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.

Past Meets Present at Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden

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A rustic frame structure. Natural gardens of herbs, dwarf trees, and flowers. A quirky hen house, where chickens of various sizes and colors cluck and peck under the watchful gaze of visitors. Just beyond the fencerow, a wooden beehive. Such was the scene last Saturday morning as I passed through the gates of the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden at Duke Gardens in Durham, North Carolina.

Named after a visionary organic gardener from the Kinston area of North Carolina, the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden was established in 2012 as a place for children, particularly those living in urban settings, to learn and experience the joys of gardening. Through guided tours, hands-on classes, and self-guided exploration, the garden provides a glimpse into North Carolina’s agricultural past while also teaching and modeling good practices for today and tomorrow, such as composting and water conservation.

Here’s a glimpse inside the garden’s gates, along with a few facts I either read on plaques or learned from the volunteer guides along the way.

Tobacco was a major crop for early colonists, who migrated from Virginia to North Carolina in search of more tobacco fields. So important was tobacco, in fact, that it was often used as money. Tobacco barns, where tobacco leaves were air-cured prior to sale, are icons of agriculture’s past. These ventilated structures reached their peak usage in the 1950s, at which time there were about 500,000 in North Carolina. Today, only a few thousand tobacco barns remain.

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The tobacco barn at the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden was moved from Elm City, NC, and restored. It now serves as the Burpee Learning Center, where tobacco history is explored and organic, sustainable methods are taught. It was here that I discovered how to remedy my rabbit problem: fertilize with blood meal, (because the scent scares them), and spray plants with garlic.

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A native hibernation insect hotel affixed to the Burpee Learning Center is not only naturally decorative but also provides nesting and shelter for many kinds of insects.

The garden’s chicken coop, constructed of “recycled” lumber from a 125-year-old Oxford textile mill, is home to several different kinds of hens.  If my visit Saturday was any indication, the coop (or rather its contents) is a main attraction for young and old.

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Plants and flowers grow atop the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden’s quirky but functional chicken coop. Inside, key features include a five star “dining room” and nesting boxes for the egg-laying ladies.

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Each chicken has a name. “Baroness Von Brody.” “Gingerbread.” “Big Mama.” The large blond in this photo is “Marilyn,” a buff orpington hen that lays about three eggs a week. Behind her is “Raptor,” an ameraucana hen that lays blue, green, and pinkish-brown eggs. All the chicken eggs are donated to local food pantries.

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My favorite hen was the petite “Porcelina.” She is a d’Uccle bantam hen, which is a show quality breed that hails from Belgium.

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Notice that Porcelina’s legs are “booted” with feathers.

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Having grown up with an orchard in the background, I was intrigued by this urban apple tree. It is shaped like a bottle brush, making it perfect for small spaces.

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The Story Circle at the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden is a rustic, quaint outdoor learning and story time space.

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The harvesting spirit was in the air, and I look forward to visiting again during other times of the year to see all that grows and blooms–and to learn tips and tricks for my own adventures in gardening.

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This was my final view of the garden as I exited through the beautiful gate designed by Duke alum Andrew Preiss of ARP Design Studio in Durham.