We had an early snow fall today. We didn’t actually get a lot on the ground, although as near as Damascus there was noticeably more. In New Jersey George got a fair amount and further north it was as much as 30 inches. Still, snow in October is reasonably rare here and it was fun to come across this snow man, even if it is only about two feet tall. I think they must have collected snow off their cars, where it accumulated a bit more.
Dorothy said I should mention that I edited out a political sign for a candidate for the upcoming Rockville mayoral election. It didn’t really add anything to the picture. I didn’t bother to take out the wire supports for the sign and you can see them in the lower left.
Our First Frost
After the snow yesterday, the sky cleared overnight and it got pretty cold. There was a nice frost this morning with the edges of the fallen leaves turned white with a thin border of ice. Lovely.
This is the view out my window on rainy November 10. It is a willow oak (Quercus phellos) in the parking lot of my office building. It’s starting to look decidedly wintery. I love the stark lines, though, and there’s still a bit of color.
I know it’s been a while since I posted anything but I’ve been taking my pictures, as planned. I got a little behind and then when I was ready to work on them, my drive failed. I have backups (actually, that drive is my backup to the server) so nothing should be lost. I’m not completely back up to speed but managed to edit pictures from 11/10 through 11/13. More to come soon.
Winter’s First Snow
We had the first snowfall of the winter today and it was quite nice. We got at least two inches although it never really amounted to anything on pavement, which was warm enough to melt all of it. That includes driveways and sidewalks as well as roads, so driving was not a problem. That’s just as well because I had to go get a few things for the bathroom and Cathy went to a bridal shower for a friend. The snow was pretty on bushes and trees and this arborvitae (Thuja) looked really nice with fluffy white snow held in its branches.
I mentioned the other day that Cathy has been looking at topographic maps of the area and that Avery Road used continue as far as Baltimore Road. When Norbeck Road was put in, the section from there to what is now the Croydon Creek Nature Center was abandoned. The last quarter mile or so north of Norbeck was realigned so that they would meet at more or less 90 degrees. Today, Cathy and I walked from the Croydon Creek Nature Center down the hill to Croydon Creek and then back up on the old road bed as far as Norbeck Road. It was a beautiful day. We had been to three stores and it was really nice to get away from the crowds for a little bit. It’s a pretty, little park and worth a visit if you want to get away briefly.
American Beech Leaves
I love beech trees in the winter. They hold their leaves which turn a beautiful, copper brown. They are especially nice against all the grey of a normal winter woodland and with the sun shining on and through them they are particularly nice. I’ve had a few pictures of beech leaves in the fog, which is also magical, but today was sunny and they were glowing in the sun. It’s been something of a crazy winter so far, with temperatures down around zero (Fahrenheit) and then up into the 60s. We have had a few minor snows but nothing of any great depth. Also, they have come when it was cold enough that it was easily swept off the sidewalk instead of needing to be shoveled. But there’s a lot of winter yet, so you never know.
It was a beautiful day and I went out into the woods for a little while during lunch time. There was ice on a drainage pond in the woods near my building but in the sun it was quite pleasant. I got down onto the ground and took some pictures of this sycamore leaf (American sycamore, Platanus occidentalis). They are large and heavy and really pretty with the sun shining through them. I also found a small deer antler that had been shed. It was only six or seven inches long and had no forks, but I picked it up to keep, anyway.
I took a few more pictures of snow drops (Galanthus nivalis) early this afternoon. They are nearly ready to open, probably in the next day or two if the weather remains to balmy. Nevertheless, I just posted a picture of snow drops and I try not to repeat too often or too quickly (except for baby pictures, those are always allowed). I’ll be back to them shortly, when they have well and truly begun to bloom. In the meantime, I went up into the upland portion of the 12 acre lot next to my office. This is filled to a large extent with ragweed and mugwort, as well as goldenrod, grass, and a few small trees. It was quite wet because of the 48 hours or so of rain that we recently got. The soles of my shoes are cracked and water seeped in, soaking my socks. But it was nice to be outdoors on such a beautiful day.
The forecast was for snow today. It’s been in the upper 40s and even the low 50s lately, so I wasn’t really expecting it to amount to much. In the morning it was overcast but no precipitation. Cooler but still just above freezing. At about 2:00 PM it started snowing and by 3:00, when this picture was taken, it was coming down fairly hard. We probably got about 2 inches in all, but it was pretty wet and not what I’d call winter wonderland type snow. Still, the falling snow was pretty against the bare trees and the copper colored Japanese maple leaves in our neighbor’s yard.
Snow in March isn’t that unusual here. Of course, if you listen to the radio this week you might not get that impression. I heard a report that breathlessly told us how long its been since we had a snow like this was forecast to be this late in the year. Well, that’s possible, I suppose. A couple problems. Most importantly, the actual snowfall didn’t live up to the hype. We got maybe four inches of very wet snow. I remember a snowfall on March 18 not that long ago that was two or three times worse. But it’s March 21, which is, as I’m sure you can figure out, later in the year than March 18. Not by a lot, though. Anyway, as usual, much ado about not much. Quite pretty, actually.
First Snow of Autumn
We had our first snowfall of the autumn today. It wasn’t particularly heavy and didn’t amount to much but the county had announced last night that there would be a two hour delay this morning. This morning they cancelled school for the day. For those of us who don’t mind driving in a little slush, this meant anyone preferring not to drive stayed off the road. That made driving all the easier and it was pretty quiet at work. Plenty of time to do, of course, but not a lot of people. Not that people actually come to my door very often, in any case. Getting home was no worse than getting to work and we left a little early so as not to drive in the dark, as the temperature dropped, possibly below freezing.
Cathy and I went for a walk on Lake Needwood after church today. It was overcast but pleasant and we walked part way around the lake. I took this picture from near the boat house at the southeast part of the lake, looking north, more of less. The trees are bare and with the overcast sky, they looked particularly stark and gloomy. That’s not to say they aren’t beautiful, though. I think they look pretty nice. The water was quite still, also, which added to the mood.
For the few of you who follow me here, I apologize for the brief hiatus. My main workstation has four hard drives (including a relatively small boot SSD). Two of them, one 5TB and the other 6TB are dedicated to photographs. Unfortunately, I have a lot of photographs and they two drives are full. That kept me from being able to “process” my photographs for about 10 days (not that I rushed to rectify that matter, of course). I ordered another 6TB drive so I should be set for a while now.
It was chilly out this morning and everything was covered with frost. I started my car and while it was warming up a little, I took some photos of frost on the leaves in the yard. Once the sun began to hit them, the frost started to melt but I wanted to get them with the sun shining on them, so I moved around the yard as the sun moved to new leaves. I really like looking at frost and don’t mind the cold too much. It wasn’t all that cold, in any case, only for or five degrees below freezing. Colder days are almost certainly ahead for us, as winter is only just starting and doesn’t get into full swing until next month.
Clopper Lake, Seneca Creek State Park
We were out and about today. Cathy, Dorothy, and I made a trip to the Lancaster Dutch Market where it seemed half the county had gathered. In spite of the crowds, the line at the butcher was relatively short and I bought a few things. Cathy waited in the much longer line for pretzels and sausage rolls (which are the main reason we went, they are amazing). From there we drove to Seneca Creek State Park and drove through, seeing the lights that have been set up as a money maker for the park (and which we have no real desire to wait in line for after dark). I took a few pictures of Clopper Lake and like this one pretty well. I made bangers and mash for dinner, with roasted garlic and Parmesan cheese added to the mash. Comfort food.
Snow In The Trees
We had our first real snow of 2019 starting early yesterday afternoon. It showed a bit earlier in the week but didn’t accumulate at all. This time we ended up with about six inches on the ground this morning. It was a few degrees below freezing and the snow was quite pretty, although it was fairly heavy when I shoveled it off of the walk and driveway. This is a view up into the trees in our neighborhood and I really love the lines of dark bark and the white snow. We were out yesterday evening driving in it, which wasn’t a lot of fun, but it meant that we got to see our good friend, Karlee, so it was well worth it. Today we’re pretty much sticking around the house. Hopefully the roads will be clear by tomorrow, when Dorothy plans to leave for school. There wasn’t much snow north of here, so the majority of her trip shouldn’t be affected, in any case.
We got about six inches from late Saturday until midday Sunday. At that point I shoveled the walk and driveway and the picture from yesterday was taken about that time. Then it started snowing and was still coming down until about 11:00 PM. This morning we got up at about 5:30 and Dorothy planned to leave at 6:00 to drive back to school. There was an additional six to eight inches on the sidewalk ramp, so we got between 12 and 14 inches, I’d say. I got everything shoveled and the snow off of Dorothy’s car. In the end she waited until the sun had come up and left at about 8:00. Happily there was not much snow to our north and she had no problems getting back to Massachusetts. The sun came out later in the morning and it was quite beautiful out.
Deer Figurines in the Snow
We’ve had a fair amount of rain lately. In fact, we had a really wet fall and winter so far. It normally rains more here in the winter months but, and I haven’t actually checked the specifics, this year seems worse than normal. There is still some snow, although the temperature has been above freezing. These two brass deer are in among Cathy’s potted plants at the top of our driveway. I like the way they are standing in the snow, looking out at the cleared portion of the drive. They seem pretty unconcerned by the cold. The forecast has a cold front moving in late tomorrow, with temperatures predicted to drop into the single digits tomorrow night.
It’s been a reasonably mile winter so far, with only a few really chilly days. The forecast had temperatures dropping this afternoon with a low in the mid single digits (Fahrenheit) tonight. In the last afternoon I went out and it was definitely colder than it had been. The standing water on the lawn in the back yard was starting to freeze and making some really pretty crystal formations. It’s not the easiest thing to photograph but I think this one shows it pretty well. This ice is very thin, less than a millimeter, but by the morning the water will almost certainly be frozen solid.
The temperature didn’t get as low as we had been led to believe overnight, but it was 10°F this morning, which is chilly enough. I wear a light jacket when it gets this cool out, although really what I needed was gloves. The steering wheel of the car was pretty cold. I took some pictures of the pond between my office building and the next early this afternoon. The water level has dropped a few feet from when the ice started to form, so there were large sheets of ice around the banks of the pond that were left behind as the water moved out from under them. There was also ice on branches that had been underwater but now were about a foot above. It was quite pretty.
It was significantly warmer today and the ice was starting to melt. I had to walk across campus to a meeting (well, I didn’t have to walk but I chose to). After the meeting I went out into the woods for a little while to take some pictures. There is a stream running through the woods and a very boggy area next to it with ice throughout. I took a few pictures of the ice, which to me looks a lot like contour maps, which I find quite beautiful. I think I’m drawn to things that are fleetingly beautiful. Their transient nature hurts because I know they will shortly be gone but perhaps that adds to their appeal at the same time. A sunset, a pattern in ice, a beautiful and dramatic sky, they all last for a moment and then are gone forever.
Hamamelis (Witch Hazel)
I’m a huge fan of witch hazel (Hamamelis species). They’re small trees well suited to the suburban landscape and wonder of wonder, they bloom in mid-winter! Many years ago my father, Cathy, and I went to Brookside Gardens in Wheaton Regional Park in February and I remember falling in love with witch hazel at that time. Now whenever I see them in bloom, I remember my dad and remind myself that this is a tree I want to plant in my yard. Now that I have a space in the front yard that needs a small tree, this may be the spring when one gets planted. There are varieties with red, orange, and yellow flowers and I think all of them are terrific. The yellow, perhaps, stands out as being the brightest but they’re all worth the effort.
We had a little snow squall today, starting a little after noon. The temperature was above freezing when it started and when this photo was taken from my office window. The issue wasn’t really with the amount of snow that we were forecast to get, which ranged from two to four inches. The problem was that the temperature was supposed to drop to about 15°F (-9°C) and all the water and slush on the roads would freeze. When it snows at those temperatures, the snow isn’t nearly as slick as snow just below freezing. But ice is pretty slick regardless. Anyway, we’ll see what this does to tomorrows school closings. Not that we care so much about those now. The main effect they have on us is the reduction in traffic for our commute.
Calocedrus decurrens (Incense Cedar)
I’m a little late posting this but after yesterday’s snow squall, we had a nice cover of maybe as much as two inches of snow this morning. It was quite cool, down around 10°F (-12°C) and I put some salt down but being that cold, it’s not going to melt very much. I took some pictures in the yard before Cathy and I left for work. The sun was bright and was shining through the branches of trees that had some ice on them, which was lovely but hard to record very well. I decided to post this photo of snow on the branches of an Incense Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens) that is in the back of our yard. I planted four of them in the fall of 2007 and three survived. This is the tallest of them and is about 15 feet tall, I’d say. It’s starting to look like a real tree. The other two are doing fine but are not as tall, being about 12 and 7 feet tall respectively.
It was a pretty normal, overcast, somewhat dreary, winter’s day today. No rain or snow but cool and damp. The ground is completely saturated and there is some leftover snow scattered around. It’s warmer than it’s been and forecast to be in the 60s this week. This is the remains of a black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia species). We leave them through the winter for the birds, although most of them don’t get eaten by the spring. Sometimes we’ll see goldfinches (Spinus tristis) or dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis up in them, but food is never really scarce around here.
Beech Woods and Stream
It was cool but nice out today but we were indoors for most of the day. In the late afternoon I really wanted to get outdoors, at least for a little,and take a picture or two. We often walk around the block but I didn’t really want to do that. There generally isn’t much to photograph, especially this time of year, unless I’m willing to walk up into peoples’ yards and possibly lie on the ground. That’s not really my style. I suggested we drive to the other end of the neighborhood, park at the park, and walk a little ways in the woods. We went down stream to where there are two bridges crossing the streams and then back up the other side. The woods are mostly American beech (Fagus grandifolia), various species of oak (Quercus species), tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), and a few maple species (Acer species). This time of year, the beeches are the most obvious because they still have leaves on them, although they are dry and pale, golden brown.
We had a bit of freezing rain overnight and the trees and bushes were covered with a thin layer of ice in the morning. The local school system had a two hour delay this morning and that meant our commute was that much easier. In spite of the ice on branches and the school delay, the roads were wet but not icy. I took this photo of ice on an Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) twig next to where I parked at work. It rained pretty much all day.
The View Through Ice On My Car’s Window
As mentioned in yesterday’s post, it rained pretty much all day yesterday after there was freezing rain the night before. Overnight the water on my car’s windows formed quite large ice crystals. They were hard to get a good picture of but I tried, anyway. The problems is the lack of contrast in the crystals. Thus picture doesn’t actually show much detail in the ice but I like the way the wet ice crystals make the view beyond the window into a somewhat abstract image.
Waxing Gibbous Moon
Cathy and I worked most of the day moving things around in our house. One room that has become a catch-all for boxes and miscellaneous bric-a-brac is our guest bedroom. However, Cathy’s cousin and his wife are coming this week so we sort of need to clear it out. It’s high time we did, so that’s fine. We were able to get rid of a few things, mostly things that were not worth even donating, but mostly we just organized and moved things around. The more thorough going through is yet to be done. I did go out briefly to take four boxes of books as a donation for resale and got rid of a half dozen empty boxes that we no longer need. In the afternoon I took some pictures in the yard but none of them are anything to write home about. The moon was pretty, though, so I thought I’d post that for today’s picture.
The forecast was for snow and freezing rain overnight and the local school systems had already cancelled classes for today as early as yesterday evening. Nothing was coming down when we went to bed, just after midnight. When I got up this morning there was maybe as much as half an inch on the ground. I took a few pictures then out the front door. A little later, just before 9:00 AM, I took more pictures out the back door, including this one. By that point there was maybe a little more than two inches on the ground. By the time I’m actually posting this, about 2:00 PM, the snow has stopped falling and there is about five inches. I’m fortunate in that I can work from home without any trouble. I’d much rather take a day off and go for a walk in the snow, but they like me to work for my pay, so I work.
Snow Drops (Galanthus nivalis)
The snow drops (Galanthus nivalis) along the edge of the woods near my office have been in bloom for a week or more. Those in our yard are in a more sheltered spot and tend to bloom later but they are coming out now. Early this afternoon I decided to take some pictures of them with snow all around them. I got a few like that but decided I like this close up better, even though it doesn’t show the snow. They’re not really open in this picture but they open up on warm days before closing up at night. With yesterday’s snowfall, they have gone back into winter mode but it won’t be long before they are open for good. The daffodils are also coming up and showing signs of buds in amongst the leaves. It’s still winter here, but spring is coming.
A Little Light Snow
There was snow in the forecast for this afternoon and this evening and we got it. Someone had said that we’d be getting two feet of snow, but nothing approaching that was ever in any official forecast that I saw. We got somewhere under a half inch and that only on grassy areas. The roadways we were on never had any accumulation. It’s also supposed to be colder this week, with temperatures in the mid 20s or even down into the teens one or two nights this week. The forecasters on the radio are breathlessly telling us about the “bitter cold“ weather we can expect. I’m sorry but I can’t get too exercised about temperatures around 20°F. I wouldn’t describe that as warm, of course. It’s cold, but definitely not “bitter cold.“ I’m happy with anything below zero being described as bitter. I might even grant “bitter“ status to single digit temperatures. But not low to mid twenties. Sorry.
Dorothy drove down for spring break with five of her friends, arriving around 11:00 last night. Today we drove up to Pennsylvania for the day. When this trip was planned they talked about camping but as the date approached it was clear that wasn’t going to be realistic. When we got there, there was about six inches of snow on the ground. We were able to get a fire going and cleared off the log benches so we could sit around it. We took a few short walks but mostly stayed close. It was cool but the sky was clear and there was no wind to speak of so it was very pleasant. Dorothy set out a beach chair and did some reading. This isn’t the stereotypical spring break but everyone seemed to have a good time.
It’s turned cold, with morning temperatures in the mid 20s. We had our first hard freeze yesterday and today there was frost on the windscreen of my car. So, naturally I pulled out my camera and took a few pictures. These little ice crystals are pretty delicate and once I turned on the car, they melted pretty quickly (and I ran the windshield washer, which took care of them completely). As many of you know, I don’t mind cold weather too much. I wore a jacket a few times during our ten days in Juneau but that was as much for the rain as anything else. I’ll generally not bother unless it’s below about 15°F or I’m going to be outdoors for an extended period.
As I came out of my office this evening, the clouds in the darkening western sky was back lit with areas of brighter light. All that was behind the trees that line my parking lot. It had a somber and even sinister look and I decided I’d take a few pictures. The exposure was a bit tricky and I didn’t have a tripod, but I braces the camera on a tree and it turned out well enough. It was a mood and I think I captured it pretty well. The parking lot was pretty empty by the time I left work. It’s Thanksgiving Day tomorrow, and somber and sinister really doesn’t go well with that. Nevertheless, it’s how I was feeling when I left work. I’m not sure what that means.
Winter’s First Snow
We had our first snow of the winter overnight. It wasn’t anything that was going to snarl traffic, melting on roadways and not amounting to more than a thin covering on the grass, but it was snow. Early morning after a snow is often quite pretty, especially if the clouds that brought the snow have cleared and it’s sunny. That was the case today. I took a few pictures in the front yard, including this one of the holly near our driveway. The robins generally come at some point in the winter and devour all the berries from this tree. They congregated in another holly a couple days ago and have pretty much stripped that one.
There was a heavy frost this morning and I took the time before going to work to get some photos. That meant lying on the ground which was a bit cold and decidedly damp, but I knew I’d dry out before I got to work, so I wasn’t worried. I think ice crystals are pretty cool (no pun intended) and these are pretty nice. I’d like to have gotten closer but I didn’t have the time to get out the ultra-close-up equipment, so this was about as good as I could get.
Cathy and I took Darius to Meadowside Nature Center late this morning and into the afternoon. We enjoyed the exhibits inside for a while, particularly the cave that Darius enjoyed crawling through. We also liked seeing the albino corn snake (Pantherophis guttatus) and the large, black eastern rat snake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis). We also enjoyed seeing the raptors out back, including a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and turkey vulture (Cathartes aura). We walked down and around a pond and then I had fun driving off an leaving Cathy and Darius to run after me. Darius thought that was hilarious. While I waited for them to find me, I took this photo of the dried petals on a hydrangea shrub.
It started snowing late this morning and it came down fairly hard the rest of the day. Cathy and I had come to work together and she had some things that needed to be done, so we didn’t leave until about 5:30. Because of the snow, most people had left early and there really wasn’t much traffic on the roads, which was nice. It’s been warm enough that the road surface wasn’t too bad, anyway. This was taken as I waited outside Cathy’s building to pick her up. We probably got an inch of snow on grassy areas, but it didn’t really have a big impact on us. Local schools are opening two hours late tomorrow, which means we shouldn’t have any trouble getting in, either, which is nice.
Snow on Branches
After yesterday’s snowfall, today promised to be quite nice. Cool but clear. There were still some clouds when we left for work today but between them, the sun was shining and making all the show quite dazzling this morning. I really like snow on branches and took quite a few photos this morning before we left for work. As mentioned yesterday, local schools were on a two hour delay so we didn’t have any problems with traffic. The roads were all clear and mostly dry, although it’s my understanding that in the northern and western parts of the county it was a bit icier. This wasn’t the sort of snow storm that paralyzes the region. We still have plenty of time this winter for something like that, though.
There was frost on the ground and on the car this morning and I thought the ice crystals were pretty enough that I took the time to get a few pictures before heading off to work. These are on the roof of the car and are so delicate. I started the car so it would be a little warmed up by the time I got in, then put my bag in the trunk and took a handful of photos of ice crystals. I realized after taking them that the camera was set to manual mode because I had taken flash photos most recently. Fortunately they were pretty close to a proper exposure, so that worked out well.
Around here, winter colors are mostly browns and greys. The sky is often still blue, of course. Lawns and evergreen trees and shrubs are still green. But walking through the woods, which are mostly deciduous, brown and grey predominates. There is still color to be found, if you’re willing to look. We have a number of things that are various shades of burgundy right now. These epimedium leaves are lovely. They are only semi-evergreen, so some have fallen off, but those that remain are really nice. We also have a Lenten rose (Helleborus species) blooming and it has deep purple-red flowers that are wonderful. There are sedums in the front whose leaves and stems turn this color in the winter, as well. So get out there and look down. The color is there waiting to be found.
February is generally the middle of winter but it’s been quite warm lately, with highs in the 60s. The daffodils are coming up in our yard. That’s not all that unusual, as they generally start coming up during a warm spell in the winter. They are remarkably cold hardy and will be just fine, even after winter returns as it’s bound to do. I don’t mind a little green in the garden, as it reminds me that spring is not too far away. We actually have Lenten rose (Helleborus species) blooming and the snow drops are coming up (meaning they are probably already out in the woods near my office!). I’m a big fan of witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) which is a small tree that generally blooms in mid February in our area. We don’t have one but it’s something I’ve considered getting to give us a bit of color this time of year.
Snow Drops (Galanthus nivalis)
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the snow drops (Galanthus nivalis) are coming up in our yard. I remembered that the snow drops in the woods around my office are generally two or three weeks ahead of those in our yard. I went out with my camera this afternoon and sure enough, they are in bloom. There are two large areas, one in the back amidst fallen logs and the other on a steep bank leading down to a stream on the front side of the building. They really are lovely flowers, so simple and yet elegant, especially at a time of year when the ground and most of the things on it are brown.
Sycamore Tree (Platanus occidentalis)
This American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) is in our neighbor’s yard. It’s a bit, healthy tree and in the summer it is often lovely at dusk with the evening sun turning the bright green leaves a wonderful orange-green that’s very hard to describe. In the winter, without its leaves, the beauty of the sycamore is in their bark, which is a lovely white, especially against the blue of a winter sky. They are large trees and generally better suited to parks and open areas but they also make a fine city tree, being quite tolerant in their habits.
Camellia japonica ‘Hokkaido Red’
This spring I planted three camellias. One was a fall blooming hybrid between C. oleifera and C. hiemalis ‘Showa-no-sakae’ called ‘Winter’s Star’ (see Thursday, October 15, 2020). The other two are spring blooming Camellia japonica varieties. One of them, however, has a bloom that’s opened a bit early. It’s called ‘Hokkaido Red’. My understanding is that it was selected from plants grown from seed collected on the northernmost parts Hokkaido, Japan and grown at the National Arboretum. It’s supposed to be one of the most cold tolerant C. japonica and also blooms prolifically over a long period in the early spring. It’s a relatively slow growing shrub and of course mine was only planted this year, so it will be a while before it’s of any stature. But it looks very promising.
This mum was part of a bunch of cut flowers that we had on the table at Thanksgiving (you can see it in the photo from Thursday, November 26, 2020). It’s lasted pretty well and is still brightening up the dining room table. I’ve never really been into cut flowers but I have to admit they are a relatively inexpensive way to add a splash of color and cheer to a room. They don’t have to be particularly exotic, either. Mums, after all, are easily grown and not very expensive. So, next time you have a celebratory meal planned (or even on more mundane occasions), buy a small bouquet of flowers, stick them in a vase (or a pitcher, as these are) and put them on the table.
Winter is a time of stillness and quiet. In the city, of course, things don’t stop in the winter and the hustle and bustle continues. Even there, however, there are fewer people out and those who are generally keep moving. Even in the country, life goes on, of course. The birds (and every thing that creepeth upon the earth) still have to eat and those that don’t fly south (or those for whom this is south) can be seen in the woods and open areas. But the plants are quiet and still. They are still beautiful, though, especially when seen in silhouette, I think.
The Year’s First Snow
We had what the new media breathlessly called “the most significant snow in three years.” Since we haven’t had more than an inch or so in that time, it didn’t take much to make their prediction come true. We got maybe three inches of very wet snow. Not exactly what you’d call a blizzard. We’ve been working from home since March, so it really didn’t affect us at all. We did get a small package delivered that I didn’t find right away because it got covered, but it was in a plastic envelope so that wasn’t a problem. I think the snow was lovely and I’m mostly a winter person, in any case (I didn’t bother putting shoes on to get the mail, for instance).
A Leaf In The Snow
As usual when it snows around here, I took pictures of the snow. They really aren’t all that interesting and I know it’s cliche, but there you are.
I did like this leaf, peaking out from the snow, so that’s what you get for today. Not exciting, but again, there you are. I do remember a friend in high school telling me that shadows are blue. You can see that here, in the shade of the house.
Potomac River from Turkey Run Park
As I think I’ve mentioned, we’ve been looking for new trails to walk on lately. What with working from home and not being able to go to church or to visit friends much, we really like getting outdoors. Turkey Run Park, on the George Washington Parkway in northern Virginia is one that I’ve seen signs for over the years but we’ve never actually been there. The walk was about 2 miles in total but felt like more than that. Parts of the trail were a bit muddy and slick and there were a few places where we had to scramble over rocks (scramble may be too strong a term, but you had to watch what you were doing, anyway). There were two places where we had to cross a stream on rocks. And coming from the river back up to the Turkey Run Park parking areas was quite a climb. There are wooden stairs where we made that ascent, which helped quite a bit, but it’s fairly steep. Anyway, we had a nice time being out and seeing the river.
I love foggy mornings. I suppose if I had to drive in them I’d like them somewhat less. Otherwise, and definitely from the comfort of my yard, I like them pretty well. This photo was taken looking up the street through the large red oaks that were planted along the road when the neighborhood was first built in the late 1960s. I love the atmospheric feel of trees in fog. We don’t get it a lot but somewhat more in the winter than other times of year. Even then, it generally burns off pretty soon after the sun is up.
Frost on Fern Fronds
It hasn’t realle been that cold yet this winter. We did have snow last week but it was only down into the upper 20s at night. It was chilly this morning and the forecast is for continued cold for a while, with lows around 20°F. Still not frigid, but colder. I took some mail out to the box this morning and noticed the frost on these fern fronds so I got my camera and went out a second time to take a few photos. The frost didn’t last long, melting shortly after the sun hit it. But I wasn’t going to stay out too long, anyway. I was in a t-shirt and barefoot. Bracing.
I think I mentioned a while back that we put up our Christmas tree earlier this year than normal. We put it up on the weekend after Thanksgiving, which for a lot of folks is traditional. For us, we generally would cut a tree and putting it up that early is asking for a lot of needles to be down by Christmas. For the last three Christmases we’ve used this artificial tree, so that’s really not an issue. The plan is to keep it up a little while longer, but of course, it won’t have the wrapped presents under it after tomorrow.
We may have gotten the tree up early but we didn’t really do as well buying gifts this year as we generally do. There are a lot of packages under the tree but a lot of them are food gifts. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but we generally try to do better. Still, we’re together and looking forward to our two Christmas meals (breakfast and dinner with enough to eat that we won’t be hungry between them). We also plan on having video calls with our two families tomorrow.
C&O Canal, between Violets Lock to Blockhouse Point
Cathy, Dorothy, and I went to Violet’s Lock on the C&O Canal today and walked south past Blockhouse Point. The river was fairly high and very wild looking. It was fairly cold and there were icicles hanging from the rocks on the other side of the canal. We happened to see two adult bald eagles in a tree about where we turned around and then saw two more eagles—one adult and one juvenile—flying overhead. I took quite a few photos and enjoy this one quite a bit. It was a pretty day and nice to be out, although also nice to get warm again afterwards (not that I wore a heavy coat, mind you).
Black-eyed Susan Seeds
As we pass through the darkest days of the year, it’s good to remember the brighter times that are coming. In the summer, the yard was filled with colors, green, yellow, pink, red, and purple. In the winter most things are brown or grey. But the cycle repeats. The brown seeds grown into green plants that bloom in all the colors of the rainbow. But even the browns can be pretty. I wondered around the yard this afternoon and took a handful of photos, including this of black-eyed Susan seed heads. In a surprisingly short time, the yard will be in bloom again.
It was a rainy day today, a quiet way to usher in the new year. In spite of the rain, though, we wanted to get outdoors. We went to a small park owned by the Isaak Walton League and walked around their pond and into the woods for a while. There were hooded mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) on the pond and I got a few photos of them, good enough to identify them conclusively but not really that great. One of these days I’ll get a long lens but today is not that day. We also saw a hawk of some kind, which flew away from us in the woods. We’ll probably come back here in the spring or at least when it isn’t raining.
We met our good friend Jean at Burke Lake this afternoon. We’ve never been there before but it was quite nice. There were a lot of folks there but we walked along the shore on a trail that was less used and it was very nice. The wind coming across the lake was fairly cool but the sun was shining and there were birds and it was lovely. Of course the main thing was seeing Jean, and that would have been nice anywhere, but it’s always better to be outdoors, if you can (unless the weather is really nasty, and then it’s great to be somewhere cozy, instead).
We went out for a walk this morning, going somewhere new, but it turned out that W.S.S.C. property requires a paid permit. The signage was very ambiguous, giving regulations for walking on the trails but then with big “No Trespassing” signs, but without an explanation of what constitutes trespassing. We decided to walk to Sandy Spring and enjoyed the walk very much. There is a champion white ash (Fraxinus americana) on the route, as well, which is a very handsome tree. There were other people out but no so many that it really affected our walk. The last time we came here we walked from Woodlawn Manor on the Underground Railroad Trail.
Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)
We walked on a section of Muddy Branch trail today that we hadn’t been on before. We went roughly 1.8 miles each way and enjoyed being outdoors. We saw a few belted kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon) and there were lots of small songbirds in any thicket we passed. There were a few places with standing water and a few of them had a skunk cabbage plants (Symplocarpus foetidus) growing in them. It’s one a small number of thermogenic plants, which produce heat by chemical reaction and raise their temperature above that of the surrounding environment. Pretty cool.
Still catching up on old photos from the winter. It seems weird to be posting pictures of snow when it was nearly 90°F yesterday, but that’s the way it goes. This past winter was pretty mild and we didn’t really have a lot of snow. Writing this in the first week of May, I know how the rest of the winter went and it did seem more like winter in February and and March than it had in December and January. We even had a freeze in the second half of April, although it didn’t do as much damage as the late frost last year, which was even later.
We went for a walk today and I took a very few photographs, including a few of ice along side the path. It’s melting and everything is very wet and cold but there are already signs of spring. Snow drops are coming up and before long there will be witch-hazels (Hamamelis) in bloom. Winter won’t be over for a while yet but the first signs of spring are already staring to appear.
Cathy, Dorothy, and I went for a walk in the local park this afternoon. In the winter I have to look a bit more for things to photograph but there’s generally something if you take the time. There was a time I didn’t care for the fact that some trees keep their dried leaves on until spring but I’ve come to enjoy beech trees, especially when the winter light is shining through them. That’s not the case here, but with the smooth bark of the tree and their nice texture, I still like them. It’s one of our best native trees and they’re very common in the woods. I large beech tree is an impressive sight.