THE CANAL FLOWS PAST US – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Friday: CANAL

We live in the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor which is sort of like a national park but without the funding. That’s the Blackstone Valley for you. Incredible historic areas which are unique to this continent.

Little bridge and locks over a tiny canal

Mills and a river with many canals and locks that rolls along for miles by the river. Sometimes, the river and the canal are one unit. When the water gets rough, the two parts divide into two portions, one having locks to allow barges to deal with waterfalls and white water, the other just the river. Uxbridge has one of the larger sections of a free-flowing canal.

Canal and Blackstone River where they separate and become two streams.

In Worcester, they actually buried the canal under its streets. Worcester is an ugly little city that is always trying to dress up like a real city and never succeeds. Maybe because of its history of putrefaction, factories, river pollution, sewage pollution and some of the ugliest architecture I’ve ever seen anywhere.

Along the diagonal of the canal

Perhaps NOT burying the canal and polluting the river might have made them a more attractive location. We tried to buy a really lovely house up there, but no bank would finance it. It wasn’t that the house wasn’t a beauty. It was glorious and for us, cheap. But the banks wouldn’t finance anything up there. They said: “Buy somewhere else.”

And that is how we wound up in The Valley. By the river and the canal.

Steps to the canal

You cannot live in this valley and be further than a quarter of a mile from the river, a tributary, a stream, pond, or a canal. We have more parks than grocery stores and banks combined. We have herons, swans, ducks, geese, and about a million (or more) snapping tortoises in the river. Also, trout and baby trout.

The canal in summer

Finally, fishing is allowed in many places and sometimes, even swimming. Personally, I’m not swimming anywhere near where those snapping tortoises are hanging. I value my toes.

And the river and bridge in winter

This is a beautiful place to live. A little light in the culture department, but if nature does it for you, this is a great place to live.

And in the autumn …

And we do have the country’s first free public library in the middle of town. Just so you know, we used to be a bit snazzier!

Blackstone Canal

GOLDFINCH OR WARBLER? Marilyn Armstrong

A reader assured me that the warblers are not warblers because warblers have migrated south. But after a lot of staring at pictures, these ARE warblers. Also, they do not migrate. They used to migrate which is why I first was baffled as to why I was seeing warblers in the winter. As far as I knew, they should all have gone south by now.

It turns out that many birds have stopped migrating. One of the many reasons they have stopped migrating is because people like me feed them through the winter. Feeders allow them to stay put, so they don’t bother to migrate. And the weather is changing.

Warblers

Why are these warblers? Probably Pine Warblers that permanently live along the coast including where we live. Further inland, some of them migrate, but many do not. The dark head, the sharp double white bar on the wings.

The Goldfinch doesn’t have that double bar. It has one strong bar and a second partial bar and the males have a black cap which NONE of my warblers have, at least none that I’ve photographed and by now, I’ve photographed a lot of them.

My friend Ron says he has flocks of these warblers all year round in his woods, too and he lives just about 60 miles west of here, near Amherst. There are some other birds that are similar, some of which may be other kinds of warblers (there are a bunch of them) or they might be Goldfinch.

More warblers that look just like the other warblers.

The birds are basically the same color, same size, fly in flocks, and live in the same region. And they are all “feeder” birds. But since none of the birds have shown a black cap, I can’t believe in all these birds I haven’t seen a single male American Goldfinch. Therefore, I have to assume these are non-breeding Pine Warblers.

This from the white wing bars, white necks, and dark (but not black) heads and bodies ranging from yellow (mostly around their heads) with mostly light yellow or beige bodies.

This one looks different. No black cap. More yellow than my other warblers. It doesn’t look as if he has that double-barred wing so this could be a “lady” Goldfinch — or a Yellow Warbler. The green on his tail feathers is, I think, a reflection of the green top of the feeder.

I had to buy a new copy of Peterson to get the updated information, by the way. My old book was from 1984 and many migratory patterns have dramatically changed. A few birds apparently don’t even live in this area anymore, but other birds that never lived here now do. Many common birds have become rare and some rare birds have become more common.

Migratory patterns have changed for many birds and quite recently. During the past ten years, the Canada geese stopped migrating. They used to fly south. I remember watching the vees of geese heading for the Chesapeake Bay. You don’t see that anymore.

Instead, they occupy the lawns of (are you ready?) office parks.

There’s no water there, though there are rivers everywhere in the area so I’m sure they can get to a river if they want. They appear to live on the land and eat whatever people leave around. Maybe when the summer comes, they fly to the rivers and catch fish.

The rest of the year, they march in straight lines around the office parks and you had best get out of their way when they have goslings. They are formidable when protecting their young.

Time and birds, they are a’changin’.

THE DAIRY FARM AROUND THE BLOCK – Marilyn Armstrong

As 2019’s first major winter storm closes in, memories of summer seemed in order, not to mention a recipe for one great and classic cake.


Garry wanted pound cake for which I needed eggs. Our half-and-half was going “off.” With pound cake, we obviously will want coffee, hence we need fresh half-and-half. I wanted new pictures; Garry needed a photo airing too.

We accomplished it in one fell swoop (click here for a history of fell swoop), merely by driving around the block.

fresh eggs at the farm

It’s a dairy farm. Milk, eggs. Sometimes local honey. Today they had homemade jams and organic lip balm. The eggs come from the chickens wandering around the yards and are often fertilized. The milk is from the happiest bunch of cows I’ve ever seen. They loll around the green pasture which lies along the Blackstone River.

farm an windmill

There are several pastures. The pasture further down the road has a small creek running through it. They take the cows there in very hot weather so they can wade in the cool stream and graze on the wildflowers and weeds along the banks. It’s shady there. The calves have a pasture of their own and graze together along a hillside on the other side of the barn.

The milk isn’t homogenized or pasteurized, which means it’s very close to half-and-half, but you have to shake it before using because the cream rises to the top.

cows in pasture on the farm

I splurged on a jar of homemade elderberry jam. They had fresh corn, but I don’t need corn today. Maybe I’ll go back Monday, get some corn then. We don’t eat a lot, so I try not to over-buy things that will spoil and end up getting thrown out.

elderberry jamAnd we got pictures. I haven’t downloaded most of them yet. These are the first batch.

Here’s my recipe for pound cake. I’ll be baking as soon as the butter softens.

  • 1 pound (3-1/3 cups) flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 4 sticks softened sweet butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (use the real thing)
  • 9 large eggs, lightly beaten.

It makes two cakes in standard loaf pans. I’ll freeze one. We will happily devour the other. I can feel my hips expanding as I write.

The elderberry jam is delicious. And 2 pound-cakes are baking in the oven. The smell is … wow.

THE GREAT OUTDOORS, NEW ENGLAND VERSION – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: The Great Outdoors

We live in rural Massachusetts, but it’s hard to think of it as “the great outdoors.”

There’s something a bit enclosed about New England. Trees and stone fences. No big open areas, but smaller sections. Fields, valleys, rivers, lakes … and an amazing Atlantic coast. We are less grand than the west but cozier. Greener.

Less grand than the west, but friendlier. And we get more than enough snow to make up the difference!

The cows in the meadow
The last of the woods, now bare
Vermont mountains
Roaring dam in Blackstone
Photo: Garry Armstrong
Photo: Garry Armstrong
River Bend in early winter
Photo: Garry Armstrong
Photo: Garry Armstrong –Winter at home

 

RAGTAG DAILY PROMPT- THE BRIDGE

RDP Tuesday: Bridge


There is a small stone bridge over the Blackstone River where it meets the canal and become two pieces. I photograph it frequently in pretty much every season except deep winter when it’s inaccessible due to snow.

I love that little bridge. Stone bridge. Actually, it’s Route 16 on its way to Milford then Boston then even further out towards Lynn. One long route.

It’s not just a road … a route. It consists of many roads and I don’t know what they call it here, but it’s definitely Route 16!

Bridge over the Blackstone
Photo: Garry Armstrong
Stone Bridge over the Blackstone

Stone bridge over the Blackstone River and Canal

ROCKS, BOULDERS AND STONES IN BLACK & WHITE – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Rocks, Boulders, Stones

We live on rocks. Rocks, roots, and shale — that’s what the area is made of. The reason our house is all the way over on the northeast edge of the property is there’s a rock the size of New Jersey in the middle of the property.

The rocky shores of Cape Ann were (are) famous for shipwrecks
Stones under the dam

The guy who built this house (and a lot of others along this road) was not a great planner. Rather than moving the construction further forward on the lot (it’s 2.5 acres so land isn’t the problem) or further back — both of which areas are flatter and has fewer boulders — he pushed the house all the way to the northeast edge of the property line.

Superstition mountains are nothing but rocks
The rocky edge of the Blackstone River. With Great Blue Heron.

Over the property line.

On the neighbor’s property.

With faded green by the stone bridge over the Blackstone River
Stone steps into the river

Which later required a property exchange, a dozen years after the original building was erected.

My personal favorite rocks
Our garden wall composed of giant, lichen-covered stones from deep in our woods

The funny part was because our buildings are so far apart, it took a decade for anyone to notice this house was actually half on the neighbor’s land. Ah, life in the country!

 

FIELDS – CEE’S BLACK & WHITE CHALLENGE – Garry Armstrong

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Field

Really, we live in a field, except it doesn’t look like a field because it’s full of trees. It’s hard to take pictures of a field with so many huge trees on it. They tend to block one’s view.

So I have settled for more open spaces, except for just one of the walls of Fenway Park. Because you can’t come from this area and not include Fenway!

If I think about it, this area is nothing BUT fields!

Field by the river – Photo: Garry Armstrong
Field of snow – Photo: Garry Armstrong
Mountainous fields in Arizona – Photo: Marilyn Armstrong
Fenway Park – the oldest baseball field in the U.S. – Photo Marilyn Armstrong
Cornfield at harvest time – Photo: Marilyn Armstrong
Photo: Garry Armstrong – The landing field at the Tuskegee site
Photo: Garry Armstrong
Photo: Garry Armstrong – Field of green by the river in June