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Monday, March 31, 2008

Three honeybees...

just three were nectaring in my pear tree the other day. I was happy to see them, but disappointed to see so few. Apiaries are having a hard time not only with Varroa mites, but this new and devastating problem called CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder).

The subject of Mason bees came up during a conversation last week. I've seen them in the wildflowers. They are larger than honeybees, shiny, black and bustled. The pollen clings to their bustles and they are first class pollinators.

My garden was nothing to be proud of last year. I'm going to encourage Mason bees to come and pollinate the tomatoes and herbs I plan to put in soon by putting up houses for them. It's not a difficult project at all...

Yesterday's paddle...

I am determined to practice self-therapy on my ailing arm by kayaking. So that's what I did yesterday. For four hours in perfect weather. I saw a baby alligator about three feet long, basking near the bridge, helped a young family of three get back to the fish camp when their motor
wouldn't start, visited the fisherman under his favorite cypress snag. He was catching fish - had three or four lines out. I tried to creep up on him for a picture - he was asleep.

The jetskiers were tearing up the swamp at the end of Econfina, but there were fewer boaters in quieter craft on Bear.

The weather was perfect. I got a little burned - but for the first time I wore a fishing cap to keep the sun from my eyes.

I'm getting good at sneaking up on sunning turtles. I am in love with the little dime-store turtles called red ears. I had one as a kid who met the fate of most from improper diet and lack of heat and vitamins. I remember the day I returned him to a little creek and watched the current take him downstream. I remember that vividly. Now I just love to see them on lilypads or stumps.

In the shade, mostly under trees, whirligig beetles are gathering, living their twirly lives
on the surface.

Damselflies are back, and the dragonflies are beginning to populate the air. I had seen a lemon yellow one last week but it flew before I had a chance to whip out my camera. Yesterday, one decided to hitch a ride on my shoulder for about a mile, and my flash card was full! Can you believe that? I've never seen them before. Had I fiddled with my camera and deleted some images so that I could photograph it, for sure it would have left. So I just enjoyed its company for a little while. I think it's Randy Emmitt who has a wonderful photo of many damsels in a row, mating on a stump. I am hoping to see that someday.

The alligators are finally grunting which means breeding season is here. Now I will be ever watchful.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Here's some good stuff - the kind of things I'd much

rather write about.

Panama City has dug a storm water system that includes run off ponds (usually square or rectangular) which they hide in back of stores. They have taken the time to maintain lawns around them, but leave it to the stores and customers to fill them up with trash. I am always amazed at the murk of the water and the garbage that finds it way into these ponds.

One of my favorites is one of two hidden in back of the Outback Steakhouse and the Dollar Tree.
If you park conveniently out front, you miss it. Two days ago I needed a couple of things and drove the long way around just to check things out. I know this place is loaded with dragonflies and damsels and a Little Blue Heron who lives in the woods at the backside. There are also turtles who bob up from the surface when I approach, which is the opposite of the turtles on the creek. I think they are well fed by the lunchtimers who may eat here and feed them.

The Little Blue was standing in the water sniping food along the edge. They eat tadpoles, snails, fish, crustaceans. I noticed "he" was wearing his long nuptial feathers. As far as I know, he is alone.

I followed him around the pond where he disappeared into the woods and reappeared on a low hanging branch in the sun to preen. Below him was a large sheet of plywood with a little red ear turtle on it. The red ear slid into the water, but I left the bird in the sun. Looking into the edge of the water, I was happy to see small tadpoles bobbling around with small fry. I don't know what fish it is.

The dumpster is placed practically at the water - the trash from that overflows (including at least one shopping cart) into the water and plastics assault the eye as well as that piece of plywood. I have photos of Eastern Amberwings landing on a disposable diaper.

I was walking on the bank when I startled a snake resting either under a bush or in the culvert,
and it took off swimming for its life. It had dark brown or black and pink bands. I think I may have found it in one of my field guides. It's an immature. A young Banded Water Snake. The habitat is right on and the young ones are brighter in coloration. In the sun, it would look like the one I saw. Good swimmer, too.

More later.

Looks like the Supreme Court Did Something Right!

So, today they get a rose!

The amicus brief link is here, too.

For goodness' sake, please teach the importance of the founding documents to your children in case your schools do not.

Quiz them. Ask your neighbors if they know them or are familiar with the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Teach them. If you have taken your freedoms for granted, then you need to learn them. Make it a family affair!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Let's go trippin'...

This is a little bit about adventuring and dreaming of the places I need to go before shuffle away at hopefully a ripe old and kayak paddle in hand. I'm going to do some serious thinking about this and here's the place to come back to as I fill it up.

Don't you know about Green Tortoise Tours? They're for young and older adventurers, and I'd so love to leave on one tomorrow. Sure isn't fancy for the most part. There won't be any babies and no young children, but I've heard the company is great, and you can veg out or get moving when you stop.

I want to see the Mediterranean, meaning the lands from whence the families sprung...Cuba, for the moment, is out of the question. Abruzzi, specifically Tocco da Causaria is the first stop. But if I'm in Italy, I want to go to Puglia, because I am so intrigued with a house called a "trulli". They look rather like white stone beehive ovens.

In Spain, it's Madrid. I have a cousin who is keeper of her father's genealogical studies back to the 1600s. The LaPiedras have a long and colorful history, with a couple of minor noblemen thrown into the mix. My grandmother abhorred the cruelty of the "Spaniards". I believe she felt they were uncivilized. She absolutely hated bullfighting, and often told me the flag was red and gold for blood and money, and I always thought, "poor bull". She idolized her father, so I don't know where that came from. He went to Cuba. Met his wife there. You've met them before a few posts down. As long as I can get into the Spanish and Italian countryside, I'll be happy as the proverbial clam.

The Black Box in your vehicle...

From PC Magazine, June 26, 2007 issue (gleaned from a doctor's office - and I'm not apologizing) comes this little snippet. "New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine's SUV was doing 91 mph moments before the accident that nearly killed him. We know, because a black box told us so. If you're worried about an encroaching brave new world in which our every action in a car is monitored, you're too late: Most cars have event data recorders (EDRs), or black boxes, like those in airplanes. They've been in some cars since 1995, and they'll be mandatory as of 2011!

EDRs have the ability to capture speed, whether the brakes are on, the throttle position, whether ABS (antilock braking) is on, whether the stability control is in use, whether seat belts are worn, the sequence of airbags deployed, the turn-signal status, the steering wheel angle, and whether the headlights and the wipers are on.--BH"

And you were thinking I'm paranoid? Well, file this one under BIG BROTHER!

This sort of thing wouldn't happen if Ron Paul were President. Spend some time with "The Liberty Maven" at

What happens to your pets if your home is in foreclosure?

Please don't leave them behind without arranging for homes for them. Cats and dogs and other small furry things including house rabbits, can't fend for themselves. The Humane Society of the US has started a fund, and there is grant money available for your shelters to take care of the fallout. It is explained here...

Here is Vern, sitting on the dock across the street months after his family abandoned him and just before I decided to bring him home and make him mine.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I'm asking you for 47 minutes of your time

to view this astoundingly articulate video from Naomi Wolf, who wrote a book called "The End of America - Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot".

Her mentor was a holocaust victim. If you are a writer or any creative person, an educator, a parent, an activist of any kind, a patriot (it is NOT a four letter word) please watch this very important video. I watched it and promptly ordered the book.

It really doesn't matter if you buy the book. What is important that you watch, listen and share this most important video. If you are concerned about what is happening in America today - the economy, the buzzwords, the use of extreme force on citizens who do not submit to requests for silence or submission, the surveillance we are under, what's NOT being taught in our schools on the way government works (or is supposed to work), then it behooves you to watch this video.

I just checked Google, and there are pages of Naomi, but I came across this interview in a liberal
site, and it's a good one. You might like it.

Don't let labels frighten you away from this: liberal, feminist, patriot. When you read or view
this, it will strike a chord within you. Sometimes, you just have to open your mind.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Press ONE for English!

More later on this, from the granddaughter of LEGAL immigrants.

OK, I'm back.

My maternal great grandparents immigrated through Ellis Island in the 1800s, in their summer white clothing, clutching the hands of three children and a parrot in a cage. They arrived in the dead of winter. They had been a family of great wealth from sugar, and privilege. I am proud to say they were rebels, and hid many slaves in their cellar to facilitate their journey to America and find their freedom. Francisco LaPiedra went to work on Canal Street in the import/export business and his sons worked for steamship lines. The daughter returned to Cuba. My grandmother was born here. So proud were they of being Americans, and eventually citizens, that they began learning the language immediately. They were not Cuban-Americans. They were Americans.

My father's family immigrated from the Abruzzi region of Italy, also through Ellis Island They came steerage. Grandfather Paolo was a shoemaker and came alone first. Grandmother Elisabetta, had babies and cooked a lot of pasta. Nine in all. Uncle Nunzio came with her; the others were born here. They loved America so much that they learned the language although by the time I came along, my grandfather had died, and my grandmother reverted to Italian, but I was not allowed by my parents or my grandmothers to speak anything but English. It was out of the question. I was, after all, American. My father could have taught me some words in Italian, but as I remember, none of them wanted me to have an Italian accent. My grandmother Decker spoke fluent Spanish, but never spoke it. It was a dead issue. No foreign languages. I was an American.

English is the language of this country. If you, as an immigrant, cannot accept that you are living in America, the country of your choice, whose language is different than yours, do not expect us who were born here and know the language, to learn yours.

Maybe I am old and crotchety. But I am an American and I speak English. If you are a naturalized citizen from a foreign country, I expect you to love your new country and honor its language. I respect that you will use your native tongue at home. But don't be a stranger to me. We are Americans. We speak English here. Be my friend and do not self-impose isolation by not learning your new language. Speak to me in English

You need to hear this one!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Remember panorama Easter eggs?

I got one almost every Easter even after I realized there was no Easter bunny. They sold them in Loft's, a chain candy store in New York, and there was one in Port Richmond, the next town over,
where we did the special shopping. They were magic, pure and simple.

Last year I located the egg mold and instructions to make a pair for my grandchildren. My friend, Willa's daughter had a complete cake decorating set (went through the Wilton course), and the first egg was made in Willa's kitchen. It took almost a whole day, because one cracked. Essentially, you mix granulated sugar with a small bit of water so it holds together and aggressively pack it into a mold (you need two at a time). You let it rest, then you bake it until it has a hard shell. Then you scoop out the middles. You've made Royal Icing for cementing and the decorations, and it's ready, all dyed and pretty; the pastry bags are filled.

Very gently scoop the peephole halves and then the interiors of the egg halves, until ideally, the shell on each is about 1/8" thick. Here comes the fun part. You landscape one half of the egg, using Royal Icing to cement the pieces in - like flowers and bunnies and jellybean eggs - I got all my pieces at the craft store. Take the top, cement it to the bottom, cement the plastic window and then decorate it.

I got my molds from Sugarcraft along with the instruction books.

It was such a fun project, I made two for my boss' twins. My grandchildren weren't going to visit for Easter, and I put them up in a safe (I thought) place. One fell; one cracked and fell apart by itself. They never even got to see them in person.

These eggs won't travel well, and they would've broken on the trip, even though I purposely made the walls quite thick for small hands.

I didn't make any this year. But I will next year but just before they come to visit.

It's so much fun. You should try it.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Pitts Spring is ALIVE!

Today I took the short drive to Pitts Spring to rehome a little box turtle who got herself caught in the chainlink between my and Carol's yard. I thought it was a couple of leaves wedged in the mesh, but the dogs knew better. Good dogs!

Two summers ago on a hot July morning, I met with Bill Cleckley here. Bill is Acquisitions Director for the NW Florida Water Management District. I was doing an article for a magazine on the importance of our local springs and the Econfina watershed, for which no room was found. We were in the seventh year of a disastrous drought, and Pitts was nearly dead. The water was stagnant, the stone wall surrounding it was dangerously undermined, and the outflow was barely making it to Econfina Creek.

We had another year of drought. NWFLWMD thought of "blowing it out" with machinery, thinking the limestone aquifer collapsed on itself. The rock wall was entirely out of the water and cracking in spots. The creek was low. I worried about my well.

And then this year we got rain, and plenty of it, as you know if you have read this blog.

And at Pitts and Sylvan Spring, which is reached by the trail through the woods where before, during the drought, the limestone from which it bubbles was exposed and skeleton white, are now producing volumes of clear, sweet water. Sylvan is again submerged, its spring run is clear until the tannin starts to stain it. Pitts' spring run is once again rushing the short distance to Econfina. Both have recharged, thanks to the rain.

The flowers are blooming, new leaves in bright greens are decorating the trees. Dogwood fills
the dark spaces with its white light. Swamp honeysuckle, really a rhododendron, is fragrant when the sun hits and warms it. I found flowers on shrubs I've never seen before. The squirrels have been dining on hickory nuts one of the tables, leaving behind the shells. Butterflies are beginning to flit in the sunshine, having overwintered as pupae.

On a seasonal pond, I saw a pair of wood ducks! It was a good day.

In prior slideshows, I show you where I usually kayak. This is the same creek (Econfina), but a vastly different environment downstream.

Since you weren't with me, how about a slide show?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Ever hear of the Delphi Technique?

It's based on the Hegelian Theory, which is used to manipulate societies and essentially, it is used to divide and conquer small groups of people by a brainwashing method so subtle, the group doesn't see it coming, but the individual who is intimidated, ridiculed and eventually banished from the group, bears the brunt of the punishment.

Say you want to question an expert. It's a pointed question - let's say you're at a meeting on whether or not to put fluoride in the town's drinking water. You're with a group standing staunchly against it. You know the dangers. You don't want it for yourselves, your family, your neighbors, yet your city or county commission says it's absolutely a necessity for health reasons.

You ask the question. It never gets answered. You are left squirming with unanswered questions, and when the others in your group try to ask their questions, the same thing happens. At recess, your group goes into a huddle. What happened?

You and your group sit quietly while the meeting continues, and in the end, you have been ridiculed until you feel whipped. The rest of the people in attendance consider you fools.

Delphi is most effective when the facilitator has been trained in the technique. It could be used in many ways to divide and conquer - a PTA group, a small town, a city, a county, a state, a safety issue (maybe like gun control). I see this used in the farcical presidential debates. Once you read about it you will recognize it.

This is a citizen-essential tool. Know how you are manipulated, and how to fight back. You can Google it up yourself, or use these two links. The first explains it; the second, how to disrupt it. It's almost like "Don't get mad, get even."

Once you read this, you'll slap your forehead for being asleep. But then, I never heard of it before today.


THE TOLL FREE NUMBERS TO CONGRESS ARE 1-871-851-6437 AND 1-866-340-9281.


And while you're here, take a look at Jim Kunstler's blog. It's brain food for a curious mind and
highly recommended by a friend who is a writer/survivalist/boatbuilder/deep thinker.

Where the hell did the cent sign go?

Remember the cent sign? The lower case "c" with the vertical line through it? It's not on my keyboard; it is on that mysterious chart of other signs you can make like the copyright which I can never access without tying up an hour looking for it, but why? What does that mean? I know a copper penny is worth more than the new ones, which are made of zinc, I think, and being thought of by the US Treasury as useless (just what can you buy for a penny and I think that alone is awful).

Anyway...It just came into my cluttered mind today, and I thought I'd just needle you a bit.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Poisonous Plant video from ASPCA

It's not only for pet owners but for those with young children as well. Because you will no doubt be planting things in your garden, you might find this invaluable.

Excellent news sources and commentary

that maybe you should be reading. Try Information Clearing House, here at

and also Carolyn Baker's excellent blog,

I look at the daily devaluation of our currency, and the dark clouds gathering on our economic future and if you are concerned, perhaps you might want to view or listen to Alex Jones
This is a list of links. All sorts of emergency preparedness links on this page.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Editing some photos tonight.

Let's play a game.

It's called "Go Find the Heron".

No prizes, just a surprise.

I could write a volume on camouflage as used in nature. This is why.

The morning is cool and sunny,

without a cloud in the sky.

I haven't seen both Bald Eagles much this week - just one, once - and it flew over the swamp too far to catch with my camera. That flashing tail as they use it for a rudder, is unmistakable. The other day I had my little camera with me across the street and in flew a Great Blue Heron. The camouflage was great. Even his beak was the color of dead cattails. Then two fisherman came down the creek and it flew. I couldn't catch it decently.

Yesterday I was out on Bear Creek - just for a short paddle - in among the submerged cypress stumps and ghostly dead trees that were alive when the creek was dammed in the '60s. I startled another blue heron, picked up my camera in a waterproof case, sun in my eyes, snapped the shutter button and took a picture of... ME! I was so angry and embarrassed at myself.
(It's a funny photo, though.) Got some pretty shots.

When I headed up the canal for home, I heard the gator grunt. He lives here on this canal, and predictably, he was grunting from somewhere in the cattails and bulrushes to my left. He is always there. I have heard descriptions of what happens to the water around a grunting male.
It vibrates and sets the water to dancing. I want to see this someday.

And then I think of that sunning female who came off the bank as I was paddling last year and scared the bejesus out of me.

Kayaking is a wonderful way to exercise your upper body. I have pain in my arms, neck and shoulder from a rear end accident. When the pain won't stop, I take a short paddle. You don't have to dip the entire paddle into the water to move easily. I find it helps a lot, and works the same muscles that the physical therapists recommended I try to strengthen.

I saw the Red-shouldered hawk sitting in one of the silver snags from the water. I thought it was an owl. It called, sending his message over the water and it left for a large pine on the shore across the water. Almost immediately, another flew over my head. I saw them both on a branch in that pine. Reason to believe that soon there will be more.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Baghdad Pups

To be sure, the good guys will always light the way. Here is a link the good guys at work with the animals of Iraq.

Wayne Pacelle of the HSUS has an excellent blog today with lots of links to the Pentagon, etc., advocating the military code to allow the adoption of dogs by soldiers in war zones. Excellent, excellent. You must explore this one for March 7, 2008. There's a petition to sign.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Who saw the video with the Marines tossing a puppy to its death? removed it for a day. There's a serious problem here that is not being covered by
the media. These soldiers, who laugh as they kill animals (criminals often do this - for example, serial killers and severe abusers) before they murder their victims. When they come back here to the US, many will be hired as law enforcement officers.

I am cautioning you now, that this following link shows several videos from all over the web, of our soldiers killing animals. It is not pretty. I am going to call Congressmen, Senators, leave a message on the White House line, and try to call the Pentagon. I have contacted humane organizations. I am absolutely sick about this, and the more I see, the sicker I become.

The toll-free numbers to Congress - FREE CALLS - are 10877-851-6437 and 1-866-340-9281.

Do NOT let children see this.

This is absolutely unacceptable. It disgraces all of the good men and women in our military, and especially, the Marine Corps. I am ashamed.

This Amnesty Bill in Congress is a Disaster Waiting to Happen!

I take a middle road between the right and left when it comes to politics, and I think I probably fit the Libertarian mode. When this came across my monitor this morning I thought I'd have to hold on to my head, or let it explode. It's self-explanatory. The unfairness of it to our citizens is heinous.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Teaching Sophie to "Come"...

Trying to teach 6 month old Sophie (here're Sophie and Vern in a discussion about the Milk Bones) to "come". It's not working. "Get in the house! Hurry, hurry, hurry!" works. Not come. She's learned to sit. I've had dogs all my life. I've housebroken a hundred if I've housebroken one. I've had dogs I could take anywhere and dogs whom I've shown. This one's a challenge. She has six doting canines, and three doting cats who think she's one of them. Dottie (a cat) is sure she's a dog, and so all of the dogs think so, too. So I think Sophie's bonded with the dogs and cats more than me.

"Come, Soph," and Soph turns and goes the other way. Not fast, but enough to let me know, "Are you kidding me?" So I'm trying the Grandmother's approach, with food. Bribing is good and I think in the last couple of days, she's become more eager. She's a little finicky. I can't keep canned pears in my pocket, can I? (Yeah, pears over hamburger - go figure.)

Here's my point. If you're a dog owner, try this blog out and tell me how you like him.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Why I call it "Sleepy Creek"

Took my Perception Swifty out today for a little while. Really wanted to check out the beavers and see if the log was across the creek. Usually, I put in across the street and then turn left to where the canal dead ends. Then I turn around and come out on Econfina. Left is Bear Creek, right is upcurrent on Econfina, where I'll take you today. I saw another Anhinga, the Red-shouldered hawk in the top of a snag nearby, several turtles, including a tiny baby red-ear (the pet shop turtles sold for a buck 50). You know, the ones that end up smelly and dead in your tank. This is where they belong! Up past the neighbors to where the beavers should be and then I ran out of space when I clicked off the last shot of where Econfina empties into Deerpoint Lake.

I floated home a piece of driftwood with a rope I found on that tree that had been lying across the creek. Ah, those brawny bass fishermen! I knew they couldn't let that log stay there.

When I got "Old Yella" back in the yard, I went back for the driftwood that I'd left lying on the bank. It's not heavy, and I put it down by the fence. The dogs came out and were being curious, and then I saw something move. A leech! (This one is Hirudo verbana in case you're interested.) I've never seen one before, and if you get past the memories of "The African Queen" in the leech scene, they are quite pretty, in their creepy little way. Pretty pattern. Yes, of course, I took a picture, and then I brought it over to the boy across the street who was fishing with a cousin. He told ME that he'd just been reading about them. He's about 6 now. Great kid. Smart. We released the leech into the canal. Then we went to look for some worms, because he was fishing with a plastic lizard and not getting action. Told him to beware of coral snakes when digging. His father is spooked by snakes, and the boy isn't allowed to swim in the creek because of the alligators. Good thinking. We found some kind of insect larva, and he brought it back to the dock.

Wish you were here, especially if you had a bruise for the leech to feed on! (I'm so bad!)

Saturday, March 1, 2008

March 1, 2008 - Paddling, meatball party, the flood and beavers...

Today is the first of the month. Time to make the meatballs for the party. We have one every month on the first. It's heartworm prevention day for the dogs.

I'll also be adding some photos of the flood and some from yesterday's paddle. I couldn't get all the way up Econfina to the lake, because two fisherman came back down as I was paddling up to tell me there was a "big log" they couldn't get over. I said, "No problem for me," since I really can get over a log, but it was a little chilly. Then I saw it. There is a pine tree that's been submerged or floating for a while - no branches, and it is securely wedged right across the creek. I have a feeling that maybe the flood or current didn't put it there. I think it's the work of beavers. I saw their chews just before the flood, and I wanted to check them out yesterday. They just want the lake to get bigger! I'm sure big, brawny guys in their boats will get out and move it. Had it traveled down the creek with the current, it would have moved parallel to the movement. Our county hates beavers, and will not use humane excluders when they try to dam.