Monday, April 30, 2012

Blooms in the Garden

The garden is starting to bloom. Well, at least the roses are blooming on the patio

Gruss an Aachen
Clotilde Soupert
Kim Rupert
But I never got a chance to prune them first as they started blooming the end of March. Does anyone know if it would damage them if I pruned them now or should I just wait and try again next year?

The daylilies should bloom next. The Stella del Oros are full of buds as are some of my tagless ones that came from Indiana. Perhaps next week I can post picture of those and the Oriental lilies that I planted just for the heck of it.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Gray Catbird

(Sorry for the long silence. Sick with a cold that I just couldn't shake).

I kept hearing a bird song the past few days that I hadn't heard before . I went out on the patio to see if I could find the bird who was singing this very long song (went on and on for about ten minutes without let up) and found him up in the crepe myrtle next door. I went back in the house to get my camera to take a picture to identify him, but was positive that he would be gone when I came back or would fly off as soon as I came close to take a snapshot.

Surprisingly, he didn't take off and in fact, flew to the fence while I kept taking photos and then on to the birdbath.

And I went off to the bird books to figure out what this bird was as I hadn't seen it before in the small garden. It is a Gray Catbird, a smaller cousin to the Northern Mockingbird who occasionally comes to my bird feeders. It tends to be quite shy and solitary which is why I hadn't seen it before.

There's a nest in the crepe myrtle next door, so I will probably have more visits from my new visitor.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Rose in Bloom

The rosebushes which are in containers on the patio are a month ahead of time in blooms.

This came from the Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham, Texas, but for the life of me I can't remember the name of the rose. I think this is the Gruss an Aachen (Greetings from Aachen) rose.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

House Finch

A House Finch channeling his inner DeNiro from Taxi Driver - "You talkin' to me?"

Taken with the new Panasonic Lumix FZ150 - shot through the sliding glass door using the macro function.

I think I'm going to have a lot of fun with this camera.

Monday, April 9, 2012

What You Can See on the Back Roads of North Carolina

Whenever possible, I drive the backroads on the weekend. It gives you the best opportunity to find the unusual and the ability to pull over and take pictures (well, most of the time).

This man and his wife were heading north on a back road that I was driving south on and when I saw him, I rolled down the window and asked if I could take his picture.

He was very kind to let me do so (and I'm sorry I didn't ask his name and where he was from) and said that he had built the wagon himself from the ground up. The seats that he and his wife are sitting in are out of a car and there were a couple of chairs in the back. He also mentioned that they drive around the backroads on the weekend and that this particular weekend they had been in the wagon since 10 that morning (I saw him around 3 pm in the afternoon). If you click on the picture, you'll get a better view of the car seat.

I know my blogger friends in the UK are used to seeing riders and their horses walking down the main streets of their villages and cities, but here in the States this is a sight so unusual that I just had to take a snapshot.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Moratock Iron Forge, Danbury, North Carolina

Moratock Iron Forge is one of only two still existing forced blast iron smelting furnaces from the mid-1800's here in North Carolina. This is in the tiny village of Danbury and is now part of a city park on the edge of town.

Much bigger than it looks here, it is 28 feet tall, 28 feet wide at the base, narrowing to 26 feet at the top. The iron that was forged here was loaded onto flat boats on the Dan River (which is just behind me from where I stood to take this snapshot) and then floated up the river to Danville, Virginia some 60 miles to the north. It supplied iron to the Confederacy during the Civil War until General Stoneman's federal troops shut it down in 1865. After the war, it only operated intermittently until it finally closed in the 1890's.

It is now not only part of a city park, but a stop along the Civil War Trail.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

R. W. George's Mill, Stokes County, NC

After lunch, we continued through the Sauratown Mountains towards the tiny village of Danbury. On the way, on one of those blind curves, we came upon this old mill and so I pulled off the road and walked back to take a picture.

This is why I love the Internet (even if sometimes the information is not quite right . . .). I found a website that lists all the National Register for Historic Places North Carolina sites which links to the nominating documents (when possible) of that site. I did a little calculation of the registered sites and there are probably close to a thousand. Lots of snapshot opportunities!

Anyway, this mill is on the register and the nominating documents gave me a lot of information about it. It was built in 1880 by Robert George who at that time was the richest man in Stokes County along with being a Presbyterian minister. For many years it was a grist mill grinding corn for the local community. But during World War II, it became a small textile mill producing fabric for parachutes. At that time, the overshot waterwheel was removed and a three-story turbine house was built.

It was then abandoned after the war until a developer bought it and restored the building. They in turn sold it to a man who once worked for Disney Movie studios as an inker (or cartoonist, I'm not quite sure) who wanted to return to North Carolina. He finished remodeling it and used it as both his workplace and his living space. Now it is up for sale and if you click this link, you can see photos of the inside:

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Colonel John Martin House, Stokes County, NC

I'm always impressed (and sometimes jealous) when my overseas blogger friends post wonderful pictures of castles and abbeys, all sorts of amazing medieval buildings that we don't have here in North Carolina.

But we do have an imposing ruin up in Stokes County, a good hour's drive from Greensboro. The Colonel John Martin House, also known as the Rock House, was built in 1789 up in the Sauratown Mountains near the Virginia border.

We kept driving on these windy back roads thinking that we would 1) either be lost up in the mountains forever (my cell had no service) or 2) hit someone head-on on one of the blind curves trying to find the house. It's not Europe where you have those mirrors on the curve to show you oncoming traffic. You just have to drive blind and hope the other person is obeying the double yellow line.

We finally found the site, a short drive down a gravel road. Here is all that is left of a four-story house that was once the largest house in Piedmont North Carolina:

During the Revolutionary War, this was a rallying spot for the local militia against the British troops who came through with Lord Cornwallis and was also used as a fort during the Saura Indian raids in the area.

Made of dry stack stone, what is left has been stabilized to prevent the outside walls from falling into the basement. Two years ago a wrought iron fence was built to surround the entire house to keep it from being vandalized further (graffiti had been sprayed on the steps and fires had been set in the basement). All these snapshots were shot between the bars of the nine foot tall fence.

And the view of the Sauratown Mountains from the front of the house.

(Update 4-5-12): Obviously everything you find on the Internet may not be accurate. A comment from an anonymous poster who stumbled across my blog. His is probably the correct history of John Martin and the area:

The Saura Indians were wiped out by disease long before 1789. John Lawson visited their village in in 1708 or 1709. By the time Byrd (surveyor of the VA/NC line) visited the village in 1728 it was abandoned. The last hostile Indian activity in the area was in the early 1750's at Bethabara, the settlement that preceded Salem. Cornwallis troops didn't venture as far north as Stokes Co. The area as was the rest of the countryside was a hotbed of Partisan/Tory activity throughout the war. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Virginia Strawberry Flowers

You know it is spring when you see these blooming - Virginia or wild strawberries. I found this up in the Sauratown Mountains on our day trip on Sunday.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center says this is the best and sweetest tasting of all the wild strawberries. The center portion (receptacle) of the flower will enlarge over the next few weeks with the edible fruit that we recognize as a strawberry. Cultivated strawberries come from the Virginia strawberry and a wild strawberry from South America.

The ant was just a surprise bonus.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Stunning Sunday Sunset

Back to the stunning Sunday Sunsets.

I have a new camera (no, not the IPhone), a Panasonic Lumix FZ150 with all sorts of bells and whistles. Like my old FZ35, it is a bridge super zoom, but this is a 24 times optical zoom versus the old 18 times optical zoom. Add a four times digital zoom and that will bring it to 96 times zoom (we'll see how well that works. Generally at that far end you'll get all sorts of noise).

So today I'm out and about with the new camera taking all sorts of photos and posting them to the blog