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Friday, June 20, 2014

Farewell to Spring! Hello Summer!

Looking Back on the First Day of Summer

Spring continued to be amazing here in North Carolina. One of the wonderful things about spring in Coastal Carolina is that it comes early and stays late.  We are just now hitting temperatures in the upper 80's and low 90's. However, I believe summer is now here and hot humid weather will be with us for quite awhile.

 Once the azaleas, Bradford pears and dogwoods quit blooming, a new cast of trees started showing off.  First came the magnolias and gardenias.

Looking like glowing white candles, the first buds appeared on the magnolia trees.

Opening, they revealed a beautiful waxy white flower with a heavenly fragrance.

There are evidentially several kinds of magnolia trees with the most common here being the stately grandiflora.  The trees are huge and you see them everywhere.  They stay green all winter and lose some of their leaves when new leaves form in the spring.  Did you know magnolias were around during the age of the dinosaurs?  They were one of the first flowering trees to appear after the conifers.
(Sorry, once a teacher always a teacher).

The mimosa trees add lovely color to the late spring.  Mother used to have a smaller mimosa tree in her yard in Green Forest.  These seem larger to me, but maybe this one is just older.

The crepe myrtles are just beginning to bloom and they come in an astonishing array of colors -- white, pink, purple, and red.  I love this tree.  Even the trunk and bark are beautiful.

On my early morning walk I spied these gorgeous hydrangeas.  I know hydrangeas come in pink and white, also, but I have only see them in this lovely blue color -- probably because of the acidic soil from all the pine needles.

Most of the yards in our neighborhood do not have lots of flowers, as in flower beds.  The trees and bushes provide the color.

Locally grown tomatoes, cucumbers and squash have been available since May along with strawberries, blueberries and blackberries.  Many of the young families make an outing to go berry-picking in the local fields.  We decided it was just fine to buy from the local stands.  It's a little hard to pick in a skirt or white shirt and tie.

The Activity Day girls (ages 8-11) in Primary (the children's auxiliary organization in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) sponsored a wonderful Mother's Day "Ball" for all mothers in the ward.  Each received a scroll summoning them to the Royal Ball.

The room and tables were quite festive.  As we entered, the name of a Disney princess or character was taped to our backs and before we could receive our crown we had to guess who we were by asking yes or no questions.  The young men from Mutual served the food and lemonade.  The girls led the mothers in a couple of enthusiastic line dances and then each Mom was presented with a special gift to remember the occasion.  So cute!

Friday nights are our "date nights." Usually, we try out one of the local restaurants.  This particular night we ate seafood on the patio by the pier.  It was quite charming and very relaxing.

This graceful cypress tree was right beside our table at the restaurant.  Notice the Spanish moss. I've been trying to figure out why some trees are loaded with Spanish moss and other nearby trees of the same species have none.  The moss gives an eerie look to the tree, especially at dusk.

For those of you following our on-going battle with the bird seed robbing squirrels, we have so far managed to hang one bird feeder that has not been conquered -- yet.  We decided to admit defeat with the other feeder and just enjoy their acrobatic moves as they pull out the seeds.  One plus is that they scatter a lot of seeds in the process and so provide food for the ground birds such as the flicker and mourning doves.

One day we watched one of the squirrels perform all kinds of rather parkour-like stunts.  He would run up a tree and do a back flip off about a third of the way up, run around in circles and do it again.  Then he took off up the tree at a rapid pace and leapt from tree to tree only to come down and repeat the whole show.  Bob wondered if some of the seeds had fermented. :)

Despite the competition with the squirrels, we have had new birds at our feeders.

Tufted Titmouse, isn't he cute?
Had a hard time identifying this one.

This flycatcher kept flying into our window
each morning -- not hard, just fluttering
against the pane.  For several days he
arrived at the same time and would flutter
against the window, fly to a tree and then
return.  Maybe he saw his reflection?

Each month the senior missionaries have an activity--usually seeing some of the sights within our mission.

In April we had a Senior Conference in Wilmington.  We had a great training session and a guest speaker who told us a little about the history of Wilmington and of the history of our church in this area.   The first missionaries arrived in the early 1900's, but the church didn't really start to grow until in the 60's.  Now there are several wards and a stake in Wilmington.  It would not surprise me if someday a small temple is built here.

We took side trips to Fort Fisher and to a large state run aquarium.  Fort Fisher was the last southern port to fall during the Civil War.  Once it fell to the Union, General Lee was no longer able to receive arms and supplies.  Prior to this, blockade runners had managed to sneak through the lines and bring back supplies that were shipped to Richmond, VA by rail.  Once this route was closed Lee was forced to surrender.
Fort Fisher

Beach near Fort Fisher

You can't see this too well, but we are in the Natural Science Museum in Raleigh for our May Senior Activity.   Behind us are displays of plants and animals native to North Carolina.  Upstairs there are skeletons of the whales that frequented the coast in times past.  From a distance we thought they were dinosaur skeletons. We found the varying sizes and features of the different whales quite fascinating.

Skeleton of a Right Whale

So let the summer begin.  We took the sister missionaries to the beach in late May, before the big beach season to hunt for shells and shark teeth and enjoy a picnic lunch.  It was a beautiful day with a cool breeze and only a few families enjoying the spring weather.

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