Thursday, June 30, 2016

More about West Virginia

The recent flooding in West Virginia has had me doing several posts about the flooding and the state. After some of the comment discussions, I thought that I would rerun a post I did last year. It was hard, but I tried to summarize the state in just a few paragraphs. Below is that post.

Happy West Virginia Day!

Today we celebrate the day West Virginia became a state on June 20, 1863. As most of you know, I grew up in West Virginia--a fact that I'm very proud of. West Virginia is not large in either size or population, so not many people know much about it. Or they only "know" what they've seen on TV or in the movies. Let me see if I can give a brief summary of what West Virginia is like.

Image result for west virginiaLike most other places, West Virginia has a many different kinds of people and ways of life-- especially since our two panhandles reach far into other areas. Go to the northern part of the state,and it is like the Northeast. Go to the far eastern part of the state and you'll identify with Washington, D. C. Take a trip to the southern reaches, and you are definitely in the South. And when you're in the far west, you are in the Midwest. If you grew up in the middle part of the state, like I did, you can chose whatever you want to identify with because there are bits of everything.

Also, like most other places, there are rich people and there are poor people. There are well educated people and there are poorly educated people. There are people who like grits and ramps, and others who don't like them at all (that would be me). But I'd say that almost everyone likes biscuits.

Besides biscuits, there are other things that bind the state together. People here have a connection to the land. This is where they hunt and fish and where they grow their vegetables and graze their cows or goats. They also appreciate the beauty around them. Everywhere you turn there is a feast for your eyes. Whether it is hilly terrain of hills and hollows (hollers), or long mountain ridges with long stream valleys, it's all very scenic. They are also a very resilient group of people. Life has not always been easy for many people here, but they find a way to keep going.

But the thing that strikes me the most about West Virginia is the friendliness of the people. I have found friendly people everywhere I lived, but not always the comfortable friendliness that I have experienced with the people of West Virginia. I hadn't realized this until a young Theo asked me a question one day as we were traveling back to visit his grandparents. He said, "What makes everyone so friendly where Granddad and Grandma live? It's different from where we live." I started to notice, that he was correct.

So there you have it. I have just summarized 24,230 square miles of land, 1.85 million people, and over 150 years of history of West Virginia. Maybe another time, I'll tell you more.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A Second Look--June 28, 2016

Well, today I am not going to talk about flooding. In fact, while we've had a few storms and some humid days, the weather here has been pretty nice. The day lilies have started to bloom. I guess I should say that the older day lilies have started to bloom. Some how, I don't count the Stella Dora day lilies that have been blooming for a couple of weeks. They are a newer variety used by landscapers because they have a longer blooming season. Supposedly. We haven't found that to be true yet. So what I mean is the older day lily that have been blooming in the same spot for 40 years have started to bloom this week. They are bigger and showier than the Stella Dora and I like them better. (So how's that for a stream of consciousness ramble? I think I should move on before I do it again.)

Here are a few things I saw this week 
during a Second Look.

I planted zinnias this year to attract more butterflies and hummingbirds.

And while I have seen both butterflies and hummingbirds on the zinnias, they still prefer the feeders.

And speaking of feeders, the chipmunks are not longer content to eat the seeds that fall under the feeder. 

Balloon flower (Platycodon) 

Day lily



Milkweed beetles

Day lily

Coneflower. This is one of Ward's favorites because the crisscrossing spirals in the middle represent Fibonacci numbers.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Mountain State

Since this is the third day in a row that I'm writing about the floods in West Virginia, you can tell that they have been on my mind a lot. Today, I'm going to explain a little bit about the topography of West Virginia and how it affects the flooding. This may help with some of the confusion about what is going on.

WV Hills, A stop on the way to visit my mother last Thanksgiving

One of West Virginia's nicknames is The Mountain State. It was also called Little Switzerland by the early settlers. This was because almost the entire state is filled with hills and mountains. In the eastern part of the state are the long ridges and valleys of the Appalachian Mountains and in the western part of the state are hills and valleys (hollows/hollers) from erosional relief on the Appalachian Plateau. What that means is that you are usually on top of a hill or in a narrow valley. There is not much in between.

An example of this was when they were going to build a new high school in my county, there was only one site that had enough flat land to build the school. Like I said, it's called the Mountain State for a reason.

So when there is rain, there is no where for it to go except to be channeled between the hills. And when there is a lot of rain in a short amount of time, it is more than the little streams and valleys can handle so there is a flash flood.

The football field of my high school. Notice the goal posts.
I had an experience with a flash flood once that made a big impression on me. One afternoon we were having a picnic at my grandmother's house.  Her house was built on the flood plain (flat spot) along a little creek surrounded by hills. The creek was not more than a few feet across in some places and was dry in some places. Well a summer afternoon thunderstorm sprung up and we scrambled to get everything put away and out of the rain. In the 10 to 15 minutes we were cleaning up, the little creek overflowed with fast, roaring water onto the road and we almost didn't make it out. It was scary and amazing at the same time. I truly understood what a flash flood was after that.

Flash flooding is what has been happening recently over much of West Virginia as most little streams and rivers have been overwhelmed by the large amount of rain there was over a short amount of time. While some areas were hit worse than others, most of the state and its ubiquitous small streams flooded. That's why 44/55 counties were declared disaster areas.

There is my very simplistic view of what's been going on, but I hope it makes sense and clears up a little of the confusion that is not being helped by the media.

It's raining in my hometown right now. I hope there is not more flooding to come.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Is that Right?

Devastating floods have put West Virginia in the news recently, and because I'm from the area, I've been noticing mistakes in the reporting. One source said that 44/54 counties had been declared disaster areas. Well, West Virginia has 55 counties. Another report at one point said that 98% of the state was without electricity. Well, one of the nearby towns to my mother had a 98% outage, not the whole state. Also, there were two places where the flooding was most severe--one on the east side of the state and the other on the west side of the state. The two areas were mixed up sometimes when reporting was done about damages. And of course, place names were said and spelled incorrectly.

Murray Gell-Mann - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2012.jpg
Nobel prize winng physicist
Murray Gell-Mann.--
Crichton said that he named the
 amnesia effect after him because
Gell-Man was a famous, well
respected man that would give
the idea some attention. 
These inconsistencies bring up an interesting subject in how we read the news that has been named The Murray Gell-Man Amnesia Effect. Michael Crichton coined the phrase after he spent an afternoon with physicist, Murray Gell-Mann. They were reading the newspaper and realized that when they read an article about something they knew about, they found all kinds of mistakes. But when they read an article about something they were unfamiliar with, they took the story at face value even though they knew that there were problems with other articles.

On the surface this doesn't make sense. Logically, if you know the reporting is inaccurate in one story, you shouldn't trust any other stories from that source. But that is usually not what we do. We seem to have an amnesia about the mistakes and take the other stories at face value.

I'd like to say that I am a critical consumer of news and don't trust anything I hear or read. But that wouldn't be true. I do listen with a bit of skepticism to some things, but most things I don't. Flooding in North Dakota. Never gave the accuracy of the reporting a second thought. An election in California. Ditto. And so it goes.

Have you ever thought about what reporting you accept as the truth and what you don't?

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Thankful Sunday--June 26, 2016


I am thankful for safe havens.

As you may know, West Virginia has been suffering from torrential rains and flash floods over the last couple of days. Twenty-six people have died. Forty-four counties have been declared disaster areas.

My Facebook page has been filled with pictures from friends with washed out roads and washed away houses. One friend was desperate to get to his injured mother who had to wait all night in an ambulance because of flooded and washed out roads. Another was praying for the survival of a friend who was washed down a storm drain. It has been difficult to see the devastation to areas that are so familiar to me.

However, amongst all of the chaos, I am thankful that my mother has been in safe haven. The facility where she lives is on top of a hill and remains high and dry. Also, staff have been able to make it to work to help with those who need daily care. So while I am praying for all who suffer from these devastating floods, I am thankful that my mother is in safe haven.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Second Look--June 22, 2016

Well, you know what they say about best laid plans. Well, actually I don't remember what they say about them although I did a post about that. But I do know that this morning that I was going to take some pictures of the several kinds of new flowers that were blooming but decided to wait until the evening when the light was better. That didn't work out. We have had bands of heavy rain and storms since early afternoon and they are supposed to continue into night. In fact I was held at work for extra time waiting for a storm to pass. That particular storm broke a window in our building. It was kind of exciting and kind of scary.

Anyway, this all means that I don't have many pictures this week. But here are a few things I saw this week during a Second Look.

This chipmunk has only recently discovered the seed droppings from the bird feeder. It's been a year or more since we've seen any chipmunks although they have been plentiful in the past.

That means the squirrels are getting some new competition.

We are slowly getting more hummingbird visitors.

A couple of times, we have gotten two of them at the feeder at once.

More baby birds hatched this week. As I approach the box, I can hear the babies cheeping away. However, they are quiet and still when I get close or touch the box. Good survival instincts.

We also saw a baby fawn this week. (This group was about 100 yards away. Too far for my camera to get a good picture.)

Monday, June 20, 2016

Better than I thought

Recent harvest from Uncle Billy's garden

Ward's recent surgery has him on a special diet--basically easy to digest food. I thought we could handle what was needed for a few days without getting anything special from the store, but it didn't work out as planned. First we asked about a piece of toast? Nope. We only had whole grain bread. How about some pasta or noodles boiled in broth? Nope. We only had whole grain pasta. How about some cooked veggies from the freezer? Nope. The freezer only had broccoli, mixed veggies, and Brussels sprouts.  Fresh strawberries? Nope. Too many seeds. Fresh blueberries? Nope. Skins and seeds.

Also a visit to Uncle Billy's garden today yielded some very nice vegetables but didn't increase Ward's menu choices. Red cabbage? Nope. Broccoli? Nope Lettuce? Nope. Peas? Nope.

Despite all of this, Ward is not starving. He's feasting on bananas, egg noodles, carrots, applesauce, and chicken. Hopefully, a visit to the doctor later this week will give the go ahead to add most things back.

So this whole process got me thinking. While we have our fair share of junk food, our everyday eating habits are really not that bad. That was a revelation to me because I only noticed the cookies and chips we have sometimes instead of the good food we have most days. Without realizing it, I was focusing on the negative instead of the positive. Do you ever let your negative thoughts take over with out realizing it?

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Thankful Sunday--June 19, 2016

I am thankful for Fathers.

I come from a long line of fathers.* I have my own father who is very missed. Behind him I have a grandfather who observed from afar and one I never met. And one whom I only discovered recently through DNA.

My own father was a dedicated, rough and tumble dad who set good examples of hard work and integrity. The grandfather I knew was quiet with his own set of problems he never quite figured out how to handle.  My other two grandfathers died before I was born but one was reported to be mean and the other was reported to be generous when times were tough, but was always on the move.

For these fathers and all who came before them, I am thankful for they helped make up the mosaic I am today.

Happy Father's Day!

*Get it? That's my attempt at mild humor. :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

We're Home

After a successful surgery, Ward is home now. 

Thanks to everyone for their positive thoughts and messages. As you know, they really do make a difference.

After I rest up a bit, I'll talk with you again.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Yet another blogging interruption

Today Ward is going to have surgery. It's a necessary thing that we are eager to be on the other side of. So once again, I may not be posting for a few days while he's in the hospital. Not sure how it's all going to play out. We'll see.

Yesterday, I woke up with a fever and a bit of a panic. Luckily, my doctor said that I'm not contagious so there is no problem being with Ward. And after a couple of days of antibiotic, I should feel better. The next few days are going to be difficult, but "The only way through it, is through it." 

Monday, June 13, 2016

A Second Look--June 13, 2016

My posting schedule has been off for a while with trips to see my mother and internet outages. During this time, the yard continued to evolve. More of the summer flowers are peeking out while a few spring flowers still remain.

The birds are in the middle of their second laying. At this rate, there may be three broods this year for some of them.

Here are a few things I saw this week 
during a Second Look.

There are a lot of honey bees out. This one on the purple sage moved around quickly because the flowers are not very big. Do you see its proboscis?

The pansies from last fall are still blooming. However, the weather is starting to get too hot for them.

Ladybug. It's been a long time since I've see our native ladybugs. Since the introduction of
Asian ladybugs, our native ladybugs have decreased substantially in numbers. While the Asian lady bugs have helped with the aphid population, they have also become a pest as they overwinter in people's houses.

Squirrels are amazing (and frustrating). Notice how this one is holding on by only one toe. It stayed quite a while in that position.

While we see humming birds, they are not frequent visitors to our feeders. Notice how the image of this one is refracted through the glass.

House sparrow eggs. House sparrows are another non-native species that have made things hard for the native song birds. So it is recommended that you remove their nests when they start to build. Well, I did that and hoped that the bluebirds would comeback and nest again in the box. However, from one day to the next, another nest was built and four eggs were laid in it. The nest is not a very good one as the eggs are sitting on the bottom of the box but the parents are doing a good job of sitting and defending. Whether or not I should have gotten rid of them, I don't know, but once the eggs are there, I let them stay.

Day lilies, Stella Dora. These day lilies are a favorite of landscapers since they are supposed to bloom in both shade and sun and bloom all summer. Well, that hasn't been our experience up until this point. However, this year they are getting a good start and have more blooms than ever before. We'll see how they do as time goes on.


The calves have grown a lot in the last few months.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Thankful Sunday--June 12, 2016

I am thankful for choices.

After a week with no phone, internet, or TV, it all got fixed yesterday. Now I have a choices. I can watch the birds or TV. I can read a paper book or blogs. I can use a full size phone or little flip phone from my pocket. And for these renewed choices, I am thankful.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Triple Play = Out

or my very poor attempt at baseball analogy.

What I am trying to say is that we have been without tv, phone, or internet for a few days now and we can't get someone to look at it until Saturday. While I can certainly live without these things, I'm finding it difficult. Like it or not, my life revolves around electronics. Bill paying-online. Letters-email. Questions-phone.

No smart phone, no iPad, no N etflix either.

Oh, woes me! These third word problems.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Friday, June 3, 2016

Birthdays, Veggies, and Cicadas

or Three Days Last Week

Day 3

Theo celebrated his birthday. After the Carnivores ate a birthday meal consisting of a lot of meat, we all went on a hike. Theo went with a full pack because he is training to go backpacking again.

We saw deer. I like seeing deer in the woods better than by my front door.

Even though wild rose can completely take over an area, it was pretty to see as we hiked along.

The trail went through some low areas where we saw a lot of skunk cabbage and Jack-in-the-Pulpits. This one was about 2 feet tall--much taller than the ones in my backyard.


Day 2

The day before Theo's birthday, Uncle Billy and Aunt Martha invited us over to share in some of their harvest. Their shared bounty was served with Theo's birthday meal (where we actually had more than meat. I needed something to fill up on.)  :)

Most of Uncle Billy's asparagus is gone, but we were still able to get enough for a meal.

Aunt Martha shared some of her collards with us. I cooked them in the slow cooker with sausage. 

We have been eating the broccoli in salads.

The cauliflower wasn't quite ready to harvest, but I just had to take a picture of this beautiful head.

While Aunt Martha and I were in the greens patch, Ward was picking strawberries. There's nothing like a sweet berry straight from the vine. And we all had some straight from the vine.

Uncle Billy has grown the biggest radishes I have ever seen. Notice the quarter for scale. Instead of eating the whole radish like I'm used to, we ate slices from them. Per Lili's example we cooked the radish greens with the collards.

Day 1

The day before our harvesting, Aunt Martha and I were in cicada country where we were visiting my mother. In some areas they were so loud, they literally hurt my ears.

The noise comes from the males trying to attract a female. I don't know if it's true, but I read that they may be attracted to you if you are running a lawn mower because they think that it's another cicada. That's how loud they can be. I still find them fascinating. but I will leave it to someone else who is actually in the middle of this hatch to tell you more about them.

So there you have it. Three days last week.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A Second Look

The constant rain has turned into just showers and the lower-than-normal temperatures have turned into hot and humid days. Summer is here. Most of the plants have been happy with both situations. For instance, yesterday I noticed in one of the beds the weeds were three feet tall. Last time I looked, I didn't see any. And the foliage on the day lilies is especially vigorous (what the deer haven't eaten). We'll see if the blooms follow suit.

The azaleas and rhododendron are done blooming, but iris continue to bloom in new places. Many other plants are forming buds, but haven't flowered yet. All of the baby birds are out of the nest boxes and I have cleaned them out. The sparrows and wrens had already started rebuilding. I hope the bluebirds will come back.

Here are a few things I saw this week 
during a Second Look.







Yellow Star of Bethlehem


Rozanne Geranium

Tulip Poplar