Friday, June 14, 2024

The Seeds You Plant - Scenes from Northeast England

I set out to make this a post of only the highlights from our European trip in May - hopeless!  I attempted to down-select some favorite snaps, and repeatedly found myself thinking - "I can't leave that one out!"  Please enjoy these photos from Northeast England, home to my in-laws and very dear to my heart.

I believe we all know of popular sites near to our homes that we have never visited - in our case, the four of us made a first-time stop at the Durham University Botanic Garden.  While Montana weather was cold and rainy, we were mesmerized by the tulip displays.  I couldn't stop taking pictures!

The garden is set in 25 acres of mature woodland on the southern outskirts of the city.  This stand of Himalayan Birches is an excellent example of the mature woodland.  These magnificent trees are a landscaper's dream with the beautiful smooth white bark - they can grow up to 60 feet.

The garden was past its prime for daffodils, but a few of the azaleas and rhodendrons were putting on a show.

Yoko at Stardust Talk posts stunning photos of Sakura blossoms in season, so I was thrilled to see some planted within the Botanic Garden.  A close-up might have shown the blooms off to better advantage, but none of us "seasoned" folks want that!

I loved this mushroom sculpture.

Of course, no trip home is complete without a meat pie, washed down by a pint of beer.  We also hope that my husband's cousin will be performing during our visit.  Check, check, check.  These pictures were not all taken on the same day, but they represent some of our favorite traditions!

I have written several times about Hardwick Park, located 15 minutes from my in-laws and a frequent destination when our kids were young.  No visit would be complete without one walk through the Park.

Faithful readers, you know how much I adore gardens, especially flowering ones.  So, when hubby suggested a day out to Helmsley, including the Walled Garden, I had my shoes on and was waiting to be let into the car!  Built in 1759, the garden sits beneath the imposing ruins of Helmsley Castle.  

In 1900, 20 gardeners worked here, producing flowers, fruit and vegetables for the "big house" at Duncombe Park.  After the Great War, the garden was abandoned and by 1984, it was totally derelict.  Alison Ticehurst, a local nurse, first visited the garden in July 1994, looking for a place in which she could run a therapeutic horticulture program.  Alison died before her vision could be fully realized, but the dedicated staff and volunteers carried it out and continue to do so today.

As you can tell from the photos, it was a gloriously sunny day, and we took advantage of it to relish dining on the patio of The Vine House Cafe at the garden.  You can imagine that they employ fresh herbs and other ingredients from the garden, and you would be right.  The food is even better than it looks, if that is possible!

When I retrieved glasses of water for all of us, I read this quote (unattributed) on a chalk board near the ordering station.  As someone who fights (unsuccessfully) the urge to be uber-productive every day, I felt that it was written for me!

"Don't judge every day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant." 


Linking up with LeeAnna at Not Afraid of Color for I Like Thursday.  If you're searching for some positivity in a world that can focus too much on the negative, check it out!  The prompt for June 20 is "Did you ever go to camp as a youth - space camp, acting/music/dance camp where you went each day but slept at home?"  I did not.  As one of 7 children, I am guessing that we didn't have the funds for camps.  My "camp" was helping Dad in the garden during the summer, and being outside all the time, either by myself or with neighborhood kids.  A highlight of the summer was the massive German family reunion held at a lake in northwestern Ohio.  Tables loaded with food, paddle boats, very competitive softball, Orange and Red Crush soda pop, which we never got at home.  Good times!

Linking to Thankful Thursday

Linking to Mosaic Monday

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

As April closes ...

We are heading to Europe!  An epic journey, originally planned for 2020 until the pandemic shut down the world.  (Of course, we have been to the UK since then to visit my in-laws, and we will start and end our visit with them!)  A sneak peek:  several days with one of our former au pairs in France, then a driving tour through Switzerland, Austria, Poland and the Czech Republic.  In Poland, we will visit another one of our former au pairs.  The list of sights and activities is too long to mention here!  And it also worked out that we will experience Bruce Springsteen in concert in Prague!

So, I just wanted to post a few highlights from April, and wish you much joy in the month of May!

Below - back side of Snowbird Resort, which is east of Salt Lake City, Utah.  I was in the area for a climate conference, and several fellow volunteers gave me a fabulous skiing tour of the mountain.

While in Utah, I stayed with my brother and my sister-in-law, so of course it was the perfect excuse to go skiing at Snowbasin again!

And Idaho Falls is a perfect stopping spot on the way home - such a blessing to get to see #1 Son, and wish him an early birthday!  He took me to Reed's Dairy, which began its family-owned milk delivery business in 1955 in Idaho Falls.  Larry Reed, in the collage below, started and operated the dairy while his two brothers managed the farming side of their business.  And yes, I managed to eat these two massive scoops of ice cream!

And wouldn't you know that Spousal Unit had flowers for me when I got home?  I should go away for six days more often!

April is highway clean-up time in Montana - the snow is gone and all the ugliness of winter trash is revealed ... and you have to get in there before the grass gets too high!  Don't my neighbors and friends look so happy?  This is before they picked up 130 bags of garbage along a 6-mile stretch!  I got reports later of swollen knees and aching backs ... we need some younger recruits!  (Please note that not everyone is in the picture ... a shout-out to all the pickers!)  And do you see the little Grouse to the left of the crew - oddest thing - that grouse followed me around for at least an hour in that area!

Most of you know that April 22 was Earth Day.  I volunteer with Citizens' Climate Lobby, and our local chapter hosted an ambitious Earth Day event at the local community college on April 20.  As part of our pre-event publicity, I was on the radio with my friend Denny, Flathead Audubon Conservation Educator.  I am so grateful to all the people who made this event possible - over 100 community members contributed to financial sponsorship, panel discussions, workshops, tabling and our Electric Vehicle Showcase.  And our volunteers - so many hours of work to put this together, not to mention support from 8 - 5 on the day itself.  I am ready for a vacation, and I am retired!!!

I mentioned that I was in Utah for a climate conference.  One of the presenters shared this quote:

"When any environmental issue is pursued to its origins, it reveals an inescapable truth - that the root cause of the crisis is not to be found in how men interact with nature, but in how they interact with each other - that, to solve the environmental crisis we must solve the problems of poverty, racial injustice and war."  Barry Commoner, 1973

The more things change, the more they stay the same!  If you can and if you dare, be part of the change.


Joining LeeAnna's I Like Thursday - Prompt for May 2 - What does your name mean? Are you named for someone?  Do you like your name?  Have you ever changed your name?  Would you like a different name?  A Google of Angela yields "messenger, messenger of God."  I am not aware of anyone else in my family with my name, and my Dad always said they named me Angela because I was his "angel".  He certainly did not appreciate it when I adopted Angie - I can still hear him calling me Angela!  I am very happy with my name (Angie) and cannot imagine being called anything else.

Linking to Thankful Thursday

Linking to Mosaic Monday

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Because I knew you

I am so blessed to have many good friends, and one of my deepest joys comes from sitting around a table, chatting and crafting.  It's a tapestry all its own, woven with time together, and stories shared.  

When I recently saw an America's Got Talent audition, featuring two women in a duet performance of "For Good" from Wicked, I shed a few tears, thinking of friends around the world.  And especially those right in my own backyard.

Friends, this post is for you!

I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow

If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you...

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend...

Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you

I have been changed for good

Listen to the song! 


Joining LeeAnna's I Like Thursday: Prompt for April 4: Amusement Park or Day at the Beach?  These days, I would definitely prefer the quiet of a day at the beach.  Snoozing, collecting vitamin D, walking the length of the beach, reading a book, sipping a rum-soaked beverage.  Much preferable to the noisy clanging of an amusement park, thronged with sweaty people standing in long lines.

Linking to Slow Sunday Stitching

 Slow Sunday Stitching

Linking to Mosaic Monday

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Getting my (camping) mojo on!

March 15 marks the day we can enter a lottery for back-country camping reservations in Glacier National Park, and I am caught up in memories of picturesque pit toilets, gourmet meals on a camp stove and wine as an end-of-hike treat.  What better way to celebrate this moment than to highlight an epic trip from last year?  Hoist your backpack and come along with me!

My nephew and his girlfriend embarked on this pilgrimage with us, an epic trip covering 37.3 miles and 10,090 feet of elevation gain in the first 4 days of August 2023.

Does it look like we left the house at 4.45 am?  That's what you do when you want to make sure to get a parking spot in Glacier National Park!  Here we are, fortified with breakfast burritos and ready to go at 7.15 am!

This is Mineral Creek with Heavens Peak in the background.  Below is a picture of my nephew on a seasonal bridge - this means that every fall the Park Service takes it down, and every spring it is re-installed.  From this point, the trail rises to Flattop Mountain, and along the way we passed through the thickest huckleberry bushes we have ever seen, and every one was laden with luscious fat hucks.  We already have a plan to return here this summer!

As we reached the plateau that is Flattop Mountain, a delightful waterfall (see video below) greeted us and provided soothing pools for our feet in the afternoon heat of August.

Not long after, we arrived at the campground.  My nephew, in the lead at the time, shouted "I see a pit toilet!"

A forest fire that went through this area (in 2005, I believe) meant there was little shade to be had.  Flattop Creek had a few trees, and cooling waters - a pleasant respite from the relentless Montana sun.  The flowers thrive there too!

We closed the day with a few hands of cards, and a chicken and curried rice dinner, a specialty prepared by the father of our nephew's girlfriend.  Delicious!

Day 2: since the day held only 7 miles of hiking and the least elevation gain of the trip, we had a leisurely start.  The crisp morning gave way to shorts and light shirts as the sun moved overhead and numerous jagged mountains came into view. Around the cooking area that night, a Park Ranger would tell us that the area is called Fifty Mountain because you can see fifty peaks on a clear day!

 Getting closer.

We paused at this dry creekbed for a break, and I couldn't stop taking pictures of the flowers that lined its banks in undulating waves of Arnica yellow and Aster purple, with an occasional splash of Paintbrush red.

August in the high country can pose water supply challenges, and although we had verified with the back country office that water is available at Fifty Mountain campground, hearing it first-hand from a fellow camper is priceless.  Three fellows described the location of the water source in detail, which enabled us to choose the prime campsite when we arrived to a deserted campground.  Hubby and I came up empty with our goat observations, while the other two went on an excursion.  As the sun dropped, more hikers arrived until 3 of the 4 sites were taken.  The latest arrivals were making quite a racket until Spousal Unit got of our tent to hush them up!  We wouldn't normally do that, but we had our sights set on an early morning departure, and we needed some shut-eye.

Day 3: the moon hung over the cooking area/food hang when we emerged at 6 am, planning for a 7.30 am start.  It must have been the slow gas canister, or watching the pot boil, that turned into an 8.15 am kickoff!  As we trekked the 12.5 miles and 3,283 feet of elevation gain that day, we were easily distracted by the jaw-dropping views around every twist in the trail.

Up we go.

 Toward Cattle Queen Creek.

This waterfall came right out of the rock!!!






Can you see my nephew and his girlfriend standing the creek-bed of Cattle Queen Creek?  And he is 6 feet 7 - these mountains are GRAND!

If you look carefully at the photo below, you can see a trail descending the far mountain - we came from over there!

In 2021, I wrote several posts about our first Glacier hiking trip with my nephew (July 25, 2021, August 8, 2021 and August 15, 2021).  In the August 8 post, Helen Lake - a veritable slice of paradise - was featured.  Wouldn't you know that this current hike offered a spur with an overlook of Helen Lake?

And did I mention it was our anniversary?

It may not be apparent from the photo, but the overlook was peppered with about 20 people, more than we had seen in the previous 48 hours!  We were tickled that we timed our departure to have this refreshing stream to ourselves.






We were glad of cool feet as we finished our ascent to the Granite Park campground, arriving around 4.30.

Water was scarce there - we had to walk upstream quite a ways to find even a few small pools.

We weren't late to bed - as they say, early to bed, early to rise!

Day 4: We improved our process, and we left camp 25 minutes earlier than the day before.  Our destination?  Swiftcurrent Lookout, almost 2,200 feet of elevation in a couple of miles!!!  And why?  For goat observations, of course.  And for the views.  Except, the day dawned with low clouds and rolling mist.


It was surreal and a tad disconcerting to see my hiking partners disappear into the clouds.






Momentarily, the Lookout peeked out from the mist. (It's the little square on the top of the mountain.)

Check out this video of the clouds rolling over the mountains.

Despite the mist, we were able to observe 3 goats.  Yippee!  

And even more special, a little pika entertained us at the lookout.  We heard a squeaking among the rocks, and a little patience earned us a photo of this adorable critter.

And then it was down, down, down to the Loop, our starting point three days before.  In August, the last three miles are a dusty, dry, downhill slog - the views don't change and you are ready to be done.  Inevitably, we see people on this stretch who are dehydrated and not faring well.  We gave them electrolyte tablets and a bottle of glucose water and advice to take it slow.  Almost everyone rejoices with a splash in the pool below the bridge, just a quarter mile from the parking lot.  We add some adult beverages to round out the picture!

So, here's to winning another extraordinary back-country trip in Glacier!


Joining LeeAnna's I Like Thursday.  Prompt this week: "What is your favorite spring flower?  Do you try to grow them in your house or yard?"  Since moving to Montana, my favorite is the Glacier Lily.  I have a few in my yard, but they occur naturally - I have not made any attempt to plant more.  Maybe in the future, someone will get to see a blanket of them in my yard, such as the picture below, taken on Beartrap Mountain in May 2017.  Happy Spring everyone!

Linking to Mosaic Monday

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