Monday, February 29, 2016

Spring Cleaning

I'm on my own today and got bitten by the spring cleaning bug. The weather has been fantastic, sunny and in the 70s, for several days. Radishes and spinach in the raised bed are up and growing. Azaleas and camellias are in full bloom, and I decided it was time to clean up the water's edge.


I wish I had taken a "before" photo but I was in a hurry to get started and I forgot. Suffice it to say our view of the dock and water had become seriously impeded by overgrown brush and trees. It took me all morning, but look!

We have our view back.



When I started, the tide was out

and I was walking in sucky pluff mud and tall spartina grass..

I love an excuse to wear my polka dot boots!





We call this pine tree the woodpecker tree.

It's mostly dead, bark stripped, full of holes from the pair of pileated woodpeckers that nests nearby. It's really, really tall.

Can't imagine why it's still standing.



I picked up the trash that comes in on the tide as I worked.

This is many months' accumulation, so not too bad. I wonder where the work glove came from.







Hurricanes have downed trees that you can't see until you get right down by the water.

They are works of art, sculptures created by Mother Nature.











Most of our dock was taken out by a big storm.

Docks are very expensive so it won't be replaced until we decide if we are going to live here.







There is a pile of oyster shells, memories of past oyster roasts. We have an oyster bed right near the old dock but we have never harvested the oysters.

Maybe one of these days ....





I cleaned the mud off my boots and the knees of my pants (because of course I fell in the mud a couple times!), took a shower, and now I'm sitting in a chair right next to the pile of oyster shells, writing this and enjoying the much improved view.


Friday, February 26, 2016

Far-Flung Family - Vietnam Edition

My daughter is in Vietnam for a couple weeks as part of a program for leaders in agriculture for the state of Minnesota. It's a two-year program and 20 are chosen to participate. The culminating activity is a trip to meet with leaders in agriculture in another country. All expenses are paid by the program!

I thought I'd share a few photos she has sent me over the first few days.



Halong Bay.















They have toured oyster, shrimp, and crab farms and pineapple plantations near Hanoi...












...experienced the fisherman's life on the water and exchanged fishing stories about Minnesota

















... gone to market with Vietnamese fruit and vegetable farmers.














...learned how rice is grown and helped with planting



















...ridden working water buffalo










...walked down a country lane















...and been invited to stop for unscheduled tea and tour of this little farm -all 20 of them!- by a friendly farmer.





My daughter is on the left. She is the policy director for the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and their liaison with federal and state government.

They are only half way through their trip.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

My Far-Flung Family

Let's see. It's Wednesday. My sister and brother-in-law must be in Panama because last month they were in Costa Rica. Sarah is just back from a business trip and a few days of fun in Puerto Rico. And Anna is in Vietnam for a couple weeks, part of a leadership program for agriculture in Minnesota. Without the wonders of Facebook and WhatsApp (free texting all over the world) I would be feeling very lonely!



My sister and BIL rented a house in Costa Rica for a few months. My favorite adventure of theirs so far involved this little guy.




They were eating breakfast one morning in their open air kitchen and a baby sloth fell from the rafters of the house with a plop onto the floor at their feet! No mama in sight, which was odd because this was a tiny baby and they usually stay attached to the fur on the mama's belly for many weeks after birth.

The neighbors called an animal rescue group who sent someone out to try to find the mother. No luck. They were told that baby sloths seldom survive without their mother and they didn't offer much hope for this one. They recorded the baby's cries, took the baby with them, and left the recording to be played at intervals in hopes that the mother would hear and come s-l-o-w-l-y down out of the trees to find her baby.

Several days passed. They did see one sloth but it was determined to be a male, not the mama.

Finally, after it seemed too late to even be looking, they spotted a female in a tree!

I'll let my sister take over from here:

"A little later in another tree Darryl spotted another sloth. This one looked like a female. We played the tape of the baby over and over and she reacted, moving around trying to see where it was coming from. Called the rescue people and they came right over. The guy said yes it's a female and is the mother.

"They had brought the baby with them. They put it at the base of the tree with our speaker playing hoping the mother would come down. She started to come down but stopped. They decided they would get the baby up to the mother. They got a rope around the branch right by the mother and used my straw purse to put the baby in and hoisted it up. Took a bit for the baby to get out of my purse and try to reach the mother. The mother was able to reach down and grab the baby and put it on her back.

"It was one of the neatest things we've seen. The rescue people were very happy and appreciative for us spotting her."

I just wish they had taken more pictures!


Monday, February 22, 2016

Harper Lee and Atticus Finch

Having taught American (as well as British) lit for many years, I learned of the death of Harper Lee this weekend with memories both sad and sweet.

Most American students read To Kill a Mockingbird in the 9th grade. Over the years I guided hundreds of them through it.

I love this book.

My copy has many loose pages held together by a rubberband. It has years of underlining, highlighting, and notes.


With her southern gentility and beautiful prose, Ms Lee seductively and oh-so-gently draws the reader into a horrifying tale of unfairness, of prejudice, racism, classism, gossip, brutality, suspicion of those who are "different," parental abuse, alleged rape, and murder. The story's profound lessons are delivered by the wise lawyer, "nigger lover" and single father Atticus Finch. Through the tale, the reader is confronted with the maddening stew that is the complexity of human nature and the problems that afflict society. Ultimately, and at great personal sacrifice, even Atticus is helpless in the face of such deeply-rooted custom and prejudice.

Atticus faces an angry mob of white men with his children by his side outside the jail on the night before he is to defend a black man in a rape trial. (from the movie To Kill a Mockingbird)

For many, if not most, students Mockingbird is an introduction to life in the American South post slavery, with all the complexities of good people and prejudice that comes from generations of living in Maycomb, Mississippi. With the children of Atticus, Jem and Scout, readers lose their innocence.

"The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."

Atticus Finch, "To Kill a Mockingbird"

The book is served up to students at a time when teenage brains are maturing, as they begin to examine issues and form values apart from their parents' and based on their own knowledge and experience. It's a about the loss of innocence read by students who are in the midst of losing their own.

"Its not fair"

"It's not right"

they protest. With the children of Atticus, students grapple with tough lessons gently taught:

The knowledge that good people, people who are willing to make great personal sacrifice, can't always fix society's evils.

The knowledge that the all-powerful parents who rid the closet and beneath the bed of monsters can't fix everything.

The knowledge that,

"You can never really understand a person

until you consider things from his point of view. ... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."

Atticus Finch, "To Kill a Mockingbird"


Monday, February 15, 2016

Be-you-tee-ful Beaufort

Beaufort (pronounced b'you-fert) is South Carolina's second oldest city. It's located on Port Royal Island, about a half hour from our house by road. A few weeks ago we enjoyed a horse drawn carriage tour of historic homes of the town.

The carriages are brightly colored and the horses friendly and smart. The horses are purchased from the Amish after their farming lives are over and housed on a farm outside of town.

According to our guide, they know the route as well as she does and make stops and turns without being "told". Ours even watched the traffic light turn green, the signal to proceed!

She told us that the horses work a day and rest a day and they don't like to be left back at the barn. They all come running to the fence when the trailer arrives whether it's their turn to work or not.

They also have a rest between trips and it was obvious that they were restless and as ready to go as we were before their rest time was up.



Our guide was a young Beaufort native who knew a LOT about the town's history and clearly loved her job.


She was also an interesting story teller, and especially charming with her southern accent.





Beaufort is known for maintaining its historic character and preserving its antebellum architecture. It was occupied by Union troops just after the Civil War began and spared the burning and destruction of other towns of the South because the Union used it as a military headquarters throughout the war.


I can't remember all the stories and I can't remember which house was which. So I'll show you some houses and tell you some of the stories randomly. Sorry about that!

I had a hard time taking any photos at all because I was in the middle, sandwiched between some large people who were leaning out to take photos most of the trip.




The mansions of Beaufort were built as summer homes for planters of South Carolina, a refuge for them and their families to escape the heat, insects, and disease of the swamps further inland.

When Union troops took the town in 1862 there was almost no resistance from the planters who owned the property and home. They grabbed what they could and ran from the city in carts and carriages, hastily burying treasures that they couldn't take with them in the gardens and under outbuildings.

None of the planters returned after the war and most of the grand homes were sold to former slaves or northerners for a few dollars of back taxes.

Most of the homes were occupied during the war by Union generals and other military commanders and their staffs.


Several functioned as a hospitals for Union soldiers with outbuildings used as morgues. Others were used as federal government buildings.




After the war one house was inherited by two brothers who couldn't get along so they ripped out the staircase at the center and divided the house in two. Presumably they and their two families lived happily--and seperately--ever after!

Another grew so tired of his two daughters squabbling over who would inherit the family home that he built them two identical mansions side by side on the same street.

Long before these times, the pirate Blackbeard hung around what was then called Fish Town. In the 1990s the ruins of Blackbeard's ship, Queen Anne's Revenge, were found and identified in the water two miles from the Beaufort harbor. There are lots of stories of Blackbeard and his women visiting and staying in some of the mansions where it seemed like he always killed someone, the bloodstains are still visible, and the place haunted.



In spite of hurricanes and fires that destroyed parts of Beaufort after the Civil War, some gorgeous old trees, up to 300 years old, remain. Several of them grow in the middle of or right over the old streets like this one. Some are marked with signs with the height clearance, some are not.

The carriage barely fit underneath the one.







A live oak so old that its branches have grown along the ground and back up is called an "angel oak".




The "motor" for our carriage got plenty of treats on the trip from the treat bucket on board.






He is also wore a fly-protecting head cover for his comfort.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wednesday Whatnot

We've had some cold weather that gets me longing to take on a knitting project. The only problem is, I live in South Carolina now and can't think of anything I need to knit!

I have a couple winter scarves, more than enough for the few days cold enough to wear them, two wool shawls (ditto), and several pairs of wool socks.

So, when I saw this car on the road in front of us, I knew exactly what happened.




She had to knit!

Something! Anything!

I may soon be out yarn bombing our mailbox.

Or knitting leggings for the egrets, poor things, who stand out in the icy water day after day.




I couldn't resist stopping in this animal rescue charity shop when I saw the name.




And look what I found!

My cat would have loved it.

And defeathered it in a day!

And probably broken the lamp in the process.











Tulip tree last weekend outside the Beaufort Library

... and some very good advice




Monday, February 8, 2016

Back to Amelia Island

Amelia Island off the Florida/Georgia coast is one of our favorite places.

When my house is Minnesota is sold next spring, we are thinking of making it our home.

We ended our Florida trip last week with a night and a day on Amelia. When we arrived at our hotel the sky was cloudy and gray with just a hint of the pink sunset.


We had this beautiful view of the ocean and sky from our hotel balcony over the dunes.

We took an evening walk on the beach and then settled in at the sand bar to listen to the waves break on the shore and have dinner.

We were practically the only diners sitting outside.




The next morning we walked another beach, City Beach, in the only town on the island, Fernandina Beach. I had never seen Black Skimmers before, and they were in abundance.



The skimmers hang out with flocks of gulls on the sand, then suddenly en masse lift out of the gull gathering and fly and wheel low along the beach. Then they land, the gulls catch up, and they do it all over again!




This is a a skimmer.

I couldn't get near enough to them to get a closeup so thank you very much, Wikipedia.





On the drive home from Amelia, we left the interstate somewhere to take a backroad through Woodbine, Georgia, population 1300, in search of the Stardust Motel. Even better, we found this.







The Woodbine International Fire Museum and antique store.

The sign on the right says "SHUT. Dead People's Things For Sale".

It looks as if it has been closed up for a long time.

Wouldn't you just love to meet the owner whose dream this was? I would!




Just one more photo for you.




Yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday in the USA. The Green Bay Packers weren't playing so without a dog in the fight, I stayed home and read a book.


Obviously the rest of the family

was out partying!