Sunset on the Delaware Bay

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Sometimes the best things in life are found right in your own backyard…not literally my backyard in this case, but close enough!

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We have recently discovered that it isn’t always necessary to get in the car and drive to a destination two days away, or hop a flight for a trip half-way across the country, or even out of the country for that matter, we are surrounded by incredible beauty in our own little corner of the world…and for that, we are very thankful.

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One of our favorite places to visit lately has been the Delaware seashore and the quaint little town of Lewes. Founded by Dutch settlers in June of 1631, and named Zwaanendael, which means “swan valley,” it was the first European settlement in what would later become the first state, Delaware.

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On our last trip we arrived shortly before sunset, and walked out on the long pier just inside Cape Henlopen State Park. The park is one of my favorite cycling destinations, and is also where my husband and I had our first date:)

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The lighthouse is visible from the pier, and I can’t look at it without remembering a kayak ride I took there with a dear friend.  She had a tandem kayak and on her last trip out she was surrounded by a pod of dolphins and wanted me to enjoy the same experience.  I was all for it, until we got close to the lighthouse and I started to realize kayaking on a bay is a whole different story than kayaking on a creek.  The waves (I tend to get seasick-that’s an understatement), lack of dolphins, and visions of getting swept out to sea made me wimp out and our trip was cut a bit short. DSC_0160

From where we stood, we were able to see a Cape May-Lewes ferry coming back from its 17 mile journey across the bay to Cape May, New Jersey.  We made a few trips on the ferry when our children were younger to visit the Cape May zoo.  It is a fun trip for kids and adults alike.  It is also a top spot in the fall for bird migration, and I hope to be able to experience that for myself someday soon.  DSC_0081

It is very hard to walk away from a beautiful sunset…

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But eventually we pulled ourselves away and enjoyed strolling the streets of Lewes.  We talked with an exceptionally nice man who worked at The Inn at Canal Square, and he gave us the grand tour.  He also told us about a few movie stars who stayed there, or rather one…the other refused (she shall remain nameless) because she did not think that Delaware was up to her standards.  I really don’t care about movie stars or their opinions, but I did find it ironic when walking through town later, we happened upon this beautiful sight…DSC_0197

and then read the sign just beside this view…..DSC_0201

We also discovered a cafe on a side street that warrants another trip back…

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Just before we headed home I found one more thing to make the night just that much more special…
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It was on a bench where we sat overlooking the canal, but I didn’t know until we got home that I was supposed to re-hide it to bring a smile to another person.  I guess that just makes one more reason we’ll have to go back very soon!

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Until next time, I hope you enjoy all the beautiful treasures in your little corner of the world!

∼ Jen

Morning Time – August

August has passed, and yet summer continues by force to grow days. They sprout secretly between the chapters of the year, covertly included between its pages.

Jonathan Safran Foer

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Lantana blooms

  August seems very much to me like March in that it “comes in like a lion and out like a lamb.” The hot, humid days slowly turn to cooler mornings and evenings, and time to linger outside is welcoming once again. I have collected some of my morning time pictures to share from this last month of summer, sad to see the blooms prepare to leave but excited for the glorious season of fall that will soon be upon us.

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The very appropriately named Devil’s Walkingstick,Aralia spinosa,

As soon as the humidity that slapped me like a wet blanket disappeared, I once again ventured out for mornings on the porch and saw some old friends…

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One of our many pond frogs
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Red-bellied woodpecker
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“Harold” fishing for breakfast and grouchy as ever

I enjoyed the flowering hostas, liriope, and marigolds as they put on their final show…

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I also noticed this little guy come out of the shadows when he lunged for some creeping insect passing by-picture was taken while he was enjoying his meal…

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Six-lined racerunner

My feathered friends were more visible after I refilled the bird feeders.  I leave them empty for June and July so they can help control the insects and teach the young how to feed from nature, but… I hate doing it.  Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and was ever so glad to give in and fill them. Also, the migrating birds will need to have food stations along their travels, at least that’s what I tell myself.

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Chickadee
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Tufted titmouse

The first to arrive were the chickadees and tufted titmice, with the cardinals and finches following soon after, the latter two still donning their bright courting colors…someone needs to break the news to them.

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Male cardinal
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American Goldfinch

I also cleaned and refilled the hummingbird feeders one last time before they take off on their long migratory flight south, some travelling as far as 900 miles.  One morning I was treated to observe this juvenile male sitting on a hydrangea branch preening himself outside my bedroom window. The red dot visible on his neck in the picture on the left is the indicator that it is a male juvenile ruby-throated hummer.

This summer’s group has been a rather feisty and mischievous bunch….I actually noticed one chase a peacefully munching titmouse off of the bird feeder and into a nearby tree!  Of course, they are constantly giving each other chase through the yard, and their aeronautical feats never cease to amaze me.

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Peeking through the window at me from a favorite perch

The squirrels have yet to notice the feeders have been filled or they are simply off hiding their store of winter nuts. I’m convinced the nut-hiding is just for show as they eat their fill of bird food each winter (and spring, summer, fall) instead.  Either way, they are still entertaining me during my coffee time.

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The bird pictured above in the grass is, I believe, a summer tanager. I just happened to notice his head pop up but was not able to get any good pictures of it when it flew off to a nearby tree.

I also noticed the head pop up of a chickadee having a good splash in the bird bath on the same morning…

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With the cooler days, I have once again enjoyed my daily walks…crepe myrtles, wild daisies, and even tasseled grass make the walk that much more beautiful…

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I even happened upon some “silver dollars” on one of my morning strolls…

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Annual Honesty (Lunaria annua)

My son shared the below picture he took one morning…a picture of days and morning memories long gone by…

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Forgotten swing covered in honeysuckle, photo by Anson

Opening the blinds on another morning gave view to this unexpected and delightful sight….

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Beautyberry

These Beautyberry are my favorite fall bushes and I look so forward to them blooming each year.  Besides being gorgeous, they are a wonderful feast for some species of birds.

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I will end with the first glimpses of fall color I observed peeking through a sunlit tree by the creek…

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and a tiny damselfly on a favorite hanging plant, the fiery orange begonia…

 

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It’s been a summer filled with many kinds of beauty-now, onto my much longed for season…fall!

 Until next time!

∼ Jen

Kindness, Courage, Love

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” -Mark Twain

In the aftermath of a storm like “Harvey” that my fellow Americans in Texas have recently experienced….the losses, the grief, the pain, one could easily ask, where is the beauty in this?  As with all natural disasters, there is beauty to be found in the kindness, courage, and the love of strangers reaching out to help those in need. That kind of beauty takes precedent over any nature photos I may share this week. I hope you are inspired by the images, reminded to pray for the families affected, and continue to spread kindness and love in your own little corner of the world.♥

 

Love helps the young…

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Man rescues mom with baby

Love helps the elderly, weak and frail….

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Neighbors helping elderly man to safety, photo credit Fox News
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Lady in wheelchair helped to safety

 

Love sees no color…
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Love sees neither male nor female….

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Man rescues lady from home, photo credit CBS News

Love rescues the helpless, human or beast….

And sadly, sometimes love gives the ultimate, one’s own life…

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Police Sgt. Steve Perez 

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Cor. 13:13

∼ Jen

Nest Stirrings…

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Wren with food in beak for young

“A bird is safe in its nest – but that is not what its wings are made for.”
― Amit Ray

So, today’s post was going to be an update on the wren nest, a Little Flying Thieves sequel, but there are rufflings in my own nest, and that has dominated my thoughts for this day.

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Wren building first nest it ousted chickadees from

 

For the second time, my nest has experienced stirrings of things to come. Our youngest began his first day of his senior year…and as I watched him getting in his car, the reality of that and all it signals slowly began to sink in.

I finished my cup of coffee, then, too antsy to stay in the house, I was actually glad there were weeds to pull….I needed something to do with my hands and fresh air to linger in with my thoughts.

As with every milestone reached in our children’s lives, we ask ourselves the question, “Where did the time go?” In the words of a popular song when my oldest was graduating middle school, “it happens in a blink.”

I think of the little wren family-the young have flown their own way.  Mama and Papa wren gave them all they needed to survive and hopefully thrive, and then it is left in the hands of nature.  So too, of course, with our own children.  We give our all, we love them as best we humans are capable of, then we leave it in the hands of a very capable and loving Father, Who, after all, loves them way more than we ever could.

They are His Masterpiece .

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Wren’s final nesting choice, hanging fuchsia
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Ever watchful parent
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Newly hatched wrens

Psalm 139 reminds me that God knew my children before they were ever born, and He has a plan for their lives beyond what I am able to see….

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

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Photo taken day before wrens left nest

So today, as our journey as parents continues to bring us one step closer to a true “empty nest” I look back over our sons’ lives so far, and I am thankful….thankful that I have been blessed with two sons to call my own; thankful for a husband who supported me in my desire to be a stay-at-home parent; thankful for our homeschooling years and the days they were able to spend in nature doing their lessons; thankful for the teachers who continued those lessons and further impacted their lives; and thankful mostly for knowing they will not walk this road of life alone but will be guided by the One whose “eyes saw their unformed bodies and has all their days written in His book before one of them came to be.”

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Anson picking Rose of Sharon blooms for me when very young
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summer before senior year

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Eph. 2:10

∼ Jen

“Almost Heaven, West Virginia….

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Dolly Sods

Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River…

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Blackwater River trail

Life is old there, older than the trees,

Younger than the mountains, Blowin’ like the breeze.”

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Lindy Point

The above lyrics are from the song “Country Roads” by John Denver, and if ever a state deserved to have a song written about it for its beauty, West Virginia is certainly deserving of that honor.

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Blackwater Falls

My son and I were blessed to have a week to explore some of its beautiful trails, gorgeous in their own right, and leading to breathtaking views at the end. Pictures will never do it justice, but I will attempt to share bits of the beauty we enjoyed.

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Picturesque trail leading to Blackwater falls

Although Blackwater Falls (pictured above) is probably the biggest attraction, we preferred the idyllic views of:

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Not far into the hike, it felt as if we had stepped onto the set of a magical Disney film or a Lord of the Rings set.  From the moss-covered rocks and trees to the abundance of ferns, blooming rhododendrons, mushrooms, and the babbling brook leading to the waterfalls, it was truly like stepping into another world.

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Rhododendron blooms above the falls

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Large rock-island serves as a “planter” to trees, ferns, and rhododendron bushes
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Elakala Falls

Lindy Point was another place we explored. Hiking this trail was like taking a stroll through the jungle….rhododendrons hugged the path as we made our way to the top where we were met with this view:

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In the Monogahela National Forest we hiked part of the Dolly Sods Wilderness.  It boasts incredible views from the top and has terrain of bog and heath ecotypes more commonly found in southern Canada.

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The rocks are extremely fun to navigate, and the scenery is simply spectacular.  While resting on a large rock formation taking in the views, I looked to a nearby evergreen and was delighted with a sighting of one of my favorite birds, the Cedar waxwing.

It was the first time I had ever been on equal altitude with this beauty!

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The red markings on the wing tips look like melted wax, thus the name, Cedar waxwing

The drive up to Dolly Sods is quite long, but the beauty along the way makes the journey as enjoyable as the destination.  A variety of wildflowers, butterflies, and a scenic creek adorn the trek, making a non-stop drive all but impossible to a camera-wielding, nature enthusiast.

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Bristle Thistle Carduus nutans

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And, of course, what drive in the country would be complete without a good ol’ barn-sighting…or a house that looks like a barn, not sure, but charming, nonetheless.

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After a hike at dusk one evening, we saw this adorable woodland creature…

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Fawn with mother near Blackwater Falls

Growing up near the shore I will always be a fan of the ocean, but I am always grateful for a trip to the mountains where I can hike and relish a different kind of beauty…all a part of this glorious gift we have been given called nature.

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Elakala Falls

This post is dedicated to our dear friends Ed and Denise….thank you for introducing us to the beauty of this often overlooked state, but mostly for your gift of friendship!

 

For your listening pleasure, the song behind the post:

I hope you find your own country road to explore and take in the wonders around!

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∼ Jen

Sunday Thoughts…Daily Inspiration

The purpose of this blog is to provide a place of beauty, where one can escape the “craziness” of the world and focus on the beauty our gracious heavenly Father has bestowed on us. This beauty very often can be easily overlooked and overshadowed by daily headlines or personal worries. Though I have been working on a post about a recent trip to West Virginia, a re-post of this seems to be more appropriate given all the recent “activity” in the news of late.

 I sometimes re-read this post for peace and comfort, because it’s not my words, but mostly the words of the only One capable of giving “peace that passes all understanding.”  As someone once said:

“We may not know what tomorrow holds, but we know Who holds tomorrow.”

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Northern flicker

It’s a mild Sunday morning, beautiful 70 degree temperature with a few clouds promising rain later in the day. My husband and I have recently returned home from church, he enjoyed some banana-oat and I some yummy buckwheat pancakes:) We have now settled into our own little writing nooks….he is busily editing a book, and I have been thinking about today’s sermon, which was on worry. It brings many images from the Bible to my mind….some of which point to how God takes care of nature as our example.  I thought I’d add some photos with a few scriptures as my takeaway from a theme that’s good to be reminded of daily.

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Atop an Alpine in Colorado

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Mt. 6:26,27

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Wood thrush

 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Mt. 10:29-31

 The above picture is of a bird I rescued after it flew into our window.  Every time I hear a thump, which is sadly often, I race to the window to see if I can spot the victim and get to it before my cat does.  I’m amazed at how much I care for these little birds, which I had nothing to do with bringing into the earth, and then, how much more our heavenly Father cares for us!

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Butterfly finding nourishment from the daylilies
” And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?  If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest?
 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Luke:25-27
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Wild grasses by the bay
If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you…Mt.6:30
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Mother cardinal checking on nest
Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself…Ps.84:3
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Ps. 91:4
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Female Eastern towhee
A phrase our pastor said that really stuck out to me was…
“To worry is to imagine a time when God will not be with you.”
God has already promised us in Mathew 28:20
“And surely I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.”
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Bleeding Heart

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:6,7

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Eastern Phoebe enjoying a moth

Of all the beauty that our loving, heavenly father created, there is none more precious to Him than us…..

Psalm 8:3-9English Standard Version (ESV)

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings[a]
    and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
    you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
    and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

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 Happy Sunday!
∼ Jen

Morning Time…July

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At the moment, I am sitting on a deck in West Virginia watching and listening to a thunderstorm roll in and thankful that it waited until after our morning hike.  I love a good thunderstorm, especially when they are so conveniently timed.  Since our hiking is on hold, I thought it would be a great time to pull out my morning-time memories from July.

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First blooming water lily of the summer
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Lacecap hydrangea bloomed in July
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Stargazer lilies graced July with a quick show…Lacecap hydrangea in background

I know some people are not very keen on spiders, but they don’t bother me if I know they aren’t poisonous and they don’t get in my way.  We even had a beautiful argiope build a nest on the porch at our old home and we liked her so much we named her “Miss Nelly.” When the powerwasher came to clean the house, he thought I was crazy when I gave him strict instructions not to dare harm Miss Nelly!

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“Miss Nelly”

Back to July….and a web I saw the morning sunlight shining through-they can be a real work of art.

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Spider web stretched between coral bells’ stems

The home-wrecking wrens abandoned the nest they ousted the black-capped chickadees from…apparently the male wren may build several nests before the pair choose the nest to use.  Below, mama wren is waiting for me to leave the porch so she can take the moth in her mouth to her waiting babies. She took over my hanging Fuschia plant, and I don’t know how long I was watering the poor eggs before I saw the wren and discovered the nest.  All is well, I didn’t drown the fledglings, and I will post pictures of them soon.

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Carolina wren

I was very pleased this dragonfly stayed perched on a Tiger lily bud long enough for me to get a picture…

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The autumn sedum is gearing up for its fall show with emerging buds…

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Black-eyed Susans, Russian sage, and hosta blooms really come into their own in July…

A mourning dove looking rather coy, or regal, not sure which….

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One of my favorite little creatures enjoying some greens…

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And finally, what would I do without my morning, or anytime, Harold sightings! He really showed me some new stuff this month.

First I caught him looking rather, for lack of a better description, bizarre

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I was actually worried about him when I first observed this strange wing “arrangement.” I watched him for a while until to my great relief, he flew away, allaying my fears that he was somehow hurt.  When I googled this spread-wing posture, I learned that this can be done to dry their wings, keep their balance when perching, regulate body temperature and several other reasons.

Next, if I hadn’t known herons build their nest up high, I would have thought he was building a nest on one of his favorite perches during another morning observation of him.  I watched him for a while as he grabbed different sticks off the fallen log and put them down into a pile before he finally found one he liked and flew off with it!  I don’t know if he was adding it to a nest already in the making or if it was the stick he planned to use to woo a passing female with. Since nesting season is pretty much over, however, and herons stick with the same mate all season, I’m really not sure what Harold was up to… maybe the nest just needed some repair.

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Harold with chosen stick in mouth before taking flight

So, that wraps up my morning time from July in pictures! The rain stopped here in West Virginia, and my son and I were able to get in an after-dinner hike and take in some more scenery of this beautiful state.  I look forward to sharing some of those pictures with you!

Until next time!

∼ Jen

Kayaking at Dusk… Carpe Diem!

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The part of the creek I refer to as “Rivendell”… no elf sightings yet though:)

“Why not seize the pleasure at once? — How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation!”
― Jane Austen, Emma

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Finding pathways through the lily pads…

It was 7:30 at night, the after-dinner mess was mostly cleaned up, and I was joining my younger son on the porch for conversation and relaxation.  After that, my big plans for the night were pajamas and maybe an HGTV recording.  Then, out of the blue he asks, “Want to go for a kayak ride?”

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My son with his river companion “creekdog”

That was the last thing I expected to come out of his mouth, and truthfully one of the last things I wanted to do.  It had been a busy day, and my pajamas were calling my name!  I could think of other reasons as well….like dusk was smorgasbord time for mosquitos and, well, I had just downed about 10 ounces of vegetable juice, enough said.

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It took me all of about three seconds, though, to dismiss those thoughts and head for the paddles!  Many of my fondest memories have been spur-of-the-moment ideas with those I love…so many memories I would have missed had I reacted “logically” or dismissed because of not wanting to leave my momentary comfort.

With that in mind, I rounded up Princess-who does love a good paddleboard ride-grabbed the camera, fortified the mosquito spray with extra cedarwood and lavender, and off we went!

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Pure Bliss.

As someone once said, “Spontaneity is the best kind of adventure,” and I, for one, wholeheartedly agree!

∼ Jen

Where the Wild Ponies Roam

Nobody could capture the Phantom. She was the wildest mare on Assateague Island. They said she was like the wind, that the white “map” on her shoulders was her mark of freedom.  

Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry

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Saturday was a wonderful day here on the Delmarva Peninsula to escape the 90+ degree heat and head to one of our glorious beaches.  The escape was real…I was actually cool with my beach chair pulled just close enough to the ocean for my feet to catch the refreshing waves.  The ponies evidently had the same idea and provided the show most tourists come to see and one I never get bored with.

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There are two theories about how the wild horses came to be on Assateague Island, which spans 48,000 acres of Virginia and Maryland’s eastern shore. One theory is that they arrived with the early colonial settlers and the other is that they swam to shore after escaping a Spanish galleon cargo shipwreck, of which they were the cargo. I think the latter is a much more exciting theory, and with the discovery of a sunken Spanish ship off the coast in 1997, it is the more credible one as well.

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Sweet family picture…a young foal nursing, stallion in background.

The ponies, officially named “Chincoteague Ponies” for the nearby island off of Assateague, VA, survive eating the wild grasses, bayberry twigs, rosehips and persimmons.  They drink fresh or brackish water found in the lower lying areas of the island. They became famous largely because of the book Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry.

 Though there are signs posted everywhere to stay at least 100 ft. away from the ponies, the ponies, and most people, don’t quite adhere to that warning.  They have been known to bite and kick, so I have a respectful fear of them as I do the ocean.  Apparently, they have also been fed “people” food over the years, also despite the signs, and have developed quite the taste for it. It is common to see them come up to the belongings of beachgoers and rummage through their bags in search of tasty treats…we have been among those beachgoers! They have become quite adept at stomping bags of chips to get to the forbidden contents inside.

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As the afternoon grew late, the ponies started heading down the beach…

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Fires began to be built….

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And by nightfall the campfires burned all around, illuminating the fun gatherings of families and friends, while the ponies slept nearby under the spectacular starry sky.

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∼ Jen

 

‹My apologies to the ponies, as cell phone pictures don’t do their beauty  justice.›

Confessions from the Garden

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Russian sage in front of Black-eyed Susan

It’s said that confession is good for the soul, so here goes…

I am guilty of a crime, and I committed this crime/sin with the full knowledge that what I was about to do could quite possibly kill, or at the very least, temporarily wound the innocent and unsuspecting.  I, however, could not help myself-much like a man armed with a chainsaw can’t stop until every last branch within eyesight is maimed “pruned,” I, too, was on a mission.

My crime? Transplanting a very happy plant in the dead of summer….in fact, in the middle of the worst heat wave so far this year.  What was I thinking….well, that’s just it, I wasn’t.  Much like a spoiled, rebellious, impatient child, I didn’t care about the rules-I simply defied all authority in the transplanting laws of nature. That plant simply was not where it needed to be and I wanted it elsewhere, heat wave or not. Waiting for fall was not an option.

The innocent? The one and only, beautiful beyond words, Russian Sage.

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Russian Sage

This gorgeous plant has been my favorite perennial since I planted my first flower garden way back when.  In my previous garden, I had abundant sunshine and it thrived and returned yearly like a faithful friend.  Because I am still trying to find the right spot for these to thrive at our new home, they lack the abundance of stems seen in the above picture. Mine boasts only several per plant as seen in the first picture.  For that reason, the victimized plant was moved to a much sunnier location where it will hopefully flourish and return next year to let me know all is forgiven and it is loving its new abode.

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My favorite garden picture…my then 3 year-old son, Daniel, chasing butterflies amidst the flowers- Russian Sage in the back.

In spite of the heat, or maybe even because of it, my little Russian Sage looks like it may make it after all:) In the first hour after it was transported away from its buddies, it looked very sad and wilted indeed. I watered it, of course, but then because of the intense heat, upper 90’s to be exact, I watered it two more times that day and three times a day since.

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Little sage is much perkier now with all the extra, tender-loving care, and its bounce back, despite my initial offense, reminds me of a particular verse…love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

Happy Gardening!

∼ Jen

PS….I have a new temptation in the form of a wayward Autumn Sedum. I am desperately trying to resist, but the promise of rain in the coming days may lure me towards my shovel yet!  😉