Rain ☔️

It rained off and on today… a lovely light rain. I wouldn’t want rain every day on vacation but today it was a welcome change.

Clouds began to roll in yesterday and I took the opportunity for a beach walk before the heavens opened.

Hilton Head IslandIt was a solitary walk. I had a mile of beach all to myself… well, almost all to myself. There was plenty of bird life on the shore, in the air, and riding waves.

Gull riding waves on Hilton Head Island

But that wasn’t all. There was life from the sea caught on shore at low tide. The beach was littered with keyhole urchins or sand dollars, small animals that can’t live for very long out of water.

Sand dollar

These weren’t the white sand dollar skeletons you see sold in souvenir shops. These dark sand dollars could still be alive and they aren’t for collecting. There is hefty $500 fine for taking any live animal from South Carolina beaches.

sand dollar- Hilton Head Island

To make sure they were alive, I gently turned each over and touched the cilia, the fuzzy hairs beneath. Thankfully, the cilia moved on every one and all the animals I came across were returned to the water. It was a very good day.

sand dollar

At dawn today, a dense fog rolled in before the rain. I could see nothing on the water but could hear motors and foghorns as boat traffic navigated the sound. What a treat it was to sit outside with morning java and watch the condensation change the look of everything in the landscape. It doesn’t have to be sunny to be beautiful!

Fog on Hilton Head Island- 2018

The biggest reptile on the island

It’s been unseasonably cool in South Carolina… some mornings we’re shivering in our lightweight jackets. It’s also been a little cool for the local population of American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) that call Hilton Head home. As cold-blooded animals, their body temperature fluctuates with the outside temperature.  They’re slowly beginning to come out of hibernation to bask on the banks of waterways.

We were happy to enjoy several quite warm days when our youngest son visited us…. perfect weather, I thought, for encouraging alligators from hibernation. Driving around we saw only one huge one by a neighborhood pond. But then, while golfing, our son photographed a lot more just basking in the warm sun. They seem to prefer the quiet ponds and lakes and lagoons along fairways.

What surprised me was seeing his photos of alligators in people’s backyards. Residents and visitors alike are schooled in safety around these giants, but, safe or not, I’d definitely not grill outdoors if I spotted that guy below near my patio.

People are warned not to get closer than 60′ to these living relics. Although they don’t consider humans food, they are incredibly quick and unpredictable. There are strict rules against feeding them (big fines/jail time) or fishing with hot dogs, a fav food, and if one takes a fish you’ve hooked, don’t argue with the alligator. Cut your line. Our golfers were warned about retrieving a golf ball that lands too close to water. An alligator may see the golf ball as a delicious egg. They didn’t need to be told twice!

Alligators do see dogs as food. A little over a year ago an escaped 85-pound husky on the island was killed by an alligator when he stopped to have a drink from a pond. In spite of being protected by state and federal law, that alligator was deemed aggressive and had to be put down.

At the golf course pro shop, I found the perfect alligator for me… a safe one that was friendly and would never attack. I’d love to invite him to be a permanent fixture peeking out from beneath the rhododendrons in my garden at home!

Oh, what a tree!

Nothing says ‘Old South’ like the Southern live oak. The magnificent Spanish moss-draped tree grows so well in the soil of Hilton Head. It tolerates salt spray, loves the climate, and we have admired so many of them all over the island.

What makes them so memorable? It’s all in the limbs. Their massive limbs can grow horizontal or downward near the ground before turning upright or they can form great arching tunnels over roadways.

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They are loved and greatly protected on the island with laws governing  pruning, removal or land clearing for construction. One Southern live oak limb we’ve often ducked beneath on a busy sidewalk has a sign warning pedestrians. How cool is that?

From ICE to NICE

Although it was 31° on our first morning in South Carolina, it was a heck of a lot warmer than the 7° we left behind in New Hampshire.

Temperatures are unseasonably brisk here, reaching the high 40s or low 50s under sunny skies so far. Most people are sporting lightweight jackets and warm hats but not everyone. We do a double take when we spot the occasional brave soul in Bermuda shorts! “All are hardy Canadians,” say the locals.

Until the weather warms a little, we are concentrating on good food, especially the southern goodies I’ve missed…like those warm hush puppies I enjoyed at our first meal on Hilton Head.

Coligny Beach Park was a lunch destination yesterday followed by a walk on the beach…something we’d probably never choose to do in the high season due to the popularity of this wonderful beach.

Beach access takes you through the park on a boardwalk where you may stop to lounge on swings, benches or chairs in the sun or beneath gazebos. Outdoor showers, little changing rooms, restrooms, and free WiFi make it a perfect access for a beach day.

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Beach matting allows visitors to cross the wide expanse of soft sand down to the water’s edge where the few walkers and bikers are found.

Great place to work up an appetite for dinner!

Summer Vacay 2017

With small mountains of snow surrounding us this January 9, more pleasant thoughts are carrying us back to the warm days of the past summer. Our seasonal travels have taken us to visit several mountain lakes in the few years that we’ve lived in New England.

And last summer our vacation took us to a new one on our radar, a Maine lake where we enjoyed three generations of family fun with youngster from age 10 months to the really old folks (us!).

summer vacayThe small village is named Lovell, just over the border from New Hampshire, and the body of water is Kezar Lake, a gorgeous, deep, clean lake surrounded by the rural hills of Maine and New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

Kezar Lake, ME

Kezar Lake

It is a very quiet lake. Jet-skis are discouraged as well as loud motors on boats. We spotted a good share of kayaks and pontoon boats and early morning fishermen with small motors on john boats. At first glance you might think that you’re the only folks on the lake due to the deeply forested waterfront that hides camps and rental cottages.

After a couple of days, we boated around the 9-mile lake and could make out the modest cabins that blended so well into trees from afar. We weren’t the only people staying on the lake after all.

We were told by locals that this lake community frowns upon showiness and conspicuousness in architecture. Peer pressure seems to prevent the mcmansions from being built for the most part. We boated around the lake a couple of times to check out the real estate and were enchanted by what we saw.

Kezar LakeWe would boat awhile, but it was much more fun to turn off the motor and drift, allowing our able fishermen to have a moment to practice a little casting, then reeling in their (plastic) catch of the day.

Catching a plastic yellow perch

A great many of the camps we saw were rustic and small, very similar in color to the log cabin where we resided, dark brown stain and forest green trim.  Our accommodations were modern and comfortable indoors with the latest conveniences but instead of tv and internet, we were usually found frockling on the waterfront or catching up on summer reads beneath the pines.

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I have to say I fancied everything this lake offered… maybe a little more than other lakes we’ve visited… so far that is. It matched the flavor of my grandparents’ rustic log cabin in Virginia on the shores of the peaceful Chesapeake Bay where I spent seemingly endless summers in my childhood.

Kezar Lake

Kazar Lake Camp

Kazar Lake 2017Locals residents and summer people want to keep the lake and the camps just the way they are… quiet, clean, and rustic with all the local traditions kept in place.  A local proprietor shared the news that the King family, Stephen and Tabitha, the well-known authors who reside part-time somewhere around there, purchased the sole campground on the lake, then closed it down. That took jet-skis and lots of boats from the lake and folks couldn’t be happier. We didn’t go looking for Stephen King but folks said it’s not unusual to run into him at local establishments. I don’t think we went out shopping or eating out enough…. but, hey, I finished two books.

Kazar Lake

Kezar Lake’s water is clean, one of Maine’s cleanest lakes. The sunsets are spectacular over the White Mountains and I can’t say enough about the absolute QUIET… except for the crickets and an occasional duck or two.

Living on the Seacoast of New Hampshire, we feel so lucky that we’re mere minutes from the ocean, yet the mountains of New England are oh-so-close! Salt water? Fresh water? We love ’em both and we can take our pick any week of summer. How divine is that??

Sunset on Kazar 2017

 Only 51 days more days till spring
Oops! Boy, am I wrong. It’s 69 days as of January 10. Sigh….

Our funny little bunny

I have been reminded of all the negatives of these animals. I know they damage plants. I know they eat herbs. I know they girdle woody plants in the winter. I know they multiply…. uh…. like rabbits. But this rabbit, our cute little bunny, was special.

For the most part, we don’t interfere with the natural laws of nature and allow things to take its course around the property. I might chase off a pesky house sparrow trying to move into the bluebird house or save a butterfly caught in a web from becoming a spider’s supper. But then it all changed when we accepted a tiny bunny onto the property.

bunnykins

It was early spring when I noticed a teacup-sized bunny moving slowly toward a clover patch in the lawn. It looked barely old enough to be weaned and it was beyond cute. It seemed unconcerned that I was standing nearby and I wasn’t going to shoo it away.  Rabbits don’t seem to last long around here since we have hawks and owls, neighborhood dogs, cats, we hear coyotes at night along with foxes, and then there are those elusive fishercats and, of course, the humans.

Bunnykins.

Despite the odds, bunny survived the warm months and grew healthy and plump on our untreated clover. He proved extremely well-behaved and NEVER ate from the garden. All summer long, the little fella kept the lawn’s clover patch in check.

In time, he grew oblivious to having me work nearby and would stretch out in the shade and doze just feet from where I was pulling weeds or digging in the dirt. I moved wheelbarrows, rakes, pruners and hoses around the yard and he would occasionally sit up and watch but went right back to his meal or his nap time with lazy yawns. Once in a while, something would snap and he would go on a tear, darting around in circles, kicking up grass… almost as if he was letting me know this was his yard and was allowing me to visit.

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I have dozens of cute and amusing iPhotos of the little bunny. Each night as we sat down to dinner, mister gardener and I would watch out of the window waiting for him because our dinner schedule was his dinner schedule. He would appear, hop to a clover patch beneath the window where we could watch him dine as we dined… just inches from the parsley and lettuce in the herb garden that he totally ignored. We never knew where his den was or where he went at night.

As cold weather set in, the bunny finally disappeared. We didn’t see him for a couple of months and we assumed he had become a meal for a hungry animal or had snuggled into his den for the winter. Just imagine my surprise when I went out to feed the birds last week and there he was. He had reappeared in a snowstorm in subzero weather. Not for the clover, of course, but to share what the birds are eating. Now that I’m putting out nuts, berries, seeds, and fruits for the birds, I’m guessing some of it has become sustenance for our bunny.

Let’s hope there is enough to sustain him during the harsh months and he does not resort to nibbling on the bark of my shrubs!  Be safe, little one! Hope to see you in the spring!

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Today everyone eats

Today we are experiencing a fierce blizzard in New Hampshire and I have invited all hungry animals, even these pesky ones, to dine on birdseed, peanuts, and fruit. It can be life or death out there. The snow is deep and the wind is ferocious.

 

squirrel

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It will get a heck of a lot worse today before it gets better. But we’re safe and snug inside with a nice fire and plenty of cocoa… and with fingers crossed that we don’t lose power!

Full Wolf Moon 2018

January 2nd’s full moon is called, among several other names, the “Full Wolf Moon,” said to be from the time when wolves would howl near Colonial villages and Native American tribes.

I attempted to capture the supermoon tonight from our deck using a superzoom camera. Hampering my attempt at photography was our deep and crusty snow and painful frigid temperatures that tortured my exposed fingers. Who wants to stand outside shivering in single digits? I could hardly keep the camera steady with a tripod. When the moon appeared on the horizon through the trees, it was past the time it was closest to earth but still looked huge.

The phenomenon supermoon is named because it becomes full on the same day its orbit is closest to Earth and it looks brighter and larger than the usual moon. They don’t happen every month. There are none in February but there will be second one this month. On January 31 2018, we can see the one that NASA has named the “Super Blue Blood Moon.” So if you miss the one tonight, not to worry.

Rising through the pines tonight while still low on the horizon, the moon actually looked pretty ‘super.’

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Once it reached the vastness of the sky, it was simply a beautiful full moon!

moon 1:2018

Last night I finished the book Artemis by Andy Weir and I couldn’t help thinking of the action-packed novel about the first lunar colony as I squinted through the lens of the camera. Hmmmm…. I wonder. Will we one day build a lunar city? 🚀

A New Year’s Day MUST

Black-eyed peas have been soaked overnight, organic collard greens washed and ready, and all the other ingredients for New Year’s Day are waiting to be prepped for a hearty soup tonight.

Growing up in the Tidewater area of Virginia, my family ate black-eyed peas and collard greens on a regular basis, but I don’t remember them on New Year’s Day. Did everyone in the South except our family eat collard greens and black-eyed peas the first day of each new year?  Is this a new-ish thing or not? I am a little superstitious so I follow along.

My mother always served black-eyed peas mixed with stewed tomatoes. Collard greens was always served alongside a cruet of vinegar that we splashed atop the hot greens. I can’t remember my mother ever combining the peas and collards as I am doing tonight… although better memories of a sibling might correct me!

New Year 2018

Last year I made the traditional Southern Hoppin’ John over rice. This year we are having soup based on a tasty recipe in the New York Times…. minus the ham hock.

Wealth should be breaking down the door!  And if I feel especially lucky after I dine tonight, I’ll be standing in line for the Powerball on Wednesday that has reached over 440 million buckaroos and growing.

collard greens 2018

Happy, Healthy, and Wealthy New Year wishes for all.

PS: It’s been 10 minutes and I’ve already been corrected by a sibling with a better memory than mine. We did eat both black-eyed peas and collard greens on New Year’s Day. Lucky me!