Monday, December 31, 2007

quiet anniversary

Nice quiet anniversary the kind we prefer.

Some squirrels are back in the yard, the rest are at the training camp.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

late winter solstice flower

the holiday commonly celebrated as Christmas which recognizes the mythology of a divine birth has a much more ancient celebration of the dark, short days becoming longer minute by minute.
So, whether it is Christmas or winter solstice or whatever....happy whatever....
My "whatever" amaryllis bloomed fully this morning.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

ancient dog heritage?

still going through photos from my last trip and came across this clay dog from a museum in Oaxaca.
So don't you think there is resemblance here to my favorite dog?

barbecue for breakfast

(photo notes: the picture is part of a mural in Aguascalientes in the government building) You can see the comal where the corn tortillas are being made)

This morning I had barbecued lamb and soup made with the lamb broth for breakfast. A friend of ours has been employing some Mexicans in his tree cutting business for years and told us about the Sunday morning meal. Every Saturday night an animal of some kind is barbecued, lamb or goat being the most typical. Most of the Mexicans who live around here are from the state of Hidalgo where it is very typical to cook the meat in the ground with wood and cover the meat with layers of earth and maguey (agave) leaves. I have seen this in done in Mexico so I am not surprised that the custom continues here. They even sell the maguey leaves in some of the tiendas here.

The “restaurant” is in a trailer, which I assume is also someone’s home. I am sure that if the health department knew about this place, it would not be allowed, so you have to "know someone" to find out about the food.
A comal (flat clay surface over a heating source) is set up in the corner of the kitchen and the quintessentialMexican sound of the masa (cornmeal) being slapped and shaped by hand to form tortillas is heard. The other corner of the kitchen has a cutting board where the lamb is being cut up to serve in the tortillas Of course, there is “real” salsa that has some heat and lime, cilantro and onion. People were coming in and out of the trailer some eating there and some taking home the food.

I enjoyed talking with everyone, people are always surprised to meet a gringa who has no interest in Cancun and has actually been to their small, untouristed town somewhere in rural Mexico. Everyone there was enjoying the meal, talking and laughing. However, this trailer park has seen some horrible examples of how the Mexican people who live here are preyed upon. An owner of the store that catered to the Mexican community in front of this trailer park was brutally beaten to death not long ago (2 young black men were arrested and charged with the crime) and a few months ago a local policeman was finally caught taking money from Hispanics when he stopped them on the highway, supposedly he had been doing this for years, but until recently no one had reported him out of fear of being noticed by immigration. And there has been a big outcry by the usual bigoted idiots who do not want to allow undocumented youth to attend the local community college, even though in most cases they were brought here as very young children.
It was wonderful to be in this little corner of Mexico, and John was with me! He enjoyed the breakfast and said he would return with me on another Sunday.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

why do they call it Spanish moss?

Spanish moss is not related to mosses or lichens. Instead, it is a flowering plant in the family Bromeliaceae (the bromeliads).

Native Americans called the plant "tree hair", which name the French explorers turned to "Barbe espagnole" -- "Spanish Beard" -- to taunt the Spanish who were their rivals in for North American territory. "Spanish Moss" is the part of the taunt that has survived.

In the park there is a fair amount of Spanish moss growing on the trees next to the river. I like the contrast of the crepe myrtle trunk pattern and the moss.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

palm trees where none grew before....

Until 5 or 6 years ago I never saw palm trees in Washington, North Carolina.(latitude about 35 degrees N)
The closest palm trees used to be several hundred miles south in coastal South Carolina. However since we have such mild winters it is not uncommon to see palm trees, including some that have attained some impressive size. Also in the past few years, people have started growing banana trees in their yards although the foliage usually gets knocked down by frost before they can bloom, but since the ground never gets very cold they come up from the roots the next year.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


coots and late afternoon glow.

incident of the bird bath

mysterious overturning and breaking of bird bath pool, a few spots of blood on the upturned terra cota surface. What happened here? Nadie sabe. no one knows.
However, the next day Spike Cat seemed to need a lot of sleep.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

back from Oaxaca, back in the land of consumption

I have been reading the nature diary of Jim who is now in Chiapas in the Yerba Buena reserve. All of his writings echo the feeling of wonder at the natural world and also the intense sadness and sense of loss when I see or read about the accelerating loss of biodiversity and not incidentally health and beauty of the planet. At the moment, he is seeing the reserve-in-name-only being stripped of the magnificent trees.

He says: Way up in the cloud forest, chainsaws whine away. During the day groups of men pile heaps of logs along the highway, and then the logs are loaded and spirited away. The pillaging is of such a scale that clearly most of the wood is being sold commercially, not taken home to local people's kitchens. Atop all that, Yerba Buena's owners are felling large trees in the much smaller tract across the road from the reserve, where I live. Throughout each day large trees crash to the ground with the entire attendant popping of other trees' branches as they're ripped off, the raining sound of bark and epiphytes cascading from the sky, the shaking of the earth itself. Sometimes when a giant falls I ask myself what I'm doing staying here. After I think about it awhile, I realize this: What's happening here is no different from what's going on everyplace else. It's just that here it's all done at such an elemental level that you can see the effects of people's appetites. When the big trees fall you can go look at the new hole in the forest, smell the crushed herbage, see the dislodged epiphytes and see the disoriented birds and squirrels whose nests have disappeared. In contrast, when people in North America and Europe turn up the thermostat more than it needs to be, they don't see the meter at the power plant saying that more energy needs to be generated. They don't see the air- polluting coal that has to be mined, mostly through ecosystem-obliterating strip-mining, to produce the energy they're calling for. They're not confronted with the environmental violence that'll have to be committed someplace on Earth, at some time in the future, in their name, responding to that wrist-turn at the thermostat. For my part, I prefer being here, where the violence at hand is other than by remote control. When a tree falls so close that it jars the ground you're standing on there's no room for hypocrisy or self deception. If you use the wood from that tree, there's no escaping the knowledge that you are an accomplice to the removal of that tree, and to the destruction of the biotic community that once depended on the tree”

I am working on buying nothing, trying to contribute to “good causes” like Amnesty International, Planned Parenthood, Oxfam, Greenpeace etc. etc. But it seems that once I make a small contribution to any of these organizations, I am inundated with an avalanche of mail for more worthy causes, all these organizations seem to generate heart wrenching mailings as often as once a week. I feel emotionally and financially stressed, there is never going to be an end to misery or worthy causes, the nature of non-profit solicitation and the distribution of mailing lists guarantees that the more I contribute the greater increase in the number and frequency of mailings from worthy causes. In addition the small amount that I am able to contribute, 10 or 15 dollars probably does not cover the cost of the beaurocracy, the paper (more dead trees!) and postage for these mailings. So what am I really doing besides acting out of guilt and sorrow?

Photo credit: From the new release: What Would Jesus Buy?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Read me in Oaxaca

I will not be @home in Carolina again until after November 25.

You can find me in Oaxaca, Mexico and read about my trip on my travel blog.

Link here: PorfinOaxaca

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

thinking about mangos

Decided to buy some mangos on sale at the local chain grocery store because they were on sale and because I love mangos. I should have know better and waited just a few days until I can get some really good, really cheap, local mangos in Mexico. Not to mention keeping my practice of buying only local or at least NC grown produce.
I have done OK so far, not perfect but a genuine effort. Except for coffee (of course!), a few bags of carrots and celery since May, I have only bought local (mostly at the farmer's market) produce.
So far, my resolve has not really been tested, local produce has been plentiful and delicious. The winter months will be a lot more difficult.
But back to the mangos....the only ones were in the store were green and rock hard. I went to the produce manager to ask if he had more that were ripe or almost ripe. His response "Oh, no when they get ripe we throw them away"
This is so wrong and is a example of why most people in this country don't know what fresh, in season food is supposed to taste like!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

So what are you going to do if you catch it?

Kitty aka Spike cat stalking a deer in the back yard. Look closely to see the deer on the other side of the ditch. There were actually 4 deer, but not visible from this photo.
And since we are on the topic of cats, here is a video that I think demonstrates that the feline family can remember and have affection for people.
I don't usually post from other sites, but this is so touching, notice the look of absolute amazement and joy on the lion's face when he sees the people who raised him. When he got too big for them to take care of they decided to release him in Kenya, to live as a wild lion.
In this video a year has passed and the lion has adapted to living with a pride of lions when his old friends come back to visit him.
Video here

Monday, October 1, 2007

Travel is the only thing that you buy that makes you richer

Travel is the only thing that you buy that makes you richer is a slogan that I have found to be true. Although I saw this from a ad trying to sell tours, which is not the way I travel, I still have experienced being enriched by travel.

(I hate it when those rock and roll songs you thought spoke to you during one's youth are now background for selling stuff, worst case in point, the song "We Won't Get Fooled Again, by the Who, my favorite line in the song is "meet the new boss, same as the old boss".
An April 2006 editorial for Time magazine, referenced the song, calling it an "antiwar anthem" that "conveyed a sense of betrayal by the nation's leaders, who had led our country into a costly and unnecessary war in Vietnam.
"Won't Get Fooled Again" was featured in a commercial for a 2000 Nissan Maxima and parts of the song have been used to sell TV shows among other things.
photo note: not my photo (sigh...) this and other fotos of Oaxaca here

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Always wanted one of these....

Ok, admit it, doesn't this look like great fun? Even the goat does not seem too displeased.
Found this on a collection of old NC photos

Sunday, September 9, 2007

the real deal in Oatmeal

this morning I took the time (about 40 min at least) to cook some real oatmeal, that is
McCann's Irish Oatmeal steel cut oats. I thought this kind of minimally processed oatmeal would be better, but not so much better that is worth the time and effort. I must say that it is totally worth the time and effort. The texture and taste cannot really be compared to the rolled oats that I have been buying. John even said " I could eat these". John has been eating the rolled oats, quick cook variety for about 6 months now, but he eats them like bad tasting medicine that has been an ordeal, not pleasurable at all. So for him to say anything positive is high praise.
He has been eating oatmeal for the fiber, I finally convinced him that he needed more fiber and he has felt better. But at his regular medical checkup, his triglycerides had dropped so much that we discussed that there was perhaps some error in the lab report, but the drop in his triglyceride level has coincided with the oatmeal consumption.

Other methods I may try:
cook them in a crockpot overnight. I got the idea and recipe from Alton Brown on his Food Network show, "Good Eats." One cup of steel-cut oats is combined with a cup each of dried cranberries and dried figs, 4 cups of water and 1/2 cup of half-and- half in a crockpot to cook overnight.
the McCanns website also says:

Quick Soak Method
One of the quickest and easiest ways to prepare McCann's Steel Cut Oats is to soak the oats overnight. Before going to bed, boil four cups of water in a pot, add one cup of oatmeal. Stir until all the liquid has been absorbed. Turn off the heat, cover the pot and leave overnight. The next morning, bring oats to a brisk boil and cook until they are just tender and serve.

camp scenes

back from Oregon Inlet, not a great trip in terms of catching lots of fish, we were there from Tuesday to today and caught a total of 7 sheepshead, that is fishing hard for about 6 hours each day,
but nice to be out there anyway....

Monday, September 3, 2007

gone fishing

forecast looks good, so we are taking off tomorrow morning for Oregon Inlet fishing for sheepshead under the bridge. Plan to stay at least until Thursday. the picture is what it looks like coming into the fishing camp in the marsh in front of Bodie Island light and a sunset picture, of course.

it's all good (so far)

no current local pictures, so here is one of my favorites from my last trip to Mexico..this is the street that I walked through every day I was in Guanajuato.
I keep waiting for the loud thunk of finding some dire or even minor bad consquence of drinking coffee, but it seems the more research the more good news.
I read this today (as I am drinking my morning cup of Tanzania peaberry from Dark Holllow roasters)

Drinking more than three cups of coffee a day helped protect older women against some age-related memory decline, French researchers said on Monday, giving women more reason to love the world's most popular stimulant. Men did not enjoy the same benefit, they said. "The more coffee one drank, the better the effects seemed to be on (women's) memory functioning in particular," read complete report here

And this study that concludes caffeine and exercise may help ward off skin cancer.
read report here

Sunday, September 2, 2007


(the dark grapes in the picture are muscadines,another local grape

Eating scuppernong grapes) is one more way to eat local; the farmer’s markets have had them for about two weeks now. This week’s scuppernongs are the sweetest yet. Sitting in my hammock on the back deck eating grapes, straining the seeds out and eating the occasional peel.(mmm... Fiber! And the peels are supposed to have lots of the stuff that makes grapes so good for you)

Another thing to be thankful for.

According to the online encyc. “Its name comes from its original place of production, Scuppernong, North Carolina, where it was first grown during the 17th century, a name itself tracing back to the Algonquian word ascopo for the sweet bay tree.”

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Melungeons

The picture above is of the Goins family one of the family names associated with the group.
I just finished reading a book called Kinfolks, Falling Off the Family Tree by Lisa Alther that tells of the author growing up in Kingsport, Tenn and her search to uncover the story of her Melungeon (or not) heritage. Most of the places in the book are places that I know well, so this makes it more interesting to me.
Lots of theories and legends about the Melungeons ranging from the survivors of the Lost Colony to Turkish slaves dropped off by Francis Drake. The mixing of Indians and African Americans and Sephardic Jews are also part of the legend/theories.
Recent DNA testing of some claiming a Melungeon ancestry show some evidence of Turkish ancestors. What this says to me is that so much of what we know as history leaves out so much of people's real lives, their movements in the world and the pairings they make and also that the people who settled and lived in these mountains were much more complex and diverse than we think.
Here is a website about the Melungeons.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

got monarchs?

I finally decided to dig up and get rid one of the hibiscus plants that at times has beautiful blooms but seems to be a constant vector/attractant for bugs and pests of all kinds. I decided that the level of insecticide that I had to apply in order for the plant to bloom and retain leaves is not acceptable in my garden. And since I am the queen of my garden and determine what stays and what does not, off with its head.

In the space I planted one of those knockout roses that are supposed to be impervious to bugs, fungus, pests of all kinds. I have another one of these roses in my yard that is doing well, so I figure this type has been “field tested”.

I will keep my favorite hibiscus, of course, the tall red ones with the notched leaves that bloom so reliability, so beautiful, and that bugs do not seem to like. Those are kind of plants I love.

But the most important reason for getting rid of a plant that requires almost constant application of pesticides are the butterflies and caterpillars that are numerous in my yard.

Not taking any chances of killing them.

my first ever monarch caterpillars.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

summer Friday.....

my garden today, vinca(volunteer) & hibiscus

Friday evening I made my usual stop to stand with the peace vigil folks. The guys on the other side of the street were loud and vicious as usual. They seem to be stuck in some kind of mental time warp, I was accused of being a follower of Jane Fonda, a commie, and the usual traitor. Really sad group ....must be awful to be them.

Then, I met John at the little restaurant near the bridge because we wanted to hear a local bluegrass group. Our young dentist plays with them. They are really quite good. Seems like everyone in town that we knew was there. People were happy dancing, drinking (but no one got obnoxious, just more exuberant) and enjoying the breeze from the river.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

my backyard, again, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

common in NC and my yard,
some days I just don't want to leave my's a crazy world out there.

Here is a good website for butterfly identification in NC and Va. includes pictures of caterpillars

Friday, August 10, 2007

edible plant?

My bush is loaded with blooms, maybe now is the time to try some rose of sharon recipes

time to make 10 min 10 min prep
20 rose of sharon fresh edible flowers

1 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup plain yogurt
20 rose of sharon fresh edible flowers (petals only, coarsely chopped)

herbs, and spices of your choice (optional)
  1. Remove pistils and stamens from flowers. Set aside.
  2. Process cottage cheese in blender till smooth.
  3. Transfer to nonmetallic bowl.
  4. Stir in yogurt and flower petals. Add herbs and seasonings. I used chopped green onion, fresh basil, thyme, oregano and rosemary, with a dash of Greek seasoning.
  5. spoon the dip into the center of the flower.
  6. Garnish with chopped petals.
  7. Cover and refrigerate overnight for best flavor.

marsh hibiscus in my garden

a member of the mallow family, whose members include rose-of-Sharon and also okra and cotton.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

observed in a friend's yard...Golden silk orb-weavers

Some "Golden silk orb-weavers" display an almost manic fear of cockroaches Their fast movements and large, dark shape cause some of these spiders to run from or ignore a perfectly delectable meal. "Golden silk orb-weavers" are known to sometimes be cannibalistic with spiders that are even their same size. In thge U.S., N. clavipes ranges throughout the coastal southeast and inland, from North Carolina to Texas, its distribution in many regions seems localized, and may be completely absent (or just hard to find) over wide areas. Conversely, in some arboreal or swampy nooks large numbers of adults and their webs can be found in almost frightening concentrations, especially near the coast. above quoted from from this article

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Five lined skink in her nest.

today when I was doing some yard work I lifted up one of the stepping stones in my garden and found a mother five lined skink in her nest. I quickly and carefully covered her back up. The mother skink will stay with her eggs until they hatch. I was amazed a the size and number of eggs.
This is not my picture, I did not want to disturb her any more, so I found this picture which is representative of the one I saw, except mine had more eggs and there was that pleading look in her eye.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

A peace vigil

I think that these guys probably would not recognize Steven Colbert as a comedy. They also need to work on sounding a little more informed, maybe someone should explain, for example, that Russia is no longer a communist country and the cold war is over. And I'm not quite sure about the duck. The guy is screaming and telling us that we are the worst sort of traitors, that we will be wearing burkas, and that we don't deserve to live here if we disagree with the war. There was also some really incoherent stuff, where he would say "Allah bababa, la la baba," or similar (my best effort at "translating" ) and then say you (the peace vigil) understand that Arabic because you are terrorists. There was lots more in this vein, some of it quite vicious, but I tuned most of that out.

the following may also be a letter to the editor of the local paper (or not) what are your thoughts?

After reading the article about the Eagles, who according to their spokesperson, appreciates “the negative side” in politics, I decided to attend the peace vigil last Friday (8/3). I have been admiring the grace and fortitude that these local, peaceful, protestors have shown over the past weeks. Their mission of support the troops, end the war seems to be one that no one could disagree with. Indeed the mission of support the troops is also the stated aim of the Eagles group.

While sitting with the peace vigil I though how ridiculous it was that here were two opposing groups with the same “support the troops” philosophy on opposing sides of the street, one keeping silent vigil, the other screaming mostly nonsensical or insulting rhetoric or mouthing slogans lifted from conservative talk radio. How ironic that the freedom of speech that both groups value so highly creates such a response. However, there were times when I just had to laugh; the rhetoric was so over the top, it was impossible to take seriously. Nonetheless, I was grateful for the police presence. All in all the peace vigil participants had a more tranquil experience; bearing silent witness is easier on the vocal cords and blood pressure than screaming.

I had expected to feel anger for the Eagles, but instead, I felt sadness and pity. How uncomfortable it must to live with all that negative, angry emotion. I can understand perhaps how enraged some Vietnam vets in the group might be if they had the idea that somehow if one protests the war, one does not support the troops. I remember how abysmally and unfairly the Vietnam vets were treated when they came home. How horrible it must have been for them to be reviled simply for being a soldier in that war, and often a recruit called up by the draft, unlike today’s volunteer army. I suspect that being treated the way that Vietnam vets were all too often treated, would engender at the very least emotional scars that will never heal. To treat a returning soldier as all too often the Vietnam vets were treated is as shameful and inexcusable as the current administration’s mistreatment of wounded Iraq war veterans by not providing adequate or quality care.

The only positive thing to come out of this senseless war is perhaps the only lesson that we seemed to have learned from Vietnam. The lesson is that you may disagree vehemently with the mission and consider the war a disastrous failure on so many levels, but that you never, ever disrespect the men and women in our armed forces who soldier bravely on. The respect and support of the troops is something that I believe all Americans share, no matter what side of the street we happen to be on.


I am glad these legless lizards still live in my yard.

Never forget to be thankful

Well, one never knows really what one could not live without until something happens that gives you no other options. So I will phrase this as this is what makes my life joyful. Every day I give thanks for things that I remind myself the majority of people in the world do not have. People dream about winning the lottery, but compared to millions of people who struggle and suffer just to stay alive, we have won the global lottery. I think about how a life can change in an instant, and try to stay mindful and "Be here, now"

1. A husband who loves, and respects me and encourages me to do whatever I find fulfilling. I am very grateful that my mother is still healthy, active and enjoying life. My Friends of course, especially my oldest friends, the ones that I have known for more than 30 years are still the people with whom I am most comfortable. By this time, I am pretty sure that they accept me completely, with all my faults

.2. I am healthy, at least at this moment in time and work very hard to stay healthy. I feel good most of the time and am able to physically do want I want to do.

3. Clean water-Most people take clean water as a given. But having traveled to places where the water is not clean makes one appreciate the miracle that is clean water on demand. There are millions of people who will never know this luxury in their lifetimes.

We are wasting and “mining” our water globally with dire consequences for the future.

The worst case scenario, if we don’t change our ways … wars will be fought over water and not oil. As global warming takes place, water will become the scarcest resource. Millions will die of thirst and countries will go to war to colonize the water resources.

4. Despite recent efforts to monitor private citizens we still have freedom of thought and movement.

5. Coffee. How wonderful to drink good coffee and savor the aroma, the flavor, and the buzz, and lucky bonus for me, it’s legal.

6. I live in where I can have contact with the natural world, whether it is watching the butterflies in my back yard, or hiking in the mountains. I think I would be a very unhappy person if I had to live in a city, especially most American cites.

7.I am grateful that I do not need or desire much stuff and that I have reached the age where so many things that once seemed so important no longer matter at all.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

backyard predator

It seems that I'm not the only one who noticed how much butterflies like this plant.

at the flea market on Sunday....

no comment...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

incredible weather for July

What a wonderful week it has been. Highs in the 80's or even 70's during the day, cool at night. Not at all typical for NC in July. After our stay in the mountains it has made our return extremely pleasant.
Reading the book, Not Buying It, My Year Without Shopping. The author, Judith Levine vowed to spend the year buying nothing that was not essential. Granted, one person's "essentials" might be another's extravagances. She decided that essentials were food and the items that she and her companion needed to make a living. She found that far from being a hardship, the winnowing of desire and resistance to the mind control of advertising made her more cynical at first but gradually more spiritual and forgiving.
I do try to consume less, but I am certainly not "pure" by any means. I do believe however, the most powerful thing an individual can do for the environment is to consume less, and to make conscious choices in buying that reflect the impact the production, transportation, and the people who made or grew this thing.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

birthday in Dark Hollow

my brother is quite wonderful...he went to great effort to make Liz's birthday special.
as for the cake, the theme is there are so many candles that the fire department had to be called out.

Serenity now, and then

Sleeping to the sounds of water over rock

After almost a month down in the “holler” we are back home. After getting used to the sounds of the creek and the cool mountain air flowing over us we are having a difficult time sleeping indoors under air conditioning.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

delightfully dorky

back home from my latest travel to Mexico, looking through photos and found this one from our month at the beach in April.
I love the way the three of us on the back of the boat, me, the dog, and a friend look so completely dorky. I also like the way John frames up the picture.