Sunday, May 31, 2020

Mosaic Monday #82: Emerging

Serviceberry, naturally occurring on
our property
As I looked back over the month of May, the word “emerging” popped into my brain.  Spring flowers erupting from the earth.  Birds flocking to the northern climes.  Spousal Unit and I, re-entering the world like a tortoise tentatively poking its head out of its shell.  In fact, so much occurred during the 31 days of May that I will be breaking this post into two parts!

The first glacier lilies were barely gracing Montana’s barren hillsides, and my brother in Ohio texted me a plethora of flowers that he had snapped in his neighborhood.  I could practically inhale the warm earthy smell of my youth, and taste the honeysuckle on my lips.

Despite our three years in Montana, we are still learning the mountains that are suitable for spring hikes.  Firefighter Lookout on May 1 was not one of them.  Check out these comparison pictures – the top is May 1, and the bottom is May 25, taken in exactly the same location.  How many differences can you see?  1. Snow is gone.  
2.  My head barely reaches the bottom of the sign – that shows you how deep the snow was.  3.  There are four vehicles in the picture, one of which is ours.  On May 1, we could not drive to this point; we had to walk a mile and a half to get here.  Now that the snow is gone, this is a popular hike!

With the weather on a warming trend, it was time to buy some ankle-length hiking socks.  At the same time, I purchased a new phone holder that can clip to my backpack.  (Typically, I kept my phone in a zipper pocket that is on the belt of my backpack.  But every time I take off the pack and set it down, I have to be sure to take out the phone to avoid damaging it.  Also, that zipper pocket is hard to close one-handed, which creates an annoying hassle when I am usually holding two trekking poles in my hand.  This is a major improvement!)

Spring also signifies the return of Man with Hat.  Well, Hat may soon need to be Hat 2.  A little more sweat and a little more sun, and it might just fall apart.  I recently made emergency repairs so that Man would have Hat for fishing the next day.  I think it was lucky Hat that helped him net this massive cutthroat trout.
Hat does not look much better after the repair, but I 
didn't have a lot to work with!  You'll be happy to know
this trout is still swimming around in Glacier Lake!

On a per capita basis, Montana has had one of the lowest COVID infection rates in the US, and I give credit to the governor for setting the standard and to Montana citizens for following it.  When Spousal Unit came home with this Danish from Wheat Montana Bakery & Deli on May 4, it felt like such a luxury.  He had to make a special stop.  He had to put on his mask again.  Should we be indulging like this?  Yes!

In late April, my Mom was admitted to the hospital for reasons not related to COVID.  In one of our many conversations, she mentioned that one of her geraniums had died.  Through my sister the florist, I arranged for a flower arrangement with a geranium to be delivered to the skilled nursing facility that aided her transition from the hospital back to her own house on May 11.  She was over the moon.  So, it was a no-brainer that I should draw a geranium as part of her hand-made Mother’s Day card.
I used one of Sylvia's birdies for the front of the card.
My own Mother's Day was glorious, with breakfast on the back deck, cards, calls from our kids, and a sumptuous dinner.

The month brought other opportunities for me to express my crafty side.  Two of the grandchildren of my Dear Neighbor Friend celebrated birthdays during the month, and I was pleased to make them personalized cards.  I completed my Violet Protest square on May 6 and sent it off to Maggy Hiltner, who has organized a Montana display at Honey's Café in Red Lodge.

On May 4, our governor allowed for phased re-opening of restaurants, with only 50% dining capacity and other requirements.  We gave it a week, and then thought carefully about an establishment that has the space to distance diners, and the resources to do it properly.  What a treat to eat out at the Montana Club, especially for Head Chef, who has tired of the endless cooking!
Despite the re-opening, we have continued our practice of team cooking, including biryani and naan bread on May 13, and tartlets and cauliflower fritters on May 22.
Biryani and Naan Bread

Chicken Cranberry Brie Tartlets
Cauliflower Fritters
Hopefully, all this talk of food has left you hungry for more - come back next week for part 2 of this month's re-cap!

Welcome to Mosaic Monday, a weekly meme where we get together to share our photo mosaics and collages.
Please include at least one photo mosaic/collage in your post.
The link will be open from 1 p.m. Sunday until 11 p.m. Monday (U.S. Mountain time).
Remember to add the link to your Mosaic Monday post and not the one to your blog.
Please link back to this post so that your readers will be able to visit and enjoy more wonderful mosaics; taking the MM blog button from my sidebar is an easy way to link back.
As host I will visit every participant and leave a comment so that you know I stopped by.
Please try and visit as many other blogs as you can, especially those that join in later, so that everyone's creativity can be appreciated fully.
Thank you for joining in today and sharing your mosaics with us.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter

Sunday, May 24, 2020

MM #81: Learning My Lessons (or a Garden Tour with Dad)

Golden Currant - May 23, 2020
Nature has a way of teaching us.  Such as: don't plant your pots before the end of May!  You would think I would know better, having lived in Montana for three years.  But sometimes the heart outpaces the head!!!

As faithful readers know, I even started a garden journal last year (see June 9, 2019July 21, 2019, and September 8, 2019), to document my learning and for other reasons.  Sigh.  But not all is doomed - I have good news as well, and some of it even derived from my knowledge gained last year.

And how can I be downcast when I am IN MY GARDEN?  It is a joy that vibrates through my whole being, and hard to explain to any but other gardeners.  If I am ever somewhat morose, it is when I think of my Dad, and how I would thrill to give him a garden tour, as he was wont to do with all family, and anyone else that he could swindle into it!  So, you will be patient with me in this post, as I act out a garden exploration with my Dad.

May 7, 2020
Let us begin at the driveway entrance.  In May 2019, we built jackleg fences to mark the driveway,  and the next month we added flower baskets to sections of the fence using chicken wire and coconut fiber.  This year, we added a layer of black plastic between the fiber and the soil to aid moisture retention.  In hindsight, we should have poked some holes through the plastic to allow for some drainage.  After several days of steady rain, I feared the whole structure might break under the weight, and I found myself out there trying to punch holes from beneath with a screwdriver.  Marginally successful.  Also, we planted too soon- on May 13, Spousal Unit helped me rig temporary covers from clothes hangers and trash bags since frost was in the forecast.  It did the trick, but what a pain!!!
I'm talking about flowers, and I can envision my Dad sizing up
trees, hands on hips, shrewdly observing that two of our
larch transplants don't look healthy.
Rocky Mountain Bee Plant - May 23, 2020
In August 2019, our-neighbor-with-a-digger helped us construct the flower bed near our "address rock".  As I wrote in this post, fall transplanting included the red osier dogwood, juniper, pearly everlasting and Russian sage.  All have survived the winter except for the sage.  In the fall, I also planted coneflower, goldenrod, rocky mountain bee plant, aster, aspen fleabane and grass seed.  In the spring, I sowed blanket flower, columbine and yarrow.  Thus far, I can clearly identify the bee plant, first based on location; now I can discern the plant by its leaves.  Coneflowers may also be sprouting, but it will take a few more weeks to be sure.  On a whim, I also threw some sunflowers by rocks on the other side of the driveway, and they have emerged!

Transplanted lupine - May 20, 2020
As we stroll up the driveway, I cannot spot any of the lupines that I sowed in the fall.  It doesn't help that I didn't mark my planting spots!  Such a mistake - WHAT was I thinking?  If Dad was here, I would take the opportunity to reminisce about planting beans (or was it peas?)  Back in the day, Dad coated them with some black stuff, and then us kids would poke them into the ground.  With the benefit of age and learning about planting lupine seeds, I realize the "black stuff" was an inoculant - I performed the same operation when sowing my lupines in the fall.  Maybe they will still grow, but I am skeptical given that other lupines in the area are well underway.  In fact, my kind Dear Neighbor Friend took me to a nearby ridge and we harvested 29 lupines of varying sizes, which were transplanted along the driveway.  Some sources say lupines don't tolerate root disturbance, but it is an experiment.  So far, 5 are perky, 7 are middlin' and the remainder look downright dead.  Time will tell.

Columbine volunteers: May 23, 2020
Arriving at the flagstone path to the front door, we begin to see the "formal" landscaping installed in June 2018.  I have been very pleased that some of the plants are propagating nicely.  Case in point: the columbines.  In this area alone, I have 6 "volunteers".  Second example: the goldenrod.  Too many "babies" to count.  It does appear that the seeds do best when they have something to grip to, like gravel.  Perhaps otherwise, they simply blow away.  In many cases, the instruction is to sow "on the surface:.  Well, there you go.  And THERE they go!  So I think I will, in future, try sowing this type of seed among some gravel, which can later be removed.
Goldenrod nursery - April 26 - May 23, 2020
Ah, the pot on the front porch (and the other pots, too, for that matter).  A sad story.  Clearly, planted too soon on May 10.  The coleus have already withered away, and the black susan vines are not faring much better.  Just one too many nights with cool temps and days with light snow that didn't stick.  Lesson learned!
Pots on May 10 - and no, I am not going to show you how they look now
By the way, we do think Spring has been later and cooler than last year.  As "evidence", ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I submit the following comparisons.
Left:  May 21, 2019 (flowers forming)                   Right: May 23, 2020
Goodland Apple
Left: May 21, 2019                                                                  Right: May 23, 2020
Norway Maple
Left:  May 21, 2019                                               Right: May 23, 2020
Some sections of the "formal" landscaping still look orderly, with rounded clumps of plants at regular intervals.  Other areas are starting to fill in, randomly, and in the manner I have envisioned.  As I gaze upon some higgledy-piggledy areas in my flower beds, I wonder what Dad might say.  I remember him as a perfectionist when it came to his lawn, trees and vegetable garden, although he would clearly tolerate a volunteer tomato or two.  I don't recall much in the way of flowers, so I wonder.

In its "final" stages, I hope for a prairie, awash with a variety of plants and bushes, growing together in a riot.  This means a few things: 1) I have to be patient, and let a plant grow for a while in order to determine if it belongs, 2) it is harder to decide if something has been nibbled, and 3) since I have more plants, I don't freak out as much if ONE is nibbled!

Oil Beetle is distinguished from other Blister Beetles by its short wings
I have discovered a new "enemy", the Oil Beetle.  Weeding one day, I noticed this prehistoric-looking creature eating a plant.  What?  I took a picture, squished it with a stick and then looked it up.  An Oil Beetle may seem an ordinary black bug, but its secret weapon (a caustic chemical called cantharidin) can blister human skin.  It is part of a family of Blister Beetles, which are fond of flowers, nectar and plant juices.  I see them frequently now, and if they are on one of my ornamental plants, they are DEAD.  This creature might explain "nibbling" that has happened in the past when plants were caged.  Below is an aster that has been stripped of its leaves.  I think I know the culprit!

Dad had an arsenal of bug-fighting tools at his disposal, and the one that stands out in my memory was a knee-high metal canister with an attached tube and nozzle.  It had a pump handle, and its main use was to spray the fruit trees.  I also remember Sevin being applied liberally to chase off aphids, and it was easy to turn to that last year when I had an infestation.  But sometimes, no tool or product was necessary.  Give him a cutworm on a prize tomato plant, and he would grab it and PINCH, it would be oozing green caterpillar juice on his fingers.  I surmise that's why I reacted without thinking when I saw that beetle munching its way through my plant! 

As we pass around the side of the house, and take the stone steps down to the "back yard", I am sure my Dad would be looking at the grass and wondering when we will get out the mower.  In the fall of 2018, we sowed 50 pounds of wild grass seed, combined with wildflower seed.  Last fall, we added top soil to the remaining barren areas, and I scattered grass seed that I had painstakingly gathered by hand.  As you can see in the comparison pictures, we have progressed from construction zone to "I am thinking about being a prairie."  Spousal Unit has suggested that we buy more grass seed this fall to save my collecting it, and I am on board for that!
Top: area near fire pit - May 21, 2019
Bottom: same location - May 22, 2020
May 23, 2020 - Penstemon and Coreopsis
Actually, I think Dad would understand that my dream for my garden and "yard" is different than his.  Dad had his favorites, his "pride and joy," in his garden.  I am no different.  The "apple" has not fallen far from the tree.  Anything that is blooming, gives me joy.  I am thrilled that plants are settling into the rocky areas, lending a natural, "we've always been here" look to our stone steps.  I am excited about plants that gave me fits last summer, only to come roaring back this spring.  
I took care to guard the strawberries, since they were some of the
first plants to be nibbled last year.  They are thriving.
Top - yellow penstemon original plant
Bottom right and left: "volunteers" - amazing when you consider the mama plant was afflicted with aphids!
And as the boundary between the "formal" and the "woods" begins to blur, I have a growing appreciation for the naturally occurring plants in this region.  They were here first, and I welcome them to mix and mingle and make my dream come true.

Welcome to Mosaic Monday, a weekly meme where we get together to share our photo mosaics and collages.
Please include at least one photo mosaic/collage in your post.
The link will be open from 1 p.m. Sunday until 11 p.m. Monday (U.S. Mountain time).
Remember to add the link to your Mosaic Monday post and not the one to your blog.
Please link back to this post so that your readers will be able to visit and enjoy more wonderful mosaics; taking the MM blog button from my sidebar is an easy way to link back.
As host I will visit every participant and leave a comment so that you know I stopped by.
Please try and visit as many other blogs as you can, especially those that join in later, so that everyone's creativity can be appreciated fully.
Thank you for joining in today and sharing your mosaics with us.
You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Mosaic Monday #80: Road Trip Re-wind

Twin Arches, Oneida, Tennessee
October 8, 2012 - that's Spousal Unit under the arch
I think part of my "job" here at Letting Go of the Bay Leaf is to keep you all entertained.  Hence, I shake it up.  I don't write two hiking posts in a row.  I cover extended vacations in multiple posts, with other subjects in between.  I occasionally interject a post that links to other memes.  So, as I considered potential subjects for this post, it felt like time to re-wind to my old-style paper travel journal.  (I previously penned posts about Belize and Virgin Gorda from that journal.)  It just so happens that the next entry in the journal (so old the binding is coming apart) is a road trip in October 2012.  Let's go!

October 6, 2012 - we left Cleveland on a blue sky fall day, with our teen-aged kids at home alone for an extended period, a first.  Lexington, Kentucky was our initial destination, and after checking in at the Hyatt Regency, a walking tour worked out the kinks from the time in the car.  Triangle Park features the curved fountain picture below, and in the Historic District, we admired the birthplace and childhood home of Mary Todd Lincoln.
Prior to this pandemic, we consumed prodigious amounts of live music, and this trip was no exception.  On Day 1, a $5 cover admitted us to Parlay Social, featuring Jordan English.  Entertaining enough, but not for dancing!

My notes suggest we also popped in to the Horse and Barrel, labeled as an English pub.  In reality, the bar has the "world's largest collection of premium bourbon".  Seems to me it is a Tennessee pub located in Kentucky!!!  I had a Contemporary Old-Fashioned, but noted the following recipe worth sampling: vanilla vodka, pumpkin spice liqueur and Frangelico.  

Kentucky is synonymous with horse racing, so Day 2 found us at Keeneland Race Track.   As you can see in the journal entry at left, our $15 in bets yielded NOTHING!  But it was entertaining to have a "horse in the race".
Number 11 is "Star Video"; our bet to win the first race and it came in last!
From Keeneland, we drove to Huntsville, Tennessee.  For two nights, we would call the Grand Vista Hotel home away from home.  Preston's Steak House in Oneida fed us that night, and we turned in early to be rested for the next day's adventures.

East Rim Overlook - Big South Fork River and
surrounding Cumberland Plateau
On Day 3, we woke to heavy rain - not a promising start.  We headed to the Bandy Creek Ranger Station for a consult.  We paused at the East Rim Overlook - the rain had stopped and mist was rising.  At the station, the ranger noted that they don't recommend running the river below 200 feet, and today it was at 132 feet.  Bummer.  He pointed us to two hikes, and we were on our way!

At the Charit Creek Trailhead, we were greeted immediately by a drenched little dog, with no owner in sight!  Spousal Unit named him Pepper, because he was salted white and black over most of his body.  He happily followed as we took off down the trail.
Click to enlarge!
Our destination was the Twin Arches, but Charit Creek Lodge came first.  Here we found someone who knew "Pepper's" owner - we turned "Pepper" over and congratulated ourselves on a good deed done!

At the time, you could stay at the lodge for $75 a night - dinner and breakfast and no electricity included.   A more recent perusal would suggest that prices have increased about 30%.  Not bad considering that 8 years have passed!  (And now, there are other options on the same property.  Check out I am not being paid for this!)

We enjoyed coffee and home-made banana bread, and made our way uphill to the Twin Arches.

First you cross this bridge, and then it's 1.1 miles uphill to the Twin Arches.

These arches form the largest natural bridge complex in Tennessee and one of the largest known in the world.  The two sandstone arches are situated end-to-end.  The South Arch is the tallest at 103 feet, and you can climb a ladder to get on top and traverse both the South and North Arch!

We took the trail toward Jake's Place, a historic farmstead, and it followed the contour of the rock mass for a long time before descending to a creek bed that ran next to Jake's Place.  We saw no signs of a homestead - only a clearing - a good place for a snack!  A mile later we crossed the ford - helped by some rocks strategically placed by Spousal Unit - and took a short cut up the hill to return to the car.

That night, dinner was at the Rey Azteca, and I was thirsty, if you know what I mean!  I ordered up a margarita, and the chagrined waiter informed me "This is a moist county, not a wet county.  We can't serve margaritas."  A Mexican restaurant without margaritas?  How can it be?

Day 4 dawned foggy and crisp.  Destination? The Honey Creek Loop Trail, described as some of the most rugged and beautiful terrain in Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.  The literature cautions hikers not to take young children or pets, and highlights a number of hazards, including "travel through boulder fields may require using your hands and knees to climb over and among boulders."  You can read the full text about the trail in the picture to the right.  My hand-written notes?  "It is everything the blurb says."  In one of those very boulder fields, we nearly decided to turn around and go back, just because it was nigh on impossible to locate the "trail".
With hundreds of rhododendrons, I am sure this trail would be
spectacular in the spring
In the picture on the upper left, Spousal Unit is dwarfed by the cliff
We journeyed on to Nashville, and splurged on two nights at the posh, historic Hermitage Hotel.  Our "Romance Package" included champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries and the All-American breakfast for two in the Capitol Grille.

No trip to Nashville is complete without sampling the music scene, and the Hermitage is conveniently located only a few blocks from the honky tonks.  In only our second bar (Big Shotz), we found a band we liked (never got the name of the band although a woman collecting tips called the lead singer Jason Duggins).  And the people watching in Nashville is at least half of the entertainment.  Of note that night was the man and his t-shirt, which said "This beer is making me awesome."

It was a s-l-o-w start to Day 5 (we were out late dancing the night away), but eventually we worked our way 'round to a six-mile run through downtown Nashville.  The Hermitage has thought of everything and had this handy map for runners to follow.
Upon our return to the hotel, we showered in readiness for a 60-minute deep tissue massage.  Pure heaven.  The afternoon took us to Bailey's on Broadway for lunch, a bit of souvenir shopping and more music.  We enjoyed a nap before our 7.30 p.m. dinner reservation at the Capitol Grille.  As you would expect, the meal was excellent.  My favorites were the Sweet Onion Bisque and port with the cheese plate.  Spousal Unit savored a dish simply named "Pork", a very tender porkloin with a bacon flavor.

Then it was back out on the town - this time we focused on venues on Broadway, such as Legends Corner and the Whiskey Bent Saloon.  Several of the venues were filled with Steelers fans, what with a game scheduled for the next day between the Titans and the Steelers.  Some of them were a bit obnoxious for my taste.  Anyway, we were over the moon impressed with the quality of the music we heard - it really does go on all day every day!

Day 6 - sadly bidding adieu to the Hermitage and Nashville, we turned our car toward Land Between the Lakes (LBL), a 170,000-acre outdoorsmen's paradise between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley in western Kentucky and Tennessee.  You can read the notes at left about our aborted biking adventure - I am much better on my own two feet!

At our hotel that evening, we opted for a night in, complete with Domino's pizza and wings.  We had hoped to watch the Steelers v. Titans game, but couldn't get the NFL channel.  (The good news is that the Titans beat the Steelers!)

Day 7 started with a leisurely morning, followed by a return to LBL.  More hiking was in store, as shown on the journal page to the right.  LBL features vast forests, open lands and streams.  Adventurers will also discover attractions, camping, trails, wildlife and historical exhibits.  Families enjoy the diverse educational facilities such as the Woodlands Nature Station and the Homeplace 1850s.

Back at our hotel, our thoughts turned to coffee and antiquing.  Just down the hill we discovered a wonderfully quaint corner of Grand Rivers, Kentucky.  A wedding chapel, cute little boutiques, and Anna's Garden Café, which had the tallest meringue pies we had ever seen.  With our coffee, Spousal Unit managed to inhale one of the monster Coconut Meringue slices; I took the more moderate route of a chess bar.
We had dinner at Cactus Jack's Southwestern Grill, and my notes say it was pretty average.  But not all was lost, as apparently I won the Scrabble game that night!

My entry for Day 8 starts with "Kayaking in Pisgah Bay", but there are no further details.  Google tells me that Pisgah Bay is a sheltered cove on Kentucky Lake, and is also home to the Kentucky Lake Drag Boat Races.  OK.

Our next stop was the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky.  Another historic property, it opened in 1923 following a $4 million dollar investment by J. Graham Brown, millionaire lumberman and capitalist.  Perhaps it was the comparison to the Hermitage that did it.  Or maybe the experience relative to the price.  Or both - in any case, my notes suggest that we would not repeat our stay.

The next day we returned to Cleveland!
On the other hand, we thoroughly enjoyed our dinner at Doc Crow's, and the live music at Stevie Ray's.  "V-Groove" played a wide variety of music, good for dancing.  (If you haven't figured it out by now, "good for dancing" is the quality measure we employ for a musical group.)  You could say that ended the trip on a positive "note"!

Welcome to Mosaic Monday, a weekly meme where we get together to share our photo mosaics and collages.
Please include at least one photo mosaic/collage in your post.
The link will be open from 1 p.m. Sunday until 11 p.m. Monday (U.S. Mountain time).
Remember to add the link to your Mosaic Monday post and not the one to your blog.
Please link back to this post so that your readers will be able to visit and enjoy more wonderful mosaics; taking the MM blog button from my sidebar is an easy way to link back.
As host I will visit every participant and leave a comment so that you know I stopped by.
Please try and visit as many other blogs as you can, especially those that join in later, so that everyone's creativity can be appreciated fully.
Thank you for joining in today and sharing your mosaics with us.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter
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