Friday, July 31, 2009

Anna and Milovan at Harmony Hill

Every Friday night is a good night to go to Harmony Hill Vineyards and Estate Winery, but Friday nights when Anna and Milovan are playing are extra-special. This young woman and her father are a terrific musical duo. Anna's voice is beautiful, no matter whether she is singing to her father's awesome acoustical guitar or accompanying herself, as in the following video clip, where she sings "Daisy," a song she wrote:

Owner and winemaster Bill Skvarla estimated there were 400 people on the farm tonight, and here are just a few of them.

Any musician can get the people up and dancing ...

but it takes Anna to get them limbo-ing, as evidenced by this video. (To all the limbo-ers: You did sign the release forms, right?)

That's Bill's voice in the background, harmonizing on the "Doc-tor" bits. Everybody joins in the fun at The Hill!

And just because you asked (or even if you didn't), yes, you can play cornhole at the vineyards, despite the fact that Harmony Hill is on the east side!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Old, dead Scots

For those of you who don't know, I am mostly Scottish in origin. My great-grandfather emigrated from Cawdor, Nairnshire, Scotland to eastern Ohio, in the 1890's. There he met his first cousin, who parents were Scottish immigrants, and the rest is history.

While on the opposite side of the state last weekend, for a family reunion/wedding, my mom, my sister and I made the rounds of some cemeteries
near the old the Scottish Settlement area of Columbiana County. While there, I photographed a lot of headstones, most of whom were not relatives, just because they looked so cool. Here are a few from the Yellow Creek Presbyterian kirkyard:

I love the "native of Scotland" legend found on many of these stones. While they lived and died in America, they never forgot their homeland.

The thistle is common on Scottish headstones. "Departed this life" - isn't that a nice phrase? I like the fact that they not only gave his age in years, but also months and days when he died in 1860. Nearly 75 - that's one old dead guy!

The weeping willow was a common symbol of mourning used by many cultures - the Iroquois Indians for one. Also, from Greek mythology, the willow signified Underworld goddesses, most notably Persephone.


What parent would do that to a child? I bet he was always the last to be chosen for the curling team.

Headstones from babies are especially sad. This child was simply referred to as the "infant daughter of Laughlin and Maggie Noble." She was not even given a first name.

This marker was somewhat enigmatic. "Little Annie." No last name, no dates, no "wife or daughter of." Who was she? What was her story? Does anyone remember her? Is someone looking for her? The broken bud symbol indicates someone who died young or prematurely.

Ohio birders might know this guy:
Hugh Rose

There were lots of Roses at this cemetery, and many of them had the rose symbol on their stones. There were Roses in the old stories from my family's past, too. I wonder if Hugh's people knew my people.

Also found at Yellow Creek - this orange wildflower, which my sister told me was Indian paintbrush. I always believe her, but now I think she let me down. Continuing my search ...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Birds without Feathers

That's basically what a reptile is, right? OK, OK - I realize there are a lot more differences between reptiles and birds than just feathers. There are wings, and then that whole endotherm/ectotherm thing ("warm blooded" and "cold blooded") But really, there are a lot of similarities, too, and so when I found the following reptiles at Wildacres last month, I was drawn to them, as if to a flightless bird.

This Five-lined Skink was quite the character. He hung around the studio doorway regularly, and posed for many photos. His blue tail means he is a juvenile. As an adult, he will lose that color. (I don't really know his gender.)

There was also a Broad-headed Skink, who did not approve of my attempts to photograph him. Every time I took aim, he skittered underneath a clump of poison ivy. Too bad, dude - you missed your fifteen minutes of fame.

While I was on skink patrol, quietly waiting to bag the broad-headed, this fine fellow appeared. He seemed to be heading toward my skinks when he saw me.

I pointed the camera lens at a spot on the other side of the post, waiting to snatch another picture as he continued along the deck edge, but he didn't appear. Seems he changed his mind about skink for lunch, and instead turned and shimmied down the deck supports to the forest floor, in search of a less-crowded diner.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mystery Insect Quiz

OK, since the mystery bird quiz was too easy, here's a bigger challenge. Who can name this wasp-like insect that I found on the canvas-covered wedging table in the pottery studio at Wildacres Retreat, in western North Carolina, last month?

Edit, July 8:

Did I fool anyone? This isn't a wasp, a yellow jacket or a hornet. This is Milesia virginiensis, which goes by 2 common names, Virginia Flower Fly or Yellow Jacket Hover-fly.

This critter won't sting you - it is a nectar-feeding insect that mimics the yellow jacket. It is a beneficial pollinator throughout eastern North America.

The Virginia Flower Fly is also called the "good news bee." Appalachian folklore holds that if one hovers around your head buzzing you, it is giving you the news. Having one perch on your finger is supposed to be good luck.

One more bit of trivia:
Milesia virginiensis' image was used on the 33 cent US postage stamp in 1999.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Kids, Cake and Cornhole

I visited with my cousins and their families on Sunday, and it reminded me why I like them so much. It also make me feel guilty for not spending more time with them.

Dori and her family live on a farm in Indiana, while Debi and her family are from Cincinnati's West Side. If you know anything about Cincy, you will know that the East Side and the West Side are like East Berlin and West Berlin, but without the wall. It's tough to cross that invisible line. As a resident of Clermont County, I am far east of the Great Divide called Vine Street. Still, I make exceptions, and will endure any difficulty for family, even driving over an hour west.

Debi and Dori delivered their youngest children, both sons, a few days apart, right around the Fourth of July, and ever since, we have used that holiday to celebrate their joint birthdays. This weekend marked the 17th anniversary of their births. (Seventeen? No, no - they are just babies. They can't be high schoolers, with driver's licenses and summer jobs. Say it ain't so!)

My aunt always made holidays and family get-togethers special, and her daughters are carrying on in their mother's footsteps. From the delicious meal (I ate a new vegetable dish, and liked it!) that ended in cake and
homemade ice cream to the "kids table" in the family room, everything was as it should be, every tradition observed. My favorite? - the brown paper "tablecloth" and Crayola markers that adorned the kids' table.
Ranging in age from 17 to 24, the kids were just kids again, coloring on the tablecloth (and each other) while discussing politics and pop culture. Even Megan's boyfriend got in the spirit of the frivolity. God, I love these young people. Even if every last one of them broke their promise to me, not to grow up, to stay little forever.
No birthday is a party without cake, and the singing of "Happy Birthday" (in four or five different keys.) And the birthday boys blew out their candles with good-natured enthusiasm. Well, maybe not "enthusiasm," but at least, they indulged us old folks.The farm started out as my aunt and uncle's weekend retreat, a place to go to get away from pressures of work, to take church and school groups for a day in the country, and to celebrate family events. After they retired, my aunt and uncle built a log home and moved there permanently. My cousin moved there, too, to establish her own home and family.

Now, Dori is trying to turn the hobby farm into a paying venture. One of her many schemes is the raising of meat goats, Boer goats, specifically. I have always enjoyed goats. They are funny and friendly, very social and engaging.They are also smart. Too smart, in fact, as Dori's goats are always inventing new ways to escape their enclosures and search for greener pastures.I am more familiar with dairy goats than meat goats, and one thing which surprised me was how small the does were, especially compared to the big billy. And he was a BIG BOY, too, in more ways than one!! Apparently, he is also very stinky, but lacking a sense of smell, that didn't bother me.

DON'T click to enlarge,
you will get me an NC-17 rating!

Dori is also raising and selling Maremmas, a guardian breed of sheepdog that is trained to live with its charges: sheep, goats, or other small livestock. Unlike herding dogs, guardian dogs don't move the sheep from one place to another. Instead, they lie in the fields, pretending to be just another lump of
white fur and flesh (most of these breeds are white) waiting for their chance to protect the sheep from predators, like wolves, coyotes, or other dogs. Bad me, I missed taking photos of the dogs. I am not afraid of most dogs, but I am not ashamed to admit that these dogs earned my respect right away. I didn't have to be told not to try to pet them. They take their job very seriously.

Finally, I know you are waiting for the "cornhole" part of the title. This is a unique, West-side Cincinnati sport that combines the finesse of horsehoes with beanbag tossing. It is catching on in Ohio, and across the country. It has even begun to be played - GASP! - on the East-side of Cincinnati. Truly, this is the sport of diplomacy.

Bill and his son, Bram
Eddie, with his son, Adam
I can't get over how much each boy looks like his dad.
(Maremmas in the background)

Watch the navy blue cornhole bag, in the upper left hand
corner of this photo, as it
flies through the air.
Now, see it softly land on the board.
You gotta use "burst mode" for the action shots!

Debi's 13 year old Vizsla, Treybo
(Hope I spelled that right)

A little lumpy, a little creaky,
but still able to referee a cornhole game

My Uncle Dick, enjoying watching the game, and listening to all the excuses:

"These bags are too light."
"The boards aren't slippery enough."
"There is a dog in the way"
"Too much wind."

Yeah, boys - right.

Family. The only people who have to take you the way you are. Hug a relative today.

Friday, July 3, 2009

SkyWatch Friday: Mountains of North Carolina

Which mists are the clouds and which the fog? In the mountains of North Carolina, at 3300 feet, it can be hard to tell the difference.

click here for more skies

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Penland School

Just as I wasn't sure what Raku firing involved before my trip to Wildacres, I didn't know what Penland School was all about. Everybody seemed excited to be going, so my curiosity was piqued. After our visit to Terry's studio, our field trip continued to Penland.

Properly called Penland School of Crafts, often abbreviated to Penland School, or even just "The School" by the locals, it is a national center for craft education in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. It's roots go back to 1920 and Miss Lucy - Miss Lucy Morgan, that is - who came to this part of Appalachia as a teacher. Three years later, she took a short course in weaving at Berea College, then returned to begin the Penland Weavers, dedicated to providing local women with looms, raw materials, and an outlet to market their textiles to the outside world. Penland School was officially esatablished in 1929, and Miss Lucy continued to run it until she retired in 1962, adding pottery and other crafts.

The school's enrollment was decreasing steadily, but the free-spirited 60's coincided with the arrival of the new director, Bill Brown, and the school burst into new life. He added new instructors and new media, like glass and metal working, and expanded both the physical facility and the programs. Penland School now offers one, two, or eight week courses in weaving, pottery, printing/books, metals from iron to gold, glass, photography and more.

Here are some of the sights on our walking tour around Penland School:

the front
and back
of the Lilly Loom House.
The Pines, the dining hall

Of course, we were most interested in the pottery studio. Artists and crafters were rushing to finish their projects at the end of this session, so we couldn't go into the individual work areas, but we got a look around the outside.

the sign by the director's office
wood-fired kilnsPotters resting behind their building.
Note the towels hanging over the railing on the deck above.

My favorite part was the retaining wall decorated with kooky ceramic art just outside the entrance to the potters' hall.
click on any photo to enlarge

For more about Penland School, click here to see an 8 minute YouTube video.