Daffodils are starting to bloom all over. The early varieties, particularly in warm locations, have been in bloom for a week or so. These are our first to get fully out. They are called ‘Tete-A-Tete’ and they are a nice, little, clump-forming variety that I really like. We have them in a few places and they are very happy, blooming as the others are still forming buds. They are only about 8 to 10 inches tall, so not suited for growing in with too much ground cover. So, in the pachysandra we have taller varieties, like ‘Arkle’ which is big and bold but blooms a little later.
Spring really feels like it’s here. The first half of March is too early to be too sure we’re completely done with winter and we’ve had big snow storms later than this, but it’s really feeling like spring this week and I think a lot of folks are hoping it’s for real. The pears are starting to bloom and I’ve seen cherries and magnolias in bloom. I went out early this afternoon and wandered around a bit looking for things to photograph and came across this feather, probably a Canada goose feather, down by a drainage pond near my building.
This is Ficaria verna, formerly known as Ranunculus ficaria, commonly called the fig buttercup or lesser celandine. It is a weed and is listed as a noxious weed by a bunch of states and banned in at least two. It’s growing wild in the area around the pond next to my building. I’ve had enough experience with invasive weeds that I understand the desire to keep them out so I wouldn’t ever plant this. Nevertheless, I can appreciate the beautiful, bright yellow flowers. It is a tuberous rooted, herbaceous perennial native to western and central Asia and Europe. After flowering, the leaves die back by early summer and the plant goes dormant until the next spring.
It was such a beautiful day that after church we decided to stop at Meadowside Nature Center and take a walk. Shortly after we parked we heard a hawk call out and saw it land in a tree overhead. I was able to get a few photos of it—either a Cooper’s or sharp-shinned—but they were from such a low angle they aren’t really all that good. We continued down past the pond to the Pioneer Homestead, where this photo was taken. There are two log cabins, a smoke house, and a corn crib. From there we walked down to Lake Frank and saw one of the eagles on their nest, which was cool. All in all, a very nice outing.
I went over to my mom’s this morning to see her and to do a few things around her apartment. After the minor chores, we took a walk around the loop she walks most days, about a third of a mile. We started by taking a slight detour to see the two Camellia japonica bushes that are in bloom outside the enclosed walkway just past the dining hall. They are absolutely covered with pink and white flowers, both varying somewhat from almost all pink to mostly white with pink lines. I have three plants in my yard, all small (and one is very small). One of them has buds but none are blooming yet. Looking forward to that.
I stopped at Meadowside Nature Center on the way home today and walked down to the pond on the Pioneer Trail. There were a pair of geese on the pond and they paddled away from me as I approached. I got some pictures of these seed pods and wasn’t sure what they were. I’m pretty sure they belong to a hardy hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos sometimes called swamp rose mallow). They are lovely, I think. They look a lot like the seed pods on crape myrtle except they are on non-woody stems and are much larger. I walked up to another small catchment pond and startled a pair of mallards who flew off to the larger pond as I approached. It’s supposed to get cold tonight and tomorrow night but spring is pretty much around the corner, with forecasts of temperatures greater than 70°F for Monday.
I went outside today in the early afternoon and walked to the empty lot next to my building. It still looks mostly brown but there are little bits of color if you look hard enough. The seedling pears are just about to start blooming and there is a small amount of pink in their otherwise white buds. The hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) is starting to bloom everywhere. Those flowers are white and not terribly conspicuous. Even less conspicuous because they are so small are the beautiful, tiny blue flowers of Persian speedwell (Veronica persica, also known as bird’s-Eye speedwell). You really have to look for them, but once you start to see them, you’ll notice them everywhere.
Yesterday we dropped my car off at the shop. It was there overnight so Cathy and I went to work together again this morning. She had a physical therapy appointment first thing, so I got an hour of time to spend reading that I would not normally have had. I finished Tristram Shandy today, which I enjoyed more as I got further into it. It won’t be on my “best books of all time” list but it was fine. Our mechanics looked the car over and instead of having to replace the sensor for the airbags, they only had to replace some wires, which had worn through. They had to take out the driver seat, so there was a fair amount of labor involved, but it was about half what the Honda dealer said it would. And, they said my breaks were fine and didn’t need the $700 of work the Honda dealer said I needed done. We picked the car up after work and got home just in time for this pretty, if less than spectacular sunset.
Cathy and I came to work together this morning, dropping my car off at the shop for a bit of work. The air-bag warning light is on and we need to know what that’s about. The Honda dealer said they needed to replace the sensor. They also said the rear brakes were in desperate need of work. This was when I had it at the dealer for work based on a recall notice. Since dealerships are generally more expensive than your average, independent repair shop, I figured I’d get a second opinion. Anyway, after work I met Cathy where she had parked and had a couple minutes to photograph the sky. The clouds were collecting like there would be a nice sunset but it never really materialized. The sun went down, the clouds turned from white to grey with only a hint of color. You can’t win them all.
Cathy bought some tulips at the grocery store over the weekend and we have them in a vase on our dining room table. The stems were a bit long and the flowers drooped a bit. She was looking for deep red flowers but they didn’t have any that were just right so she settled for these very pale pinks. I think they’re quite beautiful and a flower here or there and now and then is worth the cost. Daffodils are starting to bloom around my office building and one or two are about to be blooming in the yard but the tulips are a litter further behind. Spring it on its way, however, and we’re looking forward to working in the yard.
Our oldest Lenten rose, with its deep maroon colored flowers, has been in bloom for a while. We had such warm weather that a lot of things have been coming up early. We had a cold spell. Not terribly cold but with nighttime temperatures in the 20s. That damaged some of the tender leaves that were just coming up and also some of the buds that were starting to open. This Lenten rose, a variety called ‘Mango Magic’, was not quite as far along so was less damaged, although even here the petals of a few flowers were burned by the frost. Hopefully we’ll have more flowers to come, as it’s warmed up again.
It was a cool, late winter day today. I was doing some work around the house that included carrying boxes to the car, so I was dressed more lightly that the actual outdoor temperature called for. It was fine while I was working but if I had needed to be out for too long in a t-shirt, I would have been less happy. In the evening we went to Olney to have dinner at Panera. Needless to say, not having long sleeve shirt on got me noticed a few times. I’m glad I brought my camera with me, as there was a really nice sunset and I was able to go out and take pictures a few times through the course of it. This was the last one I took, when most of the sky had gone very dark.
The cornel (Cornus mas, sometimes known as cornelian cherry) is an old-world dogwood that should, I believe, be grown more here. The trees are fairly slow growing and the wood is very hard and dense, actually being dense enough that it doesn’t float. This, along with ash, is the wood that was used in ancient Greece for making spears. According to the 2nd century A.D. geographer Pausanias, the Trojan horse, built by the Greeks was built of cornel from a grove of trees sacred to Apollo. For me, it’s the very early flowers, which are not much individually, as well as the cherry-like fruit that makes the tree attractive for the small garden.
There was a nice sunset this evening. The number of clouds was pretty low and unfortunately they clouds that were there were pretty low in the sky. Almost all of them were below and behind trees. At least that’s where they were from out back yard. I’ve had some really nice sunset from there but this one I had to work just to get this little bit of color.
It’s gotten cold out and I went out in my stocking feet to get this because I was afraid I’d miss it if I took the time to put my shoes on. I think that was the right decision, as the color only lasted a few minutes. I could still see some color through the trees for a while longer but that would have been less even than this one. I think one thing I like so much about sunsets is the depth of color. The blue of the sky at dusk is much richer and more vibrant than during the day. Of course the color in the clouds is also different, which is what makes a sunset special. But the blue of the sky at dusk, turning to the black of night, is just about my favorite color in the world.
Not much to brag about today, in terms of my photographic exploits. There are days I just struggle and even when I find something to photograph, it’s only worth posting so I can keep up my photo-a-day thing. This is day 3,344 and this photograph is number 174,241, which is an accomplishment, anyway. We used to have a small collection of these dogs in white, brown, and black. They were in the back window of a car but eventually they went the way of all things, returning to the dust from which they were made (or they’re in the process of that, anyway).
A co-worker is retiring and we had a party for her this afternoon. Not everyone rates a party but she’s been here a third of a century and certainly deserves one. In spite of all the years and although we have the same supervisor, I’ve never actually worked with her, but we’ve seen each other from time to time and we have quite a few friends in common. I changed supervisors in the last year when my previous boss retired and we’ve only had the same supervisor since then, so it’s perhaps less surprising than it might be. Anyway, this is Linda (I’ll let you guess which one she is) with five of our co-workers, including our shared supervisor, Bryan (second from the right). I’ve worked quite a bit with Terry, on the far right and he asked if I’d come and take pictures, which I did and which is why this is my photo of the day.
The story is that this is a tear catcher or tear bottle, used to collect the tears of mourners in Persia (i.e. Iran and Afghanistan). According to tradition, bottles like this (and in other shapes and from other places) were used to catch the tears and the more tears the more regret over losing the loved one. The shape of the opening, theoretically, is meant to fit over the eye, although it doesn’t really fit very well and I can think of much better designs if that’s really what it’s about.
I’ve never been terribly comfortable believing that they were ever actually used for this, but that’s the story. I’ve never found any convincing proof that they were actually used for this purpose. Interestingly, the Wikipedia page on them has very inconclusive and even somewhat conflicting statements about them and most of the statements are tagged as needing a citation, so even those are pretty suspect (not to mention that nearly everything you find there is suspect).
I don’t think this bottle is terribly old. If it is, it’s in terrifically good shape. It is, however, a remarkably beautiful, cobalt blue and regardless of the veracity of it’s origin and original use, it’s a beautiful example of the glass blower’s art.
After yesterday’s long walk in the park we decided on a shorter walk this afternoon, sticking to neighborhood streets. I took some pictures of sycamore trees (Platanus occidentalis) against the blue sky. I also took some of Lenten rose plants (Helleborus species) in someone’s front garden. They were further along than most of ours, although we have one that’s got quite a few flowers on it. As the sun set, I took various pictures of it with differing amounts of color. None of them were spectacular but even a mediocre sunset is a beautiful thing.
Cathy and I took a walk in the park this afternoon, going about four miles in all, including a wrong turn that added a half mile or so to it. I took a bit of a fall early on, when the somewhat muddy path and the moss covering it allowed my foot to move sideways suddenly. I ended up on my back, having rolled to protect my camera and I laid there long enough for Cathy to get a photo of me. We saw that the bald eagle nest is occupied again this year, which is nice to see, even if it was too far away to get a reasonable photo. During our off-trail bit, after taking the wrong path and trying to take a short cut back we happened to see two white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), including this one, quite close but through the undergrowth.
I generally try not to repeat the exact same subject in photographs. That’s not to say that once I’ve posted a photo of a sunset, for instance, I’ll try not to post any more. But things like this camera, I try to post only once. I posted one of this same camera in January of last year, I’m afraid so I have to break my unwritten rule (not for the first time, I fear). I mentioned it recently in a post about a Uniflex twin-lens reflex camera. It is a Leica IIIc, which was made from 1940 to 1951.