Archive for June, 2008

Magical Shop in Gruyeres

Monday, June 30th, 2008

A couple of years ago, when visiting Dweezeljazz and her husband, we traveled to Gruyeres, Switzerland – home of the famous cheese. Now it is also famous to me for a very special shop called Terre qui Chante. I’ve included the link to the shop, as the site is also lots of fun to check out (it is in French).

A couple run the boutique and are artists, who specialize in making ceramic animals, many of them musical. They have lots of ocarinas in bird and animal shapes.

The shop is just magical – something you’d imagine you’d find in a fairy tale – and the couple there are very kind and gentle. I was quite enchanted. I was given the gift of an ocarina shaped like a titmouse.

Gruyeres is a beautiful village with a medieval castle in rural surroundings. The town is flanked by the pre-Alps Mount Moleson, which you can see peeking out amoung the town’s eaves here.

The little village was relatively quiet in April, with lots of scudding clouds and bright sunshine. It is squeaky clean and orderly, as most places are in Switzerland.

Here is one of the many lovely flower pots adorning someone’s window ledge. I love the deep cobalt blue of the pots against the cream of the building.

We had a picnic lunch outside the castle walls that were being renovated at the time.

Then we packed up, reluctantly left Gruyeres (with a pound of cheese for my father), and traveled on to Fribourg to see the sights there.

Lac Leman.2

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

This is a view of Lac Leman near the far end on the Swiss side, with part of the Alps in the distance. It was taken in April at Vevey, the town where Charlie Chaplin lived in his later years. At this time of the year, the skies and the Lac can look dramatic.

Just short distance past the glitzy city of Montreux is this impressive castle, Chateau de Chillon. I’ve included a link to the tourist website that has much better photos. The chateau was not open when I visited, so I had to be content to take this shot from the road, which included electrical lines for the tram.

The area has been used since the Bronze Age. The first written reference to the chateau dates from 1150. It’s had a lot of history.

One of the fascinating sights is to see the vineyards of the Lavaux region dotted along the road hugging the Lac. There are tiers upon tiers of them. Unfortunately, in April, all is rather gray and colorless. But interesting nonetheless. Here is a shot of one vineyard. I’d say these vines would take only hand maintenance! Apparently the original vineyards were built by monks about 800 years ago (these gluttons for punishment were no doubt rewarded with rather good libations). The Lavaux is now a World Heritage site.

I had a wonderful tour of the Lac on this day. We stopped in Vevey, walked along the Lac for some distance, then warmed up at a little inn, having hot tea and the never-disapppointing patisserie offerings.

Even though the skies were dark and menacing, and it did rain a bit, the air was reviving and we had lots of fun discovering the new and the ancient.

A Typical Weekend at Home

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

The jays buzz the cat in the meadow, calling raucously and continuously till the feline gets the message not to trespass the jay’s territory.

The twin fawns seem to be in sync with just about every activity, including responding to unexpected noises. Hmm…what was that, anyway? (After all, everything is new to a fawn.)


And then at home, it’s cage-cleaning time and that means everybody vacates, one at a time, his or her cage.

This is a shot of Pippin parked temporarily in the Wingabago travel carrier. Pippin is so small and such a seeker of small dark places to explore and make nests, that I can’t leave her out unattended for long as it isn’t safe.

But Sam, who was already out and about exploring, decided to check Pippin out (he does like her a lot). They had a little chat and then Sam continued his explorations.
The cockatiels also took the opportunity to explore the window sill and the outside activities. Not much happening out there except jays flying about and sun beating down – oof! It’s supposed to reach upper 90s F today.

Baths were had by all and Chipper dried off on the tree.

Here he is relaxed and happy for the weekend!

Lac Leman

Friday, June 27th, 2008

Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) has many different moods during the year. In spring, it’s bursting with life. There are a number of areas where the general public can walk along the beaches or walkways. There are many areas off-limits to people who can afford living right off the Lac (that is: they are very rich!).

Switzerland and France share the Lac, adding to a bit of confusion for a new visitor.

It’s beautiful. I’ve now seen it during the the very early spring, late spring, and the fall.
This wisteria was blooming in the small town of Hermance, Switzerland. It is a lovely quaint place, full of artistry and beautiful old buildings. My friend and I had taken the bus from downtown Geneva to the end of the bus line at Hermance (the Swiss bus line stops at the border near France). We had walked all morning around the city and were famished, so we found an auberge with seating outside near the Lac, had the plat du jour, and it was fantastic!

All along the beaches of the Lac you will find nesting waterfowl in the springtime. There are many swans nesting – and it’s a real treat to watch them flying over the Lac. So graceful.

Here is one mother who did not allow us to approach any closer than this.

I will show a few more photos of the Lac in future posts. It is a very large lake and there are many sights to see along its curves and inlets.

Le Saleve

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Le Saleve (or Mont Saleve) is the first ridge of the Alps rising southeast of Geneva, Switzerland. It looms near the city of Geneva, even though it is in France. (One of the most confusing things to get used to in traveling around Lac Leman is is how often one switches from France to Switzerland to France and back again.)

In this first photo, you can see a small portion of the old town of Geneva on the lower far left.

Le Saleve is a very popular place for weekend jaunts. There are lots of trails, and in the winter there is skiing.

In this next photo you will see down into the valley with Lac Leman spreading out from the city of Geneva. The fountain at the near extreme end of the lake (before it empties into the Rhone River) is called the Jet d’Eau and is one of the landmarks of the Lac.

One of the fun things to watch are the hang gliders floating gracefully over and around Le Saleve.

We spent quite a long time watching these gliders from the summit. Here’s just a tiny snippet I took:


Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Yvoire is a very quaint and ancient town in France, right on the coast of Lac Leman (Lake Geneva – which is the largest body of fresh water in Western Europe). The village has worked hard to retain the medieval buildings remaining so that visitors can come to absorb and appreciate its history and beauty.

Yvoire came to be a strategic military fortification in 1306 during the war between the Dauphine and Savoy, but its roots are older still.

This belltower belongs to St. Pancras Church, dating from the 11th century, though the current steeple was built in 1854.

The village first became known in the 1950s as the best kept village in France and has garnered awards since then. It really is lovely and parklike, full of flowers in the spring through fall.

My visit was in mid-April before summer crowds arrived. It was quietly busy in the little shops but there was an air of peace nevertheless. That was especially evident when I walked out on the jetty and sat, listening to the waves of the lake lap against the very old stones.

If you visit Geneva, Switzerland, Yvoire is not far away. It is worth every gallon of pricey gasoline to get there.

Fawn Update

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

These two rascals are growing fast. I’ve never seen such lively spunky fawns in the 6 years I’ve watched these deer pass by my place. As you can see, they are so much bigger than two weeks ago.
These two are now nibbling on grasses and foliage.

Well, they’re not THAT grown up. Mamma’s milk is still the best!

Plum Blossoms on Stone

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

I just finished this new painting I’m calling “Plum Blossoms on Stone.” I found these tiny blossoms on a long oval stone in my front yard this spring. They looked so soft and delicate on the hard stone with the long shadows of a late spring afternoon. They inspired me.

Once the painting is scanned, it will appear on my website.

The blossoms, of course, are long gone. Now the plum fruits are half way to ripening – a real treat for the deer who traipse through every day, and for me!

Preening as Group Therapy

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

With four birds in my home, a lot of preening gets done every day. I don’t know how many feathers any of my parrots have individually, but an interesting factoid I found was that a bird may have as few as over 900 feathers (Ruby hummingbird) or as many as 25,000 (whistling swan in winter). Any way you look at it, that’s a lot of feathers to care for.

Preening is what takes care of the feathers, besides taking a bath – which my birds do regularly. Even after bathing, preening is necessary to get the feathers properly groomed and maintained; to add oil to the feathers to keep them waterproof and insulated. In the wild, it also helps to remove parasites and debris. (You can see tiny bits of down and keratin here on Sam’s head.)

And when birds are molting seasonally, it helps to remove the keratin sheathes that encase the new feathers. I’ve also read that it helps to strengthen relationships. That makes a lot of sense.

Whenever my birds preen, it is often “contagious” – that is, when one bird begins, usually everyone else follows suit. Group preening. It is one of the most soothing activities I’ve ever witnessed. Everybody quiets down to the focussed task of preening, and it can last for many minutes. I think it must be very important socially and emotionally for birds to preen in a group. Maybe it’s the original group therapy. After all, birds have been around a lot longer than we have.

One of the unexpected side benefits to me is that whenever this preening business happens and I’m present, I get caught up in the quiet, almost meditative atmosphere. When everybody has finished with a nice stretch, I sigh and collect myself for the next task ahead. Ahhh….

Stepping Lively

Friday, June 20th, 2008