Dorothy went to camp this morning so I gave Jonathan a ride to the farm. He plans to stay there for the week and Dorothy will pick him up on Friday. While I was there I took a few pictures of this trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) growing on a post in front of their garage. This is a native honeysuckle to the southeastern United States. The flowers are not fragrant but are quite pretty, with scarlet to orangish red on the outside and yellowish inside. They are attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.
We had a rip-roaring thunderstorm this evening. We didn’t lose power although it flickered once. The lightning was near by for a while, though. It rained quite hard for a while, then rained most softly off and on for a while longer. As the sun was setting, it began to clear and the sky turned orange for a little while, mostly close to the horizon. It wasn’t the most spectacular sunset I’ve ever seen but it was very pretty for about fifteen minutes. Then the color was gone and it got dark. A nice ending to a hot, muggy day.
We have a fair amount of Verbena bonariensis growing around the yard. It’s somewhat of a weed but for the most part, we let it go, just keeping it barely within bounds. There are a few reasons for us letting it go. First, of course, is that it’s pretty on its own. I mean, the purple adds a bit of contrast to all the green in the early summer and it’s generally still in bloom when the black-eyed Susans really start to go crazy. But I think the main reason is that the American Goldfinches (Spinus tristis) really seem to like it. Usually I’ve been unable to get close enough to get even a poor photo of them before they fly away but this afternoon I got a reasonable picture showing three finches. They are such lovely birds and we enjoy watching them bounce around on the tall stems of the Verbina.
Have you seen a pictures of people with their fathers on Instagram, Facebook, or other social media outlets? They are fairly ubiquitous. I could dig out a photo of me with my dad from back in the day. Or I could post a picture of Dorothy with her father (that’s me, of course). But instead I thought I’d show you where she took me for lunch. We see these trucks around town quite often. I’m a dedicated meatitarian, of course, so they sound pretty good to me. They are based in Olney and in addition to the trucks, they serve from a counter inside the Exxon on the corner of N. High Street and Georgia Avenue. If you like corned beef (or ham, roast beef, turkey, etc.) then you could do a lot worse than having a sandwich at Corned Beef King, either from their fixed location (as we did) or from one of their trucks. Thanks, Dorothy.
Ben asked me this morning if I’d like to go with him to Baltimore to watch Will’s baseball game. They are playing in a tournament and the game was at the Johns Hopkins Babb Field at Stromberg Stadium (at the corner of West Universith Parkway and North Charles Street. They had, unfortunately, lost the first game and we got there shortly before the second game started. Will played a pretty good game, with two base hits on three at bats, scoring both times for two of the team’s three runs. This is his second hit. Unfortunately they couldn’t hold the other team and ended up losing six to three, but it was a pretty good game and it was nice to be out and about (even though it was a little warm).
It’s been a long couple days and we’re slowly beginning the process of recovering from Wednesday. Yesterday we spent much of the day with family. Today we just hung out at home most of the day but had everyone over in the evening. In the normal course of things I would have gone out to take pictures in the yard but I just didn’t feel up to it today.
We had Indian food from Bombay Bistro this evening and were together again, doing not much of anything in particular. Of course we played ‘pass the baby,’ as we do in these situations. And I took pictures.
This isn’t the best picture of Kai that I’ve taken but it’s good enough. It’s about time I got a good one of him with his dad (and I think it’s quite a good picture of Steve). There are others, of course, including pictures of the dogs, but it’s Kai-week, so here you are. I’m not saying that there won’t be pictures of Kai again coming soon, although I think tomorrow will be something else. But you never know. And I’ll get back to flowers (or better yet, insects) soon.
If you don’t like baby pictures then I suggest you look away. There may be a few of them over the next few days. After yesterday, you won’t be surprised to learn that we’ve spent a little time with family. Spending time with family generally leads to pictures of Kai. So, you shouldn’t be surprised if tomorrow’s picture is of him, too.
He’s a cute little beggar and getting cuter at a ferocious pace. He’s also making progress towards talking and crawling. On the other hand, he’s so often in someone’s arms I don’t know how he’s ever going to learn to crawl. But he will, I suspect, and then life will get more complicated for his parents (and all of us when they come over).
Ralph L. Hartley
June 10, 1958 – June 14, 2017
Life can be hard and I’m not really sure what to say about this picture. As I get older I find, not surprisingly, I suppose, that there are fewer and fewer people that have known me all my life. My parents, of course, knew me when I was first born. My grandparents, aunts, and uncles, basically, as well. But my dad is gone and so are my grandparents and many of my aunts and uncles. And now my older brother, Ralph. He was only 18 months old when I was born, but he has been there since my beginning and I have known him my entire life. Being so close together in age, we did a lot of things together, especially as kids. We fought, of course, but we played, as well. The family traveled a bunch, going out west and back a few times when we were young. Then in 1971 we moved to England, camping through much of Europe on the way. Ralph and I went to the Cambridge Grammar School for Boys that year. We explored castles and designed our own. We took another trip out west when Ralph and I were in high school, hiking down the Grand Canyon. We went to Greece for eight weeks in 1981, camping almost the whole time. Ralph only stayed for half of that but it was a really good time (and boy, did he have hair then!).
It was about that time that he met Tsai-Hong. They were married in 1982 and have had a wonderful marriage and two amazing children, now both married. In December of last year their grandson Kai was born. Late in 2015 it was clear that Ralph was ill. In January, 2016 he was diagnosed with lymphoma. In January of this year he had a bone marrow transplant and although the transplant was successful, the cancer was still there. They decided to do some traveling and went on a cruise in the Galapagos and another in southeast Alaska. Ralph was an avid and experienced caver and he took five of us into a “starter cave’ in West Virginia a few short weeks ago (see Saturday, May 06, 2017).
We all knew it was only a matter of time before he was gone but it came much more quickly than any of us expected. My mom called me early this afternoon to say that Ralph’s breathing had become labored and that I should come over. He was able to hold his precious grandson one last time before he left us, and that was so sweet.
We disagreed on many things and we fought from time to time (sometimes, particularly as kids, physically). But Ralph was the first friend I had and for most of my early life, my best friend. Some of the memories we shared were shared by no one else. I’m amazed by how rich I am in terms of friends and family. Richer than I could ever possibly expect or deserve. But, to quote something I read once, “the cultural memory of our little family has been dealt a terrible blow…. In what seems like the blink of an eye, whole volumes of institutional memory have simply vanished. And that is a terribly lonely thought, that no amount of company and condolence can ease or erase.”
UPDATE: I’ve fixed a few typos, including two years, which were wrong.
These guys, Steve, David, and Juan, (plus me and a few others from time to time) have been meeting regularly for over a year and a half (since October, 2015, I just looked it up in my journal). Mostly we meet at the church office but now and then we go out for dinner. This evening was such a time and we mat at the Old Town Pour House in Downtown Crown. The food was quite good, although I’d say it was overpriced. I had a duck Reuben and it was really tasty but $14 for a sandwich? Really? The beer was good and there is a pretty broad selection to choose from. I went with a beer called Bivalve Saison brewed by Evolution Craft Brewing Company of Salisbury, Maryland. Nice. As usual, we talked about life. That can keep us busy for a while, as you might guess.
I drove down to Lake Needwood on the way home today and stopped to take a few pictures. I followed a pair of fritillaries for a while and got a few half decent pictures. I also went after a great blue heron but wasn’t able to get anything worth while there. This is a great spangled fritillary and apparently there are at least 7 subspecies (and depending on who you ask, more than that). I naively assumed they were distinguished by variations in the patterns on their wings but apparently they are identified by distribution. Who knew? This was identified by the good people of BugGuide.net as subspecies S. c. cybele. Note: the red in the background is my car. I tried to get pictures without that but for this one, which turned out the best of the butterfly, it was unavoidable. Oh, well.
Actually, after church these kids do help put things away. They put all the Sunday School and Nursery things back into the bins, they load those bins onto carts and bring them all to the storage area, where they get stacked (that part is generally done by an adult). Meanwhile, other things (generally larger, heavier, and more delicate things) are being put away, like the sound equipment. Some of the older kids help with that, as well, putting the music and microphone stands into the carrying bag. All in all, it’s a pretty well run process (as long as no one is away that week).
Today, after everything was put away, someone (and I don’t know who) decided to give the kids a ride. They came into the room and I told them to wait while I got my camera and took a few quick pictures. I also took some pictures of clematis blooming outside, but pictures of flowers are a dime a dozen.
We went up to the Farm today and everyone was there, which was great. I took what some might consider a lot of pictures and baby Kai was in his fair share of them. There are a bunch of Kai with grandpa Ralph and that’s what we have here. It isn’t the best angle for seeing their faces but if I went to one side or the other I’d get the back of one head. I got a bunch that I think are good but decided to go with this one, which I like pretty well.
Look who we had breakfast with this morning! If you know who these people are, then I suspect you’re jealous. If you don’t know who they are then you want to. Well, you may not know that you want to but you do.
It’s hard to believe how much Brandon has grown since we saw him last, which was about two years ago (two days short of two years, to be precise). He was very good to sit with us as we talked with his mom for over an hour (closer to two). We did talk to him a little and when I asked what his favorite classes are in school he said math, science, and history. Actually, he named all his classes except English. And he likes to read, so that’s not so far behind. When I asked what he likes to read, he said fiction and non-fiction. Well, that just about covers it.
Kristine caught us up on the goings on with Brandon’s four older sisters. Never a dull moment for Kristine and Bill. Sorry, Bill, that it’s been so long since we’ve seen you. We’d love to have breakfast with you, if you ever came to town. Just let us know. And of course we caught Kristine up on what’s happening with us. We could have talked for hours more but I did have to get to work (what a hassle!). Maybe Cathy and I can go visit them sometime, before too long.
As I drove into the parking lot at work this morning I saw out of the corner of my eye that there was a heron on the pond between my building and the rest of the campus. Before I went inside, then, I decided to see if I could get a picture or two. I happened to have my 75-300mm lens this morning, so I was able to get a few reasonable shots. It let me take them, continuing to fish for a little while (I even got pictures of it with a fish in its beak). Then if flew away and I was able to snap one picture as it headed off. It is not as sharp as I’d like and I’d prefer a background that is more different to the color of the bird, but I’m fairly pleased with the composition overall.
As I’ve mentioned, Cathy bought a bunch of annuals to go in containers and in a few locations around the house. One that she often gets is sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima), a pretty little thing with masses of small (7 or 8mm) flowers. This variety has a purple tint and it really lovely. I think they are particularly nice up close. On the other hand, I think a lot of things are interesting up close, which is why a significant proportion of my photography is of small things, viewed up close. Anyway, I hope you enjoy these little flowers.
I went out into the woods next to my building today. There wasn’t a lot that I decided to photograph. Mostly I took pictures of the sun shining through leaves. I love leaves (and I’m frond of ferns) and especially like looking at them with light shining through them. This is a leaf of a tulip poplar, or tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) and it has large leaves of a unique and easily distinguished shape. While you can easily identify dogwood by its bark, the tulip tree is identified by its leaves.
This comes up all around our yard. It isn’t so invasive that it cannot be kept under control by judicious pulling and it certainly adds a bit of interest during a time when there isn’t a huge amount in bloom. The early spring flowers are done and the summer flowers haven’t really gotten going yet. There are Asiatic lilies blooming and the day lilies will be starting pretty soon. The Verbena bonariensis has started but the black-eyed Susans are still a good way off. Feverfew doesn’t have the most striking flowers around but they are certainly pretty enough. And there are plenty of them.
I sat on the patio for a while this afternoon, just enjoying being in the sun. It was actually a little hot for my taste, but still nice for all of that. Also, the light is better for macro photography in the sun, when you want as much depth of field and as fast a shutter speed as possible. I was watching the insects around the potted flowers on the patio and got a few pictures of this skipper (family Hesperiidae) on a coreopsis (a.k.a. tickseed) flower. The insects aren’t around it the huge numbers we’ll have in a few weeks, particularly when the mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) starts to bloom, but they are certainly here and I really enjoy them.
Ralph told me that the other day he noticed a vulture perched on the kids old jungle gym in his back yard. Later he noticed more had gathered. At first he wondered if some animal had died and attracted them. But no, that’s not what it was. It was this plant, a dragon arum, (Dracunculus vulgaris, formerly called Arum dracunculus), a native of the central and eastern Mediterranean. This plant attracts pollinators by mimicking the smell of rotting meat. It does a good job and fooled the turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) which find dead animals primarily with their highly developed sense of smell. Black vultures (Coragyps atratus) find food primarily by sight and by following turkey vultures.
On the Missouri Botanical Garden’s page about Dracunculus vulgaris it says,
Avoid planting this perennial near windows, doors, sidewalks or other frequently populated areas where the brief but overpowering odor from the spadices will be found objectionable.
I was out in the yard taking pictures this evening and after taking a few of the rose I just posted, I noticed that there were a lot of little insects moving around in the grass. When I say little, I’m talking about insects in the 2 to 3mm range. As I walked around, they leapt away from me. I got down on the ground but when they were not moving, they were hard to find. What I did find, however, was this exuviae, the exoskeleton of some small insect that left it behind on a blade of grass. It’s about 5mm long and appears to be from some sort of grasshopper or cricket. The word exuviae is Latin and means ‘things stripped from a body.’