Archive for January, 2009

On the Subject of Creative Commons…

It turns out someone loves Creative Commons more than me and possibly even more than Norman Rockwell. Here is an excerpt of a party invitation I received recently.

By attending, you grant us co-rights to any pictures taken on our property, including derivative works and reposting under Creative Commons licensing, even for commercial use.

I love it! 🙂

January 22, 2009 at 10:30 am 4 comments

Reference Material: Vicky!

Last July, an artist based in Charlotte, North Carolina by the name of Murphy Ayala asked me if she could paint one of my rhododendron pictures or use it as reference material. She didn’t specify which one, but it didn’t matter! I enthusiastically agreed.

In a post last month, I talked about all the different sources Norman Rockwell used in his paintings and speculated he would be fond of Creative Commons. Just two days after that post, I got to see how thrilling it is to be a Creative Commons source! Murphy Ayala’s painting, “Mountain Rhododendron”, was complete and on her website (Click on Paintings->Landscapes).

My father has always amazed me with his ability to recall specific bridge hands and bidding sequences from two decades ago. When I was younger, I was perplexed by how he could do that. Now I understand it is a symptom of passion. We remember what we love. I have taken hundreds and hundreds of shots of rhododendrons through the years. Still when I saw Murphy’s rendition I instantly recognized the hike.

“Apple Orchard Falls!”

Photograph & Painting
My original shot from Apple Orchard Falls May 2007 and Murphy Ayala’s Mountain Rhododendron

What an amazing thrill to see scenery I love translated over to a painting!

Now, Murphy Ayala is arguably not as famous as Norman Rockwell, but she is pretty darn popular. You know how I know? When you start to type her name in a search, Google suggests her!

How Popular Murphy Ayala Is

I’m certainly not that popular. (ClintJCL, you are!)

To thank me, Murphy Ayala is going to send me some small studies she did before the final painting! Between that and a painting of a moonlit birch tree I bought at a local coffeehouse last week, it appears I’m becoming a collector. 🙂

January 22, 2009 at 10:00 am 2 comments

iNaturalist: East Coast vs. West Coast

Move over, hip hop. Make room for the naturalists!

I’ve started my own silent war against the west coast on!

iNaturalist is a relatively new site, but absolutely captivating. It allows people to log their observations and sightings of all of our planet’s diverse species. It’s like WineLog… only you are getting drunk on nature! iNaturalist is also cooler than WineLog because it links into Flickr so you can easily reference Creative Commons photos of the species you’re logging as well as embed your own images into your observation.

When I joined the site yesterday, the map on the front page was fixated on California. Sifting through the lists of observations, it does appear a vast majority are in California, which makes sense as the founders are from California.

So I went ahead and entered some of my spottings. With a few well-timed chestnut-related entries today, the tide has changed! Now when you look at the map on the homepage, it is dominated by Virginia!

Virginia Representin'
Virginia Dominates iNaturalist… at least at 9:00 PM EST on Tuesday, January 20th it did

Ha, ha! Take that, California!!!

The possibilities of this site are amazing. I believe I’m going to use it to document all my American Chestnut and Paw Paw encounters… or tree tumors I’d like to revisit in a few years. Just as researchers are currently using Thoreau’s journals to compare bloom dates of spring flowers or old photographs from family albums to see when trees leaf, all the information aggregated in this site by ordinary folk with seemingly ordinary fauna and flora may one day prove to be a valuable resource.

Chronobiologist Bora Zivkovic discusses the research potential of the database in his post, “iNaturalist Rocks!

But, imagine a couple of years from now, with millions of people pinning millions of sightings, providing additional information and then having the community agree on the ID? How about ecologists putting in all their field survey data (at least after publication if not before)? How about everyone who participates in the Christmas bird hunt? What an incredible database that will be! Something that one can search with machines, build and test models, and use the results to test ideas about, for instance, effects of weather events (hurricanes, fires, floods, El Nino, etc.) or broader weather changes (e.g., Global Warming).

There is one more potential I find inspiring. The ability to take over the home page map! Tomorrow I’ll diligently check the site again and if need be, I have a number of observations ready to bring the map back over to the East Coast. Muahaha.

More telling– After my flurry of trips this fall, I was very much coveting some down time. Now suddenly, I feel the urge to travel once more. I want to go out and concentrate a number of sightings in one place so instead of focusing the map on a state, I can target a town.

Can you imagine loading up iNaturalist one day and being greeted by Crapo, Maryland? Or Yeehaw Junction, Florida? There is always good ole Intercourse, Pennsylvania. Oooh maybe I want to hit Newfoundland and see what kind of fauna like Dildo.

With iNaturalist, the sky’s the limit!

January 21, 2009 at 8:00 am 9 comments

Roanoke Outdoors and Social Club – Hiker Challenge

The Roanoke Outdoors and Social Club just started a Hiker Challenge! Basically you do all the hikes on the list and use photographs of yourself to document you accomplished it. You can use hikes in the past. Even though I no longer live in the Blacksburg area– I’m not too far off from completing the “Advanced Hiker” category. I’m just missing Flat Top!

Beginner Hiker:

Missing 😦 Mill Mountain Star Trail
Missing 😦 Read Mountain
Styles Falls
Missing 😦 Chestnut Ridge
Missing 😦 Roaring Run
Vicky and Bent Mountain Falls Bottom Creek Gorge
Missing 😦 Fallingwater Cascades
Missing 😦 Sawtooth Ridge Overlooks
Missing 😦 Smart View Loop

Advanced Hiker:

Vicky Dogs Top Dragon’s Tooth
View in Summer McAfee’s Knob
Tinker Cliffs - Vicky Tinker Cliffs
Missing 😦 Flat Top
Vicky and James Sharp Top
Kelly's Knob 2006 - Vicky At Top Kelly’s Knob
Vicky, Henry, Jimmie Angel’s Rest
Carvin Cove / Hay Rock Overlook

Expert Hiker:

Missing 😦 Big Rocky Row
[Picture Pending] Apple Orchard Falls to Cornelius Creek Loop
Rice Fields - Jimmie and Vicky Rice Fields
Missing 😦 Hoop Hole Loop (Long Loop)
Vicky and Jimmie Devil’s Marbleyard (To top of boulder field)
Rock Castle Gorge
Missing 😦 The Priest
Vicky @ Rhodo Gap Mount Rogers

Waterfall Hiker:

Cascades 2004 - Vicky, Mom, Jay and Becky Cascades (Lower & Upper)
Vicky Falls Styles Falls
Vicky Jimmie Henry Falls Apple Orchard Falls
Missing 😦 Fallingwater Cascades
Crabtree Falls
Missing 😦 Roaring Run
Bent Mountain Falls
Missing 😦 White Rock Falls

Full challenge details from the Roanoke Outdoor and Social Club.

January 21, 2009 at 12:52 am 2 comments

5 Year Anniversary of the Old Glory Transplant

Well since I’m sure nothing else is going on today, especially not in the Washington, D.C. area, I thought I would do a little anniversary post. : )

Five years ago today the Senna Tree Company moved an 180 year old oak tree, affectionately called “Old Glory”, out of the way of a construction site in Pico Canyon, California to a new home 1/4 mile away. With a height of 58 feet and a branch span of 104 feet, Old Glory is the world record for the largest tree transplanted. It took a total of 128 tires (16 8-wheel dollies) to move an estimated load of 250 tons. The effort cost more than a million dollars.

Old Glory Being Moved

Prior to the move, the tree had weathered a three year drought. Its new home was going to separate the tree and the stream it got its water from. There was concern how the tree would fare after the move. Here’s a shot from Flickr from this past May:

Pico Canyon Oak, aka “Old Glory”, 4 Years After the Move (Photo by tkksummers)

Still alive and well!

January 20, 2009 at 7:00 am 12 comments

Reader Help: Appalachian Mountain Photography Contest

Friends, family, readers and lurkers…. I solicit your counsel!!!

ASU Outdoor Programs, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation and the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts are sponsoring the 6th Annual Appalachian Mountain Photography Contest. The submission deadline is this Saturday, January 24th at 5 PM and for each photo you enter, there is a $5 fee (portions of which go to the Student Outdoor Learning Expedition).

I would like to participate and I would like to keep my submission modest, between 3-6 photos. Last year, the competition received 860 entries from all over the world, so I certainly don’t have expectations of getting my photos in the exhibition, much less winning a category. But the money is going to a good cause and I really want to join in and promote the beautiful Appalachian Mountains. Plus there is a little selfishness involved as well. I believe this exercise will also help me improve! I’ll learn more about what’s effective and not effective with my photos. So teach me, wise ones!

There are multiple categories available. I’ll go ahead and list each one, links to the previous years’ finalists (if available) and the description. Then I’ll post the contenders I’m considering. If there is one that catches your eye, let me know. If you think I’m completely off track, you can let me know that as well. And if you recall a picture of mine you saw on this blog or Flickr that you think might work– speak up.

If you are shy about commenting here, feel free to email me at vicky[at]


2008 Finalists | 2007 Finalists | 2006 Finalists | 2005 Finalists | 2004 Finalists

“Imagery depicting mountain sports such as climbing, kayaking, mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding, etc.”

This one I am leaning towards skipping, but I do thoughts for three different directions. First, I do have some rappelling pictures from Barney’s Wall. Next I noticed a lot of past years did include hiking and backpacking (one year even had someone taking a nap), so maybe a picture from Mount Rogers. Finally, I could take a different direction entirely and share a picture that shows the adventure in small things.

Rappelling at Barney’s Wall

Supper time after a day of backpacking at Mount Rogers

AT - Bill on Rock Crossing Rhododendron Gap - Bill and Jimmie Take in View

Sometimes adventure is in the small things…such as a snail!

Dogs on the Parkway

“Entries will be judged on impact, lighting, composition, and effectively conveying the idea of traveling, hiking, motorcycling or any Parkway activity with your dog. Make sure that your favorite photo shows your dog on a leash if out of the vehicle . . . ahem, newly enforced regulations! Ouch, the fines hurt!”

Brace yourself. I actually don’t have much to offer on this one! My Blue Ridge Parkway hikes are limited to Sharp Top, Devil’s Marbleyard and Apple Orchard Falls. And….. it turns out I have a shortage of leashed photographs. I have a total of four leashed dog photos on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Henry and Jimmie are Eager to Ascend Sharp Top!

Jimmie on Stairs Jimmie
Jimmie on Stairs - Take II

Blue Ridge Parkway Vistas

2008 Finalists | 2007 Finalists | 2006 Finalists | 2005 Finalists

“Scenic imagery capturing the natural and/or cultural beauty of the Blue Ridge Parkway that may include landmarks as well as geological highlights.”

This one I think I’m going to skip– I don’t think anything sticks out as special with my view photos of Sharp Top, Devil’s Marbleyard and Apple Orchard Falls.

"Marbles" Tree and View
Namesake Radar Station
View Peaks of Otter


2008 Finalists | 2007 Finalists | 2006 Finalists | 2005 Finalists | 2004 Finalists

“Imagery depicting the people, their customs, traditions, architecture and ways of life unique to the Southern Appalachian region.”

With this category, I have two directions in mind. If they are looking for traditions, then perhaps a Pig Pickin’ in Craig County is what they covet. On the other hand, I did think it would be a good opportunity to share photos of the Thru Hiker culture– and I think Trail Days puts on quite a display.

Yard Skulls in Craig County

Pig Pickin' - Chopping 5 Pig Pickin' - Moonshine in Pocket
Happy Choppers Chopping

Duel at the 2008 Hiker Parade in Damascus, Virginia

Trail Days - Bill Bryson Trail Days - Hiker Parade - Squirting
Trail Days - Talent Show - Female Performer Sings


2008 Finalists | 2007 Finalists | 2006 Finalists | 2005 Finalists | 2004 Finalists

“Imagery depicting threats to and/ or defenses against the natural and/or cultural heritage of the Southern Appalachians.”

My dream entry would be to feature the American Chestnut‘s ongoing fight against the blight. But maybe dried out Mountain Lake offers another possibility?

Blighted Chestnut Tree in Douthat State Park

Dried Mountain Lake

Other Mountain Lake Possibilities

Mountain Lake - Layers of Cracked Lakebed Mountain Lake - Rules of the Water

Flora and Fauna

2008 Finalists | 2007 Finalists |2006 Finalists | 2005 Finalists | 2004 Finalists

Imagery of plants and animals common to the Southern Appalachians.

This one is very difficult for me. There are so many options- lichen, mushrooms, moss, deformed trees….but I did also notice that rhododendrons and mountain laurel have never made it into the finalist list and that’s quite a shame. So here’s a number of options to toy with:

AT - Rhodo From Above Prickly Pear - Rhodo from Below
Baby Rhodo (Take 2) En Route to Rice Fields - More Milkweed Bugs
Douthat State Park - Kooshball Fungus Side Dried Weed
Audie Murphy - Three Deer Snake (Close)


2008 Finalists | 2007 Finalists | 2006 Finalists | 2005 Finalists | 2004 Finalists

“Scenic imagery capturing the rich diversity and natural beauty of the Southern Appalachian region.”

With this, I’m thinking the rhodos of Mount Rogers, the rocks of Dragon’s Tooth or McAfee’s Knob or the fog at Symm’s Gap.

Lichen and View from McAfee’s Knob

Symms Gap at Dawn Six O One Between Two Bushes
Dragon's Tooth - Texture and Tooth

P.S. I know a few of you who should do your OWN submissions to this contest!

January 20, 2009 at 12:44 am 11 comments

A Trip Better Than the Virgin Islands!

For those of you who were envious of my Virgin Islands trip, you best brace yourself….

The week after I went to the Virgin Islands, my co-workers Larry and Steve went on a trip of their own. Being kind-hearted colleagues, they sent me pictures so I could see what I missed out on. How kind it was of them to taunt me like that.

Anyway, without further adieu, I present pictures from Larry and Steve’s trip.

La Crosse, Wisconsin.

In January.

Steve with a snowpile (Photo by Larry)

A McDonald’s . It’s behind the giant mountain of snow
(Photo by Larry)

The Temperature in the Virgin Islands was 80 degrees. LaCrosse, Wisconsin: -9!

January 19, 2009 at 3:30 pm 1 comment

American Chestnut – Identification by Blight

Last May I attended an American Chestnut Field Day at Lesesne State Forest in Virginia sponsored by the American Chestnut Foundation. There, Wayne Bowman of the Virginia Department of Forestry shared a wealth of information about the tree. With Chinese trees, American trees and all the hybrids in between on the property, he was able to take us into the forest and give us an hands-on look at the characteristics of both species.

Wayne Bowman grabs a leaf sample for discussion

Wayne Bowman discusses chestnut leaves

Now that I was fully armed with the differences between Chinese Chestnut leaves and American Chestnut leaves and more confident in my identification abilities, Bowman took me offguard. Winter time, he reported, was a great time to find American Chestnuts.

Winter time? But… but…there are no leaves?

Bowman pointed to the trunk and branches of a nearby American Chestnut tree. Black and cracked, the tree was ravashed by the blight fungus.

Bowman discussed blight damage with the group

“Know anything in the forest that looks like that?” he asked.

Blight damage at Lesesne State Forest

Last month, Wayne Bowman’s words rang true. I was in Blacksburg for a weekend and did some hiking up in the Mountain Lake area. On the way back, I pulled off on the side of VA-700 to snag a Season Compare shot of Butt Mountain. Once I snapped my photos, I turned away from the view and put my camera back in its case. When I looked up, I was struck by what I saw across the street.

Do you see it?

A row of blighted bark? Dumbfounded, I took a closer look (But not too close– it was private property lined with No Trespassing signs). Sure enough– they were chestnuts and the sickly trees were surrounded by burrs.

Tree off VA-700

Someone apparently is growing a little chestnut orchard off of VA-700. Now, I had been to this exact same spot many times before. I was even there in November taking fall foliage pictures, but never noticed these trees before. They were hidden. It took the nudity winter brings to the forest with just the trunks and branches on display for them to be seen.

And Wayne Bowman was right. They were easy to spot. I wasn’t even looking for them.

Even without their leaves, these trees were far from anonymous.

More pictures of the American Chestnut Field Day in Lesesne State Forest are available on my Flickr site. If you would like to snag pictures of your own or would like to learn more about the American Chestnut– keep an eye out next Spring. The Virginia Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation is planning another field day for 2009!

January 19, 2009 at 8:00 am 1 comment

Plastic Canvas Icosahedron

It isn’t unusual around Christmas time that I do some sketches, get out some graph paper and work on a Plastic Canvas project for someone on my list. Usually my patterns are in the form of cartoon characters (such as Beavis or Cartman) or Hokie Birds. This year, I did something a little different for the science geek on my list. I made a plastic canvas icosahedron. It’s not a cartoon character, but it did have a solid role in the Futurama: Bender’s Game movie!

An icosahedron is a 20-sided platonic solid. In the regular icosahedron, each face is an equilateral triangle. Icosahedrons are everywhere. If you shake a Magic Eight ball, your fortune is being reported back to you by an icosahedron. Like Scattergories or role playing games? The die you play with is an icosahedron. Do you have herpes? Well then, my friend, you are infected with microscopic icosahedrons!

Icosahedrons at Work – Magic Eight Ball (Photo by greeblie), 20 Sided Dice (Photo by slayer23), Scattergories (Photo by JimmyMac210), Herpes Virus (Photo from Health News Blog)

And as if herpes and Magic Eight Balls are not treasure enough, you can now have your very own icosahedron constructed out of plastic canvas!

Plastic Canvas Icosahedron (Pictured with a souvenir lizard from Jost Van Dyke)

It was actually one of the more simple stitching projects I have taken on. The steps are quite easy:

Plastic Canvas Icosahedron - Original Hexagon Plastic Canvas 1) At Michael’s, I purchased some nifty hexagon shaped sheets of plastic canvas. They are also available online at Everything Plastic Canvas. You’ll need four hexagons for this project.
Plastic Canvas Icosahedron - Six Equilateral Triangles 2) I cut each hexagon into six equilateral triangles. That gave me 24 rectangles– 20 for my solid and 4 extra.
Plastic Canvas Icosahedron - Single Triangle 3) Stitch each triangle to your preference. I just used a simple backstitch using decreasing shades of purple and a black center.
Plastic Canvas Icosahedron - Sewing the Pieces Together 4) Start stitching the triangles together. I found it much easier to put the pieces back to back as long as I could (That gets more difficult as our solid takes shape). I used a standard overcast stitch. I typically did two stitches in each hole, with extra stitches at the triangle points for additional support.
Plastic Canvas Icosahedron - Five Piece Cap 5) With the assembly strategy, I first stitched five of the triangles together to create a little cap.
Plastic Canvas Icosahedron - Adding Triangles to Original Five Piece Cap 6) Next, I stitched an upside down triangle to the bottom of each triangle in the cap.
Plastic Canvas Icosahedron - Adding Triangles Between the Triangles 7) Between each of those newly attached upside down triangles, I stitched a right-side up triangle. After that endeavor, there were 15 pieces sewn together.
Plastic Canvas Icosahedron - One Five Piece Section, One Fifteen Piece Section 8] I set aside my work so far and stitched another five piece cap. Now I had two sections– a 15 piece section and a small 5 piece cap.
Plastic Canvas Icosahedron - Done! 9) Finally– I stitched my two sections together and viola — Plastic Canvas Icosahedron.

Additional Icosahedron Projects

Now say you covet your very own icosahedron, but you don’t want to work with plastic canvas and you don’t really want herpes. You can make icosahedrons with just about any arts and craft technique and out of a variety of materials– even marshmallows! Here’s a quick collection of links to help guide you on your icosahedron whims:

Technique/Materials Link
Origami Instruction Video
Knitting Blog | Photo
Crochet Blog
Designer Paper Blog
Zome Tool Blog
Map Photo
Picture Photo
Wire Photo
Marshmallows and Toothpicks Photo

Do you have your own icosahedron project? Let me know! I’d love to hear about it!

January 18, 2009 at 10:12 pm 17 comments

Weekly Winners – January 11 – 17, 2009

This week’s Weekly Winners come to you a little closer to home. Instead of the Virgin Islands, I have shots from Elizabeth City, North Carolina and Palmer Point Park in Boydton, Virginia. It was pretty darn cold this week and you don’t think of January as a time to find a lot of colors, but when you get out and about, there are surprises to be found year round.

Red Berries, Orange Leaves and Evergreens
Red Berries, Orange Leaves and Evergreens on Top of a Beautiful Blue Sky at Palmer Point

Dried Leaves on Top of Ice in Elizabeth City

Roots and Water at Palmer Point Park
Roots and Water at Palmer Point Park

Purples and Pinks at Pond House Inn in Elizabeth City

And finally….

My Beagle and My Beau in Elizabeth City

For more Weekly Winners, be sure to visit the original post with all the participants over at Sarcastic Mom.

And as always, I have more pictures of Elizabeth City and Palmer Point Park on my Flickr site.

January 18, 2009 at 6:36 pm 4 comments

Older Posts Newer Posts

Flickr Photos

3D Printed Products