Sunday, September 27, 2009

Black walnuts .....

I have a black walnut tree right in front of my house. When the house was built, this was the lone tree in the field. I insisted that it not be cut down as it provided the only shade we had. This is the last tree to get leaves in the spring and the first to lose it's leaves in the late summer. It does provide some nice shade in the summer, but right now it is providing me with an excess of black walnuts.

I went out this afternoon and picked up eight buckets full. They were falling almost as fast as I was picking them up. It's a dangerous chore - if you are hit on the head by one of these large, hard nuts, it can cause quite a bump. They have to be picked up before I can cut grass, since they can damage the blades of the lawn tractor.

They can be eaten if you want to go to the trouble of going through the outside hull and the inside hull to get to the nut. I'm not a big fan of black walnuts, so I toss them in the gully where I throw sticks and limbs from the yard. I used to think maybe the squirrels would get them since there is a squirrel's nest in the tree above the tossed pile. Even the squirrels must not think they are worth the trouble, since they've never eaten any.

The tree is close to the house, so walnuts will fall on the roof. Sometimes when a bunch fall at once, it sounds like someone is beating on the house. I've even thought someone was knocking on the door and discovered it was only falling walnuts. Once they all fall, hubbie will need to go on the roof and clean them out of the gutters.
To amuse myself while picking up walnuts, I count them. (OK, so I'm weird.) This afternoon I picked up 867 to make a total of 2054 for this year. The tree has at least that many more still to fall. Looks like I'll be gathering nuts for awhile yet.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Quadruple murder ............

A quadruple murder occurred in a nearby town a little over a week ago. The victims were Debra Kelley, a professor at Longwood University; her daughter, Emma Niederbrock; her daughter's friend, Melanie Wells who was visiting from West Virginia; and Kelley's estranged husband, Mark Niederbrock, a pastor. The bodies were discovered on Friday at Debra Kelley's home when police officers went there at the request of Melanie Wells' family who had been unable to get in contact with her. The police arrested Richard Samuel Alden McCroskey III, a 20 year old from Alameda County, California on Saturday at the Richmond airport.

The police are still trying to determine exactly what happened. McCroskey was an aspiring horrorcore rapper who went by the name of Syko Sam. I checked his MySpace page before it was taken down. His lyrics talk about killing - "I've killed many people and I kill them real slow. It's the best feeling, watching their last breath." His page was full of satanic images and upside down crosses. He knew Emma and Melanie through the internet and had attended a horrorcore concert in Detroit with them several weeks ago.

I won't go into all the details - if you're interested you can google Farmville murders or McCroskey. When I saw the video of the police escorting McCroskey to jail, I was struck by how young he looked. I was in Farmville the day they believe the murders occurred. If I had seen this kid, nothing about him would have alarmed me. I'm sure Emma's mother and father had no idea he was so dangerous. Today when kids meet people on the internet, they have no idea who they are talking to. It's hard for parents to monitor all of their children's online interactions. Events like this make me glad that I am childless (by choice). If I had children, I would probably worry myself sick or else lock them up out of harm's way.

This was such a tragedy for all the families involved. My heart goes out to each one of them.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bye Summer, Welcome Fall ..........

The official beginning of autumn is this afternoon and it is starting to look and feel like fall. We have closed the pool for the summer. It will sit there collecting leaves and water on the cover until next spring. The days are getting shorter, cutting down on time to do outside activities. The mornings are cool and have caused me to put on a sweatshirt jacket several times. I really hate to see summer go. I'm a hot weather person. I love everything about summer. I will miss the afternoons in the pool, spending most of my day outside, and sleeping with all the windows open. I will actually miss the garden and yard work.

Fall is a pretty time of year and it has it's good points. The wildflowers are blooming in the fields. There is a crispness to the air that is missing in the summer. Apples are ripening, pumpkins are getting big, and the last of the summer garden is ready to be harvested.

The mums are blooming in their beautiful fall hues. They add a bit of color and cheerfulness to my porch. I'll soon be putting up more fall decorations. Soon leaves will be turning and the woods will be transformed from green to myriad shades of red, yellow, orange and brown.

So, I will miss summer, but I will welcome fall and enjoy it's unique beauty.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fall Foliage # 1 ..............

This is the first sign of fall color in the trees around my house. The bright red orange leaves really stand out.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What happened to civility? .................

What happened to civility? It seems like every time I turn on the TV, someone else has thrown a verbal tantrum when they do not agree with an issue or decision. Rep. Joe Wilson showed complete disrespect for the office of the President of the United States. He has the freedom to disagree with the President and he has the right to voice his opinion. However, to interupt a speech by shouting "You lie" is rude, childish, and unacceptable. A man in his position should know better. Kanye West's interruption of Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards was another case of rude and crude behavior. Then, Serena William's rant toward a line judge exhibited more unruly and juvenile behavior.

People who hold public office and those who are considered stars or celebrities have an obligation to conduct themselves in a civil manner. They must realize that they are role models for their fans, many whom are young children. It seems like simple good manners and politeness have become scarce in today's society. It bothers me that as a civilized society we have such public examples of uncivilized behavior. It seems as if people have no compassion for others and no tolerance for opposing views. If they don't get their way, then like a child, they scream and throw a tantrum.

How do we bring back civility? How do we as a nation begin acting like intelligent adults, not spoiled children?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Monticello ................

We decided this morning that we would take a ride to Charlottesville and visit Monticello again. We had not been there since the Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center and Smith Education Center were opened in April of this year. A side view of the center is shown above. Below is a view of the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants which is part of the complex. You can purchase seeds and plants of historic varieties. Notice the grass growing on the roof of the building. The new center features four innovative exhibitions, a film introducing Thomas Jefferson's world and resources for children. A cafe and gift shop are also in the complex.

We took the shuttle bus to the house. Even though we have been through the house several times, I still enjoy the tour and see something new each time. Cameras are not allowed inside, so I don't have any pictures.

The picture above is of the back of the house taken from the west lawn. Jefferson planted flowers along a graveled walk encircling the West Lawn. The range of species planted reflect the scope of his interests - Old World florist's flowers, local wildflowers, and strange plants. Jefferson also planted at least 160 species of trees. Below is the flowered walkway.

Below is a picture of the six acre orchard which surrounded the vineyards and berry squares.

I enjoyed looking over the vegetable garden. This is where Jefferson grew food for his family and also where he planted and studied about 330 varieties of more than 70 species of vegetables. His garden looked much better than mine.

Jefferson is buried at Monticello with other members of his family in a graveyard chosen by him in 1773. The graveyard is owned by his descendants and is still used as a cemetary today. The epitaph he wrote for his tombstone was "Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia."

After looking through the cemetary, we decided to walk back to the visitor center rather than taking the shuttle bus. It was a nice walk through the woods on a beautiful day. On the way home we stopped at First Colony Winery for some wine tasting and to purchase a bottle to take home.

It was an enjoyable morning - we were back home by 1:30. We are planning on going back in a couple of months. If you get the chance to visit Monticello, please do so. There is so much to see.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Summer Pleasures # 10 - Cookouts ............

Summer is the time for cookouts. While we use our gas grill year round, it definitely gets more use during the summer months. Steaks, hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken, ribs, and fish - everything seems to taste so much better fresh off the grill. I like to take a variety of summer vegetables - squash, onions, peppers, and potatoes - season them with fresh herbs - wrap in foil and cook along with the meat.
Cookouts are a wonderful way to enjoy the company of family and friends. I am much more comfortable in casual situations, so cookouts are my favorite form of entertaining. When you are entertaining outside there's no need to limit the number of guests and cleanup is so easy.
I hope everyone has an enjoyable Labor Day, and that you have the opportunity to indulge in one of the pleasures of summer - a cookout. Happy eating!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fall crops ................

I was back in the garden today. I cleaned out one of the beds and planted some cabbage and collards for fall crops. The ground is so dry, it's just dust. We've only had 6/10 of an inch of rain since the first of August. Seems like all the rain has gone around us. I'm beginning to think we have a big umbrella over us.

Hubbie will be on vacation until the 14th. We don't have any specific plans - we'll just take each day as it comes and do whatever we're in the mood for. We had planned on spending time in the pool, but the last couple of days have been too cool for swimming. The cool nights are good for sleeping however, so I'm not complaining.