There is, as the saying goes, a fungus among us. Ever since we cut down the large tree in the center of our back yard we’ve had these mushrooms pop up from time to time. The fungus is there all the time, of course, helping break down the wood in the now dead roots. The mushrooms, the fruiting body of that fungus, appear from time to time to remind us that their job continues. I have no idea if these mushrooms are edible or not. I really should find out because if they are, we could have a fairly easy supply. They appear in variously sized clumps up to almost a foot across but only last a day or two and then they are gone. I didn’t have my glasses on when I was taking these pictures, so I didn’t notice all the little bits of grass, which I would otherwise have picked off. Cathy had just finished cutting the grass but mowed around these so I could get my pictures.
Monthly Archives: October 2017
This didn’t turn out nearly as well as I had hoped and doesn’t really show the orange tint to the light on the upper parts of the trees in our front yard. It was a beautiful, cool evening. When I came home from work I took my shoes off and walked in the grass in the front yard, which was cool and damp and felt wonderful. The color of the light shifted just before sunset and it was one of those subtly beautiful evenings. It wasn’t spectacular, like a sunset with colorful clouds, but it was quietly lovely.
I stopped at Upper Rock Creek Park (a.k.a. Lake Needwood) today on the way home from work. I like to do that now and then, especially in the spring when new things are coming up or in the fall when the leaves are so lovely. But neither of those are true right now, so I’m not entirely sure why I did. But I did. As I walked down through the woods I saw a great blue heron fly across the lake and land in a dead tree on a point just a little way ahead. I knew there was a path out onto that point so I made my way there, walking as quietly as I could. The path goes steeply down the hill at the end, right under the tree the bird was in and I was only able to get three pictures as it flew off, almost directly into the sun. So, it’s not necessarily what I was hoping for but it’s probably better then I should have expected.
I managed to get outdoors for a little while today but had a hard time finding anything interesting to photograph. It’s been very dry and with dryness and the somewhat cooler weather we’ve been having, there are fewer insects about. I took some pictures of the sumac that is starting to turn a brilliant red but even those pictures don’t really thrill me. As I got back to my office parking lot, I picked up a black walnut and smelled it. I love the smell of fresh walnut husks. This one was black on one side and clearly soft. I squeezed it a bit and it split open, revealing a mass of some sort of fly larvae feasting on the flesh inside. I have no idea what they are (or even if they are flies, to be honest). But I though they would make a good picture (for some definition of ‘good’).
With all the hoo-ha about Civil War statues, it is sometimes easy to forget that these were people. William D. Scott was a member of Company D, 14th Virginia Cavalry. He was wounded in action against Union forces and subsequently died. He was buried in a churchyard in Montgomery County, Maryland. His grave is not in the cemetery but on the other side of the building. He is believed to be the only Confederate soldier who was killed in action and is buried in a marked grave in the county.
I don’t know how William felt about slavery, whether he was fighting for what he saw as state’s rights, or if he was simply pressed into service. Regardless, he was a young man, killed in war. He likely had parents, siblings and possibly even a wife and children. People die in war but if you think he deserved to die, then I’m afraid we’ll have to agree to disagree. May God have mercy on him.
I had a meeting in another building late this morning so I took my camera with me and wondered a bit on the way back to get some pictures. Most of them are of various fruits on the edges of the woods. There are a lot of Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) and they are all covered with their bright red fruits. After getting a few pictures of those, I took some of these Viburnum berries. In contrast to the inedible (to humans, anyway) honeysuckle berries, Viburnum berries are edible. I also took pictures of some wild rose hips and some wild grapes.
We had a short visit from Dorothy this weekend. She flew down to Richmond late Thursday evening and came up here this morning for a less-than-24-hour visit. We went out to the Glenn’s farm (properly known as Rocklands Farm) and while we were there I got some pictures of a monarch (Danaus plexippus) on Anna’s flowers. We enjoyed being outdoors although truth be told, it was a bit warmer than is my preference. Still, a beautiful day.
IN general I try not to post pictures of the same thing close together and especially not two days in a row. However, needs must. I only took a few pictures today and the only pictures worth sharing from today are of a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) in our back yard. This one doesn’t have the orange flower complimenting the butterfly but it’s still pretty nice, I think. These are here in pretty good numbers right now, and I’m really enjoying them on the Buddleia and (like this one) the Verbena bonariensis.
Among the plants growing in containers (a.k.a. pots) at the top of the driveway is a sage (Salvia officinalis). I don’t actually use sage much in cooking, although I have a handful of recipes that call for fresh leaves, my favorite of which is Saltimbocca alla Romana (veal with prosciutto and sage in a Marsala-butter sauce). I’ve made a chicken version, as well, and it’s good but chicken really cannot hold a candle to veal. This is actually being grown more as an ornamental than for the kitchen but I’m sure I could sneak a leaf now and then without doing any real harm.
I went out back to see what I could find to photograph this evening. There was a painted lady (Vanessa cardui) butterfly on the Buddleia and I got some reasonable but not great pictures of that. Then I noticed this large, yellow and brown wasp on the steps. This is a large wasp, about 2cm in length. Not as big as the eastern cicada killer (Sphecius speciosus) but still a pretty good size. As the common name implies, these are native to Eurasia. They were introduced to eastern North America in the 1800s. They are one of the many wasps to build paper nests out of chewed wood pulp.
I didn’t get a chance to go out today to take any pictures. By the time I got around to it, it was almost 10:00 PM so I took some pictures of houseplants. We have a few Thanksgiving cactus plants Schlumbergera truncata that have started to bloom and I got a few decent pictures of those. Then I moved on to this Kalanchoe variety. The genus Kalanchoe has about 125 species with only one species from the Americas. Most are from southern and eastern Africa and Madagascar while a few are from southeast Asia and China. This one is not in bloom but was started from one of the small plantlets (or bulbils) that grow along the margin of the leaves, as you can see in this photograph.
Every two years the Bethesda Quilters has a quilt show. It’s running tomorrow and Saturday (October 13 and 14) from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM at Holy Redeemer Church School gym at 9705 Summit Avenue, at the corner of Summit and Saul Road. This evening we put up the frames to hold the quilts and hung them. Others were setting up tables to sell some things. If you have a minute and are in the area I recommend you drop in for a visit. If you do, you’ll see an amazing array of quilts and wall hangings, including this beautiful one that my mom made this summer. I think it’s one of her best yet.
Mom’s been quilting for quite a few years now and in addition to those she made for specific people she had a pretty good pile of them at home. Over the summer she brought them all out, over 60 of them, and had us take what we wanted. Dorothy took one that she has been wrapping herself up in ever since (we keep our house cool enough that a quilt won’t go amiss even in the summer). When Dorothy left for school, I pulled out another that’s always available if you are visiting and feeling chilled.
As of last week I have a daily meeting in another building. I’m sure there will be days when I won’t want to walk over there (if it’s raining, for instance) but so far we’ve had good enough weather that I’ve gone each day. Some days I’ve brought my camera with me and taken a little time on the way back to get some pictures. Today was such a day. Most trees are still in their summer greens but a few have begun the process of changing to their brief autumn finery. This sassafras tree (Sassafras albidum) is such a one. Because September was so dry, we’re expecting a less colorful fall this year. Pity.
On Thursday evening I joined a pretty large crew of people setting up the Bethesda Quilters semi-annual quilt show. In the process, of course, I got to see most of the quilts as we were hanging and labeling them. Today I went simply to enjoy the quilts and visit with the quilters (including my mom, of course). This one was made by Jane (I don’t use last names on the blog, but if you’re interested I can let you know. It’s one of the larger quilts in this year’s show and I really love the bright colors. In fact, all three of the large quilts hung on the outside walls (because they are too large for the quilt stands) were wonderful. There was a lot of very impressive work and it’s always interesting to see what people come up with.
We had a short walk on the C&O Canal today, out near Riley’s Lock and the Seneca Quarry and the associated stone cutting mill dating from the late 1860s. From there we went to Rocklands Farm and had a nice if somewhat early pizza dinner (or was it a very late lunch, I’m not sure). After that we met with good friends David and Erin. It was so good to visit with them and talk through some things that are going on in our lives.
They have five lovely children and the youngest two of them were with us. As most people who have been around children for any length of time can tell you, although siblings often share significant characteristics, they can also vary quite a bit from one to the next. Erin and David can certainly tell you something about that, as theirs have run the gamut (although they are all very precious and wonderful in their own right). This is Anna-Gabrielle, child number four and she certainly has the family look about her. Nevertheless, she is definitely her own person. Don’t let this photo fool you into thinking she sat quietly while her parents visited with those two old folks. She’s on the go, but she was willing to give me a 1/200th of a second. I’m looking forward to seeing her and her siblings grow up and I am so glad to have them back in the area for at least a while.
It was getting late in the day when I realized I hadn’t taken any pictures. Days like this are sort of a write-off, in terms of this one-picture-a-day thing, but if I actually were to skip a day, I’d have to say “I’ve taken at least one picture a day for almost seven years, except a few when I didn’t.” It’s so much easier to be able to leave off that second part so I take pictures of things around the house. Today that meant some plastic utensils in the dining room. I also took pictures of some knobs and of a decorative glass vase, but this is what I decided to share with you. Maybe I’ll repeat the knob pictures and use that the next time I’m in a bind and running out of day.
I walked around my building around mid-day today, taking a few pictures. Most trees are starting to realize that it’s autumn, although this year it looks like there will be a lot more yellow and brown and less red and orange. Some trees haven’t gotten the memo yet, though, like this Ailanthus altissima (Tree of Heaven), whose leaves are still their summer green. It’s a weed tree around here, growing up anywhere there is unused space, often quickly outgrowing other trees. It gets quite large. According to the Missouri Botanical Garden’s web site, it was introduced from its native China into New York City in 1820 as a street tree and food source for silkworm caterpillars.
Our niece and Margaret’s granddaughter Laura came for a short visit today. We picked her up at the airport and then got Margaret before going out to dinner. I took a few pictures at the restaurant (and I’m sure annoyed the other patrons with my flash). I’ve already posted a picture taken on my phone on Facebook but because I’m behind here, this will end up showing up later. That’s the way it goes. Anyway, it was great having Laura here for a little while, even if she can’t stand being with us for as much as 48 hours.
She goes by many names around the world. This woman of mystery, who we simply call Laura, is quite an enigma (although possibly not a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma). Who is she? Where is she from? No one seems to know for sure.
All seriousness aside, though, it was really nice having her here for a day. I fixed dinner for us all this evening, having crab cakes from G&M in Linthicum Heights in the suburbs of Baltimore. I also fixed mashed sweet potatoes, which were a big hit. For dessert, we all took a few bites of a heart cake that Laura bought for her grandma, also at G&M.
Back in the day (like the mid 1980s) Cathy and I came across a cartoon by Ed Koren that struck a chord with us. It’s a picture of two people, husband and wife, apparently, greeting a woman walking a dog. The husband and wife are wearing typical business clothes except they are both wearing outlandish hats. His has big ears and horns, hers is huge with fruit all over it. The man in speaking and says, “We try to set aside a little time for silliness.”
Those of you who know us very well know that we have taken that to heart and we, like the couple in the cartoon, set aside a little time for silliness. This picture is Cathy being just a little silly. When I got home from work she was out in the back garden pulling weeds. I asked if I could take her picture and this is what she did.
This is Cathy’s Isadora Duncan pose.
Ed Koren’s web site is here: http://www.edwardkoren.com/.
The buddleia in the back and side yards is going to be done blooming soon but while there are still flowers on it, the butterflies are making the most of the time they have left. There were dozens of painted ladies (Vanessa cardui) in the yard today, as well as a handful of monarchs (Danaus plexippus). I got a few pictures of both together but since I’ve posted monarch pictures recently and it’s been a few years since I featured a painted lady, I decided to go with this one, which I think shows it off pretty well.
After church today Cathy and I went out to Edward’s Ferry and then to White’s Ferry. It was a beautiful day and we walked a little on what’s left of the tow path near Edward’s Ferry. On the way back towards Poolesville we stopped for a few pictures at the Warren Historic Site. The site consists of three old buildings, the Martinsburg Negro School, built in 1886 and serving grades 1 through 5, the Warren United Methodist Church which, built in 1903, and the Loving Charity Lodge Hall, built in 1914. I’m not actually sure which building is which (except the church) but I’m guessing this is the oldest of the three. (UPDATE: Cathy saw a video that talked about this place, as well as others, and this building is the Lodge, not the school.)
My great grandfather Robert was born in Cumbria in England in 1837. He immigrated along with his parents and at least some siblings to a town on the Canada bank of the St. Lawrence River and served in the Canadian Army during the American Civil War. It was here that he met his future wife, Matilda (whose family we think might have been loyalists who moved across the river during the American Revolutionary War). In 1872 Robert traveled by ship to Panama, crossing the isthmus on horse back. From the west coast of Panama he took another ship to San Francisco. Finally, he traveled inland to Nevada, where he began mining copper, silver, and lead ore. He wrote to Matilda, who joined him there after the railway was completed and they were married circa 1882. Robert and Matilda had three children, Ada, Robert, and Ralph. We have visited what remains of the town in Nevada a few times and on a trip there in 1974 I found this unbroken wine bottle. It’s doubtful that there is any direct connection between the bottle and my ancestors but it reminds me of the place, and that’s important to me.
Maple trees are often some of the most spectacular trees in the autumn. Not all species, of course, but quite a few. This is a red maple (Acer rubrum) and it’s one of the best. Others that can be highly recommended for their fall color are Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) and sugar maple (Acer saccharum). Of course those are very different trees. Japanese maples are great for small yards but sugar maples get very large and aren’t necessarily the best choice unless you have room to let it go. A lot of trees in our area are still mostly green. The oak trees in the front yard have barely changed at all. Some leaves are coming down from them but doing so without any real color to them. This red maple in our back yard, however, is in its full fall finery. It is especially nice against the brilliant blue of an autumn sky. We’re going to have to start picking up leaves soon.
I’m afraid it’s going to be more fall color for today’s picture. I met Cathy and our friend Maureen outside my building early this afternoon and we took a bit of a walk. I carried my camera with me, as is my wont, and took a few pictures of the colors around and about. This is Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). This native vine is a close relative of Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) which is, somewhat surprisingly, a native of China and Japan. Both are quite lovely in the fall, turning wonderful shades of red, orange, and purple.
Again with the maple leaves. We don’t actually have a lot of plants with significant fall color in our yard, so I have to take advantage of the few we do have. There are two maple trees in our back yard and one of them in particular has good color. I posted a picture of it against the blue sky two days ago. This time I’m looking down at leaves that have already fallen. I love the color on the leaf in the middle of this photograph. I was a little disconcerted by the way it was lying right on top of another, similar leaf, because I thought it might look like I put it there. I didn’t. I moved it and took a few more but they aren’t as good as this one, so here you are.
One of the most easily identified trees in the forests of the eastern United States is the American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis). Even from a distance, it’s easy to pick out the sycamore by it’s white bark. There are places along the highways in the area, particularly where the road goes over river or stream valleys, where they are quite the most numerous tree. They grow very well in wet floodplains and of course they get quite large, often reaching 80 or more feet in height and trees with a trunk diameter in excess of four feet are not particularly uncommon. In addition to the white bark on the upper portions of the tree, lower down, where the branches are trunk are thicker, the brown outer bark peels away in a very distinctive way, as seen in this photograph of a tree probably not more than 15 or at most 20 years old.
In 1981 my parents and brothers spent eight weeks backpacking around Greece. We had spent a week there in 1971 and my mom started planning then to return. On this longer trip in 1981 we were in Crete (twice, actually) and happened to find this old plane tree.
The London plain tree is a cross between the American sycamore and Oriental plane tree, P. orientalis. In 2007, Cathy, Dorothy, and I went to Greece with my mom and dad for about three weeks of camping. We were able to find this tree again, in Krási. It is claimed to be the oldest and largest plain tree in the world. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s certainly big, with a trunk circumference of nearly 80 feet. As you can see, it isn’t exactly a perfect cylindrical trunk, and the tree isn’t nearly as tall as many American sycamores that I’ve come across. Still, it’s a mighty fine specimen.
I posted a picture of this same dahlia on Monday, September 18, 2017, so you’ll have to excuse the repetition. Although it’s not particularly large for a dahlia flower, it’s very pretty. Also, the plant has very dark purple, not-quite-black foliage. It’s lovely overall and we definitely need to dig up the tuber and try to keep it for next year. We’ve never actually done that before and I’m not sure how successful we’ll be. They are supposed to be stored in a damp place all winter in temperatures that are between 45°F and 50°F, which is a pretty narrow range and not something we have naturally in our house. Our basement is cool but not that cool and we do our best to make it dry, not humid (it’s currently at 38% relative humidity). So, we’ll see what we can do.
It’s been something of a maple-centric autumn this year. There are other trees showing good color but, as I think I mentioned previously, not a lot in our yard. This is a picture of the two maple trees behind our house. Both of them are actually double-trunks and I’m not sure if they are two trees each or single trees with two trunks. Either way, they are not particularly attractive as specimen trees. They both twist a bit and have broken and misshapen branches. This fall, though, they are doing their best to make up for it with their colors. The nearer tree in this picture, in particular, is really spectacular this year. It’s the tree that gets more direct sun and that contributes to the color.
The leaves on the ground add, I think, to the overall effect of the tree right now. It won’t be long before the leaves have all turned brown and we’ll need to get them dealt with, which we usually do by simply by mowing over them a few times, turning them into mulch in the lawn.
I’m a fan of the woods. I love the colors, the sounds, and the smells. I won’t say there’s nothing I don’t like about woods but in general I’d say the things I like outweigh the things I don’t like. Of course, I’m happy that I live in a modern house with running water, central heating and air conditioning, a roof to keep off the rain, and electricity and gas to power all sorts of appliances. I do like a walk in the woods, though. In the autumn, with the colors in the trees, it is especially nice. A rainy day, practically any time of year but particularly in the spring when the leaves are various shades of green is also a wonderful time for a walk in the woods. But today was glorious and bright and cool.
As some of you know, we have been planning a little construction project for a while now. Initially the thought was that we would renovate one of the two bathrooms upstairs, making it more accessible. This is all towards having Cathy’s mom come live with us. Renovating an upstairs bathroom, which is all we thought of for a while, also entailed putting in something to help her get up and down the stairs. Currently she can do stairs but it’s not easy and it’s going to get less easy as time goes by. We had an occupational therapist out to consult and while he was there, the thought occurred to make a totally new bathroom in our existing laundry room. Once that idea was aired, it was clear that it was the right thing to do.
By putting a full bathroom on the ground floor and converting our family room into a bedroom, we eliminate the need for a stair-climbing chair. Of course, the conversion of the laundry room to a bathroom has some costs associated with it, but those costs are going to be reflected in our property value. An accessible bathroom is a valuable asset, after all. Also, there are some tax credits for this sort of home improvement. After a bit of planning and consultation with out contractor (http://mafortierandcompany.com/) we got the building permits and today, the work began. I’ll post updates from time to time, as the project progresses.
Note that the “before” picture was taken after we moved a lot of things out of the laundry room. There were two shelves on the wall above the washing machine and there was a big bin of bird seed under the sink, for Solomon. But it’s “before” in the sense that the construction hadn’t started yet.