Five Photos, Five Stories: Chocolate Cake

May 22, 2015 Farrokh's Birthday 001

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Do you love chocolate?  For some of us, chocolate is a passion.

And our friend, who celebrated her birthday with us this week, loves chocolate more than most.  I wanted to make for her the ultimate chocolate birthday cake. 

I grew up with a dad who remains passionate about chocolate.  One of the first recipes I ever learned to make was chocolate mocha frosting, to make his favorite cake for him.

And so that is how I gave up on gardening for a few days this week to spend time cooking instead.

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Our friend cut generously huge slices of her cake to share with us all.

Our friend cut generously huge slices of her cake to share with us all.

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The cake was a two day love affair with chocolate.  It is a chocolate blackberry jam cake, filled with blackberry chocolate cream cheese frosting and covered in dark chocolate ganache.

Have you ever tried chocolate blackberry jam cake?  It is rich and satisfying, like a wonderful jam filled chocolate bar.  It is an old fashioned cake, made with six eggs, molasses, butter, and lots of cocoa and jam.

The aroma of blackberries permeates the entire house as it bakes.  And then the following day, we smell the  chocolate melting into the buttery cream as the ganache  blends, and  is then  poured in thick dark curtains of chocolate over the top and sides of the cake.  Sheets of chocolate cinnamon candy, wrapped around the sides and top of the cake, encase it all.

We had a great time eating huge slabs of this special cake  together, and our friends generously left a bit behind for me to share with my father.

I think there was enough chocolate to satisfy us all, and we all happily celebrated our special friend on her special day.

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May 22, 2015 Farrokh's Birthday 006

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Barbara, at  Silver in the Barn, invited me to join the Five Photos Five Stories Challenge, and this is my fifth and final post in the series.

This is a simple challenge:  To participate, you simply post a photo each day for five consecutive days, and tell a story about each photo.  The story can be truth or fiction, poetry or prose.

Each day one must also nominate a fellow blogger to participate in the challenge.

Today I would like to nominate Robin, at Breezes at Dawn to play along with us.

Robin and I share a love for wildlife, gardening, and sunsets.  Her photos are some of the most exquisite and loving photos I’ve seen anytime from anyone.  I hope Robin will agree to accept the challenge, and that you will visit her, if have not followed her already.  Robin tells wonderfully insightful anecdotes about life on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

Thank you for visiting today to eat the cake with your eyes, and my apologies for not offering you an extra fork.  I hope you will join your happy birthday wishes with ours for our special friend.

One day I might get around to posting the recipe for this unusual cake, but I’ll need to make it again first.  And that might take a day or three……

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FullSizeRender~

Woodland Gnome 2015

 

*   *   *

Five Photos, Five Stories: Dormant Isn’t Dead

Five Photos, Five Stories: Perspective

Five Photos, Five Stories: Turtle Mama

Five Photos, Five Stories: Hot

 

Five Photos, Five Stories: Turtle Mama

May 21, 2015 turtle 005~

My partner spotted her first.  It was pouring rain, keeping us both indoors yesterday afternoon.  I was at my desk and on the phone when he summoned me to join him at the front windows.

And there, in the middle of what little ‘lawn’ we tend, a large turtle squatted over the hole she had just dug and filled with pond water, laying her eggs.

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May 21, 2015 turtle 003

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My partner’s first response was not one of joy and wonder at the workings of nature.  The lawn is his, and only steady rain had kept him from his plans to mow yesterday.

But I was mesmerized by her intelligence and her determination.  Intelligence, because she somehow knew we would help to protect her nest from the predators who would be searching for it; and determination to dig a large hole out in the open, and then stay there for the hours it took to lay her whole clutch of eggs.

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May 21, 2015 turtle 004

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I slipped out into the rain, camera in hand, to get a closer look.  I stayed a good distance back, but her only notice of me was to pull her head back into her shell, watching me warily from this perceived safety.

We both kept watch from the front windows as the afternoon wore on.  She laid an egg every few minutes, resting in between.   We wondered how she knew how large a hole to dig to safely accommodate all of her eggs.  We also wondered how she had managed with so many eggs inside her non-expanding shell!

We watched both to share the process, but also to know when she left.  I wanted to capture another photo of her after she left her nest.

My partner wanted to make sure the nest was properly covered and filled back in.

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May 21, 2015 turtle finishing 015

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We had seen another, similiar turtle, laying her eggs in the side yard two weeks ago.  Much smaller and younger, she didn’t fill the hole back in.  My partner came behind her later and pushed the soil she had removed back in on top of the eggs.

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A different turtle, who left her eggs in our side garden on May 7, 2015.

A different turtle, who left her eggs in our side garden on May 7, 2015.

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This is our fourth turtle in two weeks.   I also found a box turtle last week, hanging out in some tall grass and weeds as I was cutting back one of our banks.  We recognized her from last summer.

Our area of coastal Virginia serves as habitat for many species of turtles.  Our state has strict guidelines about handling any turtles which wander onto one’s property, too.  Native and naturalized turtles may not be bought or sold in Virgina, and the state’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries asks that we leave turtles and their nests alone.  Trying to move or relocate them is never wise.

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May 21, 2015 turtle finishing 010

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We know this turtle likely lives around the pond and creek behind our property.  Yet we are still a little surprised to see these gentle giant reptiles visiting our garden, out in the open.  Last summer, we found a nest of turtles as they were hatching.  We watches as many tiny turtles crawled up out of their underground nest, and immediately headed for the water nearby.

Tomorrow, May 23, is World Turtle Day.  It is a day to bring attention to tortoises and turtles, and increase our knowledge about them, and respect for them.  American Tortoise Rescue has sponsored World Turtle Day annually since 2000. You may learn more about how to participate in World Turtle Day here.

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August 28, 2014 turtles 061

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Soon after our turtle left yesterday afternoon, my partner noticed a large crow land near her nest.  Taking no chances, he immediately went outside and covered the nest with a large grill basket to protect it.  The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ website suggests making a round cage from chicken wire to protect such nests from predators, anchoring the edges of the wire in the ground around it.  The wire  cage should have openings large enough to allow the baby turtles to crawl through once they hatch.

Incubation time depends on the species, but we expect these will need until late July, at least.  By then the grass will have grown back over the nest and it will be invisible to predator species.

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One of our tiny turtles who hatched in the garden last August.

One of our tiny turtles who hatched in the garden last August.

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Please be aware that this is the season when turtles may be moving across the roads you frequent, and watch for them.  If you do see a turtle crossing the road, pull off safely, and then move the turtle only in the direction it was already heading when you can do so safely.

If you find turtles in your garden, please leave them in peace if you possibly can.  They are ancient and important parts of our web of life.

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July 4, 2014 After Arthur 073

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Development has destroyed much of their native habitat, and now like so many other animals, they are trying to adapt to life in a very changed environment.  These are extremely gentle creatures.  They are clean and silent, asking only for a quiet place to rest.  With long lifespans, the turtles found in the garden may reappear from year to year, like our Box Turtle.    We appreciate her efforts to reduce the insect population in the garden, and are always happy to see her.

Now we have two nests to watch, as well. 

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May 21, 2015 turtle 009

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Barbara, at  Silver in the Barn, invited me to join the Five Photos Five Stories Challenge, and this is my fourth post in the series.

This is a simple challenge:  To participate, you simply post a photo each day for five consecutive days, and tell a story about each photo.  The story can be truth or fiction, poetry or prose.

Each day one must also nominate a fellow blogger to participate in the challenge.

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Columbine bathed in yesterday's rain.

Columbine bathed in yesterday’s rain.

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And today, I am inviting Yvette, at Priorhouse Blog, to join the challenge.  Yvette documents her life in and around Richmond, Virginia.  She has a keen eye for observing and an interesting perspective on life.  I hope you will enjoy visiting her site, and that she will accept the challenge!

Dor, at Virginia Views, published her first Five Photos Five Stories Challenge post yesterday.  She had me in stitches laughing, and agreeing with her at the same time!

If you would like to participate in the challenge, and have not yet been asked, please consider yourself invited by me today!  Allan, at Ohm Sweet Ohm,  let me know yesterday that he can’t accept the challenge right away.  Please leave me a comment that you want to play along, and I’ll include a link to your blog in my final challenge post tomorrow.

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The finished nest, as the mother turtle left it.

The finished nest, as the mother turtle left it.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

 

*   *   *

Five Photos, Five Stories: Dormant Isn’t Dead

Five Photos, Five Stories: Perspective

Five Photos, Five Stories: Hot

Five Photos, Five Stories: Chocolate Cake

Five Photos, Five Stories: Perspective

April 30, 2015 Oregon in  April 195

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It had been a long and intense day, and I was exhausted.  After all, I was only a visitor on the West coast.  My body clock told me it was nearly 11 PM, but the sun told me it was the golden hour.

It was still at least a half hour before sunset.  My daughter and her family had just left my beach condo after a rare family dinner, and I gathered my keys and camera to head out in search of photos.

With no clear destination in mind, I headed south down Highway 101, hoping for inspiration.  The sky was filled with bulbous, ominous clouds, and although the sun glinted through as it sunk towards the horizon, rain spattered across the windshield of my rental car.

I had waited all day for this time to wander the coast alone with my camera, and now rain.

I pulled in to a favorite wide spot just across the bridge at Siletz Bay, and gamely crawled out into the drizzle.  I’ve taken photographs in the rain so many times before; I stuck to my plan.

And found this….

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in  April 189~

These are some of my favorite photos from my entire visit  in Oregon, this past April.  The sun’s last light felt like it lingered forever.

Perhaps it is a trick of the latitude which makes the sunsets here so languorous.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in  April 218

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The back lighting made for dramatic images of these bits of Earth poking up from the bay.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in  April 222

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The next morning, with my sleepy granddaughter, I returned for more photos of the bay while her mother was at work.  We stopped on the near side of the bridge this time, in a little area with restaurants and shops, a pier and a boardwalk.  The sun was as bright and warm as any day on my trip; the air crisp and fresh, blowing in from the Pacific.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in  April 252

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I settled her into her jogging stroller, without waking her, and set off to explore.

This was one of those moments when I’m happy to be a novice photographer content with a tiny little Nikon camera which fits easily in my palm or pocket.  I can operate it easily with one hand, and did just that as I pushed her stroller from smooth sidewalk onto the bumpy old dock.

And what a different view I found in the morning light!  The Bay was completely transformed.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in  April 254

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Low tide and clear morning light gave me a completely different perspective on the scene.

This is one of the great truths of life the unfolding decades have shown me.  Our notions of reality and truth are completely shaped by our perspective.  If we can somehow shift our perspective, we’ll see the same thing in a different light.  Not only will see see it differently, but our feelings about it will shift as well.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in  April 251

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That is why it is wise to withhold judgement for a while when we encounter someone or something new.

Our first impressions may be lasting ones, but they may not be entirely accurate.  They are true, but may not be the entire truth. 

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in  April 258

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It is wise to wait for the wind to shift and the light to change; for the tide to turn and ourselves to grow a bit wiser… or at least let ourselves rest a bit and have some caffeine … before making any important  judgements or commitments.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in  April 269~

But I also learned that my initial impression of this little coastal community is still the one I treasure.

This  is one of the most beautiful spots on the continent.  And I look forward to returning here again and again as my little granddaughter grows up in this spectacular place.

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April 30, 2015 Oregon in  April 264~

Barbara, at  Silver in the Barn, invited me to join the Five Photos Five Stories challenge, and this is my third post in the series.

This is a simple challenge:  To participate, you simply post a photo each day for five consecutive days, and tell a story about each photo.  The story can be truth or fiction, poetry or prose.  Each day one must also nominate a fellow blogger to participate in the challenge.

And today, I am inviting another West Coast blogger, who takes amazing photos and tells wonderfully entertaining stories, to join the challenge.

Allan and I chat about the pros and cons of using different cameras from time to time, and so I always look forward to his interesting photos.  Please visit Allan at Ohm Sweet Ohm, and I hope he is game to take up the challenge!

Woodland Gnome 2015

*   *   *

Five Photos, Five Stories: Dormant Isn’t Dead

Five Photos, Five Stories: Hot

Five Photos, Five Stories: Turtle Mama

Five Photos, Five Stories: Chocolate Cake

 

Five Photos, Five Stories: Dormant Isn’t Dead

May 20, 2015 garden 014

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After our unusually long and cold winter, we’ve been concerned about which plants survived and which plants didn’t.  We’ve been making the rounds of the garden for weeks now looking for signs of life from plants which normally survive winter here just fine, but have not yet leafed out this spring.

There is an ancient Jasmine vine which has grown along the railing by our kitchen door for decades.  Much of it died back over the winter of 2014, but somehow came back with new growth by last summer.  Blooms were scarce, but it survived.  We are still watching for signs of life from that Jasmine vine this spring; watching for a single green leaf to show us it is still alive.

Our potted Hydrangeas suffered as well.  I believe they began to bud too early and were hit by a late freeze.  I check every few days for a sign of new growth from the roots.

One thing the garden teaches us is that dormant is not dead.   Many plants simply need a rest to gather their strength to grow again.

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May 20, 2015 garden 013

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Deciduous trees rest from autumn until earliest spring, when their buds swell and eventually open into new leaves.  We learn their rhythm early on in life, if we live in a region which has winter, and trust the process.

But what happens when things don’t go as expected?  What happens when it takes weeks longer than we think it might for those first leaves to show?

Most years our figs are quite leafed out by now.  But they have taken a hit of cold for two winters running.  Huge old trees have stood starkly naked all through spring and into this stretch of early summer heat.

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May 20, 2015 garden 012~

And now one by one, we are finding signs of life.  For some, new shoots are appearing directly from the roots.  Others have budded on trunks and branches, tiny leaves finally emerging into the warmth of May.

There are two potted fig trees, one on the front patio and the other on the back deck, still giving us no sign of life.  I’m still hopeful that one day soon we’ll see those first leaves appear.

After all, dormant is not dead.

Life goes deep within the tissues of a plant sometimes, into its rhizome or seed; into its deep roots while everything green and growing withers away.  We have to know these cycles and work with them.

Cyclamen die back in spring to rest for the summer.  They will sprout again in autumn to give flowers through many more winters to come.

Begonias and Caladiums may do the same in autumn, taking a winter rest before springing back to life with a single leaf to herald their awakening.

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This favorite Rex Begonia has leafed out from a bare rhizome again.  It likes its protected and shaded spot at the base of a tree.

This favorite Rex Begonia had leafed out from a bare rhizome again in this photo taken last June. It has gone dormant on me many times over the years, and I’m waiting for new leaves to appear on it now.  It died back in the house in early spring, but I trust it will spring to life again soon.

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Sometimes we need to do the same thing.  Going dormant for a while can do us a lot of good.  We give ourselves a chance to rest and rejuvenate.  When we’re ready to get back in the game, we are somehow richer and stronger.  We’ve taken quiet time to brood and plan.

We need, sometimes, to think about what is most important to us, and to re-define our priorities.  We can’t just keep going on forever at full steam, like a perpetual motion machine.

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Native ferns just awakening from their winter dormancy.

Native ferns just awakening from their winter dormancy.

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Because we are alive, our life is governed by the rhythms of nature.  We have our own rhythms, too; of  breathing and sleep, activity and rest.

Several blogging friends have touched on this issue, lately.  They are long time writers who have expressed their need for time away… time for a rest.  I respect them so much for listening to their own hearts and taking the break they need.

Writing is a very peculiar pursuit.  Those of us who feel compelled to write each day do so because WE need to do it.  We all have a purpose and some message we need to share.

We don’t write for our audience so much as we write for ourselves, and hope someone else finds what we write useful or amusing, instructive or thought provoking.

We all know when we’ve written enough for a while, and need to take some quiet time to rejuvenate our creative spark before speaking up again.  And that is simply the nature of things.

And no, I’m not saying this to preface an announcement of my own; only to say to my blogging friends who need that break, that I understand your point of view.  And to remind you:  Dormant is not dead. 

We know you are still very much alive, and hope that one day soon you’ll feel like it is time to grow active once again.  We miss the beauty you bring to the world.

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The last bloom on the clump of Iris Barbara brought me last May.  We have enjoyed them enormously this spring!

The last bloom on the clump of Iris Barbara brought me last May. We have enjoyed them enormously this spring!

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Barbara, at  Silver in the Barn, invited me to join the Five Photos Five Stories challenge, and this is my second post in the series.

This is a simple challenge:  To participate, you simply post a photo each day for five consecutive days, and tell a story about each photo.  The story can be truth or fiction, poetry or prose.  Each day one must also nominate a fellow blogger to participate in the challenge.

And today, I am inviting another Virginia blogger, Dor, of Virginia Views, to join the challenge.  Dor tells wonderful stories about her life in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia on her blog, and I know she will have a few hilarious tales to tell for this challenge.  I enjoy her point of view, and hope she will play along with  Barbara and me. 

In fact I hope you will visit both Dor and Barbara, both of whom are very entertaining and generous story tellers.

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These Foxgloves looked so frost-bitten in March I thought they might be dead.  Just look at them now!  And yes, the Canna Lilies survived, the winter, too!

These Foxgloves looked so frost-bitten in March I thought they might be dead. Just look at them now! And yes, the Canna Lilies survived, the winter, too!

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The moral of the this story today is that we will gain a lot through patience and perseverance…. both with plants and with people.

When we keep the faith that spring will come to each of us in our own time, life rewards us with abundance.

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May 20, 2015 garden 008

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Woodland Gnome 2015

*   *   *

Five Photos, Five Stories: Hot

Five Photos, Five Stories: Perspective

Five Photos, Five Stories: Turtle Mama

Five Photos, Five Stories: Chocolate Cake

 

Five Photos, Five Stories: Hot

May 19, 2015 hot 001

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It was early this morning, coffee not yet made, and I was just beginning to stir together some pancake batter,  when I heard my partner’s muffled voice calling to me.  He wanted me to come outside with him to see something exciting.

He had found a good sized turtle on our driveway, and wanted to share it with me.

I peered out of the open back door to see what was going on.  And there, near the top of the drive, was a beautiful turtle just sunning himself in the steamy morning heat.  There had been heavy rain this morning just before sunrise, but the clouds had long ago cleared out, turning our garden into a sauna.

Not yet dressed for encountering neighbors, I made the compromise between photography and modesty by snapping a photo from the porch.

But then I wanted to see more of this beautiful turtle.  So I ventured a little further up the drive, camera aimed and ready.

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May 19, 2015 hot 002

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Turtle had the instinct so many of us feel when we know we’re being watched. He decided it was time to move on.  He took off at a turtle’s run for the shadowy roots of the Beech tree, disappearing before I could steal a third shot of him this morning.

I suppose we were both feeling a little modest, and I didn’t pursue him.  I left him to his peaceful morning, and quickly headed back inside to mine.

But my partner was happy now that I had seen our morning visitor, and I was happy to have gotten  a photo of him.

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Are those leaves already turning in May?  Shot this afternoon along the bank of the James, where turtles love to sun themselves on the rocks.

Are those leaves already turning in May? Shot this afternoon along the bank of the James, where turtles love to sun themselves on the rocks.

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Yesterday Barbara, at Silver in the Barn, invited me to take part in the Five Photos, Five Stories challenge ,which is quickly spreading  across the blogosphere.  I relish the relationships formed and connections found as we each write about our experiences and share our world through photos.

And so I made the commitment to accept Barbara’s challenge, and now pass that challenge on to Jenny at Jennifer Nichole Wells.

Jenny hosts the One Word Photo Challenge each week and takes amazing shots of miniatures which she creates and stages herself.  Jenny always has interesting little stories about her miniature scenes. She is a natural to invite to this challenge.  I hope she accepts.

This is a simple challenge:  To participate, you simply post a photo each day for five consecutive days, and tell a story about each photo.  The story can be truth or fiction, poetry or prose.  Each day one must also nominate a fellow blogger to participate in the challenge.

So I’ve combined my first day of the Five Photos, Five Stories challenge with Jenny’s One Word Photo Challenge: Hot today.

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May 19, 2015 hot 018

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“Hot” was a prescient pick for today.  It has been hot and muggy all day long.

We’ve had summer temperatures this third week of May, when our highs are normally still in the 70’s.  We topped out near 88 this afternoon. The only comfortable place was in the shade.

Huge, fluffy clouds were gathering  by mid-day, and there is  a possibility of thunderstorms again this evening.

We took a drive on the Colonial Parkway late this afternoon to watch the clouds build over the river.  Once on Jamestown Island, in the deep shade, our car thermometer dropped to around 86.  Even though it felt hot and muggy, with mayflies buzzing around and landing on me whenever we stopped to take a photo, the cool greens and blues of the landscape look cool.  A slight breeze fluttered off of the river, barely lifting my hair.

Summer has settled early over us here in Virginia, and it is hotThat is the long and the short of our story for today.

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It was hot and muggy on Jamestown Island this afternoon, the steamy air full of hungry Mayflies.  Can you spot the yellow Iris growing in this marsh?

It was hot and muggy on Jamestown Island this afternoon, the steamy air full of hungry Mayflies. Can you spot the yellow Iris growing in this marsh?

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With appreciation to Jennifer Nichole Wells for hosting the

One Word Photo Challenge:  Hot

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Woodland Gnome 2015

 

May 19, 2015 hot 022

*   *   *

Five Photos, Five Stories: Dormant Isn’t Dead

Five Photos, Five Stories: Perspective

Five Photos, Five Stories: Turtle Mama

Five Photos, Five Stories: Chocolate Cake

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