Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Men Return and A Christmas Tree Ornament

There are many aspects of hunting that I am still very unfamiliar with and Bloodhound has recognized that I am at my limit, and he has not bothered to offer more information.  When he sees the glazed look in my eyes, or I begin to wipe crumbs off the kitchen table, he knows that I have heard all of the wild hunter dialogue that I can take for one day.  However, there is one element of hunting that I do enjoy - the early morning rise.  I adore the way the day feels and sounds when the sun has not risen, and yet the animals are stirring.  So sometimes I will take my camera and go to meet them as they climb out of the woods.

On this day my wee girl made the trip with me.  She helped me find some wild flowers to photograph and then she rested on the tailgate.  

She got chilled and added clothing...gotta love the flip-flops in November.

As she threaded her arms through the sleeves she was singing about something, but since I have to pretend I am not hearing her, as this kind of intrusion is not appreciated, I am not quite sure what the tune was.

And finally she was finished with this project, three minutes had been consumed, and it was now time to find another way to pass the time.

I did hear this next song...It had to do with swabbing the deck.

Who knew a deck swabber smiled and sang while they worked?

Then she began searching Bloodhound's truck for entertainment.  A rope...

Within a few minutes the rope had ceased to be entertaining and just when I thought I was going to have to go home without seeing the men, I heard them trekking out of the woods.  As if to tease them this duck flew by their path out of the woods, right before they came into sight.

And then out they popped...one at a time.

It was a good day for them and you can see the pictures of their trip here.

We were just glad they were ready to come home.  Oh and two more things...

If you were a fairy wouldn't these dried flowers make the best hot cocoa mugs?

I have a fascination with ornaments that is beyond normal.  We have way too many and I like that quite a few of them commemorate events or hobbies that we enjoy.  This one is in honor of the duck hunters.

So, any ducks on your Christmas tree?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Adventures of a Boy and His Mind

The following story was written by my oldest child after a duck hunting trip last fall.  I wanted to share it last year, but somehow it never happened.  So here it is now, with pictures from a recent expedition that included both of my sons, a neighbor and the now healed and hunting Dad.  aka Bloodhound

It’s the time of the year when the Sweetgum leaves are falling, the wind in the evening has a bit of a cool nip to it and it seems you can almost smell the scent of winter in the air. For years my father had entertained me down at my childhood vacation home, located deep in the woods, with stories of duck hunts he had been on in years past. Naturally as a boy my mind raced with glorious ideas of what it would be like. Everything from the preparation, setting up the decoys, anticipation of the ducks flying in, and leaving the outdoors with a bag and great memories. 

My father, after a bad fall from a deer stand in the early fall, was not able to accompany me into the duck pond but he had recovered enough to sit on the road with a walkie talkie and talk to me. It was such a blessing to have my father with me after such a close call. It was extremely important to me to have him there since this would be my first duck hunting expedition on my own. I was very nervous and full of questions. At times I could sense my father’s patience was wearing thin with my constant nagging of questions, but not once was he ever short with me. In fact he took all the time needed to explain all that I needed to do. That night I was like a kid on Christmas Eve. There was no chance of sleep because I had worked myself up so much with anticipation and hopes and desires. 

Finally the morning arrived and at a horribly early time my alarm clock went off and like a spring that had been compressed and was suddenly release the sheets were flung from the bed and up I rose as if the bed itself had propelled me from its warm comfort. Quickly I threw on my cold clothes that I had so neatly set out the night before. Eagerly I made my way to my father’s room to wake him. After cooking a warm meal for the two of us and brewing coffee we set out on a cold overcast night. For anyone else the sight of the towering grove of gum trees, barren and lifeless, this would have been a horrid sight. For me though it was my last check point. To say that I was not afraid that morning would be silly. I am a victim of my mind and I was scared, but not of the trees or of snakes, it was a fear of a gator.  After much reassurance from my father I began to make the trek. 

I will never forget the smell of that morning. The sulfur water pouring from the well that kept the pond wet, the smell of the leaves and sticks decaying in the water, I was sincerely aware of everything around me. As I made my way, ever so often I would talk to my father on the road over the radio. His voice was such a comfort to such a scared young man in the woods. That morning was beautiful but it was not near as cold as predicted and after a short time of horsing myself through the water and avoiding stumps I was quickly overheating, but just as this happened I realized that I was very quickly approaching my hunting spot. Almost instantly my awareness of my temperature was erased from mind. Just as I got to my location legal shooting light reached me and within moments you could hear the sounds of wings overhead. Soon it was like the sky above me was flooded with birds coming in to land. Now you must remember I was still under the influence of the adrenaline rush from the fear of gators in the water, further add more adrenaline to my bloodstream as I realize that there are birds overhead nearly in shooting range. Shaking from cold and anticipation, I waited there as they circled overhead. Finally some flew in on an arcing pattern in front of me dipping just into range, I let off the trigger and fired and not so much as a feather dropped. I shook off the disappointment of missing my first ducks and got ready once more. Again the ducks swooped in and again I shot this time twice and nothing happened. If you have ever hunted wood ducks you know that they fly early and the time span you can shoot them is very limited. With this is mind I began to feel ill. I knew I was rapidly running out of chances. It was about this time that the ducks caught me off guard and flew in super low and out of reflex and not concentration I threw the gun to my shoulder and as I passed the bird with the bead of the gun I pulled the trigger and down came a bird. 

Almost as if I didn’t believe what had happened I stood there in shock but this was brief. I very quickly forgot about all the other birds flying around and made my way to my bird. It was a beautiful sized drake Wood Duck. Never before had I harvested a duck but now I held my first in my hand. Its green head and crown that no other duck holds so well, its neck with purple feathers that merge into a blue green shade on its wings. Even though most men would count one duck as a failed trip I felt like a seasoned duck hunter, and in my mind I felt like I had accomplished all I could have. 

I looked around me and the sun had risen just high enough to color the sky orange and pink, the birds were singing around me and squirrels were chattering in the trees. As I made my way back to the truck I realized how special and lucky I was to not only have my father there but to have a father that would provide me with a place, experience, materials, and moral support on my first duck hunt. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Even After Nine Years

Even though I've lived in the woods and away from civilization for nine years, there are still a few things that I am not used to experiencing.

1.  Waking to gun shots on Saturday morning.  Now, if they are deer hunting that is not a big deal.  They fire once, maybe twice and then it is over.  But, this weekend the men went duck hunting and that is much more intense.  When a flock of ducks flies over the water and all three hunters simultaneously fire, it sounds like war has broken out on the marsh.  Not exactly my favorite way to start the weekend.

2.  Towing Services - If someone gets their truck stuck in the mud, they do not call Acme Towing Co., or any other tow service.  They call a friend, who uses their vehicle or a tractor to drag you free.  No matter, I still carry a business card with a tow truck number on it.  

3.  Dust - When you drive on dry dirt roads you must travel less than 5mph in order to keep your car dust free.  If you aren't concerned about dust on your truck, because Bubba damaged it while helping you with issue #2, then do not exceed 10mph, or your neighbors will hate you for creating dust on their porch and in their house, if the windows are open.  I've seen some veins swell out on the face of a few retired gentlemen, when a driver ignored this speed limit.  Since I tend to have a lead foot and am very anxious to get home, this has been a very difficult lesson for me to remember.  

4.  Pizza Delivery - There isn't any.  My kids are convinced that this is child neglect.  And when I am exhausted and frazzled from a long day of herding cats kids I think it is mother abuse.

5.  Ice Cream - Eat it at the store or drink it when you get home.

6.  Wild Animals - We see them, and my suburbia brain still hasn't come to expect it.  I get as excited when I stumble upon an osprey perched in a tree, as if it were the first time.

A few years ago, pine beetles infested these trees and after burning the woods, in an effort to control the spread of disease, they started to rot and fall into the marsh.  From this vantage point hawks and ospreys watch the tidal river below for fish, their primary prey.  The beetles were a pest and I hated to see the pines die, but they made room for this magnificent bird.

And we have watched him sit here off and on, for two days.

Ah...this makes up for the dust, bubba's towing, no fast food deliver, and waking to World War III on Saturday morning.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Hickory Nuts at the End of the Day

After a long day of school the kiddos need to go out and play.  They need it because their brains are spent but their energy is still strong.  I require it because my brains are spent...as are my patience.  Just being honest...I love teaching my children and I am thankful that I am given the opportunity.  But, when the end of the day arrives I am exhausted and hearing them play outside is a lovely thing.  So a few days ago, on a beautiful fall day, I sent them out.  I gave them a job to do knowing full well that it would only slightly get done, and that they would play and enjoy this late autumn afternoon.  Their chore?  Collect hickory nuts off the river bank.  Many years the crop is skimpy, but this year we have a bumper crop and the squirrels are dancing in delight.

And then suddenly I wanted to enjoy watching them from a distance.  This required my camera because I was free to enjoy my hobby and my favorite subjects, my children and the landscape, as they combined to create unique photos.  

This is a hickory that planted itself in our side yard.  Bloodhound thought its shape was beautiful and that the end of the house could use the shade, so he let it grow up.  I am glad that was his decision as I can only imagine how beautiful it will be, in the fall, in  about twenty years.

Now this wee girl, in her flashy purple headband, obviously misunderstood my instructions. I didn't ask her to pick up fall leaves or pluck flowers from my new fall decorations.  

Side Note: Will she ever have hips?

Here is one child that is doing what he is told...even if he is sitting on the job.  Maybe he wanted to enjoy watching the sun set?  I am not sure I can blame him.  I only wonder if he realizes how lucky he is to live here and soak this up...without a real care in the world.   He doesn't even have the normal stresses of elementary school.  Bully?  What's that?

The bounty...

They say that the eyes are the window to our soul.  

I find there is a lot of depth to a person's hands, too.

I am not sure if she ever used her hands to pick up a hickory nut!  She must have been a good cheerleader, though, because he is smiling.  If she were just running around not contributing in some capacity he would have been whining, not grinning.  

Side Note: Who knew it was necessary to have a sling shot around your neck while picking up nuts?

Ah...the truth comes out...she was the bucket hauler!

She's in her flip flops and Daisy Duke blouse...you gotta love autumn in the Deep South!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Has Anyone Seen Thanksgiving...It's Missing

What has happened to Thanksgiving?

Are we all going to sit back and watch it become a day of shopping?

We can all post cute little numbered things we are thankful for on Facebook, but can we back those feelings up by refusing to shop on Thanksgiving?

I am all for saving money, and in years past I've done that on Black Friday.  But, it has gone too far.  Opening at midnight on Friday?  When will the people who work in these stores celebrate Thanksgiving?  They will need to spend most of Turkey Day sleeping.  They will be tired after stocking all of the store on Wednesday and then they will need to turn around and stay up all night so we can shop like crazed fools.  All in the name of Christmas....

Have we lost our minds?

This year I will not buy a single Christmas gift or item from a store that was open for shoppers on Thanksgiving or right after the clock strikes midnight.

I have a choice and I will sleep happily knowing that I may have spent 20% more for my Christmas purchases, but I won't support companies that refuse to allow their employees to enjoy Thanksgiving.

Alternatives to spending our money at the chain stores that promote this crazy spending:

1.  Zoo - Buy your family a pass and you will enjoy it all year.
2.  Hair and nail salon gift certificates.  Who can't appreciate a pedicure?
3.  Online shopping - check out a few Etsy shops while you are at it.  Plus you can stay in pjs and do that.
4.  Arts and Crafts Christmas Bazaars - Many times you can support a charity in the process.

And then we can always decide to just spend less on our families, altogether.  I know it is a novel idea.  It may even be radical.  But since many of us are celebrating the season in the name of Jesus, maybe we should find a need and let our finances meet it.  And in doing so we'll pare back the amount spent on ourselves.

Am I alone?  If you are with me, link up your rant below or leave your thoughts in the comment section.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Here's The Plan

Welcome ladies to the Black Friday strategy meeting.  I hope you enjoy the tea and cakes that I made up for you, and we'll get right down to business.  

Remember when we hit the first store it is important that one person runs through and grabs the items on our list.  The other person will get a cart and wait toward the front of the store.

This placement is important because the aisles will be very full and if you wait to get your bulky cart through, the door busters will be gone.  So work in pairs!  That is so important.  I cannot stress that enough.

Now when your arms are over flowing with goodies you need to find a safe corner of the store, I recommend the underwear or automotive section, and put your belongings down so that you can call your cart contact.  Find out where they are located and head that way with your goods.

If you are new to this Black Hell Friday shopping experience keep in mind that you must guard your cart.  Do not take your eyes off of it.  Treat these door busters like they are your infant or purse.  If you don't, I promise stuff will be stolen right out from under you...all in the name of Christmas..fa la la la la.

When everyone is grouped back in the front of the store we can check out.  And since we will have parked 2 miles from the entrance of the store, when it was dark, and we were sleep deprived, you will want to stay together.  In this way we can use our combined memories to locate the get away vehicle, as everything will look different in the daylight.

And lastly...be careful driving home.  It is so easy to fall asleep at the wheel after a huge turkey day meal, rising up out of bed at 3am, and after an aggressive Marine-like descent on the sales floor.  Turn up that Christmas music and remember the reason for the season.

P.S. Don't forget to bring the face paint so we can make a sneak attack on those holiday pjs in the children's department!  You may want to pack it in your purse the night before.  Some have taken to carrying pepper spray, but that is just taking this holiday tradition a bit to seriously, if you ask me.

Monday, November 14, 2011

She Turns One

What do

Vlad the Impaler,

Margaret Mitchell,

Milton Bradley,

and Bobby Bowden have in common?

Give up?

They were all born on November 7th.

And what historical events took place on the 7th day of the 11th month of the year?

Well on this date...

- in 1731, Ben Franklin opened the first US library in Philadelphia.

- in 1793, the Louvre in Paris, opened.

- in 1864, Abraham Lincoln is elected to his second presidential term.

- in 1889, Montana is admitted as a state.

- in 1910, women cast their vote for the first time in Washington State.

- in 1944, the last German troops at Walcheren surrenders.

- in 1950, 1st jet-plane battle ever, in Korean War.

- in 1965, "Days of Our Lives" premieres on TV.

But none of this means as much to me, as my niece being born on this date, in 2010.

And last week she enjoyed her cake to the fullest.

I think she rather likes the date, too.

And since my uterus is retired...I really cherish holding this little bundle of baby, and then handing her off to her mother.

Happy 1st Birthday!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Panty Hose, Anyone?

Since I am child of the 70's, and a teen ager of the 80's, panty hose were a common part of my life until the last decade.  I don't know when I realized they were disappearing, but I had mixed emotions about them slipping away into the past.  I didn't want them to go the way of hats and gloves, but since we live in the humid south, I was pleased to feel the air on my bare legs.

However, thanks to Kate Middleton, the panty hose might not die away, just yet.  It seems that those who like to mimic whatever the Duchess wears, which there are plenty, are now purchasing Leggs panty hose in mass.

So, how do you feel about this nylon come back?  Are you jumping on board...or waving good bye with a smile on your face?

Here are some commercials to make you smile.  I wish the red lipstick of the 80's would return...but that is for another post.

Memory Yarn...eh?  I could use that in my underwear and bras!  I need it to "memory" me back to about 1988.

Panty hose to the zoo?  You've got to be kidding!

If you'd like to see what others are saying about this head over to the Hammock Tracks' Family Forum.

Fall, In my Neck of the Woods

I love the look of a traditional fall with the red, orange, and yellow leaves, and we do get a little of that look down here.  Many of our trees won't lose the bulk of their leaves until December, or even January.  For the most part, fall is a very unusual time and the weather can vary from nearly freezing temperatures to summer like temperatures.  The mums are blooming but so are the canna lilies...

and the ginger...

and the Alstroemeria...

How do you dress your children in the Deep South, for autumn?  Oh that is very difficult, and it is even harder to organize their clothes drawers.  Summer outfits can never be completely out of reach, and yet, you  must be able to put your hands on long pants, gloves, and jackets.

One day last week the children were barefoot as they played in the grass with their cousin.

They were playing football, but she seems to be questioning how long they need to be in this position and what exactly they are doing.  Due to the fact that she is without a decent pair of hips, her already belt tightened pants needed to be held.  I think she has a future as a twiggy model.

By the end of the week we had a fire going as it was in the lower 30's.

For the men in my house fall is not a question of what the kids are wearing or what is blooming in the yard.  This time of year it is all about what can be hunted.  So far they have added two deer to the freezer, and yesterday, since it was youth duck hunting day in Georgia, the young one went on his first duck expedition.  

This is what a ten year old looks like after getting up at 4:30 am and spending a few hours in the duck pond.  

He was very proud of his duck and the dog thought it was a good thing, too.

And before we know it...spring will be here.  I prefer to just ignore the winter season.  Ignorance is bliss and I think I'll just spend January and February in the house.  I must have bear in my soul...hibernation how I like to survive the cold months.  

What is fall like in your neck of the woods?

*This story is reposted at Mama Kat's Losin It.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What I am Thankful For; Is the Good Man Happy?

What am I thankful for?  The colors of fall and the autumn sunset, but most of all, thought provoking stories.

As I was reading "Something Wicked This Way Comes" to my children last week I bookmarked a page because I was intrigued with Bradbury's summary of how the good man doesn't always look happy.  

In the story a young boy, Will, was talking to his father about how he thought that being good meant being happy.  His father didn't agree and proceeded to explain his experiences with living the obedient life.  

I paused to wonder if I had equated being good with being happy.

Does being good lead to a peaceful, if not happy life?

 Here is the passage and I'd love to hear how it struck you.

"Now, look, when did you think being good meant being happy?"  

"Since Always."

"Since now learn otherwise.  Sometimes the man who looks happiest in town, with the biggest smile, is the one carrying the biggest load of sin.  There are smiles and smiles; learn to tell the dark variety from the light.  

The seal-barker, the laugh-shouter, half the time he is covering up.  He's had his fun and he's guilty.  And men do love sin,  Will, oh how they love it, never doubt, in all shapes, sizes, colors, and smells.  Times come when troughs, not tables, suit our appetites.  hear a man too loudly praising others, and look to wonder if he didn't just get up from the sty. 

On the other hand, the unhappy, pale, put-upon man walking by, who looks all guilt and sin, why, often that's your good man with a capital G, Will.   For being good is a fearful occupation; men strain at it and sometimes break in two.  I've known a few.

You work twice as hard to be a farmer as to be his hog.  I suppose it's thinking about trying to be good makes the crack run the wall one night.  A man with high standards, too, the least hair falls on him sometimes wilts his spine.  He can't let himself alone, won't lift himself off the hook if he falls just a breath from grace."

Something Wicked this Way Comes, Ray Bardbury

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Blue Angels

Last week the Blue Angels came to town, and as home educators we were allowed the opportunity to watch the practice run on Friday afternoon.  The last time I had attended this arial show, my seventeen year old daughter had been in preschool.  

Unfortunately the unpredictable fall/winter weather in Jacksonville, Florida, had turned windy and chilly.  None of us came prepared and we were very thankful when a grandmother to one of the students, who lived nearby, joined us with loads of blankets, hats, and gloves.

The Blue angels were formed in 1946 and the original flight team named this performing squadron after the Blue Angel nightclub in New York City.  Although they travel the country doing these mind blowing, and down right frightening shows to entertain, these F/A 18 jets can be repainted and made combat ready in 72 hours.

The Navy and Marine aviators practice during the winter months, twice a day and six days a week.  After this training they generally serve for two years.  There are six planes flown throughout the show, with four in a dimond formation, at a slower speed, and two solo pilots that fly just under the speed of sound.

As I watched them perform nearly miraculous stunts, my emotions fluctuated with joy, pride a large dose of anxiety.  And even though I was constantly worried that something would go horribly wrong, I was shocked to learn, after I came home and did some reading, that 10% of these pilots die in accidents while performing.

All in all, I'd summarize this experience with one word - AMAZING.  

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