Wildlife Wednesday: Great Blue Heron

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“Here is your country.
Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources,
cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage,
for your children and your children’s children.
Do not let selfish men or greedy interests
skin your country of its beauty,
its riches or its romance.”
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Theodore Roosevelt
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“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.”
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Gary Snyder
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“The wild is where you find it,
not in some distant world relegated to a nostalgic past
or an idealized future;
its presence is not black or white, bad or good,
corrupted or innocent…
We are of that nature, not apart from it.
We survive because of it, not instead of it.”
.
Renee Askins

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019

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“The boundary between tame and wild
exists only in the imperfections
of the human mind.”
.
Aldo Leopold


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Three Herons

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We drove to Jamestown this weekend, and were quite delighted to spot more herons than usual along the way.  Their plumage blends quite subtly, this time of year, with the marshes they frequent; and so it takes a sharp eye, sometimes, to even notice them.

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Oftentimes we simply point them out to one another.  We don’t break the flow of our journey for a photo-stop.

And we are always pleased to see these most Zen-like birds.  Their calm and detachment belie a deep self-confidence, perhaps, that they will remain master of their circumstance.

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Where we find herons, we assume the water is fairly pure.  That is often said of rivers where Eagles nest.  They only live where the environment can support them in good health.

Eagles, herons, geese and ducks all make the James River and its James City County creeks their home.

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Sandy Bay, where all of this series of photos was taken. The distant bank, along the causeway to Jamestown Island, is where I stood to take the first several photos. An Osprey Eagle nest fils

Sandy Bay, where all of this series of photos was taken. The distant bank, along the causeway to Jamestown Island, is where I stood to take the first several photos. An Osprey Eagle nest fills the top of the Cypress tree on the far left.

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The herons remain alert.  They live in the moment, sensing all unfolding around them.  They always respond as I move closer to them with my clicking, flashing camera and not so light step.  And although they may wade further from shore, they rarely take flight at my approach.

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We admire these regal birds, and watch for them along the creeks and marshes near our home.

Finding them in abundance, as we did on Sunday afternoon, lends a certain luster to a late winter afternoon.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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Perseverance

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When we are aware that each moment of each day,

each gesture and step we take,

is truly mystical and full of wonder,

we will live our lives with greater thought and care.

We will also have greater respect and appreciation

for the lives of others.

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Daisaku Ikeda

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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We must put down firm roots; we must be strong.
Inner strength is a prerequisite for happiness,
a prerequisite for upholding justice and one’s beliefs.
One of the Buddha’s titles is “He Who Can Forbear.”
To courageously endure, persevere and overcome all difficulties-
-the Buddha is the ultimate embodiment of the virtue of forbearance.
The power of faith gives us the strength to weather and survive any storm.
Perseverance is the essence of a Buddha.

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Daisaku Ikeda
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Our A Forest Garden 2017 gardening calendar is filled with photos taken in our garden over the past year. 

To order a copy, write to me at woodlandgnome@zoho.com

 

Altered Perspective…. ?

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The world looks a bit odd in December, don’t you think?  The newly bare landscape can sometimes surprise and delight us.

Here are just a few clics I captured earlier this week.

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Can you figure out what you’re seeing?

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“Heresy is the eternal dawn, the morning star,

the glittering herald of the day.

Heresy is the last and best thought.

It is the perpetual New World, the unknown sea,

toward which the brave all sail.

It is the eternal horizon of progress.

Heresy extends the hospitalities of the brain to a new thought.

Heresy is a cradle; orthodoxy, a coffin.”

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Robert G. Ingersoll

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“Watching the infinite horizons gives you infinite dreams,

infinite ideas, infinite paths!

Choose a great target

and then you will see that great instruments will appear

for you to reach that target!”


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Mehmet Murat ildan

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“In the most surreal, the most joyful,

the most beautiful, the most intense,

the most alive moments of life,

you are absorbed into the horizon

which is at its most invisible,

elusive, perfect blend of sky and sea.”

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Connie Kerbs

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  New Horizon

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

Wednesday Vignettes: The Path

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“All we have to decide is what to do

with the time that is given us.”


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Gandalf

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“Courage will now be your best defense

against the storm that is at hand-

—that and such hope as I bring.”


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Gandalf

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“For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

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Gandalf

 

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Halfway Creek

Halfway Creek

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“This is your realm,

and the heart of the greater realm that shall be.

The Third Age of the world is ended,

and the new age is begun; and it is your task

to order its beginning and to preserve

what must be preserved.

For though much has been saved,

much must now pass away;…”

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Gandalf

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Jamestown

Jamestown

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“However it may prove,

one must tread the path that need chooses!”

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Gandalf

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

 

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“He that breaks a thing to find out what it is

has left the path of wisdom.”

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all quotations from  J.R.R. Tolkien

 

 

 

Water-Colored

The James River

The James River

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Wetness upon wetness, and still it rains.  Beautiful clouds swirl through the skies, allowing glimpses of piercing September blue high above them.  Great mounds of heavy rain-filled cloud soon follow, and the staccato tapping of rain on the roof and porch heralds yet another tropical shower.

Water oozes with each step in the garden now.  Clear water trickles through the ditch under our drive.  Roadsides and parking lots mirror the sky.

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Our long drought has broken.  On this first day of autumn, the equinox, we celebrate each cool breeze over the wet garden.  The land is replenished, refreshed, revived, and reinvigorated.

We see new growth, the resurrection of what had grown dry and desiccated.  We move into the new season with fresh confidence, looking forward to those seasonal changes still to come.

We are fortunate, here in Williamsburg, that the land is riddled with creeks and ravines.  There is always somewhere else for the water to flow.  The land drains, and so flooding remains rare.

Neighbors to the south and east have not fared as well.  Flooding has stopped daily routines in many areas nearby.  This week became an unplanned holiday for many as streets became canals;  parking lots ponds.

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We saw a family of happy turkeys this afternoon, finding their dinners along the roadside.  My partner counted eight.  Dusk was gathering, but their movements let us see them through the gloom.

We found herons and eagles along the banks of the creeks, deer in the open fields, and fish jumping clear of the river.   What rich diversity of life shares this place!

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The reeds and grasses in the creeks have turned golden now, and have been beaten down in places from the rain and high tides.  Shorter days and cooler nights will soon reduce them to buff colored chaff , and then the mud will shine through, and before long push-ups will dot the marshes again; homes to small creatures through the winter.

The seasons come and go like the tides; more slowly, but just as constant.  This week we feel the season turning from dry heat to wet coolness; from expansion towards rest.

Eagle nests stand empty in the trees, the youngsters now out exploring the creeks.

Soon we’ll hear the cries of geese flying over the garden each morning.  Whether they stay or go elsewhere, they still gather into great Vs and fly, singing their ageless melodies at dawn and dusk.  They often stop at the pond below our garden, finding food in the shallows and safety on its calm waters.

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And the garden calls me back outside, now that the ground has grown soft and workable again.  I’ve a few shrubs waiting to stretch their pot-bound roots into the native soil.  There are potted ferns, and soon there will be bulbs to plant.  There are beds to weed, some Irises to divide, and perennials which need a bit of grooming.  All these tasks were made to wait until the drought was ended.

But as the garden sits refreshed, so also do I.  The cool breezes breathe fresh energy into us, too.  And Indian Summer is upon us, one of the most beautiful seasons of our year.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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WPC: Edge

Sandy Bay, which frames one end of Jamestown Island, provides a home for many species of birds in its shallow waters. Bald cypress trees grow along its banks.

Sandy Bay, which frames one end of Jamestown Island, provides a home for many species of birds in its shallow waters. Bald cypress trees grow along its banks.

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Edges and borders;

Boundaries or invitations

To enter elsewhere?

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Alight from the known,

Venture into

What is not.

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Borders frame,

But cannot contain

Curious awareness.

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Where is happiness?

What waits

Beyond the edges?

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Edge

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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Slipping Into September

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For an area surrounded by rivers, marshes and creeks, you wouldn’t expect us to need rain so badly.  But we’ve not had even a sprinkle since August 9th, and less than 2″ of rain for the entire month of August.  Forgive me if I’m a little giddy that rain finally fills our weekend forecast, beginning sometime this evening!

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Never mind that it is a huge tropical system, which will soon cross Northern Florida before slipping up the East Coast, bringing with it all that a tropical system brings.  We watch the Weather Channel, wistfully waiting for those blobs of green on their radar to make their way to our garden.

Hermine is coming, and will bring us the gift of rain….

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The bald Cypress trees are already turning brown and will drop their needles soon. It has been unusually hot this summer, with very little relief from cloudy days or rain.

The bald Cypress trees are already turning brown and will drop their needles soon. It has been unusually hot this summer, with very little relief from cloudy days or afternoon rain.  This is the Chickahominy River at the Southwestern edge of James City County

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Waves of deja vu remind me of all the other Septembers which hold memories of approaching tropical systems.  Just as we’re all celebrating the last long weekend of summer and preparing for school to start the day after Labor Day; we’re also watching the storm clouds gather and making our storm preps.

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Early September finds us feeling a little anxious and expectant, a little off-balance maybe; as we know that our immediate future remains a bit uncertain.

Only survivors of storms past fully understand this feeling of mixed expectation and dread.  We’ve entered the heart of our Atlantic Hurricane season, school is about to start, and its election year to boot.... There’s enough heartburn for everyone!

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There were hurricanes and threats of hurricanes many years during the first month of school,  when I was still teaching  school in Tidewater.

Isabel hit on September 18, 2003, when we had been in school for less than 2 weeks.  I was still learning my new students’ names when we had an unplanned ‘vacation’ of more than a week while power was restored, flooding subsided, roads were cleared and repaired, and we slowly returned to our normal routines.

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It was a tough time on us all, but we managed.  And we grew a little savvier about what to expect from these tropical autumn storms.  Once you’ve experienced the storm and its aftermath once, you take care to stock water and batteries, to keep a little extra food on hand, and to watch the ever-changing forecast.  It’s smart to keep a charge on the cell phone and gas in the car, too!

I still flash back to Isabel whenever I eat a bagel.  I bought 2 dozen bagels early in the day when the storm hit, and we ate bagels and fresh oranges over the next several days while the power was out.

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But September, like April, brings dramatic and positive change to our garden.  Summer’s heat melts away into cool mornings and comfortable days, when one is happy to stay outside working well into the afternoon.

The sky turns a particular intense shade of blue.  Summer’s haze and humidity blow out to sea in the brisk September winds which bring us the first real hint of autumn.

There is rain.  The trees recover a bit of vitality.  Fall perennials and wildflowers blossom.  Huge pots of Chrysanthemums appear on neighbors’ porches.

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Sweet Autumn Clematis has begun to bloom this week, here near the parking area by the river.

Sweet Autumn Clematis has begun to bloom this week, here near the parking area by the river.

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And the best of summer lingers.  The ginger lilies bloom, filling the garden with their perfume.  More and more butterflies arrive.   We settle into a gentler, milder ‘Indian Summer’ which will linger, and ever so slowly transition into our bright, crisp autumn.

September reinvigorates us, too.  We bring fresh energy to the garden as we plant new shrubs, divide perennials, buy Daffodil bulbs and begin to plan ahead for winter.

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Spider lilies, also called "Hurricane lily" by some, reward my faithful watering with their buds this week.

Spider lilies, also called “Hurricane lily” by some, reward my faithful watering with their buds this week.  These Lycoris radiata come back each year from bulbs in late August and early September.

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Yes, it is September first; and we’re watching a potential hurricane, knowing it might start slipping up the coast, headed towards us and our loved ones within the next couple of days.  We trust that everyone will come through OK, once again.

And we’re also looking past the coming storms towards the rest of September stretching before us, full of beauty and promise.  We’re content to leave summer’s heat behind, and  slip into September once again.

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Photos 4, 5 and 6 for Cee’s Oddball Challenge

Woodland Gnome 2016

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WPC: Wall of Bald Cypress Roots

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Walls are supports as well as barriers.  They add a decorative touch in gardens; a sense of enclosure and privacy.  Walls offer structure to our landscapes as well as to our homes. Walls give us protection from the elements and a sense of  security.

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This week the Daily Post’s  Weekly Photo Challenge asks photographers to share photos of walls which reveal a sense of place; telling us something important about that place.

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The Chickahominy River flows into the James, then on to the Chesapeake Bay.

Knobby roots of the Cypress trees form a wall along the beach, protecting the river’s bank.

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Roots of the Bald Cypress trees growing on the bank of the Chickahominy river form a wall, a barrier, along the beach.  Bald Cypress, Taxodium distichum, one of the hardest of hardwoods, is recognized by its rock-hard knobby roots which grow out in all directions from the tree’s trunk.

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Cypress can be found growing along rivers and in swamps throughout our region.  A deciduous conifer, the Bald Cypress is an ancient tree.  Fossils prove they were growing in this region more than 8 million years ago, and a single tree may live for well over 1000 years.

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The Cypress roots which line this beach also protect it.  They hold the soil and sand in place to control erosion during flooding and storms.

They form a protective barrier for the beach, a living, breathing wall of roots.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

Winter’s Last Stand?

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Is it too early to hope we’ve seen the last of frozen marshes and piles of freshly shoveled snow?  The optimist in my heart wants this breath of spring to last; the daffodils to open, fruit trees to bloom, and weather to settle into comfortably warm days and nights.  Long experience living in this region tells me it is too early to relax winter’s vigilance.  We’ve had snow here into April, and Easter often dawns wet and cold.

But Saturday eventually warmed up a little by late afternoon.  It was a sunny day, if windy; and I was convinced, after several promptings, to join my partner in a drive to see what we could see.

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We headed towards Jamestown on the Parkway.  There seemed nothing new to see.  No nesting eagles; no budding trees.  Only puddles, snow piles, bare trees, and icy marshes presented themselves to my winter jaded eyes.  I was having difficulty finding the beauty of the day.

But we persevered, and had gotten onto Jamestown Island when a pair of geese, standing near the shore, inspired me to leave the warmth of our car.

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As I scampered down the bank, avoiding mud and ice as much as I was able, they began paddling out into the creek.  There were no clear shots through the underbrush and trees.  And there was no dry path to the water’s edge.

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But as I was almost giving up, I spotted a Great Blue Heron wading in the shallows on the other side.

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After one photo he saw me, too; and I got off on more shot as he took wing.

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At least we had found where the birds were sheltering.  And we found bright swollen buds on a few trees here and there, even as their roots disappeared under a stubborn layer of briny ice.

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It hasn’t dropped below freezing here for nearly three days now.  Songbirds fill our garden, and we hear the hoots of owls and honks of geese and urgent calls of hawks circling overhead.

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More daffodils break through the soil each day to start their climb towards the sun.

Have you noticed that seasons never change with any real clarity?  Even though we turn the page on our calendar, and the Weather Channel actors declare “Meteorological Spring,” (a term I never heard until a few weeks ago); the actual melting of one season into the other remain a bit fuzzy.

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There is always the in-between time of see-sawing back and forth from warm to cold to hot to chill before we settle back into the new routines.

Yet every small step towards spring brings joy. 

The pond behind our house has nearly thawed.  The piles of snow beside our drive are nearly melted.  We saw a robin pluck a living, wiggling worm out of the front lawn this morning.  Sunshine pours in through the windows, and I found freshly grown sprouts and leaves on the catmint when I cut it back this morning.

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We hope this melt is the last of the season, and that we can get on with the business of welcoming spring.

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“Real” astronomical spring won’t arrive until March 20, late next week.  Friends in Oregon post that they are a full month ahead and enjoying unusually warm, strangely dry weather for March.

We are watching the sky, the birds, the trees and The Weather Channel, hoping we have already survived winter’s last blast for this year.  I’m still a little skeptical….

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Woodland Gnome 2015

 

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