Tuesday, May 31, 2011


The past weekend was Memorial Weekend, the national holiday which usually coincides with the end of school and thus begins the summer vacation time, but its origin of intent was to remember and to say thanks to all of those good people who have served in our military, who have perhaps lost lives, limbs, and their sanity in doing so.

I will admit to being one who has largely regarded this weekend primarily as the beginning of summer with all of the trappings of sitting by pool, barbequing and such, drinking a few chilly brews, and have given very little reverence for this day to remember those who have served in the military. It has not been out of disrespect, perhaps it’s more of a disconnected feeling from those who have seen battle or even just spent years of their lives doing their duty, because I personally, and luckily, did not, but I do appreciate those who did.

My husband is a veteran and served three years of his youth during the Viet Nam era, but who fortunately became a photography teacher for the army rather than have to have gone to the battle field and kill or be killed for that very unjust and unpopular war. My father, served in the Korean Conflict during the 50’s, and he did see the horrors of combat personally, was wounded, earned medals of highest honor, and spent many years of my youth awakened by his night mares of Chinese fighters shooting at him in the Korean mountains.

In the words of the rock song from the 70’s!” rings a truth that we humans simply can not figure out how to deal with and/or avoid. “War..huh. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!” Repeatedly through out mankind’s history wars have sprung up for all sorts of reasons, lives have been lost, boundaries changed, technologies have been pushed, cities destroyed, and bits of civilization and knowledge have been lost forever. To what end? It is a truly baffling mystery. It sure would be a super world if wars were no more and being a veteran was an obsolete occupation and was a thing of the past, a place were folks just got along. Nice fantasy. Imagine…

Any way the weekend was nice and long, and it did allow for some good and much needed relaxation, dinner with friends and family, reading by the pool, and the big green egg got a stiff workout cooking lots of ribs and veggies.

Twenty eight years ago today was the birthday of my geriatric mare, Limerick. Born on Memorial Day, her then owners who were serving in the military at that time, decided to honor the day by naming her G.E Commemorative. It’s a bit of a full mouth of a name and no one questioned why they named her after a light bulb company, so when I bought her as a yearling I called her Limerick to limit the confusion and shorten the writing on the halter plate. She was a Hanoverian through and through, tough, opinionated, very talented, and worked when she wanted to, or not. She could jump the moon and buck just as well, and many a time I found myself without a saddle to land on. But when Limerick was playing nice with me, we won everything we entered. It was either a first place blue, or last. She has spent the last couple of years being a nanny to my weanlings and always did a super job teaching them manners. She always kicked them high, if they needed it, being careful not to damage those potentially expensive legs. Twice I have called the vet to come do the final closing for her when she has been acting or moving like she felt very bad, and both times she has foiled that plan and has met us at the fence with a whinny and a canter, clearly not ready to go just yet. Today she will get many carrots, chopped fine so she can chew them carefully, and a nice grooming. Limerick gave me many good memories, and taught me a great deal, along with a few broken fingers, and a dislocated jaw once, and she is deserving of a peaceful retirement in her little pasture and barn, forever how long she decides to hang on, and at this rate it will be totally her decision.

The Purple Martin colony is noisy and raucous with the growing chicks in the gourds sticking their yellow rimmed mouths out to the frantic parents who continually fly by to stuff them with dragon flies and whatever bug is prey. Today unfortunately, one of the chicks made an error in judgment, or was pushed, and left the nest too early. I saw the brancher sitting on the fence line below the pole where its house was, and a male adult kept flying to it, seeming to encourage some flying. Occasionally the parent would just sit on the wire next to the baby, but for whatever reason, the chick either couldn’t or wouldn’t try to fly and eventually it hopped to the ground and hid in a rose bush. Marely, the Yorkie, smelled it and brought it to me in her mouth and the poor little bird gripped my finger as I took it from her, and it slowly closed its eyes and let go. I know mortality is high for the chicks but I just hate to see one so close to making it adulthood die right there in my hand, so pretty, and very sad. Perhaps it was nature’s way of making sure its remaining siblings had enough to eat, or perhaps it was just bad timing on the chick’s part. Either way Mom nature can sure deal out cruel blows along with all the other good stuff.

The weather has finally turned to summer and perhaps one of the only, if not the best, redeeming feature of enduring the torture of a southern summer, it is a homegrown tomato. There simply is no substitute for one still warm from the sunshine, sliced thin, and juicy. The first of our tomatoes have turned red and I picked three this morning and plan on some ‘mater sandwiches with mayonnaise and salt and pepper for dinner.
It is a pure and yummy goodness like no other. A cold watermelon is almost a good second, and then there are cantaloupes too.

In the past few years our tomato plants have succumbed to a virus or some form of wilting disease but so far, (knock, knock on head) they are looking incredible thanks to a new location and many piles of nicely composted horse manure tilled into the ground before planting them. The plants are tall and vigorous and loaded with large green fruit, waiting for the sun to turn them red, although there is much to be said for a fried green one too, so many choices, but such a good problem to have.

The heat of the day is closing and off I head to feed the herd and take Lim her birthday snacks and some to Frank who also had a birthday this week, one year old now. Happy Birthdays to them both…and  many more....

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bugs and Brides

A new quiet has arrived on the farm. Thankfully, the past few weeks’ incessant humming, whirling, buzzing, and droning of the millions of love starved red eyed locusts, has come to a predicted close and out door farm life is again so much more peaceful and easy without them. Theirs’ was a relentless tone, and now, it’s mostly gone, at least for another thirteen years. The dogs have all been enjoying crunching on these spent adults that have fallen to the ground after their mating game was done, and I am sure that Jack will miss them the most, but he will find something else to eat to keep his figure suitably rotound. He always does.

This past weekend we left the recently quieted farm for a brief journey to Birmingham to see a dear friend give away his only daughter in marriage. I hate weddings in general, and the idea of dressing up and driving two hours there and back were not high on my want to do list. This, however, was a must do attendance for us, and so we resolved to do what was necessary to give support to our good friend in his hour of need.

Thus resolved and reluctantly all tidied up, we drove to our destination site, The Club, an uber swanky club straddling the steep peak of Red Mountain and overlooking the valley to the north which is the town of Birmingham. The Club was built either late 50’s of early 60’s and has a suave and sophisticated look about its architecture and lines as it lays like a relaxed cat upon the narrow top of a fence line, slowing flicking its tail. It is a white, smoothly finished structure with slow sensuous, curving lines and is topped with a low profiled flat roof. Tidy gardens line the path from the parking deck and lead you to the glass front doors. Once inside the view from the glass walled foyer/bar is a expansive scene of the busy urban life below. It has fortunately stood the effects of time, both physically and socially. It is so nice to see that some later architect of decorator was steered clear of “improving” its character and has left this elegant old place alone

The wedding du jour, was to be held out on a broad deck that perched over a very steep slope below us. It was a mid-May wedding but the weather didn’t get the memo. It was chilly to say the very least, a late in the season cold front had come in to lighten the humidity and the temps and the chilly north wind was blowing steady into the faces of the already seated. We found our way to some chairs and we waited for the quartet playing the usual pre-wedding songs to wrap it up.

Finally, after all of the grannies and the moms had been escorted in, and everyone had gotten a chance to see and judge their frocks for this special day, the show began. The anthem chords of the marriage parade were sounded and all eyes were turned to the back of the seating area, and there was the bride and her father.

She was beaming in her joy and he was smiling and squirming in the discomfort of both his tux and his being in the spot light. In they paraded and vows were exchanged and all the hooplala of the typical ritualistic Gentile/Hebrew wedding was done with all the mixed metaphors from both religions, they kissed and the grannies and moms were escorted back from whence they came.

Servers stood by with trays of wine as the thirsty guests unseated themselves and turned to try to find libation. It was a good thing because most of the wedding party and their many guests had not counted on a stiff cold breeze for a May wedding, were freezing and needed antifreeze badly. The coldest I saw was a bridesmaid with a particularly interesting shade of red hair, wearing a moss green, gossamer, strapless gown. She had become a bit of a study of contrast in colors when she walked by. Her skin had become a vivid and cool shade of purple which really set the two secondary colors of the soft moss and the electric orange hair off to a tee.

As far as weddings go, it was okay. The weather was overlooked as the wine settled the nerves, and the food was excellent. The bride’s father was so happy it was over and he even survived the first dance with his married daughter on a brightly colored dance floor to the sounds of a kick butt band playing mo town hits. We ate and we drank, and chatted with those we did find in the crowd that we knew, and then were about to leave when the father said that there was to be a special announcement back out on the deck. So back into the cold night we all went.

Kaboom….kaboom, kaboom etc etc etc. Below us cans of exploding gunpowder were launching streaks of fireworks upward into the sky and the launched fireworks exploded into mind blowing patterns and colors, some very close from our vantage point. The air was thick with the smell and the sonic booms shook out legs. This was no amateur exposition. This was a fantastic show, in a fantastic setting, but the reason for the show was the most fantastic. As a child, one day the future bride told her dad that at her wedding she wanted fire works. Unbeknown to this bride, on this her wedding day, her dad had obliged and had secretly arranged for this dazzling show. It was a great end of the evening for us and we said our adieus and drove back home in the dark.

As I said earlier, I hate weddings. The happiest moment of a wedding, in the traditional style regardless of the culture, is when it’s over and the bills have been paid. Why it has evolved into such a ridiculous event that causes so much stress and involves such a huge investment of time and money, is a total mystery to me.

My own was sufficed in a court house on a Monday in May. I wore blue jeans and flip flops and stood with my legs crossed. Job done, we left to go camping. No thrown rice, no tacky brides maid dresses, no jittery nerves about where so and so will sit, no protocol, no wedding planner, no Godzilla bill for friggin’ flowers, no preacher giving a mini sermon, no stupid white dress signifying my purity, no worrying about the caterer making enough cheese biscuits, no diamond to ooh and ahh over, no year’s worth of planning and a life time of money to pay for it all, the very idea of it all makes me crazy.

But, to each their own, and this recent bride seemed to have a good time at her almost flawless wedding, despite the chilly breezes. Her dad can breathe again and go back to fishing in his little pond and life goes on,too, here on our farm. May is nearly done, my daughter turned twenty six this week, and soon there will be another anniversary for Mark and me. The horses are glossy in the paddocks, Jack has managed to not make any news in a while, the Purple Martins are busy feeding baby bird mouths, and the corn is knee high in the garden. Good news this week was that Joline, my geriatric broodmare, was confirmed pregnant, so I will be keeping fingers crossed that she can carry it to term successfully. I guess weddings, love starved bugs, and pregnant mares are really on the same big page in life. It 's all about keeping it all going.  Another day, and another page turns.

Friday, May 6, 2011

April's Encore

April did not close quietly. It had appeared as if it might, and then, the frontal line of a century hit the area and state. In terms of perfect storms this one was exquisite in its perfection, and in its destructive powers. The colliding masses of air that met were the total opposites in their temperature and humidity, and their confrontational line left a swath of devastation from high winds, tornadoes, and hail that will long be remembered for its fury and horror, and its resulting loss of property and life.

The day was damp and muggy, and felt like a sauna with the winds from the south pulling the moisture from the warm Gulf of Mexico, priming the atmosphere for the arrival of the still quite cold and dry air mass from the north. The weather channel folks were very excited and the meteorologists were busy on the television, enthusiastically showing maps and giving warnings about the potential power of the storm that was to arrive here, later in the afternoon. They showed graphics and maps and repeatedly told of what to do to prepare for its arrival. Their urgency was dramatic and a bit of a cause for some mild concern, but it’s kind of like the boy who cried “wolf” too many times and nobody believed him. That is, until the wolf did finally eat someone. We had just a bit of skepticism at the need for all their excitement.

We have storms here all the time, nearly weekly, especially in spring when the air is still in flux of changing from winter to summer. Occasionally we do have fierce thunderstorms, with these fronts, and sometimes, a tornado, sometimes with damage, but usually, not. And so we listened to these weather guys do their thing, and prepared for the usual despite their enthusiastic warnings of “Blah, blah, blah!”, and went about our merry way finishing the afternoon chores.

When I returned from afternoon feeding at the barn, I walked into the house and looked to the tv and saw where the effects of the storm were now being visible from sky cams across the state, and it was evident that this was no usual frontal line and this was not the ordinary spring storm. Already, they said, this storm had killed and destroyed many in its path in neighboring states. Cameras were suddenly switched to show a massive tornado which was in view courtesy of a remote sky cam, descending upon the town where Mark and I had been in college, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. We watched in amazement as a giant, rapidly moving funnel swept over recognizable landmarks and obliterated them without a sound, blowing debris far and wide. It was a surreal event to watch, and then to realize that we were watching death happen, and destruction so massive as to not comprehend. It was a strange and helpless feeling to watch an event like this in real time, and be helpless to act. Just after this unprecedented, huge, tornado passed just south of the tall walls of Denny Stadium, that camera went dead.

Reports and photos later on began to reveal the extent of the horror after the tornado left the town and laid aim at another to the east. The storm front also spawned many other tornados, but none as massive or as long on the ground as Tuscaloosa’s, but huge amounts of damage and loss of life had occurred all over the area. The tornado that hit in Tuscaloosa had been a mile wide and covered almost seven miles of concentrated town, raking entire neighborhoods, buildings, cars, and people away. Text books, checks, and debris from this town were carried by the huge winds as far away as Birmingham, which also felt the brunt of this collision of air masses. The number of lives lost or missing was near three hundred or something, I have heard, and the injuries were uncountable.

Friends of ours called us from Tuscaloosa after the front had moved on that night, to tell us they had been missed and were ok, but they expressed the unbelievable destruction they witnessed with shock and dismay in their voices. The area we had spent so much time in, and the apartments where Mark had lived when we met, were simply gone, bull dozed by the sucking winds that pulled up, or leveled, everything in its path, everything.

We were fortunate that fate would spare our immediate location and home, and we were graced with only a bit of wind, and that was gratefully, all. The cooler and drier conditions the retreating storm left behind were welcome and the next day these conditions were pleasant for the poor souls who did live through the storm to pick up the few remaining pieces of their newly shattered lives, and an entire state, and country, was numb with the extent of the incomprehensible loss.

As cleanup is begun, life continues, and the healing of the scars will take time, but mend the wounds. Life on this planet is a strange and fragile existence and is one with no guarantees of tomorrow, and had best be enjoyed, savored, and appreciated. A motto to heed is certainly, to “Be here now”.

On a totally different wave length from the sobering effects of the passing storm, the next day, outside in the woods, there was a loud and very strange noise coming from all over the place. It was a constant whirling, relentless whistling sound that brought to mind the sci-fi alien landing in a movie sound. This was a very different sound from the typical cicadas, crickets, frogs and such that are busy vocalizing away this time of year and as I rode my horses near the trees they paused and cast inquisitive ears towards the strange sound. It is now a loud and constant droning which lasts from dawn to dusk.

Red eyed cicadas are the source of this sound, the internet research enlightened us, a particualr batch of bugs that hatch only every thirteen years. Theirs is a life cycle that lasts as adults only for a few weeks, emerging from the soil as grubs that have fed on roots and such for thirteen years, and they then shed their skins to become winged adults. The males rub these orange rimmed wings together, making this crazy whirling sound, each trying to attract a red eyed female. Mating accomplished, she then lays her eggs either on these hard wood trees or in them, to lay in wait for yet another thirteen years, the cycle completed. An article written thirteen years ago predicted their return in late April, and that will remain present until a few weeks into May, and the author was spot on so far.

They are a colorful and good sized bug, and I nearly stepped on a very tired male this morning as a came from the barn. I went to go get something to put it in so I could photograph the thing later, but when I came back to it with a cup, the might dog, Jack, was standing where the poor bug had been, and the weary bug was now yet another victim of Jack’s culinary indiscretion. He looked quite innocently at me as he crunched the last of my would be model.

Our youngest daughter was born in 1985, on a year of their emergence, and she is soon to be twenty six, on this year of their second return since her birth. The next time they fill the air with their droning amorous calling, she will be thirty nine, and I can’t count high enough to know how old I will be, if granted, I am here. Funny, when one looks at events with personal markers like these, it does give one a frame of reference that gives thought. I will remember this reoccurring occasion of these bugs for the cross timing with her birthday. I will also regrettably, remember it in association with the timing of the deadly April tornados.

A little link on the bugs..