About Me

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Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Barn Charm - Farmland Scenes from Southern Sweden

Being a new participant in Barn Charm--and not having a chance to get out looking for barn photo ops lately--I've resorted to trolling through travel photos. This week I'm sharing farm scenes from one perfect day driving through southern Sweden last September. Most of these photos were taken through a tour bus window so you may see the occasional shadow, but the day was so clear it was hard to go wrong. Just for a bit of orientation, we left Stockholm early in the morning, traveling south toward Malmo where we crossed to Denmark on the Oresund Bridge-Tunnel:
Here you see a closeup of the red barns of southern Sweden. This red paint has been used in Sweden since the 17th century. At that time not many people had houses built of brick so this red paint was used to imitate brick. It is called "Falu red" because the paint is made from the tailings (refuse) from the copper mines of Falun--iron oxide, copper, zinc--combined with water, rye flour(yes!), linseed oil. And in earlier time ox blood was also used so you can see its agricultural origins:
This farm, and many others, was on one of Sweden's largest southern lakes, Lake Vattern. In this photo you see brilliant layers: the sky, clouds, distant islands, water, dark tree line, crops being harvested, grasses. It reminds me of a delicious pastry or veggie napoleon with layer after layer of wonderful things to eat--only this was a feast for the eyes:
Here you have a grain field ready to be harvested:
Even before we reached Lake Vattern in the afternoon, scenes of the countryside and farms were just magical. Huge clouds hovered in a brilliant blue sky and I was struck by the different colors of the soil in the plowed fields from grey, to pale gold, to rich red. Notice that all the barns and out buildings were Falu red:
Here you see Swedish farmers very smartly taking advantage of wind energy:
And finally, a closeup of a barn in a small village. Look closely in some of these photos and you can see that the barns were accented with white paint--designs or just along the roof lines. Don't know the purpose for that:

So, I hope I haven't totally over-estimated your interest in Swedish farmland photos. It was hard to show any restraint in my selections because each scene was so different.

 If you'd like to participate in the Barn Charm meme, click here: Bluff Area Daily

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Friday Fences - for Chet

About a month ago I adopted this handsome three month old boy. His name is Chet and while he's in danger of being over-exposed on Facebook I haven't let him have much time in the blogosphere. This past month has been hectic but a lot of fun--and Chet's fences have figured into our routines. At night--and when he needs a time out for biting--Chet sleeps in his cage. I cover it up like a giant tea cozy or bird cage to encourage him to sleep a little later in the morning. But by 6:30a he's hollering for breakfast and a trip out to the newspaper box for the local gossip:
Here he is dog-tired in his cage recovering from an afternoon of social calls. We drove around meeting all his aunts and uncle. As you can see, being charming was pretty exhausting:
Following his older brother Willie's example, Chet spends a lot of time peering through the baby gate across the front door. He doesn't mind Nemesis Cat that stalks through the yard, but is quite fascinated by birds in the trees by the house:
I hesitate to show you this photo because you'll recommend that I get busy with the weedeater. However! Here's Chet meeting the big neighbor dogs through the back fence. He was fostered with three grown German shepherds so they shouldn't intimidate him:
However, one must have "woofed" him or he's inviting them to play "run the fence":
And, as always, for more fences of all varieties be sure to check out the Friday Fence players at Janis' website: Life According to Jan and Jer .

Monday, May 21, 2012

Barn Charm - Tovah's Toy Barn

Here's another barn from a 1990s garden tour of New England. Last week I shared a huge barn/greenhouse/garden just outside Sturbridge, Massachuttes. This week we've moving on to Danielson, Connecticut for a look at Tovah Martin's "toy" farm. If you are a serious gardener, especially in the New England area, you may be familiar with the writings of horticulturalist and plants woman Tovah Martin. She has written many books on gardening, columns for gardening magazines and has a gardening blog. She also worked at two great gardening institutions: Logee's Nursery in Danielson and White Flower Farm in Leitchfield, CT. Their catalogs are my favorites for garden plants. On the day we visited Tovah's garden we walked up this graveled driveway. All around the yard and barn plants grew in wild abandon. This property was about seven acres and Tovah does all the work. She is a dedicated organic gardener.

Here's Tovah in her front yard garden in her 1950s print shirtwaists and lace up boots. You can see why "small" would appeal to her:

Here's a better view of the house--notice no curtains and the weed sickle mounted on wall by the door:

In this photo you can see that the barn is joined to the house by a greenhouse passage where many houseplants were thriving:

Finally, as a special treat, Tovah demonstrated a large variety of floral arrangements--all loose and casual and made up from unexpected plants from her garden:

If you are wild about gardening and plants, you may enjoy spending time trolling these two websites: Logee's Nursery  and  White Flower Farm .

If you'd like to participate in the Barn Charm meme, click here: Bluff Area Daily

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Friday Fences - New England Stone Walls and Critters

In Monday's Barn Charm meme I shared a barn and garden near Sturbridge, Massachusetts with a promise of more to come for Friday Fences. Well, here's the rest of the story. This hand-stacked stone wall was on the edges of the garden. I'm sure that these walls were made entirely from stones dug out of the fields so farmers could plant. I believe that the ground cover in the foreground of this photo was lily of the valley--just not blooming when we were there. Here's a long view of the stone wall with a couple of little outbuildings that were scattered through the garden in addition to the imposing barn (see previous post):

And then here's the surprise. When I looked over the wall, these guys were hanging out in their own fenced in shed. Now these critters are quite common here in Kentucky, but in the 90s I had not seen much of them. FYI, they're llamas, not alpacas. You can tell by their banana shaped ears and larger tails.

This llama "king" is taking a common pose up on this rock on alert. I believe that some farmers use them to guard livestock because they can be quite fierce and territorial:

And now for more Friday Fence stories and photos--and perhaps the odd critter--be sure to check out Janis' link at Life According to Jan and Jer .

Monday, May 14, 2012

Barn Charm - Flowery New England

Ran across these great barn photos from a garden tour of New England in the 1990s and decided to participate in the Barn Charm meme for the first time. This working farm (I'll wait until later in the week to reveal what they grew in addition to amazing flower gardens) was outside Sturbridge, Massachusetts. The tour was in late May, early June. We visited this farm early in the day and just ignored the rain. As you can see, the rain just improved the color of the barn:
Another view--note the bowed double doors and viney window boxes:
A side view with wonderful New England flat stones used as steps:
Another view of the barn across one of the many gardens that surrounded a white two-story frame farmhouse:
One of many beautifully composed containers. It was the first time I saw mostly different colored foliage with very little blooms growing in containers. For years, I took a lot of pleasure out of designing container gardens, each year a different theme after going on this garden tour:
If you'd like to participate in the Barn Charm meme, click here: Bluff Area Daily

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Teaser Tuesday - Murder in Stockholm

This is the Golden Room of City Hall in Stockholm, Sweden.  Liza Marklund's latest crime fiction, Last Will, opens in this glittering hall with the annual awards ceremony for the Nobel Prize.  The main character, reporter Annika Bengtzon, witnesses the point blank assassination of the Secretary of the Nobel Prize Committee on the dance floor.  In fact, Annika stares into the chilling yellow eyes of the killer just minutes before she murders the Secretary.

Annika is immediately detained by the police as a chief witness and compelled to help the police develop a description of the killer and the events leading up to the attack.  Because of the potential negative impact of information getting out, the police issue a gag order on the reporter.  It couldn't have happened at a worse time for her at the newspaper where she works.  She is not in great favor with her editor and management because she wrote an expose of the family who owned the Evening Post.  Her editor uses the gag order as an excuse to sideline Annika for a couple of months.

Meanwhile, at home Annika's marriage is falling apart.  She does the only thing she knows how--goes after the story on her own.  She soon finds herself in the middle of a story of terror and death that leads back to Alfred Nobel, the Swedish industrialist who was responsible for establishing the Nobel Prizes, so coveted that people are willing to kill for the honor of being a recipient.  Will Annika be able to use her work and love of her two small children to suppress her own demons?

"No angels, she managed to think, thank god the angels are keeping quiet" p. 12
(Meet Chet, my 3 month old puppy.  He's going to be a good reading companion.)

In September 2011 I participated in a great tour of Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, prompted, in part, by my love for dark Swedish crime fiction.  Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson, Camilla Lackberg, Jo Nesbo, Anne Holt and now Liza Marklund to name a few.  Here are a few photos that are the scene for the murders in Last Will:

The Golden Room above is in City Hall which is on Lake Malaren.  I took this photo from my hotel window.  Lake Malaren was a possible escape route for the killer.
The killer stood outside City Hall in the courtyard, smoking a cigarette and waiting for the target to get in place:
This is the Blue Room just inside the courtyard. Annika and other ceremony attendees was dancing here when the killer struck. Making her escape from the Blue Room, she actually stepped on Annika's foot, leaving a boot heel imprint.

Teaser Tuesday is described by its host, Miz B over at Should Be Reading ,as a "weekly bookish meme" open to any reader who wants to play along. If, like me, you're always curious about what people are reading or on the lookout for the next great read, then this may by your meme. To play, just click on Miz B's link above for the simple rules.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Friday Fences - Lydia Wells' Wrought Iron and Estate Auction

Here I am again, folks--using Friday Fences for more than one purpose. Last week it was to introduce Chet the puppy (he's doing great--got his first nail clipping this afternoon and not a minute too soon!)and now this week I'm sharing the wrought iron fence around the home of my late friend, Lydia Wells. If you read my blog you may have seen the post that I wrote about her untimely death the end of January and our 30 year friendship. So, first the fence and then some business! Lydia Wells' home is in Frankfort, Kentucky. She bought it for its beautiful yard and landscaping. We all loved this ornate wrought iron fence around the back yard:
Over the years Lydia Wells improved the landscaping with dramatic tree plantings; shrub and flower borders--a place where all wild creatures were welcome--birds, squirrels, raccoons, possums, and the odd neighbor cat. Here a newly leafed Japanese maple sparkles in the sun:
And, of course, since it's Derby weekend in Kentucky must share this great horse head lamp post along the front sidewalk:
And here are a couple of views of the backyard with their sweeping flower and shrub borders. The sweet little reading boy is tucked in among the iris:
And now to the business! Lydia Wells entrusted the settlement of her estate to a friend of over 30 years with help from another friend and me. We call ourselves the Three Amigos and have worked since January--with additional help from many others--to carry out Lydia Wells' wishes regarding her estate. We are now to the point of holding an estate auction on May 15 in Louisville, Kentucky to sell her beautiful antique furniture, paintings, crystal, silver, and other objects d'art. You can view much of her estate pieces by clicking on Hays and Associates Auctions . Scroll down the page to "Antique Auction" and click on the Tuesday, May 15 date to see everything. In addition, our friend had a fabulous collection of fine and costume jewelry--gold, sterling silver,vintage pieces, and a collection of over 500(yes!)butterfly pins. We've set up a shutterfly account so you can zip though almost a 100 jewelry photos in no time. From the shutterfly homepage just click on the 3 categories: Butterfly Pins, Horses, and Fine/Vintage Jewelry. If you enjoy jewelry it will be a treat to just see all the unusual pieces she has. Go here for the tour: Lydia Wells Jewelry . Finally, you don't have to be present to bid--just contact the auction company if you need a sugar chest or a butterfly pin! Lydia Wells selected three charities to receive proceeds from this estate auction: Best Friends Animal Society, Habitat for Humanity, and The Nature Conservancy.  So you can see why we hope to do well with this auction. Now for some straightforward fence stories be sure to check out all the Friday Fence players at Janis' link .

(Note: I'm having trouble with new Blogger post formatting. Tonight couldn't get some photos to upload. If you like antiques and jewelry, be sure to take a quick tour of the auction and shutterfly links.)