Saturday, March 28, 2009

Anticipating a Good Week

We are without Internet service at home.

We arrived home from our trip and the service was not working. I checked several items, phoned for service, spoke with a pleasant and highly-trained man in India and learned several things from his expertise. In the end he opened a service request and we are waiting for call from someone local (i.e. within 200 miles) who will repair the system in a week or so.

We obtain service via satellite and it appears the electronic components on the antenna have failed. Winter-before-last we didn't have service on cold mornings with the temperature near zero. After the sun warmed the antenna the service returned. I removed a cosmetic plastic piece to enable the sun to warm the parts directly and service returned more quickly on cold mornings. I couldn't find a quick or simple solution to the current problem.

Actually, other than having to pay a few hundred dollars to get the antenna repaired, I'm glad this has happened. It's good to be reminded of life before the Internet. Today I accomplished more work than I would have since coming in to take a break generally involved checking email ad browsing news stories. Today I worked around the yard, had coffee and talked with Julie during a break and went back to work sooner. Definitely pleasant!

During the coming week I hope to find the time to write something that requires a little thought, something more than quick thoughts and accompanying photos.

This week without Internet service should be interesting, entertaining and helpful in remembering the things that are important in life.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

More Vacation Photos

It is our last night. Tomorrow we fly home.

We toured Charleston, SC, walked beaches, visited swamps, took a boat to Fort Sumter, drove to Fort Moultrie, on an impulse searched for but failed to find a Gullah museum, explored a WWII submarine, a Coast Guard cutter and the aircraft carrier Yorktown, enjoyed Brookgreen Gardens, saw the Aquarium near Wilmington and spent time with my sister and brother-in-law. Yesterday afternoon we talked for hours debating politics, religion and human nature. Great fun, even though in the end my sister refused to admit I was right and she was wrong. We didn't see the outer banks nor did we find a Venus Fly Trap during our search of the Green Swamp. I had hoped to take Julie to Savannah, GA, and drive to Jacksonville, FL, to meet Michael, a fellow blogger, but there wasn't enough time.

Our time in South Carolina and especially the time spent in the visitor center waiting for the boat to Fort Sumter piqued my interest to know more about American slavery, the years preceding the Civil War and Gullah heritage. I'm ashamed by the gaps in my knowledge of American history.

Following are a few more photos.

Swamp Snake.
We paddled a boat through a swamp and discovered one snake. He was motionless and tolerated us drifting close to admire him.

As we walked through the swamp we saw two small alligators about 30 inches long. Later in a boat we paddled close to this alligator that was about seven feet in length. (Larger version)

Swamp covered with green.
Black water covered with green. (Larger version)

Julie on a board walk.
Julie on a board walk (Larger version)

Paul on bench.
I packed for warm sunny weather. The first several days we had clouds, rain and cool temperatures. In this photo I'm enjoying a warmer day. (Larger version)

More flowers were in bloom around Charleston, South Carolina than were in bloom in North Carolina (Larger version)

Three birds; four legs.
Three birds; four legs. I noticed these birds as the two one-legged birds hopped to follow the leader. Curiosity makes me wonder how both lost a left leg. (Larger version)

Hugenot ceiling.
The ceiling of the oldest Hugenot church in the US which is located in Charleston, SC. (Larger version)

Charleston art gallery.
Julie leads the way as we browse an inviting art gallery. (Larger version)

Julie in Charleston on Saint Patrick's day.
We were in Charleston on Saint Patrick's Day. As a parade passed a gentleman gave Julie a necklace of green beads. (Larger version)

House on East Battery street.
This well-known house is on East Battery street in Charleston. As I heard the story many years ago the couple couldn't agree on round or square so they built both. (Larger version)

Charleston's Battery.
These houses face the park on the Battery. We enjoyed walking the streets of this historical district while admring the architecture. (Larger version)

Saturday, March 21, 2009


There are experiences that render war, evil, suffering and oppression as alien and unintelligible concepts. I find it easy to see humankind's pride, selfishness and lack of compassion. For me, the unsolvable mystery is that humans who are capable of evil are also capable of creating music that moves our spirit, art that enables us to see beyond ourselves and beauty that overwhelms and leaves no room for self. Sometimes it's a piece of classical music or a watercolor painting. At other times it's an enveloping moment in nature. Yesterday it was the sculpture, gardens and verse at Brookgreen Gardens.

The land for Brookgreen, nine thousand acres of former plantations, was purchased by a wealthy man and his wife, a sculptress, in order to preserve the flora and fauna of the South Carolina low country and to create a sculpture garden accessible by the public. The Gardens opened in 1931.

This visit was my third and was as exciting as the first. I walked through the grounds elated, enthralled and grateful to be alive.

Here, without comment, are a few photos of the scores of sculpture works.

Brookgreen Gardens.
(Larger version)

Brookgreen Gardens.
Sundial. (Larger version)

Brookgreen Gardens.
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Brookgreen Gardens.
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Brookgreen Gardens.
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Brookgreen Gardens.
Julie, my sister Regenia (aka Jean) and brother-in-law Alan (Larger version)

Brookgreen Gardens.
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Brookgreen Gardens.
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Brookgreen Gardens.
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One building was filled with sculture of children. Each piece had an associated quote. Julie read one by Dr. Seuss and called out to me "I've found something to put on your grave stone." I read the quote and agreed with her. I don't plan on having a stone but, if I did, it would be appropriate.

Today was good.
Today was fun.
Tomorrow is another one.
- Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904-1991)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Morning Walk by the Lake

On Saturday afternoon Julie and I walked the circumference of Greenfield Lake, a distance of five miles. At one point, we encountered a young man in his thirties, shaved head, large tattoo on the back of his head, dark hooded jacket printed with skulls and a large knife the size of a bayonet in a scabbard hanging from his belt. He was pleasant and wanted to talk.

Cypress trees in fog.
Cypress Trees. (Larger version)

In the course of our conversation, he mentioned he was watching the two tents and some movie props that were behind him. A wedding for One Tree Hill was being filmed but the cloudy weather had forced a delay. He spoke about the beauty of the lake in the early morning light as it was hidden in a fog. He had taken enough photos to fill the memory card on his camera. I looked about and could imagine fog, a still morning, the occasional sound of a splash and the sense of a fleeting, perfect day being born.

We had been told to look for alligators below the bridge but saw none; nor did I see one during my morning walk. (Larger version)

This morning I woke early, invited Julie, who declined, and returned to the lake. The experience exceeded my imagination.

Across the lake.
Looking across the lake. (Larger version)

Multiple herons teased me by moving behind trees and brush. As I moved to a spot with an unobstructed view and raised the camera, they would fly to another spot. (Larger version)

This duck sat on the bridge railing and let me walk close. I planned on photographing his eye but as I depressed the shutter button he suddenly moved. He was a better model than I a photographer. I'm happy with the memory and pleased with the photo. (Larger version)

Neighboring trees.
Shortly after I took this photo I turned back toward the car and it began to right lightly. I got in the car and listened to the music on the roof for a few minutes. (Larger version)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Spring Break

We are in North Carolina visiting my sister.

Beach find.
Found on a North Carolina beach. (Larger version)

Our plans include walking beaches, touring historical sites, exploring swamps and being open to unexpected opportunities.

Sunday, March 08, 2009


The snow is gone and all pools of water have vanished. Daily, hundreds of Mountain Bluebirds, Western Bluebirds, Sage Thrashers and American Robbins come for water.

Mountain Bluebirds and Robbins.
Mountain Bluebirds and Robbins. (Larger version)

On some days I fill this small saucer three times. When the saucer is empty birds resort to the large black tub that has terraced stones that enable them to descend lower into the tub as the water level drops. Birds prefer the saucer because it gives them better visibility and safety as they watch for predators.

Western Bluebirds and Robbins.
Western Bluebirds and Robbins. (Larger version)

Friday, March 06, 2009


It's been a two year process and I'm nearing a major milestone.

Two years ago I completed the master gardener class and began construction on an attached greenhouse that morphed into a sun room. Last summer I planted peppers and tomatoes in containers while Julie mothered potted deck flowers. In the fall I moved the peppers and tomatoes inside and I began gathering materials for raised garden beds, started stockpiling horse and llama manure and began planning a garden. Recently Julie and I visited a couple who live a few miles from us. He works for a nursery in Flagstaff and is gardening in an environment similar to mine, "guerilla gardening" as he calls it. Through trial and error he's learned what works and what doesn't work.

Splitting a beam for a raised bed.
Splitting an 8 by 12 beam for a raised bed.. (Larger version)

The last beam split.
The last beam is split and ready for installation. (Larger version)

Over the last three weekend's I've been constructing the raised beds. Now, I have them built and am at the point of filling them with amended soil. Tomorrow morning I'm picking up a load of metal garage doors. I'll bury the metal panels below a fence to prevent rabbits and moles from digging under the fence and getting into the garden. The garage door panels are a little unconventional but they are recycled and less expensive than other solutions.

There are several things to be completed: a garden shed, cold frames, a compost area, cisterns placed and plumbed to the beds and the roof for rainwater harvesting and several other items.

The first bed nears completion.
The first bed nears completion. (Larger version)

This spring I'll plant a garden, That's the milestone that I'm anticipating. Hopefully, it will do fairly well. I don't expect much because I'll have to learn what works. The peppers I planted last summer never produced until I moved them inside. I was unable to protect them from the wind so this summer I'll try another idea. (On the bright side, I picked peppers a few weeks ago and now have a second crop on the plants.)

Master gardener name tag.
Master gardener name tag.

When I finished the master gardener program I received a name tag that I've never worn and probably will never wear. Master? Hardly. I don't feel like a master but I'm determined to learn.