spring greens at Mountain Glen Farm

spring greens at Mountain Glen Farm

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The White Heron


I am always on the lookout for the heron that hunts down at our farm pond.

 

Sometimes I am lucky and I see it, but most of the time I am not lucky. I just keep looking.

 

Yesterday was one of those unlucky days as herons go. No heron findings for me.

 


 
 
 
Earlier, before leaving on my walk, I did see a chipmunk on our under construction brick wall for our soon-to-be greenhouse.  That was a surprise as a chipmunk sighting in our yard is rare…or, at least a live chipmunk sighting.  Our cats do not live in harmony with our chipmunk population. But, our cats are getting old and the chipmunks now have a better chance of outsmarting or even outrunning the cats.

 

Glenn was down near the pond around noon.  He called  to inform me that the ‘heron’ was hanging out on the pond house deck.  I quickly grabbed my camera and binoculars and set up my observation post on our back deck. I was able to somewhat view the bird but the distance from our house deck to the pond house is quite a stretch.   My camera telephoto is not quite adequate for this distance. The binoculars are worse.

Now that the photo is up on the computer screen, I can see that the bird is white...
 

So, I enjoyed a few minutes spying said ‘heron’ from a distance since I knew if I tried to sneak up on the bird it probably would have left prior to my arrival.  Like always, the heron will return.

 

Later, in the day, Glenn asked about the white heron.  White heron?  My heron is not white.

 

I retrieved my camera and started to zoom in on my photos.

 

That was no heron at the pond house that was a Great Egret. 

 

DARN…I would have made the effort to get down to the pond house unnoticed for an egret.  This was the first egret, witnessed, on our farm.   Too late now.

 

But, it was super exciting to know that a Great Egret was visiting!

 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Earth Shook


The earth shook.  Well, the earth actually moved but it was not all that dramatic.

 

I was working on another project that had been facing me for years.  The brick walkway in front of our house has been settling ever since Glenn laid it many years ago.

 

The worst of the settling was just below the first step to the house. 

 

With every rain, a puddle would gather just below that step.  At first, the puddle was small.  Over the years, the puddle just kept getting bigger as more of the bricks dropped. This was not an issue during most of the year, but during the freezing temps of winter that first step down was like stepping onto a mini ice-skating rink.  I do not skate, ice or otherwise.

 

Glenn had just ordered and received a dump truck load of small gravel/fines for another project.  This was adequate material that was needed to raise and level that sunken section of walkway.

 

Glenn was too busy building fences and such, so I took the initiative to fix our walkway.

 

I broke the tip off my garden trowel trying to pry out the first brick - ugh.  I really like that trowel, too.  The remaining bricks, about 150 or so (it is amazing the number of bricks contained in small area) came out more easily with just a gently tug.  I pulled and piled the bricks one by one until I felt I had retreated beyond the ‘bad’ section.

 



Next, I lugged 5 gallon buckets filled, actually half-filled, with the gravel.  I would shovel, carry, dump, shovel, carry, and dump until I felt I had enough extra base material bult-up.

 

I started to replace the bricks.  Again, an amazing revelation…I can remove 150 bricks but for some reason I cannot put back 150 bricks into the same area - what gives?

 

I shifted to the edge where the bricks meet the soil of a perennial flower bed.  The earth started to move next to where I was digging and it was not moving because of anything I was doing. 

Do you see the toad?  Now you know why I thought it was a chunk of earth.
 

Quite suddenly, a chunk of dirt hopped up and into the adjacent salvia.  That dirt was not dirt, but a fairly good-sized toad which I evidently disturbed. Surprised me!

 




 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I am on break now.  I may not even return to the task at hand until tomorrow or the next day.  But, I am confident my walkway will get fixed…soon…I hope!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Ups and Downs


Today as I walked to the pond, I received quite a surprise bonus.  An American Bald Eagle flew up from its refuge at the water.  This bird was totally unexpected and totally awesome. An EAGLE, so cool!

 





My enthusiasm was short-lived, though.  As the dogs and I made our way back home, we got to an open gate, which we all had to pass through, and I abruptly stopped. We were surprised again.

 

This time there was a black snake fully stretched out across the opening.

 

I hesitated.  I was not going to pass by that snake. This snake is not poisonous, but it certainly can bite.

 

Snowball unaware, walked past me and stopped within one inch of that snake.  He took a quick sniff and just as quickly pawed backwards.  Snowball was not getting near that snake again.  Buddy remained quietly behind us.

 

We had to go through that gate to get home.  If that snake would have just been in our path, we could have walked a wide berth, but the snake was smack in the middle of the opening with no way around except to take a long detour.  The sun was getting warm and I did not want to add another 15-20 minutes to our walk.

 

I looked around. Each dog was carrying a stick.  I decided to borrow one of the sticks.  I took Buddy’s stick and threw it at the snake with the hope that the snake would be scared off.  The stick hit the snake, but the snake did not leave.  The snake just coiled and shook his head…at me. 

 

 
Hmmm…maybe a second stick would be the answer to get this snake moving.  Snowball’s stick was larger.  Again, I made my throw from a safe distance.  The stick landed on top of the snake and,  again, the snake did not move out of our path. That snake only stared at us with its beady black eyes.

 

What was I to do?  As I stood and thought, both dogs sat quietly behind me.  They were not going to be heroic and make any attempt to get that snake to move. They were waiting for me to handle the ‘situation’.

 

I had my phone.  I called Glenn.  I asked him to come and rescue the three of us. He agreed.  Then, at that moment and without fanfare, that snake started to slither away from our direction.

 

Hurray…snake on the move!  Within seconds, the snake had progressed into the tall grass away from our direct path.  I ran through the gate. Buddy ran through the gate.  Snowball just sat and looked at the two sticks.

 

I called and I coaxed and Snowball would not follow. I walked back and forth through the gate several times in demonstration of the safe passage and I picked up the sticks proving the snake’s departure.

 

Snowball finally decided that the snake had left and that it was safe for him to pass through the gate.

 

Snowball, the protector of our lambs and sheep against blood-thirsty coyotes, is not quite the defender, as I discovered, when it comes to snakes.

 

But, as long as he keeps the coyotes away, that is most important.  We will deal with the snakes as each thing arises, and I am hoping that is a rare occurrence.

 

Note:  This season I have seen more black snakes than I have in the past 10 years - I hope this is not a trend.

 

 

 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Cranberry Glades, West Virginia

 


Yesterday, Glenn and I procrastinated about leaving on our planned day trip, via motorcycle, to West Virginia.


The weather forecast had changed overnight from cool and clear to scattered showers.  Should we or shouldn’t we go? The day had been scheduled. The farm chores were done. The Dramamine downed by me, of course.


I opted to take the chance.  What the heck…we could always turn back if the weather turned really ugly. So, go we went.


We just about made the ‘going’ part of the 2+ hour ride dry under heavy overcast skies. The pavement of the narrow road was off and on wet, but there was no active precipitation.  As we approached Marlinton, WV showers began.  We pulled over and donned our heavy and waterproofed fluorescent yellow jackets.  We still had another 16 miles to go to get to our destination, Cranberry Glades, and it was a steep uphill and very curve road with many switchbacks.  I held tight, mainly onto Glenn’s belt loops, while Glenn maneuvered with caution. We were getting damper the higher the road climbed, the showers quickly turning to a steady rain.

 



We turned into the parking area at the Glades at about the same time the rain had stopped.  Perfect.  The boardwalk trail through Cranberry Glade was wet and slippery.  The bog plants were heavy and dripped with moisture. The sky was grey.  This was the ultimate bog walking weather.  I was having a great time slowly making my way around the slick planks while keeping an eye out for the flowering plants of the season and sliding out my camera from its protection, under my sweatshirt, for a photo or two.
 




 



 


the sun came out over the Glades for a second or two


 

  
 
 
 
 
 
After the bog circuit, we wanted to make one more stop at the nearby waterfalls of Hills Creek. The rain started to fall again.  Glenn and I were only able to make the short walk down to the upper falls due to the more-than-a-shower amount of precipitation.  We were getting quite wet now. We opted to save the ¾ mile hike to the middle and lower falls for our next trip. 

 
 
 
Besides, I just have to return in another month or so to view the next round of blooming plants. 


 
 
On our way back through Marlinton, Glenn and I stopped at a restaurant on the edge of the Greenbrier River.  The decision to eat on the outside deck was just idyllic. We enjoyed the company and the antics of a slew of ducks eating, swimming, preening and sleeping.  The water was so clear that it was quite an unusual experience to watch the webbed feet move in the water beneath the ducks’ bodies…so interesting. And, the iridescent colors on the Mallard drakes always please my simple color sensibilities.

 

The sun finally came out just about the time we carefully, and very slowly, settled our backsides on the hard seats of the Voyager and started the return journey home. 

saw quite a crop of these colorful fungi
at a roadside pull-off
 

Our day trip was exceptional.  I would not have changed one little thing, not even the weather.  The rain did not dampen our spirits, but truly added to the joyful ambiance of the day.

 

Every moment was a moment appreciated. 

 

Next trip...I do not know yet, but keep visiting my blog to find out.

 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Competition




 

I am competing for first dibs on fruit that I grow in my garden.  I am not winning.

 

The strawberry glut has stopped. But,  I am still getting a steady and small harvest from the ever bearing variety.  Those berries are sweetest right off the vine. And, add a little warmth from the afternoon sun and they taste like strawberry cobbler without any baking.  And, no bugs, no birds, no rivals.  Cyndy 1, Opponents 0

 

The raspberries have just started to ripen, but I am fighting the Japanese beetles as well as a few stink bugs and ants. I only get about a handful of juicy, ripe berries per day, but that handful is so delicious.  Cyndy 1, Opponents 3

 

The first picking of blueberries,  from my  very small bushes, produced enough firm blue berries to make a batch of blueberry buttermilk muffins (the dozen were gone, as in eaten, in one day), two fresh fruit cups, and enough remaining for a batch of blueberry buttermilk pancakes - yummy! Initially, I was waiting for more of the berries to ripen before I actually went out to gather, but as I was sitting in the office, I looked out the window, and I saw a mockingbird perched in one of the bushes swallowing plump berry after plump berry at breakneck speed.  I ran for a bowl and immediately went out to pick my share.  Sorry, but do I eat the birds’ bugs? NOOOOO! Cyndy 1, Opponents 4

 

Two days later, and I need to go out and gather a second picking.  Hmmm….more muffins or more pancakes??? No procrastinating this time or the mockingbird will gain another point.

 







The grapes are in the worse shape as the leaves are covered with those pesky Japanese beetles leaving nothing but a tulle-like skeleton of previously green, lush and thick leaves.  The Japanese beetles do not normally eat the grapes themselves, but soon the bees, wasps and ants will - ugh! Cyndy 1, Opponents 7

 
 

 
 
 
 
 


I am in a constant struggle. 

 

Is all the time I spend weeding and wrestling with the adversaries worth it?  For flavorful, fresh fruit…you bet it is!
 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Content Cattle, Content Cyndy








What first seemed like a pretty routine, uneventful morning walk decidedly became one of those ‘little things’ that are really quite memorable.

  
 
 
 


Today’s walk took me right past the cattle, only a barbed wire fence separated us.

 

I rarely walk this close to the cattle with dogs in tow, but I sternly reminded the dogs that they had to mind their behavior… no chasing. Snowball and Buddy obeyed me nicely and watched quietly from their side of the fence.

 




Most of the mama cows were shadowed by their cute little calves.  A large pair of eyes kept constant vigil on my activities while a smaller pair watched with apprehension.  Some of the calves had left their mother’s side and were dashing around the tall grasses in their pasture, grouping up with as many as 10 other rambunctious calves, all having fun and a bit of excitement. The calves are young, a few months to a few days old, but they already exhibit the appropriate condition and desirable stature as a result of a well-maintained herd.  Glenn is doing an excellent job in the livestock department.

 

 
 

I stopped my walk to enjoy the moment. I just watched the cows, calves and bull do their thing. 

 

This was a simple action on my part, but oh so comforting.  The cattle, too, were content.  There was no bellowing, no nervous running, no trying to protect their babies.  There was no danger, no angst.

 

We all (human, bovine, canine) just enjoyed each other’s’ company amidst our peaceful surroundings.

 

My morning walk was more than just ordinary, it was a moment to  cherish!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Independence Day


HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA !

 
Lexington, Virginia fireworks 7-4-2015



GO FREEDOM!!!




 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Adventures on the Gorge - Family Day in the TreeTops






















Earlier this week, our family of four (Matt is on leave and I strongly urged Becky to take a
day off) experienced an Adventure on the Gorge in West Virginia. The day was gorgeous - clear, not the rain as earlier forecast, and quite comfortable.  The rhododendrons were if full bloom.

 
I made reservations for the TreeTops Canopy Tour.  I had wanted to try zip lining for years and this was the year I actually acted on my desire.  I needed my entire family for support and encouragement and for a possible push (or shove) if I hesitated at any step of the outing.

 



 
We arrived at the venue early which gave us enough time to sign the all-important ‘no liability’ paperwork and to make the even more important last trip to the restroom.  When one is spending hours in the treetops, a pre-trip restroom stop is imperative.

 

 
 
 
Our two very capable tour guides helped secure our harnesses and helmets.  We were off.

 



First stop…a baby zip line for technical instruction.  Once dangling from the cable, we were only about two feet off the ground which provided a definite false sense of security for the real zips which could be up to 90 feet off the ground. We learned where to place our hands, how to cross our legs, how to straighten ourselves from a misguided twist (a failure for me which I discovered later through several of my later zips), how to self-rescue in the unfortunate circumstance if we stopped out on the line and not on the platform, slowing down and the most important stopping procedure.  Everyone had their turn on the baby zip, and we all passed.  The entire group of 9 (our family of four and another family of three) plus Rine and Derek (tour experts) were ready to proceed.  Next stop…tree tops.
 

To put this adventure into prospective, I am a complete novice with no experience, no athletic ability and a huge fear factor.  And, why did I have this desire to zip line?  Well, it looked like a lot of fun when seen on television commercials. Or, maybe, it was my loyalty to the Saturday TV Tarzan movies of my youth.


The procedure was simple.  Once on the platform,  step up on a tree stump where Rine would attach the gear to the cable system.  Step off said tree stump to set the gear in its proper location on the cable, place hands in proper position, fold ankles over each other and zip…and yell.  Then, quickly watch for Derek, who had already zipped to the next platform, where he awaited and helped with the safe landing. 

 


At the end of the first zip, we were standing high in the treetops on a small wooden platform that surrounded the anchor tree.  Once all of us were on the same platform, it was time to zip to the next, just as small and just as high in the tree tops, platform. 

 
Matt entertained the group with jest as we waited our turns.  Matt jumps out of airplanes in the Army, so this zip line business was pure enjoyment especially with a bit of harassing of Mom…me.


Several zips into the forest, I heard that the more you weigh the faster you travel.  I was, needless to say, definitely the fastest one in the group…ugh…I was getting my money’s worth of adrenaline rush.

Of course, once on the platform, there was no escape, no retreat.  We were standing at tree canopy level.   We had to proceed from one platform to the next platform. There was no easy out.


Becky was the slowest zipper and she had the best, picture perfect landings on all 10 zips.  She came in at the right speed and stopped exactly on top of the tree stump as instructed with ease and finesse - a ballerina of the treetops, a capable Jane. Unlike me, who looked like the proverbial ‘fish out of water’, I never landed on the stump, I was usually coming in too fast, and I flailed in desperation to stay secure on the platform once my feet touched the wooden planks. I would certainly NOT be featured in any marketing brochure.


Can you see the fear running throughout my entire body?




 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This tour also included five sky bridges.  As a kid we called these types of bridges ‘swinging bridges’ which I usually steered cleared  of and stayed on firm ground for several reason…fear and motion sickness. 


 
Now, I had to face five bridges. Again, there was no other route than crossing those bridges.   Matt always seemed to follow me and the bridges always seemed to be bouncing more than necessary.  I could not turn around and look back, but I had a notion that Matt was contributing the extra motion.  I had two Dramamines in me.  I tried to prepare myself by taking a Dramamine the night before and another in the morning before our drive.  Still, the swinging and the fear of falling into the abyss below were daunting.  I felt a bit woozy.  But, I made it, extremely slow and without incident.

 
 
 
 
 
 
The worst was yet to come.

 

The adventure ended with a 30’ rappel down a rope from the last platform.  It was the only way down to terra firma.  I aborted my first and meager attempt by sitting down on the platform. I was downright scared.  I knew I had to complete the rappel. There was no other way down.  Visions of a past, my first and last, rappel flooded my thoughts.  Over 40 years ago, as a young (I stress young as I am not young any longer) college student, I was invited to go rappelling at Giant City with a group of friends.  Again, I was the least experienced with no experience.  Harnessed in, I hopped over the edge of a rocky cliff and immediate did a 180 flip and after slamming into the rock wall with my entire backside, was hanging precariously upside down.  I remember the yells, “Don’t let go of the rope!!!!!”  I discovered later that the rope was truly my life line.  It kept me from plunging to…well, you get the picture.


This rappel was rock free, but I assumed that the ground would be hard. 


I gingerly made my way to the edge of the platform.  I swung out over the edge. And, down I went.  The friction caused by the rope slipping through my gloved hands resulted in an unexpected heat that was intense, barely bearable. There was no stopping until I made contact with the ground.  I did, gently, standing on both feet.


I am grateful and thankful to our two experienced, very patient, and very helpful guides.  With their encouragement,


I SURVIVED and I had FUN!
 
 
 
 
 
 
Before returning home, we stopped to view the New River and the towering New River Gorge Bridge. 

 




crossing the bridge and looking down into the Gorge
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
NOTE:  I highly recommend a visit to Adventures on the Gorge.  There are many accommodations and many Adventures tours to participate in covering all levels of expertise.   ENJOY!