THE CANAL FLOWS PAST US – Marilyn Armstrong


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

SATURDAY’S EARLY BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

I keep seeing wonderful, exotic birds — who vanish exactly the minute I have my camera in my hand. Are they afraid of the camera? Does it look like a weapon?

It’s eerie. I walk very quietly into the dining room and put the camera on, facing away from the glass. I turn around — they the one I wanted is gone. All the rest are there, but the Cardinal or that big golden woodpecker?

Rainy morning squirrel. I do believe he’s shaking off the water!
I love when they just lay down in the seeds and won’t be moved, no matter how many birds come and try to bump them off the feeder. In this case, a nuthatch got tired of waiting while Mr. Woodpecker rolls in the food.

Flown away. Gone with the wind or at least, a feather.

A plump woodpecker. This one is a Hairy Woodpecker (pretty sure) because he’s bigger and has a long beak.
I missed the big red papa but got a nice look at lovely mom. Not as showy as her scarlet mate, she is still a very pretty bird.

That being said, the birds who are used to the feeder are hanging around long enough for me to choose my shots, which helps. I have enough pictures — including ones I have yet to process — so I can pick and choose and hopefully, get better (or at least different) photographs.

A DAY I THOUGHT I’D NEVER SEE – Marilyn Armstrong

I’m in the kitchen, periodically peeking out the window. There was a big Cardinal out there, but when I picked up my camera, he vanished. I hoped he would come back. Meanwhile, I got some nice squirrel pictures.

A morning squirrel

Meanwhile, I was slowly cooking canna-butter. Did I add too much water? I hope not. At least I got the temperature right. My new telephone arrived, though I haven’t had the energy to open the package yet. Tomorrow. I’m deep into canna-butter today.

Tufted Titmouse

They announced on the news last night that Uxbridge is getting its own pot shop, the third in the state.



A pot shop.

A legal pot shop.

In Uxbridge.

And here I am, brewing canna-butter and really hoping it will help with sleep and pain and if it doesn’t fix the pain and the sleep, maybe it’ll improve the quality of my English muffins with my coffee in the morning.


I never imagined this day would come where I would be legally cooking pot for the legal purpose of using it medicinally. Of course, I never expected to find myself needing it medicinally either. You win some, you lose some.

A different nuthatch — or a different bird? I think maybe a different bird!

The sun came out and the birds are knocking each other off the feeder. I swear they are playing.

It’s warm out. A lot warmer than February 8th should be, but right now, I’m okay. Wondering what exactly I’m supposed to do with the canna-butter after it’s fully prepared. So far, toast is as far as I’ve gotten with it.

Chickadee — he’s outta there!

The sky is finally blue and I got some good shots of a squirrel chowing down in the flat feeder this morning. To get squirrels, I have to get up earlier. It’s the only answer. They don’t linger around much past 9 in the morning and that’s on the late side for them.

Another early squirrel

A pot shop in Uxbridge will be interesting for our one-horse, single-road, Main Street village. They will come from miles around. I’m pretty sure business will pick up. I hope so. Aside from being cool, it will be a massive inconvenience.

At least the fresh donuts will sell better — not like they don’t sell now.

What an interesting summer this is going to be!


Usually, I grab a shot of a woodpecker and he or she is promptly gone. There were no birds early in the day because we had wind so powerful, it moved the big oak trees which isn’t easy when they have no leaves. That’s what woke me this morning — the groaning of the trees. It gave me the shivers and I got up, turned on the coffee, told the dogs to go out.

Downy Woodpecker

Which they did by literally going out the door, turning around and coming directly inside. They think they are fooling me. I can see them laughing as they come in the door.

I let them believe they fooled me. It makes them happy. I also gave them a tiny bacon-flavored treat. It turns out, a tiny treat makes them just as happy as a big one.

More woodpecker

When I first came into the dining room, there wasn’t a bird to be seen. High winds and small birds? Not a good combination, but after another hour, when the winds had calmed, I looked out the dining room doors. There was a Downy Woodpecker hanging on the feeder. He was too small to be a Hairy or Red-bellied — and he didn’t have a red swatch on his head.

I grabbed the camera and took a few pictures and then, he was away. But just as I was removing the SD card and putting in a new one, he was back. When any of the smaller birds tried to come for a bite, they took one look at Mr. Downy … and left.

I took more pictures. Then, figuring I’d shot enough, I put the camera down and went into the kitchen to put away last night’s dishes. Chat with Garry as I toasted muffins and poured coffee … and I realized the little woodpecker was still on the feeder, the longest any single bird has spent on the feeder.

He must have been really hungry because he was there for at least an hour. Sometimes the warblers take up residence for long periods, but it isn’t one warbler, but it’s a small flock which keeps changing birds. One departs, another one lands.  The chickadees sometimes do the same thing.

The birds are getting possessive about the feeders. It’s interesting to watch. They used to all gather, various birds at the same time, but now, they come in groups and they have an agenda. Curious to watch how it changes. Maybe it’s the different food?


The sun will tell time from rising to setting …

Sunset at the end of the year

Time begins when the sun rises in the morning and ends as it sets at night … well it doesn’t end. It just changes from day to night. Night getting shorter now as we pivot our way around the sun …

THE BIRDS OF CHRISTMAS – Marilyn Armstrong

I almost missed Christmas. I was so busy taking pictures, my son said: “So, see you tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow? Not Tuesday?”

Hiding Woodpecker and a Warbler. For reasons best known to the woodpeckers, they hide on the opposite side of the feeder most of the time
Little Yellow Warbler

He looked at me. “Tuesday is Christmas Day. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve.”

Diving Chickadee
Red-bellied Nuthatch and a Chickadee

I thought about what I had to do. It was daunting. Garry hadn’t even looked at the Christmas cards and no one had wrapped any presents. I wasn’t even sure what I was going to wrap them in. I had nothing written for either the Eve or the Day and I wasn’t even sure when I was going to wrap.

Couldn’t I just hand things out?

Two Chickadees
Tufted Titmouse and Chickadee

I think I’m not wrapping. I’m okay on most things, but I don’t want to wrap.

And then, today, it snowed today. Just a little bit, but photographically perfect. I had to take pictures, didn’t I?

Woodpecker in snow
Nuthatch in snow
Titmouse and two Warblers
Tufted Titmouse and a Warbler in Christmas Eve snow
Hungry Warbler
Another Nuthatch with Warbler
Junco with two Warblers
Tis the season from this Warbler

And a Merry Christmas from birds and beasts!

All shall be well fed this season!

BIRDS GETTING CUTER – Marilyn Armstrong

I looked out the back door and finally — a Cardinal! I’ve been waiting for him to show up. He used to be a regular in my hedge every winter and finally, there he was sitting on the railing.


He wasn’t fully convinced about the whole feeder arrangement and was eying it up. I was eying him up while quietly opening my camera.

It wouldn’t focus. No matter what I did.

Nuthatch on the rail

I finally realized I’d turned off the little clicker on the lens for AutoFocus. I wish they wouldn’t put little tiny buttons on the lens where you can accidentally move them and not even know you did it. After I got it set to focus, I also realized it was set to the wrong setting. I probably moved the ring when I put the camera away.

I put it back where it belonged … which is when I realized the flashing red symbol in my viewfinder was my camera letting me know the battery was about to die.

Cute little Titmouse

By the time I got the new battery inserted, the Cardinal had long since done whatever he was planning to do and flown away. I could have taken a picture of where he had previously been, but I didn’t.

Tufted Titmouse in cute mode

I did take a few pictures. Nothing unusual. In fact, you could say this was a lineup of “the usual suspects.”

Hungry little birdies

One of the better parts of taking so many bird pictures is that these days, I can wait until they do something cute. I know the birds will be back and if I don’t take pictures today, I will find something to shoot tomorrow.

Same Nuthatch, ready for a meal

And, as the weather gets colder, I figure we’ll have a few more suspects lining up. You think?