Sunday, August 31, 2008

Farm Girl

I've never actually resided on a farm, nor made my living farming, but I grew up in and around the farming community and in one way or another have lived my entire life near to farmers, so I consider myself a farm girl in spirit.

From the contour farming of southeastern Ohio, where
the terrain makes straight lines impossible and the crops snake around through the Appalachian foothills, to the low, flat, tiled fields of northwestern Ohio that drain the remnants of the Great Black Swamp, I have observed many types of farming practices. I have seen truck farming in northern Ohio, where migrant workers arrive annually to pick tomatoes and other vegetables by hand, and large fields in central Ohio, managed by one man with enormous machinery. I understand terms like crop rotation and no-till farming. I have known dairy farmers and those who ran beef cattle, people who kept sheep, even swine producers.

Of course, like most of you, I am familiar with the major crops grown 'round the state:




And, there is winter wheat, that first brilliant green of early spring, and alfalfa and apple orchards, and even vineyards.

But, it wasn't until I moved to the most rural part of southwestern Ohio that I learned we grew this crop here, north of the Mason-Dixon line:


Specifically, burley, grown primarily for cigarettes. Seventy percent of burley is grown in Kentucky, with the remainder being grown in a narrow belt encompassing seven other states - Tennessee, North Carolina, Missouri, Virginia, West Virginia, Indiana, and surprisingly, Ohio.

When I was looking to buy a home with a bit of land, I was intrigued to see how many real estate ads included a line about the property's "tobacco base." This is the amount, in hundreds of pounds, of tobacco a farm is allowed to produce. Once your farm has been rated for a certain amount of tobacco production, you must plant and grow that amount regularly. If you fail to utilize your allotted tobacco base after a certain number of years, you lose the right to grow tobacco in the future.

Now, as an ardent anti-smoker, I was in a quandary. What would I do if my dream home included a tobacco base? On the one hand, I could lease the rights to a local farmer, adding a nice little bit of cash income to my personal bottom-line, but did I have the right to profit from a crop used to produce something I consider a killer? On the other hand, if I didn't utilize my tobacco base, my property value would be diminished and I would lose money at resale.

Thankfully, I didn't have to face this dilemma, as my 5 acres didn't include a tobacco base. Living among tobacco farmers as I have for the past 11 years, I must say that, even though I hate the end product, I have to admire the men who raise burley. It's not an easy job.

Everything about tobacco farming must be done by hand, from setting out the seedlings, which were started indoors in a hydroponic soup, to hoeing the weeds around the young plants, to hand pruning the suckers at the base of the plants and the flower spikes at the top, to the harvest, which occurs in late August or early September each year.

A large sharp tool, called a tobacco knife, is used to cut the plant stalk at the base. Workers then spear the stalks, with the leaves still attached, and thread them onto a four foot long tobacco stake, which is sharpened at one end.

The completed tobacco stakes are left standing in the field, to be gathered and loaded onto a wagon equipped with racks that allow the plants to hang downward. The stakes are then transported to tobacco barns to be air-cured.

Air-drying burley is a slow process, taking weeks for the tobacco to turn from green to yellow to brown. Too much moisture, whether from rains or ambient humidity, can cause the entire crop to rot. Too little, and the drying leaves don't turn brown. The special design of the tobacco barn is essential to the drying process.

Tobaccos barns are unique structures. Nine or ten months of the year, they stand empty, like this one.

Or, they may be used for temporary storage for farm equipment.

It is only in the fall that they come into their own and are able to serve their primary function, the storage of burley tobacco. It is then that unusual pattern of cross beams fulfill their destiny, supporting the four foot long stakes heavy with freshly harvested plants.

It is then that the narrow doors on the sides are opened to allow the tobacco to air-dry.

A full tobacco barn. One of the signs of the season in late summer in southwest Ohio.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Fall is Football Season!

If you didn't know by now, there is only one sport that matters in KatDoc's World, and that's football. Specifically, college football. Even more specifically, Big Ten college football.

Oh, hell, let's face it. The only sport that matters in life is OSU Buckeyes football.

So, every Saturday from now until my beloved team wins the National Championship, readers of this blog will be forced to hear me rave about OSU. If this offends you, you are excused.

Go Bucks!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Funnies - the "Light Bulb" jokes continue

As a P.K. (Preacher's Kid), I feel I have the right to share the following jokes about light bulbs and church members. I say this with love and affection: the Methodist one made me laugh out loud even as it brought back memories of my childhood.


How Many Church Members Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb?

Charismatics - Only one. Their hands are already in the air.

Roman Catholics - None. They use candles.

Pentecostals - Ten. One to change the bulb, and nine to pray against the spirit of darkness.

Presbyterians - None. God has predestined when the lights will be on and off.

Episcopalians - Eight. One to call the electrician, and seven to say how much they liked the old one better.

Mormons - Five. One man to change the bulb, and four wives to tell him how to do it.

Unitarians - We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey you have found that light bulbs work for you, that is fine. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your personal relationship with your light bulb, and present it next month at our annual light bulb Sunday service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, three-way, long-life and tinted, all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.

Baptists- At least fifteen. One to change the lightbulb, and two or three committees to approve the change.

Southern Baptists - One hundred and nine. Seven on the Lightbulb Task Force Sub-committee, who report to the twelve on the Lightbulb Task Force, appointed by the fifteen on the Trustee Board. Their recommendation is reviewed by the Finance Executive Committee of five, who place it on the agenda of the eighteen-member Finance Committee. If they approve, they bring a motion to the twenty-seven Member church Board, who appoint another twelve-member review committee. If they recommend that the Church Board proceed, a resolution is brought to the Congregational Business Meeting. They appoint another eight-member review committee. If their report to the next Congregational Business Meeting supports the changing of a lightbulb, and the Congregation votes in favor, the responsibility to carry out the lightbulb change is passed on to the Trustee Board, who in turn appoint a seven-member committee to find the best price in new lightbulbs. Their recommendation of which hardware is the best buy must then be reviewed by the twenty-three-member Ethics Committee to make certain that this hardware store has no connection to Disneyland. They report back to the Trustee Board who then commissions the Trustee in charge of the Janitor to ask him to make the change. By then the janitor discovers that one more lightbulb has burned out.

Lutherans - None. Lutherans don't believe in change.

Methodists - Undetermined. Whether your light is bright, dull, or completely out, you are loved -- you can be a lightbulb, turnip bulb, or tulip bulb. A church-wide lighting service is planned for Sunday, August 19. Bring bulb of your choice and a covered dish.

Jewish Renewal - Depends. One if it's an eco-kosher bulb that isn't going to be lit by electricity from nuclear power. Two, as long as a man and a woman have equal turns putting in the bulb. Three, one to change it, one to do a Buddhist mindfulness practice during the change, and one to document the paradigm shift in a best-selling book called "The Jew in the Lightbulb." Four, same as above plus an additional rabbi to study the psycho-halachic implications of such a change and then lead a retreat weekend on the experience.

Zen Buddhists - Three. One to change the lightbulb, one NOT to change the lightbulb, and one to neither change nor not change the lightbulb.

Quakers - None. Who needs a lightbulb when you have an inner light?

Pagans - Six. One to change it, and five to sit around complaining that lightbulbs never burned out before Christians came along.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dragonfly Plates

You asked for 'em, you got 'em. My four "dragonfly plates" are finally done. Here they are:

I am very pleased with their symmetry - each plate is 7 inches in diameter - and the fact that they didn't warp. The rims are a little irregular, and the glazing, always a mystery to me, isn't quite what I imagined, but all in all, not a bad job for a novice pottery student.

Blue rutile. The form of this plate is the best, but the glaze surprised me. I got more brown and less blue than I was hoping for. This glaze shows off the dragonfly stamp the best of the four I used.

Chun plum. A consistent glaze for me, I'm pretty happy with this plate. The photo isn't clear, but the dragonfly shows up nicely IRL.

Grape jelly. The glaze is very nice, the rim of the plate is questionable. Although you can't see the bottom, I didn't get a foot ring on this one.

Forest satin.
This is my least favorite plate, both the glazing and the overall form. I have too many brush marks in the glaze, and I really thought I had smoothed the final coat pretty well. The rim is, well, pretty terrible.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Flipping Rocks

One day, I found a caterpillar I didn't recognize, and went on-line to figure it out.

My search led me to Bev Wigney's "Burning Silo" blog, and her fabulous photos of the world in miniature. Her macro photography and her knowledge of bugs and other critters blows me away. I don't get there every day, but every time I visit, she makes me think or go "oooh, neat!" When you visit, be sure to read the side bar explanation of how her blog was named, it's a hoot!

Yesterday, I found this post, promoting
the second annual International Rock Flipping Day, to be held this year on Sept. 7. The rules are simple: Go outside and flip over a rock - it can be on dry land, in a creek bed, or under the sea, if you so choose - and observe, photograph, or otherwise celebrate what you find there. Just remember to return the rock to its original position; after all, you are invading someone else's home. You wouldn't want the woodland creatures to turn over your couch and leave it upside down, would you?

So come on, all you nature-nuts. Get outside and flip a rock on Sept. 7, then share what you found with the rest of us!

(Oh, yeah - the cat. It's an Eight Spotted Forester Moth caterpillar.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Name that cat!

Calling all you caterpillar experts out there. While trying for macro photos of the goldenrod growing by my back porch today (yeah, the weeds really are this high around my house!), I discovered this caterpillar. I noticed it would rear up at me when I got too close.

Here are some close-up photos. Any ideas what it might be? Using one Internet site, I thought it looked like some type of looper, but it didn't make an inchworm-type loop while I was observing it.

You can click to em-biggen.

Edit: I may have figured it out. A photo and link on "What's this bug?" led me to this photo on Bug Guide, and the following ID:

The caterpillar of the Goldenrod Hooded Owlet Moth. Its host plants are asters and, wait for it - goldenrod! Don't you love it when things come together?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Last Cicada Post

Are you tired of hearing about periodical cicadas? I hope not, 'cuz I have one last report for you about these odd and mysterious insects.

As you may recall from my post, and the posts of others, like this one from Nina and even this, the Cincinnati area has just experienced the second wave of "17 year locusts" within four years. Periodical cicadas live most of their 17 years underground, emerging briefly to molt and live short, busy lives as adults that fly, sing, breed, and die within a span of about 6 weeks. Southwestern Ohio is fortunate to exist on the territorial boundary lines of two different emergence groups of cicadas, Brood X which emerged in 2004 and Brood XIV, which visited us from May through early July of this year.

As this post by Nina shows, female cicadas cut small slits into the tips of branches to deposit their eggs. The damage to the bark causes the twigs to die and fall to the ground, where the newly hatched cicada larvae return to their underground existence, feeding on tree roots until it is time to fly again.

The overall effect is called "flagging," and it looks like this:

For mature, healthy trees, the end result is a little judicious pruning, like getting a hair cut. Young saplings or small ornamental trees can be severely damaged, however, and so are often swaddled in a cheesecloth blanket for the duration of cicada season.

Thus ends the cicada saga. Say "good-night" to Magicicada spp. for another 17 years. I look forward to the next eruptions, Brood X in 2021 and Brood XIV in 2025. I wonder what the intervening years will bring, and where I will be when that magical event next rolls around.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Tortoises, Lizards, and Snakes: Oh, My!

The Greater Cincinnati Herpetological Society was at Harmony Hill Winery today, and I spent some time observing the scaly visitors they brought along. By far, my favorite was this guy, Dopey.

Dopey is an African Spur-thigh Tortoise, and very engaging. My first view of him was as he was trying to escape, trucking across the gravel driveway in a most determined fashion. Bad idea, Dopey. As a creature of the most arid parts of Africa, you wouldn't survive long in the humid Ohio River valley, especially once cooler temperatures arrive. Better to stay with your friends, who will feed you zucchini and other yummy vegetables.

"mumble, mrrph, munch, munch.
Yum, yum! Fresh zucchini!"

As I lay on my belly to get a tortoise-eye view of Dopey, he trundled on over to check me out. Don't believe that "tortoise and hare" myth - this guy could move! Soon, he was too close to photograph, even without the zoom lens, and I had to stand up to avoid being mistaken for lunch. I did get this great shot - my fave pic of the day.

"Gotz veggies?"

Another cool critter was this Blue-tongued Skink. He really did have a blue tongue, which he stuck out at me after the shutter clicked on my camera. Every time. I didn't get a blue-tongue picture, but I did get to touch him. He didn't even feel alive, more like some kind of plastic, neither warm nor cool, just "there." For the record, he didn't appear to be that impressed by me, either.

"Dude! What big ear-holes you have!"

Of course, any reptile demonstration has to have the obligatory snake-around-the-shoulders person, and this group had not one, but two. I'm not afraid of snakes, but I am cautious around the big ones, and really cautious around the really big ones.

This is a Dwarf Burmese Python. It felt like linoleum, smooth and pliant.

This is a Boa Constrictor. It felt like... Actually, it felt like I should stand far away from a snake this big. Good grief! You can't even see all of it. Where is its head, for goodness sake?

I don't want any comments about this photo.

Shame on you! I know what you are thinking, and I disapprove.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday Funnies

This week, we take a break from "LBJs" (Light Bulb Jokes) to study the differences between northern dogs and southern dawgs:


To all you dog lovers out there and those who understand
the difference between Yankees and Southerners... A Translation Of Yankee Dogs To Southern Dawgs

(Yankee) German Shepherd Dog

(Southern) Poh-leece Dawg

(Yankee) Poodle

Southern) Circus Dawg

(Yankee) St. Bernard

(Southern) "Thank Gawd, Here Comes The Whiskey Dawg"

(Yankee) Doberman Pinscher

(Southern-2 versions) Bad Dawg, or Dobimin Pinches

(Yankee) Beagle

(Southern) Rabbit Dawg

(Yankee) Rottweiler

(Southern) Bad Dawg AND Mean As Heck Dawg. Good dawg to guard
the still.

(Yankee) Yellow Lab

(Southern) Ol' Yeller Dawg

(Yankee) Black Lab

(Southern) Duck fetchin' Dawg

(Yankee) Greyhound

(Southern) Greased Lightnin' Dawg

(Yankee) Malinois

(Southern) Another kind of Poh-leece Dawg

(Yankee) Blue Ticks, Red Bones, etc.

(Southern) Prize Coon Dawgs

(Yankee) Pekinese

(Southern) Mop Dawg

(Yankee) Chinese Crested

(Southern) Nekkid Dawg

(Yankee) Dachshund

(Southern) Wienie Dawg

(Yankee) Siberian Husky

(Southern) Sled-Pullin' Dawg

(Yankee) Bouvier, Komondor

(Southern) "What The Heck Kinda Dawg Is That?"

(Yankee) Great Dane, Mastiff

(Southern) Danged BIG Dawg

(Yankee) Any dog that raids the hen house

(Southern) Egg-Suckin' Dawg

(Yankee) Any lazy dog

(Southern) Good fer nothin' Dawg

(Yankee) Any dog that's dead & buried & gone to Rainbow Bridge

(Southern) Best danged Dawg I ever had

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Do you want to see more pottery?

Sure you do. Even if you don't, I'm showing you anyway.

First of all, the "dragonfly plates."
There are four of them, and they are all the same size, 7.25" in diameter. They all have the same dragonfly imprint in the middle, and so that makes them a set. They survived bisque firing without any major flaws, but the rims are, shall we say, not the best.

This one is the best of the bunch, the last one I threw and the last one I trimmed. I'm very happy with it, except for one thing.

During the firing process, it developed a crack in the underside. It doesn't go all the way through the plate, and it is on the bottom where it is less noticeable. I am going to glaze it anyway; sometimes the glaze will fill in cracks and hide them.

Here is a close-up of the dragonfly imprint. I used a rubber stamp and pressed it into the wet clay.

I am going to experiment a bit with the glazing, painting each plate a different solid color, and then applying a thin wash of "Saturation Gold" over the base glaze in an attempt to recreate a dragonfly's metallic shimmer. Wish me luck!

Here are the dragonfly plates with the base coat of glaze applied. Hmmm..... One thing I didn't count on was the glaze filling in my imprints. The dragonflies are much less visible now. Well, I will let these dry and reconsider the gold overglazing.

glazes, clockwise from upper left:
Grape Jelly, Blue Rutile, Forest Satin, Chun Plum

Here are some finished pieces:

This little tumbler is only 2.5" high, but it is the perfect size
for a drink of juice in the morning. Yup, it's "Blue Rutile" again. I never tire of this glaze.

I like seeing the throw rings inside.

Another in my series of pump dispensers, this is "Forest Satin.

I don't know what this is, perhaps a handless mug for hot cocoa, but the glaze is "Hot Tamale."

A sugar bowl in "Grape Jelly."

and a matching creamer.

This bowl is done in a low-fire glaze called "Snapdragon." Initially, it is white with white crystals in the liquid glaze. When it is fired, the crystals turn red and green.

I like it!

Finally, my sister's Christmas present. I have been working on it for a while, nervously waiting for something to screw up in each stage of the process. It is back from final glazing, and I must say, it came out pretty well. I am going to show it to you, but you have to promise not to tell her what it is. It is a secret until Christmas, OK?

Seriously, don't tell her.

I'm not kidding. I'm trusting you all to keep this quiet.

OK, here is it:

(She reads my blog.)

Monday, August 18, 2008


Many years ago, I saw a television interview with Mrs. Lady Bird Johnson about wildflowers. Her legacy to our country, of course, is the promotion and protection of America's wildflowers. She was showing the interviewer several different flowers, naming each species as she came to it. When she passed over one flower, the interviewer asked her, "Mrs. Johnson, what is this flower?" "Oh," she said, in her lovely Texan drawl, "that's a DYF." "A DYF?" the interviewer questioned. "Yes," she said, "a Damned Yellow Flower."

I was young enough that I was fascinated by any cursing, even mild curse words, and
unlike today, swear words were very rarely heard on TV. Mostly, it came as a huge shock to me to hear the word "damn" come out of this very classy lady's mouth. It blew me away.

It wasn't until much later that I realized how true her words are. Just as sparrows are relegated to the group "Little Brown Jobs" and roundly cursed by all but a few enthusiasts, yellow summer and fall flowers give me the same feeling of dread. "Oh, no," I mutter under my breath, "another DYF."

It's that time of year again, DYF time.

I can get the odd-shaped flowers, like Common Mullein, Verbascum thapsus.

And this one I know - Butter and Eggs, Linaria vulgaris.

I figured out this one on my own - Evening Primrose, Oenothera biennis. It is a biennial, native and found in prairies.
(Susan, you should get this plant.) It is pollinated by Sphinx Moths, and the seeds are eaten by wildlife.

Here's another I sussed out all by my own-self: Bird's-foot Trefoil,
Lotus corniculatus. This one's not a native; it's a perennial imported from Europe.

Its foliage reminded me of alfalfa, and it turns out, I wasn't too far off in my guess. Originally introduced as a cultivated forage crop, then planted as a cover along roadways for erosion control, it has now gone wild, and will quickly overtake areas of disturbed soil.

Like alfalfa, it's a member of the pea or bean family, as you can tell by its elongated seed pods.

But, when I get into all those yellow daisy-like plants, with their ray flowers, my eyes just glaze over. They all look the same to me. (Maybe some of these are the same, I can't tell!)

I think these are two separate plants, but I'm not sure.

Coreopsis sp.

(above & below)

B is Jerusalem artichoke, Helianthus tuberosus
Thanks to Donald The Birder
(and flower-guy)

Oh, wait - I know this one - Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta. That's one down.

But, what is this thing? All I know is it was tall, like about 6 feet, and along the edge of the woods.

Wingstem, Verbesina alterniafolia
Thank you, Donald (the Birder) and
Keith (the Clermont County naturalist)
for this ID.

Some kind of sunflower?

Some kind of goldenrod?

Edit: Here is the foliage for the first goldenrod:This flat-topped goldenrod is probably
Lance-leafed Goldenrod.

Some other kind of goldenrod?

And more of the plant of goldenrod #2:This plume-type goldenrod is either
Early or Canada Goldenrod.

What the heck is this?
Maybe agrimony?

Another view of the "Maybe Agrimony," showing its growth habit.

And this close-up of the foliage
Chalk it up to just another DYF, I guess.

Small-flowered Agrimony
thanks to Jason for the complete answer

(Click on any of the above photos to enlarge.)

More DYF notes, Aug. 24:

Thanks to comments from Donald and Jason, and an e-mail from Keith, and also because I bought yet another field guide, I have gotten some names on several of these yellow flowers. Still some questions remain, because exact species names depend on plant details I didn't capture in my photos.