Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Test

This is only a test. Had this been a real blog entry, it would have tried to make sense.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Impatient for the Growing Season

Most springs, the daffodils surprise me, but this year, I've been waiting for them.

The potatoes in the kitchen are also anxious to get the garden started.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Lilac Leaves

Non-native plants continue to lead the charge into spring. These lilac leaves may get frostbitten, but they've popped open their bud scales anyway.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Coltsfoot on the Equinox

I've been dragging around the yard for the last month, looking for some hint of Spring from the plant kingdom, but the native plants are sensible and still hold their buds shut tight. However, my non-native plant buddies are less cautious. Coltsfoot is finally popping through the leaf litter, several weeks later than it usually appears.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Let's Have Another

The puppy is quoted as saying "Let's have another." The postcard's sender, "Agnes" (I think that would have been Agnes Moore, my grandmother's school chum, but her family was full of women named Agnes--when Grandma had her first child, she named her Agnes (my mother) in honor of a whole crowd.

The message reads: Hello there. How are you? I'm just fine and Busy. Libby came Saturday & started to work in store on Monday. (Agnes) The postmark is "Iowa City, April 1, 1911."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day, 1909

Evidently snail mail did not always have better punctuation and sentence structure than we find in Internet-based communication. Des Moines, Iowa, March 17, 1909. Dear Friend Florence, I thought i would write you a few lines to let you know how we are we are all well and hope these few lines will find you all the same. From Al 1238 33

Monday, March 16, 2009

St. Patrick's Day Greetings--Printed in Saxony

This postcard may have seemed too fragile for the Post Office, or maybe someone bought it and never could decide what to say. This lets us read more easily the printing on the back. Like most of Florence Williamson's postcard collection, this St. Patrick's day greeting was printed in Germany.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Everything Is Looking Just Fine

More cards from Florence Williamson's "Souvenir Postcards" album.

The Top of the Mornin'
To you, My Dear
May the Good Saint bring
You Luck this Year!

On the back it reads Dear Florence, It was just a year ago today that we were all at your place having a jolly good time. I expect everything is looking just fine--from E. C. Postmark is St. Paul, Minn, March 13, 1909

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bill O'Reilly Confused About Appalachia

State politics blog West Virginia Blue informed me last month that "Bill O'Reilly Hates You." Now, I already knew that Bill O'Reilly hates me, as a woman, and as a person with more learnin' than him, but I was quite surprised that he hates Appalachians. (I'm not pretending to be an Appalachian--I'm an Iowa farm girl, and wouldn't dream of putting on airs. Still, I feel offended on their behalf, and on behalf of all put-down rural people.) I thought that my neighbors were part of "Real America," and that they had Bill's approval. I know a majority of West Virginians voted for George W. Bush twice, and many of them watch Fox News regularly. Turns out, Bill runs with the inbred, toothless, drunken hillbilly story, (just like the Yankee newspapers did in Hatfield and McCoy days!) and thinks Appalachians should all leave home for Miami.

I think Bill may be a little confused about Appalachia's geographical identity. Living in New York City as he does, he's probably confusing it with "The South." Or perhaps he doesn't know about the "Hillbilly Highway."

The bona fide Appalachian member of our household believes that negative stereotypes should be encouraged, as they serve to discourage annoying tourists and the sort of people who move here and want to make it like the place they moved away from. He only regrets that Bill didn't go for "inbred hillbilly cannibals," as seen in Wrong Turn.

For a serious response to Bill's nasty rant, see Betty Cloer Wallace's essay on Dave Tabler's excellent blog, Appalachian History. She is eloquent, but I have mixed feelings about campaigns against "hillbilly" stereotypes because I believe the real problem is a matter of social class, not ethnicity. Poor whites are especially hated by the well-to-do classes because their existence reminds the wealthy that privilege can be lost--it could happen to them. Believing that poverty is "their problem," because of some racial, ethnic, or regional identity keeps that fear at bay. I expect this sort of labeling to get worse with increasing fears of hard economic times.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Marcellus Shale Developments

The Marcellus shale natural gas extraction business has made the news in West Virginia lately. One company has decided not to build a regional corporate headquarters here after all, while local and state government are moving toward regulation of hydrofracture extraction's use of water resources.

Chesapeake takes parting shot by George Hohmann Charleston Daily Mail Business Editor

Chesapeake Energy Corp. on Thursday not only announced it will downsize its Charleston office, it sent the state a stinging message: West Virginia's legal system hurts business. The company said the jobs of 215 of its Charleston-based employees will either be moved to Oklahoma City or eliminated in the reorganization.

Chesapeake co-founder and CEO Aubrey McClendon said in a prepared statement that downsizing the Charleston office from a regional corporate headquarters to a regional field office follows an operational model Chesapeake has used successfully elsewhere....Then he took a parting shot at West Virginia's legal system.

It was just four years ago that Chesapeake made its presence known in the Mountain State in a huge way. In 2005, it bought Columbia Natural Resources for $2.2 billion cash. The deal instantly made Oklahoma-based Chesapeake the largest natural gas exploration and production company in West Virginia.

Little noticed at the time was the fact that Chesapeake inherited a role as defendant in a class-action lawsuit known as the Tawney case. The lawsuit charged Columbia Natural Resources and NiSource Inc. with cheating landowners. In early 2007 a Roane County jury said the companies should pay $134.3 million in allegedly unpaid gas royalties to landowners plus $270 million in punitive damages....

In October, McClendon was forced to sell 33.4 million shares of Chesapeake - essentially all his stock in the company - to meet a margin call in a $570 million fire sale.

Chesapeake's Appalachian Basin operations stretch from the Finger Lakes region of western New York to central Alabama. Chesapeake is one of several oil and gas companies drilling in West Virginia's underground Marcellus Shale reserves.

Chesapeake's stock plunged from a high of $74 last summer to a five-year low of $9.84 in early December. The company's shares were trading at $16.32 Thursday....

Last week, a New York law firm filed a class-action lawsuit against Chesapeake, alleging that company officials violated federal securities laws by issuing false and misleading statements about Chesapeake's business activities and finances.

This cancellation of regional corporate headquarters does not mean that Chesapeake will give up its existing natural gas extraction sites, or quit buying ad developing leases in West Virginia, as some people around here have speculated. Their operation in Jane Lew, along Interstate 79, is hiring now. Here are a couple more analyses of the court verdict, the unsuccessful appeal, and its putative effect on the natural gas industry in West Virginia:

A "Marcellus Shale water pollution control" bill was introduced last week: West Viginia Legislature House Daily Journal for March 5, 2009:

H. B. 2960 - "A Bill to amend and reenact §22-11-4 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, relating to water pollution control; and requiring the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to develop specific standards to control levels of total dissolved solids in the state's rivers and streams"; to the Committee on Government Organization then the Judiciary.

By Delegates Fleischauer, Manypenny, Marshall, Mahan, Doyle, Martin, Beach, Shook, Lawrence, Longstreth and Hatfield

Last month saw some local government action, described in this article: Morgantown City Council Passes Marcellus Shale Resolution by John Christensen, WVEC Lobbyist.

In order to express major concern over the possible hazards to water supplies due to drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus shale, the Morgantown City Council adopted a comprehensive resolution calling for the Legislature to adopt stricter standards and "emergency measures" to prevent water contamination resulting from that activity. The resolution also asks for the Legislature "to petition Congressional leaders to amend the (2004) federal Safe Drinking Water Act" which "exempts hazardous chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing--even diesel fuel--from limitation."

...The three page resolution addressed the hazards of the 300-odd chemical compounds used in the fracturing process developed by the Halliburton Corporation in which a pressurized brine solution is injected along with one to six million gallons of water for each well to explain their heightened response for safety....

WVEC Green Legislative Update tracks West Virginia state legislation on environmental and energy issues.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Lichens and Linux

This handsome lichen was really catching the light on a sumac branch yesterday.

My Linux machine gave up on Friday (all indications point to a fried CPU, so I'm afraid it's "terminal"), and I'm having to use iPhoto to browse my digital photos. I had thought it was simply my unwillingness to learn something new, but after this experience, I am quite sure the Linux KDE Desktop "DigiKam" photo management software is far superior to the program that ships with Mac OS X. I understand that a port of Digikam to Mac is in the works, and when (if) that happens, I'll be putting it on any Macs I use regularly.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Buds Shut Tight

Last week, all the budscales were still clamped shut. Perhaps a few days like today will persuade them to relax just a little. I believe this understory tree is hop hornbeam, although it grows in a forest-edge thicket so entwined with blue beech trees that I'm not sure where one individual ends and another begins. I hope we get better acquainted this spring.

These bright red bud scales are hawthorn, given to showy displays no matter the season.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Plunging Head First Into the Twentieth Century

Last week, we tried to enter the twenty-first century. We hadn't wanted to rush into it, but it does look like it might take off. Because I'm teaching college courses in Beckley one day a week and driving home late at night on deserted roads, we decided to get a cell phone for emergencies. There's no cell service here on Droop, but people in Marlinton seem to use them, and every single shopper in the Lewisburg Wal-mart is talking to some ethereal presence, rather than watching where she's pushing that cart. Surely a prepaid cell phone (like the ones the hitmen are always using on the TV police dramas) would be a good idea.

We bought the recommended model in Marlinton, and brought it home, only to discover it had no battery. So we went back to the store and exchanged it. The second phone charged successfully, but it failed half-way through activation. We drove all over Marlinton, the south side of Droop Mountain, and all the way to Frankford, where we got a strong signal, but the phone still wouldn't activate. The nice young tech support man (in the Philippines, I think) was very apologetic, but unable to help. I'll be taking the phone back on Friday.

Today, I ordered the The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual, which, I am assured, is All you need to become an Amateur Radio Operator. Our neighbors are long-time ham radio operators, and keep one in their car for emergencies. The AARL (American Radio Relay League) was founded in 1914. Clearly, we are plunging headfirst into a new century. We're just a little confused about which one.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Haw Thorns

The birds have picked the hawthorn fruits, and there's just this thicket of thorns left.

A closer look shows bright red bud scales, and a certain elegance in the thorns themselves.