Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Donkeys !

I've been wanting to go on a photo shoot down some of my favorite country roads around Vicksburg, and yesterday I had some free time to do just that. But I have to admit that I had to literally make myself turn off HGTV (I'm hopelessly addicted), and leave my nice cool house to venture out into the 90+-degree-heat-of-the-day afternoon. It was hot and dry and dusty, and I had to clomp around in freshly cut grass along the county roads — but, I was so glad I went, because I was able to capture something I've wanted to take pictures of for a very long time.

I've passed by these crosses many, many times as I traveled on I-20, from Vicksburg to Jackson, but have never been able to catch these guys near the road when I happened to have my cameras with me (click on the picture to see the "guys").

Yesterday, I was driving down the frontage road and was delighted to see some of them grazing by the fence close to the road.

The sign says, "Donkeys for Sale," and after seeing them up close, I wanted to take them home with me.

Their faces were so sweet and innocent looking, and their curiosity about what I was doing was greater than their fear of me. Of course, I was standing on the outside of the fence about 20 feet away from them, too.

This sweet little lady ambled up close to the fence, as if to say, take my picture, too! She looked very pregnant, and captured my heart. Isn't she beautiful!

These two fellows seemed to be saying, "You watch my back, and I'll watch yours!"

I love these profile shots ...

I enjoyed visiting with the donkeys and was so pleased to have finally captured them for my photo collection.

While editing the pictures, I realized that I knew nothing about donkeys, so I turned to Google and found the following information:

From Wikipedia:

The donkey or ass, Equus africanus asinus, is a domesticated member of the horse family. A male donkey or ass is called a jack, a female a jenny, and an offspring less than one year old, a foal.

While different species of the horse family can interbreed, offspring are almost always sterile. Nonetheless, horse/donkey hybrids are popular for their durability and vigor. A mule is the offspring of a jack (male donkey) and a mare (female horse).

Although formal studies of their behaviour and cognition are rather limited, donkeys appear to be quite intelligent, cautious, friendly, playful, and eager to learn.

They have a notorious reputation for stubbornness, but this has been attributed to a much stronger sense of "self preservation" than exhibited by horses. Likely based on a stronger prey instinct and a weaker connection with man, it is considerably more difficult to force or frighten a donkey into doing something it perceives to be dangerous, for whatever reason. Once a person has earned their confidence they can be willing and companionable partners and very dependable for work.

In the Bible, Mary is portrayed as riding a donkey while pregnant. Legend has it that the "cross" on donkey’s shoulders comes from the shadow of Christ’s crucifixion, placing the donkey at the foot of the cross.

And from the All About Donkeys! website:

Donkeys prefer to do what is good for the donkey, which is not always what the human thinks is best. They are very friendly, and their nature makes them excellent for children. Donkeys can perform all the gaits horses or mules do, but galloping is usually not on the program unless dinner is being served.

Donkeys also make wonderful guard animals and will take care of an entire herd of cattle, sheep or goats. The natural aversion to predators will inspire the donkey to severely discourage any canine attacks on the herd. Dogs and donkeys usually don't mix, although they can be trained to leave the house or farm dog alone.

Here is a picture I captured a couple of years ago of a baby goat with his/her "nurse donkey." Notice how the donkey put herself between me and the little goat.

You now probably know a lot more than you wanted to about donkeys, but I find them interesting and endearing animals and I loved photographing these. I hope they all find happy new homes where they will be loved and well cared for.

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Message from Mother Nature

This past weekend, my husband and I spent some time at our land, which is located in rural Madison County, Mississippi, about an hour's drive from Vicksburg. As we drove along the country roads, I noticed that there was just a hint of Fall in the air. The temperature was in the high 80s around noon, instead of the mid-90s, and there was very little humidity, which makes a BIG difference in our Mississippi weather.

It wasn't anything in particular that made me think "fall," but there was definitely a difference.

Perhaps it was because it's that time of year when some of the crops have been harvested, or are almost ready for harvest, like these soybeans which were turning yellow ...

This field of little yellow wildflowers reminded me of Fall, too ...

The cornfields we passed were brown and looked rather forlorn, their once lush green rows now dry and shriveled.

As I took these pictures, I could hear the cornstalks rattling in the breeze ...

But the most positive sign that it's almost time for Fall's arrival was this bright golden spray of Goldenrod entwined around a fence along the roadside ...

We enjoyed our drive in the country and the break, albeit temporary, from the heat and humidity we've endured all summer. But the best lagniappe of all was the message Mother Nature was sending ... letting us know that Fall will, indeed, be here soon.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Storm Watch

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc and devastation on the Gulf Coast. And now, six years later — almost to the day — Hurricane Irene is bearing down on the East Coast, threatening 65 million people along its projected path.

My thoughts and prayers are with all of those in that path, and I pray they and their families will be safely out of harm's way by the time the storm makes landfall. May God watch over them and protect them ... and may He weaken the storm's winds and rains by the time it reaches their homes and businesses and crops.

I pray He will also give the city, state, and national leaders the wisdom and compassion they will need in the coming days to help people safely return to their homes ... and to their lives. ~ Amen.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Yard Lagniappe

I took advantage of some clouds giving us a break from the relentless heat yesterday afternoon, and walked around my yard with my camera. I was hoping to see some butterflies, but there were none to be found.

I did manage to find a few things I found interesting, though — such as these berries on our Japanese Yews.

Isn't it amazing how the light blue seed pods emerge from their purple "cocoons."

And speaking of "emerging seed pods," the Bay Magnolia in our courtyard is loaded with beautiful red pods that are literally bursting with seeds.

The Scaevola Bombay plants in my urns are doing well and lived up to their promise of being resistant to "extreme heat, humidity, and drought conditions."

This little rock has been nestled inside the larger rock for as long as we've had our pond and waterfall in the courtyard.

I'm not sure how it got there, but for some reason I find it endearing.

This little Japanese Maple leaf resting on a bird feeder caught my eye, too ...

Ornamental Grass

I bought this Asparagus Fern last Spring, and it has thrived in the summer heat.

I love the delicate little flowers and berries hidden amongst its tangled fronds ...

Our Chaste Tree is blooming for the last time this summer and the bees are loving it ...

I don't know much about bees, but I don't think these look like "regular" bumblebees. You can click on the pictures to get a closer look, if you'd like.

And that concludes my "walk/photo shoot around the yard," but that's not the end of the story.

While I was taking the pictures, I noticed all kinds of yard work that needed to be done, so I spent a couple of hours trimming and weeding and "fluffing" pine straw in the flower beds. There's nothing more satisfying to me than working in my yard. Even though it didn't take me long to get hot and sweaty and grubby, I loved it and was so pleased with the results of my hard work.

It always amazes me how much difference just an hour or two of yard work can make — not only in the way the yard looks, but also the way it makes me feel — and I never fail to wish I had taken "before" pictures to make me really appreciate what I accomplished.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Tour of the Hotel Vicksburg

One of the most prominent landmarks in downtown Vicksburg is the old Hotel Vicksburg building located at the corner of Clay and Walnut Streets. The following postcard depicts the hotel when it was in its prime, somewhere between 1925 and 1949.

[Postcard: Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History]

Here is the way the hotel looks today (photo taken from opposite side shown on postcard) ...

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the hotel is currently being used for apartment rentals, a theatre, and the Old Southern Tea Room, which recently reopened in the building.

I have photographed the outside of the hotel on numerous occasions, but had never ventured inside until a couple of days ago.

Notice the ceiling and lights of the overhang which graces the main entrance into the hotel.

And the beautiful windows and ironwork ...

Remember when these "Fallout Shelter" signs were a familiar sight? I'm curious about how far down under the hotel you would have to go to reach the shelter.

I've always found the back of the hotel interesting, too — especially the fire escape. Let's just hope that no one ever has to use it!

But enough of the outside — let's go inside!

From the moment I stepped through the doors, I felt as if I had gone back in time. I looked for someone to request permission to take pictures, but no one was around, so I took the liberty of shooting a few pictures in the lobby and main floor.

I loved the old elevators ...

But my attention was immediately drawn to what was between them — just look at this old treasure!

And speaking of treasures

The sign above this beauty indicates that it is an ice water fountain original to the 1928 hotel, a novelty in its day, and similar fountains could be found on every floor of the hotel (I'm not sure where the water came out?).

It looked as if it was glowing!

The fountain was located next to the front desk, which, I assume, is original, too ...

I loved the elegant staircase and so wanted to climb it to see more, but since I wasn't able to ask permission to photograph the interior of the hotel, I didn't think that would be a good idea.

I did, however, go down these stairs which led to the Walnut Street entrance of the hotel (notice the unique iron newel post and stair railing).

This old map hangs above the doors leading to the street ...

I'm so glad I ventured inside the hotel and would love to go back sometime (with permission) and capture with my camera some of its other treasures. Perhaps we can visit the Old Southern Tea Room at the same time. Their daily menus posted on their Facebook page sound scrumptious!