My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant


Friday, May 31, 2013

SkyWatch Friday: The sun sets on the school year

Today's the last day of school for the kiddos of Sheridan, and I thought this sunset over the elementary school across the street from our house symbolized the end of another school year rather prettily. (Funny, we moved into our new home on the first day of school last August, which I also commemorated with a sunset SkyWatch Friday post!) :-)


The view from my computer, looking out our study window...


And the views from our front porch...



Summer vacation is no reason to stop learning, 
so enjoy a fun education about the world's skies at...
And delight in this final day of May!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Bloomin' in the Rain

People from a planet without flowers 
would think we must be mad with joy the whole time 
to have such things about us.  
~Iris Murdoch, A Fairly Honourable Defeat

It's been a dark, chilly, blustery and very rainy day here day today. But between downpours I managed to squeeze in a walk with the dogs, during which I spied some flowers that required returning with my camera. The somber lighting was perfect for making their colors pop, but unfortunately the wind was whipping them about like dervishes and so none of these turned out as focused as I would have liked. But I won't let a little blurriness keep me from sharing them with you! :-)

I think Iris Murdoch would be thrilled to share her name with this beautiful flower! Can you believe its dazzling color? It makes me think of amethysts (and purple cabbage, but "amethysts" sounds more poetic)...


Beside the little glade where we first took refuge in Monday's hailstorm were these pretty Bleeding Hearts. Several people along that street have even larger ones growing in sheltered nooks, but these required the least amount of trespassing to photograph. Bleeding Hearts have always been a favorite of mine and I wish we could grow them at our house, but the only place with shade and shelter from the wind is on a side of the house where no one would ever see them. So I'll just keep admiring others people's...


Aren't they utterly charming? We should be mad with joy the whole time indeed, to have such things about us...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

No Lack of Lilacs or Shortfall of Rainfall

We had a wild mix of weather during our long holiday weekend, starting out with a sunny Saturday near 80ยบ that was perfect for all our outdoor chores and projects, but also a nice long walk with our three dogs (and my little neglected Kodak). The lilacs have been a riot of color and fragrance lately, and I was hoping to photograph some of them. Got lucky just a few blocks into our walk with this long and tall blooming hedge of them...

I added a discreet arrow to point out the white cluster of blossoms among the purple!

My attempt to get a better photo of the white blossoms wasn't very successful because of the mix of bright sun and shadow...


I ventured into the hedge for its fragrance and shade and most important, this artsy SkyWatchy photo :-) ... 


So pretty! If only there were a Scratch-n-Sniff app to go with it...


We decided to walk to the Trail End State Historic Site (or as it's often known locally, "Kendrick Mansion"), which first took us past a neighboring house that belongs to a couple we've been acquainted with for years. I've always loved their chimney, which looks to me like it could double as a bread or pizza oven quite nicely (if one didn't mind hauling the dough up a ladder to their rooftop to bake it!), so I finally nabbed a photo of it...

And here's a photo of the pretty sunroom addition that holds up the fun chimney, in case anyone's curious (the huge, original 2-story part of the house is to the right out of the frame, but I would easily be content to just live in this part!)

And then we spent some lovely, languid time strolling the grounds around Kendrick Mansion, where more lilacs seemed to be blooming everywhere I pointed the camera...


(You can see and learn more of the house and grounds on its official web site and this post)


The Carriage House, which now hosts local theater group performances

Can you see my tiny note below the purple lilac and to the left of the red and gold sign? 
Or more importantly, can you see who it's pointing at? :-)


After strolling the grounds and sniffing most of the flowers, checking the time on the formal garden's sundial, peeking to see if the rose garden behind the carriage house was blooming yet (not even close), and enjoying the beautiful mountain views from the lovely lawns, we'd exhausted all of Kendrick Mansion's possibilities for the day. So we walked home via one of my favorite little neighborhoods on a looping lane that's tucked away and always peaceful. I walk the dogs there fairly often, and there is seldom anyone around. But on this day there was one resident out enjoying the beautiful day (and a fresh salad lunch al fresco) in the side yard...

Should we tell him about the ladies having their own picnic back at Kendrick Mansion? :-)

By the time we got home, it had gotten humid and was clouding up, and it wasn't long after that the thunderstorms started rolling in and were persistent visitors throughout the rest of the weekend. Saturday's only brought very gusty winds (again!), but Sunday afternoon several severe thunderstorms rolled through, bringing pea sized hail and over a half inch of rain along with all the dramatic thunder and lightning. I took all of these photos on Sunday as the storms built and raged around and over us...

Thunderstorms building in the east

A big ol' bad boy to the northwest

This creepy cloud showed up behind our house between storm lashings

The sky was constantly filling up with dramatic photo ops during and between storms, 
but after photographing this last menacing cloud I hightailed it inside!

The real drama, however, was on Memorial Day. The storms had continued during Sunday night and Monday morning, dumping another ¾" of rain on us by the time the sun returned around 10am. But by noon, the skies to the north and west were starting to look ominous again so we decided to take the dogs for a quick walk around a nearby neighborhood. We were at the furthest point from home when we looked up to see that the sky above us had stealthily but rapidly turned dark as night - and then the thunder and lightning started, the wind went from zero to ohholycrap in .01 seconds, and we started hustling the dogs back home. We hadn't gotten far, though, when something hard hit me in the head - dime sized hail. We took the closest cover available, which was under a little copse of trees in someone's side yard, and when it appeared the hail had ended several minutes later we headed for home again. But almost immediately it started to hail again, nickel-sized this time and a lot more of it. So we took refuge on a covered front porch of a vacant house - a porch with a metal roof! The hail came down thick and hard (and LOUD) and seemed to go on forever, bouncing off the ground and hitting us with glancing blows. As it started to let up and we could hear each other enough to converse again, I said to BW, "I'm glad I didn't bring my camera with me!" And then I looked at the photo-op of ankle deep hail on the ground and covering the street, and thought - damn, wish I had my camera with me! 

Some people are just never satisfied. :-)

Also sharing this post with 

Friday, May 24, 2013

SkyWatch Friday: A 5-Minute Sunrise

How many of these...


 ...can you find in this post? :-)

Some of them are tricky - you'll have to pay attention and do some math!
(The answer appears at the bottom of this post).

Here are 5 sunrise photos shot during a 5-minute span on 5/23 in 55mph wind gusts. (It was not only windy, it was also cold, so please pardon any blurriness - I was shaking like a windblown leaf!)...

Photo taken at 04:23:05

You can't tell from these photos, of course, but those low dark clouds were scudding across the sky at an impressive speed...

04:23:52

04:24:56

04:27:34

04:28:03

And about 15 seconds after I took this last one, *poof!* Just like that, the sky was virtually colorless. I think the wind blew the colors right out of the sky!


The wind blew away a lot more than that in Oklahoma this week, whose own skies were anything but beautiful for a devastating few minutes Monday, and our love and healing thoughts go out to all who are dealing with the tornado's tragic and grueling aftermath. 


And the answer is... 15 (oops, there's another one!) :-)
 Hints for the less obvious ones you may have missed: The 5 in the post title, the "5" graphic, the day's date ("23"rd) plus the "23" seconds in the first two photos (2+3=5
And you get a gold star if you got this one: the numbers in the time the first photo was shot add up to 32, and 3+2= yep, 5

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Nothing crabby about these apple blossoms!


To say it's been a devastating week for many residents of Tornado Alley, especially in Oklahoma, would be an understatement. To say that our thoughts, support and solace are with the affected people and animals as they grieve and recover is an understatement too. 

After every storm the sun will smile.
~William R. Alger


The sun has come out, and the air is vivid with spring light...
~Byron Caldwell Smith

And to say that here in northern Wyoming the trees have awakened at last would also be an understatement, though a much happier one and for that we are grateful. Seemingly overnight, the lilacs and apple, plum and crabapple trees have burst out in colorful, fragrant blossoms. Walking the dogs down any street in town is heady stuff! Juggling three dogs (and their, uh, used hygiene paraphernalia) by myself is enough of a handful without lugging the Rebel along, but after passing this crabapple tree a block or so from our house last evening I just had to return with my camera. I'm glad I did, since most of last night and this morning we've experienced 40mph winds with gusts in excess of 55mph, so though I haven't yet been able to check, I'm sure a lot of these blossoms now litter the ground...






Can you see the heart in this last one?...

For hurting hearts any and everywhere...

Your heart has been sore wounded too. 
Dear Light, love shall cherish you, till you look again on life with happy eyes.
~Byron Caldwell Smith

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Soil & Toil & Flora & Fauna :-)

Wonder of wonder and miracle of miracles - BW was offered Friday off, a huge surprise - and accepted it, which wasn't! :-) We've been wanting to get our backyard herb garden planted, and knew we had a very narrow window of opportunity before several days of significant rain moved in. So Friday morning BW spent two hours prepping the bed with a pickax and some amended soil, and then we spent most of the rest of the day visiting three different greenhouses to buy some drip irrigation supplies, fencing, and plants.

Bright and early yesterday morning, we started designing and planting it (sometimes in the rain that came earlier than forecast), and by lunchtime we had this little herb and flower garden under our kitchen nook windows...

Willow wants you to know that she and her sisters "helped." :-)

We bought a really pretty solar-lit, painted glass birdbath on sale last fall, and it was supposed to go beneath the middle awning window and be the centerpiece of our herb garden. Alas, its metal stand has a defect that makes it too wobbly to trust, so BW plans to take it to an automotive repair shop to see if they can repair the flaw. *sigh* Meanwhile... we planted red and purple columbine, lavender, marigolds, thyme, rosemary, spearmint, cilantro, three varieties of basil, and two varieties of peppers. The "Yorkshire Scroll" fencing came from Home Depot and the recycled rubber stepping "stones" from Gardener's Supply (sorry they got so muddy during our planting frenzy, you'll see on the web site how pretty they are when they're clean!)... 


Unhappy Update, 5/24: After 24 hours of 40mph sustained winds and gusts of 60 since the middle of Wednesday night, our new herb and flower garden, not even a week old, is a near total loss. Even some of the sturdy little marigolds were broken and wind-blasted, and the columbine, herbs and pepper plants never stood a chance. It's very frustrating because it's in the one area that should have been protected from our usual N/NW winds, and therefore the one place we can enjoy flowers! But this time the wind came from the E/SE instead. Our potted flowers didn't fare much better, since those winds - which had not been predicted - came up suddenly in the middle of the night. I know I shouldn't complain - at least it wasn't a tornado! - but to see all that time and effort and money and prettiness go down the drain after only four days of enjoyment is a bit hard to take without feeling pissed off. In somewhat happier news, BW was able to fix the birdbath (I'd brought the glass bowl indoors the evening before the wind blew so badly, so at least it wasn't smashed to smithereens!), and though they were violently blown around, I think most of our other plantings made it through (can't say the same about our mulch, though!) And at least we haven't planted the front flowerbed yet - but I think we'd better go with boulders and tree stumps, the only things that can stand up to Wyoming's #@$% winds!

We've also been planting flowers in our flower pots during the past couple of weeks, so while I was in the back yard with my camera I decided to photograph some on the patio to share with you. But Tess thought the photo would be much more interesting if she walked through it as I took it (one of her methods of "helping," the others being to sniff and lick everything you're working with, and/or to sit on it and demand lovin's. Also to lick your face suddenly while you're working at dog-tongue level)...


There's no rest for the wicked, especially when racing the weather. The rains had stopped for a few hours, but were clearly intending to start in again just as soon as they felt like it, so after a quick lunch break we took turns mowing and trimming the back yard. I'd just mowed it on Wednesday, but it's clear that it's going to need it twice a week, especially this time of year when it grows so fast, because that yard is too beastly hard to mow with the reel mower when the fescue gets so long and thick. This time it was much easier, especially with BW at home to share in the fun! :-)

We were delighted when our Greenspire Linden finally leafed out last week, after stubbornly (but perhaps wisely) clenching his little bud fists since late March!

We had another brief break in the weather last evening, when we even got to see the sun for the first time all day. So we took the dogs for a walk around the neighborhood and I took my camera along, because on a walk the day before I'd spied this beautiful Purple Leaf Sand Cherry in bloom down the street. There are several in our neighborhood, but this one is huge and by far the most beautiful. I reduced my many photos of it down to three (based largely on their lovely backgrounds of "blossom bokeh!"), but then could cull no further. But maybe you can narrow these down to a single favorite...




Willow, who'd promised her fan club a photo (to make up for her "bad hair day" refusal to be photographed for this SkyWatch post), found that a day filled with "helping" in the garden, watching Mom and Dad mow, and then going for a walk and having to wait while Mom took 14,593 photos of some smelly branches, just too exhausting for words...

:-)

Today is rainy and windy and cozy, and we'll be spending much of it in the garage, sorting through and pricing more stuff for our huge upcoming yard sale in three weeks. But after that, it's BW's famous homemade vegan pizza and a movie! :-) Here's hoping your weekend is being a perfect mix of productive and relaxing! 

Friday, May 17, 2013

SkyWatch Friday: Head in the clouds

We should be getting lots of rain this time of year, but so far May has brought us only unseasonably warm temperatures, wind, and clouds that look promising but disappoint - at least as far as moisture is concerned. Their photogenic qualities, on the other hand, are above reproach!  

I took these two photos last Friday afternoon, the first one in the back yard which I spied while mowing. I think it looks a lot like this shark tooth...


Which was appropriate, given that a little later that day while I was watering in our south side and front yards (paying as much attention to the skies as I was to my chores!), I noticed what appeared to be two Great White shark fins swimming through the foaming cloud-surf! Maybe they were searching for their lost tooth...


And this dark cloud hovering overhead at sunrise the next morning appeared to be trailing delicate jellyfish tentacles (but was really virga). Honestly, you'd think that skies that appeared so full of aquatic life would yield more water...


We have some strong predictions for rain tomorrow through Monday, so... fingers crossed!

A visit to SkyWatch Friday may not yield rain, but it will sure yield captivating skies!

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SOME CURRENT & RECENT READING...

SOME CURRENT & RECENT READING...

  • INFERNO ~ Dan Brown
  • MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD & EVIL ~ John Berendt
  • MY NOTORIOUS LIFE: A NOVEL ~ Kate Manning
  • ONE SUMMER: AMERICA, 1927 ~ Bill Bryson
  • QUIET: THE POWER OF INTROVERTS IN A WORLD THAT CAN'T STOP TALKING ~ Susan Cain
  • THE BEAUTIFUL CIGAR GIRL ~ Daniel Stashower
  • THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY ~ Erik Larson
  • THE SHADOWS, KITH AND KIN ~ Joe R. Lansdale
  • THE TIPPING POINT ~ Malcolm Gladwell
There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"