September around the homestead

It has been fun to return from our recent travels to a nip in the air, the leaves just beginning to turn colors, and all the things I love about our home during autumn. Here’s a small image gallery of the natural beauty that surrounds us and makes us content to be home after a trip.

And no walk around the ponds would be complete without carrying the Chuckit, a ball (that floats) and the dog that chases until she drops.


Room with a view

I used to look up at the mountains from my horse pasture in Virginia’s piedmont. I remember telling myself, “One day, I’m going to live up there.”

That was in the early seventies, when I attended middle school and was into horses. We rode and exercised and trained the horses at home, certainly. But we also trailered them up the slope of the mountain a-ways to a workshop/camp, escaping the thick, wet heat of August. We boarded them at a nearby farm and rode over to the workshop site, where we underwent professional scrutiny and training as we worked the horses in an arena and over challenging fences in the field. We rode English and did a lot of show jumping and fox hunting in those days.

Me in the arena, show-jumping Willie. 1972.
Me in the arena, show-jumping Willie. 1972.

Although we worked the horses hard and got dusty and hot ourselves, we were glad to be at the higher elevation – not anywhere near so hot and sticky as back at home. At the end of the day, with the sun settling down behind the ridge and the air quickening with night breezes and the sounds of peepers; with the aromas of horse sweat and hardhats mingling with the dusky mountain air, we rode the horses back toward the stalls. The chores of picking manure from the straw, feeding and watering the horses, and grooming the crystalline sweat off their coats still awaited us, to be accomplished under lights. The sweaty saddle pads would be separated from the saddles and hung to dry overnight. And we’d do it all again the next day.

On one of those evenings, after fifteen minutes of clopping along a paved country road, en route to the close of the day, we took a detour through an apple orchard. Our hostess assured us it would be okay to ride through and pick an apple apiece — one for the horses we rode, and one for ourselves.

I could reach some of the high apples that would have been impossible, had I been afoot. That was the first wonder. The horse I rode knew well what these hanging red spheres were, and chomped merrily and shook her head to free it for consumption. The tree seemed reluctant to release that one, so the branches shook and rocked as the horse freed her prize. I laughed as the branches whacked my hardhat and shoulders.

I reached over my head and picked a beauty for myself: red flecked with yellow; perfectly rounded; greenish on the shoulder.

I took the first bite of that apple as we reined out of the orchard while Willie, my mount, worked her apple around the bit in her mouth, tossing her head, jingling her hardware. I swear that was the best apple I’d ever eaten.

This photo was taken a few years ago. I'm on the right, with my niece.
This photo was taken a few years ago. I’m on the right, with my niece.

Today the horses are gone, but the apples in my mountain orchard still evoke wonder and amazement in me. Instead of horses, I ride my bike. No workshops up here, but I work hard and get sweaty training for cycling events like Bike Virginia, coming up later this month. I pedal along the Blue Ridge Parkway, in the cool, pristine mountain air. I take in the wide vistas, smell the blackberry blossoms, go slowly up and quickly down the slopes, marveling that I made it to the top of the mountains, living here for 20+ years now.


I stop occasionally to look at the piedmont below my ridge line. I am struck by awe again and again when I think that I am exactly where I had willed myself to be 40 years ago. I have found my home and my heart in these mountains and would not have it otherwise. I am lucky and fortunate and I try never to take it for granted. Who lives better than we?

My husband, Jack, in a Rails To Trails bike tunnel, on one of our cycling trips. Digital artwork.
My husband, Jack, in a Rails To Trails bike tunnel, on one of our cycling trips. Digital artwork.

Havs Vidden, Baltic Sea

Relatively uneventful ride north from Kvarnbo to the resort on the Baltic Sea called Havs Vidden. Quite a special place, rocky and isolated.


Our route took us a round-about path north as shown here: direct route would be about 25 kilometers; our ride was about 45.


Some random thoughts I had along the way, that I call “things I should not forget.”

Brackish water better preserves wood because it has no salt water worms, which eat the wood of sunken ships.

Christian at the brewery saying “jeest” for yeast. Wonder if the word is spelled with a Y and the Swedish letter is pronounced like a j (or soft g), or whether it is spelled with a j (or g) and his interpretation of English converted it to a j-sound.

Plowing fields in alternating left and right rows (not circles) by using a plow attachment that lifts and rotates to reverse direction.

Riding through a beautiful fir wood and smelling balsam that was so energizing that I felt I was lunching on the aroma.

Heather or heath blooming – another sign of fall, like the aspen (?) leaves turning yellow and blowing in the breeze across the road. I think they are aspens because on many occasions, their voices have sounded like a hidden stream falling into a quiet pool; or the warning of oncoming traffic.

First rooster crowing I have heard since leaving home.

First tour bus we’ve seen since leaving Mariehamn (we did, indeed reach my goal, stated as we neared departure from Stockholm, of finding a place with fewer tourists like ourselves).

Saw our first road kill: a little vole – additional road kills next day, two badgers and a fledgling bird. No other road kills or debris that we’ve seen at all.

Saw our first maple tree among all these firs and aspens: a hybrid/decorative tree, deep deep red leaves (plum colored), in a beautiful yard.

Many, many dragon flies everywhere. Very few butterflies.

Saw a soaring bird, either a fishing hawk/eagle or a vulture (haven’t seen too many vultures at all) – then saw a definite hawk, flying into the wind over the road. it took it a while, so I got out my binocs and I am 90% sure it was a goshawk, although it could have been a European kestrel, but I think it was too big. Very long tail, but little striping. It was backlit by the sun, however, so difficult to id by coloration.

Ate lunch in Getta (pronounced Yetta) — horrid sandwiches but good crisps and doughnuts. A retired Swedish steel worker and his wife sat to have lunch with us at the picnic table in the grocery store parking lot (when I say everything is remote up here, it’s not a joke). He had some English, she had little. He explained that it was just too expensive to eat in a restaurant, so they had chosen one of the entrees from the grocery store, and used the store microwave to heat it (possibly better than our sandwiches, but I doubt it). He said, “not like she fixes” indicating his wife. We had some more discussion, with the Mrs. being mostly silent. Then we took our leave. He wished us safe travels and then said, “Take it easy!” After some discussion amongst themselves the Mrs. said, “Have a nice day. Take it easy!” They were very cute. Waved at us as they drove away.

This area north of Kvarnbo is serious apple country.

Lovely rock scramble along the shore once we arrived in HavsVidden.

Sunset over the Baltic Sea as we ate our late dinner in the dining room made of triple-paned glass windows.