Here’s another blog just chock full of photos, and not all of them are nature. It’s all good though. We just had a long day of visiting a variety of sights and sites.
We set out early (for us), determined to see everything possible at Huntington Beach State Park. It’s across the road from Brookgreen Gardens, and features nature, birds, beaches, and a really interesting house that belonged to the people who used to own both the properties, the Huntingtons. Last year I saw better birds, but we still had a good time today.
We first went out to see the nature, where, of course, I spent a lot of time taking close-up pictures of plants. Lee says this is what I always look like.
I did find some pretty things to take pictures of, though some of them were Lee. There were many native berries, a spider, and the MOST exciting, a painted bunting.
From there, we headed over to Atalaya, the “castle” where the Huntington family lived in the winters. Folks, this is a really, really weird house. It’s all brick, even the floors, and all one story. It’s in the shape of a huge square with a very large courtyard in the middle. Every room, even the bathrooms, has a fireplace. I find that interesting, but it does get cold enough, even in South Carolina, to need some winter warmth.
Today has been fun. We’ve driven all over the area and seen many things. As we approached our lunch venue, we got to enjoy watching a drawbridge open, one of the ones that turns sideways rather than going up and down.
The bridge had a cool bridge house on it, too. It was at a crossing on the Waccamaw River, which forms the Intracoastal Waterway here. The road was called Dick Pond Road, which gave us the giggles as we imagined the pond full of male anatomical parts.
We had burgers at a restaurant that specializes in them, River City Cafe, and Lee got a ridiculously large concoction featuring two grilled cheese sandwiches as the buns, two burger patties, mushrooms and other things, cheese, and two extra-large onion rings on top. No, he did not eat it all.
After that, we headed past a cute private zoo with very happy animals and lots of screaming peacocks. We didn’t go in, but looked at lots from the car, including a very young baby donkey colored like Fiona.
Our destination was a cruise down the Waccamaw River, Socastee Creek, and nearby creeks. Its a nice change from condo world.
All these waterways have a canal running through them, built by the Army Corps of Engineers, because the natural waterways are too wiggly for the yachts and sailboats who use the Intracoastal. Here’s a map:
Before the boat ride, I wandered around the grounds of the docks, which are nestled in a beautiful swampy area with many native flowers, trees, and shrubs. I was delighted to see some flowers I’d never seen in the wild before. The partridgeberry flowers were tiny, hairy, and delicate, while the swamp leatherflower was a happy surprise to find hiding in the iris foliage. That’s one of the prettiest flowers I ever saw! The spiderlilies I’ve seen somewhere else before, but their delicacy always takes my breath away.
I enjoyed chatting with the staff, all of whom live on the property, one of them on his boat. I could stand looking at that scenery every day plus having a zoo next door (downwind).
I enjoyed ignoring Rick, the guide’s, dorky stories (I know it’s their job to tell them and entertain people, but I’d heard most of the jokes already) and looking through my binoculars at giant turtles, flowers, cypresses, and tupelo trees. We only saw three watercraft other than ours, so it was satisfyingly secluded. I think it gets more crowded with rowdy boat partiers in the summer, so our timing was good (only saw one boat full of giggling women). The weather went from sunny to cloudy to raining to sunny, so there were always varied skies. Do click on them to see them enlarged. The reflections and clouds are lovely. (Also, when people click on every image my blog stats go wild!)
We saw lots of nesting ospreys, flying swallowtail kites, herons, and egrets, plus one small gator. People liked that. We got to see osprey drama, with one catching a fish and others chasing and yelling at each other. I’ve always enjoyed ospreys since I was a kid and we’d see them nesting in Cedar Key, on the Florida Gulf coast.
A highlight of bird watching was finding a prothonotary warbler flitting around. It also thrilled the nice little girl in front of me. Our guide told me he had some nest in his other boat’s cupholder. Since I was nowhere near close enough to get a photo, here’s one of Rick’s along with one of the babies in his cup holder.
All in all, the trip was worth the cheesiness, though we definitely had the worst seats on the boat (next time, get starboard, Suna!), next to the bathroom. But, we were polite and let everyone else get on first, so whose fault was that? We got the bonus of enjoying Bella, the owners’ large Rottweiler-style dog, who has a huge joy of living. Watching her play brought laughter and joy to us all, as she ran, flopped, threw a toy around, and spontaneously dug.
People who have a dog that nice can’t be all bad, so I’m glad we could contribute to their small business!
A Very Short Whine
I’m really trying to get to all the things I have to do, but I just crashed when I got home today, which may explain why I originally published the blog post full of typos and a missing paragraph. I have things to write, figuring out my social security and retirement plans, change over my email address to a boring personal one, and other riveting activities. But, after the stuff that’s been going on at work and home, I’m running on fumes.
I’m sorry I’m so behind on my volunteer work, but I’m wiped out by worry, disappointments, and frustrations (none of which you will read about in this blog or hear about in the podcast). I just wanted to remind you that not everything in my life shows up here. Which leads me to remind you and me both that we all have our unspoken struggles, so let’s choose kindness and patience, even when it’s a struggle.
However, we didn’t head to Woodstock; we went back to Brookgreen Garden. We rose with the sun and both worked hard today, so we really needed to take advantage of the multi-day tickets we had.
We headed in a different direction this time, and of course saw lots of flowers. I’m amazed at the variety.
There were, of course, many beautiful statues. My favorite was three women sitting on a framework of metal, just lounging around naked. Such ennui. It’s just what they do!
I also liked the Don Quixote statue, which was in a lovely planting of Texas plants. At least I think that’s what it was. I’ve seen all the plants there at home, anyway.
Eventually, we made our way to the BEST PART of the whole place. It’s a Low Country trail and zoo with native animals and farm animals that would have been on the plantations. My favorites were the river otters. I teared up watching them play.
I enjoyed goats, horses, an interesting cow, owls (lots of cool ones, but hard to photograph), a big ole alligator, and chickens. Bit by far the best exhibit was the aviary. I was in heaven there. So many of my my favorite birds, up close and personal.
The habitat was truly beautiful. You could watch the birds catch and stalk fish, interact, and even build nests! This was so much fun, and interesting. We saw a few other animals, like a little green frog, Canada geese, a pretty skink, and many more brown thrashers.
All that stuff was good, but I’d have honestly been fine just walking around looking at the ancient trees and the rice fields that are going back to nature. I feel so at home among the shadows and moss. I hope you enjoy some of my landscape images.
Anita, Stop Reading Here
And now for my final fun observation. I was really wanting to get some photos of the really interesting squirrels here. There were many fine gray squirrels, and sure, I enjoyed them.
I’d never seen the other kind of squirrel they have here, though. They are big, with long and curly tails, plus black heads with white noses. What cuties! So, I obsessively tried to get a good photo of one. Instead, I got a bunch of okay but blurry pictures.
You could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard these were fox squirrels, the same kind we have in Texas. But these look so cool. Of course, I looked it up on iNaturalist. Sure enough, fox squirrels come in a bunch of different colors. They can also be black.
Hooray for me. I learned a new nature fact AND relaxed. It’s time to actually vacation, I think.
PS: Anita did NOT stop reading when she got to the squirrel part. I did warn her!
Since we are all rested and wanting to see the eastern part of the USA, Lee and I decided to go to Pawley’s Island and Brookgreen Gardens today. I just had a hankering to see the island, since I’d read about it a lot, and you know, they make hammocks therethey make hammocks. Sure enough, it was small and cute, and consisted mostly of vacation homes that were quaint and nice. I enjoyed looking at the estuary and the marshes surrounding the island, but there weren’t really any places to get out and explore.
We instead found a nice little hamburger stand, and enjoyed a delicious burger and fries that were not fast food at all. That got us strengthened enough to head down the road to Brookgreen Gardens, where we hadn’t had a chance to go last year. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten to charge my watch, so I missed 6,700 or so steps. Dagnabbit.
That did not deter us from having a wonderful time, though. Just driving into the place we saw a cool black-headed squirrel and a brown thrasher. A real highlight though, was a brand-new exhibit in their galleries, which was devoted to American sculptures and other art featuring wildlife and domestic animals. You don’t see many sculptures of good ole dogs, so it was a real treat.
There were also beautiful sculptures of horses (they have LOTS of horses), birds, foxes, otters, and all sorts of animals, plus some great drawings and paintings. We enjoyed the small gallery of items from the people who had owned the land when it was three rice plantations. I was impressed to see a few depictions of where the enslaved people lived, and that they were labeled as such. And I give credit to the families who deeded the land to everyone to enjoy.
The outdoor part of this garden is immense. It’s certainly too big to see everything on the property in one day, so it’s good your tickets can be used for a week! We will come back later to see the zoo, labyrinth, and other areas we missed as we wandered from beautiful spot to beautiful spot, finding little hidden sculptures in niches, and grand sculptures in beautiful settings with ponds and fountains.
This is the 90th year of the gardens, and you can tell, because there are lots of imported and exotic specimen trees that have grown huge. There were many evergreen trees I’d never seen before, plus a couple of deciduous ones, like a very, very large swamp chestnut oak, festooned with gray Spanish moss. You could live under that thing.
I can see why this garden has won so many awards. It’s designed to provide new vistas everywhere you turn, and must be spectacular when azaleas and camellias are blooming. I found one camellia blossom.
It was funny how I kept flipping back and forth from wanting to take photos of some of the pretty cultivars of decorative plants to wanting to take photos of the views and native things. Thus, there are a lot of photos in this blog post.
There was wildlife, too! We found turtles, an alligator, geese, a very friendly cardinal, a black-and-white warbler, plus brown thrashers. We heard even more birds. This place sounds fantastic, so blind people could enjoy it (by the way, it is also very accessible for people using canes, walkers, or wheelchairs).
Of course, my favorite part is what they call “beyond the wall,” which is a creek and swamp where the rice fields used to be. I’m so fond of swamps, that my heart got racing as I found sedges, rushes, wild irises, and beautiful cypress knees. The path was just perfect for a swamp lover like me, but, I realized when I ran into a fellow using an electric wheelchair, that it was totally accessible to all (if you’re careful)!
After a quick trip to the gift shop, where I got a t-shirt and commemorative mugs, we headed to shop at Publix, which is kind of like a tourist attraction for people from the South. It’s just the nicest grocery store chain. I got some flowers for our room and the vitally important coffee filters for the condo. Whew. We’re all set now!
Tomorrow I’ll be hitting the beach early, working, then probably relaxing in the evening, but we’ll find ways to enjoy being in a new location, even when working. Since Lee brought his giant iMac, he’s able to record his receipts instantly and keep track of Hearts Homes and Hands’ finances almost as well as he can at home. And I’m all set up, just with my laptop screen. We can do it!
I hope you enjoyed the photos. They sure were fun to take!
Hello from the road to South Carolina. I love road trips. You can sure think a lot. You can also knit a lot. I’ve actually arrived at the end of the pattern I’m making, but because I’m using different yarn and needles, I’m going to repeat the lace pattern.
I have plenty of yarn left. I enjoy knitting without disturbances. It lets me think of new techniques to try, modifications to make, and things I want to try next. I was wondering if I could crochet a border off live knitting stitches (not bound off). I think I’ve seen socks done that way, with crocheted cuffs.
I could knit for my job, if I’d taken that choice when it came to me. I love the science of designing patterns, love teaching it (so much, oh so much), like to go to conferences, and all that. And I do technical writing, which helps a lot. I’d have to have figured out a niche and done a lot of marketing, like so many of my knitting friends did so well. Knitting blogs got a lot of folks started, and I loved doing that, too.
That dream ended as abruptly as my work in La Leche League did. I didn’t have the self confidence and hadn’t healed enough to figure out a way to get through the hard part and start again, which I now can do. I no longer just disappear when I’m unfairly treated and no longer believe what other people say. Woo!
What Else Did I Want to Do?
But, who knows, I have a lot of years left! There’s another alternate route I could have taken, like the road less traveled. Yes, it’s exactly like two roads diverging in a woods, because I didn’t choose the one leading into a forest.
In college, I concentrated hard on classes leading to an interdisciplinary degree in linguistics. I loved studying all the different areas, and was strongly tempted by neurolinguistics. Brains fascinated me. (Still do; notice what I read about now.)
But, I had to get those darned prerequisites out of the way. I did most of them in the wonderful honors program, but I got burned by an awful teacher in Biology who gave exams that were ten essay questions where if you missed any part of the answer, the whole thing was wrong. That ended up ruining my boyfriend and his best friend’s GPAs. I was like, “You ain’t messing with my summa cum laude, asshole,” and got the only A in the class. I gave him one scathing evaluation.
That preamble was intended to explain why I took my second biology class as a normal class, with a grad student TA instead of a mean full professor. The class mostly covered genetics and biochemistry. I ate it up like ice cream. Figuring out chromosomes and proteins and all that was like figuring out puzzles. It was so fun.
I stayed after and asked the teacher questions. This guy was studying bees for his doctoral research, so I asked a lot about insect genetics. All I now remember is that he always wore incredibly wrinkled shirts, apparently because his girlfriend didn’t have an iron. There was much good-natured kidding, and he rewarded us with wearing an ironed shirt to the final exam.
Because I answered all the extra credit questions right, I didn’t need to pass the final, but I did it for fun. Then came the fateful question. The TA took me aside and begged me to switch majors. Biology needed me! I said I’d think about it. With my love of trees and springs and swamps, I imagined becoming a wildlife biologist and working with a State agency.
But, by that time I was already accepted to grad school in linguistics with a full fellowship. I had to take that path. Plus I was following my boyfriend. Hint to young people: your vocational choice should be determined by your brain, not hormones. I’ve been stuck working with language a lot longer than I had my boyfriend (a great human, don’t get me wrong).
The Good Part
But, all was not lost. I came to the Hermits’ Rest and got to hang out with Sara, the genetics PhD. And I met Dorothy, who’s not only a blog/podcast sponsor, but also got me into the Texas Master Naturalist program! I now get to do biology every day if I want to, I get to study the natural world, and if I can’t BE a wildlife biologist, at least I get to hang out with them! And I do work with a State agency.
It took me a while, but I did get to be what I wanted to be when I grew up. It just took patience.
So, have you attained your goals? Does your vocation match your avocation?
Whew. This has been a weird-ass week. I was really pessimistic about work over the weekend, and Monday I found out some changes were happening, right when I was supposed to be gearing up to contribute to an initiative.
But, I wrote myself that perky pushback post, read some of my other messages to myself, and by gosh, I pushed back. I figured out a way to empower one part of my team, make their work more visible, and engage other folks to share their value.
I only had three half days to do this, and I required help, but it happened. One of my colleagues really stepped up to help, and between the two of us, we went from feeling defeated to feeling renewed. We could have just sat there in Eyore mode and moped, but no, we did something.
I was a little worried about the amount of initiative I took, but after enduring me excitedly outline my plans, my boss was impressed, not upset. I felt supported and validated. All it took was leadershipping, as we call it.
Knowing that I’ve developed the skills to pick myself up and start again validates the hard work I’ve put into becoming the person I’d always hoped I could be. You really do have to slog through the pits if you want to reach the pinnacle of your personal growth goals.
On to the next challenge.
By the way, we stayed at a hotel near Tyler, Texas last night. It’s known for its roses, so I had to take some pictures for the blog readers. The white ones even smelled good.
Whew, today was extra windy. During my ENDLESS meetings, I kept being distracted by something that looked like fluffy dandelion seeds very briskly zipping by, completely horizontally. There were an unusually large number of them, way more than the number of dandelions we have going to seed. What had the wind blown in?
First, a brief digression. The wind brought more than fluffy bits! It also brought our long-lost housemates. We have a bunch of happy dogs and people!
For people who have gone through, shall we say, a lot since they left for a weekend back in February, or was it January, they look good! We are all excited about all the projects we need to get moving on.
In our zeal to plan things, the nephew went out with a spray can of bright orange paint, marking where Apache’s new stable and pens will be, along with cattle pens. And you know, orange paint smells good. If you’re a dog, you’d want to roll in it, especially if it complements your long, white fur.
We went over to look at another fencing area, and there, all over the ground, were the answers to my questions about the fluffy things.
It turns out that in the two days since I’d taken my photos of the small-flowered catchfly, they’d gone to seed, most spectacularly! Everywhere there were little towers covered in fluffy seed pods.
Y’all, in person this was breathtaking. The catchfly was all interspersed with starbursts of the annual trampweed. My two new flowers went to seed together and created a Magic Kingdom of weeds, as I said in my awe.
All this beauty was after so many of the seeds blew away this morning. Wow. So many seeds. And none of us remember ever seeing the two white fluff-makers before. What a welcome home gift to our family!
To be honest, my whole day was magical. I achieved all my goals in my pushback campaign, and it’s only Wednesday! I’ll share more about that tomorrow. Right now, I’m pretty dang tired and don’t even know where I’ll sleep tonight (that’s a GOOD thing).
I am, once again, grateful for the support and encouragement of my friends, colleagues, readers and listeners. You’re all incredible in your own unique way.
One of the things I like about being a Master Naturalist is that I have learned to be a more careful observer, wherever I go. I’m happiest that I’ve been entering what I see on our ranch into iNaturalist, because I can see when flowers bloom or go to seed every year, when butterflies arrive, etc. Today’s butterflies included these:
Even though our observations on our own property no longer are approved by the state office, I still observe for my own study and analysis. I have a project where all observations here are stored, and I hope some day to be able to do some analysis.
My expedition yesterday was helped greatly by something that had originally broken my heart a little. You see, Lee’s brother likes to mow, and he decided to mow all those “weeds” on the side of the road. Thank goodness Lee saw it and asked him to stop. Apparently the conversation was sort of funny, with Jim insisting it was weeds and Lee saying, “Don’t you see the flowers?”
The good thing about it is that it made a little path that enabled me to easily see all the butterflies and bugs and get closer photos.
This year’s been pretty interesting, which shouldn’t be surprising after the weird weather. I’ve been quite surprised to see common plants, like Indian paintbrush, not as prominent, with some new plants popping up.
One plant we have in super abundance is this annual trampweed (Facelisretusa). It’s really pretty in early spring. Then, when it blossoms, you don’t really see the flowers, just white buds, followed by exuberant star-shaped seed heads.
I’d never noticed this plant before, and it’s everywhere this year. Now it’s one of my favorites.
Another plant I’d never noticed around here is small-flowered catchfly (Silene gallica). It’s another one of those tiny flowers from up high. At first I thought it was that chickweed or something.
Once you touch it, though, you know it’s different. You also know how it got its name. It’s sticky! It could certainly catch a fly. You can see all the hairs in the photos.
The little flowers range from pink to white. I had honestly never seen it before. Did I not notice it or did it come in with floods? Is it something that grows better after a hard freeze or two? I’m sure I just didn’t notice it, even though I’ve been trying so hard to identify everything here!
The third “new” plant I wasn’t even sure of its ID. None of the things that are suggested on iNaturalist really match the way it looks, but since I know plants can differ in color from place to place, labeled it dwarf blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium minus), and hooray, I was right! Linda Jo identified it for me. It’s another tiny little fellow, but it’s really pretty.
Another “new” plant really isn’t new. It’s a pink evening primrose. But I never saw one so white. I thought it was a petunia from a distance.
That’s quite a contrast to the usual ones, though they do come in many shades of pink. I always love to look at the clouds of them on the roadside or in fields, with all the shadings.
I really enjoy seeing what’s blooming every day. It was great to see the black-eyed Susans have started to bloom, and apparently the bugs that enjoy their pollen are also happy.
There are a few things I can’t get close enough to take a photo of when I’m wearing sandals (I only do that on the grass Lee and Jim have mowed), but I’ll get to them at some point this week.
I’m glad it rained, too, because that will keep the ground moist and let more plants get going before everything turns brown.
I’m glad to see that the bluebonnets are going to seed quite well, so we will have lots more next year, and my favorite patch of Engelman daisy is in full bloom. There’s always something pretty to look at here, and when you’ve just gotten yet another blow at ye olde workplace, I’m glad for all my new and old plant and animal friends at the ranch.
For you blog readers, here are more things I saw yesterday. I hope the flowers and bugs are fun to look at.
Let’s get out there and “do the needful” as they say in India. I guess I’ve had enough coffee to be strong and carry on!
Our Master Naturalist chapter is slowly and carefully starting to do some activities that fall under our guidelines for safety. We really wanted to do something for Earth Day, so a few members got all organized and set up some tables over at Bird and Bee Farm, where our Wildscape project is located. I headed over there, since I had some little pins to give out, and since I hadn’t seen most of them since last year.
Our members had put together all sorts of stuff to give away for adults and kids, and by the time I left, they’d had nearly 80 visitors! Luckily, they were spread out over 4 hours, so we didn’t have any scary germy crowds. We were all very glad to see each other, which was a nice feeling.
I even got presents, including a festive wrap Catherine (from the comments on the blog) found while thrifting with her daughter, and a great book on roadside wildflowers by the woman in charge of the plantings in Texas.
As always, I enjoyed talking to people about Earth Day, but I enjoyed even more the fact that Catherine took me and Joyce C. on a little hike to look at the bird-watching station they are creating in the woods behind the chicken housing. It’s in a pretty, circular area surrounded by a variety of native trees, including one very large oak, under which I got a photo of me looking very tiny.
I got to do some plant and insect identification with my scientific buddy, Eric, which I’ve missed a lot, and we all discussed rainfall amounts from yesterday (we got close to a half inch).
And of course, there were chickens and guinea fowl. We even found some guinea eggs, and I got to take a few home, courtesy of the really nice young man who works there helping out. There were a few hens who really looked interesting, and I was pretty much awestruck by the coop the Weks built for their personal chickens. Photos were taken as examples for future projects at the Hermits’ Rest (distant future).
It was just plain great to go somewhere, see different scenery, and get to say hello to my friends. This is one case where I’m really glad we’re all so old, because everyone’s vaccinated! All we have to do is take the reasonable precautions. Whee!
Getting in touch with your emotional truth, by processing feelings to improve the human condition in the 21st century. Living out loud by my motto,"Triumphing over Trauma" 🌈
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