Monday, August 20, 2012

from the maiden voyage on Bristol Pond

Across the water a great blue heron hunted, apart from the four Sandhill cranes. They watched our paddle lift and fall still, lift and still. We drifted and the heron watched. The cranes returned to their own business. A kingfisher chattered. Our bellies grumbled quietly, as we too thought to seek our own dinners. A swallow caught its prey overhead.

Turning, we glimpsed an osprey bearing a fish, pursued by a young bald eagle—seeking to claim it for its own? The osprey dropped its catch—no fish for either bird tonight. At least not that one. Three ducks, fast and sleek, patterned browns with pale-edged wings, returned to where we'd seen only two earlier. A pair of white-rumped harriers rose and sailed easily from the marsh to drier upland, vanished from our view. Rounding the last turn, we took ourselves finally to shore to the last splashes of vanishing frogs. Packing up the new kayak in the joy of a daydream come true, with new birds for our life lists, the seven-year-old and his mama were off to find their own well-deserved pizza.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Late snow, early geese

Well, OK, the Canada geese might not be early.

I took the pup walking this morning near Horseshoe Bend of the Huntington River. A light snow was falling under an overcast sky. As we crossed the edge or the meadow, a pair of Canada geese flew across, dark against the sky then light against the evergreen-covered rise to the northeast. They honked as the flew, one deeper-voiced than the other. Maybe they were heading toward the pond off Mayo Road, unseen to the east, and above me.

The pup spared them a glance, but when back to snuffling old scents on the crusty settled snow. Me, I paused, watching.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

First Snow

First snow tonight. Wet stuff, after another day of heavy rains and flood warnings. Not too much -- so far. I think of the first snow of the season being October 17th, plus or minus. I'd been guessing it would come on the 19th this year. So much for that.

Aside: we have enough wood. Not yet stacked though. Oh well.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Abigail's Addition

Our not-so-small house is getting bigger...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Furry Neighbor

Have I mentioned there's a groundhog living in the Big Pile Of Rocks? (Now I have.)

It's so far not eaten the been seedlings -- I have no faith that will last. It did investigate the future herb bed (which already has oregano and thyme, thanks to Mom's amazing gardens), and we've seen it doing so, as well as disappearing 'round the corners of the house. Its tail is noticeably short, which suggests something about both the pack-o-dogs that goes running by most days and about the groundhog.

About the pack-o-dogs: one of our nifty neighbors trains and boards dogs. She exercises them by running several miles UP the hills and then down to her home. About 4 are leashed and about 8 aren't, and they are generally excellent, civilized, normal dogs and she is very clearly Alpha Leader to them. So I have never had cause to worry about either my own dog or my children when they come by. The ground hog, of course, should worry.

I rather like having a groundhog neighbor, except I don't feel like sharing the garden. There's so much other grasses and plantains and such around for it... but I suspect it's tricky to train a groundhog.

I do have fencing, if I could find the time...

Monday, April 12, 2010


Daffodils, up and in bloom. Scilla, also. Lilac buds are leafing out.

Wish I knew more about which trees were which. There's a project for this year... or next.

Seen (and sometimes heard): Dark-eyed Juncos, Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches, Song Sparrows, American Robins, Mourning doves, Common Raven, Blue Jays, Eastern Phoebe (at our house, this one is known as "squeaky phoebe"). Possibly saw a Fox Sparrow.
Heard: My ear is woefully absent-minded. At my sister's, I heard (at least a month ago), someone saying "witter witter WET feet". At home, I'm hearing something like "maids maids kettle-ettle-ettle" (local dialect of song sparrow?).
Haven't been paying close attention, and we were away for a week.

Saw Eastern Newts and snails in High Pond. Three Gray squirrels this spring; two to four Red Squirrels (the end of the tail of one is patterned like a turkey feather!). Several Eastern Chipmunks.

My favorite spring observation so far: Kids playing in mud. (Me too.) We're building "gunk walls" to direct the water away from Pine Castle. The water comes from our spring, crosses under the road (in theory; there is a culvert again this year at least), seeps in more or less and eventually meets the creek. Pine Castle is a now topless white pine on a large mound, which makes for a good fort. Maybe photos sometime.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

finding the borders after and under late winter detritus

About 3 inches of daffodils are up. Most of the snow is gone. So I couldn't resist being outside a bit today; I know it's too early but... or maybe it isn't.

Anyway, I raked some, just dumping slightly-mulched the leaves into either one of the garden-beds-to-make* or under the white lilac and excessive roses**. They don't need the mulch at this time of year, but I figure those beds need more soil eventually and this should slow down some of the silly spread-themselves forbs. Wish I knew more about what's native or not.

I pulled old stems and leaves and bits of gravel and some persistent spreading ground cover off the rocks that edge the flower beds (the ones with shrubs and perennials along the road). I cut away old daffodil leaves, sedum plants, peony stems. I'm not much of one for annuals unless they self-seed. I have mixed feelings about sedum and some of the geraniums, 'cause they spread so. And the snow-on-the-mountain! If only it would be well-behaved ... but it tries to take over and isn't even as useful as mint. I planted bee balm with it last year, that should teach it . Let 'em duke it out. The bee balm (non-native varieties, though I tried to find those) is nice for the Ruby-throated hummingbird when the lavendar (er, lilac?) lilac isn't blooming.

The daffodils come up through years of gravel dumped via snow (carried in snow shoved onto these beds by the plow) mixed with whatever I toss in the previous fall (generally their own old stems and leaves). Once I tried to move them. I dug down at least six inches and never found the bulbs. I figured they must be alright enough then, and put the dirt back.

I am a very haphazard gardener. And lazy... no, no, I mean efficient. (Thus choosing perennials.) Well...

* We're gradually, year-by-year, adding beds for vegetables or herbs or whatever. Some are raised beds; this area will be more terraced with river rock "walls".

** Moved from my Mom's; some are transplants of her old roadside roses, which we "pruned by the plow" every year. Some are just random things she moved or divided. I do not pamper roses (indeed, I barely give them any attention), so mine are thorny, leggy, sometimes buggy, and smell wonderful.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

ooh, that smell

When we got home late this afternoon, the air was full of the taste of crisped maple sugar. I guess either Highland or Hillsboro (or both) were boiling off today.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Yesterday through the window

The lilacs have buds! Well, the white lilac anyway; it's the one with slightly better drainage and gets somewhat less snow plowed into it. The purple lilac is older, but has lost quite a bit to snowplowing (the shove of the snow more than the plowblade). (Oddly, the road and lilac have not moved in the over 13 years I've lived here. Go figure.)

I also saw a Dark-eyed Junco on the hydrangea. I haven't seen many of them this year. Was I not feeding enough, the right stuff? Was the snow just too deep for under-shrub feeding in the visible places?

The creek behind the house is running slightly high and cheerfully loud, and bit blueish with spring meltout. Oh, there's plenty of sagging snow and spots of ice over the mud still, and I'm sure we'll get some more before spring is solidly here, but this feels so welcome.

On my way to one of my clients' today, I saw a pair of Canada geese! They appeared to be playing the goose version of tag, as they swam in this semi-seasonal pond near a plowed field off Route 116. (This is the same field where I got my car stuck one day last year, because I'd turned off the road to look more closely at what turned out to be statues of swans. Ahem.) The Canada goose may be a year-rounder, maybe, out on Lake Champlain, but I don't see it up here in the winter, so that's a sign of spring for me. On the way home, I saw another waterfowl, possibly a Common Merganser, but I didn't have the chance to be sure. Either way, spring birds are a delight.

Oh, and in clicking through for the links (so you can see more about these birds), I found this painter, Catherine Hamilton. Love her touch with watercolors.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Little Shaker

This morning I chose to sip my coffee in the rocking chair by the living room windows, instead of my usual spot in the nook in the comfy chair. I don't know why, exactly. It was a good choice, though. A little shake of the apple tree branches, and I saw more wet snow fell down.

The snow from yesterday's 2-foot-ish snowfall was already off most branches: the warming temperature yesterday afternoon and occasional winds and the branches' own flexibility sloughing to the ground. And the apple was getting a little help from a ruffed grouse.

LittleBirder came over and I helped him see this little wild chicken-cousin: buffy and brown patterns against wet branch patterns the color charcoal on a overcast dawn gray background. Easier, of course, when it moved! I don't know what it was finding on the branch. All the apples have fallen from that tree. Maybe some small insects?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Not So Small Measure of Wood

Rig Delivering Long Lengths of FirewoodBig Truck, Small Road

This year, R took care of ordering wood and arranging for delivery. It all happened faster than in previous years, and more cheaply (although it will be more work on our end). Yay. R ordered logs, which turned out to be seasoned ones (a good thing), so we'll have to buck them up to stove length, and rent a splitter to make them small enough to stack.

Boom and claws laying the wood inUsing a boom with claw to lay the log lengths on a pile

M was thrilled to watch the Murray, the wood tech, use the grabbing claw on the end of the boom to lift the wood off the truck and lay it in the cleared space near our shed. One at a time, carefully!

5, maybe 6 cord of firewoodFive, maybe six, cord of wood

When you go by logs, it's a lot harder to estimate cordage. This is somewhere between 5 and 7 cord of wood (we stack pretty snugly, and a cord is a volume measurement, so I'm guessing not quite 6 cord.) Our woodshed holds just over 5 easily. We'll have to rent or borrow a longer chain saw (some of those logs are about 20"-24" in diameter!) maybe, as well as the splitter.

The photo suggests the wood is leaning on the apple tree; it's not, but it's close. Aside: that poor apple had its top lopped off by the power company, clearing branches off the lines. This was a good precaution against the storms—we've had fewer power outages since they really started keeping up with that—but I wish they'd told me they were going to do this to the poor tree!

And our winter's heat is mostly here!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

some tweets from April

I'm on twitter (as metasilk). Sometimes I manage a relevant-to-small-measures post there, and sometimes I run out of time to update this blog as much as I'd like. So.... this post.

April 9: To chirps of woodpeckers dueling over suet, I finished a tedious bit of a small project.

April 14: A little brown bat is flying around over the road, in the shadow of the hillside. Sweet to see, but I worry he's not catching much.

April 23: Cool: purple finch on the black oil sunflower seed feeder today. Two Broadwinged* Hawks over the yard yesterday!

April 26: LittleBirder is making a mud puddle. I keep hearing happy noises from the front yard!

April 28: There's a white-throated sparrow singing LOUDLY in our woods, near our yard. Almost louder than the road grader! The birds are really delighting me recently. Wish I had time to write down all the observations, audio and otherwises. Heck, I wish I knew them well enough to ID them from said audio and visual... oh well. That's in the "someday when I have more time" daydream-pile, I suppose.

*I had originally, and mistakenly, ID'd these as Cooper's Hawks.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

feed the birds!

Just added a membership/donation form (PDF) to Birds of Vermont Museum's site. If I can get them up w/ PayPal we can do online memberships as well!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Rodents Awake!

Saw a lovely gray squirrel this morning, and for the last three days or so have been seeing at least two eastern chipmunks (their tail lengths are quite different). I'm surprised the squirrel is so plump-looking, but perhaps he or she has been awake a few times this winter and restocked on the black oil seeds we supply. Or possibly just fuzzy with a winter coat, still.

Yay for mammals wakening into spring!

Sunday, February 15, 2009


I am walking the dog, elderly, tottery. It's FAR too early in the morning -- perhaps 5 o'clock, more or less. It's dark.

Threading though the hemlocks, barely heard over the sound of the thawed snow splashing over ice in the stream, the thin faraway call of a coyote, perhaps too. A long howl dropping into a short yipping chatter. Again.

I'm relieved they're out past the ponds, far enough to hear, not too likely to come by right now. I know they have left tracks in the past days and weeks, not even 200 yards from where I stand now. I'm glad they're in the woods, but comforted at the distance. One fewer worry of things that bother my beloved old dog.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Great Backyard BirdCount 2009

They also send out a newsletter as well. Click, click! Find out more!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Company Drops By

As we were arriving home tonight I saw a white-tailed deer in my yard. I mean, in -- as in about 3 feet from the doorstep. I suspect she was eating birdseed; she was standing just under one of the feeders and we saw tracks later: both hoofprints and scrape marks. She was shaggy as all get-out, but I couldn't say how large, since she was partly hidden from me and I'm not very good at estimating that sort of thing. I'm sure I was taller than her back and her head might've topped mine, but this is hardly useful or precise.

I slowed and stopped in the road, I was so surprised, and of course because of the slope and snow, wound up revving the engine to make the turn into the parking space. And accidentally hit the windshield wipers, which squeaked terribly. All this startled the poor doe, and she leapt away in a heartbeat.

I am inordinately tickled. Yes, we see their tracks many mornings, but it's a delight to have caught this glimpse of her as well.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Hinesburg-Huntington Christmas Bird Count

This Saturday Jan 3

from eBird Vermont:

The 109th Christmas Bird Count will run from December 14th through January 5th. Last year, thousands of volunteers counted nearly 60 million birds across the Americas and beyond. Each count occurs in a designated circle, 15 miles in diameter, and is led by an experienced birder, or designated “compiler”.... The longest running Citizen Science program in the world, the count originally began on Christmas Day in 1900 ...

The Hinesburg-Huntington Count will be January 3rd. Contact: Paul Wieczoreck

Thursday, January 01, 2009

ooh, ice!

The creek is half frozen, great swaths of chunky silver-blue ice punctuated by the occasional dark pool at the foot of a waterfall. (Exactly the colors that don't photograph well with my camera, especially when I'm looking through the window.) R says it did this last New Year's too.

Iit's between -7°F and 0, depending on which thermometer you look at. Bundle up!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Small Neighbors between snows

Pine Siskin (Carduelis pinus)(female?) feeding under hydrangea bush
Pine Siskin (female?) on the black oil seed feeder

We had a good dozen or more Pine Siskins appear today, now that it's thawed (again). I understand we're supposed to get more snow, after the rain that wiped away much of the Christmas snowstorm. (There are still soggy piles, one of which you can see behind the feeder, but a good bit of wilted and chilled-crispy grass and mud is now visible all across to the yard.)

The photos were taken through the glass door, and on a fairly high zoom, so any blurriness is probably camera shake and vague dust. IF you click them, of course you get them larger... and there's the album as well.

I think I've seen this species before, but haven't had a chance yet to root through the older photos and journals to be sure. Ah well, some other organized version of me in some other alternate universe is keeping a detailed, accurate, citizen-science-y life list... With any luck though, I'll remember to post this at least in eBird!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Three of a kind

Driving home, we reached our mailbox around 6 p.m., full dark. The mailbox is at the junction of a side road; opposite is the old farmhouse (the reason our road is here at all), and on the far corner is an apple tree (same variety as ours?) and a low cement-block dairy barn, used now for storage and the occasional pigs.

Between the apple tree and the barn were three white-tailed deer, eyes gleaming in our headlights, bodies deep bark-colored shadows.

A pause, a neighbor pulled around us and two sets of headlights illumined them briefly. The neighbor passed up the side road and then, easily, they leaped down the slight slope under the spreading bare branches, over the road, and into the old meadow and a different neighbor's leftover gardens.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Clearing lines, clearing apples?

So the electric company clears branches from the power lines, in their ongoing maintenance to avoid a repeat of the extended outages we had in the Ice Storm of '98. They hire a pretty decent tree-cutting company to do so. Vaillancourt (if I spelled it right) tends to cut very tidily, stacking the branches and logs away from lawns and traveled ways. On the other hand, they mostly cut as to what's needed for the lines, over what might be best for the tree (in my very limited clue about trees) (although I suspect they'll do both when they can). This is all well and good, and in fact is why there's habitat for Indigo Buntings near our otherwise fully wooded second-growth land.

On the other hand, they don't come knocking on your door to say, "Hey, we'll be cutting off another 5 branches from your maple that we could've done last year" or "Hey, just want to let you know that we're taking the entire top third of your apple tree." I wish they had! I walked out in the front yard the other morning, and thought "that's odd, it seems lighter than it should be." And yup, looking around, exactly those branches/tops were gone.

The maple was (is?) a very lovely open-grown sugar maple. (Maple identification: Forestry at or Mass Maple ) Now, it's about half the tree it was... The raspberry brambles will probably be thrilled next spring. (And I'm going to pull those branches -- some of them) back over for my next year's firewood-seasoning pile.)

The apple is one of about a half-dozen still surviving (there are some dead ones) from the time when this was half-pasture/half-orchard. The state actually has a program for saving and releasing old apples like this; I'd've liked to take out 2 of the 4 maples crowding it (except they also guard it from the depredations of the snow plow). It's by far the largest (trunk diameter at least 12 inches) and probably the healthiest of the lot (or was? Spring will tell).

Windfall applesWindfalls, been on the ground for weeks

I wish I knew what kind of apple it is! My best guesses are something crossed with Lodi or Yellow Transparent (clues from Vermont Apples). The fruit ripens more latish summer/early fall -- why didn't I take better notes at the time? Argh -- which is a bit late for both those varieties, though. Except that we're up the mountains, so maybe not.

The fruit is about 3 inches in diameter, and yellow-gold with some red streaking. It's tart and fairly crisp at first, and then the windfalls are very mushy. The flesh browns quickly. I saw a great apple poster somewhere not too long ago and thought I knew our apple from it, but I can't remember where I saw it! I went googling for apple varieties, but none of these (otherwise fairly nifty) sites had enough for me to tell. (Enjoy the links, though!)

Grandpap's Apple Orchard

Vermont Apples

Golden Russets and Cake

Heirloom Apples at Scott Farm

Vaerity list from Big Horse Creek Farm

Apple Varieties: more web sites

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

soft light

Of course, now it's up to 60°F. Heh.

This is good, for me personally. What with one thing and another, I'm afraid I'll worry about "enough wood" all winter, so every warm day comforts. It's slightly hazy now, but the early morning sun slanting up the slope and through the trees, splashing across the mossy stream rocks, was stunning. I think of Fall, like Spring, as two seasons almost: Foliage and Quiet. I love the light in November, slantwise at the turns of the day, whether on ice or warmed over leaf litter.

Blue jays, juncos, chickadees here at home, but last week I saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk at the Birds of Vermont Museum!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

second snow

It snowed again last night; thicker, wetter, heavier. It bowed the lilacs, the roses, the crabapple.

The chickadees seem to enjoy the resulting arches. All I have at the moment is mixed seed and two small feeders half-full, but there are about 5 chickadees and 3 juncos visible right now.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

first snow

looking southeast from the French door

There's a light wet snow falling this morning. I'm dreading winter this year for some reason, but the loveliness of this still touches me. Orca, the twelve-year old Bernese Mountain Dog, loves it; I didn't nickname her Icebiter for nothing!

It's still really dim out, and hard for me to take photos.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hydrangea in bloom, cream and marroon. Sedum in bloom, magenta. Various small wildflowers, more lovely, nameless (to me).

Saturday, September 13, 2008

wood of one kind and another - #2

Cord #2 (of 5) delivered today by our neighbors. Price: Highish. Quality: Excellent. Well-split, well-seasoned.

The hillsides are starting that color shift, where it's still green...ish. Lots of deeper tones coming forth each day, and a few early shifters in bright yellows and some reds.


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Wood of one kind and another

Pressure treated (bleah) is a third the cost of cedar. Guess which one we went with? Right. Oh well! Over the weekend we made two runs for materials, attempted to put poor K-dear to work (thwarted in some sense by me thinking we knew what kind of railing design we were doing, and then discovering R didn't think we knew yet), and generally made about an average-for-us amount of progress. Thus:

R and LittleBirder carry decking
So far, so good!

R spent this evening getting the back deck prepped (ripping off fungus-ridden plywood, bleaching, and cutting the first couple of decking boards). Might get as far as posts tomorrow!

Today I stacked what wood we do have as well, which is something. And paid our neighbors for it. I'm a pretty good stacker, if I say so myself, and this is nice wood, all one cord or so of it (might be a tad less; our neighbors asked us to stack it and check because they weren't sure how much this truck held). I didn't feel up to decking with just me and LittleBirder, so we didn't.

Friday, September 05, 2008

WIE touches WorldChanging

Picked up in the Midd Co-op a magazine called What is Enlightenment?, last October's issue. A bit heavy in the "we're so enlightenedly cool we can hardly stand ourselves; Let Us Show You the WAY" in a NeoBuddhist kind of way, but cheerful and some interesting ideas.

One article with interesting places to poke and jump from is
"A Brighter Shade of Green: Rebooting Environmentalism for the 21st Century" by Ross Robertson [HTML]

The PDF version has the sidebars and the advertisements. I recommend the sidebars, actually if you feel like downloading about 10 pages of colorful stuff.

Share and enjoy...

Sunday, July 27, 2008


I foolishly left the stroller on the front porch. It's a tiny porch. Probably smaller than what you're thinking. That's not that relevant, except all of the porch can get wet from rain, despite having a roof.

Then it rained. And rained some more. It got warm one day... but rained some more again. Nice warm July thunderstorm weather!

It's not like mildew is news; I just wasn't paying attention.

I've disassembled it now. LittleBirder hung the fabric bits on the clothesline in the little direct sun we'll get for the rest of the day, and we've wiped the frame down with vinegar.

I'll wash that fabric in our breaking-down and leaking machine*, and probably machine dry it somehow. Not the small measure I would wish, but I need to keep the mildew out of the house as much as possible, or my sweetie's allergies will force us to finish/quit trying and move. And drying on the line is just not the ticket this summer.

* Apparently front-loaders are designed to last about 7 years, while the less-efficient waterwise (and electric?) top-loaders last longer. A bearing goes, and they leak, and Sears will only replace the whole drum for 2/3 the cost of the machine, instead of just replacing bearing and seal.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

our very own lettuce for dinner tonight

I mentioned R had built us garden beds. At the end of May we filled them with dirt (topsoil/horse manure mix -- I think 75/25), some old seeds (varying ages) and new seedlings.

As luck and remembering my mother's garden and his grandfather's, we managed accidentally do some good companion planting! Carrots (ours are wee tiny things right now) & Tomatoes (very healthy seedling), Marigolds and Melons, Nasturtiums and Cucumbers! Yay us! (Our cucumbers really came up... whew! thinning 'em now, I feel so heartless...) Have seen only a few possible spinach, beets, and beans (old, old and very old seeds); wish us luck for those. We also have peppers (hot and sweet; the driving rain took care of most of the aphids, wow); swiss chard (mmmmm); lettuce; 1 zucchini (who needs more?). I think that's all ... it's a wee tiny garden.

Companion plant links:,7518,s1-2-10-697,00.html