Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Smith-Gilbert Gardens in winter ... and more

Three weeks or so ago when it was snowing we went to the Smith-Gilbert Gardens which are near our home.  I have written about these gardens several times, about their history, and shown them in summer, on August 21, 2011, in A Secret Garden in Cobb County, Georgia, part 1, followed by part 2, then by part 3.  Then in a post showing them in the fall, on November 23, 2011 in Return to the Smith-Gilbert Gardens, and then again last year on September 19,2013 in End of Summer in the Smith-Gilbert Gardens.  On my last visit three weeks ago the snow was melting fast but I did get some snowy pictures.  I returned to the gardens last Friday, February 21, 2014, to take some pictures showing the gardens now, when the weather is back to normal and spring flowers are starting to show.

The first and second days it snowed we could not get to the gardens because the roads were icy and the gardens were closed.  The third day it was sunny and the snow was gone from the trees but there was still plenty on the paths.  (Click on collage twice to enlarge.)

We followed the little stream to the waterfall.

The waterfall was charming as usual, with beautiful formations of icicles.  I took so many photographs of it - it is difficult to choose just a couple, so I'll show several.

My husband followed some critter's tracks that lead him to the pond.  There he decided to sit on a bench and wait for me while I took all my pictures.

Ice had formed along the small stream.

As with the waterfall I could not help taking photographs of all the ice formations - the appealing designs nature had created.

The movement of the water had carved out some unique ice shapes and the light reflecting in the water made them seem alive.

The water forcing its path through the ice caused lovely tiny bubbles.

When I went back to the gardens last Friday, all this winter vista was gone.  The sky was blue, it was close to 70 degree F (21 C) and did not feel like winter at all.  I took a couple of pictures with my cell phone.

Actually, it was warm all last week.  Last Sunday we had dinner at my daughter's in-laws.  As usual we ate some tasty Indian cuisine - curries and small Indian cutlets.

My little grandchildren were there.  The two eldest grandsons and a little friend were quite enthralled with their "carrom" game.  I had not seen this board game before.  My son-in-law's brother told me that it was popular in India and when they were children he and my son-in-law played it often.  I found out that it is a "strike and pocket" game of Eastern origin similar to table shuffleboard.  There are variants to the game - one of them called "Family-Point Carrom Game" is popular with housewives somehow.  My husband's nephew looked quite interested too.

I also have been getting much enjoyment with what I may consider a "toy."  I have seen this on a couple of blogs.   It is a photo "app" for a cell phone called "waterlogue."  I purchased this app and have been playing with it with some of my pictures.  It is a lot of fun.  First I used the snow pictures I showed on my last post, the red barn and the cardinal in the bird feeder.  I'll show my original photos, then what "waterlogue" did to them.  They really look like watercolor drawings.  Click on them to see better.

Then I worked with photos of my cats - Cody, the orange cat and Mitsou, my late grey Korat.  I could see printing those on nice paper and framing them.

I'll finish with photos I took last Friday, the pond with the koi fish and the blue sky above the Smith-Gilbert Gardens (originally taken with my cell phone and not retouched at all.)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Snowy days in Cobb County, Georgia ... again

Yesterday, Friday 14, 2014, around lunch time, I published a post with many pictures with the same title as this one.  Here we are now Saturday evening and this past post never updated in Blogger.  This is a test to see if this post will update.  If it does, please read my post below.  (I guess if it does not I'll just delete this.)  I have had this problem before, and I don't know why.  I just wrote my post as usual and clicked on "publish" - it did publish, but never updated.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Snowy days in Cobb County, Georgia

During the bad winter storm two weeks ago in Metro Atlanta on January 28 and 29, 2014 (see my last post here,) we did not drive, but we walked.  I brought my cameras and took some pictures along the way.  About 3 houses up on the other side of our street are a couple of old barns.  Then on our side of the street, about 2 houses up, is a large red house with white columns - we do not know who lives there.  Actually we hardly know any neighbors (even though we have lived here since 1976) as the houses are not very close to each other.  (Click on photos and collages twice to enlarge.)

Adjacent to our house is a large piece of land with a lake.  There are four houses around the lake, I think.  When we moved to our house years ago there was one house only - a teenager there used to babysit our daughters from time to time.  We had to drive her back to her house on the far side of the lake.  We can see the lake from our house in winter when there are no shrubs or leaves on the trees.  On that stormy morning I came behind my cat Mitsuko to take some pictures from our kitchen window.  There is a screen outside the window so the photos are not clear.  Mitsuko did not want to move as she was looking intently at birds.  You can see part of the lake behind our barn in the center picture below.

We walked to the lake.  It is especially pretty in winter when there is snow.  Some ice was floating on the surface of the lake.

We walked along the side of the lake toward several ducks.  We observed them for quite a while - they did not pay any attention to us.

Across the lake we could see someone shoveling snow off a driveway with a dog nearby.  The dog started to run along the lake and came to greet us.  He was very friendly and walked with us until he started to dig, near the lake, and found a bone that he must have hid there long ago.  Then he trotted back to his home with his bone, tightly held between his teeth (bottom left picture below.)

We turned around and slowly came back.  It was sunny but still below freezing.

It was beautiful and peaceful there.  We saw a Bluebird fly away - I tried to take its picture - I did, and you can see him below.  We walked home from the back of our barn.

While we were at the lake we saw a car parked - I think it was a Jeep.  Later, as we walked away, the driver stopped to introduce himself and told us that he and his family had been neighbors for the last seven years.  We exchanged email addresses.  Later when he returned with his wife, who had been stranded in her car, he stopped and introduced her.  So now we know one set of neighbors, and that is nice.

Once back at home I thought I saw a Bluebird by the driveway, but it was a Blue Jay.  He was pretty anyway.

This past winter storm, named Leon, has been terrible for many people, but I was pleased to see snow again.  On Saturday February 1st, we drove to the little lake by the Senior Center to see if there was some snow left, but there was not.  By then it had melted.  The lake still had some ice on its surface though.

I thought that now we would have to wait another three years or more to see snow again.  Wrong!  Last Tuesday, February 11th, 2014, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed advised residents of the Metro Atlanta area to stay home.  I watched TV and news on my computer - another storm was coming named Pax.  People were rushing to stores to buy supplies - snow shovels were in high demand (we do not possess one.)  This time the Mayor was being pro-active and trucks were ready.

Metro Atlanta area people stayed home through yesterday, Thursday February 13th, although the roads re-iced during the night.  Roads were deserted apart from road workers, gravel and sand trucks, police and power workers since thousands lost electric power because of down lines and trees.  Georgia Power Company reported that yesterday 236,000 customers in Georgia were without power, mostly in the Atlanta and Augusta areas.  A reporter standing on Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta was showing that people had heard the warning - there was no one in sight (blue jacket below.)

On Wednesday, February 12th, 2014, it alternated between rain, snow and ice.  I was very surprised yesterday morning, Thursday, when I looked outside our kitchen window - the scenery was like a fantasy-land - white all over.  I could just make out the bright red color of a Cardinal across the window.  I took its picture several times but, as I said earlier, with the screen on the window photos do not come out too well.  I tried to take a picture of the yard, so pretty under the snow, but my camera focused on the screen as you can see below - but you can guess at the view ...

I thought I would make coffee and have breakfast then go out for a walk and take more pictures.  That was a mistake, because within two hours the sun was shining and the snow had already fallen from the branches.  I started by taking a picture of our barn - it looked like a Christmas card.  I took it with my little Canon Power Shot which I have not used in months.

I took more pictures of the front and back yard.

The snow covered branches on our fig tree made attractive designs.

We then repeated our stroll of two weeks ago by walking along the road to the farm nearby.  The snow looked different, softer.

There was a thick layer of ice under the snow.

The lake looked as pretty as always

and the colors seemed more glowing.

Back at home, since we could not drive to the store, I made a vegetable stew with what I had on hand and it turned out very tasty (I'll give the recipe next week.)  It stayed very quiet outdoors, apart from the chirping of the birds.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Metro Atlanta Winter Storm 2014 ... and more

Last Thursday at this time, January 30th, 2014, snow was melting and, by then, most people were finally home.  It had only snowed 3 inches or so on Tuesday 28 January but the snow quickly melted into ice and with metro Atlanta automobile lifestyle it had turned into a transportation catastrophe.  All area schools and companies dismissed students and workers at the same time resulting in giant gridlocks.  Vehicles could not move or would slide off the roads and many abandoned their vehicles on emergency shoulders thus blocking first responders who were unable to get to accidents and snowplows were unable to spread sand and gravel.  The whole area was paralyzed and looked like a giant parking lot.  (Click on collages twice to enlarge.)

As I mentioned in my last post, we stayed home - we could not have driven on our road anyway.  We watched all the main channels on television reporting that thousands were stranded and cautioning all residents to stay home.  Children on school buses could not get home either; some went back to schools to sleep (as their parents could not get home) and others stayed in their buses overnight.  Many people did spend the night in their vehicles and others took shelter in grocery stores, drug stores, etc.  One thousand people slept in the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel at Cumberland Mall, near Marietta.  By 9 pm the Georgia State Patrol had responded to 940 crashes and emergency number 911 had received 3,280 calls for help.  A lady was telling a reporter on TV via her cell phone that she had left her office at 3:15 pm on Tuesday, had arrived five miles away at the perimeter highway I-285 by 10:30 pm and eleven hours later, on Wednesday morning 9:30 am, her car had not moved one inch.  Another young lady spent 22 hours in her Ford Focus, too scared to leave her car.

The weather forecast had predicted some snow for Tuesday, January 28th, mostly for areas south of Atlanta.  It had not become a "warning" until 3:45 am that morning when most people were asleep.  The roadways quickly became covered with solid sheets of slick ice causing vehicles to crawl, slide, swing around or slam into each other.

Many people blamed Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed for the city's lack of preparedness, but to be fair, the streets of Atlanta were quickly cleaned off and 1 million people left the city.  Three years ago the city had four pieces of equipment but now it has 30 spreaders, 40 snowplows and 70,000 tons of sand and gravel.  The traffic problems were on the interstate highways that are maintained by the State of Georgia, not by the mayor.  Many 18-wheeler trucks passing through the state jack-knifed and prevented other vehicles from moving, then also too many vehicles hit the road toward the suburbs at the same time.

The census of 2011 showed that the city of Atlanta has a total of only 420,003 people living inside the city limits.  When people say "Atlanta" they mean "Metro Atlanta" with 6.1 million people and a region that spreads over an area of 8,376 square miles (21,694 km2) - a land area comparable to the state of Massachusetts - Atlanta itself is about 10% of the metro area.  Metro Atlanta is the largest metropolitan area in the Southeast United States and comprises ten counties: Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale (that rarely cooperate with each other.)  This area has more than 16,000 miles of road (2nd highest number of miles per capita of any metro are in the nation.)  However, the public transportation system called Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) only serves two counties close to the center of Atlanta.  I saw a graphic in a July 2013 article that showed that Atlanta was the fastest growing and most sprawling metropolitan area in the US with traffic congestion rated in the top five of the country - and that is when the weather is fair.

There have been other bad snow and ice storms here.  When my husband received his Master's degree in Urban Land Use and Environmental Regional Planning from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, he was offered a position in Governor Jimmy Carter's administration.  We moved to Atlanta in early February 1973.  I remember seeing trees down, debris everywhere.  That January 1973 there had been an ice storm that closed roads, shut down businesses and schools for a week.  Nine years later, in January 1982, seven inches of snow fell across Atlanta, again immobilizing everyone.  I worked in the northwest area of Atlanta and could not get back home.  My husband who worked downtown at the State Capitol left his office around noon and did not reach our house until 3 am (a routine 45 minute drive then.)  There was no power for a week.  This storm was called Snowjam.  Below are some pictures of 1982 Snowjam (author unknown.)

Then eleven years later, in March 1993, another big storm paralyzed the metro area for days.  Some snow had been predicted but a foot fell thus forcing the closure of the interstates.  That day I had been driving back to Atlanta from Greenville, South Carolina, with a group of Algerian trainees from my work.  Once at their lodging I could not get back home (15 miles away.)  They kindly let me have one of their apartments for two nights.  Our daughters could not get back home either and stayed with friends.  This storm was called The Storm of the Century, or the Great Blizzard of 93.  Below is a photo of the blizzard courtesy Wikipedia.

In 2011, On January 14, I wrote a post "Atlanta snow in the New Year," click here to see it, describing the ice storm that had turned the metro Atlanta area into a skating rink for a week.  It had snowed, then rained, then turned very cold, and ice had formed over the snow.  It was very pretty - the snow looked like marshmallow cream, but it was dangerous to walk and drivers faced chaotic conditions on the road.  The State of Georgia spent about $2 million a day to clean up the storm and the City of Atlanta purchased additional snow removing equipment at that time.  Below are some of my pictures from that ice storm.

People here have a short memory.  The lack of public transportation and suburban sprawl add immensely to the traffic problems.  When we moved to Cobb County in 1976 we were hoping that the MARTA public transportation system would be extended to our county.  Only two counties voted for the system, ours declined.  The reason was mostly racism - they thought that it would make it easier for black people to move into the county.  This decision permanently altered the region toward making automobiles necessary to go anywhere and created more sprawl.  Metro Atlanta sprawls to 100 miles in diameter - or the size of Los Angeles with 1/3 of the population.  There are no sidewalks and very few bicycle lanes.  Developers prefer to clear-cut acres of forest (at a rate of 50 acres - 20 hectares- a day,) cover farm land with asphalt and bulldoze hills to build wealth segregated subdivisions rather than modernize areas in the city and build mixed-use housing there. There is no "smart growth" policy here compared to most cities in Europe.

MARTA serves only 500,000 out of a region of 6.1 million people.  The region's average commuter spends over one hour per day in an automobile to commute (one of the longest commute time in the nation.)  In the 1970s my husband and his staff had drawn up a regional plan for metro Atlanta including land use, environmental studies, green areas, transportation, etc.  When Jimmy Carter left for Washington for his presidency, the State of Georgia dissolved my husband's department, saying environmental concerns were not necessary and the regional plan was not implemented.  I don't think there is a working regional plan still.

In 2012 the Governor of Georgia (Republican) and the Atlanta Mayor (Democrat) joined forces to back a transportation ballot issue, called T-SPLOST, that would have provided the residents with alternatives to highway travel.  The measure was defeated by 67% of the voters (but supported by Atlanta citizens.)  The metro area has become very conservative and the Tea Party is strong - they reject any type of tax and always vote for smaller government ... but then blame the area government when the roads are gridlocked.  I thought I'd mention these details for the understanding of what is happening with traffic in Metro Atlanta and one of the main reasons for this new snowstorm fiasco, named Snowpocalypse 2014.  I'll end up with a quotation from Charlie Hales, the Mayor of Portland, Oregon, at a business meeting in September 2013: "Atlanta's a mess ... Sorry, but Atlanta's planned so poorly, it'll take generations to change the shape of the place."   Here below is looking at my road, down and up (no sidewalks) the day after the snow fell, January 29, 2014.

In my next post I'll show pictures I took in the snow.

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