Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Varnville, South Carolina

An abandoned store and gas station served travelers on Gray's Highway between Augusta and Savannah. Like the attendant who once tilted back on a porch chair and watched the cars go by, now the old station itself seems to lean back quietly and watch the road.


It might have started its days as a store back when the nearest town was called Dixie.


Near the tiny town of Varnville, in its time it provided a living for the family in the house behind it.








Somewhere not very far from this spot, this photo was taken. Anyone recognize it?

(Photo from the Internet)

Yup, the home of Forest Gump!

Although the house was in Alabama in the movie, it was actually built near Varnville, SC and torn down after filming ended.


Monday, March 28, 2016

Strawberry Fields (Forever)

Since strawberry shortcake was on the menu for Easter Sunday, a trip to Dempsey's farm on

St Helena Island to pick strawberries was in order.


Storms were brewing, with the oddest clouds in the sky.


They looked like mounds of whipped cream.




Kids were out of school for Good Friday

so there were lots of families

picking - and eating - their way down the




As I was picking - and eating - my way down a row,the Beatles' song Strawberry Fields Forever was going around in my head, maybe because The Writer used to sing it to me.

I always puzzled over what it "meant" and I still don't know, but I like the dreamy confusion.

(I wanted to put a YouTube video here so you could have a walk down memory lane with me. But, Blogsy, the app I use to blog, no longer supports YouTube, so the best I can do is a link.)

So, Strawberry Fields Forever. I hope you enjoy it!


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Easter Orchids for the Ladies

Easter was THE day for fashion when I was growing up in the 1950s.

The ladies and girls had new everything -- gloves, dresses, shoes, an Easter bonnet.

Ready for church on Easter morning. I was 2 1/2.


Also popular was the Easter corsage. My dad or my uncle or my grandpa bought the ladies one sometimes, usually an orchid. An orchid was a very delicate and exotic flower in those days.

My mom's was never as huge as Mamie Eisenhower's

but still, it was pretty special.



There are about 27,800 species of orchids,

twice the number of bird species and four times the number of mammal species in the world!

These beauties are blooming at the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens in Savannah for the Easter season.

Happy Easter 2016


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Rookery at Port Royal


The main reason we went out to Port Royal Sunday was to see the egrets nesting. I've seen rookeries before but never as low to the ground and as close to people as this one.



We walked quietly along the boardwalk,

came around a bend,




and there they were!













Some were preening and courting, but two or three were sitting on nests already like the two hunkered down on the right.

The nests are surprisingly small and flimsy, made of a few sticks and barely bigger than the bird.

The black birds you see in the trees are cormorants, and at the water level are several coots and two wood ducks. In the trees behind I counted 13 black-crowned night herons roosting. As you can tell by their name, they rest during the day and hunt at night.


Egrets in their breeding plumage are large and gorgeous birds.

They were nearly hunted into extinction for the use of those plumes on ladies' hats in the 1800s.








Wonder how many egrets were needed to make this confection.

Thank goodness they are now protected and it's illegal to hunt them.

(Photo from Vintage Everyday)






We will be going back in about 2 1/2 weeks to see if the first eggs have hatched.


Monday, March 21, 2016

Port Royal Cypress Wetlands Trail

Yesterday was cloudy and rainy in the morning so we waited until afternoon to go check out the heron rookery along the Port Royal Cypress Wetlands Trail.

Wetlands is apparently the new-fangled name for what used to be called a swamp.

The flowers are pink azaleas, which are spectacular this year.




Bald cypress are some of the oldest trees in America. There are some in the water near Mobile, Alabama that can't even be carbon dated because they are older than 50,000 years!



At their base they have these knobby projections that are called knees, cypress knees.

Scientists aren't quite sure of their function but they may serve to anchor the trees in the soft, muddy soil.





In the 1950s lamps made from cypress knees were considered fashionable home decor. My parents brought home a knee from their first trip to Florida and I was fascinated with it, especially its name. I'd never seen a bald cypress tree so I pictured the tree as having legs with knees and ankles instead of a trunk. No one enlightened me so I happily kept this fanciful notion until I was a lot older.

I think my dad did make a lamp from the one they brought home, or maybe it just sat around au naturel on the fireplace mantle or something.

This one is for sale on Etsy as a "vintage" item for $162. Knowing my dad, I'm sure he didn't pay more than $2 for our cypress knee.

I'll show you the main event we came for, the rookery, in my next post.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Georgia Town That Henry Ford Built

When Mr. Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, and his wife Clara tired of cold Michigan winters, Henry bought 85,000 acres of land and in 1936 built Clara's dream house on the Ogeechee River in the poorest county in Georgia. The mansion had a marble staircase, air conditioning, an elevator, and such distinguished guests as the Vanderbilts, the Duponts, the Rockefellers, Thomas Edison, and Harvey Firestone.

Richmond Hill,

summer home of Henry Ford


Never one to loll around tanning and crabbing, Henry converted an old rice mill into a laboratory to work on inventions to improve the Ford Motor Company, including, he hoped, a Georgia rubber plantation to supply rubber for his factory.

The mansion isn't open to the public (although The Writer stayed there to write a book for a Saudi prince who owned it for a time. There was much wine, women, and frolicking in the reflecting pond until one night the prince disappeared on his huge yacht and fled the country. It was later revealed that he had been dipping into the family checkbook without permission.) Back to Henry.

Henry was deeply affected by the poverty, ignorance, and isolation of the people he found living in the area and beginning in the 1920s he set about making their lives better.

A small museum tells the story.

That's Hub on the porch. He took us under his wing and for two very enjoyable hours told us stories about Henry Ford and Richmond Hill, Georgia. The museum was built by Ford as a kindergarten for area children.

Ford built schools for all ages, both black and white, including a trade school, and imported trained teachers from the North, paid their salaries, and built homes for them. Students were given free meals cooked in the school kitchens.

He built a church and businesses to give the people jobs and his 600 employees and their families got a free house to live in. He brought medical care to the community and art and entertainment, including social dances every Saturday night. He built a hospital and a community kitchen where girls were taught skills and community dinners were served.

He drained swamps and turned old rice fields into lettuce production.


Best of all are the stories of how Ford took a personal interest in individuals and cared enough to make their lives better. And there were dozens of these stories.

An elderly former slave, Jane Lewis, was found to be living in complete poverty in a run-down shack.

When Ford heard about her, he had a house built for her and his wife Clara picked out paint colors and furniture to furnish it. He provided health care, food, and everything else the woman needed until her death.





When Ford heard that the daughter of one of his employees had polio and was unable to walk he purchased a wheelchair for her and arranged to have her sent north to specialists.

When she returned he provided a car to pick her up and take her to school every day and later paid for her college education.

On the far left is a dough mixer he bought for a baker when he saw her mixing vast quantities of dough by hand.

Henry Ford was a complicated man. His political and social views were unpopular and controversial and he seems to have been very hard on his only son, Edsel. But he is the man known for inventing an automobile that ordinary people could afford and judging by the town he built in Georgia, he was someone who cared about people.


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Learning the Rhythm of the Low Country

It's been a very long time since my year had a completely new rhythm to it and I didn't know what to expect. The natural world in Minnesota couldn't be any more different from South Carolina, and every week brings a new surprise.





The buds on the sweet gums became leaves overnight.



The land around us used to grow rice and cotton and I can only imagine what the seasons' rhythms were like then. Once those crops were no longer profitable, those plantations became pine plantations to feed the paper and building industries.

On the other side of our road is a pine plantation and the piney woods where we walk most every day. Yesterday men with flame throwers came to set the woods on fire and burn the underbrush.


There was lots of smoke so we closed up all the windows and left for the day.








A few fallen logs were still smoldering this morning.

Still acrid and sharp, the smell hung over the field just beyond the woods.








The heavy yellow pollen bombs hang in the pines, ready to coat everything,

and I mean EVERYTHING,

with their sticky pollen.








It's daffodil time and this is a daffodil field near friends' house on Rabbit Island.

It just opened for the season this week.




The small sign on the far left tells pickers to watch out for fire ants. If you've never felt their bite ... well, you do not want to!

And unfortunately you never get just one as several tend to swarm upon you and one ant can inflict more than one bite before you can get it off.


Say good morning to Bob. She is giving me the stink eye for allowing this bath to happen to her. Spring cleaning you know.

You can say hello to The Writer, too, if you'd like. He's in charge of dog baths.

I take care of the cat. She takes her own baths.








And these pictures are for Far Side, who also has a border collie, Chance. You can read her Minnesota blog here.




Border collie. Herder of all things. Ball obsessed. Vacuum cleaner attacker. Roller in deer, um, manure.

She's six.












Was once the cutest Chow puppy ever born (I hear).

Almost 17. Grumpy old man with dragon breath. Smokes cigars. Arthritic.

On principle performs the opposite of any command or request.