Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Clouds Down in the Valleys

We finally got to drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway last week. The fog was lying in the valleys like sleeping clouds waiting for a wake-up call from the sun. The sky was hazy with puffs of clouds often lining the horizon.

The sun came out and we saw plenty of wildflowers along the roadside.

There is just a hint of color on the mountains. In fact, no more than we have at home a thousand feet lower in elevation. There will be color though, and I will show it to you in a few weeks. (You can see a bit more color if you click on the photo.)

Meanwhile, here is plenty of fall color in a scarf I recently finished.

I love this pattern which deceptively simple and always looks good. It's called "Feather and Fan" and the pattern repeats after four rows. Two of the rows are simply knitting and one of them is purling. The third row is a combination of "knit two together" and "yarnover." How simple is that? I love patterns I can easily memorize and this is one of them. Much more fun to be able to watch a movie or talk and knit at the same time.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Hummer in the Rain

It's hard to believe, but we had another two-and-a-half inches of rain over the weekend! The rivers are really high but there was no significant flooding. Hardly anyone can recall this much rain not associated with the remnants of a hurricane.

As I look out at the pouring rain, I always admire the tenacity of the birds. They come to our feeders and take shelter in our trees. I know that they are equipped to deal with the rain, but still I feel sorry for them.

During a break in the rain, I captured this little wet hummingbird. I treasure the days we have left with them and will miss them this winter.

The sun is shining brightly this morning. It is much cooler than normal and feels as if fall has truly arrived. We are happy the trees will go into the winter with plenty of moisture. They have suffered a harsh three-year drought. And we are happy for the farmers who may yet get some yield from their late crops as the fields dry out. And we are really happy for ourselves and we smile as we watch the wonderful sunshine. I think the birds are happier this morning too.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fridays are Golden

We have a new local pet supply store. It is not terribly convenient for us but we needed some doggie toothpaste and decided to stop in and see what they had.

It's a nice store, although it is small, and we will patronize them. A bin of deer antlers was near the checkout counter. We had never purchased antlers and the store clerk assured us that our dogs would love them. We looked at them. They were pricey. But since we don't indulge the dogs all that often, and since it was a new store, and since the girls had been cooped up because of the rain, we decided to give them a try.

The girls had just come inside and we towel-dried them so they are still damp, fluffy, and curly.

We put the antlers on the floor so each dog could choose one.

Lucy takes her antler to one of the beds.
"I'm checking this out. I think I really like it."
That's good, Lucy.

Ellie takes her antler to the other bed.
"I think this is going to be good, but I have to lick it all over first."

"Mom! I look just like a mammoth who lost a tusk!"
Yes, that's exactly what you look like.

There follows a process that repeats itself every time the girls get dried bones or new toys. Lucy abandons hers and goes over to check out the one Ellie has.

"I'm afraid Ellie has the best one. I'm sorry, but I have to take it away from her."
Lucy, that is not true. One of these days you are going to try that and Ellie is going to snap at you.

Lucy takes the antler from Ellie who looks bewildered as always but gives no quarrel or resistance at all.

"I'll just take this one over and give it a try."
Lucy, that is not a nice thing to do.
"Well, I figure anything is all right if you can get away with it."

Poor Ellie is much like Charlie Brown who is always surprised that Lucy once again removed the football. No matter how many times it occurs she can't believe it.
"Dad, did you see that?"
Yes, Ellie. But we've talked about this before. You are the one who has to keep this from happening. We won't get involved and you'll have to work it out.

"Oh, well. I think this one might be better anyway. I do hate to make a fuss."

This is the last weekend of September. We've past the equinox and are heading into fall. The sun has been shining for two days now, but more rain is predicted for this weekend. We have been assured it will be light rain and we hope that is true. While we are safe, with only minor inconveniences from some still-closed roads, we know there are areas in Georgia where the citizens are still without safe drinking water. Our thoughts are with those who are cleaning out the muck and trying to return to their homes.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Land Where the Water Falls

With more than 250 named waterfalls, Transylvania County is called the "Land of the Waterfalls." With an average annual rainfall of 80 inches, it is jokingly called, "Land Where the water falls" by local residents. One section of our county is officially designated a temperate rain forest. In most years, our county receives more rain than any county east of the Rocky Mountains.

It has been more than 3 years since we approached a normal rainfall. A severe drought has reduced the amount of rain to a percentage of normal.

Last week several weather fronts dumped rain on us and parts of Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina. It poured and poured...more than 14 inches in six days. On Monday the rain slowed somewhat so my husband and I did what we always do after a heavy rain; we headed out to see a waterfall or two.

With raincoats and umbrellas we headed up to Pisgah National Forest to view two waterfalls that are easily accessible.

Looking Glass Falls is impressive. Here is a photograph of "normal" flow.

This is Looking Glass Falls on Monday afternoon. What a sight and sound! The roar of the falls was impressive. The water fell with such force that it splashed 20 feet in the air at the bottom of the falls.

The water poured over the top of the falls.

We couldn't walk closer to the falls because of the mist. We could protect the camera from the rain with our umbrellas, but there is no way to protect it from the mist.

Another easily accessible waterfall is a recreation area known as Sliding Rock. In summers it is filled with children and adults who slide down the smooth rocks to a pool below. It's a favorite destination for the summer campers.
Here a couple of girls slide down the rocks. This is taken at the top of the "slide." The amount of water flowing is somewhat less than normal because of the drought.

This is a photograph of the same area on Monday. Notice that the fence is partially underwater and none of the rocks are visible. What a change.

This shows most of the sliding area of Sliding Rock. People are lined up on the left waiting a turn in the icy cold water. Notice that the fence is away from the rushing water. Compare that to the previous photograph.

On Monday, the sliding area looked like this. I could not get down to the deck because of the spray. The pool at the bottom was no longer visible as it became part of the roaring river.

The sign indicates the area is closed. While we didn't see any swimmers, we did see a couple of young men debating whether they could kayak the area. They wisely decided they would not be able to make the curve at the bottom and would run into the deck. We have all sorts of signs saying the obvious. You wouldn't think you need to tell people not to get in the water at the top of a waterfall, or not to jump off a waterfall. But it is necessary and every year people ignore them and suffer death or severe injury.

I must admit I feel a bit guilty enjoying the splendor of the waterfalls while others are suffering from extensive flooding. Major roads were closed due to high water and people in some areas of the county had to evacuate. Homes were flooded and farmers lost crops. The remaining apples in Henderson County were knocked from the trees and the orchards are too soggy to harvest them.
----------------So think positive thoughts for those less fortunate while you enjoy the waterfalls. The rain stopped on Tuesday, although another front is expected to bring us more rain this evening. But the prediction is for light rain and scattered showers...nothing like the past week. The rivers will crest today so the worst should be over and the cleanup will begin. I'm certain the kind folks of Transylvania County will be generous is increasing donations to the less fortunate.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Miserable Sunday

I've mentioned that last week was rainy and foggy. The rain has continued (and is falling right now) and we have widespread flooding throughout our county and neighboring Henderson County and Jackson County. We have a rain gauge and recorded 11 inches of rain from Thursday thru Sunday afternoon. Four inches of that fell during the night on Saturday.

Here are some photographs from the Asheville Citizen Times showing some of the flooding problems in Transylvania County and Henderson County. We remain under a flash flood warning and many roads are closed due to high water. Several trees have fallen due to saturated roots and there are intermittent power outages all over.

The river banks lie just beyond the trees in the background. The rest of the water is a flooded pasture.

With most of this pasture under water, these animals take to the higher ground.

This street is under several feet of water.

The river has taken over this highway as well.

With the rain and fog, Sunday was a great day for football, wasn't it? NO, NOT IF YOU WANTED THE GREEN BAY PACKERS TO ACTUALLY PLAY THE GAME!!! Aaron Rodgers is a great quarterback but it's pretty hard to get the ball off when you are flat on your butt on the ground. Rodgers was sacked SIX times and knocked to the ground an additional FOUR times.

Photo from The Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel.
The receivers couldn't hold on to the ball even when Rodgers managed to get off a good pass. They were hit solidly on the numbers and dropped the ball at least FIVE times. FIVE CATCHABLE BALLS. With a few miracles, the Packers were within a touchdown/extra point with the ball and 45 seconds left. Still they managed to lose the game with mistakes and penalties. All in all, my Sunday was a pretty lousy one. Hope yours was better.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fridays are Golden

This is how the weather has been all week long. Rain and fog and one hail storm. Few sightings of blue sky, much less of the sun. We are truly glad to see the rain, but being human, we would prefer that the rain fall at night and give us brighter days. We're just never satisfied, are we?

Our Golden Girls do not like the rain at all. They don't want to be outside in the rain. They don't like getting their coats wet. They don't like getting dried off. And they aren't that happy about hanging around the house all day. There are little bursts of activity between the sleeping sessions.

Here, they play with their favorite toy...a blue tug. Fortunately our den is large and the furniture is heavy so the girls are allowed to wrestle there.

[All these dog photos were taken by my husband.]

When they tired of playing, Ellie went to one of the large beds for a snooze. Lucy decided she wanted to share the bed, although clearly there is not enough room. She is only partly in the bed; most of her is on the floor.

Ellie moves and Lucy stretches out. I have no idea why she didn't use the other bed to begin with.

While she loves to curl up into a ball, she also likes to stretch on her back to sleep. She will lie in that position until she sneezes or her airway obstructs, much like a person with sleep apnea. It makes her awaken with a start and she looks at us as if we have made noise.

Ellie has decided that she would rather lie on the floor than have to share a bed with Lucy. There are many times when Lucy will use Ellie for a pillow. If Ellie starts to get up, Lucy will growl at her! Fortunately, Ellie pays this no mind and does what she wants.

Fall is definitely in the air with much cooler nights. The trees are beginning to turn even at this elevation. We wanted to get up to the Blue Ridge Parkway this week, but the cams showed lack of visibility due to the fog and rain. Perhaps we'll get there next week.
Whatever your weather, I hope you have a good weekend. Indulge yourself. Let the vacuuming go and read a good book, or take a long walk. Call or write a friend.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Losing Feathers

Good morning there, Mr. Cardinal. You're looking quite fine today.
"Well actually, lady, I'm not doing so well. I'm not that old, but I fear I'm turning bald already."
Gee, you look just fine to me.

"Well, take a look at my profile. Do you notice something missing?"
Oh, I see what you mean.

"Comb-overs don't work very well for birds, you know?"
That's true, but you do have a bit of topknotch left.

And you really are a beautiful bird anyway.
"Guess I'll just try to look at things head on for a while."

Sometimes that's the best thing to do anyway.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A New Community Trail

Our community has many miles of hiking trails. Some of them are steep and fairly strenuous, although none of them are as strenuous as many of the ones in nearby Pisgah National Forest. Most of our community trails would be categorized as "easy" and a few as "moderate."

We have a community Trails Group that maintains our trails, clearing branches and clearing up wash areas. They also cut new trails through the common areas. When a new trail is complete, all neighbors are invited to a "grand opening" with a guided tour. Such was the case on September 5, when the Salola Trail was officially opened.

The flyer gave some good advice for hikers: "Bring plenty of water, wear sturdy hiking boots, and a hiking stick." In this case it was a bit of overkill. The new trail is barely a mile long with a total elevation of only 170 feet. And the notice said refreshments would be served at the trail's end, along with transportation back to the car for people who preferred not to hike the trail in the opposite direction.

This is the trail's head. The group did a fine job of building steps and providing hand rails in many spots.

The trail crossed a small stream that is likely not running in dry weather. There was very little water (and lots of muck) in spite of recent rain.

The trail winds through laurel thickets and deep green forest.

The sun shines on the path in many areas.

This is the opposite end of the trail. Several people are already gathered at the trail's end.

And refreshments? How can you have a grand opening with Champaign? There were also soft drinks, water, brownies, cookies, etc.

This was an easy trail, more a walk in the woods than a hike. Yet I was surprised at the large numbers of people who took the shuttle back to their cars. Perhaps they had plans for the morning and needed to get back home.
We love hiking the trails in our community, although we won't likely use this one. It's too far from our house and is not well-suited for the dogs. The mucky creek bed along the trail would definitely be a deterrent. But the new trail tour made for an interesting morning. It's always nice to get out and meet neighbors you didn't know. And, more importantly, to support those people who get out and work for the good of the community.