Archive for June, 2012

Not being raised in the south, I’m not big on the military part of the Civil War. What I know about it I learned in school a long, long time ago. Some of the place names around Virginia are familiar from those times: Appomatox, Chickahominy, etc. I’ve lived in Richmond now for 16 years and had never visited any of the many National Park Service battlefields that dot the countryside around here. That is, until last weekend.

Yesterday marked the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gaines’s Mill, otherwise know as the First Battle of Cold Harbor (two battles were fought there, 1862 and 1864). Last Saturday, there was a re-enactment and military demonstrations at the battlefield, so I grabbed my camera and headed on down to Mechanicsville. I spoke with a woman in period costume whose persona was Fanny Gaines Tinsley, daughter of the owner of the mill:

Fanny Gaines Tinsley circa 1862

We had a nice chat. I should have gotten pictures of her using her digital camera to take pictures of her fellow re-enactors. It was actually a funny sight.

The battle took place on the farm of Sarah Watt. What appeals to me more than the military aspect of the war is the affect the war had on civilians.

You can read all about the battle here if that interests you: Battle of Gaines’s Mill.

Sarah Watt house

There is a sign on the property that reads:

“In 1862 this farmhouse was home to the widow Sarah Watt, her granddaughter, Mary Jane Haw, and a maid. It was a typical Hanover County plantation of several hundred acres with some 28 slaves who produced a modest income from grains, potatoes, and livestock. Around the house stood a kitchen, slave quarters, and other outbuildings. A series of roads, now abandoned, connected the Watt family to their neighbors and Richmond.

“Their lives drastically changed on the morning of June 27, 1862. The Union commander selected the house for his temporary headquarters, forcing the family to leave. When Mary Jane returned after the battle, she found “the walls and roof were torn by shot and shell, the weatherboarding honeycombed by minie balls, and every pane of glass shattered.” Inside, evidence of a field hospital was everywhere. “Now, from garret to cellar,” she wrote, “there was scarcely a space of flooring as large as a man’s hand that did not bear the dark purple stain of blood.”

“Before the battle two of the Watt slaves carried the ill 77-year-old Sarah Watt from her house to a waiting carriage, while others placed a trunk filled with clothing and valuables on a farm wagon. This would be the last time Sarah Watt saw her home of 60 years. She sought safety with a nearby relative where she remained until her death in April 1863.

“Sarah Bohannan Kidd was born in 1784. She married Hugh Watt, an Irish immigrant, in 1802 and was widowed in 1854.”

The circa 1802 house has been restored and is a private residence now, I presume the living quarters of the resident Park Service employee/caretaker.

There is an article on Wikipedia about the Second Battle of Cold Harbor that mentions Union soldiers were disturbed (I’d say creeped out) when they discovered the skeletons of soldiers buried in the yard of the house.

One thing I learned here is that both Confederate and Union forces used balloons for reconnaissance. There was a demonstration of this scheduled, but I had to leave before they did it. I did see them hoist a replica into the air (that’s supposed to be a person in the basket but it’s not):

Reconnaissance balloon

Another thing I learned was about the Zouaves. You can read more about them here: Zouave (pronounced zoo-av).

I was fascinated by their colorful uniforms with baggy pants and short jackets. I know all about the “Blue and Gray” but I didn’t know there was any red in the Civil War. If you think, as I did, that the hats look a little fez-like, you’d be right. The Zouaves were a French infantry unit with origins in northern Africa. They aided the Union forces and the ones in this battle were based in New York state.

Zouave unit

The Zouave re-enactors demonstrated bayonet techniques (yuk):

Bayonet technique

They and the other unit demonstrated their shooting techniques, which was largely lost on me:

Now here are random shots from the rest of the morning:


And that’s your history lesson for today.


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You’ll want to skip this post if you’re not a WEBER or a KOELLER or a SALZMANN or a SCHMIEDER from the Grant County, Wisconsin area.

Sorry to post like this, but I was gifted with these old family photos and I need an easy way to get the word out to family members to help identify these unlabeled photos and hopefully find a better home for them.

Several years ago, I received these photos in the mail (unexpectedly) from a family member in Cuba City, Wisconsin. They were given to her by another family member. Several are labeled (Ed & Elsie MOLDOVAN KOELLER, Frank & Adelaide FITZGERALD SCHMIEDER, Henry & Mary WEBER KOELLER wedding portrait, Henry KOELLER (single), Joe & Emilia FISCHER WEBER wedding portrait, Joe WEBER (single), Charles & Millie SALZMANN LOEFFELHOLZ wedding portrait, Mary WEBER KOELLER (single), Matt & Maggie SCHMIEDER WEBER (2 poses),  but many are not:




4: I think this is one of my grandma Alma SCHMIEDER HOFF’s siblings, he or she looks like a SCHMIEDER











Koeller bunch



16: Matt WEBER?


If you can positively identify any of these people, please post in the comments here. It would be helpful to see another photo of the same person to help confirm the identity.


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Plein Air

What is “plein air” painting?

“A painting done outside rather than in a studio. The term comes from the French en plein air, meaning ‘in the open air’. The impressionists were particularly interested in the influence of changing light outdoors on color.”
                                                                                                  – about.com painting

Today’s “Fast and Fresh” event was the culmination of the 1st Annual Plein Air Richmond Juried Event to benefit the Richmond Symphony. Plein air artists from all over the country were here to participate. The Fast and Fresh event saw artists set up over a 3-block area on Monument Avenue, the pride of Richmond, where the homes have fabulous architecture, like this:

And front yard gardens like this:

The premise of Fast and Fresh is the artists had from 9am to noon to complete a piece and it would be available for sale while it was still wet, so to speak.

I spent about an hour walking around and observing them. I didn’t know how crowded it would be (not very) and most people were respectful not to interrupt the artists, although some did talk to them. It was a very nice day today, warm but low humidity. I’m happy for the artists that it wasn’t like the previous 2 or 3 days, hot and humid. Wish I could have stayed for the sale but there was just too much to do today.

Scenes from the event:


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One of the newly-planted azaleas has a bloom. Looks like something’s been eating on it, but since blooming season for this variety is long over, this was a pleasant surprise! The plants are doing well and I can’t wait for next spring’s display.


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Time Travel

When a friend told me she’d signed up for a photography class (film, not digital), I got out our old Minolta 35mm to offer to loan it to her for her class (she declined).

I found that there was a roll of film in it. We got our first digital camera in 1999, so I was wondering how old this roll was. At least 10 years old I thought, maybe even 13. What was on it? Probably our dear, departed golden retriever, Annie. Vacation? Possibly. The kids? We didn’t take a lot of pictures back then, so it could have been anything.

I decided to finish out the roll and find out. I was surprised at how slow the auto focus and shutter release was. I took pictures around the house, garden, etc. You know, my normal subjects. Every time I pressed the shutter, I looked at the back of the camera. Creature of habit, I am.

I finished the roll this weekend, got 30 shots out of a roll of 24. Sweet! I ran it over to Costco to develop.

When I picked them up, I didn’t peek. I wanted to have the big reveal with John.

Well, it was disappointing. Kinda like buying the contents of a storage locker without knowing what would be there. I’ve never done that, but I’m guessing there’s more disappointment than treasure in those things.

There were no shots of Annie or the kids. The only one that gave us a hint of the roll’s age is this picture of Joey as a puppy.

He was born on 2/2/2002 and because the rhododendron was blooming, the photo had to have been taken in April or May. And since the impatiens in that pony pack hadn’t been planted, it was probably after our last frost date, April 15th.

Nothing else on the roll from that era was worth anything, except maybe a shot of the cherry tree that might have been recently planted. Or maybe the subject was the birdbath underneath it, which I’d given to John for his birthday or Father’s Day or Christmas or something. The trunk of the tree was sorta spindly, so it wasn’t very old. In contrast, the trunk is quite beefy today.



Here are some of the recent flower shots I took:

They have a decidedly different look than the digital photos, maybe it’s the film grain? It could also be the ISO (ASA) of the film, which was 200.

Well, that was fun. I found an unused roll of film in the bag so it probably also dates back to that time (it was not in the original box). I’m going to pop it into the camera and take it to Lewis Ginter with me one of these days to see if I can get something new and different out of that place.


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Morning Walk

I took my camera out this past weekend and visited a new neighborhood. Saw this on the ground as I passed our clubhouse, hope it was a fun party.

These made me sad:

So pretty:

This is Rooney. He’s 14 and dealing with senior citizen issues with eyesight and balance. He staggered over to me and I swear, tried to give me a hug. So sweet.

Some of the streets in this neighborhood back up to woods. I saw what I thought was a large dog bounding toward me in someone’s back yard, but realized that it might have been a deer bounding away from me. Either that or the dog had a very odd gait. It was gone in a flash but I couldn’t have gotten it’s picture anyway, it was too far for the reach of my lens. So you’ll have to take my word for it.

What is this? Delphinium?

I love balloon flowers. I tried to grow them as a border in one of my beds but I think the voles got to them. I’ve lost many things to those damn voles.

This guy was just let out of the house as I walked by. He wasn’t about to come any closer.

I almost stepped on this guy. He was in a big hurry to get somewhere. Probably out of the middle of the street.

What is this called?

I’m not sure a front yard vegetable garden would be allowed in my neighborhood and I wondered why they didn’t put it in their back yard. They have a back yard. Unless the back is too shady and the only sun is in the front. I hope they share with their neighbors. Or other interlopers walking around with cameras.

I love clematis. I’ve been trying to grow Jackmanii on my mailbox post but it just doesn’t thrive. I had 3 plants to start with, only one has survived. It blooms a little but is terribly straggly. My plan is to dig up the soil under the mail box (it’s full of construction gravel), filter out the rocks and plant more clematis. Maybe it just needs more attention than I’ve been giving it.

It amazes me that cactus grows here. I don’t find it at all appealing, wonder what this homeowner sees in it? Maybe they’re from Arizona and homesick?

Hmmm, I’m pretty sure this would be a no-no in my neighborhood.

These trespassers are in violation of the sign. If only they could read and obey the rules.

I had plans to walk across the boulevard to another neighborhood in search of white squirrels, but I felt the call of Mother Nature and got home just in the nick of time.


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Fidos After 5

I stopped by Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden on my way home from work tonight. Normally the gardens close at 5pm, but during the summer, they stay open until 9pm on Thursdays as “Flowers After 5” and once or twice allow dogs as “Fidos After 5.” Tonight was Fidos night. I intended to use my macro lens on the butterflies, but found the exhibit was closed. So I concentrated on the Fidos. It was a really beautiful night to be in the gardens.

This is Penelope (Penny), a 10-year-old Maltese.

This is Petey, an English Setter. His owner was on the phone and couldn’t chat.

This is Evie (born on Christmas Eve), a 6.5 year-old Westie. I love Westies.

Old friends meet again.

A gaggle of Shelties.

This is Audacity, an Australian Shepherd.

This is Parker, another Australian Shepherd. Parker and Audacity are friends of the shelties as evidenced by the previous picture.

This is Stanley, a 3-year-old Schnoodle. This is what Joey would look like if we didn’t have him groomed in the Schnauzer tradition. Although he carries into the house all kinds of leaves and other detritus, we prefer that look to Stanley’s.

OK, I had to shoot some other things as well. I had heard there was a snake around and sure enough, there it was.

Couldn’t pass up some flowers.



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I have this whole bank of Nikko Blue hydrangeas which I absolutely love, love, love. My plan was to try and duplicate the garden of Penny McHenry, founder of the American Hydrangea Society. Years ago, there was an article and photo spread of this women’s garden, aptly named “Hydrangea Heaven” in Southern Living magazine. Honestly, as I remember it, the pictures in the magazine were much better than what’s on the website. It was so inspiring. But anyway, I haven’t achieved that level of excellence, maybe some day. If I ever get to visit Atlanta, her garden will be on my list to see, if possible.

But I digress.

One of these is not like the other:

I planted these years ago and they’ve always been blue. This flower is the only one that is pink. Every other one on that bush is blue. I might understand it a little better if the whole bush were pink, but to my knowledge we haven’t put any chemicals around there that would change the acidity/alkalinity of the soil.



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