Dewdrops and Spiderwebs

Lately we’ve had temperatures in the high 70’s and low 80’s during the day and at night the temperature drops to a comfortable 65° and below. Those cool night temperatures bring the daytime water evaporation back to earth in the form of sparkling dew.

I love a dewy morning if only to check out the variety of spider webs that festoon the trees, shrubs, grass and just about everything else: cars, mailboxes, doors. Webs that are next to invisible on a sunny day glisten like jewels on a dew laden morn.

A Virginia friend made a small hypertufa planter for me and and it’s perfect for a few hens and chicks. I put it in a hot and sunny spot just outside the door, threw in a few herbs and annuals nearby and let it go.

hypertufa containerThis morning I spotted the dewy web draped like twinkling gauze over one corner. Let’s get a little closer to the miniature world of spiders. The spider is in there but not in this photo.

grass spider

…………………………….Click to see the full effect of crystal dewdrops

Here is its hiding place, his funnel. Who is this little spider who wasn’t showing its face this morning? It’s a grass spider, Agelenopsis sp., a funnel weaver. The web it spins is not sticky to trap insects like the orb webs. Instead the grass spider depends on its incredible speed to nail their prey. Usually hiding inside its funnel, it will often venture out and sit in the opening. But this early morning must have been too wet for this spider so….

grass spider tunnel….I stepped outside again after the sun was high to try and capture its picture. After waiting about a minute, out came our grass spider.

Agelenopsis sp.Easily identified by the black and medium brown stripes on the cephalothorax and pattern on the abdomen, it’s one of over 400 species of funnel weaver spiders in N. America. These harmless spiders are seen more often in the late summer and fall…. and sometimes in our houses. This little fella looks to me like a female with her belly perhaps full of eggs. The adult males are much slimmer.

With the extremely wet summer we are experiencing, I hope our gal catches her weight in mosquitoes daily!

Coastal Maine Botanical Garden

When friends invited us to join them Down East at the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden in Boothbay, we jumped at the opportunity. It was voted Tripadvisor’s #1 in April’s Top 10 Public Gardens in the U.S. For a botanical garden that only opened its gates in 2007, that seems remarkable.

The mission of the garden is “to protect, preserve, and enhance the botanical heritage and natural landscapes of coastal Maine…”  Almost 250 acres of stunning beauty and miles of trails along the waterfront, through pristine woodlands, and ornamental gardens simply took our breath away.

This time of year, the hydrangeas are stunning and the gardens took full advantage. The combination of large globular white flowers of ‘Incrediball’ and the hot pink of ‘Invincibelle Spirit,’ a fairly new addition to the market, were a delicious combination in the children’s garden.

Mist sprayed from several boulders in the children's garden to cool off on a hot summer day.

Mist sprayed from several boulders in the children’s garden, a fun way to cool on a hot summer day.

Wonderful whimsical touches invited children to run, to touch, to participate in all aspects of the Children’s Garden from watering the flowers, planting vegetables, to art projects.

My favorite garden was The Garden of the Five Senses. To show how a garden will delight, visitors are invited to renew their senses by sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch.

Five Senses Sweeps of my favorite daisy, ‘Becky’ (Leucanthemum x superbum) lined the pond in the touch garden. I stood there for awhile and admired the variety of insects that feasted on the beautiful blooms.


We took a break midway through our adventure to dine in the Kitchen Garden Cafe where delicious cuisine is created using organic and local ingredients. Herbs, fruits, and vegetables come from their own gardens. It was a very good day.

For more information about the gardens, go to the website for Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. To see more scenes from several of the gardens watch the slideshow below.

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What’s round on the ends and hi in the middle?

Farm CountryO-HI-O, the Buckeye state!  From the plane, the land below was a patchwork of vivid green squares. It looked cool and inviting after the scorching temperatures we were enduring in New Hampshire. Children and grandchildren soon arrived, some driving, some flying, for our Annual Hiking Vacation.  We totaled thirteen this year with the oldest grandchild at 19 and the youngest at 11 months, all hosted this year by my son’s Ohio family in his brand new… but unfinished home. We were accommodated beautifully with fabulous meals and all slept well with sleeping bags, inflatable beds in basement and bedrooms.

For two days we had downpours of rain, huge thunderstorms, gale force winds, a tornado siting, power outages, and trees down, but thankfully the weather broke for a full agenda of activities including a glorious walk through the Ohio State University’s (OARDC) horticulture display gardens, a visit to the stables, and, of course, the big hike at Mohican State Park. What a week it was!

OARDC Display Gardens

The stables

Mohican State Park Hiking

Green grass and Green trash…

When visiting DC recently, we decided to stay in the Rosslyn neighborhood of Arlington, just a short 5-munute walk over Key Bridge to Georgetown or a hop, skip commute into DC. In the evenings, before retiring for the night, we enjoyed a stretch of the legs exploring the ins and outs of the old community. We strolled down to Gateway Park on Friday eve to check out the gardens in bloom and were met with crowds of young merrymakers on the cool green grass.

Every Friday night in the summer months, classic movies of the 90’s are featured on the big screen at the Outdoor Film Festival. Just grab your favorite person, a blanket or lawn chair, some nibbles and prepare to be entertained. The movie that night was Bring It On, a film about cheerleaders with Kirsten Dunst.  Ummmm, never heard of it….. so it was decided we were definitely too old for this crowd. We admired the flowers around the park and walked back uphill to our accommodations and late night refreshments.

It was along the walk back to the hotel that we saw an interesting trash container. A recycling bin and a solar trash compactor sat side by side. Solar trash compactor? BigBelly was the official name, said to eliminate 4 out of 5 trash collections, keeping the fuel guzzling trash trucks off the roads and lots of trash from overflowing bins off the streets. It holds 150 gallons of trash compared to 30 gallons in a normal bin, all compacted by solar energy. What green, green trash we have here.

I later learned that every one of Rosslyn’s trash cans have been replaced with BigBelly solar compactors, saving the area about 80% in energy and money. Another neat thing: the compactor sends a text message telling the collectors, “Hey, I’m full.”  I think that the BigBelly is way cool but it’d be even way cooler if we could just make less garbage.

Boning up on History!

I’ve been on the road recently… first to Washington DC with two sisters and some of their family to experience the exhibit Written in Bone: Forensic Files of the 17th-Century Chesapeake at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

The Smithsonian’s forensic anthropologists Doug Owsley and Kari Bruwelheide, developed the Written in Bone exhibit after an extensive study of 17th-century bone biographies in the Chesapeake area, including those of colonists barely surviving at Jamestown VA, and those living in the wealthy settlement of St. Mary’s City MD. Newly added to the exhibit is Jane, the forensic facial reconstruction of a young girl who did not survive the ‘starving time’ at Jamestown with the forensic evidence confirming the ‘harsh reality’ that she was consumed by colonists after death.

And, ahem, please permit me to brag just a little. Little sis, curator at Historic Jamestowne, Jamestown Rediscovery, was asked by Doug Owsley to take an active part as an advisor for the study and the exhibit. For years a huge chunk of her time was spent on the project with meetings and trips from Williamsburg to DC. The exhibit opened in February, 2009 and millions have been able to learn much about the earliest inhabitants through bones: men and women, white, black and Native American. All of my siblings have been guided through the exhibit with sis…except for one sister and me. What a treat it was for the two of us with other family members to finally experience a journey through time with one so scholarly as my sis.

If you plan to be in the DC area, take the time to experience the exhibit for it is slated to close in January 2014.

We chose one of the busiest weekends of the year… the July 4th weekend. The city was hot and steamy. Water was being sold by enterprising individuals on almost every corner. Throngs of visitors bought water as they crowded sidewalks, buses, subways, museums, restaurants. I was amazed by the number of families with small children… surprisingly well-behaved and interested in what they were seeing. Rarely did I experience a meltdown by a little one… although I was close to having one a few times.

Visits to other sites such as Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2013, One World, Many Voices, and Old Town Alexandria topped the touring events of our long, hot weekend.

Independence Day, my way….

Happy Fourth of July!

Old Glory is flying here under sunny skies… perfect for an Independence Day family gathering as we celebrate the birthday of our country.

flagI’m busy with preparations in the kitchen for our picnic featuring pulled pork sandwiches with cole slaw, baked beans, salads….. and always for our grand finale….. homemade peach ice cream.

What recipe do you use for BBQ pork sandwiches? I was raised in the South so that can mean many regional varieties of sauces for pulled pork. In the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina, they often add a little smoke. Other recipes are heavy on tomatoes. I’m from the coast of Virginia closer to the North Carolina border and was raised on a vinegar based sauce. No Worcestershire sauce, no Coca-Cola, no Tabasco, no steak sauce, no tomato sauce or mustard. I could get a bit of a backlash from pulled pork sandwich lovers from other locations but this works for my family.

The sauce is vinegary, sweet, spicy hot. Tender pork piled high on a soft bun topped with a kick of coleslaw and I hear music with the first bite. Close my eyes and I’m 10 years old again, barefoot and in my bathing suit, sitting at a picnic table at our summer home on the Chesapeake. In the background I can see my father hand cranking the ice cream we’ll soon enjoy…. always peach, his favorite. Maybe I’ll get to lick the dasher this time… but maybe not. With 7 kids in the family, I’m lucky to get a finger in there for a taste.


Today I hope to create some of those memories for the youngest of my family.

Hope y’all have a fabulous Fourth of July wherever you are!