Tuesday, April 21, 2009

West Virginia

I guess someone made a joke about leaving him behind? 

The barn studio isn't quite done. They just got the keys and will be adding some stone to the bottom & landscaping this summer. 

We had the pleasure of a brief trip to West Virginia recently. Peter and Tom have a handsome cabin up there and they have just added a studio barn to the compound. Trees leaves are still not out yet but the gray bark and moss covered grounds made a soft backdrop for the white service berry blossoms and yellow narcissus. We spent down time rocking on the front porch and a later around a bonfire in a rusty kettle under a moon lit  sky watching stars and the passing clouds. It was fun chatting with the hosts and the next door neighbors who are building their cabin house themselves who dropped by to visit.  
We heard stories and earlier in the day inspected  the site where neighboring French kids with matches set fire to a hollow tree and the leaves on the lee side of the hill the day before we arrived. There was lots of excitement about fire and the crew come miles up into the back country for a children's' forest fire. Their old hollow tree had to be cut down and divided into sections to extinguish all the embers burning inside of the natural made chimney. Someone's daddy is going to get a bill for that handy service, so we hear. Rain came the third day of our visit and brought some much needed wet to the mossy forest floor. 
The flowering service berry trees are lower story tree and remain short and kind of delicate in the shade of the taller hardwood trees much like dogwoods and redbuds in the wild which bloom later. The white blooms are named to mark the return of the traveling ministers that long ago visited once a month during  fair traveling weather to small mountain communities cut off by winter storms and snow. Visiting West Virginia always reminds me of my family's Appalachian mountain roots and my visits there as a child. WETA one of our Public Television stations  in Washington, DC has been showing a four part series of programs on Monday evenings at 10:30 PM which I have enjoyed the past two weeks. Keith and I are both learning things we didn't know and refreshing some we did know. Cherokee Indians are featured a lot in the stories about Indian peoples who inhabited the forest before and after white men came. They say everyone up in the hills is related to the Indians including my father's family so whites didn't get rid of them entirely but they sure misused them and their environment.
I took a 30 second 360ยบ view video from the driveway while I was there. 
Click this link to see it play on the weblog. 

You will be notice lots of rusty metal stuff around the artist's retreat because my friend and host Peter Wood is a metal sculptor who specializes in making his art works rusty! Visit his website  http://www.rustymetal.com/
to learn more about his work. We are discussing a two day event this October to show and sell our work together again called Light In October. More about that to come as time draws nearer. 
We all visited charming Berkley Springs on the last day we were in West VA where I really enjoyed a rare Book and Paper exhibition at the Ice House. The last time I visited the Ice House they had a show of quilts. Peter has large and small works available there year round. Then we went to the bird seed store and got our very own House Wren House which can be reused year after year. It has a trap door in the bottom to remove the small twigs every season so the male will be happy to come back and show off his skills to the discerning females who judge him on his song and nest building skills. It now hangs in our short lilac tree where the gourds have been for the past few years. 
Finally a fireside video... "dueling cameras" are me and Keith both shooting pictures of the fire at the same time. It is such a rare treat for us to see one, we both had the same reaction, "take a picture!"

Friday, April 17, 2009

Mother goes green for earth day

redbud flowers

I am just home from a trip to Manassas where I did laundry and errands and enjoyed the rain then a great day of sunshine with cool air and spring flowers. Mom decided that lawn care service last year was too expensive and that she wanted to try mowing her own yard with a new electric battery powered lawn mower. She ordered a small Neutron mower with a little encouragement from her best pal Mildred who has been doing her own with the same type of green mower for years. It was very exciting to see it work so well. I am still a little apprehensive about my mother who has some mobility problems pushing a lawn mower. Today we did it together while we both learned the way it works. We were glad the battery charge only lasts an hour. So to mark this wonderful day and my brave mother of mine,  I got her to model the mower for my camera in a brief video. Now if all goes well, she will be saving hundreds of dollars on lawn care with the big bonus of sparkling clean air, significantly reduced motor noise and free exercise. Hip hip hooray 
Also note that the lovely dogwood is just begun blooming and in the distant back ground a tall red bud.

Here in the movie you can see the flowering trees and the mom in action in the last bit of the front yard. You know you can only see this video if you are reading on the Orange Explains it all web-log 

Thursday, April 2, 2009

yellow bellied sap sucker ?

woodpecker's holes

This past few days, looking out our north facing window perched on two white cedar tree trunks, I have been watching the most amazing bird. A woodpecker.  After I noticed it was returning to the same tree over and over I took the trouble to wash my window and raise the blind to have a better view. I wanted to photograph this migratory traveler less than ten feet from my desktop. It is a speckled bird with a red patch on it's head and a short pointed beak. I  looked it up knowing it was a woodpecker but not which variety. Two are common in our area that look sort of like this one: the downy woodpecker and the hairy woodpecker. It's markings  are not yet fully developed making the identification more difficult. Yellow bellied sap sucker adolescents keep youthful feathers all through the first winter. Spring is pretty much here now and I think this fellow is mature enough to have partial markings of an adult but the behavior is clearly that of a yellow bellied sap sucker. The Yellow Bellied Sap Sucker is a name common to us cartoon watching adults from the old Bugs Bunny character Yosemite Sam (short angry guy with a big red moustache and a couple of six shooters) who always called Bugs a "yellow bellied sap sucker"intended to belittle him, poor rabbit Sam hated rabbits. It was funny as a kid but now I am sitting looking at a real yellow bellied sap sucker out my window for the fourth day in a row. The behavior I refer to above is that the sap sucker drills series of holes in a a row on a tree to collect sap. They drill and wait for the rich sap to run which they then lap up and they also eat bugs that are attracted to the sap. Other wood peckers don't have this talent to draw the sap out of the tree. The sap sucker doesn't dig deep, only far enough to get to the layer just below the bark where this sap flows down from the leaves to feed other parts of the tree.  I have seen the local squirrels come chase the bird away and lick the sap off the tree trunk too. It must be full of rich nutrients. The article I read on Smithsonian National Zoological Park explains the whole mystery of how they feed themselves on sap and has another gallery of photos which includes babies and fully mature adults, male and female. 

I really enjoy the birds that come to visit us here in the city. The more exotic ones especially inspired me to keep looking more carefully and to use binoculars and a book to help identify which ones were in my area. I was surprised how many there when you bother to look and listen carefully. Sparrows come in many varieties, starlings change colors throughout the year, Crows one of my favorites travel in pairs when they are mature and in flocks or "murders" when they are adolescents before they mate for life. I think people tend to over look birds and many exotic songbirds get get lost in the mix of common city birds. I recall once noticing a blackish bird on the median strip of route 66 one day when I was stuck in rush hour traffic moving inches per hour rather than miles per hour. I saw one that had a brown head but was in a crowd of blackish starlings which do not have  brown heads. I came home straight away and pulled out my bird book and hunted for a brown headed black bird. It was a cow bird and since I know what it looks like now I see them more often. Before these cowbirds were just another starling to my lazy unobservant eye. 

This is a video of the yellow bellied sap sucker on our cedar tree today. Twelve seconds of a bird watching a man in a window. To see it you have to follow this link to the webpage where it is posted on the blog.