More encounters with wildlife —

I am going to have to seriously alter some of my habits, down here on the Farm. You see, I have a window I leave open, without a screen, so the cats can jump in and out during the night without waking me up. And I’ve been in the habit of leaving my back door open to let fresh air in, up until I go to bed.

That has to change as of NOW.

I got off to a bad start when my neutered male, Bubba, woke me up a few minutes after six this morning with that funny little whirring meow that tells me… “Bubba, what have you done NOW?” Yesterday he’d brought me two little lizards, still living, and as soon as he dropped them on the floor they’d scurried under a cat food bag or behind the dryer (they’re still around here somewhere — too fast for me to catch! and of course, once he gave them to me, Bubba lost interest)… this morning it was a dead bird. A brown thrasher. I picked up the bird and tossed it out the front door.

A few minutes ago, I heard a cat munching cat food in the automatic feeder just inside the back door. Glanced up… RACCOON! a bright-eyed, half-grown raccoon, standing INSIDE MY HOUSE in my back hallway! I think I gasped. He looked up and seemed as startled to see me as I had been to see him.

“Excuse me — WHAT are you doing in MY HOUSE? Don’t you think you belong OUTSIDE?” Don’t ask me why I was speaking to a wild raccoon. I also talk occasionally to inanimate objects.

He stared at me for a moment then turned around and waddled out the back door. I grabbed my battery-operated sweeper and headed for the back door. He was standing just off the deck, and when I appeared in the back doorway, he peered at me again.

I knew we had raccoons out here. I regularly see tracks around the back dirt roads. But I’ve never even seen one waddling down the road at night. So this was quite a treat.

Still, it is not a good thing for wild animals to come meandering into one’s back door. From now on… the door remains shut and locked. Otherwise, I might step out of the front bathroom to find a deer in the living room, next!


There was a quail in my front yard this morning. I was working on the computer when I heard the “bob-bob-WHITE!” I knew he was close, but it took me several of his calls to realize he was so close. I got up from the table and went to the kitchen window; he was standing under the dogwood tree nearest the house, and as I watched he lifted his head and called again:

Bob, Bob, WHITE!

I could easily see his little white throat stretch out on the final syllable. such a startling contrast to the dark brown bands around his face, the rich brown of his back and the simple cream of his breast.

After a few moments, he quit calling and simply began to stroll in the yard, occasionally pecking something off the ground.

Grits 2

If you haven’t taken a look at Randy’s blog, you’ll not know that while he was here he had his first encounter with that great Southern breakfast food: grits.

For you non-southern readers, grits are simply fine-ground corn. Not flour, mind you — or corn meal, as it is more properly called. Corn meal is used in making cornbread and breading vegetables such as squash and okra for frying. Grits are a corn product in their own right, cooked one part grits to two parts water, just as you would any other cooked cereal.

How we eat our grits is open to debate. How not to eat them, if you please, is with what Randy calls “oleo.” That’s margarine for the rest of us. Unfortunately, that is how the Your House restaurant serves everything. Cold is another way you do not want to eat grits; Your House did not commit that offense.

Salt, pepper and lots of butter seems to top the list of grits dressings for people who’ve responded to me after reading Randy’s post. I happen to not like pepper, and I do like sharp Cheddar cheese on mine (reminds me, I’ve got to find my grits souffle recipe). My buddy Steven recommends butter and crumbled bacon. Ed reminds us that Yankees like theirs with milk and sugar — which (sugar) is how my ex-father-in-law eats them, and he’s from Texas. My grandmother Carter liked hers with red-eye gravy, which is simply the gravy made from the drippings of fried country ham and very strong black coffee.

There is also an unhospitable tendency among southern cooks — which Your House does not do — of dishing the grits out on a plate so they sort of run and pool over your eggs and breakfast meat. Me, I want my eggs (over easy) separate from my grits, and my drippy golden egg yolks uncontaminated by them. The restaurant served their grits in a separate bowl, which was mighty nice of them to do. I was pleased to see that their grits had a little bit of “body” to them, weren’t as runny as my grandmother’s usually were (once you add the butter, they do get runnier, so you want to start out a little thicker than you ultimately want the food to be).

Next time: okra!

New photo

I just want to take a moment to give credit where credit is due for the new photo. The old one, by the way, was taken by a parent at the school where I teach. The new one was taken by Randy while he was here at the farm on Sunday evening. Those are southern Longleaf Pines in the background, and I think the dogwood and part of a buddleia. I’m trying to persuade him to post one of the ones I took of him, but he’s complaining about looking too grey-headed, or hat hair, or some such excuse. I thought he was a good-lookin’ feller, myself, but he seems not to believe me…


Woke up this morning with the very strong sense that I HAD to get to the local home improvement warehouse and pick up some flowers. Half of them are now potted on my back porch; the other half will go in pots or in the ground later today. So begins my summer.

Randy was here over the week-end, and Sunday afternoon I brought him to the Farm for a couple of hours. It was a time of wonderful gifts of the kind I like best. As he unfolded his nearly – six-foot frame from my little Escort, the first thing he said was, “Man! it’s quiet out here!” and almost immediately we heard the plaintive little “bob-WHITE” of a quail in the woods behind the tobacco barn, and another across the road answering him. The buddleia I almost killed last year by transplanting late in the spring is blooming like crazy, and so are the daylilies and the spiderwort. There are deer tracks within twenty feet of the front steps. I wouldn’t have seen the fox if Randy hadn’t seen it first, gazing curiously at us through the underbrush of the hedgerow in the back yard. When the sun set and it grew quite dark, we went a little way up the road so he could see the stars unimpeded by city lights or my back-yard security lamp.

The one thing I couldn’t arrange for him was one of our glorious summer thunderstorms. We had a grand one Monday night after he had left, and another here last night, with heavy downpours of rain and rumbling thunder in the distance. The lightening bugs also did not cooperate while he was here. I saw a couple last week-end from the kitchen window where I’m now writing. We used to have hundreds of them blinking their way through the early summer evenings, when I was a kid. I suppose the extravagant use of pesticides and other chemicals has destroyed most of them. They’ve become quite rare, and you just don’t hear kids bragging about how many they caught and bottled the way we used to do. It’s a pity, the things we’ve lost over the past couple of generations.

Well, duty calls in the form of a cluttered back porch and two six-packs of impatiens. It’s a gorgeous morning, and I’m glad to be home for a while to enjoy it.

Sticks and Stones…

… can break my bones, but words can never hurt me!

Of course, we all figured out a long time ago that words can hurt a lot. That’s why the Church has some very strong words about the sins of detraction and calumny, which are sins against the Fifth Commandment.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC):

2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury.[277] He becomes guilty:
– of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;
– of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;[278]
– of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:
Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.[279]

2479 Detraction and calumny destroy the reputation and honor of one’s neighbor. Honor is the social witness given to human dignity, and everyone enjoys a natural right to the honor of his name and reputation and to respect. Thus, detraction and calumny offend against the virtues of justice and charity.

More thoughts to follow.