Saturday, October 1, 2011

Newsletter - 10/1/11

Hello Dear Friends,

©2011 Donna L. Watkins - Montpelier Estate, Orange, VA
We visited the Montpelier Estate on Constitution Day with friends. This is the home of President James and Dolley Madison with grand views of the Blue Ridge Mountain. Madison was actually born on the property.

He was very instrumental in writing the Constitution of the United States of America. He was a brilliant man, although short in stature, he was admired by many who sought his counsel on many areas of life due to his advanced education. He spoke 7 languages. While serving in the Congress in Philadelphia (then the capitol), Madison met and wed a widow 17 years his junior in 1794. (They were introduced by Aaron Burr, Madison's fellow student at Princeton.) Dolley Payne Todd was a Quaker, and was expelled for marrying Madison outside the faith.

Dolley happily dropped Quaker practices, and portraits show her in decidedly un-Quaker attire. She was considered a beauty and an ebullient spirit. She became the first of the Washington celebrity hostesses serving as White House hostess for the widower, Jefferson, as well as for her husband. She and James were happily married, and she helped him and Jefferson politically as well as socially. Jefferson and Madison were good friends. The nation had abjured grandiose titles for the President, but the women of Washington called Dolley "Lady Madison" and even referred to her as "Her Majesty."

My photo album has a lot of information written with the photo titles, so you can view a slideshow of Montpelier, Home of James and Dolley Madison without leaving your chair.  (NOTE:  You can change the speed by putting your cursor in top left area of the screen.)

Holly Having a Tea Party with Me on the Porch
It was a warm day, so we had iced tea.
My friend, Holly, had company in from out of town recently and took an excursion to Lexington, Virginia, which is about 90 minutes from us. It's off I-81 which runs parallel to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Beautiful drive from here to there with much to be gazed at between. She emailed me to tell me she finally got to Boxerwood, a place Randal and I had visited a couple of years ago. View a slideshow of Boxerwood Nature Center & Woodland Gardens. It took us about two years of talking about it to get there also and we discovered, like Holly, that it was well worth the wait.

What a treat for me that Holly sent a link to her photo story of the visit to Lexington, which also included the Virginia Military Institute, downtown, an antique mall and a German restaurant. She's got an eye for the unusual so I love seeing her photo stories. Enjoy Holly's slideshow of Lexington, Virginia. Leave her a friendly HELLO at the end of the slideshow when it gives you a chance to comment. She's a real people person and will delight in your message!

Holly also sent me a link to photos of a strange looking mushroom in her backyard that she called a "hairy mushroom." Holly's photos were great shots of this strange mushroom, so I sent the link to another friend, Diane, who lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and teaches classes about mushrooms and fungi.

We all learned something when Diane discovered the 'hairy' look was another type of fungus growing on the mushroom (which is also considered a fungus). The name of the mushroom is a Lepiota Procera and the name of the hairy fungus growing on it is called Phycomyces blakesleeanus. Seems odd that a fungus is growing on another fungus. The wonders of God's Creation are endless! Thanks to Diane for the research on this. It's always exciting to understand something more about the rest of the world around us.

©2011 Donna L. Watkins - Armarillaria Mushrooms
What a year for mushrooms! I mentioned them in the last email but they've been everywhere. It's weird to see so many of them every time I step outdoors. I think of movie titles like "Invasion of the Mushroom Colony." One day last week I went out the front door and there was a huge mass of mushrooms. Some species grow in colonies as the one shown here which is in the Armarillaria family. These looked so good I wanted to bring them in the house and cook up a batch with onions and red peppers. Yum! If you're interested in mushrooms, here's a couple of links to my photo gallery of the ones I've taken this year.

Groups of mushrooms in 2011
Individual mushrooms in 2011

©2011 Donna L. Watkins - Black Rat Snake in Holly Tree
We had an exciting closeup visit with a Black Rat Snake.  The birds began their alarm calls and flying back and forth around the tree in front of the breakfast window (that we thought was a bush when we put it in).

Lately I've figured that means a snake ... and this closeup visit taught me a few things about the behaviors of the birds and the snake.  Read the story on the Black Rat Snake which has a link to a video of the birds mobbing it also.

Speaking of videos, I was able to take a short one of a cardinal bathing in the birdbath on our deck.  It was still in the molting process so I'm sure it was delighted with the time, enough so not to be intimidated by other birds that were waiting to get in.  View video of Cardinal Bathing.  I love to see the birds enjoying themselves and it sure is rewarding to be the one to "take care of them" in our backyard habitat.

I have not seen many butterflies this summer, but recently I've seen a few Monarchs passing through on their migration to Mexico.  With the dry weather in Texas they will be challenged to find nectar in humid and moist areas.  They have receptors to locate such places and the professionals are saying they will seek out riverbed areas and move in and out of forests.  You can participate in helping Monarch Butterflies by establishing a Monarch Waystation.  It's a fun family project.

Donna at Boxerwood Nature Center & Woodland Gardens
What a perfect time of year to schedule excursions into the wild.  Use to locate a natural area nearby. Pack a picnic. Grab the binoculars and camera and take time for yourself.

There are many benefits of nature. It's great for kids and of course we know how it reduces stress levels in adults. There's nothing more important than your health.

Winter will give you plenty of time for those indoor projects. Get outside now!

If you enjoy this newsletter ... share the website with somebody else.  There's a "Share This" option on the right side.  Thanks!

Love and Hugs,

View Posts By Topic
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Montpelier Estate - The Home of James and Dolley Madison

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Birds Mobbing a Black Rat Snake

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The photo(s) and article are copyrighted. You may use either of them if you include the following credit and active link back to this website: © 2011 Donna L. Watkins - This article was reprinted with permission from The link to use is:

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