Saturday, March 31, 2012

Home Sweet Home

Well, not really. But it felt that way as I returned from a week long trip yesterday, eagerly anticipating my Friday night date with the Crawley family. I am totally hooked on the British TV series Downton Abbey. The characters and historic context are compelling, but what really grabs me are the real and imagined similarities with our local "castle," the Biltmore Estate.

I have toured Biltmore many times, and most years maintain an annual pass in order to enjoy the hiking and biking trails, gardens, and restaurants on the property. It's a fascinating place, with both a swimming pool and bowling alley inside the house! Wandering through the servants' quarters and servants' dining room,  I have wondered about the people who lived and worked there in the early 1900s. They say that owner George Vanderbilt cared about his servants, regularly seeing to their needs and buying all the children gifts at Christmas. Downton Abbey brings that world to life.

One of my favorite characters on the show in Season One was the dog Pharaoh (played by Roly). Kit over at Dog Daze posted some interesting trivia a month or two ago - click the link to read her post. Apparently, there was some real life drama happening behind the scenes - dog drama! A family actually lives at this castle, and one of their resident dogs took great exception to the male actor dog being in the house. So, Roly got the boot, and a female Labrador named Ellie joined the cast for Season 2. I miss Roly!

Hugh Bonneville with Roly.
I am already looking forward to Season 3, which is currently in production and set to broadcast in two parts, beginning in September 2012 and continuing in January 2013. Lucy is looking forward to it too.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

So Trusting...

One of the things I find most endearing about Lady is her desire to be close to me. As close as possible. Sometimes I marvel at the positions she gets herself in. Take, for instance, the head-wedged-between-legs-of-the-rolling-office-chair position.

This is often where she likes to be when I am working at my desk in the downstairs office. Fortunately for her, I generally assume her nose or ear is a mere fraction of an inch away from the rolling wheel, so I make every effort NOT to move. In the above photo she has opened her eyes, because she's aware that I am looking down at her and taking a picture. But normally she's in a deep sleep, trusting implicitly that I will not roll over any tender part of her anatomy. It's a miracle it hasn't happened by accident, but so far, we've both been lucky.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Bear Family: One Year Later?

Do you remember this little black bear family from last spring?  They first showed up in April 2011, surprising and delighting all of us who live on the street. The cubs would scamper up trees, frolic and play, always under the watchful eye of the big Mama bear.

The last time I saw them was in late April, though I occasionally heard of sightings from neighbors on and off during the spring. But the reports became less frequent as spring turned to summer. I suspect that as food became more plentiful, they headed back up into the mountains.  

Looking at a Google Earth view of my property, the front of the house faces the rest of the neighborhood, and just on the other side of that a busy four lane road with restaurants, strip malls, etc. Behind the house, heading up the mountain, you see the occasional small road or two, but after that nothing but wilderness as it spreads out into the land owned by the government for the Blue Ridge Parkway. I used to marvel that there was so much wildlife here, in the city limits, a stone's throw from a busy commercial street. But I believe the bears, coyotes, and other critters wander down here from the park service lands up above.

So look who showed up here last week...

Is this the same family? It seems likely. I bet they remember from one year to the next which houses have the best birdseed!

The Mama bear ate with the youngsters for just a moment or two, then wandered over to the neighbor's yard just on the other side of the trees, stopping briefly to scratch her back on a tree. The she sat down and kept a lookout while the cubs ate for another 10 minutes or so. 

(The sun was rising right into my camera, getting good photographs was difficult!)

Look how big they are! Could these youngsters be only a year old? My brief research online this morning turned up photos of yearlings that look much smaller. Then again, the articles I found say that the mother bear stays with her cubs until June or July of their second year. So perhaps they are very well fed, chubby yearlings! What do you think? Does anyone have any expertise on the topic of baby bears? 

Big babies??

Monday, March 12, 2012

Bird Week Day 7: Ending With A Splash

And our "week" comes to a close! I had such fun sharing my birdie visitors with you for 7 straight days. Thanks for stopping by this week - I so enjoy reading your comments, they always bring a smile to my day!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Friday, March 9, 2012

Bird Week Day 4: Emmy

Now I may be a little biased, but...
...have you ever seen a cuter little bird??
Or more beautiful green feathers?
I love you, little Emmy. I'm glad you're still here!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Bird Week Day 1: Carolina Wren

Birds of all sizes, colors, and shapes have been visiting my yard lately. They snack on the food at the feeders, splash in the birdbath, and then perch in the forsythia nearby and sing their little hearts out. Birds, like every other creature, seem to respond with obvious joy to the lengthening days and warming temps. I've had a lot of fun watching and photographing them lately, so I hereby decree this week to be "Bird Week!" 

This squat little bird is a Carolina wren, one of my favorites. He loves the dried mealworms I put in the kitchen window box. The first time I spotted this particular bird delicacy at the garden center, I had to overcome the "ick" factor. 

"Worms?? Ewwww..."  
But now I'm used to the whole mealworms-as bird-food concept and buy them regularly during the winter, when insects are scarce. They come in two flavors, plain and fruit-flavored. I'm not sure which the wrens prefer, as they seem to eat both with equal enthusiasm. But the bigger question in my mind is this: how do the makers of this product know these worms are fruit-flavored??

Sunday, March 4, 2012

We Got Tagged!

Our new friend Hawk over at browndogcbr tagged us - how fun! We love a good game of tag! Apparently the way this works is that when you get tagged you have to answer a list of specific questions about yourself. So, here goes...

1.  Describe yourself in seven words: tall, outdoorsy, creative, sensitive, artistic, friendly, optimistic

2.  What keeps you up at night? The Diet Coke I'm unable to resist drinking at 7 pm.

3.  Who would you like to be? Nobody else - I'm happy being me!

4.  What are you wearing? My favorite black SportHill running pants, black long sleeved running top, Saucony running shoes (just got back from a... walk! :)

5.  What scares you? camel crickets - yuck!! (and for the record, I reject the notion that they're crickets. Have you seen one?! They're giant hideous jumping spiders)
6.  The best and worst of blogging - The best is definitely all the two-legged and four-legged friends I've met through blogger. The worst is not having as much time as I'd like to blog and visit my friends' blogs!

7.  The last website I visited - Life in the Doghouse, who tagged Hawk, to check the questions I am supposed to answer for this game. :)   

8. What is one thing I would change about myself? I would like to be less of a perfectionist.

(we can't all be as perfect as Miss Lucy!)

9.  Slankets: yes or no? I don't have one, so I guess that would be a "no." Tried a Snuggie once though, does that count?

10.  Tell us something about the person who tagged you. Well, it was a dog, not a person! We've just met, but I can tell you that Brown Dog aka Hawk is a beautiful Chesapeake Bay Retriever with kind, intelligent eyes. Hawk is very well trained and even used to be a show dog. Stop by and see for yourself!

11. Tag 8 more blogs. We'll tag these friends today, and see if they want to play....

"Tag! You're it!"  :)