Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring at the Loyd Homeplace

Spring officially arrived a few days ago. We haven't yet begun to plant our garden, so I thought I'd feature some of the lovely plants that adorn our yard.

It will be a while before this Nandina comes into flower, so why not enjoy the berries from last year's flowers? (Should you use a question mark on rhetorical questions?)

These violets may be in a planter, but they actually volunteered. With a little help from some birds, perhaps.

The redbud is one of my favorite flowering trees.

Since we had timber cut two years ago, we can see from the house all the way to our pear trees.

We were in hopes that these delicate blossoms could avoid frost damage this year, and it looks like we'll get our wish.

This is one of the maples I transplanted from the swamp many years ago. Three of them grace our backyard and field. They're almost big enough for climbing!

The jonquils in the next two photos have a long history. About 1977, these were on the Farm Life School campus. Tennis courts were about to be constructed in their location and Dr. Brock generously said I could did up as many as I wanted.
At that time, Judy and I lived in Colonial Heights in Aberdeen, and some of these dressed up our small yard. And in 1978, when we moved to our current location in Murdocksville (near Pinehurst), we diligently re-dug each bulb. Seeing their splendor this spring makes me glad we took the time.

Same shade of yellow, but this is Forsythia, in Judy's prayer garden.

Adjacent to the prayer garden are two beautiful camellia bushes. One red. . .

one pink.

The next two photos are Flowering Quince.

It's also called Hogapple, because of its small fruit (that I guess hogs like). Which name do you prefer?

We have two bodacious bushes of First Breath of Spring. A single sprig of it can fill a room with an aromatic fragrance. The flowers don't show up as well with these leaves, but in early February, it was ALL flowers, NO leaves.
We think the delicate plant below is Baby's Breath. But we're not sure. Can you help us?

Or maybe this is Baby's Breath. Hmm. Anyway, we like it.
We may think of spring as a growing time, but there are always reminders that the cycles of nature are continuous, whether it is those of life and death, the seasons, of regeneration.
During a recent high wind, the top of this dead tree fell, near the road. I had observed a woodpecker nesting in in last year. Standing dead trees serve a vital purpose in God's design. They provide homes for both insects and some birds. And of course, those same insects get eaten out of house and home by the birds.
But I'm happy to report that a large portion of the dead pine tree remains, with ample cavities for woodpeckers to continue to utilize.
Much more will be springing forth in the weeks to come, some from our garden, and much more from "the wild things." April is upon us tomorrow, then Easter this Sunday, and it's a wonderful time to thank God for His perfect design of all these natural wonders we enjoy. Spending time outdoors, reflecting and contemplating the works of His hands, is the best way never to take these things for granted.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Claire Helps the Grands with Reading

One day not so long ago, Claire took time off from her busy schedule to help me and Judy with our reading.
"Grandpa, someday you'll be able to read without pointing at the words, and hopefully without moving your lips."
"And once you get past this 'See Spot run' phase, I hope to introduce you to some really fine literature."
"Remember, Grandma, 'When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking.' This is no time to mess up-- Grandpa's on the prowl with the camera."

"Good expression, Grandma. You must have remembered your vitamins."
"You and Grandpa did so well on your reading lessons I'm going to let you play with one of my favorite toys." Claire is a tender-hearted teacher-- she doesn't require book reports, summer reading lists, or vocabulary tests. A job well done earns one of these priceless smiles from her. And we've got hundreds of books we can't wait to share in the years ahead!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Brianna's Latest Doins

Part I: New favorite things.

Brianna now loves-- and I mean LOVES to clap her hands.

Brianna also LOVES to point. Uh, Bri, sometimes it's not polite to point.

"Grandma, will you please find a good oldies station?"

Did I mention she LOVES to clap?

I tried to think of a caption for these next two pictures that wouldn't offend anyone. I gave up, but I think there's some mother/daughter spiritual bonding going on.

If you've got any other theories, let me know.

Part II: Brianna's Big Adventure

One of the best things about knowing how to crawl is that you can go on adventures without being carried, strapped in a car seat, or plopped into a buggy. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!)

"There's Grandpa. But I think I can get away before he catches up. It took me a while to get this far and he's old."

"Well, on with the adventure-- whoa-- gotta check out what's in this crack in the floor."

"Oh yeah. The room that always smells good. But I haven't seen it from this perspective."

"Have passie (pacifier), will travel. Hey, there seems to be a light coming from around that corner."

"Eureka, it's the elusive, legendary Sunbeam. The stuff that dreams are made of. And Sunday comics. And it's right next to these two columns covered in cloth."

"It's Grandma? I mean, It's Grandma. I knew that. And I think it's time for her to hold me. Wow, what a long adventure!"

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

NC's Civil War Trail leads to Fort Macon

With me being a Civil War buff, our beach trip had to include a visit to historic Fort Macon, one of the best preserved 19th century forts in the U.S. It was first constructed when the nation saw a critical need to better defend its seaports during time of war. It was strategically located on the tip of the island across the inlet from Beaufort.

In 1861, Confederate forces seized the fort at the outbreak of the Civil War. But Union forces laid seige to the fort and were able to reclaim it before the end of 1862. The fort was given to the state of North Carolina following World War I, but was reactivated as a working fort during World War II. During this time, it was an integral part of our coastal defenses, as German U-boats prowled the Atlantic coast.

The modern visitors' center houses artifacts, a gift shop, and an excellent media presentation of the fort's story.

Then we were off to tour the fort itself. When I saw the sheer drop-off of the inner walls, I steered clear. Judy, having learned from our dear friend Liz, risked life and limb to venture out on this narrow catwalk.

This inner area was actually a moat, and there was a secret means of flooding it with seawater if the need had ever arisen.

One of the fort's points of entry.

Old Glory flies high above Fort Macon and can be seen from afar, both by land and by sea.

The perimeter of the fort's body consists of casements, rooms with specific purposes, such as storage, quarters for the troop, etc.

During battles, cannonballs such as these might keep attacking ships at bay.

A cannon like this could launch the projectiles to a distant target.

Another deadly defensive tool were mortars. Mortars like these could send "hotshot", superheated shells far into the atmosphere, where they would descend with increasing velocity. On impact they would explode, scattering shrapnel in all directions, killing, maiming, and setting fires. Charlestonians had used the hotshot effectively to bring about the surrender of Fort Sumter, as there was a great risk of the fort's gunpowder supply being ignited.

Here you can see the thickness of the fort's brickwork. Our visit was truly a trip back in time.

On the beach adjacent to the fort, we thought the water was bluer and the sand whiter than anywhere else on the island.

Here, you can see see the nearness of Beaufort. A few enterprising folks were picnicking, fishing, strolling the beaches, or birdwatching. We saw no swimmers on this March day.

Just a few more photos will wrap up this tale of our gypsy trip. Here are the fishing boats of Beaufort. While there, we visited a small but very nice maritime museum. There was a heavy emphasis on Blackbeard, the Queen Anne's Revenge, and pirates in general.

A scene from a public access beach we stopped at.

It's hard to imagine some of these quiet, secluded areas once the tourist season gets in full swing.

We were glad to be at the coast when we had ample personal space. An atmosphere of serenity prevailed almost everywhere.

This shrouded path to the beach reminded us of enchanted forests in The Wizard of Oz or The Lord of the Rings. But no talking trees. At least not this day.

On our final morning, we took one last stroll on the beach. As lovely as always.

I guess this row of seagulls were watching to see when we'd leave them in peace.

Judy snapped these next two shots as we approached, then crossed the bridge to Morehead City and the mainland. We were on our way to breakfast at Cox's Family Restaurant. It was as good as our other meals which were at Brandy's Pancake and Waffle House (all you can eat buffet), Dairy Queen (please don't laugh at us), and the Clamdigger Inn. Our only seafood meal was at the Clamdigger, and it was an outstanding flounder special, including homemade tartar sauce and cocktail sauce. Portions were generous, too, and the cost was about two-thirds what other seafood places were advertising.

So a fond farewell to the beach.

But lo and behold-- a fitting finale to this grand getaway. On U.S. 70 as you drive away from Morehead City, a recently opened Harris Teeter store advertised this unbelievable special.
TRIPLE COUPONS EVERY DAY! This would have made it a successful trip for Judy even if the beach had been closed or we had had to sleep in the car. She came out with three bagfuls of groceries for $5.00. Plus a big smile.
We got home late afternoon happy that our long-awaited trip had been such a delightful one. We're already talking about a return visit in 2011.