Saturday, August 12, 2017

Charlottesville Annual 2017 Butterfly Count in Albemarle County Virginia

Butterfly Counters (hat and binoculars required gear)
While Charlottesville made national news due to violence in our lovely historic downtown, I was out participating in the annual North American Butterfly Count for Albemarle County.

You can't help but have a favorite, the Northern Pearly Eye.
Two teams of mainly Virginia Master Naturalists headed out at 10 am to count butterflies. One group was dispatched to Crozet and the other to Kemper Park (the nature trail that traverses up to Monticello). Temperatures were more moderate today, only 90 degrees compared to 97 last year! Getting overheated is to be expected. The day began with fog and light sprinkles of rain but the sun came out and so did the butterflies!

This year our butterfly count was held just north of Kemper Park at the adjacent property, Secluded Farm. It's a lightly hiked area that features big swaths of open meadows and forest land.

The official numbers have not been tabulated but our butterfly sightings were fairly light. The most commonly spotted butterflies were the little Silvery Checkerspot, Skippers, and the black Spicebush Swallowtail.

Spicebush Swallowtail on Thistle flower
It was remarked that the annual count is a favorite event for many of us. Immersed in nature, seeing a variety of native plants, insects, magnificently huge trees, and of course butterflies. There is always something in nature that is totally new. I discovered several plants and shrubs that I had never seen. A Master Naturalist snapped a Spice Bush limb and we all smelled it's lovely scent. Who knew! There were also plenty of unusual Dragonflies lighted on twigs.

Silvery Checkerspot Butterfly

I have to wonder why people can't find something meaningful to do with their time other than spew hate. What a waste of a perfectly beautiful day in Virginia. I'm so fortunate to live in a normally peaceful town that welcomes diversity and has respect for all creatures great and small.

~ Rebecca

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

L L Bean Grand Opening in Charlottesville, Bringing a lot more than just Clothes

The Grand Opening of our own LL Bean store is this weekend, Friday - Sunday, Aug 11 - 13. Operated by the founding family for over 100 years, LL Bean continues to be located in Freeport Maine where it all began. A company that opened with mail order and a motto, “A customer is the most important person ever in this office – in person or by mail.”. The first item LL Bean sold was "the shoe", and this item has become a mascot of sorts. A huge mobile boot has been constructed out of fiberglass that sits on top of a Ford Pickup truck. It's a must see and is currently at the new store during opening weekend events. It's so popular that a second Bootmobile had to be created.

Sneak peak at the NEW store
In 1932 LL Bean published a 52 page catalog and had one store in Freeport Maine. Over the years, outlet stores were opened and even a store in Japan. Thirty retail stores are now open in the US with plans for more to come. An international enterprise because of online ordering but with local roots with store openings, LL Bean has finally made its way to Charlottesville. Open 7 days a week at the Stonefield Shopping Center across the parking lot from Trader Joes. You can also enter the store on Bond Street. Speaking with Eddie Flaherty, LL Bean Marketing Planner and Bootmobile Driver, a staff of 70 has been hired just for Cville.

$5,000 presented to the Girl and Boy Scouts by LL Bean
LL Bean is having a party this weekend and invites the community to attend! Get in line early Friday in order to hopefully snag one of the 200 Gift Cards (worth up to $500) that will be handed out! The store opens at 9 am so the line is bound to start forming early (memories of the Whole Foods store mania comes to mind). Saturday and Sunday from 10 am - 4 pm you can try you hand at fly-casting and archery and Sunday is devoted to KIDS events. The local Boy and Girls Scouts were handed a $5,000.00 donation today during the soft opening and both groups will be present Sunday with hands-on activities and games, along with pets and snacks! While the kids are having fun, the adults can enter the 2018 Trip to Maine giveaway!

Follow the Kayak's on Bond Street
If you have a LL Bean Visa card or purchase one, this gets you an additional 20% OFF your order during the weekend Grand Opening celebration. If you receive their mailer, you can also get a free gift (bring in your mailer).

You may not realize that LL Bean hosts area river events such as kayak tours and seminars. All equipment for trips is provided by LL Bean and instructors are employees of LL Bean. Next year the river locations will be closer to Cville but for now events are hosted in Goochland near the Richmond store.

The Charlottesville store is bright and airy with a variety of traditional LL Bean clothing and shoes with an obvious slant to the outdoors. Kayak and Paddle Boards can be purchased along with tons of camping gear and there is even a pet section. Just about any sort of nature nut gear is available - binoculars, sunglasses, water bottles, fire pits, backpacks, tents, and more. LL Beans traditional lines of canvas products shine in the store - totes, shorts, pants, shoes, and hats.

Pick up the Summer mail order catalog while you are in the store. I love how the catalog format is consistently the same as the years pass. LL Bean's clothing line offers simple timeless traditional style for a wide range of ages. ~ Canvas, Seersucker, Blue Jean, Nautical, Khaki, Tees, Boat Shoes ~ With the same 100 year + guarantee that you are completely happy with your purchase, you can't go wrong with LL Bean.

My mother always ordered us LL Bean coats for Christmas and we still have a set of the traditional Canvas Barn (Field) Coats that look as good as the day they were gifted.

Had the pleasure to meet Eddie the Bootmobile driver
Go see the Bootmobile and say HI to our newest Stonefield Shop!


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Summer Butterflies all a Flutter in Charlottesville Virginia

Spicebush Swallowtail on my False Spirea Shrub
I've just received word that the annual Albemarle County Butterfly count will occur August 12th this year. The purpose of the count is to determine if butterflies are declining or not and it's part of a national program.

Easily recognized Virginia butterfly, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
I've been noticing hordes of the common Silvery Checkerspot and of course the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail fluttering around the garden. A few more regulars have included the Spicebush Swallowtail and the Silver-Spotted Skipper.

I've changed my gardening behavior over the last several years, allowing most plants to reseed. Which means I do not cut back any foliage unless it looks like a dead brown stick (dead Daylily stems come to mind). It looks a bit of a mess but come winter it's amazing as to the number of birds that reach for these seeds and how it actually adds winter interest. I also do not remove the fallen leaves. It's one of the worst things you can do.

Small but fast, the Silver-spotted Skipper
I'm beginning to conclude that not removing leaves or dead foliage until Spring has also benefited the insect populations. Think of how many cocoons and larvae are inadvertently destroyed when you totally clear out flower beds at the end of the season.

I also am taking note of plants that are especially attractive to pollinators and butterflies. Catnip, Clerodendrum, Hyssop, Mimosa, Fruit Trees, herbs, Cosmos, Beautyberry, and Cone Flower are garden favorites.

Time will tell if the increase in butterfly populations around Forsythia Hill are due to my efforts or just another "good season". It will be interesting to see how the numbers unfold this year during the annual count. It's also a good time to see some uncommon butterflies. We always see something interesting in the fields and woods. Nature is full of surprises!

I going to end this post with a fun video of one of my neighbors NEW honeybees loading up on nectar from my Beautyberry shrub.

The next time you hear from me, I just might be inside a shoe... visit back soon to figure that one out!

~ Rebecca
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