Southern Snowstorm

December 9, 2009

We don’t get a lot of snow here in the southeast, but Saturday morning when we got up, there was a dusting of snow on the ground.  So here are the promised snow pictures!  Those of you in the deep south, eat your heart out, we actually saw snow!

Those of you further north, try not to laugh at the piddling little bit of white stuff we call a snow storm!

Looking out in the backyard, I saw. . .

Snow and poultry in the backyard.

. . . a little snow, a lot of poultry, and one dog carrying around a HUGE stick!

The bottom pasture was dusted with white, instead of the usual all drab brown.

Bottom pasture dusted with snow.

From there Toby and I headed for the woods.  Of course, it too had a bit of snow on the ground, and blown against the tree trunks.

A dusting of snow in the woods.

We always check out the creek when we take a walk in the woods.

Creek with snowy banks.

My other “dog” followed Toby and I into the woods.  He likes to rub up against every twig and tree.

Our cat, Spot, out in the snow.

The real dog, Toby, would rather hike his leg and pee on every twig and tree, but I spared you a picture of that, ha, ha!

The creek floods frequently, and the banks are eroded, so the exposed tree roots held a drift of snow on them.

Snowy Exposed Tree Roots By Creek.

Even the slues looked pretty with snowy banks.

Snowy slough and banks.

By the way, I don’t know if I ever called these little areas of backwater a slue until I met The Farmer.  I thought it was just an “Okie-ism”, but he has it right:

Slue: a place of deep mud or mire (also slew or slough ˈslü)

  1. swamp
  2. an inlet on a river; also : backwater
  3. a creek in a marsh or tide flat

Toby crosses these slues wherever it suits him, sometimes at a narrow place, sometimes through deep water. 

Toby, our American Farm Collie, crossing a snowy slue.

He loves splashing through water wherever he finds it.

The other “dog” that follows me around, however, is not so keen on the water.  He sits on one side of the bank and watches Toby wander.

Spot refuses to cross the water.
“I can’t believe he waded through that freezing cold water!”

In fact, Spot just isn’t any too keen on walking through that frozen stuff called snow.

Spot shaking snow off paw.

He makes faces and shakes his paws frequently.

I’m afraid Toby laughs at Spot’s squeamishness over snow and water and all things wet.

Spot and Toby the Farm Collie by one of the slues in the woods.
“What a wuss! If you want to be a dog, you’ve got to like water!”

Then Toby proceeded to show off a little and went through the water in the slue again.

Toby the farm collie in the middle of a slue of water!
“See? IN the water, you’ve got to get IN the water!”

But Spot wasn’t buying it.  He promptly sat down in some leaves and declared he was NOT going in that water!

Spot sitting in the snowy woods.
“Can he talk to me like that?  I am NOT going in that water!”

By then I figured it was time to head back towards the house.  In the front yard, the holly looked pretty with a little snowy white alongside the green leaves and red berries.

Holly and snow.


Holly, snow and sunshine!

But it was warming up some, and the snow wasn’t going to last much longer.

Holly with ice drop.

It was forming little ice drops on the tips of some of the leaves.

However, in the shade, the camellia bush still had snowy blossoms.

Camellia 'Winter Star' with snowy blossom.

And since the Camellia ‘Winter Star’ bush is in the flower bed by the front door, I was ready to go back inside and end my picture taking for the day.

Natural Water Spring At Falls Mill

November 12, 2009

There was a lot to see at Falls Mill.  Across from the shed full of old farm equipment, there was an old wooden barn and an antique steam engine. 

Old Wooden Barn and Antique Steam Engine

We couldn’t figure out what the steam engine might have been used for, but it looked pretty solid and impressive!

We walked over behind the barn and could see one of the falls along Factory Creek.

Dam and Falls on Factory Creek in Belvidere, Tennessee.

These were created with a man-made stone dam built across the creek.  It looks like some stone retaining walls I’ve seen, which I guess is pretty much what it is.

Stone Dam across Factory Creek in Belvidere, Tennessee.

That must have taken a lot of work!  The Farmer and I kind of wondered how they managed the water flow while building the dam.

Not surprisingly, the mill is located on top of a hill.  At the bottom of the hill there’s a spring nestled in the hillside beside the creek.  They’ve got a neat system that was built to get the spring water without walking down to the spring.

It starts with a pulley system and bucket at the top of the hill.

Bucket on pulley used to fetch spring water at Falls Mill, Belvidere, Tennessee.

The pulley line goes down through the trees to reach the spring.

Pulley line going down through trees at Falls Mill in Belvidere, Tennessee.

At the bottom, they put a pipe into the spring, so they’ve got a gush of water coming out to flow into the bucket.

Bucket filling with spring water at Falls Mill at Belvidere, Tennessee.

I took a video when someone filled the bucket, then started pulling the bucket back up.

The bucket was moving so fast the camera wouldn’t stay focused in on it when it got up among the tree limbs.

You can hear the sound of the water wheel in the background.  We were standing near the top of it, looking down at Factory Creek.

Factory Creek at Falls Mill Operating Water-Powered Grain Mill in Velvidere, Tennessee.

You can see just a bit of the wheel in the corner of the picture.  It’s amazing how such a little bit of water turns such a huge wheel.

But that’s a story for another day.

Autumn Azalea And Wooly Bears

November 9, 2009

This weekend I noticed that not only is the camellia bush hanging in there and blooming, but the Autumn Azalea bushes in the same flower bed have decided to have a last hurrah and throw out a few blooms.  I guess they decided to live up to their name, since they are from the Encore® Azalea Collection.

This first one is an Autumn Debutante Azalea.

 Autumn Debutante Azaela

It’s a light pink, whereas the other one, Autumn Sangria Azalea, is a hot pink.

Autumn Sangria Azaela

Having checked those out, Toby and I decided to go for a walk in the woods.  We passed The Farmer in the bottom pasture.

The Farmer burning sacks and boxes.

He was busy burning old feed sacks and boxes.  I don’t know how we seem to accumulate so many boxes, but there always seem to be a bunch around here.

There was a nice bright yellow leaf caught in the weeds.

Yellow Leaf

Some day I need to figure out what kind of tree has that leaf.  We have a lot of them around here, whatever they are.

Right beside the path going into the woods there is an old tree that’s been stuck by lightning.  At the base of the tree some fungus balls were growing.

Balls Of Fungus

I haven’t seen any quite like them before.  There’s nothing in the picture to give you a perspective, but they’re all about 1 inch across or less.

Of course we can’t go back in the woods without taking a stroll along the creek.  It’s got lot of leaves floating on it.

Creek covered with leaves.

They especially collect along the sides, or around obstacles like this fallen tree.

I don’t know about other American Working Farmcollies, but our Toby LOVES water.  The highlight of a run in the woods is to splash across the creek and back at least once.

Toby, American Working Farmcollie, crossing creek.

Given the opportunity, it’s more like 2 or 3 or … more times.

On our way back to the house, I stopped and turned over one of the salt bins.  This is the same one I found a black widow spider under earlier this summer.  Thankfully, this time it was a more innocuous discovery.

Wooly worm, Wooly Bear, or Banded Woolly Bear, your pick!

Whether you call it a wooly bear, wooly worm, or more properly, the banded woolly bear, we find a lot of them around here.  They hatch late in the summer or fall, and overwinter in this caterpillar form.  What’s cool is that the little wooly worms survive freezing by producing a cryoprotectant in their body.  How about that, this cool little woolly bear produces its own antifreeze!

Next spring, the little wooly worm will eat and eat, snarfing down all the grass and weeds it can.  Then it pupates, and the fuzzy little wooly bear turns into the Isabella tiger moth:

Isabella tiger moth (Pyrrharctia isabella)

Of course, while it’s still a fuzzy little wooly bear, you’re supposed to be able to use the banded woolly bear to predict what kind of winter is on the way.  Supposedly, the thinner the brownish red bands, the harsher the winter will be.  So if the wooly worm is mostly brownish red in the middle, winter will be mild.

Considering how wide the brownish red band was on the wooly bear I found, looks like if the folklore is correct, we ought to have a mild winter!

Cluttered Culverts

April 30, 2009

Whenever there’s a heavy rain, our bottom pasture floods because the creek gets out of bounds.  It probably wouldn’t do it so much if it weren’t for the fact the creek goes under a road right past our bottom pasture. 

There are two culverts under that road, and they collect debris.  After the last hard rain, I decided to go down and take a peek.  The neighbors living past the bridge have a pack of dogs.  Three of them watched me approach.

Dogs On Bridge

Toby as usual, totally ignored them.  He seems to think they are beneath his notice, and he doesn’t even bother looking at them, let alone barking at them.

Once we got on the bridge, I looked down the creek flowing alongside our bottom pasture.

Creek flowing beside our bottom pasture.

It had been a while since it rained, so the water was almost totally clear again.  I walked past the bridge and went down alongside the creek to see what kind of debris was clogging up the culverts upstream.

Debris In Culverts

It doesn’t look too bad until you look a little closer.  Here’s a close-up of the culvert on the left:

Log blocking culvert.

And here’s a close-up of the culvert on the right:

Logs blocking culvert.

After seeing what kind of debris was clogging up the culvert upstream, I went to the other side to see what it looked like from the downstream side, which is the part bordering our bottom pasture.

Water coming out the downstream side of the culverts.

From a ways off, it really doesn’t look like there’s much of a problem, does it?  But when I got down to where I could take pictures a little closer-up, you can see how the water flow is restricted.

Here’s the culvert that had the single log across it on the upstream side:

Log blocking water flow through culvert.

As you can see, it was a bit deceiving seeing just that one log across the mouth of the culvert on the other side.  There’s a whole lot more debris underneath it that is also blocking the flow of water.

I couldn’t get a straight-through shot of the other culvert, but you can see it has some pretty big tree parts in it!

Large tree parts blocking flow of water through culvert.

It’s no wonder when the rain is heavy, the stream overflows because the culverts are blocked, and goes over the top of the road.

Flood waters over road.

And of course, when the creek backs up and floods over the road, it also backs up into our bottom pasture:

Flood waters in bottom pasture.

We have electric fencing around that pasture, and every time it floods, it needs repaired.  However, since we’ve downsized and don’t have so many animals, we don’t have to worry about it because we’re not using it for grazing space.

Instead, we’re letting it grow up wild again.  When we first moved here, there were all kinds of wildflowers like Joe Pye Weed and Cardinal Flower in that area, along with Button Bushes and other good habitat for wildlife.

Hopefully, there will be lots of flowers grow there this summer, and we’ll see lots of butterflies!

There’s Something Fishy About The Woods

March 31, 2009

I decided to meander around in the woods after the flood waters receded, just to see what might have been left behind.

The first thing I noticed when I walked in the woods was the Trillium is finally up and blooming! 

Trillium cuneatum

Most of the buds aren’t fully opened yet, but these are some of the first flowers around here to welcome spring.

Whippoorwill Flower

This particular variety, Trillium cuneatum,  is also known as Whip-Poor-Will Flower, Cuneate Trillium, Large Toadshade, Purple Toadshade, Bloody Butcher, and Sweet Betsy.  That’s sure a lot of different names for one little plant!

Nearby there was some Virginia Springbeauty (Claytonia virginica) blooming.

Virginia Springbeauty Flowers

These little flowers pop up all over the place in the woods.  Of course, after the flood waters had been through, they weren’t the only buds in the woods.

Bud Light

Nestled among the other flowers, there was a special metallic version known as “Bud Light”.  It’s frustratingly long lasting in the woods, and the only flowers that appear with it are the blooming idiots who consume a little too much of this bud’s nectar.

I don’t know if this particular denizen of our woods tried any Bud Light, but he was certainly laid back.

Box Turtle - Male

In fact, this male box turtle was totally unconcerned by my presence and happy to pose for pictures.  How do you like those bright red-orange eyes?  That’s what makes it easy to tell this turtle is a guy!  (The females have brown or light orange eyes.)

He was wandering near yet another patch of flowers, some Yellow Trout Lilies, also known as Dogtooth Violet.

Trout Lilies

They’re another one of the first wildflowers to bloom around here come spring.  They are such a pretty bright yellow, and look particularly cheerful after the drab browns of winter.

Trout Lily

Supposedly, this plant is called a TROUT Lily because the mottled leaves resemble the patterns seen on trout fish.

But these weren’t the only fishy things in the woods.  Oh no.  You see, along side one of my regular paths in the middle of the woods, I found a fish.  Yep, that’s right, a fish.  You want proof?  Here’s a picture:

Fish in the woods.

See, told ya!

At first I thought it was dead, considering the flood waters were long gone and there was only a little puddle of water left underneath it.  However, when I touched the fish, it moved!  Whoa! time for a rescue operation – get it to the creek quick!

I tried scooping it up with what little water there was, but the fish was unimpressed with my rescue efforts and flopped out onto some leaves.  Now here’s where I wish I had someone following me around and taking movies of some of my misadventures.  I mean, surely ONE of them would go over well enough on Funniest Home Videos to win the big prize!

Just picture a chubby old lady chasing after a little fish flopping all over the fallen leaves in the middle of the woods.  I picked it up several times, but it was a slippery little devil and would manage to get loose once more, and there we’d go again… fish flopping, me hopping.

Finally I sandwiched it between some leaves to hold it fast and ran … well, stumbled really, as fast as I could to the creek, trying to get there before the fish ran out of air.  I’m not sure which one of us was gulping for air the most by the time we made it to the creek.

Despite the prolonged lack of water, after I deposited the fish sandwich in the creek it wasn’t long until the fish was swimming off.

Fish in creek.

I took two pictures in quick succession, but by the second one he (she?) was long gone!  (Do you suppose he’ll tell his buddies about his remarkable experience when a strange alien plucked him out of the woods?  Maybe he’ll even appear on the Fishy Springer show on Small Fry TV!)

Since we were by the creek, our Farm Collie decided it was a good time to wade right in.

Farm Collie in creek.

Toby loves playing in water no matter what the temperature is!

As you can see here, the flood waters left a lot of debris.  All kinds of leaves and stuff caught in the branches of this fallen tree.

Tree fallen across creek.

On the bank nearby, I found a black plastic milk crate which I carried back to the feed shed.  I even found something to carry in it on my way out of the woods.

Yes, there was one last interesting thing Cast Away by the flood waters:

Ball by creek.

Like Wilson, this ball was washed to shore. I think it needs a name. Should it be another Wilson or something entirely different? It’s generic, with no name imprinted on it anywhere.  What would you call a little mini-basketball left behind after a flood?

What with spring flowers, stranded fish, a turtle and cast away basketball, this was definitely one of the most interesting walks in the woods I’ve had in a while!