Some of the men from Cross Community Church went camping, up at my family’s place in Pennsylvania. We had a nice time around the fire on Friday night after a great dinner of burgers and hot dogs. Of the ten people there that evening, there were four Bens (although one of them goes by Will). Two of them are in this picture, Ben and Ben on the left, with Marc on the right. We stayed up talking until about midnight. What a way to spend a cool, spring Friday evening. It doesn’t get much better.
Monthly Archives: May 2015
As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I went camping with some of the guys from church. When Ben (our pastor) suggested a camping trip, I mentioned that our family owns some property in Pennsylvania and it might be a good place to go. While talking about the place, I mentioned something about my niece planning to have her wedding there next year and that there was some work that needed to be done. He thought it would be great to have the guys do a bit of bush whacking. We cleared the brush growing on the inside slope of the dam around the pond as far as the overflow pipe (about half way around).
I didn’t work as hard as some of the younger guys (or as hard as the one guy there who is older than me, for that matter). Mostly I dragged the cut brush down the dam and into the woods. I also took a few breaks to take pictures, both of the guys working and of the flowers growing on the dam. While I was photographing the bluets in the first picture here, a small insect came to visit them. At first I thought it was something related to the sphinx moths but after doing a little searching I believe instead that it is a bee fly (Family Bombyliidae). Anyway, pretty neat.
After the work on the dam, cutting brush including trees with trunks up to about three inches in diameter, we did a bit of shooting. We had in our number a former county police officer as well as a few gun enthusiasts. We had a gun safety talk and then we shot the heck out of a few targets. I’m happy to say that no one was hurt, although the ground behind the targets was a bit torn up. The photo I have posted here of yours truly was taken by Joel, one of my fellow campers (thanks, Joel!). Yes, that’s one of the hated (and also much loved) AR-15s you hear so much about. I found it to be quite easily handled, much lighter and less kick than my .35 Remington, which has a significantly larger cartridge. In addition to the rifle, I also fired three handguns, a Glock .40 caliber a Glock 9mm and a Ruger .22 long. I quite enjoyed myself. Our neighbors (about a half mile away) came to see what the fuss was all about, but once they saw it was nothing untoward and it was me, not some local kids, they left us in peace (or whatever, but this clearly isn’t Maryland).
While the shooting was going on, there was some serious meat being cooked over the fire. David had brought two boneless rib roasts, which he put on a spit and wrapped with bacon. They cooked for about two hours and where between medium rare and medium when they were taken off. I have to say that while there are not many pieces of meat that I don’t enjoy, a good piece of rib cooked over an open fire is about as good as it gets. This meat was about as close to perfection as you are likely to find.
When the shooting, with its significant noise, was finished and our delicious lunch was consumed, some folks packed up for the day and headed home. It was early enough, though, and Andy and his son wanted to do a little more fishing. So, those who were still there spent a much quieter hour or so pulling bluegills (Lepomis macrochirus) out of the pond. I think their chances of catching bass would have been increased with spinners rather than worms but I don’t think it made much difference to Ethan. What he caught was much less important than that he caught something. We weren’t catching breakfast, so the fact that everything was too small to eat didn’t matter. Also, the guns and their noise had made him a little nervous but the time we spent fishing in the quiet, afternoon sun was just the thing to help him relax again. I have to admit that even though I enjoyed the shooting and would do it again, I’m more likely to head out with a rod and reel for some solitude.
All in all, it was a great time. I haven’t known any of these guys for more than about five months and this weekend helped me to get to know them and them me. We need to do this again.
Most of the early spring bulbs are finished. The last of the daffodils, even those which bloomed later than normal, are finished and turning brown. Tulips used in roadside beds throughout the area are done and ready to be replaced. There are a few in our front garden, however, that are still blooming. This is Tulipa acuminata ‘Fireflame Tulip’. The description on McClure and Zimmerman (http://www.mzbulb.com, where I bought them) says they are “scarlet and yellow with long, curiously twisted petals.” As you can see, mine is pure yellow. I don’t mind, though. It is still quite striking. They also say that “although classified as a species, it’s not known in the wild and is probably an ancient hybrid of garden origin.” I don’t mind that, either. It blooms considerably later than the other tulips I have and I like that about it. They are planted among some later-blooming daffodils, which probably isn’t the best idea, because they are somewhat hidden because of that. But they come back year after year, which is somewhat unusual for tulips, which are generally quite short-lived.
Digital cameras are quite amazing in their ability to capture images electronically. Film was quite amazing in its day, as well, and it still pretty cool. But digital cameras have surpassed film in many ways, not the least of which is the amount of detail that can be recorded and the range of colors and brightness levels (the dynamic range) that can be captured. Nevertheless, they are not perfect. There are still colors that are so saturated that camera sensors cannot easily capture them in all their beauty. Usually such extremes of color are artificial, but flowers are a notable exception. These azalea flowers are such a bright, intense pink-red that my camera cannot easily handle them. The photograph does a reasonable job of capturing them, but the result is not as intense as the original.
For quite a while now I’ve wanted to get to one of Lexi’s lacrosse games. It’s hard because they are usually early enough in the day that I have to leave work a little early. They are also in Virginia, making traffic a real issue. When she told me that her last high school game would be today, I decided I’d do what it took to get there. The fact that there was a significant rain delay helped me get there before the game started, even though it was about 35 miles out interstate 66 in Virginia. The game went better then expected and Lexi scored (I think) 9 of the team’s 13 goals in their 13 to 12 victory. Of course, winning meant that this wasn’t their last game, but that’s the way these things work. In any case I had a great time and got a few half decent photos, including this one.
It was a drizzly afternoon and the ground was pretty wet when I got home but I went out to take pictures anyway. I wanted to get pictures of the bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) before it finished blooming but that meant getting down close to the ground (and when I say close, I mean lying down). Well, I didn’t feel up to going out this evening so didn’t have anywhere to go, so it didn’t make much difference if my clothes got a bit dirty. I took a bunch of pictures of the bleeding heart as well as some fern fiddle heads coming up nearby.
It was a beautiful morning today and as I went out to head to work, I paused to appreciate the blooms on the pink dogwood against the front of our house. That tree is much too close to the house to be left alone for the long term and I’ve planted a camellia to take its place. But until the camellia gets a bit larger, I’ll leave the dogwood there. I to love pink dogwoods and will probably plant another to replace this one, somewhere more appropriate. This picture is brought to you by the notion that you need to look up and look down, not just straight ahead. The pink of the flowers, the bright green of the leaves and the beautiful cerulean sky make quite a picture, I think, easily missed if you are simply watching where you are going.
Cathy called me today from Home Depot asking if I wanted her to buy this Exbury azalea. I’ve been meaning to get a few of these for the yard and this one was reasonably priced and it good shape, so I said yes. What is an Exbury azalea, you might ask? They have a fairly complicated makeup and many of the early records don’t exist. But in the late 18th century, hybrids were made between North American azalea species Rhododendron calendulaceum, nudiflorum, arborescens, and viscosum, and the bright yellow flowered, European R. luteum, producing what are generally referred to as Ghent azaleas. The addition of R. molle and japonicum took the azaleas to the next stage, the Mollis and then R. occidentale was added, giving us the Knaphill azaleas. Starting in the 1920s Lionel de Rothschild made hundreds of thousands of hybrids and brought us the Exbury azalea. Well, that’s a rather simplified history. You can read more here: http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JARS/v40n1/v40n1-cash1.htm.
Albert, Brady, mom, and I went for a nice bird watching walk this morning at Martin Luther King Recreational Park in Silver Spring. We went there for a reason, it wasn’t just random. It’s a good place to see Baltimore orioles. The birds, not the baseball players. We saw quite a few although getting good photographs of them is not all that easy. First, they tend to stay up towards the tops of trees so usually you’re looking up at them through all the leaves. It’s made harder by the fact that I really don’t have a suitable lens for the job. In addition to the orioles, we saw 25 other species of bird. My pictures of an eastern kingbird actually turned out pretty well, but I’m going with this oriole picture, anyway.
One of my favorite little flowers are the pretty little bells on the lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis). We had a fair amount of this at our old house and brought a bunch with us in pots when we moved. Turns out there was quite a bit already growing in the back garden of our new house. We’ve planted most of what was in pots but this is a rectangular container that is still sitting on our patio. Getting pictures of lily of the valley means getting down on the ground because you generally need to look up at it to see it at its best. Being in a container actually helps here, because the plant’s “ground level” is a few inches higher than actual ground level. After I took this, I looked up to see Cathy and Dorothy at the kitchen door taking pictures of me lying on the patio taking this picture. Seems worth the effort to me. I hope you agree.
The chives are in bloom on the back patio. I love chives and all things onion. One thing I like to do with chives, though, is pick the light purple flower heads off and chop them up to sprinkle over whatever I’m cooking. They give a very mild onion flavor but also add visual appeal. Of course, you can also chop up the leaves into tiny little wheels and the flavor is about the same but purple is more fun than green, when it comes to condiments on food.
I went out into the back garden to take a few pictures this afternoon. I started with some deep, orange Coreopsis that has just started to bloom. From there I moved to one of the many Columbine (Aquilegia) plants that have come up from seed from the few that we brought with us to this house in 2006. I was lying on my back, looking up into the flowers when I saw this spider, an orchard orbweaver (Leucauge venusta) one one of them. I got as close as my lens would take me and this is the result. Count me a big fan of spiders, particularly spiders in the garden, where they aren’t under foot and where they eat insects. This is one of my favorites.
We have a couple dogwood trees in our yard but I’m doubtful if any of them were actually planted by the previous owners. They all have the look and the positioning of trees that just happened to grow and were left alone. This one is actually in a convenient and suitable place so I’m happy to have it. The others are either dying or in a bad place and I’ll get rid of them once I have something appropriate with which to replace them. It’s gotten hot again and the dogwood is done blooming. The flowers are all gone on the pink dogwood up against the house and the flowers on this one are turning brown and the petals will drop in a day or two. But more things are coming into bloom every day. This is a busy time or year. Nevertheless, sometimes we have to look at what was and remember its beauty. There is a certain elegance to something beautiful that has passed its time. People are like that, as well. We crave youth and youthful beauty, but there is an elegance in some who grow old gracefully and lovingly. I wish I could be one of those people.
Among local invasive species, this has to be near the top of the list. It is very prolific. It does have the redeeming feature of pretty flowers in the spring and later will be covered by red berries, but it’s something you want to keep out of your yard, if you can. This is along the side of the parking lot at work and there is a lot of it there, both around the drainage pond and in the woods. I’m sure the insects love it, of course it isn’t like it is consciously destructive. It simply lives where it is planted.
Note: I originally had this marked as Lonicera japonica, Japanese honeysuckle but I was just posting without thinking. This is Lonicera maackii, Amur or bush honeysuckle. The text about it being a pest didn’t need to be modified much.
One of our roses, a rugosa named Roseraie de L’Hay, has started to bloom. It’s a fairly large shrub, 8 or so feet tall and about as much across. It has blooms throughout the summer but in late spring (i.e., right about now) it has it’s best showing. The flowers are a rich, crimson-purple and are double, with a wonderful and very strong fragrance. The only downside to the plant is that it’s so big and many of the best flowers are way overhead and thus hard to see. I should probably give it a good pruning this year and see if I can tame it a bit, but it’s so happy the way it is, I hesitate. This, obviously, is a bud but gives a foretaste of the bloom to come. It also shows the wonderful rugose (wrinkled) texture of the leaves.
The rose is named after the rose garden of the same name in L’Haÿ-les-Roses, Val-de-Marne, France, started in 1892 by Jules Gravereaux.
We planted a few small plants of blue-eyed grass in our yard when we first moved here and it has proliferated. Among other things, it’s growing in the cracks between the flagstones of our front walk. It’s fairly well behaved and doesn’t go so crazy that it’s a problem, though, so I don’t mind having it about the place. The little blue flowers are quite nice, too, of course. I don’t know for a fact that this is narrow-leaf blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium) but that’s the local native so it seems likely and it looks about right.
Ages ago my dad planted a maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum) in his back yard. I think he dug it up somewhere or other but I’m not 100% sure of that. It grew quite well there and when we had our house in Gaithersburg he let me dig up a piece of it and plant it in our yard. I’m glad we did that because when my parents finally got an air conditioner in their house the condenser unit went where the fern had been. I dug up a piece from our house in Gaithersburg and kept it in a pot until we bought our current house (a year later), when I planted it here. It is thriving in a fairly sunny spot outside our dining room window.
This is our first evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa) of the year. Soon we will have dozens of them, lighting up the garden in the evening (as their name suggests, their flowers open in the evening). Actually, this one is in a shady spot and it seems to be fooled by that into opening a bit early, which is actually quite nice. Oenothera speciosa is an herbaceous perennial native basically to the southern half of the contiguous United States.
I was out in the yard this evening looking for things to photograph. We have a few things coming into bloom but I also noticed that there were more insects about than the last time I looked. I saw a dozen or so skippers, a few bees of one sort or another, and when I got down on the ground, quite a few very small insects. These are the things that you can easily overlook unless you pay close attention. This little fellow (or more likely lady, judging by the size) is only about 2mm long, sitting on the edge of a black-eyed Susan leaf. I was able to get fairly close but I’d love to get some extension tubes so I could get closer still. I think it turned out pretty well, though.
We have some large, bearded irises in bloom but this little one, a pretty, little Siberian iris called ‘Eric the Red’, may be my favorite.
Although it’s called ‘Eric the Red’ the petals are actually a purple color. One interesting thing about it, though, is that in photographs, the petals come out looking more red than they are in real life. In this image, I’ve corrected the color so it matches pretty well what the flowers look like.
Our spiderworts (Tradescantia) have begun to bloom. Ours mostly have very deep purple flowers, although we have a couple with pink flowers. This isn’t as good a photograph as I had hoped, but it does show two of my favorite features of the flowers, the blue stamen hairs and bright yellow anthers. Together, they combine to give the flowers an other-worldly look that I really like. I’ll try to get a better picture at some point, but this will have to do for now.
I’ve already posted the second of these pictures on Facebook but wanted to get them here on the blog as well, and send them to Instagram. We drove up to Manhattan Friday morning for a wedding tomorrow (stay tuned for a picture of the bride and groom for tomorrow’s picture). We got here at about 1:30 and after getting settled into our hotel room we walked around a bit. Then, after another break, we headed out to find a place for dinner. We decided on Italian and since we were on the edge of Little Italy, we thought that would be a good choice. As it happens, a bunch of the streets in Little Italy are closed to all but pedestrian traffic on weekends throughout the summer, starting today. This is the view north on Mulberry Street with the Empire State Building in the distance. As you can see, the place was hopping. We got a table at the early end of dinner time, which was nice because we hadn’t had lunch. Not the cheapest place in the world but pretty good food.
After dinner we walked north a little bit and then east, heading out onto the Williamsburg Bridge. Traffic into town was pretty backed up but of course we were on foot, so that didn’t make any difference. There was a fair amount of bicycle traffic heading towards Brooklyn. The sun was setting in the west and it’s a bit tricky to get a picture of the bridge because of the fence and girders to keep people from climbing up onto the bridge. Past the bridge tower I was able to look up and see the tower.
This picture turned out quite well, I think. Both pictures for this post were actually three exposures taken in rapid succession and three different shutter speeds (one under exposed, one as metered, and the last over exposed). Then, I have software that combines the three into a single image, allowing a much greater amount of dynamic range, which is why the process is called High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography.
To get really good pictures of a place you normally need to be there for an extended period, but I think I managed to get two pretty reasonable pictures today, which makes me pretty happy.
The wedding we were here for wasn’t until 4:00 p.m. so we had the morning and early afternoon to wander a bit more. We started off with bagels at a little place on Elizabeth Street and then walked over to Broadway and down a ways on that before heading back into Chinatown, where we bought a late morning snack of dumplings and pancake at Prosperity Dumpling. It’s hard to beat four pork dumplings for a dollar.
We walked out onto the Manhattan Bridge and I took this picture of the Brooklyn Bridge and lower Manhattan from there. It was a beautiful day, clear and pleasant, probably in the upper 70s (although I didn’t check).
As mentioned, we were in Manhattan for a wedding. So, here is a picture of Cathy’s brother’s son, William and his lovely bride, Beth. The wedding itself was at the Church of the Transfiguration on 29th Street, a pretty, little, brick church between towering sky scrapers. From there we all rode a bus to the reception, where this photo was taken on the roof of a 21 story building, with the setting sun behind them. Here’s to the bride and groom. Thanks for including us in your day.
We drove back from New York this morning and had no problems with traffic, thankfully. It has gotten pretty warm, although it’s still nice in the shade. I took some pictures in the yard this afternoon, including this photo of some Sedum (stonecrop) flowers. This is a fairly prolific perennial plant and has gotten established in the cracks and crevices around our front steps and walkway. It’s not so aggressive that it’s particularly invasive and it has a lot of these pretty (small) yellow flowers.
It’s time for my annual photo of the Rosa multiflora hybrid I have in our back garden. This is a natural hybrid, found growing in the woods near my office. The parent plant is no longer there, because about a month after I dug up a piece it was sprayed and killed. Normally that’s the right thing to do with R. multiflora but this one is special to me, because of the pink blooms that cover the plant this time of year for about a week. It’s quite lovely. It would be even better, of course, if it repeated but one cannot have everything. It’s a vigorous plant, as one would expect with a multiflora hybrid, and handsome as a large patch of green on the back fence, even when not in bloom. It takes a bit of extra care, pruning and cutting out dead wood every couple years, but it’s well worth the effort. That effort is made more difficult by the quantity (large) and quality (also large and very sharp) thorns that absolutely cover the canes. Still, worth it.
Last year the county cut down one of the red oaks growing along the front of our property (but in the county’s right of way, so belonging to the county). Cathy put some planters on the stump and planted a few annuals around it. In the fall they came and ground the stump, giving Cathy fair warning so she could move the containers and so she knew the annuals would be destroyed in the process. Yesterday Cathy planted this year’s garden in the spot where the stump was, including two containers and quite a few plants in the ground. I took a few pictures yesterday but the morning light was on it as I was leaving for work, so I took a few more, including this one. I’ll try to get another picture of it later in the year, when everything has gotten established and filled in. In addition to what she planted, you can see in the lower right that there is a volunteer common mullein (Verbascum thapsus), an alien species introduced from Europe, Asia, and Africa. Cathy’s a big fan.
Cathy and I went down to Richmond for Dorothy’s graduation from her intern program today. In the evening, after a brief encounter with the historic Ebenezer (inside joke), we went to Brown’s Island and enjoyed the view of the James River. We saw egrets, herons, and quite a few ospreys, both flying and sitting on nests.
After that we had a pretty good dinner of barbecue at Alamo BBQ. As we finished eating the sun was sinking in the west and the sky was lighting up. We walked up into Jefferson Park where we had a pretty good view of the sunset over Richmond.
I had the privilege and the pleasure to drive one of Dorothy’s fellow interns to the airport this afternoon. Many of the interns are taking externships, basically the lab portion of the class after the lecture part that was the last nine months. Dorothy is planning to take hers next summer for scheduling reasons (college, etc.).
Cassandra is the first of the seven interns to actually leave, heading off the day after graduation to Turkey for a week. From there she’ll go to Central Asia for three weeks before settling in to her final destination, where she will be until just before Thanksgiving. So glad to have had a chance to hear about her plans and look forward to hearing about the time she’ll be spending overseas. Bon voyage, Cassandra, and God bless you.
I hesitate to post another sunset but they seem to be popular. This one is a panorama made from three individual shots that I stitched together. They were taken in the horizontal aspect, where often I take a longer series of vertical shots. In this case the line of color was fairly narrow and with my 100mm lens, the shorter height of the images when horizontal was enough to get what I wanted. We were out in the upper part of the county for a birthday party for a friend when I noticed the color in the sky. I walked around to the front of the house and took these from the road, looking down the cul de sac to the west.
Dorothy is not a big fan of me posting pictures of her here. Still, I can’t exactly not post pictures of her from time to time. She’s my daughter, after all. Today the only pictures I took were of her (plus one of our friend, Julia), so I had little in the way of options.
This is, I think, the best of those pictures from today. It has Dorothy not quite smiling but certainly giving the slightly sardonic expression that we all know so well. Of course, she is also wearing her had “dad style.”
In the fall we had an exterminator come to the house to do a termite treatment. The house has had termite activity in the past and we’ve remained clean since we moved in but we wanted to take precautions. In order to treat the garage, that mean we needed to pull everything away from the inside garage walls. If your garage is anything like ours, you know what that meant. By the time I started to get things back to the way they were it was winter and too cold to spend all day working in the garage. So, today we had our good friend Julia over and she helped me empty the garage, swab down the deck, and move everything back in. We even managed to get one of the cars in. That’s something that isn’t going to happen often with us. I figured I better document it. Without the seats out of the back of one van (on the left) and the firewood box (on the right), I could probably have put two cars in. But that’s just not going to happen.
I’ve really enjoyed getting to know a bunch of new people in this church plant in which we’ve become involved. Normally meeting and getting to know new people terrifies me, but I’m actually enjoying it. At the same time, I still have moments of terror. You see, I suffer from a serious but somewhat strange malady. I don’t know what it is called or even if it has a name. For all I know it is called “you’re an idiot”. Anyway, I have a hard time with names. Always have. I remember faces pretty well but when it comes to associating names with them, not so much. I’m not talking your normal level of forgetting names. This is serious. Even with someone I know reasonably well, I hesitate to use their name because I’m afraid I’ll get it wrong.
As for this photo, I have only known these folks for a couple months, seeing them at church once a week. It makes me nervous to label the picture with their names. Someone, please correct me (gently) if I got it wrong. Nevertheless, I’m glad to be stretched in this way. This is where I need to be.