Monday, July 24, 2017

Exploding Trees and Baby Robins

The thunder roared
The lightning flashed
A tree fell down
And a fence got smashed.

I think by now that you have probably figured out that we had a tree hit by lightning last Monday. Thankfully, there were no fires, no trees on houses, and no one was hurt, but it was exciting all the same.

It was 2 o'clock in the afternoon and I was engrossed in a book. Earlier we had had a brief rain storm that didn't amount to much. Soon, the sun was coming back out and it looked like everything was clearing. All that was left were a few rumblings in distance.

Then all at once there was a bright flash--hurt your eyes kind of bright flash--and the loudest crack of thunder I had ever heard--simultaneously. No counting seconds between this thunder and lightning to see how far away the storm was. It was on top of us. I sprung out of my chair to see what had happened with a huge surge of adrenaline and a rapidly beating heart. I knew there had to be a lightning strike somewhere close.

Meanwhile, Theo, who was in the basement, came upstairs and asked what was going on up here. He heard the crack and said then lights went out in his room. At the same time, he also felt a tingle go up his arm. We then looked to see if something were on fire because we smelled an electrical burning smell. Luckily, we found no fire.  While we were searching, the neighbor came over to tell us that one of our trees had been hit by lightning. So now I knew where it hit.

Later, we started to understand more of what had happened. Although the lightning technically didn't strike our house, it certainly affected our house. First it totally fried our telephone, internet, and cable service so we were without those for a couple of days. When that got fixed, we figured out that our TV was fried, too. When we tried to move another TV into the spot, we figured out that there were additional problems that hadn't been fixed. We have to have someone out again to take a look at that.

In the meantime, I thought my hair dryer was broken, but it turns the circuit I had it plugged into, didn't work anymore. Luckily Ward was able to fix that with some rewiring. However, today we found another circuit that is also not working along with the fan on our radon remediation system. I'll start calling tomorrow to find people to come fix the latest problems we found. This lightning strike is the gift that just keeps on giving as our neighbor had his TV system fried also.

The tree is definitely not going to survive this, so we've started to get estimates on taking it down. I hope we're done finding the damage and we can just concentrate on fixing things.

Here's the take away from all of this. The lightning seemed to come out of nowhere. The storm was not close. I had always heard that you need to be careful because lightning can strike as far away as ten miles from a storm but I've not always paid attention to that warning. I've seen that happen now for myself and I'm going to be more careful. I encourage you to, also.

As for the baby robins, since I last talked to you, I've seen the robin eggs hatch, the babies grow and leave the nest. It all seemed to happen so fast. Apparently, it was. Robins leave the nest almost a week sooner than wrens and bluebirds--the birds I'm more familiar with. Watching the baby robins has been exciting, but in an entirely different way than the lightning strike. And that's good because I have had quite my fill of excitement for the week.

Here are a few pictures of the recent happenings.

After the lightning strike, the top of the tree was just gone. Most of the branches landed fairly close, but the bark that blew off was strewn farther afield.

The tree used to be twice this tall.

Some of the branches were charred from the heat.

On other fronts, we watched the progression of some baby robins. When we last saw them, they were still in the egg.

They were born on July 10.

One short week later, they had most of their feathers.

Two days later, they were out of the nest. I actually saw this one leave. It really couldn't fly although it was trying. It awkwardly hopped along flapping it's wings and occasionally got its feet off the ground.

It was really still just a baby.

And its mother was watching close by.

So that's the excitement recently. Also, I've taken on some extra projects at work that are going to have me pretty busy during the next month. But I hope to check in then and again.

Until next time...

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Back Soon

Things have been busy here including no internet for a few days. I'll be back soon to show you some cute baby robin pictures as well as a pine tree with its top blown off by lightning.

Until then...

Thursday, July 13, 2017

To There and Back Again, Part 2

Yesterday, I told you about the first part of my recent trip to West Virginia. Here is Part 2.

As you may remember, we visited Blackwater Falls on our way home.

We spent the night at the nearby Canaan Valley State Park lodge. 

The next morning we took the ski lift up to Bald Knob. This was a bit out of my comfort zone as I am afraid of heights.

After we got off of the chairlift, we had another mile to hike to get to the summit. The first part of the trail was in dappled sun.

I like these kind of forests--not much brush, but lots of moss and ferns.

As we got near the top, we went out of the trees and into an area that was covered with wild blueberries. Unfortunately, we didn't find many. However, the family with 7 kids who got there before us did find several containers full. 

The summit was at 4308 feet (1313 meters) and had great views of the valley and the mountains beyond.

Ward enjoyed the view, also.

On the way back down we saw a lot of butterflies on the sunny part of the trail, like this one.

And this one on the bear droppings.

And these two who were involved in some kind of mating dance.

We rode the chairlift again and Ward studied the engineering of the whole thing.

Then we got on the road to drive the rest of the way home. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

To There and Back Again

As I mentioned last time, I was recently in West Virginia visiting with my mother. Here are a few pictures from the trip.

Although we drove through rain most of the way, were still able to make decent time--7 hours with stops.

It was still raining when we got there, so we spent a while outside with my mother just listening to and watching the rain. It was very pleasant and yet another thing that you don't think about missing until you realize it through someone else's perspective.

My mother's nursing home is on a hill surrounded by woods. There is a paved walking path outside that we took her on 2-3 times a day. We saw lots of birds, bunnies, deer, and this millipede. After seeing this creepy-crawly, I figured out the difference between a centipede and a millipede. Centipedes usually have one pair of legs attached to each segment. Millipedes usually have two pair of legs attached to each segment. If you look carefully at the picture, you will see two legs attached to each part. Sometimes of them are together and sometimes of them are apart 

Every time we go to visit my mother, we sort through some of the things in her house. This time I found old papers containing this Easter Card I made in 3rd grade. The interesting thing about all of this sorting is just when we think we have found all of something, we find more. Just like I thought I had already gone through all of my things and then found more of them this time.

We decided to take the back way home and make a few stops along the way. The main destination was Blackwater Falls. This is where Ward and I spent our honeymoon, so to speak. A better description would be this is where we spent our wedding night and was the first stop on our 3-day drive to New Orleans where we were going to live. Neither of us remember much about that time other than how tired we were. So we wanted to visit the falls when we had time to relax and enjoy them.

We also saw rhododendron in the woods. Rhododendron is native to West Virginia and became the state flower in 1903.

This is the base of a rhododendron and it brought back memories of geology field camp. There were huge thickets of rhododendron, so large that you couldn't find a way around them, so you had to go through them. However, the branches were just big enough that you couldn't bend them but big enough you couldn't break them making the traverse quite difficult. Oh, and to top it all off, there were usually greenbrier vines with thorns laced through out. Fun, fun.

There's the first part of the trip. Tomorrow, I'll show you the rest. Until then...

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Second Look--July 6, 2017

Hello from the great state of West Virginia. In other words, I'm visiting my mother. I had meant to post this Second Look before I left, but didn't find the time. So, I added the pictures and said I would finish it up when I got here. As always, the visits are a jam-packed whirlwind and the post didn't happen.

This morning we leave for the drive back. We're taking the scenic route which means we're taking two days to drive the back roads so we may not have internet access. And that all means, I am determined to get this published before we leave. Now I just hope Ward doesn't notice that I'm here on the computer after I emphasized how we need to work hard to get packed and ready to go before we have breakfast with my mother this morning.

Without further ramblings, here are a few things I saw recently during a Second Look.

The orange day lilies have bloomed. These are a little fancier than the standard day lilies as they have double blossoms.

The sunflowers have started to bloom. You may notice that the Japanese beetles have found their leaves.

I planted Fat Horse pole beans between the sunflowers and they have sprouted. I plan to let the beans climb the stems of the sunflowers.

These flowers were an impulse buy from the bargain bin. Now if I could only figure out what they are.

After a recent rain, wild asparagus sprang up in two places.

This is an oak log that was impregnated with mushroom spores to grow mushrooms for eating. It was a gift from friends who do this to earn extra money. However, I've never seen this kind of growth before and I'm curious to see what it turns into.

Who can ID these flowers for me?  I don't know if they're considered a weed or have just escaped from someone's yard.  I see them in several places in my yard.

The wren eggs have hatched.

Look how much they've grown in three days. Notice how much they fill up the nest cavity in each picture.

The robin is still sitting on her eggs. However, there are only three in the nest now. Last week there were four.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

July 3rd Fireworks

Last night, Ward and I had planned to have a low-key evening at home. Instead we got the go-fever, as my mother used to say, and jumped in the car in search of the town's fireworks. Another way to have fun in our new community, we thought.

We saw a nice sunset while waiting on the fireworks.
As we approached town, we started seeing people lining the streets and parking lots much sooner than we expected. Not a good sign. However, we kept going. Ward was convinced that there would still be room at the fire department's fairgrounds were the fireworks were being set off. Well, he was wrong. The parking was lot full, the surrounding parking lots were full, the roadsides were full, and we were stuck in traffic. Now our main goal was to find our way home or our way back to the less crowded areas we had seen earlier.  However, there wasn't much choice in which way we could go when we were able to move. At one point, we decided that it wouldn't be so bad to watch the show from our car if we were stuck in traffic when the fireworks began.

We inched our way along and eventually were out of the mass of traffic. However we were seeing fewer and fewer people along the way and we took that as a bad sign. At this point, we were just hoping that one of these streets would lead us out to some kind of a main road where we could eventually find our way home. No such luck.

We decided to turn around in a gravel parking lot and lo and behold, what did we see? A couple of groups of people in lawn chairs waiting for the fireworks. After a bit of questioning to determine that was indeed what they were there for, we decided to join them. We spent a very pleasant hour talking with them, watching their kids turn cartwheels, and listening to 70's music while waiting for the show to begin.  They said that they had found this place last year and came back because it worked so well.

Right on schedule, the show began at 9:30 pm, and we had a great view. For the next 20 minutes we watched the sky light up with bright, beautiful colors. Next year, we plan to go to the same spot. Selfishly, we hope no one else finds it.

And how was the traffic on our trip home, you may ask? Can you say traffic jam? We caught up to the traffic jam soon enough, but everyone was polite, and we found some good music on the radio. Not such a bad ending to a very satisfying evening.

Happy Fourth of July!  

Here's a little of what we saw last night.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Second Look--June 27, 2017

The weather recently has been fluctuating from pleasant to sweltering with a little rain thrown in here and there. Most of the plants have been thriving, except the two apple trees whose leaves are curling. The unofficial opinion from Uncle Billy is that all of the new growth, which was a result of the spring pruning, is stressed from the extreme heat days we've been having. Sort of like frost burn in reverse. The trees are big enough that it would be hard to implement a treatment so I'm just hoping that whatever is going on is not fatal
The front porch rockers are Ward's favorite
 place to watch the birds. I'm still deciding on mine.

On other fronts, the birds are giving quite a show as they seem to be very abundant. We are enjoying them from our windows, porch, deck, and yard--meaning we are trying out different lounging places at our new house to see what we like best at different times of the day. So far, each spot has something to offer and it's been fun conducting our tests.

When we are birdwatching, Ward swears that there are more birds here than at our old house. I think that there's just not as many trees for them to hide in, so we see them more. Maybe we're both right because my neighbor told me that there were more birds than usual this year--lightning bugs, too. Whatever the case, I'm happy.

Here are few things I saw recently 
during a Second Look.

The nadina buds are opening.

On the nadina next to the one above, I saw a bumblebee with these large yellow bumps on its sides. I didn't remember seeing anything like them before and learned that they are called pollen baskets. The baskets are indentations with special hairs on the sides of the bee's back legs and they use them to store pollen until the bee takes it back to the hive. 

A couple of yellow day lilies have bloomed. I think there are some orange ones (according to the neighbors) around the corner from this, but they look very stressed from the recent heat. We'll see if they bloom, but I'm guessing they will. 

A catbird stops by the deck most days for a bath. He almost empties the bath each time with his splashing.

The wren's nest finally has eggs in it. 

We found a robin's nest with intact eggs after previously finding three different ones on the ground. One of those had egg shells in it from recently eaten eggs. This nest is under our deck and hopefully is protected from predators.