Monday, March 30, 2015

Looking at Both Sides

On a street near the college here in town grows a nice row of pine trees.  They are stately, tall and full.  The sidewalk has heavy pedestrian traffic.  At a given time one might see an elderly couple with canes, youthful joggers, excited coeds, or mothers with strollers.  The street leads to a little shopping center with two cafes and an independent book store.  It used to be a nice street.

I use the past tense, because the street is no longer so nice.  It has become an eyesore and a blight on the community.

Here are the pine trees taken from a college parking lot

 They grow up to the sky healthy and vigorous

 They are lovely to see
(on this side)

 The following photographs are the same trees taken from the other side.  The street side.  The busy sidewalk side.

 Every single branch has been sheared at the trunk on this side.  The trees themselves look sad.

 It looks no better coming from the opposite direction

 The once lovely street now a disaster area

So what happened to the trees?  Duke Energies did some "pruning."  According to Duke, they have trimming experts who carefully consider how to best prune the trees in the least offensive manner and with the least damage to the trees.  They no longer perform "round-over" pruning because it is not healthy for the trees.  "Directional" pruning causes minimal impact on the tree.

Duke Energies is the largest power company in the United States.  They already have free-rein to pollute our NC rivers (check this article) with the blessings of our governor, a former Duke executive.  The governor has appointed several Duke retirees to State oversight committees.  (You can google "NC coal ash spills and find lots of information)

But this post is about the trees.  Why such seemingly excessive pruning on perfectly healthy trees?  I have no idea.  The branches were not so large that they would have brought down a power line even if they had fallen directly on it.  And none of the branches were weak or rotting.

So I'm left with this answer.  They can do it because they are so big and powerful and they will say they are doing it for the good of the public.  Nonsense.  They can do it because it saves them money, never mind what it does to the esthetics or health of the trees.  And what can we do about it?  Absolutely nothing except lament the loss of a beautiful street.  And perhaps pay closer attention to the people we elect to government offices.

Friday, March 27, 2015

We Love Lucy

Hard freeze?  What do you mean hard freeze?  Don't you know the camellias are heavy with buds ready to open?  And so many spring flowers are opening up?

We've had such beautiful weather this week that it's had to face the fact that this weekend will bring much cooler weather with a hard freeze tonight and tomorrow night.  After several days of sunshine, it is gray and raining here.  We're hoping the rain stops before the freeze.

Lucy loves the cooler weather but she hates the rain.  She goes from window to window to see if it's raining everywhere.  Finding out that it is, she plops down to snooze, occasionally resting on her bee pillow to stare out at the rain.

Lucy ignoring the rain

 Not much reason to get up

 We are fortunate (thanks to our daughter) to have little spring birds in the window sills.  They all have little slickers and Wellies.  Some of them carry umbrellas.  Some of them have their cups of tea.  I smile at them as they sit ready for the rain.

 Rainy day bird looking inside rather than outside

There are many good things about a rainy day after so many days of sunshine.  I might finally pay some attention to the neglected housework.  More likely, I will give a token stroke to the housecleaning and read or knit.  And I'll join the birds in a cup of tea.  Whatever your weather, I hope you enjoy this day and the weekend.

For many of you, there is still basketball to watch.  I'll likely watch a few parts of games, but with UNC losing to Wisconsin last night, my interest has waned.  Good luck to you if your team is still in the running.

Today's quote is anonymous but appropriate:

"Some days, you just have to create your own sunshine."


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Get Ready. They are on the move

Spotted already in Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, eastern Texas and southern Arkansas, the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are migrating.  Put out the hummingbird feeders if you live in or near those areas.

Each spring, provides an interactive map for people to follow the migration and report sightings of hummingbirds in their area.  While any self-reporting map has a margin of error, the combination of reported sightings will give a good idea of when these lovely little jewels are approaching your home.

You can click to enlarge the map for today.

And go to the Website here regularly to watch for the hummingbirds.  You might even report a new sighting in your area.

I am not aware of a similar reporting system for the other hummingbirds in North America.  The Ruby-throated is the only one found regularly in the Eastern and Midwestern US.  We do occasionally get the wayward Rufous but in most cases if we see a hummingbird, it's almost certain to be a Ruby-throated.

So mix up your nectar and set out your feeders as soon as you see the birds approaching your area.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Outside and Inside

Every spring I look lovingly at the daffodils and crocus my neighbors have.  And every spring I tell myself that I will plant some bulbs come fall.  And every fall I fail to do so.  So I miss those early blossoms every spring.

OK, so I don't have daffodils or crocus.  But I do have plants that bloom in early spring.  The Lenten Rose (Helleborus Orientalis), contrary to its common name is not a rose at all.  It's in the Buttercup family.  Their only negative is that the blossoms face downward rather than up toward the sun.

A profusion of blossoms

 Such lovely plants requiring very little care

 Much less reliable than the hellibores are our three camellias.  On the very outer edge of their comfort gardening zone, the camellias do not always blossom for us.  Many years the buds come out far too soon and are frozen.  Other years we are rewarded with the lovely blossoms.  It's hard to tell which it will be this year.

 A limb laden with buds lies almost on the ground next to a smiling Daisy.
(No, not the's way too early for daisies.)

 A reliable shrub is the Pieris Japonica.  We have several of these planted on either side of the front porch steps.  They are early bloomers and the bell-shaped clusters are gorgeous.

We can always count on the pieris

 One of my favorite plants is the forsythia.  While it is blooming downtown, it is only budding here on the mountain.  Every year I bring some clippings inside and we enjoy watching them blossom out.  I have learned that I can stick these clippings in the ground to propagate new plants.

 What says spring better than forsythia?

I hope you are enjoying your first full week of spring.

Friday, March 20, 2015

We Love Lucy

It's officially Spring!  And around here it's beginning to look like spring.  Neighbors have daffodils that are blooming.  Our Lenten Roses are in full bloom and the Pieris is just lovely with its bell-shaped flowers hanging on the limbs.

Lucy loves the spring weather, especially when we take her somewhere she can safely run off lead.  She is one happy Golden.

Here I come

 She also loves to snooze in the spring sunlight.

 Holding on to her antler in case she needs to chew a bit

 Lying with the pillows around her

 We've been having some work done on a shower.  And Lucy totally loves the man who is doing the work.  Every morning when she hears his truck back up in the driveway, she gets really excited.  She can't wait for him to knock on the door and she greets him enthusiastically.  Fortunately for us, he loves Lucy as well.

March Madness is definitely living up to its name.  Some of the games have been really interesting.  Our Tar Heels gave us quite a scare but managed to win and advance.  There were some big upsets and that is what makes the NCAA Basketball Tournament so much fun.  I don't fill out brackets myself, but I do have the CBS Sports app.  Instant updates on all the games.  Previews of upcoming match-ups, and post-game recap.  Free and easy to use.  If you have a smart phone or late generation iPod I highly recommend that your download the app.

The weather here is nearly perfect after a couple of rainy days.  Birds are singing their little hearts out and life is good.

Today's quote is from Percy Bysshe Shelly:
And Spring arose on the garden fair
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth's dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.



Monday, March 16, 2015

Looking for a Home

It feels like spring around here despite the bare trees.  The birds are singing and we have sunshine after a couple of gray rainy days.

Oh, and March Madness is upon us once again.  We had an early dinner last night in order to watch the complete tournament selection show.  And today my husband will buy several copies of USA Today because he like their brackets best.  And American citizens will eagerly await President Obama's brackets so they can criticize him for not taking their favorite team to the Final Four.

I do love college basketball but I'll probably spend more time watching the birds than the round ball.  We have lots of bird boxes in the trees near our house, a couple of them from our local potters intended to be more decorative than functional.  So imagine my surprise when I glanced up and saw a chickadee poking its head out of one of the houses.  The bird sat there for several minutes and at first I thought it might be stuck.

(You many need to click to enlarge.  Lighting was not optimum.)

Chickadee popping its head out of the box

 The bird hopped onto the perch.  It wasn't stuck, thank goodness.

It sat on the perch for quite a while, looking around as if to check the view

I don't think the chickadee will build a nest in this box, but who knows?  At least we can be assured that bigger birds or flying squirrels will not be able to enlarge the opening.  This is probably my favorite time of the year as we begin to see our migrating bird friends once again and our resident birds begin to nest.  And then my other favorite time when the birds bring their fledglings to our feeders.

Our forsythia is really budding now and they are blooming downtown.  Spring is wonderful.

Friday, March 13, 2015

We Love Lucy

LL Bean sent me an email that I had an unused credit that was soon to expire.  It wasn't a large one so I decided to use it to get a little something for Lucy.  I came across a blue bone pillow that seemed perfect for her.  After all she adores her bee pillow.  I'm happy to report that she loves the blue bone as well.

Lucy snuggles with her blue bone

 She nestles between the pillows as if she were in a little nest.

 But the bee pillow is still the preferred one for bird watching.
Or snoozing a bit if things get boring out there.

It's been quite a busy week for our Lucy.  We are having my husband's walk-in shower re-tiled so Lucy must watch over the workman.  Since she is not allowed in the master suite, she must follow him from the garage door to the bedroom door every time he comes and goes to get supplies.  That means many of her naps are interrupted.

It's warmer here but raining so the days are a bit dreary.  I've started a new knitting project, an afghan for my husband. I told him it might be finished by the time we are ready for a long-term care facility.  He did not laugh.

Today's quote is for our North Carolina US Senators, especially freshman Senator Thom Tillis.  And it's also for their 45 partners in an unprecedented act of spite.

It comes from Cicero, philosopher of old:
"A nation can survive its fools, even the ambitious.  But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly.  But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself.  For the traitor appears not to be a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men.  He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist.  A murderer is less to fear.  The traitor is the plague."

So far our body politic is not so infected that we cannot resist.  We can indeed survive this Congress.  I hope that people will begin to see that the good of the Nation and its citizens are not the priority of some of our "leaders."  As the legendary Mrs. O'Davis said, "Lord help us and save us."

If we are to survive, we must raise our voices.  Please contact your own Senators and Representatives and let them know how you feel.  You can find their names and addresses along with all pending legislation here


Monday, March 9, 2015

Breath of Fresh Air

I look forward to it every February.  Bright yellow blossoms and a wonderful fragrance in the air.  It's Arnold Promise, a witch hazel that fills the air with a wonderful scent.  This year Arnold was a bit late in blooming, perhaps because of the lower temperatures, but now it is is full bloom.

Arnold Promise is a hybrid (Hamamelis x intermedia) witch hazel that has many things going for it.  It has wonderful leaves in summer and fall and it blossoms in the dead of winter, its showy yellow blossoms sending a lovely fragrance in the air.   It gives me the promise of spring every year.

 One more important aspect of Arnold Promise is that the deer do not care for the taste of the shoots, leaves, or blossoms.  That is a real benefit around here as the deer have made a path from our creek up the property to the road.  Arnold Promise is very disease resistant as well.

It is often overlooked in the garden shops because the blooms have fallen and the plant has not leafed out by the time most nurseries open for the summer.  So it looks very bare and sparse.

Few things are as pleasing as the sight of the Arnold Promise bright yellow blossoms and the scent of the wonderful witch hazel.  It is indeed a breath of fresh air.

Friday, March 6, 2015

We Love Lucy

We have four large lakes in our community.  One of them is near our house and Lucy loves to play there along the water.  In winter there are few people around so we can let her run to her heart's content.  And run she does.

Smiling as she runs past the canoes

 Still smiling when we made her rest for a bit on the handicapped fishing pier

 Smiling as she runs along with her shadow

 And backlit by the lake

 A little trip to the lake fills Lucy's exercise needs and our own needs to embrace the beauty.

We return to the much dreaded Daylight Savings Time this weekend.  Seems such a short while since we moved our clocks back an hour.

 I try not to let the time change affect me so much and to follow John Muir's advice:

Our quote also comes from John Muir, a man who truly knew how to live:

"When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop,
Striped and dotted with continents and islands,
Flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one,
The whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty."

If only the people of the entire world could appreciate that we are all interconnected.  We share the same resources and what hurts one hurts us all.



Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Don't Try This

A couple of weeks ago we had some unusually cold weather.  How cold was it?  So cold that the waterfalls partially froze.  I think "partially" is the operative word here.  But that did not deter one ice climber intent on adding Looking Glass Falls to his list.

It seems like poor judgment to me.  Only a few feet to the climber's right, the water is running freely over the falls.

You may want to click to enlarge.

Photograph from the local newspaper, not credited

We did not go to visit the frozen falls this year, although we have been in the past.  As you can see below, the waterfall was not as frozen on our last visit as it appeared above a couple of weeks ago.  It was so cold and dark that everything has a blue tint to it.  There were no other souls around on our visit.

Today is balmy and feels wonderful.  What a treat to sit on the deck once again.  Tomorrow the temperatures will drop dramatically.  But this is March so we don't have too long to wait.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Internet Birthday

Yahoo!  was begun twenty years ago today.  Only a few would have dreamed how much that would change our daily lives.  Yahoo brought everyman to the Internet.

In addition to new ways of thinking, the Internet brought us new words and usage of other words.  It brought us the word "blog," near and dear to all our hearts.  It is the shortened form of the original word, "weblog."  Who would have thought that "friend" would be a verb and "like" would be a noun?  There have been "selfies" as long as there have been cameras, but the word was never used before the Internet and smartphones.  And while most of us grew up with Hi-Fi, few of us started out with Wi-Fi.  "Texting" and "Sexting" were words not used only 20 years ago.  And "tweets" were the sounds of birds chirping.

Yahoo is older than Facebook, even older than MySpace.  It's older than YouTube, Tumbler, and Instagram.

So a great big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Yahoo!  And to the changes that have evolved in those twenty years.