Monday, April 28, 2008


Pinks, © Joan Z. Rough 2008

It's raining! And it's been raining on and off for the last couple of days! We've had an excess of wonderful drops of moisture for the month of April ... and it isn't over yet. Might it be possible that the weather patterns are changing and we may get over our droughty situation?? Anything is possible, but my prayers are asking for a summer of normal rainfall.

The rain gauge is measuring just over an inch of rain since 10 PM last night. I drifted off to sleep to the sound of rain on the roof. Today, it's been lovely to be inside planning more garden projects and catching up on chores after a weekend of studying herbs. After I finish this post, I'll curl up with a good book, look out the window once in a while to watch the trees and plants grow greener and taller!

I hope that whatever you're doing, where ever you are, that you're enjoying the day as much as I am.

Friday, April 25, 2008

More Kid Photos And Other News ...

This is Zoe made up for her role as a munchkin and a resident of the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz. She is following in her Graddad's "dramatic footprints! " The production was fantastic. There are 52 kids in Zoe's school and every child appeared on stage during the production.

And here she is on one of those bouncy toys, hopping around the yard!

Noah loves to spend his time in trees! He's 4 years old and full of so much energy!!

He also loves lovin'! He and Deena exchange a smootch! Next year Noah will be going to the same school that Zoe goes to and will be on stage when they do their annual production. This is one very dramatic child and I think he may just become a scene stealer!


This Sunday, April 27th will mark the two year anniversary of this blog. I've loved every minute and intend to keep going with it. I've met many wonderful "blog buddies," and hope that someday I'll get to meet some of you in person. You have all sent me wonderous energy through the ups and downs of my life and I appreciate each and every one of you!

I am also announcing the start up of another blog that will be my class project and journal for my studies in using plants as medicine. Please come take a look at Rivanna River Herbal.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Earth Day ...

Tree Peony blossom, brought to me by a friend, © Joan Z. Rough, 2008

Tomorrow is officially Earth Day, a celebration of and for the earth, the small blue planet we call home. We've been celebrating this day for many years now, preaching mostly to the choir ... people who already have a strong connection to the great outdoors and the beauty of wild places and the creatures that inhabit them.

Most anyone who gardens, hikes, kyaks, climbs mountains or participates in outdoor activities seems to know that in this time of planetary crisis, we must all work together to change our ways and begin to contain the damage we are doing as we go about our daily lives. Unfortunately many of our citizens and especially our current administration deny that the problem exists. Some who do recognize a problem refuse to believe that human beings are partly, if not mostly to blame.

Though the call to stop Global Warming has gone out far and wide, sea levels are rising at a rapid rate. It is not just the extreme northern and southern hemispheres of the globe that are feeling the pinch. There are reports that the Nile is being inundated with salt water, flooding areas where date palms are grown to supply Egypt and the rest of the world with these sweet confections. Soon this productive region will be destroyed. Here in Virginia we are in drought and on Canada's Vancouver Island there was snow on the ground this past weekend, causing damage to trees, shrubs and undoubtably the habitats of many wild creatures. Snow in April on Vancouver Island is unheard of.

It is going to take hard work on all of our parts to reverse the direction that we are now going in. There is more to it than turning our thermostats down a few degrees in winter or changing the light bulbs in our homes. It is going to take huge changes in lifestyles.

One of our major problems is the growth in the population of the world, which rises by 75 to 80 million people each day. We are on the way to a total world population of 9 billion people. As land masses shrink due to the rise in water levels, people will be crowded together in closer quarters than ever before. Mega droughts and storms will be the norm. Food prices will rise. Areas of hunger and poverty will grow by leaps and bounds, making the lives of many more people more than miserable.

I find it interestingthat the Catholic Church has now added to their list of sins, "pollution" of the planet. If someone spills gallons of crude oil into our oceans or pumps toxins into the air they are sinning because it effects the lives of people around the globe.

It's unfortunate that the church doesn't believe in birth control. It seems to me that if each of us simply replaced ourselves with a single child, much of the coming horror could be lessened. The greater the number of people in the world, the more harm we are doing to the planet and to each other.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Back in the swing of being home ...

We returned late Tuesday afternoon from a delightful visit with our daughter and family in North Carolina. Yes, those are the "grandlings" in the photo! Zoe is pretending to stand on top of Noah's shoulders. Zoe is now 7 and Noah is 4 years old and are really a lot of fun to be with. There is always laughter and silliness and that is exactly what I needed. Grandchildren are good medicine and will cure a multitude of ills including worry, grouchiness, taking oneself too seriously and the feeling of being exceptionally ancient.

The day we arrived it was near 80 degrees and two days later there were snow flakes on a stiff wind coming from the north. The trees and shrubs are about a week ahead of ours here in Virginia. Dogwood was in full bloom and you could almost see the greening of tree leaves slowly creep up the mountainsides. It's a truly magical time of year to be in western North Carolina.

I'm now trying desperately to pull my life back together. Before we left we had a week long visit from my brother who is suffering from esophageal cancer. He had just finished up his chemo and radiation and was trying to get back on his feet. The treatments left him exhausted and it was and still is painful for him to eat solid foods. The good news is that the cancer has not spread and did not grow larger while he was in treatment. So he has four to six weeks to start gaining some weight and strength to undergo some difficult surgery to remove the mass. While he was here it was difficult for me to think of much else but his misfortune.

The anniversary of my mother's death last year from lung cancer is coming up. Though I am very healthy and grateful for that, I'm feeling alot of sadness and helpless in that I cannot make this horrible illness stop attacking my brother. All I can do is sit, watch and pray that all of the news will be good in the coming days.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

For The Birds ...

More Cherry Blossoms, © Joan Z. Rough, 2008

I'm heading out early tomorrow to see my grandkids. Zoe will be playing a munchkin in The Wizard of Oz, at her school this weekend ... two big performances. I'm looking forward to that and to seeing what spring has sprung in North Carolina. Getting away for a few days will be a treat as well.

It's been a dark week here, continuously cloudy but thankfully some rain, though we're still not out of the drought yet. My spirits need a bit of lifting and I'm sure two little shining faces will do the trick. Hopefully I'll bring back some fun photos to share and inspiration to chase away any dark clouds that may still be hanging around.

The photo above is of a cherry tree in our tiny orchard. The pear that was in bloom a few weeks ago is in leaf now and this beauty is taking over the spot light. I've never seen it so full of blossoms. Maybe there will be a few cherries for us if we can get to them before the birds, but it's very unlikely. These trees and their fruit are really for the creatures that we share these few acres with. The trees are old for the most part and diseased. When we moved here I was told that if I wanted to keep the orchard I should cut the trees down and start over. Having more than enough to do and wanting to provide the local wildlife with some good habitat, we opted to leave the trees as they were and plant new ones as the old ones died. We have lost several apple trees and have planted two Asian persimmons in their places. But for the most part, all the trees like this cherry, are doing just fine!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Painting Spring ...

Water soaked grey sky
pure tones of birch
magnolia, forsythia
spring green leaves

Rain drop music
fills the air
my paint brush
drips with color

Images and words © Joan Z. Rough, 2008

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Forsythia ...

© Joan Z. Rough, 2008

It's a golden world at the moment with so many yellows in the landscape. Forsythia, daffodils, dandelions, wood poppies, primroses, spicebush ... not to mention the yellow-green of newly unfurling leaves. On Saturday night at herb class we had a wonderful salad of spring greens. Several of us gathered violet flowers and leaves, dandelion greens and forysthia blossoms all known for their medicinal uses, which we added to the salad. I also picked and added garlic mustard leaves. This plant is a nasty invasive that is taking over our woodlands. It has no medicinal value, but it tastes very good and by uprooting it and eating the leaves we're doing a very small part in getting rid of it.

Have you ever noticed that once all of the trees begin to leaf out, their new leaflets lightly echo fall colors when viewed from a distance? Yellow-green, a soft almost pink-orange ... and many shades in between. These are the colors of the chemical compounds like carotene within the leaves that help in the plant's photosynthesis of the sun's energy into plant energy. Standing on the top of one of our blueridge mountaintops, it's amazing to watch these subtle colors shift into the bold greens of the summer forest.

We're still playing with weather that can't make up its mind. Seventy-five degrees a few days ago, forty degrees today. On warm evenings buds and leaves seem to pop, while on cool evening this process seems to slow down, as do the voices of the spring peepers. Last night when I let the dog's out for their last potty break of the evening there wasn't a peeper to be heard. My breath was steamy when I exhaled and I was quickly aware that I was getting very cold.

The bear did return the night before last and hit the compost bin. But he/she didn't seem to eat any kitchen scraps it uncovered. It might have been looking for worms and grubs which there are always plenty of in the compost. There is no sign that it returned last night. One of my neighbors has friends who live upriver and they have seen this bear. They describe it as BIG!!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Early Morning Visitor ...

Last night at Around 4:30 AM my husband woke up thinking he heard something on the deck just outside of our bedroom. But it didn't sound too threatening so he promptly went back to sleep. I slept through whatever it was, but when I got up at around 7 AM was surprised to find that we had had a visitor during the night.

Three of my birdfeeders were down on the ground and the metal poles they were hanging from were bent very close to the ground. The trash can we put out last evening for collection today was dumped over but because we put all of our kitchen scraps in our compost bin, the garbage apparently didn't smell very interesting so wasn't scattered. The rain gauge that sits on the deck outside our bedroom window had been disturbed but was also not terribly interesting to the neighborhood marauder. A few of the other neighbors had their trash dumped and scattered.

This was no racoon or opposum ... not a deer or flying squirrel ... not even a skunk or fox could do this kind of damage and in the newly mulched garden we could tell the beast had big feet. So more than likely it was one of our hungry black bear friends who come through the area from time to time. If they find lots of good eating they'll often hang around returning night after night trying to keep their stomachs full. Several years ago in a nearby community several cars were wrecked by bears who were trying to get at trash or food the owners had left in their cars overnight. One person had to put up an electric fence around her car because the bear kept trying to get into the car even after the edibles had been removed.

So I've taken my bird feeders down and we'll probably keep the trash can in the garage for a while. Interesting is the fact that the culprit didn't find the compost bin. The birds looked quite confused this morning and by afternoon had moved on to find handouts somewhere else. I missed seeing them just outside my kitchen window, but for now we've got to keep the bear away by not putting out offerings he or she might be interested in. The birds will be safer this way too, as Lily our bird hunting cat will not be able to stalk them from under the feeders. There are plenty of spring foods out there for the birds now and I saw another butterfly today!!