Monday, April 14, 2014

Not a Real Assault

Mountain biking in our area is very popular.  We have many strenuous off-road trails.  Even biking on the mountain roads is quite a challenge for bicycles.  Our county has welcomed the bikers and Transylvania County calls itself the "Cycling Capital of the South."

Logo from the Chamber of Commerce
(You knew there would be a white squirrel involved)

The "Assault on the Carolinas" is an annual event that draws people from all over the country.  Sponsored by the Pisgah Forest Rotary, the money raised is used to promote their various charities, services, and scholarships.

The Assault is a very popular event, limited to 1,000 bikers.  Each year the event is filled up within days of registration.  This past Saturday, the bikers assembled in downtown Brevard to begin the Assault.  There are three different rides; a 40K, a 60K, and a 100K.  The riders enjoy the beautiful mountains and valleys.  The 100K includes a challenging ride up to South Carolina's Caesar's Head State Park.  Saturday was sunny and beautiful...a perfect day for the ride.

[The following photographs were taken from the Assault Web site:)

The Walnut Hallow course meanders through some lovely farm land along the East Fork River.

The bikers start in large waves.

Most of the riders are single file on the mountain roads.
It's often a long file.

The Assault routes pass by all three gates of our community.  It goes without saying that we do not leave the community during the Assault.  There are too many bicycles to think of passing them.

All along the route, people gather to encourage the bikers.  Various businesses along the routes provide water and refreshment stations.  The bikers are thoughtful and leave all cups at the stations and do not add litter to the roads.

Policemen are stationed at intersections on US 276 to direct traffic and allow the bikers access.  Downtown there are craft booths, food stations and music, giving the town a festival atmosphere.

We welcome the Assault on the Carolinas.  It is only for one day.  I must admit I am less welcoming at other times when my trip home is interrupted by the slow-moving bicycles pedaling up the steep hills.  But that has become a part of living in the mountains.  And it's a small thing compared to all the other riches we enjoy.

Friday, April 11, 2014

We Love Lucy

April is flying past and we are enjoying the freshness of spring.  I've mentioned it before, but it is wonderful to see the various changes as you drive different elevations.  Spring is in full downtown but evident only in the flowers here.

Typical for spring in the mountains, our weather has been quite changeable.  Lucy enjoys all of it except for the rain.  She won't care much for the hot summer weather but loves the spring mornings and late afternoons.

Wonder what she is thinking?

 She doesn't carry tennis balls like Ellie did.
She does love to chase them.
And she likes to have them around her.

 She loves the wind blowing her hair.
So many wonderful scents on the breeze.

This week is a very special one for the faithful.  Passover begins on Monday at sundown for our Jewish friends.   Interestingly enough, the Jews celebrate in our Catholic Church, having no synagogue here.  (They keep the Torah in our priest's office.  Somehow it didn't seem to fit well with the crucifix in the sanctuary.)  For Christians, Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week.

Mark Twain had some appropriate words for spring around here, although he did exaggerate at bit:

In the Spring I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.



Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Molting and Changing

The American Goldfinch is our most frequent visitor these days.  They live with us year round and we do enjoy them.  Our resident birds are in various stages of molting right now.  The American Goldfinch undergoes two complete molts every year.  Some of the birds look rather disheveled and others have almost completed the process.  The males are turning their bright yellow although they will not be mating until much later.

Roger Tory Peterson said, "The responsibilities of life seem to rest lightly on Goldfinch's sunny shoulders."

This little guy is a mess but in a week will be a brilliant smooth yellow
[You may need to click to enlarge]

It is said that to see a Goldfinch in your dreams is a glimpse into your soul

Legend says that hearing a Goldfinch sing means that happy experiences are coming your way

Native American folklore tells us that if a Goldfinch flies across your path it is to remind you to live your life fully and to celebrate who you are.  To remind you that every single moment you waste in fear, anger, or hatred is a moment that will be lost to you forever.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Rainy Days and Mondays

It's raining here in the mountains.  Welcome rain.  It has been very dry and there have been several fires in the county from brush burnings gone astray.  So we are happy for the rain.

The Tufted Titmouse lowers his tuft in the rain

Lucy checks out the front porch.  There is no danger that she will run into the yard.
She hates getting wet.

The bluebird flag drips in the rain

Here's the front bringing all the rain.  It's moving to the northeast, so we have more storms to come.
(Map from The Weather Channel)

We have plenty to do on this rainy day, but little desire to do any of it.  Think I'll sit and read for a while and then do a little knitting.

Friday, April 4, 2014

We Love Our Lucy

April 4th last year brought us a rain/snow/sleet mixture.  It was quite cold and the trees were covered with ice.  None of that this year.  We have had near record-breaking highs all week.  Today we are in line for a series of severe thunderstorms.  We need the rain, since it is very dry and the tree pollen is thick.

Lucy looked out at the sleet falling on the deck.

 All the branches on the trees were coated with ice.

We know that we will have more chilly weather.  But we also know that spring is getting closer and closer.

Our quote comes from American author and journalist Hal Borland:
"No Winter lasts forever, no Spring skips its turn.  April is a promise that May is bound to keep, and we know it."



Wednesday, April 2, 2014

No Such Thing as Normal

Other than the usual morning mist and fog, very little about our weather has been "normal."  We have had late snow, colder than normal temperatures and warmer than normal temperatures.  Today we are enjoying much warmer than normal temperatures.  We might even reach a new high for the date.  It feels much more like May than early April.

A walk around the house reveals much improvement in the plant life.

One of a few camellias that got to blossom fully

 The hellibores looking much healthier

 We have a lot of ducks about the yard.
This one looks at the plants while enjoying his stogie.
Remember it's art if you love it.

 Another fully blossoming camellia.  Occasionally we have the blossoms all over
This year they are few and far between with most buds dropping before blooming

As I walk around the yard and into the woods this spring, I miss sweet Ellie even more than usual.  Spring without her is a little bittersweet.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Mix Up the Nectar

Seems I took a longer break than I expected.  After our guests left both my husband and I got a dreadful GI virus.  The Norovirus that sometimes runs rampant through cruise ships.  Fortunately it is short-lived but such a nightmare.  When we recovered, I scrubbed everything thoroughly with bleach.

This is the last day of March and here in North Carolina we are getting ready to greet our smallest migrating birds, many of whom will spend the summer here with us.

 This little one is sitting on a hummingbird that tops the feeder.

 She looks at me as if declaring, "This is MY space, lady."

This is the migration map for today
(click to enlarge)

Each year the migration of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is posted on the Web.  It is a device for self-reporting sightings of the birds and is typically very reliable.  You can find the map HERE

The map always bothers us a bit.  We prepare and hang the nectar and then wait and wait.  Hummingbirds are reported to our east and to our west.  To our south and to our north and yet we do not see them.  Perhaps it's because we live so near the Southern Blue Ridge Escarpment that dramatically rises above the piedmont areas.  Whatever the reason, the hummingbirds will come and we will welcome them for the summer.

I'm not certain why there are no migration maps for other hummingbirds.  Perhaps the Ruby-throated Hummingbird pathways are more predictable.