Winter Walk

My family and I took a sunny walk on a crisp, cold day at the University of Kentucky Arboretum. A bright blue cloudless sky, good company and picturesque scenery made up for the chill. It was a sight filled with horizontal lines, stately trees, enticing paths, and vertical shadows. Enjoy.

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© Huffygirl 2011


Weekly Photo Challenge: Hidden

When we traveled to Ireland a few years ago, my favorite stops were gardens and ruins. I was always looking for the secret part – the out of the way doorway, the back parts of the ruined castles, the secret garden that somehow all the other tourists missed. I guess I’m always hoping to discover something that no one else has seen – the mystery seeker in me. Unfortunately, when I do discover that secret door or gate, it’s almost always locked. Here’s a few of my favorite hidden spots from my Ireland photo diary.

The very back corner of Bunratty Garden (© Huffygirl 2011)

Notice the padlock on the door – foiled! 

Dungeon steps at The Black Abbey? ( © Huffygirl 2011)

See the authentic ancient plastic bottle on the steps? Must have been left from one of the sieges.  I wanted to make this shot look like steps leading down to a dungeon. Unfortunately, there was no dungeon at the Black Abbey. This was a set of steps leading up from the cloisters to one of the side buildings.  Not wanting to be undone, I stood at the top of the steps and shot the picture looking down into the dark cloister, giving the effect of steps going down to a dungeon.

Hidden gate at the Dower House Garden of Kilkenny Castle (© Huffygirl 2011)

This gate was pretty well-hidden, in the far back corner of  the Dower House garden at Kilkenny Castle.  I framed the photo with the foliage, trying to make it look like a gate to a secret garden, rather than the garden maintenance shed that it really was.

© Huffygirl 2011

It’s the Victorians! More backroads views of Mackinac Island

Victorian architecture is the prevailing style of Mackinac Island. Original buildings were built during the Victorian age, and new buildings have followed suit. The result is a place that truly appears to be frozen in time, with lovely picturesque homes, hotels and bed and breakfasts, featuring turrets, towers, porches and widow’s walks.

The Island House, charming Victorian hotel

Although the Grand Hotel is the one everyone hears about, the Island House, built in 1852, was the first hotel on the island. This is where we  stayed on our first anniversary and every time we’ve returned to the island since. The decor features painted Victorian style furniture, over-stuffed  sofas in floral prints, and is comfortable and welcoming. There’s plenty of space to relax on the lawn and front porches, and at night there’s always a fire going for making s’mores. We always try to stay in one of the quaint  fourth-floor rooms, tucked under the eaves, with angled ceilings and dormer windows. Definitely not a place for tall visitors, as anyone taller than me must take care to not bump their  head on the sloped ceilings. An added bonus is the extra exercise we get, as the elevator only goes up to the third floor. The building is actually a collection of three buildings put together, so the inside is a delightful tangle of extra sets of stairs connecting all the floors which don’t quite match up.

A grand looking home on the West Bluff. Pontiac's Trail starts here.

This is one of the original Victorian mansions that can be seen high on the west bluff, as one approaches the island by boat. To get to the west bluff  you’ll have to make the trek up the pretty decent, but doable hill of Cadotte Avenue, turn left behind the Grand Hotel, and take a few back streets to West Bluff Drive. You’ll get a great close up view of the beautiful west bluff homes and gardens. Most people don’t know about Pontiac’s Trail, a short, narrow walking path perched along the west bluff edge, that takes you right up to the front of some of the less visible west bluff homes. Once you’re done admiring the west bluff homes, make sure your brakes are in good working order, and take a wild, downhill ride down West  Bluff Drive, into forbidden bike territory in front of the Grand Hotel, then coast all the way to the bottom into town. Best not to stop on the way down so you won’t get caught by the Grand Hotel guards!

East Bluff home and gardens.

 A harder uphill trip at the straight up road by Fort Mackinac (don’t worry – even the Huffys had to walk up the last little bit), then behind the fort to East Bluff Drive, takes you to another picturesque area of original homes and gardens. Many visitors never see these homes up close, deterred by the steep road leading up, and even steeper one leading down. An alternate route is to ascend Cadotte Avenue by the Grand Hotel, then wind your way around the upper interior roads to the East Bluff, but many visitors don’t bike far enough into the interior to figure this out.  Or, if you don’t mind walking, there’s a steep set of stairs tucked behind the bushes at the bottom of Truscott Street. When you’re done admiring the east bluff homes, make a sharp turn onto  Truscott Street, just past the sign that says something like “Absolutely no biking; walk bikes down” and take a cautious ride down with both hands firmly on your brakes. My life flashed before my eyes on the  steepest part, but hey, it was worth it.

Rooftops of the town below, seen from east bluff.

Back of the Grand Hotel, seen from west bluff. Note the roof top balconies for some lucky guests!

Round Island lighthouse and harbor, seen from east bluff.

Next: Mackinac Island history.

 © Huffygirl 2011

Happy 4th of July

Here’s a July 4th salute to the red, white and blue from my garden!

Photo notes:

1. Perennial lilies.

2. White astilbes.

3. Blue Clematis, Durandii.

4. Pansies, lobelia, dahlias in window box with bunting.

5. Black petunia, yellow zinnia, white petunias, planter.

6. Early pansies and flags.

© Huffygirl 2011

Hummingbirds: Birds who don’t know the words

A female ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochu...

Image via Wikipedia

I was going through my bird feeder stuff this week. I cleaned out the summer detritus: all the random seed leftover on the ground, the seeds that have sprouted into weeds, cleaned up the pole (why, birds will be pooping on it again tomorrow?) and generally getting things ready for winter birds. While pulling out the suet and bark butter for the winter birds, I came across, once again, the hummingbird feeder and food. Straight out of the “hope springs eternal” department, I have owned at least four hummingbird feeders. The first one was a spaceship type – flat with a rimmed perch. the idea was that the birds would perch on the edge and bend over the feeder to sip the sweet nectar. It was hard to clean so I gave away that one and got The Mini Feeder. Perfect for one bird – it had a tube for the liquid with one port for feeding. I used that one until the cap on the port broke. I replaced it with one just like it, but something was defective in that one and it leaked. My newest hummingbird feeder is a pretty standard one – a tube for the liquid that screws into a round perch with four feeder ports. It is perfect – it doesn’t leak, is easy to open and clean. So what’s the problem? No hummingbirds. EVER. Yes, that’s the hope springs eternal part. In the several years that I have been putting out various incarnations of hummingbird feeders, I have never seen a hummingbird. Well, of course, except for the first one. The first year near the end of the summer I saw one hummingbird approach the feeder. It looked like a giant bug. No one believed me but I managed to click a picture. Since then, I’ve been dutifully filling, hanging and cleaning out hummingbird feeders almost every year, waiting for the rest of the flock to appear. Well, there’s been some years where I actually gave up, but I always came back. Just like a child who chants “I do believe in fairies, I do believe in fairies…” I do believe in hummingbirds. And I believe that they are out there – we just can’t see them. Not that they’re invisible, they are just likely to be at the day lilies, petunias, Echinacea, coral bells, red lilies and every other flower I’ve planted that is guaranteed to attract hummingbirds. I even saw one once at the coral bells. Of course no one else was around and no one believed me…

So every spring, I dutifully get the hummingbird feeder out, mix the nectar and put it out. And nobody comes. At first I keep refilling it with fresh nectar, but eventually give up and let it hang there with the same old nectar for weeks. Finally, I clean it out, defeated for that year and put it away, until the next time. 

Sometimes helpful people feel sorry for me and give me tips on feeding hummingbirds. One person told me the h-birds don’t like other birds, so I should separate it from my seed feeders. Didn’t make a bit of difference. Someone else said that if only I would plant Monarda at the base of the hummingbird feeder, they would come. Zilch. Plus I had a useless pot of Monarda at the end of the summer. Same deal with red petunias one year. And making my own homemade nectar, instead of using the packaged stuff.

So what’s so bad about hope springing eternal? It’s what makes Charlie Brown kick the football every fall, try to fly his kite every spring, and makes me put out feeders every year for birds who don’t know the words.

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