Sunday, November 30, 2014

Snowy Travels

Driving on interstate highways to spend Thanksgiving in our native NJ visiting with family and friend brought a number of wintry sights.

A winter storm hit the east coast on Wednesday just as many folks, like ourselves, were heading on the roads.
Luckily, we didn't experience any major backups or delays during our trip. Even though the day before Thanksgiving is predictably the "heaviest" travel day, traffic moved along smoothly.

Our only "delays" were when traffic slowed to let salt and plow truck drivers to do their job for which we were thankful.
And 2 days afterwards this was the scene as we traveled NJ roadways — what a difference in road and weather conditions.

We hope that all our U.S. blogger friends enjoyed a safe and wonderful holiday, as we certainly did.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Friday Funnies

This wild turkey "escaped" a Presidential pardon this week . . .

and flew away (after dining).

(A friend in Oregon "captured" this bird on his back porch using his cell phone.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

We wish EVERYONE a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration, whether you're spending the day dining with family, friends or both.

At this special time, we are thankful for so many blessings — family, friends and YOU, our blogger friends. Thanks for your comments which we always appreciate.

If any of you will be traveling on the East Coast to visit family and friends, as we're doing, we hope that all our travels are safe. Wintry weather is predicted for many states, which could make this holiday even more memorable.

Happy Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Holiday Treets

No, it's not a misspelling, but, a play on holiday "treats" because this is about decorated Christmas trees.

We've been in NH the past week and took a road trip to the Sticks and Stones Farm in Barnstead, NH, which was hosting its 4th annual Festival of Trees. This event takes place the weekend before Thanksgiving and is a fundraiser for several area organizations through an admission fee.

Farm owners invite local businesses, organizations and individuals to decorate trees that are displayed outdoors on the farm. Visitors vote for their favorites using pennies placed in containers near each tree. Previously, the festival has hosted 50 decorated trees, but far less this year. After judging and the festival's end, decorated trees are donated to families in need. 

We missed the Friday and Saturday choral groups since we visited on Sunday afternoon, the final day. Still, there was outdoor marshmallow roasting, cookies, cider and hot chocolate treats, and a wagon ride around the farm grounds. 
It was a nice way to spend time before Thanksgiving and to contribute towards a worthwhile event. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

What's in the Lawn?

Large groupings of mushrooms cropped up in the F&P front lawn the past couple of weeks. In the past several years, we've had two large trees removed, yet this is the first time these large mushrooms have appeared.

In doing online research, I learned that it could take quite awhile for some of the former tree matter to decay causing a delay in the appearance of these "shrooms," which are actually fungal matter. 

And, unlike in the human world where fungi is often not a good thing, it's actually beneficial in many parts of the plant world.

Mushrooms grow where there is healthy organic matter in the soil. While they are not necessarily bad for the lawn, most homeowners find them unattractive and remove them down or apply fungicide treatment.

The ones in our front yard provided some good photo opps. These photos were au natural with no post processing or special effects applied.

Shortly after this photo session, I eliminated them from the lawn because our home is "on the market" and these clumps may not seem attractive to a prospective buyer of which they were none recently. And, there is that whole issue of "curb appeal."

For a short time they were great subject matter. You don't need to go far to find photo possibilities, just take a walk in your front (or back) yard

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Late in the Season?

Last week's Friday Funnies drew a lot of comments. Thanks to all who told me it was an amazing capture. Sometimes, the unexpected happens when I take my camera and go exploring, many times close to home.

There were quite a few of these colorful caterpillars on the dill which was growing unexpectedly and very late in the season in our small garden -- long after the tomatoes and peppers had been harvested and enjoyed by Grenville and myself. 

And, just as unexpectedly and late, there were up to a dozen of these caterpillars on nearly every available dill stalk.

When these larvae mature, they become eastern black swallowtail butterflies. The host plant is any of the carrot family: dill, parsley, fennel and others. The adult female lays fertilized yellow eggs on the host plant. The stages (instars) feed voraciously on the host plant as they mature. Many dill plants were already stripped of their leaves.

This is a younger version of this caterpillar larvae. Its "skin" is armor-like with spikes of bright orange. Several of these were munching on parsley. Two weeks earlier, I saw over a dozen of these in the dill and parsley.; all were gone by morning, perhaps as a bird treat? 

Later, I read that not seeing a black swallowtail chrysalis is not unusual; the instars hide in nearby vegetation, then later string up and morph into a chrysalis and then a butterfly.

The (Eastern) Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) is also called the American Swallowtail or Parsnip Swallowtail. It's the state butterfly of Oklahoma and is found throughout much of North America.

Monday, November 17, 2014

More Happenings

It's been a couple of weeks since an update on what's been happening around The Frog & PenguINN. The last update described how we've been downsizing by selling, donating and tossing "stuff" that seems to have accumulated in our nearly 11 years here on the VA eastern shore.

Recent efforts have been focused on outside house projects and yard work. Luckily, we've had some really warm fall temps.

Grenville did some touch-ups on the front porch trim. It needed a freshening after the humid summers here.

He's quite handy with a paint brush and does great work.

I left him to that task as he said he didn't need help. I've learned to only ask once so it was OK with me to skip that project.

Instead, my project was clearing out the front flower beds to ready them for winter. They look pretty barren in this photo, but were soon covered up with pine straw.

Pine straw is simply fallen pine needles. In some areas, folks pay money for this type of mulch, it's free for us thanks to the neighbor's pine trees in the back yard. (No, he doesn't mind if we gather it.)  

A few years ago, fellow blogger, Possum, explained about the various names for dropped pine needles here on the VA eastern shore. Being natives of NJ, we would call them pine straw, whereas folks in different areas here call them "shatters" or "shatts." The idiosyncrasies of local language.

The wildflower meadow was the next yard project. It was tackled by Grenville and his friend, John Deere (the tractor). An earlier post late last week showed off these blooms.

Before and after shots. Pine straw came in very handy once again.

While all this outdoor activity was going on, there were a couple of observers — Percival, the front porch penguin, and Francis, the head garden frog. 

These were gifts given by a friend before we left NJ, who knew what we planned to name our home. They were the first of many future frog and penguins to reside here. All were non-living, of course, unless we include the numerous garden frogs and toads which would visit every spring and summer. But, never a live penguin.

And, in all the years of living here, these two (and others) have never helped with chores.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Remembering . . .

Today is Veterans Day, which celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans as opposed to Memorial Day, which is a day of remembering those who died while serving. 

In 1918, World War I ended with a  truce on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. November 11 is generally regarded as the "war to end all wars." 

Since 1938, Veterans Day has been designated as a federal holiday which means that many U.S. workers and students have the day off. Non-essential federal government office are closes as are many state and local offices. There is no mail delivery.
While the holiday is commonly printed as Veteran's Day or Veterans' Day in calendars and advertisements (spellings that are grammatically acceptable), the U.S. government has declared that the attributive (no apostrophe) rather than the possessive case is the official spelling; Veterans Day is the official designation.

Today's images were taken in Old Lyme, CT.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

How Many Days ?

If you live in the U.S. (eastern time zone) it's 45 days from today not counting minutes and seconds. If you need an exact number, there's  many sites that will do a daily countdown in days, hours, minutes, even seconds. Sadly, it's getting closer every year in retailing terms and could start even earlier in a few years — bathing suits next to Christmas trees?.

A few many stores had holiday decorations up way before Halloween. These photos were taken inside two local stores, one is a major retailer whose name starts with "W" at the beginning of October.
As we were travelling out of state in mid-October, there was no shortage of decorated trees in this major home improvement store — in various colors too for those wanting a blue Christmas (are you seeing this, Elvis?)

And, where there are trees, there are also lights; don't forget extension cords and candles.

Plus, decorative balls in colors other than green and red; blue for a blue or white tree?

Add in stars, angels candles and holiday jingles too.
And, don't forget the gift wrap and cards as if retailers would let us.

When we were growing up (OK we're dating ourselves), holiday decorations were held off until post Thanksgiving — not like now when several holidays converge or overlap. Back then when Halloween and Thanksgiving ended, department stores started the Christmas decorating/selling season. Christmas is already a bit too hectic and loses more of its special magic each year thanks to retailers and the buying public. 

So...have you started, finished with shopping/decorating or do you want to forget about Christmas before it arrives? 

Psst . . .it will be over soon and Valentines decorations could be out by Dec. 26, maybe sooner.

Yes, a rant

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Orange You Glad . . .

Fall colors have arrived in most areas, discounting those here in the U.S. that had snow last week. These yard decorations were seen in a neighboring yard on a morning walk.

There's lots of orange and yellow flowers still around in the Frog & PenguINN wildflower meadow. It will be mulched down soon, but it's still enjoyable to see.

Some flowershave bloomed for the last time and remain vibrantly colorful in their demise.

The warmer than usual temperatures have brought quite a few meadow visitors too.

We've been busy working on various house and yard projects. It's always a welcome break to enjoy the beauties of nature especially in our own backyard.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Halloween Done Wright

No, that's not a typo in the post title.  
It's the last name of folks in our neighborhood and is pronounced "right." To say that the family are really big huge fans of Halloween would be an understatement.

Judy, the family matriarch, always made certain that her home was a gathering spot for her grandson and his friends on Halloween. Although she passed away several years ago, her family continues the tradition which gets larger each year.

This year's theme was focused on evil clowns which were everywhere in the yard.

Lots of other characters joined the celebration — assorted skeletons and mummies. 

Ghastly angels. skeletons in dress, and more clowns were not only in the Wright's yard, but in those of nearby neighbor's as well. (Yes, there were that many decorations.)

As with any large production, there were lots of extra helping hands; most were just hanging around or planted in place. 

The Wright's Halloween display wasn't the only one in our neighborhood. A home daycare center around the block also was decked out in less scary style with black cats, pumpkins and ghosts, plus Frankenstein and a bat.

Gusty winds were predicted for the weekend, so both these displays were only up for Friday, Halloween night — they were great fun to see and enjoyed by all.