Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)

Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)

Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)

We walked on a section of Muddy Branch trail today that we hadn’t been on before. We went roughly 1.8 miles each way and enjoyed being outdoors. We saw a few belted kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon) and there were lots of small songbirds in any thicket we passed. There were a few places with standing water and a few of them had a skunk cabbage plants (Symplocarpus foetidus) growing in them. It’s one a small number of thermogenic plants, which produce heat by chemical reaction and raise their temperature above that of the surrounding environment. Pretty cool.

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Juniper Leaves and Berries

Juniper Leaves and Berries

Juniper Leaves and Berries

One of my favorite color combinations is the blue of juniper berries and the green of their leaves. I especially like it on an overcast day, when the colors are more vivid. Either color on its own is attractive and in the running for a favorite color, but the combination is especially nice.

Cathy, Dorothy, and I went for a walk on the Blue Mash Trail this afternoon and that’s where this photo was taken. As usual, it was nice to be out in the woods and meadows for a while and we always have plenty to talk about.

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Sandy Spring

Sandy Spring

Sandy Spring

We went out for a walk this morning, going somewhere new, but it turned out that W.S.S.C. property requires a paid permit. The signage was very ambiguous, giving regulations for walking on the trails but then with big “No Trespassing” signs, but without an explanation of what constitutes trespassing. We decided to walk to Sandy Spring and enjoyed the walk very much. There is a champion white ash (Fraxinus americana) on the route, as well, which is a very handsome tree. There were other people out but no so many that it really affected our walk. The last time we came here we walked from Woodlawn Manor on the Underground Railroad Trail.

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Sunrise

Sunrise

Sunrise

Long weekends are nice. Our company only started giving us Martin Luther King, Jr. Day off last year so it’s something we’re still getting used to, but of course we’ll take it. I slept in this morning until about 7:00 AM and then stayed in bed awake until I noticed the color in the sky. Considering our bedroom windows face west, that suggested there was some good color in the east, as well. So, I got up and grabbed my camera and went out front to get a few pictures before the color faded. This is actually a bit darker than it was, so not necessarily an accurate representation of what I was seeing, but it’s pretty.

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Our New Roof

Our New Roof

Our New Roof

The roofers finished late enough yesterday that it was a bit dark to get a good photo of the front of our house, which faces eash-northeast in any case. So, here’s a photo of the front of our house taken this morning and without anything in the driveway. Getting a new roof is one of those things you don’t notice unless you’re specifically looking for it. Or I suppose if the old roof was leaking and now it’s dry inside when it rains. But when we bought the house the inspector told us the roof was pretty warn and we should plan on replacing it pretty soon. Soon became 14 years, but we beat the odds and haven’t had any significant problems. And now we should be good for a long while.

I compared this photo to one taken when we bought the house and the two holly trees, one by the driveway and the other at the left corner of the house, are much larger than they were then. Otherwise, the house doesn’t really look at that different.

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Roofer Madness, Day Two

Roofer Madness, Day Two

Roofer Madness, Day Two

Continuing with our ongoing roof replacement, the contractors were back this morning to handle the “bump” and the garage. Some of the houses in the neighborhood have a one story piece between the main part of the house and the garage and others—like ours— have a two story section. We call the two-story version a “bump”. Anyway, the roofing went on that and the garage today. The garage roof needed more repairs to the plywood but the joists were sound, anyway. Once they finished they spent quite a while on clean up. There’s a fair amount of debris, although they put drop cloths down, it didn’t catch everything. They also went around with a magnet picking up nails and staples. Tomorrow I’ll show you the finished product.

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Roofer Madness, Day One

Roofer Madness, Day One

Roofer Madness, Day One

As mentioned yesterday, we are having our roof replaced. The materials were delivered yesterday and the crew showed up this morning and got to work. Of course, getting the old roofing material off is a big part of the job and we had two layers of shingles that had to be removed. The plywood on the front half of the roof was in pretty good shape although there were a couple places on the back that needed to be repaired with new plywood. We also had them remove the chimney from our furnace, which is no longer being used, so that’s one less opening in the shingles to worry about going forward. It’s a noisy business, especially when they are tacking down the underlayment. Then they start up their compressor for their nail guns and it’s blam, blam, blam, for the rest of the afternoon.

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New Roof Rising

Roofing Materials Being Delivered

Roofing Materials Being Delivered

The kid in me still loves big trucks and heavy machinery. Put a crane on a truck and lift pallets of shingles onto a roof, and I’ll watch. Needless to say, I enjoyed the process of preparing for our roof to be replace tomorrow. The truck needed a surprising amount of space, because it has seriously long outriggers so they can reach the crane out to the side as far as this, positioning the materials as close as possible to where they will be needed. We had work done on our chimney in December, so we’re all set to have the roof replaced now.

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Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

We went to the Tridelphia Reservoir this afternoon to two different parking areas and walked out and back along trails from both. The first wasn’t as nice as we had hoped, although we saw two types of clubmoss, Diphasiastrum digitatum (fan clubmoss) and Dendrolycopodium obscurum (ground pine). The walk from the second parking area was really nice. It was an easy walk except for a few places where there was mud on the trail but it wasn’t hard to get around. We were about to turn around when Cathy spotted this great blue heron (Ardea herodias), who let us get quite close. We just stood and watched it for quite a while.

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Burke Lake

Burke Lake

Burke Lake

We met our good friend Jean at Burke Lake this afternoon. We’ve never been there before but it was quite nice. There were a lot of folks there but we walked along the shore on a trail that was less used and it was very nice. The wind coming across the lake was fairly cool but the sun was shining and there were birds and it was lovely. Of course the main thing was seeing Jean, and that would have been nice anywhere, but it’s always better to be outdoors, if you can (unless the weather is really nasty, and then it’s great to be somewhere cozy, instead).

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Sunset

Sunset

Sunset

After saying I was going to stop taking a photo a day, I actually went two more days taking pictures. After this one, there will be a gap before the next photo was taken. The timing was good, because I threw may back out on the morning of January 3 (writing this after the fact) and getting pictures every day this week would have been hard. So, we’ll end the streak of consecutive days at 10 years plus five days—three before I officially started and two after I officially ended. But as promised, photos will be posted when I do take them.

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Rain

Rain

Rain

It was a rainy day today, a quiet way to usher in the new year. In spite of the rain, though, we wanted to get outdoors. We went to a small park owned by the Isaak Walton League and walked around their pond and into the woods for a while. There were hooded mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) on the pond and I got a few photos of them, good enough to identify them conclusively but not really that great. One of these days I’ll get a long lens but today is not that day. We also saw a hawk of some kind, which flew away from us in the woods. We’ll probably come back here in the spring or at least when it isn’t raining.

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Ten Years

Cathy

Cathy

For Christmas, 2010, Cathy gave me a new camera. It was a Canon 60D to replace the 10D that I had been using since 2003. On January 1, 2010 I decided to try my hand at something a co-worker had been doing. It was called Project 365 and the idea was to take at least one photo each day for a year. I posted those photos on Facebook and managed to establish a (very) small but loyal following. At the end of the year I set up this blog and continued taking at least one photo a day. I’ve been doing that for ten years now and I think that’s a pretty good accomplishment.

I have decided that as of today, I will no longer be taking a photo a day. I still expect to take my camera with me when I’m out and I still plan to take pictures, just without the pressure. I figure 3,652 consecutive days and over 180,000 photos is enough. So, some days there will be photos and other days there won’t. To my small but loyal band of followers, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you all.

The first photo in this project (see Saturday, January 1, 2011) was of Cathy and I thought it appropriate that I end ten years with another of her. Yes, we’ve both aged a bit in ten years, but we’re still here. God bless you all.

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My 2020 Reading

My 2020 Reading

My 2020 Reading

This year was something of a landmark for me in terms of reading. For a while now I’ve been trying to read some of the books that I should have read in high school or college (or perhaps that I should have been supposed to read, if you follow me). Over the last dozen years or so, I’ve gotten through a significant number, including fiction by Austen, Bronte, Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Dufoe, Hardy, Melville, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, and Zola, to name but a few. I’ve read some of the classics, including Greek and Roman historians, playwrights, and philosophers and some significant modern non-fiction, as well. Late last year, though, I decided to step it up a notch. My goal was to read 26 books with some significant number of them being big, important or serious books. As it turns out—and no one is more surprised than I am—I aimed low.

My 2020 Reading

My 2020 Reading

All the books I read this year are pictured here. Some of them are short and very easy to read, but a few of them are what Dorothy and I have taken to calling “Lifetime Achievement Books.” Specifically, the three volumes of The Gulag Archipelago (weighing in at a combined 1,818 pages), Moby Dick (‘only’ 459 pages but seriously, get to the whale already!), The History of the Peloponnesian War (574 pages), The Tale of Genji (1,139 pages), and War and Peace (1,136 pages).

In case you cannot make out the titles in the photo, here is the full list of books read in 2020 in the order I read them. Overall, I’ve enjoyed much of what I read. Some were not so much enjoyable as worthwhile. For instance, The Gulag Archipelago is not light or enjoyable, but it’s important. I think it should be required reading. Obviously Jack London, the Narnia books by Lewis, and a few others are on the other end of the difficulty spectrum and provided some needed rest.

  1. Anna Karenin, 1878, by Leo Tolstoy (September 9, 1828 – November 20, 1910). I actually started this on December 23, 2019, so only a third or so was read this year.
  2. The Gulag Archipelago: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, Volume 1, English translation published in 1974, by Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn (December 11, 1918 – August 3, 2008), translated by Thomas Whitney.
  3. Brideshead Revisited, 1945, by Evelyn Waugh (October 28, 1903 – April 10, 1966).
  4. Moby Dick, 1851, by Herman Melville (August 1, 1819 – September 28, 1891).
  5. Silas Marner, 1864, by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans, November 22, 1819 – December 22, 1880).
  6. The Man With The Gash, 1901, short stories by Jack London (January 12, 1876 – November 22, 1916).
  7. In Parenthesis, 1937, by David Jones (November 1, 1895 – October 28, 1974).
  8. Tristram Shandy, between 1759 and 1767, by Laurence Sterne (November 24, 1713 – March 18, 1768).
  9. Beowulf: A New Verse Translation, 8th century, translated in 1999, by Seamus Heaney (April 13, 1939 – August 30, 2013).
  10. The Republic, 375 BC, by Plato (c. 425 – c. 347 BC).
  11. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, 1818, by Mary Shelley (August 30, 1797 – February 1, 1851).
  12. Confessions, AD 397, by Augustine of Hippo (November 13, 354 – August 28, 430 AD).
  13. The Jugurthine War, 44 BC, by the Roman historian and politician Sallust (Gaius Sallustius Crispus, 86 – circa 35 BC).
  14. Macbeth, around 1606, by William Shakespeare (c. April 26, 1564 – April 23, 1616).
  15. The Tale of Genji, early 11th century, by Lady Murasaki, a Japanese noblewoman and lady-in-waiting who lived from somewhere in the AD 970s to probably around 1030.
  16. Recovering Eden: The Gospel According to Ecclesiastes, 2014, by Zack Eswine (born 1969).
  17. The Hobbit, 1937, by J. R. R. Tolkien (January 3, 1892 – September 2, 1973).
  18. The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, AD 121, by Suetonius (Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, c. AD 69 – sometime after 122).
  19. The Canterbury Tales, between 1387 and 1400, by Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340s – October 25, 1400).
  20. The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence (c. 1614 – February 12, 1691), compiled by Father Joseph de Beaufort around 1692.
  21. The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, 1647, by John Owen (1616 – August 24, 1683).
  22. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865, by Lewis Carroll, a.k.a. C. L. Dodgson (January 27, 1832 – January 14, 1898).
  23. The Consolation of Philosophy, AD 524, by Boethius (Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius, c. AD 477 – 524).
  24. The History, between AD 100 and 110, by Tacitus (c. AD 56 – sometime after 117).
  25. The History of the Kings of Britain, 1136, by Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. 1095 – c. 1155).
  26. Five Dialogues, 5th or 4th centuries, BC, by Plato.
  27. The History of the Peloponnesian War, circa 400 BC, by Thucydides (c. 460 – c. 400 BC), published as The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War War, 1996, by Robert B. Strassler.
  28. The Magician’s Nephew, 1955, by C. S. Lewis (November 29, 1898 – November 22, 1963).
  29. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, 1950, by C. S. Lewis.
  30. The Horse and His Boy, 1954, by C. S. Lewis.
  31. Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia, 1951, by C. S. Lewis.
  32. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, 1952, by C. S. Lewis.
  33. The Silver Chair, 1953, by C. S. Lewis.
  34. The Last Battle, 1956, by C. S. Lewis.
  35. The Fire Next Time , 1963, by James Baldwin (August 2, 1924 – December 1, 1987).
  36. Nicomachean Ethics, 4th century BC, by Aristotle (384 – 322 BC).
  37. The Hiding Place, 1971, by Corrie ten Boom (April 15, 1892 – April 15, 1983).
  38. Purgatory, 1308, by Dante Alighieri (c. 1265 – 1321), translated by Dorothy L. Sayers, (June 13, 1893 – December 17, 1957). I read the first portion of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Inferno, in late 2015.
  39. War and Peace, 1869, by Leo Tolstoy.
  40. The House of The Seven Gables, 1851, by Nathaniel Hawthorne (July 4, 1804 – May 19, 1864).
  41. The Epic of Gilgamesh, possibly 18th century BC.
  42. Paradise, 1321, by Dante Alighieri, translated by Dorothy Sayers and Barbara Reynolds (June 13, 1914 – April 29, 2015).
  43. Roumeli: Travels in Northern Greece, 1966, by Patrick Leigh Fermor (February 11, 1915 – June 10, 2011).
  44. The Mill on the Floss, 1860, by George Eliot.
  45. King John, 1595, by William Shakespeare.
  46. Lord Jim, 1900, by Joseph Conrad (December 3, 1857 – August 3, 1924).
  47. Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese, 1959, by Patrick Leigh Fermor.
  48. Beat to Quarters, 1937, originally published in England as The Happy Return, by C. S. Forester (August 27, 1899 – April 2, 1966).
  49. The Gulag Archipelago: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, Volume 2, 1974, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
  50. Cybernetics, 1948, by Norbert Wiener (November 26, 1894 – March 18, 1964).
  51. The Problem of Pain, 1940, by C. S. Lewis.
  52. The Gulag Archipelago: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, Volume 3, 1974, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
  53. Rumours of War, 2004, by Allan Mallinson (6 February 1949 – ).
  54. The Early History of Rome, 29 to 27 BC, by Livy (59 BC – AD 17). Books 1 through 5 of Livy’s 142 volume History of Rome, which cover the period from the founding of Rome to 386 BC.
  55. The Old Man And The Sea, 1952, by Ernest Hemingway (July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961).
  56. Out of Africa, 1937, by Isak Dinesen (a.k.a. Karen Blixen, April 17, 1885 – September 7, 1962).
  57. Under The Greenwood Tree, 1872, by Thomas Hardy (June 2, 1840 – January 11, 1928).
  58. Crime and Punishment, 1866, by Fyodor Dostoevsky (November 11, 1821 – February 9, 1881).
  59. A History of My Times (Hellenica), 4th Century BC, by Xenophon (c. 430 – 354 BC).
  60. Smith of Wooton Manor and Farmer Giles of Ham, published in 1967 and 1949, respectively, by J. R. R. Tolkien.
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Deer In The Yard

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

Cathy called me from the basement this morning as I was finishing up my breakfast. She had looked out the back window and seen these two white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) that appear to have spent the night in the pachysandra at the back of our garden. I took a few photos from inside through our not-so-clean windows and then risked opening the kitchen door to see if I could get any without the extra glass in the way. They looked at me as I opened the door and continued as I walked out onto the patio. They didn’t actually get up until I moved out into the lawn and even then they didn’t seem too concerned.

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Stuff

Stuff

Stuff

This is the top of a small hutch in our dining room. Most of the things on the shelf have appeared on the blog at one time or another but I thought I’d post a photo of the whole collection (or this shelf’s worth, anyway). On the right is a nurse that my grandmother made the clothes for and that was in a store window during the war as part of a display about collecting for the community. In front of her are three matryoshka sets including a traditional one on the left, one with Russian political figures in the middle (that’s Leonid Brezhnev), and a east Asian one on the right. The wine bottle was found in what is now the ghost town where my grandfather was born. Next to that is a figurine that Cathy got from her family of a baby sucking on its thumb.

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Genna and Dorothy

Genna and Dorothy

Genna and Dorothy

Dorothy and a few of her friends are flying to Florida to visit another friend for a few days. When they get back they will quarantine together for two weeks. Three of the friends came over this evening to spend the night here so I could take them to the airport early in the morning. While we were all talking I asked if I could take a few photos. This is Genna, one of Dorothy’s housemates and friends. Lydia and Tony also came but didn’t make it in time for the photo.

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Winter

Black-eyed Susan Seeds

Black-eyed Susan Seeds

As we pass through the darkest days of the year, it’s good to remember the brighter times that are coming. In the summer, the yard was filled with colors, green, yellow, pink, red, and purple. In the winter most things are brown or grey. But the cycle repeats. The brown seeds grown into green plants that bloom in all the colors of the rainbow. But even the browns can be pretty. I wondered around the yard this afternoon and took a handful of photos, including this of black-eyed Susan seed heads. In a surprisingly short time, the yard will be in bloom again.

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C&O Canal

C&O Canal, between Violets Lock to Blockhouse Point

C&O Canal, between Violets Lock to Blockhouse Point

Cathy, Dorothy, and I went to Violet’s Lock on the C&O Canal today and walked south past Blockhouse Point. The river was fairly high and very wild looking. It was fairly cold and there were icicles hanging from the rocks on the other side of the canal. We happened to see two adult bald eagles in a tree about where we turned around and then saw two more eagles—one adult and one juvenile—flying overhead. I took quite a few photos and enjoy this one quite a bit. It was a pretty day and nice to be out, although also nice to get warm again afterwards (not that I wore a heavy coat, mind you).

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Post Christmas

Post Christmas Gift Wrap

Post Christmas Gift Wrap

At Cathy’s parents house, there was a step down to get to their front door. As packages were unwrapped, the scrunched up paper was thrown into that area. Generally at least one photo would be taken of that pile of paper, often with a child, a dog, or even a parrot hiding in with the papers. We don’t have as good a spot for that and there really wasn’t enough wrapping paper this year to justify trying. Nevertheless, in honor of that tradition, I’m posting this photo of a bag full of balled up wrapping paper. Happy Christmas, everyone.

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