Looking Back on 2006

I have a lot to be thankful for in this past year.

It was a little over a year ago that I stumbled into the online Floyd County community and met (virtually) Fred, Colleen, Doug and David and all of their friends in Floyd County, Va. It was their examples that led me to start this blog (so, if you want to blame someone for these ramblings...).

It was the year we made our third family trip to the Valle Crucis area. I made my first trip up the creek my ancestors settled over 200 years ago and discovered that the valley is gorgeous. The view from the upper portions of the valley were breathtaking. I think, after spending time with the maps, that we were probably looking at the upper valley from the back porch of the cabin we rented for the week. After two trips to the headwaters of Clark's Creek, the road to Nettles Knob is beginning to feel like going home. We are still dreaming our mountain dream from the flat coastal plain of Texas.

It was the year we became Grandparents. Who could have foreseen in the '70's that we would have ever come so far? Logan was by yesterday, and the boy is getting big. I can't wait for him to get to the point where he'll be talking.

It was our first anniversary trip to the shore instead of the hills. That means that at some point I am going to have to make a run northeast away from the coast for a little elevation. We did enjoy the stay on Padre and the view from the balcony overlooking the beach.

This was the year I met many interesting people online. To all of these folks, let me say
Happy New Year

Photo Friday - 'Best of 2006'

Riding the Ferry on Galveston Bay

Of all of the photo's from this year, this is the one the snaps...

The printed version in my office always gets a positive response.

Wednesday Coffee Muses

As I run out the clock on 2006 with some time off at home I find myself falling into my old (very old) ways of late nights and sleeping in mornings. I hope everyone out there reading this made it through the Christmas celebrations well and happy. I know we seem to have lived through another one without a major meltdown as a family though at times I understand parking was problematic.

The run up to Christmas this year was wet and gloomy weather-wise. Christmas day started cloudy with some misty rain (Sherry hates me calling those days Misty Rainy Mondays, but that's exactly what we had), by late afternoon the clouds scurried south and the sun beat down and the sky took on that deep dark blue you only see after a cold front moves through.

The cold I have spent the last week fighting managed to force my wine consumption down to one small glass with my turkey and ham feast so I didn't get to try any of the new ones I bought for the occasion. It's a good thing that the family exchange of presents isn't the production it was when the children were younger since most of our morning seemed to be spent in the kitchen over the stove preparing for the late luncheon.

I am quite happy with the presents I have received and only hope my choices were as well received. One of the greatest for an old TMEN fan was 30 years of digital articles from The Mother Earth News. I must admit I was worried about the presentation on these disks, since I have seen archives before that were simply scans of the magazine pages presented as pdf's. I have always found that magazines presented that way just aren't as enjoyable due to the nature of computer screens. TMEN chose rightly (imo) to reformat everything to html. My aging eyesite thanks them. I have only perused a few articles so far, but I think this may allow me to retire my 20 year collection of aging magazines finally. Anyone out there needing a full (mostly), well handled, many times read through couple of decades of Mother Earth's?

The day after Christmas was spent mainly trying to recuperate. One quick trip to the warehouse store to restock the paper goods, a one way driving trip with the latest driver in the clan of Boyd, a stop at the local Chili's for a nontraditional, non-homecooked, diet-busting burger for me and a steak for the wife and that was a day in the life...

I see in reading my morning email's that President Ford has died at age 93. He was what we needed at the time and I find myself agreeing with Henry Kissinger's assessment of his character...

In a passage on present-day politics, Kissinger drew an implicit distinction between Ford and subsequent White House occupants.

"The modern politician is less interested in being a hero than a superstar," he wrote. "Heroes walk alone; stars derive their status from approbation. Heroes are defined by inner values, stars by consensus. When a candidate's views are forged in focus groups and ratified by television anchorpersons, insecurity and superficiality become congenital. Radicalism replaces liberalism, and populism masquerades as conservatism."

In Kissinger's view, Ford was a leader in the heroic mold.

A great man, may he rest in peace.

source: Obituary: Gerald R. Ford, 93, Dies; Led in Watergate's Wake - Washington Post

I see our new Congress will have it's work cut out for it. One of the best indicators of how the Democratic leadership plans on changing the tone may well rest on how they handle this group...

Some top private-equity funds have joined to form a lobbying organization to head off potential regulation.

The new organization, the Private Equity Council, is backed by such leaders in the burgeoning business of company buyouts as Blackstone Group, Carlyle Group and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. Douglas Lowenstein, president of the Entertainment Software Association, which represents the U.S. video game industry, will head the trade association.

Don't you just love that list of founders? Can't wait to see a list of Skull and Bones members on their Boards...

Source: Private Funds Prepare To Lobby - washingtonpost.com

And with all of that said I have a trip to the mall to look forward to...Wish me luck.

Photo of the Day

From last week...Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge

Christmas Morning Muse

"'Tis the morning of Christmas
and all through the house
not a creature is stirring
not even my spouse"

As I sit this morning drinking my coffee and enjoying the still, quiet house I can't help but remember Christmas' past. Back before the youngest member of this household was 16 going on 25...In those days you were up half the night helping Santa by putting together all those bikes and kitchens and assorted other "some assembly required" gifts left under the tree only to be drug out of bed at first light for the photo ops. Now, if last year is any indication, the wife and I will be starting the dinner prep before the first youngster drags out of bed...

The sun is above the horizon and if it wasn't so wet and cold I'd snap a sunrise shot...So on with the festivities.

An anniversary of sorts...

As I was looking at my blogger dashboard the other day I noticed I was coming up on an anniversary of sorts and this post is it...This post is number 200 on this blog. That really doesn't mean much, I suppose, to any one but me. And the real meaning of the number is that I managed to keep putting something out here on a semi-regular basis. So thanks to all of you who happen to wander on by this neck of the virtual woods and sit a spell with me...Your company is appreciated.

Since the day is Christmas Eve and I'm sure everyone has finished their preparations, I won't waste your time...Merry Christmas to all, may you get the blessings you deserve/desire for the day.

Yesterday I was enticed outside by the look of the clouds and the day. The following is the picture that resulted after running three exposures through Photomatix...

This is the view of the backyard from the house. Back past the trees is Mustang Bayou.

Enjoy the Holidays catch you down the road.

Building Communities

For some reason, it always amazes me to stumble across someone who understands the internet (or at least the way I think it should work). Dick Eastman, who writes online genealogy articles, pointed the way to Burr Morris of Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks and deserves the thanks for this find. After reading Dick's post I wandered on over and discovered another online writer of place. Burr is a descendant of the pioneers of his part of Vermont and writes eloquently about the people and the place he calls home. Like many of the folks I have discovered of late, he too has a book out. He also publishes a newsletter (to which I now have subscribed). The following is from his newsletter archive...

Hello again maple people,
Things are starting to green up here in Vermont in spite of a chilly,
rainy post sugar season. We've finally gotten the fences fixed and today a
stock trailer backed up to our acreage out front. A guy got out, critically
scanned the electric fence and lowered the trailer's tailgate. Inside, a
small herd of mixed bovines stood, dirty from winter stalls and confused
about their future. With a little prodding, they slowly sniffed their way
down the tailgate and onto the green grass. The cow guy and I watched,
knowing contact with the grass would trigger a ritual of spring I love to
watch. Sure enough, those critters didn't let me down. They blatted and
bellowed and kicked their hooves high, drunk for a short time with
freedom. We watched until they settled down and began a summer of grazing.
The cow guy and I shook hands and he drove off, down the road, beyond the
land that my ancestors had cleared for cows.
We sold our herd years ago. This place stayed "cowless" for one season,
which about drove me crazy. All summer long I sensed unrest from those
ancestors who shouted from every ragged clump, "Graze this land!" I knew I
needed to honor them for their hard work so long ago. They cleared the best
of Vermont for the cows and the worst of it for the sheep. My old friend,
Ernest Gould, used to say, "The devil's apron strings broke over Vermont."
He meant, of course, that we can thank the devil for the rocks and boulders
that curse these Vermont hills and valleys--hellish for man, but pure
paradise for sheep. Our sheep industry thrived for a long time. It built
our villages and fortified our economy; then that same economy, fickle
like the weather in Vermont, took the sheep away.

Mr. Morris seems to make a portion of his income from selling local Vermont products in his online store. He offers Maple Syrup and assorted Maple products along with Vermont Cheeses. He is also building quite a community among his customers (and evidently non-customers alike) with his "News from Vermont". To read the latest newsletter from Burr visit Dick Eastman's EOGN. While you are there you might want to check out Dick's blog on Genealogy, he's been writing on-line now for over a decade.

Source: News from Vermont # 82 - 'Possum Possibilities

George F. Will - Full Esteem Ahead - washingtonpost.com

Is it jut me or is George Will seeming a bit testy over blogger? Have too many bloggers (both us amateurs and the his professional colleges) called him to task over his reporting on the Webb and Bush "conversation"? 

Richard Stengel, Time's managing editor, says, "Thomas Paine was in effect the first blogger" and "Ben Franklin was essentially loading his persona into the MySpace of the 18th century, 'Poor Richard's Almanack.' " Not exactly.

Franklin's extraordinary persona informed what he wrote but was not the subject of what he wrote. Paine was perhaps history's most consequential pamphleteer. There are expected to be 100 million bloggers worldwide by the middle of 2007, which is why none will be like Franklin or Paine. Both were geniuses; genius is scarce. Both had a revolutionary civic purpose, which they accomplished by amazing exertions. Most bloggers have the private purpose of expressing themselves for their own satisfaction. There is nothing wrong with that, but there is nothing demanding or especially admirable about it, either. They do it successfully because there is nothing singular about it, and each is the judge of his or her own success.

From what I have seen of the Blogs, the ratio of Franklins & Paines to the run of the mill publisher of that day is probably pretty close to equal among bloggers today. It is just that with 100 million blogs to winnow thru, you are gonna read a lot of chaff. That doesn't make the chaff any less important to the ones who put it out "there". If by putting themselves on the line even  a little bit someone is able to articulate what it is they are trying to accomplish, then they have helped someone, if only themselves.

As for me, I'm off to winnow some chaff looking for that nugget of a new Ben or Thomas...

Source: George F. Will - Full Esteem Ahead - washingtonpost.com

Research Links Obesity to Mix of Bacteria in Digestive Tract - washingtonpost.com

For those of us who are weight challenged, this could explain why eating salads for ever don't make a big difference in your weight... 

Obese people have more digestive microbes that are especially efficient at extracting calories from food, the researchers said, and the proportion of these super-digesting organisms ebbs as the people lose weight. Moreover, when the scientists transplanted these bacteria from obese mice into lean mice, the thin animals start getting fat. This provides more support for the provocative theory that the bacteria that populate the intestine play an important role in regulating weight.

Source: Research Links Obesity to Mix of Bacteria in Digestive Tract - washingtonpost.com

Monday Morning Muse

Reflections from a weekend past...

Friday afternoon I made a run south to the Brazoria NWR, I left the house about 3pm in sunshine and scattered clouds, by the time I arrived the fog was so thick visibility was down to under a quarter of a mile. In all of the fun this weekend I haven't even downloaded the photo's yet.

Saturday and Sunday were spent trying to right the American economy...Just kidding (mostly). We wer out and about doing the family Christmas shopping and the American economy is in trouble if it is depending on us. This is probably the latest the wife has waited to get obsessed over presents so the obsession levels are pretty high. And somewhere in all of this it was decided that she needed homemade cookies to take to work. With ten pounds of sugar cookie mix, $10 worth of icing cans (with cute little nozzles), $20 dollars worth of new cookie sheets, and a couple of hours on Saturday night we turned out a two dozen cookie test batch. Boy is this gonna be an expensive couple of dozen sugar cookies...

We were up and running early Sunday to beat the crowds to the Mall...While the two ladies did their shopping thing I did my annual watching of the crowd. Lordy, if this seasons shoppers aren't a sour bunch. I don't think I saw a single smile in the entire place (except that fake one on the face of the one salesperson chasing me down the mall wanting me to sample their aromatherapy heated pad thing...Come-on it was 75 degrees in the Mall and you want to put a heating pad on my shoulders, Not). Oh, well...I've had worse experiences at Christmas time so I'll count my blessings.

The weathermen (weatherpeople?) are trying todampen my hopes for a repeat of 2004. I know a once in a century (or longer) Christmas snowstorm is a lot to ask for on the Texas Gulf coast, but it sure would be nice...

So in the spirit of the holidays here's the image of our house I used on last years Christmas card. Taken on Christmas morning 2004...

Merry Christmas All
Happy New Year

Phone Line Troubles

As strange as it may sound, our land line phones cannot get a dial tone but dsl is working intermittently. The problem has been reported to AT&T and they are guaranteeing resolution by 7pm tomorrow. But the last time we had a problem it took 3 tries to get it fixed so there is a good chance that I will be forced off-line for a good part of the weekend. I don't know what this family will do without access to their email and myspace and im...Oh my God, we might have to talk to each other...he, he, he.

If you wander by and don't see any posts, you'll know why. If I vanish for longer than a few days, send a rescue party 'cause the family probably has me hog tied and gagged...

10 Reasons to Buy Local Food

 This morning's email brought the latest issue of Ladybug Letter from Mariquita Farm. A little exploring on their site led me to this article. I was going to extract the list headlines but it made more sense to just publish the list entirely...

  1. Locally grown food tastes better. Food grown in your own community was probably picked within the past day or two. It's crisp, sweet and loaded with flavor. Produce flown or trucked in from Florida, Chile, Mexico, or Holland is, quite understandably, much older. Several studies have shown that the average distance food travels from farm to plate is 1,500 miles. In a week-long (or more) delay from harvest to dinner table, sugars turn to starches, plant cells shrink, and produce loses its vitality.
  2. Local produce is better for you. A recent study showed that fresh produce loses nutrients quickly. Food that is frozen or canned soon after harvest is actually more nutritious than some "fresh" produce that has been on the truck or supermarket shelf for a week. Locally grown food, purchased soon after harvest, retains its nutrients.
  3. Local food preserves genetic diversity. In the modern industrial agricultural system, varieties are chosen for their ability to ripen simultaneously and withstand harvesting equipment; for a tough skin that can survive packing and shipping; and for an ability to have a long shelf life in the store. Only a handful of hybrid varieties of each fruit and vegetable meet those rigorous demands, so there is little genetic diversity in the plants grown. Local farms, in contrast, grow a huge number of varieties to provide a long season of harvest, an array of eye-catching colors, and the best flavors. Many varieties are heirlooms, passed down from generation to generation, because they taste good. These old varieties contain genetic material from hundreds or even thousands of years of human selection; they may someday provide the genes needed to create varieties that will thrive in a changing climate.
  4. Local food is GMO-free. Although biotechnology companies have been trying to commercialize genetically modified fruits and vegetables, they are currently licensing them only to large factory-style farms. Local farmers don't have access to genetically modified seed, and most of them wouldn't use it even if they could. A June 2001 survey by ABC News showed that 93% of Americans want labels on genetically modified food - most so that they can avoid it. If you are opposed to eating bioengineered food, you can rest assured that locally grown produce was bred the old-fashioned way, as nature intended.
  5. Local food supports local farm families. With fewer than 1 million Americans now claiming farming as their primary occupation, farmers are a vanishing breed. And no wonder - commodity prices are at historic lows, often below the cost of production. The farmer now gets less than 10 cents of the retail food dollar. Local farmers who sell direct to consumers cut out the middleman and get full retail price for their food - which means farm families can afford to stay on the farm, doing the work they love.
  6. Local food builds community. When you buy direct from the farmer, you are re-establishing a time-honored connection between the eater and the grower. Knowing the farmers gives you insight into the seasons, the weather, and the miracle of raising food. In many cases, it gives you access to a farm where your children and grandchildren can go to learn about nature and agriculture. Relationships built on understanding and trust can thrive.
  7. Local food preserves open space. As the value of direct-marketed fruits and vegetables increases, selling farmland for development becomes less likely. You have probably enjoyed driving out into the country and appreciated the lush fields of crops, the meadows full of wildflowers, the picturesque red barns. That landscape will survive only as long as farms are financially viable. When you buy locally grown food, you are doing something proactive about preserving the agricultural landscape.
  8. Local food keeps your taxes in check. Farms contribute more in taxes than they require in services, whereas suburban development costs more than it generates in taxes, according to several studies. On average, for every $1 in revenue raised by residential development, governments must spend $1.17 on services, thus requiring higher taxes of all taxpayers. For each dollar of revenue raised by farm, forest, or open space, governments spend 34 cents on services.
  9. Local food supports a clean environment and benefits wildlife. A well-managed family farm is a place where the resources of fertile soil and clean water are valued. Good stewards of the land grow cover crops to prevent erosion and replace nutrients used by their crops. Cover crops also capture carbon emissions and help combat global warming. According to some estimates, farmers who practice conservation tillage could sequester 12-14% of the carbon emitted by vehicles and industry. In addition, the habitat of a farm - the patchwork of fields, meadows, woods, ponds and buildings - is the perfect environment for many beloved species of wildlife, including bluebirds, killdeer, herons, bats, and rabbits.
  10. Local food is about the future. By supporting local farmers today, you can help ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow, and that future generations will have access to nourishing, flavorful, and abundant food. Buy local food. Sustain local farms.

©2001 Growing for Market. Permission to print and photocopy is granted.

If you haven't discovered this site take a run on over and read some of Andy's articles, It's worth the time.

Source: 10 Reasons to Buy Local from Growing for Market

Thursday Morning Coffee

I find myself sitting here with my coffee, already through the mornings emails and nothing caught my interest enough to comment on.

I've already visited my morning blogroll in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I followed Marie and Harley on their Christmas excursion to the wild Christmas Tree Farm. Checked in with Fred to see if he had recovered and was warmed by his tale of remembrances. I took a side trip following a link from FFF to Ruminations Of A Country Girl, who I have come to know from my visits at Fred's place. She was reminiscing about growing up and her relatives in the mountains. I've been doing some reminiscing myself here lately and maybe I can put together something of interest this weekend. I next wandered down the road to Colleens and stood around with her in the backyard to watch the clouds and listen to the wind and the poetry.

It's really a great way to start the morning, wandering around to friends places and getting a mountain "fix" to hold me over for another day.

That pretty much kills my morning at home, time to run youngest daughter to school and hit the road for work...Later.

Kitchen Gardeners International

If you've never tried the site, check out Kitchen Gardens International... 

Wendell Berry on the "industrial eater"

"The industrial eater is, in fact, one who does not know that eating is an agricultural act, who no longer knows or imagines the connections between eating and the land, and who is therefore necessarily passive and uncritical... We still (sometimes) remember that we cannot be free if our minds and voices are controlled by someone else. But we have neglected to understand that we cannot be free if our food and its sources are controlled by someone else. The condition of the passive consumer of food is not a democratic condition. One reason to eat responsibly is to live free." - Wendell Berry

Source: Kitchen Gardeners International

Democrats Freeze Earmarks for Now - washingtonpost.com

 I have just one word to say --- YES!

Democratic leaders declared a temporary moratorium on special-interest provisions known as earmarks as they attempt to cope with a budget crisis left by the outgoing Republican-led 109th Congress.

Congress adjourned early Saturday, having completed work on two of the 11 spending bills for the 2007 fiscal year that began Oct. 1. As a short-term fix, lawmakers extended current funding levels until Feb. 15. But the incoming Democratic chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations committees announced yesterday that they would extend current levels until the 2008 fiscal year begins next Oct. 1.

They also said they would place a moratorium on all earmarks until lobbying changes are enacted. Those special spending provisions included in the unfinished fiscal 2007 bills will be eligible for consideration next year, the chairmen said, subject to new standards.

Now for the critical follow thru.

Source: Democrats Freeze Earmarks for Now - washingtonpost.com

Floyd County Naturalist/Photographer’s Weblog Published as a Memoir of Place

Fred's getting some good press these days. They are even offering the book through their on-line store. 

(Floyd, Virginia) Some of us long for belonging to the land, for roots in particular and special places where, for reasons usually beyond our knowing, we resonate with the landscape.

For those like Fred First who have lived other places and then been drawn to the Blue Ridge, it is almost always the mystery of mountains that brings them here. Fred describes this as a "magnetic resonance in their bones" that pulls them toward an altitude, latitude and slant of sun that simply feels right for them. For such souls as this "the mountains hold a nutrient that they can not live without."

For anyone who hasn't checked out their site before it has some great info...

Source: Floyd County Naturalist/Photographer’s Weblog Published as a Memoir of Place

Leon Hale: A dream of rain

For Pablo who I know is out of the country. I thought this would help ease the pain of no real rain... 

A dream of rain

We're in the old country house at Winedale for a few days, and last night we had rain. Every time I woke up during the night rain was making music on this tin roof.

I had a dream. I dreamed that it rained for three days and three nights, and the gauge filled and ran over, and the water in our stock tank rose and rose until it ran around the spillway and into the creek, and I could see bass jumping in the tank and ducks flew in, and geese, and deer came to drink, and the land all around was soaked and happy.

At 5:30 I got up and I knew I'd been dreaming but maybe some of it was true so I took a flashlight and went out to the rain gauge to check, and all through the night we'd had four-tenths of an inch.

Source: Leon Hale: A dream of rain


This house intrigues me. I pass it on my way to and from work regularly. It is on a road that once upon a time brought children from the countryside to the local public school. As a matter of fact it that is it's name. In this part of the country you will come across a lot of small two lane roads (once dirt or gravel) that were named for the local school at the end of the lane.

This house now sits on a piece of prime property located about midway between the outer belt in Houston and a new "master planned" community. In fact just over the creek above this house the road widens and becomes a divided boulevard before passing through the 3500 acre community.

Every time I pass this house I can't help but wonder how many families have been sheltered, and loved this little piece of the country. When was the last family living here? Why was it abandoned? did every one die off slowly over the years? What ever the stories this house may have to tell, we will never know. But I will look on it each time I pass and offer it a passing nod of thanks for having served it's purpose for so many years...

Industrial Food - Good enough to kill you?

 If it teaches  us nothing else, the problems with illness from fresh produce, will teach us the truth to the old saw about "putting all of your eggs in one basket".

First it was spinach. Then tomatoes. Now possibly green onions.

Over the past three months, fresh produce has been the culprit in one episode of food-borne illness after another, the latest an E. coli outbreak that appears to be linked to green onions served at Taco Bell restaurants in the Northeast. More than 60 people have been sickened in that outbreak.

As some one said in an article recently, "it's like we're all washing our vegetables in the same tub of water". That tub is located at the central processing plants.

Several factors have contributed to the rise in outbreaks: greater consumption of fresh produce, especially cut fruits and vegetables; wider distribution; improved electronic reporting of outbreaks; and an aging population more susceptible to food-borne illness. Produce presents a special food safety challenge because, unlike meat, which can be rid of bacteria through proper cooking, it is meant to be consumed raw. There is no "kill step," as food safety experts put it.

From the reporting on the problems involved, our fresh produce is regulated by the same agency that is in charge of the safety of our drugs...Do you feel safer? The FDA's budget is strapped and their inspection resources are low. So as more and more of the American food supply passes through fewer and fewer processors, we have fewer inspectors with no power to really regulate what they are charged with inspecting. Sounds like the perfect plan for disaster doesn't it.

If nothing else, this should make everyone a little more interested in just where their food comes from. If you can find a local source of quality grown produce, patronize that grower if for no other reason than to insure diversity in your food supply. If you have a local farmer's market, get to know the growers. Put a face on the person who supplies your lettuce and tomatoes. Visit their farms and have a look at how your food is being grown. Take responsibility for being your own inspector. That way you will develop a trust in your food supply that you can no longer have the government insure.

Source: Outbreaks Reveal Food Safety Net's Holes - washingtonpost.com

PTO Friday - Email Muses

It was good to see that Marie' family managed to make it home through the ice and snow of yesterday's weather in Boone. I hope her fears of frozen water didn't pan out...

The take away quote from E.J. Dionne's column today says a lot with a few words

An administration that fought a misguided, poorly planned and ill-considered war in the name of democracy should not be allowed to discredit the democratic idea itself.

Source: E. J. Dionne Jr. - An Ideal In Need Of Rescue - washingtonpost.com

And like Eugene Robinson, I have to wonder if the President actually read the Iraq Study Groups report or is he relying on the "CliffNotes" version?

There's only one reader who really counts, though, and I doubt he'll be impressed. The Decider isn't in the habit of letting mere facts get in the way of blind conviction.

Source: Eugene Robinson - Bush Listened, but Did He Hear? - washingtonpost.com

I'll try to post more later but I have a wedding to go to. Oldest son and significant other are going before the judge this morn...picture to follow I'm sure.

Late Update: Taking the Vows...

Life's little milestones...

This past weekend we passed another of those little milestones you don't really think about as you are getting older. My youngest daughter and I started her driving practice so she can get her license. It doesn't seem that long ago that I was doing the same thing with her mother...my how time flies when you are having a life. At 16 she has been pushing for her license for a couple of years now. And with our auto insurance bill, I've been pushing back. Looks like I am about to loose the pushing match...

Around my family, for some reason, driving licenses are not a big push for the kids. Except with this one. Youngest son waited until he was 18...Now we never see him.

All in all the experience on Saturday went better than I hoped, and Sunday went even better. Tonight she will be driving with a professional instructor and I do not envy him his job at all. I guess what amazed me the most was I managed not to raise my voice more than once. That time all I said, rather forcefully, was "TAKE YOUR FOOT OF OF THE GAS". Not bad...we lived.

Oh well, time to move on...Have a photo...

From my last photo run to Bolivar...Post processed through Photomatix Pro
Have a great day.

PS Santa came early...

New Photo Software

Marie Freeman over at Blue Ridge Blog mentioned she was experimenting with HDR photography. The link on her page led me to the demo download of Photomatix Pro. I have been playing with the demo and I am really impressed. Here are some samples I have been playing with and the originals from the camera...

And this:

As you can see, the changes are dramatic...and I like the look. As I told Marie I think I need to get my letter to Santa, I really need this program.

What does God look like to a child?

My favorite local columnist. Once upon a time I though he had the worlds best job. As time has gone by I realized how tough it would be to come up with these things on a regular basis...

Dec. 1, 2006, 4:58PM
What does God look like to a child?

Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

CHESTER B., one of the members of our Old Codgers Club, called me the other morning and asked if I had any ideas about what God looks like.

This matter was brought into Chester's life by one of his great-grandchildren, who is 4 years old.

The child is visiting in his home, and one of Chester's great-grandfatherly duties has included reading bedtime stories. Some of these stories are about shepherds, and angels, and heaven, and prophets, and other particulars dealt with in the Bible, including God.

"She keeps asking me what God looks like," Chester said on the phone. "I tell her I don't know, and she asks why I don't know. She keeps turning the pages, looking for a picture of God. The book has pictures of sheep, and angels, and old guys with long white beards, and she wants to know why it hasn't got a picture of God."

That seemed to me like a fair question. How did he answer it?

Go find out where the conversation went...

Source: What does God look like to a child? | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle

The Writer's Almanac for Sunday, December 3, 2006

Great images in words. Even I, a southern boy who has had few run-ins with frozen precipitation, can see the images as I read these lines. Highly appropriate following last weeks storms. Thanks Garrison, a great pick for a December morning.

Poem: "Snow in the Suburbs," by Thomas Hardy. Public Domain.
Snow in the Suburbs
Every branch big with it,
Bent every twig with it;
Every fork like a white web-foot;
Every street and pavement mute:
Some flakes have lost their way, and grope back upward, when
Meeting those meandering down they turn and descend again.
The palings are glued together like a wall,
And there is no waft of wind with the fleecy fall.
A sparrow enters the tree,
Whereon immediately
A snow-lump thrice his own slight size
Descends on him and showers his head and eyes,
And overturns him,
And near inurns him,
And lights on a lower twig, when its brush
Starts off a volley of other lodging lumps with a rush.
The steps are a blanched slope,
Up which, with feeble hope,
A black cat comes, wide-eyed and thin;
And we take him in.

Source: The Writer's Almanac for Sunday, December 3, 2006

Photo for today...

This is our front porch on Christmas Day 2004 when we had a white Christmas. The only one I've ever seen.

The Ladybug Letter

Andy Griffin wrote an essay in 2002 entitled "Somewhere Near Salinas". It is about George Harrison, gardening, and farming, but, mostly it's about life. I found this paragraph touched me.

George Harrison didn't spend much time on stage after The Concert for Bangladesh. He focused instead on his interest in religion and gardening. He even dedicated his autobiography to "gardeners everywhere." As a former and future gardener I could appreciate that nod of recognition. Gardening is love, art and a meditation. Farming has to be a business. George Harrison could afford to maintain lush ornamental gardens in both England and Hawaii because as a musician he'd been bought and sold like a sowbelly. His music is admirable to me because he managed so often to slide a touch of soul into even the most commercial product he performed on.

Go read the entire essay. It is worth the time. If you like what you read subscribe to their newsletter.

Source: The Ladybug Letter

How's the weather?

For the first time in a long time we've flipped. This morning in SE Texas the temperature stands at 37 degrees as I type. I see from the forecast email I get that the temperatures on the Blue Ridge in Boone and Floyd are almost 30 degrees higher. Folks this doesn't happen very often. But I sure will enjoy the few days of winter (for us) that we are getting early this year. When this front gets over to the east coast ya'll throw a log on the fire and warm your hands and think of me...it'll probably be pushing 80 again down here.

My email from Garrison this morning contains a poem "In the Middle" by Barbara Crooker. These lines caught my attention:

We'll never get there,
Time is always ahead of us, running down the beach, urging
us on faster, faster, but sometimes we take off our watches,
sometimes we lie in the hammock, caught between the mesh
of rope and the net of stars, suspended, tangled up
in love, running out of time.

This week's Photo Friday Challenge: 'Stillness'.

Joshua Trees in Red Rock Canyon Country

It doesn't get any stiller than the desert in winter...Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, NV.

Time to hit the road...ya'll have a great day.

Another Study, Another Reason to Drink Red Wine - washingtonpost.com

 In the last month we've been given two reasons to drink red wine. First it was the resveratrol which was keeping overweight, out of shape mice young now it's procyanidins...

In the latest research, Roger Corder of Queen Mary's School of Medicine in London and colleagues analyzed various components of red wine. They found that substances called procyanidins appeared to have the most potent beneficial effect on the cells that enable arteries to power the heart.

Moreover, the researchers discovered that levels of procyanidins were highest in red wines produced in southwestern France, where French men tend to live the longest, according to a report in today's issue of the journal Nature.

Just for the record the article also mentioned dark chocolate, apples and cranberries as suppliers of procyanidins. Looks like a menu made for the holidays...I would like to know more about the diet of these men from southwestern France though.

Source: Another Study, Another Reason to Drink Red Wine - washingtonpost.com

Wednesday Morning Emails

The first thing up in my email que was the Washington Post this morning. The first headline that caught my eye was a story about the Freshman Senator from Virginia.

In Following His Own Script, Webb May Test Senate's Limits - washingtonpost.com

At a recent White House reception for freshman members of Congress, Virginia's newest senator tried to avoid President Bush. Democrat James Webb declined to stand in a presidential receiving line or to have his picture taken with the man he had often criticized on the stump this fall. But it wasn't long before Bush found him.

"How's your boy?" Bush asked, referring to Webb's son, a Marine serving in Iraq.

"I'd like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President," Webb responded, echoing a campaign theme.

"That's not what I asked you," Bush said. "How's your boy?"

"That's between me and my boy, Mr. President," Webb said coldly, ending the conversation on the State Floor of the East Wing of the White House.

Source: In Following His Own Script, Webb May Test Senate's Limits - washingtonpost.com

It's good to see someone who isn't taken in by George W Bush's good ole boy charm for a change.

Then there is this story...

Five Years After Enron, Firms Seek Weaker Rules - washingtonpost.com

Business interests, seizing on concerns that a law passed in the wake of the Enron scandal has overreached, are advancing a broad agenda to limit government oversight of private industry, including making it tougher for investors to sue companies and auditors for fraud.

A group that has drawn support from Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. plans to issue a report tomorrow that argues that the United States may be losing its preeminent position in global capital markets to foreign stock exchanges because of costly regulations and nettlesome private lawsuits.

Source: Five Years After Enron, Firms Seek Weaker Rules - washingtonpost.com

As someone who lived through the Enron debacle and had family and friends affected by it, I don't see how anyone can say that the legislature overstepped. As far as I am concerned, any time that corporations are complaining about regulations, you have probably not gone far enough.

From the weather email (My-Cast Weather Center) I see the Blue Ridges are have at least a few more mild days. We on the other hand are starting out at 68 and humid and heading up for the upper 70's before a front blows through tomorrow sometime. They are saying we should have freezing temps by the weekend...You really have to love Texas weather. At least part of the time you do.

News from the Vault...New Concert On-line

Visit the Concert Vault Bruce Springsteen

Winterland; San Francisco, CA

# of Tracks: 30 Total Time: 165:04

Two weeks before Bill Graham closed the doors of Winterland forever, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played a powerhouse set that ran for close to three hours.

They also announced a new concert from Joan Baez:

Kezar Stadium; San Francisco, CA

# of Tracks: 10 Total Time: 30:33

Go have a listen...These concerts are all really great...

It's time to hit the road and I've still got mail...so

Have a photo from last week...garden-at-rest

Garden at rest...

In Class Warfare, Guess Which Class Is Winning - New York Times

Thanks to Jason at kottke.org 

Put simply, the rich pay a lot of taxes as a total percentage of taxes collected, but they don’t pay a lot of taxes as a percentage of what they can afford to pay, or as a percentage of what the government needs to close the deficit gap.

Mr. Buffett compiled a data sheet of the men and women who work in his office. He had each of them make a fraction; the numerator was how much they paid in federal income tax and in payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, and the denominator was their taxable income. The people in his office were mostly secretaries and clerks, though not all.

It turned out that Mr. Buffett, with immense income from dividends and capital gains, paid far, far less as a fraction of his income than the secretaries or the clerks or anyone else in his office. Further, in conversation it came up that Mr. Buffett doesn’t use any tax planning at all. He just pays as the Internal Revenue Code requires. “How can this be fair?” he asked of how little he pays relative to his employees. “How can this be right?”

Even though I agreed with him, I warned that whenever someone tried to raise the issue, he or she was accused of fomenting class warfare.

“There’s class warfare, all right,” Mr. Buffett said, “but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

I've listened to Ben Stein on more times than I can remember. This is the first time I can remember agreeing with him. The above story is his opening, treat yourself and go read the rest at the New York Times...

Source: In Class Warfare, Guess Which Class Is Winning - New York Times

The Writer's Almanac from American Public Media

Garrison picked a good example of Horace's writings. I find it a prayer I could also recite on a daily basis...

On this day in 8 B.C., the Roman poet Horace died (books by this author). He hated the chaos of Rome, and when his patron gave him a farm in the Italian countryside, he wrote,

"I prayed for this: a modest swatch of land
where I could garden, an ever-flowing spring
close by, and a small patch of woods above
the house. The gods gave all I asked and more.
I pray for nothing more, but
that these blessings last my life's full term."

Source: The Writer's Almanac from American Public Media

Loose Leaf Notes: November Porch Vacation

Colleen does it again...She takes me to where I need to be on this the day before I return to the grind. She starts it thus...

A good book. A lounge chair. The sun makes freckles on my bared skin. A single fat fly buzzes by like a fighter pilot that doesn’t know the war is over. This one doesn’t know it isn’t summer. A clumsy yellow hornet goes down, crashes into my arm. I flick it off while sipping every color of the rainbow reflected off my cobalt blue mug.

Follow the link to see how she ended it...

Source: Loose Leaf Notes: November Porch Vacation

The Lighter Way to Enjoy Culture Shock

I have been reading a new blog. Kelly Harmon is a Peace Corps Volunteer in Moldova. I love the way she looks at life and the slightly twisted way she writes. If you have a minute or two go have a look at what she has posted since moving to Moldova. Her perspective on the joy's of the back to the land movement seems to have an added depth now that she has some experience with 13th century living conditions...

- To All Hippies: I know having a farm and living off the land is the ultimate hippie reverie, I have had similar fantasies of self sufficiency. But no more do I have that aspiration; now that I have had a little taste of farm work and being partially self sustaining, I realize that is totally a pipedream. Farm work is hard, farm work is age you long before your years hard. So to all those hippies dreaming of getting a farm up in West Virginia and not having to live your life by anyone else’s lead, I hate to urinate in your breakfast cereal, but forget it.

Another of her posts deals with indoor plumbing...

I never realized how much of a luxury a fully functional toilet was until it was gone.
Now I see that the toilet seat is not a necessity, however, it makes toilet time much more pleasant. I must admit nothing wakes you up in the morning like the cold porcelain against the back of your thighs; better than a shot of espresso.

A bit of synchronicity in all of this is...I was reading Kelly's blog to my wife yesterday and one of the segments on this mornings "Sunday Morning Show" was about Moldova.

Source: The Lighter Way to Enjoy Culture Shock

Brazoria NWR II

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Brazoria NWR

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An Inconvenient Case for Supreme Court - WSJ.com

Since they selected him to run the country it's only fitting that they figure out what to do with him when he doesn't. Time for a little accountability on the part of some black robed non-members of the electoral college? 

WASHINGTON -- Things are bound to heat up at the Supreme Court Wednesday, when justices weigh whether the Clean Air Act requires the Bush administration to do something about global warming.

In the late 1990s, the Clinton administration determined that greenhouse gasses -- such as auto emissions, which contribute to global climate change -- fell under the Environmental Protection Agency's jurisdiction. Challenged by then-Rep. Tom DeLay (R., Texas) at a 1998 congressional hearing, the EPA produced a legal opinion concluding that carbon dioxide could be regulated if the agency determined it contributed to "adverse effects on public health, welfare or the environment."

You have to love it when Tom Delay is mentioned. The new scapegoat of everything politically incorrect in America today. Where were all of these "journalists" when Tommy was ruining the country?

But even if greenhouse gases were pollutants and Congress had authorized the EPA to regulate them, the agency said it had no obligation to act. It cited "uncertainty" over the way global warming worked and the best way to remedy it, particularly in light of diplomatic disputes over the Kyoto Protocol and other international approaches to the problem.

Isn't this the famous Bush environmental policy. Raise false claims of "uncertainty", hire hack scientists if you have to, and then since there is "uncertainty" put off acting until such time as someone else is in charge. We can only hope the court will decide that in reality they are the "deciders" not Mr. Bush.

Source: An Inconvenient Case for Supreme Court - WSJ.com

ASIA GRACE by Kevin Kelly

One of the nice things about the internet is the way you stumble upon the...the unexpected gem. One of the news feeds that I have been subscribed to for a few weeks is Cool Tools by Kevin Kelly. This morning while things were slow I was going through the archives at Cool Tools and decided to find out more about the site and Kevin. That led to the link for Asia Grace below. What an amazing site...photos and photos...If cultures from the other side of the world intrigue you go check out the site. Be prepared though to watch time run away from you. You wont realize how long you are mesmerized by the images...

Link to ASIA GRACE by Kevin Kelly

Happy Thanksgiving All

IN 1789, CONGRESS requested of George Washington that the young nation's first president, as he put it, "recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanks-giving and prayer." The grand traditions of the holiday that we all look forward to today -- grotesque overeating, traffic jams and airport delays, endless sports on television, and family squabbles -- had not yet developed. And the country then, having only just established the government we still enjoy, had a great deal to be thankful for, President Washington noted: "the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war," the "great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed -- for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted -- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us."

Source: Thanksgiving - washingtonpost.com

It's early yet and the house is mostly asleep. We will be cooking in a bit, those dishes we will be taking to my mother's house. Eldest daughter and youngest son are giving thanks elsewhere this year. The newest splinter from our family tree has discovered what all young families discover about holidays...I hope they like to eat Thanksgiving Dinner thrice. We will end up with a combination Feast as both of our moms will be at the gathering.

I just wanted to drop this note out here to say I hope each and every one of you have something or someone to be thankful for on this day. Try to take the time somewhere in the course of the day to reflect on all the good you have seen this year...don't dwell on the might have beens, don't look into the sadnesses... Give Thanks.

Have a blessed day.

Morning Walk - Wednesday Edition

Today's walk wasn't near as cold as yesterdays. It also was different in that I didn't take my camera.

I started of at the Bayou watching the sun come up over the trees. I stood there a long while soaking up the rays and warming my face. From that meditative start I wandered sunward down the trail stopping and listening to the birds along the way. The predominate color here is still green even as some of the grasses and bushes turn the reds, yellows and browns of fall. I was struck by the flowers still blooming along the trail. Lantana and white asters are everywhere. Occasionally you come across some honeysuckle still blooming.

I mentioned earlier that I was looking forward to the flocks of Robins that hang out here in the winter. As I walked along the trail this morning a flock of about 30 flew overhead. Guess that means the winter visitors are here. Yesterday I had a small flock of Killdeers feeding on the ground out in the back yard.

When we moved out here I tried to set up birdfeeders and watering stations that first winter. Not a single bird chose to visit them. All I could ever figure out was that there was enough wild food and water around that they really just weren't interested. Considering we don't feed, we see an immense number of birds here each year.

I made a run down to Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge yesterday afternoon. They still haven't begun flooding the impoundments so the birdlife is a little sparse. There was a few coots which are year round and a number of different Ibises and Herons. The main attraction for me was the raptors though. My favorite thing about this time of the year is the number of hawks that call SE Texas home during the winter.

From yesterdays walk


Frost on the asters...

Free Will Astrology : Aquarius Horoscope

Do you know what I love about Rob Brezsny's Free Will Astrology? It puts you on a different path of thought. You don't have to buy into anything, do anything or be anything other than you. But that little tweak he puts on his art makes you think about life from just a little be off your normal skew...

Aquarius Horoscope for week of November 23, 2006

Verticle Oracle card Aquarius (January 20-February 19)
Your assignment in the coming weeks, Aquarius, is to become a coordinator of synchronicity and director of synergy in all the environments where you hang out. To begin, remind yourself of what those terms mean. Synchronicity is the wonderfully spooky feeling that comes when two or more events occur in a way that might superficially seem to be mere coincidence, but that is actually a sign of a deeper underlying pattern that transcends rational understanding. Synergy is when two power sources collaborate on a surprisingly energetic creation in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

I like that...Coordinator of Synchronicity. I think this calls for new business cards, don't you?

Source: Free Will Astrology

On this day in 1963...

It was about 12:30 p.m. on this day in 1963 that President John F. Kennedy was fatally shot while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas. It was the only successful assassination of an American president carried out in the last hundred years, and the only presidential assassination ever caught on film. Almost every American alive at the time remembers where they were when they heard the news. Walter Cronkite cried when he made the announcement that the president was dead.

I was in 3rd Grade Music Class when they made the announcement on the PA. Almost everyone in the class cried. I can still remember the name of the boy who cheered. The music teacher would, down the road, become a friend when I became a Boy Scout in her husbands Scout Troop.

Where were you on that day when you heard?

It's a good thing JFK was president in the '60's because in today's world he would be in as much trouble as Bill.

Thanks Garrison, for the reminder...

Source: The Writer's Almanac from American Public Media

Leon Hale

 I am sure once upon a time every newspaper had a Leon Hale. Now I doubt there are many like him left. He has been a columnist in the Houston papers since before I was born. He now blogs in addition to his regular writing duties. Do yourself a favor and see what I grew up reading.

In 1946 I was living in Bryan. I was 25. One pay day I walked into the New York Café downtown, sat on a stool at the long lunch counter, and ordered a bottle of Bud and a plate of beef enchiladas. This was my habit then on paydays.

I was addicted to the enchiladas in that place. They came out three to the order on a metal plate, elliptical in shape. Dark red sauce bubbled up around the plate's edges. The enchiladas were covered in a sheet of melted rat trap cheese. They were always too hot to eat when they first came out. You had to sit there and inhale the fragrance and wait a while so the first bite wouldn't blister your mouth.

This plate of enchiladas cost 90 cents.

When I finished them I was still hungry so I ordered another plate, and ate those. A man of maybe 65 was sitting two stools down from me. When I got up to pay he said, "Young fellow, I'd give a hundred dollar bill if I could do what you just did."

Which puzzled me then, but not now.

Source: Leon Hale | A blog featuring Houston Chronicle columnist Leon Hale

Bankruptcy closes doors of historic Pig Stands | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle

Another page turns in the local history books...

It's reputed to be the world's first drive-through restaurant chain and the place where the onion ring was invented, the result of a cooking accident. In 82 years at the corner of Washington and Sawyer, the last remaining Houston location has been a hut, a collection of stalls served by carhops and a sit-down restaurant.

But now, the Pig Stand's past looks rosier than its present. The city's longest-running restaurant sat empty Monday, a victim of bankruptcy and back taxes that threaten to add it to the ever-growing list of bygone Houston institutions.

I can remember eating at the one in South Houston on a number of occasions before it closed back about the mid '80's.

They are the last vestiges of a chain that started in 1921 in Dallas as the first drive-through and grew into a dozens-strong regional empire that welcomed the age of fast food during a time when meals were handcrafted at home.

The stands evolved into drive-ins by the 1960s, when they dueled Prince's in the Houston market. Both eventually became standard table-service restaurants as they ceded the fast food business to the large chains.

Over time, the Pig Stand has laid claim to a number of culinary firsts. Along with onion rings (said to have been invented in Dallas in the late 1920s when a cook accidentally dropped onions in batter and decided to fry them), chicken fried steak sandwiches and the barbecue pork mainstay known as the Pig Sandwich, owner Richard Hailey said Texas toast also was born at a Pig Stand.

Just wanted you folks to know we do make some history here in Texas. Onion Rings and Texas Toast...Culinary masterpieces.

Source: Bankruptcy closes doors of historic Pig Stands | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle

Earth Friendly ideas from Ideal Bite: Your place for green living tips made fun and easy, green consumer, organic foods, organic living, eco-friendly, ecologically sustainable lifestyle website!

OK, I don't know how these might work out but the premise is right with me so I'll "Bite". I'll let you know what I think...Or jump on over and try them yourself...

We know that you would just love to "do the right thing" for yourself and the planet if it were convenient, fun, inexpensive, and made you feel good. But until now you have lacked a good source of advice for real people leading busy lives.

Congrats. Now you have a free one. See a sample of these short & sassy eco-living tips that arrive each weekday, then...

Here's their sample Bite:

The Bite:
Use water filters instead - tap water might contain contaminants, but (believe it or not) bottled water isn't always cleaner. Use home water filters such as faucet-mounted or pitcher filters - the best way to ensure a clean supply of drinking water at home.
The Benefits
  • Save the 1.5 million tons of plastic expended in the bottling of 89 billion liters of water each year.
  • Get rid of contaminants normally found in tap water such as chlorine, cryptosporidium, Giardia , lead and pesticide runoff.
  • Save money - check out the Bang for the Bite (left) for the juicy details.
  • Filters are a safer bet - up to 40% of all bottled water comes from a city water system, just like tap water.
Personally Speaking
We both have faucet-mounted Brita filters and are somewhat notorious for refilling and carrying hard plastic water bottles with us everywhere.
Wanna Try?
  • Brita - this is our favorite - $34.99 (refill filters are $32.99 for 2)
  • Pur - Very pretty, for you brushed chrome lovers... $49.49 (replacement filters: 4 for $37.98)
  • Top 10 home water filters , water purifiers & water treatment system brands compared by price, performance and ongoing costs
  • Nice cost comparison of various water filter options available


Source: Earth Friendly ideas from Ideal Bite: Your place for green living tips made fun and easy, green consumer, organic foods, organic living, eco-friendly, ecologically sustainable lifestyle website!

Obesity: Maybe We Share Some of the Blame - washingtonpost.com

Being weight challenged these days this article caught my eye since it says something I tend to think is probably true in a number of ways. 

The idea that we're too fat because we eat too much and exercise too little is based largely on "circumstantial evidence," according to a recent report in the International Journal of Obesity. Investigators from the University of Alabama point to at least 10 other possible reasons we are getting too big for our britches. Here are the top three:

  • We don't get enough sleep.

This could be a vicious cycle. What with sleep apnia being a bigger problem among those with excess weight.

  • We have more air conditioning.

I wouldn't count on this one going away anytime soon. If the past few summers are any indication, air conditioning will become even more prevalent right up until nobody can afford the energy cost.

  • Our hormones have been disrupted.

How well I can relate. Back in '97 I had a bout of Pericarditis that hung on for months. It took very high dose steroids to finally kick the problem but in the process my body changed and I haven't been able to get back to that point since. Each year it gets harder just to maintain.

This study sounds like it is headed in the right direction. Our concentration on just one cause of obesity is probably leaving many people wondering why cutting calories and exercising is not working for them. I know for me eating salads everyday and walking for an hour or better every evening and still not seeing a difference made it hard to maintain the practice (and I like salads). 

Source: Obesity: Maybe We Share Some of the Blame - washingtonpost.com

Morning Walk - Tuesday

A person could definitely get used to greeting the sun every morning. The frost was even heavier on the ground this morning before sunup. Each step had that crunch of frozen grass. Each breath was an even thicker cloud than the ones from yesterday.

Other than the "keeer-r-r" of the hawks greeting the suns warmth as it caressed the tops of the trees where they waited and the lonesome whistle of a far off train, I was alone on the edge of Mustang Bayou. The mists on the waters course was heavy this morning. The image as the suns rays started to light first just the upper tendrils was almost magical. And as the sun rose more and more of that writhing snake of fog was touched by it's rays until the entire waterway glowed.

I stood for a long while soaking up that first warmth under the cloudless blue of the heavens before wandering back to the house and the warm coffee.

And so the day began...


On eating locally in winter | By Umbra Fisk | Grist

 Another sustainable living piece. In case anyone notices, these stories catch my interest and go into the mental filing cabinet as I plan for that move to the mountains in a few years...

Eating locally in New Hampshire, though -- let's think about the specifics of that quest. For one, you'll need to adjust your diet (I may be presumptuous in thinking of turnips as outside your normal purview). For two, what is local to you? Is it Strafford County? Is it New England? In the winter you may need to broaden your concept of local to include not only your food's producers, but your food's purveyors. If none of the producer-related steps above work or entice, switch your winter focus from producers to locally owned grocers. In an era of megastores and giant corporate foods, all businesses in the local-foods chain need your allegiance.

Source: On eating locally in winter | By Umbra Fisk | Grist | Ask Umbra | 20 Nov 2006

Morning walk...Monday

One of the carry overs from when our children were all in school is my vacation schedule. Ever since my employer switched from sick days and vacation days to PTO which combined the two, I've tried to save a couple of weeks worth of days till the end of the year...Just in case. That means that I've usually scheduled the Thanksgiving week off along with the week between Christmas and New Years (making use of the Holidays to stretch the time off).

So on this my first morning off, I went for a morning walk as the sun came up. I must say this is the time of the year that Texas (at least my portion) is actually livable. Clear skies, morning temperatures in the 40's, a little bit of frost on the grass...You have to love it. As I walked the only companion I had was my breath steaming out ahead. That's the first time that's happened this fall on a walk.

I see that the Blue Jays are back for the winter. Now, when I make that statement you have to understand that we always have Blue Jays here but during the winter they flock. So during this time of the year you will see flocks of Blue Jays move through the yard looking for food. Soon they'll be joined by the Robins. Yea, I know what you're thinking. Most of you associate Robins with spring. Down here they are winter residents. The flocks of Robins can be quite loud as they move on their daily feeding circuit. From woods to fields to woods again. This is also a good time of the year to sit in the back yard and listen to all of the wrens and finches feeding in the Hackberry trees scattered around the perimeter of our oaks.

A photo from my walk...

mustang bayou

Mustang Bayou Fog

Leonids - missed them I did, or maybe they just missed me

 On Friday the 17th Fred posted the following;

Leonids: Time in the Dark

This is a timely selection from Slow Road Home. Tonight you can begin to look for the Leonids to zip past, a few or many, depending on which experts you listen to. But maybe it is more about just going outdoors. At night. With expectations. Happy hunting!
I left a warm bed, got dressed in every piece of clothing I could lift and carry, and stood outside in the dark for a half-hour this morning. With my neck craned, spinning slowly in circles, I waited in the cold to see the grand show of the Leonid Meteor Shower. My toes are still numb an hour later, and I need to find a good physical therapist to do some mobilization on my stiff sky-watcher's neck. Was it worth it? Yes indeed.

So, when something woke me at 2:30 am Saturday morning, I pulled on a long sleeved henley grabbed my hat and boots and headed outside to see what was up. It was brisk in the pasture out back, a bit hazy with a low hanging fog...There was lots of dew on the ground. Once my eyes adjusted to the dark, what there was of it, I started scanning the heavens. Sadly, I wasn't able to see more than 3 or 4 streaks at the edges of my vision in the 15 to 20 minutes that I hung out before heading back to a warm bed inside.

Every time I make one of these treks into the cold and the dark I think of the John Denver song, Rocky Mountain High, and the lines:

It's a Colorado Rocky Mountain High,
I've seen it raining fire in the sky
The shadows from the starlight are softer than a lullaby.

Those lines and the story he once told about he came to write those lines after camping through a night of a meteor shower on a mountainside in the Rockies. I don't know if it was the altitude, the particular shower or the power of the herbs, but John Denver was definitely impressed by the "fire" raining down around him that night.

On Sunday morning before sunup I tried again. I had even less luck then. Oh well, there's always next year...and the next.

Source: Leonids: Time in the Dark

A Private Month - by Verlyn Klinkenborg

By now, the wind has emptied the milkweed pods. The goldenrod has gone mousy. All the leaves are down, except for a few tenacious oaks and beeches and an ornamental dogwood that is a reprise of the entire season. Each tree looks more singular — and the woods more intimate — in this bare month than in the thickness of summer. October’s memory seems a little lurid from the perspective of mid-November. The sumacs down by the road might have been reading Swinburne the way they caught fire and expired, vaingloriously, in last month’s light. But now that drama is over, as if the year had come up hard on a plain, Puritan truth and was the better for it.

Source: A Private Month - New York Times

I come late to this writing about place. I can remember a few books long ago that spoke of a specific place that I read and reread. The titles have long since passed from my memory, but the pictures of the places they spoke of still linger. Mostly they spoke of mountain villages and rural life.

When I first stumbled upon Fragments From Floyd it was that voice that caught my attention. That voice that spoke of something I was missing. Something I yearned for early but sublimated as the years of life happened. When Fred first mentioned he was publishing a book and offered a deal to those who purchased a copy prior to publication I jumped on the offer. Fragment's and A Slow Road Home led me on a journey to other voices of other places. It was the discovery of a quote by Verlyn Klinkenborg on (I think it was) Susan Albert's Lifescapes Blog that led me to purchase a copy of Rural Life. Then Colleen gave a glowing review of Jim Minnick's Finding A Clear Path that led to another internet purchase. So when the link popped up with the title and author of this Editorial I had to follow. After reading it I felt compelled to link...So follow and read.

Wolfgang's Vault

 If you are of an age like I am, loved the rock music of the late 60's and later, you really need to check out Wolfgang's Vault and Vault Radio. This morning I have been listening to live concerts by CSN&Y, Judy Collins (right now she's singing "The City of New Orleans"), Credence and on and on. They are showing 300 full concert gigs in the "Vault" right now, or you can listen to a random playlist of singles. Take a bit and go read the story behind this amazing collection of music and memorabilia. Me I'm going to finish listening to Judy and see who else I can find to listen to. Maybe it'll make the hair grow back on top like it was in the day I first enjoyed these songs.

Where LIVE Music Lives

Wolfgang's Vault is the world's most exceptional collection of poster art, vintage t-shirts, concert photos, concert tickets and other rock music memorabilia. The Vault's holdings feature the complete archives of legendary rock impresario Bill Graham, whose headliners included Johnny Cash, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Janis Joplin, Aerosmith, Jefferson Airplane, AC/DC and Phish. Here, you'll find rock posters, concert photos, remarkably preserved vintage t-shirts and more from over 17,000 concerts worldwide.

Source: Vintage T-Shirts, Rock Posters, Concert T-Shirts, Concert Posters, Rock T-Shirts, Concert Shirt, Music Memorabilia, Concert Tees

Rediscovering Eliot Coleman

Ok, my earlier post has led to some time wasting (not really) on the web. Barbara wrote this article back in September 2000.

Eliot has a saying: “If you have $30,000, you’ll come up with a $30,000 solution. If you have only 30 cents, you’ll come up with a 30-cent solution. That’s nature’s way. If what you’re doing in the garden is expensive or complicated, it’s probably wrong.” The simplest garden wisdom:
Make compost, as much as you can. No fertilizer is better.

  • Keep tools basic. Eliot made many of our garden tools. Some of his designs, such as the “collinear hoe” and the “wire weeder,” are sold in the catalog from Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Albion, Maine.
  • Keep rows of newly sown seeds moist; especially carrots, which germinate slowly. Sprinkle them daily until they germinate.
  • Alternate vegetables with green manures, such as red clover and buckwheat.
  • Don’t worry about pests. “Relax,” says Eliot. “Bugs are indicators, not enemies. They tell us that something isn’t quite right with our soil or growing conditions.” If you keep the soil aerated and fertile (that means compost again, of course), your plants will be less stressed and they’ll attract fewer pests.
  • Pay attention to your garden and learn from what it has to teach you. Look and see how Mother Nature does things, and take your cue from her.
  • Share what you learn. “Farmers and gardeners shouldn’t hoard secrets. An idea expands when different growers try it out. Information is like compost; it does no good unless you spread it around.”

Naturally, for Eliot Coleman, it all comes back to compost.

Link to americanprofile.pdf

Winter Harvest Manuel ::: Four Season Farm

Ok folks, I guess I am losing it. I first read Eliot Coleman back in the early '70's in The Mother Earth News ( I still have the first 10 or 12 years of issues), and I have been reading the "Cook's Garden" ever since I managed to start pulling in the Washington Post off the Internet. I did not know until today that Eliot and Barbara were married...I discovered the fact when I wandered over to their website for their "Four Season Farm".

Order Winter Harvest Manual

The traditional fresh produce season for market gardeners in the colder parts of North America begins in June and ends in September. For the past eight years, in defiance of our long, cold Maine winters, we have been developing an environmentally sound, resource efficient, and economically viable system for extending fresh vegetable production into "the other eight months." We call it the "winter harvest." Our success thus far is very encouraging. We currently sell freshly harvested salads and main course vegetables from the 1st of October until the 31st of May.

This manual records our recent experiences in planning, carrying out, and fine tuning a fresh vegetable production and marketing operation on the back side of the calendar.

Source: Winter Harvest Manuel ::: Four Season Farm

For me the first thing that came to mind when I red the above (and additional info on their site) was what a great way for someone trying to make it in small scale farming in this day. Not only are you supplying something needed in a time when most of that product is coming from far away, but you will be supplying a superior product locally when you command a premium.

It even sound like you could probably earn enough on the out side of the calendar to enjoy a bit of relaxation in the "season" when prices are down and everyone is competing for the almighty dollar.

Apple Blossom Time - November?

What is it about Australian apple trees? This tree was grown by Stark Bros and planted on my place a decade ago. It still puts on blooms every fall when it is spring south of the equator.This shot is from this morning...

Walking the Berkshires: Not Just Another Brick in the Wall

Talk about a neat idea. All you folks burning wood might want to keep a few boxes on hand for emergencies... 

Bio Bricks, a product that is clean burning, produces just 1% ash, is renewable and utilizes low value forest products.   A Connecticut producer makes fifty tons of these a day and can't keep up with demand.  In fact, the biggest challenge facing this entrepreneur is a steady supply of dry wood chips of the appropriate size and consistency (ideally not more than 8% moisture content).  The chips are fed into a hopper and compressed into bricks that are held together by the heated lignants in the wood.  Bio Bricks have no additives and use chips and sawdust from clean wood (not pallets).  You only need three of them to make a fire in your wood stove or fireplace, they are bug free, and can be stored indoors. 50 packages of these bricks are the equivalent of 1 1/2 cords of wood and are competitively priced.

Source: Walking the Berkshires: Not Just Another Brick in the Wall

From the morning emails...

Looking at the weather report I notice that this is one of those few mornings in the fall where the temperature here in SE Texas matches up rather closely with that of my blogger buddies on the Blue Ridge. Lets me close my eyes and at least feel connected to the mountains. You folks throw another log on the fire for me. We'll be heading up into the upper 60's by afternoon, so I have to enjoy the morning...Late Update: Once I got out and moving it became evident that we had a pretty good frost on every thing above the ground last night. Roofs were all pretty and white. And now the forcast is for low 70's...

I got an email from one of my old favorites from the printed media. Organic Gardening Newsletter is published by the people at Rodale.com. Swing over an check out their offerings. I grew up with the Rodale Family of books and magazines and still depend on a number of those titles when I need answers in the gardening, food quality, or health areas.

Let Nature Decide What's For Dinner
By Lauren Sloane

Have you ever bitten into a bland, mealy peach in the middle of winter? That stomach-turning taste and texture may be nature's way of telling you to start eating seasonally.

Just because you see a mango in your local supermarket during the fall or winter, doesn't mean that it's "in season" in your area. In the United States, shoppers have gotten used to having almost every fruit and vegetable available for purchase year-round. Produce is typically imported from other countries during times of the year when these fruits and veggies cannot be grown domestically. Despite the obvious convenience of consistently having a large array of foods available in your grocery store, imported produce may be smaller, more expensive, and simply taste below par.

Source: Eating with the Seasons

Follow the link to a listing of seasonal foods.

From the same source is a article from Wendell Berry

The Pleasure of Eating

By Wendell Berry

Many times, after I have finished a lecture on the decline of American farming and rural life, someone in the audience has asked, "What can city people do?"

"Eat responsibly," I have usually answered. Of course, I have tried to explain what I meant by that, but afterwards I have invariably felt that there was more to be said than I had been able to say. Now I would like to attempt a better explanation.

I begin with the proposition that eating is an agricultural act. Eating ends the annual drama of the food economy that begins with planting and birth. Most eaters, however, are no longer aware that this is true. They think of food as an agricultural product, perhaps, but they do not think of themselves as participants in agriculture. They think of themselves as "consumers." If they think beyond that, they recognize that they are passive consumers. They buy what they want—or what they have been persuaded to want—within the limits of what they can get. They pay, mostly without protest, what they are charged. And they mostly ignore certain critical questions about the quality and the cost of what they are sold: How fresh is it? How pure or clean is it, how free of dangerous chemicals? How far was it transported, and what did transportation add to the cost? How much did manufacturing or packaging or advertising add to the cost? When the food product has been manufactured or "processed" or "precooked," how has that affected its quality or price or nutritional value?

Source: Wendell Berry: The Pleasure of Eating

Photo for today


From our summer trip to the mountains...

Morning Coffee Reading

Boy you gotta love the way a bureaucrats mind works. Or is it just typical of this administration? When the facts don't look very promising, change the definitions...

The U.S. government has vowed that Americans will never be hungry again. But they may experience "very low food security."

Every year, the Agriculture Department issues a report that measures Americans' access to food, and it has consistently used the word "hunger" to describe those who can least afford to put food on the table. But not this year.

I think the most telling paragraph in the story is this

The United States has set a goal of reducing the proportion of food-insecure households to 6 percent or less by 2010, or half the 1995 level, but it is proving difficult. The number of hungriest Americans has risen over the past five years. Last year, the total share of food-insecure households stood at 11 percent.

Now those facts just can't be redefined. But I can hear the report coming out of Washington next...Due to new data the percentages will be revised downward...

Source: Some Americans Lack Food, but USDA Won't Call Them Hungry - washingtonpost.com

On the other side of the same coin...

THE MIDTERM elections were in part a repudiation of Republican economic priorities. The economy has grown strongly for five years even though it is slowing now, but the fruits of prosperity have not been shared widely. While corporate profits and pay for people at the top have risen, the majority of the workforce has experienced a stagnation of pay that stretches back, with only brief respites, to around 1980. The Republican Party has veered between denying the data and acknowledging middle-class anxiety while offering nothing to assuage it. The Democrats have understood the nation's economic insecurity, and they have been rewarded.

Having diagnosed the problem correctly, Democrats need a prescription.

This editorial then goes on to "explain" why most of the Democrats answers to the problems wont work out unless they walk the fine line of balance. Funny how quick the shift in "accountability" after the election. One paragraph to explain the correctness of the analysis by the minority party coming into the election, then three paragraphs of what is wrong with the proposals thrown out to try and fix the problem. Seems like the level of accountability has risen a notch or two in the past week doesn't it?

Source: The Economic Agenda - washingtonpost.com

Let me return to the Op-Ed that I commented on yesterday at my other blog, Blues From the Red Side of Life. It ties in with the above nicely...

More troubling is this: If it remains unchecked, this bifurcation of opportunities and advantages along class lines has the potential to bring a period of political unrest. Up to now, most American workers have simply been worried about their job prospects. Once they understand that there are (and were) clear alternatives to the policies that have dislocated careers and altered futures, they will demand more accountability from the leaders who have failed to protect their interests. The "Wal-Marting" of cheap consumer products brought in from places like China, and the easy money from low-interest home mortgage refinancing, have softened the blows in recent years. But the balance point is tipping in both cases, away from the consumer and away from our national interest.

The politics of the Karl Rove era were designed to distract and divide the very people who would ordinarily be rebelling against the deterioration of their way of life. Working Americans have been repeatedly seduced at the polls by emotional issues such as the predictable mantra of "God, guns, gays, abortion and the flag" while their way of life shifted ineluctably beneath their feet. But this election cycle showed an electorate that intends to hold government leaders accountable for allowing every American a fair opportunity to succeed.

And, damn, there's that "A" word again.

Looks like for the first time in his life George W Bush may find out what it's like to be held accountable for his actions. Sadly for both him and us, it will be the future doing the holding...And it will be us and our descendents paying the price for his policies.

Source: OpinionJournal - Featured Article

Well the coffee's cold and the road is calling...

From the weekend...DSC_1069

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