Monday, December 3, 2012

Woodpeckers in My Small Garden

The woodpeckers are back visiting the feeders in the small garden again this fall.

From smallest to largest, they are:

A female downy woodpecker (she has no red crescent on the back of her head like the male does). I could only catch her from the back as she climbed the redbud towards the feeder.

A female red-bellied woodpecker at the upside down suet feeder.

And the largest of the woodpeckers, a yellow-shafted Northern Flicker (this one is a male). Unlike my other two woodpeckers, Northern Flickers prefer to feed on the ground. This one stays in the large oak tree behind my house in our common area. I can hear him call when I'm out filling the feeders or cleaning the patio. He's probably like my chickadees; impatient for me to hurry up, do my thing and leave so he can eat.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Edison's Birthplace, Milan, Ohio.

The day I went to visit Rutherford B. Hayes family home in Fremont, I also went to visit Thomas Edison's birthplace in Milan, about 30 miles east.

Built by Edison's parents in 1841, this is the house he was born in in 1847.  The family only lived here for seven years and in 1854, they sold the house and moved to Port Huron, Michigan. Edison bought the house back in 1906 and after his death in 1931, his wife and daughter turned it into a museum which opened to the public in 1947 on the centennial of his birth. This house, along with his houses in West Orange, New Jersey and Fort Myers, Florida, are now all museums dedicated to the most prolific inventor in the United States.

Unlike the docent at the Hayes home, the tour guide here, while enthusiastic about her subject and his life in Milan, went on and on and on about every tiny little thing in the house - right down to the fake cheese in the kitchen. I thought I would have to knock her down and make my escape out the door to get away, but I think she finally realized (probably from my eyes rolling back into my head and the other visitor sidling towards the exit), that she needed to cut the whole thing short or risk being trampled in our attempt to leave.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Scotch Thistle

I never did find the final lighthouse. Later I learned that the one that I was looking for was five miles off the coast near Maumee State Park and only visible on good days through a high powered telescope.

I did find Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area near Marblehead which was full of blue and white herons along with some ducks I couldn't identify. Unfortunately I didn't get any decent pictures. They were either too far away for my zoom or would take off when I finally got them in focus.

So here is a picture of the only thing I could get into focus because it was the only thing in the wildlife area that would stay still long enough for me to get a snapshot.

A Scotch Thistle going to seed.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Marblehead, Ohio Lighthouse

So far on that day trip in Ohio, I had only found one lighthouse, the one in Lorain, and the water tower disguised as a lighthouse in Bay Village. By my calculations that still left at least three more within driving distance.

The Sandusky Breakwater Lighthouse is just a light on top of a concrete tower. Built in 1996, it is still an active lighthouse operated by the US Coast Guard. Unable to get close enough to get any better than a 24x digital zoom, here is a not-so-good snapshot.

So, on to Marblehead, Ohio right across the bay from Sandusky in search of the 1821 lighthouse which is still in operation.

I missed the entrance to the state park the first time and had to backtrack. I pulled off on  the side of the road to take this snapshot:

And then drove into the state park to take this wonderful photo:

Although the lighthouse and the lightkeeper's house were given to the state of Ohio to become a park in 1998, the lighthouse itself is still under Coast Guard control and its three and one-half order Fresnel* lens still warns pleasure boats and large container ships every night.

*Is a lens composed of a number of small lenses arranged to make a lightweight lens of large diameter and short focal length.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

When is a Lighthouse Not a Lighthouse?

When it is actually a cleverly disguised water tower located in Bay Village, Ohio.

One of the reasons I drove along the coast of Lake Erie on US Highway 2 is that I read there were six historic lighthouses within sight of the road. A couple were too far east of Cleveland to add it to my itinerary, but I thought I would be able to see at least three or four during the day.

Of course, I saw the one in Lorain which is still closed to the public but close enough for a good snapshot.

And then when I drove into Bay Village, west of Cleveland, I spied this in their large city park and whipped the car into the parking lot. I thought it was one of the lighthouses that had been mentioned on the Web, but when I got closer, I saw from the sign at the base that it was a water tower.

The park was once the John Huntington estate and this water tower provided water to his vineyard. The stairway, water pipes and water tubs are still inside. When John Huntington was still alive, he used to go to the top of the tower to watch the sun set on Lake Erie. Unfortunately the tower is closed to the public and here is a video from YouTube showing the damage that it sustained when Superstorm Sandy roared through last month.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Lorain Lighthouse

During my trip back to Ohio, I took a drive along the Lake Erie shore. I stopped in Lorain and took this snapshot of this lighthouse. This is the Lorain West Breakwater Lighthouse commissioned by the United States Coast Guard and built in 1916. It was decommissioned in 1965 and slated for demolition.

A group of concerned citizens formed the Port of Lorain Foundation which bought the lighthouse in 1977 from the US government for $1.00. Over the years they've repaired and restored the lighthouse almost back to how it was in 1916. It currently isn't open to the public, but the Foundation has raised enough money the past couple of years to finish interior restoration which will finally allow the public to tour the inside.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Walhalla Road, Columbus, Ohio

When I go back to Ohio and Columbus, I always drive down Walhalla Drive which is one of the prettiest streets in Columbus. It is located in the Clintonville neighborhood which was developed during the early part of the twentieth century and at the time considered a streetcar suburb.

And this is just a mile from the edge of The Ohio State University campus (and my alma mater. Go Buckeyes!) which looks like this:

(Courtesy of Google Street View as after I left Walhalla Road, it just opened up and poured rain)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Spiegel Grove and an Earlier Presidential Election

While we're waiting for the results of the US Presidential election tonight and breathing a sigh of relief of no longer being inundated with political ads, here's a snapshot of the home of the president who was elected during an even more contentious contest than that of today - Rutherford B. Hayes. He lost the popular vote, but won the electoral vote (click on this for an article in Wikipedia which tells about the election of 1876 in greater detail).

I like to visit presidential homes if they are near to where I am and Fremont, Ohio, where Spiegel Grove, Hayes' home after his presidency, was only 25 miles from I was staying. So down the road I went to take a tour of the house.

It has been restored in loving detail, right down to hand-printed wallpaper reproduced from fragments found where it had been painted over. Unfortunately I wasn't permitted to take snapshots indoors, but you can go here to take a virtual tour.

Sometimes we forget that history can repeat itself. For those who thought that Al Gore was robbed of the 2000 election, I am sure that Samuel Tilden who actually won the 1876 election just to see it handed to  Rutherford by his Republican cronies felt the same way.

And the most gorgeous maple tree on the grounds.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Kimball, West Virginia and the WWI Monument

Twenty miles up the road from Bramwell is the small town of Kimball which holds an amazing surprise.

This is the only World War I memorial in all of the United States dedicated to the 400,000 African-Americans who volunteered to serve in combat during what was then called "The Great War." 1,500 of those men came from McDowell County, West Virginia where Kimball is located and where this monument was built in 1928.

It became the community's focal point with meeting rooms, an auditorium with a small stage, kitchen facilities and a trophy room. It served as the social center and hosted such activities as high school proms, wedding receptions and performances by such well-known entertainers of the day like Cab Calloway and others.

But by 1991, the county and its towns had suffered from shrinking demographics due to the decline in the coal industry - the county had gone from more than 100,000 inhabitants to less than 20,000 - along with the huge decline in income that left McDowell County the poorest county in the US outside of Mississippi.

A fire that year along with the community abandonment of keeping up the building left the memorial in ruins with only the  exterior shell still remaining.

But a few in the community worked to raise funding to restore the building back to its original glory. Along with a grant from the McDowell county commissioners and the Federal Scenic Byways department of the US Department of Transportation (Kimball sits along the Coal Heritage Byway), the building was finally restored and rededicated in 2007.

It is only open during the week for a few hours each day, so I only got to admire it from the outside.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bramwell, West Virginia

I went on a week-long trip back to see family in Ohio the middle of October. Unwilling to drive Interstate 77 again (the phrase I used was "I'd rather poke my eyes out"), which I've driven on every trip back the past 26 years, this time it was up US-52 part of which is the Coal Heritage Scenic Byway and travels through the mountains of western West Virginia.

First stop off the byway was through the tiny village of Bramwell. It was founded in the late 1880's and at one time had more millionaires per capita than any other town or city in the United States - 19 in a town of 4,000. The Bramwell Pharmacy was the second store in the United States to sell Chanel No.5 in the 1920's and sold $300,000 (in 2012 dollars) every month.

Today the village is a mere shadow of that time period with less than 400 residents and no millionaires.

The church above is Bramwell Church of Holy Trinity (Episcopal) which was built in 1883 and closed during the 1950's. You can see interior photos here and a short history of the church. The interior is absolutely amazing as it was built by a shipbuilder and resembles the upside-down hull of a ship.

And a quick snapshot of one of the magnificent and nicely kept homes still standing in Bramwell known as the "Hewitt House" after its original builder, Colonel John Hewitt, and one of the last of the mansions built before Bramwell's decline.

I couldn't spend much time in Bramwell as I had to be in Ashland, Kentucky before dark and it was still nearly 200 miles away.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

In the Garden Waiting on Lunch

This is the time of year that I bring out all the bird feeders and set them up in the small garden now that all the migrants have come down from the boreal forests in Canada. In fact, while I was eating breakfast I watched titmice, bluebirds, goldfinches, Northern cardinals and house finches gathering at the feeders.

Later that day while I was getting ready to leave the house, I glanced out the sliding glass door to see this:

A juvenile Cooper's hawk who must have seen the gathering of birds, squirrels and chipmunks and thought "Lunch buffet!"

But they all managed to get out of harm's way. The hawk hung out on the back garden fence for a couple of minutes and then left for the woods. At least he stayed long enough for me to get some pictures of this handsome guy.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fun Photo Editing Program

Recently the weekends - my prime time to go out and take snapshots - have gotten away from me. Things to do before my trip back to Ohio the middle of October and house cleaning before the contractors come to fix the water damage to the living room wall from the roof leak upstairs (Jane over at Small but Charming, I feel your pain . . .).

But I read about a fun program that can be installed on PC's that allow you to fool with all sorts of cool filters like the ones that come with Instagram for your iPhone. It's called Camera Bag 2 and it's really, really inexpensive.

I've been having fun with it in between fits of clothes drawer purging, glass polishing, dusting and CD burning to my iTunes library before they get thrown in the garbage.

Here's an example using a snapshot I took at the meadow down the street from me:

Update: Here's a link to the original photo from last year so you can see the difference:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Barn Quilts, Randolph County, North Carolina

 A look at some of the barn quilts in northeast Randolph County, just a half hour south of Greensboro. Not as large and elaborate as the ones up in the mountains, but wonderful to search out and see.

This is called Tobacco Leaf, although the surrounding fields were empty of tobacco plants.

I wanted to call this Compass Rose, but the creator of the quilt labels it Providence Grove Star. It was put up by the Future Farmers of America at Providence Grove High School where this barn belongs.

And this is called Four Dancing Tulips, which I can see in the quilt. This is on a newish log cabin that from the road appeared to be used as a studio for the house next door. There are tons of potters in the area, so perhaps they are using it for that.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Aurora, Spencer, Virginia

What I was looking for on our Sunday drive was a house called Aurora located just off US Highway 58 in Patrick County, Virginia. While looking for interesting houses up in Virginia (which is just an hour north of Greensboro), I found that Virginia's Department of Historic Sites had listed all the buildings that had acquired National Historic Register status along with photos and the nominating documents.

Aurora interested me as it was the home built by Thomas Jefferson Penn, who founded a tobacco manufacturing company that ultimately became American Tobacco (Lucky Strikes, anyone?). It was also a very rare example of the Italian Villa style as shown in Andrew Jackson Downing's style book The Architecture of Country Houses (1850). In fact, if you go to the article about Downing in Wikipedia, you will find Aurora under the heading of Architectural Influence, which may help explain why this is considered such a gem.

I didn't hold out much hope for the condition of the house. First, it is fairly distant from good sized towns and located in a county where unemployment has reached more than 15% due to the loss of textile and furniture manufacturing jobs. And the photo that was included in the nomination form in 1991 showed a house that was in terrible need of work with the front porch half-rotted away from the house. A real money pit if ever there was one.

Another photo from when Aurora was up for sale back a few years ago, also showed a house in disrepair with the bushes and landscaping in terrible need of a gardener's shears.

But I had read on the Internet, that an immigrant from El Salvador had bought Aurora and was in the process of fixing it up. So onward we drove on the back roads until we found this:

Oh, and Aurora has always been pink and that gave it it's nickname - The Pink House.

What a wonderful restoration job a Central American immigrant to the United States has done to a house that truly typifies American architecture of the mid-1800's.

Also, if you would like to read more about Aurora and it's history and that of the Penn family, click here to read the nominating document to the National Register of Historic Places.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Along the Back Roads of Virginia

I thought that I would be able to get out and about this summer and take tons of snapshots and write about the things I saw in my travels.

But first the weather conspired against me with record temperatures above 105F with humidity to match. Even in an air conditioned car you'll still get the effect of the sun through the windows and you hardly want to get out into the stifling heat to get the best snapshot. Then my friend, TB, whose car we use (as she has air conditioning and mine gave up the ghost last summer) came down with an illness that put her out of action for more than six weeks.

So, I was left to my own devices, trying to take pictures of the birds in the garden, roses that were struggling back to life and thinking what I could take that was sort of interesting here in Greensboro. Which came down to not much - some interesting storm clouds while standing in a church parking lot.

And, yes, I would like some cheese with this whine.

But, TB is back and raring to go and off we went this Sunday on back roads up in Virginia to hunt down an 1830's Gothic Revival house on the National Register of Historic Places.

I bought a GPS and we decided to try it out to find this house (Actually the house is very easy to find; right off a well-traveled highway, but that is not a very interesting way to go).  This snapshot is taken along Deshazo Mill Road where both sides of the road was full of tall yellow flowers. I first thought, Goldenrod, but stopped and took a closer look.

 Verbesina alternifolia
Definitely not goldenrod. Did a little research on the Internet and found that this is a member of the Aster family and is called Yellow Ironweed or Wingstem. Along with Tickseed, a member of the Coreopsis family, we saw this for miles along the sides of the roads in Virginia.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Gray Catbird

I lose a cat (Miss Mouse, RIP) and gain a catbird.

This gray catbird has not only built a nest and raised a brood in my Forest Pansy redbud in my small garden, but has decided to hang out and become a summer resident in the garden.

He allows me to get within arm's length before he takes off to a higher branch or the junipers next door. Not normally a visitor at the bird feeders, now that I have added a mixture that includes raisins, he will fly in and get a raisin and then perch contentedly in the redbud.

Soon he'll leave with the other gray catbirds and migrate down to Central America. But for now he joins the two other cats in the household.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Kim Rupert Rose

This summer hasn't been kind to my small garden. Despite the fact that we aren't in a drought according to NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), it really has been feast or famine with the rain. We would go a couple of weeks without rain and then we would have fearsome deluges; one that gave my part of the city nearly six inches within two hours. And the heat! There was a long period in July when the heat indices were over 105F.

The antique roses in containers on the patio have suffered despite my ministrations, particularly with black spots. So, I did what I thought would be the kindest thing to put them out of their misery; I pruned them down to the ground.

And yet, they've come back and have started to bloom again (the black spot has come back, too, unfortunately). The rose above is Kim Rupert, named for a famous Californian rosarian (who also has his own blog about roses and how to create your own hybrids - Pushing the Rose Envelope). This is not one of his hybrids; this was created by Paul Barden and named for Kim. It is a small rose, not growing much larger than 1 1/2 feet tall which makes it great for containers.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Storm Clouds, Greensboro, North Carolina

If you take a look at the US Drought Monitor, you'll see that North Carolina is one of the few states that, so far, has escaped the Great 2012 Drought. Out of 100 counties in the state, only two are experiencing abnormally dry conditions.

And this is one of the reasons we've avoided being one of the 43 states caught up in the drought. Nearly every week we've had storms, including one that dumped six inches of rain in two hours in my section of town.

This incoming storm was taken from the parking lot of First Baptist Church and was run through the Simply HDR app on my iPhone.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Whirlwind Flag Barn Quilt, Randolph County, North Carolina

In the past when I've gone to look for barn quilts, it has meant a two hour or longer drive up to the mountains. But thanks to a new blogger friend (shout out to Matt. Go check his blog over at The, I found out that there has been a barn quilt trail in neighboring Randolph County of 29 barn quilts.

I made a plan to drive the northeast quadrant of Randolph County to take snapshots of five or six of these barn quilts. Unlike the large and professionally created quilts you find up in the mountains, these are much smaller and more handmade.

This barn quilt is called Whirlwind Flag and you'll find it on the dairy goat barn at Rising Meadow. You'll also find friendly Nubian goats, too.

You'll also notice these photos look different than my normal postings. Thanks again to Matt who put me onto the iPhone app called "Simply HDR". It's a fun app to add HDR to your snapshots. I'm not a big Instagram fan (even though I have it on my iPhone). I found that I can email the snapshots that I take with the Panasonic to my phone, run it through the app and then email it back again. Time consuming and I'll only do it occasionally and let you all know when they're rendered HDR.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

August Moon, Greensboro, North Carolina

No, not the Super Moon. This was taken ten minutes ago - Wednesday night at 9 PM - standing on the patio with a fairly clear shot over the back privacy fence. It's the actual color tonight, too. Perhaps with the high level of ozone plus the heat (it is around 84F), I'm getting this orange color.

Some day I'm going to keel over in a dead faint from taking these hand-held shots as I try to hold my breath long enough to get a decent snapshot. Maybe then I'll buy a tripod.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Patio Chipmunk

Outside of the birds who come to the feeders in my small garden, this is what passes for wildlife at my house.

The fun fact is that you won't find chipmunks anywhere in the world except for North America. No European chipmunks, no African chipmunks, no Asian chipmunks. And as annoying as these tiny little creatures are - they devour all my safflower seeds that I fill my bird feeders with since squirrels will not touch it - they are really cute.

I have a family of five who have created a little den under the edge of the patio. They all look the same except for one who just has one eye (not this particular chipmunk). Perhaps due to a run-in with the cat I catch periodically hanging around my bird feeders?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Different Field, The Same Storm

Same Saturday storm, but a different field. Same results with the Birkenstocks though as this field was also mowed.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Saturday Sunset, Greensboro, North Carolina

As ominous as this thunderhead looks, the storm that is producing it is actually to the south of Greensboro. No rain here at all.

The clouds caught the red from the setting sun and behind me, those clouds were a vivid purple.

And a lesson learned, too. Don't go into a freshly mowed field with just Birkenstocks on. I now have the scratches, scrapes and bug bites to go with the snapshot.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Glen Alpine, North Carolina

Some of you may be familiar with The Hunger Games; either through reading the trilogy of books or seeing the movie. I'll be the first to admit I've done neither as my reading tastes lean more towards non-fiction.

The entire movie was filmed here in North Carolina. The scenes for District 12 were filmed down the road from this house in the tiny village of Hildebran 25 miles to the east. This house  wasn't part of the movie, but it is part of the textile history of North Carolina's mountains.

As far as I can figure out this was either the mill owner's house or the mill superintendent's house in Glen Alpine. The mill was built in 1915 and produced socks for many years until most of the North Carolina textile industry collapsed due to the massive influx of foreign made fabrics and clothing. While this house has languished and become uninhabitable, some smart person bought the mill and converted it into a tasting room for a nearby vineyard.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Little Brown Mushrooms

While I can't grow daylilies this summer, I certainly can grow mushrooms in the small garden.

Like my sparrows that are fondly called LBJ's by birders (otherwise known as little brown jobs), these are called LBM's by mycologists or little brown mushrooms. I think this is the species called "Japanese Parasol" but if someone can really identify it, please let me know.

What a weird, wild summer we're having this year. We've had thunderstorms that have dropped six inches of rain in three hours and days where the heat index has gone over 107F. The garden is showing the effects - the daylilies are gone and the leaves have turned yellow despite soaking on the weekend. I am keeping a close eye on the hostas and heucheras that have been planted, but they seem to be weathering the situation well as they are protected from the height of the sun.

Monday, July 16, 2012

American Robin

When it gets too hot and humid to go outside to take a snapshot, I amuse myself by shooting through the sliding glass door at the various flora and fauna in my small garden.

A regular visitor to the bird bath (although not the bird feeders) is the American Robin. The early immigrants to America saw this bird's red breast and named it after the Robin that they knew in Europe although these two birds are not related at all. This is a large member of the Thrush family while the European Robin is a member of the Old World Flycatchers.

There are times in the winter that I will look out at the huge white oak in the common area behind the house and see the limbs full of robins who have decided to hang out here in Greensboro than migrate further south to Florida or Mexico.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The End of the Daylilies

A last look at the daylilies in my small garden. Next year these will be replaced with hostas and heuchera (coral bells) as the Forest Pansy redbud has gotten so big that it blocks the sun the daylilies need to produce nice blooms.

The names of these daylilies are unknown as I bought them as a bag labeled "Lost Tags".