Country Road

A Day Spent Flipping Rocks and All I Got Were These Lousy Pictures

Okay, that heading is not totally accurate. True, I didn't find a flippin' thing underneath the many rocks I flipped, but it got me looking closely at what Mother Nature has to offer this time of year and that was a reward unto itself.

I learned about National Rock Flipping Day on this blog written by my good friend Loree Griffin Burns. It's quite simple. One  goes out, turns over rocks, and makes a record of ones' findings for the good of science. Easy as falling off a log.

Here's where I went first. Yes, a dappled forest path leading down to a burbling stream seemed like the perfect place to conduct my study.

There were plenty of rocks along this trail but none had visible signs of life beneath them. Well, under one I saw a scuttle-bug, thus named because it scuttled from sight before I could take it's picture.

I found moss growing on the rocks...

And in the creek, there were loads of snails-without-shells clinging to the sides of rocks...

Then there was this little fella perched atop a rock.

And pretty flowers dancing near the rocks.

But nary a thing was found beneath the rocks. Fine. Forget the forest, I'd check my yard.

First stop, my poor-excuse-for-a-water-feature. It consists of a disappointing little holding pond that I haven't visited in at least a year. Once again, there was nothing under the rocks. But look at this pretty vine with it's delicate lavender colored flower that moved in while I wasn't watching.

And these cool fungi I mistook for a gathering of turtles.

These random holes in the ground had me so baffled, I didn't watch where I was going.

And that is why I almost walked straight into this...

Yep, a gargantuan spider, the likes of which I'd never seen. I ran inside to look it up and learned it is a black and yellow garden spider, also known as a writing spider. When the sun sets it will eat its web and move on to a new location.

Now that is downright interesting. I took the writing spider as an omen to stop the search for life-forms residing under rocks and get my official National-Rock-Flipping-Day report drawn up and filed.

So that's what I did.

The end.

Country Road

8 Innovative Uses for the Pooper Scooper

I am the proud parent of these three pooches. As such I also own an implement commonly known as a pooper scooper. Being a bit of a slouch, I rarely use it for its intended purpose. But use it I do. It comes in handy in doggy vs. wildlife emergencies, especially if there is gore present.

Release That Possum - a Two-Step Process

I have successfully reclaimed a fat possum that may or may not have been feigning death after my dogs got it. I scooped it onto the flimsy tines of the rake, sprinted to a nearby ravine, hoisted it for a long-lob. The possum rolled down the rake handle and plopped onto my foot. This was in clear violation of my no-physical-contact rule and resulted in a brief freak out before I moved on to the next step.

The Croquet Mallet

If you find you are unable to hurl the object, turn the rake sideways and nudge it. In this case, down the slope. This technique is inefficient as the tines are not designed to move something this heavy. Even though I only managed to roll the critter under some brush I considered it a job well done. Out of sight is where that possum needed to be.

The Flip Tool

The scooper does well with eviscerated rodents. Gently slide the tines under the corpse and with a quick flip of the wrist, send it flying into the overgrown garden outside the fenced-in area. This method is quick and to the point.

The Sweeper

This next one is a real challenge. Picture ground hog entrails spread across the yard like glistening gray ribbons. The goal here is to gather them up before the dogs eat them. It is crucial that you do not look at the guts or touch them while doing this. Stand sideways, cover your eyes, and use the rake to pile the straggling bits into a tidy clump. Warning: Be sure to have a plastic bag close at hand. If you don't you'll have to run in the house to get one and upon your return you may witness one of your dogs snarfing up the entrails.

The Windmill

At this point you will chase the dog around the yard with scooper in hand flailing your arms and screaming, "Drop it!" The dog will ignore you, and outrun you while munching its way through the tasty treat. Unfortunate but at least you won't have to look at those innards again.

The Impaler

When your dog has finished with the guts, it will run under the bushes where it has stashed the disemboweled carcass of the ground hog. The wily hound seems to know you cannot - will not crawl under the bushes after it. A few jabs with the scooper will distract the dog so it stops gnawing the head. When the dog is sufficiently annoyed, it will snatch up the remains and prance through the yard playing you-can't-catch me. Patience. When the dog drops its prize to resume its meal, creep up to it, swing the rake with all your might and impale the carcass with the tines. Hang tight while the dog tries to pry it loose. Remember, you are in charge. Calm. Assertive.

The Scooper

Don't be fooled. You are not scooping poop, and the pong from the dead ground hog will make you wish you were. Carefully slide the rake under the fuzzy remains while keeping the dog at bay with sideways kicks. Slowly ease the critter into the plastic bag making sure no part of it touches you. Done.

The Life Saver

This made for a nice change. Rather than coming in at the tail end of things, I was able to avert a disaster. I knew when my dog stood with raised hackles barking at something on the ground it could only be one thing. A snake. Not to worry. Grab the pooper scooper and use it to herd the dog inside the house. Once all canines are behind closed doors, stand as far away from the snake as possible and wave the rake in its face. Eventually it will stop trying to bite the rake and glide under the fence and out of your life.

Country Road

Wrens In My Boot

If you were a  wren making a nest on my porch, where would you put it? Inside the spacious bird house? Nestled in the planter filled with twigs? Or inside my hiking boot?

Why the boot, of course. We all need to reduce our carbon footprint.

The wren laid six eggs and broke one. The wren-home still seemed pretty crowded to me but what do I know?

Since the mama wren did not allow photographs of her sitting on the eggs, I'll fill the incubation period with some wren facts.

The daddy wren builds several nests prior to wooing his mate. When he has finished construction he takes his female companion on a nest tour. She picks the one she likes best and moves in.

The mama wren sits on the eggs while the daddy wren guards the air space. (That last fact did not come from an ornithologist but from personal experience. Each time I tried to creep up on mama with my camera the daddy bird swooped in from outside the porch and mama flew into my face.)

When the eggs hatch, the male and female zoom in and out of the nest bringing plump grubs and succulent insects to the young 'uns. They sing at the top of their lungs while they work. Proud parents.

Here are the babies right after they'd hatched.

And here they are a week later.


Soon after the final picture was taken I came home to an empty nest. I cleaned out my boot and that was that.


Country Road

So Many Puppies

It's springtime in Appalachia and you know what that means...puppies! Contrary to popular belief, the abundance of puppies this time of year is not due to a bacchanalian celebration of spring in the dog world. Dogs actually breed year round.

The seeming spike in the number of stray puppies in April and May is because: 1) the leaves are not yet fully out so the pups are easier to see and 2) puppies born in the wild, or tossed there by their humans, are more likely to survive in the temperate temperatures this time of year.

Now that we have that cleared up, let's move on to the pups. On Friday I got a call about these cuties (pictured here two weeks after their rescue)...

They were five weeks old and had been left out near a welding plant. The worker  who discovered them gave them some of his sausage biscuit, then stored them in a wooden crate next to the welding action until I got there. They were terrified.

I called my friend Misti who agreed to foster them until they were old enough for the puppy wagon. We gave them names, Queenie (white face) and Maggie. Next came food (they were so young they barely knew how to eat), shots against puppy diseases, and deworming medicine. There was no time for a "before" picture because as soon as they were settled in, Misti and I went out to get more pups.

The next stop that day was to capture three puppies that lived under the porch of this humble abode. (I'd spotted them while driving home from my friend Ann's house.) There were originally four in this litter but one was hit by a car and killed.  

If you have never stalked wild puppies here is a primer on how it is done:

First you set a trap with the stinkiest food you can find. Notice how the puppies appear when they smell the yumminess?

As a rule, wild pups will not get near humans no matter how good the food smells. These guys darted under the house and crept closer to the food but there was no way they would come all the way out with us there. We left for a bit. When we came back, we had one.

It shrieked and struggled and tried to bite Misti as she carried it to the car.

It probably thought we were big, hairless beasts. Once inside a crate, it covered its face, employing a proven technique to make scary things go away.

It took another hour to catch puppy #2. Having learned a valuable lesson about sharp teeth, this one entered the crate directly from the trap. The third pup refused to be caught and sadly, to this day, it is still at large.

I kept these two over the weekend to get them used to humans. On Monday I took them to a nearby shelter. They went on a puppy transport to a rescue in Georgia where they will be placed in good homes.

On Tuesday, this little fella showed up at Ann's house. At first we thought he was "the one that got away." Upon closer inspection we realized his legs were too short. He was covered in ticks and his belly was so full of worms he bottomed out when he sat. Notice the look of uncertainty?

But not for long. After he was de-wormed, de-ticked, and had a few good meals under his belt, he was a different guy. He's so cute, Ann decided to keep him. He is named T-bird and he has adjusted nicely to his new life, and his Snoopy bed, and to the adoration of humans.

Four weeks after Queenie and Maggie showed up at the factory, they took the puppy wagon to New York. Here they are the day of their departure. Queenie is drooling from car-sickness, Maggie is not drooling because she  already threw up on Queenie. They arrived in New York the next day and with a bit of luck, will be in their new homes before the week is out.

Even though we didn't get all the pups at least we know five of them landed on their paws!

And that, my friend, is what it's all about.
Country Road

Strollin' on the Country Road

On Monday it rained for twenty-four hours straight. Torrential, driving, stay-indoors rain. Rivers flooded, city streets were underwater, and the mountain that I call home came alive. Underground streams, filled beyond capacity, gushed out of rocky crags as hundreds of waterfalls filled the air with the hushing sound of a finger to the lips, shhhhhhhhhh.

Today the sun is shining, the frogs are chirping. It's a day that begs to be enjoyed so my dog, Frannie and I went for a walk. This is what we saw....

Little waterfalls

Bigger waterfalls

Tiny yellow flowers overlooking a churning stream

Red buds opening and leaves turning green

A wind- Bonsai tree

Another waterfall

Self portrait fail


An excellent sittin' rock, if only it were in my yard

Taking the country road home

Country Road

Is There a Store Like This in Your Neighborhood?

 Today we're going to play, Can You Guess?

As you have probably surmised, you're guessing what kind of store. It's located just outside Detroit, Michigan in East Dearborn. It's not the only establishment of its kind in this bustling part of town but it's the place my friends and I chose because its colorful window display sparkled so enticingly in the midday sun. 

The interior is small and the air is thick with the cloying scent of fruit flavored tobacco. 

As you can see, this store specializes in one thing.

Its accessories include: brushes for cleaning, removable personal mouthpieces for hygienic sharing, replacement hoses, and prayer rugs.

So, what kind of store is it?

You're right, a hookah store!

Country Road

Detroit City Here We Come!

A  website I follow, Atlas Obscura a Compendium of the World's Wonders, Curiosities, & Esoterica,  is running a feature on my hometown, Detroit, Michigan. They are focusing on the good stuff which makes for a nice change.

Since I am a copy cat, I'm going to do the same. To clarify a point, the city is not being featured because it is the place of my birth but because it's interesting and mysterious and has a reputation of being kind of scary. 

Let's start off with scary to get it out of the way. Upon arriving in the city, visitors are greeted by this...KAPOW!

The fist is there to honor Joe Louis, a champion boxer who hailed from Detroit long ago. It's a nice gesture, so to speak, if you know what it means. If you don't, you might think it has something to do with this sort of thing.

Yes, my friend, there is plenty of graffiti to be found in Detroit. Some of the "artists" are rather good but ...

Let us move on to some of the gentler monuments and moments still to be found in the Motor City.

Prior to exiting the freeway you'll see a building with peeling green paint and a neon sign proclaiming, "500,000 Books."   John R. King Used & Rare Books resides in an elderly brick building that was once a glove factory. It sits next to a Greyhound Bus Station and across the freeway from a gambling casino. It doesn't look like much from the oustide...

But inside - paradise!

There are books, of course, four stories worth for the general public and another couple hundred thousand rare ones available for viewing by appointment only.

Are you interested in Amish quilts? Pirates, treasure hunting, or whaling? Looking for sheet music, LPs, back issues of magazines? If you ever get to this place be sure to allow yourself a couple of hours of browsing time because you're going to need it. Oh, and bring money, you will not go away empty handed, I promise.

When you leave John King, you hop on the freeway and head into the city. Look past the fist and you'll see an earlier sculpture, The Spirit of Detroit. A giant green guy gazes beneficently upon a golden family in his right hand, while balancing what appears to be the sun in his left.  It was created to signify human relationships and God.  Now that's more like it!

At times this kindly green giant has sported a Red Wings hockey jersey in support of the local team during playoffs. And once upon a Thanksgiving pranksters "borrowed" an enormous plastic hamburger from a local chain restaurant display, placed it over the family, and put a sign in front of it that read, "Let no on go hungry on this day." 

Across the street from the fist is Hart Plaza. During the summer the plaza is hopping with concerts, food vendors, fireworks, parades. The circle in the center is a fountain designed for running through and playing. The steps on the far side of the plaza look out over the Detroit River to Canada. It's a great place to have lunch or just to sit and watch the ginormous Great Lakes freighters gliding into port.

Cruise along the main drag through the city and with a few turns you'll find yourself at the Eastern Market. This place rocks!

On Saturday farmers from the U.S. and Canada set up their stalls inside the pavilions and along the streets selling produce so fresh you might have picked it yourself. 

Fresh cold cuts, aged cheeses, imported mustards, pickles and spices, terra cotta pots, rattan chairs, and much more are available year round at the stores surrounding the produce pavilions. In the summertime local restaurants move outdoors and the marketplace is filled with the aroma of barbecued ribs, burgers, chicken. Bands, mimes, and street performers come out to entertain the families that flock to this marketplace every Saturday from April through November.

The Eastern Market is also the hub of the meat packing industry in Detroit. If you are feeling brave, you can enter the retail sections of the meat purveyors through a large refrigerator door, and shop for bargains and hard-to-find items like whole pigs

Or chitts and maws.

If you prefer a more traditional place to buy your meat, you can stroll over to the Gratiot Meat Market. There you can choose from several different meat merchants, get fresh chicken, cold cuts, and fish. 

No trip to the Eastern Market is complete without stopping at one of the many eateries for a treat that will keep you coming back for more. A genuine Detroit corned beef sandwich! Now you may be shaking your head thinking you can get corned beef without going to Detroit, and you probably can. But you can't get good corned beef anywhere but Detroit and if you don't believe me, ask the next Detroiter you meet. 

While this tour may seem rather short, it is due to my lack of pictures and not because there aren't any other exceedingly cool places to be found in Detroit. If you are patient, I will get out there soon with camera in hand to take more poor-quality pictures and post them on this blog. Thank you.

Country Road

Miss Snappy Gets A New Home

There is a snapping turtle that resides in a small lake behind my neighbor, Dana's house. It recently trudged up the hillside, laid eggs under the deck steps and, duty done, plodded back toward the water . Only it didn't make it. It stopped along the way to engage Dana's two dogs in a round of I-can-snap-your-nose-off-first and decided to stay. 

Dana moved the turtle back to the lake but in less time than you can say, "slow as a turtle,"  it had returned. Dana rolled it to the bottom of a nearby ravine.  A day later Dana awoke to the frenzied barking of her dogs as they flung themselves against the kennel fence trying to reach the turtle-that-wouldn't-go-away.

It was at this point Dana called on me in to help her relocate the turtle.

"Do you know anything about snapping turtles?" She asked as she struggled up the hill carrying a long-handled rake.  My ignorance on the subject was revealed immediately when I mistook this for a clump of compost. 

Since the turtle was on its back and the only thing moving were its eyes, I was fooled into thinking it would go without resisting. Okay, so it had a large beak and some nasty looking claws but, it was a turtle for crying out loud, turtles are slow and docile. 

Silly, silly me.

I recklessly pulled the clinging vines from its undersides while telling Dana how easy this would be. All we had to do was slip it inside its plastic travel bin, flip it right side up and...

It levitated!   Dana knocked it back into the bin. We secured the lid and strapped it to the car with bungee cords. When we arrived at the park that would be the turtle's new home I used a hay rake to flip the lid open and release the turtle. 

Was the turtle grateful that we'd found it such a nice new pond? Hell no! It was ready for a showdown. Do Not Break Eye Contact must be rule number one in the pamphlet, Combat Training for Turtles. It would not let me get behind it with the rake. I moved. The turtle moved. 

I feinted then jabbed. ..

The turtle lifted into the air like a Lowrider with a 4 pump hydraulic suspension. It grabbed a fork tine in its jaws, and wrenched the rake from my hands.

I reached toward the rake. The turtle glared as if daring me to make its day.  Dana, who is much braver than I, snatched the rake, scooped the turtle up, and plunked it into the pond.

The turtle blinked, then dove under water so fast there was not time to photograph its exit. We followed a trail of air bubbles with our eyes, the turtle was headed away from the center of the pond toward a river that moseys here and there and feeds the small lake behind Dana's house.

How long do you suppose it will take the turtle to get back?
Country Road

Flint - A Nice Place To Visit, I'd Even Want To Live There

Today we're going to visit Flint Michigan. Yes, the city that was featured as victim and underdog in the movie "Roger and Me", and is known for its high crime rate and economic ruin. It's a city with a reputation for looking like this on a good day...

And like this every day.

For decades Flint has been considered, by people like me who don't live there, a sort of Detroit mini-me, a city so weakened by urban blight it would soon become extinct. Well, that's not what happened.

While the rest of the world turned their backs on it, the people who care about Flint got busy saving their town. They thumbed their noses at the naysayers, held their heads up high, and recreated themselves.

New dormitories were built to house students attending University of Michigan Flint. An influx of new students meant new staff. Once-empty office buildings were refurbished into loft apartments. Boards came down from storefront windows as pubs, cafes, and eateries sprung up along Saginaw Street, the cobblestoned main drag of the city. Special events started bringing people into the city and, presto,  the place came alive!

The Crim Fitness Foundation sponsors a race each year that draws over 15,000 participants from around the world. The annual Back to the Bricks Cruise Weekend  is considered one of the top 50 car cruises in America and brings thousands more visitors into the city. The Flint Cultural Center features live theater, symphonies, art institutes, and a library. Frequent downtown art shows and gallery walks are a fun way to spend an afternoon or evening with family and friends.


Street musicians, sidewalk artists, and magicians give the streets a festive look, feel, and sound.

Beyond the downtown area there is a great Farmer's Market with a butcher, a baker, and fresh doughnut maker. It also houses an excellent wine shop, artisan clothing, costume jewelery, a Rock Shop, and fresh Barb-B-Q on Saturdays.

Community gardens flourish all over town in places where abandoned houses once stood.

Flint even has its own archaeological dig, a Native American burial ground that was discovered during excavation of a vacant lot. How cool is that? 

There are a lot of other things going on that I haven't yet had a chance to experience but I certainly intend to do so in the very near future. Hey, this sounds like an unsolicited testimonial, if so, I hope those streets have ears. You hear me Flint? You rock!