Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Turn

The winter solstice has past, and although hidden to us in the code of the ages, the days are growing longer. Earth's smoothly spinning pirouette pauses in the quiet stillness of deep night and we can almost hear the sigh and see her frozen breath cloud the air. This ancient Earth turns every so slowly in a new angle. Its speed is indiscernible in the beginning but soon will be humming with the secretion of spring as it turns its face to the sun.

Friday, December 14, 2007


This is the time of the year when glitter and succulence go indoors. Outside it is gray and dark and cold. Only the beautiful birds brave such weather. Maybe I will take an apple and cut it up and smear it with peanut butter and take it outside!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Rhythm of Life

Three squirrels, one gray and two black, live in my daughter's backyard. Some days and evenings it sounds as though they live under the roof...perhaps they do? Like most animals, they have their habits and their patterns of behavior. In the photo above is the top-of-the-fence trail that they take dozens of times each day. The snow hill pattern on the ridge is a reflection of their leap length. They all actually leap the same length and formed this scallop shortly after our first snowfall of the season.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Just a Red Barn

It sits like a fat lady spreading her red skirt.
It looks self-satisfied holding close memories of my childhood;
Memories of the late summer’s sweet scent of bailed alfalfa,
Memories of the warm fall breath of the calf,
Memories of the barn swallows’ territorial dance with my dog.

From the ridge of the roof, sitting on warm tin
I saw the world while on the edge of womanhood.
My eyes scanned the snow capped Rockies at the edge of my domain.
I watched a tractor in the near distance kicking up dust in a field,
And nearer watched the workers scar the earth for a new school.

From the inside I watched golden dust sparkle in the sunlight
Dancing through the floor of the loft.
Standing still in black shadows I listened to brown field mice scutter against the wall
And heard the low contented sound of the cows in the adjacent stall
Waiting to be milked and fed.

The farmer and his wife have passed away.
The old red barn is empty now and does not know its days are numbered.
It must move its fat ass and make room for progress,
For plain new architecture
That will shelter only mediocre memories.

(Motivation for this came from Cate.)

Saturday, November 17, 2007


The wind pushes you along with hurried speed.
The leaves race ahead in full tumble at your feet.
Shadows of impetuous clouds touch the path resembling racing ghosts.
Like White Rabbit you feel late for some ephemeral date.
This season climaxes carelessly and crazily.

Sunday, November 04, 2007


The trees have put on their Jezebel dresses and have begun their exotic dances tossing gleaming leaves of color like exotic strippers. Others on the forest floor, not to be outdone, have put on their best jewels to catch the eye.

Friday, October 26, 2007

As Hoss Says, Maybe I'm Talking to Myself

Is the title an inside joke? Since no one reads this blog or has botanical expertise, I did my own research to answer the blog questions I submitted below. The tree with nuts appears to be a basswood which is related to the linden tree. The seed pod was an embarrassment as it is probably an Arrowleaf arum seed pod and I certainly should have identified that as it was on the shore of the James River. Since there are numerous versions of this the USDA site is .

In case you don't go to the link, more information here:

" The dried root was reportedly used by some American Indians as a flour for making bread, and the dried fruit were cooked like peas. The Nanticoke of Deleware prepared a mixture of grated root and milk which were given to babies for unknown purpose.

In any case, the plant part must be thoroughly dried before eaten because it contains calcium oxalate crystals which causes a burning in the mouth. Cooking does not remove this property well, only complete drying. The root should be harvested in Fall or early Spring, and the fruit in late Summer to Fall.
" and even more interesting here:

" Another name for this plant is Tuckahoe, and i've found interesting and conflicting reasons for this. Some maintain that Tuckahoe was a nickname (derived from native American word) for the lowlands of NC (then considered part of the territory of Virginia) and for the inhabitants of the area. It was also a name used for Powhatan Indians, and sometimes used to denote poor whites. Apparently, the settlers east of the Blue Ridge mountains were called Tuckahoe and the settlers west were referred to as Cowee. Early Appalachia Melungeons (mixed Indian and European) took English surnames and lived among the early Tuckahoes. Apparently in Algonquin the word meant 'round' or possibly 'tubular round dirty plant.'

Friday, October 19, 2007

Identity Crisis

While taking many long walks in the Virginia woods near Williamsburg and Jamestown we encountered many interesting botanical items. The first photo above is a wild persimmon which carpeted an area beside the road. My husband and I are grazers and just had to taste them. They were deliciously sweet even though they were small, the size of golf balls, and filled with large black seeds.

The next two photos, we could not identify. Any suggestions?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Down in the Pawpaw Patch

Fall is for walking. The smells are musty the sounds are crackling and the views are warm and ever changing.

We had completed Saturday’s chores and Sunday morning woke with reward in mind. Walking on the trail in a nearby state park was the solution to a lovely Sunday morning in late September. As we crossed over hilly terrain we came across a valley of pawpaw trees. Quite a few still held their lingering fruit. The fermented fruit smell greeted our nostrils as we passed under the large leaves of the trees just above our heads. Beneath the branches were scattered orbs in colors of pale green, yellow and some a deep maroon plum in color. A few had been sampled by wildlife but most remained untouched as they lay in their bed of fallen leaves.

We could not resist and so selected the least damaged and proceeded to sample the sweet, creamy, custard fruit cutting carefully around the large black seeds.

This gave us sustenance for our continued hike toward the little lake and then the view of the distant ocean just beyond.

As we were crossing one of the boardwalks, this little fellow was also out enjoying the warmth of the fall day.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Early Riser

It is the weekend and yet my eyes are wide open before the sun even shifts its golden shoulder. I hear a rushing noise outside the window in that velvet darkness. I am curious and pull back the covers and and flick on the deck lighting to find that it is the wind pushing a nice soaking rain across the deck. Everything is shiny wet and when I open the door it smells of good earth.

This gentle sprinkle lasts a short time and I crawl back into the softness of the bed and open one of the many books on the nightstand arguing with myself about whether to make coffee this early. I am just getting into the good part about whether the friends will remember each other after all these years, when I hear a rhythmic bird song, ever so gentle but close.

I once again walk to the window and see a portly wren sitting on the gridded table and with his head tilted to the sky communicating something with the great night. He gently repeats the same short call and then begins like a wind-up toy to hop around the table, pause and cheep, and then continue his hopping and follow with the cheeping.

Was he confused by my deck lighting? Does he do this most mornings regardless of my artificial sunrise? Is this some celebration because the rain has washed more insects his way? Is this an 'after-bath' ritual.

Eventually the gray dawn spreads and the little wren flies onto to the other activities of his day.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

In the spring our hopes are high like the youth of the season. Here is basil, and sage and mint and new strawberries. Having had such a great success I was assuming the rest of the summer will also progress in kind. Yeah, right.

I set out wine and green-hued tropical plants in containers near the front door to greet me as I return each weekend. Last weekend this is what I discovered.

The common name of these wine and lime green vines (which I can now show only as thin stalks) is called sweet potato vine. They grow prolifically and hold rich colors if they are not placed in the hot afternoon sun. They will fill a container in weeks but I have now learned that they also make GREAT rabbit food!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Downy is down

We are now back at the house and have moved out of the apartment and I am realizing that I have so much CR*P. Apologies for the 'french' but my consumerism -- based on my strong nest building issues -- is despicable. I WILL repent.

Speaking of nest building, on one of our trips around the house to the back of the basement door this weekend carrying more consumer goods to shelve, we passed a lovely and small black and white striped little bird sitting in the lawn, either in stunned dismay after a strong breeze pushed him off the tree branch or in error about his camouflage situation -- thinking sitting in the grass when you are small and black and white it a good thing.

Hubby, who has the better nature eye, guessed that it was a fledging downy woodpecker. I think I agree. It rested there for several hours but was gone when we returned from the hardward store. Must have learned to fly, after all...they usually do.

I failed to bring my camera down this trip so cannot post this treasured experience.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The TRUE frog.

This little leopard frog is pretty far from any substantial fresh water. Where will she lay her eggs? No place for tadpoles in my flower beds. Wikipedia calls them the 'true' frog. She/he is so lovely and I found it hard to leave it alone to pursue its meal.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Early Bird Gets the Worm

I am somewhat jealous of my husband's ability to spend more time relaxing in this new place. Last night he called after a sunset canoe trip with music in his voice about the sparky little otter that he saw near the dock working its way along the shore looking for fish. Otters are like hummingbirds in that they rarely sit still for very long, always poking and looking and diving and rolling.

Early this morning, while I was cleaning house for expected guests, he had gone outside to water the garden and then came back in to report seeing the lumbering awkward gate of a 'gang' of four very young raccoons crossing the front yard probably musing about what trouble they could stir up before the sun got too high and warm overhead. When they saw my husband, like a 'gang of four' they immediately rumbled off into the blackberry bushes their crimes would never be traced....

Monday, July 30, 2007

This is Much Harder Than it Looks

I sat near the newly installed feeder for quite a while and snapped dozens of pictures. My eyes do not focus as quickly as they used to, so even though I turned off autofocus, which is virtually useless against these tiny hummers, I still didn't get the best photo. We have about four that visit regularly and showed up within a day of putting out the feeder. They will come to the feeder only if you are very, very still when you are sitting on the deck. I am not sure which species--they don't fit the two U.S. species exactly by my I.D. although someone will probably say that at least one is a ruby throated...and they are certainly not the intermittent visitors from the tropics. Their usual fare is the trumpet vine, and we do have quite a few of those.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Feeling a Little Crispy

I had finished watering all the container plants that were screaming for water. I sat on the deck and when I lifted my face to the breeze I saw a nearby tulip gracefully dropping a few yellow leaves every time the breeze kicked up. One leaf hit the table near me. Most of the others landed on the drought-stricken side of the lawn. We need rain.

Monday, July 23, 2007

To Everything There is a Season

Now we are onto the blackberry season.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

When the World Was Not Yet Discovered

A voice with wonder exclaims, "What is that???"

Sunday, July 15, 2007

You Have to Kiss a Lot of Toads Frogs

Perhaps some of you will remember my little tree frog that visited the house last year once we had finished the deck? I went outside early in the morning today and leaned on the deck railing to scan the river when this little fellow caught my eye to the left and sort of startled me. The expression on his face pretty much sums up his feelings on my being out and about so early in the morning moving about in his territory. He looks exactly like the the frog (which I have name Harry for obvious reasons) that I encountered last year. Except this guy is a little larger! Do you think he is the same fellow? If so, where did he winter over? He sat out like that for hours as the hot sun started to beat down on the deck. About ten o'clock in the mid-morning I was moving the lawn hose to the back yard to water and after I got the sprinkler exactly where I wanted it, I noticed the outside sweep of the sprinkler started to hit the top of the deck railing. When I looked out the window again, below is what I saw.

Now that he was soaking wet I just knew that he must love me even more. Eventually as the day wore on he disappeared. My instincts told me to look for him as I knew he could not have gotten far. Since he is probably a Prince in disguise he is not going to leave the Palace.

Ah, yes, it IS the same fellow as he is back in his favorite hangout as last year. Certainly makes himself quite at home. Do you suppose he wintered over in this umbrella with the bird nest with eggs that I discovered when I opened it up early this summer? The weathermen/women (those 50% right weather predictors) are predicting gusts of wind up to 14 miles per hour toward evening...and I have to leave the umbrella up as I head back to the apartment. I am too squeamish to try to grab him and move him!

Monday, July 09, 2007

How Old Do You Have to Be to Have a Good Time?

We had the joy of a weekend visit from the Grandson due to the vacation of his day care person. He remembers our place well enough now and he is very comfortable being away from Mom and Dad. We introduced him to a large batch of wild raspberries we have near the side of the lawn. The next morning he headed straight out to the spoil. They were very sweet even though they are wild.

He wasn't quite adept at the picking so I had to help a little.

He got every last one and didn't even think of sharing!

We have a little 5-second rule on the raspberry that hits the ground. He was pretty good at dusting it off.

And then we went for a walk. Can you remember when you felt like he did?

Saturday, June 30, 2007


We have discovered that when you move into a wilderness (OK somewhat wilderness) area, you are the interloper or guest. You are the new one and old patterns and habits of former residents will change only to take advantage of you. In addition, we try to keep a small footprint, but we also want to stay healthy, so our lives involve some compromise.

My husband has two smaller boats---an Old Towne canoe and a bright red kayak. We store these on the shadiest side of the house upside down so that rain does not collect inside.

Yesterday hubby was on his own and had to go get his motorboat from the marina where it was undergoing repair. He decided that the best method was to take the kayak and paddle the two and half miles to the marina and then load the kayak on the motor boat and take both back to the house.

It was a lovely if somewhat warm day. Perfect for a leisurely kayak trip. He hoisted the kayak onto his shoulders and walked down to the dock. Easing the kayak into the water and checking to make sure he had his cell phone he was soon on his way in the cool morning. Kayaks are such nice ways to travel because they are so quiet. All you can usually hear is the sound of the water.

But, this time, he kept hearing some odd rustling sound. He was wondering if he was dragging a small stick or section of sea grass beneath and so he rocked the kayak, but nothing was there. The rustling continued and then he saw the cause of the noise. A small brown mouse proceeded to rush out from under the Styrofoam in the bow. It walked to his feet and then down his legs and sat in his lap for several minutes. I guess it was wondering how it ended up in the middle of the river. It walked behind him and then back to his lap and then back to the bow looking for escape. They shared this passage for the length of the trip.

When husband pulled the kayak onto the shore at the marina he lost sight of the mouse and he assumes it took off once he hit land. He was calm and enjoyed the whole adventure.

I don't know if I would have been so calm. It could have been something more threatening than a small mouse. What would you have done?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Return of an old friend and loss of a new friend

While out shopping for potting soil and a masonry screw I walked by a pot of gaura--above. This delicate plant requires very little care and they seem to have hybridized this one so that the colors are bold and varied. It seems to be able to grow in both dry and medium wet soils. My last gaura was just on the side of my koi pond in my old house and its delicate fairy dance in the wind and its curtsies to the fat bumblebees was always something I enjoyed watching. Now I have one for my new yard. It produces many seeds and I think most of them set.

Since the weather is getting warmer we decided to bring out the big umbrella for the deck. It was stored last fall in the basement. I managed to be able to carry it up the stairs to the deck, but its size and weight were too much for me to manage getting into the heavy iron base. I waited the following weekend when hubby helped me to set it in the base pipe.

As I pulled the green cord to open the umbrella a shower of leaves and grass fell on my head and onto the deck. I pulled a little harder and the lovely little bird's nest below tumbled to my feet.

I took a picture of the three perfect eggs inside, but couldn't tell the lens was focusing on the nest and not the contents until I loaded the photo today. What story does this tell? Did we close the umbrella last fall and then a late nester moved into the protected shelter and we picked up their house when they were out and put it in the basement? Makes me a little sad that I was the cause of some loss. This year we will be more careful.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A miracle... but then again, perhaps not...

Ever since my little guy has been born he has refused to eat anything green, sweet or sour, textured or not; if it is green, he squinches up his nose and then at this age of 2.5 can now say "No." very clearly and adamantly.

We have all tried to get him to expand his diet from milk and taco chips with some success...but never into the green world. Yesterday, after putting in a load of laundry I decided to visit grandpa (Doc) and Xman out in the garden.

They were both deep in exploration of all the wonder that small seeds and earth and rain transform. Doc said to Xman, "Show Nona what you have."

In his small hands Xman lifted that most delicious of green containers, the edible podded pea.

Then he proceeded to let Doc open the pods and take out those green jewels in the middle which he immediately put in his mouth. It didn't take long before he wanted to master the engineering feat of opening them himself and take charge of eating those emerald gems. He is not yet up to eating the pods...but who cares, we had so much fun watching him put away dozens of the peas.

Monday, June 04, 2007

This Weekend's Inventory

1. One rather terrified bunny caught in the fenced garden area when I turned on the sprinkler early in the morning. Serves him right for trying eat all that new lettuce and edibile podded peas.
2. One box turtle who I at first thought was yellow leaves from the poison ivy I had sprayed last week with some dangerously toxic compound.
3. One retarded cardinal that tried to get in at the kitchen window at 5:00 on a Saturday morning and thus woke me up putting me in a 'fowl' mood. He then proceeded to bang at every window on the South East side as well as both French door windows. It was raining by P.M. and he began to look like a drowned red pathetic feathered whatever.
4. One very small brown tick that I found on my lower abdoman and after pulling off, proceeded to flush down the sink.

But no black snake as photographed in the post below...maybe he became camera shy.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Too Much of a Good Thing is....

I have spent the entire weekend down at the new house while hubby was traveling overseas. This is not my first weekend all alone in the woods, but the first since the weather has turned warm. We love living out there because of the wildlife and the closeness to nature...I think. Why does a large cockroach only show up when I am at the house alone? (Note, the best picture of another visitor is at the end of this post.)

Being a type A personality, I made a long list of things that I tasked myself to do while I was down there. I really just wanted to drink wine and watch all the TV shows I had DVD'd since they come on too late on the week nights. This was to be followed by a lovely bubble bath...but I am a Puritan at
heart, and tackled my challenging worklist which also included washing the car! I never set the bar too low.

One of the tasks was getting the new landscape beds mulched. I learned two things. A bag of cedar chips (we had only one) is not too heavy. Hard bark chips are REALLY heavy. I pulled and dragged and completed the task above. I was sweating like a glass of iced tea on a Georgia summer day by the end of the project, though. We had a drip irrigation system installed and I wanted to get the hoses covered so that the system could work more effectively.

Another task was getting the new lawn watered. WE call it a lawn while someone else might call it a heartbreakingly miserable excuse to grow plants with blades. Some areas it looks like a golf course and some areas it looks like, well, dirt.

Anyway, I was moving the long hose around the corner to the back side of the house. The hose is heavy and I was concentrating on pulling it without getting a kink and trying to stay out of the way of the sprayer being too lazy to walk back and turn it off. While only slightly wet I set the sprinkler in a good location and stepped back to survey my estimation of water coverage. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a very squiggly black stick that wasn't there when I was pulling the hose. Yes, it was our black resident. Pictured below. He was moving so slowly that you only noticed if you looked away and then looked back and saw him several inches further along.

He was a still as a stick, moving so slowing that I barely noticed. I gave him ample room as I danced my barefeet across the lawn and back up the steps of the deck. When up there I grabbed my camera and I caught this interesting meeting between the snake and one of our squirrels who was doing a clean-up beneath the bird feeder. Several of the birds also hovered over him seeming distressed.

After watching this drama I soon got hungry and found that three strawberries were ripe on our little potted plant on the deck. Each day it provides me three strawberries. Funny how only three strawberries tastes much better than 30.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Spring is Full of Surprises

After one spends hundreds of dollars on landscaping and hundreds of hours on preparing the soil and then dozens of hours preparing bone meal sprinkled holes with more loose soil to bed the roots that have been gently separated with your muddy fingertips as they are pulled from their plastic pots, one must make sure that each plant is freely watered every weekend that you are down at this new house.

This past weekend while hubby was moving the hose over the new nandina shrubs he hooted (just like that old hairy owl) for me to come outside to see some signs of spring. It seems that a mother bunny had decided to make her soft hairy nest beneath the nandina plants. She had gone out for a sale at the grassy mall and left behind two little bunnies, both in substantial panic as these unusually heavy rains flooded their little nest. They came out looking very damp and lost. I tried to catch them and wipe with a towel and move to a new area, but failed. So I left them alone on the damp earth to face the cool night hoping mother bunny would return shortly to move them to a new home on drier ground.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

New Construction and Addled Eggs

Well is appears that Mr. Downy Woodpecker is the NEXT woodpecker to take up residence on the lot. This makes the fourth species of woodpeckers. I am surrounded by deadwood --- no, Horsetail this is not one of your jokes and I will not repeat the "pecker" joke my hubby shared this morning. We are concerned that many of these dead trees are going to fall in the coming months, but the good part is that many woodpeckers are finding this a great place to hang out. I have not been a watcher of woodpeckers in the past, and now that they are close, I can spend my mornings watching them.

This morning the Pileated was down in the ravine working on his three car garage. The pounding broke into my dream time just at the sun was trying to break through the rain filled clouds. This morning was just like living in the city next to construction but I know that the results of this noise are more environmentally friendly and won't last for too long.

I also saw a lovely white swan glide across the river down by the dock and hope someday to capture that scene with the camera and share with all of you. I think I will have that chance because there appears to be a resident pair. There is a sad note to these swans as I think the resident is a mute swan. The DNR is addling (shaking) the fertilized eggs of this non-indigenous species to prevent the swans from reproducing. There is a concern that they are destroying the underwater grasses and therefore hurting the ecological balance of the river. Of course, enforcers are not nearly as committed to those builders that are destroying large amounts of coastline to build huge concrete and brick monsters upstream of my place. I think those folks should be 'addled'...maybe using a large bulldozer?

I uploaded the photo of the rhododendron (Gletschernacht or "starry night") that I fell in love with at the landscape place when I return to the apartment on Monday. I bought it and have absolutely no place to put it. I thought it was an azalea which is better for size control, but should have studied the plant a little more closely. The color is divine and I want to make sure it reaches full size so have not planned for its location prior to purchase. Just like impulse buying at the grocery store...make sure you have room before you put it in the cart.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Sunny Day, Time Drifting Away

Perhaps you remember in the building of the house a large beige stucco space above the garage doors? We were looking for some architectural element (easy to install and cheap) to help break up that space.

Well, hubby fell in love with this sun that we came across int he front window of an antique store. It is not an antique and they had two. Actually they had several in different sizes and even more colorful. $40 each which is not bad. What do you think?

Also, how long do you think before a wren, wasp or other natural creature decides that the mouth would make a nice home?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bird Beauty

We had lots of feathered visitors to our house over the weekend right after the lovely snowfall.

INcluding these two lovebirds (osprey) who came to watch the sunset.