Saturday, 21 June 2014

'Local' Produce

We went to the Harris Teeter supermarket in Reston today and in the foyer they had a 'Farmers Market' display of local and regional fruit and vegetables. Each item was marked with its place of origin and the number of miles from the store.

There were local zucchini and squash - from some 100 miles away - not quite as local as one might imagine.

This part of Virginia is not agricultural and so the produce on sale in this Farmers Market had travelled south from Maryland and Delaware or North from the southern part of Virginia or from North Carolina.

The blueberries, from almost 300 miles away, were labelled as 'regional produce'.

I think that the grape tomatoes should probably have had a regional rather than local label too - almost 300 miles.

Not quite the same as buying cauliflower or potatoes in Cornwall just down the road from the field, but a step in the right direction.

(When I got home I realised that the apples I had purchased inside the store were Braeburns from New Zealand so I probably shouldn't be critical!).

Friday, 20 June 2014

Dollar Tree

This week I visited my first branch of Dollar Tree - the US equivalent of a pound shop with an eclectic mix of items including food, toiletries, books, cards, household items and party gear.  

I was interested to see the range of items for Garage and Yard Sales - there are quite a few of these each weekend.

I collected a few items and this was my final selection - for just over $17 including tax - which seemed to be good value - around £10 at current exchange rates.

The Almanac is rather quaint with a daily weather forecast for the whole year, State nicknames and facts (Virginia is known as the Old Dominion state).  There is also a table which provides details of the best date to plant a variety of vegetables, by region, according to the phases of the moon...

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Not a Slow Worm!

I encountered this little chap in the garden today - specifically I lifted a stone and he was there.

Having convinced myself that he was a slow worm I thought I would just go online to check.. which was interesting in two ways.  Firstly, slow worms are a Eurasian species and so he wasn't a slow worm.  Secondly there was a surprisingly large number of different options when I searched for 'Snakes in Virginia' (it is a pretty big area with very diverse climate and habitats if you also count West Virginia).  My best guess is that he is an Earth Snake..

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

'Settler's Seafood Muddle'

David is back in Williamsburg on business and was dining tonight at a traditional restaurant in Colonial Williamsburg called 'Christiana Campbell's Tavern' - Mrs Campbell being the original proprietor in the late 18th century.

The menu, based on the original one from colonial times, is mostly seafood and David's choice this evening was the Settlers Seafood Muddle - evidently a muddle is a rich tomato based sauce.

David did say that with only candlelight it was getting a little dark by the end of the meal.  I forgot to ask whether there was air conditioning - if not it will have been a very warm evening indeed as the temperature in Williamsburg today was higher than here - around 37C.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Beating the Heat

I was at the Bargain Loft today sorting out and researching a quantity of framed and unframed pictures.  

It was a very warm day - evidently unusually hot for June at 34C.  At 2.30 we were all invited to an 'ice-cream social' organised by the owner of the little industrial estate where the Bargain Loft is situated.

This consisted of a Ben and Jerry's ice cream van dispensing free ice-cream to everyone working on the estate.  The only problem was that it was rather too warm to stand out and socialise..

Monday, 16 June 2014

At the Garage

Today I took the car out to the Ford garage at Sterling for its first service and for the Vehicle Inspection which is required to be carried out each year in the state of Virginia.

This rather older Ford car - registered in Maryland in 1924 - was parked in the service area but whether waiting for attention or just for decoration, I am not sure!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

I did not realise that ...

Over the last couple of weeks we have seen many woodpeckers of different kinds on the feeders - there are two downy woodpeckers sitting there as I write and they are completely still so I think there must be something large around.   We had not seen so many since the snow - they are feeding very enthusiastically and fighting over food - we wondered whether they are perhaps taking suet back to nestlings in the trees.

The Northern Flicker (above, in a photo borrowed from the web) a close relation of the woodpecker family is also feeding frequently and with real vigour.  Watching one on the feeder the other day I realised that he was deploying a long slender tongue which was protruded several inches further than his beak.  I had never noticed this before.

I did not manage to get a photo but the one above shows it quite clearly.  It has a kind of pointed spike on the end which is apparently used to get insects and grubs out of holes.  To complete the horrid mental image you now have, it retracts into a spiral inside the bird's skull when not in use!!

Initially I thought that I had never seen a bird's tongue before but on reflection birds such as parrots and our local cardinals definitely use their tongues to help with cracking and holding the sunflower seed to get the husks off and chickens have tongues too I am sure..

(Yes you are right, slow news day...)