Saturday, September 8, 2012


I'm intrigued by Blogger's "popular post" feature under the Stats tab.  You can set it to show your most-read posts by the week, month, or all time.  Doesn't matter which timeframe I select, an old post titled "Surprising Hawk Poop" is almost always the most read. Another one that shows up more often than not includes a photo of the scat left behind in a bluebird nest after the fledglings have taken their first flight. I used the term "blobs of you-know-what" in the text of that post.

So, do I take this to mean that all a blog-writer has to do to generate a wider readership is wax on about the extraordinary wonders of bird poop? Such a curious species, homo sapiens. If the future anthropologists of a differently evolved life form from another planet ever study us, I'd love to know what they conclude. dkm

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Friend or Foe?

If it hadn't happened twice before, I'd think of it as simple coincidence, and that I just happened to be sitting in a momentary hovering place of a hummingbird when it flew near to me. But after yesterday's third encounter with a tiny glistening thing zooming in close enough to look me in the eye, I've come to believe our ruby-throated hummers are a delightfully curious species—and that it might have been the exact opposite of coincidence. Is it possible they zoom in intentionally to wherever I'm long-sitting for the purpose of checking me out?

Yesterday morning I was enjoying a second cup of coffee on the deck, having just seen Sarah and the children off to school, when a ruby throated fellow caught my eye zooming from the feeder to the cherry tree. Next thing I knew he zoomed to a hovering place about ten feet in front of me, then closer, to about two feet away, where he hovered sideways, the better to get a good look at my face. I could hear the hum of his wings. He is aptly named. We looked directly into each other's eyes for a long and breathtaking moment. I don't know what he was thinking, but I was fully entranced.

I like to imagine he carried a message from the universe that it was time to get writing, but he was more likely on a mission to discover what kind of creature would sit so still for so long, and if I posed a threat to his kind. He must have determined me safe because he went directly to the feeder from my sphere of energy.

It's not unusual to see hummingbirds at the sipper now, nearing, as we are, the southward migration season.  But to stare one in the eye was a magical experience that transported this writer straight into her story. Thank you for that, Mr. Literal Redneck. dkm

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Graceful Surprise

I call them pearls. I receive six of them every day. Six quiet hours of writing time during which the children are in school.  It's a term borrowed from Virginia Woolf, who named a free day in which to write, a "pure and rounded pearl."  I rarely have a fully free day, and when I do, I waste much of it, so I've chosen to attach the designation to a free hour. It has made all the difference.

To receive six pure and rounded pearls of grace in a day is a gift unimagined, brought to me by daughter Sarah and her children. It makes for more productive and focused writing. At long last I can see the end of the little work of fiction I've been playing with for the past SEVEN years (!!!!), have even gone so far as to claim a goal to finish it off before my next birthday, two months from now, thanks to having grandchildren move into my house.

The astonishing thing about all this is that I didn't realize it was happening until a hummingbird pointed it out during my long sit on the deck this morning.  More about that surprising encounter next post.  dkm

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Peace in the Valley Farm

To make good on a promise from June 19th, here are a few photos of Jim and Sandy's goat farm, soon to become a bed and breakfast establishment.  It will be a wonderful place of quietude for anyone who needs to return, for a time, to natural peace of soul, and for a hearty breakfast of fresh farm eggs, goat milk, and cheese, not to mention a bath with their divine goat milk soap. It's my location of choice for writing retreats. 

I love the fervor Jim and Sandy throw into their work, resulting in a setting that looks deceptively simple to the casual visitor. But no. Not simple. Except for the house and property itself, they developed the farm together, from scratch. 

Jim built the barn from lumber he sawed himself when he worked at a sawmill. He designed and built a chicken condominium that is the home of any rooster's dreams. He studies the culture of goat farming in all his spare time. He and Sandy entertain guests almost every weekend. They attend goat shows. Who, in our family, knew there was such a thing? 

Sandy is cheese and soap maker extraordinaire. She cans pickles and okra and other southern specialties from their sizable garden. She's the chief mower of the farm acreage. She eats a jalapeƱo pepper like an apple. Sandy is retiring this month from the federal prison system to go to work fulltime on the farm. She is one beautiful, remarkable, capable, savvy, kind, decent, and hard-working woman. I know this because, aside from her work with inmates at the Alabama Federal Correction Institution, she tamed and married my baby brother, a professional drummer of high temperament. Ethnic Mennonite, you understand, but of high temperament just the same. His big sisters and brother are amazed at his current life. We were town kids, for crying out loud. There's just no accounting for dreams. dkm

What? You thinkWE ate that row?
Goldthwaite Kentucky Wonder (Tuck)

I tried to copy Niki's pigtails. 


Friday, August 17, 2012

The Nature of Family

After two months away from writing or reading blogposts, it feels a little artificial to start right in again with no explanation for my absence. Be it enough to say my grandchildren moved into my house? Probably, but au contraire, it's not within my nature to leave it at that.  If any reader friends are still out there, I'll indulge in one post about our new adventure, then return to nature blogging, with renewed intent to keep personal life out of it, except as it applies to my observations of the natural world.

Though I hadn't intended the June 19th post to be my last, on June 23, our daughter, Sarah, and her two children, Makayla age 8, Nickolas age 4, moved into the basement apartment of our house—a major lifestyle adjustment for all of us. Evenso, I kept expecting each day to be the day I would post again, but with grandchildren at every turn, it didn't work out that way.

When I retired five years ago to tackle a long-imagined mirage of becoming a writer of children's stories, I knew I didn't have a lot of years left for such an ambitious undertaking. I worked hard (am still working hard) on this project, and advised both my daughters not to wait till the end of their income-earning careers to make of their lives what they most longed for. I vowed to encourage their visions to whatever extent I was able, as my mother had mine.

So we were not surprised—and wanted to be supportive—when Sarah, who was then working in a university development office, envisioned graduate school in her chosen field of visual arts—especially after she had undergone two major surgeries to remove a paralyzing tumor on her spine, an ordeal that hurled all of us into a new recognition of the fragile nature of time vs life goals. Sarah's husband, Thad, is equally supportive of her vision. Sparing you all the wheels that had to turn to make it happen,  Sarah and children will be living with us in Atlanta during her stint in graduate school, while Thad continues working in Florida with plans to come to Atlanta once a month until he can find work here.

Initially, of course, the apartment preparations and daily summer childcare consumed my leisure hours heretofore spent "long sitting" outside, which had been my path to blogging, in turn allowing the regular practice I needed for more imaginative writing. But everyone is settled now, the children are in school, and Sarah and I have a firm commitment to each other to spend the precious school hours pursuing our own visions, she in her basement studio, I in my upstairs office, which I call the Aerie for its elevated view of the backyard. (V.Woolf's room of one's own, you know.)

Now I look forward to more structured writing hours and have high hopes for mother and daughter to achieve their longings while there's still time. At ages 33 and 63 we must get on with it. Enough about that. dkm
Mak, Sarah, Nick, Thad, Oct 2011

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

New Kid on the Block

What an elegant thing it is
to have a goat named in one's honor.
Meet Kauffman's Debby's Retreat. 
She's just four hours old, 
she smells like a new puppy, 
and she has a star on her Nubian forehead. 
Did I mention that she's named after me? 
Be still my heart. 

I was visiting my brother's goat farm 
in Talladega, Alabama 
on a five day writing retreat. 
How thrilling when they said
if Mama Brandy gave birth while I was there
they would name her kid for the occasion. 
She did, they did, 
and I am honored beyond measure. 
Precious, warm, and sweet-smelling.
She fell asleep in my arms.
But OMG, I'm going for new glasses tomorrow!
Honest, I'm not that ugly or old.
We had hoped to witness the sacred moment of birth, 
but Brandy surprised us by presenting her beautiful little girl, 
already birthed and licked clean
by the time we got to her stall, 
the second day of the retreat. 

Brandy is not your average goat. 
She's a certified purebred Nubian
with long ears and high pedigree, 
as are all her barn mates.  
They have hoity-toity names,
 like race horses,
and they all have nicknames.

Brandy's registered name is
Laurel Oak Apricot Brandy.
Can't imagine how I came away without a photo of her.
She's the color of apricot, 
as beautiful as her chocolate brown baby.

Kauffman's Debby's Retreat
 is to be called Ri-ri.
I think her nickname is as cute as her ears.
My sister-in-law, Sandy, with Ri-ri
Ri-ri's daddy (or sire) is 
Goldthwaite Kentucky Wonder,
called Tuck. 

These photos of Jim and Ri-ri make me cry.

Who knew my baby brother would grow up to be a goat farmer?
More about Peace in the Valley Farm next post.  dkm

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Loblolly Toothbrush?

Him again!
Came back to deck in search of more carpenter bee larvae. 
Found previous damage repaired with wood filler, but not yet repainted.
Not even dried yet. 
Tried it. 
Still soft.  
Stuck to beak.
Back to bark of pinetree. 
Cleaning his beak or finding more insects?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Stoking Up

I didn't  need the radio earlier this week to warn me of the coming rain from tropical storm Beryl. The birds came in droves to the feeder that morning, as they always do before a storm, but they seemed more intense this time.  Somehow they knew they may be holed up for awhile and needed to fatten for the siege.  I could almost see the seeds moving down the feeder tube—in the same way the hands of a clock move.  Nearly every feathered species we have here came in groups.

One bright breasted robin even came to stoke up. I have never seen a robin at the feeder, ever. He didn't actually light on the feeder bar, but took advantage of the seed chaff beneath it. A first.

The tiny brown-headed nuthatches got away with a bit of arrogance because they're so darn cute. Not easily intimidated, they chatted away on the deck rail, waiting while I refilled the feeder. "Hurry it up, woman," they might as well have said. "Can't you see there's a storm coming?" They sound a bit like the squeak of a baby's squeeze toy. Whee-hee. Whee-hee.
Brown-headed nuthatch
Taken today, through the window, not on the day of the supposed rain. 

So when the clouds rolled in, I expected torrential rain, and looked forward to a reprieve from watering the flower beds. The sky turned dark, the air heavy. But the rain never came. It spritzed a bit, making dark spots on the deck floor and nothing more.

If it's going to be another hot summer of drought, I fear for the hydrangeas who are already on their last legs from the past two summers.

And the blueberries, which are just beginning to ripen.  They're usually finished before the high heat of summer arrives.

Low 90sF/30sC today. And it's only May. dkm

Sorry, flowers. You're only getting coffee this summer.