Friday, July 27, 2012

Folklife Friday: Crepe-paper Flowers

It is late July, almost time for Decoration Day at the church we attended in my early years.  It was a big day for us, just behind Christmas and going to the fair.  Many preparations had to be made to be ready for this special day, from making new dresses to preparing food for the communal dinner on the ground.

One of our most important jobs was creating loads of colorful crepe-paper flowers to decorate the graves in the church's cemetery. My Grandma made sure that every grave had at least one flower.  The hilltop graveyard bloomed brightly for a while, lasting until a summer rain bled all the color from the fake flowers.

The stores in town, Ben Franklin and The Golden Rule,  stocked their shelves with every color available in crepe paper, but often, the more popular reds and greens sold out, leaving the procrastinators no choice but blue and brown and an occasional bright orange. That never happened to Grandma; she had her priorities straight and bought the crepe paper early in the spring, when it first appeared in the stores.

In early July, flower construction began in earnest. Every petal had to be cut out, then scraped with open scissors to make it curl just right. This step required copious amounts of time that Grandma could not spare from the gathering of vegetables, canning, and picking blackberries, so her grandchildren were allowed to participate in this process. The hundreds of petals had to be wired together on a stem of stronger wire, that had been wrapped in green crepe paper. No one could be trusted to do this properly, so Grandma had to do this part herself. She spent every spare minute she could find to make these flowers perfect. All the crepe-paper creations had to be finished by Friday night before the decoration, leaving time on Saturday and Sunday morning to kill some chickens and get the big dinner ready.

For the graves of special family members who had passed on, single flowers were combined to make wreaths, some containing multiple flowers and stems.  The reds and yellows were the most eye-catching, and Grandma was a master at arranging them.  I wish I had a photo to share here, but these paper flowers had been replaced by plastic ones, and then silk ones, before I had a camera.

During a time when women received little recognition for their efforts, Decoration Day provided a venue for them to show what they could do, from the flowers to their new frocks to the copious, good food they fixed and shared.  It was also the perfect time for teenage girls to meet teenage boys, but that is a blog for another day.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sax in the City

Multicolored  helium balloons sprinkled the twilight sky above Wilson Park.

Babies played on quilts spread on the ground, the air around them saturated with humidity and the smell of hot grease and funnel cakes.

Copious cardboard fans moved in unison with feet tapping to the music.

The Midnighters, always good, delivered the songs we  love.  Let the music play on, play on.

Hundreds of people danced, filling every empty space.

Thousands of people laughed, listened, and lingered as the band played on.

I absolutely love Handyfest.

Friday, July 20, 2012


Perhaps it is the accumulated wisdom of living many years that helps cement the knowledge.  Sometimes, you just realize that some things are never going to happen in this lifetime need to move on...find peace with it.

I will never be able to grow dahlias like my mama did.

They were her favorite flower, and she watered, weeded, and wildly loved them everyday.  Her efforts produced enormous blooms on stalks that reached almost to her shoulders, blooms that caused traffic passing her house to slow down and admire them. Every visitor to her house was given an  tour of the flower beds to see the dahlias up close.

Mama's home church had a decoration day every year in late July.  Along with the homemade crepe-paper flowers, the plastic flowers, and the silk flowers, Mama always made fresh bouquets of dahlias to decorate the graves of her family.  They didn't last long, but they were appreciated by many before they succumbed to time and the July sun.

This year, it was late when I got the tubers in the ground, and the dahlia plants were still young when we had the ten days of hell on earth here.  The leaves were scorched and near death when the temperature got back to normal.  Several inches of rain resurrected them, and now I have a few blooms. They are beautiful, and I'm thankful for them. 

 They are not even close to my Mama's.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Happy Birthday, Little Bro

My little brother, Mack Ellis Stricklin, would have been 54 today.  His life was stolen in 2002 by liver cancer, and we have been robbed of the love and joy he continually brought to our lives.

He is on the right in the photo.  He and my youngest brother, Joey, were all dressed up in their new overalls for this picture.  See the look on his face?  It remained there all his life--the look that said there wouldn't be any dull moments when he was around.

It's been ten years since he has been gone, and I  miss him so bad.  I still laugh out loud sometimes remembering some of the things he did as a child. 

My youngest son, Mitchell, is so much like him, both in his looks and ways, and I am thankful for that.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Clouds a Comin'

Have you heard anyone say, "Its comin' up a cloud"? That's what we would say when the dark clouds and thunder started rolling in.   Last week, we had numerous thunderstorms here, and one of my friends said this.   I realized I hadn't heard this spoken in a long time.

My mom would sometimes say, "Its risin' a cloud." As in, "Put that book down and get those clothes off the line right now, its risin' a cloud."

I would be love to hear if we were the only ones that used that phrase.  If not, what did you say?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Hummingbird Banding

 Margie's beautiful gardens are a natural magnet for hummingbirds.  She has been feeding them for years, and hundreds return to her yard every spring.  For several years, she and UNA biology professor and hummingbird expert, Dr. Robert Daly, hosts a hummingbird banding.  Margie invites all those interested to watch (admission is a bag of sugar).

Cages are placed over the hummingbird feeders with a door connected to a fishing line.  From the carport, the door is released when the hummingbird goes inside the cage.

Margie then catches the hummingbird and puts it in a mesh bag.  One time, I helped her and held a hummingbird.  It was like holding a butterfly; they weigh only about as much as three pennies.

It is very exciting for little ones to help transport the birds to the front porch where Dr. Daly does the banding.

 This is a hummingbird in the bag waiting for his turn to get a band.

Dr. Daly measures them, weighs them, and notes any particular characteristics.

The bands are numbered, and Dr. Daly keeps a record of all of them.  There was one hummingbird caught that had a band that Dr. Daly had put on it seven years ago.  By banding, they are able to study the hummingbird's habits.  They have proven that hummingbirds return to the same source of food year after year.

When finished, Dr. Daly passes the hummingbird to a child to be released.  There are always lots of children there waiting for the opportunity to hold a hummingbird.

Every year, Hub and I put out feeders and have several hummingbirds to watch, but never on the scale of Margie's.  It is my dream that someday, we will have enough to invite Dr. Daly here for a banding.  Maybe next year.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

...One Week Later....

This time last week, the temperature was already in the nineties, working up to the hundreds by early afternoon.  It hadn't rained in weeks, and everything that we didn't water regularly was dying or already dead.  The grass crunched when you walked on it, and we were sure we would never be cool again.

The rain gauge was emptied on Tuesday night, and this is what it looks like this morning.  The temperature is in the low seventies, and may not get up to eighty today.

One week.  Seven days.  What a difference it can make in our lives.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

What's for Supper?

After the good rain we had Thursday, these little fellows came out to eat.

I planted this Tithonia (Mexican Sunflower) for the hummingbirds, but these gold finch love them, too.  I think it is the seed they are after, not the nectar.

They look like flashes of sunlight hiding in the greenery. So glad they came for supper.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Dog Days

Dog Days: a time period so hot that it saps the energy of man and beast, and there is very little, if any, movement.

In the Southeastern United States, where I am so blessed to live, dog days start in early July and don't end until September.

Children were taught the period was so named because it was too hot for dogs to move from the shade where they spent the long, blistering days. We were warned to be especially careful, for everything from bug bites to ear aches were remarkably worse during 'dog days'.

Fortunately, the crops were 'laid by' and growing by then, with harvest months away, so the work would slow down for everyone except the ones preparing vegetables for freezing and canning.

We worshipped the window fans that blew the night-cooled air into our bedrooms enough that we could sleep.

Actually, the term 'dog days' can be credited to the early Romans, who endured these hot, sticky days much like we do, even if they didn't keep records to be talked about on the Weather Channel.

NASA image
The star Sirius, called the Dog Star because it is the brightest in the constellation Canis Major, rises and sets with the Sun during the hottest days of the year. Naturally, the Romans blamed Sirius for the producing sultry days. Well, they had to blame something.
According to Brady's Clavis Calendarium (1813), Dog Days were popularly believed to be an evil time "when the seas boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies."

 I can agree with all that except the hysterical part. Being hysterical would require way too much energy.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Before and After

This picture of the flower bed in my back yard was made on April 14.  Looks pretty bare, right?  The grass was really green then.

Here it is on July 4.  We have had lots of blooms come and go.  The margarita in front has been cut back because it was covering up some of the other things.  The tall plants behind the bird bath are bee balm, and they are just beginning to bloom.  That is tansy and valerian behind the blue bottles.

Hub is diligent in keeping the bird bath filled.  We enjoy watching all the birds who frequent the bird bath and enjoy the water in this hot weather.  The robins love it, or maybe they just love to bathe more than the others.

The grass is not so green now, in fact, it is crunchy when we walk on it.  Hub waters the plants and flowers but not the grass.  We had rain all around us yesterday.  Hopefully, the showers will find our house today.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day

You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4,

not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle,

but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. 

You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism. ~Erma Bombeck

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

RIP, Andy

The sad news today is the death of the beloved Andy Griffith. 

We never, never tire of watching the old shows, especially the first ones when Opie was so little.  The Darling family and Ernest T. Bass episodes are favorites.  There are always comments about Aunt Bea when we have pickles.  Remember the Gypsies and Aunt Bea's earrings?

We have friends who have most of the shows memorized word for word.  When our granddaughter was four or five, she asked for Andy Griffith videos for her birthday.  I think it says a lot when we can get 200 channels of new programming  but always go back to these old shows we love.

Rest in peace, Andy.  You made my life better.  Hey to Goober!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Great Blue Herons

When we were in the mountains week before last, everyone was talking about bears.  It seems that because of the mild winter the Southeast had, the bear population has just exploded.  I can't swear that is true, because we didn't see any bears.

We went hiking every day and spent a whole day in Caves Cove looking for bears.  We saw numerous deer, wild turkeys, snakes, and a million people, but no bears.

The day we came home, we left early and drove back over to Tremont, which is on the road to Cades Cove.  Again, we didn't see a bear, but we saw something just as exciting.

In a very tall, dead tree, we saw a Great Blue Heron couple with their two babies in their nest. The little ones were not so little, and the nest seemed very crowded from my viewpoint far away and far below.

These pictures were made before the Sun came up over the mountain.  I didn't change them to black and white; this is exactly the way it looked that morning.

No doubt, we will have to go again to look for bears.