Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Firsts of Spring

March 20 (yesterday) is the spring equinox. It is traditional that people watch out for the first signs of spring. So here are a few...
 The first robin of spring 2018.
 The first daffodils of spring. And in the background the netting to keep the deer away from the first azalea buds of spring.
 The plum tree in spring.
 The Lenten Rose has finally had it's first blooms open. Can you see them?
 The first shoveling of spring.
 The first glimpse of color in my blue garden.
 The first mint of spring...growing in the crack between the concrete garage floor and the driveway asphalt.
 The river birch bark in spring.
 The Green Man laughing at the spring thoughts. Just two days ago I saw two bluebirds investigating the bluebird house. I think they rejected it.
Two days ago I went outside to see if I could find the first daffodil bloom of spring (not seeing it are you?). Instead I found this squirrel who was after a good meal of discarded seed from the birdfeeder.
"Maybe if I hide under here she won't see me!"

So I'm sure you get the picture of spring so far. And now I better go before we have the first power outage of spring.  I need my first quilt project completion of spring and I can only do that if the electricity stays on.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Early March in the Garden

 As you might have heard we had a "little" wind event here over the first few days of March. It absolutely roared in like a lion. We woke up on Friday to no electricity and the sight of this major maple down in the back yard. The tree had a triple trunk arrangement. This was the trunk that faced into our garden and had the only branch low enough to take lovely Fall photographs of.
The winds howled and roared all day with gusts up as high as 70mph/114kph. I did not want to venture out too far but I did find this pretty (or is it brooding?) sunset on Friday.

The hellebore, variously known as the Christmas Rose or the Lenten Rose is very late to bloom this year. Some years it is out around Christmas but this week, here we are at the third week of Lent and still no blooms have opened.
The tree came down and hit the small lantern on the way. I thought it had pushed it down into the mulch but alas, this morning, I discover it entirely broke off two of the four legs.
The bluebells have just begun to break through the ground.
 Fortunately the pagoda missed being hit. As you can see in the background I have daffodils up but have yet to see the first bloom.
 We were without electricity for 33 hours and were very relieved to get it back late morning Saturday. Dinner time called for comfort food and we had a roast chicken with gravy, mashed potatoes and oven-roasted vegetables. Many other families in our area had the power outage last into five days.
 The maple was the most dramatic damage but we had several other trees blown over also. Some, like this one, were likely already dead but got caught up in the tree canopy and did not fall far. The suet feeder, you might notice, is empty. Some critter decided it needed the suet all to itself and after managing to get the feeder open and make off with the suet cake twice in a five day period I have temporarily given up.
 Today the crew came with their chainsaws and truck and in very short order that maple and the assorted cedars were sawn up and taken away. I measured it last night and that piece was about 50 foot from top to bottom.
 The ornamental plum tree is always the first to bloom in the early spring in my garden. Now it is out I am holding my breath that we don't get a hard frost which turns the pretty pink blooms to a most unattractive brown.
Goodbye maple tree - it looks like you had an interesting life. You will be missed.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Oh February...

This has been, as they say, an interesting week. February starts off with Groundhog Day and a few days later is Waitangi Day (for those of us with a New Zealand heritage). Then comes the big week we just had:
 Lincoln's Birthday on Monday, Mardi Gras on Tuesday (good golly I forgot to make pancakes!), Valentines Day plus Ash Wednesday made Wednesday a real puzzle. I ended up wearing my heart earrings and pendant set against an all black outfit. And the Chinese New Year - Year of the Dog slipped right by me without a nod.
 Throw in some bizarre temperature swings which saw a record breaking  high of 76F/24C on Thursday sending loud messages to the daffodil bulbs and the
 maple trees which started showing leafbud color only to face 32F/0C and snow and sleet today.
 The birdies were happy that the suet feeder had been replaced. Earlier in the week I looked out and the feeder, chained around a branch on the maple tree,  had disappeared. "They" say a racoon must have gotten it down.I say that must be a pretty darn adept racoon to have gotten the chain off the tree. Fortunately we found the feeder on the ground only ten yards or so away. The suet cake was gone but the feeder was unharmed.
 On Thursday I was meant to be hanging a new art exhibit for my art group. Alas, the venue, a senior living facility, had to go into quarantine because of the severity of the flu outbreak locally and we could not hang art. Phew, I do have time to finish my piece. Sitting at the front window to do the hand stitching while watching the snow fall today made for calming moments.
 I was exchanging messages during the afternoon with my niece in New Zealand. She asked me to take pretty pictures of the snow. Does this qualify? It reminds me of an oil painting someone in the art group currently has on display at the above mentioned venue.
 I went out on the front porch looking for a pretty picture to take when this small family herd of deer happened along. Do you see the eight legged two headed deer in the center? (wink, wink)
 My favorite tree in April is this dogwood in the back yard. The buds were beginning to look promising earlier in the week and I do so hope that this quick burst of winter has not upset them too much.
All in all it was a day for comfort food for dinner. A beef stew in the crockpot, roast veges in the oven, a little fruit salad and a pinot noir from the Awatere Valley seemed like a good idea.

This one is for you Jen!

p.s. all photos are in full living color despite the fact that it looks like it was a black and white sort of day.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Visiting the Mushroom Houses of Charlevoix

 In the midst of winter here in VA I thought it might be cheering to go back and continue the  photo essay of our summer vacation in upper Michigan.
This post will show you the delightful outing to the so-called mushroom houses in Charlevoix, MI. From 1918 to 1973 stone artist Earl A. Young built, with great love, care and artistry, a number of buildings, mostly private homes, using the rocks and boulders so easily found in this area at that time. The rocks are leftovers from the retreat of the glaciers at the end of the last Ice Age. Mr Young was so passionate about this endeavor that he hand selected most each and every stone and boulder he used.

Here we start our tour on Park Avenue, one of the three main areas for the mushroom houses.
 Now known as "The Thatch House" this home was Earl Young's first stone house and he built it for himself and his wife soon after they were married. In 2015 it underwent a major renovation  which included the thatch roof that dramatically changed the appearance of the original construction.
 Right next door is "The Half House" built by Earl as a honeymoon gift for his daughter. According to the tour guide he had a falling out with the owner of the house to the immediate left (corner wall in front left) so deliberately designed the half house with no windows facing that side. You can see here how close to each other they all are.
 Going round to the street behind Park Avenue we caught a glimpse of the rear elevation of The Thatch House.
 This is the corner view of the house immediately to the left of the Half House. You can see that the builder worked on features in the landscape as well as the house itself. The car passing by was pure serendipity.
 Not everything in Charlevoix is the legacy of Earl Young but there are clearly many house-proud owners who delight in summer flower gardening. It seems this home might be owned by a Virginian based on the flag out front. In this area of Michigan flags and flowers are common ingredients it seemed to me.
This was the childhood home of Earl Young and where he first started trying out his architectural visions. Click on the photo so you can admire the siding style. Isn't that unique?
Boulder Park is the second of the major locations. This home has a commanding site along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. It makes extensive use of the stone for fences as you can see.
 It must give the lawn mowing person a real sense of joy and achievement caring for such a wonderful lawn.
 Further into Boulder Park we find delightful cottages like this one.
 Even the mailboxes are custom creations!
To close I give you another shot of The Thatch House. The weather was not so obliging the day we were there but judging by the reflection in the windows the sky was more appealing behind us out over the lake.

This was a fascinating day tour with fairy tale overtones and I was so happy we got to go.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Solstice and more

There were good intentions to put up a post to acknowledge the solstice on December 21 but, alas, they remained intentions. However here we are. Can you guess I am quite taken by this constant visitor to the backyard? It is fascinating to watch this hawk as it moves from spot to spot in the yard doubtless seeking food. Despite the amazing head movements by the bird I have yet to see it actually find a meal but it does get an A+ for perseverance.
 The snow on December 9 was just enough to make it fun to photograph and not enough to have to deal with shoveling.
 Trees without their leaves can look quite splendid in a light snowfall at this time of the year.
 By December 16 the snow was well gone and it was time for the delayed final cleanup and cutback of the garden for the winter. Someone forgot to tell the iris it is not time to be sprouting just yet.
 The nandina is wearing it's best look although the berries are not prolific this year.
 The lights for the porch tree were finally located and installed.
 When the hawk sits on the branch above the suet feeder even the woodpeckers beat a hasty retreat.
 It has been quite some time since I did some indoor photo setups. The aim here was to show that I was keeping the light of hope on for someone who was at a particularly low point in his cancer battle.
 Thinking the photo might not be enough we decided to take a trip into DC and visit the Basilica there to light a candle and say a prayer for John to get through his current crisis. December 22 was such a pretty day to visit and we could still walk outside without having to don all the heavy coats, hats and gloves that are now needed.
December 24th and it was time for tea and cookies for me, never mind Santa!
 We made a short trip to Latrobe PA to visit family and saw the most amazing sunset on December 27. Do notice that bright outline to the clouds just above the horizon. But oh my, was it cold.
To close I am leaving you with this candle of hope for peace and happiness in 2018.