Monthly Archives: April 2016

Fight

Cassandra (right) With Her Parents

Cassandra (right) With Her Parents

Our friend (well, Dorothy’s friend but I think she can be our friend, too) Cassandra had a show in Gallery Edit in Richmond this evening. We’ve known it was coming up and this morning as I was driving to work I thought, maybe we should drive down and see it. It would be nice to get out and even though I made the not-so-fun drive to down interstate 95 to Richmond last week, I was up for it again. Also, we wanted to show Cassandra our support. So Cathy picked me up at work at about 2:15 and we headed down, taking about 3 hours 15 minutes to make what could be a 2 hour trip. But we also got to have dinner from Alamo BBQ with dessert from Proper Pie Co. That’s a treat even without the art. This photo is from shortly after we arrived, as the gallery was just opening, and Cassandra was visiting with her parents, who had also come to see her work (and her). Definitely worth the drive (and coming home took the correct 2 hours).

In case you are wondering, the title of this post, ‘Fight’, is the title of her exhibit. It really has very little to do with this photo (i.e., no one is fighting in the picture).

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Muscari

Muscari

Muscari

I’ve planted quite a few little Muscari bulbs over the nine years we’ve lived in this house and many of them are in full bloom right now. This one, I’m pretty sure I didn’t plant. It’s growing in our lawn in the back yard, about eight feet from the nearest flower bed and at least 20 feet from the nearest Muscari that I planted.

Because I assume it’s a seedling and because even if a squirrel dug it up and replanted it, I don’t know which variety of Muscari it is. I’ve planted three, M. armeniacum, M. neglectum, and M. latifolium. So, it’s probably one of those or possibly a hybrid (I don’t know how easily they hybridize).

It isn’t in a very good place because the first time the grass is mown, it’s going down. I should dig it up and plant it somewhere safer before that, but the grass is getting long and I probably don’t have more than a week, if that.

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Kadie and Stephen

Kadie and Stephen

Kadie and Stephen

We were fortunate enough to be able to help Kadie and Stephen celebrate their nuptials this afternoon and evening. Their wedding was beautiful, fun, and somewhat funny and we wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. Planning an outdoor wedding for the first week of April is a risk but aside from being a little cool it was a gloriously beautiful day. This is the happy couple leaving the reception, being saluted by their friends and family with light sabers and glow wands.

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Flowering Almond

Flowering Almond

Flowering Almond

We have this little shrub by the top of our driveway. It is a dwarf flowering almond, Prunus glandulosa and it blooms reliably and beautifully each spring. I sort of expected it to get larger but it dies back a bit in cold winters and we’ve had a couple of them lately. That’s a bit surprising, as it is listed as being hardy to zone 3, but there you are. This past winter wasn’t particularly cold, so maybe this will be its year. The flowers are small, only about a half inch across, but are jammed with petals of a lovely pink.

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Oberon, King Of The Fairies

Oberon (a.k.a. Judah), King of the Fairies

Oberon (a.k.a. Judah), King of the Fairies

The Washington Christian Academy high school theater production this year is to be A Midsummer Night’s Dream (by Bill Shakespeare). I spent a few hours today taking portraits of all the students involved (with the exception of one who was out sick). They didn’t have their costumes yet, but some had makeup put on for the first time today. As you can see, Judah is one such actor. He plays the part of Oberon, feuding with Titania over the fate of a changeling boy.

Why should Titania cross her Oberon?
I do but beg a little changeling boy,
To be my henchman.

As you probably know, he concocts a potion made from the flower ‘Love-in-idleness’ (the wild pansy, Viola tricolor) to make her fall in love with the first creature she sees upon waking. As is usual in such a play, particularly when the Bard of Avon is involved, things get complicated. If you want to know how it all ends, you’ll have to come next week. Show times are Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at noon. Contact WCA for information on tickets.

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Helleborus ‘Mango Magic’

Helleborus ‘Mango Magic’

Helleborus ‘Mango Magic’

The fall before last I planted five Lenten rose (Helleborus) plants in three different varieties. One of them is a variety called ‘Mango Magic’ and that’s what this flower is. The other two are called ‘Rose Quarts’, and ‘Red Racer’ and I planted two each of those two. This one is doing the best of them, though, having bloomed last year as well. It’s still small but these things are incredibly hardy and will eventually get themselves set for the long haul. They were bought as quite small plants from McClure and Zimmerman: http://www.mzbulb.com/.

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Daffodils After The Rain

Daffodils After The Rain

Daffodils After The Rain

This is a daffodil called ‘Falconet’ (division 8, Tazetta). I have a bunch of them growing around the eastern edge of the bed under our Colorado spruce (on the side towards the road). The spruce isn’t doing very well and probably needs to be taken out and replaced with something else. But the daffodils and other things growing under it are doing pretty well. We had a fair amount of rain today. That didn’t bother me too much but a bunch of my coworkers were heading to the National’s home opener and the weather could have been a lot better for them. But that’s the way it goes in early April.

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Maple Samaras

Maple Samaras

Maple Samaras

Spring is in the air. It was cool and wet yesterday, with heavy rain all morning and showers and wing in the afternoon. Today was cool and dry with a fair amount of breeze. The forecast is for a freeze overnight and the possibility of snow tomorrow. Not snow that accumulates on the ground, but snow or at the least freezing rain. But it’s spring and that’s what spring looks like in the mid-Atlantic region. One day it will be in the mid 70s, the next night we can have a hard frost. Some days the sky is a wonderful, cheerful blue, others it’s grey and dreary. But that’s spring. I love spring.

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Ethan and Abbie

Ethan and Abbie

Ethan and Abbie

Cathy and I spent the afternoon and evening with Ben and Erin’s younger kids today and had a really nice time. We’ve gotten to know them reasonably well overt the last year and a bit, except Ethan, of course, because he only officially joined the family recently. We really enjoyed being with them and getting to know Ethan a bit better, in particular. Abbie came home for a little while before leaving again for a babysitting gig and although she’s not a fan of having her picture taken, she did let me take a few of her and her youngest brother. I think this one turned out pretty well.

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Redbud and Forsythia

Redbud and Forsythia

Redbud and Forsythia

We went for a walk along Lake Frank again today, shortly after noon. I got a few pictures of a female eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis) but is wasn’t all that great of a picture, so I’m not posting that here. I also took a picture of the first mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) we’ve seen and some marsh-marigold (Caltha palustris). As we left the park and headed back into the neighborhood I took this picture of redbud flowers with a background of forsythia (Cercis canadensis and Forsythia × intermedia).

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Daffodil Pollen

Daffodil Pollen

Daffodil Pollen

I’ve been playing around with a microscope the last few days. Today I rubbed a little pollen from a daffodil onto a slide and looked at it under three different objective lenses: 10x, 40x, and 100x. The photograph here is with the highest magnification and although it isn’t the sharpest thing in the world, you can still see what the pollen looks like pretty well. I’m still learning about all the adjustments that can and should be made on this microscope and hope to have some better pictures for you in the days to come. They are about 45µm long, which isn’t particularly small when it comes to pollen, but still, small in a general sense. I’m hoping to get some oak pollen next.

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Maidenhair Fiddlehead

Maidenhair Fiddlehead

Maidenhair Fiddlehead

The northern maidenhair fern, Adiantum pedatum, is one of the prettiest of our native ferns. It is widely spread throughout the eastern half of the United States north of Florida, as well as Ontario and Quebec in Canada. In the spring, reddish brown fiddleheads emerge from the ground and unroll in typical ferny fashion. The stems turn a glossy black providing a dark background to the lush, bright green foliage. The plant I have has had an interesting journey and I enjoy it’s connection to my dad, who had it growing in he back yard. From there a piece made it into our garden at our previous house, then some of that lived in a pot while we rented for a year, and it’s become very well established since we moved here almost ten years ago.

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A Midsummer Night's Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

If you are looking for something to do tonight, tomorrow evening or Saturday at noon, I can recommend coming to see Washington Christian Academy’s King’s Players’ presentation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This photo was taken during their dress rehearsal so the fairies don’t have their makeup on. I’ll post another tomorrow from opening night. In this picture (I’m assuming you know the story, at least a little), Titania, the queen of the fairies, has fallen in love with Nick Bottom who has had his head turned into that of an ass by the impish fairy Robin Goodfellow (a.k.a. Puck). Titania and Bottom are surrounded by her attendants (from left to right) Mustardseed, Cobweb, Moth, and Peaseblossom.

Truly, a peck of provender: I could munch your good
dry oats. Methinks I have a great desire to a bottle
of hay: good hay, sweet hay, hath no fellow.

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Puck Bewitches Lysander while Peaseblossom looks on

Puck Bewitches Lysander while Peaseblossom looks on

Opening night of Washington Christian Academy’s King’s Players performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream went very well. The student actors and actresses performed wonderfully, spoke clearly and loudly, and the audience responded with laughter. In this picture, Robin Goodfellow, also known as Puck, is dripping the juice of the love-in-idleness flower into sleeping Lysander’s eyes. As Oberon, the King of the Fairies said of this flower,

The juice of it on sleeping eye-lids laid
Will make or man or woman madly dote
Upon the next live creature that it sees.

When he wakes up, well, I don’t want to give it away on the off chance that you didn’t pay attention when you read it in high school. Let’s just say that things go awry.

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Oberon – A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Oberon – A Midsummer Night's Dream

Oberon – A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Night two of the three show run of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (or, as we call it, Judah in Tights) at Washington Christian Academy was a success and I was there again, enjoying the show and taking a few pictures, as is my wont. In addition to taking pictures during the show, I took some before, as well, while the actors and actresses were getting into costume and makeup. When they are ready, they hang about, talking and laughing, occasionally singing, and generally having a good time.

Judah, who plays Oberon, the King of the Fairies, was up on the boxes that make up most of the stage set. During the performance he’s up there a fair amount and at one point jumps off, his cape filling with air as he descends. During the show I’m not using flash, of course, so the 1/80 or 1/100 second exposure isn’t fast enough to stop the action and although I got the picture, it’s fairly blurred. So, before the show this evening I asked him to do it for me and was ready with my flash. This is the result. It still isn’t as sharp as I’d like, but motion is like that.

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The Cast and Crew

The Cast and Crew - A Midsummer Night's Dream

The Cast and Crew – A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The last performance of Washington Christian Academy’s performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was at noon today so I spent much of the day there, taking an occasional picture. Actually, including the dress rehearsal on Wednesday (so, four performances), I took a total of 2,399 pictures. Of course some of those are not all that great and a few are simply black (no flash). But the pictures during the performances—which were without flash and with the camera on a tripod—mostly turned out reasonably well and I’m happy enough with the results. I think it’s safe to say they got their money’s worth out of me, in any case.

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Toad Eye

Toad Eye

Toad Eye

I’m somewhat fascinated by eyes in general and by the eyes of frogs, toads, and other amphibians in particular. We were at the Elwood Smith community center in Rockville today because our church was meeting there (the church where we normally meet is having renovations done). As we unloaded the sound equipment from Marc’s truck, Chris noticed this toad (which I assume is an eastern American toad​ (​Anaxyrus americanus americanus, in family Bufonidae, the True Toads). Not surprising to anyone who has been around me in such a situation, I got out my camera and took some pictures. The eyes, in particular, drew me in. I think they are quite beautiful. Yes, even on a toad.

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Frond of Maidenhair

Frond of Maidenhair

Frond of Maidenhair

I’m quite frond of ferns in general and of the northern maidenhair fern, Adiantum pedatum in particular. As I said less than a week ago, I think it is one of the prettiest of our native ferns. This is the same plant that I photographed then. I usually try not to post pictures of the same thing in the same season of the same year. That is, I might post pictures of daffodils each spring but I try not to repeat the same daffodil variety within one spring. But this photo is different enough that I think it’s justified. The fronds (that’s fern for leaves) are unrolling and the leaflets are starting to expand, opening out from the rachises. Quite dainty.

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Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)

The dogwood in our yard are starting to bloom. The flowers are still small and there are a lot more to come bit I got a few nice pictures of some this afternoon when I got home from work. This is the native and very common flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), of course. I’m hoping to have another of the dogwood species, the European cornel (Cornus mas), once I make room for it. I have a nearly dead Colorado blue spruce that I need to cut down and I’m hoping to get that done on Saturday. Then I’ll dig up a cornel tree that’s growing next to the driveway at my mom’s and plant it there. At least that’s the plan but we’ll have to see if it actually happens. It’s a busy time of year.

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Exbury Azalea Buds

Exbury Azalea Buds

Exbury Azalea Buds

The Exbury azalea that Cathy bought for me last year is getting ready to bloom. I planted it near the top of our driveway, to the right where there used to be an awful holly shrub. The deer did some damage to it late last summer but what’s left of it is beginning to come to life. The flower and leaf buds are swelling and there should be some blooms in a few days. The Exbury azaleas are among the deciduous azaleas. In fact, most azalea species are deciduous but since most of us are familiar with azaleas through the proliferation of the Glenn Dale cultivars (developed by Benjamin Morrison from 1935 through 1952), which are evergreen. The Exbury hybrids were made in the 1920s by Lionel de Rothschild and their genetic makeup contains some or all of the following: R. arborescens, R. calendulaceum, R. japonicum, R. luteum, R. molle, R. nudiflorum, R. occidentale, and R. viscosum.

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Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

Toward the end of my work day I went outside for a little while to take pictures. Lots of plants are growing and weeds, in particular, are coming up strongly. The woods beside my building is a good place for weeds, considering that’s most of what’s growing there. Garlic mustard, (Alliaria petiolata) is a biennial in the Mustard family, Brassicaceae. It is very common and invasive weed in our area, being native to Europe, Asia, and northwestern Africa. It’s a vigorous plant and quite successful here. The leaves and stems all exude an oniony or garlicy smell, which gives it the common name I know it by (there are others). Anyway, as annoying as it is as a weed, it’s still a pretty plant with pretty little white flowers.

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Phlox

Phlox

Phlox

It was supposed to rain today but I didn’t see any where I was. We could actually use some, as it’s starting to get a bit dry. Nothing like it will be in August, of course, but it’s April, after all, it’s supposed to rain. I took some pictures of a wild azalea this afternoon. It’s growing on the side of the road on my commute and I pulled off the road and took the pictures through the open passenger side window. Then, when I got home I took some pictures in the back yard. This is a phlox that Cathy picked up somewhere and which has just started to bloom. I kind of like this angle, looking at the flowers from the side.

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Seniors At The Prom

Justin, Sean, Matt, Russell, Nate, Bryan, James, and Gunther

Justin, Sean, Matt, Russell, Nate, Bryan, James, and Gunther

I had the pleasure of taking pictures at another WCA prom today. The students all looked fabulous and it was fun watching them enjoy themselves, socializing, eating dinner, and of course, dancing. I had my photo booth set up just outside the main room, in the lobby, and took quite a few couple and group pictures. I’m happy to say all my equipment worked as designed and I got some pretty decent pictures. I took group pictures of each of the four high school classes, most of which were too big to fit in front of the backdrop, but that’s not really the end of the world. Of course, while the entire high school is invited to the prom (one consequence of it being a small school), the dance is really for the seniors.

Peace, Maddie, Jessie, Olivia, Crystal, Karol, BeEmnet, and Afiya

Peace, Maddie, Jessie, Olivia, Crystal, Karol, BeEmnet, and Afiya

There are only 17 of them this year, the smallest graduating class in a while and probably for a while (there are 39 freshmen this year). Here are two pictures of 16 of the 17 seniors. From left to right, the guys are: Justin, Sean, Matt, Russell, Nate, Bryan, James, and Gunther. And the girls, also from left to right: Peace, Maddie, Jessie, Olivia, Crystal, Karol, BeEmnet, and Afiya. The 17th senior, Steven, wasn’t at prom, although I have no idea why. Thanks, Maddie, for giving me the list of names. I’d hate to get any wrong. I don’t really know this class as well as I’ve known the last four or five. Being at their prom was still quite fun.

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Ixodes scapularis (Deer Tick)

Ixodes scapularis (Deer Tick)

Ixodes scapularis (Deer Tick)

I know there are some of you who will not like this picture in the least. It is the head of the dreaded deer tick (Ixodes scapularis, the only known vector of Lyme disease. Cathy found this one in the back of her neck this morning and asked me to get it off. The tick came out cleanly but you can see here why they can be a little tough to get out. The proboscis (the tubular, sucking mouth) is not a smooth straw-like structure, but is quite well designed to stay in the skin when pulled upon. It had only been in her neck since yesterday, so there was no real chance of her getting Lyme from this one. Anyway, I put it under the microscope and took a look. Nasty.

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Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

Cathy called me this morning and said I should get my camera and come upstairs. The fox was back in our yard and was sitting in a spot of sunlight next to an azalea bush. By the time I got there, the fox had moved into the shade, into a hole where a tree used to be (when the tree roots rotted out, it left the hole and we’ve never bothered to fill it in. Shortly after I got there, the fox got up, walked through the sunlit spot again and back into the bushes at the back of the yard. I was able to get two quick shots through the somewhat dirty upstairs window before he was gone. So, it isn’t a great picture but it’s all I could get. Also, I think most folks who didn’t appreciate the deer tick picture yesterday will be more pleased with this one, even if it isn’t so sharp.

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Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)

Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)

Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)

The lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is blooming in our yard. It’s such a happy plant this time of year and I love the delicate, little, white flowers. They have a very pretty fragrance which (of course) is especially noticeable when you are lying on the ground about a foot from them with more flowers all around. The bright green leaves are also quite pretty. They are quite tough once established but they take a while to get settled in. Once they do, I’ve seen them come up through asphalt.

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Gnat Wings

Gnat Wings

Gnat Wings

I was working outdoors early this evening and happened to swat a gnat. Generally gnats are a minor pest, annoying but not really a serious problem. This evening when I swatted it, I thought, hey, I could look at this under the microscope. That might be interesting. Of course, this is a transmitted light microscope rather than a reflected or incident light microscope, so it’s really only useful for looking at transparent or partially transparent items (or silhouettes). So, I decided to look at the wings. This is one of the two pairs of wings from the gnat, somewhat damaged by being disconnected from the body. The antennae were also kind of interesting, but I decided to go with the wings here.

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White Azalea In The Rain

White Azalea In The Rain

White Azalea In The Rain

I was home from work today but didn’t really feel up to much. It had been raining all day and wasn’t really a good day to go out to take pictures, especially they way I was feeling. In the late afternoon I went out the front door and took a few pictures of the white azalea blossoms on the bushes in front of the house (without even going out from under the front porch). White azaleas are a little hard to photograph well because they are so low in contrast, but the water on them makes them a little more interesting. They are actually quite a bit prettier than this picture shows.

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Hosta ‘Tick Tock’

Hosta 'Tick Tock'

Hosta ‘Tick Tock’

It was still wet today and I only went out a little to take pictures. This hosta is called ‘Tick Tock’ and it’s a miniature that is quite happy in a container outside our front door. We like hosta a lot but the deer enjoy it in a different way (“mmmmm, hasta”from us and that’s a problem in our neighborhood (because we have deer). But right outside our front door seems to be a safe place for them and we have three different mini-hostas in three different containers and they are all doing well. This time of year, in particular, they are very happy. And that makes us happy.

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Wedding Arch

Wedding Arch Construction Team

Wedding Arch Construction Team

Iris and Seth are getting married in a few short weeks. They chose to get married at ‘the farm’ in Pennsylvania and one thing Iris wanted was an arch or gateway like one she saw on Pinterest. If you search for ‘wedding arch’ there you will see hundreds (thousands?) of different arches made of a very wide variety of materials and decorated in an even wider array of materials. This is the one Iris liked and wanted us to reproduce. The wood was bought last year from a local saw mill and has been outside weathering since then. Today, we erected the gateway. It is not decorated yet, of course, but the heavy lifting (and I mean that literally) is done. From left to right in the picture are yours truly, Dot, Tsai-Hong, Ralph, Seth, Iris (with Bean), and Steve (with D’Argo).

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