Wednesday, April 10, 2019

A Bloomin’ Catch-Up

  So much to do in the spring before it gets hot, and living seems to have taken precedence over blogging lately.  Here’s a little catch-up.
  We have had company, the garden is flourishing with tomato plants, herbs and kale, and I have begun a course of physical therapy which, with travel to and from, takes most of three mornings a week.  Before that started we hurried to get in a couple more adventures.   

 Here is a glimpse of our backyard. It’s been a fabulous spring for flowers and three sides of our yard are completely lined with azaleas.  
We have several colors, ranging from this intense purple to red to the most delicate pink.  

  But we haven’t only been enjoying the flowers at home.  There are so many to see everywhere!

  Much more dramatic than ours are the wild azaleas from a woodland hike on the Santee National Wildlife Refuge.  Unlike the Asian cultivars, the native shrubs’ flower cluster is huge, bigger than my two hands together. They grow in the understudy of the tall trees on scrawny bushes and are so delicate and dramatic when you happen upon one.  

On any drive in the countryside right now, as soon as you get a few miles from the coast you see these seas of red,

  ... acres and acres of unplowed cotton fields covered with blankets of red sorrel.  It’s a pretty sight but sorrel is a noxious weed that invades soil depleted of nitrogen by the heavy cotton crops.

  Another dramatic native spring flower was blooming right behind our campsite one day, the red buckeye.  Its nickname is the Firecracker Plant.

    On another walk, I spotted this well-pecked woodpecker tree.  As you can see, the holes go right down to the ground at the base, which confused me as to what woodpecker had been so busy here.  

By the shape of the holes, I thought it should be this guy, a pileated woodpecker.

But pileated woodpeckers are 18 or 19 inches tall!  How could he 
make those holes all the way down to the base of the tree?  

  Well, I checked with my favorite birding blogger, David Gascoigne, Travels With Birds
and he assured me it was indeed the work of a pileated woodpecker. 

 (If you want to enjoy some gorgeous photos of birds, click above on the link for his blog.  It’s awesome!)

  I’m still wondering how a pileated could peck those lowest holes, though.  

So much beauty out there in the world when everything is new in the spring.  I hope you have a chance to get out there and smell the flowers and feast your eyes on some nature today.  

Monday, April 1, 2019

Trying to Imagine War

 On our recent camping trip, we visited the site of the Revolutionary War Battle of Eutaw Springs (September, 1781). 
  I don’t care to glorify war or to honor entities who cannot find a civilized way to settle conflict.  I do have a heart for the young men (and more recently women) who out of honestly held beliefs or desperate situations are the ones to lay down their lives on the front lines of battles. Wars should be remembered for them, and for lessons in peace gleaned from wars’ folly.  

  I thought i would write a few lines about what happened that autumn day at Eutaw Springs, but it’s a litany of boring dates and names of leaders who dragged their troops into death, maiming, and heartbreak.  Not really worth repeating.  As a matter of fact, both sides — the British and the Americans — even claimed to have won this, the last major engagement in the war in the Carolinas.  

British General Alexander Stewart's letter to his commander states, 

“With particular satisfaction I have the honour to inform your lordship, that on the 8th instant I was attacked by the rebel General Greene, with all the force he could collect in this province and North Carolina, and after an obstinate engagement, which lasted near two hours, I totally defeated him, and took two six pounders."

American General Nathanael Greene's letter to his commander states, 

“By far the most obstinate fight I ever saw. Victory was ours, and had it not been for one of those little incidents which frequently happen in the progress of war, we should have taken the whole British Army."

  On this quiet, beautiful river bank, miles and miles from anywhere, four thousand men from two armies met in brutal battle.  They blew each other apart from close range with muskets and canons for three hours and finished off the job with sabers and bayonets.  

  Heavy rain prevented continuation of the fighting, and having lost a third of his men, Stewart marched back to British-held Charleston. 



In the end 500 Americans and 700 British lay dead in this bloody clearing, with many more wounded.

 We stood at the foot of trees weighted down with purple wisteria, no sounds but the birds, no odor but the floral perfume, and tried to imagine the carnage that happened here.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Orangeburg Botanical Gardens

  We packed some food and left our campsite for a drive to the Edisto Memorial Gardens in Orangeburg for lunch.  The azaleas and cherries were in full bloom and the weather spring-wonderful. 
Where Union and Confederate soldiers met in combat in 1865, in 1921 azaleas were planted among the majestic old cypress trees.  

I found this old vintage post card of almost the same scene I photographed, made shortly after the azaleas were planted.  You can see how they have grown since 1921.  They are now taller than me and form one continuous bush all around the park. 

Part of the park remains a Tupelo and cypress wetlands accessible by boardwalk trails.
  There are 175 acres total, with cherry trees, azaleas, dogwoods, native plant areas along the river, and a rose garden (that wasn’t in bloom yet).  

Cherries, azaleas, and yellow jessamine, the South Carolina state flower

Irises, redbuds, and every shade of green one could imagine
The scent of cherry blossoms warmed by the sun followed us everywhere. 

Bob enjoyed having lunch “out”, too.

“Look, guys!  I got my very own pine cone!”


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Francis Marion — A Hero from Georgetown

  Francis Marion, a folk hero of South Carolina, grew up on a farm outside Georgetown where he honed his skills on hunting and fishing expeditions in the swamps and backcountry.  Lots of places in Georgetown are named for him so when we saw a sign pointing down a tree-lined road to his burial place at Belle Isle Plantation near Pineville, we thought we should have a look. 

  After disastrous defeats in American Revolutionary War battles at Charleston and Camden in the summer of 1780, the Continental Army gave up the fight for independence in South Carolina. 

Not Francis Marion however.  

He put together a band of 20-70 men who patrolled the area between Charleston and Camden along the Santee and Pee Dee Rivers. Using guerrilla tactics, he freed American prisoners being held by the British, captured British outposts, and lent critical assistance to the struggling regular American troops.  Marion’s Men, as they were called, served without pay and provided their own arms, horses, and food.  

Marion and his men, crossing the PeeDee River

  Marion tormented and demoralized the British army with his uncanny ability to elude capture, including one 26-mile, 7-hour chase through marshes, woods, and swamps  that earned him the title “The Swamp Fox”.

There are lots of tales in this neck of the woods about the legendary stealth and cunning of The Swamp Fox, and historians agree that he was a major force in keeping alive the cause of independence in the South. 


Marion returned to farming after the war and passed away in 1795 at the age of 63.  He is buried at Belle Isle, his brother’s plantation.  His grave and memorial is now a beautiful state historic site.  

His modern legacy continues as one of the fathers of modern guerrilla warfare in the traditions and tactics of the U.S. Army Rangers and the Green Berets.  

Towns, festivals, colleges, hotels, a memorial park in Washington D.C., counties, a national forest, businesses, a ship, schools, a submarine squadron, a Disney TV series, and children of several generations all carry his name.  

Francis Marion Park, Georgetown

And, the park that is the center of Georgetown, where ceremonies, street dances, concerts, etc. are held on the harbor, is named Francis Marion Park.  

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Spring Camping

 We’ve been on the road enjoying a bit of South Carolina spring.  

  The blue circled area is the part of the state we explored.  The red arrow points to all the wild and beautiful National Forest land between us on the coast and the SC lakes.  

  We haven’t found our home on wheels yet, so we stayed in Big Blue, our tent.  The back part is our bedroom.  The front has detachable curtains that open up to show off the view and it becomes the dining room/reading room/kitchen if it rains.  

We cook on our Ohuhu stove which is fueled by twigs.  

It gives off a surprising amount of heat and can boil a pan of water in less than five minutes.

  We keep meals simple  — chicken, broccoli, and rice here.  Everything tastes good seasoned with fresh air, wood smoke, and a bug or two anyway!

If you leave the rain fly off the top of our tent, you can lie in bed and look up at the moon and the stars.

  Our campsite faced Lake Marion for beautiful orange sunrises on the water and behind us was the pine woods where the full moon — the last Super Moon of the year — set each morning.   

  The Sinkhole Nature Trail in the park  took us for a couple miles through the woods around several huge sink holes.  Lots of spring happening here. 

Don’t know what this plant is but I love all the little squiggly tendrils in there.

The dogwoods were just beginning to bloom. 
 They start out a delicate shade of green ...

and open to the whitest white.

Things have changed a lot since I was a kid when camping meant carrying all your water from a central location and using a primitive outhouse.  Now there are very nice restrooms with hot showers, and a water spigot and electric outlet in each campsite.  And wonder of wonders, South Carolina state parks even have WiFi available for campers, this one in a lounge over the beautiful lake!  

I’ll be back in a day or two to show you some of the day trips 
we made and the places we visited.  

Happy spring!  

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Around Town

It’s March and we are having a taste of spring.  Still way more rain than sunshine, as you can see by the gray skies.  It’s not raining at the moment so let’s take a little walk around the main street and oldest street of town, Front Street.

  Most of the boats that dock at the Independent Seafood Market are out fishing so the market isn’t open yet.  Do you see who is watching and waiting for it to open?

  Once the boats start coming in there will be cats everywhere.  A parade of cats will come from blocks away, crossing streets and yards to converge at the back door, receiving handouts of fish scraps.  

This smart guy is waiting to be first in line!

Next door are the docks for the Stormy Seas Seafood Company and their public market.

Adjacent to that is a boat repair business and marina where the Kissed Some Frogs is being worked on.  We’ve never seen Kissed Some Frogs before and we liked its fancy logo.  Most boats around here only get plain black letters spelling out their names. 

A couple blocks down Front Street is a new sign on a building that used to be an art gallery.

Isn’t that interesting!  

We have tons of seafood restaurants and gift shops, even a bakery now, but we certainly do not have a cafe featuring cats! I looked up their Facebook page and found they plan to open next month. Their goal is to mingle customers and cats and hopefully people will take home some of the many, many stray cats of Georgetown.  

I wonder if they have an opening for Chief Cat Petter? 

Don’t forget to set your clocks ahead tonight for Daylight Savings Time if you live in the U.S.  

And here is a little reminder:

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The ‘Silver Twinkies’* Come To Town

We had an interesting event this weekend in our town.  Living on the coast as we do, most events are about water and boats, but this one was about some “land yachts,” — an Airstream trailer rally.  

About 35 or 40 of the sausage-shaped shiny silver trailers rolled into town Friday and gathered at the big boat ramp parking lot near our house for the night.

On Saturday morning they made a parade down the Main Street and then set up camp on several of the downtown streets.

On Saturday afternoon most of the rigs were open for visitors to come in and see.  What a friendly bunch of people!  They opened their doors and invited everyone right in to show you every nook and cranny of their homes.  Some had candy and cookies to offer and all had great stories to tell.  

All we visited were “full-timers” and one couple had been on the road continuously for 12 years!  They had a large map displayed, a maze of red lines — all their trips up, down, and around America in those 12 years.  

These Airstreams were mostly 30 footers, way out of the ballpark of the camper we are looking for, but we sure enjoyed seeing them and chatting with the owners about what it is like to sell everything and live in a home on wheels.