Friday, August 29, 2008

Phone Books
My good friend Mary down here in the Ozarks pointed out the other day that we get a lot of phone books for this relative small portion of the region. I think I received three.
Good news is that NATCO, Northern Arkansas Telephone Company, has drop boxes set up in all towns, including Bull Shoals, Flippin, Yellville and Mountain Home so you can drop your old (or unwanted) phone books for recycling.
Hurry, though, I think today may be the last day to do that.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

How Hard will the Winter Be?

The Farmer's Almanac has predicted a harder than normal winter for most of the U.S. Since moving to the Ozarks, I've noticed that more people talk about the supposedly natural indicators about what kind of a winter we will have. When I was in Kansas City, the sight of more wooly worms earlier in the fall indicated a rough one. Then there's the old standby of the persimmon seed. According to the Farmer's Almanac, Open it up and "a knife shape will indicate a cold icy winter (where wind will cut through you like a knife). A fork shape indicates a mild winter. A spoon shape stands for a shovel to dig out the snow."

Others we've heard since becoming Mountain People include the winter coats that deer acquire. "Last year, the deer were almost all gray from their winter coats," my husband noted last week. We both thought we had kind of a rough winter last year, with the ice and snow that knocked our power out more than once, but others have said it wasn't bad - especially given the fact that the insects this summer have been terrible.

A new piece of folklore we heard is about the amount of fog. If there is an unusual amount of fog present in August, it indicates a tough winter ahead.
We seem to have had a lot of that this month and given the limited visibility in the Mountains this morning, I'm wondering if we should get busy on getting that woodpile into shape for firewood.

If you know anymore folk tales about the weather, feel free to comment and post your own!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Recycle Your Old Antiques

We finally got all of our belongings from Kansas City this past weekend. When we started pulling the items out of the storage area, I wasn't prepared for the rush of emotion of seeing my mom's favorite things again - none of which I had seen since a week after her funeral. But once I got past the sadness and came to terms with the fact that her stuff would be with us here in the Ozark Mountains, but she would not as we had planned - I was grateful again for the gift she passed on to me for the appreciation of antiques.
More than once the movers made comments about the "real wood" and beauty of things from the past, but antiques provide more than just sturdy, good looks. Thanks to the hearty craftsmanship of items made in the 19th and early 20th centuries, I will never have to buy another stick of furniture again. The bedroom set, dressers, desks, china cabinet, dry sink and other items she left me will uniquely decorate our home here in the woods, while providing me wonderful sensory memories of my parent's and their weekend outings to flea markets and auctions. And with those memories, I always imagine who owned the pieces prior to my mom, who always came home so excited when she found a good "bargain" on a quality piece of the past. These treasures will also allow me to reflect on the day-to-day lives we led right up until my mom left us 18 months ago, and bring warmth into our own home.
As important, we are reusing and recycling. By not purchasing new furniture and adapting what we have to our new surroundings, we are conserving energy and materials, many of which are not renewable.
If you don't have the opportunity to enjoy heirlooms, many quality pieces can be found at flea markets, antique stores and through re-use stores all over the country. You have to keep your eyes open for the real bargains, but when you find them, it is like having a little piece of history in your home.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Another Innocent Lost

Imagine being a mother bear in the wilds of Alaska. You have no concept of park boundaries, you just spend your days foraging for your food and protecting your young. It's night and you're out looking for some meals with your two cubs. All of a sudden, something speeds by you and reacting naturally, instinctively, you lash out...

This is what happened in a park not far from Anchorage when, some group decided it would be a good idea to organize a night time bike ride. A girl was seriously injured in the bear attack.

But the story doesn't end there. In all of the intelligence humans can gather, they decided to track and hunt the bear down, all for doing what comes naturally in a habitat known for wildlife. But, oops, DNA prove they killed the wrong bear. Oh, well, no harm done, just two cubs are now without their mother and have to either also be tracked and killed or will have to be taken into (unnatural) captivity. Meanwhile, I assume the hunt continues for the real "offender."
Really, what do we really expect from a state that still allows cruel aerial hunts of wolves?

Monday, August 18, 2008

One Person's Junk

It's been 13 months since we made our move to the beautiful Ozarks. Problem was, the stuff we had in our 1,100 square foot home in Kansas City wouldn't fit into the already furnished 480 square feet we had here. For over a year, some of our stuff has been crammed into our smaller garage and the rest of it is being stored in two storage areas back in KC. Once our new garage was built, it cleared the way to start going through boxes of stuff in the smaller garage, which I started yesterday. Some of it was worth moving, but really, what does a person need with three sets of dishes - not including my mom's fine china, which I still do not have room for, but I will not part with.
Most of my stuff that I no longer need or want will be going to the thrift store that donates the proceeds to the humane society here. Some, however, cannot be recycled. I'm not sure anyone, except maybe an identity thief would need our bank statements and receipts from 1983.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sad Sacks

My husband has finally convinced me to replace my 20-year-old cotton grocery bags. My mother and I bought them the last time there was a movement to "go green," and we both used them until she passed away nearly a year and half ago. I continued our tradition, but my husband is right, it's time for them to retire from weekly use.
The sturdy white bags have faded pictures of animals and places (such as the rain forests) that were endangered 20 years ago. Not only are the photos faded, some of the animals have even made a comeback - such as gray wolves and humpback whales. That's good news. Wal-Mart (I know, people, but in small town Arkansas you really don't have a whole lot of choices of where to shop) has their bags on sale for $1 each. Unlike my bags, which have rounded bottoms and have trouble standing up on those bag merry go rounds, their bags are made for them. I'll still keep my sturdy cotton bags in the car for trips to other stores, but for the groceries, it's time for some new ones.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Are You Kidding Me?

Last week, I followed a story about a family in Colorado who went to sleep, leaving their French doors wide open. During the night, a mountain lion entered the house and killed the family dog, a 12-year-old yellow Lab, dragging it to some nearby brush and hiding it for later.
What happens next is becoming all too common in the sprawl vs. wild animal scenerio. Authorities used the dog's body to lure the mountain lion back, trapping and killing it.
Jennifer Churchill, a spokeswoman for the Division of Wildlife said in a Denver Post article, "A lion that will brazenly go into someone's bedroom we need to be careful of."
Are you kidding me? We move into a wild animal's habitat and live among them, - and some people even leave food out for wild animals - and we expect them not to become less wary of us to the point of even going through an open door, probably to take an animal it sensed was sick?
One article described the owner's initial reaction to the scuffle she heard, saying she got up to see if her beloved 12-year-old dog was having a seizure.
This tells me that her dog was at least sometimes ill, and a prime target for any animal of prey.
And BTW, this isn't an area where it is uncommon to see a mountain lion - it just didn't wander into a suburban neighborhood - this is an area described by officials as "definitely in lion country," - uh, kind of like our house, and we would never, no matter how hot it was, subject ourselves or our dogs to the possibility that something wild might come through an open door at night.
Anyone who knows me knows I love my animals with all my heart and we did have an incident last year in which my 15-year-old Cali Cat was killed because she got off of the porch after we moved(at least that's what we were told, we were in Germany at the time).
Still, while I tried to protect her by blocking her onto the porch, I still had the suburban mentality of her being in our "yard." Wild animals don't recognize yard boundries and we learned that the hard way.
But leaving your doors wide open?
Even if it weren't a mountain lion, wouldn't one be worried about an opposum, squirrel, raccoon or even a skunk coming through?
These people may have lived in their home for over 30 years, but they've learned a lot less about their surroundings in that time than we have in 1 year of living here. And because of their negligence, their family pet, as well as a Mountain Lion who was only acting on his natural senses, are both now dead.
Here's the article from the Denver Post:

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Building Green

We are moving along with our planned expansion of living/working/storage space. The new metal garage is done and the basement on my writer's studio, which I am naming "The Belle Creative Cabin," (Belle was my mother's middle name) will be done by the end of the week. This weekend, we will be going to find the windows and doors for the cabin. The walls will already be 2x8 construction, and I've instructed the builder that like our small house, I want plenty of insulation to help save energy.
I have to do a little research into windows and doors, but given my taste for natural light, I know I want a highly insulated glass, possibly low E to block the heat from the summer sun while still allowing the light to enter. We are going with ventless heating and air, hopefully with high energy star ratings.
I would love to have gone with bamboo flooring, but couldn't fit it into our rather tight budget.
I'm anxious to have a "Room of my Own."

Monday, August 04, 2008

Environmentalists Weighing in on Drilling Issue

I posted last week about the proposed drilling by natural gas companies in some of Arkansas' most sensitive wildlife areas. The thing that gets me about this article is the fact that a state official said they will make sure the companies aren't clear cutting trees. Uh, ok. Let me tell you a story about these companies - for them time is money. After deciding where our metal garage would go, we called the electric company who, after giving us the choice of paying $1,500 up front to have our line moved, or putting a new meter on the new building, so they could at least collect the service fee each month, they sent a company to supposedly remove one small tree and some branches.
When the dogs started barking one morning and I walked up the hill to investigate, I found the company ready to take out several large trees and two clumps of smaller ones. When I protested, the guy from the tree company became very upset and told me we could be responsible for cutting the trees oursevles.
Our fight with the electric, and then the phone company ended with the one small tree gone, but had we not actually been on site protecting our land and trees each day, there would have been a much different outcome. Now, I don't think state officials will be with these companies every step of the way. And, I believe the trees will only be the first casualties of this unholy alliance.