Monday, June 20, 2016

Midsummer Menagerie

Summer is arriving in a bright, heavy cloak of humid heat. Today's solstice will mark the longest day of the year, the official first day of Summer, but Midsummer in the ancient Celtic calendar (May Day marking the first of summer). I prefer to see it as Midsummer, because summer is most definitely not my favorite season. It brings many gifts and I always try to embrace it and be thankful for the warmth and sunshine I know I'll miss come winter. Summer certainly showers us with blooms and colors galore, plus fruits and vegetables (and bugs!). Here's hoping summer is robust but not void of cloud, breeze, and rain. Happy Summering.

Milkweed

Purple Coneflower - Echinacea




Queen Anne's Lace

Prickly Pear Cactus Bloom

Prickly Pear Cactus - the green between blooms and pads turn into red fruits (prickly pears)

Native Prickly Pear Cactus

Wild Bergamot

Chipmunk Lunchtime

Friday, June 10, 2016

Wild Bergamot

One of my favorite Missouri wildflowers, this is wild bergamot, monarda fistulosa.
I dry the leaves and use them in tea, usually to flavor some black tea. It has a similar taste as Earl Grey. This is a wild relative of Bee Balm and like its name, this morning it was visited by many bumble bees and some lovely sunlight.   

Monday, May 30, 2016

Mushroom Monday

The rains have returned after a relatively dry spring. It has ushered in the humidity I've lived with my whole life but never gotten used to, as well as the return of my favorite fungi! Let the mushrooming begin!
A bending beauty at the base of cedar tree.

This tiny triplet was probably only an inch tall.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Splendors of Sylvan Shade

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
-Robert Frost
The lush woods, dark clouds, & bright sun of these wet spring days have been creating a magic light.
 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Ramble Around Ireland #12: Roscommon Castle

All in a day, we stopped at along the rugged coast of Mullaghmore, Sligo and three ruins that were all closed for renovation/repair (Ballymote Castle, Boyle Abbey, & Ballinafad Castle). It is a bit discouraging to drive out of the way, via remote byways, only to discover you cannot explore your destination. And since we aren't the kind to climb over fences or ignore literal "Danger" signs, there's nothing we can do about these road blocks but move on. And so we did.
Mullaghmore Coastal Drive - You should almost always take the coastal drive. There is always somewhere to park and get out and explore. Slippery but splendid.



Ballinafad Castle Caution


Onward to Roscommon Castle, a huge ruin of a 13th century Norman castle. It is nearly in the middle of town, but tucked away just enough and is situated next to a park and pond.

Roscommon Castle

Roscommon Castle

Stairway to nowhere at Roscommon Castle

Roscommon Castle

Roscommon Castle


Friday, May 13, 2016

Ramble Around Ireland #11:
Grianan of Aileach

Entrance from Interior of Fort
From our base in Derry, we took a loop north to the ancient stone fort, the Grianan of Aileach, which I have no idea how to pronounce. It is just about 30 minutes from town. One my of go-to travel tips is to snap a picture of the information boards at historical sights. It is a great way keep information and I usually trust this information more than what I find online, as it's been researched, written, and approved by some historical board or council that cares for the sight. The Grianan of Aileach is an incredible site, with strategic & stunning views. I'll let my photos and the info boards do most of the talking for it.

(It is worth checking out Guarding Grianan Aileach , which is a very cool site tracking the solar & lunar alignment of the fort with such fabulous photos!)







A Holy Well just below the fort



Thursday, May 12, 2016

Ramble Around Ireland #10:
Derry Londonderry

This ancient city is the fourth largest in all of Ireland and is known as both Derry and Londonderry. Derry is the older and common name from the Irish, Daire meaning oak grove. The name changed to Londonderry in the 17th century, when in 1608, the British Crown seized land in an attmept to "anglicize Ulster and create a loyal and acquiescent population....The various lands were handed over to various guilds of British traders to develop and manage." (from www.culturenorthernireland.com). Being on the border line of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, Derry has long been enmeshed in conflict between Catholic Nationalists and Protestant Unionists known as "The Troubles." It is a complex and storied history that I am not qualified to explain but you can read more about it here. That said, today Derry is a peaceful, beautiful, & robust town with so much to offer.

My favorite thing about Derry is that it's a walled city. There is a complete wall encircling the city center. You can walk the walls at any time and climb up and down frequent stairs to access the city. There is a lot of history visible from the walls and great views as well. Though we weren't able to take a Historical Wall Walking Tour, it came greatly recommended by out hotel.

Derry is in the northwest corner of Ireland and has incredible sights and landscapes just outside of town. We combined the Grianan of Aileach and Beaghmore Stone Circles into  a day trip from Derry.

Leaving my mark in our hotel room, looking out on the city walls and morning sunrise.

View of a city gate

View of the west of Derry outside the walls.

St. Columb's Cathedral at night. What an incredible beacon.

Evening view of streets from atop the walls

Shipquay Gate

The Peace Bridge (pedestrian) over the River Foyle symbolizing peace between the 

Canons on display on top of the City Walls; The Guildhall in the back ground.
On top of the wide City Walls

The Craft Village - a collection of little shops situated in a pedestrian zone made up of little alleyways, nooks, and crannies. 

A Gate through the City Wall with the Guildhall in distance.
We stayed in the Bishops Gate Room at No. 8 The Townhouse. I would highly recommend this lovely guest house. The city walls are literally right outside the windows but it is a nice quiet corner of town but still close to everything. The breakfasts were wonderful and the proprietors friendly and full of travel tips. The room was especially lovely.
Another Travel Tip - Take photos of your room right when you walk in, before you sit all your things down, crumple the bedding, etc. And take photos of your room. These are the details that my memory lets go of first. It's nice to have them chronicled.