Winter’s End

The crocus are pushing through the chill soil. The sun is out (for a change) and it’s relatively warm for March 13 in Meadows of Dan. The snowdrops are up in several places on the property, including on the puppies’ graves, where our beloved canine family has, over the years, been laid to rest: Sophie, Pippin, Jazz, Radar, Seth – all are fertilizer for the snowdrops, and the snowdrops remind us of the inevitable succession of life. We now have Chase and Mischief; after them, we will have a different but continuing canine family, to comfort, amuse, frustrate, delight, and love us.

Falconry season is nearly over – in fact, I’ve already stopped hunting with my juvenile redtailed hawk, Skye, in favor of allowing her broken feathers to go ahead and drop off, so she can grow new ones through the summer. I’ll keep CJ disturbing the crow populations around here for a while longer, because he and I are participating in a research program studying lead accumulations in scavenger species (from feeding on field dressed and/or “uncollected” rifle-shot game animals). The scientist wanted to include crows in his research, but was finding it difficult to find any to study. A falconer friend introduced me to the researcher and CJ and I have managed to help out.

But Jack and I are beginning to think bicycles, camping, and traveling. He’s the travel agent for our Roomba schedule, and we have a short trip to one of our favorite VA State Parks, Okeneechee, lined up for next week. By then, I will have completed my “beer magazine” duties (editing, layout, proofing, upload to the printer, etc.), and we will take our delayed “anniversary trip” that we manage every four years when our Sadie Hawkins Day anniversary comes around.

Last week’s wondrous, early spring weather inspired us to 3 bike rides. Not long ones, but it was truly good to get back in the saddle again – well, except for that “where the saddle meets the seat” part. That’s the most difficult aspect of getting back on the bicycles again: breaking in the body parts that spend a lot of time resting on the saddle. But this will pass soon, as the affected area toughens up and you just don’t notice it any longer.

It feels so great to exercise in a different way after a long winter of falconry, hiking through the woods and fields for hours. And being on the Blue Ridge Parkway again, in time to see the wildflowers emerge on their schedule, has me full of anticipation, watching for the rebirth of our native surroundings. I love being out there, spinning my wheels along the pavement, seeing what is to be seen; hearing what is to be heard. I’m so looking forward to the summer of traveling and cycling and Roomba-ing and exploring the new and the old. C’mon April!

The red-tailed hawk of one of my falconry apprentices

27 Days and Counting

Now that the worst of the weather has passed, we can really see some progress on the Safari Condominium. Even during the cold over the weekend, Jack was down at the building doing this and that. 27 days and counting until we leave to pick up and bring home the primary resident: Safari Condo’s Alto R1713, better known as the Blue Roomba.

But today was a banner day, as we had the guys come in to construct the soffit under the roof; and the garage door team came and installed the 3 garage doors. It was windy, but a good day for it. Now, if the weather holds, we can get back to the work of putting up the battens over the boards.

The rep from whom we ordered the “people doors” and the windows called, and they’re staged for delivery. Things are progressing nicely. Hoping we can get the windows this week, and install directly. If the weather holds, we’re well on track to have our house sitters take over while we’re on tour. Can’t wait.

Lenten Rose
Lenten Rose: Can spring be far behind?


Budding Leaves


To me, now is the most spectacular time of year. I don’t mean simply “early May.”

What I mean is the time when the tulip poplar trees swell at the ends of their branches and shove aside the remnants of the dried brown seed pods of the former year with pale green cones: leaves-to-be. When the maple trees’ leaves are shining, translucent stars of red and pale orange tipping each twig. When the beech tree in the back yard erupts with tiny hands raised, palm-out, to show me how the sun illuminates their dark red veins inside pink flesh.

Sure, the daffodils and anemones are great – as are the apple and dogwood blossoms, and the buds swelling on the blueberries. But the leaves of the trees re-emerging after a long absence – that’s what I love to see. And it can happen in my part of Virginia at any point along a rather wide span of time, within latitudinal limits, of course.

I was riding along the Blue Ridge Parkway this past sunny Friday (yesterday). In training for an upcoming bicycle tour, I didn’t take the time to stop for photos – and in any case, the photos could not possibly show the wonder of this: the fragile green of leaves on mighty deciduous trees far below the road I traveled, all in various stages of emergence, marching higher and higher up the slopes of the mountains opposite. We are still a week or more away from the flanks of our mountains having completely covered themselves in variations on the wondrous color green. Toward the lowlands, leaves are darkening to strong leather; growth still delicate and newborn higher toward the tops. Right now, the harsh and twiggy, brown and gray of the wintertime forest still inhabits the upper slopes, through which I can see the lichen-covered rock outcroppings, brown leaf-fall, and naked dirt beneath. It is a spectacle of earthly delight; of contrasts; of life and death; of past and future – of which I never tire, and that I always consider new and amazing.

Beech in the back yard. The zilcova in the foreground has new leaf swellings that resemble delicate caterpillars clinging to the tips of each twig. By tonight, many will be actual leaves, translucent promises of summer.
Beech in the back yard. The zilcova in the foreground has new leaf swellings that resemble delicate caterpillars clinging to the tips of each twig. By tonight, many will be actual leaves, translucent promises of summer.

Bicycle and Early Spring

Took a bike ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway this morning. Overcast skies, but warm. The longest of our National Parks has taken a beating over the past few months, and the resurgence of spring growth has not yet covered the lost treasures, which the recently-melted snow disclosed.

Met a man and his dog along the way. As I rested and ate my breakfast bar at Round Meadow overlook, he emerged from the deep cut of Round Meadow Creek, which the bridge I sat near spans. As we talked I realized he was a great good friend of my late mother-in-law, and that we had actually met several times in the distant past. Billy Cruze and his dog, Sam, walk every day along Round Meadow Creek and hike up to the Parkway and along the road, making a circuit back to his house.

Stopping to take photos of curiosities along my way added significant time to the ride, but I just couldn’t keep pedaling past some of these astonishments. And once you begin taking pix, we’ll, it’s difficult to stop, even if you face starting to pedal again in the “granny-gear” headed up a steep hill.

So here is my photo essay of April Cycling Along the Blue Ridge Parkway.