WATER WATER – Marilyn Armstrong

THE BLACKSTONE RIVER 


The Blackstone is 47 miles long and drops sharply throughout it’s descent from the hill in Worcester to Nantucket Bay. It twists and turns so that if you live in the Valley, you are never more than a quarter of a mile from the Blackstone or one of its tributaries.
There are about 47 dams and waterfalls that were used to power mills and factories. A few have been removed, but most are still standing.

Manchaug dam on the Blackstone

The Mumford in the middle of town

Photo: Garry Armstrong

A BRIEF AND BROKEN MINI-HISTORY OF AMERICA – MARILYN ARMSTRONG

America was born bankrupt. We won a war we shouldn’t have won and created a country without any funding or industry. That’s the good part. The rest of it, not so much.

The United States is named that because we didn’t start out as a country. We were 13 colonies, all lined up against the Atlantic Ocean. The original thirteen were  New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.


The thing we had in common was original colonization by England, The French had Maine and the Spanish had Florida. All the rest were added after we became a “single” nation. Thus the United States because, in theory, our Constitution turned us into a single nation: “E Pluribus Unum,” or one from many.

Technically, we are one country. We pay taxes to a central government. The fifty stars on the flag represent all current states. The original 13 colonies are commemorated by a stripe (thirteen stripes) on that flag.

From a cultural and historic point of view, there are huge differences between the fifty states. Texas, for example, was its own country before we took it from Mexico.

California also belonged to Mexico and many of its oldest residents are descendants from the Mexican gentry who stole the land from the Native Americans who already lived there. It’s important to remember that North America was not an uninhabited empty space waiting for Europeans to come and take over.

Nor were the original residents white or English-speaking. The language of California and Texas was Spanish, plus the dialects of Native Americans. English came later. Many languages have been spoken here and still are.

At some undetermined moment in time, pre-Americans decided that if they weren’t going to be allowed to be “real” Englishmen (and vote in Paliament), they might as well do their own thing. A lot of the bruhaha came out of Boston with the infamous tea party et al. We always were a rowdy bunch.

We tried a loose confederacy. It didn’t work. We needed a central government, an army, a navy. An economy other than importing slaves. Money that would be accepted everywhere. (Early on, each state issued its own currency.) Schools, libraries, and industry waited in the wings.

The Constitutional Convention was attended by leading figures from each colony, each of whom had his own ideas about building a country. As a group, they were intelligent, well-educated, and wealthy.

And now, enter slavery.

The North imported Black people from Africa, then sold them to Southern slave traders. Despite rumors to the contrary, there were slaves in the north. But the northern states also had a strong group of abolitionists. Although importing slaves made some people fabulously rich, it wasn’t the basis for an expanding economy. Even families who built their fortunes on slavery weren’t willing to admit it.

The south had other ideas. They had an almost entirely agrarian lifestyle. Slaves were how they managed their huge plantations. If there weren’t slaves, how could they manage to be so rich and powerful? They might have to work! They might have to pay their workers, an idea so shocking to southerners that they would not join the union if slavery was not allowed.

The battle of slavery vs. abolition began before the revolution. The south was wedded to slavery. By the years before the Revolution, the north was getting ready to move on to an industrial economy.

Then came America’s deal with the devil. We did not foresee a union that didn’t include the south, so we enabled slavery.  Which everyone knew was wrong, including the southerners. But money speaks louder than principals as we all have discovered in recent years.

Our Founding Fathers knew that ultimately, there would be a civil war. How do we know they knew it? Because they wrote about it in their diaries and letters. They talked about it and wrote down the conversations. John and Abigail Adams were strong abolitionists. For years, Abigail Adams would not live in the White House because slaves had built it.

We won the revolution but lost everything else.

Battle of Lexington and Concord revolution

A trace of our multi-colonial origins exists. State Governors have a lot of power in their domain. The government of each state is a mirror of the national government. Also, every state in the U.S. has its own little army, the State Militia. Mostly they are used to manage natural catastrophes and rioting. Sometimes we lend our troops to other states who need help. They aren’t always armed, either. They fight fires, save people from drowning, work as medics.
The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard are national — the U.S. armed forces.

FREE WITHOUT BENEFITS


The people who were freed from slavery were supposed to get some land, a mule, and a few cows so they could build their own communities, but these attempts were sabotaged. They stayed in the south and were effectively slaves, but without the benefit of getting housed and fed. Jim Crow filled in for official slavery and when that stopped working, black people moved north in the hopes of building a better life.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Somehow, in the course of years, we also put through a Civil Rights amendment that was supposed to finally put an end to Jim Crow laws and the oppression of Black people. That didn’t quite work out either. Some things are better, many are just the same, a lot is worse.


Question: If our Founding Fathers were so smart, how come they didn’t see that slavery would come back to bite us in the ass?

Answer: They knew it was wrong and knew that it would result in a civil war. They could keep slavery and form a stronger nation, or eliminate slavery and end up with two weak countries, one slave, one free. They chose what they thought was the lesser of the two evils.


It wasn’t the lesser evil. Long term, it was the greatest evil. It has twisted and corrupted our country from day one. Until we come to terms with our deeply racist past, we will never be at peace.

The Right Thing went head-to-head with The Bottom Line. The Right Thing lost. Imagine that!

Meanwhile, back in the Blackstone Valley, the American industrial revolution was aborning. In December 1789, just as the Constitution was passed, Samuel Slater Slater’s Mill was up and running. It was the first successful water-powered cotton-factory in the United States.

Mills grew along the Blackstone from Worcester to Providence, then sprouted by the Merrimack in Lowell, and eventually, throughout New England. Wherever the rivers ran, mills and factories followed.

75-Train-NK-014a

Photo: Owen Kraus

By the early 1900s, the Blackstone River in Massachusetts was grossly polluted. In 1971, the Blackstone River was labeled “one of America’s most polluted rivers” by Audubon magazine. It was a low point for the region. We’re still cleaning up.

72-Heron_145

As for slavery, it’s illegal. But low-end employees of corporations are in no better position than slaves. They work for almost nothing and if they get laid off, their payoff is nothing.

We have a very long way to go.

SPRING BY THE DAM – Marilyn Armstong

We had to get tested for antibodies today, so we had to get outside. Fortunately, it was a beautiful day. Warm and sunny and everything flowering. On the way out, we stopped at Koopman’s, the lumber yard and everything else store and I bought a big white and purple fuchsia. It will match my orchids.

The Mumford Dam in May

Puffy clouds over the river

I used my iPhone because I hadn’t brought my camera. It takes good pictures — very sharp and clear — but it isn’t a camera. And transferring the pictures from the iPhone to my PC is a real pain. But it’s a convenient backup for when I don’t have a camera with me and it’s hard to complain about the quality. I do have to learn to not get my fingers in the path of the lens. I got a lot of pictures of my fingers and thumbs.

Garry with his mask

It’s my first fuchsia in three, maybe four years, since the florist I used passed away. Fitting it in with the feeders was interesting. It couldn’t be in front of the feeders or I’d never get and bird pictures.

Columbine, at home

THE FINAL PHOTOS OF JANUARY 2020 – Marilyn Armstrong

bushboys world: LAST PHOTO, JANUARY 2020


I use three cameras. The Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS80 (my traveling camera), and my Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark I and Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark  II. The I has a 25mm 1.8 lens on it (effectively 50mm) and the II has a Panasonic 100-300 on it which I use for shooting birds (it’s effectively 200-600). It’s a great lens, but slow.

As it happened, I used all three of them yesterday, January 31st. That’s rare. I usually shoot either inside or outside. As often as not, it’s either all birds or all the “indoor garden” or a trip to one of our many riverside parks.

On the OMD M5-II, this is a nuthatch with a black sunflower seed in his beak

I used to bring the Olympus with me when I was out, but I could never make up my mind what lenses to bring. I would sometimes just sit there with the bag open trying to figure out what I was likely to need. Would there be any birds? Would I need a wide-angle or long lens? Will there be people to portray?

On the Olympus OMD M5-I, this is a blooming Christmas Cactus

The confusion got so bad I gave up. Now. I take one camera, the Panasonic (unless we are going on vacation in which case I might take everything). The Panny has a good Leica telephoto lens which extends from 25mm to 750mm and of course, has a close up “macro” focus as well. It’s considerably smaller than the one I’d been carrying and will actually fit in my bag, but: (1) it’s a very big bag and (2) it may be a smaller camera, but I swear it’s heavier than its predecessors — all three of which I still have.

I’m sure I have even more cameras going back to my earliest Canons, but exactly where they are, I’m not sure.

The last shot of the dam before going home. Garry who had not brought HIS camera was moving me around telling me where to shoot and I finally said: “Next time bring your OWN camera!” Sheesh.

I think they are all working. I had an entire array of Olympus cameras, but I have distributed the ones I never used amongst family and close friends who were camera-challenged. The only camera I still really really want is the Olympus Pen F. I even have a friend who has an extra one to sell, but alas, I don’t have the money. I have to remind myself that I’m not suffering from a lack of cameras. But ah, the Pen-F is such a sweetheart of a camera.

THE CHANGING SEASONS, JANUARY 2020 – Marilyn Armstrong

The Changing Seasons, January 2020


This hasn’t been a normal January. We had no measurable snow and only 4 out of 31 days have been lower than average January temperature. Every other day was higher than average bringing this month in as the third warmest recorded.

Most of my pictures this month were birds. Without snow to make the landscape interesting, there hasn’t been much to photograph. Glad I have the birds!

At the very end, I realized my Christmas cactus is blooming again and my big purple orchid is about to bloom too.

Orchid ready to bloom

I almost missed it!

Icy small canal off the Mumford Dam

Wide view of mid-winter on the Mumford


About The Changing Seasons

The Changing Seasons is a monthly challenge where bloggers around the world share what’s been happening in their month.

If you would like to join in, here are the guidelines:

The Changing Seasons Version 1 (Photographic):

  • Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
  • Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them

The Changing Seasons Version 2 (Choose the format):

  • Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
  • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.

If you do a ping-back to Su Leslie’s original post, she can update it with links to all of yours.

DAMS AND ICE AS JANUARY SQUARES ENDS – Marilyn Armstong

DAMS AND ICE – JANUARY AT ITS END


It has been a warm January, the warmest since 1932 and the third warmest since the beginning of the 20th century. Today was the first day that was colder than average in a couple of weeks. Tomorrow? Who knows?

We had a dental appointment and that office is right next to the Mumford River dam, so on the way out of the office, I stopped for a few pictures. There was ice in the small canal, but the big waterfall was as full as I’ve ever seen it for this time of year.

This is a thinly iced small canal that ran from the Mumford  River to Bernat Mills across the road. The mill burned down 9 years ago, but the remnants — chimney and front section — have been saved for the memories.

Chilly Mumford Dam with the sign for our Christmas events still waiting to be removed.

And so on a cold but not bitter day at the very end of January, here is the river and it runs to the Blackstone and then down to Narragansett Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

MOVING WATER IN BLACK & WHITE – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Moving Water

There was a time when I thought I might eventually shoot every dam in the valley, but not all of them are accessible to traffic. A lot of mills were built by dams deep in the woods whose only access was by train — or barge. Short of going there by train (there is a train, but it only runs once a week at 5 mph) or canoe, those dams are forgotten. If they had names, they have been lost to time.

Mumford Dam, Uxbridge

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Roaring Dam, Blackstone

White water at the dam

Near Milford, name of dam unknown

Dam in Northbridge

Manchaug

Whitin’s pond

Cee's Black-White

 

STAIRS AND STEPS- Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Stairs

When we bought this house — 19 years ago — I figured there were only 12 stairs from the front door: six up and six down. We were moving from a three-story triplex in Boston, so a mere 12 steps didn’t seem like much. I could not imagine a time when I wouldn’t be able to climb six steps — or in a pinch, twelve with a landing int he middle.

Wooden steps from the deck to the backyard

Who knew? I have a stairlift for the top six, from the middle landing to where we live, bu the other six? “Haul away, men. She’s on her way.”

Garry now has to haul himself up by the handrail.

Scotties on the upper six stairs

Stairway to the river by the Mumford Dam

The problem is, I guess, that this is a hilly region, There are no flat areas and what few there are, are occupied by farms. That’s where our local fresh corn comes from. And the local grapes, cucumbers, and other produce.  Mostly these days, we seem to be breeding horses — saddle horses and huge Clydesdales and Percherons. Do we have any particular use for these gigantic (and beautiful) horses? No, not really, but they are glorious animals.

Four Clydesdales hooked to a dressy rig is a great entrance for a couple getting married., The saddle horses are owned by academies. If these places have flat areas, these are used as a ring for training riders and horses. Most places bring in bulldozers to flatten sections.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

We had to bring in a bulldozer to flatten our backyard. You can ask a lot more for houses if by some quirk it happens to be on flat ground at the top of a hill so water runs down and away from it.

We are in the middle of the hill. A long slide down the driveway from the road is our personal Bunny Slope. Thus our backyard is flat, but still needs a canal of its own so the water that collects at the base of the driveway can roll down to the woods.

From the read of the back lawn, there is a precipitous drop through some impressive boulders to a flat area at the bottom, after which the land rises again. Since the entire area is networked by bodies of water — rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and canals initially used by factories and spinning mills to move goods to the main canal or ultimately, the railroad.

The long drop from the Worcester hill into the hill-and-dale of the watershed means almost no houses can be build on flat land. Newer houses — like ours — are either split levels or Georgian-style brick buildings built into the hills. Like a split level before there were split levels.

Pretty much every house has stairs. The parks have long stairways because that’s what you can do on these rolling hills. This house is a raised ranch. The lower level has one area that is a real basement. The rest of the level includes a den with a fireplace, a big bedroom. a tiny bedroom now used as a closet, another unheated room for storage,  plus a bathroom with a shower, toilet, sink, and the washer, and dryer. What remains of the original garage is a work area.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

We find ourselves going up and down often. We store extra food on the shelves downstairs. A lot of items that come and go in the house — little table, pictures, wrapping paper, winter coats in the summer, summer clothing in the winter. The attic was never finished. It doesn’t have a complete floor and is full of loose fiberglass for insulation. We don’t go there since its pull-down wooden stairs feel dangerously creaky.

Take a walk along the banks of the Blackstone

Yet, when we moved in, I hopped up and down the stairs like they were nothing. I didn’t even mind the three-story townhouse in Boston, though I could tell a time would come when I wouldn’t be able to deal with it. By then we also had two dogs and a cat and I wanted a yard for the dogs. With a fence.

Just 12 steps, but sometimes, they feel like so many more.

WHEN IT’S TOO LATE, IS IT STILL PROCRASTINATING? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango:
Procrastinating Until Time Runs Out

PHOTOGRAPHS: OWEN KRAUS

And who amongst us does not procrastinate? I used to do everything ahead of time because I figured if I did whatever I didn’t want to do EARLY, then I could stop fretting about it. This concept died instantly the day I retired. Now, I do everything as late as I can … except when I procrastinate for so long, it’s too late to do it at all.

But then there is Planet Earth and I live in sheer terror that we have been plundering our world for so long that it is already too late. I don’t know why I was sure that the full weight of climate change would wait until finally, we were ready to tackle it. It was a stupid idea, but the full power of this change was more than I was ready to confront. Especially because — other than trying to recycle (pointless in a town that has no dump for “clean” trash — and no recycling facilities of any kind — not even a place to take stuff for recycling elsewhere).

Poisonous swamp near an old factory

Massachusetts, overall, has tried pretty hard to do its best to clean up its own mess. And there has been a pretty huge mess to clean up. As one of the oldest states, it is here that “The Industrial Revolution” began.

The Blackstone River was its power. It’s tight, twisting design and rapid drops were perfect for building mills. And of course, the leftover products of those mills went right back into the rivers.

Never think that “modern” poisons are worse than “natural” poisons. By the mid-1970s, the Blackstone River was one of the top 3 most polluted rivers on this continent. Today, after almost 100 years of fighting the pollution, you can fish in the river and there are even places where it is safe to swim — if you don’t mind getting your toes nipped off by some really gigantic Common Snapping Turtles!

The poisonous earth is, so far, not repairable. Behind each of those dams on the river (there were 46 of them, but I think they managed to remove two of them recently) are tons and tons of poisoned earth. If they take away the dam, all the hazardous soil will pour into the river. Far too dangerous.

You can’t build on it. You can’t cover it with clean earth because the poisons leach upward. Every time they try to build atop one of those deadly areas, everyone in the building gets sick and they have to close it down. This happened relatively recently in Boston when they built the new PP1 station on a hazardous site and in weeks, they had to abandon it. I think, in the end, they imploded the building, dug down as far as the bedrock and took the earth somewhere else.

Where? Is there somewhere that has a use for poisoned earth?

As soon as they moved the foul factories down south to be closer to where the cotton grew, they decided on another terrific idea: “Let’s build some Nuclear Generators!”

Sometimes I wonder why all of us don’t just glow in the dark.

Having had a personal one-on-one tour of the Seabrook Generator, I’m still wondering what they are going to do with those “spent nuclear rods” that run the generators. No one wants them. They hid the nukes behind 30-foot barbed-wire fences and barren green hills. In our lovely green parks. You know there’s a nuke there because of the warning signs telling you to STAY OUT OF THAT AREA. Are we so stupid we don’t know what’s going on? Except when they suggested maybe “Just one more generator?” and angry mobs form in the streets.

We are not quite that stupid, it seems.

Meanwhile, up in Millbury and Worcester, they STILL dump raw sewage into the Blackstone because (are you ready? really really ready?), it would cost every household $1 a month more in taxes to build a water cleaning facility. We may not be that stupid, but a lot of the people who run our towns seem to be.

Massachusetts is really trying hard to clean itself up. We are the Good Guys! Can you imagine the horrors you are going to find down in Texas and Oklahoma, not to mention all those areas in the deep south where they took our factories and mills and installed them there?  They thought they were lucky to get the work. We thought we were lucky to lose the pollution. But some work would be nice, too. CLEAN work, however.

I have no answers because these are questions too big for me. I can change to green power. I can send my paltry earnings to the National Parks Foundation. I can support zoos and other areas where they breed animals who are going extinct. But overall, I feel helpless. The problems are huge and my abilities to deal with so small.

IT’S BEEN ONE OF THOSE MONTHS – Marilyn Armstrong

Garry is the most obsessive tooth-brusher and general oral cleaner I’ve ever met. Apparently, this alone was not enough to stop an abscess from forming under a filling in the gum right on top of the tooth’s root. OUCH.

He didn’t just have an abscess either. He had managed to contract an ear and lymph node infection — just to round it all out. Some people have all the fun!

He’s taking the biggest amoxicillin pills I’ve ever seen along with gigantic muscle relaxants and some pretty hefty pain medications. He says he feels like he’s got a really bad hangover. You think?

But he’s sleeping really well.

Next door to the dentist!

They won’t pull the tooth until next Wednesday by which time the antibiotics will have knocked out most of the abscess. Followed by two fillings for small breaks in teeth that aren’t really cavities, but do need to be patched before they become something worse.

He is not a happy camper and I’m trying to figure out what to cook since he can’t chew much and can’t have any sugar or anything crunchy. Too bad he really hates oatmeal.

Chicken soup?

And there goes the repair on the back door. Oh well. Sometimes life is just like this. I’m hoping after this, we get a bit of a break. Please!

A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE: TEXTURE – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Texture

I love texture in photographs. The texture of still waters reflecting as well as any mirror. The roughness of rocks, the shine of finished wood, the roughness of freshly cut wood.

Stone steps lead down to the shiny canal

Dry husks of Indian corn against a sunny window

A coil of hemp rope on a boat

The fluff of a young squirrel

Still water and the rush of the dam

SHARING THE WORLD AND AUGUST ENDS WITH A WHIMPER – Marilyn Armstrong

Another person died of Eastern Equine Encephalitis today. And they did not spray last night because it was too cold. Swell. Maybe it’ll be warmer tonight. We can hope.

Not that the spraying is going to fully solve the problem. We are still advised to wear long everything and a lot of DEET. Doubly swell.

And now to the sharing.

Share Your World 8-26-19

If you had to sum up the whole human species in 3 words, what would those words be?

Always too late.

Where is the strangest place you’ve relieved yourself?  Obviously in an emergency situation.

In the woods in Sinai. There weren’t any bathrooms.

1989 shot of earth’s arctic ice

What is the worst smelling place you’ve ever been?

Sitting next to Duke when he let one go. Lord almighty! He left the room and shortly thereafter, the other two left also.

I’m glad it’s not a nightly event!

How drunk is drunk enough?

For me, at all is too drunk. I don’t handle booze well and never did.

If you’d like, please list five things that are priceless to you.

I bet you could take bets on this and probably get it right. But I’m not sure priceless is really the word for it.

Times have changed and what I might have viewed as priceless 30 years ago — or even 20 or 10 — doesn’t carry the same weight it once did. I’m torn between the people I love who are priceless to me — and the world in which I live which is beyond price for the humans who live here.

If we change the wording to “things I couldn’t live without,” it would be easier. My friends and family are priceless to me, but our world is beyond any price.

PARKS BY A RIVER – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Word Prompt: Parks

We live in the Blackstone Valley Historic Corridor, so basically, we live in a park. It’s one level below a national park, but without the funding (such as it is these days). The good news is that we have parks. Everywhere.

As the Blackstone winds its way down from the Worcester Hills, there are parks in every town and at every curve along the river.

The Dam on the Mumford

From Worcester, about 20 miles north of here, all the way through Rhode Island, the Blackstone has parks with areas designed for walking, fishing, swimming, and kayaking.

Marilyn on a bench by the river

The big Canal locks and a couple of bloggers with cameras!

Garry and me – Thank you, Rich Paschall!

There are picnic tables and barbecues. Best of all, there are places to safely walk and park the car. All of them are open all year round, though when the snow is heavy, it’s difficult to get into the park. The small parks don’t always plow, but the larger ones do plow. Then all you need to do is find a way to get through the drifts.

Take a walk along the banks of the Blackstone

The stone bridge in the rain

My favorite three parks are the one in the middle of town around the Mumford (one of the larger tributaries of the Blackstone), another behind the medical building in North Uxbridge. That one has two connected parts: the Canal and its locks — as well as its lovely stone bridge — and River Bend which has turned a farmhouse from the 1600s into a small museum.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Blackstone River

You can walk from one park to the other along the route that was once used by horses to haul the barges in the canal.

And in the water …

Together forever, swans mate for life

Finally, there’s a lovely park in Smithfield, Rhode Island which is literally on the same road on which we live. It’s set up for fishing and loaded with trout. People come there to kayak, fish, and swim. We come to take pictures, enjoy their smiles and their dogs and little kayaks. And of course, the fish!

Photo: Garry Armstrong

It’s nice living in a park. For at least three seasons every year, the parks welcome us and we are always glad to visit them.

SPILLAGE OVER THE DAM – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Spill

The rivers are full. The dams are as topped off as ever I have seen them. Usually, this time of year, the dams are closed off to save water, but this year, no need for that.

It has rained a great deal and while the rivers have not over-flowed, they are as full as they could get without overflowing.