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

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Happenin' In the Dooryard

A Boy
A Hose
A Mud Puddle


Orca (the dog)

Brand-new (mother's day) boxes for raised bed garden! (Made of old lumber and nails we had leftover around. No money spent for the exactly-what-I-wanted present!)

Dark-Eyed Juncos
Rose-breasted Grosbeaks (a pair)
Goldfinches (a pair)
Chipping sparrows
White-throated sparrows

Eastern Chipmunks (at least 4)
Red Squirrel
White Butterfly
Dark brown teeny butterfly with white stripes

Blooming, or nearly:
Lilacs (white and purple buds)
Tulips (from [info]lepi's drive-by crocussing)
little purple-and-white ground cover
White Violets
Ruby and Yellow Pansies (from last year!)
Red and Yellow Primroses

Recently Planted:
Bee Balm (to compete with the Snow-on-the-Mountain)

A Slide and Large Rocks to climb on

Heard recently:
Black-throated Green Warbler
Oven Bird
Hairy Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe ("SqueeKee Phoe-Bee!")
Wood Thrush

Friday, May 09, 2008

Spring Means New Clothes!

Or something like that.

The red squirrels are shedding their winter coats and look especially silly today.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

idly noticing birds again

A Robin was singing in a tree this morning around 9.30 when it was still sunny. I saw a White-throated Sparrow on the big rocks around 11 a.m.

I like birds.

You probably guessed this.

Friday, April 25, 2008

more idle observations

Saw and heard the Eastern Phoebe today. He was out back, briefly on the beams of the back balcony and more usually on the second-largest yellow birch that leans up toward the house from the creek bank.

Also saw 2 Chipping Sparrows on the mixed seed feeder. We probably need more bird seed again.

Must note them on ebird.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

idly noticing birds

Seen this morning: 2 Tufted Titmice; 1 Chipping Sparrow in Breeding Colors.

Heard: More than 3 chickadees. No phoebe this morning. Don't know what these are:

(warbly whistle) puwé puwé puwé
(squelchy) squué!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

International Migratory Bird Day

Saturday, May 17th, will be International Migratory Bird Day.

Come celebrate at the Birds of Vermont Museum, if you are near Huntington, Vermont, that day!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Compact Flourescents and other links

From a friend's suggestion about the Compact Flourescent/Incandescent comparison paper (it's a PDF listed at the link), I wound up thinking about Wal-mart and Phillips, which reminded me I am reading (slowly) The Ecology of Commerce, so of course I googled it, and found more about Paul Hawken on wikipedia as well as a useful summary and application of the book at a Masonry heater trade journal site, and then the organization Wiser Earth, which

is a community directory and networking forum that maps and connects non-governmental organizations and individuals addressing the central issues of our day: climate change, poverty, the environment, peace, water, hunger, social justice, conservation, human rights and more

Now I'm poking around my utilities site, seeing how maybe I can pay them less money...

Oh look, here's what I should've done when I broke the two CFLs I broke (in the decade-plus of using them, I've broken two, one was still in the package). Hm. Me and LittleBirder are probably doomed now. Or not, given the limited exposure and that I did some of the clean up correctly and we show none of the symptoms associated. But we knew that.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Channeling a Beaver Spirit?

Tried intalling some extension jambs this morning into our office/library casement window. Perhaps because ours have been sitting around for Far Too Long™, I couldn't (by myself) get the top one in. It's a bit bowed and I'm having trouble. Hopefully R and I together can finish it when he comes home ... but that would require not reassembling the office library from it's current interestingly disheveled state. And I want to finish cleaning it up. Hm.

I think I was inspired by Bruno the Carpenter -- LittleBirder and I read it at daycare the other day...

I did kinda go crazy in here. I put together an old oak table that (without the leaves) is 4' x 4' -- which is really darn large for a space only 8' (maybe) wide. Except it would just look wrong in the corner, and finally I have a surface deep enough to be a useful (and beautiful! Though old) desk. (Plus I have a sentimental attachment to it, mostly 'cause I like it better than any other desk or table in the house). Now if I can just figure out where to put the telescope, and swap the metal (skinny) table for the (silly prefab) computer desk, and put the table in the big basement (and more not-useful-right-now computer and telephony equipment on it in case we ever really finish the hardwire networking), and get the old blond veneer bookshelves from the other basement (not so sentimental, despite having been were my grandmother's), then I could put these other papers and crates and boxes away, or sort of...

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Hairy Woodpecker

Over the last couple of days, I've taken some short videos of the male and female Hairy Woodpeckers (Picoides villosus) that have been coming to our suet feeder. The camera work and lighting leaves a lot to be desired (as does the background noise -- you can hear in this one a train video LittleBirder is watching on YouTube*). Nevertheless! It's delightful to have the pair visiting us.

* By the way, it's kind of a neat little train video, with a troll. I am not this skilled in my vids!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Owl House

Two or three Christmases ago, Grandpére built lots of bird houses in lots of sizes, and we each chose one. For ridiculously long time, our barred owl house has been sitting either on our front stoop or in our entry area.

Then, we added white cedar shakes over the pine.

Today, we—mostly my sweetie-pie—put it up on a old maple by the creek.

Aside from being perhaps too close to the road, the location is probably pretty good: right by the creek, a mix of dense hemlocks and deciduous, easy flight path down the dirt road to the old meadows...

We may have put it up too late, in that I read in one place that barred owls pick their nesting sites as early as September. Still, we hope! We know they're around...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


7 a.m. Dawn. One of those lovely ones of sky shading into gray and lavender, and where the clouds are roses and creams and pearls and golds. All colors marked and framed by the traceries of winter twigs, punctuated by the silhouettes of whine pine branches, thick among the thin.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Out and about with Orca

Tracks! Identifiable: running neighbor with border collie, us. Others might've been fox (red or grey). bobcat, mink, squirrel. Those are pretty likely. Oh, also more dogs, natch. Shrew? And other small rodent -- vole/mouse type (holes in the snow).

Maybe a bit far for Orca -- I was only going to go to the dead end sign and back, but went around the back of the house and along our forest path by the creek -- too tempting not too! Then Orca wanted to go down toward the mailbox so we did but she was shaky and tired on the way back. Her knee is so stiff and what with widespread mild arthritis....

(see also LittleBirder for this day)

Monday, January 21, 2008

looking forward, looking up

I've been looking at the wood pile.

Well, of course, one does, each time we look out the back door. It's just there.

But I've been counting the rows ... I think we're going to run out of wood this year.


I love the hazy clouds over the full moon.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

icy snow is good for...

It's thawed and snowed and refroze ... strange weather. But the crusty, icy snow, not too deep, turns out to be nice for teaching LittleBirder to ski a bit.

He loves it.

Friday, January 11, 2008

spider prints

LittleBirder: "Mama, can you put the spider outside so it can make footyprints?"

Mama: "Do you think spiders can make footyprints?"

LittleBirder: "Yup, with their legs."