Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Perfect Days

We are having perfect mountain weather.  Warm, sunny days and cool nights.  It was 48 degrees early this morning.  Great weather for dogs and for people.

I love sitting on the deck and watching the birds in this kind of weather.  It gives added value to that first cup of coffee.  We have fledglings of all sorts, flitting around and trying to make sense of this new world they share with us.  We love them all.

And while we enjoy this perfect weather, our thoughts go out to those here and abroad who are having disastrous weather.  We wish we could share this lovely mountain weather with you all.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Few Words Says All

Sometimes you don't need to go on and on.  A few simple (or complex) words can convey the message.

Recently Madeleine Albright, the first woman to be US Secretary of State appeared on a talk show speaking about the skirmishes going on in the world.  A woman of terrific knowledge and insight, summed it all up in a simple sentence.

"To put it mildly, the world is a mess."

Reba McEntire has done a video of a song she wrote.  It's worth a listen.  If you don't believe in prayer, substitute the word "hope" or "work."  Listen here

Friday, July 25, 2014

We Love Lucy

We live on a street that ends with two cul-de-sacs at the lake so it is quiet without much traffic at all.  For the past two weeks a black bear has been seen wandering the neighborhood.  My husband saw him early one morning while walking Lucy.  The bear was at the end of the cul-de-sac and paid no attention to them.  Lucy was so interested in sniffing the grass that she didn't even see the bear.

Wednesday morning Lucy and my husband were on the screened porch with his morning coffee.  He heard a sound in the woods near the house.  Lucy stood up and stiffened, her tail extended in full alert.  She did a very low "woof" several times and my husband saw the black bear slowly walking past the side of the house.  The bear glanced their way then continued meandering through the woods.

That afternoon I was visiting our next door neighbor.  She told me she had been in the kitchen making coffee that morning and saw a huge black blur on her front porch.  She grabbed her glasses and took a closer look.  It was the bear, standing on his hind legs and swinging her hummingbird feeder back and forth, letting the nectar run into his mouth.

Bears are relatively common around here but it is a bit unusual for one to linger for so long in one area.  He seems to be a rather young bear, perhaps evicted by his mother and trying to make it on his own.  While no one here leaves food (or even bird feeders) outside at night there are wild berries and other treats growing naturally.  We are not afraid of this bear but we do pay close attention in the early morning and late evening trips outside with Lucy.  We surely don't want to surprise him at the end of the driveway.

We have had some respite from the rains, thank goodness.  While we continue to have showers most evenings, the sun is bright and beautiful most of the day.  Lucy loves to lie in sunbeams.

She looks as if she is deep in thought.  Don't be fooled.
Lucy is the first dog we have had who snoozes with her head up.
She's just getting ready to close her eyes.

Here we are facing the last weekend in July.  Time is a'flyin for sure.  Too often we get so caught up in summer activities we forget to take it easy and enjoy nature.  Nineteenth century archeologist John Lubbock reminds us:

"Rest is not idleness;
And to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky is by no means a waste of time."

So take a breath and relax.  Enjoy the sights and sounds of nature and the beauty all around you.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Enough Already

We won't get up to 70 degrees today.  The wind is beating the rain on the windows.  We really have appreciated the rain last week.  We even appreciated the rain over the weekend.  But we've had enough, thank you.  Folks can't pick blackberries in the rain.  And if they can't pick them, I can't buy them.  They won't be ripe forever, you know.

Looking up and out at the rain
(Click to enlarge)

 Looking out onto the deck

It's mid-July and I'm ready for a bit more sun than we've seen so far this month.  My little herb garden doesn't like this much rain, either.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Rainy Day Birds

It's still raining here in the mountains.  And the weather is cooler than normal.  I love it.  Great for catching up on videos or books.

I have no idea how the birds feel about the rain.  They are quite active but some of them do look a bit miserable.  And the smaller the bird, the more miserable it seems to look.  A Ruby-throated Hummingbird sits on a dead branch, totally exposed to the rain.

Poor little hummingbird looks soaked and forlorn

 Wonder if this maneuver is to dry its wings

I hope this bird has a nest that is well sheltered from the rain.  The weather forecast calls for more showers and thunderstorms this evening and tonight with afternoon storms all week.  So we'll put on our raincoats and carry on.

Friday, July 18, 2014

We Love Lucy

Our Lucy just loves the cooler weather we have enjoyed this week.  She runs and runs in the crisp mornings and snoozes in the sunny afternoons.

Happy Lucy smiling as she runs

Today is rainy and I doubt we will see the sun.  But rainy days are nice too and summer is a wonderful time of year here in the mountains.

The quote this week is from architecture critic and writer Ada Louise Huxtable who won the first-ever Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.  (Did you have any idea there was a Pulitzer for criticism?)

"Summer is the time when one sheds one's tensions with one's clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit.
A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all's right with the world."

May you have days that are jeweled balm for your spirit.



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Native Magnolia

Ever take photographs for your blog and then forget all about them?  That's what I did recently with pictures of our Mountain Magnolia.   These were actually from May but I think they are well worth the view.

Mountain magnolia (magnolia fraseri) is a lovely tree native to small parts of the Appalachian Mountains.  Fortunately for us, we are within this lovely plant's range.  The lovely blossoms are huge, eight to twelve inches in diameter.  A cone-like red fruit follows the bloom.  The birds love the fruit.

The Mountain Magnolia is not generally available from nurseries but can be grown only under contract.  I have no idea why this is true.  It was named by John Fraser, famous botanist who studied extensively in the Appalachian Mountains in the last half of the  18th century.

 The trees can grow very tall, as high as 75 feet or more.

 This is the primary native area for the Mountain Magnolia.  Although there are isolated spots further north in the Appalachians.

 Photograph from Wikipedia

Once you have identified Mountain Magnolia, you will easily spot it among the trees in the forests.  It is lovely indeed.  Not as showy as the southern magnolia, typically associated with gentility of South Carolina and Georgia, it is nevertheless a wonderful tree, much appreciated by us and by the birds as well.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Big Baby Bird

Pileated Woodpeckers are among our favorite birds.  We have two pairs nesting in our woods.  Their voices still amuse us, sounding more like tropical birds than mountain birds.

A special treat for us is when the parent brings the fledgling to a tree near the suet.  After several days of feeding the little bird, the parent flies away, leaving the fledgling struggling on its own to get to the feeder.

Mother and baby
The fledgling (on the left) seems as large as the parent.

 Left alone to try its pecking skills.

We are blessed to see these wonderful birds on a daily basis.  It makes us only imagine the sight of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

Friday, July 11, 2014

We Love Lucy

What a nice week we have had.  Perfect mountain weather with cool nights and sunny days and a bright moon.  The lightning bugs are everywhere.  Unfortunately, a lot of other bugs are plentiful as well.

As regular readers know, our Lucy has two speeds.  Zero and sixty.  She loves her long walks and off-lead time in the park.  And she also loves her frequent naps in the sun.  A dog's life is good indeed.

Lucy finds the sun even on warm days.

July is whizzing past and there are 173 days remaining in 2014.

Today's quote is from naturalist and travel writer Edward Hoagland:

In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn't merely try to train him to be semi-human.  The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog.

Good advice for these hot summer days.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

New Vendors at the Festival

We find many of the same local artisans with booths at our downtown festivals.  We have several potters who display their works and sometimes demonstrate throwing pots at the booth.  Quilters and knitters are very common as well.  This year we had several vendors new to the festival.

[You may want to click to enlarge the photographs]

This potter had not previously had a booth.

 There were two booths with sweetgrass baskets and bowls.  Most people think of these as Gullah baskets from the coast in lower SC and GA.  One of the vendors was, in fact, from Charleston, SC.  But many people do not realize that we have sweetgrass along the rivers here in the mountains.  The Cherokee have made sweetgrass baskets for centuries.  We also have river cane which is stripped for baskets as well.  It seems surprising to see stands of bamboo growing along the river in the mountains.

Lovely sweetgrass baskets

 One booth featured glass birdbaths, something I've never seen before.  They would certainly add color to your yard.
 Glass birdbaths

 Not all the vendors were new.  The ubiquitous funnel cakes and sno cones were right at hand. along with many of the "fair" favorites.

It was such a nice day.  We met lots of our friends and acquaintances strolling the street or manning the booths.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Small Town Fourth

Like most towns and cities, we have an Independence Day festival downtown.  We go down to all the festivals to look at the displays and purchase from local craft vendors.  We go down early before the large crowds.  Large crowd is a relative term in small towns.  Makes us miss the children's parade, but at least it isn't crowded.  Music filled the air and the mood was as festive as the displays.

It was a beautiful day in the mountains.  Clear with just-right temperatures and low humidity.

A view down one of the streets

 I can't believe we passed up the chance to get this mystic clay that cures most ills.

 At first we thought this was for display purposes.  But then we saw the EMTs assisting a fallen vendor.
We hope the injury was minor.

 Yes, Virginia.  We do have some Democrats in Transylvania County

 The Republican Party booth is usually very crowded.  Notice the period dress.
There was no Tea Party booth this year.  I think they lent their costumes to the Republicans.

Many of the non-profit vendors were handing out free bottles of water.  I especially like the one from the Episcopal church.  The label listed the top ten reasons to become an Episcopalian.  Number ten?  "You don't have to handle rattlesnakes."

We by-passed the festival food, amazed at the number of people eating heavy greasy food so early in the morning.  We strolled along and looked at all the displays, bought a few things and were home by 11:00.  The weather remained perfect and we had a great day.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Liberty and Justice

Today we celebrate our country's birthday.  It's a day for remembering all those who sacrificed to give us the liberty and justice we enjoy today.

And so we salute them.

Today's quote is by Emma Lazarus and is the inscription on the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.