Rosedale Garden

Wintertime Dairy Chores

Rosedale Garden 


Most of the time I miss our dairy farm. However, cold spells like we’ve had lately, I tell myself that I don’t miss it on cold January days.  We had snow this week and very cold weather. 


We would come home from school, go out feed the chickens, change the water and collect the eggs.  Then we would take a hammer with us to the cattle and pig water troughs to break the ice and refill.  Sometimes the hydrant was frozen, so we would have to run a hose from the barn to refill.  Back to the house to warm our hands. By then it was milking time. 


The cows stayed in a wooded area around the hay barn and silo when not in the pasture.  A dry creek ran through the lower portion of it. The silo had a long trough that the silage would fed via a long auger.  On one side a row of free stalls each was narrow enough for the cow to walk in lay, stand up and back out.  Any manure would land in the isle for easy clean up.  Milking time we would go to round them up, only sometimes the boss cow would decide they weren’t ready.  If a boss cow decided she didn’t want to do something or was going to do something, then the rest of the herd was with her. The boss cow would pick a time when you are the most miserable to decide she didn’t want to do what you wanted.  Bone chilling cold or rainy days seemed to be her favorite. She and the rest of the herd would play ring around the rosie with you around the silo, the free stalls and feed through. You’d just hope that they would stay on the concrete path and not take off down to the other end of the woods.

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After extended rainy days with a 150 head stomping around, the Alabama clay and dehydrated manure would turn into gooey quicksand, especially in the area that ran off of the hay barn roof.  In order to walk in it, you had to hold on to the top of the boot and pull it out along with your foot. The clay would glue to the boot, and if you didn’t pull it, would stay in the clay.  This particular time, we had several days of heavy cold rain followed by a drop-in temperature to below freezing.  The surface of the clay and manure was frozen, but would collapse if you tried to walk on it.  This was one of the days the boss cow decided not to come up for milking. My sister chased them around the silo for a while and came up for help. Two sisters went down to the silo, one blocking access around to the free stalls. I was out in the muddy area to prevent them from going down the hill to the back of the woods. We had just about got them to the barn, when one of them turned to run down the hill. I ran as best I could to head her off and turn her back to the barn. I found out that the clay will glue itself to your feet as I almost fell into the muck.  My sister finished getting the cows penned and I hunted my socks and boots. When I walked into the milking barn holding my socks and boots, Dad wanted to know what happened to you.


Cottrell Electric kept our milking equipment going.  Dad may have recycled it from a previous milk barn or bought it used from somewhere, as it looked close to a hundred years old. Dad always kept things way past their normal life span. Our old milking barn was a stanchion type. We would bring 16 cows on each side, lock their heads in so they could be fed and milked. Dad and our uncle would have to do a lot of squatting while milking. The floors were slightly inclined downhill toward the back of the barn.  Manure would be shoveled out to a small pit outside the barn via two trap doors for each stanchion side. When the pit was full, the manure was shoveled out into a manure spreader and taken out to the field.


One cold winter spell, Mr. Calvin came out to work on the old milk machine, and brought his boys with him. We took down to our fort along the dry creek, and on the way back, he decided he was going to walk across the frozen pit. He didn’t make it far. We fished him out and brought him into the milk barn. Dad took a hose to him and washed him down. By this time, he was about frozen, clean but still stinking to high heaven. Dad carried him to the house and handed off to Mom who stripped him and wrapped him in a blanket and put him near the kerosene floor furnace to warm up. She hung his clothes on a fold-up rack over the furnace to dry. 


This was the first and last time Calvin brought the boys out. I do know his wife wasn’t happy with the odor when they got home. The manure may have been washed off, but the odor still remained.


On the home front with the Hooligans, Problem Child Patches has figured out how to outfox the under-ground fence. It starts vibrating 10 feet from the line, so she bounces back and toward the line until she overwhelms the battery recycling just long enough to get out. When I get home, she is laying in the ditch in front of the house. I unload everything out of my truck while she is impatiently barking at me to let her back in. She also did something she hasn’t done since she was a pup; turning the faucet on the front of the house to get a drink. Only she doesn’t turn it back off. I was hoping that it was only on for a short time, however my meter reader left me a card on the front door that I had a big jump in water usage this time. I used over 6,900 gallons this time, and needed to check for a leak. She must have turned it on the afternoon before and it ran all night and most of the next day.

A musician/author friend of mine Cabot Barden let me sit in on his recording session at Fame Recoding studios in Muscle Shoals. It was very interesting learning how a song is put together especially with one artist playing all of the instruments.  As I set in the control room overlooking the studio, my mind wandered to some of the greats that recorded there:  Aretha Franklin, Duane Allman, Arthur Alexander, Etta James, Clarence Carter, Lou Rawls, Donny Osmond, Candi Staton, Little Richard, Bobbie Gentry, Paul Anka, Otis Redding, Drive by Truckers, Jason Isbell & the 400 unit, Travis Wammack, The Dell Rays, Terri Gibbs, The Osmonds, Billy Joe Royal, Lobo, Alabama, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Shenandoah, Andy Williams, Mac Davis, Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers, Dobie Gray, Wayne Newton, Liza Minnelli, Tom Jones, Wet Wiilie, Wilson Pickett, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Drifters, George Jones, Ray Stevens, Jerry Reed, Billy Ocean, Heartland, Darryl Worley, and Waylon Jennings among others.

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Rick Hall, the founder of Fame, died earlier this month. His funeral as expected was a great musical sendoff. I was in the second week of bronchitis and didn’t get to attend. I photographed Mr. Hall at three events, a benefit for the Fame Girls Ranch, a meet and greet at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, and his autobiography signing.


We had a nice warm clear day between the two snow events we had, and I took the opportunity to drive over to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. I finally was able to see three of the twenty plus whooping cranes overwintering.



Christmas 2017

Rosedale Garden 










When I woke up this morning and looked out the window, I told myself it would be a great morning to go to Wheeler Wildlife to see if I could see some of the whooping cranes and get pictures. No, no, no, you need to make those cookies for Friday night and get the lights up in the sunroom, and finish your Christmas card so you can start mailing them out. 

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Okay, so I look for the recipe I like in the kitchen drawer with the mixer. Not there. Those of you who have seen my kitchen know how small it is, so things should be easy to find. I find it in my computer and print out. Get the 2 sticks of butter out of the freezer to let warm up. While the butter was doing that I worked on finishing the Christmas card cover. Next it was hunting up measuring cups for the two sugars. I got that blended, and went to measure out the homemade vanilla and baking soda but couldn’t find my spoons. I only have two drawers these things are kept in. I finally find a teaspoon and guess at the half I needed.  Next add the four and oats without any complications. Next the butterscotch chips and chocolate chips. The butterscotch ones were in the refrigerator, but the chocolate ones I bought Sunday are MIA.  While hunting through the countertops I find the recipe I was looking for.  I put required amount in and put the rest in a zip-lock bag, and got out an empty one for the chocolate ones. I put raisins with the bowl. I’m looking for the zip-lock bag to put the rest in, and it’s missing.  I find the bag, put the rest of the raisins in the bag, put back in the box and put up in the cabinet with the flour and there’s that half of box of raisins I thought I had. Now back to looking for the chocolate chips, I finally find them in the refrigerator with the cheese I bought. 










Everything together and in the oven, I go to start on putting the lights up.  After the couple of accidents I’ve had, I decide to wait until the cookies are out of the oven, and it’s turned off. 










The refuge’s page is sharing pictures bragging how many sandhills are around the observation building. 













War Eagle!!!  Auburn stomped Alabama in this year’s Iron Bowl, so it will be peace for us alumni and fans until next year’s game.  










Christmas events are taking place all over our area. The Belle Mont mansion’s Plantation Christmas was well attended.  The home is decorated in the 1800s style with what was around in the season. The North Alabama Dance Club made their annual appearance performing dances of the period.  They are very popular each year.  Dulcimers played in the dining room where visitors enjoyed various cookies and punch.  A volunteer was stationed in each room in period clothing to give the history of the resident of the room.




















The Dicken’s Christmas Ya’ll was in Tuscumbia the next weekend, complete with Dickens characters, arts and crafts and Clyde and Pride pulling a beautiful carriage up and down main street.  A Dickens period feast with the play the night before opened the festival. A Christmas Ball closed out the weekend.

























 Each city in the area had Christmas parades.  I was able to attend and photograph the Tuscumbia, Muscle Shoals and Cherokee parades.

























December 16, I attended the first Wreaths Across America at Shiloh National Cemetery. Five hundred wreaths were donated for 3,800 graves. I thought lack of enough wreaths was because it was the first year Shiloh participated in the event until I stopped in at Corinth National Cemetery (Mississippi) on the way home and saw what looked to be about 2,000 wreaths and several thousand graves lacking wreaths. 

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On December 14, Tuscumbia celebrated their 200th birthday, kicking off the next two years leading up to Alabama’s 200th year of statehood December 14, 2019.  








 My three Hooligan Border Collies, Patches, Blackie and Levi, have finished their letter to Santa.  I had a couple of accidents that involved falls, and they are getting to the age I’m afraid the girls, Patches and Blackie, might get hurt due to their arthritis. They like to have a lot of fun roughhousing making the pictures for the card.  This year I took a couple of each one from over the years we’ve been doing this and made this year’s card.  Plus, Auburn beat Alabama 26-14 this year, so I had to put my school colors orange and blue in the greeting.









Dear Santa:

We’ve been very good Hooligan doggies this year. Well Mom has been calling Patches "Problem Child," so she hasn’t much. Mom has been working a lot and late, so we tried to help her weed by digging holes around the yard. Mom said we dug the holes too deep and also dug up the good plants along with the weeds. She didn’t explain to us the difference between a good weed and a bad one. All plants look the same to us. Patches also turned on the hydrant on the front of the house, got a drink and walked off.  When Mom came home, she said Patches needs learn how to turn it back off. 

Santa, we want lots and lots of biscuits, rib bones, and rawhide chews. Mom won't let us have them. And bring us lots and lots of biscuits, not the healthy stuff Mom gets us. Levi has learned how to make a sound like a woodpecker when he’s trying to get Mom to hurry up and feed us. Mom says he’s been a very bad boy and stands there holding our food. It is a very irritating sound Santa, so please ask him to stop. When it’s time to eat, Blackie decides to go hunt for mice. She’s had all day, Santa, and she decides to go hunting at feeding time!! Make her stop, Santa! Patches takes her sweet time when it’s time to get our biscuits. Mom calls and calls her and she just lays there looking at her and we are having to sit and wait on her to come. Finally, when Mom is about to give us ours and go in the house, she decides to slowly get up, walks over slowly. Then she has to smell Levi and finally sits so we can get our biscuits.  Also, Santa, we want all of our backyard back.  Mom says lightening hit it in the bottom and she needs to replace it. In the meantime, we only have the front and back yard. 

And Santa, we want lots of biscuits, bones and chews.

Wishing you the Warmth of Home, the love of Family and Friends. May you have Enough.  

May you have a Blessed and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

The Hooligans and Mary

Oh I’d be remised if I didn’t attach the recipe for the cookies:



• 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
• 2 eggs
• 1 cup packed light brown sugar
• 1/3 cup granulated sugar
• 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1 ½ cups flour
• 2 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
• 1 teaspoons baking soda
• 3/4 cups golden raisins
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 10 ounce mixture cinnamon or butterscotch chips, chocolate or white or dark chocolate chips


1. Heat oven to 350 F

2. Beat butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in bowl until creamy.  Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Combine flour and baking soda; add to butter mixture, beating well. Stir in oats, chips and raisins (batter will be stiff). Drop by heaping teaspoons onto un-greased cookie sheet.

3. Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Makes about 4 dozen.

*BAR VARIATION: Spread batter into lightly greased 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 F for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool and cut into bars.

Veterans Day, Covered Bridges, and Stills

Rosedale Garden 



With a three-day weekend for Veterans Day, the area had numerous events. American Legion Post 31 in Tuscumbia had their annual parade down Main Street on Friday November 10 followed by a program. Afterward, all were invited to their hall for lunch. Two of the walls at the hall are covered with pictures of those who gave their life in service of their country going back to the mid-1800s.  What is so sad are three of those who died during the Vietnam War don’t have a picture available. Only a newspaper clipping.


The next morning, I caught up with Wayne Chaney for his annual rendition of Taps honoring veterans at the Marriott Shoals in Florence.   



Part of the weekend was at the dedication of the 101 World War I monument. During 1917-1918 it was estimated that around 1,000 civilian defense workers died while working on the Army’s Nitrate Plant projects at Wilson Dam.  The number of Cuban and Mexican workers dying is unknown. The largest percentage of them died during the great pandemic flu outbreak of 1918.  One hundred and one of the workers were buried in an unmarked area of Oakwood Cemetery in Sheffield, Alabama.  It is thought that more are buried on the TVA property.  A monument to the 101 was dedicated listing the names of those buried.  My Grandfather was a mounted security guard there after his discharge from the Army.


Farmers have finished combining corn and are finishing up combining soybeans and picking cotton, and planting winter wheat.  So far November, which is normally a wet month, has been very dry. 


The last of the hummingbirds left the end of September.  I just took down the last feeder this week after making sure I didn’t have any overwintering this year.  The butterflies stayed around until a hard frost last week. I had a monarch that stayed around for several days enjoying my tall zinnias.



Back when I was growing up, our area was dry as in prohibition dry.  While at the Lagrange College site for Christmas in the County, a friend mentioned that I need to visit the Dawson distillery located on the original road going up to the town and college site. The town, home to around 400, and the college were burned by Union forces in 1863.  The town and college never recovered.  Its demise was blamed in part of a curse by a Native American chief during the Native American removal 30 years earlier.  The Dawson family or Dawson gang as they were known in these parts were the biggest moonshiners aka bootlegger in these parts. It took three years to get all of the paperwork through all of the state and local agencies. It’s just so hard to imagine a legal still in these parts.



The American Queen riverboat based in Memphis visited the area going to and coming back from Chattanooga.  I started at dawn with Norma, a photographer friend, photographing her on a foggy river, and finished up standing on the road over Wilson Dam photographing her as she locked through the dam.  On the trip back,  I again started in the morning and watched her turning a 180 in the Tennessee River at Florence and go back upstream. You realize how large she is when she takes up most of the width of the river when she turns around.



The Christmas events in the area have started, first with Christmas in the Country and then the Tuscumbia Christmas parade. This year we had the largest crowd ever for a parade and a long-lasting parade. The Tennessee Valley Museum of Art Trees of Christmas gets better and better each year. Christmas decorations are going up in the parks of the area.





Grace, a good friend of mine, and myself took at trip to see five of the remaining covered bridges in the middle part of the state. Getting to a few was an adventure in itself; I've never seen so many turns and curves. The covered bridge trail has been on my bucket for a while. Later we'll venture to the ones around the Birmingham area.



One day I took off on a nature trip over to Wheeler Wildlife Refuge.  A few whooping cranes have arrived, and I hoped to photograph some.  I just missed three at the observation building, but there were plenty of Sandhill cranes and a creek along the way that had a large number of pelicans.



My three Hooligans need to get their letter to Santa written so I can make our Christmas card.  I’ll probably use an old picture of them on the card instead of putting them through the stress of making one at their age.  Patches is having arthritis and hip issues, and I’m afraid she might get hurt from Blackie and Levi’s antics. They’ve had a lot of rough fun in the past making their pictures.

Fall in Northwest Alabama

Rosedale Garden 


My internet has finally been restored after a system-wide crash. At least we hope. So far so good. Then I had to replace a hard drive in my computer, which promptly crashed about three months later losing everything. I heartily endorse an online backup.




I retired as of September 1, and went part time as needed. I have been running every weekend to some sort of event as a photographer.  I’m not sure how I did that plus work full time. Alabama’s bicentennial is on December 14, 2019 and Mississippi’s is December 10, 2017.  I’ve attended functions in Pontotoc, Mississippi, and Hamilton, Alabama.  The Hamilton event was ended by a ceremony at the grave of those who died during the construction of the Jackson Military Road.  I also photographed my usual Key Underwood Memorial Coondog Cemetery and Oka Kapassa in Tuscumbia.  The Coondog Cemetery is a cemetery only for treeing coondogs. There were arts and crafts, concerts, a liar’s contest, and buck dancing took the stage. We were treated to a tractor parade on decoration day. The Oka Kapassa is a return by Native Americans to commemorate the kindness of the citizens of Tuscumbia shown during the removal to Oklahoma. Tuscumbia is the only city along the Trail of Tears that food, clothing, and medical care was documented. I also photographed the wedding for a friend’s daughter one weekend. 


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Patches gave me a scare the weekend of the wedding. After I came home from the rehearsal dinner around 9 p.m., she wasn’t home. I fed Blackie and Levi and waited until daylight to hunt again. I drove around my area and didn’t see her anywhere. I met my high school classmates for breakfast and hunted again afterward. By this time, I decided to post her picture on the local animal control Facebook page and the Remember Tuscumbia page I’m one of the administrators of with almost 6,600 friends. After I did that, I decided to get the tractor out and ride the roads so I could see in the ditches better. Still no luck. I decided to check the road going down to the dead end at the neighbors. As I get to my driveway, there she is, rolled up in the flower bed by the drive giving me that "about time you let me back in" look. I wanted to hug and kill her at the same time. I spent a half an hour thanking all who spared my posts that she was found.


belle mont

Courtesy of Tony Lee/Norma Glascock

We had my retirement party/fundraiser at the Belle Mont mansion, and it was a great success thanks to my wonderful friends. I’m so blessed. They made food, decorated tables from vines and flowers and cornstalks from everyone’s garden and added hedgeapples, gourds and pumpkins. Many pitched in during the fundraiser when they saw a need. The Tuscumbia Parks and Recreation Department provided the trolley to carry folks up and down the hill from the road.  I can’t express my gratitude for the items donated for the silent auction, many without being asked. They heard what the benefit was for and said, "hey I have this."  Merchants in Tuscumbia donated coupons and items for a basket that we raffled off.  I had family from Mississippi and friends from Tennessee and Georgia who made the trip over.  I just can’t express my gratitude enough to and for my friends.  We raised a little over $2,500 for the restoration of Belle Mont in the three hours. I’m truly blessed.

corn combining Ricky


Farmers started combining corn that was dry enough before the rains from Irma and finished up after the fields dried enough to get back in. This has been a good year for corn. Yields were running up to around 220 bushels per acre in some fields. The fields have been plowed and ready for planting wheat. Cotton has been defoliated and picking has begun. Some early planted soybeans are being combined. The air is heavy with dust.




Hummingbirds have left for South America. It’s so sad to see them leave each fall. I had 11 feeders up this year. My last sighting was on October 8. I’ll still keep a feeder up for a month until I’m sure they are gone. Their absence has been replaced by butterflies.



After all the events, I needed to get back to nature and took a ride to a few of my birding spots. At nearby Alabama Birding Site 4, the white pelicans were back. I got several shots before heading over to a hotel in Tuscumbia that was hosting the Southside Model A club from Georgia. I’ve never seen so many old cars in one spot. Friday, I left just before sunrise to take shots of the American Queen riverboat as she paid a visit to the Shoals.




Summer 2017 in the Shoals

Rosedale Garden 

My country wireless internet has been sporadic the last few months, making it impossible to post anything. 



The corn is shoulder high and tasseled out. It’s going to be a good crop this year. Each stalk has several ears as a result of the good rain we’ve had. With the topical storm coming in, farmers were hurrying to get wheat combined. Soybeans and cotton have been planted and are up. I kept my tiller on the tractor up to the end of May trying to dig my garden up. First it was too wet, then too dry, then too wet, then just plain too late. My tomatoes, squash, and peppers are among the flowers in the side yard. It took over a week to get my 3.5 acres mowed for the first time. The squash bugs found my plants while I worked late and was not able to check on them. They aren’t looking well. Irises and lilies have bloomed and daylilies have started opening.



Memorial Day has passed and summertime festivals are about to begin. American Legion Colbert County Memorial Post No. 31 in Tuscumbia had their annual program at the courthouse. The balloons at the Spirit of America Balloon Festival didn't make it off of the ground this year due the the winds. The next weekend, the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport in Muscle Shoals had a vintage warbird fly in. A World War II TBM Navy torpedo bomber was one of the planes coming in. While on the ground, the public was allowed to walk around them and talk to the pilots. While walking around, I spied a gentleman with a World War II cap and asked to take his picture. I chose the bomber for him to stand by. After he got home, he found out that the plane was stationed on his ship 70 years ago.


The Helen Keller Festival started the end of the June at her birthplace in Tuscumbia. A parade led by the American Legion kicked off the festival. The W.C. Handy Music Festival was here the past 10 days in all cities of the Muscle Shoals area. Ten days of all types of music, just bring your lawn chair.  Mom likes to tell everyone she and the Hooligans are Handy orphans during this time. The festival ended with a tribute to Percy Sledge by his family.   




Somehow, between work and the events, I managed to get in a lot of concerts and the Spring Valley VFD rodeo. I also managed to get my nature fix for a little bit between events on one Saturday. 

Hummingbirds have been plentiful this year. I have nine feeders up right now. Last year during the peak migration south, I had 10 feeders up. A friend has a leucistic hummingbird at her feeders. It’s not an albino, as it has normal colored eyes and feet. I spent a couple of hours sitting in her backyard just before dark and got a few shots before I had to go photograph a concert. I plan to go back on a nice day to see if I can get some more pictures of it.



After almost 42 years working at my hospital, I decided to turn in my retirement. I’ll still stay on PRN. Hopefully I’ll be able to find my flowers under the honeysuckle, trumpet vine, and privet. I plan to spend more time writing and being behind the camera.   




My retirement party will be a little different from most. I’m celebrating with a fundraiser for the restoration fund at the Belle Mont Mansion south of Tuscumbia. The Jeffersonian style house was built in the early 1800s and was in ruins before being rescued by the Alabama Historical Commission in the 1980s. I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I have what I need — just enough. 


Spring 2017 in NW Alabama

Rosedale Garden


My internet has been off and on sporadically the last few weeks, so that’s why you haven’t heard from me in a while. Daniel came and replaced the box outside that sends signals back and forth to the tower on the mountain. So hopefully I’m back in business.



Spring has arrived, and with rain in the forecast all next week, farmers were working late into the night planting corn. Winter wheat is beginning to tassel out. Soon the sound of combines will be irritating hooligan Patches — one of my rescued border collies. Dogwoods, two-winged silverbell, and paw paw native trees, as well as native azaleas, are finishing up their bloom cycle. My irises and peonies are heralding in the spring. Tiger swallowtail butterflies are everywhere. Historical walking tours are taking place in Florence, Sheffield, and Tuscumbia. The rides are running at Spring Park again. Spring is definitely back in Alabama. With the rain, pastures are greening out, but somehow grass is still greener on the other side of the fence.



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Spring bird migration is occurring. The first hummingbird made his presence on April 4th, a couple of weeks later than last year's first spotting. My feeders have been up since the middle of March. I could tell my feeders were being used but was missing visits. One of the ruby-throated males guarding a feeder along the driveway looks like a sumo wrestler compared to the others. I posted his picture on a birding site asking what breed he was.


Cedar waxwing

A pestilence of mayflies in the area has brought cedar waxwings to my house for the first time. They are swooping back and forth like swallows between a tree at my house and one at Mom’s. Another visitor is a rose-breasted grosbeak. The male has been at my feeder (made of a recycled, wire hanging basket with a clay saucer in the bottom instead of the coconut liner). The female was checking out the bird bath.


My koi pond with solar pump in the front yard hasn’t made any progress while we fight the honeysuckle, blackberry, hackberry, and privet that has overtaken the garden behind the house. Blackie can’t wait for the pond to be ready. I had found a small fishing pole, just her size in the water on the Tennessee River on one of my birding trips. I’m not sure how long it had been in the water, but it was pretty muddy. I put it on top of my roll-away garbage can when I got home. Trash day, I laid it on top of a flower pot and forgot about it. One afternoon after work, I was chasing after a tiger swallowtail behind the house. When I came around to the front it had disappeared, and I set my camera on Sulfur. As I tired of it, I noticed Blackie struggling to get through some shrubs with something in her mouth. What in the world has that dog got? I thought to myself. When she finally made it through the bushes, I saw she had the fishing pole in her mouth. She walked up to Patches lying near the pond site, and the caption of the following photo would read: "Are there fish in the pond yet?” When I asked her, "What are you doing with that?" I got a look like “What?”



Are You Smarter Than a Border Collie?

Rosedale GardenAre you smarter than a problem-child, hooligan, border collie? Right now, for me, that answer is a big NO.

Leaving for work once morning, Blackie and Levi were snug as bugs in a rug, each in their own pile of pine needles that I’ve been hauling from a friend’s yard. But as I got to the bridge, there was Problem-Child Patches sitting by the creek.

I backed up the road to my driveway, pulled in, opened the garage door, got out of my truck, and unplugged the underground fence. I went around the corner to the front of the house and called Patches in. She came lopping, and I thought, By the time I get back to plug up the fence, she should be in.


I plugged up the fence, got in my truck, closed down the door, backed out of the driveway, and started down the road. As I got to the bridge, there was my Patches, sitting by the creek.

I backed up and did it all over again. This time I had to go after her and pull her in. I plugged up the fence, got in my truck, closed down the door, backed out of the driveway, and started down the road. This time she stayed in the yard, so I went to work.

Somewhere, she has found a spot that the radio signal is not working. So that afternoon, I walked the three and a half acres with a break tester. I didn’t find a break. I redid the connections on the several splices along the creek where I had some tornado-damaged trees taken down.

Walking the line again, I noticed an old plant stake that had rusted and was bent over the wire location. I discarded it, smug that I had solved the problem. Patches was sitting there looking at me like, You just think you have me locked in, but you just wait. After that look, I checked her collar; it vibrated ten feet out and shocked as I got within in a few feet of the wire. Now I have her, I said to myself.


The next morning she was in, and I was really smug. Two days later, my smugness was deflated — she was out again and Levi was out with her. I checked the collars again, and both were working. They either could get out but not back in, or it was just easier to let Mom let them in. Something metal must've been cancelling the signal somewhere. I noticed a bluebird box on a metal post on the inside of the fence just inches from the wire. That had to be it, so I spend an afternoon after a rain digging it out of the ground. There, bet that works.

The next morning, they were out again. So it was back to the drawing board. I vented my frustration to a friend that a dog was smarter than me. She responded, "You are irritated that she’s just out-smarting you right now."

The next day I went and got a new roll of wire to replace a section along the dry creek, from a connection at the bottom to back up near the house. It had several splices in it due to some tornado-damaged tree removal last year. As I got near the end of the roll, I start pulling a section that was buried an inch underground and found the plastic coating corroded off and the bare wire exposed. This will cancel out a radio signal in the area. The next day it’s back for another roll of wire, and I spent the day bypassing that section of wire and connecting it to the connection marked by the bluebird box. I also put the box back up outside of the fence.


I checked Patches collar, and it was working great. "Now I have her," I chuckle. The next afternoon, there she was, lying on the side of the road, out again. When I got home, I gave Blackie and Levi a biscuit for being home. Problem-Child saw them getting a biscuit, tried a few times, and then just walked across the new wire.

By this time, I was about ready to take her collar off and tell her, "You want out, go find a new home." I did take her collar off, attached the tester to it, and walked along the area she came over. The collar was working until I walked a few times away and back toward the wire. It stops vibrating and shocking for just a little while — just long enough for Problem-Child to make good her escape. I walked back and forth a few times, and it happened again. How in the world did she figure that one out?


I had a brand-new spare collar, put a new battery in it, and put it on her. So far it’s been a week, and she has been at home each morning when I go to work and every evening when I come home, sacked out in the pile of pine needles I have on the driveway for the new bed I’m working on.

We need to finish the koi pond before planting can take place. I have a solar pump and filter ordered for it. We had to move it a little bit after I chopped up the water line going to the house.


The temperatures for most of January and February have been extremely warm. Daffodils and star and saucer magnolias are in full bloom. Azaleas and quince are starting to bloom. My two-winged silverbell, lilacs, and maple trees are leafing out. The last time we had a winter like this, we had a hard freeze and snow in April, which killed a lot of my dogwoods and fruit trees. This coming week, the weather folks are predicting our best chance for snow this year. Around these parts, if you don’t like the weather today, wait a day or two and get something you like.

One nice thing about this time of year: the spectacular sunsets.