Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween in Transylvania

When your county is Transylvania you expect Halloween to be a big celebration.  And so it is.  The Halloween Festival brings vendors to our town in large numbers.  There are many activities for the youngsters and plenty of good food.

Saturday was the day of the festival this year.  Mother Nature did not cooperate.  The day was unseasonably cool and periodically the wind gusted to a miserable index.  Many of the vendors stationed volunteers to hold the tent poles when they took the tents down.  Scarves and other knitted or quilted items were removed from the displays before they blew away.  There were few children when we arrived and some of the vendors were deciding the sales would not be sufficient in this weather so they were packing up to leave.

The shops went all out with decorating and most of the shopkeepers were in costume.

 This is Jailhouse Hill.  Later in the day the children would roll pumpkins down the hill.  Most children brought their own pumpkins although some were available for purchase.

 Looking east on Main Street.  The crowds were sparse.

 The lanes were empty at the pumpkin bowling area.

 Looking west on Main Street.  Several vendors had already packed up to leave.

We did not purchase anything from the vendors this year.  We were sorry so many of our favorites were not there.  We were even sorrier that the children's fun was cut short by the wind and chilly weather.

It could have been a lot worse, though.  At least we did not have the paralyzing snowstorm that hit so much of the mid-Atlantic states.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fridays are Golden

Our Ellie frequently walks around with two tennis balls in her mouth.  Lucy tries and tries to grab two of them at once.  She is never able to manage it.  Her head and mouth just aren't suited for carrying two tennis balls at once.  But that doesn't stop her from trying.

Ellie came upstairs with two balls and Lucy took them.  I could tell from the expression on her face that she was going to try once again so I grabbed the camera.

Watch this, Mom.  I'm gonna do it this time!

Lucy gets one of the balls in her mouth without much difficulty.

 OK  I got one of them.  Now for the other one.

 This is the tricky one but I think I can do it.

 Take the picture quickly, Mom.  I'm already about to drop one of them!  Hurry!

As soon as I took the photograph, Lucy dropped one of the balls.  She held the two of them for no longer than 10 seconds.  But by golly, she did indeed hold two at one time.

That wasn't too bad, Lucy.  But you really need to work on your form.  The balls should be held so that both of them are centered.  Like this!

Here we are near the end of October.  Sixty-four days remain in 2011 and then it will be gone.  But there is a lot of fun to be had before then.

We love Halloween around our house and we have plenty of tacky decorations.  One of my favorites is a fiber-optic scarecrow.  We've had it for years and each October we wonder if the filaments will light up for another year.  So far so good.

From ghoulies and ghosties and long leggety beasties and things that go bump in the night,


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Finding Color in the Mountains

From a family of nine, my mother's sister is the sole surviving sibling.  This aunt and I had planned a mountain trip for last week.  Rain, wind and much cooler weather dictated otherwise so we chose to go this week on Monday.  We were happy enough to be out riding together in the mountains although we suspected the leaf color might well be past peak.  Fortunately, we found plenty of gorgeous color along the way.

The skies were clear with sunshine all day.

The color in many areas was still breath-taking.

This photograph was taken at an overlook on NC 181.  The Brown Mountain ridge is in the distance.  Mysterious lights shine at various intervals on this ridge.  Not surprisingly, the lights are called The Brown Mountain Lights.

Cherokee lore suggests the Brown Mountain Lights have been seen since the 1200s.  The first white man to explore this area wrote in his diary about "nitrous vapors" carried by the wind.  A reporter for the Charlotte, NC newspaper documented the lights in 1913.

The lights appear as bright orbs, moving in varying directions along the ridge.  No one has been able to explain the lights although they have been studied by the US Weather Service, The US Geological Survey, and the Smithsonian Institution among others.  The unpredictable lights appear and disappear in no specific pattern but are more commonly seen in the late summer and fall.

The source of the lights remains unexplained.  What is known is that the lights are definitely visible and they have been videotaped often.  You can find more information about them here or here.

My aunt was delighted by the awesome color.  Around each curve, with every mountain or gorge, we saw the splendor of the autumn color in the mountains.

I was thrilled to see my aunt take such joy in the outing.  As I left her at her apartment, she said it was the best day she had had in such a long time.  Both of us had a very nice day.

When I got home, my husband told me my neighbor wanted me to call her when it was convenient.  He said he had told her I was visiting my aunt and she asked him, "Oh, is that her elderly aunt?"  My very clever husband told her, "Charlotte, when you get to be our age any aunt you have is elderly."

Monday, October 24, 2011

Neighborhood Color and First-born's Birthday

While the color is pretty much gone in the higher elevations of the NC mountains, beautiful color remains at elevations of 3,000 feet or lower and in the foothills.  Today, I drove my aunt from her home in Morganton, NC up the mountains to Boone so that she could enjoy the colors.  We found some brilliant color.  We had a lovely drive up and stumbled upon a very nice restaurant for lunch.  Then we returned to Morganton via another route, down the side of other mountains.  When we dropped by her apartment, my aunt began to tear up.  She was that grateful that I drove to Morganton so that I could spend a day with her driving in the mountains.

The following two photographs are not from today's outing but were taken in our community last week.  As you can see, we are still enjoying the colors of this season.

So what does this yawning little baby have to do with autumn joy?  She just happens to be the most joyful thing about autumn.  We first saw her on October 24 a bunch of years ago.  This is our daughter the day she and I came home from the hospital.  She was a delightful, easy going beautiful baby.  Now she is a delightful and easy going beautiful woman.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Fridays are Golden

Lake Wanteska is the second largest lake within our community.  It has a lovely earthen dam and is one of  Ellie's and Lucy's favorite running places.  As soon as we are out of the SUV they run at breakneck speed across the dam.  Then they turn and come running back to us.

Running free is such a treat!

 This is the only dam in which the girls can actually run up and down the dam itself.  They love it.  And we love it because they get such good exercise and spend a really quiet afternoon.

Ellie loves to sniff the wind and smell those wonderful autumn smells.

The fall color at the lake is past peak but beautiful nonetheless.

And how was the color on parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway yesterday?  White.  It was all white around Craggy Gardens.  Rime ice covered the forest.  (Rime ice is ice that forms on the trees or roads from water droplets in the fog.)  In the mountains you always hope that you will see the ice on the trees before you feel your car slide in the invisible (black ice) rime ice on the road.

Above photograph from the Asheville Citizen-Times taken by Bill Sanders.

Our quote for the week comes from Pulitzer Prize winner Edwin Way Teale:

Change is a measure of time, and in the autumn time seems speeded up.  What was is not and never again will be; what is is change.

Someone said that our time here is not a dress rehearsal.  This is it.  Make the most of it.  Now.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In Only One Week

I cannot recall the color ever bursting forth as quickly as it did this year.  Last week the Blue Ridge Parkway viewing areas gave us the beginning of color in the mountains.  When we went back up this week most of the yellows were gone from the higher elevations and the reds dominated the color.

The color in the higher elevations is still lovely with mostly reds and a bit of yellow.

 A treat for the eyes no matter the season.

Looking Glass Rock, so named because the water on the rock face freezes in winter and the sun makes the mountain shine like a mirror.

At slightly lower elevations, there is more color including the yellows and oranges.

At a drop of a thousand feet the color is more pronounced.  At John Rock the color is gorgeous.

Davidson River delights the trout fishermen and women.  They dot the river all along its way.

We will be making trips up to the Parkway until it closes for the winter.  When our children were younger we used to take them to the Cold Mountain Overlook where the gates keep automobile traffic from entering.  During winter it is such a treat to walk the Parkway in the snow.  Perhaps we will take the dogs up there this year.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Not on a Clothesline Art Show

The annual "Clothesline Art Show" in our community is held every Autumn.  It began as an exhibit for water colors, sketches and other drawings.  These works of art were attached to clotheslines and people would walk past them to look and to buy.

There are so many artists living here that the show expanded to include artisans of any medium.  So the clothesline is no longer used and the artists display their works on tables or easels.  But it seems everyone liked the name so the event is still called "Clothesline Art Show."

Last Saturday artists living within our community set up their works.

All of these are oil paintings.

These watercolors were spread out on easels.

This artist specializes in painting or drawing animals.

Hand knits are always good sellers.  A gourd artist is in the back.

My neighbors exhibited and sold some of her pottery.

Still more art to enjoy.

It was a great way to spend the morning.  They even had a food vendor with sandwiches, hot dogs and beverages.  We enoyed looking at all the art work even if we didn't find anthing to purchase.  Saturday was a weather perfect day and being out there was great.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fridays are Golden

We don't give our dogs as many treats as most dog owners do.  Since they don't often get them, they really are special.  There are three things they consider treats which they get consistently.  Whenever anyone gets ice from the fridge, the girls are right there each expecting an ice cube.  I make green salads almost every day.  The girls just love carrots, so I give them a few slices of carrot.  And each evening they each get a treat when they get into their crates for the night.

They are anxiously watching and waiting for their carrot pennies.  And yes, it might have been a little cruel of me to take the time for a picture rather than pay attention to cutting the carrots.  But can you blame me for wanting to capture those beautiful faces?

My husband and I tend to keep tiny treats in our pockets.  Every so often, we will call the dogs.  They come rather quickly and sit down to await the treat.  We do this at different times and in different situations.  The girls always come quickly when called...not because they are so obedient, but because we might have a treat for them.

My husband has called the girls and they sit next to his chair.  (We tend to take off our shoes a lot and you can see my husband's shoes next to the girls.)  They expect a treat but sometimes the treat is petting them.  Since they are never sure whether a treat will be given, they come quickly just in case.  And they don't seem to be disappointed if the treat is just getting some petting and hugs.

How is the color in the NC mountains?  It has burst forth rapidly.  Rain and high winds around here have muted the color a bit, but it is still gorgeous.  The color at our elevation (3,000 ft) is not yet at peak.  The color above 4,000 ft is very near peak, and the color at 2,000ft and below is just beginning.  So if you are in the mountains, you can easily drive to a different elevation and you will find beautiful color.

I shot this photograph from our deck this morning.

Then I walked to the mailbox and aimed down our street.

As we look at the Autumn spendor we also enjoy some of our "winter" vegetables.  Squashes, pumpkins, and other vegetables taste so wonderful in this chilly season.  The quote this week comes from Bertie Forbes, who started Forbes Magazine.

Believe in yourself, your neighbors, your work, your ultimate attainment of more complete happiness.  It is only the farmer who faithfully plants seeds in the Spring who reaps a harvest in Autumn.

So work on believing all through the year.  But believing by itself will not bring a harvest.  You must also take action and plant your seeds in order to reap the harvest.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Obese Bird

We are having rain and strong winds around here.  That is not a good thing for autumn color.  Hopefully it will stop soon and sunshine will brighten up the mountains again.

Remember the very homely Cardinal?  (here)  The bird continued to follow the parents long after he was able to feed himself.  We often saw him at the feeder alone, stuffing his beak.  If either parent came by, he would hop to them and beg for more food.  I am sorry to report that he has joined the legions of the obese.  He is not fluffing up his feathers like a sick bird.  He is alert, has no problem swallowing, no problem flying, and shows no sign of illness.

Maybe not quite so homely, but really really large.

 He still has a rather goofy look that makes him easy to identify.

 This shot of the feeder compares the large cardinal to the chickadee.  Note how the feeder is leaning under the cardinal's weight.  I assure you he has no idea the chickadee is there.  If he did, he would chase it away immediately.

The cardinal is often the first bird to the feeders when we put them out in the morning.  And he and his parents are almost always the last ones to grab a bite before we bring them in.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Unusual Sightings Around Here

I was cleaning up some of my photographs, deleting some and transferring others to a back-up hard drive.  I realized that we have been treated to some rather unusual animals and birds right here at the house.  You may have seen some of these before.

A white version of the gray squirrel (not albino) is seen fairly often in downtown Brevard.  They breed with the gray squirrels and now make up about a third of the squirrels in the downtown area.  It is very rare to see them more than nine miles away from town, but we had a visit from one.  (I still maintain they are beadie-eyed little monsters.)

Transylvania County's Famous White Squirrel

We finally prevented the pesky flying squirrels from getting into the vent.  This one decided to try the umbrella on the deck.

Flying Squirrel climbing up the umbrella on the deck.

The Black-throated Blue Warbler is occasionally found at higher elevations in the NC mountains.  They are a rare sight in our county.

Black-throated Blue Warbler  Note the "pocket hankerchief" on his wing.

The Worm-eating Warbler is not a common sight around here and certainly not often observed on a deck.

 The Black-and-white Warbler is a summer guest in our mountains.  But they usually stay out of sight in damp woodlands.  This one was creeping up and down the screen outside the kitchen window.  At first I thought the bird was caught in the screen, so I grabbed a glove intending to help him get loose.  When I opened the door, the bird flew away with ease.

 Purple Finches are common around our house in spring.  This bird is a leucistic female.  She is much lighter in color than a typical Purple Finch.  We were pleased to see her being fed by a lovely male Purple Finch so it appears she may be attractive despite her strange coloring.

Very early one morning my husband called me from the garage.  A bobcat was walking down our driveway!  I grabbed the camera as he moved from our driveway to the woods beside the house.  What a thrilling sight.  We had seen evidence of bobcats in the area, but we had never seen the lovely feline until this one morning.  We have not seen one since although they are still around.

We see evidence of visitors in our woods all the time.  Many mornings we can still smell the skunks who drifted by.  We have seen the place where a black bear had dug out a yellow jacket nest at the foot of a tree stump.  We have a three-legged coyote that we see fairly often.  We've had a 'possum in our garage.  We see raccoons almost daily.  And the deer have a trail in our backyard giving them easy access to our plants.

Living here is such a treat!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fridays are Golden

I see no reason to vacuum dog hairs from every room in the house.  So the Golden Girls are not permitted in the guest suite or the master suite.  They sleep very comfortably in their own beds.  In fact, they have a room of their own.

The girls know and respect the boundaries.  Here they are looking inside at me, clearly wanting me to come out of there.  Often they will lie on the floor just outside the open bedroom door.

 One boundary Lucy does not respect is the imaginary division in the dog beds.  (Remember the imaginary line you established with your sibling in the backseat of the car?  "Mom, she put her hand on MY side!")  She decides to take her half of the bed in the very center, leaving Ellie pushed under the chair.

 Why do the dogs prefer this particular bed when there are so many others around?  Simple answer to that.  This chair is my husband's and when he is sitting in it his left hand is down patting a dog or two.

 Really, Ellie are you comfortable?

 Well, Mom.  Not so much.

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.  Don't be trapped by dogma---which is living with the results of other people's thinking.  Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown your own inner voice.  And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.  They somehow already know what you truly want to become.  Everything else is secondary."
Steve Jobs