29 December 2013

Some color

In the grey doldrums of midwinter, when the sun is but a brief visitor to the day and colors are nearly absent, a bit of splashy color from autumn my be just the tonic you need. Here is my Impressionist rendering of Edinburgh Castle last October, when the trees of Princes Street Garden boldly frame the famous fortress. Mr. Fuzzy hopes it will brighten your day a tad. You may click on it to enlarge and perhaps you will find the effect more pronounced at the larger size...

26 December 2013

Sixty years ago

Christmas Day, 1953

Santa brought three gifts that year: a truck, a stage coach and a jeep. The truck was a gift from one of my grandfather's employees, painted in Papaw's colors. The stage coach was made from scratch (except the plastic horse) by another employee. The jeep was metal, I think it was an early Tonka toy, from my parents. The stage coach eventually disintegrated under hard use, the jeep, well, I honestly don't recall; it was store-bought and soulless.

It was an era in The South where everyone went by a nickname; the man who gave me the truck was "Wimpy" after the cartoon character because of his inordinate fondness for hamburgers. I never knew his given name. Wimpy was short, about 4'10" and was perhaps a dwarf. He always wore bib overalls and an engineer's cap, carried an unlit cigar in the right corner of his mouth that bobbed when he talked, was gruff in speech and demeanor but had the warmest heart you can possibly imagine. 

Perhaps because he and his wife did not have children, he was very fond of them, or at least of me. When my family moved into town, I was despondent because I missed the farm so very much. To try to cheer me up, Wimpy built a sandbox with a fringed surrey top to protect my fair skin from sun burn. Yes, modern people, a sandbox was a major amusement in my youth and I spent hundreds of hours in it. No batteries, no moving plastic parts, no operator's manual, no warranty, no safety warnings, not made in a foreign country.

I still take the truck for a spin around the living room on Christmas and remember the wonderful man who customized it for me. He died about 1960 but every Christmas, he lives on in my memory. God bless you Wimpy.

04 December 2013

My Scottish Lodge

Most readers of this blog (yes, both of  you) will already know that Mr. Fuzzy is a Mason. On his recent trip back to Scotland, he had the inestimable pleasure of attending his Lodge there. Scottish Lodge rooms are, on the whole, much more visually complex and aesthetically appealing than their American counterparts. They are also unique, no two alike. Here is a brief tour of the Lodge.

The ceiling is an elliptical dome, adorned with the seven architectural wonders of the world. As a result of the shape, the acoustics are superb.

The exact date of the origin of the Lodge is unknown but records at the University indicate the Lodge rented temporary accommodations  in 1551. The names of most of the Lodge's Masters are known from 1600 to the present date.

Mr. Fuzzy watched a Third Degree while there and cannot adequately describe the richness of the ritual there and what a joy it is to see it once more. If required to name a single item he missed most about Scotland, Mr. Fuzzy would have to answer "his lodge." Each Lodge has its own personality, formed by a collective attitude by the members. It would be difficult to envision a Lodge with a better personality.

30 November 2013

Sight, Sights Unseen and Plain Sight

When 'sympatico' with a person, work of literature, architecture, or place, those who perceive see much that others cannot/do not. When standing before an exquisite Adams (James, John, Robert or William, it matters not) building, seeing with the soul, not the eyes, one can perhaps envision the fullness of the beauty as the mind of the designer saw it, even before committing ink to paper. The same may be said in appreciation of a garden, a fence or headstone, -if- the rational mind can be silenced long enough for the higher thought processes to develop the concept to fruition.

 Likewise, much the same can be said of those who 'take snapshots' versus 'create images.' These days, with the tremendous computing power within a digital camera, a four year old can produce sharp representational images. But is that capturing or understanding the object in front of the lens? Mr. Fuzzy would say nay. The sharp image on the camera's memory card is but a beginning; the creation of an image of what the photographer saw in their own mind, informed by experience and sensitivity is yet nascent, requiring deliberation, craftsmanship and inspiration.

Rather than a dry written essay arguing or belabouring the issue, Mr. Fuzzy prefers to present to the reader a few examples from Edinburgh of what he beheld in his mind's eye.
Then you, dear reader, may form your own thoughts whether this concept has any merit whatsoever.
These images are meant to be viewed much larger than represented here; please click on them to enlarge...

20 November 2013

Chicken killer

Last night saw another raid on the chicken coop, resulting in the death of the last survivor of the original chickens four and a half years ago, the big Dominique rooster. The killer gnawed through the corrugated plastic wall of the green house, a first. I'll miss that old rooster, he was a fine one.

It came from the old coop side, where the intruder could, it seemed, not be stopped from entering. After examining it myself and with two neighbors, we were baffled by where a full grown raccoon could enter. Well, a careful inspection today in the late afternoon raking winter light revealed the entrance, see the photo below. I will now board that up and hope the problem is solved.

Last but not least, the silly Forsythia bushes... whatever kind of Forsythia these are, they bloom a bit all year, except for the dead of winter. Mind you, it has been as cold as 21F here recently and yet it blooms onward... talk about optimism.

12 November 2013


Noble readers, Mr. Fuzzy apologizes once more for the dearth of postings - it has been a month since last committing pen to paper, or electrons to the ether.

Today brings the first real winter storm to Stratheden Farm with some chance of snow. Mr. Fuzzy was absent for a fortnight (more on that below) and the season went from just past the peak of autumnal colours to a bare winter landscape with no leaves or weeds. Several times the low temperature has been 24F and tonight it may plunge to 21F; the temperature has fallen all morning.

Mr. Fuzzy had scheduled a trip to Scotland last May to attend a Royal Photographic Society biennial seminar and receive an award fro the Society. Alas, some sort of infection in both lungs laid him low for more than a month and any travel was prohibited. Thus, this trip was rescheduled to October in order to not lose the entire value of the airline fares. Another example of Divine Intervention; although it would have been most pleasant to attend the RPS seminar, by autumn, Mr. Fuzzy needed this trip and the timing was perfect.

There was relatively little sight-seeing but mostly visiting old friends not seen in six years. Beginning with dear friends, nay, family, in Edinburgh, and ending in Cupar, Fife, where Mr. Fuzzy once dwelt, the entire time was simultaneously restorative and exhausting. Over 3,000 photographs were made in the fortnight and it will take some months to sort through them before presenting the very best to you, devoted readers. For now, a few images of Auld Reekie (Edinburgh) must suffice.

Scotland, the country and its denizens, have always treated Mr. Fuzzy undeservedly well and this was no exception. Edinburgh is the only large city that Mr. Fuzzy has enjoyed - or loved. She is like a first love, now absent physically but never absent from memory & desire. Hence, hiraeth is the theme.

Edinburgh has multiple personalities: the obvious tourist sites such as the iconic castle, bustling neighborhoods with services utilized only by locals, and an overlap between the local and universal, such as the fine museums. Below is a visual tour of the toun, mayhaps will bring visual pleasure or warm memories to you. Until we meet again, I remain your obedient servant, Mr. Fuzzy.

14 October 2013

Martin's Station on Wilderness Road

Dear Readers, this past weekend was the autumn encampment at Martin's Station near Rose Hill, Virginia, just a few miles from Cumberland Gap and Kentucky. The weather approached ideal which enhances any event of this sort. Many re-enactors came from far away to take their roles and interpret 1775 on the frontier to school groups, tourists and inquisitive locals. Friday is when the schools bring their students on field trips; with the elimination of travel budgets, no Kentucky or Tennessee school districts participate any more, and the Virginia schools are nearby. The number of students brought to learn about the frontier has been more than halved as education budgets continue to be slashed. Now most groups are private schools or home school cooperatives.

Saturday is the primary day for adults and families to visit. Some arrive on Sunday but by noon many re-enactors are already on the road home, still many hours away. To the right you may observe the Artillery Sergeant educating tourists on the care and use of a 'grasshopper' cannon such as was in use at the fort (one of a pair) in the 1770s. Every hour there is a firing of this cannon with but one-quarter of the regulation charge and yet it is enough to rattle the wits of all present. It is not easy to imagine how it roared when fed a full charge of powder & shotte.

 Thanks to David Wright's suggestion some years ago, Mr. Fuzzy has always pitched his tent in the hunters' camp, wherein the two finest camp cooks of the modern era create succulent dishes over the hot coals. Below is one of those great talents, enjoying a brief moment of respite whilst the lunch cooks. These two men are truly Iron Chefs as all cookware is cast iron.

The other outstanding chef prepares the 'big meal' inside the fort where tourists can observe method and technique. It is amazing how few questions are asked. Below you will view Chef Two (on the right) and his comrade in musical duets, Bertie's Son (on the left). These gents have hundreds of period songs and music at their fingertips/vocal chords, and each night perform to small and extremely appreciative audiences of re-enactors long after the public has returned home. Their music sets the ambiance for all the others in a manner so subtle and deep that for Mr. Fuzzy, it is one of the most important activities present.

This year, three ladies of the fort labored to transform one of the rude settler's cabins into a tavern for the evening, serving cookies and hot cider whilst the duo (left) performed their magical spells of 18th century music and song. This transported all present through a temporal portal into the 18th century for a few fine hours. Thank you, Sirs, for your crucial ingredients in the weekend transformation.

This was the first time for the one-night tavern and it was immensely enjoyed by all present. It is sincerely hoped this becomes a fixture of the weekend event. Mr. Fuzzy thanks and congratulates these fine ladies for their endeavors which significantly enhanced the experience for all involved.

It is nearly impossible to explain the bonds between the individuals who constitute the family of historical re-enactors but the ties are deep and strong throughout the year, not just on the occassions when they come together at an historic site. Moreover, amongst the Captain, Sergeant, Corporal and some long-hunters there exists a further, deeper, stronger and more ancient bond, one which Mr. Fuzzy shares with them. The outpouring of love and support was the strongest tonic to cure the situation in which he has been involved of recent. Mr. Fuzzy appreciates all the affection & advice proffered. May the Creator bless you all.

07 October 2013

arty images

Dearest Readers,

As Rocket J. Squirrel used to say, "And now for something we hope you really like."

In the hundreds of photos posted over the last five years on this blog, most have been rather straight documentary images. Mr. Fuzzy also creates images that began as photographs and have endured substantial manipulation to achieve the look desired. A few will be posted for your edification and hopefully, your viewing pleasure. In order to appreciate the fine points, it would be best to enlarge the image. Criticism that will aid in refining the images and approaches will be appreciated.

All four images were made on the Sunday Drive. An enjoyable and productive time.

05 October 2013

More days in the country

Wednesday a friend took Mr. Fuzzy to lunch at the local cafe. As the last bits of Southern comfort foods were devoured, he inquired if I had an hour of free time. To be truthful, I did not, but the deaths of thirteen friends this year has taught the lesson of not missing opportunities to enjoy the pleasure of a friend's company, thus Mr. Fuzzy said "sure."

The friend is in his late seventies and although not a native of Floyd county, has spent 50 years here, and knows the roads, landmarks and people as well as anyone alive. With him at the wheel, we motored off to the far southeastern portions of the county where he thought the fall colors would be best. As usual, he was correct. Even at the lower elevations, the tree leaves were considerably more enveloped in their autumnal finery than on Stratheden Farms. The pattern was somewhat unusual in that dogwoods, gums and maples have reached their climax whereas other trees have yet to display a single coloured leaf.

Knowing well of Mr. Fuzzy's interest in history, the tour's primary goal was to introduce him to some of 
the county's earliest cemeteries, all active before 1800, some with Revolutionary War veterans, some with War of 1812 veterans, and probably all with Civil War veterans. Old cemeteries in Floyd county are generally very well kept, in some cases because direct descendants still dwell within walking distance, in other cases, simply due to respect. Mr. Fuzzy was taken to an unusually derelict cemetery, hardly visible amongst the trees and ground cover. The headstones were mostly home made, some nothing more than obelisk shaped field stones, some with reversed letters, and misspelled names. Out of dozens of stones, only one seems to have been commercially manufactured. Visually it was all stunning and Mr. Fuzzy's camera was worked hard. Most were of the same family name, one still found in the county; it must be wondered what happened that this sacred ground was deemed unworthy of maintenance by succeeding generations and neighbors.

The route for returning to town was delightfully circuitous, based on gravel lanes completely shaded by trees, all visual and sensual delights.The blessings of good friends is with Mr. Fuzzy every day and he is thankful.

Mr. Fuzzy wishes to thank friends from near and far who have offered support regarding a recent issue. He is especially grateful for those who live far away who have volunteered to come at their own expense and testify if necessary. You have taught Mr. Fuzzy new and valuable lessons about the power of friendship.

29 September 2013

A Country Day

The weather has been superb for more than a week with one needed rain and otherwise, clear and still. The smell of the air itself has changed and the north sky is deep azure. The dogwoods have entirely shifted their leaves to reds and near purples; the gums are mostly bright red and the maples are turning.

The cooler temperatures (46F this fine morn) have preserved flowers already in bloom. The potted flowers on the patio might lead one to think it was early August rather than the very end of September. But then the two reddish dog woods in the background correct that misimpression.

Many flowers bloomed very late this year. The constant dampness encouraged every weed seed in the pastures to germinate. Last year it seemed that after three years of labouring with a hoe, the nasty horse thistles were finally under control. This year, alas, they were worse than ever and Mr. Fuzzy thought all was lost. They should have bloomed nearly six weeks ago yet most plants still have no flowers or even buds. Perhaps the scourge will not be as severe as it once looked.

With the onset of the cooler and drier weather, Mr. Fuzzy has desperately been cutting firewood, a task best completed by mid-June. The nearly daily rains and Mr. Fuzzy's slow recovery from a lung infection prevented the optimal period from possibility. Four of the last seven days saw Mr. Fuzzy waltzing the chain saw over downed oak trees. With much luck and continued dry days, this wood may be seasoned enough to burn well by January. Yesterday an odd movement of a severed tree limb pinched the chain saw bar and it could not be extracted. The wood on each side was too large for Mr. Fuzzy to move. Eventually a call to a neighbor yielded a long crow bar with enough length for leverage and the chain saw was freed at last.

Today saw another pass at the downed oak until the chain saw gas tank was exhausted. And so was Mr. Fuzzy who thought better of loading, transporting and stacking a load of wood right then. Lunch sounded the better idea. Driving down the gravel county road, there was one of the neighbors working on his fences. It would be considered rude to simply wave and drive past thus the car was pulled over and a conversation ensued. After about ten minutes, the neighbor inquired whether Mr. Fuzzy was in a hurry? If not, he could have a guided tour around the neighbor's large holdings. Although hungry, this was too auspicious to deny and an hour's exploration resulted - a very, very enjoyable experience. At the outset. topping a rise gave a fine view of Stratheden II, forty-one acres not attached to the main body of the farm. Here it is below - the bright green in the distance. Mr. Fuzzy had never seen it so clearly before.

Near the end of the tour, a superb view to the northwest showed itself as you may see:

Eventually Mr. Fuzzy was bound for Tuggle's Gap and and received a call from a friend who had not yet consumed his lunch either; we shared a most enjoyable hour over good grub. On the way home, it was the opportune time to return the large crowbar borrowed the day before - and its owner insisted I pull up a chair and visit a while with him on this nice day.

Thus Mr. Fuzzy passed several hours of his afternoon in unplanned pleasant conversation with friends. Such is the way of life here. One dear neighbor died two weeks ago and served as a reminder that tomorrow may not arrive - don't pass opportunities to visit with those you cherish.

22 September 2013

Autumnal Equinox

Fair readers, today was the autumnal equinox and the weather was gorgeous on the farm. Almost no clouds, gentlest of breezes, and a high of 64F. The five day forecast indicates similar days. This was ushered in by a huge cold front, spanning from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico which roared through yesterday with an attendant 6/10ths of an inch of rain, much needed.

Saturday was largely dismal, ranging from fog to heavy clouds, driving Mr. Fuzzy to devour huevos rancheros for lunch at Tuggles Gap; the fog there almost too dense for driving. Nonetheless, the lower elevations rather than being blanketed by impenetrable fog, were lightly draped in a diaphanous fog which ebbed and flowed like a tide. Here is the view at noon:

Perhaps twenty minutes before sunset, Old Sol emerged from below a layer of dissipating clouds, low on the horizon, just as misty ground fog began to rise. The view, dear readers, was truly sublime. This image is straight from the camera with no manipulation whatsoever except to reduce the size for posting here. This is precisely what the eye perceived: the Creator's glory.

As the sun bowed below the horizon, Mr. Fuzzy and Rufus the Dog took their pre-darkness soiree to the front of the farm. Although the sun was just below the horizon and light was fading with each heart beat, a superb rainbow occupied the eastern sky. Mr. Fuzzy apologizes for the lack of quality, it was taken with an iPhone, but the reader can interpolate the details.

The Creator was generous with beauty this day, for which all of us here on the farm are thankful. May your day have been at least equally splendid, if not better.

05 September 2013

Tales of Tails and more-

As is normal, there's good news and bad news - but finally the good news has begun to outweigh the bad. Fred the Red who was interred in the soon-to-be office last month because he was being treated for a cold fully recovered. He soon thereafter developed a limp, it did not improve over several days and an appointment with his doctor was made. Dr. Meredith McGrath quickly diagnosed his problem and an X-ray confirmed it; Fred had a broken pelvis. If you examine his x-ray, right above the blue star's top point, you will see the rather large break. Fred was either hit by a car or kicked very hard; in either, case, he and Mr. Fuzzy are deeply thankful there was no other damage. Today marked the fourteenth day of his incarceration in the office-to-be and he was freed to roam Stratheden Farm once more.

Mr. Fuzzy defines 'introvert' and rarely attends social occasions but the annual fund raising dinner for the local humane society is always an exception because the cause is so worthy. The stalwarts of the humane society save hundreds of cats and dogs from certain death by finding them new homes and work to reduce the population with a spay & neuter program. The weekly newspaper in the county published several photographs of the event - one containing Mr. Fuzzy's visage. The food was fabulous, the company good, and Mr. Fuzzy was the successful bidder on several local items including an exquisite basket. The person pictured with Mr. Fuzzy was Rufus' nurse when he was being treated at the Virginia Tech Vet School hospital and is a exceptional person with deep commitment to the improvement of conditions for both animals and humans.

Today was a check up on Rufus at the Vet School - they have been closely monitored his electrolytes to determine the appropriate level of steroid supplement. The blood chemistry result today was, for the first time since his crisis, normal. He will, for the remainder of his days, require steroid injections and pills but his life will be normal.

Rufus would like to thank his emergency doctor who quickly diagnosed Addison's Disease and intervened appropriately, Dr. Honius and Ms. Macon (DVM-to-be), thereby saving his life. He also sends wet licks to Drs. Disney and Ziglioli and final year students Ryan Walczak, Phd, and Eric ________, PhD,  (my apologies, Eric, but I cannot spell your last name and don't want to murder it). Ryan & Eric hold doctorates in chemistry but discovered their dedication was to veterinary science, not the industry or laboratory. Chemistry's loss is the animal's gain as they are both outstanding people, brilliant, affable, professional and profoundly caring. Their care and treatment is so exemplary that Rufus looks forward to the 50 minute ride to the school.

Doctors, and doctors-to-be, Mr. Fuzzy is forever in your debt for saving his buddy. A special thanks to Ms. Macon for reassuring him that everything was going to be alright on that anxiety ridden night of emergency admission.

There surely is a special reward in the next world for these compassionate people.

02 September 2013

Garden glories

This post is long overdue and Mr. Fuzzy offers his apologies to the three devoted readers of this blog. No good excuses and fortunately, no illness.

Tomorrow brings the first Canadian air this far south for some time and proffer the first really cool autumn-like nights with temperatures in the fifties. It will be a welcome relief and should induce fine, deep slumber. Undoubtedly the felines will be delighted and their rambunctious sides will emerge.

The summer garden is essentially finished. The food production portion was an unmitigated disaster with little production for much labour. The lack of sun, unprecedented precipitation and commensurate explosion of weeds combined in an exponential manner to devastate the gardens. Oddly, the flowers suffered far less and some performed quite nicely. Below is the most recent daily drizzle, from yesterday.

The sunflowers, although blooming several weeks alter than normal, reached 8 feet or more in height and shown through the cloudiest of days like small suns themselves. They are now just past their peak.

The zinnias have also prospered, both in pots on the patio and in the smaller garden.The colours and shapes were superb and although slightly past their peak, some new buds develop yet with hope for revealing their hidden charms soon.

Reagan is a dear friend of many, many years; we worked together in the late 1970s and have always kept in touch. Within the confines of his Christmas card was an envelope of cosmos seeds, which he promised would grow into the largest cosmos ever beheld by Mr. Fuzzy's eyes. Never known to exaggerate, his promise was true - the plants are full and bushy, reaching about three feet in height. The colour is unusual as well. Thank you, kind Sir, for the thoughtful gift.

01 August 2013

Procyon lotor

The raccoon has proven smarter than Mr. Fuzzy. Despite a detailed "buttoning up" of the coop, yet another hen was killed. A good neighbor with fine eye sight and hunting experience was called in. He found one potential point of entry which Mr. Fuzzy immediately occluded with wood and screws. It is unclear whether it worked because at 5:00 a.m. this morning, one of the two old hens who sleep on the porch was attacked, presumably by the raccoon. It took less than 45 seconds to grab a pistol and flashlight and fly down the stairs. By the time the patio door was flung open, only one very traumatized hen remained. A few loose breast feathers from the other girl were strewn about; no victim or villain in sight (or found in the light of day later). The raccoon had killed on the patio, right against the house wall, with a solar light brightly gleaming 15 feet away.

Today, what time was not spent in struggling with overdue 2012 taxes was spent modifying the coop. It is composed of two sections: the original, made perhaps twenty years ago as a goat shed, cobbled together into a coop with salvaged bits, and the "new wing" which was commercially designed as a cheap greenhouse. Mr. Fuzzy believes the greenhouse is less likely to have a non-obvious flaw allowing surreptitious entry and thus he partitioned the coop into its two components.The wooden section now is devoid of chickens - all were gathered up after roosting and transferred into the greenhouse tonight in the hope they are safe therein. A Hav-a-heart trap resides in the old section and the game camera is trained on it as well.

Neighbor George notes another neighbor has killed a number of raccoons raiding their chicken coop.

Needless to say, both chickens and Mr. Fuzzy are very discouraged.

Perhaps this is the first post in over 500 that is sans illustrations. Apologies to the readers but nothing other than chicken corpses seemed appropriate to this post and that was just too grim.

Mr. Fuzzy must now return to the IRS forms. Oh joy all around.

30 July 2013

Pride Goeth Before the Fall

It has, dear readers, been one of those days for Mr. Fuzzy.

1. As he let the chickens out of the coop this morn, secure in the certainty they had slept well and safe from The Raider, he saw the corpse of yet another hen inside. Checking the game camera positioned in front of the coop door, there was the visage of the villain, staring out of the coop door about 1:00 a.m. Once again, Mr. Fuzzy had failed to protect his much-diminished flock.

2. Because the remaining dregs of the main garden served little more purpose than providing food and shelter for the enemy, the tiller was invoked and about one-third of the big garden simply tilled under. A sad admission of defeat by the weather, insects and deer.

3 (a) Those readers who have known Mr. Fuzzy for long know his life revolved around photography prior to Stratheden Farm. When times get tough, photography has always provided substantial therapy and this seemed like the day to run a test roll through a Mamiya RZ67 body recently acquired on FleaBay. Actually, two rolls were exposed, each with different lenses.One preparing to develop film in the darkroom tonight, a plastic tube slipped from the hose bib and sprayed water all over one wall (including the content of a cork board) and floor. Twenty minutes with mop, sponges and towel ensued.
3 (b) Once the film was developed and hung to dry, it is clear that the new camera has a light leak, either in the film holder or the mating of the film holder to the camera body. Once the film is dry, said fogged negatives will be scanned and the images examined to diagnose the true cause.

There is more but a litany of disasters is rarely amusing or entertaining thus this post will cease. Sigh.

It is sincerely hoped that you fared better today, good readers.