Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Welcome Autumn!

 My favorite time of year has arrived!  The weather has been cooler and even rain has fallen on our drought filled garden.  Saturday Tropical Storm Ophelia came through our town.  The day was full of rain and heavy winds. Our unofficial rain gauge registered three inches!  Our son and youngest grandson came for a visit in spite of the weather.  It was nice catching up with our grandson who is a freshman in college and hear all about his new chapter of learning.  I cooked country style ribs, corn on the cob, and asparagus.  I'm having problems with my camera so there are no photos of our visit, but lovely memories of a good time.

Even before the rain came the Autumn Crocus (Sternbergia lutea) began to bloom.

They don't seem to mind the dry weather.

Multiplying each year they add a lot of color to this time of year.

One of the last America roses blossomed.  I had to cut it and bring it inside.

We've had this large fungus mushroom form from the area a large white oak tree used to live.  It was removed several years ago as it was unhealthy and way too close to our home.  Afterwards the stump was ground down then we planted a dogwood.  This fungus has been consuming the underground leftovers.  After checking it all out we've realized it is no danger to the dogwood, but quite interesting to observe!

Our patio is full of leaves that need sweeping each day!  A good power washing is in order as well!  

Our volunteer tomatoes are beginning to ripen.  You really can't beat fresh summer tomatoes!

A monarch visited one afternoon, though he didn't stay long.  I couldn't capture him opening his wings before flying off.

It's been a while since we've seen a box turtle in our back garden.  Living in our home for fifty years we have seen them almost every year.  It makes us so happy when we see them about!

This fellow was on the move and we all enjoyed following him to the downspout.  This was before the rain, so I'm sure he was looking for moisture.

Recently I read this wonderful quote about the turtle.  

"Try to be like the turtle- at home in your own skin." 

Bill Copeland

This morning we had a couple of bluebirds at the bird bath.

Thank you for sharing early Autumn days with me! 

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Suez Canal

 After leaving Crete the QM2 continued sailing toward the Suez Canal.  Grayden and I were so excited over the possibility of sailing into this area that neither of us have ever  been.  The Middle East is a place that many of us think of, but never visit.  Different cultures, different languages , different religions, different alphabets, and very different scenery awaited the next leg of our World Voyage!

The evenings brought brilliant sunsets as we said goodnight to the day. 

Piracy is an issue in this area and Captain Hashmi sent us a notice saying----

"We will be operating at a higher level of security alertness.  QM2 will be routed through an internationally recommended transit corridor and will be under the protection of an international taskforce assigned by UN mandate to protect merchant ships from a piracy threat. We have also embarked a Royal Navy Liaison officer on board who will assist us during the transit and is in contact with coalition naval assistance if required."

Though it is scary to think about that, he assured us that we would be practicing a drill in the morning.  So out of an abundance of caution the next day we followed his instructions with the whole ship's company.  We all gathered in the hallways next to our staterooms away from the balconies and the outer decks of the ship.  All of the room stewards assured that everyone participated in the drill.  At the four corners of the forward and aft of the ship, crew was manned to be on the lookout for danger.  We were sailing in UN protected waters as we made our approach to Port Said at the mouth of the Suez Canal.

We both felt safe and were happy that Cunard and the officers of Queen Mary 2 were looking after everyone's safety.  Thankfully, we had no issues during this voyage of this area!

This next map shows our actual transit.  The Suez Canal is over 120 miles long.  It saves enormous miles for ships to take the canal instead of going around the Cape of Good Hope around South Africa to reach Asia. 

The Suez Canal is an artificial sea level waterway that goes through Egypt.  It connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez.  This 120 mile route divides Africa and Asia. We were so excited to view this transit that we opted to have breakfast in our stateroom so we could view the early morning beginning of the canal from our balcony.

The early morning view from our balcony proved to be quite foggy!

 Luckily the fog began to lift as we continued down the Suez Canal.

The canal was constructed in 1859 and completed in 1869.  The Suez Canal starts at Port Said and ends in the city of Suez.  When I think of a canal I think of locks, but the Suez Canal does not have locks like the Panama Canal.  The Suez Canal has no locks because of the flat terrain, and the minor sea level difference between each end is inconsequential for shipping.

The clear water of the canal presented lovely reflections.

There were towns dotting the Suez as we traveled along.  Since 2014 there has been major development along the corridor.  The cost of transiting the canal has brought great economic growth to Egypt. 

 As we looked forward we could see the Suez Canal Bridge that links Africa to Asia.  It is also known as Al Salam Peace Bridge or Mubarak Peace Bridge.  It is also known as the Japanese-Egyptian Friendship Bridge as Japan contributed over 60% of the construction cost.  Egypt put up the other 40%.  The Japanese participated in this endeavor as part of the larger project to develop the Sinai Peninsula.  The bridge opened in 2001.

 Going under this giant bridge was interesting to say the least!  The clearance was just a little over 229 feet.  So the Queen Mary 2 could not be over 223 feet over the water line.  I'm glad I'm not the one to do those calculations!  

We held our breath as the ship slipped under this gorgeous bridge.  The giant pylons were designed to look like Pharaonic obelisks.

As we slipped under the bridge Grayden and I decided we should wander around the Promenade and see the Suez from all angles.

I can assure you we were both in awe over the scenery!  A canal this vast in the middle of the desert!  How amazing!

Our day was full of constant surprises as we watched the transit from various points along the ship.

The Queen Mary 2 passed by the El Ferdan Railway Bridge.  It was the longest swing bridge in the world.  Due to the expansion of the canal this bridge is no longer in operation and a new railway bridge had to be constructed.

Taking this trip down the Suez Canal was certainly an unreal moment for Grayden and I.  Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to experience this area!

Along the transit there were many colorful paintings in the sand.

The canal had small boats as well as large ships.

Ninety percent of Egyptians follow Islam and we saw many minarets dotting the landscape.  These towers call to prayer those that follow the Muslim faith five times a day. 

There were many quaint towns full of beautiful palms and trees.

This memorial is dedicated to the defense of the Suez Canal against the Ottoman Army during World War I.  

The QM2 passed through the Great Bitter Lake and approached Port Suez then we entered the Gulf of Suez.  Soon our ship entered the Red Sea near Sharm el Sheik before setting a south easterly course to pass along the Egyptian and Saudi Arabian coasts.

The captain reminded us that we will be picking up our pilot in the early morning hours before our next port of Safaga, Egypt!  

Thank you for coming along with us and sharing our joy!  I will be posting about this next adventure that I have waited my whole life to experience. 

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Gifts from My Garden

Returning home from our World Voyage at the end of May I realized that our patio garden would not be much this year.  I usually spend a lot of time in our garden weeding and planting in early spring.  I spend time deciding which annuals to plant in the planter.  Spring was just about over when we returned.  There was a lot to do as you can imagine after being gone for five months.  I looked longingly outside and realized that there would be slim pickings on our patio that I usually filled with pots of annuals.  Our brick planter showed no signs of anything popping up.  I must admit I was disappointed not seeing any signs of life.  The weather was quite warm and I felt it was too late to buy plants that would not have the advantage of early Spring growing. 

 Flowers are so nice to have about our home.  Grayden buys me inexpensive flowers when we go to the grocery store.  Lately we have been getting the minature carnations that seem to last weeks and weeks.  All you have to do is change the water frequently (adding floral food and recutting the stems).

One morning when we returned from our walk, we noticed small little plants of vinca popping up in our driveway.  This area had a hanging basket and several pots of vinca nearby last growing season.  This really showed promise to me and I decided to plant in late June!  I must admit I thought this was a crazy idea.  If you know our area, we have very hot and humid summers.  Not really conducive to late plantings.  I've used volunteers from my garden for many years, but never this late in the season.  Grayden encouraged me to give it a try. Planting one inch seedlings in the planter made me wonder what was I thinking.  But, you've probably guessed that they have done well!


Even this little pot of begonias was a volunteer from a past years garden.

This little shamrock plant is blooming as it spends its summers on the patio.  I find many plants love to sit on the patio with us.  It spends its winters inside our home.

Our geraniums are probably at least 15 years old.  They spend their winters in our basement under grow lux bulbs.  If you look to the left there is a tomato plant that I found growing in the compost.  Hopefully the green tomatoes will ripen soon. 

A new guest to our patio this year has been the Zebra Swallowtail.  


Oh me, this gardener has learned a lot this growing season.  It reminds me to always have hope.  I pray I will always have hope in all areas of my life.  What life lessons did you learn from your garden this year?