Monday, June 26, 2017

'Wait! It's Real?'

We walked up to an exhibit at the Charleston Aquarium Saturday where, looking for all the world like a plastic figure in a creepy blackwater swamp diarama, a huge white alligator posed motionless on its back legs in the glass window.  Every bit of him was bright white except his pink eyes, which suddenly ...
BLINKED!  
 
Meet Alabaster, a rare albino alligator, one of only 50 in the U.S.  

There are no albino alligators in the wild because UV rays in sunlight are deadly to them.  They are reptiles and need the warmth of the sun to regulate their body temperature but sunlight will burn them because of their lack of pigment.  In the wild they die within 24 hours of hatching.





 

Alabaster has lived in a temperature-controlled dark tank for his  eight years of life.  

He is 8 1/2 feet long and still growing. 



 









"Grandma, what big TEETH you have!"




 
One more alligator in the Coastal swamp exhibit.  Can you find him.

🐊 🐊 🐊 🐊 🐊 







Friday, June 23, 2017

Fire Towers

The use of fire towers to spot forest fires was in its heyday from the 1930s through the 1950s.  Located on a high point of land, they towered over the trees in forested and rugged landscapes, manned by seasonal employees willing to live in remote and rough locations, forming a network of communication across America.
 
This abandoned tower is located on Forest Service land just outside of Georgetown.  It looks like it hasn't been used in a very long time.

Many of the towers and rough roads to them were built by the CCCs (Civilian Conservation Corps) created by President Roosevelt in the Great Depression.

Early communication took place  by telephone, carrier pigeon, and a machine that sent Morse Code signals by flashes of light.

I climbed a few of these towers when I was a kid and when I was in college the Forest Service recruited for summer "fire lookouts" on campus.  I looked into it but took a job at a scout camp instead.  As I remember, the pay would have been a lot better but the jobs were out west and transportation was a problem.
There are many fire towers still in use today, manned by humans using technology a bit more sophisticated than carrier pigeons, I imagine.  

 The Forest Service also rents out unmanned towers during the summer for about $40 a night.  Be prepared to hike in (and up!) carrying your own water, equipment, and supplies!  

This one in Oregon looks pretty inviting to me.  





 


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Fathers



k
My dad grew up on a dairy farm, graduated from high school, and enlisted with his cousin and best friend before he could be drafted into World War II.  

He returned from the war with a dream of becoming a journalist, a newspaper reporter, a writer. 

Instead he got a job, a wife, and my sister and me!

Actually, he got two jobs, a day job working in an office and a night job working at his brother-in-law's gas station.  On weekends, with the help of his dad, he built us a house.  

He also helped build a house for my aunt and uncle and then my grandparents.  He never made time to go to college himself and get his dream job in journalism but he put two daughters through college so we could follow our dreams.  
 
My dad had a passion for travel and a desire for his family to see the world.  Every summer we packed up the tent and Dad drove us all over the United States and Canada for the two or three weeks of vacation he got from work.  He also took us to Europe, toting our "bible", Europe on $10 a Day.  


Dad was here to walk both his daughters down the aisle, spoil his grandchildren and watch them grow up.  They believed there was no broken anything that Papa couldn't fix!  He lived to hold his first great grand children, twin boys.

He has been gone several years now and I don't think a single day goes by that I don't want to tell or ask him something.  

Here is another dad in my life I want to honor today, my daughter's husband who just happens to have 
the same name as my dad!


 

















Dad Extraordinaire to this lively bunch, my grandboys.

 

 
The Writer, children, and grandsons. 

Happy Father's Day!
 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Why Did the Turtle Cross the Road?

We had a family wedding to attend up the coast in North Carolina last weekend.  
On Friday morning The Writer played golf with the guys 
and I hung out waiting for our room to be available.  
 


My entertainment was assisting a turtle bent on crossing a road and parking lot.  







 
I was afraid a car would come along and crush him so I picked him up, carried him east 
across two lanes, and deposited him in some greenery where  he seemed to be headed.

My good deed done, I returned to the car and my book.



 


An hour or so later I looked up from the world of my book and there was the turtle, right back in the traffic, heading west. After dodging cars he became stymied by a curb, trudging along it  toward a corner where he would be boxed in.

Once again, me to the rescue! 
 
I carried him to the west side of the road this time and placed him in the grass.  

I watched him for a while and he disappeared so I thought he was safely 
where he wanted to be.

A couple hours later The Writer was putting his clubs in the back of the car.  "Hey," he said.  "Look at this!  There is a turtle crossing the road back here."  Sure enough, there was the same silly turtle, AGAIN walking across the road and parking areas, oblivious to golf carts and cars!  
Remember that tired old joke about why did the chicken cross the road???
🐢 🐢 🐢 🐢 🐢 
On Saturday we did a bit of sightseeing which included the newest and oldest lighthouses in North Carolina, the Oak Island Light and Coast Guard Station, built in 1958, and Old Baldy built in 1817.
Unlike most lighthouses in the U.S., Oak Island has ladder instead of a spiral stairway with 131 steps.  We went up about a fourth of the way, and the ladders are a challenge to climb.
The lights are 169 feet above the water and the concrete foundation pilings are 67 feet deep.

 






The photo above is taken from the dunes on the beach.  Behind us is Bald Head Island with a black speck a bit to the left of the center of the photo below, which is Old Baldy, the oldest lighthouse in North Carolina, 200 years old.  Old Baldy is 90 feet tall.  


 
 
⛵️ ⛵️ ⛵️ ⛵️ ⛵️

And finally, to the main event ...
 
a beach wedding

 

 


Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Little Wildlife at the Beach

I know it's a gaggle of geese when they are on the ground ... 
 
(and a skein when they are in the air), but don't these look like a herd grazing in the parking lot?

There are 25 or so goslings and 7 adults tending them.  

Keep your eye on that adult in the center.






 
He has lowered his head and started hissing while walking toward the photographer -- moi.


The little ones pay no attention and keep walking toward me.




 And since I didn't back down, he turned his attention to the errant little guys, hissing and honking and directing them to GET BACK NOW!  
They did.
 

Waaaay up the beach where we seldom venture this guy overlooks all the crazy traffic and tourists and has a good laugh.  











Dogs are fine with us.  In fact, we like them better than we like some people.
 
 

Purple martins were encouraged by the planters who first summered on Pawleys Island because they are mosquito eating machines.  The tradition has been carried on and martin houses and swooping martins are everywhere on the island.  And, I must say, I've never been bitten by a mosquito on Pawleys! 

 


Cormorant enjoying the view and alligator on the tiny island.  The sign says something about leaving the alligators alone; they are dangerous.
Sometimes cormorants and a gator share this little island.  I guess gators don't like the taste of cormorants.  Otherwise the bird could quite easily be gator lunch.


I'll end with this guy, plucked from the sand while we were looking for turtle nests 
on Pawleys Island.  
I think he enjoyed the view better from up here!



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Turtles Have Landed


It's the time of year in South Carolina when the sea turtles leave the water to lumber up the beach and lay their eggs, in more than 6600 nests last year.  These dinosaurs of the deep are amazing creatures and we are so lucky to get to witness some of their activity.  

Grown loggerhead turtles weigh between 
Photo from the Charleston Aquarium
 155 and 350 lbs and their shells are 2.5 - 3.5 feet long.  
They are graceful swimmers in the water, but the trek up the beach through the sand to find a nesting site is exhausting and treacherous.
 
They are on the Threatened Species list in the U.S., 
mainly because their nesting habitat has been severely reduced by building on the coastal areas and beaches.  
(Turtle photo from the Charleston Aquarium).    

 Local volunteer organizations assist the Department of Natural Resources in identifying and caring for the turtle nests.  The organization in our area is called S.C.U.T.E. (South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiasts), pronounced "scoot".  Volunteers walk the 60 miles of our beaches every morning looking for nests.

In this photo from the beach yesterday, you can see the crawl, the track the female made coming up the beach and back to the water.  The volunteer on the ground is counting and removing eggs to move them to a higher spot up the dunes so they won't be washed away by a tide. 
 
A nest contains an average of 120 eggs and a female nests 3-4 times in a season.

A false crawl, below, occurs when the turtle decides it's not good place for her eggs or something frightens her and she returns to the sea without laying eggs.

 
 There are quite a few more false crawls on the beach than nests.  


 












A piece of strong mesh is placed over the nest to prevent predators from digging and the nest is cordoned off.  

Incubation is 55-60 days.  A successful hatch is about 65%.


  
I hope I'll be back in a month or so to show you some hatchlings. 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Suits for Little Swimmers


Awhile back I wrote here about all the tragic drownings of children in our area because inexpensive swimming lessons are not available. These are poor children who live surrounded by five rivers, a bay, and the ocean. 

That seems criminal to me and I was excited to learn about a program that makes available to every Georgetown second grader four water safety classes every summer.  While it doesn't seem like nearly enough to make children safe, it is at least a start.

The lessons began when community organizations came together after a tragic boating accident where two teenagers and an adult drowned, and a baby and several adults, all non-swimmers, were pulled from the water.  
All were residents of Sandy Island, a Gullah community reachable only by boat.
 The boat sank only 10 feet from shore.  
 
We sometimes saw these classes when we swam mornings at a community recreation center.  

We saw eager children in cute swim suits jumping into the water, children who swam in street clothes, and some with no swim suits who sat out and watched from a bench.

A group of high school students in a leadership training program are gathering new swim suits and towels for families unable to buy them. 

We were more than happy and excited to pick out six little swim suits and deliver them this weekend, in honor of our four second grade grandsons.

Who knows, maybe one of them will save a life!

🏊🏾.  🏊🏾.  🏊🏾.  🏊🏾

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Bloomin' Hot Cuz It's Summer

Memorial Day, the semi-official start of summer,
 has come and gone and I meant to put this up yesterday and didn't.  

 
All the big old mansions in town decorate with bunting and I thought we should get in the spirit.  Of course, ours is a third the size of the big ones in town but this one seemed just the right size for our house.  

In South Carolina we have two Memorial Days with Confederate Memorial Day celebrated on May 10th.  Interesting because long ago the two were combined nationally into one federal holiday.  Interesting also that state employees still, 152 years after the Civil War was decided, get Confederate Memorial Day off work.  

 
The hydrangeas are in bloom and we have four huge bushes.  The true color is the blue at the top right.  Not sure why the rest look purple because they aren't.  


 










 
Driving by True Blue Nursery, The Writer saw this unusual hibiscus
and got it as a welcome home present for me when I returned from Minnesota.  
 

My grandma loved hibiscus 
so they hold a special place
 in my heart, too.




Our limes and lemons are doing well although only a disappointing number of the abundant blossoms set fruit.  It's the first time they have set fruit at all, though, so we are pretty excited.  
 





And finally, here is a peek at our figs.  Crossing our fingers the squirrels don't discover them!  

They have already chewed up two of my tomatoes.







Friday, May 19, 2017

Tornados

Hello from cold, rainy Minnesota! 

 My usual good luck with flying ran out on my way north.  

This is what the sky looked like in Minneapolis when I finally arrived.

I say 'finally' because ... 
we left  the Carolinas headed north.  

After three hours, when we were supposed to be landing in Minneapolis, we were circling, tossed around by significant turbulence, 900 miles off our route, nearly out of fuel, and headed to St Louis, MO.  We bounced into the St Louis airport to refuel, thrown from side to side by crosswinds. 
We also needed a new flight crew.  Ours had been flying a long time and needed to rest.  Long story short, the crew wanted to get to Minneapolis and got permission to fly the extra hours, and after another hour of sitting on the plane we took off again.  There were still tornado warnings out for Minneapolis but we were able to fly in from the west 20 minutes before the storms hit again from the east.  

I could have flown to London in the time it took to get from SC to MN!  

✈️ ✈️ ✈️ 
But here I am, staying with my daughter, son-in-law, and four grandboys and tonight my sister arrives for the weekend.  And the temperature, 90 when I left SC, has been in the low 40s.
Brrrr!
 

The older boys are in school but this guy and I had the day together yesterday.  

Here he is showing me 'tricks' with his fidget spinner.  

You don't know what a fidget spinner is?  Just the latest craze with elementary and middle schoolers!
 



Called "the original stress reliever," I should have had one on the flight north! (I can't spin it on my nose yet, but I have mastered balancing it on my thumb.)

 





Aren't second grade baseball players
 the cutest thing ever?

❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

 



 

Notice the clever spectator on the far right, prepared with a shelter from wind and cold with a clear plastic viewing area, also known for its use by ice fishermen!
                                                              🏏🏏🏏🏏🏏
I have to go now.  
The second graders are giving a poetry reading this afternoon, my guys have all written poems, and I'm going to hear them!


 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Confederate Rose

I had never seen a Confederate Rose until we moved to Georgetown, 
and I think it is one of the prettiest flowers I've ever seen. 
 
The Confederate Rose, or hibiscus mutablis, is a Chinese import, brought from England in  the 1600s. 

 It became important in the hearts and gardens of Southerners during the hard days of the Civil War 
because it was so easy to propagate.  

Stick a cutting in the ground and you had 
a plant to share with a neighbor.  

Also called the Cotton Rose, the bush produces white flowers.  Over the course of the two days a blossom lives,
it gradually turns from white to pink, and pink to nearly red, and then falls off the bush. A member of the hibiscus family, its changing color is reflected in the second part of its scientific name, mutablis.

At the time of the Civil War a legend developed around the way the flower changes color.  It goes like this.  
A soldier, fatally wounded in battle, fell upon the roots of a rose as he lay dying.  
 As the young man's blood flowed from his wound, more and more was absorbed by the blooming bush, causing the  flowers to gradually change 
from white to pink to red.  
When he died, the flowers did, too, falling to the ground around the soldier.

After the 'War of Northern Aggression' was over, the bush was planted widely on soldiers' graves in Southern cemeteries.

In this bush you can see the light and dark pink flowers that will fall off by morning and be replaced by opening white buds.  Each blossom is about six inches across.










  
 
Neither a rose nor a native, the beautiful Confederate Rose 
is an immigrant,
just like many of us who now call the South 'home'.