Morning Memories…December

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Christmas decorations have been put away and the New Year has cheerfully been rung in around the world…now to mentally adjust to the new date of 2018.  I can still remember back in high school when we had an assignment on what we thought the year 2000 would be like….back then, that was like trying to imagine living in outer space. Eighteen years into this millennium and it still sometimes feels surreal to me.

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We had our first snowstorm of the season in early December which gave me some beautiful pictures to look back on.  As I sit writing this, we are in the midst of our first blizzard, dubbed a “bomb cyclone.”  Thankfully, we have not lost power, and I have been baking off and on for two days.  Something about snowstorms puts me in the baking mood, which my family always appreciates.

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I was out early the day after the December snowfall taking pictures before I even had my morning coffee….for me that’s saying a lot.  I wanted to get some pics before Princess and the neighbor’s dogs started leaving their tracks.

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Something about the morning after a freshly fallen snow is just magical.

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snow covered beauty berry

The snow was the kind that clung to the branches, and the snow-laden limbs overhanging the creek were indeed picturesque.

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I had plenty of bird food, with one area in particular resembling a southern smorgasbord, minus the grits, of course. Between the sunflower seed, peanuts, a variety of suet cakes and mealworms I was a shoo-in for birder of the neighborhood.

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downy woodpecker

Unfortunately, it has also become a natural hunting ground for the neighbor’s cats and at least one hawk. I try to keep everything in as safe an area as possible for them, which can be a challenge… a place with no hiding spots for the furry intruders but with a covered brush area for the ground feeders, to hopefully hide from dastardly Mr. Hawk.

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tufted titmouse

Whenever I see the little dark-eyed junco around the feeders, I know a snow is in the near future-he certainly lives up to his nick-name “snowbird.”

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dark-eyed junco

He was caught below doing his happy little “snow victory dance.”

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This is a good article about how to welcome the little guy and other wintering birds that may come to your area.

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blue-jay
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male northern cardinal
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The snow only lasted a few days before the weather warmed up, only to  plunge us into a bitter cold streak a week later. The birds kept me entertained as the cold brought them to the feeders early each day.

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carolina wren

The secret to keeping blue jays happy and continually coming back is found in the power of the peanut!

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Though the male cardinal is known for his beauty, I find the female equally beautiful…

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northern female cardinal

The little group of finches gathered together at the feeder one morning reminded me of little old men meeting up at a country store to gab over breakfast…

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house finch

The wood thrush is a rarely seen visitor, but he makes his presence known by his hopping about and flinging through the leaves so violently with its beak it’s a wonder he doesn’t give himself whiplash.

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wood thrush

Besides birds, the squirrels are always good for a show, and I really don’t mind them raiding the bird feeders or grabbing the jay’s peanuts.

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He was not the only wild mammal to visit our yard…before I had barely opened my eyes one morning I spied a fox trotting off with something in its mouth.  I was relieved to see it wasn’t my cat but a little sad to think one of my squirrels had just become his breakfast.

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The geese didn’t seem to mind the frigid water temperatures and they delight me each morning as they honk their goodbyes when leaving the peninsula.  They don’t wander  into our section of the creek often, so I enjoy it when they do.

I end with a morning view from our anniversary getaway. The deck was obviously too cold to enjoy, but the scenery was well worth waking up to.

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I hope my dear blogging friends going through the blizzard with me are staying warm and cozy and enjoying the beauty of the snow and the wildlife it highlights.

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Until next time,

∼ Jen

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love…Psalm 143:8

Morning Memories…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

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love…Psalm 143:8

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

“Almost Heaven” in the Fall

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
–  Albert Camus
 

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How does a landscape go from beautiful to spectacularly beautiful…..it gets clothed in the magnificent colors of that breathtaking season we call fall.

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In the summer, my son and I were able to enjoy some of the natural beauty the picturesque state of West Virginia has to offer… I shared a post with some of our highlights here.  I was once again able to enjoy its beauty, but this time in its fall glory, on my yearly, girl’s-weekend getaway with a few treasured friends. In this post I’ve gathered some pictures from that trip and also a few from our past fall trips; I hope you enjoy!

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Trails were marked with a kaleidoscope of colors and leaves decorated fern, moss and rocks like nature’s confetti.DSC_0087

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They softened the path as we walked and the ones that didn’t make it to the ground graced the evergreens like natural Christmas ornaments.

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The countryside was decked out in all its splendor…

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while fields of gold nourished the lingering butterflies.

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Dolly Sods was a mosaic of colors resembling nature’s quilt on one side…

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while showing off its grandeur, tinged in autumnal hues, on the mountainside.

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The many waterfalls and creeks in this state are only that much more scenic when fall is in the air…

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Douglas Falls, Thomas WV

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Blackwater Falls, Davis WV

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Mountains, valleys, creeks and rolling pastures, Autumn in West Virginia is simply spectacular!

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A special thanks to our husbands for, once again, manning the “home front” while your wives hiked the trails!

As in the last post, pictures of West Virginia wouldn’t seem complete without its most famous song…enjoy!!

 

∼ 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 visits there as a child.  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

Morning Memories…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

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love…Psalm 143:8

“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

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

Morning Memories…June

“No price is set on the lavish summer;
June may be had by the poorest comer.”
–  James Russell Lowell, The Vision of Sir Launfal

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Early morning drink

Dust from the fireworks has settled, Princess survived yet another year of booms and bangs, sure “they” were after her, and once again, like every year, I wonder how it’s possible that so much of summer has already gone by.

As I enjoyed looking back on my morning pictures from May once June arrived, I have done the same for my morning times in June. I love looking back at photos taken and relive some of the moments and memories of my early, quiet times on the porch and beyond.

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Comfy seating upon a lily pad
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June daylilies greet the morning sun

The turtles were out in full force this month. I like them a little more when they stay in the creek, if they happen to be snapping turtles that is. I have not seen our pond visitor again up close as I did in May, but I spotted it’s relative sunning on this log with a friend….DSC_0595

and another duo with the same idea further out…DSC_0765

I always love the way the early morning sun highlights the ferns and glistens on the waterfall…and the moss on the rocks, well, that’s just the icing on the cake.DSC_0964

The American bullfrog in our pond that we have dubbed “cave-frog” still occupies his cave and was seen peeking out beyond the water grass one morning between croaks.

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“cave-frog”

He is loud, but I had no idea just how loud till my neighbor across the street told me she could hear him! She is a nature enthusiast herself, so it was an appreciation not a complaint:)

As for flying creatures, our little hummingbirds have been enjoying their new feeders……..

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Ruby-throated hummingbird

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And “Harold” was observed on several breakfast hunts…

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Upon arising one morning I was greeted with our first hydrangea bloom of the summer, and by evening the same bush boasted several more blooms.

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Replenishing my morning cup of coffee on another morning, I heard scratching on our porch, screen door. I looked to see a real cutie, who upon seeing me quickly ran off.  I captured him resting his very visibly pounding heart before ascending the tree. The poor guy was beyond shaken.

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Eastern gray squirrel

I have no idea why he was intent on entering the house….I would say he was drawn by the aroma of coffee, but it was more likely that he was running from our cat, “Gladiator Gabby.”

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The large trees in our back yard are a wonderful habitat for birds, especially the woodpeckers, but it was the sunlight streaming through the hole in the above tree that caught my eye on this particular morning.

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Blooming Fuchsia, a hummingbird favorite

Leaving a hotel one morning after a weekend trip, my son pointed out some adorable ducklings enjoying a morning swim.  It was the mother with one of the ducklings near a blooming lily, that, of course, captured my attention the most…

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And lastly, I have  Princess to thank for the following picture taken at the end of June.  Her morning vigil by the front door resulted in a sight I am ever so glad to have seen…

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White-Tailed deer 

and kudos to the deer for allowing me to photograph her in front of such a lovely, blooming backdrop. She seemed to enjoy her morning stroll through the neighborhood, so I may see her again in the future.

Until next time!

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∼ Jen

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love…Psalm 143:8

Ode to a Dead Tree…

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While sitting on my porch last week – drinking coffee of course – I noticed a chickadee perching on this dead tree that I previously had paid very little, if any attention to.

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 It’s early spring, so I thought maybe it was looking for holes in which to nest, but it wasn’t long before I saw another bird, the hairy woodpecker, pecking away looking for insects on this same tree. Needless to say, that chased away the chickadee, who perched on a small branch to the side of the dead tree, waiting for the bigger guy to get his fill and move along.

He was in for a wait, however, because in moments hairy was replaced by the even larger red-bellied woodpecker….who doesn’t just peck, but hammers away!

woodpecker on dead tree

 A closer look at the beak in the below picture of “red” reveals his hammering produced a tasty treat.

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In my mind, this little dead tree was going to provide many photographic delights in the future, and I was more than up to the task.

Fast forward several days….my husband had contacted people to come and clear away some of the brush and fallen branches, and yeah, you can guess where this is leading…. right up to the ode. I had never mentioned my newfound delight in this little, dead tree to my husband, so my dear, dead tree was part of the doomed.

I’m not going to wax poetic or resemble anything like an ode should be, but suffice it to say, I sure am going to miss that little, dead tree and all the moments that could have been.

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∼Jen