30 August 2017



Today’s word is potager.

Potager is a French word, a lovely word, that references a utilitarian piece of backyard earth that we know as the kitchen garden.  Yet, a potager is not merely a plot of ground with vegetables, fruits and herbs.  It is a focal point, artful and beautiful.

Design matters in a potager.  Plants aren’t merely planted and watered, but cultivated and trained.  Espalier trees, vines on trellis, fruits and vegetables interspersed with showy ornamentals.  Beds laid out in symmetry.  Precise pathways.  Every planting thoughtfully considered and selected based on how its color, form, and height complements the bed.  It is a garden of intention.

When we purchased our house with the large, sparse backyard, I envisioned a kitchen garden.  Not the garden of my husband, mind you, with seeds plopped in the ground nothing considered beyond the care of the plants and the crop produced, but an ordered garden like those we saw in Europe.  A potager.  A place of respite, where as much joy is derived from surveying the scene, sitting quietly among the produce, as in consuming its bounty.

So we got to work, sketched our plans, selected the materials for the beds, green spaces and pathways, and oversaw the construction, which was completed on Monday.


While it doesn’t look like much now,  just some beds, paths and mulch, I hope to make a good deal of progress over the late fall and winter, when the time is right for planting fruit trees and berry bushes in the natural border.  By next spring I hope to have this garden well on it way to becoming a true potager, but for now I am simply happy to have the project started, and to have a wee garden in the grass.

If you have your own backyard garden project, or potager, I would love for you to share.

Happy gardening!

27 August 2017

I am a CBS Sunday Morning junkie!  I admit it.  It is one of the few shows that I record.  It is one of the few shows that I hate to miss.

I have watched Sunday Morning since I was a child.  And, perhaps, it is nostalgia, that keeps me tuning in, that keeps me recording.  But perhaps not.  This program, gentle and positive in its approach, with uplifting stories, elegant videography, and wholesome interviews keeps me informed about people, places, art and nature that I might otherwise miss.

From the opening strains of the introductory music to the last minute of peaceful reverie, I am hooked.  So it is not unusual that on this Sunday morning, with my blessed cup of coffee in hand, I was watching.  That was when I heard it.  The inventor of the SuperSoaker, the iconic squirt gun of the 1990s, Doctor Lonnie George Johnson, was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama–my neck of the woods!  How had I never heard this?


A diagram of the SuperSoaker as found in The Prisoner & The Penguin’s August 21, 2016 article on Doctor Johnson entitled The Tinkerman

But Mr. Johnson, as I found out, isn’t only a toy inventor, although he most certainly improved the water gun and the dart gun for Nerf.  He is a nuclear engineer, who has worked for both the Air Force and NASA! (This is why I love Sunday Morning, I learn new things, even about people in my own backyard.)

Mo Rocca’s interview is worth watching and worth showing to your children or anyone whom you desire to inspire to a career in science, but I do want to offer a word of  warning.  You might just want to caution your progeny that cooking rocket fuel on the kitchen stove, as Doctor Johnson once did as a child, is not,  I repeat, NOT a good idea!

To watch the entire interview, please visit CBSnews.com.

20-21 August 2017

The eclipse has come and gone! The anticipation and excitement has been rewarded and all of us who had the rare opportunity to witness the event from the “Zone of Totality” will have another GRAND story to tale.
This is how ours went:

On Sunday we arrived at the Latimer Boy Scout Reservation, after an fun trip north that included brief stops at memorials and road signs along the route from Harvest, Alabama to Spencer, Tennessee. Admittedly, I enjoyed reading the signs and taking photographs much more than my children, who began heavy sighing after the second stop, but such is life when you are a child with a history-loving mother! Besides, who wouldn’t want to stop at Lynchburg, Tennessee, the home of Jack Daniels Distillery, and the Homestead of David Crockett?!?

After dark, the boy scouts held a flag retirement ceremony and retired several American flags. If you are unaware, the traditional method of retiring a flag is to incinerate it; and if you have never been to a flag retirement ceremony, you should or hold your own.  It is a very special occasion and a sobering reminder of our nation’s history and the sacrifices of her people.

On Monday morning, my daughter abandoned us for kayaking with her sweet little friend, which just left Mark and I to our own devices. NOT GOOD.  NOT GOOD. So we decided to take advantage of the many walking trails around the reservation. We climbed up to Horse Pen Point for this magnificent view

and then walked the  lake trail over to the little chapel, where we met this little guy and enjoyed a great view of the lake.


Now, in hindsight that is where we should’ve stopped and turned around. But I thought we should continue on through the woods and complete the lake loop. WHY?!? Because I always discover something small and unexpected in the forest like these:

Well, we discovered something alright. We discovered that we somehow left the trail. We discovered that my phone was dead from taking photos. We discovered several other trails that didn’t take us where we wanted to go. We discovered that our map wasn’t detailed. We discovered that one bottle of water wasn’t enough for two people. But we also FINALLY discovered a landmark and, after another mile of walking, we made it back just in time for a quick shower, a quick PB&J, before the eclipse began.
It was an amazing experience, the wind rising, the strange twilight, the moon slowly making a crescent of the sun and then covering it completely. Bailey’s Beads. The dark in the day.

I am glad that I had the opportunity to share this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with my children. It was a fleeting exhilaration, like most momentous occasions in life worthy of experiencing, and one I’ll not soon forget.

20 August 2017


Great Eclipse 2017

A poster after my own heart!  Created especially for NASA by Dr. Tyler Nordgren, a professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Redlands and an artist to boot, to commemorate tomorrow’s eclipse, it evokes the “national park” art of the 1930’s.  To see more of the artist-professor’s Great American Eclipse art, and to purchase one like I did, please go to: www.tylernordgren.com.

I’m so excited!  The Great Eclipse Across America 2017 eve is upon us.  I hope you’ve made plans.  I have.


The children and I are busy packing our bags for a drive to the Latimer Reservation, located near Spencer, Tennessee.  Last night we attended an eclipse preparation lecture at the Wernher von Braun Planetarium in Huntsville, Alabama that gave us lots of good information for tomorrow’s viewing.  The most important:  PLEASE PROTECT YOUR EYES.

I’ve got to run and cattle prod my children into the car, but if you would like more information, check out this site: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov.

11-13 August 2017


stone mountainThis weekend my husband and I had the opportunity to attend a retreat at the lovely Atlanta Evergreen Conference Resort located in the Stone Mountain Park near Atlanta Georgia.  The focus of the retreat was effective communication within families, and the Good Lord knows that we could ALL use a bit of reflection on the ways we communicate, or fail to communicate, with our spouse and children.

After a morning of “fun” learning and a few “eye-openers,”  we set out to enjoy the beauty of the park and to climb Stone Mountain.  Now there is a high-speed cable car that can ferry you in relative comfort to the top, but we decided eschew comfort for adventure and hike the mile-long trek to the summit IN 90 DEGREE WEATHER.

Stone Mountain is unusual to say the least.  A large, lone, mostly bald, quartz monzonite dome rising over 800 feet above the surrounding landscape .  An island mountain, inselberg,  in the middle of Georgia.

The climb to the top is steep, a truly American trail, cutting the shortest route to the top, devoid of  zigs or zags or gradual inclines to slow the pace. And while there may be a blessed breeze from time to time, even under an overcast sky the climb is arduous.  Jagged in some places, smooth and slippery in others, and at one point straight up with only a slender handrail to assist your sweat-wet hands propel you forward.  But the climb to the top was worth the physical effort because you are  greeted with a gorgeous view of the land below and the Atlanta sky-rise in the distance.

Atlanta skyline from Stone Mountain

Granted, I could have come by this grand view the easy way, riding to the top, but I would have missed out on the many small treasures of the trek, like the beautiful trees growing right out of the rock, roots twisted between the crags and crevices. Bullises, a very old name for dark-fruited muscadines, growing wild along the trail, that I stopped, collected, and ate, sharing them with other families along the way.  A childhood memory in a taste, a reminder of my grandmother and days in the wood.  Persimmons, not yet ripe, and the ever-elusive “Atlanta Gum Tree”-  chewed-gum laden power poles dotting the trail, a yucky reminder of the many people who’ve made the trek before me.

After the climb, we were hot, tired and STIFF!  We decided to forego the laser show and spend a quite evening dining at the resort’s restaurant and relaxing on our balcony overlooking the pool.  There are so many activities that Stone Mountain Park has to offer families, as seen on the website www.stonemountainpark.com and we will definitely be returning with our children to enjoy them all.  But this weekend was about focusing on ourselves, and focus requires quietude. And, at least for me, there is nothing more settling than walking, or climbing, in nature.



9 August 2017

Here is a pickle recipe from today’s edition of the Washington County News dated 1917.

Good Pickle Receipt

“Now that the time is here for making pickles, the following receipt, known as ‘Hayden’s Salad,’ is given,”  writes Miss Marjorie Woods to the News.  “One gallon of ripe tomatoes, one gallon of cabbage,one quart of onions, one-half dozen green peppers.  Run cabbage, onions, and peppers through meat chopper and sprinkle with salt and let drain.  Add three tablespoons of mustard, two tablespoons of turmeric, one of cloves, one of celery seed, one of cinnamon, three pounds of sugar and one-half gallon of vinegar.  Mix and boil one-half hour.”

–B’ham News

I’m thinking of trying this recipe, so I put in a modern recipe form to make it easier to follow when I begin preparing it.

Hayden’s Salad

One gallon tomatoes, (peeled) chopped

One gallon cabbage, chopped

One quart onions, chopped

12 green bell peppers, chopped

1 cup salt

Chop tomatoes, cabbage, onions, and bell peppers and mix in large bowl.  Sprinkle the mixture with 1 cup salt and let stand for approximately 30 minutes, or until well drained.

3 TBSP. ground mustard

2 TBSP.  Tumeric

1TBSP. Cloves

1 TBSP. Celery Seed

1 TBSP. Cinnamon

3 LBS.  Sugar

1/2 GAL.  White Vinegar

Add the vegetable mixture, spices, sugar and vinegar to a large pot and bring to a slow boil.  Boil for thirty minutes.  Fill  in hot prepared pint jars and seal.  Makes approximately 12 pints.

If you try this recipe, please post pictures.  I will do the same.

Happy Canning!

4-6 August, 2017

This weekend’s family adventure was brought to us by the Boys Scouts of America.  After jam-packing the car with all of the “essentials,” which included a percolator, coffee, and half and half, we departed for Camp Jackson, a five hundred plus acre camp on the Tennessee River near Scottsboro, Alabama.  After a scenic hour-long drive into the beautiful Jackson County Mountains, we arrived at the Camp.

In the distant past, the camp was used as a Boy Scout summer camp, but was revamped in the late 1990s as a high-adventure base, offering hiking, mountain biking, rappelling, kayaking, canoeing, and spelunking.  There was even a river cave to explore by kayak.  FUN.  However, in 2011, the camp was devastated by a tornado, which destroyed several of the camp buildings, including the trading post, as well as the entrance bridge and Pinnacle Trail.  TERRIBLE.

Fort Jackson Chimney

The camp is still limping along the road to recovery, and much has yet to be repaired or restored.  However, the camp is open for primitive camping and there is running water and electricity in the Dining Hall and Shower Houses.  And the best part, the Pinnacle Trail has been cleared and modestly repaired.

The Pinnacle Trail winds its way from the camp up to the top of The Pinnacle.  Over a mile in length to the 1200 foot summit, we enjoyed a strenuous hike up through limestone boulders and sedimentary rock.


And then we were treated to this beautiful view.


While resting at the summit and enjoying a blessed breeze and this amazing view, we were also treated to a rare sighting, a bald eagle! We had been watching a turkey vulture circling both above and below us and thought the eagle was the same, until we noticed a white tail and collectively thought, “I didn’t know buzzards had white tails.” Then we saw a white head, and it dawned on us, EAGLE! Of course, no one snapped a picture, we were all too dumbstruck. Our first wild eagle sighting.
On our climb down, we were able to savor some of the hidden beauty of the forest.

I’m not sure what the purple flower is, in the Trillium family perhaps, but the white flower is a Ipomoea pandurate, or wild potato vine.  And the knobby wood was just too unique not to take a photograph.

We also encountered many wild sumac trees, with their spikey crimson clusters of red berries.  These berries have a tart citrus flavor, that can be soaked, strained and sweetened to make a refreshing ade, or, at least for the middle eastern varieties, ground to make a popular spice.  Since my family is bunch of scavengers at heart, we collected a container full to take home and experiment with.


Besides our hike and exploration of the campgrounds, my husband and I spent the rest of the weekend relaxing, drinking percolated coffee, reading, napping and eating food cooked over the fire, while the children kayaked, played King of the Hill and enjoyed the company of friends.  Marco (Marco Polo) even completed his ILST Training!

Although campouts are never restful, unless one really enjoys sleeping on the ground or an air mattress, the weekend was a needed refresh to remind us of the beauty and abundance of nature.  I hope you have a chance to refresh in nature soon too.


3 August 2017



Abbot Handerson Thayer’s Copperhead Snake Among Dead Leaves, contained in the study folder for his 1909 book entitled Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom, now part of the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Today’s word is copperheadism.  Up until last week, I honestly had never even heard of the word.  I came across it while transcribing the August 2, 1917 edition of the Washington County News, in a single paragraph news-brief which read:

“Senator James grew very sarcastic in the senate when the navy and war departments were criticized by Senator Penrose for inefficiency. The senator said there was too much “copperheadism and sniping” in the senate.”

Now I know snakes.  I grew up in the woods.  I know how you can be standing on top of one and not even realize he is there.  I’ve seen it happen.  So when I read this I  figured that copperheadism must be akin to a wolf in sheep’s clothing–someone using a disguise to conceal their true intent.

This was a word after my own heart.  I needed it in my repertoire, so unlike my children, who are more than happy to take my word for something, or anyone’s for that matter,  rather than have to look it up, I clickety-clacked my way on over to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary to find out for sure what it meant.  This was what it said:

“Sympathy to the Confederate Cause in the War; disloyalty to the Union.”

And the Encylcopedia Britannica stated:

“Copperhead, also called Peace Democrat, during the American Civil War, pejoratively, any citizen in the North who opposed the war policy and advocated restoration of the Union through a negotiated settlement with the South. The word Copperhead was first so used by the New York Tribune on July 20, 1861, in reference to the snake that sneaks and strikes without warning.”

OK.  SURE.  Just like there were “Yankee sympathizers” living in the South, there must have been “Confederate sympathizers” living in the North.  Obvious, as in “if it had been a snake it would’ve bitten me” obvious.  Rational, but rationality was not my first reaction.  This was:

WHAT?!  There were Northern citizens that opposed the War?  I took Civil War History.  I watched Ken Burn’s  PBS documentary Civil War all the way through at least ten times.  I’ve read books, and articles, and even seen movies about Unionists in the South and counties seceding from the secession, and states splitting into two over the War, but not this.  Did I miss it?!?  I admit that it has been a few years since I last viewed the documentary and/or took my final exam in Civil War history, and I admit my middle-age mind, isn’t what it used to be, which was scattered at best; but if I ever knew about a political “Yankee” (and I say this with endearment)  faction to end the war, then I must have thoroughly repressed it.  THOROUGHLY.

If you are like me and have seemingly never heard about, read about, or watched a movie about Copperheads, I encourage you to read the full entry at Britannica.com.