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Rosedale Garden

A Drought, Tom's Wall, and the Renaissance Faire

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Rosedale GardenThe heat and drought continue in Alabama and other parts of the Southeast. Record high temperatures continued into November. In my backyard in NW Alabama, I’ve had 0.40 inches of rain total for the months of September and October.

There won’t be a fall garden. The Cherokee Purple tomatoes I started in February finally yielded three tomatoes this weekend. I couldn’t get the garden plowed up to plant them, so I put them in large, twenty-gallon containers. With temperatures in the nineties, the black plastic just cooked them. I’ve been trying to redo a couple of beds that trumpet vines have taken over. I thought the best course would be to dig up the daylilies and physically remove the roots. Now I have a large collection of potted plants I can’t get back into the ground.

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With soybean combining, the air is so hazy and the dust stirred up so heavy that you couldn’t see the combines. Little rain is expected for the next month, and many farmers will not be planting winter wheat.

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Not being able to do yard work, I’ve been to Dragon boat races. A team from my hospital came in first this year. I also went to Tom Hendrix’s wall. Tom has been constructing the wall since 1988 as a tribute to his great great-grandmother, who was a 14-year-old Euchee Indian girl forcibly moved to an Oklahoma reservation during the Trail of Tears. She later ran away and traveled alone all the way back to her homeland in north Alabama. So far, the wall contains over 8.5 million pounds of stones and will stretch over one and a quarter mile.

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Afterwards, I went to the Renaissance Faire in Florence. After I came home, I fed the hooligans (my three rescued Border collies) and watered the potted plants. Levi had broken into my compost box again, after some sour dough bread scraps, and had scattered stuff all over the front and back yards. After cleaning up, I went inside for the game.

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Right after Auburn's game with Arkansas started, I heard a bang and the power went out. After calling the power company, I lit some oil lamps. I knocked the chimney off of the one out in the garden room, and it shattered into a bunch of pieces. So then I was barefooted and trying not to step on any glass. I went out in the garage to get the broom, and by flashlight (with shoes on now ) I tried to sweep up the pieces.

After the power came on, I noticed I cut my upper leg somehow. I finally figured out that I scraped it on the trailer hitch when I went out to the garage to get the dustpan. My washer was also going when the power went out, and I found out it would finish up where it left off. Only problem was that it wouldn't unlock no matter how many times I turned it off. I finally turned off the breaker for a while and it finally unlocked.

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Now, to find the repeat of Auburn's game and have some BBQ pig! The neighbors went out to Bob's truck to hear the last four minutes of the 'Bama game during the blackout.

Oh, and with fall migration going on, I had to check out a couple of Alabama's Birding Trails NW loop.

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With fall coming, the mice are looking for a place to spend the winter in my garage again. I put out a few of those sticky traps one night. The next morning, I opened the garage door and Blackie shot around the corner, grabbed the mouse stuck to the pad, and stood there with the pad stuck to her nose. I’m not sure how she knew about the mouse, as I put the pad down after I closed the doors for the night. After I got home late that night and was unloading my camera gear, she managed to pull the mouse off of the pad.

I remember the last time something decided to spend winter in my garage:

It was pouring down rain when I got home, so I let the hooligans into the garage attached to the house and closed the door down to a height where they could get out if they wanted. They have a dog door on the barn and nice beds under the stairs, but they have to sleep out in the front yard no matter what the weather so they can see what’s going on in the neighborhood.

I put my mail on my truck when I went to the barn to feed. Later, I thought about it and knew that I would have confetti in the morning if I didn’t get it. Blackie and Patches kept barking at the door after I went back in the house. Levi was nowhere to be found. That should have given me a little clue that something was wrong.

I finally got tired of listening and went back out to see what the uproar was about. Half of my garage is full of potted plants and hanging baskets brought in for over wintering. Blackie kept lunging at a group of plants. I got closer for a look and told Blackie she was imagining things — Blackie has a mission to eliminate every creepy-crawly critter on the property. I leaned over to right some pots they had overturned and turned my head toward some hanging baskets inches away, and stopped in mid-sentence. There, stretched out across two hanging baskets, was a rat snake.

Now, I had gotten comfortable after feeding the dogs, and — no shoes, just sweatpants and a T-shirt. I put one glove on, grabbed the snake, and tried to get to the opener button and find an umbrella with Blackie jumping up and grabbing the snake’s tail. Did I say it was pouring rain and the umbrella I found only covered one side? So there I was, standing barefooted out in the pouring rain, and the snake was not happy. I was trying to decide where put it so it wouldn’t turn into a tug-of-war rope. I finally decided to put it in the ditch on the other side of the road, since Blackie couldn’t get there because of my underground fence. It would be safe.

Just as I turned it loose, one of the neighbors drove by going home, so my hope for secrecy was dashed. There I was, standing on the side of the road in a pouring rainstorm, one glove on like Michael Jackson, no shoes, only sweat pants and a T-shirt on, holding half an umbrella. He drove by real slow. After getting in the house, I had to call his wife and explain why this crazy woman was out on the road like she was.

Moral of the story: if Blackie and Patches are chasing something and Levi is not around, it’s longer than a mouse.

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The Return to Coldwater

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On September 11, 2001, I was at work teaching a new RN orientation class. The education department supervisor came in and announced that something was happening in New York, and turned on the television. In disbelief, we watched the replay of a plane going into one of the twin towers.

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Fifteen years later, I spent the weekend at Oka Kapasa — Return to Coldwater in Tuscumbia, Alabama, with descendants of those removed from the southeast during the Trail of Tears. They have a reason to protest, but what I saw was the education of local schools about the old ways of doing things to survive every day. I saw people honoring the USA and Alabama flags; I saw them honoring our Vets; I saw the honoring of the citizens of the area. Tuscumbia was the only city along the removal route whose citizens provided food, clothing, and medical care.

I saw USA flags at half-mast all over the Shoals.

Now, contrast this to what I saw on some of the football games during the "Star-Spangled Banner" by the players.

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A little bit of history about our area during the War of 1812:

Native Americans from the north came down to an area in what is now Colbert Ferry on the Natchez Trace, along the Tennessee River, and met with local Native Americans. The North tried to talk the South into supporting the British. The southern Natives decided to side with the Americans. General Andrew Jackson promised that if they helped him in the Battle of New Orleans, they would not be removed. Blacks were promised freedom. Neither promise came to fulfillment. Over four thousand died on the way to Oklahoma.

A large number of Native Americans throughout the southeast were brought through Coldwater (Tuscumbia) and on to Tuscumbia Landing for transport down the Tennessee River. Tuscumbia is the only documented town along the route that provided clothing, blankets, food, and medical care. Chilly McIntosh was quoted in a local newspaper during that time as saying, “As long as our nation remains upon the earth, we will recollect Tuscumbia.”

For an account of the hardships suffered on the way, a friend found this story by one of the soldiers.

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Each year, Native Americans return to Tuscumbia to commemorate the actions the people of the city took when the Native Americans were camped here during their removal. Part of the Oka Kapassa Festival is a reverse walk almost two miles long, taken from Tuscumbia Landing on the river back to the homeland in Tuscumbia.

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One of my friends — whom I first met on the walk as a photographer a few years back — posted this comment on her Facebook page, and I share it with her permission:

"Just got home from Oka Kapassa Festival, and though I am glad to be home, every time I leave that place I leave a small piece of my heart there. Tuscumbia is magical as it's a part of our homelands, but it's made even more special by the people there. The festival committee are the most caring, loving people, who I am honored to call family. The school kids are always so respectful and kind. I have kids who first saw me perform in 2011 who search me out every year, as well as adults who search me out to hug me and thank me for coming. One woman ambled across the grounds to hug me, telling me that she has come to see me for the past three years, that she'd had surgery two days ago, and that I was the reason she got out of the hospital. I was so honored. I was so pleased to be asked to showcase in Florence at a library. The next day back at festival, 10 or more people came up, telling me after seeing me at the library they had to come to the festival to hear more. I was so touched by these people. The festival is a place I can reconnect every year with friends. The friends I have made through the festival bring so much joy and LAUGHTER to my life. Thank you Tuscumbia, your Oka Kapassa gives me more than I could ever repay. There's too many people to tag, but know I love you all!"

—Storyteller: Amy Bruton-Bluemel

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Locally, farmers are finishing up combining corn and preparing the fields for wheat or canola. Despite the drought, hay is being baled. Soybeans are beginning to turn from green to yellow. What little cotton there is in the area is almost ready to pick. Fall is here, but temperatures are still in the nineties. Sunday, with 100 degrees, broke the high-temperature record standing since 1933. Hummingbirds have started their migration back to Central America. I’ve been keeping ten feeders up since the first of August.

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Coon Dogs, Zinnias, Hummingbirds, and Butterflies

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 If the title sounds like you'll be seeing a lot of pictures ...

 

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The summer heat continues in the Tennessee Valley. The Hooligans are spending most of their day in the shade. I’ve been feeding them late, as Blackie thinks it’s too hot to eat. But then again, I found her stash of apples under some of the landscaping that she’s brought up from the lower forty. She loves apples, but they are on her allergy list. That might have something to do with a reluctance to eat all of her food, and also the scratching she’s been doing. When it’s cool enough to feed, the Hooligans get their minds on chasing mice.

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Soybeans are knee high. Some of the earlier-planted fields are beginning to get a yellow cast. Combines are in the corn fields. There’s a haze in the area from all the dust generated in the fields.

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Hummingbirds are beginning to migrate. Sugar is on my grocery list every week. Right now I have ten feeders up, and I’m changing out four to five of them each day.

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Normally I grow profusion zinnias, as they spread out, are low growers, and butterflies like them. This year I added some of the old-fashioned tall zinnias. One variety that I hadn’t tried before is the cactus zinnias. The blooms are fuller, and the irregular edge on the flowers stands out in the garden. They have been very appealing to the butterflies and moths, especially Gulf fritillary. The swallowtail caterpillars have been feasting on the Queen Anne’s lace, and the result has been a multitude of flying flowers.

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Labor Day, the hills and hollers of the Freedom Hills Wildlife Management area will be filled with the sounds of baying coon dogs, bluegrass, and rock and roll. The 79th annual Labor Day celebration at the Key Underwood Memorial Coon Dog Cemetery takes place. The cemetery is the world’s only cemetery exclusively for coonhound burials. The hound must be certified as a coon-treeing dog. Over 300 coon dogs are buried in the cemetery, many of them USA and world champions. Troop, the first dog, was buried on Labor Day in 1937.

The Saturday before Labor Day, volunteers decorate each grave with silk flowers and USA flags. Bluegrass band Southern Strangers and hall-of-famers Travis Wammack and the Snakeman band will play. Travis got the name "Snakeman" from artists coming to Muscle Shoals to record after they were taken on a snake hunt.

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One mystery at the Coon Dog Cemetery on Labor Day was a Phil Robertson look alike. Or maybe he was the real McCoy?

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The Heat Wave Continues into July

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Usually the heat wave hits in time for the Helen Keller Festival, cools off a little, then hits again during the W.C. Handy Music Festival. This year, it hit in May with very little rain until the end of June. We have been seeing August weather. Some of the corn crop is stunted and shriveled up with very little chance of a good yield. Other areas seemed to catch most of the rain and looks like it will be a bumper crop. Wheat has been combined, and soybeans are coming up through the stubble.

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I was able to take off work to volunteer as a photographer again for both the Helen Keller and the W.C. Handy Music Festivals again this summer. So I’ve been listening to a lot of music and attending the parades. Helen Keller is a native of my home town of Tuscumbia, and W.C. Handy is a native of Florence, just across the Tennessee River, north of Tuscumbia and Sheffield and Muscle Shoals. Eric Paslay was the headliner at the Helen Keller Fest, and apparently was watching this ole woman walk around in the heat all day from his bus. After the VIP meet and greet, he looked at me and said, "You’ve been walking around here all day. How about getting a picture with me?" It was so sweet of him. (Notice I had my GRIT blogger shirt on.)

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The W.C. Handy Music Festival is eleven days of music, a large percentage of which is free. Just bring a lawn chair and rub elbows with several Hall of Famers of Muscle Shoals music. Several of the restaurants have live music for lunch and supper. Those concerts along the Tennessee river have an added bonus of great sunsets. Mom is telling folks that she and the Hooligans are W.C. Handy orphans. 

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Every year since the invasion of the Japanese beetles, I’ve been using the traps in several areas of my property.  This year, as soon as I spotted one, I put three traps up. This is the first year that I’ve had minimal damage. Each year, the invasion has been less and less. When we first saw them, I was catching gallons of them each day. This year I only replaced the bags once.

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Now that my zinnias are blooming, I’ve had a lot of butterflies visiting.  I’m seeing a lot of Gulf fritillary at my house and a few swallowtails.  The hummingbirds are really hitting the feeders since the drought and hot temperatures have killed a lot of the flowers. The bluebirds in the box along the driveway are busy feeding their young.

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Looking For...

Rosedale GardenI spend a lot of my time ‘looking fer’ (for) things.

Every time I lose something, especially my glasses, I think of the I Love Lucy show where Lucy and Ethel are discussing what one thing their husbands lose every morning. While Ethel tells Lucy that Fred loses his glasses all the time, only he has them on the top of his head. When she tells him where they are, he looks at them and says, well if it was a snake, it’d bit me. Fred walks in the kitchen with his glasses on top of his head asking if Ethel has seen his glasses. When she tells him they are on his head, he looks at them and says, well if it was a snake, it’d bit me. Lucy and Ethel break out laughing.

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Right now, I’m looking fer my shovel. It shouldn’t be hard to find as it has a bright red Dig Rig foot attachment on top. The last time I saw it was when I disposed of the four field rats the Hooligans left on each side of the house like a warning to other rats who dare to trespass. I had it out moving some fifteen year old azaleas from the back of the house to along the creek just before the last big rain we had. I checked my transport area on the tiller and where I buried the rats on the other side of the underground fence, and where it’s supposed to be hanging in the barn, so far no luck finding it.

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While on the subject of the Hooligans, I’ve been looking fer two of their underground fence controller collars somewhere in my three and half acres for several months. When the Hooligans are rough housing, they’ll unsnap the collar and it eventually falls off somewhere. The things aren’t cheap, so each time Patches or Blackie loses theirs, I take the one off Levi and put it on them. He has no desire to wander away from home except if it’s thundering and he tries to follow me.

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I’m constantly looking fer one of my two favorite garden trowels. I have a matched set and one is always missing, even though I’ve painted the handles orange.

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I transplanted six large-fifteen year-old azaleas from the back of the house using the loader on the John Deere to dig them out. The ground was soggy from several inches of rain over a few weeks. The day after digging, we received another inch and water was standing in the tire ruts I made trying to extract two at the same time, They were very close together and I couldn’t dig one without the other or taking out a brick paver walkway. I was walking around taking pictures for my gardening blog when I slid down into the ruts with my Canon 7D camera first into the mud. I took off the thingamajig that attaches the camera to the top of a tripod, and laid it down somewhere. I was so concerned with all of the mud covering my camera that now looked like a piglet; I forgot where I laid it. A photographer friend says it’s called a tripod mounting shoe, not a thingamajig. I stand corrected, but I’ll forgot that terminology and will call it a thingamajig again.

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I’m constantly looking for the wing nuts and washer to go on the doors over the belts on my finishing mower. Oh I stand corrected again, they are called shields. I’ll take them off to grease the belt bearings and forget to put them back on. I now have several sets planted somewhere on my three acres.

Keys are the thing that I lose with the most frequency while working out in the yard. I thought I had solved the problem by buying one of the closed loop spring clips. Apparently it didn’t close when I snapped it over my belt loop and it fell off somewhere.

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Cell phone? I’m constantly looking for it. It fell out of the case while I was mowing my three acres with my JD. Mom stood out in her back yard phoning it while I walked the whole three acres. I found it at the end of my walk; thank goodness not a mark on it. I had just got a new one after mowing it after getting off and back on the mower a couple of times. A chopped up cell phone goes a long way and has a lot of parts to pick up.

The rechargeable batteries are constantly disappearing. Now that I have the charger plugged in the outlet in my truck, they don’t go far. Somewhere in my house the extra one for my first camera is still missing. If I plan to use it, I have to take the one out of the camera and charge it up.

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Last but not least, I’m looking fer my memory. The hot water line coming from the hot water heater to the rest of the house developed an aneurysm in the wall between the foyer and laundry room. When I discovered it, I turned the heater off at the breaker box, then remembered it was on a timer and already off. After my cousin Patrick did a temporary repair. Since this is the second leak in that one section, I decided to replace the pipe, sheetrock on both sides and the sixteen year old water heater. As I was taking a shower that night, I kept waiting for the water to get warmer and it didn’t. I’d forgotten to flip the breaker back on after the repair. After a 95 degree day, the water was lukewarm. The next morning while waiting for the water to warm up to wash my face, it hit me, I still hadn’t flipped the breaker. After resetting the timer and flipping the breaker, I now have hot water.

I went into the grocery to get milk. Twenty dollars later and I’m unloading the groceries, and looked for milk ...

The next day I go back to the grocery store; I do not get a buggy, I go straight to the milk, get one and check out without looking at anything else.

My tomatoes growing in large 20 gallon tree containers looked a little on the pale side while I was watering. I put the hose down, walked to the garage and found an organic fertilizer with bacteria and other good stuff. On the way back to the tomatoes, my potted plants by the garage door could use something, so I sprinkled them. Then the hanging baskets could use some, so they got a sprinkle. My squash in the flower beds needed a boost, so they were sprinkled. As I came around the corner of the house, the hooligans were licking up what I had sprinkled in the pots. After yelling at them, I put the fertilizer up and went back to watering my tomatoes. Tomatoes! So back to the garage to get the plant food and sprinkle them and watered all before the hooligans could strike again.

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You are going to a meeting that requires a turn off of your normal route to town and you know it. You get to the stop light and you are in the lane to go straight to town instead of in the turn lane where you need to be.

Now, where did those glasses go?

Spring Drought Festivals Begin in the Shoals

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About a month ago, two to three inches of rain was predicted. Farmers fertilized their corn crop only to have 0.01 inches to fall. We are having August temperatures in the nineties. Those who have irrigation have been watering day and night. Those who don’t are seeing their crop wilt. Forward to two weeks later, and 0.24 inches fell while I was at work. When I got home, the ground was dry as a bone and I couldn’t tell that we had gotten any. Since May 1, I’ve reported 1.71 inches in my gauge, over 7 inches below normal for the year. Wheat is golden and ready to combine and a good crop is expected.

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I mowed the front yard, back yard, and my lower 3 acres, and tried to do a General Lee across an area I had made 2 rows with a middle buster for sunflowers while trying to get a field rat. There’s nothing like a hard landing with three bad discs to get the back complaining.

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My veggie garden consists of six Cherokee purple tomatoes and a few scalloped squash plants that will go in the flower beds when large enough. This year I’m focusing on taking back my flower beds from privet, hackberry, blackberry, weeds and honeysuckle overgrowth.

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The Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, I took Mom to Decatur for the Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic. A friend and his daughter had gone that morning and gave me the direction the balloons were floating. We sat up at the park across the road from the Wheeler Wildlife entrance and waited. A nice couple was there and we talked to them for a while. We were about to head home when they finally starting floating up. They were headed south. So I got directions for a road south of the river and we found the landing site. It was awesome. Mom fussed when I jumped the ditch asking if I was going to let her sit sideways in the truck. After I got across the ditch, I park on a grassy area around the edge of a wheat field. One Sopwith Camel Snoopy balloon barely cleared a church just as service was over.

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Memorial Day I attended the American Legion Memorial Day program at the Colbert County Courthouse to honor the memory of my great uncle killed in France during WWI.

The festivals started in April. Lagrange College site had a blue grass festival. Sheffield’s street party, a fund raiser for NW Shoals Community College was very well attended. The Marshall Tucker Band and Wet Willie rocked the house until late in the night. I wish to thank David and Faye Johnson for allowing me to take photographs again this year. The Coondog Cemetery Lady and I decided to grab something to eat afterwards as neither of us had eaten since breakfast. I’m getting too old to stay up until 3 AM like I did when I worked the graveyard shift.

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Next week is the Helen Keller Festival and the weather is usually hot and humid. Helen Keller was born in my home town of Tuscumbia. I’m not familiar with the headliner, so he must be a country music star.

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A couple of bald eagles with their newly fledged offspring have been hanging around the park below Wilson Dam. I’ve been swinging by on the way home after work and getting a lot of pictures. I’m in awe whenever I see one.

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The city park in Muscle Shoals has a colony of nesting red headed woodpeckers. They aren’t very common these days due to habitat destruction. One put on a show on the fence on the other side of the street. I got a lot of shots of it before a car came by and scared it off. This was a new bird on my list.

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Conversation with Mom

I took Mom out to eat on Sunday’s and get groceries. She said, "Oh, I meant to tell you I had a strange dream the other night. We were somewhere and you were trying to catch this big frog, this big," making a hand gesture that it was as large as a basketball.

I asked her, "Where were we?" but she didn’t know.

"I told you to leave it alone, that it had big teeth, and it did. I guess I need to stop watching so much Judge Judy," she says.

"Why?" I asked.

"Well, she's been having a lot of pit bull dog bite cases on."

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The Hooligans? I had to take Blackie to the vet's for a limp she had after the Hooligans did battle with a armadillo. Turns out one of the workers had thrown some gum down and she had some pointed seeds in her foot pad and the gum was pushing the seeds into her foot with each step. She was close to getting an infection. So think about what could happen to an animal when you toss.

Late Spring in NW Alabama

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Corn is up, canola is blooming, and wheat is hinting at seeding out and turning gold. Fields are being ready for planting soybeans and cotton. Hay is being baled. Dogwoods are finished blooming and Grancy graybeard, peony, iris and daylilies are popping out. Blackberries are in bloom which usually means a cool spell, but the temps were in the eighties for over a week. Then we had over an inch of rain and blackberry winter arrived. Temperatures didn’t make it out of the sixties for several days.

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This year, I hope there are no injuries or illness to keep me from finding my flower beds buried under privet, hackberry, honeysuckle and blackberry. I found a cordless pole chainsaw with a 40 volt battery. I was leery of rechargeable, as I have a reciprocating saw that I have at least three batteries charged for a job. It will go through one every ten to fifteen minutes. This one will run out of bar oil before the battery runs out. I spent several days cutting. It will take me two days to haul everything to my tree pile.

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The short lived Jackson Military Road which ran from Nashville to New Orleans is two hundred years old. Friday was school day and Saturday public day. Reenactors displayed what plants Native Americans used for medicine. 1816 surveying techniques were demonstrated along with musket firing. With Gen. Jackson in attendance; guests were treated to an 1816 meal at the Belle Mont mansion south of Tuscumbia after we finished up giving educational historical tours. Volunteering does have its perks. We took the normal publicity photos, and then we had some fun.

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My high school class at Deshler celebrated our 45th reunion. It was good to see several folks from out of town we haven’t seen since the last reunion. I do get to see several of the girls I graduated with at our monthly girls’ night out. Some of us can still get down and boogie.

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I thought I had found a woodpecker nest last week. I was watching a woodpecker nest at the park at NW Birding Trail Site 7 near Wilson Dam waiting to get a picture of the parent. I saw a yellowish bird flying by with a french-fry going up into a nearby tree. While I was looking to see where the bird went to, the bird flew into and out of the nest before I could get back with my camera. While watching for it again, a gentleman rode up his bike and said you must be seeing something I’m not seeing. I showed him the eagle, vultures, red tail hawk and osprey I had gotten while there. I looked up and the bird is flying out of the nest again. I went back the next week to take pictures of the parents, only it was a bluebird nest, not a woody. The spring migration has been coming through our area. I had several rose-breasted grosbeaks visiting my feeders.

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On the home front, the Hooligans have been busy as usual. Vultures were circling low when I got home from work. This time they dispatched an armadillo that made a mistake of trespassing. I found one poor chipmunk clinging for dear life up in one of my dogwood trees while the Hooligans hunted for it below. Patches gets upset when vultures circle over her house. Blackie has been limping since the battle. She’ll get better, and then she’ll jump off the retaining wall and mess it up again. She’s due for her shots, so we’ll get that checked out. After five years of illness or injury, I’ve started to reclaim my flower beds. I found a 40V rechargeable pole chain saw and have been going to town with Elvira cutting out brush in my flower beds in back of the house. Elvira is easy to take apart if you accidentally get too low and use it as a tiller. The beds that have blackberry, honeysuckle or trumpet vine, I think the best course will be to dig up the flowers and then take the tractor loader and tiller to them.

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Speaking of work, I just got my forty year pin from Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital. I picked out a stained glass lamp for my gift. The hardest part about unpacking it was those little Styrofoam balls sticking to everything.

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