Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Then You Shake It To The Left

Just follow the easy steps

Listen to the music playing in your head...

And do the Kinglet Boogie!

Monday, December 20, 2010


When we laid out the foundation of our house we used a compass to get the correct orientation for passive solar gain. Oddly, the compass simply wouldn't work on the west end of the house. We figured it was because of the nearby heavy metal machinery and used the direction for south that the compass showed on the east wall. It was wrong by 13 degrees. It turns out that this ridge has large iron deposits and was surface mined heavily at one point in time. When we laid out the driveway we cut into one of the iron seams. One happy consequence of this is that the winter solstice sunrise comes directly and exactly through this window.

I should mention that this window was a work by the talented artist, Glenna Alderson, working in stained glass for this piece. It is a treasured gift.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Today's Walk

After 20 years here I see new things every day. This is a "clamber" up the steep side of Walden Ridge staying on our property. I followed deer trails and decided that whitetail deer must be closely related to mountain goats. The trails went up some fairly impressive pitches and are well used this time of year. The round leaf catchfly in bloom was a surprise, although the leaves on this one are not even close to round. The humidity is rather high even with the low temperature so the smoky mountains don't show up in the shot looking over Jackie's farm.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Today's Walk at Whites Creek

Every winter we get ice and it is different every year. I never tire of staring into some of the formations.

Brown Creeper...Got Him!

Finally got a rough shot through the window of a brown creeper at the suet feeder. These hyperactive little birds fascinate me but they sure don't sit still long enough to get much of a picture. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thursday, December 09, 2010

At the Feeders

The Magic Log is bringing in the usual suspects and a couple of favorites that didn't come by last year. Once again the red breasted nuthatches are hanging around. I'll work on getting a better shot but these guys are odd in that they will take off if they see movement within the house but will land a few feet away if you are replenishing the empty feeder. 
We have a very shy brown creeper and the odd mystery warbler I'll try to get pictures of as well. Over at the sunflower seeds the doves work very hard to get through the spikes that are intended to keep them out so that the smaller birds can feed. I keep thinking about the dove and rice dishes we used to have as a child.

Purple finch

Titmouse flashing his crest.

And I need some help with this little guy. Who is up on their winter warblers? Is it a Kinglet?

Sunday, November 28, 2010


The adults were solid black except for one silver tipped old lady. I expect full blooded European boars to be black, even as babies. These may have some domestic hog in their lineage which is likely, or  I could be mistaken, which is somewhat less likely but known to happen on rare occasions.

We saw these beasties yesterday on a neighboring farm. They are definitely not completely wild.

(Great?) Gramma Hog

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tale of Two Thanksgiving Birds

OK, Three if you count the parrot.
We had five eagles playing above the house most of the day. They were loving the wind direction and apparently have a carcass close by to feast on. They aren't having to spend any time hunting at the moment, so they can play fight and talk to each other starting very early in the morning. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Where I've Been For the Last Few Days

Just another southern blackwater river flowing through a swamp with owls, turkeys, otters, and near as we can figure it, a bear. 

This is the Black River near Kingstree, SC. We were stopped at one of the bridges over it and looking at our maps to figure out where we should put in, when a guy in a pickup stopped on the road and rolled down his window. That is either a good sign or a bad sign on trips like this. Mr. Kirby wanted to know if we would like him to open the gate so we could get closer to the river. "I just close it 'cause some people trash it out so bad," he told us. I know exactly what you mean. Mr. Kirby.

The beavers were apparently mad at us for camping in their dining hall the first night. It sounded like they were throwing refrigerators into the water for most of the first half of the night. I've never encountered that kind of sustained tail slapping. Usually it's one big "pow-ka-thunk" and they are gone.

We misread the guide book, which turns out to be somewhat suspect anyway, and set our shuttle vehicle 8 miles closer than we intended but we still covered about 30 miles in three days and two nights, a pretty laid back trip for us.

More pictures later.

The canoe I used is called a Sojourn. It's a solo touring boat that is the perfect choice for this kind of paddling  with a load of gear. I've had it for ten years and finally got it out on a trip worthy of its style.

Yeah, well...You put up tarp lines your way and we'll put up tarp lines our way. We did scare the rain off and an 80% chance of thunder storms turned into a ten minute shower under the lunch tarp. We don't usually take ultralight trips. All of us have done that and now prefer to camp in style with fine dining and appropriate spirits. This trip was sponsored by LaPhroig Scotch, a 23 year old rum, and some other delicacies. I think we should write the culinary guide to canoeing in the South.

Should There Be a Hunting Season for Sandhill Cranes in Tennessee?

I couldn't do it unless I was starving and had  run out of nuts, berries, twigs, and insects.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

From Today's Walk

As leaves drop into the water in the fall, we see it turn a golden color from the leaf tannin. 

And then we wait for the rain to come.

Caught these mosquito-like midges(?) working over the last few fall flowers. I have never noticed these insects before. Anybody know what they are?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Larry's Rod (Golden)

One of the cool things about living in a rare place on this planet is learning about the rare things that live here. We have several plants that are rare, threatened, or even endangered that call Whites Creek home. We also have a goldenrod that acts as a ground cover and then sends its bloom stalk up on a rhizome instead of coming out of the center of the basal rosette like most of them do. Goldenrods are blooming and going to seed right now and nobody is sneezing because of them. They don't cause allergies, in spite of all you were told growing up.  I had the pleasure today of going out to collect  specimens of our local goldenrod so that it can be sent around to other botanists for evaluation. It appears that ours is undescribed to science. That will change soon. 

Dr. Larry Pounds is my go-to guy for plants. He has led several field trips in the gorge and is a patient teacher. He is also the person who identified the unusual nature of this goldenrod and has located several other rare plants that live here. It was fun to dig in the dirt and follow the underground connection from plant to plant as we realized that a given patch of goldenrod is more than likely just one plant and its offshoots.

Dr. Pounds examines a specimen he is about to put in the press for preservation. A previous specimen sent to U. T. was lost. We now have several new ones for evaluation by other botanists.

This is one patch we sampled in its ground cover phase. It is a beautiful plant even without the blooms. I'll keep you posted on the process and whether it is determined that this is a new species or a variant of one already described.  

Thursday, October 07, 2010


Joe and Betty's oldest boy is now 61 years old as of today at 10:45 a.m. which is the time listed on my birth certificate. It also list my father Joe's profession as "Butcher". Mother Betty was 19 at that moment and is listed as a housewife. That was about 61% of a century ago and gravity is working much more fiercely on my body. I am now locked in mortal combat with gravity.

So in the epic battle for truth, justice, and the American waistline I have started riding a road bicycle. I like it.

For my 61st I decided to do something hard (for me) and ride from the Tennessee Valley to the top of Mt. Roosevelt on the Cumberland Plateau. That sounds more epic than it is since our yard goes from the Tennessee Valley up to the Cumberland Plateau  but it is still an 9 mile ride if you go by pavement with 1200 feet of vertical, half of which is in the last mile or so. The pavement at the end of our driveway is at 800 feet. The Roosevelt Mountain Fire Tower is at 2000 feet. Here's the Google Maps Route. For some reason the Google wouldn't let me embed it. Point A is the end of our driveway in case any of you decide to come by. Point B is the Fire Tower. If you note the embayment and main lake on the right that is the Tennessee River backed up into Watts Bar Lake. You can see the embayment and the Tennessee river main channel in the distance in this picture. The picnic platforms look to be old CCC projects made of cut sandstone. In case you've ever heard of Crab Orchard Stone, it comes from a little way past the the back side of this mountain.

So that picture is taken from Mt Roosevelt looking across the Tennessee Valley to the Smoky Mountains in the distance. On a clear day, of which there aren't that many any more, you feel like you can reach out and touch North Carolina. My bike is resting while I take pictures. It's tired.

Here's the old fire tower which they have fenced off with razor wire. I think it would be an awesome project for Tennessee to restore this old relic. I've been up it and the view is 360 degree fantastic. People would pay.

This is the view looking northeast toward the Cumberland Mountains. Sorry about that old guy getting in the way. Somebody's undying love for somebody else has been marked through on the rail behind him but you can't see that. Apparently "will love...forever" doesn't mean forever.

 Just so you is much easier on the thigh muscles to ride a bike down 1200 feet than going the other way. The only thing that hurt going down was my hands from the death grip on the brake levers.

Monday, September 20, 2010

And Now for Somewhere Different

After a pleasant paddle beside the spectacular cliffs of the French Broad River here's our camp on the riverside near Hot Springs, NC with good friends. We walked to the mineral hot springs and then to a rowdy supper at the Iron Horse restaurant the old rail station. 

On the way home Sunday we took the easy walk up to Max Patch bald and caught the hawk migration as the broad wing hawks head to South America and the Monarchs, which were also gliding by, head toward Guatemala. The hazy day made for poor scenery shots but we did notice some oddities closer at hand.
I hope someone out there can identify this beastie for us.

See! We do leave Whites Creek Gorge from time to time. More pictures later on.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Rock Art

We found these hieroglyphics in the rocks exposed by low water in Whites Creek. I've seen canvases for sale that weren't this interesting and I need to take my big camera back to the spot before the fall rains cover it back up for another year. Some of the shapes are, well, suggestive. 

What do you see?

I see...uh...things that guys usually see. Like iron deposits and hematite and stuff. That's what you were thinking too, right? 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Photos From the Past

Of all the photos that could surface from my past lives. I'm thankful that it was this one...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

You got your Dolly Lama, You got your Surfing Alpaca

This is from a friend who runs Expediciones Tropicales in Costa Rica. Check them out if you are up for something really cool.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The View From My Kitchen Table

As the political crazy season is upon us I have to resolve a conflict between my tree hugger self and my political self, although in reality one requires the other in this insane world we live in. Still, I thought I would give folks a choice as to whether they wanted to indulge in a political rant or just enjoy a part of the natural world that I am working to preserve and protect. With that in mind let me introduce:

  The View From My Kitchen Table ...Ta Daaa!

The URL is

It is so titled because I sit here in my office chair at the kitchen table as I think about stuff and post when I get ready to boil over. It's mostly snark, I know, but it seems to serve a purpose in drawing attention to things others seem to miss. My rants will mostly be posted at the Kitchen table and the eco warrior stuff will mostly stay at Whites Creek Journal. This is an experiment and I reserve the right to backslide whenever I want to. It's my table, donchano.

And we're off!


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

When is a Fish a Bird?

When it is the canary in the coal mine.

My favorite fish people are making the news again. They are also working to make history by saving yet another endangered species of Tennessee fish entrusted into their care.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Some for your cheese and eggs, some for your stir fries and pizza, and some to make you cry in your beer, even when you're happy.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Mythologies of the Right Wing, by Bill

> Tea Party'ers are not more likely to have racist tendencies than other conservatives.
(Except they are.
> Democrats are scheming to hit 94 percent of small business owners with tax increases.
(Except they aren't.
> Bloody violence is out of control along the Mexican border, and illegal immigrants are streaming into America at record levels.
(Except it's not and they're not.
> Obamacare will send Medicare spiraling out of control.
(Except it won't.
> Marriage is a religious union that's all about procreation.
(Except it isn’t.
> Voters say cutting the deficit is more important than creating jobs.
(Except they don't.
> Social Security is going broke, it adds to the deficit, and we have to raise the retirement age because people are living longer.
(Except it's not, it doesn't and we don't.
> The earth is getting cooler.
(Except it's really really not.
> Facts and logic matter to Republicans.
(Except I just snorted milk out my nose.) 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Democratic Women at Cumberland Mountain State Park

What a fun time we had at the Cumberland County Democratic Women's picnic Monday evening. There was way too much food but you'll be gratified to know that I held myself to only three deserts. One day I'll find real banana pudding like Mom made. Until then I'll maintain my quest. 

The Cumberland Mountain State Park is a great venue for things like this. Not many places have a shelter that can accommodate 250 people. In addition to a full complement of local candidates, Congressman Lincoln Davis worked the crowd and pointed out the real prize in the Fall election in Tennessee, the bully pencil that will redraw the Congressional Districts to favor one party or the other. (Next to the secret filibuster, is gerrymandering the most vile of the vile political practices, or what?)

After all the local candidates made their pitch, the headliner took over. Rather than stay up front on the other side of all that food, Mike McWherter put down the microphone and walked up close to the people giving a funny and rousing talk. He's come far enough on the campaign trail that I can now actually see him as our next Governor even if he is more conservative than I wish. 

Is it a sign that the Republicans are taking McWherter more seriously that they have their operative tailing Mike with an ever present video camera? Note the young lady in the background. Some of the "girls" had a little fun with her and herded her around by standing in front of her camera. They were good natured about it and let her do her job after a good laugh.  
Lincoln had his full team there but he's the star. 

This is the kind of political event I love. Lots of hugs and laughs. And the Cumberland County Girls can cook for me any time they want. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Small Victories

This is pretty big. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is not tax revenue, it is funded by fees from offshore drilling leases. It was the blood money paid by oil firms to compensate Americans for the destruction of the marine environment caused by offshore drilling. The money was supposed to go to save sensitive lands and waters by enabling their purchase for parks,, wilderness areas, and public recreation areas. However, as is the way of all things Republican, as soon as the ink was dry on the bill, Republicans started stealing the money away at every opportunity. What was supposed to be a piddling $900 million to save land in America got stolen away near as I can tell simply because Republicans hate all things good. At the same time as they were trying their best to privatize all our public lands they were voting to subsidize the very industries that were most responsible for destroying them, Big Oil, Big Gas, and Big Coal. Annual subsidies to those industries total nearly 80 billion dollars. 80 Billion TAX Dollars!
I have little expectation that the House will vote to end subsidies to Exxon Corporation which receives around $9 billion and pays zero income tax on its $42 billion in profits just last year because it has registered its headquarters outside of the United States of America. I have little confidence that Congress will move to make BP sell to American markets only all of the oil it gets from drilling in American waters. Same thing in Alaska, where Republicans spout the incredibly transparent hypocrisy that we have to drill in the Arctiv national Wildlife Refuge in order to end America's dependence on foreign oil, when most of Alaskan oil is sold to Asian markets. Perhaps the best real solution for America would be for us to take at least one of those massive ships they are deploying in the Gulf to suck up 120 billion barrels of oil scum and first clean all the oil scum out of Congress.
Since that will not happen, let's rejoice at this small victory. It's not a done deal until it clears the full House and Senate but I have hopes.
Under the leadership of Chairman Nick Rahall (D-WV), the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee approved the Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act of 2009 (CLEAR Act, HR 3534) and included a provision that would annually fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at its authorized level of $900 million. 

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Shapes of Things to Come

BP promises to fix everything in the Gulf of Mexico, but having lived through (Well part way through, actually) the TVA coal waste disaster, I have personally seen how little action goes with that pronouncement.  The Marketing department spends a fortune on whitewash while the accounting department nixes all but the egregiously warranted reparations. We can look to the Exxon Valdez experience to see how it is going to go for BP victims in the Gulf.

21 years later the shrimp have finally recovered enough to support a fetal shrimp industry. There are still no herring.

The fossil fuel industry continues to receive American tax subsidies of just under $80 Billion  a year. Exxon's damage award was reduced from $10 billion to $500 million. This makes me want to bite a nail every time I hear someone say solar power has to be subsidized in order to be viable compared to coal. This is a complete falsehood.

It would seem like the first step in creating a post fossil fuel world ( which we must do in order to survive on this planet) would be to remove all subsidies from fossil fuels and put at least half of that figure toward solar power and its storage and delivery systems. What could be simpler?


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Approval Ratings and Why Elected Dems are...Well...Cowards

President Obama enjoyed soaring approval ratings as he took office but now, with the ratings hovering just below 50%, Elected Democrats seem to be shuffling away from associating themselves from him. My Congressman told me that Obama polled 34% in the last election so he had to distance himself. What drivel!

Here's the not quite worst US President in history's approval ratings for his two terms. It is fairly obvious that had W not started his unwinnable wars after the 9-11 tragedy his approval ratings would never have seen daylight. In fact the case is easily made from looking at the chart that Bush's incompetence, even though he was strongly warned, in preventing the 9-11 attacks was the best move of his Presidency for conservatives who were Hellbent on destroying America's Middle Class. 

George W Bush was reelected with a sub 50% rating. There were no Republicans running away from him. One thing about a crime family...they all point their guns in the same direction when they are under fire. 

So stop and think for a minute what the greatest accomplishments of the Bush Administration were. Can't think of anything good, can you? Well, unless you were a rich person who hates America and don't want to pay your fair share of the cost of protecting your hoarded gold. Or, and this one bothers me a lot, you are a Multi-National Corporation that sees American laws and regulations as a barrier to obscene profits, jobs and health of the actual Citizens of our country be damned!

So what are we seeing right now with regard to our President and his agenda to save what's left of America, Of the people, By the people and For the People? We see certain turncoat Democrats as his greatest obstacle. Between lockstep Republican opposition to Obama's legislative agenda and turncoat Democrats, It is a wonder that President Obama has gotten anything passed and yet he has. 

We have the first step in a viable healthcare system that works for the actual people of this country instead of the stockholders of Health Care of America. 

The tragic wars of George W. Bush are winding down. Torture has been stopped and the targeting of civilians  in rocket battles has been ended (a year ago, actually). 

We have a sensible Administrator of the EPA in Lisa Jackson. We have highly qualified Supreme Court nominees in the pipeline (and don't pretend to me that John Roberts was qualified for the head Justice position under Bush...No freaking way). Justice Sotomayor has proven to be excellent on the bench.

And we have the first steps in reforming the financial system which has wreaked such havoc on our country and its citizens. 

This took, say, 18 months. Hey just for grins name the accomplishments of W in his first 18 months? I mean other than allowing the most tragic terrorist attack on American soil in history and then attacking the wrong country...

OK, so we are reading breathless newspaper articles that say 40% of Americans are dissatisfied with Obama's performance but let's think about that shall we? If you add in the additional 20% who look at Obama's record of rather historic accomplishment and say he hasn't done enough yet, Obama is actually riding a 60% favorability curve. In any mock election poll against any Republican candidate, Obama destroys his opponent. America might be unhappy with Obama but they are still really pissed at Republicans. 

In any event, Barak Obama's real enemy is not the Republican party, evil and onerous as they are. My and your and Obama's real enemies in restoring America are the traitors in his own party. Who would have ever believed that it was a Democrat, Senator Ben Nelson, who took unemployment benefits away from 18 million American workers whose jobs were sent overseas or lost due to Bush Administration actions. 

Barak Obama's real enemies are the Democrats who lack the spine, the courage, the whit of common sense that has them tucking their tails between their legs and whining about the President's approval rating. Cowards, the lot of them. 



Monday, July 05, 2010


Random shots from the last few days...All from the deck looking over the creek.

This last one doesn't quite work. The light was awesome. The photog not so much.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Eating Out of the Yard

The beef is from our neighbor's grass fed pasture and is as close to organic as you can get without paying for the certification. Lot's of farmers can't go that far but raise great tasting beef that isn't blasted with hormones and antibiotics on a routine basis. I admit that the lettuce is store bought but the tomatoes, okra, and other veggies grow right outside in our yard. We buy olive oil and Parmesan cheese, black pepper and salt.

Good Eatin'!

And if yo Momma didn't feed you fried green tomatoes about this time every Summer, she didn't raise you right.

I know you wish you were here having supper with us. Yeah you do!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Resurrection

On this afternoon's hike we ran up on this ferocious character...
This is a Heterodon platirhinos, sometimes called a hognose snake, because of the armored nose scales which help it dig up toads in the mud. It is a totally fearsome beast...Rumored to be so venomous that if it accidentally bites itself it will die immediately.

And then a miracle happens...The Resurrection!

These snakes have specialized rear fang teeth that they will absolutely not use to bite a human with, but which some think can puncture toads when they puff up to avoid being swallowed by a snake. Although they are completely harmless to humans and are absolutely not venomous as we normally think of it, hognose snakes use coloration and a vicious attitude to scare people, which usually gets them done in unless you know what they are. This one has a near perfect copperhead/rattlesnake mimicry. Last time we saw him he was headed for safety in the leaves.