Saturday, May 25, 2013

Dulce et Decorum Est

Dulce et Decorum Est
by Wilfred Owen  (found at

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

This poem was written specifically to commemorate service in World War I but I think it captures the reality for all who have served during a time of conflict.  No matter how much we try to sentimentalize and romanticize it and try to make the business of soldiering seem like the adventure of a lifetime... War is ugly.  War is hard work.  War is filled with sights and smells you don't want to experience.  War is often choosing between something bad and something worse.

And we need to keep saying THANK YOU to all the people who made the decision to go and fight our battles!  We need to keep reminding them that they are not forgotten.  And that they are appreciated!

Photo credit:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Best Banana Bread Ever

Thanks to a Pinterest recipe and having to adjust because the right ingredients weren't in the pantry, I made the best banana bread I've ever made in my whole life last night.

The.  Best.  Ever.

And the simplest ever, too!

We've been talking for a week, maybe a little more because I was procrastinating, about using some over ripe bananas I'd broken up and tossed in a ziplock in the freezer for the actual purpose I froze them for:  banana bread.  I had my trusty old scratch recipe I got from my best friend twenty years ago out of the box and ready to go.  I just didn't want to do it.  So I kept putting it off...

In the meantime, a few more bananas got a little too ripe for good eating.

It was time.

So I did what any self-respecting procrastinator of decent skill level who's pushed to the wire does... I looked for a short cut.  And I found one.  And then I looked in my pantry and adjusted it for the ingredients I actually had to work with.

And it turned out FANTASTIC!

Banana Bread

1 box vanilla cake mix (can substitute yellow, but vanilla is better!)
2 eggs
3-5 mashed very very ripe bananas (I used 5 kind of small-ish ones)

That's it.  Just put it in a bowl and stir until everything is blended and scrape into buttered loaf pans.  Bake at 375F for 30-40 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and tops are golden.  This recipe makes 2 regular, or 4 small, loaves.

Could that be any easier?

Next time, I'm going to add a bag of milk chocolate chips...  mmmmmmm!  Chocolate Chip Banana Bread.  Maybe I should do that as muffins and freeze some so we don't inhale them all in under an hour?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Just Do It Myself...

You've seen the funny saying about asking a man to do something and not nagging because he'll get to it in 6 months?  More or less...  Yeah.  Well life with an infamous "putter offer of doing stuff in hopes the problem just goes away" breeds this attitude in me!

Some of the projects left on my "Get Shit Done" list for May:

  • Break paint seals and have windows that open all over the house*
  • A dishwasher that serves more of a purpose than being a cabinet ornament*
  • Clean out the growing clog in the master bathroom's shower drain
  • Get rid of the yellow jacket nest suddenly being built in the basement window frame**
  • Spray the yard for ants - something like 14 different kinds of ants all building massive hills out there*
  • Drag that concrete diverter thingy that was buried under crap in the backyard around front and under the last undiverted rain gutter downspout*
  • Get all the unearthed bricks in one place and decide if they'll rim the firepit or one of the terraces in the front flower garden
  • Put the last couple of shelves in the china cabinet so the last box of dishes can be unpacked and put away*
  • Get the boxes we're keeping, the moving dolly, and the tools and garden implements in the storage room and out of the kitchen, living room and carport*

*  Help has either been requested or volunteered with this task.  I'm just sick of waiting for it!

** I'll give him a pass on this one since  he's so allergic to their stings that he'd swell up like a bloated corpse and have to spend the day in the ER.  Have to admit THAT is a pretty good excuse...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Dog Pee

I failed epicly as a puppy parent tonight.

The boys have had 'accident' after accident all day long.  Sometimes I think it was revenge peeing... a way of getting back at me for hollering NOOOOOOOOOOOO! because they'd squat while looking right at me and then walk around the room to make sure it was splattered as widely as possible.  And they have giant bladders...  A racehorse, one of those famous for it's copious amounts of urine, has nothing on my boys!

I swear I've mopped up gallons of dog pee today.


And in this moment I can't think of much I detest more than dog pee and peeing dogs.  Enough to declare I will never have another puppy and that any future dog needs to be grown up enough to be house-trained and have learned a few manners before I'll think about bringing it home.  I might even mean that.

And we all should have bought stock in whatever company owns Bounty.  I've used enough paper towels to create a quarter of record profits for them just from mopping up dog pee.

(Note to self:  I should hit them up for a product endorsement deal!)

Dog pee is making me crazy.  It's got me completely frazzled and feeling bitter about getting stuck with all the clean up.  Well, not all the clean up.  But certainly a heck of a lot of it.

It wouldn't be so bad if dog pee had even one redeeming quality about it.  But it is what it is... dog pee.

While I was cooking dinner they flooded the dining room for the second time today. Am I being overly dramatic calling it a flood when the whole floor was wet?  They've peed in the living room.  They've peed in the family room.  I think one of them peed in the bedroom... I swear my blood pressure goes up enough to make me wonder if my head is about to explode when I, unsuspectingly, step on that cold wet spot.  I just want to scream!

And tonight I'd had more of it than I could deal with and I did scream.

One of those blood curdling, top of the lungs, scare the pee out you when you hear it kind of screams.

Yes, it scared them and freaked them out.

And yes, they peed.

As if I needed more dog pee to deal with...

I have so had it with dog pee tonight... if the grocery store was still open I'd go get a box of Pampers and diaper the peeing hounds every second they are inside.  It's not like I don't take the rotten little beasts out every couple of hours all day long.  I do.  And they pee a gallon in the yard... or on the driveway... or on the carport floor then, too.

Dog pee, dog pee, dog pee, dog pee, dog pee, dog pee...

Are you as sick of it as I am yet?

But, yes... I still love them.  Or at least I will again by morning!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Few Of My Favorite Things

Or maybe not....

Some of my favorite things:
Gooey chocolate chip cookies warm from the oven.
Sloppy wet puppy kisses.
Mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Laughing until I'm in tears and I can't breathe... or stop laughing.
Someone else washing my hair and massaging my scalp.
Pecan brittle.
My fiance's cologne.
Freshly washed bamboo sheets.
Christmas lights.
Comfy slippers.
Taking off the bra and shoes as soon as I walk in the door.
Fresh cut french fries.
Pizza made with white sauce, chicken, spinach and lots of cheese.
Backyard barbeques with family and friends.
Passionate kisses.
Pink roses.
A cherry red '67 Chevelle convertible.
The moon when it's bright and full and oh so big.
Home-made chicken noodle soup with home-made wide egg noodles.
Bread, hot from the oven.
A tear-jerker of a chick flick.
My best friend's voice on the phone.
Snuggling a brand new baby.
Watching tv in bed.
Hot buttered popcorn.
Christmas carols.
Creamy avocados sliced onto a turkey sandwich.
A good back scratch.
Tart lemonade on a hot afternoon.
Splashing around in the intensely blue water of the Caribbean.
Ripe tomatoes picked and eaten right in the garden.
Bright bolts of lightning and loud crashes of thunder.
Houses with window shutters and wide covered front porches.
Fluffy long-haired kitties.
Fettuccini Alfredo (with chicken and broccoli).
A good old-fashioned love song playing on the radio.
The scent of a rose.
Rich dark-stained wood furniture.
Conversation and 'smores over a campfire.
A crackling fire in the fireplace on a cold night.
Freshly polished silver.
French toast.
The peppery bite of watercress pulled straight from a mountain stream.
Wild flower bouquets.
Holding hands.
Old red brick churches with stained glass windows.
Shiny new pennies.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

I Am A Survivor

Today is the 33rd anniversary of when Mt. Saint Helen's erupted in Washington state and began spewing ash.  I don't think I would have thought of that if a friend who grew up in the area hadn't posted it on Facebook... but reading people's memory of the event made me think about that and other natural disasters that had some part in shaping my life.

Is that a weird way to look at life?  Maybe.

Or maybe not so much.

You see, disasters happen.  Whether man has a hand in it or Mother Nature blows her cork and reigns down devastation, it happens.  And when we experience it, and survive it, we are changed by the memory.  It's a powerful thing to say I survived such and such event, so certainly I can survive whatever is facing me today with an attitude of 'Really?  Is that all you've got?"

Here's a pictorial look at the disasters I've survived:

Teton Dam Breach
June 5, 1976
Faulty pipes in the structure, I believe, were the root cause of internal erosion and ultimate failure of this earth-filled dam in Southeast Idaho.  The  breach happened on June 5, 1976 as captured in this photo from (There's a very complete slide show and study information about it there for anyone interested in the engineering and mechanics.)  Miraculously just 11 people died as a result.  Many more lost homes, cars, farm equipment and animals as water swept through the communities lining the banks of the Snake River downstream.

I remember hearing the initial reports that Saturday morning as regular tv programming was interrupted by the Emergency Broadcast System advising evacuation and providing information about what was happening.  It's the first time I remember EBS being for something real and not "just a test" and that made me feel like my whole world was dangerous place where all hell was breaking loose.  In the following days that feeling was amplified as my family visited friends to help them sandbag the river banks and watched parts of houses, cars and hundreds of dead and bloated cows rush down the swollen river channel.
Eruption of Mt Saint Helen's
May 18, 1980

May 18, 1980 lives in the minds of most residents of the United States' Pacific Northwest as the day Mt Saint Helen's blew her top in what is the largest volcanic eruption since 1842 when Mt. Rainier, another peak in this same volcanically-formed mountain range, erupted.  You can read an account of the event here.  I remember the eruption less than the effects on global weather for the next year or so as the ash blocked sunlight from Earth's atmosphere.  And bagging ash from a large mound in someone's back yard for sale as a souvenir in some gift shop as a bit of a summer job.  Even in disaster, there's money to be made!

Forest fires at Yellowstone National Park
Summer 1988
Most often attributed to environmental mismanagement the summer months of 1988 saw Yellowstone National Park alight with forest fires.  It was the U.S. Forest Service's policy of natural suppression (let the fires burn themselves out without any attempt to extinguish or control unless/until developed areas or human life is threatened) that drew most of the criticism.  By the time the fire was done, almost 1.2 million acres were blackened - 800,000 acres of it inside the park.  That's an astonishing 36% of the entire area of Yellowstone National Park.  You can see more pictures, read about these aspects of the fire and get an idea of the land's recovery here.

What sticks in my memory is the thick smoke that hung over Shelley (170+ miles away) like a dense fog.  Looking out the front windows at my parent's home, we literally could not see the houses across the street.  And the sun hung blood red over our heads like those frightening descriptions of the end of time from the Book of Revelation in the Bible.

Salt Lake City Tornado
August 11, 1999
Most residents of Salt Lake City had grown up believing that a tornado couldn't happen here but they were wrong!  Tornados, especially ones big enough to get an F rating, are very rare but they do happen.  This one rated an F2 on the Fujita scale.  Wikipedia takes a very good, in depth look.

I'd gone to lunch with some friends from a previous job that day at the Tiffin Room in the old ZCMI downtown.  Toward the end of our meal, the electricity went out and we had to walk down the escalators like they were stairs to get outside.  I remember the store's staff ready to assist anyone who needed a little help down the stair steps and emergency lanterns placed along the way so we could see where to step.  But it wasn't until we stepped out onto the sidewalk that things seemed weird.  The air had an electric charge to it that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand straight.  And all of the brand new landscaping put in for Trax (SLC's light rail public transportation system) was laid down flat.  I went back to my office by walking in through the bank lobby in hopes of finding out what happened.  Thinking I was making a joke I asked the manager "What happened Betty?  You all have a tornado or something?"  In a shaking voice, she answered "yes..." just as a group of building's security staff ran in the other door screaming that the Delta Center (now EnergySolutions Arena - Delta Airlines didn't renew their sponsorship amid economic crises - and home of the Utah Jazz) was gone and that someone had died.  That isn't really quite what happened but it was the initial report I heard and all that flashed in my mind was that the Delta Center was in between my office and home which was only 2 miles away.  That scared me.  I called home to be sure my mom was ok and then tried to get up to my office to check on co-workers and alert our out-of-state supervisors and team members before walking home.  Traffic was absolute gridlock!  And city buses all but stopped running for the afternoon.

The damages downtown were primarily the roof and windows on the Delta Center and at a hotel across the street and the overflow tents from the Summer Show for the Outdoor Retailers Association.  One man was killed when those tents were ripped up and swirled about.  This happened at city center, just west of the area pictured above.  The tornado continued toward the State Capitol Building, Memory Grove and The Avenues residential area of town right at the base of the Wasatch Mountains on the northeast edge of the city.  Many houses were destroyed or badly damaged and several more people were injured.  Memory Grove and the grounds at the Capitol were left barren.  It was sickening and heartbreaking to tour the devastated historic area later...

I've also been in locations to feel several small earthquakes.  No damage, or at least very minor at it's epicenter, so no pictures.  And I survived cancer.  And a house fire.  And... So bring on that plague of locusts and make my experience with disasters complete!

(I say that in jest... really it would be totally creepy!!)

Dogs and Weeds: Both Are Growing FAST

When we first brought the puppies home, we had some 'big boy' collars, the black leather ones with silver spikes, waiting but they were way too big.  Even latching it in the first hole it would slip off right over the little fella's head.  This morning I moved Thunder's out to the next to last hole...

They're almost grown out of their first real collars!

At 15 weeks, just over 3 months, old both are near 30 pounds now!  Their growth is visible from day to day.  At times I just sit back and marvel how grown up they are getting, especially evident in the deepening voices of their barks.  They're sounding less like puppies and more like the big dogs they're growing into way too fast!!

Yes, they are growing like weeds!  So I thought today might be a good day to share some updated pictures and tell you more about their developing personalities.

Lightning, listening intently to some silly noise
I was making to get his attention...
May 17, 2013
Lightning is the slightly smaller of my boys and has become my mischievous little instigator... the first to head off and explore the woods or neighbor's yard, the one who almost immediately curls his lips back and snarls in that 'scary growl' while play fighting, scooper of food from bowl to kitchen floor and thief of all shoes, slippers and laundry he can sneak away to find.

Several people have commented on those behaviors being more the dominant alpha dog and a sign of superior intelligence.   And that sometimes it can be tough to get them to submit to training.  I can see that.  Lightning certainly has a mind of his own.  Sometimes I'd even call him stubborn like a mule when I want him to do one thing and he wants to do something else.

Thunder, giving me the look that says 'enough
with the camera in my face already!'
May 17, 2013
Thunder, my big boy, is much more chilled out and affectionate.  He likes getting, and giving, hugs and kisses.  And almost has the concept of 'soft kisses not bites' down.  Almost.  Given the chance, he will chew stuff up.  Me included!  He's the follower, the one who takes a lot of crap before he snarls back, and most often the one who comes first when called.  And he's the 'good' rider when we go in the car... napping peacefully through his brother's whines for much of the time. Thunder was also the first to master going up and down the stairs, sitting by the door to let me know he needs to go out and walking (relatively) calmly on the leash.

He's more the people pleaser and, I anticipate, he will be much easier to handle for any training we opt to do in the future.

They are so different from one another... but both well loved and so very much fun!!

Now if I could just keep them out of the woods and weeds.  And especially the ticks.  It seems to be an especially bad year for ticks in northern Georgia.  Even with the weight-appropriate monthly flea and tick treatment, we find ticks on them a couple of times a week picked up on their adventures out here:

Back yard on May 16, 2013.  Filled in so much in the last month!!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Warm Corn Salad

We had corn on the cob left over from our Mother's Day BBQ.  And I know I won't eat 6 ears before they spoil.  And I know Derek doesn't do any leftovers very well.  So...

I cut the kernels off 3 and froze that corn for another time and used 3 for for my evening's meal.  Derek is working late tonight so I'm cooking just for me and can make stuff that he wouldn't like.  He's not much of a vegetable guy... and I'm dying craving them!  That's the long, if not totally polite, way to say he wouldn't even get close enough to sniff something like this, let alone take a taste.

Oh well, that means there's more for me!

After a quick shopping trip because I didn't have most of these ingredients just sitting here waiting and a few minutes chopping stuff up I was ready to cook my dinner.

I was even more ready to eat my dinner.

And yes, I ate it all!  Don't judge.

At least not before you taste my Southwest-inspired culinary masterpiece...

Warm Corn Salad

Cut the kernels from 3 cobs of fresh corn into a large non-stick skillet. Add 2/3 cup chopped onion, 1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper and 1/4 cup butter. Saute until onions are soft. Add very finely minced jalapeno to taste and 1/2 of a small can of medium or mild diced green chiles. Toss to mix. Add 2/3 cup (more or less) chopped fresh cilantro, the juice of 1/2 - 1 lime (depending on your taste preference) and salt and pepper to taste. Toss. Sprinkle with crumbled cotijo cheese (a Mexican cheese quite similar to feta in texture but with a slightly milder flavor - I substitute the feta if I can't find cotijo and it works just fine!).  Serve either hot or cold - I like it best warm, but not steaming hot - as an accompaniment to BBQ ribs, grilled steak or chicken.

(Hints and confessions:  My corn was already cooked this time, so I added it after sauteing the onion and pepper and broke it apart with my fingers so it could just reheat with the other ingredients.  If you have a choice, get the really bright deep yellow corn.  It gives a better contrast against the white cheese so the dish looks prettier.  And yes, you can use frozen corn kernels to make this.  If you buy one of those 1 pound-ish sized bags, double the other ingredients for this recipe and use the whole bag.)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Strawberry Pizza & Crack Stix

The menu for yesterday's Mother's Day BBQ at our house:

Grilled Chicken Breasts
Corn on the Cob
Baked Macaroni & Cheese
Vegetable Kabobs
Crack Stix  (Recipe to follow)
Strawberry Pizza (Recipe to follow)
Chocolate Cream Pie
Ice Water, Strawberry Punch, Coca Cola

Photo credit:
(Ours got ate so quickly I didn't get a picture of them!)

Crack Stix

You'll need:
1 loaf thin-sliced bakery white bread, crusts cut off
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup butter, melted

Flatten bread with a rolling-pin. In a bowl, combine cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar. In another bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon; set aside. Spread about 1 tablespoon of cheese mixture on each slice of bread. Roll up, jelly roll style. Dip in melted butter, then in cinnamon-sugar. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Yield: 16 roll-ups.  Delicious warm, cold or at room temperature.

Yes, as crazy as it sounds... flattered bakery white bread is THAT good!!

But I did manage to snap one of the pizza!  Yay me!!

Strawberry Pizza

You'll need:
Sugar cookie dough (Pillsbury roll, home-made, from a mix -- your choice)
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup (appx) confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Sliced fresh strawberries (I used a little less than a 1 quart package)
Red fruit glaze (little plastic tub, Danish Dessert, home-made -- your choice)

Press the sugar cookie dough onto a greased cookie sheet or pizza pan.  Bake as directed until set much the same texture as you'd like a cookie to be.  Remove from oven to cool completely.  In a medium bowl beat the cream cheese, confectioners sugar and vanilla until smooth and creamy.  Spread evenly over cookie pizza crust.  Arrange sliced strawberries over the top.  Using a pastry brush, lightly and evenly coat with fruit glaze (I had the kind in the plastic tub and used about 1/2 of it).  Chill until ready to cut then slice into pizza wedges for serving.

(Note:  I used the Pillsbury roll of sugar cookie dough this time... and I'm not sure if I over cooked it just a little or if it's not quite the perfect product for this use but it was difficult to cut.  Next time I will be using a soft sugar cookie dough.)

Whispering Giants

Peter Wolf Toth Indian Sculpture in Idaho Falls, ID
This photo came up in my Facebook feed a couple of days ago.  It made me remember going to watch the artist, who traveled all over the country creating similar statues in tribute to Native Americans, carve it.  Most, if not all, of the carving was done with a chainsaw.  And I remember the impression the raw power of the blade cutting through wood to uncover what Peter Wolf Toth could see in the log that I couldn't made on me.  This was the first time I'd seen a 'real' artist at work and the process was fascinating!

At one point someone asked him what he was doing and his profound answer that he was just "taking away anything that doesn't look like an Indian" gives some insight into artistic vision.  It seems like much the same process, and answer, Michelangelo gave about freeing David from the block of marble.

Mr. Toth created a series of these sculptures all over the United States, and Canada, honoring the original peoples of the continent.  Some of them are modeled after a specific person and some are more generic to honor the legacy of a tribe and provide all of us with a visual way to remember them, their plight and their humanity .  He called these sculptures the Trail of Whispering Giants.

I believe each is carved from a single log and the heights range from under 10 feet to near 40.  They truly are giants!  Mr. Toth began carving these massive tributes in 1972 continuing through 1988 though I do see a few later dates listed including new additions in 2008 (King Stephen I of Hungary in Délegyháza - the only one located outside of North America) and 2009 (Tecumseh in Vincennes, Indiana).  Of the 60 or so I can count still in existence  I've had the opportunity to see 3 of them.  But I'm hopeful of finding a way to see more as I study where they are located in respect to where I live now!  The link above will take you to a full listing of statue locations and this one has pictures of several of them.

The Idaho Falls Indian
This 27-foot tall statue was carved on-site in 1980 from a Douglas Fir and receives a coat of paint each year to preserve it.  It's located in the North Tourist Park which is (or at least was back then) adjacent to the Pinecrest Municipal Golf Course.

The Murray Indian
Photo credit:
Carved in 1985 in the Murray City Park in Murray Utah, this statue of Chief Wasatch is 23 feet tall and, according to the statistics gathered by the Ogden Standard Examiner, weights 35,000 pounds.  The wood came from a massive Cottonwood Tree which is a messy tree, spewing a thick layer of 'cotton' as it buds each spring, native to the Salt Lake valley  Chief Wasatch lends his name to the beautiful mountains (not visible in these photos) behind the statue on the valley's east side.

The Springfield Indian
Photo credit:
Commemorating Omiskanoagwiak, Medicine Man of the Wolf-People who are/were native to Massachusetts' Pioneer Valley, this 15-foot tall statue was completed and dedicated in 1984.  In the early 1990s I worked for a company headquartered in Springfield and traveled there twice.  Forest Park, where the statue is located, was within walking distance of my hotel and it caught me with delighted surprise to see another of these magnificent creations that weekend I was feeling a little lonely and homesick!

About Peter Wolf Toth
Born in December 1947, he is a Hungarian-born sculptor living in Akron, OH.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Gold in them thar hills...

About that "gold" dust I've seen glimmering in the sun every day since we first looked at this house...  How do you tell if it's gold or some monetarily worthless mineral like mica or iron pyrite?

I've been going off the assumption that the very very fine glittery specks in the soil are mica.  I mean, it's me we're talking about and I just wouldn't have the luck to be sitting on top of a big ol' gold vein here in these Georgia hills, right?

But it's sure pretty to have the gold sheen on top of our red Georgia clay soil.  And it's fun to dream about being the next Beverly Hillbillies!  Maybe the History Channel would even give me my own series...

Not to let that bubble inflate too much:  It will probably turn out not to be gold but there are a couple of intriguing tidbits I've discovered in recent days that are just enough to open that window of doubt and make me wonder.

First tidbit:  About 10 days ago we made a wrong turn out with Derek's mom in search of a Starbucks and headed off in a generally southwestern direction from here.  I'm kind of directionally challenged so I should add a disclaimer that I *think* it was south and west we were going but there's no guarantee that's a fact.  A few miles out we passed a road and its big green sign said GOLD MINE ROAD.

So... we've established that there is a nearby gold mine.  And by all appearances a working gold mine.

Then, last night, preparing for a job interview I was reading a little of the history of Kennesaw Mountain.  Turns out it's got more than a Civil War battle among its claims to fame!

Thars gold in them thar hills!!

Second tidbit: The Kennesaw Mountain National Battlesite Park's website said that when President Andrew Jackson ignored the law and forced the Cherokee to leave here for Oklahoma (that needs to be a whole different post!) settlers moved in based on gold claims in Dahlonega.  The website went on to call this America's first gold rush.

Now we've established a second nearby gold mining site.

It's getting more intriguing, isn't it?

I think I need to gather up a few of these specks and find out just what it is we've got here!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Great... We Have Ticks!

Not the wildlife I would have preferred to encounter... but we seem to have a tick problem.  The dogs have picked up a couple of them.  I found one in my hair, thankfully still unattached.  And tonight there was one crawling across the blanket we keep on the couch for evenings that are a little cool for comfort.

I'm ready to end the meet and greets with yucky insects that I've never seen before!

The dogs have been treated with flea and tick medication so hopefully they are probably safe.  Although I did find one attached to that soft belly skin a couple days after the treatment and that does give me some concern.

male     female
The identification guide I googled makes me think they are American Dog Ticks which are closely related to Rocky Mountain Wood Ticks and Gulf Coast Ticks.  And, sadly, can be carriers for the same diseases:  Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tuleremia and may carry Human Granulocytic Ehrlichiosis.  (I'm not even sure what those last 2 are but guessing they are bad.)

The picture is 2-3X larger than the real life ticks I've seen.  And even the couple that had attached were still unengorged and going by the picture all have been male.  The engorged females look even more unsavory...

Left to Right: unengorged female, 1/4 engorged, 1/2 engorged and fully engorged
Our brushy and wooded lot is their perfect habitat.  They live, in large numbers, in tall grass and jump off onto any warm-blooded creature that wanders by.  As I said, the dogs have had a flea and tick treatment.  But we still check them, and us, daily.  And I'm exploring ways to kill and/or repel them even more.  What I've found so far says that if we treat our clothing with permethrin it will kill any who try to hitch a ride there and that DEET-based skin repellent helps repel them.

So what is permethrin?  Where do I get it?  How do I use it?  And is it safe?

Wikipedia has this to say:  "Permethrin is a common synthetic chemical, widely used as an insecticide, acaricide, and insect repellent. It belongs to the family of synthetic chemicals called pyrethroids and functions as a neurotoxin, affecting neuron membranes by prolonging sodium channel activation. It is not known to rapidly harm most mammals or birds, but is dangerously toxic to cats and fish."  And that in agriculture, "its use is controversial because, as a broad-spectrum chemical, it kills indiscriminately; as well as the intended pests, it can harm beneficial insects including honey bees, and aquatic life."

That's not sounding like a very safe to use chemical.  And DEET comes with its own set of reasons to avoid it.

So far the only more natural controls I've found are to mow the grass as close to the ground as possible to eliminate their habitat and to spray the yard with citronella oil.

Off to find citronella oil!

Just talking about ticks is making me itch and imagine crawling sensations all over my body.  Ewwww...