Back Underground

Friday, 17 January 2014, 21:43 | Category : Urban Exploration
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Unlike some abandoned places I’ve read about, this one hasn’t been abandoned all that long. But it’s a fascinating story. Apparently the British postal service had its own subway system for about 75 years, used to move mail among processing and sorting stations. The system began operating in 1928, and was used until 2003.

London underground mail train

Exploring the system was apparently at the top of the list for urban explorers in London, and at some point, a group managed to get inside and carried out a pretty thorough exploration – read about it here.

From the brief reading I did, it seems the train carried mail almost exclusively, but there were apparently a few cars for people, although I think not for the public, but for employees. Still, a cool way to move between offices.

The Night Zone 8 Came Home

Thursday, 9 January 2014, 22:19 | Category : Gardening
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Gardening in central Mississippi is, or can be, close to a year-round endeavor. If you’re willing to endure a bit of cold weather, it’s possible to have something blooming at any time of the year. Pansies, one of the most-poorly named flowers out there, can easily take nights in the mid-20s and keep right on blooming. Snapdragons, not normally considered a winter flower, can take a freeze and roll on. Begonias, surprisingly, while they will die back to the ground, will often come back in th e spring and flourish the next year. Gardeners here have gotten used to having lantana act like a true perennial, coming back year after year. In USDA Zone 9, it is dependably perennial. But here in zone 8, lantana, like some other tender perennials, has come back because we’ve had a series of relatively mild winters. But this past Monday and Tuesday, Zone 8 came home. The USDA says Zone 8 should have low temperatures reaching down the 10 to 15°F, and we hit that Tuesday morning. More than that, we were below 25°F for about 48 hours. There’s going to be a lot of empty spaces in flowerbeds come spring. That’s not a reason to never plant things like lantana, but it is a reason to pay attention to the term “tender perennial”. Be thankful for the years they do come back.

The Southern Way Of Cold

Wednesday, 8 January 2014, 23:33 | Category : Southern Stuff, Weather
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We’re coming out of the record or near-record cold snap today. Brief though it was, it really threw many of us Southerners for a loop. In my part of Mississippi, we’ll see lows in the 20s fairly often in winter – by which I mean, 28 or 29 degrees. Sometimes 25 degrees. Occasionally even closer to 20. But 12 degrees? I can’t remember the last time it got so low. And staying below freezing for the better part of two full days? It just isn’t part of the Southern experience. This:

Ice on pool

is not part of the Southern experience. If the weatherman tells us the temperature is going to drop below freezing, we’ll generally cover our faucets – if it’s only going to get down to 31 we might not – but beyond that, we really don’t have any concept of what to do. Do we worry about the gasoline in our mowers? (and yes, they still have gas in them, because for many of us, after mowing the grass for the last time in late October or early November, we’ll mulch leaves several times until Christmas). And then there’s the matter of coats – we don’t have any. Not coats designed to actually keep you warm when the temperature is in the teens. Temperatures in the teens happen in places like Canada and Wisconsin. Not here. So why would we need coats for something like that? And socks – I have no idea what kind of sock would keep your toes warm when it’s that cold, but I know for sure that I don’t own any.

We just don’t handle cold well. Our blood is designed to allow us to survive in July and August when it’s 101&#176 out. At 25&#176 it makes us unwilling to step outside for more than a couple of minutes. At 20&#176 it makes us unwilling to step outside at all. At 15&#176, we don’t even want to go close to the door. We curl up in a fetal position on the bed, under three feet of blankets. 12&#176? Life as we know it ceases to exist. I’ll see weather reports from places like Minneapolis that talk about temperatures of -10&#176, and there’s really no comprehension. So, don’t make fun of us when you’re sitting there in Chicago and you see reports from the Deep South of temperatures in the teens, and the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth that ensues. We really can’t help it. And if you’re ever down here in July or August, we’ll try to be sympathetic when the full force of a Southern summer hits you.

One Cold Hawk

Monday, 6 January 2014, 13:00 | Category : Birds
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Driving along the Natchez Trace this morning, this hawk was really standing out against the bare trees. It was cold, about 22 degrees F, and windy, but he didn’t seem overly bothered:

One of the first photos with my new Fuji S4530 camera.

Trees, Cars, and Random Fate

Monday, 6 January 2014, 12:46 | Category : Life, Nature
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This weekend, I read an article about a tree that had fallen on a car while the car was driving down the road. And I realized that over the past few years, I’ve been hearing more and more of these stories. The first time I heard about this happening was about 10 years ago, when a friend was driving his truck down a country road and a tree fell with the perfect timing required to take out his hood and windshield. Perfect timing. Think about the probabilities involved here. A tree that has stood 20 or 30 years, on a not-too-well-traveled road, that falls at the exact moment someone is driving by. And you end up with something like this:

Or this:

It could just be random chance. Just bad luck. Or, maybe….

Maybe, the trees have just had enough. Maybe there’s something to this Gaia stuff. Maybe, it’s a treehad! Maybe, we should start paying attention.