Thursday, April 17, 2014

Getting Back To Where I Still Belong

I am back at home near Binghamton, New York, looking at bare trees, early spring bulbs and....snow.
Snow near Bainbridge, NY 4-17-14
A day after it snowed for hopefully the last time....

....there was still some snow in my urban back yard, where the sun had not shone. I looked at the scene and knew that, in a way, I was being welcomed home.  I had gone back to where I still belonged.

My vacation was already like a dream.  I had swapped a light coat for shorts, and bare trees were still the order of the day.  Spring had rewound into a tight bundle, here and there showing a glimpse of the unfurling to come - any day now, I hope.

I thought about last week, in Charleston, South Carolina, as I imagined an 80 degree breeze caressing me.

I remembered my return visit to the famous Angel Oak, which may be the oldest tree east of the Mississippi.  It had been endangered by development, but (for now) has been saved.

A live oak dripping with Spanish Moss says "South" like nothing else.  This one is on the campus of the College of Charleston, one of the most beautiful urban college campuses in the United States.

Anemones and Tulips Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Duke University, Durham, NC
Then, we headed north, to the Triangle area (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill) North Carolina and saw several gardens, including the Sarah P. Duke Garden at Duke University.

Camellia Moonlight Bay, Sarah P Duke Gardens
But then it was time to rewind spring and go home. Goodbye, camellias (sob, not hardy where I live).  Goodbye, live oaks (ditto). We started out, and as we traveled north, leaves on the trees started to disappear.
Near Charlottesville, VA, we were treated to wild red buds and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Further north in Virginia, spring rewound further, as Bradford Pears replaced redbuds. Then, traveling through Maryland, the Bradfords disappeared in favor of the yellow of forsythias.

Then, north of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the forsythias disappeared.  Starting around 20 miles south of Hazleton, PA we were left with snow on the roadsides. 

It reached 57 at our house today, and it still felt good in the sunshine. We took a drive today, and appreciated the hills of home.  Those bare trees will leafed out by early May, we know.  The lenten rose in our backyard is blooming, as is our bloodroot. (You'll see them tomorrow.) Spring will come to us, all in its good time.

But it was sure nice to have spring before its time, too.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spring Things - The Triumphant Return of Winter

Sunday, it was 80 degrees (26.6 C) where I live in upstate New York.  Everyone thought that spring had come.  I had even traveled to Charleston to talk to Spring and convince it to return to New York.

I thought I had struck a deal with Spring.


Yesterday, it snowed, and got below freezing.  We were also put under a flood watch. When it rains, it pours, as the old expression goes.

My guest photographer back home took these pictures on her rural property.  Snow in mid April is not unusual where we live, although this kind of weather extreme is more uncommon.

The forsythias weren't quite ready to open so the snow decided to beautify them.
The daffodils were just starting to bud out.  This snow won't hurt them.
Elsewhere on her property, a daffodil bloom had just opened when the snow came, and another was preparing to open.
Zebra grass.
And finally, a path to a neighboring cabin.

Right now, it is 23 degrees in Binghamton, with an expected high of 40.  Back to the winter coats.

Is your weather continuing strange and unpredictable wherever in the world you live?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day April 2014 - Spring Rewind

It's the 15th of April and, in the United States, Tax Day (the day by which we must file our annual income tax reports with Federal and most State governments). 

And, it is Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. This meme, brought to us by an Indiana garden blogger, encourages garden bloggers and flower lovers from all over the world to show what is blooming in their gardens or houses/apartments.

Except I can't, and I'm sorry.  I was supposed to be home today in the Binghamton area of upstate New York, but I am several hundred miles away, thanks to inclement weather.  Where I live, it was 80 degrees on Sunday. Now, as I write this, it is 36 degrees with light rain/snow flurries. With the wind chill it feels like it's 28.  It will be below freezing within the next couple of hours.
April Fool! No, wait, it's April 15, it's no joke, and people all over the midwest and eastern United States are covering plants and breaking their snow shovels back out.

When I left some 10 days ago on my trip, this is what was blooming, and it wasn't even in my yard.

What is a GBBD'er to do?

Well, I can show you what was blooming in my garden on April 15, 2013 and April 15, 2012.  
We've had a harsh winter, and I assure you, my yard looks nothing like either blog post now.  I checked just now with someone in my home area, and crocuses and early daffodils are all they have with perhaps some other early spring bulbs.
Redbuds, JC Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh, NC
Or, I could show you what is blooming today, in the area around Raleigh, North Carolina, as I blog this.  Although, I suppose, this cheating.  In another day, it will be a fond memory.
Dogwoods, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC
Tulips, Duke University, Durham, NC
At least it's spring here, at least for the next few hours.  But still, this isn't my yard.  I'm a GBBD cheater!

Tomorrow we will head home back north, and we will experience spring rewind.  But even here, they have a freeze warning for tomorrow morning.

What's blooming (or not?) for you?


Monday, April 14, 2014

Don't Cry Over Spilled Rum

Have you ever had a moment during a vacation when something didn't seem so funny at the time, but, later on, you did appreciate the humor?

During our recent vacation in Charleston, South Carolina, we had one of this moments.

It all started with a Striped Pig.

A Striped Pig Distillery, that is.

Distilleries are popping up all over the country, it would seem. So, I was interested in seeing what Charleston had to offer.  Two years ago, we had visited a moonshine distillery in Asheville, North Carolina and I wanted to compare and contrast.

Moonshine, for those outside our country, is basically an unaged whiskey, usually made from corn but sometimes rye and barley can be used in addition to the corn.  I am not a fan of legal moonshine, but my spouse will drink it.

(Incidentally, moonshine is perfectly legal to distill, with the proper licenses.  I am NOT discussing the homemade, illicit moonshine that most people think of - although that would be an interesting blog post if I did know more about it. )

This distillery offered moonshine, vodka, and rum.  A distillery making rum is a bit unusual in our area of the country, so we wanted to check this out.  We did, liked what we tasted, and decided to buy a bottle of rum.

We approached the end of our vacation, the bottle of rum riding comfortably in the trunk of our car, or so we thought.

We started to pack the car and - let's put this gently, the trunk of our car smelled like a distillery.  The smell was so strong, it almost knocked us over.  Even in the part of the car where we ride, the smell was quite obvious.

More to the point, it smelled like the Striped Pig Distillery.

We discovered that the bottle of rum had not been riding comfortably in the car trunk.  Unlike large commercial rum bottles, this had been corked, with a tiny tape.  And it hadn't been sealed.

The cork had popped in the Charleston 80 degree heat and almost the entire bottle of rum had soaked the trunk of our car, and the contents that had been left in the trunk.

We left Charleston hoping a policeman didn't need to pull us over for some reason.  But a couple of our friends may be getting - well, fragrant, gifts.  I do think we will be laughing at this one day, and not just because we were breathing in all those rum fumes for hours.

The distillery, by the way, was interesting and I plan to blog about it at a future date.

Do you have a story of a vacation situation that wasn't funny at the time?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Civil War Sunday - 153 Years Later

Yesterday, April 12, 2014, marked the 153rd anniversary of the start of the United States Civil War, as Confederates bombarded Fort Sumter on an island in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina.

I was in Charleston this past week, and the car trip down from my home in upstate New York was a fascinating experience.  It gave me a lot of time to think.
Gettysburg, PA - the site of perhaps the most famous Civil War battle
On the way, we passed exits for a number of Civil War battlefields and related sites, starting in Pennsylvania.
Spring still hadn't reached Gettysburg as my spouse and I passed near to a site where 51,000 people had been either killed, wounded, or captured in the battle that represented the Confederacy's greatest northward penetration into the Union.
Moving into Maryland, we passed near Andrews Air Force Base.  When we passed from Pennsylvania (a free state) into Maryland (a slave state that stayed with the Union), we had also crossed the historic Mason-Dixon line.
Then we crossed from Maryland into Virginia over the Potomac River on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.  Such a simple act, but in 1861, if the bridge had been there, Virginia certainly wouldn't have been welcoming a couple of Yankees.  This was the border between the Union and the Confederacy.  In fact, a small portion of the bridge is technically in our capital, Washington, DC.

I didn't take any pictures of road signs at that point, but there were several road signs which had both Washington, DC and Richmond, Virginia listed on the same sign.  So simple - two cities, some 106 miles apart. But, during the Civil War, they were the capitals of two countries at war with each other.
Fredericksburg - near to four major Civil War battles, two of which will be commemorating 150th anniversaries next month.  Now, a city connected to other cities, north and south, via Interstate 95.

How many people give thought to history when they travel this road daily?  Things could have been so different if history had worked differently.  We can play the "what if" game - some people who enjoy something called "alternate history" do that and write some pretty interesting books based on "what if".
This photo was taken from the Ravenel Bridge that connects Charleston, South Carolina with another South Carolina City, Mt. Pleasant.  Permanently docked in Mt. Pleasant, and now a museum, is the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Yorktown, in a living museum called Patriot's Point.

If you look behind the green area to the left of this aircraft carrier which proudly flies the flag of the United States, you will see a distant, small island.  On this island sits Fort Sumter.

This is what the view of Charleston Harbor looked like after sunset on April 12, yesterday evening the 153rd anniversary of the start of the Civil War. So peaceful.

I offer no deep thoughts. Instead, what I feel is sadness - because, as horrible the war had been between April of 1861 and April of 1864, things were about to get even worse.  Much, much worse.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sustainable Saturday-Charleston South Carolina Farmers Market

This is one of the most beautiful location for a farmers market that I have ever seen.

South Carolina State Arsenal Building, Charleston, SC

Part of the pleasure of travel for me is finding and eating local food, especially food that is fresh and minimally processed.  Today was the opening day of the Charleston farmer's market, held in historic Marion Square in Charleston. (At a later date, I will blog about the history I found inside this square. In fact, the building above has an interesting history as the former location of the famed military college, The Citadel.)

Even as far south as Charleston is, not everything they are offering is in season yet.
The vendors marked produce that was local, though, and one vendor (price list above) was quite upfront about exactly where each of his items originated from.  (ONPF means his own. Lady Moon is in Florida. Mayflower was elsewhere in South Carolina).  We bought garlic (below) from him.

This vendor advertised local only, with a big offering of radishes, and early greens.
We were so thrilled to buy fresh garlic (not last year's storage crop) from this market.
Strawberries are also at the beginning of their season.  We bought the strawberries and reluctantly left the dewberries behind.

There was a lot of photography going on, and none of the vendors seemed to mind. 

Mushrooms were a welcome surprise, although we didn't buy any.

The Charleston market did not disappoint - with one exception, something that also bothers me about our local downtown Binghamton, New York farmer's market - not all of the food is local.  But there was a local food information booth, and I talked to two energetic young women attempting to get the word out.  In a city where world famed restaurants are on almost every streetcorner downtown, I hope the word does continue to get out.

We did buy a couple of local food items you find in few other places, which will be subjects of a later post.

Our local farmer's market in upstate New York won't be outdoors for another three weeks.  I basked in that 80 degree heat - by Tuesday, back home, we may get some snow.

Have you shopped at a farmer's market recently?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Would You Take this View for Granted?

My spouse and I had an argument walking to a waterfront park in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina.  There were condos near the park, and some of them had views of the Ravenel Bridge which connects Mt. Pleasant with Charleston, South Carolina.
Palmettos, Waterfront Park, Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina just after sunset
"I could never tire of this view", my spouse said.

"Yes, we would", I said.  "If we lived here a while, we would stop looking at the sunset." And", I continued thoughtfully, "the palmettos.  I love seeing them. They are nothing like what grows where we live in upstate New York".
"No, I wouldn't", my spouse replied.  Together, we gazed at what the locals call "The Triangles".  I had come to the Charleston area to walk the five miles of the Ravenel Bridge, as I blogged about earlier this week.  "Every day, before work, I would look out at the bridge."
Charleston skyline under Ravenel Bridge

"Every night, after returning from work, I would look out again at the bridge.", he continued.

"No you wouldn't!", I said with the assurance of someone married to someone else for nearly 40 years. "We both would plop on the sofa after eating dinner, and that would be that."   We know each other well - too well, perhaps.

It is sad how we learn to take things we see every day for granted. People were walking in the park, and for all I know that bridge wasn't even registering on their consciousness.  It was part of their everyday scenery, just as Johnson City, New York is part of ours.

But travel 850 miles to see something, and you will take picture after picture of it.

Are you like that, too?