Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sunday at Cass Senic Railroad

On Sunday our plans included a trip to Cass. Everyone was up early. Sarah, Jeff, and Sam had to pack since they had to leave from Cass to go back home. We were to meet John, Rachael, Flora, and Lucy at 1:00 for a picnic before the train ride. Velva and Tim were also to meet us.

Before we left the cabin, we had a call from Rachael. They were leaving late and would not make it in time for the ride to Whittaker Station. We were a little sad that we would not be sharing this experience with all our grandkids.

Sarah and Jeff arrived at Cass first. They found Tim and Velva riding this contraption below. The old hand car was traveling down the tracks with Tim and Velva on board!

At 1:00 we had a fine lunch along the Greenbrier River.

There was some time to explore the banks of the river before we had to board the train. Jeff is teaching Sam how to skip rocks along the river's surface. That boy has a great teacher!

I was so excited to find another of my plants that I hold dear in my memory banks. Here was blooming the cardinal flower. This has to be one of the brightest reds in the plant world. Few native plants has this intensity of color. Guess what! Are you surprised that humming birds love the blossoms?

Beautiful but deadly, this plant has been used as a medicine but is also very poisonous. It contains fourteen alkaloids similar to those in nicotine. Extracts of the leaves and fruit produce vomiting, sweating, pain and finally death.

Jeff is preparing Sam for the train. He blows through his hand in order to produce the sound of the Shay locomotive. Now with the training session completed, we head toward the depot.

Shay #2 is ready for boarding. Shay #2, a Pacific Coast Shay, was constructed in July of 1928 for the Mayo Lumber Company of Paldi, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The locomotive ended its career switching cars on Vancouver docks in 1970, making it one of the last commercially-used Shays, and came to Cass in that same year.

Sam is trying to decide if it is going to be OK to ride this belching iron dragon. Tomorrow we will post our ride to Whittaker Station.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Cranberry Glades
I presented this botanical area as a subject of one of our earliuer blogs A neat aspect of this area is that it is always in a state of change. Since our last visit, this mighty tree near the boardwalk entrance has toppled exposing its shallow root system.

The boardwalk takes the visitor through two of the glade areas. The cranberries were abundant. In this glade we find two plants that are really cool. The Forest service has transplanted from Big Glade the bog rosemary and the insectivorous pitcher plant.

The bog rosemary found in the Cranberry Glades is the southern-most colony of this plant. It is a plant found in the northern bog regions. Cranberry Glades is considered an island of north muskeg in the south. The pitcher plants were in full bloom as seen below. The pitcher plant's conical lower leaves trap rainwater, and are lined with downward-pointing hairs to discourage trapped insects from escaping. Digestive juices at the bottom of the 'pitcher' help the plant consume its prey

Sam has a great life! No walking the boardwalk for this kid. He is given is own private tour on the back of a most wonderful guide.

Not only was the insectivorous pitcher plant in bloom, but also was the other obvious insect eating plant, the sundew. Sundews use glandular tentacle stalks, coated with a sticky material that both attracts and adheres to insects, to supplement their diet on the nitrogen-poor soil.

I think the blossoms of the meadow rue are outstanding. The flower buds develop on the top of the tall meadow rue. The leaves of the meadow rue were smoked as a tobacco; and the smoke, if blown in the ear, was considered to be a cure for deafness . Hippocrates wrote that rue was a "soothing herb."

At the end of the trail! Grandma, Sarah, and Sam pose in front of the "anteater" tree. Twas a neat walk.

It was a grand Saturday. Back in Seebert we fixed chicken and then headed to bed. Tomorrow we are going to Cass to ride up the mountain on a Shay locomotive.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Lunch on Cranberry Mountain

Upon returning from our walk, we loaded our gourmet treats into the SUV and were off to Cranberry Mountain. Grandma had fixed turkey salad for sandwiches, watermellon, and cucumbers and onions. Yummy! Sam is seen here in his woodland racing stroller. He is ready to start his Mommy powered vehicle and go to the picnic overlook.

Along the trail was an opportunity for Sam to learn the WV trees. The Forest Service has done a great job in providing quality signs along the path. These signs are wonderful. They are sturdy and have the tree leaves and names in resin on the signs.

Before we arived at the overlook a bright red plant came into view. The Oswego Tea was in full bloom in the National Forest. Oswego Tea is also known as Bee Balm and officially as Scarlet Beebalm. This is a mint and is a cultivar of the Bergamot seen in yesterday's blog. The name Oswego Tea comes from the Oswego Indians who taught the immigrants how to use it for tea after the Boston tea party in 1773. The flowers and leaves are good ingredients for potpourri making.

What a gorgeous spot for a picnic! Our picnic table overlooked the mountains with the valley below.

Sam is signing for a cookie. Yes, even though he is only 14 months old, he attends sign language class. It is so cute to see him sign.

Grandma got a little chilly so she is wearing my green vest. Is this not a sweet face?

After a super lunch on Cranberry Mountain, Sam finished his milk and we were then off to see the animals in the exhibit area. It was soon time to drive to the Cranberry Glades Botanical Area for a stroll through along the boardwalk.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

On The Greenbrier River Trail

After arriving Friday evening at the cabin in the wilds of Seebert, we decided that on Saturday we would have a picnic at the Cranberry Mountain Nature Center and then an afternoon walk through Cranberry Glades. Saturday was a beautiful day. Sam was taking his morning nap when the kids decided to walk on the Greenbrier River Trail. Grandma stayed at the cabin with Sam and Grandpa (me!) walked with Jeff and Sarah. I have posted info on the trail in earlier blogs.

The Greenbrier River Trail runs in back of the cabin and is a wonderful walking experience with so many wildflowers bordering the path. This trail follows the Greenbrier River for 79 miles - starting at Cass and ending at Lewisburg.

The late summer composites are now blooming. The flowers of Queen Ann's Lace were abundant. This critter is in the parsley family and is also called wild carrot.

The seeds are said to be a beneficial antiseptic diuretic useful in the treatment of cystitis and prostatitis. Also, the seeds are used for the prevention and washing out of gravel and urinary stones. As a diuretic, it is claimed to help with dropsy and the elimination of uric acid from the body (thus, used for gout). The seeds, which are high in volatile oil, are soothing to the digestive system, useful for colic and flatulence. The root is very high in Vitamin A and minerals. The juice is reputed to have anti-cancer activity. The root helps to expel worms and is an effective antacid for heartburn and gastritis. A poultice of the root is excellent for first aid, especially for itchy skin. I would suggest that you be careful with these above suggestions. There are several similar plants that are very toxic- poisonous hemlock comes to my mind.

Below Jeff is photographing some flora and I am not sure what Sarah is doing with my walking sticks. She may be swatting a horsefly off Jeff's hat. (Ouch!)

Another two flowering plants we encountered were the showy yellow woodland sunflowers and the delicate wild bergamot. Bergamot is a member of the mint family.

I love these times when I can learn more about nature and the uses that man have derived from natural products. Below is a plant I have known since my young days. It is called teasel. I did not know the derivation of the name, but I read it in the Audubon Field Guide upon returning to the cabin.

Teasel was formerly widely used in textile processing, providing a natural comb for cleaning, aligning and raising the nap on fabrics, particularly wool. The dried flower heads were attached to spindles, wheels, or cylinders, sometimes called teasel frames, to raise the nap on fabrics (that is, to tease the fibers). By the 20th century, teasels were largely replaced by metal cards, which could be made uniform and do not require constant replacement as the teasel heads wear. However, some people who weave wool still prefer to use teasels for raising the nap, claiming that the result is better; in particular, if a teasel meets serious resistance in the fabric, it will break, whereas a metal tool would rip the cloth.

The teasel blossom is unique and begins with a band of blue, lavender or purple flowers around the middle of each flower head and blooms both ways. The construction of the little flowers is as interesting as the rest of the plant. They are pollinated by bumblebees and honeybees. Honey made from their nectar has a very fine flavor. Date of U.S. introduction was 1700's.

We returned from our morning walk to find Sam up and Grandma was teaching him how to cook. We explained to Sam that we were ready to go on our picnic. He did not seem too upset to stop his food preparation.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Gumby Tree

Let's see how your memory is this morning. Do you remember Gumby? Gumby is a dark-green clay humanoid figure who was the subject of a series of American television shows totaling 223 episodes over a 35 year period (Begining in 1955). Gumby was animated using stop motion clay animation. The show also featured Pokey, a red-orange clay pony, and Gumby's nemeses, the Block-heads.

This past week we were privileged to spend the week with our kids at Dan and Pix's house on the Greenbrier River. The house has in the front yard a fine sugar maple tree that the wife calls the Gumby Tree. This tree has such a great personality. Note how the scars form a fine face. The side limbs form the "gumby arms".

I often find myself starting a conversation with the gumby tree. "Good Morning, Gumby!" "Happy you guarded the door last night." If the tree ever responded, I probably would not be too surprised. It is just a part of this magical place.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Tis Time For Alpacas!

Yesterday we returned the wedding anniversary serving pieces that we were loaned by Lynn and Joe Yurkiewicz. On their NBN farm they have alpacas. (NBN stands for "Not Before Noon.") The alpacas supply fiber for their weaving adventures. Alpacas produce one of the world's finest and most luxurious natural fibers. It is clipped from the animal without causing it injury. You can see from the photos that Joe has recently sheared the beasts.

Soft as cashmere and warmer, lighter and stronger than wool, it comes in more colors than any other fiber producing animal (approximately 22 basic colors with many variations and blends).This cashmere-like fleece, once reserved for Incan royalty, is now enjoyed by spinners and weavers around the world.

Joe and Lynn and their family are hard workers and certainly know how to do many things. Judy is getting acquainted with one of the critters. This alpaca is getting one of Judy's famous neck rubs.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Flynn-Stone EMS Racer

Yes, Jim Flynn did an amazing job in creating this great Relay for Life foot-powered vehicle. Jim is lighting the candles which serve as the headlights. (The candles on the rear were, of course, red.) The windshield wiper was the stuffed lion's tail.

Jeane and Heather are donning their Flintstone costumes before the big race. Wilma and Pebbles are shown in their prehistoric finery made of Saber toothed tiger skin.

Jeane and Heather are the principle drivers in this heated race. They are ready now to travel to the starting line.

All vehicles are now lined up- notice that the Sand Fork church has a hand held car. (Third from right) Is it any wonder that they won the speed race?

The Curves team is off to traverse the oval course!

Tension was high while awaiting the results of the race. Though the Curves team did not win the race.....

...they received the Best Of Show honor.

The proud father of the Flynn-Stone EMS racing car is posing with his "baby". Good job, Jim!