Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Between the Rainstorms

Here in the mid Atlantic area we had huge, drenching rainstorms last Friday evening and Saturday. With another one predicted for Thursday into Friday this week it has been wonderful to see the sun for a few days.

 The Potomac River crested about a foot over flood stage at the Great Falls by early afternoon on Monday. For those who are not used to seeing the Falls you might not understand why this looks like a flood.
 I try to take photos from the same points each time and in that way it is easier to compare shots and water levels. Ordinarily that small amount of rock on the right is the peak of a quite high outcrop of rocks in the river and creates the condition for why it is called the Great Falls.

 This is walking up to outlook number 1. On Monday it felt as though the river was about to wash over the barrier and come right in. This is the highest I have seen it although long term residents who visit often will likely have seen it higher than this.
 Here we are looking across to the Maryland side. It was clear that some portions of the walking tracks and towpaths must have been flooded on that side as no people were seen in the usual viewing platforms.
 I liked the way the sun was lighting up these dried grasses.
 This view of the Potowmack Canal could have been almost a monochromatic shot if not for the two boys playing on the left. Daylight was beginning to draw in and the blue sky had faded considerably.
 Being at flood stage the canal was overflowing and finding the river.
Leaving the canal path and heading back to the car we noticed this deer grazing and stood for a few minutes watching it and waiting for it to pose. Oddly, it was alone and did not seem to notice our presence at all. Usually they do notice you and will stand and stare right at you but not this one.
 Changing locations, long time readers of my blog may remember the orange birdhouse that often appears in shots of my back yard. The big bad wolf must have been by recently and huffed and puffed and blew that house down.
 This morning we had a visit from Jack Frost and it was 22 F (about minus 5.5C) at around 8am. As the sun came up it highlighted the frost on the garden plants.
 The nandina bush had been brushed with frost.
 With no rain overnight it makes you wonder where all the moisture came from that created this amazing display on the nandina leaves.
Finally, to close out, I bring you the moon, four nights after the most recent full moon. I was driving home from an evening event on November 26 and was fascinated by the shape of the moon. I do not really have a sophisticated enough lens on my camera to be photographing the moon but I was pretty happy with this shot.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Weather - a safe topic?

In polite society when conversation is getting unruly it is considered a good tactic to start discussing the weather. But when we get snow in mid November I'm not sure that is entirely true. Doubtless the children were delighted to get the day off school today but for many others it was a case of having to abandon plans for the day.

 When we woke up the snow was falling on the side yard...
 on the front yard
 and on the back deck.
 On November 2nd, after a long wait for the autumn colors to arrive, this was the view in our back woods.
 Then this was the view today. Notice how much green is still with us. The red leaves on the dogwood are hanging on but the orange on the small maple has about given up and shed it's fall colors.
 A closer view of the dogwood with a green backdrop.
 On November 5 I had my first sighting of the red shouldered hawk that visits us around this time of year. I had to take the photo through the window as I thought the noise of raising the window sash would surely scare the bird away.
 Today's back yard visitor was this one. I'm thinking it is a dove? But, with the temperature staying around freezing most all day long the bird had puffed out it's feathers to give insulation.
 Do you see what I see? We have had a pair of deer (both does) visiting almost daily for the last couple of weeks. They can often be seen nibbling the grass on my neighbors side yard but when I spotted them this afternoon they were actively eating the green leaves still on these bushes in my backyard. That was clearly a much more satisfying meal than the poor forlorn brown leaves of the hydrangeas.
One last view of what should still be in fine form - the autumn show on the chrysanthemums. But I thought this one had a quiet beauty today contrasting against the white surrounds.

Indeed it was quite the day for nature here. I also had my first sighting of the fox wearing it's winter coat. It hurried through the yard not long after I had been watching the deer. The deer will stand and watch me but the fox it just scurries fast as though it has a train to catch. For sure a sign that the seasons are changing as I had not seen the fox since springtime.

Weather - it always has something worth talking about.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Armistice Day Centenary

Today, depending on where you live, is Veterans Day (USA) and also Remembrance Day and Armistice Day. A day to remember all the veterans who have served their country and honor them. However, this being the centenary of when arms were laid down at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month to end the Great War (of 1914 - 1918) that is what is uppermost in my mind today.
 Let's begin with the very poignant poem by John McCrae which always gives pause for remembrance.
 To honor the memory and service of my grandfather who served in the 1st Battalion, Otago Regiment with New Zealand's Expeditionary Forces for the four years of the Great War and was part of the Gallipoli long ,bloody, drawn out battle I made this quilt in 2015. You can read the story about it here
 The quilt was displayed, along with maybe twenty others, at a special exhibit at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City in June of 2015.
 This is a magnificent museum and well worth a visit if you are anywhere nearby. The interior of the museum is mostly underground but the Tower is easily visible from many points of the the surrounding city in it's location atop a hill.
 Here in Washington DC World War I has only a modest memorial in Pershing Park. However, I believe there are plans to significantly upgrade this in the near future.
 Veterans Day gives me the chance to honor the service of my father-in-law who served in the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army  (cap on the left) as well as the service of my father in the 36th Battalion Otago Regiment in the New Zealand Army. Both saw service in World War II.
 In these current unsettled times we need to remember all those who have given their all and guard against actions which might once more lead us into war.
Taken at the going down of the sun yesterday, from my upstairs window.

Lest we forget.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Two Days in Fall

This has been a disappointing Fall in terms of color so far. However, yesterday and today were glorious blue sky days and the tree color is finally here. So let's take a look.
 Oops it got away! Yes, and Fall almost did get away without any good color.
 The hand is from a sculpture installation, The Awakening, at National Harbor in Maryland.By John Seward Johnson II it is a giant awakening from a long sleep. We started at National Harbor but did not actually get to see what we went for. Fearing getting trapped in the afternoon traffic we left...
 and decided to stop in for a sunny day look at Great Falls. The water level has dropped from when we were last there (September 19 and 30) when the Potomac was in flood stage.
With the Falls to our backs the river carries on and disperses into Mather Gorge. As well as being a lower water level the water color had changed. No more angry brown water.
 Then today, for Halloween we headed up to the village. My first reward was this tree which is one of my favorites - it grows right in front of the Jinny Beyer Studio and has just a few days when it is a glorious sight. Today was one of those days when it is almost too good to be true.
 Our village decorates for the Halloween holiday and welcomes the children for trick and treating. First comes the Halloween dog parade which was what we had come to see but while we were waiting for it to get underway we got to see the businesses setting out their decorations.
Soon the parade was ready to begin. This adorable glass of chocolate milk wanted to lead the parade...despite not having a dog.
These two won the prize for the most excited.
 Dogs of all sizes are there ranging from this tiny fireman
 to this one with the Guardians of the Galaxy
 to a hotdog
 and to this one which was a lobster fisherman complete with his large lobster catch.
To close out another view of my favorite tree. That could be me throwing my hands up in joy at seeing this glory of the season.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Quick Tour of Marlborough, New Zealand

 We were last in New Zealand on this blog back in June. Tonight I decided to share with you another portion of our two week trip to New Zealand. It is now almost exactly six months since we were there and because NZ is in the southern hemisphere we here in the USA are now seasonally at the same time of year, early autumn, as it was when we were driving round the upper half of the South Island.

The June blog entry had us leave Kaikoura and we drove north along the coastal route 1 still encountering damage from the earthquake. But some miles north of Kekerengu the route starts to veer inland.
 Once you cross the Awatere river bridge at Seddon it is clear you are in a different region. We stopped for a quick look at the historic double decker road rail bridge. This level was the road level.

In the shot above the railroad portion is still in use today but the road portion, below this level, has been replaced with a new bridge.
 Looking out the car windows we were now seeing well kept vineyards nestled in the Awatere valley and sheltered by the hills. Continuing on we arrived at our overnight stop in Blenheim.
 The next morning it was necessary to get a prompt start as we needed to be in Nelson by the end of the day. But this is the prime Marlborough wine country that produces my favorite Sauvignon Blanc wines so we were first going to make some calls to the cellar doors. Our first stop, right at 9am was to the beautiful Alan Scott vineyard. The day was bright and sunny and perfect for strolling among the vines even if the harvest had already taken place.
Again we see the vineyards growing on flat land surrounded by hills that shelter the area.
 Just up from the Alan Scott vineyard was Matua but alas, they do not host public tours. However I show it here because the trees were at the same almost peak of autumn colors that we should be in here in VA this week.
 For a third stop we had selected a vineyard that also had a cafe where we thought we'd have brunch. But it was not to be. After hanging around for 30 minutes waiting while other customers were being given the full tasting we decided we really could not wait any longer so we got back on the road. However, I wanted to show you yet another example of how beautiful many of these wineries are. the buildings are modern and well kept and the landscaping often includes well kept gardens with sculptures and more.
 Motoring on we came to Havelock and decided this was a great spot to stop for lunch. The driver was able to indulge in a bowl of green lip mussels totally fresh from the water very close by.
 Our next stop was at the Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve. If you are a fan of the Hobbit movies a scene where the dwarves were filmed floating down river in barrels for the movie The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was right here.
 Do you think this sign might be just a little understated?
 We were keenly watching out for the birdlife on this trip and were rewarded at this stop with many sightings of the piwakawaka aka fantail. The driver was hoping to see the fantail in full display but these little birds are very busy flitting here and there at great speed and by the time you find them the tail has been spread and folded in again. But I was lucky to catch this one before it flew off once more.
 The bushwalks were a glorious vibrant green delight.
 The swing bridge takes a bit of getting used to and we decided it was less scary if we went just one at a time.
Once you pause in the center of the bridge and wait for the swaying to stop you can enjoy a beautiful view. Just look at the color of that water.

If you go to Marlborough do allow several days to really see this gorgeous part of New Zealand. We were on a timetable however and needed to be in Nelson by that night for a several day stopover so I could attend a family wedding.