I thought I'd share some of the flowers I've seen up on our property. Starting with mountain laurels! I really love this shrub so I was happy to find these.
Coreopsis, also called Tickseed. They're cheery little flowers.
I have plans to transplant some of my own heuchera to the woods, which can grow wild in the mountains. And down by the creek, here they were! They have already flowered, but the best thing about heuchera (also called coral bells) is their variegated leaves.
Wild bergamot! it's a type pf monarda or bee balm. I have some scarlet monarda in my front yard that I plan to transplant. I think it would look great intermingled with their light purple cousins.As the name bee balm suggests, the bees just love it.
On one hike we found a little meadow with lots of the bergamot. And sure enough, it had many pollinators buzzing around it.
Maybe best of all, I found flame azalea. I love this plant, but didn't even know it grew around here.
All that said, have a look at what fell across the logging road in the last storm. That, my friends, is pure poison ivy. It was a robust vine growing up a small dead tree. I am going to have to do something about it because we can't just climb over it on every walk. Still, the wonderful plants outweigh this little demon.
I keep disappearing, but for good reasons. We've been spending a lot of time going up at what we're referring to as "the Ridge." It's an adventure just getting out there. Like when we had to stop and encourage this big black snake off our road so we could pass.
We've mostly been trail-building and getting to know the land. It's so incredibly peaceful out there.
Everything is getting named, an Icelandic tradition I find appealing. My husband named this stump the Octopus Eye. But do you see what's growing at the base of it and over the top? Poison ivy, my long-time nemesis. I've been pulling lots of it out by the roots and even though I wore gloves and long sleeves, I wasn't nearly careful enough. I ended up with it ALL over my arms and face. I finally gave in and got a prescription for prednisone, but by then it was healing. I was glad I had it though because...
this happened next. The mosquitoes absolutely ate me up, right through my clothes. I counted 80 bites and then stopped counting. And every one of them itched like crazy. So I spent last week taking the prednisone and long cool baths in water with vinegar added. Today I was finally feeling human again, so we were back out there this morning. We've invested in some mosquito repellent with DEET and permethrin to treat our clothing. I don't think I got a single bite today.
I am no longer bringing back bags of poison ivy for trash pick up because I don't want to risk getting it in my car. Instead, I pull it up by the roots, drop it on the ground to die, and throw my gloves and clothing straight in the wash when I get home. I'm also clearing out loads of Japanese wineberry, an exotic invasive plant that has some hellacious prickers on the stems.
Those weird prickly pods of the wineberry actually open up into tasty berries, but I don't want a non-native plant crowding out the native blackberries we've also discovered growing along the trails. This photo was a couple of weeks ago, and we're starting to find more ripe ones on the vines.
And we have blueberries, too! I'm very excited about that.
I've been using leather gloves to pull out the wineberry and then I jam it into the back of the car to drop in the curbside pick-up at home. I curse a lot while I do this task because the prickers are so sharp they often get right through the leather. But I'm nothing if not determined.
And once in a while, we stop at the winery just down the road, to sit outside under the awning and have a glass of their old vine Zinfandel. It's supposed to storm all day tomorrow, so I'm already counting the days until we can go back next weekend.
I took a little break from blogging because I've discovered that the anniversary of my mastectomy puts me into a bit of a funk. It's hard not to relive the increasing fear I felt as the day approached and then the day itself. It was one of those times when as bad as I was imagining, it was worse. Much worse. And it has definitely changed me forever. Ans as there is no cure yet for invasive breast cancer, you can't ever actually say you are cancer-free. Instead the term is No Evidence of Disease. I count my surgery day as the first day of being NED because, with clean margins and no discernible lymph node involvement, that was the day all known cancer was removed from me. The chemo and endocrine therapy that has followed is to delay any recurrence. I pulled myself together after letting myself sink into the memories a bit, and re-focused myself on gratitude for each day I've been given. So we sat out on the deck that evening for a little celebration of this bittersweet anniversary, of being 2 years NED.
Damn this pandemic. I can't tell you how much I wanted to be in Savannah this past weekend attending my brother-in-law's ordination and consecration as the new Bishop. So instead of being part of all the festivities, we watched the very-scaled back service live on-line.
It is a very moving ceremony and my husband and I both started crying almost immediately.
When priests and bishops are ordained, they prostrate themselves while the Prayers for the People are being read. It's an act of submission and humility.
My sister, his wife, did one of the readings in the service. Those who were allowed to be present were masked except when reading.
The ordination of a Bishop in the Episcopal Church requires the laying on of hands by at least three other Bishops.
The sermon was given remotely, by a priest who had such a warm, joyful manner (and I wish I'd gotten a better screen shot of her smile), that I found myself thinking I'd have loved to have her as a priest.
His first act as the new Bishop was to serve communion. Because of the virus, it was bread only, without the usual communal chalice of wine. I was an acolyte as kid and later a lay reader and lay Eucharistic Minister, so the service is so familiar to me that I could recite the liturgy in my sleep.
I've known my brother-in-law since we were both 19 and he was just the goofy kid dating my sister. And he still is that playful guy. But he also takes his priesthood seriously.
The day after the consecration, he was using his first full day as Bishop demonstrating with other priests at a protest over the murders of George Floyd and other Black men and the Administration's shameful response. I may have left the beliefs I was raised with behind, but I can still respect someone walking the walk.
So the private land we've been doing some hiking on with the owners' permission? It was because we were looking at buying it. And so we have, closing this morning. It was actually two properties with two different owners and two different realtors. But it turned out the one reasonable building site straddled the border of the two. What could we do but make offers on both and hold our breaths? Fortunately, one seller made a counter offer we felt was quite reasonable and the other accepted our initial offer. The two combined are about 32.6 acres of Appalachian Mountains.
We'd been looking in all the neighboring counties for a bit, but this one felt right immediately. As we were walking along the logging road by the creek, I said to my husband. "Oh, honey." He said, "No! Don't 'oh, honey!' Let's not get ahead of ourselves!" And then, a little while later, he turned to me and said, "Oh, honey." We were sold.
The properties slope up to ridges on three sides (the fourth side being the road), and a creek runs through it. When you are where we will put a house some day, you can't see the road or hear anything except the water running, the leaves moving in the breeze, and the birds singing.
And okay, it's a little low-rent to celebrate by drinking spilts of Prosecco straight from the bottle, but we forgot glasses and we were too stoked about the land to care..
But in the age of COVID, we are not going to restaurants. No matter how much they claim they are following safety guidelines. Because, given that risks increase with time of exposure. those guidelines aren't nearly safe enough. So we stayed in for our fourth anniversary and I made my signature dish - shrimp and crab risotto. The dish included Argentine red shrimp and Irish Whiskey, and we had a bottle of the Amarone we brought back from our honeymoon in Italy.
For dessert Icelandic skyr cheesecakes with maple bourbon strawberries, and Cuban music playing in the background. We managed to include elements of most of our travels together. We'll have another today with Jamaican banana fritters.
I think one of the reasons we're together is that we both have a ridiculous sense of humor. Take this frightening Moses statue my husband brought home from his mother's house after she died, for instance.
This week we snuck it into the neighborhood garden where the Little Free Libraries are. Now we wait to see if anyone notices...
After chemo, I was thrilled to get my hair back. Even when it was just the barest Sinead O'Connoresque suggestion of hair. And when it got just a little longer, I loved the ease of the super short style. But by then it was starting to curl and I decided I would ride the chemo curl train wherever it took me. Over time, however, the curls have loosened and I had reached a point where my hair was its original straightness except for curls right at the ends. It was unmanageable without a headband and I stopped enjoying it. So this morning, my husband agreed to give me the same cut he did right before I started chemo, in advance of losing my hair. It was odd to see the mass of hair, which is surprisingly dark for someone pushing 60. (Okay, I'm 57. I'm just getting myself used to the idea of being in my 60's.)
After the haircut, we headed out for a short hike to take advantage of the glorious weather we've been having lately. No regrets - I can now step out of the shower and dry my hair almost instantly with a towel. I may never go back to long hair.