Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Pumpkin Tale Part 6: I Spy Something Orange

September 21 (Click all pictures for larger view) Posted by Picasa
Theme in Yellow
I spot the hills
With yellow balls in autumn.
I light the prairie cornfields
Orange and tawny gold clusters
And I am called pumpkins.
On the last of October
When dusk is fallen
Children join hands
And circle round me
Singing ghost songs
And love to the harvest moon;
I am a jack-o'-lantern
With terrible teeth
And the children know
I am fooling.
~ Carl Sandburg
(If you've missed the first five installments, you might want to read them first, here: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4 and Chapter 5.)

One day the lady started to see splashes of color in the pumpkin patch...... Not just the green of the broad leaves or the bright yellow of the billowy flowers, but touches of orange on the speckled green skins of the oldest pumpkins.

September 21

All four early pumpkins were turning orange and it took all the will power and restraint the lady could muster to keep from plucking those little coach pumpkins right then and there. So she took a deep breath, stepped back and surveyed the rest of her crop.

Composite ~ September 15

While the four smaller pumpkins were gradually ripening, more baby pumpkins began to grow. One in the front of the house was as large as the one under the bush, smaller ones grew to the size of grapefruit and two others appeared just larger than the original; one in the flowerbed and the other nestled down in the grass hidden by the wide expanse of leaves.

September 21 (L), October 4 (R)

Some grew fast, while others grew slow. Some days it seemed as if new pumpkins were springing up by the hour. How many do we have this morning? Let's see.... four, five, eight, ten, twelve, fourteen! Alas, some of these seemed to grow for a while, then shrivel and die. The lady had noticed that one pumpkin right next to a very large pumpkin had stopped growing. The lady had placed the little pumpkin on a board with the thought that it would keep water away, but it did the opposite; and when the pumpkin was turned it had started to rot in one small spot. But the lady's mom thought we could still use the pumpkin; so it was plucked, properly washed and weighed (8 pounds) and when cut yielded a pale but delicious meat for pie, so it did not grow in vain.

September 26

Meanwhile the vines were not yet done. The lady diligently pinched the ends of new offshoot vines as they started but at times she felt it was a losing battle! Vines continued to grow under, as well as up and over the bushes. Was there no end? Well.....

September 27

The lady could contain her desire no longer. She had thumped the pumpkin with the most color for several days. It sounded hollow to her; although she had to admit that they all sounded hollow, even the ones that were totally green. She checked the growing times estimated on the internet; got her handy utility scissors and clipped the pumpkin from the vine, being sure to leave a good stem attached.

October 4

The lady checked every day, sometimes twice and slowly she gave in as she picked another and another; until she had gathered in all the precious pumpkins, at least the ones that were ready. She washed the dirt off carefully and cleaned the skin with a solution of 10% bleach (did you know you were to do that?) and buffed them dry. Then she put them in the sunroom to "cure" for at least ten days; here they will be safe and sound and beautiful too.... don't you think?

October 10

Each pumpkin weighs about 7 pounds and will soon be part of our pumpkin pies; their seeds will be cleaned and dried and safely tucked away to see what they produce next year. Today is Halloween. They will not be subject to any "smashing" and I plan to stake out my pumpkin patch to prevent any smashing there as well.

You see this tale isn't ended yet. Pumpkins still hang in the balance. Tragedies have yet to be disclosed and the final results are not yet in. What happened to the huge dark green pumpkin under the bush? What about the new ones hidden in the grass? How long will it be before they mature or will they?

You'll have to come back to see the saga to its end; so here is just a tidbit of things to come..........

October 4. Is that a touch of orange I see?

(To be continued....... but not today.)
(High pitch "evil stepmother" laugh.... fading, stage right and end of post)

Tummy "Twister" or Someone Call Me An Ambulance

Nicky:Tummy "Twister" champion! (Click picture for larger view) Posted by Picasa
"Although all cat games have their rules and rituals, these vary with the individual player. The cat, of course, never breaks a rule. If it does not follow precedent, that simply means it has created a new rule and it is up to you to learn it quickly if you want the game to continue." ~ Sidney Denham
OK Nicky, I think this game of "Twister" has gotten out of hand. I can't tell which end is which and which is sideways or up or down and... well, you aren't helping matters by taking a nap! Just because it's easy for you to get into this position, doesn't mean you can rub my nose in it by sleeping while I try to figure out the "right hand on red three and left foot on blue four" move. Doesn't that make your neck hurt? Uh Oh, Nicky!? Nicky!? I think you better call me an ambulance! I think I pulled or popped something!!! This is the last time I play "Twister" with you, sonny boy!

Nicky "twisted" my arm so now he's heading on over to Tummy Tuesday at catstuff. Later this week he'll hop on Friday's Ark and take a spin at the Carnival of the Cats, hosted by Crazy Meezer this week. You know, I really think Nicky cheats at "Twister", I just can't seem to prove it.

(end of post)

Monday, October 30, 2006

Who Knows Halloween?

The Shadow Knows Posted by Picasa
"Will you walk into my parlor?" said the spider to the fly;
'Tis the prettiest little parlor that ever you did spy.
The way into my parlor is up a winding stair,
And I have many pretty things to show when you are there.

Alas, alas! How very soon this silly little Fly,
Hearing his wily, flattering words, came slowly flitting by;
With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer drew,
Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue --
Thinking only of her crested head -- poor foolish thing! At last,
Up jumped the cunning Spider, and fiercely held her fast.
He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den,
Within his little parlor -- but she ne'er came out again!

And now dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly flattering words, I pray you ne'er give heed:
Unto an evil counselor, close heart and ear and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly."
~ Mary Howitt (1799-1888)
The Spider and the Fly (l. 1-4, 34 - 44)
Carved pumpkins, black cats, goblins, children dressed as princesses, superheroes, cowboys and cats; lawns decorated with orange lights, scarecrow, bats and those tacky blow up monsters and ghosts.... Yes, it's Halloween! A few trees have filmy white strands hanging from their branches and giant pipecleaner and styrofoam spiders dangling close by. Not so at our house. The huge garden spiders have been busy weaving giant webs, night after night, quietly they spin; lost, hidden in the darkness....only their SHADOW gives them away.

Welcome, brave "trick or treaters"!
(Add sound effects: maniacal laughter in the dark, howling wolves in the distance)

Submission for Moody Monday topic "dark". (end of post)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Autumn Leaves

Autumn leaves. (Click picture for larger view) Posted by Picasa
"Now Autumn's fire burns slowly along the woods,
And day by day the dead leaves fall and melt,
And night by night the monitory blast
Wails in the key-hole, telling how it pass'd
O'er empty fields, or upland solitudes,
Or grim wide wave; and now the power is felt
Of melancholy, tenderer in its moods
Than any joy indulgent Summer dealt."
~ William Allingham,
Day and Night Songs--Autumnal Sonnet
Some of the trees are still full with green leaves and others, those early changers are almost bare after forty mile an hour winds last night. At the curb these castaways gather in gentle mounds, waiting for rake or blower or mulcher to sweep them away. Even our pine tree was no match for the wind as a large branch broke and fell beside the sunroom; how then do the leaves with such delicate stems stand firm, some to the very end? I just love the mystery of Nature.

Submission for SeeItSunday topic "leaves". (end of post)

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Accidental Sunset or "An Accident Going Somewhere To Happen"

Accidental sunset. (Click picture for larger view) Posted by Picasa
"Confidence is the illusion born of accidental success." ~ unknown
This was an accident. Well. Not really an accidental sunset; I expected the sunset, but driving down a long, flat stretch of Midwestern prairie after ten or twelve hours of the same, was becoming monotonous. I decided to take some pictures. Yes, while I was driving. No I do not talk on the cell phone while driving but I do take pictures and try not to over steer so as not to get that adrenaline, accident causing yell of "OOOOOOHHHHHH" from the front passenger seat. That is where my mom is asleep as I take this. Most of the time I have to balance the camera on the steering wheel, try to aim at something, click and hope for the best. No flash; learned that the hard way.

Anyway, the sun was bright in my eyes as it set and slightly to the south of the highway. The flat Illinois plains with scattered trees was a great backdrop and as long as my camera faced forward and only slightly to the left, the focus would be pretty good. Another tidbit; don't bother with pictures out of a side window, with no flash there is just too much motion blur. I snapped off about twenty five pictures, not really paying attention to the composition; I was trying to keep an eighteen wheeler from running over our van at the same time. About eight of them were pretty good. Here, though a bridge managed to get in the way. I almost chucked it but, the sun was just settling behind the concrete structure and those elongated rays seemed to emanate from behind and the halo was really pretty great. Of course the foreground was too dark, but this gave the ordinary overpass bridge a mysterious feeling. I kept it.

So there, now you know. I often point in a general direction, through a window with bug spatterings; let the camera focus and click the shutter. I deal with the "delete" button later. On occasion something spectacular will pop up when I least expect it!

Submission for PhotoFriday topic "accidental". (end of post)

Migration Time

Bird Season: Chloe and Rhett quietly observing the chaos.
(Click picture for larger view)
Posted by Picasa
"There is always music amongst the trees in the garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it." ~ Minnie Aumonier
Migration; fall migration is here. Some of the Canadian geese fly further south, others winter here. Now are the days of the blackbird gathering noisily in trees behind the fence; they come by the hundreds and fly from tree to yard and back again; loud, noisy and obnoxious. The wren and chickadee are back, singing in my bush, eating safflower seeds and thistle. I opened the window and instantly the cats knew that birds were out there, just on the other side of the screen. They watch intensely, quietly, all muscles ready to spring into action at any movement; but, the little bird plucks his seed and sits... pecking and pecking, cracking the tiny nut and enjoying the tender meat, within inches of the stealthy cats. I wonder if they know they are being watched; if they feel the breath of the Rhett and Chloe through the thin barrier. Soon, these tiny noise makers will fly away and leave behind kitties, sad to lose their motion picture show. Don't fret for them though; the katydids and crickets will keep them entertained for another month!

Chloe and Rhett will be watching the birds and other animals at Friday's Ark and the cats over at the Carnival of the Cats, that is hosted this week by Watermark.

(end of post)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Autumn's Blush

Autumn's blush, not yet on fire.
(Click picture to see larger view)
Posted by Picasa
"Autumn's earliest frost had given
To the woods below
Hues of beauty, such as heaven
Lendeth to its bow;
And the soft breeze from the west
Scarcely broke their dreamy rest."
~ John Greenleaf Whittier
There was frost on the windshield this morning, although not officially. A cold wind blew all day churning up whitecaps on the ocean; it was not a good day to be out fishing in a small boat. Even the Canadian geese have made themselves scarce today. While the fall colors have reached peak in the Blue Ridge, they are still approaching here. In another week or two, these colors will be burning.

Submission for Thursday Challenge topic "Autumn". (end of post)

Night Sky

I see the moon, the moon sees me.
(Click picture for larger view)
Posted by Picasa
"Night comes, world-jeweled, . . .
The stars rush forth in myriads as to wage
War with the lines of Darkness; and the moon,
Pale ghost of Night, comes haunting the cold earth
After the sun's red sea-death - quietless.
~ Philip James Bailey, Festus
(sc. Garden and Bower by the Sea)
The moon rises in a crisp clear night sky, stars twinkle, the cool breeze winds through the trees and their limbs sway as leaves rustle together. Somewhere down the street a dog barks, another answers and the first replies. The autumn sounds of late crickets, migrating chick-a-dees and the fading call of the blackbird join in the music of the night.

Submission for LensDay topic "night". (end of post)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Banana Belly

Miss Chloe's Banana Belly (Click picture for larger view) Posted by Picasa
"Of all domestic animals the cat is the most expressive. Her face is capable of showing a wide range of expressions. Her tail is a mirror of her mind. Her gracefulness is surpassed only by her agility. And, along with all these, she has a sense of humor."
~ Walter Chandoha
Miss Chloe loves the catnip banana; this is the third one we've had to get her. She tosses it, licks it, rubs her face on it and here, exhausted, she hugs her banana tightly to her tummy. No one else will have this banana! NO WAY!

Will Chloe go to sleep? Will she give up the banana? Will Clover steal it away? Will she put it down long enough to visit Friday's Ark and the Carnival of the Cats this week? By the way, the carnival is hosted this week by Watermark

This is my Tummy Tuesday submission at catstuff. (end of post).

Green On Green

Poppy bud. (Click picture for larger view) Posted by Picasa

The bowed head of a poppy, not yet in bloom; its bud still green. Green on green; leaves, stem, bud, fine silky hairs that capture the morning dew. The green of Spring and Summer now quickly passing. This bud has long since bloomed with crinkled blood-red petals that faded into small brown seed pods; the lush, vibrant green, now gone. And so we again, patiently wait for Spring.

Submission for Tuesday Challenge topic "green". (end of post)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Bubblegum And Blueberries

Bubblegum pink and blueberry blue.
(Click pictures for larger views)
Posted by Picasa
"An optimist is a driver who thinks that empty space at the curb won't have a hydrant beside it." ~ Jules Renard (French Writer, 1864-1910)
This "shocking pink" hydrant is inside the fenced compound of a Jack Rabbit storage unit. Yes, the same unit where most of my life remains in boxes. I guess, since this is on private property, they may paint it any color they wish. Can't say I've ever seen one this color though. A few months later I noticed that someone had rethought this..........

I think the red is a little bit better than the pink, but someone is going to have to do something with that blue. And now for the informational portions of this post...

This hydrant was manufactured by the Mueller company of Albertville, Alabama. The "Centurion" model designation refers to those made between 1975 and 1987. These have either "S.R." or "A.S.R." cast on the top of the bonnet rim. This is the model currently in production.

Mueller Company was formed in Decatur, Illinois in 1857. (This is only about 30 miles from my dad's home turf) Mueller made a wide variety of products but it was 1933, when they bought Columbia Iron Works, before hydrants became a part of their product line. Columbian Iron Works manufactured fire hydrants beginning in 1908 and was located in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In 1975, the fire hydrant plant was moved from Chattanooga, TN to a new facility Albertville, AL.

Other fire hydrant posts include Fire Hydrants ~ One and A Splash of Blue. (end of post)

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Dandelion seeds. Macro. (Click picture for larger view) Posted by Picasa
"No creature is fully itself till it is, like the dandelion, opened in the bloom of pure relationship to the sun, the entire living cosmos." ~ D.H. Lawrence
The autumn winds are blowing and the last dandelions of the season struggle to grow. The feathery little seeds fly off with the breeze to other yards, other flowerbeds, other fields; there to lie dormant, in wait for Spring. Sometimes we are like the floating dandelion seed; blown by the events around us or waiting patiently in the darkness of uncertainty for that light and warmth of new beginnings. As I am certain that Spring follows Winter; I know there is that promise of hope, a new beginning.

Submission for MacroDay topic "black & white". (end of post)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Un-usual Suspects

The Un-usual Suspects: #1 - Lewis; #2 - Jerry; #3 - John; #4 - Loren
(Click pictures for larger view)
Posted by Picasa
"When brothers agree, no fortress is so strong as their common life." ~ Antisthenes (Greek philosopher of Athens, 445-365 BC)
On Friday the 13th, I drove my parents to Flora, Illinois for a 50th wedding anniversary party. This is the third in my dad's family. My mom and dad were married in 1951, celebrating 55 years together this year. In June we made the trip for Uncle Jerry and Aunt Orpha's 50th and last weekend we celebrated Uncle John and Aunt Laura Beth's 50th. Next May will be Uncle Lewis and Aunt Jean's 50th.

These four boys grew up on the family farm. Two became farmers and masterful mechanics. One became an engineer and the other, a minister. It had been six years since all four had been together and we didn't get a picture of them in June; so my aunt wanted a picture. They're men. That in itself explains almost anything they do. They are more comfortable discussing childhood escapades and telling stories of stream cooled watermelon breaks on hot summer days; or how many acres of soy beans or corn they had planted, than they are posing for a portrait.

Let's face it. There is nothing "natural" looking about this group pose. I can imagine they had this same look when Grandma lined them up on Sunday to check their clothes and make sure they were clean behind the ears before going down the road to church. As the cameras flashed from all sides, the thought struck me, "Hey! They really look like they are suspects in a police lineup!" This made me giggle and an idea popped into my head. Maybe it's not dignified and perhaps no one else saw the humor in it but........ I just couldn't help it!

The Un-usual Suspects in profile.

(end of post)

Friday, October 20, 2006

Days of Innocence

Nyssa. 1986. 3 months old.
(Click picture for larger view)
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"Little Lamb who made thee? Dost thou know who made thee?"
~ William Blake, Songs of Innocence (1789) "The Lamb"
The young child seeing her world for the first time. Wide innocent looking eyes focus on faces, brightly colored toys, even her own fingers and toes; take in everything. So much to process, so much to learn, so much life ahead. There are days I wish time could be rolled back so that different choices could be made, different paths followed. Other days, I wouldn't change a thing; well, almost nothing.

Submission for PhotoFriday topic "innocence". (end of post)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Pumpkin Tale: Part 5 - While We Were Waiting!

September 2 (Click all pictures for larger view) Posted by Picasa
"I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion." ~ Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
(If you've missed the first four installments, you might want to read them first, here: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, and Chapter 4.)

At this point, the lady thought these five pumpkins would be the only crop; but then.....
......the vines continued to grow and the flowers, both male and female, continued to bloom; the bees and fruit flies continued to arrive. The vines were on their way to the street so the lady turned them gently to the front of the house. After consulting the internet, she pinched off the ends, trying to curb the growth. This worked for a bit, but side shoots and vines simply took off at right angles to the main vines.

Sadly, the lady found the smallest, tiny, baby pumpkin sitting free in the yard; it had broken away from the stem and quickly softened and shriveled. Perhaps the lawn mower had hit it, perhaps a stray foot. The lady was sad but then she made an exciting discovery....

September 4

Under the prickly, variegated holly bush at the front edge of the flowerbed (bush at the right edge of the first picture above) was a small pumpkin. It was hanging, suspended in air from a vine that grew up through the holly bush; the end of the vine had grown out of the top of the bush and now headed towards the front yard. The little pumpkin was three inches across, the stem bearing the weight; surely it too would be lost! The weather was great, a few thunderstorms with lightning and rain and the little pumpkin grew in spurts; at times it seemed to double in size over night.

September 21

It grew and grew and to keep it from breaking the stem and falling under its own weight, the lady placed two bricks very carefully under the pumpkin. And it grew and grew some more; finally becoming the largest pumpkin in the whole patch, sheltered by the holly bush. This pumpkin is perfectly shaped with the typical deep grooves and with an even, dark green skin; and it is three times as big as the first batch.

September 15

While the lady watched over her "perfect" pumpkin, she found two little pre-pumpkins sitting in the grass of the front yard. Yes, they were on the "pinched" vine and right next to each other. The flowers opened, bees came and the little bulbs began to grow.

September 21

These two little pumpkins began to grow at a fantastic rate. Within a week they were as big as the seven inch pumpkins and a few days later, even larger. One grew to about nine inches and the other, as large as the sheltered pumpkin. Both were growing "bottoms up" with stems down into the grass. The lady was afraid this would be a problem, so she gently slid two thin boards under each one. (Note to any future pumpkin growers: This is not a good idea. Instead of filtering away the water, the boards trapped it and the smaller pumpkin quit growing and started to break down. The boards were removed.)

Now the lady had established pumpkins and new pre-pumpkins sprouting up every day; the vines so thick and the leaves so broad that seeing all of them was difficult! The pumpkin count changed daily, sometimes twice daily!

And what has become of the remaining (4) pumpkins of the original group? Well......

September 15

The pumpkin in the flowerbed is definitely turning orange and those in the grass.... a hint of yellow just starting. Oh! The excitement! Pumpkins turning colors, pumpkins growing to enormous size, pumpkins beginning every day, flowers blooming, vines growing .... and all from sixteen little seeds!

And the questions keep coming! How do you know a pumpkin is ripe? When do you pick it? What do you do with it after you pick it? Are the requirements different for "Fairytale" pumpkins than regular ones? How long will these flowers keep blooming and how long will these try to make pumpkins? Will the fruit flies ever go away?

Again we wait......

(To be continued.... but again, not today)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Through Darkness To Light

Dark tunnel. Prospect Park. Brooklyn, NY.
(Click picture for larger view)
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"The dark today leads into light tomorrow;
There is no endless joy,
...and yet no endless sorrow."
~ Ella Wheeler Wilcox (American poet and writer 1850-1919)
The path leads into a dark tunnel. Though
short and the end easily seen, the tunnel is still dark. No one can see details in the dark. No one can see someone hidden in the corners or potholes on the path or obstacles in the way. The blazing bright light of a hot summer day only deepens the darkness ahead. Ironic? Not really. A light from without enhances the darkness; only a light from within dispels it.

Submission for Thursday Challenge topic "dark". (end of post)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Nicky Saves Space..... For Himself

Nicky takes a rest. (Click picture for larger view) Posted by Picasa
"You can't help respecting anybody who can spell TUESDAY, even if he doesn't spell it right; but spelling isn't everything. There are days when spelling Tuesday simply doesn't count."
~ Winnie the Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner
Mr. Nicky bares his tummy for all to see. He's happy, relaxed, comfortable, warm, full, absolutely perfect... except... Maggie won't give him the time of day. In fact, no one will snuggle close and sleep with him. So, he does the next best thing; stretches his body out as long as possible, tummy side up and takes up over half of the love seat. Are you going to move so I can sit down? Not likely.

Nicky shows his tummy at Tummy Tuesday along with the other kitties. He will be boarding Friday's Ark with said tummy on Friday and bop on over to see the cats they round up at the Carnival of the Cats on Sunday. The carnival is hosted this week by Catcall. I hope he doesn't try to take up as much space there.
(end of post)