Monday, December 30, 2013


Highlights of our recent visit to Pennsylvania continue with the historic town of Harmony, Pennsylvania.  It is the nearest town to the farm where Neal grew up.  The current population is listed at 937 and the whole town is about 1/2 square mile.

The town of Harmony or Harmonie, as it was originally named, was established in 1804 by a communal group known as the Harmony Society or Harmonites.  The Harmonites lived here for ten years and sold the town to Mennonites before moving on to Indiana in 1815.

I have always enjoyed visiting Harmony so let's take a tour.  Along the town square is the Harmony Museum.  It was built by the Harmonites in 1809 and has an amazing vaulted wine cellar in the basement.  It's closed on Mondays so we couldn't go inside on this visit.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Visiting McConnell's Mill State Park

Throughout December I've been sharing tours around Western Pennsylvania from our recent visit.  You can read about our visit to local Amish country here.  From Volant we headed over to McConnell's Mill State Park to see Slippery Rock Gorge and the second covered bridge still in use in Lawrence County. 

The drive through the park starts off with tree-lined roads and picnic areas.  The evergreens are Hemlock which are a fixture here.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Living like it's 1849: Volant and Amish Country

Throughout December I've been sharing highlights of our recent visit to the Fox family farm near Harmony, Pennsylvania.  Today we'll take in some of the sights in the surrounding countryside as we visit the Amish country of Lawrence County and drive across a covered bridge.

Old stone houses like this one built around 1837 as a tavern are common in the area.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Around the Block: Merry Christmas Y'all!

It's traditional to share a few of the displays around my neighborhood for Christmas and this year is no different so we're taking a brief break from our tours of western Pennsylvania to show you a few fun things from an evening walk around the block.

New neighbors up the street display a Texas-style (and sized) greeting.  It must be 6' tall.  The first plant they added was a Texas Mountain Laurel 'Silver Peso' (not shown) which is my favorite native plant and a nice addition to the street.  They might be Texans--just guessing of course.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Phipps Conservatory Part 2

Our holiday tour of the beautiful Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh continues with Part 2.  You can find Part 1 here.

After touring the galleries on the east side of the conservatory we went back through the center Palm Court.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Phipps Conservatory Part 1

On the Friday after Thanksgiving we toured the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh.  Built in 1893 it's a Lord & Burnham building just like the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory we visited earlier in the week while in Washington D.C.  Two conservatories in one week decked out for the holidays set a good holiday mood.

Phipps is located in Shenley Park near both Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh just east of downtown.  Although it looks a bit understated compared to the more dramatic placement of the U.S. Botanic Garden, the Phipps is much larger with impressive holiday displays.  Too big to get in one photo from the sidewalk, this is just the right side of the building.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Pennsylvania and Homemade Pumpkin Pie

We left Washington DC late on Tuesday evening headed for "Pennsylvania and some homemade pumpkin pie" just like the song "Home for the Holidays".  Neal's mom lives on the family farm in rural western Pennsylvania, which was our Thanksgiving destination.  It was raining like crazy and the temperature was hovering right around freezing as we eased our rental car into the miles-long backup on the GW Parkway awaiting our turn to join the traffic jam known as the Capitol Beltway.  It was 7:30 pm and just like old times.  Too much so, as we remembered the last time we made this drive in the rain it took about nine hours to go 275 miles.  We decided the best option was to stay south of the snow line and headed west across the top of Maryland on I-68.  (Sorry Texas, California, Florida, but Maryland wins hands down for the oddest shaped state.  Look it up.)  We drove through an ice storm at Sideling Hill while cheering for the salt trucks which were doing a great job keeping the roads passable.  Just north of Morgantown, West Virginia, the rain turned to snow and began piling up on the hillsides.  More than six hours after we started out Neal's brother met us at the Pittsburgh Airport where we dropped off the rental car and headed north another half hour to Harmony.  We finally arrived at Neal's mom's house at around 2 am.  It had taken planes, trains, and automobiles to get us to the family homestead for Thanksgiving.

We awoke to a snowy Wednesday morning.  I've been here for Thanksgiving many times and have never seen more than a few flurries.  It was very cold but we just had to go for a walk while there was still a bit of snow falling and I had never seen the farm in snow.  It was incredible.

The camera was not set to monochrome--these are the colors of a gray, snowy day.  The now-empty pasture used to hold a small herd of cattle.  There is a creek at the far end of the pasture beyond the barn.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

From Capitol Hill to Foggy Bottom

During Thanksgiving week we spent a few days in Washington DC, you can read about our tour of the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory and nearby Bartholdi Park in my previous posts.  After touring Bartholdi Park and the conservatory we took advantage of the sun peeking through the clouds and walked northeast across the National Mall toward Union Station.  First a look at the gardens surrounding the conservatory.  On the west side of the Conservatory are more outdoor gardens.  The building with the curved terraces in the background is the Museum of the American Indian which I referenced in my post on the conservatory.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Bartholdi Park

On a Thanksgiving week trip to Washington D.C. we took some time to enjoy the sights.  You can read about our tour of the conservatory at the U.S. Botanic Gardens in my previous post.  Even though it was very cold we enjoyed visiting Bartholdi Park across Independence Avenue from the conservatory.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The U.S. Botanic Garden

A business trip to Washington DC during Thanksgiving week for my husband had me tagging along and I knew the conservatory of the U.S. Botanic Garden had to be at the top of my must-see list.  Neal's schedule allowed just enough time for him to join me.  It was fun to be tourists in a city we know so well even if only for a few hours.  The gardens and conservatory are literally in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol and quite a striking sight.  The gardens were founded in 1816 and the conservatory was built by Lord & Burnham in 1933.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Melody's Garden

This blogging journey has introduced me to many new people with fascinating gardens which I have tried to share.  One of my new-found friends is Melody who lives relatively nearby so she shares most of my gardening challenges.  She is an accomplished gardener and her gardens are beautiful but also have many fun surprises.  Let's take a tour.

The gate and long gravel driveway says "way out in the country" but Melody lives about two miles closer to San Antonio than I do.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Garden Visitors: Buttterflies Autumn 2013

I didn't start out to create a butterfly garden--it just happened.  As much as we enjoy the circle garden in the backyard it seems the butterflies appreciate it even more since the native plants which do best in that spot are also popular with the butterflies.  While we have butterflies much of the year, the fall and spring migrations bring many different species through San Antonio on their way to and from Mexico.  Are butterflies multilingual?  Maybe another discussion.

They are so much fun to watch and try to identify.  Thanks to the internet I've been working on my ID skills so I can share my itinerate visitors from the last few weeks.

Monarch left and Gulf Fritillary on the right.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Wide Shot December 2013: Cold

The first of each month I join Heather at Xericstyle to post a wide shot of my garden.  While it's fun to focus on the prettiest flowers in the garden the overall impression is what makes a landscape.

The weather has been unseasonably cold here in South Texas with near freezing lows most nights and cloudy days for the past week.

The front view of the garden does not change much throughout the year and that is by design.  I planned and planted a scheme that would work with the house to present a consistent face to the street with minimal work.

The yellowing Callicarpa americana leaves are still holding on though the Mockingbirds have taken care of most of the berries.  These are among the very few non-evergreen shrubs in the front yard and they are set against the year round silvery green of Eleaegnus which needs a top trim soon.