Sunday, December 31, 2017

Solstice and more

There were good intentions to put up a post to acknowledge the solstice on December 21 but, alas, they remained intentions. However here we are. Can you guess I am quite taken by this constant visitor to the backyard? It is fascinating to watch this hawk as it moves from spot to spot in the yard doubtless seeking food. Despite the amazing head movements by the bird I have yet to see it actually find a meal but it does get an A+ for perseverance.
 The snow on December 9 was just enough to make it fun to photograph and not enough to have to deal with shoveling.
 Trees without their leaves can look quite splendid in a light snowfall at this time of the year.
 By December 16 the snow was well gone and it was time for the delayed final cleanup and cutback of the garden for the winter. Someone forgot to tell the iris it is not time to be sprouting just yet.
 The nandina is wearing it's best look although the berries are not prolific this year.
 The lights for the porch tree were finally located and installed.
 When the hawk sits on the branch above the suet feeder even the woodpeckers beat a hasty retreat.
 It has been quite some time since I did some indoor photo setups. The aim here was to show that I was keeping the light of hope on for someone who was at a particularly low point in his cancer battle.
 Thinking the photo might not be enough we decided to take a trip into DC and visit the Basilica there to light a candle and say a prayer for John to get through his current crisis. December 22 was such a pretty day to visit and we could still walk outside without having to don all the heavy coats, hats and gloves that are now needed.
December 24th and it was time for tea and cookies for me, never mind Santa!
 We made a short trip to Latrobe PA to visit family and saw the most amazing sunset on December 27. Do notice that bright outline to the clouds just above the horizon. But oh my, was it cold.
To close I am leaving you with this candle of hope for peace and happiness in 2018.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Strolling Through the Seasons

 How do you mark the progression from one season to another? In the Fall I watch out for the first pickup truck with a snowplow in front and a salt spreader on back because I use that as an indicator that winter weather must be upon us. But this year I saw that in mid November and it is only today that we have had the first snow. But I guess that goes with the holiday sales that used to start the day after Thanksgiving now starting a couple of weeks before, the piped Christmas and holiday music showing up in the malls and on the radio in mid November and the general cranking up of the frenzy meters whereever you turn.

So yes, today, conveniently a Saturday, we had the first snow of the season. Flakes have been falling here since about 8.30am but the roads remain clear and the big snowplow trucks remain mostly idling at key intersections.
 My Fall tableau on November 20, before the snow but after the first killing frost.
 For a couple of weeks in November we had this lovely redtailed hawk hanging out in our backyard. Great camouflage don't you think?
 Another visitor was one from the large herd of deer that we seem to have around just now. Note the single antler!
 The day after Thanksgiving we took a metro ride into DC to stroll about and enjoy the seasonal views. The day was brilliant with sunshine and our first stopover at the Botanic Garden was cut short as we did not want to stand in the long line of visitors waiting to get in to see the model train display. Instead we strolled on with ample time to stop for photo opportunities. Here, of course, is the US Capitol building.
 Part of our focus on this trip was to follow the path of the Presidential Inaugural Parade route taken every four years in January. Here we paused at the National Gallery of Art East Building to admire the play of sunshine and shadow along with the contrast of the orange Fall foliage and the amazing sky color.
 Strolling on down Pennsylvania Ave we took a sidestep into Pershing Park where (the statue of)  General John J. Perhsing, General of the Armies in World War I, was gazing out at the beginning of the sunset.
 By the time we got to the north side of the White House the light was beginning to go. Turning so the Eisenhower Executive Office Building was to our backs we were treated to this lovely sight as the setting sun lit up these trees to beautiful effect on the corner of Pennsylvania Ave and Jackson Place.
 Five days later we headed into DC agin; this time we chose a weekeday when maybe the crowds would not be quite as great. We stopped for a late lunch at an outdoor refreshment stand on the National Mall. While my companion waited in line to get our food I had fun with this cheeky starling who was waiting just inches from our table.
 That day was not the brilliant blue day of the previous week and there was a strong breeze blowing for much of the time. Leaves were cascading all over the place and there was a clear difference in the tree foliage from only five days previous.
 Now at home it is time for the Christmas season. I am thrilled by how well this wreath looks on my green front door today.
This season it seems more urgent than usual to hope and pray for peace. Please join me in a fervent wish for peace on earth and goodwill to all.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Meanwhile, back in reality

 It has been a very hectic several weeks since getting back from Michigan in August but finally, things are beginning to slow down to a more reasonable pace. Yay, I can think of my blog again.

Tonight we are going to have the first killing frost of the season so I thought I might record some before shots. The day has been very windy and downright cool. Now, at 10pm the temperature has already drifted down to 28 F.

But as the sun was going down the wind had calmed somewhat and the jets heading to the airport were leaving their mark in the skies.

 Out on the back deck the light was almost gone from my Fall tableau.
 The kousa dogwood has just started to change color in the last couple of days.  With the very dry weather we have had this Fall it has not made for much in the way of a seasonal spectacular.
 Last Saturday morning we had a very quick morning treat as the sun came up giving us this very ethereal sky.
 The sun begins to light up the woods out back. The dogwood has put on it's best effort and it contrasts well with the maples.
To close, another shot of daybreak last Saturday. No time to focus or the birds will be gone. A point and shoot moment.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Bay View

On this day we stayed put and again enjoyed the Bay View location. Truly, for a fan of English style gardens and pretty architecture this was awfully darn close to a perfect location.
 A purple cottage with a foreground of flowers? Just sigh and say lovely.
 A sea of blooms before a lake of blue.
 An idyllic final resting spot.
 It may be just a summer cottage but the gardeners go full on. And those porches... board games at two, tea at four, cocktails at five, stargazing at ten... the list goes on.
 Eschewing the more frequent pastel scheme this owner used a deep red to great effect.
 You just cannot go wrong with the white hydrangea here - they are a perfect match for the climate and the cottage style.
 Now here's a chance for a more bold owner to make a statement.
 Even the plant pots are carefully co-ordinated.
 The highlight of my summer - this, I am sad to say, was my first sighting of a monarch butterfly this year. Clearly it enjoyed hte stopover on the phlox.
 Lilies and phlox - such a pretty foreground to the lake backdrop.
 Someone with an eye for choosing a few exclamation points throughout the garden had success here.
 Crabgrabbers crown! Or how I amused myself with 15 minutes to spare.
Ah summer, sit a while and recharge the batteries. Just what the doctor ordered.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Lake Superior Day Trip

As first-timers to the Great Lakes we had a wonderful day out to see just how the lakes impact the area. While my phone thought we were in Canada we did not need passports and nor did we set foot there although we could almost touch it at one point.
We headed out in a northerly direction, over the Mackinaw bridge with Michigan's oldest city, Sault St. Marie as our destination. Our purpose was to take a Soo Locks boat tour which would carry us through the locks and into Lake Superior. The difference in water level between the St Mary's River water level on the lower side and Lake Superior on the upper side is 21', hence the need for locks.
 There are three locks currently operational; this is the American Lock A where we entered, got locked in and waited while the water level rose to the Lake Superior height. The A and B locks are for small craft and large freighters. At the time we passed through it was just our small craft in the lock although there was a large freighter coming through Lock B heading in the opposite direction.
 Now the water level has equalized with Lake Superior, the gates slowly open and we can continue our cruise.
 Had we wanted to enter Canada by road this bridge, the International Highway, was the one we needed to be on.
 We cruised around somewhat allowing views of the large Canadian steel plant and hydro electric plant. The authorities made sure we stayed on the correct side!
 As intended we turned and headed back towards the St Mary's River which empties into Lake Huron. But first we had to drop down again and this time we passed through the Canadian lock. It is a smaller and newer one which can only take small and pleasure craft.
 The Canadians take a much more low key approach and people were wandering back and forth over the lock gates almost until they opened. But happily, all was fine, no-one fell in and we continued on our way.
 Looking back we could see the rapids which are natures way of getting from the higher water level of Superior down to the river. There's another of the three power stations we saw on our trip in the left foreground.

p.s. Later in the week we found out we were quite lucky to be at the Locks on Tuesday. On Wednesday a large freighter ran aground in the entry area to B Lock which shut down all water traffic in both directions until late Friday.
 We had our picnic lunch in the parking lot and then headed further on to Whitefish Point. The afternoon destination was the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. The lakes are deceivingly beautiful but Lake Superior has earned the reputation of being the most treacherous. With the loss of over 6000 ships to storms on the Great Lakes there is plenty of material for a shipwreck museum. Built around the restored Whitefish Point Light Station (established in 1849) there are many fascinating exhibits and buildings to look through.
 And afterwards, a walk on the lakeshore beckoned. Yes, it was a midsummer day but this is not your average "day at the beach".
 The most recent and perhaps most famous and mysterious wreck was the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald just 17 miles from here in November 1975.
 But for now it was time to lighten up a little and enjoy some beach art.
 Who's that looking out to Canada? A fabulous piece of driftwood don't you think?
 Where did they all go?
This creature is on the lookout.

Maybe we need to alert the lookout!

This was a great day out and we gained a better understanding of what it means to be a mariner in this area. For sure there's plenty of scope for writing sea shanties.