Sunday, February 28, 2010

Spider VS Ladybug

LADY BUG in the right corner.....

SPIDER in the left corner....
My first inclination is always to save the suffering one... i think poor little ladybug is about to get eaten. But then i think about the spider, if he doesnt get food then he'll be starving to death and suffering too. So making a choice to save one and interfere with another is kind of a judgment based on personal preference more then the natural processes of life.
So shit - which would you choose? I chose to watch.
The spider moved down to the ladybug, who would periodically spread her wings in defense. A defense that seemed to work pretty good. That is unless the spider is jus' totally tired of eating ladybugs all winter...
Several times the spider came down and touched her, but never attacked. He went back to his corner to hide motionless for more victims.
Eventually the ladybug must have shaken herself free cause when i looked back, she was gone. Or maybe.........


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Oh Deer! Part 2

Here is a lil' story...
I was standing in my room with Bort when he says "Look out the window, quick quick, look!"
I lean over to see a gray furry kitty cat running outside - it ran right up onto the porch and then straight up the pathway towards the silo (uphill). When I looked upward to it's destination I saw something else move, something large but like a brown shadow. I told Bort "something else is up there I saw something move behind the weeds..." Right then the gray kitty freaks out, hauls ass back down the hill, making one stop from the bottom to look back to see if the shadow was chasing it, then disappeared into the bamboo forest. Me and Bort went outside to look around from the porch, to find the shadow animal but nothing was moving around... and the chance that it was a coyote was enough to keep either of us from going up there to find out. But a few minutes later the shadow appeared in the shape of 3 deer grazing in the open pasture.
I like these deer pictures even though they are blurry, it reminds me of those 3-d pics you have to stare at forever to see what shape it takes... also, it reminds me of the reality of when our eyes are moving and everything kinda blends together. That is how deers camouflage themselves in the forest... mostly by our lack of noticing them. It's the way nature planned it.
After the deers left, I went in the setting sun, semi-dark to find some tracks where they'd been standing.
There were some muddy hoof prints, mostly sketchy dents in the ground, not completely distinct.
Also, the sign of a hoof freshly slipping in the wet mud while going uphill.
Pretty freaking cool, huh!?!!
PS ---> in the very top pic, can ya see all 3 deer? Two of them are hiding. :)

Friday, February 26, 2010

All The Therapy You Need

There are so many things in nature which have saved my life, physically and emotionally. Nature doesn't choose by personal preferance, it chooses by survival. And while this may seem cruel at one turn, there is nothing cruel about it, it is simply part of the natural process of life on earth.
I suppose at one time I used to watch nature do it's thing and just be amazed by the beauty, then as I submerged myself into it 24/7 I saw that there was as much destruction as there was creation, there was value in every living and dieing thing - and most of all there were these simple therapeutic messages in the way eco systems function. Messages so simple and strong, they changed my life to one that was more tolerable inside my chattering mind, a life more accepting and at peace. No, I didn't get totally buddha and enlightened... just less miserable with better skills of coping.

While society teaches us to take everything personally, nature says don't sweat it... it wasn't thinking of you when it made that hurricane, tsunami, earthquake, thunderstorm, or big wind come your way.
Basically if you have a question about your life, take a moment to go outside and watch how things function outside the modern human realm, and there is an solution. One so simple, usually we don't like it.

Watch dis' video below... cause the ants say it betta' ...


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Turkey Vulture In The Grey Sky

Every time i see one of these big turkey vultures I usually mistake it for a hawk. And for all I know, I may be now mistaking a hawk for a turkey vulture... but i don't think so. As much as people don't like vultures close up (people don't seem to think they are as beautiful a bird as they really are), from a distance these large birds have as much intense graceful presence as other birds of prey. Turkey vultures carry a huge windspan, as wide as an eagle!
This turkey vulture pictured here- let's call him Larry, was swooping really low to the ground above my head, which is highly unusual. I usually see these birds in groups of 2 to 4, swaying, gliding, and circling overhead. Larry though was all alone, and I almost could swear once he saw me taking pictures he began showing off... you know in a really dark, goth kind of way (as not to totally ruin his Edgar Allen Poe style reputation.)

"Soaring for hours over woodland and nearby open country, the Turkey Vulture searches for carcasses, locating them at least partly by means of its acute sense of smell. As they soar, these "buzzards" ride on rising columns of warm air called thermals to save energy as they cover miles of territory. The importance of this energy saving is clear from the fact that we seldom see a Turkey Vulture on a windless day, when thermals do not form. Turkey Vultures are valuable for their removal of garbage and disease-causing carrion.
Nesting: 2 whitish eggs, heavily marked with dark brown, placed without nest or lining in a crevice in rocks, in a hollow tree, or in a fallen hollow log.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Bull

Today I got a warning from Bort...
"Hey Leslie, don't go into Aubry's field, the bull is out."
Being the sassy trespasser that I am I was like "How do ya know?"
Bort: "He's got a huge ring in his nose with a chain hanging from it."
Me: "Oh, shit."

So, of course I had to go look! No way am I crazy enough to go into the field but I walked down the road along the fence line, to where the cattle's pile of hay usually sits, and found the ring nosed beast right away.
That jewelry makes him look fierce, and not in the hawt mess kind of way, but in the stampeding, kill you kind of way. Bort told me the chain was to keep the Bull from attacking you and that if it decided to plow down the fence and trample me, to grab onto the chain and keep walking it in circles. Luckily this Bull was feeling mellow, cool, and shy. He not only didn't come towards me, but he tried to avoid me - hiding behind his ladies. Then slipped off over the hill.
How emo...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Did I tell Ya'll I'm Moving? this tiny cabin in Hot Springs, NC (in the pic below). During my time spent in Western North Carolina (almost 9 years) I have moved over 12 times - which is why I tend to be called a gypsy, someone who can't settle down, someone who can't commit, but also someone who likes adventure and can make a home where ever I end up. Out of those 12 moves, only two were close into a small town, the other ten were always at the end of some rural road, in the middle of nowhere... all by chance, and a little choice.
Once again I am summoning my inner gypsy to make another move, and at the same time giving her a re-assignment to stop the physical moving, and just keep that shit spiritual... ya know?

Big thanks to my Mom & Dad who are helping me make this happen!

PS - I won't be leaving Big Sandy Mush for a few weeks... I sure will miss it.


Animal Tracking: Wild Turkeys In The Snow

Look at the size of those feet!!! I know my hand might be a little bit small (and all gnarly cajun looking) but I had no idea a turkey track would be so huge and when I first walked upon this big foot, it stopped me dead in my own tracks... while I mouthed out "who in the hell?"
When I looked ahead further I saw a few more, and thought about the wild turkeys, while still considering other large birds of prey. (This is my first encounter with a large bird print.)
But as I made it over the small hill to see tons of intersecting prints and remembered hearing the turkeys earlier in the morning I knew it had to be them. (I am actually hearing them again right now as I write this post!)
EVEN more..... a whole section of the hill was just solid tracks. One of the coolest things I have ever seen. So many patterns, so much energy, frenzy, evidence, stories untold.
The proof is in the pudding though... and when I found a track with poop (scat) in it, I knew it was a group of turkeys for sure. :)
PS - you can learn about animal tracks in your own zip code on's mammal tracking guide. It's way awesome and easier to use then most guides!


Monday, February 22, 2010

I See Dead Things

It's not everyday I walk into something like this in the woods, but there was obviously a frenzy of activity up there beneath the trees ... tracks everywhere, holes dug, scat and then I walked almost right on top this fresh skull and jaw bone. Still partly red with blood, still pink flesh hanging off the bone, preserved in the icy snow.
My guess is it's a opossum or raccoon skull. Maybe groundhog or feline too?
Made me think I should stop making those jokes about a coyote possibly eating my face off... which I jest about after hearing them howl nearly 5 night a week now.

Composting Toilet: Potty Assist

Imagine this: Two men hanging up a grey sheet and placing a small square box underneath, then lifting a composting toilet in a big hug to place it up on the grey pedestal created and shooting some hawt photos of it.

Ya'll know how I love the humanure toilet system (simple potty in a bucket & cover with leaves and compost it), so much more then the mass scale sewage treatment plants and soil wrecking septic systems in rural areas.
In general the reason I love humanure toilets the most is you can build one for under $25 (we built one for $7 here in Big Sandy Mush) - while most other systems will cost you gobs more. In reality though many people just can't get into "roughing" it with such a homemade toilet system, and this is where the fancy composting toilet steps in. I have done quite a bit of searching, reading and observing of composting toilets that are manufactured over the years - I am the kind of nerd who would drool over the SunMar Compost toilets in the Real Goods Catalogue then look at the prices and wipe away my drool, shuffling over to my regular ole' septic toilet. I actually listened to neighborhood composting toilet gossip too "you know my friend so-n-so, he has a wife and three kids and he said the compost toilet stops working in the winter cause it gets too cold, the microbes don't work" or "you have to aim your pee cause you can't pee in the poop hole" ect...
And to be honest all this talk of having to add microbes you had to buy in a jug, and aiming pee was a big turn off for me - I just rathered the simplicity of Humanure via leaves.
Till i found this baby pictured above ::: The Nature's Head Composting Toilet.
Humanure simplicity meets composting toilet design. Yeah, I know it looks like something built for the nursing home, like some kind of potty assist chair, but in the world of composting toilets this one is looking like the freaking Taj Mahal - with it's fancy stainless steal parts meant to not rust in a wet environment, and it's almost regular toilet shape.
So here's some things I like about the Nature's Head composter...
  • You can use peat moss or leaves just like in a humanure toilet (your not forced to buy microbes)
  • You can add a solar vent to it and have it utterly off grid, or vent it with a fan
  • It separates your solids and liquids, meaning no need to aim your pee (I know cause i wrote them and asked!)
  • It's made totally in the USA
  • It only needs to be bolted down, AKA you need no plumbing skills to install it
  • The whole unit costs $850, which is about 1/4 of what you pay to put a septic on your land (not to mention you can put this thing in an RV, boat, or wherever you want to go from then on. Your own to-go toilet.)
Do any of ya'll have a composting toilet, and if so can your share your gossip - the design perks and flaws?!


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Black Jumping Spider On Bay Leaf

From far away, jumping spiders don't look like much, but close up like this it's a freaking tarantula! Hairy. Beast. Iridescent toothed. Quick. Monster.
And he told me a little secret... he said spring is coming early jus' like the farmers almanac said, so get ready for all the insects to come out! Yay!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Humor: Black Sheep

I found this ad below today in the local classifieds called , it made me laugh. :)

"Free black sheep to anyone who can catch.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

I'm A Recluse (not a brown recluse spider, a human one)

Something dawned on me this week, something I have been fighting against accepting as part of myself for many years now. I realized I am totally a reclusive person. I live a highly reclusive life.
It wasn't always like this, which is why it's been a strange ride to get from point A to point B. Growing up I was considered the extrovert, I had not a shy bone in my body, I cared rarely what anyone thought of me (especially adults), I was slightly rebellious without being dangerous and joined in lots of activities like piano, dance, plays, art classes and mardi gras balls. I had a deep love for animals and the outdoors but my family did not, so we lived a city lifestyle in every sense, and that was what I was accustom to. Parties, events, performances, school, people 24/7 - even after Catholic church there were donut eating social gatherings on the weekends. When I turned 20 I moved from New Orleans to New York City and lived in one of the most crowded, noisy, intense places in the United States, for a few years. Everything at your finger tips in New York, you could live without ever leaving your tiny apartment if you wanted to... you could order bandaids to be delivered to your door if you got a cut. Even though I had a tendency to be domestic, I went out everyday in NYC, rain, cold or shine and took in all the modern adventure I could. Museums, clubs, sushi, taxi cabs, subways, buses, art shows, deli's, higher paying jobs.

None of this made me motivated enough to rebel, and run off to the quiet forest. Although I dreamed of it, talked about it, planned it in my mind (a re-occurring 'i am moving to asheville mountains theme'), nothing seemed to come of it. I loved my social life, my city life, my art life - i loved what I was familiar with more then I could be brave enough to change it. City living made me feel 'important' by society standards.

Then I got sick. Real freaking sick, not like a flu but something so much more sinister, so much more mysterious. I could no longer eat hardly anything, could hardly walk, my voice was nearly gone, I had no strength left in my body to even will myself to keep on living. Breathing was labored, sleep was impossible. It took the doctors months to come up with a diagnosis, which ended up being Celiac Disease. They said I would be better in just ten days on the gluten free diet, and when I wasn't for months more they shrugged their shoulders and sent me home to live or die.
I did die. I died in every way a human can die and still be breathing - my Celiac diagnosis was so serious (double copy gene, rare version) and so much damage was done that I would no longer be able to go out to eat with friends. Ever again. Not only that, but suddenly I could not eat half of what I previously had ate that was not even gluten! A special diet might not sound like a big deal, but in reality 3/4's of my social life had been centered around food - how could I ever go on a date without ever being able to go to dinner, and if someone cooked for me it came with this huge list of complications and special pots and utensils.... and oh my god I could not use any of the toxic art supplies I had been using daily and all I had were artist friends which all we talked about was art, plus all my make up & nail polish (punk rock glitter bonanaza) had to be thrown in the trash cause none of it was "hypoallergenic". I felt stripped down of everything I loved, all the fluff, all the fun, all of what was familiar. Not to mention, I still could hardly walk and had to be pushed in a wheelchair if it was longer then 10 foot distance - and I had lost so much weight I didn't even want anyone to see me at the gaunt 80 pounds, I was entirely stripped down and humiliated, I had no idea who I was and was seeing a new person in the mirror, someone I had never met before.

Then I came to the mountains of Western North Carolina. I was motivated. I had nothing to lose, in fact I had nothing at all. I arrived with two suitcases, one with my life, one with gluten free food and a pillow. I had been offered a place to stay in Balsam, NC while I would see a doctor in Asheville. The place ended up being a remote, quiet, deeply wooded reclusive paradise surrounded by 100's of acres. A pond, a labyrinth to practice walking therapy on, trails, creeks, a room and bathroom to myself - where no one but a few close relatives would see me. It was the first peace, first self love, first motivation to be where my heart desired in my entire life - and once I tasted nature, I never turned back. That was in February of 2002.

I have fought the realization that I was drawn to a reclusive lifestyle, because every friend and immediate family member I have lives in a huge city and lives exactly as I had before - I thought being a hermit meant you were a hag, a jerk, a uni bomber, a crazy lady, militia type freak... not that you could just simply have a deep social life with nature, a deep connection or love that was more soothing then Chinese Take-Out ever could be, from breathing the fresh air, from touching the trees while hauling up a trail. Nature gave me physical and emotional therapy - it gave me a place to be sick and not judged, a place to heal and not watched, it gave me time to realize that all of it is the same life for all of us, just different details. And that we are happiest and most kind, most at peace when we let ourselves be surrounded by the details which we truly enjoy.

So basically all I am trying to say, is my name is Leslie and I am a recluse.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mirliton: Holding My Own Louisiana Tradition

That funny looking vegetable is called a mirliton (not the kitty, it's called Toots!) Growing up in New Orleans, Louisiana I quickly learned that this was one veggie to be raised high, honored, and cooked especially on major holidays. While the rest of the world concentrated on their thanksgiving turkey or holiday ham, we talked about who was making the shrimp mirliton. We pronounced it all kinds of funny ways like 'mella-tah' or 'merl-ee-taw' but never how it is actually spelled.

Funny thing is, I have no memory of actually eating a mirliton - only hearing about it, like some kind of legend, about as real as unicorns and fairies. So I asked my mom if she would mail me some so that I could try and grow them up here in North Carolina - she was happy to oblige, picking up a few at Whole Foods on Magazine Street in New Orleans. She asked around and some friends told her that in order to grow them, you have to just let them sprout on their own, in a paper bag... kinda like letting potatoes make their tubers (even though a mirliton is a type of squash, like butternuts!) So I have been letting my 4 mirlitons sit... and guess what? Two already started to sprout in a matter of a few weeks!!! YAY! (See pic below)

Go HERE for a traditional Louisiana stuffed mirliton recipe... ( I so wanna alter this recipe and make up my own gluten free/macrobiotic/yummy stuffing!)

"Although most people are familiar only with the fruit, the root, stem, seeds, and leaves are all edible. The fruit does not need to be peeled and can be eaten raw in salads. Cooked or raw, it has a very mild flavor by itself, and is commonly served with seasonings (e.g., salt, butter and pepper in Australia) or in a dish with other vegetables and/or flavorings. It can also be boiled, stuffed, mashed, baked, fried, or pickled in escabeche sauce. Both fruit and seed are rich in amino acids and vitamin C. Fresh green fruit are firm and without brown spots or signs of sprouting. Smaller ones are more tender." -wikiXoXo

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tell Me How...

...Something like this happens? This is a natural spring fed pond, very tiny but in the spring time it is full of tadpoles and froggies, lots of critters come to drink here. Right now it is slightly frozen, with these frozen circles on top.
Does anyone have an idea how these circles are created... from underneath or from above?
This may be the most beautiful & serene thing I have seen winter make so far. Yep, even more then all the ice sculptures.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Check Out The Furry Friend I Found...

Way up in the loft of the neighbors barn is a little man hiding! He is so furry and cute, and friendly and big and luuuvvvvvs to be pet on his head.
Dis' is his special house, which he is really proud of because it's quite an awesome pad for a single guy. He even showed me his secret hiding spot under a pile of junk and plastic where he keeps warm. He makes sure to hide when he hears any noises or senses danger... but if you make sweet kissy noises and clicking sounds and talk baby talk he is like a puddle of luv mush in your hands.
Pretty sure this is the stud muffin who has been recently crying out for ladies outside in the morning, before sunrise. Which is why my tiny little kitty Toots was screaming and hauling ass back inside. She should totally be his friend though, cause I am... and we could make a cat gang together just like the old days.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Creating A Sustainable Dream Part 3

Do ya remember this drawing I did back in November, a sketch of my sustainable dream? I drew it on a tax record for some random land on HWY 209 in Hot Springs and made a list above the drawing of things I wished for... asked for? Required?... in order to make myself a totally eco minded, organic, animal friendly, surrounded by wildlife home. Now look at the cabin below that I found for sale...
Even the porch with the overhang, and stove pipe for the wood stove coming out the roof is in the exact place I drew it - the windows are too. And the shape, the size, and the house is raised off the ground. The roof pitch is in the direction I drew it too, to hold a loft which this cabin does have. Plus it's off HWY 209 in Hot Springs just like the tax record I drew on. But what is even freakier.... there really is a pond near the cabin just like in the drawing!!! So I am going to share my secret wish list with ya'll, and compare each item to what this place has::: The wish is on the left side, and the reality is on the right side!

1. 10 acres or more --- 8 acres (surrounded by other large wooded properties)
2. Variety of land type, wooded, flat, sloping, steep --- all of the above
3. Pure drinking water, creek, spring, pond --- all of the above!!!
4. Sustainable & stable lifestyle --- um, check (fish in pond, get chickens, gardening with ease)
5. Open space for donkey and chickens --- there is an overgorwn cleared spot... nothing the donkey, chickens, me and a goat can't fix.
6. House, old cabin, or place to build a cabin --- rustic cabin 600 sq ft.
7. under $100,000 --- asking price $99,000
8. Organic gardening area big enough to feed myself --- see #5
9. Adjoins nice eco neighbors --- yeah, Llama and sheep farms next door
10. Easy access for getting groceries brought to me, social life --- this one is so-so... ? Who wants to bring me groceries or come for a visit... :)
11. Good dirt --- check, the area is like one giant pure forest with nearly no development for miles and miles
12. Safe for MCS --- yep.
If I can get this close to my list for a house I am thinking I should go ahead and start drawing pictures of myself holding giant wads of cash $$$, winning lotto tickets, with giant abundant gardens all around me. :) Oh, and driving a car again!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Animal Tracking: Wet Snow Tracks & Scat (and a fun walk too)

It is not often I can walk in the woods this winter, the weather has been the harshest cold & snow I have ever seen in Western North Carolina, since I moved here 9 years ago. The trails on the mountain behind the house where I live don't get any sun during the cold season and are therefore freezing and the snow barley melts... i guess it's north facing? Big Sandy Mush (the area I am in) has virtually turned into Big Snowy Mush. Yesterday was remotely 'warm' in comparison and I could not resist the urge to get out of the house and move my limbs... being inside all winter is driving me bonkers! Bort, my most best nature friend came along too...
At the top of the apple orchard there was a super highway of melting deer tracks, some fresh some old and frozen. Further up the trail was what we thought is a raccoon (pictured below), there were quite a few of these going off to trees and then ending at the bottom of a tree trunk.
On the trail of the raccoon tracks were these GIANT canine tracks, which we assumed is a dog because if a coyote got that big that would be terrifying!
Then there was a bit of this scat (poop) in the snow... raccoon poop maybe?
Due to all the storms alot of trees fell down blocking the trail, and had to be climbed over. Most the trees that fell were locust, which makes really good firewood but makes me wonder if a disease killed a bunch of them too. Living here in Big Sandy Mush with Bort has helped me learn way more about identifying different types of trees (and animal tracks), I will miss this when I move.
Treasures....At the peak of the trail, the view of the half melted snow across the valley and the solid snow topping the balds was freakin' awesome! The white snow, silhouetting the wet trees makes a dramatic, ominous scene.
Once we got to the top the wet snow was melting through our shoes, and making cold squishy wet feet. So basically I hauled ass back down the mountain to soak my feet in a pot of hot water & epsom salt. So nice. :)