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Somewhere between Jacks and Shade Mountain, four more Black Capped Chickadees have fled the nest box. That is seven from that box this year.

At least two toads have climbed onto the deck this summer. You have to appreciate a toad with some ambition. Who knows what else climbs up there when no one is looking? We know of at least one other critter because he left his skin beside the door step. (Mom did not appreciate this). That reminds me, there was a garter snake in the compost bin. It is always fun to find creatures in unexpected places. While walking the property line, I found a Red Eft. He shows off a brilliant color in contrast to the surrounding dark colors of leaf mold and bright greens of moss. I followed him for a short distance before he disappeared under a rotting log.

A new shade garden is developing along the treeline above the vegetables. Hosta (Pacific Blue Edgers) and Coral Bells (Electric Plum) are adding new colors mixed in with the Mountain Laurel and Redbud tree. The deer have left the Hosta’s alone, so far. But something is eating the tomatoes. I may be trapping some critters.

I did overnight near the garden in hopes of learning something new about what is happening in the dark. Hoping for some visitor or at least a strange noise. But it is difficult to hear anything or to know what is going on around you while sleeping. I did listen to a Green Frog and watch Lightning Bugs until I fell asleep. And I did wake to a wonderful dawn chorus that had so much sound going on it was difficult to identify any of it. But I am telling myself that there were some new chickadees singing in that choir.

There was a nest of White Faced Hornets in a rhododendron bush. Something ripped it out one night and appeared to empty the contents, leaving an empty shell. The same night (one week after my overnighter) something tipped over the burn barrel. Maybe that is some new form of rural entertainment. Cow tipping is out, barrel tipping is in. More likely, we have another bear. While I would like to thank him for disposing of those hornets, I wish he would have put the barrel back the way he found it.

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Its hard to believe, the World Cup is nearly over. We are down to one last match. These have been exciting weeks. Twenty-four teams show up to compete on the world stage. Sixteen advance to participate in a knockout tournament. Every match sees one team go home. Now, just two remain. In a tournament dominated by European teams, perhaps it is fitting the European champions are in the final against the number one team in the world.

There has been a lot of great soccer. Sweden showed why it earned a bronze medal. Two dangerous attackers up front who both scored in the third-place match. Kosovare Asllani and Sofia Jakobsson threatened with runs nearly every match. Nilla Fischer made a great defensive header near the end to seal it. England brought the best defender (Lucy Bronze) and the best attacker (Ellen White) to the tournament. That did not prove to be enough as the Lionesses go home without a medal.

I have been thankful that the local Primanti Brothers opened in time for me to stop in and watch some matches. During the USA vs. England match every television was tuned into the match. And the place screamed when Christen Press hit that header into the net at the ten-minute mark. I still sometimes wonder why Jill Ellis doesn’t do what I want her to do. But then, all she does is win.

Media coverage has been decent. Media hype has been terrible. The attempt to make France and USA match the equivalent of final was bizarre. Sure, France has strong players. Yes, they are the home team. Yes, they have the best song “If you aren’t jumping, then you’re not French.” But let’s face it, that was just an attempt to get Paris rocking and to build television ratings.

Don’t watch for any story the media might be drudging up. This is the World Cup final. It is its own story. There are plenty of reasons to pay attention. Here are a few; 1) The Netherland’s Jackie Groenen might be the strongest midfielder in the tournament. 2) Rose Lavelle is making a good case that she is the strongest midfielder in the tournament. 3) Crystal Dunn has been putting on a clinic at outside defender. 4) Alyssa Naeher might make another surprising save. 5) Becky Sauerbruun, Carli Lloyd, and Megan Rapinoe are likely playing in their final World Cup match. 6) Tobin Heath might make a move that will make you smile. 7) Anything can happen. 8) It’s the World Cup, both teams have made it through a gauntlet to get this far.

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Taking On July

July is a battlefield. At least it was in my youth. I would wake in the morning only to wonder what was out there. What could be found in the woods today? Is anything hiding in that rock pile? What will be down at the creek? I wonder if the berries are ripe?

A child knows that something it out there. There is always something out there. Every day is something new to explore. Adults go soft, sitting in cushioned chairs in air-conditioned rooms. But a child knows, there is a lot going on. Someone has to find out what it is.

Still, it is a battlefield out there. Crawling under barbed wire. Falling from a tree or onto rocks. Thorns stand between you and the berries. Sunburn, bruising, and blood are all part of the experience. There are poisons everywhere; ivy, oak, and sumac. Coming home with a rash is normal. Bees will sting, so will yellow jackets, and hornets. Ants will bite, so will deerflies, spiders, and snakes.

Leeches and ticks  are looking to suck your blood. Chiggers will cause you some miserable nights. Mosquitoes will nibble on you all summer long. July is a danger zone. It is a war out there. I still have scars from some of those battles. And I would do it all over again.

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Somewhere between Jacks and Shade Mountain there is a new deck on the backside of a residential property. Jame, Joel, Joe, and Keith did the bulk of the work. We all climbed on top for a picture when it was done.

Three Chickadees have flown from the nest and four new eggs have replaced them. We can hear them singing inside the forest along with the Wood Thrush and the Catbirds. Catbirds sometimes hide in the tree line and make that sound that gave them the name catbird. Other times, they perch on a branch and cut loose in a mockingbird imitation (and a pretty good one). We can still hear the Gray Tree Frogs and have recently begun hearing Green Frogs.

Everything is growing. Vegetables, flowers, and herbs are looking good.  I am especially interested in the carrots and the sweet potatoes. Mountain laurel came into bloom this past month. The state flower, it is in abundance back here. Wild berries are starting to come on. We are marking a lot of stuff to be taken out. Growth gets thick quickly. I have begun cutting down some trees with a handsaw from Wicked Tree Gear. It is hard work but I think I just like the name of the saw. Seriously, I am using some Wicked Tree Gear.

The smells are outstanding. We pull sassafras up to smell the roots. We scratch birch and it smells like root beer (around here, they call it birch beer). I look up at a blue sky and a song comes to mind. Electric Light Orchestra sang “Mr. Blue Sky” first in 1977 and it never gets old. I think I’ll add that to my summer soundtrack.

Deer have started to be more visible. They don’t hide well this time of year when their coats are golden brown and the background forest is bright green and their velvet is showing. Rabbits are living under the shed and love to play in the yard. I suspect they also play in the garden.

The Hummingbirds are having fun. It is amazing to me that they fly so far. It is interesting that they spend time in tropical places but they always return to this valley. I have started to see Monarch Butterflies also. I wonder how many creatures travel the world but come here to get their game on? The weather has been getting hotter. For a while, it was like a vacation destination. Fifties in the morning, seventies afternoon, cool again at night. Book your flight.

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The knockout round continues today. Three of the world’s best individual stars have already gone home. Christine Sinclair scored her 182nd goal during this tournament. That is two from tying Abby Wambach (all time leader with 184). But Canada was eliminated by Sweden in the round of sixteen. Marta scored two goals during this World Cup to make 17 world cup goals. The fact that someone has played in five World Cups says a lot about them. But Marta and Brazil were eliminated by host France. Sam Kerr is arguably the best player in the world. She scored five goals in this tournament but Australia have been eliminated by Norway.

Going forward, I look for England, the USA, the Dutch, and the Germans to advance to the semi-finals. But, that will all be settled on the pitch (code for the soccer field).

Some other things, what’s up with VAR? Call me old school, but I am not a fan. Yes, I know it’s not going away. Maybe I will get used to it. France’s Wendie Renard got ripped off, seriously where was the foul on that call? Her side still advanced, thanks to that pass from Amel Majri… wow.

Maybe Cameroon misbehaved. We all wish it wouldn’t have happened like that. But we are reminded that humans are passionate creatures. The girls from Cameroon were playing for the home country on the world’s biggest stage. Just saying, that stirs up a lot of passion. I am cheering they can keep the fire while working on some other things.

Spain vs. the USA showed what can happen when you put two teams against one another who work at maintaining possession and keep their shape well. No one likes to win on penalty kicks, but it is better than losing on penalty kicks. Spain did not make many mistakes but they made two in the box and it will haunt them for four years. When it is time for a penalty kick, it is good to have Megan Rapinoe on the field. She gave a clinic as she kept her shots low and inside the post.

Spain also capitalized on a U. S. mistake. Goalkeepers, do not pass the ball up the middle (I’ll bet Alyssa Naeher won’t do that again), even if you are passing to Becky Sauerbruun. Credit to Jennifer Hermoso for taking advantage.

On what to do when playing. Watch the Dutch score on a set piece against Japan. Lieke Martens is in the right place, moves toward the ball, and just gets a piece of a well-placed ball from the corner. This is what your coach wants you to do.

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I am told I always enjoyed music. My parents claimed I sang along with Claude King and Roger Miller on the radio. I don’t remember that, but I do remember when I first heard Waylon Jennings. His music was straightforward. It was acoustic. It was heavy on both guitar and attitude. It was Nashville and Texas mixed with Rock and Blues and I suddenly had a favorite sound. Waylon Jennings provided the primary soundtrack for my teen years.

Recently, Jessi Colter has written a book about Waylon, An Outlaw and a Lady: A Memoir of Music, Life With Waylon, and the Faith that Brought Me Home. My current reading list is too long to read that book now, but I am sure I will be listening to a lot of his music this summer. Here are some reasons to listen, twelve to be exact, from the most recent to the earliest.

Clyde (1980), J. J. Cale wrote this. He also wrote “After Midnight” for Eric Clapton and “Call Me the Breeze” for Lynyrd Skynyrd. One of the reasons I love this song is that it includes a dog singing harmony.

I Ain’t Living Long Like This (1979). This is likely biographical and brutally honest. Like many of his songs, this one reveals the conflict that comes with stardom.

There Ain’t No Good Chain Gang (1978), Actually on a Johnny Cash album that also included I Wish I was Crazy Again. You will want to listen to both.

Don’t You Think This Outlaw Bit’s Done Gone Out of Hand (1978), Again, we discover much of Waylon’s songs were likely autobiographical. He sings about his life. Likely one of the appeals of his music.

Belle of the Ball (1977), The opening lines reveal a self-portrait. “A vagabond dreamer, a rhymer and singer of songs, Singing to no one and nowhere to really belong.”

Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love) (1977), Maybe the signature song for Waylon and Willie. I still stop the radio if I hear it playing. What am I talking about? I stop the radio for any Waylon or Willie song I hear playing.

Good Hearted Woman (1976), Again with Willie Nelson and another reminder that they are both really good at their kind of music.

Are You Sure Hank Done It This a Way (1975), This is a tip of the hat to Hank Williams and a protest to what was happening in the music scene. Hence, he was labeled as an outlaw.

Waymore’s Blues (1975), It’s rock, it’s blues, it’s country… this song is as American as music gets. And again, it includes a d. o. g.

Bob Wills is Still the King (1975), a tribute to Texas, to Western Swing, and the man who helped shape it. Or a back door attempt to dethrone him.

Honky Tonk Heroes (1973), Before you listen to this, get an extra pair of shoes. This one just might make you dance holes in the ones you are wearing.

Lonesome, On’ry and Mean (1973), a hard charging song that set the tone for what was to come in the Waylon Jennings catalog of music. Perhaps the beginning of what became known as Outlaw music.

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The U. S. girls complete the group stage tomorrow. They have scored sixteen goals in the first two matches. They have not yet given up a goal. What does this mean before facing Sweden tomorrow? It means Thailand and Chile were over matched. There would have been more goals but for Christiane Endler, the goalkeeper for Chile. To put it bluntly, she was phenomenal.

It means that Jill Ellis has a lot of talent to work with. It means that the team is eager to play and has developed chemistry right in time for the tournament. It means there are a lot of interchangeable parts. Already, all twenty field players have had minutes in the World Cup. It means that, though many of us have ideas about what we’d like to see, it is difficult to question her coaching decisions.

It means they need to be ready for Sweden. There is a lot of soccer left.

Other notes from the tournament include Australia’s Sam Kerr’s four goals against Jamaica. Jamaica scored their first goal ever in the World Cup  and the Reggae Girlz acted like they had just won the tournament. Brazil’s Marta scored her second goal of the tournament, her seventeenth goal to set a World Cup record.

Already, both Sweden and the U. S. are through to the knockout round. Tomorrow’s match will determine who they play next. Also advancing are Norway, Australia, England, France, Spain, Italy, Japan, Germany, and Brazil. Yes, there is a whole lot of soccer left to play.

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