Tag Archives: seasons

January 11 – Thanks and farewell (for now)

And now, having posted all of those seasonal mashup photos, the time has come for me to draw the curtain on this incarnation of ObserVA.  My year of observing the cycle of life in rural central Virginia has come to a close, and having done what I set out to do, I am–at least temporarily–considering this a finished project.

In reaching the end, I want to extend sincere appreciation and gratitude to the folks who have taken the time to read this, who have expressed their support in person or who have written supportive comments.  It’s a wonderful part of doing a project like this in 2013 that you don’t have to work in a vacuum, that you can get more or less instant feedback from the folks who are reading what you write.

I am looking forward to going back and reading the entries.  For the past year, I have been so focused on writing and moving forward, that I’ve done almost literally no re-reading of past days, so I’m excited about doing that.

I still intend to keep taking photos and writing when I can.  If I’ve learned anything this past year, it’s that there’s always something new and interesting to see, and that there’s pretty much nothing I’d rather do than to spend my waking hours wandering around in the outdoors observing whatever plants, animals, and fungus I come across (actually, I kind of already knew that last bit, but it certainly hasn’t changed).  Over the upcoming weeks/months/years, I may continue to post updates in ObserVA, but I will no longer be pushing myself to post weekly or several times each week, as I have been for the past year.  It was a good writing discipline, and I am proud that I made myself do it, but I am also ready to shift to a more relaxed gear.  I will also be doing more writing for the Twin Oaks blog–Running in ZK , which is a fun blog about various aspects of life at Twin Oaks Community.  You should check it out if you’re interested in what it’s like to live in a modern intentional community.   I’ve been thinking about writing an irregular “nature of Twin Oaks” feature for Running in ZK, which would draw upon some of what I’ve learned and observed over the past year with this journal.  Certainly if I write anything that seems appropriate to OberVA,, I will cross post in both blogs.

And, finally, I’m thinking about putting together a Shutterfly photo book, with my favorite photographs from each month.  If I go ahead and do that, I will post something here to show people what it looks like and see if anyone wants to order one (at cost of course, I certainly don’t need to make any extra $).  I will probably do that sometime during the cold dark days of winter and let y’all know when it’s done.

And with that, I’ll sign off.  Thanks again for following along, it’s been quite the educational experience.   And if you’re ever out here in Central Virginia, drop me a line and come for a visit.  ‘Till then…



January 10 — photo montages part two

On with the photo montages!  Thanks everyone for your warm response to yesterdays posting.  Here’s the second half of the year.

Starting with this photo of the meadow at High South.  The first one is from early July, and the second was from yesterday.


This one’s pretty amazing.  It’s kind of hard to believe that these two photos are from the same spot– the flowing creek and little orange chanterelles from July are quite a contrast with the barren icy bleakness of January.


Another photo from the pond– not much left from July’s lillies.


I’m not sure which of these two pairs of photos I like better, so I’ll post them both.  The contrast of colors at this one particular spot in the creek are striking!Image


The first photo in each of these pairs was from back in August, when the garden was in full swing.  Not much growing there in mid-January.



Although not in the same exact spot, both of these photos were taken in the graveyard.  The first was also from August.Image

Quite a difference in the Kaweah backyard orchard between late August and now.


Some more pond photos.  Again, the first photo in both of these pairs was taken in late August.


It’s nice to look at all the dead gray vegetation and know that in a few months, there will be flowers blooming.Image

Three photos of the flowform– the first was from August, right after I cleaned them.  The second was in November, after we’d had a few killing frosts, and the third was taken yesterday.Image


I especially like this pair.  In the first photo from September, you see the limit of the annual growth of our banana tree.  At this point, we were about a month away from our first frost.  Not much of the tree is left in January, but the roots and base of the stump survive to grow again in the spring.


Three views of the pasture above the pond; September, November, and January.


In Septemer, masses of yellow Goldenrod lined the roads.  If you look closely, you can still see the dried up flowerheads.Image

Which is more than you can see in the more tended flowerbeds.  I remember being impressed that there were still so many September flowers in bloom in the MT garden (first set of photos) and the triangle garden at the end of the driveway (second set of photos).  Nothing is blooming this time of year.



One last set of photos from September, showing the courtyard as seen from the cow pasture below.  It was hard to get this photo in January, since if you’re looking to the South, everything is so backlit with low winter light.


October and November gave us some beautiful displays of leaf color.  Here are the trees out in front of my house in late October, and again yesterday.Image

And here’s a fairly striking view of the backyard orchard.  In the top photo, the first frost had killed the leaves on the fig trees less than a week earlier.  In the lower photo, several days of single-digit cold may have killed most of the figs’ above-ground branches as well.


Well into November, there were places in the community where the leaves were pretty spectacular.


This Japanese Maple was in full color a couple of months ago.  It’s hard to believe it’s the same tree now.


And that’s all I’ve got for photo mash-ups.  I was planning on writing some sort of tearful eloquent farewell and calling it a year, but the hour is getting late, and I’m not ready to “pull the plug” just yet.  So I guess I’ll have to keep ol ObserVA alive for at least one more post.  Thanks for all the positive feedback on the last group of photos that I posted yesterday.  Till next time…

Jan 9 2014– A new year! And photo montages: part one

And now dear readers, it’s 2014, and the ObserVA project is getting very near the end.  The wheel has come full-circle, from the dead of winter back to the dead of winter, which means that I too will be rolling along to new projects.  As 2013 was nearing its end, I was thinking about the best way to wrap up the journal, and I thought about re-shooting landscape photos that I’d shot throughout the year, and posting them side-by side in order to really accentuate the change of the seasons.  I had planned to accomplish this very early in the new year, maybe on the first or second day of January.

But, as always, you have your plans for life, and life has its plans for you.  After a delightful New Years eve party, I was playing some vigorous Ultimate Frisbee on a pleasantly warm New Years Day when I suffered a sports-type injury (I’ll spare you the details), which has left me laid up for most of the past week.  During that time, we had our first snowfall of the year (about an inch, and it lasted for a couple of days), and experienced a few days of the “arctic” cold that has hit so much of the country.  Today was my first day that I’ve felt fully recovere, and have had time for walking all around the community taking photos (then fussing with the photos on the computer).  So now without further ado I give you: photo mashups part one!

We’ll start with a triple shot– the Kaweah back yard during last March’s snowstorm, the same view a month later in April, and the same view this afternoon.Image

Here’s a tree at the end of the driveway, in March and this afternoon.Image

On that day in March, we had a frisbee game despite the blizzard. Image

Here’s Vigor Road during the peak of the snow, and again today.Image

Another triple photo– the view from my room in March, in June, and this afternoon.Image

Last April, the cover crops were a delighful green on the garden.  Today it’s just all brown!Image

Three views of the pond:  One from last March, a view during the springtime months, and the same view of the pond today, still frozen solid from all the cold weather we’ve been having.Image

Peach blossoms in the MT orchard in April, and the same branch today.  If you look at the angled cut where the tree was pruned, you can see how much it’s grown this year.Image

Our most dramatic cherry tree, in the full blossom of late April, and again in early JanuaryImage

This first photo was from that part of April when the blossoms had dropped off and the leaves had just begun to sprout.Image

Springtime and winter views of the High South pasture.Image

Sami’s fig tree from early May, just as it was beginning to grow leaves.  In the photo from this afternoon, you can see how much growth it put on over the course of the summer.Image

It’s amazing to think that these photos–the first from a May thunderstorm– are of the same location.Image

Big oak trees down by the pond, in May and in JanuaryImage

This view of the pond shows some of the extreme contrast between leafy spring and icy winter.Image

Our onion drying barn, top photo in mid-May, bottom photo from today.Image

It’s amazing to look at the bare sticks in the Morningstar orchard and think that 7 months ago (and 5 months from now), they were covered in delicious bush cherries.Image

In this photo from early June, the inside of the greenhouse is just one small aspect of the almost tropical profusion of vegetation.  In early January, the lettuces and kale inside is pretty much the only greenery you’re going to see.Image

Both of these photos are from the sewer line path between Tupelo and the warehouse.  Although they aren’t the exact same vantage point, they’re pretty close to the same spot.Image

Way back in June, my son Sami was able to walk these woods wearing practically nothing.  It wouldn’t be nearly so comfortable today!Image

Here’s a dramatic contrast– our kiwi arbor in June and this afternoon.Image

Again, I wasn’t able to get exactly the same vantage point of the pond, but it’s close enough to see the amazing contrast between June and January.Image

The top photo is from this past June.  The bottom one is actually from December of 2008.  In the years in-between, the shed at the end of the driveway burned down and was replaced with the smaller wellhouse in the above photo, plus several of the non-productive apple trees in the orchard have been removed.Image

That gets me to the end of June.  I’m hoping to post another whole mess of these photos in the next day or two, at which time I will consider ObserVA to be finished and wish everyone a tearful farewell.  Until then, enjoy these pics!


Just a few pics from this morning.  It was another cold one last night, don’t know the exact temp., but well below freezing.  Just before 9, I was walking down to the courtyard for my town trip, and the garden … Continue reading

November 26 – cold snapped

According to the weather forecast, last Saturday was predicted to be our last pleasant day for a long  while.  It’s Tuesday night now, and so far that forecast has been pretty much spot on.  This past Sunday, we got slapped with our first real cold weather of the season, hard frost at night, temperatures in the 30’s all day, raw and windy.  On Sunday night, I went to a friend’s house to watch an evening football game, which lasted until well after midnight.  (The game was being played in New England, which was quite a bit colder; everyone on the field and sidelines looked utterly miserable, and I was glad to be in a warm house.)  Walking back to my car after the game, the air was bitterly cold and clear, the stars crackled and sparkled in the sky above, and each breath felt like I was frosting my lungs.  I was later told that it got down to 10 degrees that night, which was about what it felt like.

Monday was more of the same.  I had plenty of work to keep me inside; and frankly I wasn’t all that tempted to go out exploring.  Here’s what Monday looked like.  What it felt like was fall swiftly (and a bit prematurely) turning into winter.Image

On Monday night, we got our first rain of the month, and it kept on drizzling this morning (and all afternoon, too).  I did my normal Tofu delivery rounds in Charlottesville, a damp, chilly task on a day that never got much above freezing.  Years ago, when I happened to be in Seattle during late December, I came to the conclusion that rain, combined with temperatures just a few degrees above freezing (which soaks right through your clothes), is actually much colder and more uncomfortable than snow combined with sub-freezing temperatures (which often bounces off).  By the time I got back from my delivery rounds, I was well chilled.  Here are a few pictures of the neighborhood near to Twin Oaks, taken out the window of the Tofu Truck.  Just rolling down the window was about as close to the elements as I wanted to get today.Image

A couple photos of the South Anna river, the old mill, and the dam.  During the summer, there is so much thick annual vegetation that you can’t even see the river from the road.  This is not the case this time of year.Image

Eventually, I think that all the rain is going to push the water level up higher in the river.  But it’s been so dry this month, that the first couple of inches of rain will most likely be absorbed into the ground before there is a whole lot of runoff.Image

Driving up the road to Twin Oaks.  It looks bleak out there because it was bleak out there. Image

At the time I’m writing this–10 PM–we’ve had about an inch and a half and it’s still coming down.  I’m curious to see what effect the rain, our first in about a month, will have on whatever is still alive out there, whether it will bring out any mushrooms, or whether it’s all just done for the season.  We’ll see what tomorrow looks like.

November 23 – coming home, looking ’round

Last Wednesday, I flew back from to Richmond, then drove back to Twin Oaks. Despite having a lot of indexing work that’s been keeping me indoors, I have managed over the past couple of days to get out and about here and there, to take a look around and see how the season is unfolding.

During the week I was in Maine, the forest trees around Twin Oaks lost pretty much all of their leaves and fall colors.  The woods here have taken on a very wintry aspect, which is pretty much they way they’re going to look until next April.  There was no rain at all during the week I was gone, and at this point, we’ve gone about a month without any measurable precipitation.   I’m not expecting that there will be any mushrooms around, although I’m not entirely ruling out a flush of late-season oysters if and when we ever get rain again.

Here’s how the woods are looking these days.Image

Friday was an unusually warm and humid day, despite being overcast and windy, it was actually warm enough to walk around in a thin cotton shirt and still be completely comfortable.  I liked the look of the naked gray sycamore tree against the gray sky.  The intricate architecture of trunk and branch is much more noticeable now that nearly all the leaves are gone.Image

A couple of photos from my back yard on Friday afternoon.  Some of the fruit trees and bushes are still hanging on to a little bit of leafy foliage.Image

and the blueberry bushes, in particular, have turned a lovely bright red color.  Notice the fig tree next to the blueberry bush, completely bare and leafless.Image

Saturday was another beautiful day, sunny, cool, and comfortable.  There is a major cold front moving in, so Saturday was the last really pleasant day we’re going to have for a while.  The day’s ultimate frisbee game was well-attended, and the late afternoon sun on the line of sycamore trees was quite dramatic.Image

Another shot of the treeline, all lit up with slanty late afternoon sunlight.Image

I left the game a little early to stoke the sauna; as I came to the top of the hill, I saw the trees all along the edge of the forest lit up all dramatic-like.  Image

Just a few minutes before sunset.Image

Sometimes the most dramatic sunset colors aren’t of the setting sun at all, but the intense color and light effects created by the few moments of sunlight.Image

Heading down to the sauna, I was particularly impressed with the reflection of trees and sky in the mirror-still pond.Image

All in all, it was a very pretty end of a very pleasant day.Image

I stoked up the wood stove in the sauna.  As I waited for the fire to heat it up to a proper sweaty temperature, I sat on the front deck of the sauna and watched the sunset colors in the sky, the reflection of trees and sky in the pond.  I particularly like this “mirror image” shot.Image