Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Kudzu: The Amazing Vine That Ate the South

"Cotton isn't king in the South anymore.
Kudzu is king!"
Channing Cope

In Georgia, the legend says
That you must close your windows
At night to keep it out of the house.
The glass is tinged with green, even so...
From the poem, "Kudzu,"
by James Dickey 

Photo Credit: Jack Anthony
Read more about kudzu at at Anthony's web page here 

I have planned for some time to write a blog about Kudzu, that noxious weed that grows so rampantly throughout the Southeastern United States, where hot summers provide ideal growing conditions.

It climbs over trees and shrubs, utility poles, abandoned buildings and sometimes creates an eerie fantasy by growing into shapes which look like familiar animals and objects.

This fast-growing plan covers and kills any competing vegetation over a period of several years by blocking the sunlight.

Kudzu was introduced to the United States in 1876 at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Countries were invited to build exhibits to celebrate the 100th birthday of the U.S. The Japanese government constructed a beautiful garden filled with plants from their country. The large leaves and sweet-smelling blooms of kudzu captured the imagination of American gardeners who used the plant for ornamental purposes.

The following is from Max Shores, a University of Alabama filmmaker, who produced a film, The Amazing Story of Kudzu, for public television:

"Florida nursery operators, Charles and Lillie Pleas, discovered that animals would eat the plant and promoted its use for forage in the 1920s. Their Glen Arden Nursery in Chipley sold kudzu plants through the mail. A historical marker there proudly proclaims "Kudzu Developed Here."

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Soil Conservation Service promoted kudzu for erosion control. Hundreds of young men were given work planting kudzu through the Civilian Conservation Corps. Farmers were paid as much as eight dollars an acre as incentive to plant fields of the vines in the 1940s.

Kudzu's most vocal advocate was Channing Cope of Covington, Georgia who promoted use of the vine to control erosion. Cope wrote about kudzu in articles for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and talked about its virtues frequently on his daily WSB-AM radio program broadcast from his front porch. During the 1940s, he traveled across the southeast starting Kudzu Clubs to honor what he called "the miracle vine."

Cope was very disappointed when the U.S. government stopped advocating the use of kudzu in 1953. 

It is said that Kudzu grows 12 inches each day on a hot summer day, sixty feet each year. Science Daily reports that it spreads at the rate of 150,000 acres annually. It now covers more than seven million acres of the deep South.

It is mostly seen around riverbanks, in wooded areas around streams and areas not under cultivation.

Today I shot a few of my own photographs around Elk River, not very far from where I live:

There are many commercial uses for Kudzu, including medicine, food, animal feed, health tonics, basket making, clothing and paper.

Photo Credit:  Max Shores
Ruth Duncan of Greenville, Ala., makes more than 200 kudzu baskets each year and says she doesn't mind that people call her the "Queen of Kudzu."
If anyone out there is interested in commercially developing a product made from Kudzu, come on down South; we have lots and will willingly provide you with an ample supply. Just be careful and don't stand in one place too long or it may grow right over you!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Evening Sky

I never fail to be fascinated by the evening sky. Each sunset is so different, so beautiful. Here are a few pictures I made while walking the dogs with Claus this evening. We usually have a little contest to see who can get the best picture! These are made with the iPhone Instagram App.

Another reminder to self that I usually have "too many things" going at once was the realization that I needed to finish the homemade yogurt I started earlier today. This, while putting the frosting on the coconut refrigerator cake and finishing up the broccoli salad. Why do I start so many things at once? All this while trying to concentrate on getting this blog posted!

Life is never boring.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

An Antique Quilt

This quilt was made by my great-grandmother, Sarah Caroline Howard. She was born 28 July 1852 and died April 12, 1944. In 1871 she married Thomas Berry Howard (see previous post), and made this quilt sometime during her marriage to him. Every stitch in the quilt is by hand. No sewing machine was available to her for sewing the pieces of fabric together.

She gave this quilt to my mother, who has it displayed on a quilt stand in one of her bedrooms. In my opinion, it is a true work of art; so individualistic; not like the precision quilts made today where everything lines up perfectly and every stitch looks the same.

My mother said the colors were more than likely dyed to obtain the desired shades and colors, as this was still being done when she (my mother) was a young girl, although dyes were available commercially by then. It is very likely the dyes used by my great-grandmother were were from plants.

The blue in the first two photographs are true; the lighting in the second two pictures makes the color appear aqua, which it is not.

The pattern seems to be a variation of a fan quilt with many interesting additions.

A close-up view of the stitching. All the threads used for quilting appear to be brown. Was it brown when it was made, or has it just aged over the years?

The backside of the quilt.

The backside is a woven fabric; most unusual.

I am amazed that this quilt has survived in such pristine condition! My mother estimates it to be at least 140 years old!

When I handled it (very carefully!) today, I could hear a few threads snap. Not a good sign.

Making quilts is something that runs in my family. My grandmother made and gave each of her eight children 20 quilts upon their marriage. My mother and most of her sisters made quilts. And within the past 15 years, even I became interested in quilt making! When I was younger I had no interest, as it seemed like an “old-fashioned” pastime. But I actually took a class to learn how to quilt! Imagine that, growing up among all those talented women and paying someone to teach me to quilt!

I made several quilts during that period, stitching the patchwork by machine and actually doing the hand stitched quilting instead of sending it out to be quilted by a machine. My mother gave my sister and me 20 quilts each upon our marriage, continuing the tradition started by her mother.

These quilts make for a very warm and cozy sleep on a cold winter’s night.
Do you own quilts? Have your ever tried your hand at quilting? Do you appreciate handmade quilts?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Mystery Revealed: 3 Boys, 2 Girls

Our five kittens are finally old enough to go in for their neuter/spay procedure. We were only “guessing” the sex of each kitten; it’s difficult to tell when kittens are young – at least for me.

All five kittens during the trip to the vet clinic.  Thanks, Becky, for loaning us your large crate that all five would fit into!

So yesterday, my sister and I loaded them into one large crate and headed out early to the veterinarian. The kittens were little dears during the 30-minute car ride. My sister drove and I sat in the car backseat with the crate and talked to and tried to entertain them as best I could. Apparently it worked, as there wasn’t a peep from them!

We called back late in the afternoon to find out if they could be picked up or would require an overnight stay. The report we received is that they were still too drowsy to go home, so this morning I went to pick them up.

I couldn't help but grab a photo of this adorable old Sheltie trying to hide behind his master, seeming to know what was in store!

This veterinarian clinic is a very busy place, and I had to wait my turn for one hour. Finally, I went back to speak to the vet and receive the kittens and learned that we have three males and two females. Well, we have already named them, so it seems that two of the boy cats will go through life with female names. As it stands, Myrtle and Blackie are girl cats; Carl, Murtie and Gurtie are boy cats. We aren’t going to change their names.

A full view of Murtie, probably the sweetest of the litter. And we were so sure she was a girl!

The next chapter of this story is that all five are now secluded and resting comfortably in a room in my basement, which has been outfitted with two litter boxes, two water bowls and three food bowls, plus a fluffy old robe on a love seat, as well as toys to entertain them.

It's the same room that Sox was confined to during her recovery, but she has been moved out to yet another room. Sox has taken quite well to the high life. She is Miss Self Confidence with the dogs and runs throughout the house as if she owns it. She’s a really great cat!

How long will the kittens stay inside? Not sure; a few days I think. If purring is any indication of their contentment, they are in good shape! All appear to be doing quite well. They must be taken back in two weeks, all for a DHL booster shot and stitches removed for Blackie and Myrtle.

It will be difficult to take them back to the barn, as I will have become accustomed to having them inside, but I don’t think there’s any way this can be a six-cat-household. Too much work cleaning litter boxes, etc.!

On other notes: Tonight's sunset was beautiful:

And I have two Moon Flowers in bloom this evening:
Not fully opened but that will happen as the evening progresses. They are so pure white and look like satin. And they smell divine!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Little Boy Blue, There Are Cows in the Corn!

This little Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme came to mind early this morning as I walked the dogs:

Little Boy Blue,
 Come blow your horn,
The sheep's in the meadow,
 The cow's in the corn;
Where is that boy
 Who looks after the sheep?
Under the haystack
 Fast asleep.
Will you wake him?
 Oh no, not I,
For if I do
 He will surely cry.

Why? Because there were cows in the farmer’s corn! Many cows! And my first thought was they were not supposed to be there.

You'll have to enlarge this image to see some of the cows in the corn!

It has not been a good year for corn crops in this area, owing to the lack of rainfall at the corn’s critical development stage. However, behind our house, in the distance, there is a low-lying area in which corn was planted. We have watched it thrive and not become affected by the lack of rain. Just a few days ago we commented this may be the only cornfield in the county which will yield corn to the farmer.

I decided to do my good deed for the day and telephone the man who either rents or owns this field. When I told him the reason for my call, that I’d seen cows there eating his corn, he seemed not to hear me. “Oh, you are welcome to go out there and pick all the corn you want,” he said. He went on to explain that the corn ears did not properly form, but if one cut the undeveloped tips off, it was still some “good eating.”

An ear of freshly picked corn

“I’ve already gathered all the corn I want from the patch, so we just turned the cows in there. But you get all you want.” I thanked him, but explained again that my call was just to alert him of the cows' presence there -- to ensure those weren't errant cows -- and that I’d pass on gathering corn for myself.

A corn field. They have not looked green this year, due to the lack of rainfall.
He thanked me profusely, but I hope he didn’t think I was some busybody trying to mind his business. I have also called him in years past when I saw a fence down or an escaped cow roaming around.

“Roastn’ ears” is a term many country people use to describe corn at its peak and ready for roasting, or any other way one cares to prepare it. Have you heard that term? 

Because I hadn’t heard it in many years, it made me smile, remembering how good those “roastn’ ears” tasted when they were picked, brought to the house and prepared for dropping into a kettle of boiling water! A little butter and salt on the side makes that corn taste like a little bit of heaven. So maybe I should make that trek down to the corn patch and gather a few “roastn’ ears” for tonight’s table.

Fresh corn roasted on the grill

Only problem is, the grass is tall and I’m afraid of snakes, especially after seeing a long black one in my front yard this morning. I almost stepped on it, but fortunately was wearing my yellow rubber boots. But it was a long snake!

And I fear the tall grass between me and the corn is full of those critters.

On second thought, I think beans or peas will work quite well with tonight’s dinner.

Happy Thursday to you.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hot Sounds: Singing Bugs of Summer

There’s a great deal of chirping and creaking to be heard when I step outside my door these days. Buzzing and whining calls resound from treetops.

 Welcome to the hot sounds of the singing bugs of summer.

Crickets, katydids and cicadas perform in this warm weather chorus, and while I can’t identify which insect owns each sound, there definitely are numerous players in this symphony.

Because they are cold blooded, these insects need hot days to warm up their instruments. You don’t hear them on a cool morning. Around here at least, they begin tuning up around 8 a.m., and by midday and afternoon, more  join the chorus for their star performance. The sounds continue well after sunset, albeit growing softer as the shadows lengthen. By 10 p.m. there’s only one distinguishable insect to be heard: the sound we have always referred to as July bugs, but I’m sure that is not the proper terminology.

Shooting and preparing video with sound is something new I'm experimenting with. I hope this works! Below are three videos I made of the bug sounds.

The first was made in the early morning.

The one below also was made in early morning, and wanted to include for the sound of the Hoot Owl in the distance. The dogs barking are not mine.

The last video was shot in the late afternoon as the sun is beginning to go down.

Last summer, we had a brief period of invasion by Periodical Cicadas, and those sounds were not pleasant. It was so loud as to make you cover your ears! These insects are found only in the eastern portion of North America.

It was amazing! You walked outdoors and the air was populated with numerous large, black-bodied, red-eyed insects. Peaceful wooded areas were transformed literally overnight into amazing scenes of noisy insect activity. Lower portions of tree trunks, and stems, twigs, and leaves of understory plants were covered.

There were numerous newspaper and television stories about the occurrence, because people were thinking it was a locust invasion. The Periodical Cicadas are a different insect, and unlike the locus, do not eat vegetation, are not toxic or poisonous and do not bite. The eggs are buried in the ground and emerge at the proper time. We’re told these cicadas have 13- or 17-year synchronized life cycles and such an invasion won’t occur again until 2024.
(We’re also told the bugs hadn’t hatched since 1998 so the males are calling all females. The  (Wouldn’t you just know it? The males making all the noise!

Periodical Cicada

But this year we are back to just the normal sounds of hot weather insects. Enjoy while you can. The silence of winter will be upon the land soon enough.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

To Knit or Not to Knit? That is the Question

It's the middle of summer. The weather is steamy hot and all I want near my skin is cotton or linen, and as little  of that as possible.

So why did I buy yarn -- mohair, wool, alpaca--fabrics associated with cold weather? Yarns for knitting, which by my definition, is a winter activity.

Well, it was beautiful, I loved the colors and the price was good. I stumbled upon the yarn in the Tuesday Morning store a few weeks ago.

But now that I have it, I questioning if I really want to knit this winter? I have done my share of knitting in years gone by. I even was once a retail yarn shop manager in Dunwoody, Ga. At the time, I bought skeins and skeins of yarn -- enough to last a lifetime -- while I was able to buy with a discount. Some I have used, some I gave away, but I still have a large box full of that yarn from 30 years ago.

I have knitted sweaters, vests, afghans, caps and scarves. Oh, have I ever knitted scarves! Because they are the easiest thing to knit, I got on a roll about six years ago and knitted tens upon tens of scarves, mostly in novelty/nubby yarns. In fact, when I wore them, people asked where I bought them. When I told them I knitted them myself, they wanted to buy one. I  sold quite a few of my scarves.

I could knit a scarf in a few hours. I am a fast knitter and the scarves were made in in knit every row (garter stitch) or knit one row, purl next row (stockinette stitch). The nubby yard texture gave it interest and the yarn was often in variegated colors.

But knitting again? It's sort of like a been there, done that type of thing. And yet....the yarn is so beautiful and I did buy it!

Rapunzel, made in Italy: 80% mohair; 15% wool; 5% polyamide. Each skein 50 grams/100 ml; 1.75 oz./110 yds.; 4 stitches equals 1" on #9 needles. I have five skeins, or 250 grams/8.75 oz. Retail price #11.99; I paid $5.99.

This is a soft, luxurious yarn in fuchsia color.

The other yarn is a berry red made by Aslan Trends. Made in Bolivia. It is 100% alpaca. Five stitches per inch on size 6-8 needles. I have three 100 gram balls/10.5 oz. Retail price $15. I paid $6.99.

Do you have suggestions on what I could make with my new yarn? Or should I just pack it away with the remainder of my stash and wait for old age to set in? Maybe I'd have more time to knit then.

Do you knit? Or do any other needle work? 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Small Town Shopping is Fun!

There's a cute little shop in my town called Sugar Creek Soap & Candles. They specialize in handmade soaps and candles made on the premises, but they also carry a great many other gift items. 

I rarely go into the shop, but today had an occasion to drop in and the merchandise was so colorful I couldn't resist getting a few photos.

Rogersville is a "one red-light" town, and the shop is located on the main drag, alongside many other specialty shops that I may feature here in the near future.

The shop offers a large selection of handmade soaps, made from goat's milk.

Candles in various shaped glass containers in many scents are available.

There are many items with collegiate logos, Alabama and Auburn being well represented.

A pretty display, consisting of plants both live and dry, is near the front of the store.

And when you think you've seen everything, look up and there's still more!

I am not sure what these glass bowls/jars are used for, but they were very colorful!

Here is another shelf filled with gift items.

An attractive display of ceramic items and a bird cage with artificial greenery.

Able assistance is provided by Brandy.

And as you enter or leave, be sure to see Mr. Potts, constructed from what else? clay flower pots!

Read more about Sugar Creek Soap & Candles and the wide variety of scented soaps and candles.

If you're in the area, be sure to visit. Let me know and I'll meet you there!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sunday Scenes

Just a few photos from a quiet Sunday, where there were intermittent clouds, rain and sunshine.

I started the day by being able to photograph a beautiful butterfly stopping by for a visit.

"I wandered lonely as a cloud...." -- William Wordsworth

Strange moss growing at my feet.

Late afternoon shadows

One of my favorite trees -- the Pin Oak

Hydrangeas turned from blue to green . Is that a dog hiding behind?

The dogs think they've found something.

I'm glad I have a Sycamore tree. They remind me of Agatha Christie mysteries, in which the tea table  was laid under its protective shade.

An old fence post; a pond in the distance

Persimmon tree

The driveway leading home

In a French cafe? No, just a backyard spot in North Alabama.

A hobby greenhouse that needs repairs.

The gazebo, where so many pleasant evenings are spent.

It'll be dark soon.

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