Fall, Leaves

Fall is transforming the piedmont foothills of North Carolina into a tapestry of orange and red and gold. Last weekend, I took a few photos of the foliage around the Charlotte, North Carolina, area while celebrating the close of my nephew’s cart racing season.

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The trees around the track were as colorful as the racing flags. — Mooresville, NC

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There were copses of color here and there on the shoreline of Lake Norman. — Denver, NC

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This was a lovely sight along NC Highway 16 in Maiden, NC. (The park-like setting is on/beside the property of Christian Tours.) A blue heron glided down and rested briefly on the bank shortly after I took this picture. I managed one disappointingly grainy photo before he disappeared.

Murray’s Mill in Catawba County boasted color, too. (I’ve written about this National Register Historic Site before.)

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Spotted leaves and a millstone behind Murray’s Mill. — Catawba, NC

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Rustic spots like this one along Balls Creek at Murray’s Mill are popular places for family photos. — Catawba, NC

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Repurposing at its best: A skid-turned-swing along the bank at Murrays Mill. — Catawba, NC

Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.

— Emily Brontë, “Fall, leaves, fall,” lines 3-4

Wait for It. Wait for It: Autumn in the Piedmont

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Every year, I seem to forget that Autumn comes late here in central North Carolina. I’m ready for it by September! I pull my thriving summer annuals up by the roots and chop my perennials down to the ground. This year, when I ordered new bulbs for fall planting, my online greenhouse was the voice of reason, tempering my excitement—as best it can be tempered—with a courteous email advising that my bulbs would ship when appropriate for my planting zone.

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Every year, despite all my pulling and pruning, warm-weather holdouts pop up in my front garden.

One day last week, I stepped out of the house and knew that Fall had arrived. It was a smell. It was a feeling. But mostly, it was the sight of crimson leaves the size of my hand peppering the walk and a vibrant, yellow-orange glow about the general landscape. That’s also the day my bulbs arrived.

Right on time.

Autumn here in the piedmont region will never compare to the mountainous, westerly region of North Carolina, but it’s beautiful in its own way. Here’s a look:

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The American Tobacco Trail at the New Hope Church Road trailhead. — Cary, NC

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The Virtue Peace Pond in the Doris Duke Center Gardens (at Duke Gardens) is peaceful and picturesque this (and every other) time of year. — Durham, NC

Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.

Come autumn’s scathe — come winter’s cold —
Come change — and human fate!
Whatever prospect Heaven doth bound,
Can ne’er be desolate.


Excerpts from Elizabeth Barret Browning’s poem, The Autumn. (1833)

Farewell Summer?

It’s September 1st already. Here in the United States, most people are talking as though summer is over. I think what they really mean is that summer break is over. I can assure you that here in the South, we have plenty more ninety degree days ahead of us. And several more longer days than nights as well. In fact, the fall equinox is not until September 22nd—at 10:29 PM EDT to be exact, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac. The fall (autumnal) equinox, as you may know, is when both night and day are each about 12 hours long, and it’s when the fall season officially begins.

But nobody likes a stick in the mud, so I’ll get on the bandwagon and look back whimsically at the summer of 2014. It was a busy one, at times a challenging one, and most definitely a fun one. As I was organizing my photos yesterday—a never-ending chore for a shutter bug—I came across a few gems that brought back memories of places and people and summer adventures.

Sarah P. Duke Gardens
I only visited Duke Gardens a handful of times over the past few months—I used to go there nearly every day! It’s been a real culture shock, but a reality of my circumstances. Whether one goes there 100 times or 1 time, however, there’s always something to photograph!

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A cabbage white butterfly with its wings tucked. When the butterfly spread its wings, I could see one black spot, signifying that it was a male (females have two spots on each wing). — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC

Lake Johnson
I started taking photography classes, but I am sorry to say that I’ve fizzled out a bit. Let me back up: I took an introductory class, where I learned how to take pictures in manual mode. I graduated to intermediate photography; but unfortunately, I showed up to the first class on the wrong day. The studio was locked up tighter than a drum. The class was the night before. It was kind of downhill from there. I’m more of a “see-what-I-like-and-take-50-pictures-of-the-same-thing-and-hope-at-least-one-of-them-turns-out” kind of gal. Turns out, tinkering with aperture, etc. stresses me out—and then photography is no longer fun. Maybe I’ll get better with practice. …I went to Lake Johnson in Raleigh, NC, back in early summer to practice:

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Here’s a shot that I took where I changed the aperture, ISO, and shutter speed as part of a homework assignment. — Lake Johnson pedestrian bridge; Raleigh, NC

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By the boathouse, I encountered a greylag goose sitting on her nest. — Lake Johnson; Raleigh, NC

North Carolina Botanical Garden
My young nephew spent a couple of days with me in early July—and he made it back home in one piece! In between his Lego construction projects, we visited the North Carolina Botanical Garden, where he was an eager explorer and birdwatcher.

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My nephew was blown away by the height and size of this beautiful sunflower at the North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill NC.

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My nephew and I spent most of our time in the bird shelter, consulting the poster of North Carolina birds and identifying them as they stopped by the feeders. Pictured here is a male cardinal, our state bird. — North Carolina Botanical Garden; Chapel Hill, NC

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My favorite visitor was the white-breasted nuthatch. I like the way nuthatches hang sideways or upside down, a posture which plays an important role in their foraging. Nuthatches probe into bark with their straight, pointed bills in search of insects. They stuff nuts into crevices and pound them open with their strong bills, thus giving them the name nuthatch. — North Carolina Botanical Garden; Chapel Hill, NC

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My nephew didn’t quite know what to make of some of the aquatic plants at the North Carolina Botanical Garden. (Chapel Hill, NC)

Weycroft Tobacco Barn
The tobacco industry is but a shadow of its former self. North Carolina was once a significant contributor to tobacco—from the field to the carton to the consumer. At one time, there were over half a million tobacco barns—simple, wooden structures used for curing the tobacco—that dotted the North Carolina countryside. Now, only about 50,000 tobacco barns remain and most of those are in gross disrepair. Life goes on, as they say, but it’s always delightful when I spot a tobacco barn, particularly a restored or reclaimed one.

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On a visit in late June, my nephew and I explored this restored, circa 1870 tobacco barn in Weycroft Preserve. A recalling of days gone by, tools associated with tobacco farming are affixed to the other side of the structure.  — Chatham County, NC

Fearrington Village
I heart Fearrington. In fact, I’ve blogged about it before, both here and here. It’s such a local treasure; and its crown jewel is the Fearrington House Restaurant. Ranked as one of American’s top restaurants, Fearrington House puts the fine into dining and does so in a farmhouse setting. I’ve had reservations three times, and all three times I’ve had to cancel—each reason increasingly more calamitous than the previous. The closest I’ve gotten so far is sitting in the white adirondack chairs out front. They provide a relaxing view of the Belties (Belted Galloway cows) in the pasture. My sister and I do have reservations for September. …Lord willing. Lord willing.

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The Fearrington House Restaurant in Pittsboro, NC. Photo credit: L. Morrison

As I eagerly await the true arrival of fall, I’ll resist the urge to put away my sandals and sleeveless tops. And although a sense of fall is in our thoughts and conversations even now, most likely summer will fade into autumn in much the same way as the late British poet, Philip Larkin, describes:

Autumn has caught us in our summer wear.

Refresh Me With Apples

As Marie, a librarian-in-training and fellow blogger, mentioned in her highly entertaining #7QT’s post last Friday (QT#4 to be exact), apple season is upon us!  And I love, love, love apples – especially baked ones!

Did you know that apples aren’t just for eating?  It’s true!  For example, according to my 8th grade Social Studies teacher, apples were used in doll making during the colonial days in America.  (Such creations are called, as you might imagine, apple head dolls.)

To reinforce the point, my teacher assigned each of us to make dolls the old-fashioned way – as best as we could in this (post)modernized age – using apples that were cut and dried, lemon juice, wire, gauze . . . and a conventional oven set at low temperature (prior to the wire and gauze steps, of course).

My Benjamin Franklin (“Ben”) apple head doll, circa 1984.

Our assignment was not only to make an apple head doll, but also to showcase it in a colonial setting. Mom helped me to fashion knickers, a waistcoat and buckled shoes, while Dad helped me with the setting: Benjamin Franklin conducting his famous kite experiment, (which may or may not have actually taken place).

“Ben” has weathered many moves; and although he has discolored (a.k.a. rotted) into something that scares many who look upon him for the first time, he is a great conversation piece and a visible reminder of a time of groundbreaking scientific exploration, positive political change, and great hope for our country.

“Ben” today:  A bit worse for wear, but a reminder of our country’s foundations.