30 December 2014

The difference of a day

Mr. Fuzzy prefers dwelling where there is strong seasonal variation in the weather. Tucson was hell for weather in many ways, not the least of which was a month of consecutive cloudless days and the imperceptible change of seasons. How do you know its winter in Tucson? The crab grass is dead. The city paints the dead grass green in the medians. Seriously.

Stratheden Farm is situated at 2,500 feet elevation right near the ridge line of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The altitude moderates summer temperatures to easily bearable degrees and also brings the beauty of snowy mantles in the winter.

Yesterday was transitional, moving from recent unseasonable (but most pleasant) warmth a few notches back toward winter. The collision of the disparate air masses spawned an exquisite dense fog for much of Monday, a photographer's paradise, at least for this one. Ninety six images frozen in perpetuity with the passage of twenty minutes - there was so much more but the creative eye was suffering eye strain. Not to bore you, dear reader, only one will be posted:

The temperature decline began Monday morning and now nearly noon on Tuesday, continues unabated. A light smattering of very fine snow fell not long before first light and serves to highlight the horizontal shapes and forms of creation. Offered here are two views from the office window; the second is a full color image.

May winter bring as many delights to your heart and eyes as it does to Mr. Fuzzy's.

25 December 2014

Merry Christmas to all!

A couple of days ago, the weather was gray and wet - but beautiful. The fogs were in perpetual motion, changing the scene from minute to minute. Had the weather been cold, the 1.5 inches of rain would have lain in drifts...

 Christmas Day was amazing - if you enjoy sun and warmth at this time of year. It was totally sun-drenched and warm, about 45F (but in the radiant sun beams, it felt much warmer).

For me, this day is about friendship and love, not divisive religious beliefs and sparkly kitsch made by wage-slaves in China. To that end, I surrounded myself with friends - in a way, since they were all physically elsewhere! Breakfast was Clay's home-canned sausage with Dova's banana nut bread. It was my first Christmas enjoying Clay's sausage but about my 45th (that is NOT a typo) Christmas devouring Dova's bread to begin the day.

Midday it was so warm and welcoming outdoors that afternoon tea was on the veranda, soaking up the sun's blessings like a lizard on a warm rock. The gourmet tea was from Charles and the sweet was a mouth watering pecan tart from Susanne. With a warm black cat sleeping in my lap, taste buds dancing and a gorgeous landscape to view, it was all heavenly. It was such a lazy day that your author was still in his bathrobe, a Christmas gift from dear Aunt Nancy about six years ago; she passed on to a better world this last May but dwells forever in my memory.

When the tart was demolished, a hand became free and it was time to peruse another gift, a book from master gardener Mike: The Complete Chile Pepper Book, a Gardener's Guide to Choosing, Growing, Preserving, and Cooking by DeWitt & Bosland. There have been quite a number of chile-oriented tomes in front of these old eyes but none like this one. Its pretty much everything you need to know from seed to eating. The advice seems very well founded and the recipes especially interesting. With internet hat your finger tips, information from books seems less cost effective or time equivalent but this type of book with the entire flow of the plant from history to consumption, cannot be matched by hit and miss information on the internet. If you're a fellow "hot head" or a devoted gardener, this book is required reading.

Hopefully your day was at least as blessed as mine. I treasure you all.

15 December 2014

The gift is small, good will is all

Much like other years, Mr. Fuzzy promised himself to get an early start on gift shopping and writing Christmas cards; as usual, an utter failure. At least this time there is an exogenous parameter to blame rather than procrastination or ADD: the day before Thanksgiving the power was out for about nine hours. The precise cause is not certain but despite being connected to surge protectors, a number of electrical devices were toasted, including but alas not limited to:  refrigerator light bulbs (3), DVD player and this computer.

It seemed like bad form to bother the county's sole computer geek over Thanksgiving so it was Monday before the computer was in his capable hands - and Wednesday before he pronounced that the hard drive was alright, only the power supply was cooked. Then a few more days for the replacement parts to arrive and be installed & tested. Eleven full days before the machine was back on the desk, whirring away. To be honest, Mr. Fuzzy had no concept of the extent to which this machine aided and abetted daily life. The camera is at labor nearly every day, sometimes for a single image, sometimes a series, sometimes dozens of unrelated images. Without the computer, I could not view, permanently save, edit, print or send any of those photographs. It was akin to being adrift.

Enough of that.

The title of this post derives from a small poesy vase made in the form of a book in England, January, 1688. Whether the potter made as a gift to his sweetie or at the request of a customer has been lost to time but the sentiment still rings true today.

Some of Mr. Fuzzy's friends are well ahead of him in holiday preparation and gifts have already been delivered at Stratheden Farms both in person and by post. It is unbecoming to brag, but he has the very best friends imaginable, and this has been proven by the gifts recently received.

Today a wee flat packet arrived from Scotland with an awesome array of stamps (see above) carefully applied; that degree of thoughtfulness was a joy to consider. The packet carried three objects safely across the frigid Atlantic: a contemporary Christmas card (as one might expect), the 2015 Lodge St. Andrew installation programme and a priceless wee treasure, a 101 year old pocket booklet containing the 1913 revision of the Lodge's Bye-Laws (the Lodge itself predates the year 1600 and the formation of The Grand Lodge in 1736). How these fragile nineteen pages have survived more than a century is something of a miracle but its is clear from detritus inbetwixt the pages, it was not secreted away inside a book or other protective element all of its life. It gives cause to wonder if the Brother who was the original owner survived the slaughter of Scottish soldiers in The Great War - and how many Brothers pockets held it (and contributed the seeds and lint between the pages) until the next revision superseded it. Held in the hands, it is almost an act of supernatural conjuring, connecting to those long deceased Brothers, to those living Brothers who brought so much joy and fraternal comfort to Mr. Fuzzy, and especially to Brother Morris who gave this inestimable gem to your undeserving correspondent.

Closer to home, a farmer/historian/mechanical wizard friend came by with two small gifts given with a large heart. He had taken Mr. Fuzzy's wailing and gnashing of teeth to heart and brought small gifts that evinced his Brotherly consideration (yes, a Lodge Brother, again) and generosity. To view them, they are diminutive but to the grateful recipient, they are substantial. The first is a pair of unassuming gloves, high visibility orange and black, which happen to be waterproof, insulated, nonslip grip, nearly abrasion and cut proof. Mr. Fuzzy seems to be experiencing the onset of arthritis in his hands, particularly triggered by being cold & wet. These gloves should go a long way to minimize such pain this winter as well as make labor safer. The second gift is  a small cardboard cube containing 325 rounds of .22 match grade ammunition. Anyone who has attempted to acquire such material in the last few years will appreciate the magnitude of this present. Thank you so much, Brother David.

A couple of days ago. my 85 (or thereabouts, a WWII veteran) year old neighbor dropped by to deliver three two-quart containers of frozen home pressed apple juice made this past October. Talk about mana from heaven! There is so much work involved in its creation, from gathering through pressing and bottling then a major clean up ensues. Truly a gift from the heart. Thank you, John and George.

That's not the end of the story but should become the end of this missive lest you, the reader, become bored or believe Mr. Fuzzy's behavior in writing of his blessings is less than untoward. It should be closed by saying that Mr. Fuzzy fears he is inadequate at being as good a friend to others as they are to him.

13 December 2014

Annual Christmas Parade

 Weather has been extreme already this winter (before it was winter!) with three appreciable snows before Thanksgiving and several nights of 11 degrees. I'm already wondering if I cut enough firewood.

 Parades here are always opened by a Veterans of Foreign Wars Honor Guard. Each year one or two less are present. He is not easily visible but the rider in the jeep is 94 year old Lawrence Wood; a life time bachelor, he still lives on his own. He requires neither spectacles nor hearing aids and his mind is perhaps brighter than your correspondent's. God bless these men for their service.

 For the first time in six years, the weather was delightful for the parade, sunny and about 60 degrees. It may be my poor memory but it seems like there were some less entries than earlier years.

 There was an easy winner for "the oddest entry." Can't say why this was in a Christmas parade but must admire someone's mechanical ability in converting a Volkswagen into a tracked vehicle. It appeared to run very nicely, I must add.

As for the most unusual group, it would be the welding society. The Lincoln was fired up and they were actually welding toys as the float slid past onlookers.

Floats may be modest and the virtue of modesty pervades the Brethren's religious beliefs - as does being an active part of the community, This gentleman on his ATV epitomizes these Floyd county attributes.

All parades in this part of the world must have classic cars and old tractors; Floyd county has plenty of both and they always constitute an especially popular genre of the parade.

Any wheeled vehicle can become an entry with some tinsel and other decorations.

Some businesses in Floyd town work hard to decorate and bring a certain sense of nostalgia and beauty. It surprises me each year that those who dedicate so much effort do not shame the non-participants into at least token decor. A realtor occupies a building on the most critical intersection in town and doesn't bother to even place a small tree in one of the windows. Of all the businesses, it would seem to behove his to make the town seasonal and joyful.

08 December 2014

Six years

Dear readers, today marks the sixth anniversary of the first blogpost from Floyd, the 2008 Christmas parade. To quote a wiser soul, "Lately it occurs to me, what a long, strange trip its been..." Thanks for coming on the ride with me.

And here is last night's spectacular moon:

23 November 2014

New Orleans

Every once in a while, Mr. Fuzzy manages to leave the farm for exotic destinations; recently Amtrak took him to a conference in New Orleans. It was the annual conference of the South East Conference on Foundations, a very well run and worth while meeting.
Because of the Amtrak schedule and the meeting opening speech, Mr. Fuzzy had an entire morning off at the outset and an entire afternoon at the end, both spent in famous cemeteries, St. Louis No. 1 and Lafayette.

 Unlike his last trip to the Big Easy forty years ago, these two photogenic cemeteries are safe to visit (unlike some of the others).

Cemeteries are full of people with stories to tell and frequently anxious to tell them, but so few with a heartbeat stop long enough to hear their very quiet voices.

All of these images are best viewed large so double-click on them, please, or you will miss the subtleties. 

18 November 2014

dang its cold!

The high today, in brilliant sun and abundant wind, was 25F here on the farm. At 9:00 p.m., its already down to 14F. Baby, its gonna be cold tonight. The Century Furnace is filed with oak and locust and heating the house nicely.

A graphic from the National Weather Service in Blacksburg, Virginia, says it all:

09 November 2014

Five Photographs in Five Days Challenge

There is a photographers' game going around on FaceBook where you are challenged by someone to post five black & white images, one per day and you pass the challenge on to two or three others. Mr. Fuzzy has been a little disappointed in what has been posted as those images often represent 'greatest works' and can be twenty years old. It seems especially disingenuous to post an image in a format that the photographer doesn't use any longer.

My five are all from 2014 and made with (1) a dying Canon point & shot that gave good service but it was never intended to take 5,000+ images, (2) Panasonic X20, a ground breaking mirrorless camera with a fixed zoom lens or (3) Panasonic Lumix GX7.

In sequence are Mr. Fuzzy's five images:

All of these images contain subtle tones and details that are only viewable if you double click on the image to enlarge it. Hopefully, these have not bored you, dear viewer.

02 November 2014

"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas..."

Mr. Fuzzy was on the road six of eight weekends and then caught the creeping crud two weeks ago at the autumn executive session of The Honourable Company of Horners. He has yet to totally shake that infection, alas, but at least feels clear-headed enough to write a blog post. It will be your judgement, dear reader, as to whether he really is or not-

About four or five days ago, Mr. Fuzzy's collection of Christmas cacti simultaneously burst into an explosive array of blooms. The day could not have been any finer: 65F, dead air, brilliant sun warming every surface it blessed, nary a cloud in the sky.

 Fast forward to yesterday morning. The clouds were so thick and the snow falling in such a concentration, that it was dark until almost 45 minutes after sunrise. Yes, there was an inch of snow on the ground and visibility perhaps reached 125 yards every once in a while. Eventually there was more than two incches accumulation.

Last night the wind shook the house much of the night in subfreezing temperatures (I heard from a friend the chill factor was 15F); Floyd county was under a high wind warning all night and at noon, its still unpleasantly gusty. Just fie days ago, my conceited mammalian mind thought it knew better than the Christmas cacti which were blooming far too early. Now Mr. Fuzzy knows what the Christmas cacti knew - winter is here.

20 October 2014


It has been a goal since moving to Virginia to take day and weekend trips to explore this beautiful and historic state. Alas, the farm and life have prevented the regularity of these peregrinations but a golden opportunity arose last week to spend a day in Lynchburg, a town totally unknown to Mr. Fuzzy, other than two good friends were raised there.

Thomas Jefferson had his second home near the town and wrote: "Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to be useful to the town of Lynchburg. I consider it as the most interesting spot in the state." Well, it seems to still be a fetching city based on last week's visit.

Time was limited and following a long-held philosophy of learning more about a smaller area rather than skimming a large area, Mr. Fuzzy stayed in downtown. The downtown is intact and vibrant with excellent preservation of old (pre-1900) buildings, all of which were occupied and in fine condition.

There was an classy coffee shop (oh, that Floyd should possess such a space) with adult patrons in a subdued but thoroughly interesting atmosphere. But rather than show you the interior, their front door summarizes the business. Click to enlarge the photo to be able to read the bottom sign!

Bailey-Spencer Hardware has been in its location for most of a century and is a treasure trove of new old stock and items required to restore historic architecture. The president, Scott Pearl, waited on Mr. Fuzzy. This was a step back into time when most facets of life were more appealing.

A door or two away was the most wonderful book store Mr. Fuzzy has wandered into since Betsy's in Cupar. Although no book purchase was made, an hilarious cat-humor greeting card came home, so good it is likely to be framed rather than sent. The proprietor's lap was occupied by a wee black and white cat. This minimalist space was soothing, quieting, relaxing and made the customer want to spend the day searching for great literature.

Next stop was the Old City Cemetery, opened in 1806 as a public burial grounds. Unlike many old cemeteries, the tomb stones were very modest. There is a large section where the Confederate fatalities from the military hospital are buried. After one battle alone, 6,000 Confederate casualties were sent to the hospitals there. Before the War had ended, more than 20,000 soldiers had been treated there, about 3,000 succumbing to their wounds and diseases. It is not depressing per se, but sobering, to stand where they are interred.

05 October 2014


After the last several posts with autumnal coloration, perhaps you, dear reader, might enjoy resting your cones (color sensors in your eyes) and observe Mr Fuzzy's world in monochrome. Those of you who have known Mr. Fuzzy more than a decade will recall his 'arty' photography was always monochrome and he has rediscovered the joys and special aesthetic vision of monochrome with the Panasonic GX7 camera.

A few weeks ago, the talented photographer (and dear friend) Tillman Crane stopped in for a day. Mr. Fuzzy always learns at least one key operational concept of photography from Tillman and this visit was no exception. Watching Mr. Crane use his Fuji X Pro 1 camera, it was observed his viewing screen displayed the scene in black & white. Naturally, the inquiry was made: why and how? His answer swayed Mr. Fuzzy to experiment with the same method and below you may peruse some of  the better class of outcomes.

The Panasonic Lumix GX7C camera is a relatively new(2008)  format pioneered by Olympus and Panasonic denominated "micro four thirds."  Its a small sensor but still larger than those used in most compact digital cameras. In theory, sensor size is key to tonality (dynamic range), low noise, and other important variables in digital imaging. In practice, however, those apparent limits are barely noticeable. On the other hand, the small sensor allows for a much smaller camera body and commensurately smaller lenses, such that the system you carry weighs a fraction of the larger sensor-packing cameras. The night scene above was taken more than an hour after sunset; the eye could discern no tone int he sky whatsoever. This was shot on 'idiot' mode with the camera making all determinations. Hand held at 1/13 second. You may have another opinion but this seems almost miraculous to Mr. Fuzzy.


The fogs have been plentiful and of fine quality in the last few weeks. Some have laid for hours, some have evaporated with the first warmth of the sun, but all reveal new glories of Floyd county for those who wish to see them.

As always, you may click on any image to enlarge it, should you so desire.

Stay well and content yourselves.

30 September 2014

Early Reds

Autumn is here - at least if red leaves are an indicator. Strangely, the yellows are well behind the reds in coloring. The temperatures have warmed a bit again so it is not the crisp nights causing the transformation.

The Virginia Creeper (to the left) is as intense in color as I have seen in years. The dogwood (below) out in the large pasture has colored quickly and a has taken a deeper hue than typical. Most, but not all, of the dogwoods are especially well endowed with their signature red berries this season.

One of the 'tools' provided by nature and utilized by weather prognosticators in much of the eastern United States is the woolly web worm. Famous prophets keep their specific techniques secret but common wisdom notes the insects' color ratio, depth of color, numbers and activity levels. The greater the percentage of black on the worm, purportedly the worse the winter. Today Mr. Fuzzy saw the first one of the season and he forecasts bad news: all black, very large and slow.

In these parts, stink bugs are rampant, no end of trouble both domestically and in gardens. The little buggers (pun intended) prefer to winter indoors in tight places. They do not augur the form of the future winter but speak to its arrival date. Alas, they have been all over the window screens for perhaps ten days, a sign the cold temperatures may not be far away.

28 September 2014

Good golly, Miss Molly!

Miss Molly and Mr. Fuzzy on an old bootlegger's gravel road over the Blue Ridge

Due to a plethora of "exogenous parameters" in Mr. Fuzzy's life, this poor old gal (a 1940 Ford DeLuxe Coupe) has sat lonely and neglected in the garage for over two years. Sigh. When last running, she was about to receive brighter headlights for better night visibility and so she sat with her eyes on the floor, waiting for installation and the open road again.

After the resolution of the over-riding life distraction, it was time to turn back to Miss Molly. A special gift appeared in the form of my friend Allan, who is, among other talents, a superb designer and builder of  Classic American Hot Rods. In the blink of a metaphorical headlight eye, he had Molly ready to hit the road again. Although humid, the last two days have been without any threat of precipitation and cool so Miss Molly and Mr. Fuzzy have been reunited for an autumn tour. 

Allan on his BMW

Last night saw a very modest trip into Floyd for dinner, more or less a dry run to be certain there were no hidden problems due to the prolonged sitting. The petrol in her tank was probably two and a half years old but she started within five seconds of cranking that masterpiece of American design, a Chevy 327 engine, and roared into life as if she was a new car. On the return trip to the farm, she received ten gallons of fresh premium petrol and she purred all the way home.

This morning brought a second trip into town for the traditional Sunday breakfast with my buddy Mike. We decided a short tour after breakfast would be just the thing to bring the morning into clear focus. My thanks to Mike for taking this dandy image.

It is a great delight to have the opportunity to spend quality time with Miss Molly again. Thank you, Allan.