Saturday, October 22, 2016

One Drop of New England

     I often extol the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains and they deserve it. This area of Virginia is beautiful in all seasons. But, when it comes to autumn, a season I eagerly await, I can't help but be slightly let down when it comes to foliage color. I was raised in the northeast and for forty years New England's fall foliage was impressed into my brain. Some autumns were more colorful than others, but I distinctly recall a few that were so brilliant and colorful that I will never forget. The Adirondack Mountains, the Vermont towns, and our own New York interstate highways would often be awash in color so bright, it was blazing. Folks celebrated that color with festivals and wreaths! We pressed colorful leaves between wax paper and imitated the color with construction paper leaves on school bulletin boards. Children would construct leaf people and we would pick bouquets of leaves up off the ground, scampering to find one leaf more brilliant in color than the previous. And what young couples haven't walked hand in hand through the fallen leaves, kicking them up as they strolled through a park or neighborhood?
     After pleasing folks with a colorful landscape for two or three weeks, there would come a day in October when all the leaves would drop. Mountains of colorful leaves poured down onto the green grass. Depending on the weather, they sometimes floated gently down over days. Other times, they blew down furiously in the wind. Once in a while they just seemed to dump onto the ground overnight. No matter how they fell, they brought joy to any child, young or old, who chose to rake and pile them up for play. Sometimes we would make piles so high that we needed to stand on a picnic table to jump down into them. We came out smelling musty and earthy, just like the leaves. Pieces of leaves would often find their way into our clothing and fall out onto the bathroom floor when we undressed. In those years when we lived near the apple orchards, the sweet tang of apples would mingle in the cold air with that of the decaying leaves and scented the air with a most wonderful aroma.
     With respect to our Virginia, she has given us some very pretty autumns. She grows a different variety of trees than New England and I cant fault her for that. Her beautiful oaks turn brown, and the black walnut and hickories turn yellow. The eastern white pine and cedar will remain green and the hornbeam and chestnuts also remain rather dull, I think. There are many varieties I am not familiar with, but I do know the sugar maple and I think that is what is missing here for its brilliant colors of reds and oranges. What Fincastle will give us is the smell of fallen leaves on Halloween night, if we choose to walk around town that evening. The dogwoods are a beautiful, dark burgundy color and Ikenberrys smells wonderful with their bins of apples. But, my biggest joy each autumn comes from one of our four maple trees. No matter what type of autumn we have, bright or dull, this one little tree produces the most spectacular color for us. These photos were all taken today and show the countryside around our house. It's beautiful with or without colorful leaves, but as you can see, our maple tree stands out and reminds me, just a little bit, of what a New England autumn looks like.
      Take a peek at "For the Love of a House" to see what the color looks like in New Hampshire this week.

The wind was kicking up and it blew fiercely all night long after this photo was taken. Daylight will reveal how the leaves held on.

Monday, October 17, 2016

I Wish I Had More Time...


     It troubles me that I don't have the time or take the time to write. So many beautiful days have passed by! The problem is that my mornings are spent away at work and if I don't write in the morning, I don't write at all. (Sigh)
     I had last Friday off and B. and I drove to Douthat State Park and walked on some of the trails around the lake and through the woods there. We had hoped to hike Apple Orchard Falls but it was a little more strenuous than we wanted to do on this particular day so we'll save that one for another time. Afterward, we walked around Clifton Forge and had a late lunch at Jack Mason's Tavern. It was a pleasant day in every respect.
     Over the weekend, Steve continued work on the shed. The roof is now shingled and we await cedar siding to be shipped. It's coming along slowly but surely. Of course, I concerned myself with the future landscaping around the shed and I bought five adorable raspberry bushes called Brazelberries to plant along one side. I was a little eager in my purchase and the beds won't be ready until spring, so the raspberry shrubs will have to overwinter by heeling them into the raised vegetable beds. What I like about these Brazelberry plants is that they stay nicely mounded and compact and they won't grow out of control.
     On Sunday afternoon we went to the monthly Star City Brewers Guild meeting. This month they (we) met at Big Lick Brewing Co. in downtown Roanoke. It's a great little spot with a friendly atmosphere. The brewery and taproom are typically closed on Sundays. One (or more?) of the owners are guild members so we had the place to ourselves this evening.  I don't drink beer but someone brewed a peach beer and served it on tap and I enjoyed a few tastes of that. We talked about going back on a Thursday evening for Trivia Night. We hear it is a lot of fun.
     Henri and I still take walks frequently. The photo above is of the setting sun's rays fanning out from the horizon. It's getting harder to squeeze in the time for a walk before it gets dark nowadays. Sometimes we just sit out on the front steps and watch the bluebirds play on the fence posts and in the fields. I'm still hearing crickets, mockingbirds, and crows.These days are numbered as the forecast says it will chill right down again this weekend. We're enjoying the warmth and gentle days while we can.
     Many of my happiest moments during the humdrum days are when I hear from our girls or see photos and read anecdotes of the grandchildren. What joy and amusement they bring to me. Here is a conversation that Claire wrote about. Jack turns four next month:

 Claire: "Jack where did you find that hickory nut?"
Jack: "Ummm... just where it wanted to be."
Claire: "On the ground?"
Jack: "In it's little nuthouse."
That is not the answer I was expecting.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Detectorists

     I absolutely love this program. It's gentle. How often do we find "gentle" on TV these days? The characters are quirky and lovable. Other than Antiques Road Show, it's the only redeemable program worth watching on all of current television, (in my opinion). There are only two seasons available on Netflix and I've already watched them all, so that's a bummer. But, I look forward to more next year.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Somebody Needs To Be First

     Earlier this week, autumn was off to a slow start. Our windows and doors were still open, crickets were chirping at night and everyone was still wearing sandals. Then I saw this lone maple leaf in the yard and I knew that fall was inevitably on its way. 
    As the week drew to a close, Hurricane Matthew blew in we prayed for those souls caught in its midst. I thought about the thousands of people in Haiti who already had nothing after the devastating earthquake six years ago. All they had were tent homes and now they've lost even those. How does one who has nothing lose more than nothing? And yet, they have. 
     I was on duty to feed Neighbor W.'s animals this weekend, of all weekends, in two inches of rain. It turned out not to be too bad because the temperatures were mild and the animals were gentle. I enjoyed walking across the field in the rain and slopping in the muck. I had to try very hard not to slip and fall into it but, there is such an earthiness about the animals and the muck that it calms me and makes me happy. The grass and hay and animals all smelled very good. (except for the duck house which smells very bad) They are all so happy to have their hay and grain. On Saturday night, Steve and I went out on a date so, we had to stop to tuck in the chickens and ducks on our way back home. We used our headlights to see what we were doing. It had just finished raining and the grasses were sparkling in the headlights. It was the prettiest thing! Yes, most of the time it's these little things that amuse and amaze me to no end.

     W. told me that a duck was sitting on a nest somewhere in the sheep's pen, but he didn't say where. I was surprised that I found it without really trying. Have a look at the sheep's feeding trough in the photo below from Sunday morning. Under the end closest to us is her nest and there she sits. All the other ducks were scampering about, enjoying the rain and consequently the sun but, nature has bound this mother to her nest and the nurturing of her eggs. I hope she is greatly rewarded with some adorable baby ducks. It will be a treat for all of us to see in the days to come.  

     When the feeding was completed on Sunday morning, I couldn't resist a walk up the hill. After two days of rain, the sun was brilliant and a stiff breeze was blowing. I stopped to photograph the sheep and caught a very long morning shadow of myself.  I was sorry I couldn't stay longer.  If I had a thermos of coffee, I could have sat there for an hour or more. 

Heading home...

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Rains Come and Rains Go

     This is the weather front that moved in last week bringing torrential downpours and considerable flooding. It was the coziest book reading weather for those who could stay inside and the sound of rain tapping on the windows was a lullaby at night. I was caught in the downpour late Friday morning when I left work. An umbrella was pointless, although I tried. I was so soaked running across the parking lot to my car after work that I cancelled all other errands and came straight home. Isn't it wonderful when we can come home to our sanctuary of calm and dry in the storm?
     By Saturday morning, the skies cleared and the sun came out. Daughter #3 and her husband came for a lunch of Pasta Fagioli, crusty bread, and peach cobbler. The weather turned mild again and we sat on the porch, they went for a walk, Steve worked on the shed, and I hooked on my rug a bit. Later, I walked up the hill to Mrs. C.'s with some apples and we had a little visit. Daughter #4, Steve and I ended the day with a movie. We watched "The Big Short" which was very good. I think daughter found it a little boring, but she's too young to remember the housing bubble and all that.
     We ended our weekend with Sunday, church, and more relaxation in and outdoors. (Well, Steve worked on the shed some more, but that's his relaxation.) I fell asleep Sunday evening thinking of the scriptures in Revelation we heard in the sermon today. In Revelation 5, John wept because no one in Heaven was worthy to open the scroll. "Then he saw the Lamb standing near the throne and the Lamb took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne and all of Heaven, including myriads and myriads and thousands and thousands of angels and every creature in Heaven and earth and under the earth worshiped the Lamb." Amen! This the song we sang after the sermon:


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Up Up and Away

-  It was the end of another sweltering, hot and humid week. We drove down the road, headed for Raleigh for a weekend with the children and grandchildren. We passed the nursing home at the end of our road and I saw a large group of residents parked under the portico in various wheelchairs. One or two were set apart, out in the sun, still covered with blankets even though it was eighty seven degrees. Almost all were asleep or resting. It was a sweet vision but it still struck me a little funny. It looked like someone was housecleaning and all their belongings had been set outside to air. It was the first thing that popped into my head and I turned to Steve and said, "Look! All the residents have been set outside to air."

- For the first time, we actually stopped in Hillsborough, NC on our way to Raleigh. It's a pretty little town and we've often commented how lively a place it appears. We chose to have dinner at Hillsborough BBQ where they serve North Carolina, vinegar-style, pulled pork barbecue. Business was very busy so Henri, Steve, and I sat outside on a bench along the sidewalk while we waited for our order. There were a few tables outside and I saw a a lady seated there with a large Labradoodle-looking dog at her feet. A server went to the lady's table with a styrofoam container of barbecue and set it down on the ground and opened it up for the dog! He neatly ate it all. Definitely a pet-friendly place I'd say. Henri would have died if he ate such a meal, but we did give him a few tidbits as a treat.

- Obviously, the grandchildren are a treat for us. They are forever entertaining and adorable in their own individual ways. Mari now reads books to me! I needed a little nap on Saturday afternoon and Mari and Jack got very excited with the idea of coming to read to me while I rested. Our roles were reversed and I rested while they sat on the bed and read aloud to me. At some point I must have slept because when I woke up they were gone, books were scattered all over the bed and there was an entire beanbag chair left behind- on the bed. Mari is also writing little stories now and she laughs and giggles at her own silliness. She will turn six years old in two months and seems wise beyond her years. I forgot to bring my camera so I didn't take all the photos I would have liked, but this one of Matthew I took with my phone is my favorite. He will turn two in November.  He likes to imitate his big brother, Jack who is ever on the go. Jack wears a cape. You can imagine the rest : )

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Hole in the Clouds

We expected the Monty Python hand to come down out of the clouds and grab our house.
No editing necessary!