As we left our AirBnB this morning, heading for home, we passed this little cemetery and saw a flock of wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) among the grave markers. We stopped and took some time to walk around the cemetery a little and enjoy the quiet, as well as the birds. As I walked across the top of the cemetery, they moved slowly towards and then through an opening in the fence behind them. We used to see turkeys a lot more often than we do now. In Pennsylvania we would see them somewhat regularly and also ring-necked pheasants (Phasianus colchicus, the common pheasant of Asia, introduced into North America in the late 18th century). We almost never see them any more, so this was a treat for us.
Monthly Archives: October 2018
The funnel weaver spiders are out in huge numbers at this point of the summer. Especially on damp mornings, when the dew is heavy on the ground, their webs are obvious (but they can be seen pretty well at all times). Outside our front door is a concrete bench (that we call The Stone Table) on which Cathy has various and sundry potted plants and various ornaments. This spider has built a fairly elaborate web along the side of a blue pot. I’ve had a hard time getting a good photo that shows the funnel in their web but I think this one does it pretty well.
Mile-a-minute vine, also known as devil’s tail and tearthumb, is an herbaceous annual vine in the buckwheat family. If you’ve ever encountered it you will know where the name tearthumb comes from. It is native to Asia but has become naturalized throughout the area and is a serious pest. Think of bindeed on steroids and with seriously barbed stems but without interesting flowers. It does have interesting fruit, I have to admit. These little berries are less that 5mm across but they are such a clear, beautiful blue, I cannot help but enjoy them. That’s not to say I would ever consider growing this for the ornamental value of the berries, of course. But they are still pretty.
How often do you polish your stove? Here’s what you need. I’m pretty glad that I don’t have to cook on a wood stove or in a wood fired oven. That being said, there’s something nice about a wood oven in a large, country kitchen. I’m not sure that I’d appreciate it so much if I had to polish it, though. Note that this product has a warning on the side that says, “CAUTION: This polish contains naphtha, unsafe when exposed to heat or fire.” That’s certainly a worthwhile caution. Make sure the stove is cool before using.
Here’s an interesting exercise. Can you name three words that are pronounced differently when they are capitalized as a proper noun? One, obviously, is polish/Polish, with the capitalized version being the adjective related to or the language of Poland. I know of two other such words.
This is one of two wooden chests that were in Cathy’s mom’s house that are from the Nuristan province of Afghanistan. This is the larger and less-fine of the two. It’s old, although we don’t really know how old, and it’s fairly “weathered” or worn. This is a detail, obviously, showing some of the carving on the front of the chest. There are two squares like this on the front with a design that I think of as a sort of fleur-de-lis, although I don’t really know what it’s meant to be. The lid to the chest has no hinge and simply lifts off. There is a metal chain and hasp that can be locked.
I finally got around to cutting down the dead or nearly dead Colorado spruce (Picea pungens) in our front yard today. I took both before and after pictures and I may put two together into an animated sequence that switches back and forth between the before and after. For now, this is (obviously) the “after” picture. I cut the tree off fairly far up the trunk to be sure it wouldn’t reach the driveway. I could probably have cut it a bit lower and it would have been easier, but I got it down without incident. Since then (I’m writing this on Wednesday, October 11) we’ve cut and dealt with most of the branches although the standing trunk is still there and about 8 feet of felled trunk is still lying next to it. I took one van load to the dump and I’ve burned four wheel barrow loads. I still haven’t decided what I’ll plant in its place or even how much effort I’ll put into dealing with the stump and roots.
Cathy called me around the south end of the house late this afternoon to take pictures of this male carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica) on the buddleia growing there. Carpenter bees are nice to photograph because they don’t mind you getting fairly close to them. Also, the males like this one, identified by the white or pale yellow patch on their face, don’t sting and in fact are unable to do so. I don’t find many bees to be particularly aggressive, though, and I know some people are quite afraid of them. For me, as long as I move slowly and carefully, I’ve never had a problem. I’m not particularly allergic, either, which is important.
It’s mushroom season in our back yard. There were a total of five maple trees running in a line through our back yard when we bought the house. One of them, a silver maple (Acer saccharinum) was clearly large enough to be older than the house but the others, I’m pretty sure, were planted about the time the house was built. Three of the five are gone, now. One came down in a storm and I preemptively took two more down, including the largest one, to prevent the same thing happening and it falling on the house. Each year since then, mushrooms appear early in the fall and I have to assume they are living on what remains of the roots of those trees. They appear, flourish, and then turn to mush in about a week. When they become mush, they appear to be devoured by the grubs of some insect or other. It’s pretty gross, actually, but all part of the grand panoply of life.
I know I posted a photo of a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) recently but I sort of like this photo of a monarch sharing a coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) with an eastern bumblebee (Bombus impatiens), so here you are. This was taken in the same garden as the former and like that one it was in the afternoon when the shade of the building was on it, so it isn’t as well lit as I would like.
I walked around the small pond next to my building and saw lots of raccoon footprints in the fresh mud. I took some pictures of those and also of some skippers, a cabbage white (Pieris rapae) and a pearl crescent (Phyciodes tharos).
I released a few pounds of carbon into the atmosphere from the logs in which it had been sequestered (i.e. I burned the logs). This is part of the tree that I cut down on Saturday and I only burned one large batch today. It’s a little too warm to be having a fire but the weather is suppose to change later this week and it’s forecast to be cooler, so I’ll probably burn more over the weekend. One of my favorite things about having a fire is watching the sparks above the flames. They are, of course, very transient and you don’t get a lot of time to watch any one spark. Trying to get a picture that captures the movement as well as the transient nature is tricky because the only significant light is from the fire itself but above the fire, where the sparks are there isn’t nearly so much light. I think this one does a reasonable job and I like it well enough.
I had a dentist appointment today so I was up north of Gaithersburg this morning. After I was done there, I cut trough the woods on Game Preserve Road to Clopper Road. I stopped briefly at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church and took some photos in their graveyard, including this one of cross shaped markers seen here against the white of the church building. This is the older part of the graveyard and includes members of the Clopper family, after whom the road was named. This road, although not in West Virginia, is reputed to be the inspiration for Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert who wrote Take Me Home, Country Roads and then finished it with John Denver, who recorded it in 1971.
This spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana) is growing right outside our kitchen door and although it doesn’t have so many flowers at this time of the year, it still manages to put out a few. They are such beautiful little flowers and I can’t imagine not having them in our garden. The color ranges from blue to purple and it’s not always the same in photographs as it is to the eye. It’s possible that some of the color comes from the physical structure of the flower rather than from a pigment but I don’t actually know for sure. Examples of structural colors include those found in peacock feathers, butterfly wings, and the beautiful iridescence of beetle carapaces. If you are interested in structural colors, you might find this article interesting: Color from Structure in The Scientist.
Cathy asked me to take a picture of her with two of her garden ornaments this evening. They both came from the patio at her mom’s house and so far they are on our driveway. Eventually they will go somewhere more appropriate. The taller on is a rabbit, obviously and the lower, which is also a small bird bath, is a cat. The rabbit is not as heavy as it looks, because it’s not actually stone, although it does a pretty good job of looking like it is. It’s also hollow, although it’s heavy enough that it won’t get blown over unless the wind really picks up. In the first few pictures, Cathy was posing as a rabbit, but I prefer this one, which is a more natural pose. The sections of log on the left are from the tree I cut down last Saturday.
For at least a couple years my friend David has wanted to roast a whole pig. Thus weekend he finally got his wish. The original date was to be Saturday but it rained until about 9:00 and kept him from getting the early start he needed. So, he moved it to Sunday. By 6:00AM he had the pig up on the spit and the fire going under it. This picture was taken about ten hours later, around 4:00 PM and, as you can see, the pig is getting there.
Because of the change of day, I wasn’t able to stay and help eat any, but I couldn’t let the occasion go by without coming to take a few photos. It turned out to be a lovely fall day, perfect for spending time outdoors around a fire. I also enjoyed visiting with David, Joel, Chris, Theresa, and Lee, however briefly. It certainly got me thinking about the possibility of a pig roast of my own. Or perhaps a sheep or a goat.
Cathy’s mom got this in the mail today. A lot of organizations send out solicitations for donations and some of them send “gifts” to entice potential donors. In this case, it was a Catholic charity of one sort or another and their “gifts” was a small, wooden crucifix. It came in a foam board with two places cut out to hold the two parts, the cross itself and the base. They obviously went to a lot of trouble to cut the foam to fit the pieces and they also seem to have gone to a fair amount of trouble in making the pieces themselves. The base, for instance, has a nice chamfer all the way around and the tenon on the end of the cross has been very carefully cut. Perhaps the two parts were made by different groups and they didn’t communicate the plans or perhaps no one happened to actually try to put them together. Whatever the case, we ended up with a very nice example of trying to put a square peg into a round hole. Now that I think about it, sometimes I feel like I’m the square peg an the world is full of round holes.
I decided to take a bit of a detour on the way home, stopping at Upper Rock Creek Park along the east bank of Lake Needwood. I find it very frustrating that the powers that be they have put up barricades on Needwood Road that make it impossible to park there and enjoy that end of the lake. I don’t really understand that decision. It’s obviously something that was thought out and specifically decided, as some of the guard rails are not protecting anything except places that one might otherwise park their car. Anyway, I drove through the park and ended up parking at the south end of the lake. As I was walking I startled a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) and was just able to get one somewhat blurry photo before it flew out of range.
It’s interesting that each year always feels different to the last. It’s past the middle of October and there’s hardly any fall color here yet. Surely this is much later than last year. Well, going out and taking pictures every day for a few years has a few advantages. I can go back and find pictures of fall color from previous years, not just here but in my full collection of photos. As it turns out, the maple in our back yard generally gets to be fully red fairly late in October, with pictures from October 27 both last year and the year before. So, we’ll see what it looks like in nine days and see if the colors really are significantly later this year. In the meantime, this little dogwood seedling growing in our back yard has some pretty good color. It seems to suffer quite a bit from mildew, but it’s doing fine otherwise.
I burned more wood today from the Colorado spruce that I cut down on October 6. I took pictures both when it was in full flame and ffter it had burned down a bit and was mostly embers, but still quite hot. I really love watching the movement in a fire. The movement of the air as it is heated to a shimmering temperature as well as the movement of the flames themselves and the occasional movement of the wood, as it settles. I also love watching the changing colors. The bright orange and the even brighter white of intense flame. The cool blue of the white ashes as seen under a star lit sky. Of course, like many things that are enjoyable to watch, the fleeting nature of fire adds to its appeal.
I’ve managed to deal with most of the wood from the Colorado spruce tree I cut down on October 6 and that I’ve had pictures of burning on on October 19 and October 10. Today I split up the rest of the logs from the trunk, not counting the part of the trunk that’s still attached to the roots. I cut it off fairly high and I’m planning to leave that at least through the end of the month because I can decorate it as a scarecrow of some sort for Halloween. But these are the logs I split today. I had cut them fairly long and they are pretty knotty, so it was a bit of work. On the one hand, I’m sort of getting too old for that sort of thing. On the other, if I did that every day or two I’d probably feel quite a bit younger in a hurry.
We had a family gathering this afternoon. Instead of getting together for dinner, though, we had brunch together, which was a nice change. Of course, the centers of attention at these gatherings are the two children, Kai and Silas. Silas slept a fair amount this visit, so I only got a few pictures and they are fine, but not as good as this smile from his older cousin Kai. The weather has finally turned cool and autumnal and we had talked about taking a walk but everyone felt like staying indoors this afternoon instead.
In the evening I did a really stupid thing. I took everything out of my pockets and carried a few things to the basement to do laundry. Because I knew I’d want my phone downstairs, I took it with me. Unfortunately, I left it in my trouser pocket when I put them into the wash. I know people have had success drying out phones that have been dunked but (and I’m writing this more than a week later) after pulling out the battery and drying it in silica gel for a couple days, it’s dead. Still, 4½ years isn’t bad for a cell phone (which is sad in itself).
The two maple trees in our back yard are both fairly misshapen and a little bit stunted. Nevertheless, they do produce some really great color each fall. They also provide some much needed shade in the summer. So I’m not planning to take them out any time soon. When we first moved here, I had my eye on them as being the first to go. I planted four California incense dedar (Calocedrus decurrens) trees as a screen so that when they got bigger, I could take the maples out and still have the view through to the yards behind mostly blocked. Those trees are a good 15 or 20 feet tall now and being pretty dense evergreens are better screens than the maples, even in the summer. Nevertheless, we’ve taken out three larger trees in the back yard (well, one of those fell down, which is a bit different) and two in the front.
I met Cathy outside my building briefly today because we had come together and she needed to go out briefly so needed the keys to the car. I brought my camera with me and took a few pictures while I was out. There are porcelain berries (Ampelopis brevipedunculata) out and I took a few pictures of those. Then I noticed a really spectacular web glinting in the sun. This spider was sitting near the middle of that web and I was able to get quite close for some pretty nice pictures. I didn’t have my tripod with me but it was pretty bright out. I’ve asked for some help in identifying it and if I hear about that I’ll post its name here.
Update: I have confirmed that this is a lattice orbweaver (Araneus thaddeus).
Today was another day when I didn’t really get a chance to get outdoors and by the time I was home it was too dark for much photography in the yard. I looked around for things to photograph in the house and found a few things that were a bit interesting. This blue glass vase is nice. The picture is close enough to it that it’s more an abstract image than anything specific. I love deep blues and in fact I like most colors when they are really deep and rich like this. The darkening sky at dusk, the deep orange or red of a brilliant sunset, all the varied greens on a rainy day in the woods, even some peoples’ eyes. Color is all around and it’s really something to be thankful for.
The purple coneflowers (Echinacea purporea) is long since finished blooming. In fact, most things have. There are still flowers on a few plants but they are getting fewer and farther between. But that’s not the end of interest in the garden. In the fall we start to see shapes that we don’t notice in the summer amid all the color. The seeds of this coneflower are lovely in their own way, especially the way they detach and leave this little floret of spikes as they are carried off, probably by gold finches and other small birds. The gold finches, too, have lost their summer finery and are dressed in pale brown for the winter.
I asked Cathy if I could take her picture this evening. She agreed but then when we got around to actually taking them, she was in something of a silly mood. I know that’s surprising to anyone who knows her because silly isn’t really her. Well, it is, but then only sometimes. She posed in various ways in front of a blank wall, which is good for portraits but those aren’t as good as this one, I don’t think. She sat on the end of the sofa and took off her shoe. In stead of putting it down, she put it up to her ear and I took this picture. I can’t see that and not think of Maxwell Smart, of course, but as you can see, her shoe phone works differently to his, which had the phone part in the bottom of the shoe while hers works right side up. When I showed the picture to Cathy just now she said, I’m holding my shoe the wrong way ‘round, meaning the toe should be at her chin. So, I guess I don’t really know anything about how her phone works. I like the colors in this picture and think that’s a big part of what’s so nice about it. The color of the shoe and the curtains and all of it just works. Silly, of course, but as I said, that’s Cathy.
Here’s another shot of maple leaves in our back yard. I often feel like the colors in the current year are different from previous years. Not so much that they are different but that the timing is different. So I looked back at pictures of this tree the last two years to see when it was in full color. I have a picture posted on October 29 of 2017 and two pictures on October 27 and 28 in 2016. So I’d guess it really isn’t all that different this year. The leaves on the ground under the tree are just about as nice as those still on the tree. Set off by the bright green of the grass rather than the pale blue of the sky but in this case without the direct light of the afternoon sun on them.
For a while now we’ve talked about taking up the old carpets in our living room. It’s something that you can’t really do a little at a time. Well, you could but it would be a bother. That being said, I didn’t really finish today. I got most of the carpet up in the living room but the carpet under the piano and the old console TV is still there and I haven’t touched the dining room, which has the same carpet. I really didn’t know what to expect in terms of the condition of the floor but I figured it would need at least some work. What you are seeing here is the living room floor after it’s simply been swept. It really doesn’t need any work at all. We plan to put the rug from Cathy’s mom’s living room down here and that will look great, too, of course. But for now, I’m enjoying the bright, shiny wood.
Getting pictures of the Zelkova trees that line Norbeck Road is sort of an annual thing for me. As I was driving east this evening I knew the light would be nice and with the bright blue sky and the scattered clouds, it seemed like an ideal day for it. I stopped at the grocery store but the light was still right when I was done, so I pulled off where the trees start and got out to take a dozen or so pictures. One thing that makes it hard is the contrast between the shady parts of the picture and the brightly lit leaves in the sun. But that’s part of what I like. They aren’t as fully in color as in previous years, but they’re pretty nice, nonetheless.
When I cut down the tree in the front yard I left a tall stump. I cut it down fairly high so I’d be sure the height of the tree wouldn’t reach the driveway. I actually cut it higher than I should have done and it would have been a lot easier if I cut it about a foot and a half lower. Nevertheless, there’s a five foot stump in the front yard. It wasn’t long before I came up with the idea of dressing it up for Halloween. So, I took a length of wood and screwed it down on the stump with my jacket on it. I added some old work gloves and a pair of jeans that should have been thrown away but were not for some reason (or more likely for no reason). On Sunday I bought a pumpkin and last night I carved it. This morning I found some red Christmas lights and put them in side, adding a hole in the back of the head for the cord.
I took a few pictures this morning but I really wanted to get pictures at dusk, so the light in the face would stand out a bit more. I brought the pumpkin back inside for the day to keep it safe. Unfortunately, I didn’t say anything about that and Cathy put it outside later this morning. When she got home a few hours later, the squirrels had found it and chewed its face pretty badly. The hat helps hide some of the damage but he looks a bit like he’s been punched in the mouth. But I’m still pretty pleased with how it turned out. I’m not a big holiday decorator, so this is a big deal for me. Of course, punkin head is a name that my dad used for my brothers and me and that I used for Dorothy, so now there’s a punkin head in the front yard.
Recently the section of Needwood Road that crosses Lake Needwood was repaved. While they were at it, they repaired and widened the bike and pedestrian path where it crosses the lake. Unfortunately, someone in Park and Planning decided that this park was too nice to allow people to easily enjoy it, so they did away with nearly all the parking that existed previously. They put up guard rails on both sides that don’t let you get your car off the road but they did more than protect cars where the road is above th elake. I don’t want to assume malice when stupidity is to blame, but someone clearly wasn’t thinking. I parked as close to the lake as I could and walked the rest of the way this morning. The water was as still and smooth as glass and the sky was beautiful with scattered clouds. The trees have not quite reached their peak color but it won’t be more than a day or two more. Then they will quickly lose their leaves and the autumnal display will be done.