Friday, April 29, 2011

What Happened Wednesday Night


This was taken just outside my back gate on Wednesday around 6:30 pm. All the TV stations had interrupted the national news to have continuous coverage of the severe thunderstorms that had been spotted in the area along with unconfirmed reports of tornado touchdowns.

Despite the ominous look of the clouds, it produced very little rain over my house. But the warnings kept coming and it made me so nervous that I went to bed in my street clothes just in case I had to run downstairs to take shelter in the half bath or, if worse came to worse, evacuate the area.

The warnings kept me up half the night - 3:30 am severe thunderstorm warning; 4:15 am tornado warning.

And then, nothing. A couple heavy downpours that lasted at most 20 minutes and winds that gusted up to 30 mph. That was it. Looking at the news the next morning, all the storms just bypassed Greensboro either to the north or to the south. In fact, all of North Carolina dodged the horrendous storms that hit to our south in Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama. The tornadoes that hit the eastern part of North Carolina two weeks ago certainly pale in comparison to those of the past two days in the deep South.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wednesday's Surprise


I work with absolutely the best people in the world.

Thank you, Karen, Mel, Wendy, Morgan and Consuela. You guys are wonderful!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

There's a Storm A'Coming


I drove up to Plainfield Road after work to take pictures of the storm clouds coming in from that huge storm that has hit the Midwest with ferocity the past couple of days.

This is looking over a field of buttercups on the eastern edge of the Lunsford Richardson farm towards the southeast. As a side note, I haven't seen any huge masses of evening primroses in this area since our day trip to Hillsborough a few weeks back. Perhaps they only grow in masses south of Greensboro.

I got back in my car just in time to be struck by a downpour before I could even get back on the road. It rained so hard that even though my air vents were closed, rain still came in.

Perhaps it is a prediction of what may happen in the next couple of days. The weather forecasters said by the time this massive storm finally heads off into the Atlantic this weekend, it will have affected more than 30 states and 150 million people. They have not forecasted tornados for North Carolina, just very strong winds and thunderstorms.

My only concern is that North Carolina leads the nation in the number of deaths from nighttime tornados. We will be under the strongest part of the storm tonight and I will be sleeping with the weather radio on.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hibiscus


Last summer I decided that I needed to do more with the small garden than just throw some mulch on the bare dirt. I ended up planting some sixty to seventy day lily fans, most of which were lost tags and therefore, really really cheap. A few bloomed last year, but most should bloom this summer and so it will be a real surprise to me to see how that experiment turned out.

I turned my attention this spring to the patio and see what I could find at the local nurseries to put into containers. I drove out to a garden nursery out in the county late Saturday afternoon to see if they had anything interesting.

At the front of the nursery was the same old, same old - petunias, geraniums, Easter lilies, etc. But as I moved further towards the back I noticed that they had lots and lots of tropical hibiscus and that they were in colors I hadn't seen here in Greensboro before.

I bought the hibiscus above as I was attracted by the deep yellow petals with the dark red throat. The owner of the nursery told me that he had hybridized that particular hibiscus this winter and I wouldn't find it anywhere else.

I love the colors but as it is only hardy in the tropics (Zones 9 and 10), I will have to treat it as a summer annual. I considered for a few seconds about trying to overwinter it inside, but the cats would look upon it as a tasty  treat and it would still end up in the garbage.

Side Note - I had real problems trying to upload photos to Blogger last night which is why I'm a post behind. Has anyone else had the same problem recently?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Stunning Sunday Skies


Another sky shot from this past Wednesday when the cold front came in from the Midwest. I'm suprised I didn't fall over backwards trying to take these shots. I did get some looks from co-workers who probably wondered why I was shooting straight up in the air.

I'm doing this as a project with Anyes over at Far Away in The Sunshine. It makes a nice contrast with our other ongoing project of sunsets.

Friday, April 22, 2011

April Roses

Brown Velvet
Knockout
Somehow I got it into my mind that roses didn't bloom until June. I'm not sure where I picked that one up since obviously roses (at least mine) are blooming in April.

I think maybe it is because I have childhood memories of my grandmother's garden full of roses in bloom in June when school was out and I would spend practically all of my time at her house. Her half-acre lot was full of rose bushes and the only presents she ever wanted for Mother's Day were more roses.

In my small garden which has maybe 90 square feet to garden in, my roses sit in containers on the patio. The rest of the garden is given over to daylilies (although I stuck a few Oriental lilies in this spring), a crepe myrtle and the Forest Pansy redbud.

The Brown Velvet came from a nursery in Oregon that I found on line - Rogue Valley Roses. The Knockout rose (name unknown) came from the tractor supply store down the road when they were practically giving away what was left in their nursery. I have two other RVR roses, Incantation and Baby Pat Austin, that have not yet bloomed although they have buds. I went back and ordered two more rose bands from RVR to come next week.  I'd like to have the patio full of container roses while the lilies grow in the garden.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Storm Clouds



Standing in the parking lot at work Wednesday morning and looking at the clouds that were coming in ahead of another strong storm front (sorry about the flare from the sun). You would think that we were going to be hit with another strong storm like the one that came through Saturday and killed 24 people in the eastern part of the state.

But it just fizzled out and by late afternoon it was bright and sunshiny again.

I was a little disappointed as we desperately need the rain (we are in the midst of a drought again), but we certainly didn't need the tornado and wind part. But we are looking for rain on Friday, so I may stand out in the parking lot again and take more cloud pictures.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Flowering Dogwood



Yesterday when I posted the pictures of the white flowers at my house, I left out a picture of the flowering dogwood. Actually, I don’t have one at my house or in the small garden, but there are many in our common areas here in my subdivision.

There is also a legend about the dogwood flower and since this is Easter week, this would be a good time to post it.

The story is that 2000 years ago, a tall, strong species of tree grew in the Middle East. Its thick, straight trunk was sought after by the Romans - the rulers of Jerusalem - for building crosses for executions. One day an officer of the Roman Court came to the forest and ordered the woodsmen to construct an extra large cross from the best of their trees. “Make it strong,” he said. “The King of the Jews is to be put to death.” It was soon delivered.

Shortly after the crucifixion of Jesus, the chief woodsman was alarmed to see that all those great trees had begun to whither and die. In several more years, an amazing transformation had taken place. The great oak-like dogwood trees were gone and in their place were thousands of flowering bushes with short, twisted trunks. You see, the once proud forest giant was mortally anguished. The crucified Jesus in healing pity said, “Never again will you grow large enough to be used for a cross.”

Jesus continued, saying, “Henceforth, your trunk will be thin and twisted, with white blossoms having four petals in the shape of a cross. The outer edge of each petal will show nail prints stained with red, and the center will be like a crown of thorns as a reminder to all.”




Tuesday, April 19, 2011

White Spring

Spirea


Azalea

Star-of-Bethlehem

My spring garden is distinguished by the fact that all I have at the moment are white flowers - white azaleas, white spirea, white viburnum, and a flower that I've identified as a Star-of-Bethlehem.

The bushes (azalea, spirea and viburnum) were here when I bought the townhouse. The Star-of-Bethlehem just showed up this spring. Wikipedia says that it is native to southern and central Europe, northern Africa and southern Asia. If it is in my garden, they say, then it is an escapee from a cultivated garden.

Whose garden, I wonder? I've lived here for more than nine years and this is the first year it has shown up in the small garden. And the garden itself is surrounded by a six-foot high privacy fence, so it just didn't wander over from next door. Did it sneak in a package of those day lilies I ordered last year from a garden nursery in Indiana?

If anyone has any ideas, I'm certainly open to your suggestions. I may move it as right now it is hiding behind the storage room and not visible from the patio.

Monday, April 18, 2011

After the Storm


After the storm moved out of the area Saturday afternoon, the winds picked up behind it. They held steady at 30 mph with gusts over 50 mph at times. You could hear it coming towards the house as it sounded like the reving of an airplane engine.

The birds had all disappeared and who could blame them. It would have been hard enough just to drive in the wind; flying was probably impossible.

A mourning dove took refuge on the back fence of the small garden. You could see her closing her eyes and bracing every time the winds picked up speed.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunset Sunday



This was taken on this past Friday as the huge storm that started in the Midwest came towards North Carolina.  I had just arrived home after driving up from Atlanta just ahead of the storm.

Greensboro was lucky; we just got lots of rain and wind with some gusts over 50 mph on Saturday. Unfortunately to the east of us in the Raleigh and Fayetteville areas, there were multiple tornado touchdowns and reports of 14 people killed.

This spring is turning out to be as extreme as this past winter was.

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.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Little Paw Prints

You never know what you are going to find right under your feet, right there in the mud.

I was bringing in my garbage can yesterday when I looked down and noticed these little paw prints in the mud:


Closeup of Rear Paw Print

For those of you who have pets, you know that these are neither dog or cat paw prints. They are raccoon paw prints, probably lured by the garbage cans put out for collection Monday morning. I don't remember seeing any garbage strewn around when I left for work, but then I wasn't really paying any attention.

I knew we had raccoons in the area. In fact once one came up and knocked on my mother's back porch door a few years back when she lived a couple of miles away from my house. But this is the first time I've seen any indication that they were right here at my house.

Also, I am leaving this morning to go to Atlanta for training and will be unable to post for the rest of the week. I'll try to take good snapshots down there if I have any time to go look for interesting buildings or animals or clouds.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Northern Mockingbird


Although the bird feeders have been long taken down, the bird bath is a permanent fixture of the small garden. It is surrounded by a Lady Banks rose bush which has just started to put out its tiny yellow blooms. It is a rambler, but I hack at it weekly to keep it small and out of the rest of the garden area.

The little birds aren't too interested in the bird bath. I'm not sure if it is because they don't take water baths (some birds just use dust to control bird mites) or if that particular bath just doesn't appeal to them and they go the creek that runs behind the townhouses parallel to mine. I've seen sparrows among the lilies looking for bugs, so I know they still come to the small garden.

But the bigger birds - the robins, mourning doves, starlings and so forth - adore the bird bath. I keep it filled and try to keep it clean (a losing battle with the redbud's blooms falling off the tree now). And yesterday afternoon, the Northern Mockingbird who lives with his mate across the parking lot in the huge holly tree came and took a bath in it, too.

He's resting on the back fence, fluffing his feathers in the sun and drying out. Soon, he and his mate will have a nest full of babies and those of us who live near the holly tree will be dive bombed by both mockingbirds who view us as a threat.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Stunning Sunday Skies


Anyes at Far Away in the Sunshine asked last week if we could change our Sunset Sundays on the second Sunday of the month to Stunning Sunday Skies. I was delighted to do so, as so many times a day that started out with nice puffy clouds in the morning would be absolutely cloudless by the time the sun set.

Also, I would chase around town and out in the countryside trying to find the perfect location to take a snapshot of the sun going down. It could become extremely frustrating although the exercise did help me train my eye for that one good sunset photo.

Now I'm not constrained by the time of day. If I see an interesting sky shot first thing in the morning - bingo, a shot for Sunday. I can stand in the parking lot at work and shoot straight up and not worry about keeping buildings and power lines out of the pictures. I like this idea immensely.

This sky shot was taken a week ago at Ayr Mount in Hillsborough. The clouds started building up and we thought that our bright, warm, and sunny day might turn rainy. But as quickly as the clouds built up, they dissipated. In fact, the rest of the day was absolutely cloudless.

Friday, April 8, 2011

April Sunset


If I thought I could get away with it, I'd have a blog with nothing but pictures of sunsets. I am just absolutely fascinated by the cloud formations and the glow of the sun as it goes below the horizon.

I took this last night in the parking lot of a bank. Trying to find an open space in Greensboro that isn't criss-crossed by overhead power lines is nearly impossible, which is why so many of my sunset pictures are taken out in the county.

If you look towards the middle of the picture you can see the contrails of the jets that have just left the Greensboro airport. We are just a regional airport, not a large hub, so the jets that fly in are generally the smaller 50 seat Bombardiers and the like. There are also the larger propeller commuter planes that make the trip up to Washington, DC a couple of times a day.

An interesting side note about the Piedmont Triad Airport - it is used as a training airport for the pilots of Air Force One, President Obama's plane. Every couple of months, the Air Force flies down here from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland and practices landings and take offs.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Blue Jay in the Sugar Maple


While all the trees are leafing out, the sugar maple only seems to have buds. It made for a clear shot of this blue jay. Maybe he was one of the jays who used to come to the feeders in the small garden and now wanders by occasionally to see if I've given in and put them back out.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bottle Tree

Sunday was a beautiful day and so TB and I headed over to Hillsborough to finally take the Ayr Mount tour that was aborted back in November. I'll post later about the house and grounds.

After we were finished with the tour, we headed south on Old NC 86 in search of some good snapshots. I don't think we were more than a mile out of town when we saw this:


I drove up the driveway to get a closer look at the bottle tree (figuring it was better to ask forgiveness than permission and that I would be long gone before the sheriff got there anyway. . .).

Here's a closer look at the tree which is not a real tree; it is all metal.

Click on the picture for a larger view

The only reason that the gate on the driveway was open was because the house is for sale and they were having an open house for prospective buyers. Here's a link to the listing on Realtor.com which has pictures of the inside of the house and the saltwater pool, etc.

I see that the listing is now for $1,950,000, a reduction in price from $2,500,000. While I think the house is lovely, good luck in selling in this depressed economy.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sundrops


Off an another day trip on Sunday through the back roads of North Carolina.

And during our drive, TB and I kept commenting about all the yellow flowers that had bloomed (seemingly overnight) all over the place. You would see them in farm fields that were laying fallow, in ditches, along busy roads, just about everywhere you looked.

We discussed what we thought they were (yarrow is what I thought. TB had no idea).

I finally pulled over to the side of the road, jumped out of the car and walked into an open field to take pictures. I was bound and determined to find out and having a good snapshot was the only way to solve the mystery.

I came home and using the database at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (one of the best online databases I've ever used), found out I wasn't even in the ballpark.

It is Narrowleaf Evening Primrose, also known here in the South as Sundrops. It certainly lives up to that sobriquet - it looks like the fields have been rained on by the sun.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sunset Sunday




Once again, it's Sunset Sunday!


This time I drove up the road about a mile from my house to the old Lunsford Richardson farm, which is just north of Lake Brandt, one of our city reservoirs. Part of the farm has been sold to the Piedmont Land Conservancy and will become part of the Mountain to Sea Trail system. This part, however, is still a working farm although the northern edge is being nibbled away by housing subdivisions.

Lunsford Richardson, who owned the farm (it is now held by a family trust), was a member of the family who developed Vicks VapoRub. An interesting fact about Vicks is that was refined in the drugstore here in Greensboro which was owned by William Porter, the uncle of Sidney Porter who became the writer O. Henry.

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.