impossibleway: (Warning)
Just down the road from the Ice Rocks, is Alligator Back. Being so close, just 2/10 of a mile, the conditions could not have been more different! It was sunny and warm. We sat at the overlook drinking tea and watched heat waves rise up from the grass.  But, like where we are, the climate of the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of great variability.  The wind often blew in clouds and cool air.  It paid to keep a hat on or have the coats piled nearby.

Traveler at the Alligator Back

The Arkansas Traveler and I took in the sights while the children climbed rocks.  You can see them in the link above.  They joyfully climbed and hiked for about two hours.

The View

These are views I never tire of.  It is interesting to note that the Parkway itself is a fairly narrow strip of land.  It feels like another world when you are on it.

Above the Ice Rocks

This is the area just above the Ice Rocks.  You can see them pre-road here.

Walking

So, the weather. A warm rain fell on us while we ate our sandwiches, just feet from the Ice Rocks where it was so cold. Then, the sun came out. The wind blew in fits and threatened to carry our tea cups off. The air was still. It was warm again. One thing we didn't see was fog, for once. Down in West Jefferson, we went to the Ashe County Cheese Company for Mike. We came out to find it raining, and then it started to hail as we were leaving town! I had just remarked about how we hadn't experienced hail yet, in all the changing conditions of the day. Back home, it felt warm-ish and then it started to snow that night.  Honestly, we are somewhat used to this kind of fluctuation and I really enjoy wild weather, when we are prepared for it.  Goodness, we had such a good time.
impossibleway: (Feet at the Lump)
The "Ice Cliffs," Grandad called them.  He always wanted to go see the Ice Cliffs.  They were on the list that we intrepid sight-seers made in the last years of his life--Buffalo Mountain, the Brown Mountain Lights, Stone Mountain, Burke's Garden, Roan Mountain, Cumberland Gap.  He and Grandma Lois had been prolific travelers in his post-retirement years.  The Blue Ridge Parkway was one of their favorite destinations.  We'd always had in mind to go to the Ice Rocks, but we'd never made it there.  By their very nature, their presence results in road closures.  No one wants to slide off the mountain going to see them, after all.  After a mild Winter with one big blast of cold air at its end, we were inspired to seek them out after looking at the icy cliffs outside our little town.

Ice Rocks 1

Having driven by them many times on warmer days, it was a simple matter of looking in my Parkway guides.

Ice Rocks 2

In it, they were called the "Ice Rocks" and found to be in Doughton Park.

Ice Rocks 3

I think we got there just in time.  I bet the last of the ice will be gone this week.

Road Ice

While it was a small show, compared with other years or earlier in the Winter, it was no less impressive.
The ice that had fallen showed some serious water at work.

Ice Rocks 4

It was fifty-five when we arrived, but the wind sweeps ups these stone cliffs with some ferocity.
That quick trip I made back to the car for coats and hats--that was a wise one!

Ice Rocks 5

It was like being in a great freezer with big fans blowing on you.
The wind was so swift at one point, it was hard to walk.

Windy Face

I had given Mike my hat and put up my hood.
The wind was trying mightily to blow it off my head.
I thought this photo was too funny when I saw it.

Ice Rocks 6

You can see here the better part of the ice that was remaining at our visit.  The cliffs go on a bit more, with a little fringe of ice at the top.  You can see photos of them during a more typical year here.  While it wasn't much, comparatively, we all found it to be a powerful, magical place.  We have firm plans to come back next Winter to see them again.  Roan was thrilled at the idea that the ice would come back and probably be more next year.  He kept sharing the news with great excitement and really wanted to bring a big piece home.  That is what I find frightening about climate change--the security that we have known, both for food production and for simple seasonal joys from nature, is at risk.

This wonderful write-up gives a good history of the area.  It tells that the facilities in the Doughton Park area have been closed for some time.  Indeed, the coffee shop where we ate with Grandad in 2008 was not only closed, but appeared to have the glass out of the windows.  It's heartbreaking to me to see our public lands lose funding to keep things in operation.  The current political climate is even more depressing.  I've written here and there over the years about facilities and staffing falling by the wayside, and it seems things will only get worse.  It does, however, drive me to spend more time visiting these places.  We vote with our dollars, after all, and visitors to National Parks matter in a big way.

I don't mean to end on a sour or sad note.  Despite the complexity of the Parkway's beginnings and the uncertainty of its future, it holds a special place in my heart.  It calls to me in a very deep way, one of my great loves.  Now that the children are beyond the baby years and into the bouldering years, I think it's time we spent more time there again. 
impossibleway: (Winter)
My dad gave Laurel her own kite on Sunday, one that was in his collection that had never been flown (similar to this one).  We have plenty of wind around here, but it stops and starts in fits.  It gusts and howls, but it's not steady.  All the trees and variations in terrain baffle it.  We'd tried to fly it a couple times with very little luck, so I thought we'd use the good weather on Wednesday to our advantage.  Back up to the crest zone on Whitetop!  And look!  Snow!

SNOW!

The winds were gusty and about 20 mph.  I later learned that most folks don't fly in that kind of wing.  Oh, well!  Let the maiden voyage be a good one!  Laurel's kite pulls a lot more than Roan's, which was a real challenge that day.  Mostly, we were flying down in a little bowl-shaped cut in the mountainside.  This turned out to be a very good thing!  I let out all the string on both kites--500 feet--just to see how they would do.  I was marveling at them when I saw Laurel's flutter down.  She wasn't holding the winder any more and the kite was no longer in the air.

I spent a good amount of time winding up Roan's string and getting his kite down, while Willow and Roan went to look for the kite.  500 feet is a LOT to wind up!  Laurel and I moved the car up the road to where Willow had found the kite, quite close to the trees.  I started winding and Willow got it in the air again, which presented quite the challenge.  It pulled and fought nearly the whole time I was winding it.  It was hard to do and avoid cutting myself on the tight string.  I was also trying to keep it away from the trees you can see above.  There was one lone tree that looked like it would very much like to eat the kite!   Looking back, I think flying down in the bowl and all the thornless blackberry brambles save the kite from being going into the wild blue.

Flying Kites

Twenty minutes later, I had it all wound up and out of the air. It fell for the last bit of winding and that was so nice, so much better than having to fight to wind up 8 inches at a time! By this time, the children had drunk up all the tea and covered themselves and their parkas in hazelnut spread, so it was time to go home and wash up. On our way down, we witnessed a couple getting engaged on that blustery day. I wish them many happy years together. Being married is probably a little (or a lot) like flying a kite. ;-)
impossibleway: (Winter Fields)
Ed Davis on Skiprock Pond

Nine years later, I returned to a little Forest Service pond with my children and a dear college professor.  I was aiming to take Dr. Davis someplace he hadn't been in a long time, or ever before.  Travelling toward Crawfish Valley, the largest roadless area in the Jefferson National Forest, we turned onto Oriole Drive and found this small wildlife pond.  Walking around it, we came out onto a point of land covered by many flat stones.  Dr. Davis began skipping rocks with great skill, impressing us all, and we had such a good time.  I told him he made rocks walk on water--St. Edward!  Laurel loved him, Willow thought he was beyond funny, and Roan shared his cooking stories with him.  Some people are just so good at connection and it can be so encouraging to visit with them.  That's why I claimed him as my second dad, after all (plus, we had the same last name).  We have plans to go back at the end of the Summer and I know we're all looking forward to it.
impossibleway: (Once)
We hadn't been to Whitetop since July, and how the landscape has changed!  The lush grasses have turned brown and there are very, very few flowers left.  Just some gentian and a lone daisy.  The most prominent things, other than all the brown, were the mountain ash berries.  We call these the Roan Trees, since his name means "dweller by the rowan tree."  There's a superstition that says that a heavy crop of berries is a sign that the Winter will not bring heavy snows.  Time will tell.  I could sure do with some good snow after this long, hot Summer.

Mountain Ash

Trees aside, there was also a healthy amount of fog.  You can see it in the background below where a certain little fellow was having his picture made.  Laurel has taken up with the Tomten, but Roan is friends with the Arkansas Traveler.  A big, happy family all the gnomes are.

Traveler on White Top

Laurel is also friends with hot chocolate.  She was gulping it down and making "mmm" sounds the whole time.  I tried to be overprepared this time, bringing hot drinks and big parkas and spare clothes.  It was chilly when we arrived, in the upper forties, but the clouds gave way to the sun as we were leaving.

Hot Chocolate

If you look closely, you can see Roan by the trees.  It's a funny thing to look at a big meadow and think it is easy to walk through.  All those little plants along the ground are blackberries and Laurel found them impassable.  Still, it is nice for the children to find a bit of solitude in nature.

Boy by the Tree

Here's a new dress for Willow.  I made it using a borrowed version of the Old Favorite pattern.  She is so happy to have this dress in her size again.  I hadn't made one in two years!  I have a feeling I'm going to have to whip one up for Virginia before church this morning!

The New Dress and Sweater

We took the long way there and a shorter way back.  The long, cloudier way was so pretty and I didn't take a single picture.  The way back was a bit washed out by the sun.  Oh, well, the best things can never be captured by a camera, only in our hearts.

By Grindstone
impossibleway: (Tulip Tree in the Hemlock)
It's cold here this morning, around thirty-two degrees and Roan is putting on his parka. I guess the weather has tipped now. It was a cool start to the Molasses Festival yesterday, being in the mid-forties when we arrived. Dressing in layers was the way to go, as the bright October sun soon warmed us.

Skimming

The wind was so strong, the fires were roaring and the heat was blowing away!

Warm Fire

It also made for some burnt chicken (glad I went with a slaw dog!), but the hobo pies were tempting.

Hobo Pies

We sat and watched the music for the longest time.
At the start, as you can see, the dance floor was pretty quiet.

The Band Plays

It picked up quite a bit by the time we left.
I really, really want the children to learn clog dancing.

Our Boy

I was thinking of Grandad and our last time with him, and how Roan was so little then.

Happy Girl

Laurel loved it all--she has a real zest for living.

Arkansas Dancer

The Arkansas Traveler had a pretty good time, too.
He made report to his other gnome friends upon his return.

Lewis Fork

Here's the color, so far.  Not too much.  Last year was pretty dull, and I hope this year is better.  I think this week and next will be the peak.

Laurel's calling.  I better go serve the rice pudding!
impossibleway: (Goldenrod Trailhead)
We took the Arkansas Traveler to see an old fire tower site this week.  You could tell he was excited.  He rode in the card with his head at the open window, the cool breeze rippling through his beard.  He was happy to be at the top and enjoy the expansive views of the mountains and valleys below.  The old site has had some rennovations in the past couple years, and it's really nice again.  It's hard to watch Forest Service sites fall into disrepair, which seems to happen more often than not.

At the Top

We saw some Fall leaves--sassafrass, blueberries, beech.  It was cool up there, almost too cool for short sleeves and pants on us grownups.  I was happy to have a wool throw in the car.

Sassafrass

The Arkansas Traveler, well, he was a bit disappointed that the blueberries were but shadows of their former selves.  Only a few dried berries remained on the plants.  Still, he's an optimistic fellow, which was about to come in handy.

Blueberries

We watched a little rain cloud sweep over the valley and right over us.  Unprepared as we were, this became the Shortest Nature School with the Longest Drive.  The rain sent us back to the cover of our car, carefully picking our way down the stone stairs.

Going Down

We found we could pause in a couple places before the rain came down harder.  The children were sad to go and I was, too.  Our little gnome friend kept his smile in spite of the dark clouds and disappointment, so we were a cheery bunch again, soon.  We're going to have to go back and enjoy the big rocks and big views.

Hiding

"But when Autumn comes,
The storm clouds burst,
And rush the tots home
To dear Mother Earth."

~ Mother Earth and Her Children: A Quilted Fairy Tale

Leaf on the Lichen
impossibleway: (Autumn Fern)

We are in for a spell of perfect weather now, every day luminous, every night brimmed with stars. Picnics at noon, supper by the apple-wood fire at night, a walk in the cool moonlight before bed.
~ Gladys Taber

That little quote from a Susan Branch book has forever framed my picture of September.  This is that interesting time of year when the hope (yes!) of Fall is so present.  The buckeyes are losing their leaves and the smaller trees and plants along the roadsides are blazing with color.  Acorns are starting to fall.  I think it's going to be a mast year.  I'm hopeful of collecting my own store of nuts for our play kitchen and school work.

It's supposed to warm up today and even be hot towards the end of the week, but right now, I'm wrapped in a blanket with a mug of hot chocolate.  It is a luxury right now to have the air conditioners and the heat off.  You can get your final fill of Summer, and you can start thinking about sweaters and mittens, too.  I told the children that we will wait for the first frost for mittens, and I'm trying hard to wait on rubber boots.  It is so fun and so full at this time of year.

Mushroom

Here are some scenes from our last day of Summer "vacation."  I always laugh at that term.  When I was a teen, it was a vacation, but not any more!  There's garden work to do and canning and school preparations.  I could go on and on. . .

Warming Up

We went to Laurel Bed Lake, a guaranteed place to Get Away From It All.  My dear Laurel, she fell in her lake while trying to climb a fallen tree.  Thank goodness for a blanket in the car that I hadn't taken to the thrift store yet!  The weather was just warm enough to play in the water (and the water was finally warm), but it was just cool enough to chill a person.

Together

She has mastered the expressive face. Bless her cotton-picking heart.  She was soon right again and playing in the water.  The highlight of her day was the dead fish she and Willow found.

Last Picture

All the children have gained courage in water this Summer, Roan especially.  It has been interesting to see his hesitation and his feelings of triumph as he becomes more comfortable.  It may be that we will be ready for swimming lessons next year.

The Color

Little dark leaves, you are growing so old,
Fading so gently from green to gold.
See how the sun in his splendor goes down
And lovingly gilds you a glorious crown.


~Enki Spirals :: Grade One

impossibleway: (Autumn Fern)
Fog on the Lake

I wish I had a window over the bay
And a black horse grazing on the green all day
I wish I had a well to draw my water from
And a warm log fire for when the summer is gone


I wish I had a window over the bay
And a flock of white sheep to watch from where I lay
I wish I had a little boat bobbing on the deep
And a big wooden table all laid out for tea

I wish I had a window over the bay
And a dreamy eyed cow to fill my milking pail
I wish I had a cockerel to raise me at dawn
And a little bed to sleep in when the curtains are drawn


~Vashti Bunyan

It was 44° F this morning, with a heavy fog. I was able to go out to the lake alone, while Mike stayed with the children. The mist was rising from the water almost continuously and the sun was shimmering on the late-summer leaves. Those few minutes were so refreshing.

Sun on the Lake
impossibleway: (Mike Panorama)
We were all grumpy when we took our Victoria sponge up to Whitetop, but just being there lifted spirits.  Weekends are so difficult for us--so much to do and expect.

Victoria Sponge

Purple Blooms

Harvestman with Crumb

Soakin in the Pool

The Gardener

Cloudview

If you look closely, you can see the harvestman (or Grandad spider, as the children call them) carrying off a crumb of the cake. The fog only got heavier while we were there and it rained all the way home. Our moods were lifted only a moment, it seemed, but it was still nice up there.
impossibleway: (Goldenrod Trailhead)
Thursday topped out at 74° F in the heat of the day.  It was cloudy and misty and breezy, with fog on the mountains--just like Autumn.  I suppose this was our first taste and it was so lovely.  After temperatures in the mid-nineties the week before, this was Reward Weather at its finest.  I should have mowed the other half of the yard back home, but I really just wanted to get away and see signs of Fall.  I was not disappointed.

Cherry Leaves

Cherry trees are one of the first to start shedding their leaves, along with the buckeyes, walnuts, and locusts.  The one at my grandmother's house was really lovely.  Roan was still scanning it for cherries, but I  was really happy to see the frenzy of Summer start to fade a little.  It was cool enough to wear my new Fall Blueberry dress!

Swing Place

We went over the mountain from there, headed to the Swing Place.  It was 66° F on the way and the children asked me to put up the windows.  There were buckeyes all along the road with their red leaves and waiting nuts.  Roan got out and said he was cold, but we acclimated soon enough and Laurel was terribly sad to leave.  I made up a couple verses to "She'll be coming round the mountain" that might involve "shedding tears just like a fountain."  No transitional songs would help her with this one (and she wanted to go so high on the swing!), but a package of gum helped a little.

Yellow Fringed Orchid

On our way down, we found this yellow fringed orchid laying in the road, as if someone had picked it and thrown it down.  I took it home and put it in water.  The Turk's cap lily was blooming all down the mountainside, along with the first goldenrod (though I did see one plant last month).  You can see the green goldenrod just waiting all over.  The Summer flowers are shifting to the yellows of Fall.

Apples!

I think I'm going to start calling myself a Property Manager, seriously.  If you're on vacation or getting on in years or have crossed the great divide, I'm your girl.  In addition to the Roland Estate and my bus-travelling grandmother, I've been asked to feed a cat out in the country.  The cat belongs to my grandmother's second husband's brother, yes.  He's got some nice fruit trees and a good-looking woodpile.  These apples look especially optimistic.  I think I canned some of these a couple years ago.  There is so much fruit around just waiting for someone to take it; so much goes to waste.

Pesto Pizza

Here's something that's not going to waste. ;-)  The last of last year's pesto, the roasted tomato sauce, and plenty of fresh tomatoes from the garden.  This was so good.  I should have made three pizzas!  The children gobbled up most of theirs, which just had pesto.  I put the pesto on with a piping bag after the pizzas came out of the oven.  I expect to pick more tomatoes today, so there may be more sauce in the works.  Every day has some big kitchen project.  Maybe I'll take a day off and go look at those apples again.
impossibleway: (Over in the Meadow)
If what the old, old timers used to say about the time after Midsummer is true, I can certainly understand it.  Even with our modern conveniences, nothing can ward off that feeling of mischief in the air that seems to take us by force as the days grow hotter, and just a little bit shorter.  Near the end of my rope (and still making more), I was trying to think of a place that woule please everyone--no grazing cattle, cool temperatures, plenty of room with no big cliffs.  Ahhhh, Whitetop.  It's so big that I can avoid the cliffs (also called the Cupcake Stand with Lemon Squeezer).



I feel better, just looking at the pictures.

Foggy

It was in the mid-sixties and foggy, just perfect.
Folks come to these mountains and are disappointed by the frequent fog.
I just love it.

Wee Blackberries

I checked the blackberries.  Oh, they are tiny!

The Witch

At the end of July, we always think of Halloween.

Hanging the hats

It was even cool enough for hats, though they soon went to holding treasures.

The Cathedral

This spruce cathedral held the most magical campsite.
We're considering spending a night here, since I get the feeling these trees will soon give way to their children below them.

Moss in the Sun

Moss everywhere--a little bit of heaven.

Sunny Mushroom

And it's mushroom season, as well.
This is the prime time to find all kinds of variety.

The Grass House

Willow took to making these grass houses in the meadow outside the woods.
This one has a strawberry plant to feed the wee folk who might move in.

The Happy Place

The grass was so soft and inviting (and yes, tick checks, I know).

My Ring

Willow brough me a Queen Anne's lace ring.

Over in the Meadow

They were just so at peace here, so happy. I made sure we stayed until someone asked to go home. It was getting warmer and the fog was blowing out, but we had such a good time.
impossibleway: (Ranger Brandy)
We had a picnic at Comer's Rock yesterday to celebrate Country Flag Day.  There was talk of camping, but the weather looked wet.  So, we had a fire and leisure and hamburgers without the tent.  The weather is super dry and hot--the rain must be slow in coming!

Smokey's Place

It seemed fitting that we take along the Smokey salt and pepper shakers to season our food.  We sang his song, too, to celebrate.  Call it our form of patriotism.  I pledge allegiance to the trees and to the forests in which they stand. . .

Fire in the Chimney

We made a fire in a very old chimney by the shelter.  It helped to keep the bugs away and got the children interested in collecting sticks of various sizes.  We pretended a little path in the woods led to our coppice.  Roan told me it was my ranger work, and that I can still do ranger things, even though I'm not one any more.

Fireplace

The children played Roxaboxen on the many rocks around the campground.  Roan would put down his head, Willow would knock with a stick, and they would all visit.  Laurel's house was right next door to Roan's.  I used a hollow stump for my big soup cauldron.  It is fun to play.

Roxaboxen


For now, we are having a fairly quiet holiday. The children have challenged me to put on my bathing suit (the first in seven years!) and run through the sprinkler with them. The neighbors are gone, so I think I'll do it!
impossibleway: (Mike Panorama)
Birthday in a bowl, birthday with a bowl, a birthday with berries.  All those.

I think everyone should feel special on their birthday, that their little world and community is truly glad they are here.  That's how I feel and it is so nice.  Everyone needs birthdays, even though they are bittersweet.  I'll never be thirty-two again.  Willow gave me thirty-three kisses yesterday, just like the sweet verse I say to the children.  I will hold onto that as the years pass.

Birthday Bowl

My dear friend Katherine gave me this Pyrex reproduction bowl at our Midsummer Revels last week.  I love the stooked grain and the farmer and his wife.  It is fun to have a special mixing bowl to use, since mixing bowls are such an important part of my days.  Really.  I had no idea what a big deal it would be to discover my favorite Pyrex was covered in lead paint.  I'm happier to know, of course, after the mourning period. ;-)

Playing

We took a long drive to Burke's Garden yesterday, after lunch at a sub and pizza shop.  The children burst out of the car when we got there.  This little play structure (and the camels) are the highlight for them.  Willow's memories of this place go back before Roan was born.  Every time we go, I worry a little that the play area will be too worn down or gone, but it's always been there by the old school.

Birthday Ring

Mike and I moved the picnic table into the shade, though it was hardly hot there.  It was just over seventy degrees.  Perfect!  I think I may seek out the cool places for all my birthdays.  Or maybe when I am over eighty, I will find a sunny spot to celebrate.  Time will tell.

June Birthdays

I love that the school-turned-community center had the June birthdays up.  That is community and I will say that the isolated valley was rather bustling with activity while we were there.  We're making tentative plans to attend their Fall Festival in September.

33 Candles!

Ahh, the cake.  Any time I fussed around the table, the children came running, asking if it was time for cake.  This is a vanilla sheet cake with lemon frosting.  It's a good recipe, though I used half the sugar in the frosting.  It was so windy, of course, that the candles were very hard to light.  We had to go on the school's service porch to get them lit and sing "Happy Birthday."

More Cake!

Laurel, obviously, really liked the cake and frosting and made this face when I told her she couldn't have more.  I gave her more.  She had been wanting cake since she watched me mix up the batter the day before.  The moment I poured it in the pan, she wanted a slice.

Vanilla Sheet Cake with Lemon Frosting

Here was Willow's piece.  We often joke that Roan has the best-looking food.  Yesterday, Willow's took the cake.  ;-)

Sing Through The Day

Mike cleaned up while the I played the flute and the children danced on the little festival stage.  Laurel really loves this lantern song, so I played it numerous times.  I have spent hours singing it to her in her brief time on Earth.  I sing it, "I go outside with my Laurel, my Laurel goes with me. . ."  This book is Sing Through the Day, my birthday gift to myself.  It is a treasure!

Burke's Garden

Mike had to stop to take a picture of this iconic store.  He took a photo of it several years ago and also turned it into a concert poster.  It's too bad it's not open any more, but the general store seems to be shaping up nicely.  There were sixteen loaves of homemade bread in various phases of production when we were there.

Residents

No need to worry about finding people's houses and farms.  Every street has a sign like this at the end.

Fields

There is one paved road and one gravel road leading into the valley.  We took the gravel one out.  It takes quite a bit longer, but it was worth it.  We saw a mother bear and two cubs in the woods.  Roan and Willow were able to see them, too.  I guess that counts as our Nature School for the week.  Today, it's back to the regular routine.  It's time to wash the sheets and mow the yard and eat leftover cake.

Leaving the Garden

As we were leaving Burke's Garden yesterday, Mike teased about leaving me there. Yes, please! I got back in the car, reluctantly. Oh, well. I'll take the memories.
impossibleway: (Mike Panorama)
After a hot and stormy week, I think we are in a spell of perfect weather.  It's cool this morning, but the day will be plenty warm, just like yesterday.  We went to Whitetop to take in the clear skies and quiet fresh air (and to celebrate Mike, of course!).  There were a fair amount of people up there, but we finally found our own place to be--my children are quite accustomed to experiencing their favorite places in solitude.

Mike and Laurel

I suppose if we are giving out "place" names, I suppose we could call this "The Climbing Place."

Tree Climbing

The bulk of our time there, they were climbing.
These big rocks were the main event and the children gave them names,
like in Happy Times in Noisy Village.

Rock Climbing

Laurel was quite the intrepid two-year-old climber.
She sold "pupcakes" from the summit.

Selling Cupcakes

Me, I would call it "The Rambling Place," since that's what it makes me want to do.
I think we may try a Nature School Expedition down to Buzzard Rock this Summer.

Down to Buzzard Rock

I'm looking forward to the shortening days and all the harvesting that lies ahead.
We're back on our daily raspberry picking routine. And with that, Happy Summer Solstice!

Inchworm

Another lovely view
impossibleway: (Ferny Mei Tai)
By the Shore

Blooms

Laurel Bed Lake

Fishing

Partridge Berries

Little Blueberries

Fertile Fronds

Strawberries

Blue Eyed Grass

I saw the first Fall leaves yesterday, as we left this special place teeming with life.  They were locust trees--they always have to do things like that.  It was only about three of them, so I am not too worried.  I blame tent caterpillars.  Nonetheless, we had a wonderful time at the lake in the sky.  It was more than ten degrees cooler up there that it was down here in the valley.  There was something to discover at every turn.  The water was full of baby fish and salamanders.  There were the tiny, ankle-high blackberries, and forthcoming strawberries (we have the mock kind in our yard).  The blueberries are shown with my fairly small finger for scale.  Roan got to see the fertile fronds of ferns and we found the twin flowers of our beloved partridgeberry.  Oh, and there was a swimming snake!

We were all a little sad to leave and a bit soaked to the skin.  Willow had packed everyone a change of clothes, so that was soon fixed.  There was gingerbread and lemonade to keep us going until we got home to a supper of leftovers.  I cooked a lot this past weekend and have yet to make a meal!  I'll have to today, though, and I think the crockpot might be in order.
impossibleway: (Warning)
The children are out in the wild sunshine enjoying a kettle corn picnic this afternoon.  It is wild out there--the winds are swift and the air is cool.  While I feel a little nervous about frost tonight, I do love this kind of weather.  I have to chuckle a little about taking great care in washing all the wool items and undershirts to store them away (and keep them safe from moths!).  Of course, we would need them again!

Ramp

It was 42° F up at Whitetop for the Ramp Festival today.  Sunshine and wind and cold!  It was a happy occasion to be inside for the meal.  Mike opted to have the ramp with his meal.  Me, I passed.

Chicken Dinner

They cook a lot of chicken on a long, long grill.  Laurel loved it.
Roan loves eating things with bones.  And Willow, well, she loved the table full of cakes.

Hot Coals

For once, they were not cooking chicken while we were there!
We did enjoy a quick warm-up by the hot coals.

Potatoes and Ramps

They cook potatoes with ramps for each dinner.  I always have to go and check on them.
Sometimes, the flavor can be quite strong, but they were very good this year.



And here's our local celebrity and luthier, Wayne Henderson, and his band. I was hoping to get a picture of people dancing, but the floor was empty! I looked out at the crowd and it was a bunch of people wrapped in blankets. I can't say I blamed them, but a little flat footing would have warmed them right up.
impossibleway: (Best Resting Place)
New River GorgeWe managed to pull it all together and take our family trip to West Virginia this week.  A change of scenery was helpful, all around.  The paint in the living room dried and we had some good experiences.

Our first stop was the New River National River, where the children began their Junior Ranger work.  They finished with gusto and, the next day at Seneca Rocks, we had our own little ceremony where they received their badges and patches.  They had given me the materials so that we could have it all together in case we didn't stop by the visitor center again.  I did Junior Ranger programs years ago in my time as Ranger Brandy, so it was interesting to be the parent (and "ranger") this time around.

It was windy and snowy on Tuesday morning, a cold 21 degrees.  Like here, the season for visitor centers opening daily is still over a month away.  Still, we enjoyed Seneca Rocks and the West Virginia landscape.  Here, we live in not-quite coal country.  There, well, it is obvious at almost every turn.  Trains and coal and lots of trees.  Lots of steep highways, too, to contrast with our many small winding roads.  We have hopes of going back for an overnight trip (more free lodging!) and seeing some trains.

Driving home, it warmed up the whole way, topping out at 55.  We are due for some snow here, so Winter has not left us entirely.  Mike's spare phone broke as we were getting gas on the way out of town, but he managed to get a free phone to hold him until his screen arrives and he can make the repairs to his old one.  I don't know how he does it, but we are thankful.  Traveling so far from home every single week requires maps and GPS and assistance with hotel stays.  My new grain mill is in the mail on its way here, too!  I have really been missing the home-ground flour, even in this short time.

Our trip wasn't without its challenges and grumpy moments, but I think we made some happy memories.  It's good to be home and in our own beds, as always.  My little tomato plants grew and Laurel ate the ripening strawberry we had!
impossibleway: (Movingthe Soul with Color)
I finished up a sweet trio of rabbits as the Easter sun rose in the sky.  My own little bunnies were up soon after to enjoy them and some pistachios and chocolate eggs.  Around here, there is no bunny to bring treats, but the Tomten usually comes through.  During our weekly Cream of Wheat breakfast, we chatted on the phone withe Mike and his mother before he started on his way home.  He and his sisters had given her a surprise 70th birthday party the day before.

Easter Rabbits

After breakfast and tidying up, the children made turkey sandwiches for us all and we set out on a picnic.  Living in our little town, we can walk many places.  Behind a giant Baptist church (well, giant for us), there's a playground and the oldest cemetery in town (1747).  There's also the oldest public oak, the Royal Oak, for which many businesses take their name.  We sat under the old oak for our sandwiches.

Picnic

I think this captures my three pretty well.  Willow, always so lovely; Roan, with his sly grin; Laurel, on the move with Oreos in hand.  Our picnic reminded me of the essays in Lifeways.  It was a simple affair, but really so enjoyed.  I hope we can repeat it, our own tradition in the cool hopefulness that is Easter.  I want my children to know and feel special places.  There are so many.

Headstone

Most of the stones in the old cemetery were without carvings on them, such as it is with limestone and the like.  It was a time to remember people who have been, in many ways, forgotten.  They, too, were once lovely, mischievous and busy.  They exist in inventories of the local cemeteries, painstakingly researched many years ago by devoted amateur historians.

Spring Beauties

There were thousands upon thousands of Spring Beauties blooming.
The ground was also full of day lilies sprouting up.
This place is so cool and green in the Summer (with a touch of poison ivy).

The First Bride

The Wassum name is prominent in Marion, with their descendents still living here.
The land where our house is was once part of their farm.
There's a lot to think about with this piece of granite.

Balancing

We skipped the playground that day, choosing to utilize the fallen trees, stumps, and logs.
Sometimes, children need just a bit of modeling to see what is there.
Other times, they need nothing at all but open spaces.

Tall Stone

They often ask me to read tombstones for them.
We are not sad about it.  It is what it is.
Life was bursting forth and renewing itself all around us.

Watching the Train

We watched a train for some time, as this little knoll overlooks the tracks (and a defense plant).
The world rushed on around this little forgotten island of ancient oaks.

Peeping

Laurel, that girl.
She was looking in an old woodpecker hole.

Founder

And here's a tribute to the woman who helped preserve the cemetery and the Royal Oak.
Little did I know that I would visit her special place and walk nearly every inch of it looking for my pentatonic flute.
I didn't find it after we got home, so we went back and looked again.
Becky came over and offered to go look, with no luck.

Searching

After Mike got home, I looked for another hour before supper, taking a rake along. I walked in rows, up and down, back and forth. He went back after supper. I called the Baptist church to see if anyone picked it up in the parking lot and turned it in. Nothing yet. I am sentimental about few things, but this really got me. Such sweet flutes the Choroi ones are. I've been planning a recorder post for some time, hoping to weigh in on how they compare and my preferences for teaching music to children. Oh, well. A replacement will be had some time.

On that note, I'll move along.
impossibleway: (Sap Bucket)
The mountains are calling and I must go.
~ John Muir

Snow Drops

We finished up reading Sugaring Time this week and the children and I were thinking about maple syrup.  Roan had been collecting sap from the dogwood tree and boiling it down on the front porch.  I made chocolate chip pancakes for Mike on a rare weekday morning at home.  After lunch, we left Mike at home to just be while we went on a mama-venture.

Collection buckets

We went to the Whitetop community first to see if anyone was at the sugar house.
No one was, so we went back up to Elk Garden.

Brier Ridge and Mount Rogers

This hillside.  I cannot say how many times I have photographed it.
It changes with the seasons, of course, but it is unchanging, too.
Sprinkle my ashes here.  Let the winds carry me away one last time.

Ferns

Roan, who handles details, checked ferns for spores.
He really does remember just the littlest things, like the way Christmas ornaments smell.

Puffball

Willow and Roan took off up that hillside and Laurel and I picked our way along.
Or, puffed our way along.  There were so many!
It made me remember coming here with my dad twenty years ago.

Climbing 1

Laurel would not be outdone by Roan and Willow.
They may have had speed, but she had skill.

Climbing 2

She chose the very rockiest places to climb and did very well.
Only toward the end did she get a littel frustrated and come over to me.
I think this says something interesting about her character and what her life may be.

On the hilltop

When Willow is in a mood to travel, off she goes.
We finally caught up to them here.

In the wind

As we were working our way down, I saw a flash of a truck in the woods.
Sure enough, there was a fire truck with a load of sap coming out!

Sap truck

You can see that we are not wasting governement dollars here.
I told Roan that these firemen make maple syrup, molasses, apple butter and grilled chicken.
He was sold on the idea of becoming one.

Collection tank

We heard an engine in the woods, so we went down the little road to check.
At the collection tank, a pump was running.

Pumping sap

I figured the sap was gravity-fed, but no.
It was spraying into the tank.

Sap pump

Here's the generator and the pump. We'd never seen it run.
My guess is that they turn it on when they have people to collect sap.

Listening

We walked around the tubes for a little bit and I discovered that you could actually hear the sap coming down.  What a special day it was, one to remember like the day we flew the kites.  The children were integrated and happy and full of wonder.  Me, too.  Roan said it was better than fluffing peat moss, which we had done that morning.  Fluffing peat moss (which comes in compressed bales) is better than getting toys or being a cowboy, so I think that is a pretty high compliment.  We closed the day with a campfire to burn up some old, rotten wood and then fell into bed.

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