The Cotswold Region

I have always wanted to visit the Cotswolds and see the gardens, cobblestones and thatched roof cottages. We did one better – we rented an enchanting cottage that must have been built 200 years ago.

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Orchard Cottage

The beams were all rough cut, the ceilings and upper floor sagged – all adding to its rustic charm. Turns out Graham Greene lived here in the 1930’s.  (We rented through Honeypot Cottages my contact was Andy Smith:  info@honeypotcottages.co.uk  They even left us a delicious homemade cake to have with tea when we arrived.)

Ancient stone birdbath

Once a wealthy producer of fine wool, the Cotswold countryside is dotted with sheep and crisscrossed with walking trails. Most roads are hardly wide enough to pass another car without slowing to a crawl – a hardship to people used to driving on the other side of the road! However Main Street in certain towns, like the one we stayed in, were built wide to accommodate the carts and animals coming to market.

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covered market at dusk

The picture above shows the old market (middle right) built in 1627.

Below is the bell tower of stately St James church built 500 yrs ago…and do you suppose this was a dipping trough (right foreground) for sheep?

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All of the cottages and buildings throughout the region were built of the same honey-hued limestone and today it is required of new stone buildings.  Eight Bells Inn (below) dates from 14th century.ChippingC_pse0176

 

This is the oldest house in Chipping; note the wavy roofline. Back in the 1300’s, when the villagers lived in smoky, damp “wattle-and daub” huts, a  well-to-do wool merchant built this first stone home with chimneys, instead of just holes in the roof.

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There are a number of pretty gardens in the area; we visited well-known Hidcote Manor with gardens divided into a series of ‘outdoor rooms’, each with its own character. The manor house was built in the 17th Century as a farm house; and the garden and lawns were begun in early 20th century by American Lawrence Johnston.

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Manor

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The red border

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The Cotswold may have been the hi-lite of our trip to Great Britain – I guess we saved the best for our last week. Have you been there? Live there?

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING To ALL

November arrives here with chilly rain signaling any Indian summer is over; incongruously, we usually have sun for Thanksgiving. Who is to question the weather gods when they play in our favor?

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Tom and I planted this pistache tree 20 years ago. It makes a wonderful shade tree in summer.

(Thanksgiving is a US holiday, originally a harvest festival.) The Pilgrims celebrated the “First Thanksgiving” in 1621 with the Indians who helped them survive in the New World.

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This gingko was 7-ft tall when we moved in and perversely refused to grow more than a few inches in a decade. Its roots must have found the water table as it has made up for lost growth since then.

 

Wildlife at Horicon Marsh

I haven’t written a Nature post for awhile and couldn’t top Jet Eliot’s on the this marsh in Wisconsin, USA.

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Horicon Marsh, Wisconsin

One of the largest freshwater marshes in the United States, Horicon Marsh offers a plethora of wildlife. Located in the southeastern quadrant of Wisconsin, U.S.A., and covering 32,000 acres (12,949 ha), the marsh is a critical rest stop for migrating birds.

Wikipedia Horicon Marsh. 

I love the solitude and beauty of this marsh, have written posts outlining how it was shaped: first by the glaciers, then by humans. But today I’m focusing just on the wildlife, because this is what I find so enchanting.

Previously written post: Horicon Marsh

Common Yellowthroat, Horicon Marsh

Painted Turtle, Horicon Marsh

Black Tern, Horicon Marsh

One of the most elegant terns on earth, the black tern migrates to North America from South America, and breeds at the Horicon Marsh, as well as other sites in northern U.S. and Canada.

Forster’s terns also breed at the Horicon Marsh.

Forster’s Tern, Horicon Marsh

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More WILDFLOWERS

Most of these flowers are from Table Mountain, an old volcanic “neck,” near Chico in northern California. The landscape is stunning in the spring (4 slides below).

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My companions, husband and golden retriever. (Geologists will recognize the basaltic rocks.)

 

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(4 slides above/5 below)

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…wait for the close up!

 

White meadow foam (Limnanthes douglasii) was abundant next to the streams (click to enlarge).

 

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Butterflies were having a field day (5 slides).  These are Pipevine butterflies, but the pipevines flowers were not out yet, so they pollinated brodiaeas. (Maybe the pipevines are just where they lay their eggs – I have seen the plants full of black and red caterpillars.)

Wildflower season is almost over now – unless I head for the mountains, but after growing up in the tropics I can appreciate what the seasons bring.  Have you walked in a field of wildflowers in spring?  If not put it on your bucket list!

 

There’s Gold in them Hills: Wildflower Season

It’s wildflower season again and after years of drought the blooms are making up for lost time.  I choose the Gold Country (California foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mts.) this year as a hot spot.  We started near Yosemite and made our way north on HW 49 – and various floriferous side roads. 

California poppies (Eschscholzia californica)  and gold fields (Lasthenia californica)

The discovery of gold in 1848 sparked the largest mass migration in U.S. history.  Prospectors moved from one strike to the next along rivers and streams .  Today there are remnants of diggings, rusting machinery, stamp mills and old camps. There are historic towns and wonderful plant diversity.  The California golden poppy has replaced the “gold in dem der hills.”

Gold fields a common sight in spring.

The small flowers above,aptly named “gold fields,”  are in the daisy family.

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Shooting stars- Dodecatheon hendersonii

I found a field of shooting stars too.

Numerous creeks flow out of the foothills of the Sierras and into rivers that eventually join the San Joaquin River, one of California’s largest. 

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Below is the Stanislaus River.Stanislaus_pse1230

Old bridge over the Stanislaus. A sign says it was covered to make it last longer.  In the foreground are the remains of an old stamp mill, which crushed rock for extraction of gold ore.covrd bridge Stanislaus_pse1232

Many wildflowers have evolved to root in serpentine soil and gravels – which are toxic to most other plant life.  This is Bitter root – Lewisia rediviva (named after explorer M. Lewis of Lewis and Clarke fame).Lewisia r_pse1185

I was hunting for one particular wildflower I’d never seen: a fawn lily,  Erythronium tuolumnensii – and was excited to find it….  The thrill of the chase.

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Fawn lily –  Erythronium tuolumnensii

 

Below: wait for it – it’s a brief  slide show ( or click if feeling impatient 😉 )

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Lupins and goldfields in front of snickering horse.

Is that horse sticking his tongue out at me?

    

horse grin_pse1224Yeah pretty funny trying to ruin my shot. (I did not photo-shop this horse – he really was mocking me.  So disrespectful!)

The one(s) that got away 😉 :  I had some fabulous photos of a place famous (with botanists anyway) for wildflowers near Yosemite Park.  That night I downloaded over one hundred photos to my laptop and was going through them, deleting those that were out of focus etc. and taking pleasure in the ones that were sharp.  Long story short, my laptop died and I’d deleted the photos in the camera card to make room for the next day’s findings.  I paid a computer guy to retrieve them and he found everything else – that I had already backed up, except those photos I had driven many hours to take.  Ah well another year, and excuse for another trip!

Baby Birds

 

We’ve had two nests next to the house. The first was by the back door. We tried to avoid going out that way, but when mom (a house finch) flew away one day I peeked in and there were at least two half-naked chicks had hatched (click to enlarge).

almost ready to fledge...(See photo of adult finch above)

almost ready to fledge…

The handsome red-breasted dad helped too. A week or two later the nest was empty – I hope they made it!

Note the strong bill on this male house finch (www.wilddelight.com)

A male house finch (www.wilddelight.com)

 

 

I discovered the second nest when (almost starting) to clean a window that isn’t used a lot. There were three little blue eggs and a week later these two chicks. When I opened the shade to take this picture, they opened their beaks thinking mother was back with food.

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I’ve peeked once since and they are bigger now with wing feathers marked dark  and light. I read they only nest for about 10 days and then they are on their own! Want to guess what they are? I haven’t got a good glimpse of the mother but she is a “grey-brown twitter” larger than a finch, with a long, square tail. Maybe a California towhee?

(Hey guys instead of sending me emails, please comment below to share with all. {I know the “comment” lettering is sometimes hard to see…but it is there should you wish to click on it!}  Thanks.)

Cross-species Relationships: a lesson from the animal kingdom

My writer friend Nona Mock Wyman sent me this lovely little picture story about a rhesus macaque monkey who has adopted a stray puppy in Rode, India.  An example of cross-species caring and relationships.

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The monkey has been seen to defend the little dog from other strays, (you can just make out the pup by the front wheel).mono 2

and looks after it like a mother, even making sure the puppy eats first.

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“People who have seen them, speak of their strong mutual affection and described their bond as the most caring thing in the world — to take care of a puppy in danger and protect him like a parent,” reports Zee News.

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The unusual pair have become inseparable.mono4

She cares for the puppy as if it were her own baby. (I hope she doesn’t expect him to learn to jump from limb to limb!)mono 6

 

Locals have started to leave food out for the pair. 🙂

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Their affection gives us a valuable lesson about taking care of each other.