Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Williamsburg Wreaths

 Wreath made of apples, pineapples, balsam fir and dried flowers.

It's been months since I posted anything--time just gets away from you.  I hope to do better in 2013. 

Last weekend, I attended a political meeting (gives you some idea of what I have been doing this year!) in Colonial Williamsburg.  I justified going at my own personal expense so that I could see the holiday decorations at Williamsburg.  I didn't go inside any of the buildings since I arrived late in the afternoon and didn't want to pay the $40 ticket to gain access.   There was plenty to see outside.   I took lots of photos of wreaths to inspire me to make another bird wreath this year.

 This wreath was topped with an arrangement of branches with the cones and dried marigolds.  All the wreaths are made completely from natural materials.

 Grasses, cornhusks (for the petals), and raw cotton were found in this wreath.
 These dried flowers and berries were for sale in the garden area.

 Wheat, dried flowers, and orange slices make up this wreath.

Pine cones and red dried flowers against the boxwood greenery make a fine Christmas wreath.

 The sea shells make for an unusual wreath.
 Pomegranates and red berries accent this wreath.
 One of the park interpreters was explaining to me that all the wreaths are made in the landscape department by workers and some volunteers.   The long spikes on these wreaths appeared to be the dried flower stalk of mullein plants, a common wildflower in cleared areas.

This must be the "Tea Party" wreath--the paper says "Don't tread on me" along with the drawing of a serpent.
I wonder if birds are attracted to the orange slices? 

I will try to put this up on Pinterest too!  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Summer Signs

I was glad to see July end.  Like everywhere else, it was just too darn hot--record high for Virginia.  I did get out a little bit in the evenings after the sun went down behind the trees.  The photo above was taken on July 20 when I took my dog on a walk.  For some reason, the dog missed the mother and 2 baby raccoons in the cove while I heard them scramble up the poplar tree.  The mother looked down at me while she put her paw on the younger ones to go up the tree.  They climbed 80 feet up into the canopy and couldn't be seen.

Here are some other photos of late summer....

The jewelweed that grows along our driveway is yellow while those plants along the creek down the road are orange.  

I was thrilled to see this zebra swallowtail, very unusual for our yard.  There must be a pawpaw tree around somewhere because that is its host plant.

I found this huge chicken? mushroom at the base of a large red oak tree on August 7.

Here is another look from above. I love the orange color.

This Rattlesnake Plantain is an orchid that some folks dig up for terrariums.  But, I would never do that since there aren't that many of them in the woods.   It will send up a single stalk with little white flowers later this month or September.

The first half of August has been what I expected--highs in the lower 80s with cool nights (50s).  That keeps our house cool all day.  August can stay as long as it likes!

Friday, July 13, 2012

8 Days without Power!

Our power went out on June 29 due to the historic derecho storm.  I remember I got an alert on my iPad about 15 minutes before that a severe thunderstorm was going to hit.  I didn't think much about it but when the wind started to pick up, I knew this was really different.  The trees swayed back and forth more than I had ever seen.  We stood on the bottom deck and heard a crack and saw the hickory fall and lean over the driveway.  The photo above was taken several days later.  I went into the basement because I thought it was a tornado or something worse.

My husband had two generators going--a smaller one for the refrigerator, TV, computers, and lights and a larger one for the water pump and hot water heater.   The first night we ran the small generator while we slept.  That was a mistake since it must have overloaded because the extension cord melted!  After that, we didn't run any at night and enjoyed the peace and quiet.   We would put the freezer stuff in a cooler packed with ice and put frozen water bottles in the fridge to keep the other food cold.  So, we didn't lose too much food.

I cooked on a camp stove outside enjoying the sounds of wood thrushes. On July 4, I made blackberry syrup on the camp stove instead of my usual cobbler.   All in all, we didn't fare too badly.

Our power was restored last Saturday, July 7.  Many in our county didn't have their power restored until days later so we felt somewhat fortunate.

On Wednesday, we had a guy cut the hickory tree down and then saw the lower part into logs for the woodstove.  Steve chainsawed the upper part and we stacked up the logs to dry for about a year. He also cut up a black cherry tree back up on the land so at least we will get a lot of firewood out of the storm.

My husband also went over to  the Amish community to buy his granola he likes there.   The Amish were not affected by the power outage because they don't hook up to the power grid.   They use generators, gas, wind and solar and are quite independent.   We could learn a thing or two from them.

Eastern Box Turtles  July 5, 2012

These box turtles did not seem to mind the power outage either.  I saw three in the yard last week which was a little unusual.

This is an experience we won't forget any time soon.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Santa Fe Trip

Almost two weeks ago, we went to Santa Fe, New Mexico. We flew into Albuquerque (more about the flight later) and stayed at La Fonda Hotel (above photo) on the town square in Santa Fe.   On several previous trips to Santa Fe over a span of 25 years, I walked through this historic hotel and hoped that I could stay there one day.  It's special because the interior was designed by Mary Colter and still retains much of the finishes and artwork that she personally supervised.

The next day we headed west on Highway 4 and stopped by the Valles Caldera National Preserve (89,000 acres) and  a major volcanic crater.  The photo above shows the valley of the crater.  If you look at the little dots at the bottom of the photo, you will see.....

a large elk herd drinking water out of the river that runs at the bottom of the crater.  It was so peaceful with few tourists.  Further, we saw pueblos with both adobe and mobile homes while most having outdoor clay ovens (would love to have one in my backyard!).

Fajada Butte at Chaco Culture National Historical Park

We arrived at Chaco late in the afternoon. It was hot!

 Steve put the tent up in the heat while I sat in the shade.

During the evening, we toured some of the ruins. 

I admired the intricate masonry of the walls...

Here's another style---have never seen anything quite like it today.

By the time I fixed dinner and did the dishes, it was very dark but cool.  Steve enjoyed seeing the moon rise over the canyon.

We saved the Pueblo Bonita for the morning.   This complex was begun in the 800s and then grew to over 600 rooms by the 1200s according to our Moon New Mexico handbook.

It's hard to imagine that the walls went up 5 floors.  In this photo you can see where part of the old wooden joists protrude in the walls indicating another floor.


This panoramic view was taken from Pueblo Bonita of the surrounding canyon. After this short trail (.6 mile), we were back on the road heading east before the temperatures rose. 

On the way we drove through Georgia O'Keefe country where I took this photo of Padernal Peak, a mountain the artist painted many times. 

We tried to camp but couldn't really find any place in the state or national forests to our liking.  So, we set our GPS to an address of a little hotel in Taos...

It turned out to be La Posado de Taos, the first bed and breakfast we have ever stayed in. The room was great with a fireplace and whirpool tub.  The manager said that the house was once an artist's home.  She said she grew up in Santa Fe but moved to Taos which she thought was the Santa Fe of  her childhood.  I realized when talking to her, I didn't know much about the many other artists who first made Santa Fe and Taos their home (something I remedied later).  The B&B was one block off the square so we walked there and found it was full of people attending a concert sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.

The next day we went to Bandelier National Monument where Steve once again set up camp.  He hiked to the ruins by himself while I took the shuttle.   Most of Bandelier burned last year but not the ruins.  However the parking lot was damaged from flooding (due to the loss of trees) so that's why visitors are shuttled in.  The campground host said that visitation is way down, probably only 20% of what it was before the fire.

 The cholla were blooming .... 

The ruins were very hot because it was 2:00 in the afternoon.  I was fine until I splashed water on my face and legs.  It felt cool for about a minute then unbearably hot. I was glad to get back to the campground.

 Early the next morning we went on a hike from the campground to....

an overlook of the Bandelier ruins we had climbed on the day before.  After the hike, we headed back to Santa Fe where I visited museums.

I had been to the Georgia O'Keefe museum several times before to see their permanent collection, but the current exhibit "Georgia O'Keefe and the Faraway: Nature and Image" really intrigued me.  It included a setup of her campsite (complete with sterno stove, cookware, tent, and lantern), photos from her canyon visits, journals, and letters she wrote back to Stieglitz about her nature walks and trips.  

I also visited the New Mexico Museum of Art which prompted me to buy and read Artists of the Canyons & Caminos by Edna Robertson and Sarah Nestor which covers the history of  the early artists who came to Santa Fe.  The museum was built in 1917 but previously housed in the Palace of the Governors (now the history museum).    In some ways, the rise of Santa Fe as an artists' haven in the late 19th century was by accident.  Most of the early artists came to a local sanatorium for tuberculosis.  Once cured, they stayed with the assistance of the museum who provided free studio space and locals who often gave them free housing and services in exchange for artwork.   Later some built adobe houses by hand and rented to tourists during the summer while the artists slept in tents.

On the way back to Albuquerque, we stopped in Cerrillos, mostly a ghost town.  This facade of the opera house (now used as storage)  is a long cry from when Sarah Bernhardt performed when the town was booming from turquoise mining in the 1890s.

Note on the New Mexico Fires....

I read today that tourists were beginning to avoid New Mexico because of the forest fires.  On our flight from Phoenix to Albuquerque, we did the see the huge Gila fire which must have been 100 miles away.  On our drive to Santa Fe, we saw another forest fire.  Yet, the fires did not bother us.  In fact, we enjoyed seeing Bandelier without all the crowds.  So, please don't avoid New Mexico. It truly is the land of enchantment! 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Exploding Tree

 Yesterday, our neighbor told us we had a tree struck by lightning on the back part of our land.  He said he had never seen anything like it.  We agreed.  The bark was stripped completely off the yellow poplar tree.  Large slabs of the tree were everywhere.

This is the top of the tree which landed about 30 feet away.  At first, I thought it was another tree because it sat vertically in the ground.

Nature continues to amaze me.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Bat Banding

 On May 17, Radford University biology professor Karen Francl, her graduate students, and Jane Rodrigue banded the big brown bats that reside on the side of our house.  That bat house has been on our house about 20 years and has bats every year except when white nose nosema was first detected in a local cave (the first incidence in Virginia).  It was vacant for two years and then occupied by the big brown bats.  Perhaps, it had little brown bats before because they have suffered the most from nosema (95% mortality) while big brown bats are mostly unaffected.

I took a few photos which the researchers are welcome to use for their presentations.  I found the close ups of the bats fascinating.    The colony is maternal with at least one baby bat which they called a pup.  I think there are several more now as I hear them in the bat house while the mothers are out foraging and drinking water at night.  The researchers plan to come back in July to measure and count the population again. They counted 15 but at least one went back up into the house.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Wildflowers at Bland Nature Preserve

April 14, 2012
Bland Nature Preserve

On April 14, I went on a Wildflower Walk with the Virginia Master Naturalists and the Roanoke Native Plant Society at the Bland Nature Preserve.   Located in Montgomery County and only 5 miles from Blacksburg, the preserve is owned by the Nature Conservancy and is not open to the public so this was a special treat.   The trail is along Mill Creek and contains several waterfalls (so intrigued with the flowers I didn't take photos!) along with loads of trillium and other native wildflowers. 

The Jack-in-the-Pulpit was huge--biggest one I have seen.  I haven't spotted any this year on my land as they seem to pop up in different places every year.

Showy Orchis
April 14, 2012
Bland Nature Preserve

The Showy Orchis also was larger than what I have on my land.  Will mine be that large in a few years or is the habitat just different?

What I liked the most about the walk was seeing some new species--green violet, etc.

Back at Home
At home, I ventured into my cove which has steep slopes containing trillium and the native orchis too.  As I was pulling up the invasive multi-flora rose (really bad this year), I noticed we too have the green violet but only in the cove as far as I can see.

 I found the Rattle Snake fern everywhere in the woods.  You can see it in the lower left of the photo.   I always thought it must be a plant in the parsley family but the central stem never bloomed.  Now I know why--those are the spores, not buds.

I put up a large cake feeder on April 27 and immediately a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak came to feed.  He was here only one day and left.  Also, a pair of Indigo Buntings left quickly after feeding on the ground.  They never stick around but I enjoy their colorful visits.

This photo illustrates the difference in the red color of the two birds.  The Northern Cardinal has a little more orange in the red while the Rose-Breasted Grosbeak is a truer red.  It almost looks like there is blood on his chest.

This Red-Bellied Woodpecker was looking for insects in the Mimosa tree which is near the feeder.