Thursday, August 28, 2008

Faith and Hope

Faith King and her team (see more of what they do at are working on the log restoration at Dog Days for the next few weeks, and I am so very excited to see the results. Her team has cleaned the logs and they are starting to repair the problem spots before they can re-chink and check, then stain the logs a nice deep reddish tone. Once they are done I will feel like we are at the end of the larger projects. We will still be working on small upgrades for quite some time (those never seem to end), but I am looking forward to feeling that sense of completion!

Oscar has been busy chopping wood for the winter, and his progress, as usual, is always impressive. The wood stove will have plenty of fuel to keep us nice and toasty, as this is what he finished last weekend WHILE he was painting the side porch!

We have MANY down trees that will be added to the pile over the next few weeks to get nicely cured before the cold weather sets in!

The front bed is getting cleaned up with a nice bench, weeding, removal of the rotten post, trimming of the holly, and painting of the fence. We had to remove the small ornamental pine in the back because it was dying a slow ugly death (probably due to the pine bark beetles that are battering certain species of pine in the forest), so the area is more open and the ornamental tall grasses stand out more than ever.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Cat Naps

Morty is a great hunter, and brings me all sorts of feline delicacies from mice to moles on a regular basis. He displays his offerings in the middle of the kitchen floor, and has been known to bring live things in (such as a pair of rabbits) just to spice things up for me. All that concentrated patrolling seems to require an enormous amount of rest and recuperation, and here is an example for several hours of Morty's afternoon:

Inter-Species Love-Fest

Cats and dogs don't fight like, well, cats and dogs in our house. Morty loved Grommit very much (probably because Grom was too fat and slow to consider chasing him around the house), and after Grommit passed away he turned his affections to Claris (who does chase him around the house, much to his annoyance). There is a lot of head-butting, smootching and snuggling these days, and Oscar finds the whole thing a bit disturbing, as it flies against the natural order of things... but it suits me just fine!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

They eat JALAPENOS???

I went out this morning to grab some of the little hot peppers that were ripe and ready to be picked on the plants that I have in containers on the front patio, and was surprised to find NONE of the ripe ones were left from when I checked last night!

I noticed one of the branches of the plants was swaying slightly, and this fat fellow was feasting upon the last ripe pepper to be had.

I was a little incensed that this ugly fellow had consumed at least SIX peppers in 14 hours, but also, I have to admit, fairly intrigued by his menu selection and his ability to consume items several times his weight and length is so short a time.

I looked him up and he will someday, after consuming MANY MANY more of my vegetables, become a Swallowtail Butterfly, so I decided that I could lose some peppers (how many do I really need, anyhow?) in an effort to gain more butterflies. I am sure this one will survive predation until he is ready to pupate due to the powerful taste and smell he must have acquired from eating all those fiery foods...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Take a walk, find a truck...

Yup, that's a truck, and an old one at that! Just sitting by itself and rusting away the decades. I missed it the first time I passed by on the trail but from the return angle it caught my eye. I did not dare get much closer as I was not wearing the right shoes or pants to be leaving the safety of the trail for the pricker, tick and poison-ivy infested undergrowth surrounding the derelict livery, so this was the best shot I could get given the location of my safe viewing distance. Next time I will get my hiking boots and long pants on and get some more detail!

The May-December Relationship...

Claris has been a wonderful tracker of hard-to-find creatures at Dog Days, and she keeps locating one of my favorites, the Box Turtle. They are becoming more and more rare (most people only get to see them along country roads. I have stopped many a time to move them to safer stomping grounds!), and she alerted me to these two, a male and a female together underneath a large blackberry patch; what a wonderful treat! They were seeking out the over-ripe berries that had fallen off and were having themselves quite a feast. The male appeared to be much older than his younger female companion (larger size, more ridges and a shell that had more wear to it), so I think this was a herpetological May-December relationship...

Sometimes I have no idea...

I am a little bit of a "know-it-all", but more often than I care to admit, I am stumped by what I find. I usually take a picture and then hit the internet searching for an answer to what I have found on my travels. These two items of interest were my last "stumpers":

This reminds me of the Khmer Architecture of Angkor Wat, mushroom-style! It stood a few inches high and out all by itself on the forest floor. I might have missed it if I was not still watching where my feet go all the time (I am not known for my grace, balance or agility. Weebles may wobble, but I just fall down). I am guessing that this is a misshapen member of the puffball fungus family, but I could be wrong...

I also found another strange-looking plant on this walk that I had to take a picture of. Why is it like this? It was a bit late for dew, and the other plants around it were certainly not as "moist". Some sort of sap? I did not pick it, as I tend to like to leave things as they are as much as possible, so I cannot say what properties (read: stickiness, smelliness, etc.) the liquid had.
It just looked very interesting, so I had to record it for later research. Sadly, I have still come up empty on this one! I think it may be a common plant with a spider web and some lingering dew whose other-worldy looks are distracting me!

The View from up here

Claris and I had a great time following a deer trail up the mountain, and at the end of it we popped out of the forest and found ourselves enjoying a wide, green vista that we just had to share!

Enjoy a little Blue Ridge Meditation!

Morning, Deer!

This big studly fellow made an appearance at breakfast-time the other day. When the deer come up to the house they almost seem offended by our presence; as if we are intruding upon their peaceable kingdom. There are so many deer it makes me VERY nervous to be driving the roads at dusk and dawn; We have a friend that has had three cars totaled in short order due to deer/car altercations.

I was wondering what might predate upon the deer in Floyd (besides the humans and automobiles), and on a trip up the mountain and through the woods I may have found my answer in several deposits of large-cat "scat" in the middle of the trail. The big cats tend to use their scat to mark their territory so if they are residing in the area it is fairly easy to find on the main trails. I doubt that it is possible that it was left by a mountain lion, as reports of their existence in the Blue Ridge are considered "unconfirmed" and are only eyewitness accounts. I think I may have a healthy set of Bobcats roaming the area, which pleases me VERY much. Not dangerous unless bothered and a good sign of a nice, balanced ecosystem!

The Abundance of the Blue Ridge

Every trip we take to Floyd, I am amazed by the abundance of human and animal fodder that appears in every type of ecosystem; During my last hike I found apple trees covered with grapevines. Both were heavy with fruit, and almost ripe! Next hike I will be sure to bring a canvas bag to grab some treats from the wild! Apple butter and grape jelly are destined to make an appearance in the pantry this year. I just need to borrow a crock pot from someone. Vegetarians don't tend to have those appliances hanging around (though I DO make a {not-so} mean meatless chili in them when given the chance!).

Just in case you did not know: Grapes are NOT good for your canine buddies. NO raisins, and NO grapes for your companion animals, no matter how much they may want a taste!