So, I am still talking about the day trip to the Shenandoah Skyline Drive (if you missed yesterday's post about ice, check it out!). It might be winter, the trees may be bare, the temperature below freezing, but some green things are thriving! Under, in, and around the icy rocks were so many mosses taking advantage of the lack of competition and canopy.
Any spot that gets sunlight and melting ice was covered with the most Kelly of greens.
These little habitats are so hidden and overpowered during the warmer months, but are the stars of the show now. The shapes are amazing, and so very sculptural. These photos show the mosses, but the lichens were equally prolific, if not as showy and photogenic.
Also enjoying their time in the spotlight are the pines. They are especially bright set against the grays of the bare trees and brush surrounding them. The last time I photo'ed these mountains, they were sporting the hot colors of fall, now they have let those leaves drop and the green pines bask in the sun.
Stay tuned tomorrow for the sky in all its glory! (here is a taste of things to come!)
A year and a half ago, we left the beauty of the driftless area of Wisconsin and moved to the mountain area of Virginia. It has been a wonderful move, and the beauty that surrounds us in Virginia is amazing. But the winters are different; No shoveling, less precarious ice, my nostrils no longer freeze shut, scarves are more decorative than necessary, and fingerless gloves almost make sense. On the other hand, it has been a long time since I have seen a lavender-blue shadow on powdered snow, heard the silence of a winter morning or the crunch of frozen tundra under my feet, I no longer can tell who visited during the night by the tracks in the morning. But yesterday I found some real beauty in the Virginia Winter... the ice.
Yesterday my "photo and phiber phriend", Susan, and I took a drive up into the mountains to explore. We have done this during the height of trillium season, during the bursting beauty of the Mountain Laurel season and other more hospitable times. Neither one of us was terribly hopeful about finding anything interesting, much less beautiful in the snowless, 30 degree, winter gray, but I am happy to report we were very wrong.
As the day progressed, the temperatures didn't rise much, but the sun was bright. By afternoon, some melting had begun, and the ice in the sun began to crumble noisily as the drips dropped and chunks fell off.
The most interesting ice of the day was the smallest. We didn't even notice it at first. We were hiking down a path, and while looking at the mosses and lichen, noticed some strange formations in the looser soil around us.
I have no idea what these crystal-like formations are formed, but it seems they grew up from the ground. Perhaps something about the water freezing and the ground contracting? If you know anything about it let me know! they we only about one inch long at the most, and often had a stone or pebble at the top of them.
So what we thought would be a mundane day, turned quite magical (I think that happens a lot if you let it!) and I haven't even told you about the deer, the owl, the waterfall, the sunset or the moon.... stay tuned more tomorrow.
One of my favorite parts of Virginia Beach is the Pier. Especially in the early morning, when the gulls are flying, the men are fishing, and the sun is low. An added benefit is when a boat oor two come by also! This particular morning it was gray and soft, so the pictures are also.
This gallery is best viewed by clicking on one picture and scrolling through them so you can see the full crop!
Such a fun day! Today the farms that participate in the Charlottesville City Market opened their farms to the public for tours. We went to two of the farms; Double H and Caromont Farms.
At Double H we saw the pigs, turkeys and chickens they raise. We met the dogs that guard the animals, and saw the gardens of veggies that are planted, rotated and after the harvests are done, grazed and snuffled by the poultry and the pigs. The owners, Armenian immigrants Ara and Gayane Avagyan, gave us a very informative tour through the pens and gardens. They are all organic and self sufficient; doing all of the work themselves for the lat 11 years. It was evident that it is hard labor and a labor of love. They supply both produce and meat to many of the C'ville restaurants we go to, and now we will appreciate that food so much more, knowing what has gone into the making. (click on any of the photos to see a large image)
Next we went to Caromont Farm. They raise goats and are spectacular cheese makers. We got to meet Gail Hobbs-Page’s herd of Alpines, Saanens, and La Mancha goats. The goats were very friendly and even tried to sample my shirt! They started the first year by selling 300 pounds of cheese locally, and now sell about 30,000 pounds nationally. We sample the cheeses and had brats made and served by yet another local farm, and brought some fantastic feta home for our salads this week. (click on any of the photos to see a large image)
Another great part of the day was driving on the back roads of this beautiful Virginia countryside. I still can not get over the beauty of the red clay land against the vivid green foliage and blue sky. A perfect day.
Yesterday was one of those wonderful days in life where it is just plain good to be alive. The weather was perfect; I was spent it with a new friend, who is also both a photographer and a fiber artist (and, as an added benefit, seems to approach life with the same pace and gusto as I do); And we spent it on and around the Blue Ridge Parkway - one of the most spectacular drives in the U.S.A. It is dotted and crossed with numerous paths for the casual geezer or the intrepid Appalachian trail through hiker. While I was sure today I would wake up stiff from the climbing, bending, walking, etc, it is my neck that is sore! I think it is from the constant looking around. There was no end to the details and vistas to soak in, and of course, photo!
We even had to come to a screeching halt when a hawk swooped down to get a snake, but saw us and flew off. Note: if you ever see a snake, and decide to check it out, be sure to look at it with your longest lens first, to see if it is a rattle snake. Then, if it is, get back in the car!!!
The wildflowers were stupendous! I have never seen so many trillium in my life (see the top picture on this post), jack-in-the-pulpits, rhododendron (which I assume were only found in floral stores!), May apples (not quite in bloom yet, but covering the forest floor) and untold numbers of flowers whose names I do not know.
Then, there were my favorites; the mosses, lichens, and ferns. The understated textural plants that grab for the sun at this time of year, before the tree leaves cover it up for the summer. Covering the rocks, the logs, the trees, and hanging on for dear life!
Here is some of the plant life we encountered; to see the pictures larger and in their full crop, click on them.
Then there are the views. You may remember an earlier post I did (last fall) about photos from this same drive. It was amazing to see it in the next season! Here are a slide show of some of the vistas for you.
This is our first spring here in Virginia, and all I can say is "wowsers!!! When one is used to the momentary spring that appears between winter and road construction in Wisconsin, Virginia redefines the word spring! The warm hits and the snow is gone - without leaving grey mounds of debris in its wake! The blooms have time to sway and glisten in the breeze and mist of spring rains and sunshine! I could get used to this! Good thing I got a new camera just in time! Click any of these to see them larger and as a slide show.
I went out today to explore the Skyline Drive of Shenandohah National Park today. Hoped to hike one of the many trails, but evidently the freeze and thaw of this past week made the road treacherous, so the Drive was closed. I spent a long time talking to a very nice person at the visitors center about alternative jaunts for my day. Part of the Blue Ridge Parkway (a bit to the south) was open so I headed off towards that area. Past a winery or three, a couple of cider works, a distillery and around about a million more curves, I found the entrance to the Blue Ridge. The roads are very slim and very curvy. It dawned on me that they don't need wide shoulders to hold the mounds of snow like we do in Wisconsin, but it sure makes it hard to pull over when you see a shot you want to take - and may explain the prevalence of 'God-fearing' people around here!
There were a few overviews to take advantage of though, and here are a couple of the many photos I took.
click on a photo to enlarge it.
Moving to a new state has brought a lot of changes. We have enjoyed them all. This month we are experiencing our first fall in Virginia. It has been glorious. The colors, the temperatures and the skies - all perfection! The best part is how long it has been. Back in Wisconsin the trees turn, the cold sets in and all is bare and gray November in a matter of [seemingly] days. Here it has been weeks of crisp and color and there are still flowers!
Last week the "THE front" moved through the USA, and watching the Facebook post of friends and family have been interesting. Reports coming in from Alaska, where they are out riding through the snow in the ATVs already; From Boulder, CO where it was in the teens and single digits with snow on the ground (but as we all know it could be 70 there the next day!); My friend in Duluth, MN reported skidding and sliding on the roads, and increased use of her wood pile; and back in Wisconsin the cold hit, the antifreeze levels are being checked and the snow blowers are getting tuned up!
Meanwhile, back in Charlottesville, Jon and I broke out laughing with glee during one of the weather reports on the local news! The reporter was warning everyone to "break out the heavy coats" because "January like" weather would be happening this week. January weather evidently means highs in the 40s and lows in the high 2os.We will take it!!! Something tells me my big faux fur coat won't get used much this year! I wonder what the weather reporters here do with all the left over "minus" signs at the end of the winter... export them to Duluth and Madison?
Meanwhile, back on Facebook, a report came in from Cali that sweaters had to be donned because the temp got down to 70! I guess we humans are both adaptable and our comfort and expectations are all relative. I just hope my blood doesn't thin out too much in this warmer climate. I really don't like the idea of ever feeling I need a down coat or ear muffs (yes I have seen them both) in 40 degree weather!
Hope you are all having a good fall - however you experience it!
What's not to like; sweaters, deserved coffee, dramatic skies, colors galore, cold sheets and warm blankets... and did I mention sweaters! Nothing like putting on the wool or cashmere or even a bulky acrylic (or that, now rare, jill2day creation!) and heading out to kick some leaves, or as we did tonight, to pick up a growler of beer from the neighborhood brewery to go with hubby's curry!
We have had almost a week of drizzle and grey, but the sun broke through late today and mixed with the fluffy clouds to bring us the best fall could offer. Here are some pics I took. Click on any of them to see the full crop!
If you are really into history, click here for blog posts prior to 2014 !