Saturday, 8 March 2014

Secrets under the Leaves

A bright sunny day today and when we went out to fetch in some logs, we suddenly saw these crocus in bloom under the trees.  They had pushed up through the blanket of leaves and in some cases the individual crocus flowers had a necklace of dead leaf around the flowers .

This afternoon we went for a walk around the local roads and, on the way back, realised that there were some newly appeared flowers in the front garden too..

These winter aconites had sprung up over the last week despite the snow and it feels as if Spring may be just around the corner, at last..

Friday, 7 March 2014

Nickels and Dimes

In preparation for my first real shift this afternoon at the Bargain Loft I have been learning my US coins!  (You might ask how I have managed so far without knowing them and the answer is that I make sure I always pay in notes!).

The coins above, from left to right are twenty-five cents (a quarter), ten cents (a dime), five cents (a nickel) and one cent (a penny).  The main source of my confusion is that the ten cents is smaller than the five cents...

It is a mystery to me that you do not see 50 cent or dollar coins -some have been minted but tend to be collected rather than used. Hence you end up with handfuls of small coins and one dollar bills..

At one point a silver dollar was minted but very quickly it became worth more for its weight in silver than its face value, making it of limited use as coinage.

We had a good afternoon at the Bargain Loft, not least because in addition to the items sold in the shop, a Mappin and Webb silver and glass honey pot in the shape of a bee - which was recently donated - sold for $650 on eBay today.

(The above photo, borrowed from the Internet of a similar one makes the item look huge, I believe it was about 4 or 5 inches long).

On a more modest scale, I have been making some earrings with odds and ends of beads and findings, for sale at the Bargain Loft.

They have been selling quite well - mostly to the other volunteers as far as I can see!

Thursday, 6 March 2014


Working at the kitchen sink this morning I caught sight, through the window, of a slight movement in the dead leaves under the fence.  Looking through the camera lens at full zoom I could see a bird, about the size of a small hen, tucked up and very still, very well camouflaged against the leaves and twigs around.  I looked through the book to try to identify him but as both his beak and legs were out of sight, it was not easy.

It was quite a surprise when he sat up a little and his beak was visible.  Further checking with the book revealed that he is an American Woodcock. 

Apparently these birds are well known in Spring for their mating dance and accompanying noise .  The most I saw of this one was a jaunty tilt of the tail feathers.

He then set about making good use of his long bill, plunging into the sodden earth to feed.

I watched him for so long that I was almost late for my second Pilates session.  My new instructor is very thorough and no muscle is left un-worked by the end of the session.

This evening we have been out to dinner in Reston with two of David's work contacts.  We went to an Italian restaurant, Il Fornaio and had a very good meal.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Early Start at the 'Blood Drive'

We had quite an early start this morning as I dropped David off to work and then went on to volunteer at my first blood drive for the American Red Cross, from 7.30, where I was working as both 'greeter' and refreshment volunteer.  It all seemed to go well.

The drive was held in the busy YMCA building in Reston town centre and arriving in the car park, the frozen lake in the grounds looked quite spectacular in the early sun.

When I got back to the house this afternoon the sound of water dripping as the snow melted was quite loud and punctuated by the occasional crash as a large icicle fell from the guttering and smashed on the ground.

The temperature overnight is still low at -8C but a further sunny day tomorrow should mean that much of the snow and ice is melted soon.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014


After a very cold start to the day, the sun soon started to melt some of the snow on the roof and icicles started to form and grow throughout the day.  The longest of these reached two foot by this evening (fortunately they are not in a position where they could fall on anyone).

Most of the snow is still with us and will be for a while but by this evening, the roads were much clearer and dry in places.

The bird feeders were monopolised for much of the day by a noisy group of starlings but at one point they were joined by two other birds that we have not seen before.

This is a Red-Winged Blackbird and when he flew he had a bright patch of red and yellow on each wing.

The other newcomer, which I didn't manage to photograph today, is a cuckoo-type bird called a Brown-Headed Cowbird.  He was rather like a smaller version of a Grackle.  According to the bird book, these Cowbirds lay 25- 50 eggs per season in the nests of other, smaller birds and hence are considered to be pests, especially as they occur in large numbers.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Winter Storm 'Titan'

Another day, another snowstorm.  As promised on the weather forecast it snowed steadily from 3am, finally petering out at about 2pm - by which time we had about 8 inches of fine, powdery snow.

As David was at home today, we set about digging ourselves out once it had stopped.

Our neighbour's dog came to visit.  Surprisingly he seemed to quite like lying in the snow..

Once our drive was finished the snow plough came along the road, doing a good job but also redistributing ploughed snow onto the cleared area in front of each drive..

In the back garden the birds were feeding constantly throughout the day and were very 'fluffed up' against the cold.

At the end of the afternoon the setting sun provided some welcome colour in the snowy landscape..

Tonight the temperature is due to fall to -18C, rising to -1C during the day tomorrow.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

'Big Flea'

This morning we set off to Chantilly, about six miles from here, to the Dulles Expo Center.  This weekend was the 'Dulles Big Flea' - an antique and collectors market held in a large warehouse-style building in a shopping centre there.

There were some 200 or so dealers selling a wide range of American and some European items for prices from a few dollars to a few thousand dollars.  Everything from antique porcelain, silver and glass to 1950's aprons, placemats and Pyrex sets and from neon signs to Art Deco furniture, plastic beads to hefty gold and diamond pieces from Tiffany and Gucci was on sale.  We were surprised at how many dealers appeared to be from the UK and found that prices on the whole seemed quite high compared to similar items on sale eg in the big sheds at antique and collectors fairs in Shepton Mallett.  It was an experience and one that I enjoyed, even though I came away empty handed this time!

We came home under grey skies and in the rain - the beginnings, apparently, of Winter Storm Titan which is now predicted to develop overnight to give us one tenth of an inch of ice followed by 5-10 inches of snow.  Tomorrow's overnight temperature is expected to be a rather chilly -17C.  David 's office is closed until at least midday tomorrow as a result of the forecast.

It is often the case that there is increased bird activity before a storm and this morning a group of chattering starlings were making short work of the suet blocks.  That is until we heard a loud bird call and they scattered, heralding the arrival of a Pileated Woodpecker who attached himself precariously but with determination to the suet feeder..

As can be seen in this photo he has an impressively powerful beak..

We are grateful that he is only visiting the bird feeders and not tapping away under the eaves of the house where woodpeckers of his size can and do cause a great deal of damage to buildings here.