Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Empty Nesters

That’s  what we are this week cause after checking the little cedar tree in the front yard, we found this . . .

robin nest tree0525 empty nest

Before we left on our recent NC road trip, this little nest had 4 beautiful blue eggs, and then not 4, (as we first thought) but only 3 young robins, featured in an earlier post.

0512baby robin collageThese young birds had no feathers and their eyes were shut. They would silently open their mouths whenever we looked in, most likely expecting their parents to feed them – a never-ending chore with young’uns.

Young birds grow and fledge quickly we knew, but we hoped (or rather expected) to see these young robins around when we returned home. But, a week away is a long time when young birds are being feed constantly and growing quickly.

0524 baby robin (10)Here’s WHAT was in the nest – this single, fully feathered, eyes wide open, alert young robin and, as you can see, he really filled the ENTIRE little nest.

Grenville and I checked around the trees and front yard, but found no signs of any siblings, nor did we see any evidence that they had been attacked by neighborhood cats. Of course, another bird carrying off a defenseless young one is always a possibility. While disappointed not to have seen them leave, we were thankful to have not found anything indicating they left other than voluntarily.

Maybe space was a problem?

0523 baby robin (2)This little fellow took up the WHOLE nest – and was always hungry.

open wide collage

0522 baby robin (16)Mom and dad robin usually hovered nearby and attended to every feeding.

adult robin collageAnd clearly were very protective.

robin adult0522 (8)Even though the front yard nest is deserted, it remains in the little cedar tree and maybe it will have new occupants before too long. The former occupants left it in good shape, so it’s all ready.

Yesterday while working in the back yard, we watched a mourning dove and a robin as they gathered nesting materials and flew into one of the pine trees . . . so maybe we’ll have a couple of full nests VERY soon.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

F&P Orchard Update

An early April blog post showed photos of blooms on the apple, peach and pear trees in the Frog & PenguINN orchard. In the month and a half since then, the blooms have turned into small fruit.

OK, we admit it’s rather small (now) but here’s a view of the F&P orchard. Smaller apple trees are in the first row. Large apple trees and peach trees in the row with the garden bench. orchard0522 (1)The two peach trees are already laden with so many small peaches that Grenville is talking about peach pies, peach cobblers, peach jam . . .peach tree collage0523He has similar plans for the apple tree . . . (except for the jam)apple tree collage0523The two strawberry patches have been producing better than ever this year, which is the third year since planting. We’ve frozen several quart-size bags. It will be great to enjoy these in the winter months.

0526 strawberries (1)It will be great to enjoy these in the winter months.strawberry collage0523We have a single Bradford pear tree, which produced wonderful blossoms this spring (and last year), but again no fruit. pear blossoms0407 (1)pear blossoms0407 (5)

Grenville has planted lots of veggies – asparagus. beans, beets, carrots, corn, cucumbers, lettuce, onions, peppers, tomatoes, squash (butternut and yellow), zucchini – and will be posting an update soon. He’s also planting a Great Pumpkin patch later in the season. We love making pumpkin pie and carving jack-0-lanterns.

(Just don’t ask him about those blueberries.)

Memorial Day 2011

Remember those who died  . . .soldier statue

This last weekend in May, the U.S. celebrates Memorial weekend. Last year’s Memorial Day post related its the origins and connection with the red poppy. Here’s more information.

Memorial Day (formerly Decoration Day) is a U.S. federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May to commemorate men and women who died in U.S. military service.

It was first originated in 1868 to honor both Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the American Civil War. After World War I, it was extended to honor Americans who have died in all wars and became a national holiday in 1971

On Memorial Day the flag is raised quickly to the top of the staff and solemnly lowered to the half-staff position, where it remains until noon. It is then raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day.

The half-staff position remembers those all those who gave their lives in service to their country. At noon, their memory is raised by the living, who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.

A national moment of remembrance takes place at 3 p.m. local time.

The National Memorial Day Parade which includes Marching Bands and Veterans featuring units from all 50 states goes along Constitution Avenue, past the White House and includes patriotic floats and helium-filled balloons.

Other Memorial Day “traditions” celebrated in the U.S.

  • TONIGHT - The National Memorial Day Concert features musical tributes paying respect to the men and women who died in war and takes place on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol the Sunday before Memorial Day. It’s broadcast on Public Broadcasting System (PBS) and over National Public Radio (NPR). This is a wonderful tribute.
  • One of the longest-standing auto races, the Indianapolis 500 race has been held in conjunction with Memorial Day since 1911 and was run today, the Sunday before Memorial Day.
  • The Coca-Cola 600 stock car race also was held later today since 1961.
  • The Memorial Tournament golf event has been held on or close to the Memorial Day weekend since 1976.

flagH070310 (5)

Freedom – so precious to everyone.


After a long absence our friends, or as Blogger calls them followers, seem to have returned..... possible but some sort of Media Majik... So we say to you a hearty

Friday, May 27, 2011

Blogger STILL Broken

It’s been frustrating to try and leave comments on blogs we read and enjoy. Some blog comments work OK and let us post as “Grenville” and “Beatrice.” Other times, a comment is listed as “anonymous” after we have signed in and re-signed in. And, then sometimes after signing in, there’s an endless loop where the sign-on screen keep re-displaying and No comment can be posted.

And there’s no way of knowing which time the comment will get through.

Today, the list of Friends has disappeared on our blog and also on some other blogs we follow.

Reading the blogger help page provides no new updates and doesn’t even address some of these problems.


Grenville and I are considering a move to WordPress. Truth is we haven’t learned all the ins and outs on blogger, so don’t know whether WP would be more or less confusing.

Here’s where I would ask. . . . Anyone want to comment?

But, then remembered, OOPS you may not be able to do that.

But, IF you can, let us know whether a move would be better? (Thanks, Christer, for letting us know you liked WP better.)

Update on “Two Horses Asses”

Beatrice has told me that the picture i put in my original post answering the question of the width of the track of Standard American Railroads disappeared. So i re-searched for the picture but found that it was part of a longer blog post from Grandpa Bill: Park County, Colorado. Here is his complete post.

The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That’s an exceedingly odd number.

Why was that gauge used? Because that’s the way they built them in England, and English expatriates designed the US railroads.

Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that’s the gauge they used.

Why did ‘they’ use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they had used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in  England, because that’s the spacing of the wheel ruts.

So who built those old rutted roads? Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (including England) for their legions. Those roads have been used ever since.

And the ruts in the roads? Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels.

Since the chariots were made for Imperial  Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. Therefore the United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. Bureaucracies live forever.

So the next time you are handed a specification/procedure/process and wonder ‘What horse’s ass came up with this?’ , you may be exactly right. Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the rear ends of two war horses. (Two horses’ asses.)

Now, the twist to the story:

When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in  Utah.

The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains, and the SRBs had to fit through that tunnel.

The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses’ behinds.

So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world’s most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse’s ass.

And you thought being a horse’s ass wasn’t important? Ancient horse’s asses control almost everything…and the CURRENT Horses Asses in Washington are controlling everything else!

- Grandpa Bill: Park County, Colorado

Friday Funnies

“X” marks the spot . . .X Marks (3)

But, who’s going there to look for any treasure?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Broken Blogger

While we have been able to post on our blog, even if sporadically. Sometimes it let’s us sign in and post, but other times there’s an endless loop of trying to sign in and leave a post comment on another blog.

Just wanted y’all to know, we really tried to comment on some recent posts as you may have tried on ours and know what . . .

It ain’t our collective faults!

Seems like issues with Blogger are becoming a weekly (almost daily) problem. There’s a website with known issues – called Known Issues for Blogger – The latest on what's still a problem, what's getting fixed, and what's been taken care of, direct from the Blogger team. And there’s also a Blogger Help support page. Only problem (and a BIG one) is both these sites don’t seem very helpful and are not really current

Here’s what some folks have reported in the past 24 hours  on the blogger help site. . . please note that all comments are verbatim (including types, abbreviations, etc.)

No it still isn't working for me I still need to log in to place a reaction in someone's blog and I am still anonymous.

Can't log in at all on blogger. Logged in fine to Gmail (which is usually "good enough" .. but keep getting log in screen for any attempt to access admin tools for blogger).

I login at my dashboard, no problems there. I go to a blogger blog and comment, and instead of my username being there I have to pick "Google account", which then takes me to the login screen, where I login (selecting remember me), and I get taken to the comment form again, and show up as anonymous, instead of as my user name. Then I type the word verification, and click post, and it takes me to the login screen again. Then after I login again it takes me to the comment, and I have to start all over again. It also isn't accepting WordPress or OpenID as an option.  Also, I end up getting logged out of all other Google products (reader, Gmail, etc.).

I click on sign in and it takes me to my dashboard just find, but when I click view blog it takes me to my blog page, but it says sign in again in the upper right hand corner.  I can no longer edit anything from my home page.  I can only work from my's driving me nuts!  Help!

Posted on Blogger Help - Tuesday, May 24, 2011

We're investigating an issue which is preventing login and comment posting for some users, and hope to have a fix released shortly. Thanks for your patience in the meantime.
Labels: comments, login, outstanding

Also Tuesday from the Blogger Help from Brett, Google employee. . .

Hey folks, an update: We are in the process of rolling out a fix which should address the issues from this morning. Please reply directly in this thread and let us know if things have resolved. This affected my personal blog, and now things are fixed so I'm assuming others will see an improvement very soon (if they haven't already) -- -brett

Keep on working on that fix, cause it’s STILL broken.

Carried Away?

baby clothes (1)A while back, Grenville posted that in late July we will become 2nd time grandparents with the arrival of a granddaughter.

And, as we did earlier for our grandson, we’re already gathering baby bargains in the local thrift clothes (11)

Many items are not only like new – some are brand new and never worn by a baby – maybe too many outfits in the same size?

WHAT deals we’ve found! The bib above and this hat were 25 cents each. At these prices, we can afford to buy a wardrobe and have $ left over for toys – or a college education?.

Saving money aside, this is great fun. Any clothes she can’t use will be donated elsewhere, so it’s all good.

We’re trying to avoid the all-pink look, adding yellow and purple clothes (5)

This week, we got a chance to buy blue baby clothes as NJ friends became 1st time grandparents and we sent these for their new stanley (1)

Can you tell that we’re having a great time shopping?

What is This? #11 Answer

YES, the What is This? #11 post from earlier this week is – a Bird Bath

Sort of . . . OK, it’s only the pedestal base, since the top bowl piece has a crack and is awaiting repair by Grenville.

We have a second one in the front yard. This plastic birdbath has withstood summers and winters the past several years. We bought it for under $10. The penguins skate on the little ice pond in colder months and frogs swim in warmer ones – hanging out those little skates and towels is a lot of work. What you don’t believe that  -- WHICH part?


CORRECT answer once again came from Sandra, who almost went with Kathleen in guessing it was a plunger, seconded by Elaine.

IMG_0876And, it sort of, kinda DOES look like an upside-down plunger.  Elaine, you may be right in posting that a plunger might be more “essential” than popular.

BUT considering how often I have to wash it out and refill it, the birds find the bath VERY popular.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Clingman’s Dome

NO, these folks are not walking a ramp to the “Mother Ship.”IMG_0241Although, it may look like it in this photo.IMG_0236Some folks are already there.IMG_0238What is this place and why are these people here?

At 6,643 feet, they’re at the Clingman’s Dome observation deck getting a great overview in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Clingmans Dome is not only the highest peak in GSMNP, but also the highest point in Tennessee, and the second highest point east of the Mississippi. Only Mt. Mitchell (6,684 feet) in NC is higher. The tower is located on the state line ridge of North Carolina and Tennessee; the observation tower stands equally in both states.IMG_0237It’s located along the state-line ridge, half in North Carolina and half in Tennessee. To reach the peak, we drove the 7-mile Clingmans Dome Road from Newfound Gap Road (US 441), which runs through the [park. After parking, we walked a steep 0.5-mile paved  trail that lead to this 54-foot observation tower. IMG_0247The Appalachian Trail crosses Clingmans Dome, marking the highest point along its 2,144 mile journey. From the tower, the average viewing distance is about 22 miles.On a clear pollution free day, views can amplify as far as 100 miles into 7 states.

Where did the mountain get its name, I was curious and learned it was named after Thomas Lanier Clingman, Civil War general and U.S. T Clingmansenator from NC. He was appointed senator (D) in 1858 to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Asa Biggs. During the civil war, Clingman was one of 10 senators who refused to resign and was expelled in absentia. During the Civil War, he was a brigadier general in the Confederate Army. He  explored and measured mountain peaks, and through his survey work, he spread information that NC was a site to find diamonds, rubies, platinum, corundum, and various other rare minerals. 

Clingmans Dome is open year-round, but the road leading to it is closed from December to April 1, and whenever weather conditions require. Hiking and cross country skiing is allowed on the road during the winter.

The cool, wet conditions on Clingmans Dome's summit make it a coniferous rainforest. But, pests, disease, and environmental degradation threaten the fragile spruce-fir forest. Dead trunks litter the area, and dying trees struggle to survive another year. Berries thrive in the open areas; a young forest will replace the dying trees.


What's killing the trees at Clingmans Dome?

The balsam woolly adelgid (Adelges piceae)  an insect pest that infests and kills stands of Fraser fir (Abies fraseri) in the spruce-fir zone. This fir occurs naturally only in the southern Appalachians and used to be the dominant tree at the highest elevations. Because the adelgid was introduced on trees imported from Europe, the fir has little natural defense against it.

The adelgid blocks the path of nutrients through the tree by injecting it with toxins. The trees starve to death; thousands of dead snags are all that’s left on the highest mountain peaks.

A “cousin” of this insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid, is killing hemlock trees throughout GSMNP.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Distance Between the Rails and WHY???

WOW,,, i posted a stumper…. Thanks to everyone who answered and those that know the answer, because they are smart little possums.

Daisy was close with the idea of the width of a wagon, but what was in front of the wagon was more important. And Anonymous who ever that was, had the right distance at 4 feet 8.5 inches. This is the gauge of the standard railroads in the US even though there are still some narrow gauge railroads around. BUT why this strange number. While Wikipedia has a nice description, i sort of like the ‘urban legend’ one. Now i can’t confirm this but in Great Britain horses were used to pull coaches before the steam engine was perfected. AND if you put two British horses side by side their asses measured 4 ft 8.5 inches. So there you have it, the width of two British Horses Asses.

Most Popular U.S. Park

Do you know its name? GSMNP viewHint: Last week we visited one of the 2 states it’s located in.

IF you said the Great Smoky Mountain National Park (GSMNP) – you’re absolutely RIGHT – this is the most visited U.S. national park with 8 to 10 million annual visits.GSMNP view1That’s 2X as many visitors as at any other national park.GSMNP view3Unlike most other national parks, there is no entry fee to the park.

WHY? The reason for free entry dates to the 1930s. The land that today encompasses GSMNP was once privately owned. The states of Tennessee and North Carolina, and local communities, paid to construct Newfound Gap Road (US-441) which runs through the park.

In 1936,Tennessee transferred ownership of this road to the federal government, and stipulated that “no toll or license fee shall ever be imposed …” to travel the road. Newfound Gap Road was then one of the major routes crossing the southern Appalachian Mountains; the state was concerned with maintaining free, easy interstate access. North Carolina transferred its roads through abandonment, so no restrictions were imposed. If GSMNP ever wanted to charge an entrance fee, it would take action by the Tennessee legislature to lift this deed restriction.

IMG_0132Established in 1934, GSMNP was created from more than 6,000 tracts of private and commercial land bought with money from public and private donations.

GSMNP collage1About 100 native tree species make their home in Great Smoky Mountains National Park — more than in all of northern Europe. The park also contains one of the largest blocks of old-growth temperate deciduous forest in North America.

pine conesGSMNP is a renowned preserve of wildflower diversity and has over 1,660 types of flowering plants, more than in any other North American national park.

GSMNP flora collage2It is often called the “Wildflower National Park.”  Peak spring wildflower blooming usually occurs in mid- to late-April at lower elevations in the park, and a few weeks later on the highest peaks. Spring ephemerals include flowers such as trillium (the park has 10 different species), lady slipper orchids, showy orchis, crested dwarf iris, fire pink, columbine, bleeding heart, phacelia, jack-in-the-pulpit, little brown jugs, and violets.

Ephemerals are so named because they appear above ground only in late winter and early spring, then flower, fruit, and die back in a short 2-month period, emerging from February through April, and gone (dormant) by May or June.

These are some of the flowers in bloom the day we visited.

GSMNP flora collageIGSMNP is one of the few places left in the eastern U.S. where black bears live in a wild, natural habitat and are often seen and photographed.

Sorry, no photos as we missed seeing any bears during our visit, but saw several groundhogs and lots of black-capped chickadees.

GSMP wildlifeThe GSMNP straddles the ridgeline of the Great Smoky Mountains, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a division of the larger Appalachian Mountain chain. The border between Tennessee and North Carolina runs northeast to southwest through the centerline of the park. Nearby Tennessee towns of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, and Townsend and Cherokee, Sylva, Maggie Valley, and Bryson City in North Carolina receive a significant portion of their income from tourism associated with the park.

IMG_0186The two main visitors' centers in the park are Sugarlands Visitors' Center near the Gatlinburg, TN entrance and Oconaluftee Visitors' Center near Cherokee, NC. Ranger stations provide exhibits on wildlife, geology, history of the park, and sell books, maps, and souvenirs.

Establishing most of the older parks located in the western United States, such as Yellowstone, was different than creating GSMNP. In those cases, Congress carved parks from government-owned lands owned, usually where no one wanted to live.

But people were living in the current GSMNP areas. Land was owned by small farmers and  large timber and paper companies. Farmers didn’t want to leave family homesteads; corporations didn’t want to abandon huge forests of timber, miles of railroad, logging equipment, and villages of employee housing.

GSMNP collage1

In the late 1890s, people talked about a public land preserve in the  southern Appalachians; a bill entered the NC legislature, but failed. By the early 20th century, Northerners and Southerners were calling for some type of preserve: a national park or a national forest.

What’s the difference?  In a national forest, consumptive use of renewable resources is permitted; but in a national park, the environment and resources are protected for everyone to enjoy.

GSMNP view3In May, 1926, President Calvin Coolidge signed a bill that provided for the establishment of the GSMNP and Shenandoah National Park, allowing the Department of the Interior to assume responsibility for administration and protection of a park in the Smoky Mountains after 150,000 acres of land had been purchased.

GSMNP view4The government was not allowed to buy land for national park use, so fund raising was started. In the late 1920s, the Tennessee and North Carolina legislatures each appropriated $2 million for land purchases, money was also raised by individuals and private groups. By 1928, $5 million had been raised, but land costs had doubled. The Rockefeller Memorial Fund gave $5 million for purchase of the remaining land.

IMG_0210Farms and timbering operations were abolished to establish the protected area of the park. Mountain homesteaders, miners, and loggers were evicted – 6.000 small farms, large tracts, and other parcels were surveyed, appraised, and sometimes condemned. Timber and paper companies had valuable equipment and inventory which required compensation. IMG_0174The park was officially established in June 1934.  During the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Works Progress Administration (WPA), and other federal organizations made trails, fire watchtowers, and other improvements to the park.

  • Bears over 1,500 black bears live in the park, which equals a population density of approximately two bears per square mile.
  • Hiking there are over 800 miles of trails ranging from quiet walkways to multi-day backpacking backcountry treks.
  • Historic Buildings GSMNP has one of the best collections of log buildings in the eastern United States. Nearly 80 historic structures — homes, barns, churches, schools, and grist mill.
  • Waterfalls can be found on nearly every river and stream in the park.
  • Fontana Dam is the tallest dam in the eastern United States, and is  located near Fontana Village, North Carolina.
  • Mountain Farm Museum  at the Oconaluftee visitor’s center is a unique collection of farm buildings assembled from locations throughout the park.
  • Clingmans Dome at 6,643 feet this is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We hiked the half mile up and half-mile down. (MORE in an upcoming post.)