'm tired, tired, tired.  My chest aches and I get winded walking back from the chicken house.  I seemed to be feeling better there for a while but the fatigue and foggy-headedness just won't go away.  Something is not right, but I don't know what it is.  I suspect I know but am not sure.  Thought I knew several times before now.  At any rate, I am going to try to keep posting something.  It may just be photos or such for a while though.
And speaking of photos, here's a bunch of the garden just so ya'll can see.  I hope all of ya'll that have a garden this year are also getting a good harvest.  I have managed to can some green beans and some dilly beans for the first time but am not sure how much more I'll do.


Even my eggplants are doing good this year!!  Now, ya'll long time readers know how I have fought and cursed with these things over the years, never able to eek out more than a couple puny little fruits.  But this year they are really doing good and we have enjoyed several of them for supper.  I think what helped was all the rain we got early in the season.


The bug patrol still helps me when I pick green beans.  I can't tell what they are eating but they just go nuts over something in the plants.  I planted Contender this year and I swore I will never plant a bush bean again.  The bending over to pick them is killing my back.  I also am not real thrilled with the flavor of the Contender.  Oh, it's okay but the French heirlooms have a much richer taste.


I have been ecstatic to see so many honeybees on the corn this year.  Just a swarm practically.  They were slow coming around but they are here in force now.   While they are here they also come up to the house to drink from the chickens water basin.  I'm happy to keep water out for them and we keep several dishes and bird bathes out for such purpose.  I don't think the chickens are real thrilled with sharing their water with them but they don't hurt the bees.


The sunflowers are all volunteers but they are doing great!  The wild birds use them for food and I'll throw an old head to the chickens every so often.  They enjoy picking through them for the seeds.


I had a mystery plant appear in a not too crowded area of the garden, so I just let it grow out of curiosity.  Seems it's a pumpkin!!  So far I only have this one fruit but I'm hoping it might make at least one more.  I'm excited to see if it's going to get very big.


My first year for successful green onions also!!  Yay!!  These are great and I'm going to try to keep some going at all times.  Right now I just kinda pick them as I need them and they seem to be doing fine without going to seed.


It's been an extraordinary year for squash also.  I may try canning some for winter casseroles, maybe.  If I have the energy.  I would at least like to put up some more salsa, peaches and peas, which are starting to come in now.  I suppose I could freeze the peas if I got desperate and then can them later.  Maybe?  Can you do that?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Dish It Out


I believe I had promised ya'll some photos of the new designs in clay I have been working on  so here ya go!  I am not entirely satisfied with these results but I think they are a good start.  I have really been trying to come up with a more sophisticated or professional look to my work and I have been pleased so far.  I've been working with a white clay, which is a huge departure for me, but I really love it and just trying to really focus on good craftsmanship but with a little more "flair".


I'm not sure that I like the really white glaze here and am looking for more of a off-white or cream and in a satin finish instead of this gloss.  The blue accents should be more of a bronzy- green also; I had the glaze a bit thin on this trial.  Of course, there are tons of color combinations this would look good with but I was trying to lighten up a bit!  I have always used a rather dark, earthy palate in my ceramics and I think a change would be good.
I have a Facebook page for just my artwork and these dishes were not particularly well received when I posted them there.  I had a few 'likes' but not what I often get.  Everyone who has seen them in person has been very complimentary though.  Haha!  Maybe they were just being polite!  At any rate, the only thing that matters is if I like them and like I said, I am still in the experimenting stage here.  I think though that this is a good lead and will eventually result in a series I really like.

Friday, July 18, 2014

River Low Mountain High


This past week was unseasonably mild with low humidity and since we had been working hard on the garden, art and various things, which I will show ya'll soon, we thought a fun day out was in order.  I was also waiting rather impatiently on the kiln to cool so I could see some new experiments, so a road trip was a good way to keep me from opening the kiln too soon.  We had talked often about going back to Little River Canyon and some of ya'll may remember our trip there a couple of years ago.  That trip was in the winter though and I wanted to experience it in warm weather.
The water levels were down quite a bit but it was still very pretty and actually safer to do a little swimming.
This is the main falls up near the entrance to the park.  Since the weather was SO nice I expected the place to be overran but it wasn't terribly crowded.


I love the rock formations at this place.  I'm not sure what type of rock that is; have to do a little more studying on the subject.  Northern Alabama has a lot of limestone and that may be what it is but I'm not sure.  At the entrance to the park, which is a National Preserve, they have a really nice, large visitor's center, which has also won various awards for it's "green" building components.  You can watch films there about the history of the area etc. and I believe they also hold various conferences and classes there that are somehow affiliated with Jacksonville State University.


These people were enjoying a not too deep swimming hole set back from the falls a bit.  After we took a few photos here we decided to go all the way to the other end of the park and drive the length of it, back up to this point.


We were about a third of the way up from the "bottom" of the park when we noticed a sign for Orbix hot glass studio.  It said welcome to the public so we decided to go in and see what was going on.  Turns out it was a real high class studio and these fellers really knew their business.  They had an area where you could sit and watch them work but were close enough to talk to them, so we watched them make 2 or 3 of these pitchers.


Excuse the crappy photos.  I'm still learning this camera and some of the settings were not correct.  Anyhoo, this was very interesting and it was amazing to watch them.  They had recently been featured in one of the fancy Birmingham style magazines, so they were working on production in anticipation of orders from the coverage.  I hope they do well.  Of course they had a showroom there so you could buy directly from them also after you watched them at work.  Well, we might could if we win the lottery but somebody could buy the stuff.


It was fun and a nice extra to the trip.


There are various falls throughout Little River with varying degrees of difficulty to get to them.  Some of them are right by the road and some of them require a fairly strenuous hike down to them.  And then a real strenuous hike back up.  Maybe one day.


Little River is the deepest canyon east of the Mississippi and is unique because it flows for most of its length atop Lookout Mountain, which is kinda flat on top.


Over the years I've read or heard people, who had to travel through Alabama to get to the beach or other destinations say, 'well, we drove through as fast as we could to get out of Alabama!'.  Ya, and miss some of the most beautiful sites around and wonderful places to visit.


'Course, if people have that ugly an attitude about us, we don't want them to stop here noways.  Keep our beautiful treasures to ourselves.


As we approached the north end of the park again we stopped off at one of the more popular falls because it wasn't too far a hike down to the water and I was determined to do some swimming.  When the water is higher some of these areas can be quite dangerous but right now the water was wonderful.  Deep, languid pools that were like your own little spa.  Well, you and the little fishies, which were abundant.  The water was wonderfully only slightly cool.  The perfect temperature to me.
.

This feller was trying his hand at some fly fishing.  I imagine this area would be great for that.  There are a fair number of camping places available here also, as well as cabins to rent etc.


Just down from where I was swimming in a kinda shallow pool was a much larger, deeper pool that was very popular.  These little redneck kids ain't skeered of no high jumps.  Yes, I know that is horrible grammar etc. in case anybody is thinking of my last post!  It was good to see most of the kids jumping were wearing float jackets though.


This is the side opposite from where they were jumping from so high but it had some good launching points too.  When I was a kid, and where, you were high-falutin' if you got to go to a real pool to swim.  The creek and railroad trestle was were I learned to swim and also got over my fear of jumping from high places.  Places like this are the best swimming holes in my opinion.  Beautiful clean water in a wonderful area.  Oh, the park is free also, so it's a great place to come frequently, as I imagine many locals do.  Bring you a picnic lunch down here and spend all day.


On our hike back out I even spotted some native flora I'd never seen before.  I'll have to see if I can find this species in my new Alabama fern book.  I also spied a plant near this that looked very much like a native wild orchid but I could have been mistaken.


And on the way out we stopped to take our required sign location photo.  One day I'm gonna get off my butt and put all these in the travel scrapbook I want to make.
So, we had a great day and I was wore out by the time we got home but we really enjoyed it.  If you've never been to Little River Canyon I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

You Got That Right

Or mention that you do or do not believe in God. lol!


I stumbled across this tonight and thought it was funny.  Not a commentary on my blog or anything.  lol!

Friday, July 11, 2014

One Step Up

 Somewhere along the line I slipped off track
I'm caught movin' one step up and two steps back


Two busy days didn't get Tilly much garden time for foraging and we noticed this morning she was moving a little slow again.  After a bit of observation I also noticed that 2 of the other Buffs, that are so much larger than Tilly, seem to be bullying her away from the food quite often.  Well, we can put a stop to that pretty quick.  Tilly and Pumpkin get to go into the garden every chance we get but George and Elenore don't.  And Tilly and Pumpkin get the big run to themselves after we let the big chickens out for the day.  Now she's back to streaking around the run, hunting bugs and other goodies although she's usually always up for a good snuggle too and a nap on your lap or shoulder if you'll sit still long enough.  Tilly is a love bug; she loves attention and I have the photos to prove it!
I sat her up on a stump the other day to get some photos and, after standing there staring at me for a moment, she caught the mood and started throwing down some poses for me!


Work it girl!!


Show us whatcha got!  
This has got to be one of the cutest chickens ever.  She is growing, although it seems like a painfully slow process. 


I realized that I have felt a lot like Tilly this past year.  One step up, two steps back.  Maybe that's one reason I have been so taken with her and am determined she is going to grow up big and strong.
I feel pretty good some days, for days in a row, and then it seems like I pay for that good feeling with several bad days in a row.  It just all seems so sudden to me.  I didn't used to feel this bad so often for days on end.  And now the garden is coming in like gangbusters and needs to be taken care of.  It is a little overwhelming at times but I am not trying to do everything.  I am actually being reasonable and just saying, I'll do what I can do.


For almost a year now I have been having some real pain in my very low spine that I've never had before and I'm beginning to suspect I may have cracked something down there.  The last X-rays I had done were before this pain started and it started rather suddenly late last summer.  So, maybe a trip to see about this soon.  I've put it off because I thought, well, it's just sore, it'll go away.  But, it never has and has recently gotten much worse for some reason.  Pain medicine doesn't do much to help it either. 

I keep telling myself I'll get caught up on my pottery and then I can take a week off to work on just the house.  But now, my rear hurts so much (to just be blunt about it) that I can't sit for very long and throw, so it's kinda hard to produce the ton of stuff I need to in order to be "caught up".  I've tried raising my pottery wheel higher but I still am getting severe cramps and spasms in my back if I work very long.  Oh crap!!  I just realized this has turned into another one of those depressing posts the BFA was haranguing me about! LOL!  Gah!! I just can't get away from it!  haha!  Well, I guess we all go through spells of rain and sunshine and Tilly and I will both make it over this hump one day.  We both will keep slogging on.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Bat Country

 I can't recall if I have ever mentioned my bat critters on the blog before but the whole deal has turned into a bit of a saga this summer.  Now, I love bats.  I think they are wonderful, beneficial creatures that have been wrongly maligned for centuries.  Can't say that I would want to snuggle with one but I would certainly never do one harm.  In fact, I want to help them if I can and I had hoped my place would be a refuge for bats and bees and any other creatures that are so helpful but hardly seen.
Well, a year or so after moving in down here I had noticed one bat living in the west end attic louver.  I have always had screen wire tacked to the inside of the vent so critters could not actually enter the attic but he (she?) seemed to like the louver part just fine.  Unfortunately, I had not tacked the wire down on the bottom such that the bat could not get on a flat area, which it did immediately and began, well,...pooping.  Apparently, bats like to lay flat as much as anything, rather than hanging upside down because this one was always laying flat out on it's stomach whenever I went up there.  Well, I didn't think much about it; it didn't seem to be doing any harm really, so I just let it be.
So then we fast forward to about the time Jack came to live here and started moving a bunch of his stuff up into the attic because I didn't have much storage space elsewhere.  Previous to this I rarely went up there, because I just didn't need to, and didn't think about the bat too much.  Well, after we were up there on and off I noticed there were now 3 bats living in the louver.  Hhmm.  I don't know if these were children grown up or other adults recruited or what but it seemed that the extras just kinda showed up rather suddenly and then one day there were 4!
I also began to notice about this time that there was a slight odor in the attic.  Okay, let's rephrase that.  There was a strong odor in the attic and a slight odor in the pantry, which is as you may remember the location of the attic access.   They were pooping so much on that flat part of the louver that the smell was becoming very unpleasant.  Bat guano may be a wonderful fertilizer but it is some hideous shit (literally) to be around.  Something must be done I told Jack.  Poor Jack.  He really gets the short end of the stick around here sometimes.  But once again, he bravely soldiered on and scraped up all the bat poop and tacked the wire down securely so they could not get on that flat part anymore.  They could now only get into the slanted boards and their poop would, theoretically, just roll out into the yard below.  We also dusted the flat board and inside of the attic well with baking soda to help absorb the smell, which I think it did eventually.
Bats, however, must have a very sensitive smeller though, because the next day this little guy (gal?) came to visit me.  Apparently they were rather unhappy with the baking soda remodel and spent the day outside.


I was walking down to my studio in the basement and noticed some quick movement near the door but I couldn't quite make out what I was seeing.  As I went to open the door I found myself face to face with this!  It would open one eye just enough to peer at me, daring me to squawk at it's presence.  I felt kinda bad but I had no idea that they would find baking soda that upsetting.  It wasn't even on the areas they rested on.  But, I was also delighted at the opportunity to observe this one so closely and it stayed there all day.  I mean, look at that hair!!  It's the Elvis of bats!  So of course Jack insisted we name him Baxter.  Ha!
We were also very careful not to disturb it, not to touch it and not to let any of the animals around it.
Now, there are several species of bats native to Alabama and naturally I concluded that this is one of the rarest and I am doing my part to help the struggling creatures.  Actually, I don't have a clue what type this is.  All the photos look the same to me.  But, rare or not, I want to help them and provide them a safe home.  I found THIS  interesting link on the benefits of having bats around.  The fact that just one Little Brown Bat can catch up to 600 mosquitoes in one hour is especially cool!

So, the bats eventually got over their distaste of the baking soda and a few days later we noticed Baxter and crew were back in their usual place.  Since they could no longer get on the flat board most of their poo actually seemed to be falling outside, the smell disappeared and we went about our business.  And they did also it seems.


Jack went up into the attic the other day about something and we now have TEN bats living in the louver.  Maybe it's the red paint, I don't know, but they love this thing.  Well, a friend of mine gave me an official, never-before used bat house in a attempt to lure them into finer accommodations.  We hung it on the same end of the house at a similar height and then placed 2 bags of moth balls right on the inside of the louver as they are really supposed to not like that odor.  Ya right.  They left for 2 days I think and now are right back.  I really don't mind them being there; the vast majority of the poo is going outside and there's no smell, so far.  I guess a large enough group of them could possibly block the flow of air out of the attic, and they seem bent on becoming as large a tribe as possible, but I don't know if that would actually happen.

So, for now I'm not really sure what to do.  Except enjoy the fact that there are not very many deer fly or mosquitoes around.  lol!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Cry Me A River

 Well, nothing like talking to a real life friend to totally mash any delusions that your blog is enjoyable and entertaining for folks!  I'm just joking around really.  Sorta.  I talked to the infamous BFA today and he informed me that every time he had read my postings lately he went away with the desire to go stick his head in the oven.  I take it he felt my posts were kinda "downers".  Haha!   Well, it hasn't been my intention, to be posting depressing stuff, but I may have inadvertently gone that way a few times.  So....to make up for this gross transgression...I give you.....
Fuzzy, baby chicken butts!!!
They make all things right again and spread the warm fuzzies like nobody's bidness!!  Sorta like when George, the largest of the babies, gets on my shoulders and craps down my back.  I even have a feel-good, warm fuzzies story to go along with them.


The baby you see pictured here is Tilly, the youngest and smallest of the four new bitties we got a couple weeks ago.  They all seemed quite healthy and active when we got them but I noticed a few days after they had been here that Tilly just didn't seem to be as active.  She stood in the corner a lot and always wanted in my lap when I would go visit them, where she would quickly fall asleep.  A heavy rain shower came through one afternoon and it turned unusually chilly afterwards, so I went out to check on the babies where I found Tilly huddled in the corner once again, shivering a little.  Now, for some reason she is kinda bald on her lower back, and baby chickens need a lot of warmth, so I scooped her up and brought her into the house.  I had also noticed that her crop never seemed to be anywhere near full and she didn't seem to like the chick starter meal we had gotten them.


 I pulled out a box and made Tilly a quick bed within it on an old heating pad.  A soft, stuffed dog took the place of Mama Hen and it wasn't long before Tilly was nice and warm and sound asleep.  I had gotten her to eat several raspberries beforehand but I knew it wasn't going to be enough to last.
The next morning we took her out with the others but she just didn't seem to be eating like they were.  I experimented a little and found that, alone with me in the yard, she would forage and gobble up stuff as well as any other chick though.  Now, Tilly must be about half the age of the other chicks she came with because they were SO much bigger than her.  They never attacked her or anything but if you have ever had chickens you know that they get very excited around food and Tilly was just getting knocked around every which way when she found a bug or whatever and was usually coming up empty handed, so to speak.  The lack of getting much down her gullet was making her weak and further unable to fend against the bigger chicks.


So, Jack and I devised a plan.  We would take Tilly into the garden with us while we were working, so she could forage all she wanted to with no competition.  She loved it.  Finally, she could have all she wanted to eat without having to fight those others.  And, since she is so small, she is absolutely no harm to the garden.  We started letting one other chick (Pumpkin) go with her, so that she would have some company, and it's so much space they would not be competing.  Either Jack or I am always with her too, because the garden is not covered and a hawk could, theoretically, swoop down and just haul her off.  It worked really well and soon Tilly was stuffed full of bugs and other goodies and even eating her chick starter meal again.  She regained her strength and now even takes bugs away from some of the others!  She's small but she's fast. 


After she regained enough strength and was running all over Pumpkin, we started bringing all four of the chicks into the garden with us while we're working.  It works really well actually.  They are small enough now that they don't damage any plants or the fruits.  Well, they will snatch a strawberry or blueberry if they can reach it but I will afford them a nutritious snack like that.  The strawberries are about gone anyway.  They run through the beans and tomatoes and squash like nobody's business, eating bugs and such and never hurt the plants or disturb things.  George, the biggest, does scratch a little but even he doesn't mess much up. 


Little Tilly's legs are so tiny that, even though she goes through the motions of scratching, she's not really moving anything.  I'll even sometimes move the mulch for her so she can look for bugs or worms and then move it back after she has scoured the area.
She loves the garden so much now that she runs like crazy to the gate anytime she sees us come around.  Unfortunately, we can't stay out there all day with her but she, and the others, do get a few hours a day and they have their regular outdoor run the rest of the time.  With this procedure Tilly has caught up enough that I don't really worry about her anymore.  Her crop is always about to pop at the end of every day now, so she's getting her fill! 


They were also very quick to learn that wherever we are digging there is liable to be worms and bugs to be found and you can see here how much they were "helping" Jack weed this area.  You can also see that huge overgrowth of weeds and grass that I let get out of hand.  But, valiant Jack soldiered on until he dug all that crap out.  He then put down black silt fence to kill any roots.  A little later I'll finish the brick entryway and side beds that go in this area.  If nothing else, Tilly gave us the motivation to work in the garden weeding for longer than we probably would have otherwise, just to give her plenty of time to eat.  It paid off for all of us.