Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Armadillo and Kudzu

     Somehow I omitted mentioning in my story - two unusual living creatures I saw on my trip to Pennsylvania.

     First is the Armadillo, which means “little armored one“ in Spanish. The 9 -Banded Armadillo is the only representative of its family in the US. I used to think it was exclusively found in Texas, but its range is spreading, even found occasionally in southern Illinois.. They have a peculiar leathery skin or shell and the only ones I saw were road kill. These burrowing animals can walk fast but have poor eyesight. When they see a vehicle coming, their instinct is to leap 3 feet (almost a meter) straight up. Unfortunately, this is a poor survival skill on a modern highway.

    Next is a plant native to Southeast Asia that we call Kudzu, Pueraria montana. It was brought here for use in erosion control about 100 years ago, and advertised as a quick shade for those porches on sun-baked southern homes. Except this perennial semi-woody vine escaped cultivation and has quickly starved native trees and shrubs of sunlight, killing their hosts. It is also a major headache for utility companies. It climbs poles and twines along overhead wires. Measured at a growing rate of a foot day in optimum conditions, the vines with their big three-part leaves can cover anything in their path in short order: parked vehicles, tractors, shacks, sheds, barns, houses, etc.

(Photo by USDA, Georgia, USA)

      I observed it in masses along the Interstate highway. Sort of a green leafy nightmare that Alfred Hitchcock would dream up or Orson Welles would film, but it was real. The only livestock that has proven to successfully control it are herds of goats. It can be cut and baled for livestock, but it is prone to molding and the vines are difficult to modify hay equipment to handle. Just another example of clever humans trying to bend nature without seeing future negative consequences. Thankfully it is still a major problem only in the southeastern US, but as it continues to spread... we may have to give up cow milk and start drinking goat milk in the future.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Couple Views from June 25, 2012

 Black-Eyed Susan's at the West Virginia Welcome Center (Rest Area on Interstate 81.)

Driveway into the Scotland School for Veteran's Children, Scotland, PA. At one time a large residential school where my husband's mother lived.

Summer Trip to Eastern US

As home faded in the  rear-view mirror, the blazing sun rose on June 23. We were on our way east: husband, dog Keesha, and me. I drove non-stop that “day” for 36 hours, 1750 miles (2816 km) to Knoxville Tennessee.
    Driving I-10 east through southern Arizona and into New Mexico is familiar to me. One passes multiple cattle feed lots and dairies - which you can smell if you don’t happen to see them - before you reach El Paso. There one can easily see the International border and old Mexico.
    After 186 miles (300 km) I was able to speed up to 80 miles per hour (128 Km/h) on the Interstate in west Texas. (At home our max speed is 75 MPH, 120 km/h, on the Interstate.) 80 is really flying.
    Just east of Pecos, Texas I saw the first Pump Jacks. Motors operate these scattered oil well pumps. An I-beam set on an A-frame dips up and down, often with the "horse head" on the end painted in fanciful ways.
    Stopped for dinner at a Texas rest stop that had real grass! The area (after mile 665, km 1070) they named "Stink Creek" also had enormous grasshoppers.
    Hit the road again after enjoying my crab salad. Drove through Dallas around 11 PM- midnight and there was a few crazy drunk drivers on the Interstate. It was a Saturday night after all.
    Crossed into Louisiana at 1 AM and stopped at the "Welcome Center" to rest about an hour. Couldn't really sleep as the humidity was oppressive and the trees were full of singing tree frogs or bugs or something very loud.  1046 miles, 1683 km, from home. Never saw any of Louisiana in daylight. Husband took Keesha for a long walk around the expansive rest area. She had been slightly anxious for the first couple hours of the trip but eventually settled down and slept. We’d borrowed a nice metal kennel/cage to be her home in the back of our Toyota RAV4 and it worked marvelously. Since husband did none of the driving he graciously did most of the dog walking.
    Pre-dawn at 5 AM we crossed the mighty Mississippi River at Vicksburg. Stopped at the Mississippi Welcome Center to enjoy the views of the river and watch the daylight grow. Took a few photos but due to the early hour nothing was open. Weather was clear but incredibly humid. Had reached 1230 miles, 1980 km.
    Found the Vicksburg National Military Park a few miles away but the scenic and historic drive through the park was not yet open for the day. We did check out several massive cannons that were used in the US Civil War. Vicksburg was the victim of a terrible siege in 1863. Confederate forces surrendered to Union General - and future President - Grant on July 4, 1863 and was a key to the defeat of the rebellion.
    We stopped for breakfast in Clinton, MS (just west of Jackson, the capital of MS) at a Waffle House and I ate grits since I was in the deep south. It tasted, eh, okay, but not terrific.
    The cheapest gasoline of our trip was purchased in Meridian, MS, Knoxville TN and Steele, Alabama at $2.99 a gallon. Wow. A full tank for less than $30, what a deal! (It is about $40 for same today.)
    The Alabama rest areas were stunningly beautiful. Stately trees, shady wooded picnic areas, spectacular red, pink, and white flowering crepe myrtle shrubs. Too bad it was so darn humid!
    I-59 cuts through extreme northwest Georgia so we enjoyed only 21 miles, 33 km, of the Peach State.
    Then I drove by the Chattanooga Choo Choo and onto I-75 through eastern Tennessee, in the shadow of the Appalachian Mountains and passing exits to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
    With my co-pilot checking the "Discount Hotel Coupon" booklet, we managed to find a Super 8 in Knoxville that was pet friendly and had a free continental breakfast. Motels all seem to charge an extra $10 for a dog. My dog is clean and neat but we are penalized for less tidy pooches. What can you do? Arrived at 6 PM. Rather tired but went for dinner to Cracker Barrel where I had a disappointing dinner. But it was food.
    After a great breakfast, we left at 7 AM. We soon advanced onto I-81 which took us into Virginia, where we stayed for 325 miles, 523 km. Stopped for lunch in Lexington which is the home of Washington & Lee University, the Virginia Military Institute and the Virginia Horse Center. The last is a foundation dedicated to horse recreation, education, and preservation programs. They have dozens of riding arenas, barns with permanent stalls for 750 horses and camping facilities. Oh boy, I want to go back! We had a Thick Burger at the Lexington Hardee's  for only $4 and it was delicious. The Appalachian Ridge and Valley region of Virginia was beautiful. "Oh Shenandoah, I long to see you!" Great horse country.
    As the day was moving on, we crossed into West Virginia and enjoyed a jam-packed but beautifully landscaped Welcome Center. Took flower pictures, especially of nice Black-Eyed Susan's.
    After only 25 miles, 40 km, we left WV, crossed the mighty Potomac River, and passed by Hagerstown, Maryland. Suddenly, in 12 miles, 19 km,  we slipped into the Keystone State of Pennsylvania. This was the eleventh state since leaving home.
    About 20 miles, 32 km, onward, we stopped in Scotland, PA to explore the tranquil Scotland School for Veterans Children. This residential school was established in 1895 and husband's mother spent a few years there in the late nineteen-teens or early 1920‘s, but he had never seen it. No longer a school, it currently is owned by the state of PA but is being sold to a private religious organization of some type according to the security guard we met. He also blocked our ability to get closer to the solid brick cottages where the students lived but we did look through a few windows of classroom and original old administration buildings. Took many photos for him and his family.
    We were still over 150 miles, 240 km, from husband's brother's home and since we didn't want to arrive really late we hurried north again.
    A traffic choking accident ahead in Harrisburg caused me to divert my route up the west side of the Susquehanna River. Paused at McKees Half Falls on Rt 15 and 11, a small flower-strewn riverside rest area. The wide river rolling by. But most pleasant of all - the temperature was cool, the humidity much lower. So, so nice.
    Arrived at his brother's home in Litchfield PA at 9:30, Monday night June 25. It was nearly dark outside! Husband was shocked at how tall the spruce trees were in front of the house. I warned him that it would look different. Trees don't stop growing because we don't see them for years.
    Well, we were all 3 glad to arrive safe and sound. Total 2450 miles, 3942 km. The fun continued...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


The Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire has been 95% contained since the summer "Monsoon" season has rained on the massive burn. The main problem is not the fire per se, but the deep heat it generates. Unlike low-intensity burns, these massive fires kill all the seeds and micro-organisms in the soil. Time will tell what the ash run-off will do to my local river and the fish life therein ...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Leaving on Vacation

Occam and husband unit and dog leaving for 16 day trip to eastern US. Heading across southern states on eastward trip and crossing midwest states on westward trip. I love to drive!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

New Mexico Wildfire

The largest wildfire in New Mexico history is burning in Catron County, only 70 miles northeast of the Double Barrel Ranch. Today smoke has traveled on upper level winds and actually obscures Mt Graham. We can't smell any smoke, but we can certainly see it. The smoke plume has been visible in the NE horizon for 3 weeks. Pray for rain, the only thing that can stop this monster called the Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Poppies of Spring

March is a good month for exploring the intermediate desert areas of Arizona. We went on two day trips up the Gila River on gorgeous days. As usual I took lots of pictures. The poppies were blooming on all the hillsides blanketing their virtually treeless expanses with gold.
This view shows the western end of the Gila Box National Conservation Area. It is a Riparian area that is vital to wildlife of many types. The Gila River is in a canyon hidden from view at this angle but tall Cottonwood trees with their chartreuse leaves can be seen in the lower quarter of the picture. The trees are on the river bank.

Spring is wonderful here. Summer, eh, not so much. (I am not a heat lover...)

Path leading to the Gila River in the Gila Box, 2 March 2012.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Poster for "An Arizona Cowboy"

As seen on a building in
Trail Dust Town,
Tucson, Arizona.
Local color.
Ha ha!

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Colorful Christmas Culinary Creations

Salads I made for Christmas Eve dinner.

Pasta Salad

Potato Salad