Years ago we bought a Dodge Grand Caravan from our mechanic. He had bought it from a couple that we happen to know when they decided not to pay for a new transmission. Eddie put in a new transmission and then sold the van to us. At the time it had about 115,000 miles. As you can see, it now has 270,000 isn’t bad on that second transmission. That’s not to say we haven’t put more into it, of course. In fact, it’s getting pretty near the time when it’s casting too much to keep going. Pretty son we’ll need to replace it. But I’m happy t have reached this “milestone.”
We took our annual Mother’s Day outing to the garden center today for Cathy to buy the annuals that she’ll plant around our yard and garden. After a hot and clear day yesterday it was quite cool and rainy today. When we got to Fehr’s Nursery in Burtonsville we were the only customers there. Others came and went while we were there, though, and considering the weather, they were doing pretty good business. Much of what Cathy was shopping for is in their greenhouses, so the rain didn’t really affect us too much. I did what I usually do in these situations, wander around with my camera and take pictures of flowers. I was taking pictures of these flats of red-flowered begonias when Cathy happened to come by, so I got this picture of her in front of them.
Weeds are incredible. They grow so fast, are hard to get rid of, and can easily take over your yard. I’ve mentioned that last year we didn’t do a lot of gardening and the weeds got the upper hand. This spring they are coming up in force. In the big patch of lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) the Canada thistle Cirsium arvense was so thick you could barely see the lily of the valley. I spent the morning pulling it up and it looks so much better. I also dug up some pokeweed (Phytolacca americana). That’s what is photographed here, leaves and root of pokeweed (and you can see a little Canada thistle at the top). This huge root was a bit of work to get out. I’m not naive enough to believe it won’t come back from the small amount of root left in the ground, but getting this huge root out is a necessary first step.
My roses have had a rough few years. Three of them outright died in the last twelve months and I’m not entirely sure why. This one, a hybrid rugosa named ‘Roseraie De l’Hay’ lost a lot of stems but is still hanging on and has just started to bloom. The stems are relatively thin and the heavy flowers are too much for them, so they face pretty much downwards, especially after a rain. Like most rugosas, this rose has a really wonderful scent and the leaves are a beautiful green, generally untouched by any disease.
Iris was out of town and it was Seth’s birthday so we thought we would bring him dinner and have a short visit. It turned into a family dinner night, which was fine and in fact, really great. We had both of the next generation there, Silas and Kaien, so there was plenty for me to photograph. Kai, as the older cousin, is much more aware of and involved with things going on in the room. He is also talking quite a bit although I can’t say I always understand him on the first try. Silas is less involved but he is definitely becoming aware of things going on around him. With his mom not there and with only having had a short nap today, he was somewhat subdued. I think that comes through in this photo of him. He’s very good-natured and seems relaxed, at least as long as one of his parents is very close by. It’s been a lot of fun watching him grow and we’re so thankful that Iris and Seth (and Steve and Maya) are living so close.
The columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is really coming into bloom now in our garden. We have a few different varieties and I won’t swear that they are all this species (in fact I don’t think they are). But this one, I think probably is. It’s one of two that have flowers with a fuchsia or slightly purple color in their flowers. The other one is darker, almost tending towards a brownish red. It also has slightly more double white parts. They are both nice in their own way, and I’m pretty happy with this self seeding through out the garden. It doesn’t go out of control, like some self-seeders tend to do, so I don’t really mind.
In 2013 I bought some fastigiate oaks from Musser Forests (http://www.musserforests.com/). Fastigiate is from Latin and means narrowing toward the top and when applied to trees, having upright usually clustered branches. Trees that have a more narrow form are often called fastigiate and these oaks are actually named Quercus robur ‘Fastigiata’. The English oak is a pretty tree, especially when it gets large, but it can be a bit much for a suburban garden, needing a huge space to be grown to full advantage. These narrow trees, however, should do reasonably well here. They are not quite as hardy as the species but I’ve seen them growing in the district and there is a huge one only a few blocks away, so I’m hopeful. I have them growing in two parts of the yard, one on the north end of the yard and one along the back (west side). Planted in 2013, they are already more than 10 feet tall, and growing quite quickly.
Ages ago I got some seeds of Syringa meyeri, the Meyer or Korean lilac, and they grew in a wooden box for years. Then we moved here in 2006 and they remained in the box, never getting more than about a foot tall. I finally planted them in the garden and for a few years they grew larger but didn’t bloom. Last year they bloomed and this year they are larger and blooming better still. They have large leaves and the flowers are at the top in fairly large terminal clusters (panicles).
After church this morning, we met up with a friend of Margaret’s and they went off together to visit. The rest of us went for a picnic on the beach. It wasn’t particularly warm and the sky was overcast but it was nice to be outdoors. We put a blanket down on the sand and made sandwiches (because on the beach, you can eat the sandwiches there). The herring gulls (Larus argentatus) were all around and hoping for any food that might come there way. I’m afraid they didn’t get much from us.
As we drove back we stopped at Niles Beach. From there we could see Boston, just over 25 miles to the southwest. I like the atmospheric quality of this photo so thought I’d include it along with the picture above of our picnic. I also like the not quite parallel lines of waves gently rolling in and changing with the subtly changing light.
After our outing, we visited with some friends in the area and then in the evening went to the penultimate Catacombs of Dorothy’s college career. It was a really nice time and a nice way to end the weekend visit.
As mentioned in yesterday’s post, Cathy, Dot, Margaret, and I drove up to Massachusetts to see Dorothy’s senior art show, which was from 4:00 to 6:00 PM this evening. Considering school is nearly 500 miles from home, I think Dorothy had a pretty good crew of guests. Kendra and Jacob came the farthest, flying up from North Carolina. Emily and Jessica drove from Virginia and Rob and Susie drove from Maryland. Jean flew in this morning. Abba and Josh drove from Rhode Island. Of course there were a lot of her school friends there, as well. This is her piece and here’s her artist’s statement.
What makes a person? What dictates how we remember them, what we keep of them when they go away? How much of the story can we get from objects left behind, and how can our impression of that story change the trajectory of a family? We all encounter things that change us—spirits pass through and transform. To what extent do these encounters, proclivities, and transformations get passed down from parent to child?
This work explores the footprints we leave, the things we keep, and the things we throw away. We inherit traits genetically, but we receive much more from our families than genetic material. Repetitive, mythic cycles appear in family narratives, from a history of tight hip muscles, to a history of alcoholism, to a history of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Stepping past the story of the individual, our family legends can teach us about the tasks that belong to us, the roads we are to take, and the whole to which we ultimately belong.
Dorothy and Rachel, another of the senior artists, are in a creative writing class together and their final project was related to their art project. Together they put together a book which read one way had Dorothy’s writing and flipped over had Rachel’s. I think the show was a success from pretty much every perspective. I enjoyed talking with the three art professors and they all had very nice things to say about Dorothy’s work.
One problem with this picture is that it’s a little hard to get the scale. The ceiling in this room is about 12 feet high, so this is a rather large installation.
We spent most of the day on the road today, driving up to Massachusetts to visit Dorothy for the weekend and see her senior art exhibit tomorrow evening. It was four of us, Cathy, me, and our two moms (Dorothy’s grandmas). We didn’t have traffic problems to speak of until we got onto Interstate 95 around Boston. Then it took us two hours to go 25 miles. We met up with Dorothy and went to the art building where the final preparations are under way. I’ll post a picture of Dorothy’s art tomorrow. Today, here’s Dorothy pointing out an article about a woman being attacked by a beaver.
This gooseberry plant (Ribes uva-crispa) was originally put in by Albert in their yard. After he passed away, Brady said I could have it and it’s growing in the back of our garden. It blooms fairly early for a fruit bush and the fruit ripens fairly quickly. I really enjoy gooseberry jam, as I like most things of a tart nature. One thing to watch for when pruning and picking the fruit from a gooseberry bush is the thorns. They are quite sharp and vicious. There used to be a federal ban on growing gooseberry and other Ribes species but that was lifted in 1966. A few states still prohibit the growth of some or all Ribes species but they are all legally grown in Maryland.
I walked across Rt 28 today, wanting to be outdoors for a little while. On the slope leading down to a fairly large drainage pond there were little clumps of yellow flowers, most likely American wintercress (Barbarea orthoceras). I sat next to one such clump and took a handful of pictures. I thought about trying to get a photo of the swallows that were patrolling the pond and presumably helping keep the bug population under control. I didn’t really have the right equipment for that and it’s pretty tough, in any case, as they are really moving fast and are not very big. I settled for photographing this little damselfly instead.
The lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is starting to bloom. This is a great, little ground cover once it gets itself established. That can take a little while and they aren’t cheap when you buy them from the garden center a few pips at a time. They also have a tendency to “migrate” in the garden. In our back yard they are around the two smaller maple trees that we still have. Over the time we’ve been here they have expanded and died out in the central part of the bed. I wish you could make it “turn around” and head in the other direction but short of digging it up and physically turning it around, that’s not really possible.
The flowers don’t last very long but while they are blooming they are really pretty. Note that all parts of the plant are poisonous, containing cardiac glycosides, so don’t try to use them as a salad green. I don’t think that’s something I’d have thought to try anyway.
It was a beautiful day and I took the opportunity to go out and take a few pictures in the empty lot next to my office. Although we had a lot of rain this winter and early in the spring, April has been relatively drier than usual (at least that’s how if feels, I haven’t checked the actual data). Nevertheless, the drainage pond that is usually dry in the summer was about has high as it can be without the entire upper area being a bog. In a slightly higher part of the area I found quite a bit of this little corn speedwell (Veronica arvensis) growing. It’s a native to Europe and has been introduced widely in North America (according to the US Department of Agriculture, it can be found in every state except North Dakota, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s actually there, too. The blooms are quite small, only about a quarter inch across, and are a lovely blue color. As weeds go, there are worse.
Today was a long day but a good one. After church we made a quick trip to the county transfer station to unload all the sticks and brush that we had filled the back of the van with from the yard. Then we headed to Virginia for a bridal shower for Maria, the older of Jean’s two daughters. That was for Cathy and while she was there, I went to a local park and took pictures of wildflowers, mostly buttercups (Ranunculus species). I went back to pick up Cathy and spent a little while taking pictures of Maria and her friends and family.
We killed a little time and then at about 6:30 went to Truro Anglican Church in Fairfax. I had told Cathy we were doing something in the evening but she didn’t know what. After we got there, I told her it was a concert with Sara Groves, Audrey Assad, and the Robbie Seay Band in a benefit for International Justice Mission (IJM). I had told Cathy she’d be glad and she was. We had good seats and I was able to get a few pictures during the concert. As you might guess, if you think about such things, the blue lights played havoc with the white balance calculations my camera made, but I was able to get the skin tones looking about right.
In addition to the singing, we heard from a few folks associated with IJM, including a representative from the Philippines as well as a rescued former victim of modern day slavery. Their message was sobering, to say the least, so it’s hard to say we enjoyed it. But it’s an important work and we decided to participate on an ongoing basis.
Before the show, Dorothy had sent me a text saying that if I had a chance to talk with Audrey Assad I should tell her about Catacombs at Gordon and then say that she has been more of an encouragement to Dorothy and Mulley than any other single musician. Of course I didn’t really expect to get the chance. As it turned out, we were able to go to a reception after the show and I did, in fact, have a chance to talk with her. I gave her Dorothy’s message, although I’m not sure I expressed it very well. Also, because Dorothy didn’t give me any insight into how, specifically, she had been encouraged, I had to be a bit vague. I do know that Dorothy has sung some of Audrey’s songs at Catacombs.
We also had a chance to chat with Sara Groves. We’ve been fans of hers for about 20 years, since her first album came out. We saw her in concert for the first time in November, 2004. One of the pictures I took that evening was the main pictures on her Wikipedia page for quite a while. We really appreciate her song writing and her willingness to acknowledge that life can be hard, painful, and confusing. We often pretend we have it all together but most of us don’t and it’s good to say so once in a while. She was gracious enough to have a photograph taken with us (actually, she was nice enough to suggest it). This last picture wasn’t, therefore, taken by me.
Thank you, Sara, Audrey, and Robbie (and the band) for what you are doing. If you have any interest is the impossible seeming task of ending slavery, please take a look at International Justice Mission (https://www.ijm.org/).
The fireflame tulips (Tulipa acuminata) are coming into bloom. These interesting tulips are listed as species but they are not actually known in the wild and are probably some very old hybrid whose origin is lost in the mists of time. Either way, they are quite beautiful, with the pointed petals. They generally have mostly red petals with yellow towards the base but this variety, from McLure and Zimmerman, are almost entirely yellow with a little green running down the spine of the petals. Every year I wonder if they will come up and so far, they’ve not let me down.
We have foxes in our neighborhood. We also have dogs in the neighborhood, including the escape artist next door. So, you’d think we’d have fewer rabbits (i.e. Eastern Cottontail, Sylvilagus floridanus). I haven’t seen four or five at once this year, as I have some springs. I have seen three in the yard at once and it’s still early. This one startled me as I was walking around taking pictures in the rain this afternoon. I worked at home today so I was able to get out earlier than I normally do. The rain meant it was darker than normal for this time of day (3:35 PM) but I was able to get pretty close and get a reasonable shot of this fellow. Don’t tell him that Mr. McGregor is coming.
This Exbury azalea is starting to bloom. It’s been eaten back by the deer, so it’s not clear that it will ever get really big unless we are able to protect it. The flowers are quite striking, especially compared to the ubiquitous Glenn Dale azaleas that everyone has. I’ve got nothing against the Glenn Dales, mind you. But you have to admit, they have a certain sameness to them. I suppose if everyone grew Exbury or Mollis azaleas, I’d fell the same way. Or not. They really are spectacular and if you want yellows an oranges, they’re your best bet this time of year. They are deciduous, of course, so if you want leaves year round, they won’t do. But they sure make up for it in bloom.
The regular flowering cherries are pretty much finished but there are these double-flowered cherries and they still look wonderful. Not only are they a considerably stronger pink than the single variety but the flowers are much larger, measuring a few inches across. They are somewhat hard to photograph because the best views of the flowers are had looking up at them and when they are backlit by a bright sky, they tend to go quite dark. This one turned out pretty well.