Thursday, April 20, 2017

Carpet of the Sun

Early morning commute about two weeks ago.
Renaissance was one of the bands I followed in my high school years. I still enjoy their music. This song always sounds fitting as I drive along our Botetourt roadways.

Come along with me
Down into the world of seeing
Come, and you'll be free
Take the time to find the feeling
See everything on its own
And you'll find you know the way
And you'll know the things you're shown
Owe everything to the day
See the carpet of the sun
The green grass soft and sweet
Sands upon the shores of time
Of oceans mountains deep
Part of the world that you live in
You are the part that you're giving
Come into the day
Feel the sunshine warmth around you
Sounds from far away
Music of the love that found you
The seed that you plant today
Tomorrow will be a tree
And living goes on this way
It's all part of you and me
See the carpet of the sun
The green grass soft and sweet
Sands upon the shores of time
Of oceans mountains deep
Part of the world that you live in
You are the part that you're giving
See the carpet of the sun
The green grass soft and sweet
Sands upon the shores of time
Of oceans mountains deep
Part of the world that you live in
You are the part that you're giving
See the carpet of the sun
See the carpet of the sun
See the carpet of the sun
See the carpet of the sun

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter- Now My Soul Cries Out Hallelujah!

     It's been a joyous week to be on Spring Break. Nature treated us to beautiful weather which lifted winter weary spirits. I neglected the gardens last year. Grief is all I can say about that. I recall planting stuff, but I don't remember much about it other than that it was more of a chore than a joy. Thankfully, the joy and wonder for the garden has returned. That magical feeling that spring brings, of seeing bright colors, of discovering new patterns in flowers and leaves, of hearing the bird's songs and watching their antics, it all feels brand new. My heart feels light on more days than it feels heavy. The process has been so slow that it was almost negligible. It's only by looking back that I realize how far I've come. So, how appropriate that today is Easter Sunday! This beautiful week has culminated in the most precious celebration of all time. All day, in my head I am singing,  ♪ "Christ! Christ! He is risen indeed! Oh sing Hallelujah..." ♫

It's hard to tell where the Redbud ends and the Dogwood begins. They are so pretty together.

Maybe there will be sweet cherries this year after all.
The Viburnum I photographed in my last post have now burst into full bloom. The purple under the maple tree is the Ajuga Chocolate Chip, shared from B.'s garden a couple of years ago.

I found a good sized violet patch out in the field. When I was growing up in New York, I would dig wild violets just like these and present them to my mom for Mother's Day. In NY, they always bloomed around Mother's Day. I decided to try and transplant some of these to the rock garden (below).
The Dogwood leans a bit. It is windblown and we leave it. I think it adds character.
This man had just finished digging a 3' by 2' hole in the hard clay for me. He changed his clothes and was waiting for the neighbor to finish mowing so they could enjoy a beer together. He earned it! Next up- paint the shed and build a door and cupola for it. The raised beds contain herbs (on the right), horseradish (on the left), asparagus (out of range), hops (back left), and two and a half beds still free for tomatoes, green beans, and peppers.
The lay of the land just after sunrise, Easter morning.
The lilacs are also in bloom now. We're going to be on sensory overload here pretty soon.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Spring (Break) Is Here!

     I have been very excited about this Spring Break. The thought of an entire week left wide open for me to use however I please leaves me feeling giddy. In reality, so much has been let go around the house all winter that I feel compelled to regain some order. So, my ideal Spring Break, the Spring Break that excites me the most involves spring cleaning and gardening. Woo Hoo! I am all in!
     After I stripped the master bedroom of all linens and curtains and started the washing machine, I went outside to take stock of the garden. The sun was just rising over the tree line, setting such a pretty glow on everything that I went back inside to grab the camera. Mockingbirds, Robins, Cardinals, Blue Jays, and House Finches were all over the yard, singing and searching for breakfast. I realized how much I have missed mornings by rushing out of the house every Monday through Friday at 7:30. Mornings become a blur after that point. How nice to be able to slow down once in a while and savor a morning.
     I ended up spending the morning out in the garden. I planted more asparagus in the asparagus bed and some Dahlia bulbs in another raised beds. I also moved the sage to the herb bed and moved Steve's horse radish from a tub into a raised bed. I divided the Ajuga from under the Dogwood and planted it back under the Flowering Plum where I didn't like the look of the Pachysandra that was growing there. I took that Pachysandra and transplanted it under the Maples. I planted two pots of Pansies in the wall planter and took two adorable Primroses given to me by a friend and planted them in a terracotta pot where they can live in the shade. Then, I got out the lawnmower and mowed paths for Henri and me to walk through the fields. The grasses are growing quickly now!
     By 11:00 I needed to get back inside and keep the washer and dryer going for the bedroom linens. After I got cleaned up, I wrote a shopping list and ran some errands and did our weekly shopping at Kroger. All-in-all it felt like a productive day and I can't wait to get outside again tomorrow.
     On a side note, we still have a problem with mice getting into everything. Steve brought the lawnmower out from winter storage in the shed on Saturday. He had covered the motor area with mothballs and the mice still made a winter nest in there! They chewed the foam around the air filter but luckily left the wires alone. I also noticed they (or something) had nibbled the Irish Spring soap that we left out in the shed. I see neighboring cats hunting in the field around the shed and I'm glad for that, but we are otherwise flummoxed as to how to keep the mice out of the equipment. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. We thought for sure the mothballs would handle it, but no.
     Here are a few pictures I took first thing this morning. The Mockingbirds were singing to me while I was out there, but in my head I was hearing "Spring is Here" by Ella Fitzgerald except I was hearing it in my mother's voice which was very similar.  : )

Facing the sunrise. Suddenly everything is green!

These Viburnum, Nantucket are ready to burst into bloom.
Happy daffodils along the driveway

A little friend in the Crabapple tree

They're sweet until they start singing at 4 AM.
I planted these Pansies last October and here they stayed all winter.


Monday, April 3, 2017

Apple Orchard Falls- A Walk in the Woods

      Oh, the beauty of Botetourt County! In celebration of spring birthdays, we took to woods and trails and hiked to Apple Orchard Falls. It's located right in our own backyard and steps away from both the Blue Ridge Parkway and Appalachian Trail. We accessed it from a parking lot at the base and hiked up to the falls. Then we crossed a connector trail and hiked back down along Cornelius Creek. (see map below) It was a perfect day, starting out cool with light jackets which we soon shed. There were brief areas of trail where the rushing waters provided natural air conditioning and we'd don our jackets, only to shed them again farther up the trail. We passed only nine other hikers all day, which gave us a sense of having the trail almost all to ourselves. 
     My favorite thing about this hike is that it follows beautiful creeks both going up and coming down the two different trails. There are several bridge crossings over rushing waters and two creek crossings on Cornelius Creek to be made on your own footing. One of us rock hopped across, one of us removed shoes and socks to wade over and two of us used walking sticks to assist our rock crossing. (An experienced hiker passed us by wading right through with his hiking sneakers and socks still on. He didn't blink an eye and carried his girlfriend over on his back.) Along the way, we passed a multitude of little falls that fell into inviting pools. We made mental notes of a few, thinking they would be the perfect spot for a summer picnic and swim. We've already planned the picnic menu and we look forward to our return in a month or two. 

Apple Orchard Falls

View looking out from the falls and back to where we began our hike.

Steve and John in young forest growth. John is a forester and he pointed out many interesting tree and forest facts for us.

A lean-to beside the creek. It was a perfect spot to camp.

One of many fallen trees.
Little falls and a pool in the woods.
Our hike started at the yellow "P" at the top (which is really the bottom), across the connector trail, and down the Cornelius Creek Trail. A total of 5.8 miles with a gain of about 1,000 feet in elevation. I would rate the trail moderate with some steeper climbing to approach the falls and lots of small rocks on the trail.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Mountain Retreat

     Our women's retreat was held at a wilderness survival school this year. Mountain Shepherd Survival School is located in Catawba, Virginia on a beautiful, winding, back road, about fifty minutes drive from my house. We had heavy rain the morning before the retreat which caused the streams and creeks to swell considerably. I glimpsed many such creeks at the base of the mountains along the drive. By afternoon, the rain stopped and the sun shone through the cloud openings like spotlights dotting the mountainside. It was a beautiful drive in.
     The overnight retreat was a wonderful opportunity to relax and enhance relationships with friends, old and new alike. We enjoyed excellent food, thoughtful scripture time, and jolly, good laughs. I wouldn't mind returning to the school to participate in the actual wilderness training. (that wasn't part of our retreat). You can read about Mountain Shepherd Wilderness Survival School here.

Our beautiful group of attendees.
The view from the upper deck of the lodge.

The dining hall.
The meeting room.

 Catawba roads, a beautiful vista at every turn.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Forest Floor and Other Explorations

     Winter and spring have been duking it out but, I think spring has finally won. I love to walk into the woods this time of year. In general, I prefer walking in the fields and woods rather than on the roads, but they're usually too overgrown to enjoy in the warmer seasons and I don't feel safe out there during hunting season. Spring is the perfect time with the forest floor clear of brambles and weeds and hunters. I spotted plenty of new growth beginning to peek out from under the leaves.
     I entered the woods through the graveyard behind our property. I hadn't visited it in a long while and I wondered about its condition. Someone used to keep it trimmed but we haven't heard anyone back there for a couple of years now. I'm afraid it's fallen into a state of neglect. As I walked around the tombstones I thought how sad it was to see the place forgotten like this. On the other hand, I thought how appropriate for nature to slowly cover it over and entomb it completely.

From this rise, the graves are sentinels over the field and our house below.

The prettiest tombstone here.

Counting a life in years, months, and days. 
Several of the graves are marked simply like this. The newest stone is dated 1919. Everything else dates backwards from there. The surface of the graveyard is covered in Periwinkle. It is a carpet of blue when in bloom.
Traces of love. This is a beautiful ruffled variety of daffodil.

This was right on a deer path. I wonder of they eat this and if so, it must be a spring delicacy.

Next to the graveyard is an old animal enclosure. Based on its size, I'm guessing it may have been a pigpen. 
I'm reminded that everything is in a constant state of entropy.  (Is it we who have created the entropy and God simply calls it back to himself through his perfect creation of nature? Hmm. Although nature is in a fallen state, so... There's a good theological discussion in there.)
I see a beautiful walking stick here.

Do these hinges go in two different directions and how would that have worked? There is only one opening to the pigpen. Would the farmer who built this please come and explain this to me?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Stream of Conciousness Post

     The routine, humdrum days are sprinkled with odds and ends of activity now and then. All together, it keeps life interesting. Underlying everything right now is some extreme back pain that I'm experiencing. It fogs my brain and prevents me from forming cohesive thoughts, hence the title of this post. Anyway, here's what's been going on.
     First off, I finished my latest rug! It's fairly large and I will hang it on a wall for now because Henri likes to...well, ruin them. Poor little man.

     I celebrated another birthday. I had a combination of older folks extolling my youth and younger folks thinking I'm getting rather old. My six-year-old granddaughter guessed my age to be a crotchety thirty-three. It's all a matter of perspective.
        Audrey and I took a trip down to Raleigh to shop for maternity things and to have some fun in general. There is SO much to do in Raleigh and Claire is the perfect hostess. I like to visit the grandchildren in their own home where they can share their daily life with us on their own turf. We had a girl's day out at the coffee shop with shopping afterward. It was perfect in every way (except for the back pain- it even hurts to laugh). Audrey and I stopped at a couple of antique shops between Roanoke and Raleigh. She found an adorable little antique hutch. The shop owner knocked the price  down to one that we couldn't refuse and he even managed to fit it into my car! Mind you, we had suitcases and shopping bags to boot. What fun it was. Audrey is satisfying some of that nesting urge.

Sola coffee shop.The place was packed with customers except for this little corner.

Where there's a will, there's a way. The bottom of the hutch went on the back seat and the glass cupboard top went in the trunk.
    Tess' boyfriend lost his mom to pneumonia last week. Our family grieved with him and I still grieve today. I did not know this lady well, but I know her son and I know what it's like to lose a mother. She had just turned fifty years old the week before her passing. It is too sad for words.
     Our two daughters who are expecting babies this summer include me in their photo texts of baby bump comparisons. Our family is certainly entering a new phase of growth and there is much joy to share as we celebrate each phase. In quieter moments, we discuss motherhood and some of the sadder aspects of parenting that our various careers expose us to. We see cases of child abuse, families struggling with addiction and poverty, immigrant families settling into a strange, new country, and we  know intimately about abortion. I know we can do better as a society. But for now, we do what we can individually in our own communities. It begins by talking, though. We need to keep talking.

     It is now 5:28 AM. I have been up since 3:15, unable to sleep from the back pain. I plan to cook a belated St. Patrick's Day dinner later today: corned beef and cabbage, of course! I'll add the prized pepperoni sticks, some potatoes and carrots and we will have a feast. First, I will go back to bed for a spell. Thank goodness for Motrin.
     Steve has to work this weekend and I won't be able to get myself to worship at church this morning. Here is a verse that I've been reading and re-reading since last Sunday along with a song for Sunday singing. I'm singing as one today : )

 1John: 15-17
       "Neither love the world nor the things in the world. Whoever loves the world has not the Father's love in his heart, because everything in the world, the passions of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the proud display of life have their origin not from the Father but from the world. And the world with its lust passes away, but he who does the will of God remains forever. "


Saturday, March 4, 2017

When It's Not Quiet

We average about three hundred and forty-one days of quiet around here. The other twenty-four might be a little noisy.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Family Week

     About twice a year, Chelsea and her growing family drive down from New Hampshire to visit us in Virginia. Claire and her family will then drive up from North Carolina. The gathering is always a cause for celebration and a chance for the four sisters to see one another. Everyone likes to be outdoors and we partake in whatever activities the weather permits. There have been times of sledding and snowmen and times of water balloon fights and BBQ. By far, the family's favorite pastime is a bonfire. Last week, we were lucky enough to have a combination of very mild weather and an accumulation of branches and brush to burn. The temperatures climbed through the fifties into the sixties and seventies by week's end. Simon spent a day gathering the brush from different areas on the property. He lit a smaller campfire on Thursday and it was kept burning throughout the weekend. This smaller fire is more convenient for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. Ian and Simon camped out in the field on Friday night and the older kids enjoyed an evening under a clear sky filled with stars. We lit the big bonfire on Saturday night and the littler kids got to stay up late and enjoy the fun.   
     Needless to say, the week goes by much too quickly and it's a little sad and quiet after everyone leaves. I immersed myself in laundry and cleaning up and it was a good distraction. I also took on a few extra hours at work this week, so there wasn't much time for me to wallow. : ) Sadly, Audrey and Jared weren't able to join us for the weekend portion of our activities. Audrey caught the cold virus that everyone had been sharing and it was bad enough to keep her resting at home. There's always next time.

By day...

... and by night

Aunt Chelsea built a teepee.

Pop and Nonni : )

Steve, keeper of the fire.
One year old!