Monday, October 30, 2006


Over the past several weeks we have had visitors and then we traveled up to Indiana and to Pennsylvania and then back to Tennessee over a 5 day period. But now we are back in town for awhile. I like to post something about once a week and I did have a couple of nice pictures from close to home (actually both of these pictures were taken from my house). This first one is looking out our back windows. This picture was taken with a 12x telephoto so the hills show a little closer than usual. Those hills are really about 6 miles away and they always look different depending on the fog, or haze, or sun or time of day. This one was taken in the early morning. I like the layered look.

This picture was a sunset about a week ago. It was taken out the front of the house.

By the way, if you are planning to buy a new digital camera, I have a good recommendation for you. I like Canon cameras for two reasons. First they rate very high in Consumer Reports (but then again so do several other brands). Secondly, our first digital camera was a Canon and I liked it alot. But it was 5 or 6 years old and only 2 megapixls so I needed to upgrade. I bought one camera (a Canon S3 IS) with a 12x telephoto for animals and long shots, and another (a Canon SD 800 IS) that is very small for taking hiking, etc.

But my recommendation is not on the will need to decide what works best for you. My recommendation is on where to buy it. Once you figure out what camera you want, go to Beach Camera. The advantage of Beach Camera is 1) Oustanding customer rating, 2) Much lower prices than stores like Circuit City or Best Buy, 3)No tax, 4)No shipping charges.

I ordered one camera on a Thursday online and it was delivered on Saturday afternoon by Federal Express. The other one took 3 days. But the main thing was the substantial price savings. Now if I can only get though the 124 page instruction manuals I can take advantage of everything that these new cameras can do. Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Ladybug Beetles

Wow, there has been a Ladybug explosion! Here in Fairfield Glade and also in many other places across the country, all of the sudden, Ladybugs are everywhere. On the windows, in the garage, in the house, and especially on hole 13 on the Crag Course at Heatherhurst Golf Club here in Tennessee. What is going on?

Well, it is a natural phenomenom and it is harmless. These Ladybug Beetles are specifically called Convergent Ladybug Beetles. They are good insects. Both the adults, pictured here, and the larvae eat aphids and scale insects which can damage plants. The Ladybug beetles are harmless to plants and humans, except that they sometimes can transmit a fungus that is harmful to Dogwood trees.

The beetles come in various shades of red and orange, with black spots.
They are here all year, it is just that this time of year the beetles quit eating and begin to cluster into large groups that will hibernate together over the winter.
Someone told me that they stain your walls and stink if you smash them. I wouldn't know because I didn't, and I don't, plan to crush any. But it makes sense because the Ladybugs have a foul tasting chemical in their leg joints that is their defense against being eaten. It is kind of like the skunk factor. You may tangle with one once, but you will avoid them going forward. Birds leave the beetles alone either because they tried one themself once, or because the birds are DNA programmed to avoid them.

So, just swish your Ladybug Beetles away and sit back and enjoy nature. If we are lucky they will be back again next fall.

Monday, October 16, 2006

New Camera

Well, here is one of the first pictures from my new camera. These are the leaves from a Sassafras Tree beginning to show their fall colors. The leaves around here are probably 2/3 of their way to full color.

My old camera was a Canon, about 6 years old, and it took some great pictures. But there were a couple of problems. First, it was only 2 megapixels, which means (as I understand it) that if I decided to blow any pictures up to 8 by 10 or bigger that the pixels might start to show. I have been looking for some great landscape pictures from this part of the country, particularly the Smokys, to mat, frame, and hang in our house. I have determined that I might be able to take some of them myself, but with just a 2.0 pixel camera I couldn't blow them up very large. Second, the optical telephoto on my old camera was only 3X. That made it hard to get close pictures of animals. My new Canon S3 IS with 6 megapixels, 12X telephoto and image stabilization will solve those problems. Plus, my old camera didn't have a Macro setting. When I tried to take a picture of a pea sized Black Widow Spider all I got was a black dot. The new camera can get as close as the lens touching the object.

This picture of some yellow wild flowers is an example of getting close. If you click on the photo to see a full size view, you can see the drops of water on the petals. In fact, I just discovered that if you click, wait for the picture to enlarge, and then click again, you get an even bigger, closer picture. Try it.

My neighbors are once again questioning my sanity when they see me kneeling in their yards to take a picture of a blade of grass. I thought that explaining the new camera and the up close Macro function might keep them from calling the guys in the white coats again.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Smoky Mountain Pre-hike

What is a pre-hike you ask? Let me explain. On November 9 & 10 our Fairfield Glade hiking club is going to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for 2 days of hiking. Normally we hike on Fridays, but once in a while we do a 2-day overnight hike. We will stay in motels and eat dinner in restaurants, but hike 2 consecutive days in an area a little further away than normal.

Nancy and I, along with Ray and Marion Miner are in charge of this particular 2 days of hiking. So prior to November 9 we have to pre-hike the trails to make sure that the length and difficulty are appropriate for the club. That's Nancy looking cute during a short rest on the trail.

Yesterday, 7 of us drove to the Smokys and hiked 7.1 miles on a 3 trail loop. We determined that the hike is probably not a good one for the club for 2 reasons: length and difficulty. A group of people hiking together is like that saying about a chain being only as strong as its weakest link. A hiking group is only as fast as its slowest hiker. The first 1.8 miles of yesterday's hike was straight uphill for about 1,500 vertical feet. The next 5.3 miles back to the trailhead was much easier but the total hike took us almost 5 hours. A larger group would hike slower and stop more often. So we found a way to do a 5 mile hike on some of the same trails but without the 1.8 uphill in the beginning. It will take a car shuttle, but that will work OK.

We had pre-hiked another 5.4 mile loop trail 2 weeks ago and that one will be fine for the group.

But be warned! If you plan to visit the GSMNP in the next couple of weeks be prepared for traffic. Two weeks ago when we were there hardly anyone was in the park. Yesterday we could hardly get across the road to get to the trailhead. There was a steady stream of cars. As you can see from the top photo the leaves are just barely starting to change on the higher elevations. The leaves should be extraordinary in a few weeks, but then again so should the traffic.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Tennessee Browns

Ray and I took a little fishing trip today to the Elk River near Lynchburg Tennessee. Lynchburg is famous around the world as the home to the Jack Daniels distillery and Jack Daniels whiskey. We liked it better for the trout. That is a 14 inch Brown Trout in the picture.

The Elk River is a tailwater coming out of Tim's Ford dam. In fact, we fished nearly in the shadow of the dam. That can be a little tricky because, like most tailwater streams, the turbines could be started up at anytime and the water level will quickly go from calm and smooth to wild and dangerous. Supposedly, there is a siren to warm those downstream that the water is about to rise quickly and high. We had called ahead and got the generating schedule and it was supposed to be quiet all day....but then again, you have to always be on the alert for rising water.

Here is another smaller Brown Trout that I caught. Most of the fish we caught were Rainbows, but I did catch 3 or 4 Browns.

The Elk is a fairly small stream as tailwaters go....not too deep and easy to wade. We only saw about 4 or 5 other fishermen all day. One man that I talked to on the river said that this stream is never crowded, but it always fishes well. We caught fish steadily all day, mostly on nymphs (especially my favorite Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear that I tie myself) but I did get one nice Brown on an Elk Hair Caddis dry fly. That seemed appropriate for the Elk River.