Friday, August 28, 2009

Barnstorming for Sky Watch Friday

There is just something about a barn that shouts character and charm for me. Maybe it's the association with horses and sawdust, leather and weathered wood, or hay and grain. A barn is a feast for the senses.


I love living in the country and watching how the seasons stitch the hues of planting, cultivating and harvest together to form nature's own quilt out of reds, blues, yellows, greens.

The colors of the rainbow.


And in and around it all is the barn. My city childhood was often lost in dreams of playing in a barn loft, hiding in the hay, hearing the crunching sounds of a hungry horse meditatively chewing timothy hay below. We have a small barn here at Iron Acres. In the last 17 years it has known the joy of kidding, kittens, hatching peeps, escaped bunny corralling, and endless rounds of storing hay up for the winter and feeding it out until spring.


Our little barn is empty now, but the loft is still a wonderful place to hide...


...and to dream...

(for more pictures of dreamy skies from all over the earth, dream awhile at Sky Watch Friday.)


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

McConnell's Mill

I love water,


I love sky,


and I love bright colors.

It's such a treat to find them all together (and an old mill, and a covered bridge, oh my!). My OR(off roading) BFF, her dog Kolby and I went on a little explore in the woods at McConnell's Mill yesterday. It was my first visit there, and it was awesome! Why I hadn't made it there sooner, I'll never know.

The water was still, the sky was blue, and we happened upon some kayakers.


They certainly make it look easy, and a lot of fun. But I was assured this is no course for beginners. Those still waters go over a dam and then grow very agitated.

And there are rocks. Lots of rocks. Mossy covered rocks, slippery stepping stones, huge boulders, rock caves. We marveled at the abundance of huge trees that had found a way to root themselves in and among those rocks.


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It's a geological wonderland.

More glimpses to come.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Most Beautiful Beagle in the World

Say hello to the most beautiful Beagle in the world.


At least that's what his BFF, a tall, dark, and handsome grad student thinks about Jack. I met Jack and his BFF, John, on their way from Louisiana to Long Island.

Jack was all "I've got some important sniffing business to do" when we first met, but he settled down for a brief interview.

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Me. So, Jack, what's it like bearing the burden of that title, "The Most Beautiful Beagle in the World"?
Jack. It's tough, but I suppose someone has to do it. Did you get my profile?

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Me. Is it true that all your personal belongings bear the inscription, "Please return to Jack"?
Jack. Yes, and so does my BFF.

Me. Inquiring minds want to know. Do you have a steady girlfriend?
Jack. I prefer to keep my personal life private.

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Me. I was just asking because my BFF is Misty the Freecycle Wonder Dog, and I thought you two might hit it off.
Jack. Leave me her number and I might call.

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I then swapped my interviewer hat for my photographer hat and snapped a few. Jack was rather anxious to get back to some serious sniffing.

Of course, this interview did not come cheaply. Celebrity interviews of this caliber are rather expensive.

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Jack agreed to be paid in tummy rubs.


Jack really enjoys his tummy rubs.


I bet all the Beaglettes on Long Island are sighing right now.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Still Wondering

When I was a child there were only seven world wonders. Now, I believe, there are more. I have no idea where this one ranks, but for me it would make the top ten.


No, I am not talking about the ocean, although it is pretty amazing. (Somebody please cue Neil Diamond) I'm talking about this:


Anyone out there old enough to remember Richard Bach's "Jonathan Livingston Seagull"? Please don't jump to conclusions. I am not yet at that wonder about which I was talking. (my English teacher would be so proud.)


We saw some gigantic seagulls on the North Carolina Beach last week. In fact, we almost had a Hitchcockian "The Birds" moment when some hungry feathered "friends" went for the cracker crumbs Colonel Mustard (our littlest Sprittle) was dribbling onto the towel. I want to assure you that swift action by Principessa and Beautiful Mommy avoided the unthinkable.

(shameless grandbaby plug.)

We took great delight in throwing bits of bread to the seagulls on Galveston Island during our jaunts to the beach in my childhood. Imagine playing frisbee with a dog and substitute bread for the frisbee and a bird for the dog.


So, I am not a stranger to seagulls. (*reader alert* I am finally getting to the subject at hand!) What I don't understand, though, is why I would find a bunch of seagulls hovering over a Sheetz parking lot on a busy street corner in the middle of Pennsylvania.


Why is the word "sea" part of their name when they can be found away from it? For me that qualifies as a world wonder.

At least, I'm still wondering.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Watching the Skies on Friday

(We interrupt your previously scheduled programming of pirates and Sprittles and castaways to bring you this important announcement.)

Today I'm participating in Sky Watch Friday. You can take a gander at skies from Malaysia to Michigan, Timbuktu to Texas, by clicking here.

In the meantime, this is a view of the sky outside my window in our western Pennsylvania part of the Frozen North, presented as a public service for my friends back in Texas, where it is really hot and dry.(have I told you how hot and dry it is in Texas?) I thought they might appreciate a reminder of what rain looks like so that when it finally shows up again down there they won't be wondering what it is. (L--If I could put this in a box and send it to you I would. Honest.)

It came from the west one afternoon...


...and then it moved on,


leaving this behind:


I love the sky! And I hope it rains in Central Texas real soon.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Shipwrecked, Part 2


Pirates have never piqued my curiousity, although as a teenager I loved the DuMaurier novel "Frenchman's Creek" about a bored, independently wealthy, headstrong woman who falls in love with a French pirateer. (I will admit to being headstrong, but I think my Dear Professor need not fear abandonment as I am neither bored nor independently wealthy, and we don't see many French pirates in this corner of the Frozen North, although there was that one reality challenged individual who claimed he had found some loot buried near here...)

Anyway, our eldest Sprittle, Boo, was very taken with the whole Blackbeard/pirate thing on our recent vacay on the North Carolina shore. He had us all saying things like "arrrrr matey" and sounding like Robert Newton in "Treasure Island" before the week was over. He was very proud of what he called his pirate glasses.


I have absolutely no idea why I am telling you all this other than it was floating at the top of my mind this morning and I needed to do something with it before I get on with my tale about being shipwrecked. Oh, and I suppose it was also a thinly veiled excuse to post a picture of one of our precious Sprittles. I am a grandmother, remember?

As I was reading the guest book, I found an older entry stuck between the pages. It was obviously well worn, and spoke of earlier times on the North Carolina coast. Times that predated our lovely rental cottage and civilization. Darker times.


The entry began, "April 3, 1973. Still no sign of any boats, just the relentless sea pounding away at the shore and in my head." The writer went on the chronicle the lack of food, the questionable water supply, the declining health of fellow survivors.

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"I'm afraid Jebediah might have the consumption. His raspy coughing haunts me in my fitful sleep." Jebediah's death soon followed, and, unfortunately, the hint that his remains may have been gruesomely "recycled" in a way reminiscent of the Donner party. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Strains of "Ashokan's Farewell" played in my head as I read the second and final entry that ended with, "Should anyone find what may be my last words, tell Isabella in the old country that her frilly bonneted face will be the last image I see as my eyes close. Still hopeful."


It was signed, "Levi Strauss."

But this story of deprivation and disaster does have a happy ending. Our dear friend Levi lived to marry his dear Isabella, travel the breadth of this country, invent a commodity that clothed many a gold rush prospector and farmer, and prosper beyond his wildest dreams.

You might ask how I know this. How else can we explain his name ending up emblazoned across generations of blue jeaned posteriors?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Shipwrecked, Part 1


One day, while the clouds were gathering, and the Sprittles, their Beautiful Mommy, and Principessa were making friends on the beach, I fell into a time portal that transported me back over the last 13 years' history of our rental cottage.

It was as if I had walked into Nicholas Sparks' family diaries. And it was addictive.

The owners of the cottage had provided a warm and welcoming atmosphere and invited visitors to write about their stay in a guest book. And write they did.

Most of the entries were repetitive--had a nice time, plan to come back next year, thanks for the use of your cottage. But some were very personable. There was one entry by an elderly lady who came upon the location by accident on a North-South road trip. I would love to meet her. She described the awareness of her own mortality in an upbeat way--"I don't buy my bananas green anymore"--and ended with "but God willin', and the creek don't rise, I'll be back next year."


I wonder if she made it.

Some added artistic flourishes to their signatures,


while others offered snippets of poetry to ponder. This is a Walt Whitman excerpt.


One story was about a "very special Marine" meeting his fiancee and family after a tour of duty in Iraq. The joy in his stepmother's words was palpable.


But all was not a bed of roses. There were entries that spoke of having a good time despite the drownings, shark sightings, and tropical storms. I'm glad I wasn't with their party!

The most memorable entry I almost missed. It spoke of a much earlier time, and was written on fragile, yellowing paper. The story of a shipwreck... (to be continued)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Important Lessons

My Dear Professor and I returned to the Frozen North from our marathon Texas vacation (did I mention it was really hot down there?) just long enough to check our mail before heading back out on the road again (am I the only one hearing Willie Nelson?) for a North Carolina beach and a week with our precious Sprittles. (OK, The Preacher and Beautiful Mommy were there too.)

We had driven maybe 30 miles down the road when I realized to my utter horror (dundunduh!) that I had left my camera at home. I panicked and immediately called Principessa, who was already frolicking on the beach with said Sprittles, to ask if she had packed her camera.

Folks, I was going through some serious camera withdrawal. I had already planned a good number of beach/Sprittle shots. I breathed a major sigh of relief when Principessa assured me she had indeed brought along her camera.

That would see me through Wednesday. However, Principessa was leaving early to get back to work, and that meant I would once again be camera-less until we left on Saturday. Beads of sweat started forming on my brow once again. But sometime Thursday afternoon I had a duh! moment and pulled out my cellphone.

And what did my tiny cellphone camera manage to capture? I never dreamed the NC beach was so spectacular, or that we would actually see dolphins and loggerhead turtles and man eating clam shells.(yes, that's the actual name of that type of humongous shell.)

My creation

We did a lot of frolicking in the sun, sand, and surf the first three days. Then the rains came, so we visited the aquarium and saw lionfish, jellyfish, and pirates, oh my!

My creation

In Morehead, I found a mermaid weathervane, (just trust me on this, the cellphone camera does not have a zoom feature) and we dined at the Sanitary Fish Market where we discovered that pirates like hushpuppies. A lone seagull also made an appearance.

My creation

I love shelling, and had risen early a few mornings to comb the beach for treasure to no avail. And then, toward the end of my final foray, I spied a beautiful blue gray whelk lying on the sand. That's our 3 year old Sprittle, Bee, "Vanna Whiting" the find.

I learned some important lessons at the beach--the Atlantic ocean has the highest salt content in the world , our Sprittles are even more precious than I had remembered, and I can survive without my camera.

At least for a week.

With the Sprittles to distract me. (Mommo loves you more than Texas... or my camera!)

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Go fly a kite

When I was growing up, kites came in a kit consisting of thin, diamond shaped paper that you glued on the accompanying thin pine dowels.  You were left to your own devices for the tail, which contemporary wisdom said was necessary for optimum flight. 

Once everything was assembled, we would run down the middle of the street hoping our kite would climb quickly into the sky.  Sometimes it did, often it just dragged behind us, scuffing the wooden dowels and our hopes.

Kite science has come a long way since then.  The lightweight, triangular shaped plastic kites available now (and when my children were experimenting with flight) are much easier to assemble and get airbborne. One of the first things that caught my eye here at the beach in North Carolina (where we are spending a week with our  dear Sprittles, Son #1 The Preacher and Beautiful Mommy, Principessa and Son #2 The Dreamer) was a wonderful, green, three dimensional plane kite. 

A quick trip to the Emporium, a few minutes of assembly, and voila!  Our Sprittles were at the business ends of My Little Pony and 101 Dalmatians kites.

Flying kites at the beach is fun!  All you do is let go, hold on, and watch that puppy (or pony!) soar into the clouds.

(My Dear Professor as co pilot for Boo's first flight)

The only problem was getting equal time for the Sprittles--the "adults" in the group wanted to fly!

(Principessa and Son #2 The Dreamer showing Bee how to bust some flight moves.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Secret Life of a Canary

I came across a piece of disturbing news while on vacation in that place I promised I would not write about again for awhile. (hint--it's hot down there, and no, I am not referring to the final resting place of people who refuse to turn off their cell phones in movie theatres.)

Because of the urgency of the information, I feel it my civic duty to report it. And notice how I have avoided mentioning the T word (Texas. Ooops!)

That important breaking news story is this--Canaries have secret lives. (dundunduh!)

In a small community near a major metropolitan area, the police busted a nasty ring of Canary fighters. Yes, you read that right, Canary fighters. I managed to interview one of the offending birds, who has entered the witness protection program and shall remain anonymous.


Me. Whatever caused you to enter this sordid occupation?
Bird. Speak to the tail.


Me. There has been a lot of speculation that these fights were fixed. What is your response to these allegations?
Bird. You'll have to talk to my lawyer.


Me. Are you afraid of retribution from the fight promoters? There are some reports that organized crime is involved.
Bird. No comment.

Well, there you have it. He refused to sing. I think he was afraid of being labelled a stool pigeon. Birds of a feather flock together, and no self respecting Canary wants to be confused with a pigeon.

Who knows why the caged bird won't sing?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Cool Green Joy

After a month in Texas, I forgot how green and cool Pennsylvania can be in the summer. This morning I took my camera for an explore and this is what we found.

One tiny, battered butterfly/moth eating breakfast from a clover blossom. This picture is much larger than the little winged creature was in person.

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The bumbly bees preferred chicory blossoms. They must have been looking for a coffee fix and found this alternative.


Queen Anne's lace was everywhere. Everywhere. I love its various stages. First are the whorls of tightly closed pink and white....


...followed by the beautiful snowflake like blooms. I want to cut and dry some to place on our Christmas tree this year.


But I think my favorite was this daisy, hugging the ground and underneath a group of Queen Anne's Lace. I remember my delight when I found them blooming in a highway median this Spring. I didn't realize they continued to spread their joy all through the summer.

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