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.

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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.

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