Dam Repairs

Dam Repairs

Dam Repairs

Henry on 'Horse Rock'

Henry on ‘Horse Rock’

I went up to Pennsylvania today to meet with an engineer fro the local electrical coop to talk about getting power to the cabin. I knew it was going to cost a lot. Even so, I was a bit blown away by the estimated cost. With the cable costing upwards of $30 a foot, it was going to be a LOT!

The work on the dam is underway, though, and that’s encouraging. The old, damaged drain pipe, which was preventing the pond from filling up, has been removed and the new pipe will go in shortly.

Dorothy and I took a walk through what we call the Christmas Tree Field to the Wet Field. Neither of them can—by any stretch of the imagination—be described as a field, but that’s what we call them. I can remember when they were fields, but now it’s hard to tell where the field ends and the woods begin.

At the northeast end of the Wet Field there are three large boulders. The one I’m sitting on here (photo taken on my phone by Dorothy) is called—by me, anyway—Horse Rock.

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Farm Work Day

The Pond

The Pond

Tony, Thea, Anna, and Andrew

Tony, Thea, Anna, and Andrew

Dorothy organized a work day today at the farm. If you haven’t heard about the farm, then you should know that, although we call it that, it’s probably not what you are picturing. My parents bought the property almost 59 years ago and it had been part of a working farm, with five fields. Since them, however, although we’ve continued to call it the farm, it’s never really been one. Three of the fields have entirely grown up with trees. Two of them are filled with trees specifically planted by my parents, including Japanese larch, white pine, and Norway spruce. One field was my dad’s ‘orchard’ and even that title may be misleading. In this part of the country there are orchards all around. But those have rows upon rows of trees. Dad’s orchard had a little of everything, with half a dozen apple trees, a few peaches, plums, pears, and various other fruit trees and shrubs. He also planted nut trees, including Turkish and American hazelnuts (Corylus colurna and C. americana, Persian walnut (Juglans regia), and Chestnuts (both Chinese, Castanea mollissima and hybrid Chinese and American, Castanea dentata). Since dad’s passing, the orchard has become significantly overgrown. The final field, which we usually call the picnic field, is still mostly clear but dad planted specimen trees of various sorts.

Today’s work day was focused mostly on clearing the orchard and we made a really good start. There were ‘weed trees’ four or five inches in diameter that needed to be cut down, along with lots of vines, multiflora roses, and Elaeagnus. We did our best to cut back the hardy kiwi (Actinidia arguta), keeping much of it but not wanting it growing up into other trees. While this was going on, we had a tree guy cutting a few larger trees, including one large maple tree that was leaning over the cabin.

The first picture here is of the pond with the cabin in the background. The second is four of the 36 or so people we had working here today.

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American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

We made one last visit to ‘Alligator Pond’ today and got a nice, very close-up view of an American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis). We also enjoyed seeing a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) and across the water a flock of wood storks (Mycteria americana). It was quite hot today, probably the hottest day of the week and with rain in the morning, it was very humid. It’s our last day at the beach and we have a longish drive home ahead of us tomorrow. So, nice to take it easy today.

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Brookgreen Gardens

Brookgreen Gardens

Brookgreen Gardens

Brookgreen Gardens

Brookgreen Gardens

Cathy and I went to Brookgreen Gardens today (https://www.brookgreen.org/). We’ve been before, of course, but it’s been six years. We decided to see if we could go on their Creek Excursion but, as luck would have it, it wasn’t operating today because they were being inspected by the Coast Guard. We were able to get to the Lowcountry Center in time to get on the 11:30 Oaks Excursion. We visited a plantation cemetery as well as the sites of some of the plantation buildings, which no longer exist. It was an interesting excursion, although I think I would have enjoyed the creek trip more. Maybe next time.

We wandered around the gardens, which of course is the main thing there. The two shots presented here are more of the trees than of the sculpture and they are quite majestic. I enjoy both the sculpture and the gardens in about equal measure. Although it was hot, I’d say it wasn’t as hot as some years we’ve been. We also went to the Lowcountry Zoo and enjoyed the animals. They have a new exhibit with red wolves (Canis rufus) that only opened in the last week.

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Green Heron (Butorides virescens)

Green Heron (Butorides virescens)

Green Heron (Butorides virescens)

After our walk in the Green Swamp we drove to the Twin Ponds overlook. We affectionately call it Alligator Pond because that’s what we generally go to see. The boardwalk style viewing platform is officially call the Carl Bazemore Bird Walk. There are also birds there, and today we saw this green heron (Butorides virescens) in the shallows. In years past the view has been obscured by rank growth between the viewing platform and the pond. Sometime since last year that has been cut down, making the viewing considerably better. We did see an alligator there today, but I think my best photo from the visit was this one of the heron.

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Dionaea muscipula (Venus Flytrap)

Dionaea muscipula (Venus Flytrap)

Dionaea muscipula (Venus Flytrap)

A few of us went to the Green Swamp this morning. As usual, the humidity was a bit oppressive but it was actually cooler than it’s been most years and it wasn’t until we were nearly back to the car that I was starting to feel particularly uncomfortable. The trail goes through long-leaf pine savanna for the most part, but areas of that are separated by pocosins (evergreen shrub bogs). In the past there have been boardwalks through those but this year they were gone. I found out later that the preserve was technically closed, although there were no signs to that effect anywhere that we saw. The reason was that the boardwalks were out, having been destroyed in a wildfire. We managed to get through them and found four of the 14 carnivorous plants known to grow in the swamp. The four we saw were the Venux flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) shown here, along with a few sundews (Drosery species), yellow pitcher plant (Sarracenia flava), and purple pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea subsp. venosa). All in all, I’d say it was a successful outing.

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Willet (Tringa semipalmata)

Willet (Tringa semipalmata)

Willet (Tringa semipalmata)

We walked on the beach at the east end of the island this morning. It was a clear day with very bright sun so I wore a hat and shirt and put sunscreen on exposed skin. We looked for shells but didn’t find many. Past years have been good for shell-hunting but there don’t seem to be as many this year. That means that the beach is almost pure sand, which in general isn’t a bad thing. But it’s one less thing for us to do. We saw a few sandpipers as we walked including this willet (Tringa semipalmata). They are very distinctive birds and quite common on the beaches of North Carolina.

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Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris)

Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris)

Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris)

Cathy and I drove to Sunset Beach today and walked from the west end of town out onto the beach and then further west to the Bird Island Reserve nature trail. It’s a pretty good walk but not a difficult one. We had heard that there was a good chance of seeing painted buntings (Passerina ciris). As it turned out, we only saw one and he was a rather scruffy looking fellow, possibly a juvenile, just getting his adult plumage. He was singing nicely for us, though, and I was able to get a short video, as well as a handful of photos. He’s in the shadows of the twigs to the right, which makes his color pattern seem a little odd, but that’s him, anyway. There were quite a few swallows flying around, as well as cardinals and mourning doves, but we only saw the one bunting. Nevertheless, worth it and we’ll probably plan to go again next year.

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Third Cousins

Third Cousins

Third Cousins

We celebrated Eloise’s birthday on our second day (first full day) at the beach. Iris made a cake, we had ice cream, and mom had brought a lemon cake, as well. In addition to the immediate family in our house, my cousins and their families came over from the two units next to us. My cousins’ grandchildren are third cousins to Eloise, Silas, and Kaien. There are more but this is everyone that came to the beach this year. As you might imagine with this many kids, it got a bit loud at times, but I think everyone had a good time.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that the parents of these kids, the generation after mine, were this age. Time really does fly. We’ve been coming to the beach since I was a little one like this, although the specific beach changed a few times. Early on we went to Myrtle Beach. I seem to remember once or twice going to the outer banks. Then we would camp at Huntington Beach State Park, south of Murrells Inlet (which is south of Myrtle Beach). I’m not sure I could camp at the beach now, as used to air conditioning as I am. But that’s what we did. It’s been Ocean Isle Beach for quite a while now.

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Baby Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta)

Baby Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta)

Baby Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta)

Our family beach week started today. We didn’t have too much trouble in the early part of the drive, although in North Carolina we hit slow traffic a few times. Once was because people were slowing to see damage caused by a tornado less than two weeks ago. The other must have been due to a short traffic light, because once we got past that, we were fine again. Ocean Isle is a barrier island near the southern end of North Carolina’s coast. This year we had a loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) nest right next to our house’s beach access. Most of the turtles had hatched the day before we arrived but we got to see the stragglers make their way to the water. The sun had set by the time I got this photo, so it’s a little less sharp than I’d like, but you get the idea.

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Our Back Garden

Our Back Garden

Our Back Garden

This is a good time of year for our back garden. If you don’t like orange or yellow, you might not like it as much, though. We have a few black-eyed Susans. The tiger lilies are doing well. This is a self-seeded plant that seems to be happy where it landed. You can just make out the half-barrel with some pink buds on it. That’s a rose called ‘Gabriel Oak’ and there is another rose in front of it, called ‘Rose de Rescht’ that I almost killed but which is doing pretty well again, planted in this heavy, concrete pot. The bright read below the tiger lily is a Mandevilla. Other plants include butterfly weed, geranium (Pelargonium, actually), various Sedums, and an ornamental grass, among other things.

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McKee-Beshers Sunflowers and Birds

Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea)

Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea)

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)

McKee-Besher's Sunflower Field

McKee-Besher’s Sunflower Field

McKee-Besher's Sunflower Field

McKee-Besher’s Sunflower Field

If the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are too much of a trek for you but you want flowers and birds, you could do worse than heading out River Road to the McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area. Timing your visit is a little difficult because the best time to go varies from year to year and also depends on what it is you want to see. If you just want sunflowers in bloom, then you need to go a little earlier than if you’re mostly interested in seeing birds. The two ‘seasons’ overlap but there will be more birds when the flowers have faded a bit and the seeds are more ripe. For me, I think I hit a pretty happy medium. In field number 1, the flowers were a little past and that’s where I got the pictures here of the indigo bunting (Passerina cyanea) and lots of pictures of American goldfinches (Spinus tristis).

Then, walking further from the parking area to field 4, I found the flowers were in more full bloom. They were all facing to the east and the road to them is to the west. From the road it looked like there were no flowers. But I walked all the way to the far end of the field (about a quarter mile) and back on the other side. It was worth it, as from that side, there were plenty of flowers to be seen. They were much shorter than I’ve seen them in previous years. I’m not sure if that’s a function of the sunflower varieties planted or has more to do with how much rain we get while they are growing.

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Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Lotus (<em>Nelumbo nucifera</em>)

Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera)

Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera)

Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera)

Lotus (<em>Nelumbo nucifera</em>)

Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera)

American Lotus (Nelumbo lutea)

American Lotus (Nelumbo lutea)

Water Lily (Nymphaea variety)

Water Lily (Nymphaea variety)

Cathy with Lotus

Cathy In Front Of Lotus Leaves

Cathy had to work this morning because their software upgrades have to be done outside business hours when no one is working with it. When she was done we drove to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. We didn’t know that their Lotus and Water Lily Festival was going on, so we had to park a few blocks away and it was quite crowded, but we were still glad we went. The flowers were wonderful, although the Lotuses were probably past their peak. Those blooms that there were, however, were lovely. We both took lots of photos and I took some with my 150-600mm zoom, which allowed an interesting perspective. Sadly I forgot to bring my monopod, so I had to hand hold it, which may mean some of the pictures are not good enough to show. At one point I used the branch of a tree as a support, which got a chuckle from a couple of guys who were watching me.

We especially enjoyed the walk out to the boardwalk that goes out from the southwest corner of the gardens to a marsh along the Anacostia River. We saw egrets and I got a few pictures of a pair of ospreys circling overhead. It was quite warm but on the boardwalk there was some shade and a bit of a breeze, which felt very nice.

From the gardens we stopped at three cemeteries. First we went to Fort Lincoln Cemetery, just north of the gardens and outside the District of Columbia in Maryland. Then along North Capitol Street, we went to Soldiers Home Cemetery, one of the country‚Äôs oldest national cemeteries, and Rock Creek Cemetery, where my great, great grandparents are buried (as well as their oldest son, my great grandfather’s older brother).

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Cathy’s Flowers

Cathy's Flowers

Cathy’s Flowers

The summer blooming period has really gotten underway at our house. That mostly includes black-eyed Susan and tiger lilies, both seen in this photo with Cathy. These are in the front yard. It’s our largest stand of tiger lilies which originally came from bulbils collected from my dad’s plants in Bethesda. We have a few in other parts of the yard, near the top of the driveway and on the south end of the house and every year there are a few more. This bunch it the most impressive, though, being right out by the road.

The black-eyed Susans here are a relatively small bunch compared to what is in the back yard. I like them, although we could have about half as many and still have enough. They are fairly aggressive and even Cathy has taken to pulling a few up each year. There are about 25 recognized species of Rudbeckia. Most of ours are probably Rudbeckia hirta, native to our region and the state flower of Maryland. Some of the others, with similar flowers, are less aggressive and might be a better alternative, if you don’t want a yard full of them.

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Street Repaving

Street Repaving

Street Repaving

If you recall, on Wednesday, July 5 the folks from W.S.S.C. came to repair the pipe leading to our house from the local water main. They dug two large holes, both more than six feet deep in the road. By the time they were done, the holes were filled and topped with fresh asphalt. The next day a crew came and paved them more cleanly, rolling the asphalt. Well, now, less than two weeks later, a third crew came and milled about 50 yards of the road and going about the same distance up the court leading off of it. Once it was milled, the put down new paving. It certainly looks a lot better and takes care of other seams and cracks in the pavement that have accumulated over the years. This is the milling machine, grinding up the top two or three inches of the existing pavement. It’s definitely a small version, only taking up about four feet width of pavement at a time. Nothing compared to those that will mill a full lane of roadway, but it’s more suitable to a suburban street, I suppose.

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Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Mom and I came home from North Carolina today, after yesterday’s reunion. Cathy had been to church and was visiting her mom when I got home. We drove to the Ag. History Farm Park where there were a few dahlias in bloom and we walked through the garden to see them and then through the demonstration garden. In the sun it was really hot and the humidity was stifling. Sitting in the shade where there was a slight breeze was bearable, but even that was quite warm. We moved to the other parking area and walked down to the trail by the stream, walking through the woods. We were out of the sun, although the air was quite still. We saw a great blue heron, but only as it flew away. I took a few pictures, but not many. By the time we got back to the car we were drenched in sweat. This monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) was in the meadow as we returned to the car.

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Family Reunion

Family Reunion

Family Reunion

Mom and I went down to North Carolina for our annual family reunion today. It’s a bit of a trek but we both enjoy it and we’re glad we went. We left mom’s at about 6:30 and didn’t have any problems with traffic, so we got there a bit early, but that’s better than sitting in traffic. We spen the night after the reunion with mom’s cousin and returned home the next day. That makes the whole thing more relaxing and consequently more fun. I’m pretty fortunate in my family. Unsurprisingly I am closer to and get along with some more than others but as a group, they’re a good bunch.

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Clouds At Sunset

Clouds At Sunset

Clouds At Sunset

We went for a walk at Redgate Park this evening and spent most of the walk on the phone with our friend Lisa. It was warm and muggy but good to be outdoors. When we first called, Lisa had been in the bank and was anxious to get out. Another customer was being very belligerent and she wanted to be somewhere else. We tLked abiut that and all sorts of ither things. We saw a few deer and lots if geese and then towards the end of the walk the clouds to the southeast of us were lit by the setting sun and turned an intense orange.

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New Cabin Steps

New Cabin Steps

New Cabin Steps

I went up to our Pennsylvania property today to meet with Dorothy and her friends. We had two things on the agenda for the visit. First, we put up the new steps on the front porch. The stringers had finally rotted so I a made new set, using one of the old as a pattern template. I made them with treated 2x12s and they fit pretty well. If they last as long as the first set I’ll be very pleased. The stair treads are untreated lumber and, as you can see, they are entirely un-weathered. They will turn grey over the next year and won’t be so stark. We actually plan to replace the decking on the porch, also, but that’s not a rush. There is a pile of 2x4s in the loft, so we’ll use those.

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Green Heron (Butorides virescens)

Green Heron (<em>Butorides virescens</em>)

Green Heron (Butorides virescens)

We went to the C&O Canal today, walking upstream from Riley’s Lock and the Seneca Creek Aqueduct. Past the far end of the turning basin we saw a family of wood ducks (Aix sponsa) but none of the males were in their fancy, breeding plumage. They are still pretty ducks and since we usually only see mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), we enjoyed watching them paddle around in the duck weed. We also saw a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) and I got quite a few nice photos of that.

On the way back, I saw something that didn’t register immediately but I stopped and backed up to take a better look. It was this green heron (Butorides virescens) on its nest in a willow hanging out over the water of the turning basin. I was able to get a pretty good show, in spite of the branches of the tree.

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