Monday, April 14, 2014

hairy birdfeeders




The Eastern tent caterpillar is the larva stage of a rather nondescript small brown moth. (Trust me. It’s small and brown. You’d hardly notice it, would have difficulty describing it to anyone. That's nondescript.)

Early last summer, the female adult moths laid her varnish-coated egg masses—hundreds of eggs—in the crotches of trees. The females were very particular. They only laid their eggs on the trees with leaves her young would eat. Cherries, apples and crab apples are their most common host plants.

The eggs remain there for over nine months. In early spring the tiny larvae hatch and begin spinning a small silken tent where they live protected during the day. At night the caterpillars venture out to eat leaves; their sole purpose in life is to eat a lot and grow.

The carterpillars return to their nests each morning and because they've grown—which tends to happen if you eat all night—they add to their nest to accommodate their new bulk.

People often panic when they see these tents in their trees. They want to attack them with kerosene and fire. Napalm is no longer available for household use. But relax. These silken tents are really just natural birdfeeders. Only a small percentage of the caterpillars survive, the birds eat most of them. The other day I watched a blue jay standing on top of one of the nests tossing down caterpillars as fast as it could like they were shrimp from an Aussie's barbie. Ga-day mate.

I wonder what they taste like? A bit hairy, I would imagine.

Eastern tent caterpillars, a.k.a. bird food

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

peace in my heart




“Whenever a man hears it he is young, and Nature is in her spring; wherever he hears it, it is a new world and a free country, and the gates of Heaven are not shut against him,” wrote naturalist Henry David Thoreau.

The Master of Walden was describing what many believe to be the most beautiful song of any North American bird—the wood thrush.

As a group, the thrushes, including the American robin, are exquisite singers. Wood thrushes’ songs have three individual parts. You can really only hear the first part if you’re fairly close to the singer. It consists of two to six short low-pitched “bup, bup, bups” The middle part is flutelike, almost angelic. The phrase is generally described as “ee-oh-lay, ee-oh-lee.” It’s one of the most purely beautiful utterances made by any living creature. The third part of their song is a trill-like phrase that seems to come from somewhere else as though the bird is throwing its voice. It’s described as non-harmonic pairs of notes rapidly and concurrently repeated.

It all sounds as complicated as a Rossini aria but it gets even better. Arias are for one voice. The heart of the wood thrush’s song, the flutelike “ee-oh-lay,” is actually the bird singing a duet with itself. Wood thrush have two sets of vocal cords, so they can sing two overlapping phrases simultaneously, which gives their song a hollow, richer tone, like a sound engineer has added a bit of reverberation. Thrushes’ voice boxes contain two membranes that they can control independently.

Each male wood thrush has a repertoire of various arrangements of these basic parts, some drawn out, some condensed. And each male sings long and often.

A wood thrush returned to Chapman Ridge home yesterday. I heard the first “ee-oh-lay” of the season. And all was right in my world; peace was in my heart.

And as Thoreau suggests, I was young yet once again. My spring tonic had arrived.







Monday, April 7, 2014

hummers here?



Red buckeye (Aesculus pavia)

Like most early spring bloomers, the red buckeye, a.k.a. firecracker plant is beginning to flower.

The ruby-throated hummingbird migration northward every spring follows the flowering of this native tree. And as you can see, they have red tubular blossoms to lure the fast-flying hummers. The flowers are narrow, their sweet nectar tucked away deep inside so that only the long-billed birds can partake. Zipping about—a sip here, a sip there—benefits the buckeyes by spreading the sticky pollen from tree to tree.

This relationship was forged long before man-made sugar-water feeders were invented. Could the hummers survive without the buckeyes? Probably, the ruby-throats would just migrate later when other plants with tubular flowers bloomed. Could the buckeyes exist without the hummers? Perhaps not. But yet, for the tiny birds, pollinating the plants with blossoms especially designed for their bills—form follows function after all—is their
raison d'être.

And we all need a reason to exist.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Rikki Hall



Ijams Insect WalkAbout. Group leader Rikki sixth from right. 

When I write, I write with someone in mind, a particular reader. For years I wrote a regular column called "The Backporch Naturalist" for Hellbender Press and I'd always weave in a strand of humor to make Rikki Hall laugh. He was one of the editors of the environmental newspaper and I knew he was one of the first readers of raw copy.

If I later heard that he laughed, I knew I got it right.

And Rikki loved to challenge me: "How about a pro-cowbird piece? The native species that everyone loves to hate, give them reason not to." Or "How about a column about roadkill?" That would be interesting.

As indeed it was.

I also lead nature walks at Ijams, but sometimes someone else leads and I just go along for the adventure.

This week we mourn :( the passing of our friend Rikki Hall who led several insect and birding walks for the nature center over the years.

Noted for his broad smile and that tress of dark hair that loved to rebelliously fall down over his forehead, Rikki was one of those remarkable people that took enormous joy in noticing nature's minutia, the little cogs in the master clockwork. The oothecae, the pupae, the pedipalps, the warbler wispings, Rikki noted them all. Rikki was in his element in the middle of an overgrown field.  

Rikki knew the secret: that nature is as vast as it is deep, and always infinitely fascinating, a set of nesting Russian matryoshka dolls with one treasure hidden inside another, inside another. The closer you look, the more that's revealed.

He would stop and point out the smallest spider workings or beetle meanderings, sharing the details of their lives and, in turn, his love for such things that generally go completely overlooked. Rikki's passing should not go overlooked. He cared.

Rikki knew if you look deeply enough, nature makes sense, but in his untimely death that logic flies out the fenêtre.

I quote here from Emerson, "To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same fields, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.”

Transcendent Emerson must have known Rikki, one of life's truly great people, an attentive eye, sadly missed by absolutely everyone who knew him including this former Hellbender writer. 

Kim, I hug you with tears rolling down my face.



With visiting group from Russia. Rikki second from left. 
Insect exploration at Ijams Homesite. 
Walk leader Rikki second from left.
Birding WalkAbout on Ten Mile Creek Greenway. 
Rikki in the middle with co-leader Janet McKnight. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

tigers appear



 
I first posted this, six years ago on this date. Today I watched the same.
 

"After overwintering inside chrysalids, the first wave of adult tiger swallowtails was seen fluttering through the treetops today. And after the males and females find each other and mate, the she-tigers spend the rest of their lives laying spherical green eggs on the top of leaves of certain host plants: cottonwood, tulip tree (a.k.a. tulip poplar) sweet bay, spicebush, ash and wild cherry.
 
[Today it was a wild cherry just beginning to leaf out.]

The adults live only a matter of days, after which, all the tiger swallowtails in our area will exist as eggs that hatch into larvae that eat, grow, molt; eat, grow, molt; eat, grow, molt until they molt one last time and form chrysalises that in time metamorphose into a new wave of adults that we will see fluttering about in several weeks.
 

In the South, tiger swallowtails go though two or three broods between early spring and winter. The arrival of each new generation produces a natural pulse of the spectacular yellow and black adults.


In memory of Rikki Hall who took so much joy in noticing such as this.

Monday, March 31, 2014

A visit with Powell students


Powell High School AP Environmental Science class spring 2014


One week ago I visited with the AP Environmental Science class taught by Coach Will Roberts at Powell High School, a.k.a. Panther Nation.

We talked about conservation, environmental studies, book writing and my ancestral link
to the Great Smokies. Each student had been assigned to read a portion of my two books: Natural Histories and Ghost Birds.

Chapters we discussed included pawpaws, Osage orange and the recovery of the wild turkey. Also of interest were my favorite hiking trail in the national park: Mt. Cammerer and the new hiking and biking trails in the Knoxville Urban Wilderness: South Loop adjacent to Ijams. Click here for : map.

Best of luck to all of you!

Click these links for a look back at past visits:






Thursday, March 27, 2014

murmuration






Study this photo closely. There is simply not another bird in this country hated as much as the European starling.
 

There are millions of them, millions, millions, millions, and we can blame the American Acclimatization Society and its president at the time, Eugene Schieffelin. The goal of the organization was to introduce into North America every bird species ever mentioned in the entire oeuvre of William Shakespeare.

We assume that perhaps the Bard would have been flattered. Perhaps. 


In 1890, after two failed attempts, Schieffelin released about 60 starlings into New York's Central Park, and the rest is history so to speak. 

Starlings have a post-Exxon Valdez oily look; they're also aggressive, noisy, messy, even mean. Most consider them a vile, spit on the ground, abomination, a Book of Job sorta pestilence.

But, of late, others are starting to see the beauty, the exquisite grace they achieve in vast flocks. In the case of starlings, there's artistry in numbers. Their aerial ballets performed at dusk are called murmurations. Each flying as one, yet in tune to the others, front and back, side to side, overhead and below. Flying as one.

Here's another video sent to me by a friend. As Winter says, their ability to dodge and weave and not crash into one another, to flow through the sky, to act as one even though they number in the thousands, is "almost inexplicable." Except it sounds so much better said with an English accent.




Tuesday, March 25, 2014

nor'easter bomb?


Snow squall blowing into Knoxville

"The warmly cool, clear, ringing, perfumed, overflowing, redundant days, were as crystal goblets of Persian sherbet, heaped up—flaked up, with rose-water snow...But all the witcheries of that unwaning weather did not merely lend new spells and potencies to the outward world. Inward they turned upon the soul, especially when the still mild hours of eve came on; then, memory shot her crystals as the clear ice most forms of noiseless twilights. And all these subtle agencies, more and more they wrought on Ahab's texture." 

- From Moby Dick by Herman Melville

What again? Didn't spring arrive last week to much fanfare? Snow squalls passed through this afternoon, temps dropping to the low 20s tonight and a "nor'easter bomb" is predicted to hit the Northeast coast including Nantucket where Ismael and Queequeg set sail in the Pequod. 

Nor'easter bomb? 

We live in the Golden Age of Hyperbole or, at least, of robust monikers; the age of extreme sports like cliff jumping, ice climbing and bodyboarding. There's Old Spice Lionpride and Wolfthorn. The hockey team in Denver is the Avalanche. Dairy Queen has a Blizzard. Miami has the Hurricanes. There's energy drinks called Red Bull, Mad Dog, Monster Mean Bean and Black Mamba Venom and my Cracker Jacks are now Cracker Jack'd Buffalo Ranch. We're obsessed like Ahab with extreme nature. We put it in a can, splash it on our bodies.

Mamba venom? Smell like Lions? Drink a blizzard? Best not mess with nature or you get wrathful weather. While much to the chagrin of Captain Ahab, and much chagrined Old Testament Ahab—better not cross him or he'll kick you with his jawbone leg—that's why he chased his great white obsession, the original extreme sport. 

As for me? We can't seem to escape winter, it's cold in here and my feet hurt. More and more they all wrought my texture, but it probably needed wroughting.

Monday, March 24, 2014

thrasher buffet



Brown thrasher

When you and I think of "food," we think "kitchen." Or at least, that's what we've been taught since Mom took away the Gerber's and we became hunter/gatherers. 

Most of us are omnivores; we eat a range of things both plant and animal: fruits, nuts, chicken nuggets, gummy worms, Cheez-Doodles, whatever. We omnivores just aren't that picky when push comes to shove.

Brown thrashers are omnivores too. When they think "food," they think "straight down." They're ground foragers that use their long bills to rake leaves, flipping them over searching for fruits, nuts, chicken nuggets, gummy worms, Cheez-Doodles, whatever.

When we're hunger we generally don't look to the attic; we don't look up, we rummage through the kitchen looking for those gummy worms we bought last Halloween. Although brown thrashers are apt to visit a low-to-the-ground platform feeder, they generally don't go much higher. I said generally, there are no real absolutes in nature other than the speed of light and now we know that even that's relative to the observer. 

This is why I enjoyed the photos Tiffiny Hamlin sent me: a thrasher visiting the attic for food, i.e. her feeder loaded with a "bug, nuts, and berries cylinder." Now, that's a buffet that would attract the eye of a thrasher, and prompt a trip above ground.

Thanks, Tiffiny.




Thursday, March 20, 2014

rare grebes



Red-necked grebe
My friend Jason Sturner reports:

"Wanted to let you know about a rare bird sighting at Ijams. Yesterday morning I saw a red-necked grebe (and two horned grebes) at Forks of the River WMA [upstream from Ijams]. I came back in the evening, and the red-necked was near the boardwalk (the horned grebes were still in the Forks area)."

"Anyway, there's an irruption of water birds this year due to the extreme cold up north, where much of the Great Lakes froze over. Species have been on the move to find open water, including the red-necked grebe." 

Details about this irruption can be found here: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/news/species-on-the-move-wwscrngr/

Thanks, Jason!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

copper beeches?






"Immense, entirely itself, it wore that yard like a dress," writes contemporary poet Marie Howe in her poem "The Copper Beech."

All winter the local beeches have been clothed in shimmering copper. But why? This one has always baffled me knowing that everything in nature happens for a reason. Nothing is random. Nature has a fierce practicality about her.

Other trees cast off their leaves in autumn. They fall like confetti at a hero's parade. Why do beech trees hold onto their dead copper leaves all winter? They cling tight through wind, rain and sleet, only to be cast off at the slightest breeze in spring. But why?

Does the copper dress somehow protect the tree? 

If you know, please share the answer, otherwise I may not sleep.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

hawkwatch

Red-tailed hawk
Photographer Chuck Cooper stopped by Ijams yesterday. The weather was balmy, so there were a lot of people on the plaza when I brought out the red-tailed hawk for her usual 3 o'clock walkabout.

Although I've been showing hawks at Ijams for almost 16 years, I've never really written about it. Few things in my life almost daily humble me or fill me with awe more. The feeling is one of power, not me but the hawk. I'm a mere mushy-around-the-edges human like an Oreo cookie inside out.

Owls are soft and even gentle. They can hurt you quickly, but they often like to be petted like cats. 

Not hawks. They're different. They can hurt you without even meaning to like chainsaws. They're wound tight. Hawk-eyed. Watchful with attentive stares like palace guards; their talons like Mughal daggers. Hawks draw blood with ease. Sheer power reverberates through them like an accelerating Harley on an open road. Redtails are the linebackers of the local hawk world with Ray Lewis strength. They hit and hit hard; striking from the air feet first. Without a heavy leather glove, a handler's hand would be quickly diced.

You have to be totally in the moment with such intensity perched on your arm; knowing that you are the weaker of the two. Indeed.

Thanks, Chuck!



Friday, March 14, 2014

short-eared revisited



Cades Cove off Hyatt Lane. Harrier and short-eared habitat




And a bit of old business: the short-eared owls that spent their winter in Cades Cove.

I didn't get to go see them so I asked my friend Laura Twilley to send me a report.

"It was a cold, cloudy, February 8th afternoon," emailed Laura.
"My husband Robert and I made the last minute decision to go see if we could find the owls.  We followed the directions found in various KNS articles, went to the second Cades Cove crossroad, parked and walked the road.  (Which, in and of itself, was a really nice walk.  We felt like the only people in the Cove.)

We didn't see anything for a long time and were about to give up, when Robert saw movement along the tree line. 
Like all other accounts, we saw them playing and flying about like moths.  It was fun to watch, but not close enough to photograph.

On our way back to the car, when we were given a show by a northern harrier, one of the owls decided it wanted to be seen up close and landed in a nearby tree.


Score!  But then...







And, that, was the day I got to see a short-eared owl.
Thanks, Laura!


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

the color of sky




On a walk at the nature center, I found several clusters of a low-growing speedwell in bloom.

Although they appear delicate, they are blooming in the cold and damp of late winter, spring is a couple of weeks away. I was lightly bundled; they were not. The flowers are tiny, the size of crowder peas, easily overlooked, just little splashes of color as though dropped from Claude Monet’s brush. Middens from one of his masterworks.

Drop. Drop. Drop. A spot here, a spot there, sprinkled on beds of verdant green. It's a watery shade of blue known by some artists as the color of the "sky after a rain."

Need I say more?

Monet's painting "Impression, Sunrise" led to the term for the art movement he founded: impressionism. Note the same blue.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

uncontained beauty



Cedar Glade: Forks-of-the-River


Yesterday, trail scout Eric Johnson and I led a Piece-by-Piece hike for Ijams in the Knoxville Urban Wilderness: South. We spent the afternoon on state-owned land, the eastern portion of Forks-of-the-River WMA, a cedar glade, admiring the terrain, hiking the bluff along the French Broad River. Decades ago the parcel almost became an industrial park, but public outcry saved it.

For most of our modern existence, nature has been viewed as a commodity to be harvested and expropriated. That began to change in the early 1800s and Emerson's essay simply titled "Nature" fired the first salvo for the new paradigm: nature as a paradise to be savored and protected. A spiritual sanctuary. Sanctum sanctorum. After Emerson came Thoreau, Burroughs, Muir and many, many others.
 

Here's an excerpt:
 

Emerson
"I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty. In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature.

The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister, is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me, and I to them. The waving of the boughs in the storm, is new to me and old. It takes me by surprise, and yet is not unknown. Its effect is like that of a higher thought or a better emotion coming over me, when I deemed I was thinking justly or doing right."
 

- From "Nature" by Ralph Waldo Emerson, first published in 1836

Bluff Trail: Knoxville Urban Wilderness



Thursday, March 6, 2014

100 year milestone




Special note:


On this date, March 6, 1914, Dr. James T., Jim Tanner, the protagonist in my book Ghost Birds, was born.

Also on this date, 24 years later: March 6, 1938, Jim took the famous photographs of the nestling ivory-bill perched on the head of game warden J. J. Kuhn's head.

This famous series of photos are the only ones known to exist of a NESTLING ivory-billed woodpecker.

For more information about that day in 1938, go to my article I penned in 2010, click: Smithsonian magazine



Wednesday, March 5, 2014

piece-by-piece





What is this? 

A forecast of sunny skies with highs in the 60s for Saturday? 

Can it be Ismael?

Join me for another Ijams "Piece-by-Piece" hike in the Knoxville Urban Wilderness: South.

Our goal is to hike all 40-plus miles. And if you are late getting started, or miss a piece, don't worry, we'll going to do them all again soon as we finish the first pass. You do not have to be an experienced hiker, most aren't. You just need a desire to get out and hike with friendly folks.

This month's hike is Saturday, March 8 at 1 p.m. To sign up call 577-4717, ext. 110.

See you there!




Sunday, March 2, 2014

la mer





Perhaps it's the unrelenting winter that won't let go; Monday's forecast: icy rain, temperatures in high-20s.
 

Perhaps it's because I am reading Moby Dick and just learned that the more distant part of the sea seen from the shore, beyond the anchoring ground is called the "offings." I didn't know that and have only been beyond the offings—out to sea—three times in my life: off Cape Cod to Nantucket, off Ocracoke Island and the Outer Banks, off Maui. Yes, Maui.

But, I have been thinking of the ocean for a while, or at least walking along a beach to gaze at the offings. It's been years for me.

But one thing leads to another and then another. There's a Hardee's commercial airing lately of a scantily clad beauty in a bikini walking out of the surf only to sit in the sand and very seductively start eating a fish sandwich almost as big as the great white whale. Now if I were a 20-year-old male, this would work for me. I'd eat fish with mucho tartar.

But, at my age the song playing in the background is more appealing: Bobby Darin's 1959 "Beyond the Sea." Its airiness makes it one of my favorites.

Now, if you know the song, you may not know that it's an English version of the older French song, "La Mer." Same tune, but totally different lyrics. As legend goes, Charles Trenet wrote the original French version in 1946 on toilet paper while traveling along the Mediterranean Sea. Great inspiration: the sea not the paper. His lyrics are more about the moods of the sea, while the American version is about finding love beyond the sea, or love unattainable with your feet rooted on solid ground.

Here we go back to Melville’s Ismael. In the opening chapter of the outcast's story, we learn the narrator suffers from melancholy and longs for the sea as a cure and perhaps romance: man and the sea, not man and woman. There's no women in Moby Dick, which is perhaps why everything is so dark and laced with melancholia. Truthfully, I am not a big fan of books or movies that are all male because there's usually a lot of violence and fighting or everyone dying in pursuit of a great white whale.

Ismael notes, “Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet…then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship."

Was Ismael as weary of winter as I? Was his sea, our spring?


Perhaps Ismael had Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and didn't need to go to sea at all. He just needed the bright sunlight of the Carolina coast. Of course, the whole story of the Pequod, Queequeg and Ahab's obsession would have been lost.

Not wanting to end all damp and drizzly, here’s a real treat, “La Mer” in the original French.








Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Rose Glen 2014


Sevierville Convention Center

The fifth annual Rose Glen Literary Festival was held last Saturday in Sevierville. And the 2014 installment of the popular event moved to a new venue: The Sevierville Convention Center on Gists Creek Road off Hwy 66.

Rose Glen is designed as a vehicle for local authors to come together once a year and talk about and sell their books. I've been a part of Rose Glen since the beginning, even serving as the initial keynote speaker at the luncheon. Since then, local authors Dr. Bill Bass, Fred Brown and Bill Landry have keynoted. This year's speaker at the noon banquet was popular News Sentinel columnist Sam Venable.

Special thanks to Carroll McMahan and Brenda McCroskey and the rest of the staff of the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce for organizing Rose Glen. 

One of my favorite aspects of the festival is getting to meet and talk to other writers. Two years ago, I met Luke Copas, promoted as the youngest author there. He penned and illustrated a book about the tragic sinking of the world's most famous ocean liner called, "Facts for Kids about the Titanic." Luke is well on his way of becoming a Titanic historian; he's now working on his third book about the 1912 disaster.
J.L. and Lin Stepp have a new book about the recreational side of the national park. Titled "The Afternoon Hiker," the book offers pleasant casual hikes in the Smokies. The hiking guide features color photos throughout.  Lin has also written several romances set in the region, "Tell Me about the Orchard Hollow (2010), "The Foster Girls, (2011), "For Six Good Reasons (2011), "Delia's Place" (2012), "Second Hand Rose" (2013) and the upcoming "Down by the River."

Event organizer and historian Carroll McMahan has a new book of his own, "Elkmont's Uncle Lem Ownby: Sage of the Smokies." Growing up in Gatlinburg, I remember when everyone's Uncle Lem still lived upstream from the Elkmont Campground. He had sold his land to the national park movement in the early 1900s but with the agreement that he got to live on it until his death. And Uncle Lem lived a long time. 

Beloved storyteller Bill Landry was on hand. His latest book "Tellin' it for the Truth" looks back on many of the people and stories he encountered during his three decades as the spokesman for the "The Heartland Series" aired by WBIR Channel 10. Others involved in the creation of the show, the best documentation of all that's East Tennessee, were my friends Steve Dean, Linda Billman and Doug Mills.

This year's keynoter Sam Venable, is a stranger to no one having had what he calls the "best job in Knoxville" for the past 40 years: columnist for the News-Sentinel. When asked how many books he has written, Sam replied "a bunch." He wasn't being glib, he probably doesn't know off the top of his head. I have several on my shelves and am lucky that he wrote the introduction for my first book. Sam's latest, or at least I think it's his latest, is "How to Tawlk and Rite Good," a look at how we East Tennesseans—and he is one—play with the language. 

Perhaps, my biggest surprise was to learn my friend at WBIR, Emily Stroud has herself penned a novel. "Broken News," a "work of fiction" draws on her experience as a news reporter for several television stations. Always smiling, always energetic, I can't wait to read this "fictional" behind the scenes look at television news. We know what goes on in front of the camera, what about behind? Even if it is fictional, there has to be a grain of truth in her book. Caution: It may contain "salty" language. 

Since I also illustrate my books, I generally spend time at Rose Glen talking to young people about drawing. All kids draw, some, like me, do it all their lives. I met Jordan Roberts several years ago at the festival (she's gotten taller, I grayer) and enjoy seeing her every year to talk about art. She likes to draw animals, as I do. Here's a photo of her holding one of my recent butterfly pen and inks.
And to all of the dozens of authors I didn't get to meet and talk to this year, there's always next year's Rose Glen set for the last Saturday in February, 2015.

Michelle and Carroll McMahan and moi
Me with young author Luke Copas and his fan club
They've written a bunch: Sam Venable, Lin Stepp and Bill Landry
Always smiling Emily Stroud and myself. Photo by Luke Copas