Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Fall Morning on Groundhog Mountain

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

This is the path I made on our side yard. The rocks I carried a few at a time from around the woods. The bench from the rhododendron brush that was cut when I moved in. Saw, hammer, nails..."Gonna build a bench"
(questioning look from SWMBO). Next year hope to get a stream and pond beyond the bench. Its been started but tough digging what with roots and rocks. The wildlife will appreciate the water. The oak stump was left by God as a place to put a bird feeder.

I took this picture as I was leaving for Galax. Galax (pronounced like Exlax) was named for the mountain plant and when these were in vogue for floral arrangements did a thriving business. It bills itself as the "Mountain Music Capitol of the World". And it is. Last August was the 79th annual Fiddelers Convention. It may of been 75th. In any case they've been fiddelin' in Galax for a while. It's not just for fiddelers, there's all sorts of pickers as well as groups. It's where Mountain Music meets American Idol.

Notice no carrying on about SWMBO being gone. I visited Capt. B in Iraq. Now here's a guy in the thick of it, a Marine separated from his worried family for who knows how long.
However you feel about the war Capt. B will give you new insight. Well anyway, considering his situation and mine, I'll take mine, thanks to him and those like him.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Dark Days, Indeed

Twas a bleak day on Groundhog Mountain. The bleakest day of the bleakest month of the best year. Rain started yesterday as J.B., Howie, the Coach and Terry Bradshaw began talking about the Bucs and Bears.
Then the clouds rolled in and Gillian had nothing to do with it. It was Sunday and the love of my life was leaving for Richmond (sounds like an evil Shakespearian character). You see where this is going. If your not up to maudlin sentimentality and a grown man whinning skip on over to "Banes Rant".http:// Oops, he's whining too but more colorfully.

That's our parking pad above. And missing, the Toyota and The Wife. She's off after child proofing the house. Anything I could have made a mess with has been removed. The laundry has been done so I have no excuse to recycle socks. "He won't starve, he cooks, but you know he can't cleanup". Now you know also we have no children, only Fisal, the attack cat. If a woman has no children she must mother her husband. It's in the wives manual. She worries about my being alone for a six days (SIX DAYS!). She knows I'll get into "some kind of trouble". I probably will even though I won't realize it.

I will have enough to do to keep me off the streets and out of trouble. I am going to use the time to find a job. We've been looking and if you've been following along you'll know SWAMBO found one and has gone to Richmond for training. I am still waiting for call backs, "mountain time" call backs! Galax employment office is going to be tired of my face.

"You will have your football", she said just before she went out the door. Yesterdays games were just what I needed to buck me up...NOT! Now I know my friend Rob, in Chicago, who has seasons tickets to Soldier Field was happy. I was not. What with the Bucs losing even though the Panthers won it hurt Tampa. I have to be a Panthers fan because it's their games they broadcast in this area. Since they are now leading their division I feel kinda like Paul Newman in "Road to Perdition" when he looks at Tom Hanks who is about to fill him full of lead and says, "I'm glad it's you".

Will I miss her? I now some idea of what a mother feels like, sending their child for the first day of school. I did tell her she should take the job and all it entails. But believe me a lot of prayer went into that decision. Besides it will do her good to be more independent. Yes, I'll miss her, I'll have no one to tell me to wash my hands.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


Well. the relatives left to go back to Baltimore a few moments ago. When we were just visiting in this area I would hate the trip back. There was the initial shock of turning onto I-83 and realizing:
1. I was leaving the mountains
2. It is 200 long miles to Winchester (it's posted as soon a one turns onto the interstate).
3. After Winchester it's a long drive to Baltimore and I would have to put up with Maryland drivers for much of that leg.
4. The Beltway
5. Streets in Baltimore are designed to take the shocks out of any car.
6. I probably won't be able to find a parking space in front of the house.
We really didn't like going back.

(Cue happy memory music)
Flashback to Thanksgiving day:

(Closeup of food in the oven and on stovetop merrily simmering away.) (Pan to talent holding glass of wine, Craig Claiborne fashion)

You know those red and green plaid placemats, napkins, etc with the gold highlites; very festive and holiday looking linen (well actually they're wool or maybe polyester). I like them also because the pattern is similar to the MacBeane tartan. I used the naps as an underliner for a gold colored satin placemat. A Thanksgiving looking piece of ribbon across the table center and I had the table covered.

My mother, selling silverware for a department store in the late forties purchased this flatware called "Dirilyte". Mom gave each her children a set of flatware, my sisters got the silver, I got the "Dirilyte". It's a gold (colored) alloy that spots, tarnishes and is just generally a pain to use because it has to be IMMEDIATELY washed and as I found out sauerkraut will discolor it. But it looks good with the Masons Vista pattern stoneware.

Masons produced the first Ironstone china back around 1810. Vista is that pattern using red transfers of oak leaves and such around the border and different scenes of the Kings Pavilion at Brighton in the center. It turns up ever now and then in the background on sit-coms and the like. Lou H. gave it to me on the occasion of my second marriage. It's one of the few things I salvaged at the divorce.

Talked about the missing Queensware in post called "Thanksgiving". The generic wine glass worked.

The table looked quite festive, thanks to Mom and dear departed Lou, as the four of us sat down to dinner at 6:30. We ate like gluttons and then settled back to watch the HBO series "Rome". I see a connection here.

The relatives had taped the show for us since we don't get anything but antenna. Next chore for them is to tape "Deadwood" when it comes back. "Rome" was a good watch. "I, Claudius" is one of our favorites and "Rome" picks up where Claw..Claww......Claudius leaves off. One thing I don't understand is why all these Romans speak with a British accent. Shouldn't it be at least, Italian?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Get Set...

Up at around 10 AM yesterday, Thanksgiving. Usually I'm up by 7:30, o.k. eight. Now I feel sleeping too late is downright slothful. I guess it's from my grandmother Mast coming in the bedroom, throwing open a window encouraging the cold morning air and singing:

"lazy bones, lazy bones,
sleeping in the sun,
How you gonna get
your days work done".

I guess it took because my single thought yesterday AM was: "Screw all this food I've got to cook. I'm thinkin' Arby's". Nice thought but the reality of the situation was my putting the turkey into the microwave to defrost. Auto defrost is the second most important scientific breakthrough of the last century. I'm sure there must be something more important, like maybe, putting twist on caps on wine bottles other then MD20/20 and Boones Farm.

The Turkey: Butterball breast (no wings or legs) came with a gravy package and cooked beautifully following instructions included. The gravy package worked fine with the addition of some pink wine (twist off cap) I had purchased and no one drank and some cornstarch.

The Green Beans: My grandmothers (see above) Mennonite recipe. Green beans, onion, vinegar and bacon. Cook the bejesus out of them on low heat.

The Greens: Canned, "Glory". Add ham hock, onion, garlic, Cajun (BAM) seasoning, and cook as above.

Sauerkraut: Some kind of canned the crew got when they went to "the market". Now, I learned about this stuff from Mrs. Hinkelmann. She was Austrian and was a regular rider back in my taxi driving days. She said, "white wine, brown sugar and fruit". My choice of fruit this day was some dried apples and some dried mangos. Also added the same stuff as in the green beans and that's right, cook as above.

A note on mangos. I'm glad they were finally "discovered". I'll never forget the sweet taste of the "pineapple mangos" we would pick off the neighbors tree when I was a kid. The sticky hands and arms (the juice ran)
that would be cleaned in the clear water of Boca Ciega Bay. Kids now day's just don't know what they've missed.

Glazed carrots: nuf said. I add rum.

The Martha Stewart sweet potato recipe I almost remembered: Bake until tender, scrape out the insides and mash with sour cream, butter, cinnamon, brown sugar (what would Thanksgiving be without brown sugar)
and return mixture to skins. Cook as above.

Ham: coat top with honey and Dijon mustard. You got it, cook as above.

Now the stuffing, now that was special. Most of my recipes start the same way; saute' onions and lots of garlic.
For those of you not having Corrugated-cap Milky's (Lactarius corrugis)
growing in your yard, I guess any kind of mushroom will do.
And chorizo, you know that plastic wrapped Mexican sausage. When all this looks yummy add the boxed stuffing mix per directions and you know the rest by know.

So it all came out together promptly at 6:30 PM. Reviews thus far have been good.

Get Ready...

It's the day after and all are quieting the "munchies" with copious quantities of left overs. It was an interesting diner to put together considering the sum of menu planning before Wednesday was sweet potatoes and a ham we got on sale at Wal-mart (Would you believe, Wal-mart). I never thought it would come to such a sad state.

On our way back from the second trip (oh, how we hate to go to the cities) to Roanoke with "papers" for SWAMBO's new job we (the visiting Sister and her husband who I insisted go along even if their most favorite thing is sitting on the deck watching birds but I needed support) decided to stop in Floyd and continue the menu planning at "Slaughters", the local food store. There's a Food Lion in Floyd but I don't go there since the day they put the pork chops in the bag with the sugar and tissue, both of which had to be discarded because of the leaked blood. There, take that, Food lion!

Coming through the snow storm in Christiansburg and following the log truck slowly down route 8 to Floyd had built an appetite. I learned a long time ago, never go to the grocery on an empty stomach so we stopped to see Rob at Oddfellas, good food and conversation with Rob the owner. And yes, Rob, I did quit pimping in Mt. Airey. Anyway our family conference did produce a consensus, green beans, sauerkraut, greens, stuffing, turkey, an all important cranberry sauce and the already mentioned ham and sweet potatoes. Then there's the two pies but in fairness the pecan only has to thaw. But still, take it out of the freezer, put it in the fridge.... Oh, great, lot's of food to prepare! Anyone for KFC? It's a good thing I enjoy cooking.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Well, the Turkey (store bought, a note about the wild turkeys later) is in the oven, as are the sweet potatoes or maybe they're yams. I can never tell the difference.

It's a beautiful day on Groundhog Mountain. High sixties, sunny, clear. Quite a change from the snowstorm we encountered coming back from Roanake yesterday. That's right, had to go there again. More on that later, also.

Still have the stuffing, greens and sauerkraut to make, easy stuff. Pots and a few herbs, onion, a few other things that might be laying around the fridge, some heat and I'm done. You remember, "I cook, she cleans". I really try to be a neat cook but I'm never neat enough.

Think the locals who helped us move from Baltimore made off with the box marked "Queensware" . It may be behind some boxes. Everyone knows the joy of finding things after a move. I guess the generic wine glasses will have to do.

Atlanta's beating up on the Lions. Not a particularly bad thing.

The relatives and SWAMBO have gone to Felica's to pick up some last minute items, like sauerkraut and onions. Can't remember everything. Felica's is in Meadows of Dan and is really "Poor Farmers Market" but everyone calls it Felica's. The market across route 58 from Felica's and is really "Meadows of Dan Food Store" is known locally as "the market".

Smell the sweet potatoes and they're ready to stuff. Martha (who else could use jail as a career move?) had a recipe on the "Today" show for stuffing them that I'm going to try. Tries to pull it up on the "Today" site but couldn't find it. Guess I'll have to wing it. I do remember something about sour cream and butter. Seems like an excellent starting point.

So, Happy Thanksgiving . My only wish is that God gives you all the blessing he's managed to shake my way.

I'll leave you this prayer my step-grandfather offered once at Thanksgiving dinner, "Jesus, what a meal"
Did I ever mention I've instructed my wife to have "Jesus Is Just All Right With Me" by the Doobies at my funeral ?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Off to the Big City

SWAMBO and I went to Roanoke yesterday so she could interview for a job. It was the last of three and they wanted the spouses along. Went well, they offered, she accepted and it was time to fill out all the paperwork. If what they say is true there's potential advancement and a very good income. (Huzzah, Huzzah!!!!!) We'll see. Anyway she's scheduled for a weeks training in Richmond to get her state license, next week,
no spouses allowed!

Oh yeah, the picture? Well, we took the Pathfinder as snow was predicted and ... Oh yeah, the glass? It's by an artist in Check, fragmentsfromfloyd (See Saturdays Jots) named Tim who's fantastic. I'm digressing because the next part of this narrative is too painful to even consider.

You must understand my wife and I will be spending nights apart for the first time since we married five years ago. Not counting the nights I slept on the couch. Neither she or I are happy with either of the above. That's not the worst of it, the following week she's off to Raleigh for a week and a half. Same scenario. I never told you but we have arguments over who loves each other more. "joined at the hip", "inseparable", when the minister counseled us before our wedding he said, "the Bible says 'bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh'. We take it literaly. I wish the same for any couple. I mean we've been together on our mountain day and night for the last five months and don't want to change a thing. But as Gibran puts it "Work is love made visible".

I remember when I was retired and she was working and I was spending my days with Comcast and our cat, Fisal. (Fisal's complete bio can be found "The Cat" ). I could hardly wait to go back to work. At least then we had cable. (We still have "The Cat")

She keeps reminding me, "I'll not be there to keep my eye on you, you'll get into all kinds of trouble". I probably will and as usual, not even knowing I'm doing it. My only hope for salvation is that the Country Club calls and offers me a job there. They're working on "mountain time".

We'll get by, maybe it's a sacrifice so something good will happen, maybe it's some sort of test from God (they did call to talk to her just as we got home from church).

Anyway we got home to find my wife's sister and her husband who have come down from Baltimore for our annual Thanksgiving. We've seen more of them now then when we lived half mile away from each other and that's good. They, too, have fallen in love with this area and come as often as they can and that's good.

I made spaghetti for dinner. We have a deal, I cook and SWAMBO cleans up. I seems I don't do a good enough job on the later. I try, I really do. We sat around and watched "Ghost World", a wonderful movie with Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson and (our favorite) Steve Buscemi, probably drank too much wine and put a very happy ending to a very happy day. Didn't relish the 120 mile trip to Roanoke but as we say around here, getting there is as enjoyable to being there.

Saw wild turkey on the way home, you'd think they'd be hiding out this time of year. Also a deer that thought it owned the Parkway, the nerve!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

A'Blogging We Will Go, A'Blogging We Will Go......

For those of you who have read my blog before you may notice some changes in the format. That's because a nice lady named Sheryl at took the time out of what I assume is a rather busy schedule to make me this spiffy banner. I know she's busy because she has a husband and if that's not enough, three kids. I'm not special, she does this for other people who like myself have not mastered the intricacies of HTML You can tell I'm a novice from way the link to her site is listed above.

But I'm learning this strange language slowly but surely thanks to that little tab on another window that says
" Template" . It's really great, I can totally mess up my blogsite by changing all those little things on the keyboard you have to push the shift key to get then go to the button that say "clear edits" and it all fixed. I wish all fixes were that easy. Another help I found is:
This site will explain what all those symbols do. It's really amazing!

I meet the nicest people through blogging. What is great fun is to go to the comments on someone's blog and then surf the commenters. The links listed in the side bar, or whatever that thing is called, are fun also. Some of these blogs have the most interesting names and some of them are very good. I almost feel like an intruder when I read some of the blogs by mothers and single women but it gives a wonderful insight into their world. Eavesdropping on the "girl talk" so to speak. "Honest ladies, I ain't droppin' no eves". And all the good blogs have links to many other good ones (notice at this point I only list three). There are others I like but as I said before, I'm just catching in to this HLMT stuff.

I read on one blog last night that AARP is doing an article on bloggers over 50. When they do one on bloggers over 60, let me know. That's the other thing, bloggers come in all types. People are so interesting and their take on the world even more so. Were I in politics I'd have my staff spend a large part of their time reading assorted blogs. This is where you find out what people are really thinking.

It's somewhat distressing that some network news organizations now have blogs. I'm sure other corporate entities do also. But those, although valid, don't reflect "the people" and "the people" are the heart of blogging.
Wherever I go on my little adventures following links, it seems I run into the same individuals. My community I visit on a daily basis. And every day I discover another person who genuinely has something to say.

Yes, there are probably eighty cajillion bloggers out there and that's great. I'll never run out of insights or opinions to get me looking at things in a little different way.

And oh, the absolute thrill of finding a comment on my blog! Someone actually read what I have to say and that make these late night dates totally worthwhile. So thank you all, fellow bloggers and "keep those cards and letters coming in".

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Mountain Lesson #2 My Aching Butt

You may have missed Mountain Lesson #1 because I've said nothing about it.

Mountain Lesson #1: Don't drive too close to the neighbors mailbox when getting your mail. Resulting scratches may appear on the hood of the SUV.
Mountain Lesson #1a: Always listen to She Who Must Be Obeyed.

Mountain Lesson #2: Don't step on sloping, wet rocks.
Mountain Lesson #2a: Always listen to SWMBO.

I have been seaching for our digital camera ever since our move. I found it. No more forty four mile drive and twelve dollars at Walmart to help mess up the trade balance. Sorry folks, but until we find jobs its gotta be Walmart. No more putting up with all that stuff the put on the CD's to try to get one to order the pics that can be printed just as well, if not better, from the computer.

Now our digital camera is not the best. I think it's about a .05 megapixel with a memory card of about 6 megabytes. Well, maybe it's more. It takes pictures: good, better and best. I like best but I only get eight shots in that setting.

Today's weather was dramatic. Clouds rolling up the mountain, lots of intermittent rain, wind, and generally overcast. What a day to get some good shots! As I was preparing to leave the house, SWMBO said, "Its really nasty out. If you go, please be very careful." (see #1a and #2a above) Camera in hand, off I went.

I had used up my eight shots when coming back down the road I spotted some clouds sending narrow, wispy fingers down into the valley. Oh my gosh, what a picture. I knew immediately what I had to do, delete one picture. Now remember it's been some time since I used the camera and by the time I had the job done the clouds had moved farther down the valley. O.K. run down the road to the first house which is and has been vacant for a while, use their deck overlooking the valley to get the picture. Everything is fine up to this point.

Going down the driveway, much the safer route as I was to find out, was longer so I decided to take a set of stone steps. Not a good idea!

So they were wet. In my career in food and beverage I had navigated many a soapy wet floor or one covered with restaurant grease with no problem. It's all in the way one steps, robot like, putting all ones weight on one foot and then doing the same with the other. I had done it successfully hundreds of times but never on wet rock. I put my left foot on the rock and my weight on the foot which immediately slid out from under me and I was faaaaalling! I discovered if you do this left foot you will land hard, on rock with your left butt cheek. As I got up finding myself with no serious injury I thought, "This is really going to hurt tomorrow."

Now it was back to the house where at best I was going to have a very sore butt and at worst a long lecture from SWMBO about how I should listen to her. (see #1a and #2a above). Yes, it's about the color, size and firmness of a bikers wallet on payday. It's really going to hurt tomorrow!

I sincerely hope you enjoy the above picture. By the time I recovered my dignity the one I wanted got away and this is the best I could do under the circumstances. It wasn't a complete waste as I learned Mountain Lesson #2. Lessons #1a and #2a?
I'm still working on those.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Life in the Clouds

I knew it was going to be this kind of day before I opened my eyes this morning. There's a sporadic sound of rain on our metal roof created by wind blowing through the now bare tree limbs. Groundhog, maybe Ground"fog" Mountain has it's share of these days.

It can be disconcerting when trying to find ones way home using the center line in the road as the only navigation tool. What gets real exciting is the gravel road with no center line leading to our house, mountain on one side and steep drop on the other. That's the down side (no pun intended).

There's a kind of fantastic beauty to these days. It's like living in Lochlorian with the wood elves, high above a world gone somewhat mad. It's not fog, it's our castle in the clouds.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

And Now For Something Completely Different.

There is in this area of the world a natural beauty that has to be experienced. Part of our joy is when visiting friends and family, who we have told of the beauty, pull into the driveway and before getting out of the car sit for long minutes realizing they never imagined what we were talking about. But there is more to these mountains than the natural wonder. We have been transported to a completely different existence.

It's the people. Diversity with a capitol "D". Not the ethnic diversity which springs to mind, but rather an individual, a "this is who I am" diversity. As with the beauty, the people of the area must be known to be fully appreciated. Whether it's the thirty dollar a visit medical doctor down the road (doesn't take insurance) or the ex-hippy establishment (now there's and oxymoron) in Floyd or the executive officer from the largest sock company in the world or the farm family whose people have been here for generations or the furniture designer who gave it all up to open an art gallery or "Granny" whose pet groundhog "Boomerang" was eaten by the dogs belonging to the nice lady next door or the orthopedic surgeon who purchased over fifty acres and dedicated it as a common nature trail for everyones use, there is a commonality.

We got lost (on purpose) coming back from Radford the other day. When we stopped at a little store in Snowville and I asked, "Where am I?" the answer was "In the best place on earth." I, without thinking replied, "No, I live in the best place on earth, Groundhog Mountain." And that's what we all have in common; here we all live in the best place on earth. Not the most convenient, six miles to the nearest store, twenty five to any serious shopping, not many jobs and those available low paying, but the roads are good and the air is sweet and the scenery indescribable and the people, the people are.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


Imagine Unicorns and other mythical creatures.... Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Ethical Government? That's What I'm Talkin' About!

Yikes! George is sending his cronies to ethics training. Now that's scary! What this seems to be is an another attempt to dupe us into thinking he's doing something, at least something positive. It was deTocquville who noted the two most corrupt professions in America were politics and journalism. Now we are supposed to think that George is going to change that with a course in ethics. I don't think so!

I have visions of these wooden men stifling yawns as the sit around a table attempting to have a dialogue on
Aristotles "Politics". Nap time at the White House. "you mean Aristotle isn't Onasis?" "Skinner, Skinner, he's our man!"

"Ethics" is not always ethical. It comes in many shapes and forms. We would like to think of ethics as the study of an objective moral system. But "objective" has been relegated to the delete file. Words now mean what we want them to mean. Politicians have made a study of redefining.

What is so frightening about W's ethics course is that the syllabus will more than likely be devoted to the theory of how not to get caught. Given the intellectual prowess of our present government I really don't think they will even catch on to that concept. Ever since Hobbes (not to be confused with "Calvin and Hobbs") pointed out that perception was more important than character politicians have been working on image. I don't think a course in ethics is going to change almost four hundred years of political philosophy.

Someone once told me "There are two kinds of people in the world; the caught and the uncaught". I didn't and still don't agree but I'll bet my booties George does.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Our lives go by in images
on roads we walk or ride.
Thoughts of past or future fatally fill
disguising the beauty being of the now.