Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Spirit of West Virginia Comes to Race Road

For years, one of my favorite ways to torment my wife (a native of New York City) was to talk about how great it would be when the day finally comes and we retire and move to West Virginia.

I haven't had to do this lately, since living on Race Road might as well be West Virginia, even though the goat up the street (see here and here) is gone. I hear he was killed by the neighbors' pit bulls.

Anyway, to make it more and more like West Virginia, I went to the garden store yesterday (Valley View Farms) and bought some shrubberies.

I got a rhododendron. I don't like fancy varieties. I got one that will get nice and big, and have traditional purple flowers.

It was tough to dig the hole. The ground there by the edge of the bank is bricks (I dug up 5) and slag. I suspect my lot is built on fill dumped off the side of the mill race. (Race Road was once the race feeding the Elkridge Iron Furnace. They filled in the race around 1920.) You dig down, and you get slag. The bricks are a puzzle. Maybe they are from the actual furnace? They don't look that old, though.

Next, I planted a mountain laurel at the edge of the perennials. I was delighted to find an actual, native, non-mutated, natural variety mountain laurel.

Last, I got a new Crepe Myrtle to replace the one that died and fell over. I know, crepe myrtles aren't in the West Virginia theme. There are lots of them all over my neighborhood, though. Note the lilacs are blooming on the other side of the fence.

After I got it all planted, I was sitting in my chair with Max, looking at the birds and showing him the blue jay. He knows cardinals and chickadees and woodpeckers. I saw a bright flash of black and white and red fly into the cedar tree next to the shed. I reached for my binoculars, and told Debra to come look, I think it's a red-headed woodpecker (which I've never seen here) or maybe even a....

Once again I lose the opportunity to prove my birding skills by hesitating, because just then it flew down to the feeder.

A Rose-breasted Grosbeak!

Right off the West Virginia license plate!

He hung around awhile and we got some pictures. This is another new bird for me on Race Road. They don't breed here, he's just passing through. But you never know.

As it happens, I have an Audubon print of the rose-breasted grosbeak on my wall.

I bought it in an antique shop in Fells Point years ago. It inspired the purchase of several other Audubon prints that are hung around the house.

While I was walking around the yard with the camera, I took some more pictures.

The herbs are coming up nicely. I pulled up a ton of mint that was taking over yesterday.

Here are the tulips and daffodils along the road. Max has to go out and inspect the tulips several times a day.

The hyacinths are about done. Max can't say "hyacinth". He calls them "smell nice". He has to go smell them several times a day. I showed him today that the lilacs smell nice too. He can say "lilac" (and "magnolia", "tulip", "daffodil", "dandelion", "phlox", and "more coming", which is what he calls tulip buds.

The daffodils in the shady bed predate me. There are a lot of different varieties, most of which are done. I should have taken more pictures. This one is especially nice, and just now blooming.

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