Thursday, February 24, 2011

Old Barn and Bed Frames

I am taking a couple of days off from posting. The cold that started circulating through the office a couple of weeks ago has finally caught up with me. I'm feeling as old and as decrepit as these bed frames.

I'll be back shortly.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Willy, the Polar Bear

And yet on the other hand, here is an animal that is much better off being here at the NC Zoo.

Wilhelm, or as he is called now, Willy, was among six polar bears confiscated from a Mexico-based circus who abandoned them and their trainer in Puerto Rico in 2001. He spent most of his time in a seven by eight-foot cage. Rarely did he and the other bears have access to water to swim in. Their diet consisted mostly of apples, carrots, lettuce and bread.The temperatures soared to above 100 degrees and there was no air conditioning.

Willy and Masha (who died in 2007 from old age and complications from his life with the circus) came to North Carolina while other bears went to the Detroit Zoo and the Port Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, Washington. Since Willy is more than twenty years old, it is doubtful that the zoo will try to introduce another polar bear into his enclosure.

You can't see it in this picture, but he was swimming around with an orange traffic cone in his paw. What a change from how he looked when he was with the Suarez Circus. I won't link to those pictures; too gruesome. But they are findable if you want to Google it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Puma Concolor

But before TB and I went looking for old barns, old dams and wild violets, we went to the North Carolina Zoo early Sunday morning thinking we would beat the crowds who surely were still at church.


Faced with a huge crowd of families, mostly pushing those humongous strollers, we opted to do just the North American exhibits and leave the Africa area for a later trip back. I am not very good with crowds. Mostly they annoy me no end and TB knows I have a very small limit of goodwill.

In front of us going towards the cougar exhibit were two teenagers talking about how cool it would be to throw rocks at the animals (no danger of that actually happening. The zoo has barriers high enough to forestall any attempt at vandalism). I felt like hissing in their ears, "How about you just stand there and let me throw rocks at you so that you can see how cool that is." But discretion being the better point of valor, I contained myself. Besides, TB has no sense of humor when I embarrass her over things like that.

The cougars (there are two) weren't interested in the crowds surrounding their enclosures. Or maybe for them it's "been there, done that".

I am of two minds over zoos. On one hand, I hate seeing wild animals on display just for our amusement, but on the other hand, for the Eastern Cougar since there are less than 50 still in the wild, mostly in Florida, this is their only chance for conservation.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Wild Violets

I am quite envious of my English and Scottish blogger friends who are enjoying great swaths of snowdrops, a plant I've seen in catalogs but never seen in local plantings. Great swaths of daffodils, yes, but never snowdrops.

So I go out with an eagle eye towards anything blooming in this warmish end of winter. Up until this afternoon, I've seen green shoots poking up through the ground (i.e., the daylilies in my small garden), but no flowers.

Until this afternoon during a day's delayed day trip with TB (I had a hair appointment yesterday; got to keep those roots under control). Tons and tons of wild violets at a couple of locations that we stopped at to get some snapshots of old barns and old dams.

Not swaths of snowdrops, but the best I could do here in North Carolina.  Unfortunately most people view wild violets as a noxious weed to be eradicated out of lawns. I see it as an early harbinger of spring. I will start looking closer to see what other wildflowers are lurking underfoot.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunset Sunday

I pulled off on an overpass to take this snapshot Saturday evening. I put my emergency blinkers on to make sure no one hit me, but had several people slow down probably thinking the car had broken down (an 18-year old minivan with 200 thousand miles? Why would they think that?), but once they saw me taking pictures, they just waved and drove off.

You can find Sunset Sundays over at Finding Another View. I'm doing this with Anyes at Far away in the Sunshine as an ongoing project.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Yellow-rumped Warbler

A last look at the yellow-rumped warblers. They stopped coming to the feeder after the holly tree across the parking lot started dropping its berries. And they leave soon to migrate all the way up through to the Arctic Circle in Canada.

And I only get to see them in their winter drab. Look at what they look like in the summer:

From Cornell University's All About Birds
I took down all but two feeders today after I saw the daylilies starting to send up shoots through the leaf litter. Although bird poop is good for the plants, I don't like gardening among a lot of poop. Yuck.

Spring is coming.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

European Starling

They're baaaack . . .

And as you can see, the white tips on his feathers are starting to wear away. By late spring, they will be an iridescent brown.

I'll start taking the feeders down the beginning of March in order to clean up the small garden. I'll have to replant some daylilies which were dug up by the chipmunks (which is why I keep tamping down their holes). The juncos are coming less frequently as they get ready to migrate back to the northern forests of Canada. The yellow-rumped warblers have decamped for the holly tree across the parking lot, but they too will leave in March for Canada. I still get all the other little birds, but I need to wean them so they aren't dependent on me during breeding season. I will set up hummingbird feeders; let's see if I can get any decent snapshots this summer.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Blue Ridge Parkway

Since I didn't do a road trip this past weekend, I am going through old snapshots to find something interesting to post. This one was taken in October 2009 with the Panasonic TMZ-1 (a refurbished 5MP camera) and shows the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina. They were named this due to the hazy blue hue given off by the evergreens that grow extensively throughout these ridges. I didn't do anything to the color of this snapshot; this shows it exactly how it looks normally.

This was taken from the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Mount Airy looking south and east. Here is an article from the Smithsonian Magazine which tells how the Parkway came into being 75 years ago. It is definitely one of most favorite places to go to, especially since it is just two hours away from Greensboro.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Chipmunk is Back

Well, look who's back. Despite me tamping down his holes in my small garden, this little chipmunk isn't detered where bird seed is concerned.

The patio is a mess. We've had winds over 25 mph for the past three days and all my leaf litter which was covering the daylilies is now littering the patio. Sigh. I'll sweep it all back into the garden until the next windstorm comes through.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Clouds and Puddles

A puddle down at the parking lot at the marina at Lake Brandt, just down the street from my house. Trying for a little bit of artistic photography here.

The day trip didn't happen; I backed out. After driving more than 600 miles altogether last weekend, I just couldn't muster much enthusiasm for a day trip, even one to the NC Zoo on a warm and sunny weekend. I'll have to troll through old snapshots and go out at lunch time to find something interesting to post.

The City of Greensboro is having a contest for photos for their website. They really and truly need to redesign this one; it is pretty blah. I've already submitted a couple; this one from Greenhills Cemetery and this one of the leading edge of Hurricane Earl. I'll post others as I submit them for the contest. Oh, you don't get anything for winning this, just your photo pictured on the site.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunset Sunday

Sunset over Lake Brandt yesterday. Sunny week forecasted and up in the 60's! Maybe spring will come after all.

You can find Sunset Sundays over at Finding Another View. I'm doing this with Anyes at Far away in the Sunshine as an ongoing project.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Last Look

One last look at Holden Beach for this year. I hope to be able to go another trip next year with (fingers crossed) much better weather for the entire trip.

Road trip tomorrow. Destination hasn't been decided.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Elwell's Ferry

The problem with taking along Catherine Bishir's guides on these trips is that I need to stop at as many sites as I can find. My return trip to Greensboro, however, was made easier by the fact that the part of eastern North Carolina I was going through was pretty devoid of historic buildings.

But, there was a hundred-year old ferry just a jog off the road, so I went to investigate. As the North Carolina Historical Marker program wrote about this disappearing mode of transportation:
"Geography dictated the need for ferries during the colonial era in North Carolina. Over time bridges replaced the most of the small inland river ferries. Large vessels, administered by the Department of Transportation (DOT), today cover the vast expanses across the sounds. Only three of the small ferries, also run by DOT, remain. Two are in northeastern North Carolina. In Bertie County, the Sans Souci Ferry crosses the Cashie River and, in Hertford County, Parker’s Ferry crosses the Meherrin River. The other is Elwell's Ferry in Bladen County and crosses the Cape Fear River. All are diesel-powered and cable-drawn. A newspaper writer described such two-vehicle ferries as resembling “a renegade boat ramp—or a floating, fenced-in driveway.” DOT engineers indicate that there is little likelihood that the ferries will be displaced by bridges. Modern high-rise structures cost millions compared with modest costs for staff and fuel. As with other vestiges of the past, such as covered bridges, the ferries generate an allure for locals and for tourists." 

If the ferry is on the opposite side of the river, you just honk your horn to summon it. About 60 to 80 cars use the ferry daily, plus it seems to be a great draw in the summertime (from Internet searches that I did to find out more about it rather than the two sentence mention in the guide).

No, I didn't take it as it would have given me a long detour and I felt weird about just using the ferry to go back and forth across the Cape Fear River.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sunday Morning at the Beach

With Friday and Saturday a washout as far as taking snapshots was concerned, I didn't have much hope for Sunday as we had to leave at mid-morning for the drive back to Greensboro. That didn't really leave a whole lot of time or options to take photos out on the beach.

The rain stopped late Saturday evening and I set my alarm clock to get up 15 minutes before the sun came up.

And these were the pictures I took last Sunday morning at 7 a.m.:

The weekend wasn't a total loss after all.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Holden Beach, North Carolina

Although the morning of our trip to Holden Beach started out bright and sunny, by the time we arrived at the cottage the clouds had moved in and the wind had started to pick up. The weather forecast was for rain all day on Friday, but it would clear out of the area by Saturday morning. I got a few pictures from the front porch of the cottage of the storm moving in:

The next day, it just opened up and poured.

And poured.

And came down in a deluge (was that an ark I saw on the beach?).

And the fog was so thick you couldn't see more than a dozen feet in front of you.

Altogether the area received more than three and a half-inches of rain in two days while Greensboro which is 250 miles west only got a quarter-inch. All that rain managed to break the previous record of rainfall for February (figures).

With the trip to the North Carolina Aquarium scuttled, I read some books that I had put off due to lack of time. And watched cable TV and confirmed my decision not to have it at home (what a brain-sucking time-waster).

When the rain let up a bit, I went out on the beach and took some snapshots in the film grain mode. This one of the sand dune fencing came out well:

And Saturday was an exact repeat of Friday's weather. Not conducive to taking lots and lots of good snapshots down at the beach.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Red-Shouldered Hawk

If I ever disappear from this blog without telling you that I am taking a hiatus or going on vacation or whatever, this will probably be the reason:

I stopped smack-dab in the middle of a road (thank goodness it was a back country road with no traffic) to take pictures of this gorgeous red-shouldered hawk as it posed for me on top of a telephone pole.

Someday I will do this and someone will re-end me at high rate of speed because they didn't see me or weren't paying close attention and that will be the end of me and the blog.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hodges Business College. Mocksville, North Carolina

Our next stop was a building that was featured in Catherine Bisher’s book that really intrigued me – Hodges Business College just outside of Mocksville.

Hodges Business College was erected in 1894 by Professor John Hodges. It is Davie County's only surviving rural brick academy building. Hodges, a graduate of Duke and Yale Universities operated his school until the early 1900's when he became the superintendent of county schools. 

To teach business to young boys, Professor Hodges established the college in a brick building on Cherry Hill Road with 2,500 square feet, a pyramidal roof, and square bell tower. Thirty-six dollars paid for three months' tuition, room, and board. The business school closed in the early 1900s and the building turned into a boarding house. Now a private residence, the building represents Davie County on the National Historic Register (2000).
Here is a picture from right after the college was built in 1894:

And a copy of a photo taken in the early 1980's when the building was abandoned:

I didn't have high hopes for the building still being intact. I figured after close to thirty years, it had probably collapsed into a pile of rubble as some of the other historic places I had visited. So, imagine my surprise to find it nicely restored:

And even more surprised to find out that the house and the family who restored it had been featured on a series on HGTV called Home Schooled (I don't have cable or satellite, so I found this through a Google search). Click here to read about the house and see the pictures of the restored interior. What a wonderful surprise!

And I will be off-line until Monday as I am taking a few days off and going to Holden Beach near Wilmington. I'm planning on visiting the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, so hopefully good snapshots of fishes next week. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Fulton United Methodist Church. Advance, North Carolina

After we paid our regards to Eng and Chang, we continued south towards our next destination, Fulton United Methodist Church in Advance.

It is on the National Register for Historic Places as it is a very unusual design for a North Carolina country church. It was built in a Gothic Revival style with Italianate accents. The door and window sills are made of leopardite, a native rock. Men and women entered the church through the two separate doors. 

The Haneses who founded P.H. Hanes Knitting Company, now known as Hanesbrands Inc. and one of the largest clothing manufacturers in the world (but no longer owned by the Hanes family) financed the entire building costs in 1888. The patriarch and founder of  Hanes and many members of his family are buried in the church cemetery. 

 And look who was perching on the weathervane . . .

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Eng and Chang Bunker

The next stop, just outside of Mount Airy, may surprise those of you who aren’t familiar with two of our most famous citizens. No, not Andy Griffith. He and his TV show have been done to death in Mount Airy. You can have lunch at the Snappy Lunch, have your hair cut at Floyd the Barber, blah, blah, blah. I’m just not that interested in an almost 50 year TV program.

No, TB and I went to see Eng and Chang Bunker’s grave on the outskirts of town. Eng and Chang were the original Siamese Twins.

Eng and Chang were born in the village of Samutsongkram, Siam (now Thailand) on May 11, 1811. Eng and Chang Bunker were connected at the chest by a cartilaginous band of flesh. On April 1, 1829, the twins left Siam and began a career traveling with two agents, Robert Hunter, a British merchant, and Abel Coffin, an American sea captain. Eng and Chang earned money by making appearances throughout the United States, Canada, South America, and Europe. In their far-flung travels, Eng and Chang became such popular celebrities during the 1830s that their promotion as "Siamese Twins" were terms that became synonymous with connected or conjoined twins.

In 1832, they fulfilled their contracts and declared their independence from their agents. By the late 1830s, Eng and Chang tired of all their traveling and opted to settle in North Carolina. There, the brothers married sisters, Adelaide and Sarah Yates. The sisters were the daughters of Nancy and David Yates, Quakers from Wilkes County. The couples were married on April 13, 1843 and produced 22 children between the two families. They moved to White Plains, just west of Mount Airy, in 1845. They were successful farmers and good citizens. They split their time between the two families with a rigidly followed system of three days in one house followed by three days in the other with each being the master in his home. They observed this without exception until they died on January 17, 1874, at the age of 62.

Some interesting facts about Eng and Chang Bunker (from the Surry County Arts Council website):

  • That in 1839, Eng and Chang Bunker were the first Asians to become citizens of this country. They took the name Bunker from their close friends Fred and William Bunker who lived in New York City. They were such close friends that at one time, Chang had bequeathed all his estate to their sister, Catharine Bunker.
  • That Eng and Chang were excellent fishermen, expert in the use of firearms, excellent performers on the flute, excellent with tools and construction, and above average in intellect.
  • They had sons who fought in the Confederate army. Eng and Chang opened their homes to weary and hungry Confederate soldiers.
  • They were the first Buddhists to enter this country.
  • They brought the first Siamese Buddhist text into this country.
  • They remain the only conjoined twins to have children.
  • They lived to be 62 years old, longer than any other conjoined twins.
  • That Chang died first on January 17, 1874 and Eng died several hours later.
  • That their last living child, Robert E. Bunker (named after Robert E. Lee), died on January 25, 1951.

Photograph of Chang and Eng Bunker circa 1865 taken by Mathew Brady.
On the right is Chang, his wife Adelaide, and their son Patrick Henry;
on the left is Eng, his wife Sarah, and their son Albert