30 September 2014

Early Reds

Autumn is here - at least if red leaves are an indicator. Strangely, the yellows are well behind the reds in coloring. The temperatures have warmed a bit again so it is not the crisp nights causing the transformation.

The Virginia Creeper (to the left) is as intense in color as I have seen in years. The dogwood (below) out in the large pasture has colored quickly and a has taken a deeper hue than typical. Most, but not all, of the dogwoods are especially well endowed with their signature red berries this season.

One of the 'tools' provided by nature and utilized by weather prognosticators in much of the eastern United States is the woolly web worm. Famous prophets keep their specific techniques secret but common wisdom notes the insects' color ratio, depth of color, numbers and activity levels. The greater the percentage of black on the worm, purportedly the worse the winter. Today Mr. Fuzzy saw the first one of the season and he forecasts bad news: all black, very large and slow.

In these parts, stink bugs are rampant, no end of trouble both domestically and in gardens. The little buggers (pun intended) prefer to winter indoors in tight places. They do not augur the form of the future winter but speak to its arrival date. Alas, they have been all over the window screens for perhaps ten days, a sign the cold temperatures may not be far away.

28 September 2014

Good golly, Miss Molly!

Miss Molly and Mr. Fuzzy on an old bootlegger's gravel road over the Blue Ridge

Due to a plethora of "exogenous parameters" in Mr. Fuzzy's life, this poor old gal (a 1940 Ford DeLuxe Coupe) has sat lonely and neglected in the garage for over two years. Sigh. When last running, she was about to receive brighter headlights for better night visibility and so she sat with her eyes on the floor, waiting for installation and the open road again.

After the resolution of the over-riding life distraction, it was time to turn back to Miss Molly. A special gift appeared in the form of my friend Allan, who is, among other talents, a superb designer and builder of  Classic American Hot Rods. In the blink of a metaphorical headlight eye, he had Molly ready to hit the road again. Although humid, the last two days have been without any threat of precipitation and cool so Miss Molly and Mr. Fuzzy have been reunited for an autumn tour. 

Allan on his BMW

Last night saw a very modest trip into Floyd for dinner, more or less a dry run to be certain there were no hidden problems due to the prolonged sitting. The petrol in her tank was probably two and a half years old but she started within five seconds of cranking that masterpiece of American design, a Chevy 327 engine, and roared into life as if she was a new car. On the return trip to the farm, she received ten gallons of fresh premium petrol and she purred all the way home.

This morning brought a second trip into town for the traditional Sunday breakfast with my buddy Mike. We decided a short tour after breakfast would be just the thing to bring the morning into clear focus. My thanks to Mike for taking this dandy image.

It is a great delight to have the opportunity to spend quality time with Miss Molly again. Thank you, Allan.

27 September 2014

Off color

Peak period is probably a long way away but the maples, gums and redbuds as well as some other species are turning rapidly in Floyd county and on the farm. Its been cool and damp which is supposed to be optimal for coloration. Let us hope for a spectacular autumnal display.

None of the maples at Stratheden have turned orange, like this one in a local garden supply business. Perhaps it is due to species or microclimates but those on the farm are all a deep red this year.

There is a tinge of yellow just beginning on most leaves of the forest dwellers. With good fortune, this will be a fine & brilliant fall season. Break out the popcorn and watch.

26 September 2014

The New Tractor

Several perceptive folks have inquired about the size of the new Yanmar tractor. Yes,indeed, it is smaller than you might think but has nearly the horsepower of my venerable Ford 1710 (of about 1983 vintage) and is also a four wheel drive, necessary on land as steep as Stratheden. So, for those inquiring minds, here is a photograph showing the Yanmar next to the Sears riding mower.

For the photo-geeks viewing this, that image was taken with my new-to-me-but-used Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 camera acquired via eBay. The Fujifilm X20 camera which has produced many images on this blog has been a real trooper and is an amazing camera but the GX7 has many more useful features and is generally more powerful. The X20 is soon to be put out to pasture.

17 September 2014

just another photograph

In the year 1760

There are but few French & Indian War era sites this far south and the opportunity to participate in an event of that period is not to be missed when it is only four hours away.

Edited from Wikipedia:
"Fort Loudoun was a British colonial-era fort located in what is now Monroe County, Tennessee, United States. Built in 1756 and 1757 to help garner Cherokee support for the British at the outset of the Seven Years' War, the fort was one of first significant British outposts west of the Appalachian Mountains. It was named for the Earl of Loudoun, the commander of British forces in North America at the time.
Relations between the garrison of Fort Loudoun and the local Cherokee inhabitants were initially cordial, but soured in 1758 due to hostilities between Cherokee fighters and European settlers in Virginia and South Carolina. After the massacre of several Cherokee chiefs who were being held hostage at Fort Prince George, the Cherokee laid siege to Fort Loudoun in March 1760. The fort's garrison held out for several months, but diminishing supplies forced its surrender in August 1760. Hostile Cherokees attacked the fort's garrison as it marched back to South Carolina, killing more than two dozen and taking most of the survivors prisoner."

The original site is now underwater thanks to "the Tennessee Valley Authority's construction of Tellico Dam at the mouth of the Little Tennessee River in the 1960... At a contentious public meeting on the proposed dam in 1964, legendary local judge Sue K. Hicks, the Fort Loudoun Association's president, engaged in a verbal altercation with TVA Chairman Aubrey Wagner.[12] TVA eventually agreed to fund the raising and reconstruction of the fort. The agency also funded extensive archaeological excavations at the site..."

The new location is near the original and the fort is accurately reconstructed since there was a plethora of documentation and artifacts. On a hill surrounded by the lake on three sides, the site couldn't be more beautiful. There is a small but choice museum displaying a fractions of the thousands of artifacts from the original fort.

The weather at this annual event, according to those experienced, is always hot and so it was: 97F and 93F respectively. Under three layers of 18th century garment, it was beyond toasty. 

I must admit that the over-riding incentive to attend these events is independent of the place and totally revolves around seeing my reenactor friends. Definitely true of this event. My friends Lisa and Carroll leaned on me to attend and others such as Paul and Allen, showed up as well. Fort Loudon's Trade Fair merchants are pretty spotty (sayeth ye snob) but the entertainment is first rate live music and comedy. I was encamped with Dennis & Barbara Duffy who are long time 18th century musicians and singers of high repute. The camp life was augmented by both their music and hospitality and I count them among the rare category of "new friends."

All those camped in that area were 18th century foodies and I was just a camp dog, enjoying all the varied repasts presented by my fellow campers, bless 'em. Carroll always cooks a feast one night to feed the multitudes and it was off the chart fine, supplemented by pots and bowls of food by others. Oh what a delight!

I need nothing in life but health and friends.

12 September 2014

Summer temperatures

Below are the official statistics from the National Weather Service in Blacksburg, Virginia:

* Blacksburg, Bluefield, and Lewisburg never had a 90 degree day the entire summer!
* Roanoke has had more 90-degree days in September (2) than they had in August (1)!

July 2, 2014 - One of the hottest days of the year for most locations in the Blacksburg CWA.
Danville - 97
Roanoke - 96
Lynchburg - 94
Lewisburg - 89
Blacksburg - 89
Bluefield - 86

The only two uncomfortably hot spells at Stratheden this summer were the last few days of June continuing into early July and early September. They were stinking hot, humid and still with even the nights being uncomfortable and lows sometimes as high as 70F.

There is a fine fog at the moment (6:40 p.m.), a function of a fresh cold front which began its passage yesterday. The forecast low for tomorrow night is 53F. Some species of trees began changing into their autumnal wardrobe a fortnight ago despite the heatwave - these cool temperatures may accelerate the action and bring a very early fall. Hopefully the colors will be brilliant and long lasting. Stay tuned.

10 September 2014

Impending Storm

Several friends have emboldened me to post more of my 'arty' photographs herein. Some will have been posted on my FaceBook page and I apologize in advance for those who read it, too.

This was taken a month or so ago about two miles from the farm at the terminus of Canning Factory Road.

Please click on it to see it at the proper size. May it bring you visual joy.

05 September 2014

More Cats

MommaKat and her litter came into the household as fosters for the Santa Fe Humane Society eight years ago, nearly nine.In theory, all the felines were to be returned to the shelter when either two months old or two pounds. MommaKat was still thoroughly feral and had never allowed a human closer than about eight feet - they would have 'euthanized' her as unadoptable had she been returned.

In the meantime, as the 60 days passed, two male kittens really shone in terms of personality, the big guy and the ginger colored brother. Well, as far as the shelter was concerned, those two just didn't survive. Hah! Grover grew to 19 pounds and Chetworth Del Gato to more than 17 of unadulterated lean cat muscle. MommaKat was a superb mother and empowered her babies with all the skills they would need to prosper in the world.

MommaKat was still skittish when she came to Stratheden Farm. Always more affectionate in winter, she was distant the remainder of the year. Until about 18 months ago, that is. She is still nervous about strangers but a lot more confident with me. Here she is last night, my delightful dinner date. A dear neighbor gifted me with a passel of tomatoes, encompassing three varieties, all delicious in their own way. Another fine soul gifted half a dozen home made brats. With some buns and sweet onion mustard, it was a meal fit for a king (and his cat).

Here is her son, Chetworth del Gato, who used to guest blog herein when so moved. Now almost nine years old, he is semi-retired and sniffs too much catnip while he watches too much cable TV. Last night he was transfixed by a National Geographic Special on" Large Cats of the African Savannas." All day he has been imitating their poses... he needs to get a life.

03 September 2014

Cool Cats

The dogs cats have enjoyed the relatively cool summer, in fact, one of the coolest on record. There was a hot ten day period in early June that had everyone concerned it presaged a scorching summer ... the only other hot spell is now, after summer has normally ended in the Blue Ridge. Below are the official National Weather Service figures:

Last summer was non-stop rain from the dawn of the year into mid-August. I believe there were only two spells of three consecutive dry days in the first seven months of 2013. Then a drought came on. There was no happy medium in 2013.

This year has been more moderate/typical than last, thankfully. Nonetheless, Floyd county was on the Federal Drought Register for several weeks before the heavens opened and erased the drought. The pasture is excellent for this time of year and the trees are less stressed than in the dry period. Some trees, especially dogwoods and maples, are beginning to gain their autumnal coloration already, strange not just because it is so early but because of the day temperatures being in the 80s.

An astute reader might inquire why the village of Floyd is not featured on these charts. The reason is simple: there has not been an official observer in the county since the last one joined the armed forces in 1941.

I trust your summer has been equally temperate, dear readers.