Garden Toil Brings Rewards

The wonders of spring, ahhhh . . . .

Flower and vegetable gardens take an amazing amount of work, but when we lift our eyes to see what grows when we pour in a little love (and lots of water), it becomes clear what we were striving for. I transplanted this bleeding heart from my garden in Colorado many years ago, and it has never failed to bloom in its new home.  Since the deer have been fenced from the yard the flowers and shrubs have been thriving.  A seriously dry spring and early summer could lead to attempts by the deer to “have dinner on us!”  We’ll hope for the best.  A few highlights follow.

Everybody smile now, for the photoshoot! . . . .

Pansies were blooming in April and kept up this glorious color into July.  What precious colors and sweet faces!

We bloomed first! . . . .

A new bed of daffodils was planted, along with some other bulbs, in celebration of the fact that a fence just might work and the deer would have to look longingly from outside.

One of the “old faithfuls” that have grown here forever, this iris never fails to delight.

The Colorado state flower! . . . .

Columbines re-seed each year, and are so prolific they don’t make room for others in the garden if they aren’t carefully selected.  They are hardy, drought resistant and absolutely gorgeous.

What are all these ants doing in my hair? . . . .

Peonies are favorites, and the fragrance of their fresh-cut blooms fill the house with their sweet scent.  They all seem to bloom at once, and a few ants arrive along with a bouquet, but it is worth the wait each year to enjoy them, if only for a short time.

My purple is better than your purple! . . . .

The tall spires of delphinium in the background vie with the lovely lavender blooms in the foreground.  This colorful bounty has been drawing bumblebees and butterflies to the garden, and makes it hard to consider cutting them for arrangements.  Time to get out the watering can, look for spent blossoms to deadhead, pull a few weeds, and do the work required to enjoy this bounty of flowers.

Abraham Lincoln

A man for the ages . . . .

On a recent return trip from Colorado, I decided to pull over at the visitors’ center on I-80 between Laramie and Cheyenne.  I had two young passengers who I believed would enjoy seeing this magnificent sculpture of Abraham Lincoln, perhaps our greatest president since George Washington.  Surely this would be a more educational experience than seeing the latest Hollywood flick “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Killer!” Enough said about that.

Sculpted by Robert Russin, a former University of Wyoming professor, this great bust of Lincoln is also replicated at Gettysburg.  I had the privilege of owning and residing in Robert Russin’s former home in Laramie, and could not help but wonder at the time how he could have sculpted this massive creation in the studio he built behind his house.  Obviously, the rendering of his model was cast much larger than the original!

Placed on a site near the crossing of the first transcontinental USA highway (appropriately named the Lincoln Highway), this sculpture dominates the hillside where it stands overlooking I-80.  The old Lincoln Highway passed over the crest of the hill seen behind the monument.  This was the historic “Summit,” the highest point on the original highway’s 3,500-mile route from New York to San Francisco.  This monument commemorates the sesquicentennial of Lincoln’s birth and was commissioned by the State of Wyoming in 1959.

The brooding countenance of this Lincoln bust is almost as compelling as the Lincoln Memorial on the mall in Washington, D.C.  And the story of his assassination, so aptly rendered in this year’s best selling book “Killing Lincoln,” makes one wonder how someone could have planned and executed such a terrible crime.  It was a great loss for our country and the American people.

A poem written by Walt Whitman upon Lincoln’s death brings tears, no matter how many times I have read it.  It makes reference to the long journey by train returning Lincoln’s body to his home in Illinois.

O CAPTAIN! MY CAPTAIN!

“O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done, The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won, The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting, While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring; But O heart! heart! O the bleeding drops of red, Where on the deck my Captain lies, Fallen cold and dead.”

“O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells; Rise up–for you the flag is flung–for you the bugle trills, For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths–for you the shores a-crowding, For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning; Here Captain! dear father! This arm beneath your head! It is some dream that on the deck, You’ve fallen cold and dead.”

“My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still, My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will, The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done, From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won; Exult O shores, and ring O bells! But I with mournful tread, Walk the deck my Captain lies, Fallen cold and dead.”

Bill the Prairie Dog

How nice to make your acquaintance . . . .

Bill the prairie dog is fat and sleek from all that lush grass.  He lives under the neighbor’s deck near our cabin in the mountains, and was quite`curious about our activities when we opened up for the season.  He seemed unafraid and a little shy, but the kind of guy you could grow to love (if he didn’t dig burrows in the lawn and bring all his friends and raise his  pups at a rapid pace and eat all that grass . . . . . . .).

Just Bill . . . .

POW Artists Leave Behind a Treasure

ya gotta have art . . . .

Camp Douglas  was created as a prisoner of war detention center during World War II in Douglas, Wyoming.  This mural, painted on the wall of the Officers’ Club by an unknown artist, is one of nearly two dozen that were left for posterity.  Depicting romanticized scenes of the Wild West, scenes in the murals were largely copied from books in the prison library at the time.  Some alterations can be found in these copies of famous western paintings by Remington and others, but it does not diminish the effect.

a river flows near it? . . . .

This scene of Independence Rock was enhanced with a river flowing nearby, which never actually existed.  It makes for some nice scenery, however.

Garden Girl Hangs Tough

Buzz off, I’ve got work to do! . . .

This guinea hen made a wise choice for her nest–in the vegetable garden!  She is protected by a deer-proof fence that also keeps dogs and most other pests at bay.  Guinea hens start nesting in warm weather and roam far and wide to find the perfect protected spot for a nest.  Unfortunately, predators locate them when the guinea begins sitting on the nest overnight, and too often, she turns up missing!

Each evening, if the headcount doesn’t turn up right in the guinea pen, Rosie the Guinea Hunter is on the case and takes off with her nose in the air.  She inspects all the fallen tree stumps, sagebrush, willow groves, and every old nest that she has previously detected in a wide area, focusing intently on “finding Guineas!”  She rarely misses her mark, and then it’s likely because the guinea has met her demise.  If she is alive and sitting on her nest, Rosie will find her.  Then the fun begins.

The first clue that we’re spot on is Rosie’s stance: body motionless; ears forward; head erect; stub of a tail wagging.  We arrive, breathless from a chase that may have covered a few acres of ground, and approach the nest to confirm Rosie’s detective work.  And then we take up the unpleasant task of interfering with MOTHER NATURE.  Disturbing a nesting guinea is akin to tackling a lion in her den.  After you have cleared away all the cover that typically conceals her (deep grass, branches, tree stumps) you take a moment to develop a strategy on which end to tackle her.  (Previous failed attempts have taught us that if you don’t grab her in front of her wings, thereby having some leverage, you will never hold on).  But first you have to get past the sharp pecking of her beak, staccato clucking and piercing eyes that warn of trouble if you try to rout her from her precious eggs!  She fans her wings out high over her back and lowers her head to prepare for battle.

If you aren’t completely intimidated by this time, you reach into the nest (with gloves on) and go for it.  After a skirmish, which you lose, she will shriek and climb off the nest, stepping aside to scold and call out to her kindred guineas.  Upon hearing her cries, the rest of the flock arrive in time to scold and create such a squawking cacophony that you know MOTHER NATURE will soon intervene and cast you into purgatory for ABANDONING GUINEA EGGS BEFORE THEY CAN HATCH!  But I digress.

Garden guinea is likely the smart hen who created her nest in the garden last year and things went well for her until a bull snake arrived to eat her hatchlings as soon as they were out of the shell.  We saved five and raised them in the house, but this time she made it to the finish line on her own.

Hey, you! Get in with the rest of your siblings . . . .

Believe it or not, there are six babies tucked in under her wings.  The curious one who wants to see the action will soon be enfolded in her protective embrace.  When she arrived at the guinea pen with her newly hatched chicks, a hasty arrangement was made to place her in Fred and Ethel’s goose condo for an extended stay, but that’s another story.

On the Wings of Things

After such a long journey, a rest . . . .

This beautiful butterfly came floating in the breeze and landed in the grass on the front lawn.  After doing some research, we are still unclear whether it is a Monarch.  Very similar to a Viceroy, a Monarch does not have the black horizontal band along the edge of its wings and this one doesn’t appear to have the black bands.  It is lovely, and we were thrilled that it chose to land where we could observe it.

Can you direct me to the butterfly hospital? . . .

This lovely specimen, which we could not identify, got caught in the tidal wave of emptying the wading pool that provides the geese with water to drink, bathe and splash in.  It appeared to have an injury to one of its wings, which are so fragile you wonder how they stay aloft in wind, rain and all the rest of nature’s obstacles.  After observing it for a time, we gently laid it in a flower pot where it clung to a geranium for the rest of the afternoon.  Later, when we discovered it gone, we comforted ourselves that it may have gained strength to move on.

Life Is A Beach

Sand, surf, Painkillers . . . .

Escape to the Virgin Islands and discover a truly unique way to leave the snow and cold Wyoming winds behind.  Located about 90 miles east of Puerto Rico, the islands extend into the Caribbean Sea on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other.  The Virgins form an archipelago which is divided between the U.S. and  British, and are located in the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles.  This view is from a restaurant at Cruz Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.  The town is so small they don’t name most of the streets.

Roll on, thy deep, dark ocean . . . .

On the U.S. side, there are four main islands: St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix and Water Island.  St. John is our favorite destination, as the U.S. National Park Service owns more than half of the island and many acres of coral reef.  The Virgin Islands National Park sprawls through the interior and encompasses almost all the coastline.  White sand beaches are unsurpassed and relatively uncrowded, and average temperatures in March range in the 80’s.  Sparkling clear water makes for great sailing, snorkeling, swimming or just listening to the waves splash up on shore.  Cinnamon Bay is featured above.

Sunrise or sunset? . . . .

Taken from the deck of our studio at dawn.  The island in the background is St. Thomas, a twenty minute ferry ride away.  Looking down at Maho Bay.

By the light of day . . . .

Maho Bay is a popular destination for sail boats.  They arrive in droves for the prime rib dinner on Saturday nights at Maho Bay Camp where we rent a studio.

One-Eyed, Pearly-Eyed Thrasher

Dirty Harry was waiting for us to return this year, and was as irascible and impatient as always.   He has had a rough year, and was healing from an injury that left his right eye almost completely destroyed. It didn’t slow him down much, and he was as imperious as we remember him from last year.  He sits on the railing of our balcony and puffs up his feathers, strutting to and fro.  His favorite food is crumbled granola bars and he hops up and down in excitement when we scatter them for him.

Ghostly remains of a once-grand plantation . . . .

The islands are volcanic and most of the early dwellings are stone with decorations of conch and a wide variety of sea shells.  Settled by the Danish West India Co. in 1694, sugar cane drove St. John’s economy during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Hey, wait for me . . . .

Feral chickens abound on the  island, and this little chick is trying to keep up with a hen and three siblings touring along the edge of the beach.  My nap was interrupted by frantic peeping, and I rummaged in my bag for something to feed them, to no avail.

Come up and see me sometime . . . .

This Golden Orb spider has woven a captivating web – I think I’ll pass.  This is a very large spider and has beautiful markings, if you want to see it up close (ooooh!)

Another day in paradise . . . .

Leinster Bay looks across to the British Virgin Islands.  We enjoyed snorkeling here, and on our last visit saw a small grey shark, along with colorful fish and sea turtles.

Catch a ride? . . . .

Feral donkeys roam the island and this fellow didn’t want to surrender the road to passersby.

Have you seen the wind? . . .

This giant tree is quite ancient and grows near the beach at Hansen Bay.  I believe it to be a tamarind, but notes and memory fail me.  We spent the day snorkeling at Haulover Bay and at Hansen Beach.  Lunch at Vi’s roadside stand was quite delicious – BBQ pork  or conch fritters.

Someone came before us . . . .

The Virgin Islands were originally settled by the Ciboney, Carib and Arawaks.  These prehistoric carvings at a sacred waterfall may have been created by the native tribes or may pre-date them.

when sugar was king . . . .

Ruins of Danish sugar plantations and mills developed in the early 1700’s still stand along the Reef Bay Trail and are sprinkled across St. John.  A National Park Service tour guide explains the functions of this well preserved mill.

Lead me to “the baths” . . . .

Virgin Gordo is in the British islands and is world famous for “The Baths,” a unique rock structure that forms natural, partly submerged sea-grottoes that extend along the shoreline.

Ooooh, not for the claustrophobic . . . .

Incredibly beautiful grottoes like this one can be explored until about 4:30 in the afternoon, when the tide comes in and fills the huge rock formations with water.

Splish splash, I was taking a bath . . . .

Interesting vantage for a rest and to escape the crowd from a Club Med cruise ship that arrived shortly after we did.

A picture is worth 1000 words . . . .

The landward view from Top of The Baths restaurant.  A few frozen margaritas later . . .

Did Harry leave me any crumbs?

A bananaquit checks out the lunch counter.  These small yellow birds are ubiquitous and are drawn to feeders like hummingbirds.

All aboard for the high seas . . . .

Dropping anchor in another British island, Jost Van Dyke.

Bloody Mary for breakfast? . . .

It all started at the Soggy Dollar Bar.  Jost Van Dyke consists of beautiful beaches and a string of bars. And very little else.  Our goal was to visit every one (well, almost every one).

Ivan The Terrible presides . . . .

The trip down the hill to reach Ivan’s No Stress Bar should have been a fair warning.  Climbing back up was a killer and definitely not without stress.  St. John is made up of volcanic mountains jutting up out of the sea.  Everywhere you go is either up, or down–steeply!

Who needs Painkillers? . . . .

Foxy’s is the most famous establishment on Jost Van Dyke.  Would not have missed it for anything, and Foxy was actually there holding court.  Lunch was conch fritters and Caribe beer.  We passed on Rudy’s Ala Baba bar and a few others to take in the more respectable haunts.

All the creature comforts of home . . . .

The Methodists are alive and well, doing God’s work around the world!

Not another bar! . . .

An egret had a tussle with a mongoose, and the mongoose got away!

Can you see me now?

Back to Maho Bay, our base on St. John, and our visit to the Francis Bay salt pond.  So many wonderful birds it was impossible to capture them.  This Black-necked Stilt is fishing, or quite possibly enjoys looking at his reflection in the water.

I can see it from here . . . .

Ram Head is on the “dry,” or east end of St. John and this windswept peninsula has beautiful cacti and other arid-lands plants.  The trail leading to this prominent point is rocky, torturous, prickly and steep.  Leaving from Salt Pond Bay, you immediately notice the heat, but as you climb up the ocean breezes are a welcome relief.

did rebellious slaves really get a drink from me? . . . .

wouldn’t want to be blown into one of these . . . .

St. John has some of the best examples of dry tropical forest remaining in the Lesser Antilles on the east end, but the west end is moist forests of West Indian locust, hogplum and yellow prickle trees.  The constant winds on Ram Head would dry out plants that are not adapted to these desert-like conditions.

Maho Bay is calling . . . .

The End, until . . . . .