Monthly Archives: November 2020

Japanese Maples

Japanese Maples

Japanese Maples

Cathy and I took a walk in the neighborhood early this afternoon. I wanted to see the Japanese maples in a yard at the far end of our neighborhood. They generally put on a really good show. While I’m not sure they are quite as good this year as they have been some other years, they’re still worth a look. These are fairly old trees, probably planted about the time the neighborhood was established. This house was built in 1971, so the trees are probably something like 50 years old, which seems about right. They are different, with one having quite dark leaves while the other (shown here) has a very bright red. There are actually a few more trees, one on either end of the house and another in the back yard. Really nice.

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Election, 2020

Voting by Mail

Voting by Mail

I’m posting this a week after the fact, on Monday, November 9. We voted today (November 2) and dropped out mail in ballots at our local voting location (which isn’t our normal location, but everything is off this year, as you might have noticed). This is generally a non-partisan blog and I try to keep my politics to myself, so I won’t say anything about how we voted. Of course, in Maryland, it’s sometimes tempting to think it doesn’t really matter, regardless of which side you’re on. Unofficially, as of November 9, the vote was nearly two to one: 1,590,324 vs. 861,861.

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Stones

Stones

Stones

Sometimes when you travel, you pick up souvenirs. You might buy a post card and you’re almost certain to take a few (or a lot of) photographs, which for most of us really help to keep memories alive. We can look at the photographs and remember what it was like wherever we happened to have been. Or we might buy a small object in a store or at a market to remember the trip by. In our family, we sometimes pick up stones. Sometimes they are selected because they’re a particularly pretty color or have a nice pattern on them. Other times, it’s their shape or the smoothness of the surface. Some here—the green one at the top and the bluish green one on the right—are from the Nevada ghost town where my grandfather was born, 135 years ago.

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Pink Hydrangea

Pink Hydrangea

Pink Hydrangea

When fresh, the flowers on this hydrangea are mostly white with a touch of pink on the edges. As they dry out, however, some of the petals deep in color to a dark pink, bordering on red. It’s not as showy as some flowers and overall, the plant is moving into winter mode. Nevertheless, the color of the petals is quite nice, especially when the late afternoon or early evening sun is shining on them. The deer have done considerable damage to this plant over the years but it keeps fighting back and had a good run this year. Hopefully that will continue.

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Torenia ‘Summer Wave’

Torenia ‘Summer Wave’

Torenia ‘Summer Wave’

We’ve grown Torenia fournieri before but I don’t think it has ever done as well ad it did this year. We have a couple of them in containers on the back patio and they have been in constant bloom all summer and will probably not stop until we get a killing frost. They are also known a wishbone flower because the stamens join to form a shape similar to the wishbone of a chicken. This one is a variety called ‘Summer Wave’. Ours got a bit of sun but they are also really good for shade. You better believe we’re going to get this again next year.

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Iris domesticata and Marigolds

Iris domesticata and Marigolds

Iris domesticata and Marigolds

I was out front and noticed that from the right angle, the marigolds behind this blackberry lily (Iris domesticata) look a bit like they’re part of the same plant and that it’s blooming. The picture didn’t actually come out as good as I would have liked, since the marigolds are a little out of focus, but you can sort of git the idea. We have quite a few of these blackberry lilies growing around the yard. Cathy scatters the seeds from them and of course the birds do the same thing. There’s one growing up the street in our neighbor’s garden and we suspect it came from here, too.

As you can see, the leaves turn yellow in the autumn and soon it will die back. The stems with their blackberry-like berries will remain until we pull the seeds to distribute and then cut the stems. The marigolds will most likely last until the first frost.

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Zelkova Alley

Zelkova serrata

Zelkova serrata

We worked in the garage this morning, getting quite a bit done (although if you saw it, you might not believe that). We took a trip to the transfer station (a.k.a. the dump) to get rid of a few things and as we got back, the Zelkova serrata were being lit by the late afternoon sun. I dropped Cathy and her mom off at home and then went back out to take a few pictures. This seems to be an annual photo for me, with versions taken from 2011 through 2019, except 2012, apparently. It’s worth it, though. This is really a nice tunnel of trees all year, but especially now and as the sun is setting.

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Morning Light

Morning Light

Morning Light

I’ve been doing my weekly grocery shopping early on Sunday mornings or occasionally on Monday. The stores are not quite empty but there are more employees there than customers. This morning, when I got back from the store, the light on the trees up the street was really nice so I grabbed my camera (it’s rarely far from me) and took a few pictures. Later in the day, Cathy and I walked on a trail behind the old Rockville landfill and it was really nice to be outdoors. It was warmer than I expected but an occasional breeze cooled us off. It’s a pretty time of year.

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Small Potatoes

Small Potatoes

Small Potatoes

I’m trying to cut back on the carbs but it’s hard. If I were cooking only for myself it would be easier, of course, but I’m cooking for three, so I try to make meals that satisfy everyone’s needs. Rice is popular and I vary that by cooking plain white rice, whole grain brown rice, and a few more exotic rices, like a red rice that’s quite flavorful. I also cook potatoes and these little multi-colored potatoes are my favorite. They keep pretty well and they cook easily. Sometimes I simply cut them in half and boil them but what’s even better is to put a little oil and salt on the boiled pieces, pour them onto a tray, and put them in a hot oven for a little while until they are crispy on the outside.

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Euonymus Berries

Euonymus Berries

Euonymus Berries

Along the fence at the north end of our back garden is a tall hedge of Euonymus. It blooms early in the summer and then the fruit ripens about now. The birds are constantly in these bushes, eating the berries but also just hanging out. They provide good protection from preditors and from the elements. When in bloom various bees, wasps, and flies are all over them and the whole thing buzzes. The deer like them, too, and that keeps them from encroaching too much on the yard. They don’t get the tops, though, which are way out of reach, and the hedge continues to thrive.

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Afghan Wedding Shoes

Afghan Wedding Shoes

Afghan Wedding Shoes

These embroidered shoes were in a box in Cathy’s parents house and along with a lot of other things, they made their way to our garage. We think they are Afghan wedding shoes. They are definitely shoes and they are Afghan. Beyond that, we don’t really know much. They don’t really look comfortable but then wedding clothes aren’t designed primarily for comfort. They would be more comfortable than Afghan pizors (see Wednesday, March 28, 2018), but that’s not saying much. On the other hand, the pizors are pretty durable. The embroidery on these shoes is nice and they certainly are festive.

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Pussy Willow (Salix)

Pussy Willow (Salix)

Pussy Willow (Salix)

Back in January, Dorothy brought some Ranunculus asiaticus for our dining room table. I posted a photo of one on Friday, January 17. They were lovely while they lasted. At the same time, Dorothy brought some pussy willow stems and I posted a photo of them the next day, Saturday, January 18. These, amazingly, have been on the sideboard in our dining room since then and are still looking pretty good.

Pussy willow is the a common name for various Salix species and Salix discolor in particular. The common name references their furry catkins, as seen in this photo. They are dioecious plants, meaning the male and female catkins are on separate plants. In general, it’s the male catkins that are used ornamentally as they are generally the more attractive of the two. They are very soft, like a kitten’s paw.

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Cathy Sorting Photographs

Cathy Sorting Photographs

Cathy Sorting Photographs

Cathy has been doing a lot of work lately going through boxes of papers and photos from her mom’s house. When we moved her to out house in 2018, we put a lot of things in boxes to be dealt with when there was more time. For a while we didn’t really have the energy to deal with them but we’ve finally started in on them and are making some progress. The box Cathy’s going through here is mostly photos that aren’t that old, with pictures of Dorothy and her cousins. The number of photographs to be dealt with is truly staggering but we have to start somewhere.

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The Pond

The Pond

The Pond

Cathy and I drove up to Pennsylvania today to replace the locks on the cabin. Over the years, the existing locks have been treated pretty shamefully by those wanting (and generally succeeding) to get in. It was bad enough that they had become loose but recently they got so bent that the door couldn’t be opened properly. Anyway, it was nice to get out into the country for a little while and it was a pretty day. We didn’t stay long but we walked around a bit and I took some pictures, such as this one of reflections on the pond.

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Surprise Birthday Party

Cathy's Surprise Birthday Party

Cathy’s Surprise Birthday Party

It’s harder than ever to plan and execute a surprise party this year, but I’m happy to say I pulled it off. It’s a few days yet until her birthday but that’s part of the surprise. Dorothy came over and baked a cake, saying it was for someone else. So Cathy saw her cake being made and was none the wiser. We went for a walk on the C&O Canal from Riley’s lock, which was very nice. Then we went to our friends’ place and visited Janis, who said she had something to show us in the barn. When we got there, the few friends who were up for it were there waiting. We had a terrific Thai meal and the cake that Dorothy made. No birthday hugs but I think a good time was had by all. To those who chickened out, neener-neener.

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Rose ‘Perle d’Or’

Rose ‘Perle d’Or’

Rose ‘Perle d’Or’

The forecast said we’d have a freeze overnight tonight so I took some photos of this rose, outside our front door, figuring that they would be the last of the year. As it turns out (I know because I’m posting this two weeks after the fact) it didn’t get down below about 38°F, so I was a bit premature. Nevertheless, we’re likely to have a real freeze before too long, so I’m not upset. As you can see, although it’s the middle of November, this plant is still going strong. I have to say, it was definitely a good buy.

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Snakeplant (Sansevieria trifasciata)

Snakeplant (Sansevieria trifasciata)

Snakeplant (Sansevieria trifasciata)

Dorothy’s former second grade teacher gave me this snakeplant (Sansevieria trifasciata, also known as viper’s bowstring hemp) when she and her husband moved to Florida a year after Dorothy had her as a teacher. So, I guess I’ve had it about fifteen years. It was in my office most of that time. Then, in March when we all started working from home, I sort of assumed it would die. I happened to go into the office ten weeks into that and was surprised by how healthy it was, although the pot was bone dry. I brought it home, along with a Natal lily (Clivia miniata) and a spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum), both of which were also hanging on. All three have recovered nicely and I brought this and the clivia back in for the winter. As you can see, it’s got a few issues, but all things considered, I’m just happy it’s still with us.

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Birthday Dinner

Cathy's Birthday Dinner

Cathy’s Birthday Dinner

I already shared a picture here from the surprise party we had for Cathy on Sunday. I figured I’d share a picture from her actual birthday dinner, as well. I’m afraid I didn’t fix anything fancy for it. In fact, it’s about as unfancy as they come—frozen pizza—although there was a little leftover Thai, as well. Dorothy came over for dinner and we had a nice evening together. Dorothy, Margaret, and I all gave her a few presents and it was what passes for festive this year.

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Sunset

Sunset

Sunset

Cathy and I went for a walk in the neighborhood this evening. We took a different route today because the sun was going down and it looked like there would be a decent sunset. I wanted to be somewhere that I could see it so I could get a picture. As you can tell, that worked out well. We also ran into a friend, which was really nice. She and three kids were heading out to buy some fish for their fish tank and she stopped and we chatted a little while. I took a few pictures of the girls, as well and shared them with her.

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Trees at Dusk

Trees at Dusk

Trees at Dusk

I love the colors at dusk. Even when the sky is clear and there’s no clouds for sunset colors to light up, the trees, particularly the trees in autumn, can be just as good a show. It’s hard to catch and I’m not sure I’ve caught it here as well as I’d like, but I think you get the idea. With leaves already turning orange and red, the addition of sunset colors only intensifies them. Even the grey and brown trunks of these oaks turn an autumn hue.

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Alta Vista Elementary School, 1935 to 1976

Alta Vista Elementary School, 1935 to 1976

Alta Vista Elementary School, 1935 to 1976

In 1976 I was in high school. The school I went to from Kindergarten through sixth grade, though, Alta Vista Elementary School, was being closed by the county. Demographics change and the need for schools in particular neighborhoods change along with them. Alta Vista was a small school, I think and my memories of it have faded quite a bit but still, it was my first alma mater. My mom was part of a group of parents that tried to save the school. Except for in Hallmark movies, these things never really amount to much and the chances of success here were pretty slim. The school closed and my younger brothers finished their elementary school years at a different school.

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Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child Boxes

Operation Christmas Child Boxes

It’s that time of the year again. Cathy held back a bit this year. In 2017 she planned to make six boxes but that grew into 12. I think that was the high water mark for her. In the last two years she’s kept closer to plan and this year she only went one over her planned four boxes, which is quite an accomplishment for her. It was harder because everything seems harder this year, particularly shopping, but she went on a couple outings to fill her boxes. Since I’m actually posting this more than three weeks after the fact, it’s pretty clear she didn’t pick up any unwanted viruses on her shopping trips, at least not anything with a gestation period shorter than that. We didn’t volunteer at their packing center this year, either. It’s sad that something as worthwhile as this is impacted so much by this pandemic, but there you are. Hopefully next year things will be back to some semblance of normal.

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Schlumbergera truncata (Thanksgiving Cactus)

Schlumbergera truncata (Thanksgiving Cactus)

Schlumbergera truncata (Thanksgiving Cactus)

This Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) is somewhat neglected though most of the year. That’s actually a good thing as they really don’t want to much attention. It sits on a shelf in our kitchen (breakfast room, really) and gets watered only occasionally. Then, one day around this time of year, you look over and it’s covered with these beautiful blooms. Naturally we move it to a more prominent position while it blooms and then it will go back into relative obscurity for the rest of the year.

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Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis)

Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis)

Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis)

At the north end of our front garden is a relatively shady spot with some ferns growing in it. There are wood ferns of some unknown variety, a few ostrich ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris), a Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum), and quite a bit of sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis). This is a fertile frond of the last of those and it’s quite elegant, to my way of thinking. This and the ostrich fern have their sporangia on separate, fertile fronds. Both are often found in particularly wet locations and this allows them to keep the spores safe and dry over the winter and then drop them in the spring. At least that’s my assumption. They make a nice winter interest in the garden, as well, although I don’t think they care about that, particularly. I did plant a royal fern (Osmunda regalis) in this part of the garden last year but I’m afraid it got eaten by something. If it doesn’t come up on the spring, I may try again, giving it a little protection until it gets big enough to fend for itself. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating, I’m frond of ferns.

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Potomac River from Blockhouse Point

Potomac River from Blockhouse Point

Potomac River from Blockhouse Point

I took the day off today and spent the morning reading (Rumours of War, by Allan Mallinson). Dorothy is home for Thanksgiving but both she and Cathy worked this morning. In the afternoon we drove to River Road and walked out to Blockhouse Point. It’s a nice walk pretty much any time of year and particularly with the leaves off the trees the view is really nice. We didn’t really have time to walk down the trail to the level of the canal but we will plan on doing that next time.

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Thanksgiving Meal

Thanksgiving Meal

Thanksgiving Meal

Like many families this year, we had a very small Thanksgiving meal today. I’m not fond of turkey and with only four of us, it seemed like a waste to bother with one. So, I roasted a 5.5 pound chicken, stuffed with a pilau with onions, currants, pine nuts, lemon zest, and allspice. We were meant to have green bean casserole but somehow I forgot. We did have a salad, though, as well as two cranberry sauces, the jellied version out of a can and one made from fresh cranberries and an orange, blended together with a little extra sugar.

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Juniper Berries

Juniper Berries

Juniper Berries

Cathy and I went for a walk late today at the Blue Mash Trail behind the Laytonsville land fill. It’s a nice, easy walk and we enjoyed the fall color still showing on a few trees. There is a fair amount of oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), which is pretty, even if it is a bit invasive. There’s a small group of American persimmon trees (Diospyros virginiana) but not much fruit was left at this point. This photo is of juniper berries and leaves. I particularly like this color combination. It’s especially rich on an overcast day like we had this afternoon.

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Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii)

Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii)

Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii)

Today’s walk was in Redgate Park, formerly Redgate Golf Course. We walked the back nine today and enjoyed the cool weather and saw quite a few birds, including some blue birds and a hawk that I got a pretty decent photo of as it took off from a branch. This is Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), a widely naturalized alien plant that’s found throughout our woods. I know we aren’t suppose to like invasive, non-native plants but you have to admit, its fall colors are quite spectacular.

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Mill Creek

Mill Creek

Mill Creek

We walked down Mill Creek this afternoon, from where it goes under Redland Road to Lake Needwood and then along the shore of the lake as far as Needwood Road. It’s a nice walk and we didn’t see anyone else on the trail. We saw a few white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and at least two pileated Woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus). The woodpeckers were far enough away that my photos of them aren’t worth sharing, but it was nice to watch them tap, tap, tapping on a tree.

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Nativity Scene

Nativity Scene

Nativity Scene

We don’t typically get our Christmas decorations up quite as early as we have done this year. I know some people are good about regularly getting things set up the weekend after Thanksgiving. We aren’t that prompt and sometimes things don’t get set up until the week of Christmas itself. This year, with less ‘out of house’ activities, we put our tree up and started decorating on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Dorothy set up the traditional nativity scene on the piano. As usual, all are welcome at the manger and Dorothy makes sure there are many representatives from various places.

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