First iris of spring 2014

May first iris in bloom made it’s appearance April 9.  A dwarf iris by the name of Cat’s Eye.

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Cat’s Eye

 

The dogwoods are starting to bloom. Indeed, my most favorite time of the year.

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dogwood across the street from ECM Hospital

 

 

 

 

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Cedar waxwings

Phillip Oliver, Master gardener and editor of a fine gardening blog Dirt Therapy mentioned this weekend that they had cedar waxwings in their yard.  The last time I remember seeing any was 20-25 years ago.  One of my apple trees was in full bloom and I watched about twenty of them clean all of the petals off of the tree and fly off.  You rarely see them alone;  they hit as a flock, clean a tree of berries, or blooms, cedar cones or ash buds.

As I left work I passed the street going by Phillip’s and Michael’s home, I wondered what they had blooming, and yelled to myself, waxwings! and made the turn up the street.  Micheal was at home and said they were in the garden a couple of days ago, but he hadn’t noticed them today.  I went back to my truck a put a telephoto lens on my camera and headed back into the yard.  The bird bath which was empty earlier, was just boiling with them.  I got as close as I could without chasing them off and got several shots.  In an instant they flew to a tree in the back corner of the yard.  From the distance I thought it might be a redbud, but from my location description, not knowing north, south, east or west orientation of their yard, Phillip thought it was a green ash.  It looked like the tree had 150-200 birds in it, just going to town cleaning off the buds.  Then as a flock they flew back to the bath and repeated the flight back to the tree.  

I stayed about an hour getting pictures between the tree and birdbath.  Just as I was leaving, I spied a woodpecker.  I’ve yet been able to get a good picture of one, and took a couple of long distant shots of it.   Maybe one day I’ll luck out like I did with the cedar waxwing goldmine.  

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Garden tour 2013 JANICE & B. J. KENNEDY

2013 is the first year in a while due to weather that the Master Gardeners have held a garden tour.  Nine gardens were on the tour April 13 and 14, 2014, and I spent the first Saturday touring all of them.   A late warm up had the wildflowers and spring blooming opening later than normal and all of our hosts worried.  A couple of days before the tour, the weather warmed up nicely and caused blooms to break out.  One of the gardens I revisited the next day had a big difference in the garden’s show.  

Today we re-visit the garden of Janice and B J Kennedy located on the bluffs along the Tennessee River in Sheffield.

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First day of March 2014

I made arrangements to take photos at a local farm, but the skies were so gloomy, I begged off until another day.  I usually land up discarding most of the photos I take on a day like this.  I started my day by going to Tuscumbia and dropping by the Tuscumbia Kiwanis Pancake Day for a late breakfast.  The place was packed.  I walked around for a while taking pictures and talking to folks I knew.  Those pictures may be found on Remember Tuscumbia on Facebook.  I decided that if I was going to get some yard work done, I needed to stop yakking and get a carry out.  Once home I heated up the pancakes and syrup just a tad and made another cup of coffee.

 Camera in tow, I walked around to see what needed to be hauled off to the burn pile which started as a wild cherry tree which broke off ten feet up after a storm.  I also wanted to see what was blooming.  A few of the old daffs I moved from an old home site a couple of years ago were just starting to bloom, along with a couple of Lenten rose, crocus and some cute  little flower I don’t remember planting.   I checked my Excel spreadsheet of the planting area and couldn’t find it on my map.  Several of my azaleas and gardenia’s don’t look like they survived the winter.  I’ll find out more when the weather warms up.  My native azaleas look just great and are getting ready to bloom.  My Toomers corner live oak seedling growing for the last twelve years 300 miles north of its comfort zone is looking stressed.

Bluebirds are checking out boxes already.  It’s time to clean them out if you haven’t already.

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 Of the three trees marked for removal, two, a Pink Lady and Gala apples were on the ground as a result of some high winds we had last winter.  I didn’t remove them last year was they were loaded with apples.  However it was a pain trying to mow around them, so they had to go before they bloomed and had fruit on them.  I attached them from the opposite direction they fell with the loader and broke them off easily.  The third was a plum tree that split up the length of the trunk during a late April freeze and snow a few years back.   Part of the tree was still living, but it wasn’t going to live too much longer.  One small bump with the loader and down it came.  A fourth tree bloomed and suddenly died and fell over last spring.  Since it was in a bed of iris and daylilies, I cut the limbs off and left the trunk trying to decide if it could be used some way.  Field rats had made a home under it, so off to be burned.  Blackie and Patches were busy digging and soon caught one.  Patches decided another was in the hole and dug down past her neck.  Every once in a while she would come up for air and the expression on her face was like a marathon runner wondering how many more miles to go.  After the rat hunt, Blackie and Levi did their daily rumble, almost knocking me off my feet.

 The rats apparently had gotten into the greenhouse this winter.  The Hooligans broke out the bottom panel of the storm door going after them, and had another hole where the siding cracked and fell off.  A bare trail runs from under the greenhouse out toward the tree which fell.  The contractor who built it was a good home builder, but knew nothing about building a greenhouse, even with a blueprint in hand.  I was drafty in the winter and too hot in the summer.  I plan to turn it into a garden screen room since I lost the one on the house when I constructed the garden room.

 I hooked a chain around the loader on my John Deere to the first tree and backed up to the burn pile.  On the way back for tree number two, I stopped and propped a young Pink Lady apple tree back up that the first tree toppled over.   After knocking tree number two over and hauling to the pile, I straighten up a nectarine that was knocked over in the fall.   After backing up pulling the fourth tree to the pile, I had myself boxed in by the other three trees.  After getting the tractor out of the corner I painted myself in, it was on to hauling off the limbs I trimmed off of my Toomers corner baby last fall.  Hopefully the trimming will induce it to have an acorn; that is if it survives this winter.   Next week weather folks are predicting another arctic blast.

 Check out my GRIT magazine blog post.  I try to include what is going on in the Shoals when posting. 

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Alabama birding site #7 Wilson Dam

I had gotten in a used Canon lens that I had purchased this past week and wanted to make sure it was in working order.  I attached a 2X extender and pulled into the Rockpile park, birding site number 7 below Wilson Dam on the Colbert side of the Tennessee River.  The temperature was in the twenties and windy, so I parked in a spot that I could see the river and get a clear shot of flying birds and rolled the window down.  The falls near the dam was also frozen.  Just after I took a few pictures, a mature bald eagle flew across the trees and over my truck and up toward the bluff over the park.

Cold or not, I jumped out of my truck and tried to find where it was.  It landed up in a tree above another eagle.  The only problem was that a bright sun was behind them in the best spot to photograph them.  I walked down  the road until I could get rid of the glare of the sun.  Not the best spot, but you don’t see bald eagles every day.

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Wheeler Wildlife Refuge

2 whooping cranes white birds with black wingtips

2 whooping cranes white birds with black wingtips

Nearby Wheeler Wildlife Refuge off of the Beltline in Decatur and a great place to see bunches of sandhill cranes, ducks and other wildfowl.  Occasionally one may see some of the whooping cranes on the refuge.   The refuge has a very nice observation building for viewing and photographing.  For more serious birders an observation blind may be reserved.  Brian, a photographer friend of mine and I went the first mild Saturday in January fourth.  We were able to see three whooping cranes while there.

Check out my blog post on GRIT magazine please.

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New Year 2014

As the sun sets on another year along the Tennessee River, the Hooligans and I wish you enough.  Enough comfort, the comfort and love of friends and family, enough on your table, and plenty of health and the love of God.

The Hooligans also wish you a comfortable place to sleep, a blast from a hose when you want it, your own pool, tractor to play on, and enough sticks,  a fresh sawdust pile to play with and a fresh bag of food.

  Above all we wish you peace in the coming New Year. 

Levi’s and Patches resolution for Blackie in the new year:  not to go hunting for mice at feeding time.

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PS, pets are included in family.

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A Happy Hooligan Christmas

Dear Santa, we’ve been very good doggies this past year.

 Really Santa, really we have.   That screen porch we tore up, we were scared by that horrible storm and were trying to get into the house to be with Momma.  She’s wanted to turn it into a garden room, and now she has gotten her wish.   We are sorry she has to pay another year on her truck in order to do it.

 When Mom comes home very late we spend five minutes running around the three acres in the dark to make sure that no rats or boogie men are around before coming to eat. While Mom was watching something called the Iron Bowl, we knew she was in a big hurry to eat back to the game; we came to eat right away and didn’t hunt for vermin.

 Momma decided to make a Christmas card photo again this year.   She got some large Christmas tree balls and hung one around Blackie’s neck and scared her, so she decided against that.  So her plan B was Santa’s hats and garland again this year.  We thought they were rabbits Santa, honest.  We love rabbits, and the big ball at the end looked like a big fuzzy bunny tail.  We couldn’t help ourselves.  Mom chased us around the yard while we were running around with the hats and playing thug of war.   We had so much fun, but Mom seemed a little irritated for some reason.  We think it’s because she is out of shape, and we were only trying to help her exercise.  Honest Santa.  While taking the picture, Mom had biscuits in her pocket and the smell was driving us to craziness. We kept trying to chew them through her pocket and were crawling in Mom’s lap.  Blackie is sorry she got Momma instead of one of the biscuits.   Momma finally gave up and hung the hats and ornaments on her Auburn sign and took a picture.  We promise to poise pretty next time, honest we do. After all we are good Hooligans.

 Momma had a bunch of folks over last Sunday and they all brought rolls of paper with them.  They were yelling War Eagle; we’re number one and bring home the bacon.  We all got excited about bacon. We love bacon.  Then they started throwing the paper up in this tree that Momma was calling a Toomer’s Corner baby.   We got real hungry thinking about the bacon and started wrestling with each other. Usually Mom will come and feed us when we act like we are fighting, but they just ignored us. 

 We never got the bacon, so Santa would you bring us some bacon?  And we want raw hide chews and junk food biscuits, not that healthy stuff Mom give us.   Also bring us lots and lots of toys. Some how we keep loosing our toys. We think the coyotes are sneaking into the back yard and stealing them while we are guarding the front door at night.  And please tell Blackie that when it’s feeding time not to be chasing mice and ignoring Mom.  We are so hungry and we want to eat.  She has all day to chase mice.

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Our Christmas message:

 The Hooligans and I wish you the warmth of home, the love of family and friends.  May you and yours have a Blessed and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 

 Patches, Blackie, Levi

Mary.

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Shoals Garden Tour 2013 Phillip Oliver and Michael Scott

 2013 is the first year in a while due to weather that the Master Gardeners have held a garden tour.  Nine gardens were on the tour this year, and I spent the first Saturday touring all of them.   A late warm up had the wildflowers and spring blooming opening later than normal and all of our hosts worried.  A couple of days before the tour, the weather warmed up nicely and caused blooms to break out.   This is the second of the nine gardens that I’m showing you.

The first garden I visited in Lauderdale County on the tour was that of Michael Scott and Phillip Oliver.

 I first met Phillip and Michael when their garden was on the last tour.   They have really done an incredible job of transforming a bland landscape into one of great beauty.   I revisited Michael’s and Phillips garden the next day and it had a big difference in the amount of show.

Check out my GRIT magazine blog post, the Tennessee Valley getting ready for Christmas.

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Blessed Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is here and all signs are pointing toward Christmas and winter.  Hope everyone had a blessed and safe Thanksgiving.

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And there’s a big game called the Iron Bowl Saturday.  War Eagle!!!

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