Purple Autumn at Ridge Haven

Autumn Glory all dressed in Purple Hues!

I took a stroll down our country road.
I found purple autumn all around!

Autumn is my best time of year, and all the shades purple are my favorites! So purple Autumn wildflowers really speak to my heart.

See the photos and read the full post at



Trillium & Other Surprises

img_9217-1My third-born son and I are becoming Nature Nerds.  I wear that title with pride, and I think he kind of just gets roped into these outdoor adventures.  But he does take it with a nice attitude, and is learning all the way, even if he doesn’t quite gush enthusiasm for flowers, if you know what I mean!  After all, he’s eleven!  That might not be cool to be too interested in flowers.  But, remember Luther Burbank and George Washington Carver, Elliot Coleman, and other fine men who appreciate wild things, and you will see that flowers and plants are for everyone!

Well, we took an excursion yesterday to see the wildflowers.  We hooked up with two dear old friends (old friends, not OLD friends, as in old ladies) who happened to know bunches about all things wild! You never know what you will stumble across out on the trail–I just figure you have to get out there and start looking, because the flowers are there, whether anyone sees them or not.  When you do come across little patches of beauty, it is such a treat for the eyes and for the soul!  If I miss these beauties, it’s kind of my own fault, because there they are, just blooming for all they are worth!

We came across some neat finds!  Some stumped us, which led us to scour the field guides and good old Google when we came back to the cars, but, as the Good Teacher said, “Seek, and ye shall find.”

We discovered that what we initially thought was the Little Brown Jug plant was actually another in its family, the Southern Heartleaf plant.  I looked up pictures on the internet when I got home, but the photos I saw still look like they are mottled a bit differently.  Naturally, I think that the ones we saw are prettier, but that’s because they are ours.  Much like your baby always looks nicer to you than other people’s, and I think that’s just fine!  I think they are just neat-looking flowers.


Southern Heartleaf Flower



Aren’t they cute?

We were hiking around Hot Springs, NC, and explored three trails with our friends.  The Jack’s Branch Trail, which a friend had heard about for its wildflowers, we found overgrown, and a definite rugged walk!  Over logs, under logs, across the creek, through fallen trees and over mossy logs.  We didn’t quite find the official trail’s end, but knew we found the correct beginning point, at least an old point of entry.  Later on, we did find a new connection into this trail, which was plainly marked.  So, that will be an adventure for another day!

Along the rugged trail we spotted some lovely Silver Bells, which grow on a tree.  I had never seen this type of tree before.  We almost stepped onto a patch of Dwarf Crested Irises, in both light and dark purple!  They are quite lovely!  We found Yellow Bellwort flowers growing along the way, although I’m not sure what variety they were, as my pictures turned out fuzzy.  We saw many other Spring wildflowers that were so nice–the Fire Pinks bloomed abundantly, Blue Phlox, Star Chickweed, Wood Anemone, and lots of violets!  I learned more new names–The Purple and White Phacelia, and Bishop’s cap were among them.

All in all, we had a good experience–great company and and lovely day!

My son and I decided to take the scenic short-cut back home, and are we ever glad that we did!  We didn’t know that The Lord had surprises waiting for us!  As we drove the back road back along the French Broad River, we kind of started to relax.  We put an audio story on to listen to, and just sort of drove along slowly, enjoying the scenery.  Suddenly, a striped cat leaped across our path!  Wait, no–he was a Bobcat!  He sprang across the road, looking just like our tabby house cat without the tail.  Yes, he was a bit larger, but not considerably!  We stayed there in the road until he disappeared into the woods, but we felt excited to see one of God’s creatures that prefer to remain hidden.

The next surprise greeted us as we entered into the Paint Creek Corridor.  A banquet of white trillium flowers spread out before us, lining the road!  I was amazed!  I’d been hoping to see trilliums all week, and now, without really looking for them at all, there they were!  I couldn’t resist the urge to take pictures of them, and after snapping a few, I realized there were at least two varieties, although they do look similar.  We saw the Bent Trillium, I believe, and the Sweet White Trillium, which has the burgundy/dark center.  I thought we found another variety, the pink streaked one, but I think that is what they start to look like when they get older.  Honestly, I could be wrong about that, but I could not find any other trilliums that look similar to these streaked ones.  I personally think they are very beautiful flowers with the colored streaks!  I took a picture of the buds of some, and almost thought they were the Bent Trillium.  I believe they are all the Sweet Whites in the group that I saw.



Sweet White Trillium



Sweet White


Bent Trillium


Sweet White


Sweet White Trillium


Sweet White

We had just one more trail to check out, since a nature-savvy friend of mine had told me about a certain trail that often had Trailing Arbutus growing on it at very specific times of the year.  We were literally driving by the trail, so I thought we’d better try to see those!  If I hadn’t known what to look for, we’d have overlooked them for sure, because you have to lift leaves–dry and live to try to see the little pink flowers.  Imagine our disappointment to see that they had just bloomed and lost their flowers!  I said a little prayer for our hike, and whispered that maybe we could be permitted to see some of these flowers that we’d heard about.

Later along the path, we did find a patch, and with some poking around, found blossoms that were still fresh!  I made sure to bend down to take a sniff, and had my son do the same, for the fragrance was like nothing else!  Reminded me of a nice perfume!  Thanks to our Kind Father for allowing us to experience these little jewels.

Just after leaving the flower patch, we began to head down the trail.  As we hiked along, we both stopped short at a rather loud rustling sound just to our right, and down the ravine.  “A bear, my son gasped!  Yikes, I thought, and tried to follow the dark form with my eyes.  It scrambled up the other side of the ravine, across from us.  I felt tense as it didn’t move away, and blended into the shadows.

I whispered a prayer that God would help this crazy mama and her boy, seeings that we were hiking all alone in the park, no cell service, and no one knowing where we were!  I wondered how far to the end of the trail (I knew it wasn’t a long trail, but long can be relative, depending on whether you are being chased by a bear or not)!

We couldn’t exactly see how big the bear was, which made me nervous.  I knew it didn’t look huge, but all the trees made it difficult to see if it was a cub or grown-up.  If it was a cub, I knew Mama Bear was somewhere, and I did not want to meet her!  The bear ended up moving along and away, and we decided that we would be wise to do the same!

Our day in the Wilds ended, we came home refreshed!  We stopped along the driveway to take a shot of the Pink Lady’s Slipper bud that we’ve been watching.  I am trying to be patient for the flower to open, but it is taking its own sweet time about it!  It will be worth the wait, I am sure!

Nature walk in our “home for a week”

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We used to take a Nature Day every Tuesday. This was a weekly highlight for everyone. Different curriculums and schedules have not always permitted a day in nature, but, like I mentioned in my post about moving day, we want to get the most out of the opportunity that we have in this park, so taking a good part of the day in the out of doors is the best way to do that!

For our Nature portion of today, we chose to take a hike to see what lay beyond what we’d already discovered yesterday. The only formal assignment was that each of us had to find at least three interesting rocks, three types of pinecones, and something alive that was new to us.

Right away, we found some awesome pinecones–well, we can’t really take the credit, because Daddy and his coworkers gave us three WOW-inspiring cones from a Sugar Pine tree! We’ve all been hoping to find some, and while working on the railroad yesterday, they found these loooonnnng pinecones! Daddy found the really long one that is all closed up. It’s older, so we wonder if when it dries out, it will open up? We researched how to open pinecones, and all you have to do is bake them in the oven at 200 degrees for 20 minutes, but make sure to put tin foil on the pan to catch the sap. We plan to try that as soon as we get some foil. In the meantime, we put the big cone in front of the little space heater to try to dry it out. Hasn’t worked just yet, though. :-/

Some other cones we found at our first RV park were from the Jeffrey Pine tree. They are big and round and we picked up quite a few of them. But, last week, when we actually got rain, they closed up! That’s just what they do! We spread them out in the sun to get them to open up again. Nature is so interesting!

We hadn’t walked very far at all before A2 (Nature Boy) handed me another interesting-looking pinecone. It was all layered and A1 said it looked like a hornet’s nest. Indeed it did. Our field guide did not have this type of cone, and although most of the time a quick internet search will yield quick results, this time it didn’t. After a little more digging around the internet, we think we narrowed down the type of tree it came from. For anyone who cares about this type of info, we think it’s the Deodar Cedar tree. That’s the only one with those cones that look like roses. If Banana Man had been here, I’ve no doubt that he could have found which tree was actually dropping the cones. He can look at a tree and know what kind it is, where I’m left scratching my head, wondering how he knew! Guess that’s why he’s the tree guy and I’m happy with my feet firmly planted on the ground! Enough about pinecones, but I’m sure you’ll be impressed by the size of those big ones.

Our walk occurred in two stages. First part before lunch, then we resumed after eating. We climbed rocks, meandered through stream beds, and followed trails until we thought we found the end of the park. Then, we found more park beyond that! Repeatedly, my boys scampered right up rocky hills that were moderately steep, leaving me to wonder who taught them to climb like that, and how I would be able to climb up to keep up! I was reminded of my aging body and how it’s not as lithe as it used to be, when my youngest kept calling, “Come on Mommy! Come up here where we are!” I kept thinking, “I’m trying, but I’m not going to tell you that I’m just trying to figure out how to get up there!”

We really did find some beautiful views from the top (once I finally got up there), and, oh, joy–we could see the train track! It’s so funny how much the boys have begun to identify with that train track! They count trains heard each day, then give a report to Daddy when he comes home.

At day’s end, we felt great but tired! A1 and I decided to gather firewood and surprise the workers with a fire when they got back. So nice to have the privilege of enjoying a campfire here. We won’t have it at the next park, so we will probably build one every night that we can! A fire is so cozy, and feels like home after a long day!

Speaking of the end of long day, that’s where I am right now, it’s time to end! But not before mentioning another highlight of our day that preceded the Nature day. Included in the picture slideshow are shots from this morning when all of the A’s got a chance to work a big machine. A1 got to raise the scoop on the skid steer (with much supervision), and A2 and A3 got to help operate the grappling claw on the railroad truck (at the campsite). If that’s not enough to pop off a few buttons on their shirts, I don’t know what will! Good day for the Little A’s and their family! Tomorrow we will organize the items we collected and classify and write about them! It’s supposed to rain! So glad we took the sunny day out!

Nature Surprises

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We had a fun surprise today–actually it started yesterday!

While eating lunch yesterday, the boys and I heard a screamingly-loud squawky sound.  It sounded like an amplified cricket or perhaps a frog.  We voted for the frog, based on the volume.  All of us searched but never did find anything, although we heard him again a time or two.  It was actually pretty funny, because it was so loud.

Today, the whole family was eating breakfast, when we heard it again–this time from the opposite end of the room.  Again, VERY LOUD!  This time it didn’t take long for someone to see where the noise was originating.  On the top shelf of the bookshelf, sat a little greenish-white tree frog.  Happy as you please, just sitting there, in front of the books.  Banana Man’s question was, “How did he get up there”, which, of course, nobody knew the answer to.   Sometime in the night, he traveled from one side of the house to the other.

He certainly could make a racket, and we all gathered around, cameras and video cameras poised to record his next number.  But he was done singing for the morning, and just sat there smiling at us.  🙂

We found him a container to hang out in, and some time during the morning, Ambulance Man added some water for him to splash in.  We planned to take him out to the garden to let him go, but got sidetracked with some things.  Next time someone checked the container–no frog.  Well, we didn’t worry too much, since we had left the back door open, as well as the window;  we assumed he must have exited the same way he entered.  Which, by the way, we didn’t know how he’d come in…

We’d pretty much forgotten about him, but just before bedtime, Action A happened to look down and see the frog napping under my bread machine, with his head poking out!  So funny!  By that time, he’d been inside for over a day, so I knew we’d better get him outside.  So, I tried to pick him up.  He hopped onto the electrical cord and “stuck” with his toe pads.  He really is agile and good at gripping.  I managed to get a hold on him, and put him out the window.  He clung to the side of the house for a few minutes, creeping along until he decided to hop over to the kiwi vine.

Bye-bye little friend!  Thanks for visiting!

The next thing I just want to share so I don’t forget someday….

Our family was out walking on Sabbath afternoon in the woods, when we heard this bird that kept on singing and singing and singing.  You know how you don’t really notice some things until you realize that it’s been going on and on for a long time?  Well, that’s how this was.  I clued in to the bird singing, and realized that it was not one of my “usual” birds songs.  I have been learning to recognize some birds by their sound, and it is so neat!  But this one was new.  Banana Man commented about it about the same time that I mentioned that the bird sure had something to say!   So, we started looking to see if we could see the bird.  Action A spotted the bird, and said casually, “It’s just a reddish-orange one that’s singing.”

Really?  Red?  And not a cardinal, for sure!  By then, he flitted away, and I didn’t get to see it!  But my mind was racing, and I whipped out my iPod with the iBird app on it, and looked up Scarlet Tanager.  We all listened to the audio recording, and sure enough, it was a match!  So, then I was super excited!  Yes, I’m becoming a Bird Nerd, but that’s okay.  We all looked around and played the audio call, etc.  I was able to catch a glimpse of the female, who had a yellow belly.  But only Action A was privileged to see the male.  That’s okay.  We all learned more what the song of the Scarlet Tanager sounds like, and hopefully next time, we will spot him sooner.  Either way, we were all blessed by hearing and seeing lots of neat things out in God’s nature while walking that day!