New Year's Eve Shopping

There is something peaceful about the early morning hours in a large city. The streets are serene under a dark sky, the pavement wet and lacking footprints. Storefronts cast a strange glow (if they have windows at all) and sounds are amplified; there is a uniquely wet and delectable sound made by a hefty halibut hitting a metal pushcart.

We made our way into Pittsburgh before the sun had even considered rising. Our route in affords us a vantage point that few major cities can boast about. Imagine for a moment that you are riding along with your eyes covered by a friend and, at the perfect moment, they pull their hands from your eyes and you take in the completeness of Chicago, New York or Pittsburgh. This is the effect one feels as they enter the Ft. Pitt tunnel and emerge on the other side. You can see shades of something fantastic at the other side of the tunnel but you don’t fully breathe it in until it hits you fully the moment you clear the tunnel exit. In a flash, you’re galloping over a river via a massive steel bridge and before you is a gorgeous skyline.

I have been to Chicago and lived to tell the tale. It’s my opinion that Pittsburgh has far more “whoa!” moments, primarily in the form of sudden road merges, splits, exits and entrances, all of which are taken at a break-neck speed. People are generally kind out here (unlike Chicago’s drivers) so things sort themselves in the end. This morning presented little traffic and our commute from the Tunnel to the Strip was brief.

We parked in our favorite lot ($10, holidays you know.) I won’t list all the haunts we visited, but we managed to procure the best deli meats and cheeses (thanks to some very gregarious and very Italian gents behind the counter), dig up the ingredients for Better Half’s red beans and rice, browse the fish and meats at Wholeys (we found a nice rabbit, fresh) and take in breakfast at DeLuca’s.

DeLuca’s is always a treat. Where else can you get a fresh seafood omelet with hollandaise sauce for under $10? We laughed over the ancient dishwasher, which hummed along like the alien signal out of Independence Day.

Better Half bought a woolen hat to match my woolen jacket. I haven’t had a hat with earflaps in years. Here Better Half models it:

Our final stop was across yet another bridge. My aunt has battled cancer for several years now and it’s proven to be a challenge this time around. She’s at Allegheny General. We arrived early and they had brought her downstairs for a PT evaluation (as she’s losing strength in her legs from lack of use.) I’m seriously worried about her.

I’m equally worried about my own mother. She managed to put off seeing the doctor (“it’s the MSG from the Thanksgiving turkey!”) until this week. Her delay means that she’s now battling a wicked infection. I’m so fucking frustrated with her Eeyore defeatist attitude. I don’t use the f word routinely when writing. My apologies. I’m leaving it there because it’s a garish reflection of the anger and sense of helplessness that I’m feeling. I want to fly out there and thank her for depriving me of more years with her; I want to say, “you hold yourself back from moving” and “you don’t need to hold on to stuff.”

When I get my settlement, if I get my settlement, I’m flying out there and packing my parents’ belongings onto a moving van. They can sit in an empty house for all I care – but knowing them, they’ll follow their file cabinets filled with scripts, their clothing, their pots and pans, their food and their bed.

Parents never know what’s best for them. You spend your entire life raising them, seasoning them so that they turn out well rounded after 21 years of upbringing, and they repay you by digging their heels in and being stubborn.

Better Half's Red Beans & Rice
is simmering on the stove

Heavy bags laden with goodies.


Betty Boop/Cab Calloway: Snow White

I find an interesting old cartoon every so often.

Betty Boop is not one of my favorites but there are a few out there that I love. This one is the 1933 rendition of Snow White, with a guest appearance by Cab Calloway.


2008 Year in Review

Annie is too clever for my own good. She found this fabulous idea for reviewing our year. "You simply write the first line of the first post of each month. Include a picture if you like and, voila, you have your year in review." Visit There is no place like home. You can also share it at My Romantic Home, which Annie found as well.

My 2008

Every now and then I stop to read the news
(picture: snow granules on leaves at the VAMC)

Tonight was “Mambo Italiano”, a sampling of Italian wines at our favorite Friday night haunt.

(picture: snow covered fern pot on our front porch)

Pesky Lawn Care Man ~ Outside window clearing snow ~ I ask you, “How much?” (~ A Pomku ~)

(picture: the pom who wrote the ku)

Fridays should never be “hurry up and wait” days; they should be sampled at leisure, savored like a fine wine.

(picture: our tree behind the house)

Cork dropped a bundle of humor into my mailbox today in the form of some untitled cartoons.

(picture: newly painted stairwell leading to our basement.)

This might be Mattie’s last day.

(picture: our Mattie. This was actually taken in May, but I choose to remember her like this, strong and curious.)

July 1st – a relaxing day.

(picture: sunset the day before my birthday)

Do you ever get the feeling that today is just not your day?

(picture: our 'fridge, with two shelves of tomatoes from our garden. They became sauce the next day. It's an Italian thing.)

This fellow was clinging to our window screen today.

(picture: the bug)

The interview that left O'Reilly speechless.

(Picture: the toad that lived in our garden.)

I have a blog.

(picture: old barn at the Christmas Festival)

Gennaker passed away on December 11.

(picture: Gennaker)

I look back on this year and say, "I need to approach life with more vigor." My writing is not due to the normal "mental blocks" or a hectic schedule. We endured many painful things this year, including the death of two animals who have been my shadows ever since Better Half and I were married. The year's events have taken a toll on me, emotionally and physically.

I take refuge in my husband's love. I throw the ball for our other shepherd, daydream about my garden for next spring, and remind myself that mental ward food tastes terrible.
Besides that, they are going to put in a brand new gas main line and connection lines from it to the houses: 2.2 million dollar project and I simply MUST oversee my lavender. Besides, construction workers are HOT. They should be: this entire area is populated by Italian stallions and corn-fed bulls. Really, Better Half, I just moved here for the moo, I mean, view.

Now I fee cheerful. The thought of Better Half scowling at me in that special "haha you so funny, NOT" way always does that to me.


Eartha Kitt

Farewell to a fascinating woman ~


I Believe...

I believe I’ll have another cup of tea. You don’t mind if I pour while imparting a bit of pre-New Year’s Eve advice, do you?

Down through the ages, as the dying year wisps away at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, man takes it upon himself to make an Avowal of Resolution to Determine to Commence to Eradicate all the Bad Things from Life that coming year. Silly sounding and grammatically superfluous, isn’t it? Please pass the sugar bowl.

We seem to abhor the Things that Haunt us, embrace the Things that Please and, despite our best efforts, muck it up royally. We sit on our thumbs and deduce what Things are Bad and what Things are Good. Often, what we think of as Good is in fact very Bad for us, such as money or immortality. Consider immortality. You would need to reinvent yourself every thirty or so years; have you any idea how much of your immortal time would be caught up just in waiting for your new passport?

We give birth to the Things that Haunt us. An IRS audit would be a Bad Thing for most. You thought that claiming $10k in donations to the Red Cross would be a Good Thing (unless you only dropped $10 into a charity bin.) Fibbing would be a Bad Thing to do. If you did fib, that Good Thing-cum-Bad Thing is a Thing that Haunts your mind. You forget the audit itself and you concentrate on the thought of the massive IRS police who are going to clap you in irons and haul you away to the IRS jail.

Likewise, an upcoming surgery becomes a Thing that Haunts; we spend countless hours fretting over silly things. We might even conjure up an image of our trusty surgeon slipping upon the miles (surely there are miles in there) of intestine that have accidentally spilled to the floor. We forget, in that moment of worry, that we are only going in for a simple eyelash biopsy. In both cases, we tend to put the issue (the Thing that Haunts) as foremost in our minds even as we push the Thing itself to the back.

I acknowledge the Things that Haunt me. They loom ferocious. (That was poetic license. They don’t actually loom at all and they are in fact rather pathetic Haunting Things that have no more power other than that which I choose to endow them with. The only Ferocious Thing looming over me is a monster Headache that seems to be working itself into a proper Migraine.)

Am I attempting to make a point? Yes and no.

I believe that there are times when one should pointlessly write for the sake of acknowledging Things that Haunt. Did that make sense? Perhaps it will once you’ve pondered it.

I could make my point by stating that people who capitalize Words in order to impart a greater sense of Distinction are, in a nutshell, pointlessly pointing these Words out to us, as if we really needed to ponder Pointless Things any more than we actually have to; that the exercise of capitalizing Words is a method of drawing us away from the things that are (comparatively) muttered (via a lower case letter) between the Lines. We must go through the pointless motion of pointing out (to ourselves) the stupid Things that Haunt - “pointless” because we do not always believe what we tell ourselves.

Simply stated: we all have avoidance issues. We all use stupid excuses to avoid confronting our avoidance issues. Things that Haunt are Pointless Things. They block us from seeing the things we need to see.

Sometimes what we need most is to take a moment to remind ourselves that some Things are pointless while other Things have merit. Sometimes what we need to do is let go of our beliefs about some Thing and simply profess “I Believe I’ll have another cup of tea,” and then pour ourselves one without any regard to the Things that disrupt our day. Speaking of that, pass the teapot, if you please. Thank you.

We will have to face those Things eventually. They are lurking within our sight, cringing in the corner like a misbehaved puddle of cat sick. We can put a rug over it when company comes to call, and top that with a lovely ficus (not to be confused with a fichus. The fichus would not stay put unless you nailed it to the floor.) We could pick it up, but that would be too much. Too much what? I haven’t a clue. Find an excuse to go with that avoidance issue and you’ll have yourself a well-rounded Thing that Haunts.

I suggest that we nod in the issue’s general direction as we add a sprinkle of sugar to our cup. Acknowledging the Thing that Haunts has a disastrous effect: it strips that Thing of its claws. The Thing has a tricky time finding purchase in our hearts and minds. We can better deal with it. It may still loom larger than life but I firmly believe that it can be conquered.

Wishing you success in 2009 as you battle with your own Things that Haunt. Believe in yourself and you can’t go wrong.

Visit here to see what others believe
Sunday Scribblings

Gennaker Leah Ann

Gennaker passed away on December 11. She was 15 years old.

We’ve been though a lot of grief this year, first with some very private matters and then with Mattie passing away (not too gently) this summer. Gennaker came as a shock, although it wasn’t unforeseen; she was elderly, nearly deaf and a tad forgetful.

I picked Nen out of a litter of puppies slated for a “pregnancy spay”. Her mother was a white shepherd mix from the pound and the new owners didn’t feel that they could handle so many little burdens. The mother went into labor the night before her surgery and the spay drop off appointment became a newborn pup check. I told the woman I would adopt one of the pups in eight weeks.

Nen was the only “shepherd colored” pup of the mix and she was the runt. She had the most intelligent eyes I’d ever seen in a dog. Better Half wanted one of the really furry black and tan ones. No, it was the shepherd one, and that was final. We named her Gennaker after a sail and Leah for some odd reason. Ann sounded good at the end.

Our friend, Miss, once remarked that someone must have taken a sharpie marker and traced around Nen’s ears. She had beautiful coloration. She was love on four legs, always polite and quick to train.

We had Samantha Jane at the time, a cinnamon red chow (please don’t think of a typical chow chow. Groomers heralded Samantha as “the world’s most friendliest chow”. She was my shadow.) Nen took to Sam quickly and they became buds. Six months after Nen was born, we added Waltzing Matilda to the mix. They, too, got on splendidly.

Nen was, as I said, intelligent. We would joke that she was the reincarnation of J. Robert Oppenheimer. If it moved, she would nudge it with her nose. She never pushed hard enough to knock it over, but it seemed as though she were testing to see just how hard she could nudge before it would fall over. Tap, tap, tap and the bottle stayed upright. Nudge, nudge, nudge and the book would reach the very end of the table but would remain there. She enjoyed motion or perhaps she was into physics. Who are we to say?

My Mum babysat her when she was small. I don’t really remember Nen misbehaving for her Nonna but it was apparent that Nen was her favorite. The day before Nen passed away, my Mum told me to tell her she was still beautiful.

There are the funny memories (especially with a dog that seemed dedicated to being the goofball omega.) We had gone to visit our friends Rich and Miss, bringing our dogs along. We let them into the backyard so they could do their business and a squirrel darted down the tree and up a fence. Samantha Jane went after fast as lightening and Gennaker, scared to death by the sudden movement, jumped sideways into the screen door. It didn’t hurt her a bit, but it was the source of chuckles for ages.

Nen also jumped sideways into one of the shop doors in downtown Colorado Springs. That really has no bearing on memories except to say that she honestly thought that she could go into the shop.

We forever talked about her fear of thunderstorms. We were going to visit friends (yes, the dogs were tagging along) and it was pouring rain. Better Half ran out to the car with her in his arms, unceremoniously dumped her into the back seat, and came running back in white-faced. I asked him what had happened and he replied that lightening struck only a few feet from him. I asked where the dog was and his reply was that she was still in the car. Nice. By time the rain let up enough for us to run to the car (I was fuming at him the whole time) Nen had done what any petrified dog would do: she expressed herself. The car reeked for a while after that.

She was one of our Manitou dogs. We’d get a plain vanilla ice cream scoop and allow her to lick it. We brought her along when we visited The Spice of Life and she was happy to sit outside with me and share my love of people watching.

We had a consummate babysitter. Friends would drop in with a baby in tow, and we’d set up a playpen for the baby. Nen guarded the children. She would wander down the hall and let someone know if the baby needed changing or had woken up. My deepest regret is that we never had a child of our own during Nen’s time; we had always spoke about what a good thing it would be to have a devoted dog helping us keep watch on our baby.

There really are too many memories to write down. It would be easier to say that she was a comforter, a companion, an inspiration, a therapist (you could talk to her about anything and she’d never gossip behind your back), a therapy dog for any who needed a smile, and a member of our family.

Her passing was mercifully painless. We had gone shopping in Robinson and, thanks to the snow, had to go slow to get back home. Better Half went downstairs to let the dogs out and I was sweeping the sidewalk free of snow. I heard him call me, and there was urgency to his voice. I ran back inside and found him laying in the dining room with Nen, who was on her side.

Better Half was panicking and I began to order him to do things (I feel badly about that, but an animal can pick up on those things.) We covered her with a blanket and added my heating pad for good measure. She didn’t have any reaction to stimulus when I pinched the folds of skin between her paws, and she could not stand upright. She had other indications of a stroke as well.

We allowed her to lie down and (very loudly, as she was almost deaf) we told her that we loved her, and that she was a good dog who had earned the right to go be with God. Yes there are animals in Heaven. John talks about it in the bible, for Heaven’s sake.

She passed shortly after that. It seemed to us that she had purposely waited to die, waited for us to return so that we could say goodbye. She was considerate in that way. That was “Nen”.

I am grateful that we arrived home and did not run to the vet (they were closed) because had we done that Nen certainly would have died that night all alone. The thought of that upsets me to no end.

We have lost dogs in a variety of ways. We had a puppy die at home from Coronavirus (the vet misdiagnosed it.) We lost our Samantha Jane at an emergency center (the vet didn’t diagnose the collapsed lung in time.) We lost Baron to a stroke. Mattie, as you know, died a rough death. Gennaker’s passing was as gentle as her nature. I can’t think of a more fitting end to a beautiful life than to be surrounded by your people and pack as you ease out of this world.


Tinker's Cafe, now on BTR

The Tinker’s Café

We are well into our second month at Tinker’s (Blog Talk Radio) and Roidan and I are settling into a pattern. The whole thing has been rather disjointed up until now (and perhaps it still is.)

We’ve tried the laid back approach. We’re not really sure if it’s working. We’ve tried meditation segments, bible study segments (off schedule) as well as our normal segments. One topic shows are fine, if the listener wants only one topic. We’ve decided to skip around and offer multiple topics per show.

Our last show was awesome towards the end. We had Kevin (Gay Life Coach) on and he filled us in with some wonderful Community news. I think it is safe to say that he survived his brush with Fred Phelps and his minions.

Once again, I invite you to check us out and give us an honest opinion. Let us know how we can improve.

The show:

Tinker's Cafe, the BTR Show or

Our web site:

Our blog:

To email your point of view:

Listen to Autrice DelDrago | The Tinker’s Café on internet talk radio

News and Updates

I have a blog. (Hello blog.)

It isn’t that I forgot that I have a blog; it’s that I have been too busy to actually do anything with my blog.

Have you ever had a comfy friend, one who makes all the aches and pains seem to go away? Have you ever accidentally-not-on-purpose neglected that friend? So it is with my blog.

I’ve neglected other blogs as well, such as my other blog. I’ve also neglected Annie’s blog, ‘Chick’s blog, David’s blog and a host of other comfy web logs. I’ll show up on their doorstep like a wayward neighbor holding an apple pie. (Store bought, of course, as I haven’t time to actually bake a pie.)

Life goes on. Better Half and I are returning to Pittsburgh for some more tests. We really should pay them rent considering the amount of time we spend there. Better Half is having a (as he puts it) “stick something down my nose and into my throat motility study things with the thing staying there until the next day I hope I don’t gag or pull it out because I hate these” tests. He’ll survive. He always does.

Ox survived the November 4th elections (he was called in as an added measure in case of “problems”. The only problem he had was a lovely rash from his body armor vest.)

My Ohio Aunt isn’t doing too well. She has fought off five different cancers since 1994 but this newest one seems to be kicking her ass. She had treatment last Monday and it was rough going. Yesterday, she began to swell again. My Missouri Aunt was the head nurse in ICU and other departments (I think other departments) at a reputable hospital. She is retired now, and flew in to assist with my Ohio Aunt. The Missouri Aunt is incredible when it comes to medical knowledge. She really should have been a doctor.

We are all worried sick about my Ohio Aunt.

My mother is still my mother, and doing her thing in Colorado. I have a few more chapters remaining (on her book, which I am editing, and a fine job I make of it, can’t you tell by this terrible sentence? I did that on purpose. Haha.)

My father is still working his ass off. I wish they would chuck it all in and move here.

I have my Thanksgiving shopping to do today before we leave for Pittsburgh. I’m pleased to say that my garland is hung. We’ll put the tree up on Thanksgiving. I’ll use up today and tomorrow to scour down the bathroom really well.

Do you see how unexciting my life is? I really have nothing to report.

Recommendation: Distilling Thoughts

Distilling Thoughts

You must visit here. I do not usually add "must" to my recommendations but I earnestly mean it in this case. Totomai's photography is magnificent. It is not often that I discover a blog that moves me with its pictures alone.

I love photography. I suck at it. It's my camera. It isn't meant for quality work but rather for happy photographs of family, friends, pets and scenes. When I stumble across a photographer's blog (with pictures that remind me of snapshots that usually grace the covers and pages of National Geographic, Time or other renowned magazines) my bottom lip quivers and I think to myself, "damn, I wish I were him!"

Go, visit, be amazed!



Sunday Scribblings (a weekly writers forum) listed bragging as a theme. “I don’t like myself. I’m crazy about myself!” – Mae West.

Research the word “bragging”.

It is synonymous with: arrogant, bigheaded, conceited, full of yourself, immodest, vain, self-important.

It is akin to: overweening, high and mighty, egotistical, presumptuous, stuck-up, pompous, snobbish, portentous, ostentatious, imperious, and audacious.

I’ve run out of words and do not wish to look at my thesaurus.

(Autrice imparts an imperious sneer as she brags about her vocabulary skill.)

I did leave out one synonym: proud. I think the prompt should be, “What personal achievement or quality are you most proud of doing or possessing.”

I am proud of the fact that at least one person read this post.

The really tough thing about humility
is you can't brag about it.
~ Gene Brown

Listen to Autrice DelDrago  The Tinker’s Café on internet talk radio

Mid Month Thoughts

We’ve had a fairly quiet month. Last Monday was Columbus Day. It was also Thanksgiving in Canada and I thought it would be amusing to celebrate a foreign holiday; my health kept me from getting the game hens stuffed and into the roaster. Suffice to say, we celebrated a day later.

My motivation stems from Better Half’s desire to break away from the norm this holiday season; rabbit would look lovely on the Thanksgiving sideboard. I have always celebrated the feast with ample portions of giblet stuffing, hence the game hens. My friends seemed amused by my ardent efforts to make this year’s Canadian Thanksgiving special.

I couldn’t type that last sentence without cracking a grin. “Any excuse to celebrate a holiday, Autrice!” How true. Catholics celebrate the Christmas season through January 6th – Greek Orthodox consider this Christmas Day. Hallelujah! Rejoice that we have found another reason to have the full-scale Christmas dinner!

The hens turned out perfectly, the zucchini was delightful and my giblet stuffing, as always, achieved perfection. The entire house carried the Thanksgiving scent (a day late.)

The typical American Thanksgiving is rather asinine, in my humble opinion. The television blares football, the children (crammed into clothes they only wear for holidays) fight, the adults pretend to get along and fight. Granted, not all Thanksgivings are like this. My family did get along, I wore my dress clothes to important occasions or to mass and my father did not care for football. (We would watch the parade in the early morning.) Our guests were always part of the family. No one quarreled. This is not a romanticized childhood on my part; this is how holidays are with us. Perhaps it’s the European upbringing?

I digress.

Better Half and I have set out our holiday decorations. I love Halloween. No, we haven’t any cheesy cobwebs cluttering our porch. We have garlands of leaves festooning our front door and porch rails as well as intertwining on our staircase inside. Festive (yet tasteful) autumn hues brighten our living room and dining room. We do pass out candy – Steubenville doesn’t have much in Halloween balls, galas, parties or even gatherings.

We have The Tinker’s Café running at long last. Our audience is very small however we receiving more joy in doing the broadcasts than we do in seeing anyone there. Our topic this week is extremists in the United States (fundie groups such as Westboro Baptist, etc.) We’ll have to do a little clarification prior to the actual show. Many people do not understand that a fundamental "fill in the blank" is not the same as an extremist. A fundie can be a fanatic Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist, Republican, Democrat, Pro-Life or Pro-Choice person, gay or lesbian, environmentalist, etc. I think we’ll focus mainly upon religious extremists and their affect on society.

Linda May

I discovered a lovely blog today, linda may. She chanced upon one of my Sunday Scribblings posts and I thought I’d stop by and read hers.

What a charming woman! Reading her entries is much like sitting down and chatting over a cup of coffee. She has many wonderful pictures from her garden as well.

My Autumn Wildlife Habitat Eco-Style

Fall is my favorite season. I enjoy winter with her blustering snow; spring and summer treat us to a riot of green dotted with a rainbow of bee-attracting colors. Autumn provides fabulous opportunity to study nature before the snow comes.

“Fall! Oh Halloween and Thanksgiving! Oh and then we have Christmas and the New Year! I can smell all the good cooking, and I’m thinking of silver bells and soft blue ribbons, or maybe that woodsy pinecone garland, with plaid bows and merry trees. I’ll go shopping on Black Friday and buy toys for the kids! I’ll wrap things in December, but my cards will be out in November. I’ll do my outdoor lights and unbury Mary and Joseph and the manger, with shepherds and angels. I think they’re behind the artificial tree in the garage, somewhere. It’s lit, you know, with tiny white lights. The outdoor manger, that is. I run a cord and have an inflatable snowman globe opposite the driveway. But remember, Jesus is the reason for the season!”

Excuse me but where did Autumn go? Don’t discard it in favor of holidays. It is a crucial time.

The old year is over and the harvest has been collected. Nature lets out her breath in a long and contented sigh. Fall appears to be death. Most people know that new life will emerge out of the decrepit remains after a long winter. Wildlife, however, is still active even when you can’t see it. It is not death to them; it is the cycle by which they live. We have encroached upon their territory. We owe it to them to give back a little of what we have taken away. I'll share my eco-style (my techniques) with you. Perhaps I will inspire you to incorporate my ideas into your own setting.

Nothing is as cute as teeny mouse nostrils flickering from underneath a carpet of leaves. It takes a keen eye to spot him. You might here the telltale rustle of the mouse as he goes about his business while moving though the crackly leaves if you are not yammering away on your cell phone or loudly talking to the person next to you. (Please, for the love of all animals, keep your odious pet cat indoors where it can eat the food you provide rather than stealing the wild mouse from a needy omnivore.)

The first rule in this game is: natural habitats work wonders. Allow animals to go undisturbed in their habitats. You can help by creating habitats in your own yard for small animals and birds. These animals will have a better chance at getting through the fall if you provide them with the tools that they need: Juniper bushes, toad holes, bark, rock piles and woodpiles (away from your house). Nature keeps the wildlife population in check. Do not fret too much if your favorite cardinal disappears one day.

I am not suggesting that you feed the carnivores (although you will help them out by giving shelter to their prey.) I also am adamant: do not feed the elk and deer. You may think that you are being kind but you are actually creating a nuisance problem as well as killing them. Wildlife will die off or will thrive.

Habitats are easy to construct. You should start in the spring and follow planting guides for you area. You can still have a habitat this fall, however.

Your leaves, which you see as a nuisance that must be swept from your lawn and flowerbeds, will provide a cozy winter respite to field mice, shrews, voles and other small animals. Some will bury deep into the ground and use the foliage as a handy door. Leave some behind along a fence or in a place where (I hope) you’ve observed animals using as a trail. Be aware of the fact that toads, snakes and chipmunks hyphenate: please do not disturb their carefully worked shelters. You will want these creatures around come spring.

Rabbits will search for twigs, moss, bark and leaves to eat during the winter. They are more than happy to eat your vegetable kitchen waste. I am in favor of this but I also disapprove, depending on the situation. Do not throw carrots out on the lawn unless you have been feeding rabbits in this same manner all year. We don’t want to unbalance their digestive system. Further, do not throw scraps out where a rabbit can be picked off by a predator. Mrs. Bunny might be too busy eating to hear some jackass’ domesticated cat creeping up on her. (Autrice is in favor of allowing evolutionary principles to take care of domesticated cats: survival of the fittest. Domesticated urban and suburban cats have decimated the ecology around them by removing essential prey such as birds and mice. Don’t come crying to me if a mountain lion eats your cat, you irresponsible pet owner!)

As I was saying –

You yank your summer annuals from the ground and throw them into a garbage bag. Those still-juicy stems would benefit many creatures. Find a remote corner in your yard and let that biodegradable vegetation have a final purpose. Make a compost heap, if you can.

Allow birds to eat the berries from your bushes. Wait to prune bushes back until the final moments of the season. Many plants should be pruned in the fall only; summer pruning is destroying stored energy. Allow the berries to rest upon the ground as an energy source for other animals.

Junipers make charming holiday backdrops. Hang bits of apple, mullet (found in pet and feed stores), seed ornaments, corncobs or other such edible foods on the junipers (make certain that your items are not too heavy for the bush; allow it to keep its shape.)

Keep your bird feeder clean and stocked with seed. Hang suet baskets and place high-energy suet in them. Keep these filled through winter and fall. Do you have a dog? Do you brush it? Throw the hair into the yard for the benefit of birds and small animals (you can do this year round.) Dryer lint is another fun nesting material.

Peanuts (unsalted) are a squirrel treat. Put them out and observe the antics.

Dig a shallow furrow that is two feet wide and a foot deep, length doesn’t matter. You can place rocks, old branches, grass clippings (chemical free, please), leaves and other “woodsy” material from your yard. This is a perfect sanctuary for everything from mice and snakes to frogs, lizards and toads.

A water dish is helpful during the winter, but you must keep in clean and break up any ice that forms.

Why is this important? What purpose could possibly be gained from letting rotting old leaves, dog fur, dead plants and spent berries to litter my perfect, beautiful, treasured yard? Have you seen those Christmas cards with critters dotting the landscape? If you feed them, they will come. They become a glorious addition to the natural backdrop of your yard. You are also playing an important role in the environment around you.

Do you hate mice invading your home? An outside shelter tempts them away; the population will be kept in check by predators.

Do you hate insects in your home in the early spring? You’ve coaxed toads, mice and other rodents, and birds into your yard (your wildlife habitat!) They will thank you by keeping the creepy crawlies to a minimum. (Leave the spiders, please. They are your first line of natural defense.)

We are mammals. We are part of Nature’s cycle. We benefit when we blend into nature rather than attempting to fight it. My approach is not too difficult to master. Step into your yard and incorporate things to match your personal style and tastes.


WDFW Fact Sheet: Winter Wildlife Feeding lists the thinking behind this.

Feeding Wild Birds what every hobbyist should know - please read.

Sunday Scribblings the prompt for today's post.

NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat creating your own.

Bird Seed Ornaments the recipe. Instead of rolling out balls, tinker with this recipe to get the mixture just right and roll it out between sheets of wax paper. Use a cookie cutter (star-shaped or leaf-shaped) and cut out the ornaments. Make certain that you grease the cookie cutter with something to keep the mixture from sticking. Crisco works wonders. I like to thread them with a sharp needle and some thick white twine. Hang in a spot where birds can easily perch and pick at your creation.


Wellsburg Apple Festival, 2008

Wellsburg is a charming small town along Highway 2 in West Virginia. It has been around for quite a long time, sitting placidly alongside the Ohio River. Better Half and I discovered the Wellsburg Apple Festival last Sunday and thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon.

My first objet de plaisir was this odd little house tucked against a heavy brick building. I love old things. I married one. This old thing caught my fancy because of the timber and plaster walls.

The Wells Log House dates back to 1788, when Wellsburg WV was Buffaloe VA. Alexander Wells (I assume that Wellsburg is named after him or his descendents) constructed the four room/two-floor building. It was doomed to demolition until someone tore off the old siding and saw the old beams. It is now on the National Register of Historic Places, District of Wellsburg (registered 1981.) The home is a cornerstone in this area’s History, which you can find in another of my blog entries.

They permitted people to walk through. We entered the back door and found ourselves in an ancient kitchen. (I fully intend to go back and take better photographs!)

The fireplace is known as a turkey breast. It has a matching fireplace sharing a flue; that fireplace warms the second (main) room. The kitchen and main rooms are the same size. There are no plumbing fixtures. A bare bulb illuminates both rooms, added as an afterthought by either the church that owned the building or the previous owners. We were not allowed upstairs (or perhaps we were, but didn’t realize it.)

They have gathered some artifacts and put them on display. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that a few of those items were from the early 1900’s. That's okay. It is the feel that counts.

Standing in an old building is standing in the tide of history and feeling it churn around your body. You close your eyes and block out all the sounds and then, quite clearly, you can sense things from a bygone era. There was struggle here; life was not easy. There was death, there was birth and ghosts of things that once were.

Better Half can be impatient. Yes, it’s an old house. Yes, that fireplace is interesting. He didn’t seem too keen on staying in there for any length of time. He certainly didn’t have any desire to run his hand along the old wooden beams. I am not saying that he didn’t find it fascinating; he lacks my “whatever you want to call it” when it comes to antiques. I, on the other hand, would have remained there for an hour or more.

I got a kick out of someone’s seemingly long forgotten home. Better Half thought it was abandoned. There was a yard sale going on in the back yard, however. People lived inside.

The structure had gaping hold along the roof and a “haunted” tree in the front yard. It was pretty however. I could imagine the various activities that were held here. It had such a view, too. The river was just outside their door. I took several photographs but my favorite was a humble black and white negative. It screamed, “Happy Halloween”.

The Apple Festival wasn’t as appley as we thought it was going to be. There was apple-themed bric-a-brac but the normal country kitsch crowded it out. There were two Avon stands, an apple farmer, the Rotary was present, there were plenty of food stands and we discovered an excellent honey seller (who happens to live in Steubenville.)

Buena Vista Honey Farms offers the tastiest honey I’ve had in a long time. The flavor found in your honey comes from what you allow your bees to play with. Buena Vitsa offered locust blossom and bamboo honeys; we purchased both. They also had a variety of goods: cleverly shaped beeswax candles, gift bags, wedding favors, honey sticks and honey candies. They had some fact sheets and I enjoyed expanding my bee knowledge.

I do not mind bees. They are beautiful little creatures with soft bodies, interesting wings, and a sting that will kill me.

“You’ll be all right if you don’t swat at them.”

Really? Are you INSANE? Why would I want my hand anywhere near them?

I intend to run in the other direction. To hell with the “stand still” thing. Have you seen the Africanized bees? They swarm a cow and in under a minute the poor beast is on the grass and dying as an incalculable amount of bees inject it with venom.

That was my biggest fear when I lived in the Rockies: Africanized bees.

(I’ll do a bee entry at a later time.)

My second biggest fear, as it so happens, is the Granolas. Only in Colorado can someone stroll around and reek of body odor and pot and still be embraced by people from all walks of life.

Susan (the bleached blond and tanned-by-light-bulbs yuppie attorney cougar who also serves on the City Council) turns to her lover (Brittany the gen x’er health food store manager who sexually services half of City Council, unbeknownst to Susan) and says, “Oh, here comes John, that Granola rascal (who I slept with last night while Brittany was at work.) I heard that he launched a “save the Mountain Whale and Pink Titted Owl” campaign. Instant success. John! Yoo-hoo! Over here. Join us for a Starbucks double espresso!”

(Brittany cringes, of course. She slept with John the Granola this morning after Susan left for work.)

I do not miss Colorado. Colorado is where all the plastic people relocate once they discover that they can not be Somebody while living in California. They are too phony for the real phonies. In Colorado (particularly Colorado Springs) they can act as if they’re Somebody as they maneuver their obnoxious diesel SUVs around. They have an inclination to hose themselves down with cheap perfume and bray (LOUDLY) into their Blackberries at Olive Garden. There is no middle ground with these people. They are either furiously angry liberals who are against any and all oppression (to include the oppression of things that should be oppressed, such as loud farts in public) or they are furiously angry ultra-conservatives who believe that everything should be oppressed as God intended it to be (except for loud farts in public, which they promptly blame on the closest liberal.)

You will occasionally find a smile on your face with one group trumps another.

You go boy! And take that outfit with you.

Back to the Apple Festival. There were no Granolas present.

We met the Gourmet Pizzelle guy. He ships. My parents might receive some pizzelles for Christmas!

Why settle for anise pizzelles? That’s old school. He offers “banana nut, butter almond, butter pecan, two chocolate varieties, cran-raspberry, lemon, maple walnut, orange, pistachio, raspberry, rum’n’spice, vanilla butter nut and……. Watermelon!” He also offers “amaretto, cherry cordial, grand marnier, Irish cream, kahlua, pina colada and toffee”. This isn’t enough, however. He populates the rest of his stock with “apple cinnamon, apple swirl, butterscotch, cran-apple, peanut butter, peanut swirl, pumpkin, rum raisin, strawberry and chocolate mint”. He will make them with rice flour on request, and will also made the “no sugar added” variety.

A gorgeous old Victorian façade fascinated me. It was a pharmacy (and probably the old chemist’s shop at one time.) It apparently didn’t fascinate anyone else. It would be easy to say, “they’ve lived in that town all their lives and it seems part of the backdrop, uninteresting.” I can’t fathom that sort of thinking.

I found old homes bemusing as a child. There was a small orchard and dilapidated old home between my street and the closest stores and I would walk past that property every time I craved a pixie stick from the 7-11 or wanted to buy socks at Gemco. I wanted to walk down that long path and ring their bell (if they had a bell, if they had electricity to have a bell) but I never marshaled up the courage. Too late, I would imagine; the house has most likely been torn down to make room for something overly priced and extremely obnoxious.

Back to the Apple Festival.

Irish musicians mixed with bluegrass and folk as we strolled down Third Street. Children, ever polite, enjoyed playing and day dreaming, their laughter mixing with the music in an enchanting way.

Parking meters are taken very seriously in Wellsburg. The citizens decorate some of their meters as though paying homage to the small change gods. Festive flowers crowned these meters, trailing ivy as their American flags waved gailed in the breeze. I thought it was a very nice touch. Given the extremely friendly nature of all the people that we ran in to, I can easily see a women’s group or even the local high school kids setting each of these meter decorations into place.

Equally as amusing was the parking meter fine drop box. This was not a hoax. People really were on the honor system and the honor system in this town was alive and well.

We left the Festival and headed up to Robinson for Joe’s Crab Shack. We haven’t been to one in a while and we were in the mood for fish and fun. I asked Better Half to please stand in front of the restaurant so that I could snap a picture. He, as usual, stood there like a lump. I had to finally say, “will you &^$@ do something to make it interesting?!”

It worked, as you can see.

Getting Bongo Better Half to “do things” for a picture is nearly impossible. I have fourteen years of film with Better Half "doing nothing". Same pose. Same expression. I can flick through them quickly as if they were one of those cartoon books where you watch the dog fetch the ball. In his case, the hair recedes and the face fills out. Poor fellow.

We drove back to Ohio, a bit worn out from our long day but also very satisfied. I allowed myself to be mugged by some of the dogs and then called it a day. I, unlike Better Half, at least do something in a picture, even if it is pulling a face due to dog breath. Pardon the lack of furniture and things in disarray; we just cleaned the carpets. Yes, ewww - the living room green will be painted over soon.


History Time Capsule (Mingo, Wellsburg)

A bit of history in the Ohio Valley. The Wells Log House, mentioned below, still stands to this day.

The following information was written in 1906 and was found in the cornerstone of Jefferson School, June 23, 1967. Some of the landmarks have been updated to reflect current locations for better reference.

In the year 1749, the French inaugurated the trading system with the Indians along the Ohio River Valley. At that period, the Mingo Indians held the undisputed possession of what was formerly known as “Old Mingo Bottom”, where the City of Follansbee is now located. Here, they had large fields of maize, and the surrounding hills were their hunting grounds. During the years from 1754 to 1756, while the French and Indian War was waging, the English settlers who had forged their way in to this district were forced to return to the more thickly populated districts beyond the Allegheny Mountains for protection against Indian massacres. As a result of the French and Indian War, and the subsequent withdrawal of the English settlers, there was little development along the Ohio River Valley in this section from 1758 until about 1762, when a treaty was signed. The Indians; however, held control of the greater part of the Ohio River Valley until about 1768. At that time, at the suggestion of the General Assembly of the Virginia Colony, a treaty was drawn up between the Six Great Nations of Indians and the English settlers, by which it was agreed that the settlers were to have all the territory south of the Ohio River, the River to be the boundary line between the lands held by the settlers and that held by the Indians. The rich bottom land known as “Old Mingo Bottom” was, until the signing of the treaty in 1768, still the home of the Mingo Indians, but under the conditions of the treaty, they were compelled to move across the Ohio River to what is now Mingo Junction, where they pitched their tents on land now occupied by Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corporation.

After the signing of the treaty in 1768, the settlers again pushed westward to the border and, in the spring of 1772, Isaac Cox and his companions, eager for adventure, located on Mingo Bottom and erected a log house. During the same year, Isaac Cox made a formal entry upon the land, but afterward transferred all of his rights in the same to John Decker. In 1774, quite a number of massacres occurred and many forts along the Ohio River fell into the hands of the Indians. In order to protect his family and property, John Decker built a fort on the land he had taken up on Mingo Bottom. This fort was constructed of logs and stone and was situated on the ground over which the tracks of the Norfolk & Southern Rail Road now run, at a point immediately in front of the old Rail Station and just south of Broad Street in the City of Follansbee. This fort, known as Fort Decker, was the scene of many conflicts, as the leaden bullets and arrow-heads found on the River bank in front spot bear witness. The indications are that the fort had been fired upon from Mingo Island. John Decker owned 343 acres which comprised of the land from the Wabash Bridge, west of the top of the hill, including the land once owned by W.B. Mahan.

In 1780, Alexander Wells received a patent from Thomas Jefferson, then Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia for 200 acres of land “lying and being in the county of Ohio, on the eastern branch of the Ohio River and including the lower end of the rich bottom land called “Old Mingo Bottom” opposite the “Town of Mingo”. Shortly after this patent was received, we find that Alexander Wells institutes suit against the Heirs of John Decker for possession of the land, and the suit seems to have been decided in favor of Alexander Wells. Alexander Wells conveyed this land to his son, Henry Wells in 1799, who held the same up until the time of his death in 1815. In his will, it appeared that previous to the time of his death, Henry Wells agreed to sell the tract of land containing 360 acres to William Mahan for a consideration of $3,500.00. The 360 acres includes all of the land once owned by Webster B. Davidson and the Brooke County Improvement Company and about 100 acres lying immediately north of the land of the Brooke County Improvement Company.

William Mahan was a native of Hartford Cross Roads, Hartford County, Maryland. He was born in 1776, married in 1800, and in 1814, he brought his family, then consisting of his wife and one small son, Thomas, 8 years of age, to Mingo Bottom where he agreed to purchase the land of Henry Wells. William Mahan and his family made the trip from Maryland to their home by wagon. They descended the fill from what is now Walker Road through the Tenth and Eight Addition Plans of the City of Follansbee, to the log house that was to be their future home.

(I'm interrupting: This log home, dear readers, is the same one mentioned.)

The road down over Walker Hill (before it became know as Walker Road) was the only one in this part of the country at that time. The log house on the plantation purchased by William Mahan was one of the first built by Isaac Cox in 1772. Henry Wells, during his possession of the land, built an addition about twelve feet from the original house, which consisted of but one room, leaving a porch between the two houses over which he built a roof. When William Mahan and his little family arrived at the log house described above, they found Henry Wells, then an old man, sick on his death-bed, which made it necessary for them to wait for the possession of their new home. They journeyed on to the Army Barracks at Fort Steuben, which stood where the City of Steubenville is now situated, and took up winter quarters at the fort. During the month of February, 1815, Henry Wells dies and William Mahan took possession of the Old Mingo Bottom Plantation, which he made his home until his death in 1853 at the age of 77 years. He left his plantation to his son, Thomas Mahan, who enjoyed possession of the same until he, also at the age of 77, died in 1883 leaving quite a number of heirs, who all joined in conveying the farm to TJ Mahan and H.B. Mahan, sons of Thomas Mahan, and it was used by them as a fruit and truck farm until 1902, when they sold it to Benjamin G. Follansbee. Benjamin G. Follansbee conveyed to Follansbee Brothers Company a tract of 40-acres on which they have erected their large Tin Mill, and the remainder of the land they conveyed to the Brooke County Improvement Company, who laid the same out in town lots.

Since the establishment of the Follansbee Brothers Company Tin Mill and the many improvements made by the Brooke County Improvement Company, the City of Follansbee has grown very rapidly and much credit for its rapid advancement is due to William Banfield, the able Manager of Follansbee Brothers Company Mill and President of the Brooke County Improvement Company, whose discretion and judgment and tireless efforts have largely contributed to the marked success of this thriving little City.

At the June term of Court, 1906, the City of Follansbee received is charter as a municipal corporation, and at the first election held in the new city, Thomas J. Mahan, one of the former owners of “Old Mingo Bottom” was selected as Mayor, Brown Latimer the first City Recorder, and the following citizens compose the City Council: Thomas Rogers, George Hahne, J.W. Nott, Harry Herbert and A.S. Craig.

When the Brooke County Improvement Company laid out “Old Mingo Bottom” in town lots, there were forced to destroy two landmarks in order to secure the proper grade for the streets. These landmarks were two prehistoric mounds, supposed to have been built by the Indians who formerly inhabited the country. The smaller of the two mounds showed evidence of being fifteen or twenty feet across the base and several feet high, and was located on Main Street, midway between the intersections of Broad and State Streets with Main Street. This mound, by reason of the cultivation of the soil was partially destroyed many years ago. The large mound was thirty feet in diameter and twelve feet high. When these mounds were removed, quite a number of Tomahawks, arrowheads, scalping knives and other Indian relics were found.

In the year of 1830, William Mahan tore away a part of the old log house originally built by Isaac Cox and to which he made an addition shortly after purchasing the land from Henry Wells and built part of structure occupied as the office of the Follansbee Brothers Company. The structure consisted of a room north of the hall, the hall-way and rooms over it, while the balance of the log house was removed by Thomas Mahan in 1864 and the remaining portion of the building was erected, and up until the time of the sale of the property by Thomas J. Mahan and H.B. Mahan to Benjamin G. Follansbee on May 9, 1902, it was occupied as the Mahan Homestead.

William Mahan, soon after he acquired the “Old Mingo Bottom” plantation, built a log house near the site of the brick house once owned by W. D. Davidson, and the W.D. Davidson Homestead was built by Thomas Mahan in 1864. Thomas Mahan also erected the house near the one once owned by W. B. Mahan, and known as the William Mahan Homestead, and which was the property of Cyrus Ferguson and others, and stands immediately north of the City of Follansbee.

The Sheet Metal Specialty Company occupied the tract of land on Broad Street, adjoining the old P.W. and Ky Depot and were engaged in the manufacturing of sheet metal specialties. The S. Keighly Metal Ceiling and Manufacturing Company was once situated immediately north of State Street and near the Pennsylvania Depot and manufactured steel window and door frames, iron shutters, reinforced iron work for concreting, and metal ceilings.

The Jefferson Glass Company’s plant was located immediately south of State Street and it was their intention to manufacture fine glass table ware. The Union Lumber Company purchased a lot south of Duquesne Way where they had their lumberyard. The Builder’s Supply Company occupied land immediately west of Mill Alley and Ohio Street. The last two name Companies have furnished nearly all the material used in the early built structures in Follansbee.

The Pan-Handle Abstract Company who have charge of the sale of lots for the Brooke County Improvement Company report that there have been 931 lots offered for sale since June 1, 1904 and 572 lots sold up to September 27, 1906.

R. Humes who purchased 28 and 29 of the Original Plan to the Town of Follansbee on June 1, 1904 broke ground for his store room the same day and erected the first building in the the town of Follansbee, as platted and laid out by the Brooke County Improvement Company. The first brick structure erected in the City of Follansbee was by H.H. Provines on lot #121 of the Original Plan, and the front room of the building was known as the “Citizens Bank of Follansbee.” This bank was established in July, 1906 with an authorized total stock of $25,000.00. The United States Post Office was first established in Follansbee in 1905 with Mrs. Mary Hately as Postmistress, and was located on Lot #34 of the Original Plan of Follansbee.