Virgin Islands – Birds & Fish

As the weather is turning colder, here in the mountains of Virginia, last month’s trip to the Virgin Islands is quickly fading in memory. And so is my summer tan…

So before the island experience dissipates, I must post a few more memories.

Here, at Magens Bay, on the North Coast of St. Thomas,

Magens Bay

Magens Bay

we spent a day bird watching and bathing in the clear blue waters.

This Royal Tern was circling high above. Spying some fish, it gathered speed

Royal Tern diving from up high

Royal Tern diving from up high

and caught its glistening prey with skill and accuracy

Royal tern with fish

Royal tern with fish

Then flew across the water

royal tern with fish in beak

and high up in the air where the fish was beginning to slip a bit from its beak

rising high above, fish in beak

Could the fish have wriggled itself free and fallen back in the water? I held my breath, to no avail. The bird had its lunch…just another delicious gulp in the life of a bird.

Posted in Adventure, Animals and Critters, Travel, Travel Virgin Islands | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Sunday Stills: Fall Foliage

Late autumn,
past prime for fall foliage,
in the higher elevations.
Yet,
the brilliant afternoon sun
weaves the remaining leaves
into a breathing, heaving tapestry.

fall foliage from deck

More autumn color from Beauty Along the Road:

Autumn Moods

Dreamy Autumn Reflections

Sunday Stills, The Next Challenge: Fall Foliage

Posted in Appalachia, Sunday Stills | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

A Century Ago: Milepost 176

When you drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, you have to slow down. The speed limit is 45 mph. But more importantly, there are so many scenic views and interesting sites to visit. How can you not stop and gape at a view like this?

View from Blue Ridge Parkway

View from Blue Ridge Parkway

The 469-mile two-lane scenic highway runs from Cherokee, North Carolina, to Rockfish Gap, Va where the Blue Ridge Parkway continues as Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park.

You can see signs of contemporary farming activities alongside the Parkway, grazing cattle or sheep, barns and farm houses:

large barn

large barn

and even a huge pumpkin field along the edge of the forest:

pumpkin field

pumpkin field

When you get to Milepost 176 though, you fall into a time warp and you are now in the year 1914:

Mabry Mill

Mabry Mill

Mabry Mill was the home and business place of Ed and Lizzy Mabry. Ed operated a wheelwright shop, a sawmill, a grist mill, and a blacksmith shop….clearly a Jack-of-all-Trades.

The large water wheel powered a sawmill, a gristmill for grinding corn, and a woodworking shop inside a single wooden building.

water wheel

water wheel

To secure a sufficient supply of water, Ed had to build two long wooden troughs or flumes that brought the runoff from two small streams together into the single, elevated trough (the Race) leading to the waterwheel.

Scattered around the mill were various farm implements, wagons, and tools used in a time before electricity and power tools:

This house was not the original frame house Ed and Lizzie built here. The Park Service tore down their old house and re-built it with materials from a nearby log cabin.

old cabin

old cabin

This was clearly Lizzie’s domain, where she cooked, cleaned, wove fabrics on her large floor loom, created baskets from vines and reeds, and the many other household items needed.

And after a hard day’s work, they might have spent a few nights operating their whiskey still.

whiskey still

whiskey still

Again, a lot of work was needed to obtain the desired result – corn whiskey. First, corn meal, malt and sugar were mixed with water and then left to ferment in the barrel on the right. After a few days or weeks, the fermented mash was heated in the copper still in the center. The vapors from the still were piped to the barrel on the left, that contained a spiral tube (the “worm”) immersed in a constant flow of water. Condensation from the worm changes the vapor into a liquid, caught in buckets under the barrel.

That’s your basic moonshine recipe.
A small still like this could produce up to 20 gallons of corn whiskey in one night. Talk about high spirits!

I thought about Ed and Lizzie as I admired the bright fall colors around their homestead. Did they have any time at all to enjoy autumn as they were preparing for the isolation of winter in these Appalachian Mountains?

It was hard to leave this interesting and spirited place but a cone of pumpkin ice cream from the Mabry Mill restaurant eased the journey up North.

Mabry Mill

For more posts containing Numbers, check out Ailsa’s Travel Theme.

Posted in Appalachia, Travel Theme Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Medicine for a Rainy Day

On a dreary, rainy autumn day, Cee’s photo challenge for vibrant colors is just what the doctor ordered!

Goldfinch on thistles

Goldfinch on thistles

Goldfinches love to eat the seeds from these thistles (I believe they are Canada thistles). While the thistles are highly invasive and very much disliked by most gardeners, I will leave just a few of them around because butterflies and birds really like the blooms and seeds. And the purple blossoms are cheerful to look at (for this human).

Posted in Animals and Critters, Flora | Tagged , , , | 26 Comments

Reflection on Refraction

This week’s photo challenge theme is Refraction.

I wasn’t entirely sure how refraction differed from reflection. A quick consult with Webster’s Dictionary told me that refraction is about the bending of a ray or wave of light (or heat or sound) as it passes through a medium such as water. It showed the image of a drinking straw in a glass of water. At the point where the straw touches the water, it appears that it got cut and moved sideways a bit under water – an illusion caused by the bending of light by water.

This picture shows how a tiny water drop ever so slightly distorts (displaces) the ribs of the leaf:

waterdrop inside leaf

waterdrop inside leaf

I am pretty certain, that this nested reflection in these water glasses qualifies as a refraction:

drinking glasses at pool bar

drinking glasses at pool bar

Also, the distortions caused in round reflective objects seem like refractions to me rather than simple reflections:

Some windows will yield reflections almost like a mirror, but not this one:

church window on fire

church window on fire

The adjective “refractory” refers to being altered, hard to manage, stubborn, not yielding to treatment, resistant to heat. I am beginning to like this word….

So the difference between reflection and refraction? In my mind (and I am not a physicist), reflection is a simple mirror image on water or another reflective surface while refraction breaks up the image. I am wondering whether reflections on a disturbed (not smooth) water surface would be considered refraction? Like here, where the carp on the right has broken the water’s surface and rippled it so that the image of the fish is no longer as clearly defined as the one on the left?

two blue carps

two blue carps

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