The Last Two…

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“Hmm, what’s this? Looks like the little lady put out some peanuts for our morning snack”

 

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“Whoa, wait a minute there blue, those nuts are spoken for.”

 

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“That’s right, off you go, I saw these first.”

 

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“What, you again….didn’t we already have this discussion?”

 

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“Back away, back away I tell you!”

 

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“Uh, oh, this is not looking good…”

 

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“One, one little nut to get me through this coming snow, the world’s gone mad I tell you…”

 

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So, who got the last nut? Your guess is as good as mine! Snow is in our forecast, so, I’m off to fight the crowds of milk and bread buyers….I’ll be putting peanuts in my cart;)

Until next time, go buy some peanuts, you’ll be glad you did!

∼Jen

 

 

Morning Time…October-November

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Well, Thanksgiving is behind us, and though it is not officially the end of fall,  winter doesn’t seem too far off.  I love living in a place where I can enjoy each of the four seasons, and quiet mornings, sipping coffee, seem a wonderful way to savor them.

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Once again, I have gathered those pictures from my morning photo shoots to relive the moments. With fall being very hectic I missed October’s post so am combining the two months…I hope you enjoy.

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Red-bellied woodpecker

Woodpeckers like these are the reason I ask my husband to leave the smaller dead trees on our property standing.

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The pileated woodpecker, below, is quite the character, and also quite loud, competing only with “Harold” in volume.

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The net was put on the pond in October, and the frogs put on quite the show as they bounced on it like a trampoline.  There is a large opening allowing them access into and out of the pond, and one was actually observed bouncing, then doing a backflip into this exposed area…Nadia Comăneci would have been impressed.

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Taking a break from gymnastics….

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The squirrels enjoyed raiding the peanuts and sunflower seeds from the bird-feeders…

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Downy woodpecker is a frequent visitor to the bird feeder area, especially enjoying the suet…

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Downy Woodpecker 

Another favorite at the feeder is the tufted titmouse, such a friendly little guy…he flys off to nearby branches to bang open the sunflower seeds.

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Tufted Titmouse

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Sparrows and chickadees were also in abundance, however, the chickadee was not very photogenic;) Though I think the below sparrow is a white-throated one, I am not confident of that-feel free to educate me!

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Of all the birds I enjoyed watching in the last two months, I was more than thrilled when the typically seen cardinal reappeared after more than a months absence.  His presence one morning in the tree below made my day!

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I tried to convince myself the cardinals were not around the feeders because of the abundance of fall seeds, but after seeing red feathers on the ground, and the character below on at least three occasions near the feeders, I was beginning to worry.

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I’ll be the first to admit, though I admire nature more than most, I am not at all a fan of hawks!!!  If I saw them flying with a snake dangling from their mouth I may feel differently, however, I have only ever seen them zooming by with poor, helpless songbirds in their clutches.

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Morning sunlight on the creek

Lastly on my trip down photo memory-lane… I was able to photograph the raccoon below as he neared the creek at low tide, then nimbly walked across a newly-fallen tree to the peninsula on the other side.  I wish I could have gotten his front, but he is still a beaut from behind.

It was an adventurous two months of coffee-time scenery, and I enjoyed many other nature moments and firsts not captured on film. Though it’s hard, sometimes I resist the dash for the camera and force myself to simply sit still and treasure the moment.

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Until next time, may you have many memorable nature moments as well.

∼Jen

A Grateful Heart

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17

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Mourning Doves in the fall

Well, today is that glorious day we set aside here in the states to give thanks for the many blessings bestowed upon us from our gracious Heavenly Father.

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A fall walk

It’s usually a day spent with family, enjoying one another’s company,  grateful for each one gathered, while recounting another year of the many things to be thankful for. Our family is fortunate this year that we will all be present and accounted for…with a family of five siblings, that is no small feat!

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Toad trying not to be seen

Usually, I would be scurrying around preparing the corn pudding, baking pumpkin pies and the usual things I contribute to the feast. Today I will be doing those things and a few more at a leisurely pace, as our family will gather tomorrow so that all can be present.

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Purple Finch

 I am reminded this year, as in many past Thanksgivings, of the importance of counting our blessings and truly being grateful for what we have, even in the hard, and sometimes lonely times which we all go through in life.

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In doing so, I usually look back to a trip I took with members of my church to Haiti as a young adult. I vividly remember my first sight of the poverty-stricken country… I wanted to run back to the airport and catch the first flight back.  I had never seen such conditions up close and personal, and it left an impact on me I will never forget.

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A quiet bench in the fall

What impacted me more, though, was the absolute joy and gratitude, and what could only be described as graciousness, from the Christian people we had the opportunity to meet with while there. I recall going to a church out in the country-dirt floor, rough lumber for pews, no electricity-and the absolute spirit of thanks these people had as they
showed off their prize possession. We were also invited into their homes, where they shared enthusiastically from their very meager supplies, meals served with the greatest of hospitality.

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Glen Ellen Farms, upper Maryland

 After experiencing such phenomenal gratefulness in the face of such abject poverty, I remember getting back to the states where hearing complaints for the smallest of things felt like being slapped in the face with an ice-cold cloth.  And, after determining I would never grumble or complain again, sadly, I too, soon fell into my old ways of not always being thankful for even the littlest of blessings in life.

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Geese at Assateague Island, VA

Oh,there are many times I thank God just for hot running water, as there we experienced just a trickle in the shower, while some of the locals were bathing in mud puddles in the street.  And when I take my  first sip of steaming coffee in the morning, I am usually very grateful.

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But, there are those times, when I simply forget and grumble about the smallest of things when I have so, so much to be thankful for….a  loving family, friends, a warm home, food, clean water, books to read and the ability to read them, the love and care of my Heavenly Father… the list could go on all day.

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Squirrel on island of moss

My prayer continues to be that I will always be grateful for even the smallest of blessings and be mindful of those less fortunate than myself.

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Wild turkeys encountered on a cycling trip

Wherever you are, whether celebrating Thanksgiving here in the States or elsewhere in this big, wonderful world, may you celebrate all the things to be thankful for in your life, this day and each day forward.

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Until next time

∼ Jen

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 118:1

 

Simply Fall…

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Late Autumn by William Allingham

October – and the skies are cool and gray
O’er stubbles emptied of their latest sheaf,
Bare meadow, and the slowly falling leaf.
The dignity of woods in rich decay
Accords full well with this majestic grief
That clothes our solemn purple hills to-day,
Whose afternoon is hush’d, and wintry brief
Only a robin sings from any spray.

And night sends up her pale cold moon, and spills
White mist around the hollows of the hills,
Phantoms of firth or lake; the peasant sees
His cot and stockyard, with the homestead trees,
Islanded; but no foolish terror thrills
His perfect harvesting; he sleeps at ease.

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Geese grace the autumn sky at a local state park

  I have enjoyed reading many Autumn poems this season, and it would be interesting to know, of the four seasons, just which one has inspired more poets.

While each season holds its own special enchantment, fall definitely has a magic of its own…the cool, misty mornings; later sunrises, earlier sunsets; trees bedecked in jeweled tones; leaves dancing on the breeze before floating gently to the ground, scents of smokey fireplaces drifting in the night air; outings to pumpkin patches and wandering through corn mazes, while pumpkins, gourds and mums decorate the landscape.

For this post, I simply wanted to share some of my favorite fall pictures, past and present.  I hope you enjoy!

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The above picture of the snail posed perfectly on the pumpkin greeted me as I stepped outside one crisp, fall morning.

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Mature trees lining the streets make fall an especially favorite time for walks….

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A  pair of geese enjoyed a few hours on a fallen log one autumn afternoon…

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and my buddy “Harold” remained longer than expected as we kayaked into view another fall day…

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Fall colors through the window of a favorite reading spot…

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Green makes way for fiery oranges, yellows and reds …

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Geese honk their arrival in the evenings as they rest for the night on the peninsula, and at a favorite park during the day they glide over then land with a splash…

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I hope this season finds you joyful and well!

Until next time!

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∼ Jen

Morning Time – September

Lo! a ripe sheaf of many golden days
Gleaned by the year in autumn’s harvest ways,
With here and there, blood-tinted as an ember,
Some crimson poppy of a late delight
Atoning in its splendor for the flight
Of summer blooms and joys­
This is September.

Hilaire Belloc

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Third or fourth generation Monarch butterfly

Ah, beautiful September…how did you pass so quickly?

October is my favorite fall month, but September begins the beauty of it all.  Now that it is behind us I feel like I somehow missed it…like I blinked and it was over. I have spent many hours inside with my nose buried in math and Spanish curriculum, but on the bright side, I’m sure it’s a wonderful Alzheimer’s preventative.

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Frog basking in morning sun

I have given myself permission to take the day off from curriculum and enjoyed a walk with my dog Princess earlier this morning.  I have missed writing so much I decided I would also take the time to enjoy doing just that when I returned from the walk.  Already six days into October, it was past time to pull up my September morning-time pictures.

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Praying Mantis I discovered one morning because of kitty’s growls:)
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Another morning frog, I believe the Southern Leopard frog
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Argiope aurantia beside porch

Thinking about writing a new blog post I asked myself, like probably many bloggers do….why on earth do I think people really want to see pictures of my flowers, birds, dog, Harold….or read the ramblings and memories of a mom going through beginning empty- nest stages?

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Mother cardinal bringing sunflower seed to young
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Juvenile female cardinal
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…obviously the awkward looking stage

And yet, I continue to write, because like other bloggers I enjoy the creativity it allows and the connections formed with other bloggers along the way.  The latter was something I was told would happen by a friend of mine, whose blog I have admired for years, but I really had no idea what she meant until I started blogging myself.

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Ferns getting their fall color
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Gabby, a visual reminder to cut back ferns for sake of the birds….

I find myself thinking of the people whose writing I have connected with….the elderly widow who writes of her granddaughter and grown sons and her transition to a smaller home, leaving the place where memories were made as she raised them; the writer who has written her first book and has found a purpose to enjoy in her newfound retirement as she plans another book; the man who so artfully writes of the beauty of childhood memories and an almost forgotten time of past societal innocence; the teacher who brings nature into the lives of his young students, reminding me of my own former joy of teaching little ones; the many gifted artists in photography and drawing, who bring beauty to my world and others by sharing their talents…all these people and many more have enriched me in many ways.

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Autumn Sedum

 

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I call this my “hello-goodbye” plant…blooming when I got it and not again till September, its final show

Though I will most likely never meet any of them, I am grateful for their presence…

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My morning buddy, Harold

They have enlightened me, inspired me, entertained me, and like the nature I am surrounded by, have added beauty to my life in many different ways.

For that, I am grateful.

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Until next time,

∼ Jen

A Stroll Through the Park and Memory Lane

An accumulation of a lifetime of memories does create a musical score that we can assess from an artistic if not scientific perspective. Each happy memory generates a beat of minor joy that when strung together form the musical notes demarking a person’s prosodic inner tune.”
― Kilroy J. Oldster, Dead Toad Scrolls

dsc_0610-black-bird.jpgOne of my favorite places to visit in our area is the local park.  I have taken my sons there since before they could walk and have fond memories from my own childhood visits there.  There were family picnics, outings with my mom and grandmom, racing around the top of the big, brick, circular wall-which is still there-and sledding down its big hill with a send-off from my dad in the wintertime. It has, of course, changed some over the years, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the gift of memories and nature it still provides.

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Boys when young enjoying the same circular area I did as a child…deer statue new

DSC_0599When my sons were young, I made it a habit to turn necessary appointments in the area into fun outings by picking up lunch afterwards and heading to the park to picnic with the geese and ducks.  I have many happy memories of my two little boys feeding bits of their lunches to the geese and then running along side them squealing and playing.

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feeding the geese

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 feeling safer watching from table-top:)

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Those outings, like many things, have sadly ended as my sons have grown, but I managed to squeeze in one more just before school began this year with my youngest.

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As usual, we were greeted by the ducks like long-lost friends. We know better than to be  flattered as we are well aware they are excited about the scent of our curly fries and not so much us. We can no longer feed them, as it is now forbidden, but that doesn’t stop them from coming close to get a whiff and pose for pictures.

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On this particular afternoon the birds seemed to be quite noticeable, so I was able to get many photographs of them as well as the waterfowl…I found this robin very agreeable to a photo session.  I had no idea how different our American robin is from the European robin until I saw one posted on the blog 30daysofwildparenting. For the absolute cutest picture of a robin ever, check out his picture here.  I actually thought it was fake at first glance….it is seriously adorable!

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This cardinal was in a tree just over a path we took, and he was content to sit and preen while I took dozens of pictures.  It’s obvious these birds are used to humans because the cardinals in my yard fly away at the slightest movement.

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Cardinals are one of my favorite birds… besides being beautiful, they are very attentive parents sharing the duties of nest-building, feeding and training their young. They are also very docile at the feeders, unlike mockingbirds and feisty little hummingbirds.

We ate our lunch on a quiet bench in a shaded area with this tree directly in front of us.  If I was in a fantasy world, I would swear this massive, barked image with leaf bangs was watching us…it did bear a striking resemblance to Treebeard!

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After wandering the park for a bit, we ended our outing by the river and enjoyed one last look at the ducks before heading home.

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Another beautiful day to add to the precious memory book of life….

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Until next time…

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∼ Jen

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

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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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 younger 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