Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Visit to the Fair

In case you haven't figured it out, I'm a small town girl at heart. I have lived in large cities, small cities, suburbs, and small towns, and the thing that feels the most comfortable to me is the small town. I think that is because that's how I grew up. I now live in the urban sprawl between two large cities, but within that sprawl are pockets of small towns trying to preserve their way of life and I am lucky to be close to two of them. Last weekend one of them had one of those small town events that made me feel at home--the community fair. It's free and fun and close; the perfect combination. If you've been reading here a while, you know that the fair is something I try to participate in every year.
These goats were happy to be petted.

The fair in some ways feels like it is from another time. It's small enough that there's enough room for parking, but big enough that you're bound to see several people you know at any one visit.  The very young to the very old enter things to compete for ribbons. You see vegetables, quilts, photos, Lego creations, eggs, livestock, baked goods, canned goods, etc. all hoping for a ribbon that comes with a cash prize. You can also enter a tractor pull, veggie vehicle races, a pet show, and an ice cream making contest among other things. You can enjoy music from local bands as well as craft demonstrations and a fashion show of homemade outfits. Just picture yourself back with Andy, Opie, and Aunt Bee going to the Mayberry Fair and I think you'll get the idea.

I didn't get many pictures, but here are a few of the things that I enjoyed this year at the fair.

The fair opens Friday morning to school groups. I worked this year with the children's librarian during their visits.  The kids loved her Man-in-the-Yellow-Hat costume from the Curious George books as well as her monkey puppet.

The inside exhibits are in the Fire Department's activities buildings. I entered green beans, herbs, flowers, and a photo. I got a variety of  ribbons from these entries as well as no ribbons on some. If you squint, you can see my basil in the background that got a second place.

Uncle Billy was on vacation, but he told me it was okay if I entered some onions for him.

I always like looking at the needlework section. In the past I've won ribbons in this department for some of my knitting and x-stitch but this year I did make anything that I could enter. 

The fire department always has a truck or two there for kids to explore until there's a call. Then they're off!

However, the giant John Deere tractor doesn't go anywhere. Most of the people in this crowd are waiting on their kids who are exploring the tractor. They are also looking at the jazz band playing to the right and some are talking to neighbors. This is a fairly typical scene. Later that night it was more crowded, but never uncomfortably so.

I always find the chickens on display interesting because of the variety of bright colors they have.

There were several baby animals on display. Among them were a lamb and its mother.

As well as a donkey foal and its mother.

So there is a brief visit to the fair with me. Maybe next year, I'll show you some of the food traditions. In the meantime, I should get busy making things I can enter next year.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Thankful Sunday, September 10, 2017

I am thankful for shelter.

The hurricane activity this season has been a good reminder of how very lucky I am to be safe and dry with a roof over my head. As we have seen, not all are so lucky. The last few days I have been hearing the story of one of those unlucky families and I've shared some of it below. Communication has been very difficult since the hurricane, so some of the details are sketchy.
Melanie and her sister at my wedding. 

Melanie is the daughter of friends and I was her constant babysitter when I was in college. She was adorable and we had a lot of fun together. Now Melanie is all grown up and married with with 4 children of her own. She lives in the U.S Virgin Islands on St. John. Or she used to. Irma wiped away everything she and her family had. Luckily, no one was hurt, but they had no where to go after the storm except into a van that some how had miraculously survived.

The main concern for them is to get off the island before Jose comes barreling through. Easier said than done. The local airport had some damage making flying iffy at best. The first flight they could possibly get out would be on Tuesday. In the meantime, the family got on a chartered boat with others to Puerto Rico hoping to fly to the US from there. However, Puerto Rico is having enough problems of their own and refused to let them enter. The boat had to turn around in the middle of the night for a 3 hour trip to St. Croix. There they got a hotel room and it was the first time they had a place to sleep and bathe since the hurricane hit. Now they have tickets to fly out of St. Croix on Friday to Texas where her in-laws live. Here's hoping for the best that that actually happens.

What you don't get from my telling of Melanie's story above is the desperation that you hear in her families' pleas for information. The anger and panic you hear when plan after plan falls through. And imagining what it must be like for those four children ages 8 months to 11 years old as they are going through this very scary, difficult situation.

Melanie and her family have survived and will be able to move forward with the good family and friend support they have.*  It's going to be a long road, but they will make it.

So for the shelter I am so lucky to have and the shelter that Melanie and her family found last night, I am thankful.

*Presently, there's a Go Fund Me drive to help buy plane tickets for them. The tickets are about $2-3000 each.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017


We are hearing a lot these days about disasters around our country and the help that is needed as a result of them. Front and center are the fires in the west and the hurricanes in the Gulf and Atlantic. The devastation of it all is overwhelming to see and hear about.

A few of the supplies I'm collecting for the hygiene kits.
But that's not all that is catching my attention. I look around and see local children who need things for school and animal shelters that need help to care for abandoned animals. When I turn on the radio, I hear about people around the world dying by the thousands in earthquakes and typhoons, as well as losing their life trying to escape corrupt governments. At home, I see a neighbor who has just lost her husband and the child who needs attention that they aren't getting at home. I see the nursing home residents who could use a visit.

The needs of the world are endless and this overwhelms me. So what do I do when I'm inundated with all of these cries for help? I try to just do something. Tune out the rest and focus on one thing at a time. If I don't do this, I become immobilized and don't do anything.

My current focus is on Hurricane Harvey. I lived in Houston for ten years before moving to Maryland and I still have several friends there. I watched as Harvey wreaked havoc on familiar areas and felt that I needed to help in some way. There are many ways to do that, but I have chosen something concrete.

I am making, with friends and family's help, hygiene kits that have been requested by my church's relief organization, UMCOR. These are standard kits with soap, toothbrush, towel, etc. that are given out around the world and are much needed in the Houston and surrounding areas. I hope there will not be a great need for them with Hurricane Irma, but the kits can also help there.

So besides trying to be kind and respectful to others in every day life, focusing on one thing at a time is how I try to help in my small way. Sometimes it is putting together hygiene kits, sometimes it's making a monetary donation, and sometimes it may be writing a letter to an elderly relative. I try not to overthink things, which is my normal mode of operation. and just take some kind of action. That's what works for me. How do you handle the overwhelming needs of others that surround you?

Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Second Look--August 31, 2017

This yard is a little less wild than the last one, so on the surface it seems as if it's not as interesting. But all I have to do is look and sometimes take a Second Look, and there are interesting bits of nature everywhere.

Here are a few of those things that I saw recently in my yard.

After taking a break during the heat, the osteospormum are blooming again.

Besides the purple, I have two other colors of them.

This sedum came from a small volunteer that was in the middle of some lily of the valley a friend gave me. I planted it and the sedum has established itself and started to bloom.

And speaking of volunteers, this dill plant came seemingly out of nowhere. I'm hoping to collect the seeds and have several plants next year.

As far as herbs go, the basil is doing very well. You can see the variegated plant is pretty tall and the globe one is growing well, also. (I trimmed all of the blossoms off of it after I took this picture.) Some of the other herbs are just barely surviving. I think it's all due to location, location, location. I'll have some better ideas where to plant them next year. 
Note: The blue yard stick is approximately 1 meter long. 

While cleaning out one of the beds, I uncovered some day lilies enough for one of them to bloom.

The purple sage has started to bloom again and the skipper butterflies are enjoying them. Notice the butterfly's proboscis arching out of its head into the flower for a drink of nectar.

And in this picture you can see actually where it's coming out in the front.

I find it interesting that bumble bee's proboscis is shaped very differently from the butterfly's. It has a shorter, stouter one that can not get into as many flowers. However, it has somewhat made up for this by having a triangular shaped head that will go further into the blossoms.
You may remember this picture from another Second Look. In that one, I noted the yellow pollen baskets on the bee's back legs.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Thankful Sunday--August 27, 2017

I am thankful to be able to dig in the dirt.

When the weather permits, I've been trying to uncover a couple of flower beds around my house. Both are covered with invasive weeds and this has been the first step in determining if the beds can be saved or need to be totally reworked. As I've been pulling and digging weeds, I have been enjoying some of nature's curiosities that I am finding.  So for the chance to dig in the dirt and discover bits of nature, I am thankful.

Below are pictures of some of the things I found.

I was totally fascinated by this white thing that looked a like bean sprouting. I left it to see what was going to happen with it.

Five days later, this is what I found. Then it dawned on me. It was a violet seed pod. It was ghostly white when I found it because it had been so covered with weeds and no exposure to the sun. All of these seeds from one pod helps to explain why there are violets everywhere.

In the same bed, I found these marble-sized white balls with root-like ends. I was pretty sure they were some kind of fungus and an internet search confirmed that. They were immature fruit bodies of the stinkhorn fungus.

If there was any doubt about the identification, it was validated a week later when I found these mature stinkhorn fungi growing in the same place. They were supposed to be really stinky, but I didn't notice anything.

I first noticed some cicada skeletons on the underside of some leave that were trimmed. Then I started to notice them everywhere. Apparently we've had an unexpected emergence of cicadas here this year. 

In another bed, I found this sluggish woolly bear. Soon we should be seeing a lot more of them traveling to find a place to hibernate for the winter.

A few minutes later, I found this tiger moth which is what a woolly bear caterpillar grows into. I'm not sure if there's a relationship between the two I saw, but it was a pretty cool association.

This little leaf hopper was hiding among the leaves. I uncovered it with my weeding.

When I stood back to view my progress, I noticed this piece of bark that had wrapped itself around a branch. It had literally exploded off a nearby tree that was hit by lightning recently.

Today I hope I get a chance to enjoy the nice weather and do a little more digging. Just hope my back holds out.  :)

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Anticipation and Annoyance

As the sun peaked into the bedroom this morning, I stirred with excitement and anticipation of the eclipse today. While many are getting tired of the hype it is getting, I'm not. This solar eclipse is another reminder of the power that nature has. Plus, how cool is it that it is going to be dark in the middle of the day.

Eclipse shadows on the sidewalk.
That's the beginning of a post I wrote yesterday. I was very excited with anticipation of the solar eclipse that was going to happen. After that beginning, I was going to develop a theme of how anticipation is sometimes the best part of an event. Yesterday may have been an exception to that as I was totally awed by watching the sun disappear.

However as I sat down to finish this morning, I just got over the whole eclipse thing. It went from being awe inspiring to annoying. What did that for me? When I first started the computer, one of my news feeds reported that Sarah Jessica Parker said that the eclipse was a life changing experience for her. Good for her. She seems to be a nice enough person and that's sounds important for her. But I don't care. That little item took away from my "after the eclipse glow." I guess that it because the reporting had gone away from the actual event to inventing news about how celebrities felt about the event.

So I need an attitude adjustment. I need to be annoyed with the "news" and remember how excited I truly was with yesterday's celestial events.  I viewed the eclipse at home with Ward and Theo and we had no parties or no special refreshments, just solar glasses and clouds that parted enough times to give us several views of the disappearing sun. Although we didn't experience a total eclipse (we had 82% coverage), it was magical all the same.

That's what I need to remember and my ramblings here have helped with that. Thanks for listening.

Note: I guess I'm avoiding the real subject here--the state of the news today. Don't get me started on that anger-inducing subject because I'm smiling about the eclipse again and I don't want to ruin it.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Thankful Sunday--August 8, 2017

I am thankful for creative people. 

Recently, I've seen several things that have caught my fancy and made me smile. There are some pretty creative people out there thinking up these things. For these creative minds and what they produce, I am thankful.

Here are a few of them.

The summer reading theme this year at our library is "Build a Better World". We have gone with the building theme in several ways and here is one of them.  Various staff and volunteers built an igloo from milk jugs. It is big enough that most adults can stand up inside. The kids love it in there and the adults are grunting a bit as they crawl in and out (me included).

The inside is my favorite part of the igloo. The milk jug lids give it an unexpected look.

My son, Theo, and I recently took a walk through a marsh where we found this fun bench. It's a little hard to make out the details, but notice the ripples on the seat and the two duck bottoms above them. It looks like the ducks are diving underwater. Very cute.

Here's the creative part. When we looked under the bench, we saw the heads of the two diving ducks. That was definitely a fun discovery.

Last weekend, my niece got married and had an outdoor reception. She decided it would probably be too hot for cake, so she had cookies instead. They were all made by another very creative aunt of hers. Everyone especially smiled at these bride and groom sugar cookies she made.

She also made some very elaborate cookies that had to be slowly baked in a spring form mold. They were very impressive and tasty. Some of you out there probably know the name for these German cookies. I can't remember it.

Now I'm going to toot my own horn. This is something that I made for a storytime about elephants. Remember the song, Five little elephants went out to play, Out on a spider's web one day...? I used this for that song. What I'm happy about is this was very simple to assemble, and I was able to use things I had around the house. The base, where the pink elephants are, is a ice holder from the freezer we no longer use. The spider's web is on an old piece of foam core we had and it is friction fitted to the base with an piece of packing Styrofoam we got with our new freezer. I was very pleased that it was light weight and very stable. I didn't actually have the elephants laying around. They are puppy chew toys I ordered. I am going to donate them to a shelter when I'm done.

A volunteer sunflower on my deck. Wasn't I creative to happen to have a planter below the birdfeeder, to give the dropped birdseed a place to sprout? :) As usually happens with volunteer plants, this one is doing much better than the sunflowers I formally planted.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Piece of Local History

Remember the school house at the end of one of our recent hikes? After two years of good intentions, we actually got to see inside. We scheduled a hike there last Sunday--one of only a few afternoons a year that it's open. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you put something on the calendar.

The one room school was built in 1893 and served the surrounding rural, farming area. Eventually, they started to bus kids to schools in town and closed it in 1935. BTW, the buses were horse drawn buggies. At the time of restoration, they were able to get several oral histories of what the school was like in the 1920's and the school was restored to that time period.

Two very knowledgeable volunteers led the informal tour. You could tell that they were passionate about history and made the tour interesting for both the young and old. They were especially good with the kids who were fascinated with the chalk board and the school bell. We enjoyed not only learning about the school, but the history of the surrounding area also.

Here are a few pictures of our visit.

The school was nicknamed the Froggy Hollow School because of all the frogs you could hear from the creek in front of the school. The school also served as a community center. 

The school had to have a minimum of 12 pupils for the county to support it. Attendance was usually somewhere between 20--30 students which would have made this room a lot more crowded than what you see here.

Typical school day. What I found interesting was this was the same exact recess schedule I had in first grade. 

If you can read through the reflections, you see that this pledge is different than the one we say today. You don't see the "under God" which is currently getting a lot of buzz, but there was another change that I hadn't realized.  In 1923 "my flag" changed to "the flag of United States of America" so it would not be confusing to the large influx of immigrants. Actually, the pledge has fairly complex history, that's worth a read if you're interested in that kind of thing.

Unlike today, learning cursive writing was an important lesson. When the students were working on that, the teaches blocked the windows on one side of the room so the hand with the pencil in it (always the right one) would not cast a shadow on the paper. That way you could see clearly to do your best. 

During this time period, there were separate schools for the blacks and whites. The kids eyes got big as the guide told them that when books became tattered in the white schools, they were sent to the black schools for their textbooks.

Does anyone else remember one of these? The teacher used it to draw lines on the blackboard for music and writing lessons.

We had a nice afternoon with a pleasant walk and an interesting visit to the school. However, it did feel a little strange to tour a school from almost a century ago and find some things there that I also had in school. I know I get older every year, but I'm not quite that old yet. :)

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Thankful Sunday--July 30, 2017

I am thankful for new discoveries.

You have probably figured out by now that I like to take hikes. Yesterday, Ward and I discovered another place close by to do this. It was at a park that we had driven by many times but never noticed until a friend told us about it.
We found a restored caboose at the end of the trail.

In the morning when there was a break in the rain, Ward and I took off to explore the park. It was an all purpose park with paved walking paths, a dog park, sports fields, and tennis courts. But the best part of it for us was the Rail to Trail trail that ran through it. In case you haven't heard of them, rail trails are old, unused railroad tracks that have been converted into trails for walking, biking, and sometimes horseback riding.

The trail ran through steep, rocky hills with lush vegetation and was very peaceful. We didn't have a map, so we just hiked along wondering where the trail was going to go. And guess what? It ended at an old railroad depot. If either of us had been thinking, we might have figured that out. But I'm glad we didn't because our Ah-ha moment was fun even though we felt a little silly.

Not surprisingly, the old depot was in the middle of the historic part of town and presented all kinds of future possibilities. Walking into town to get spots for the town's parades and fireworks. Taking a walk into town for browsing old shops or having lunch. A pleasant hike, then exploring the town's historic buildings.

So for this new discovery and all of the possibilities it holds, I am thankful.

Below are a few pictures for our walk.

Some places you could see the old rails still in place.

There were benches along the way, as well as, plenty of outcroppings of rock. 

With ferns growing out of some of them.

There were several kinds of wildflowers blooming.

And a rabbit who was not very afraid of us.

At the end of the trail was this railroad depot and caboose. Today the depot houses several shops.

And there were historic signs where we learned a little more about our new community.