Supporting Team Stafford - They're going to Worlds!

We've had a lot of fun with this project! Suzy Stafford is a talented horsewoman from Delaware who has developed an incredible relationship with her Morgan mare, PVF Peace of Mind, who is known as "Hunny" to her friends and fans. Suzy and Hunny were just named 2015 USEF International Horse of the Year, earned the 2016 USEF Single Horse Driving National Championship, and have qualified for the World Single Driving Championships in Austria this summer.

As a result, they are looking to raise a substantial amount of money to travel overseas to compete. Suzy thought it would be fun to have Hunny tell her story, so we pulled together this short video so she could do so and ask for help. Kudos to Laura Burroughs, who did the voiceover work and gave Hunny her adorable "voice"! 

We also help maintain Suzy's website, where you can learn more about her achievements and services here > 

Making America's Coolest Small Town "Home"

We've spent the good part of the last year on an adventure of a whole new sort - renovating an old home in the heart of Berlin, Md. The historic town, just a few miles from Ocean City, Md., has a creative charm of its own, leading it to be crowned 'America's Coolest Small Town' by Budget Travel and named a Maryland Arts & Entertainment District. So when a crooked farmhouse, circa 1900 with a secret garden in the town's commercial district, became available we decided to take on the challenge.

And what a challenge it's been! Our vision was to convert the house into a gallery on the first floor with an open living space on the second and third floors. But we had to straighten things up a bit first.  And by straighten, we had to jack up the house and rebuild the structure from the ground up. Literally. At one point the hardwood floors on the first floor were pulled up and the living room contained a big pile of dirt that had to be dug up so the foundation could be fixed.

During these early stages of demolition we discovered so many issues that we ended up removing all the walls - five layers of wallpaper, paneling, drywall, plaster, and lathe over shredded newspaper insulation - and redoing the electric wiring throughout the entire house. Ditto for the plumbing once we saw its condition. We have discovered every problem that could possibly be wrong with this house (we hope!) and have addressed them all.

 We're well into the rebuilding stage now and are pouring over paint color chips while we wait for the drywall mud to dry so we can get sanding and painting. We're aiming to open the doors of our gallery and working art space, Wooden Octopus, later next month, and will house TossAmey Creative within that space. So if you're heading to the beach this summer, make a stop in Berlin and say 'Hi'! You can find us at 8 Jefferson St, behind the Atlantic Hotel and across from the Berlin Coffee House.

Chincoteague Pony Penning

This year marked the 90th year of this unique Delmarva tradition, held each summer in the oceanfront town of Chincoteague on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The wild ponies that live in the national wildlife refuge there are managed by the local Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company,  who conduct a yearly roundup and auction off younger stock to both maintain healthy herd numbers and raise money. (Continued below...)

For Pony Penning, a group of men from the fire company, known as the Saltwater Cowboys, mount their own horses and gather up the ponies on the island and herd them to a marshy area across a small stretch of water from the town. They let the ponies rest there and wait for a slack tide, when it's safest to swim across. A boat waits on standby to carry any foals or ponies who may have trouble swimming. Once across, the ponies are herded through the street to the Carnival Grounds in the Town of Chincoteague, where they will await auction. Once the auction is over, the remaining ponies will be herded back to the refuge.   

The event was made famous by the book Misty of Chincoteague, which was written by Marguerite Henry in 1947 and was later turned into a movie. Today, it draws thousands of spectators to the island to see the wild ponies make the swim. It is one of our favorites too, and we enjoy taking it all in from the vantage point of our kayaks. 

Assateague: Prickly Pear in Bloom

Image location: Bayside, Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland 

Image location: Bayside, Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland 

The Eastern Prickly Pear cactus (Optunia humifusa) is a rarity in these parts - a native cactus! They are now in full bloom, and it's easy to spot their bright yellow flowers among its low-growing mat of flat, spiny pads. These fleshy pads are edible too - this cactus has been a staple in Mexican and Central American diets for thousands of years.

 

Great Blue Heron in Winter

Assateague Island National Seashore 

Image location: Sinepuxent Bay, Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland 

Great Blue Herons are one of the few birds we are lucky enough to see in our marshes year-round. Ever wonder why?

Their secret to wading through ice-cold winter waters is in their long, thin legs. Arteries on the inside of the leg carry warm blood down to the feet, while veins run parallel that carry cold blood back up to the body. The process is called countercurrent exchange, and the heat from the arteries serves to warm the chilled blood before it re-enters the body. A pretty neat trick! 

Seal on Assateague Island

We spotted this seal kicking back on Assateague Island last Sunday morning. Seal sightings are always cool this time of year, but it's extremely important to give them their space. They come out of the water to rest and should be allowed to do so without being stressed.  Disturbing them is not only rude, it's against the law - as a marine mammal, they are federally protected. These photos were captured over a short time period from about 75 yards away with a 400 mm lens.  

This seal appears healthy and seems to be in a normal resting position - if you see one like it on Maryland's beaches, let the Maryland Coastal Bays Program know. However, if you spot one that appears injured or entangled, do not approach it - notify a ranger, or call the National Aquarium's Stranding Hotline at 410-373-0083 or Maryland's Natural Resources Police at 1-800-628-9944. For more information visit the National Aquarium's website ➤