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Bill and I live on top of a hill with a grand view of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. It is a steep 15 acre slope down which I call The South 40. The South 40 requires “bush hogging.” And when I began to see the forest primeval slowly encroaching I realized we were facing an upkeep challenge.

In the beginning we had two horses (Lucy and Martini). There was also Martini’s friend, Rossi, but he was too wild for us equestrian novices. We were told grazing horses would take care of keeping the grass/weeds down but that was “fake news.”

The horses did love grazing but the grass grew faster than they could chew and soon everything became weeds and trees in an overgrown pasture.

We decided to hire a bush hogger person to keep things trim. That was only successful off and on since not too many people have their own equipment who are willing to risk life and limb to clear our formidable hillside.

Finally Bill bought a John Deere – a big but not the biggest John Deere – so he could mow the slope himself. He had to go straight down to the bottom and then straight back up (no sideways trimming due to the danger of tipping over).

I had visions of Bill lying on the slope with the bush hogger machine on top! Twice a year Bill would do the slope and it would take him four or five days each time to complete the job and that long for me to worriedly chew my nails down too.

Note of interest: Bill was halfway up/down the slope when I ran out to tell him about the 9-11 Disaster. This should give you an idea of how long he has been dedicated to bushhogging our slope.

As Bill grew older – and older, and less interested in risking his own life and limb, a Miracle Man arrived. Dennis came from Texas and said he noticed many folks around here have steep slopes that need trimming. He then bought a special mower that allows him to mow across slopes instead of up and down.

Dennis named his new company Slope Goat!

Dennis the Slope Goat finishes mowing our South 40 in three to four hours instead of days. Now we are duly impressed and looking forward to retiring the big John Deere.

Lest I sound too cynical about our steep incline/decline, the slope has some desirable attributes:

  • There is an old forest and a gurgling stream at the bottom. This is great for horses since they must go down to the bottom to drink and come back up for food (lots of great exercise). The problem is, we outlived our horses who were 28 and 32 and had become longtime lawn ornaments grazing on our parklike slope. Our urge to ride slowly receded when it was too hot, too cold, too buggy or we didn’t feel quite like it.
  • The horses did look beautiful grazing though and our three grandgirls loved pony rides.
  • I used to take walks down to the bottom of the slope (but not for long since it’s a killer huffing and puffing back up).
  • When Elsa-the-dog was new and we turned her loose for the first time, she ran down to the bottom, back up, and down and up again. That was the first and last time she ever tried to make a break for it.

And here we sit, atop our hill. It is 30+ years later as we admire the ever-changing mountain view. But if we look down for a moment at the land, we can see all the way to where we know the stream is. And though we may be a bit too rickety to make our way down there nowadays, the memory is fond.

We smile because we are so happy to have found Slope Goat and hope that Dennis keeps at it through 2021.

Blue Ridge Beautiful

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View from the warm interior of my home December 17, 2020

An icey foggy strange and wonderfully different day in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

The Blue Ridge Mountains are always a viewing pleasure, but today they are a distant and magical kingdom right out of a Disney film.

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animal animal photography big big cat

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

He didn’t stay long.

And of course he arrived uninvited.

I was just having breakfast and almost choked on my tea.  I looked out toward the forest and there he was.

Was that a dog?   Maybe.

But, no, too tall –  and the legs were way too long.

And then, as if he sensed I was watching, he disappeared into the forest.

Google to the rescue!

I found close enough photos to confirm what I saw was a Bobcat!   He was the size of a very tall athletic dog with long gangly legs.  And in a strange way he was quite beautiful.

May Bob reside peacefully in our forest primeval alongside his friends (the bears and other wildlife we are suddenly seeing around here).

Do you suppose the months of lockdowns for the corona virus have lulled seldom seen critters into thinking our rural habitat has returned to Eden?

 

 

 

 

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It was 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon when Elsa-the-Dog begged to go out on the deck. She loves just looking around her “estate” from the safety of the rails and rungs.

So out we went to sit in the shade of the eaves and contemplate sudden fair weather.  Surely the wispy breeze and floods of sunshine would make us safe from the dreaded virus.

As I was about to doze off, Elsa suddenly sprang to life and trotted to a corner of the deck.  She likes to chase bumble bees and I thought that was her goal.

But then she zipped over to the opposite end and then zipped back.  She was definitely on the alert and straining to look in one direction through the rails and I too looked in that direction to see what all the fuss was about.

What I saw was a very large VERY LARGE Virginia Black Bear who was ambling along the edge of our woods.  He had obviously been at both ends below our deck and was certainly interested in my hummingbird feeder!

About the time I put this all together in my slowly emerging brain, Elsa was growling and barking, and the BIG BEAR began to run.  Thankfully, it was running away and not toward us.  Elsa kept up a loud piercing bark that I think made her seem to be a giant adversary instead of a little twerp of a dog.

And the VERY LARGE bear ran all the way out of sight and into the forest.

Thank you Elsa-the-Dog for your grand big-dog bark and for your courage in sounding the alarm.  You are my heroine!

Anyway, who said sheltering in place is not exciting?

 

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Layers Sunrise

The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

 Just another miracle here – the dawning of a new day.

The sun is rising over lingering storm clouds over the Blue Ridge Mountain range and finally over the foothills and hollows of home.

 

 

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Another country view of summer in Virginia.  Here’s a butterfly the color of the sun, in for a rest and willing to pose for a picture.  This fella makes photography easy.

Butterfly on Wicker

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There was no rain in the forecast for the whole week. Ha!  We had the gutters cleaned.  We are weeding and planting things.

Ahhhh Summertime (and the livin’ is easy)!

Good friends arrived one night as an unforecasted storm blew in.  And while we were talking and solving the problems of the world, our lights went off and on and then off again.

No problem. 

Only a little storm.

Even Elsa-the-dog was not intimidated.

And as we predicted, the storm subsided.

Off we all went to the Pink Cadillac for dinner, an old fashioned 1950’s style diner that was bustling as always. We placed our orders and kept on talking.

pink cad interior

Until the lights went out.

mystery-man-groping-behind-glass-square (1)

It’s hard to make a point

or conversation with

unfamiliar faces in the dark.

“Who ARE these people?” I wondered.

“They could be strangers I am talking to.”

At home again, the electricity was still missing.

Usually the eternal optomist, Bill was becoming negative and frustrated about the power outage.

And usually the eternal pessimist, I was beginning to see a bit of humor in the situation.

Hmmmm.  I wonder if traditional personality traits can get switched with age.

But I suppose it was easy for me to stay mellow when Bill was in charge of our survival up and down stairs to monitor the generator.

Then darkness descended and another friend drove up to our house in a panic.

“Help!” she cried.  My road is blocked by a fallen tree! Do you have a chain saw?” 

She was stuck, couldn’t get home, and at the same time, so were our dinner friends.

It took two men, two chain saws, and a big tractor to clear a “huge” tree from the road.

And of course Bill was Man #2 with Chain Saw #2.  And about two hours later he came home craving water and rest.  My hero!

And Hurrah!  The road was cleared.

We are expecting visitors in

the coming weeks of summer.

Hopefully anyone who arrives will not wind up sitting in the dark.

Let there be many joyful adventures but clear roads!

And may I please know who I am talking to (and what I am eating) at the dinner table.

 

 

 

 

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There is something enchanting about the ethereal mists in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.  I am still breathless for a moment when the world is quiet and serene.

Mountain Mist 1

View from Home The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia

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There is a tree I love.

Most of the year it is a little spindly tree,  hardly recognizable and often mistaken for a common weed.

Then Spring arrives and the flowers of this tree are like decorative trimming on a fantastical wedding cake.

The metamorphasis happens right after Forsythia blooms here in Virginia.  A cloud of pink begins to line the roadsides.  And suddenly there are sparkling pathways of brilliant pink for miles around.

I think this is a special time when nature is transformational and with its magic wand,  even a frog can become a prince.

Beauty and the Beast

Cercis canadensis, Eastern Redbud

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

Copious clusters of fabulous pink to fuchsia flowers hug bare branches in early spring giving way to heart-shaped leaves. This Pea family member often grows as an understory tree in mixed forests in the Mid-Atlantic Region* from southern Pennsylvania through Virginia. The Virginia Native Plant Society named Eastern Redbud as Wildflower of the Year for 2013.

Print Version: Cercis canadensis, Eastern Redbud

 

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One Leaf

And so it went.  Day after day after day I waited.

At first, from my faraway post it might have been an injured red Virginia Cardinal fluttering on a barren branch in a forest now devoid of any leaves.

On closer inspection it was actually a lone leaf fluttering in the breeze.

“It may be the only leaf still clinging to life in the state of Virginia,” I thought.

Then we had 60 mile per hour wind gusts.

“Surely it will release its grasp though this,”

But there it stayed and stays still.

I never see a singular leaf like this even though I look along our roadsides.

Now it is snowing and raining and snowing with a sometimes stiff breeze making for peculiar weather.

And there she is, hanging on

as if dreaming.

She is to be admired – an Autumn leaf dreaming of turning green again for one more chance at life.

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