A FEW MORE PICTURES FROM OUR (BRIEFLY) COLORFUL FALL

It didn’t last long, but at least it was there, however briefly. I didn’t think I took a lot of autumnal pictures, but between August and September, Garry and I too more than 3000 pictures, so I guess we were busier than we thought. I sometimes take a couple of hundred bird pictures in the morning, before coffee! In between the cooking yesterday, I got some great pictures of the last set of orange-billed Cardinals. Each set of fledglings look different than the others. The DNA in these birds is working overtime.

And I still have bunches of River Bend pictures from both me and Garry. So we’ll just celebrate fall a little while longer. It’s still “fallish” outside and the oak leaves are still green.

CLIMATE CHANGE IN SOUTH CENTRAL MASSACHUSETTS

We don’t need scientists to explain climate change to us. We can see it all around us. The rivers are dry with their muddy bottoms showing. Fall came weeks early and blew away a week later. The winds which normally blow straight up the Atlantic shore are twisting eastward, so all the rain goes from the mid-Atlantic area straight out to sea, completely missing the northeast.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

As a watershed area, the water that we store here is part of the water that keeps the entire state flowing wetly along. And some of the water normally flows down into Connecticut and parts of southern New Hampshire.

Muddy banks, short dock at Riverbend

I leave a bowl of water on the deck. Squirrels, chipmunks, birds  … they all come to drink. Usually there are little rivulets and patches of wet through the woods. But not this year. It’s bone dry which is scary for any number of reasons, including the danger of fire. So far, it has just been little brush fires, quickly squelched. But New England is 70% wooded. There’s a lot of forest and it’s dry. And contrary to presidential warnings, no one has been out there raking the woodlands to keep them neat. What a really stupid idea that is. There’s so much stupidity going around. It’s hard to keep track of all the dumbness. I wish some of the incredibly stupid ones would drop by. Check out our dry rivers. Maybe pick up a rake and start raking my woods. Maybe cut down a few ailing trees while he’s at it.

We aren’t waiting for climate change to come. It’s here. We’re living in it.

OUR SUMMER PLACE – GARRY ARMSTRONG

It was our first outing in weeks because of COVID-19, house repair appointments, health issues and, really a general malaise because of the Marx Brothers state of our nation. It wasn’t supposed to be a pleasure outing. Marilyn had an emergency date with the dentist. An excruciatingly necessary date with the dentist. The good news about the dentist is his office is adjacent to the Mumford River dam.

The dam. Very low water, but at least they have left enough water in the river so the fish won’t die this year. We sure do need so serious rain!

The Dental appointment was at least temporarily successful so we embarked on a photo shoot at one of our favorite places. The dam that actually welcomes you to Uxbridge. It’s a dam for all seasons. You can mark the seasons by the dam. The water levels  immediately tell you if we’ve had much rain or if we are going through the dry, dog days of summer.  This is a 3-dog-night hot summer in our sleepy little town.

A flag over the Mumford.

A welcome summer breeze placated our thoughts about the pending drought. The flags adorning the bridge over our troubled waters flapped in unison. It had a Busby Berkley feel to it if you lined the flags up in tandem. Mother Nature is always a wonder choreographer. In my mind’s eye, I could see John Ford, George Stevens or Elia Kazan lining up master shots for a visual paean to patriotism. I could’ve shot all day if Marilyn hadn’t indicated maybe we had enough beauty shots to tell a few stories.

Flag in the breeze
Love the shine on the upper level of the dam

I was reluctant. I didn’t want to leave the wonder of a spot that never fails to impress and remind us of how lucky we are to live in a valley of such natural beauty. This is our home, but also our summer place. It reminds us to smile despite the awful and confused state of our nation, mired in nonsense that hopefully will change after these lazy days turn into autumn and the season beyond.

Route 16 on what has to be the loveliest day in many weeks. Now, all we need is rain.

Nonsense? Maybe, but Groucho approves this message.

LIVING THROUGH A DROUGHT

It hasn’t rained in weeks and it has been very hot. The trees are dropping green leaves which is a very unhealthy sign for the trees. It means that the roots are dying and many of these trees will die and not come back in the spring. The forsythia are turning brown. The rivers are so low the fish are dying. The herons have flown to deeper rivers. I try not to worry about water and our well. It’s a deep well and anyway, worrying about it isn’t going to make it rain. Maybe we need to organize a special dance?

72-Trees-Canal-082216_61

The entire state of Massachusetts currently holds a status of extreme or severe drought. We’ve had less than 5 inches of rain here in central Massachusetts. Areas around Boston and northward into New Hampshire have had an inch less … around 3.75 inches. That’s very little water. Dangerously little water.

72-Dam-Mumford-MA-082516_012

If you’d like to see an interactive “drought map,” here is a LINK. Other states in New England are also dry, but as far as I can tell, Massachusetts is overall, the most dry, although there are areas of New Hampshire, Maine, and New York which are also very hard hit.

For inexplicable reasons, the river has more water in it than it did last year at this time. Maybe whoever controls the water locally decided to give our fish, fowl, and other wildlife a chance to survive. Last year, they had nowhere to nest, and pretty much no food in the dry ponds and rivers.

72-Reflection-Canal-082216_08

I love the river and I miss the birds. I haven’t seen a goose, a heron, a swan, or even a duck this entire summer. Of course, we haven’t been out much, but we do hear about it on the news and they’ve been taking a lot of pictures of dried out rivers all over the state.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

We’re burning up. As I see the first tenth tropical storm of the year heading for Florida, I can’t help but hope it stays a mere storm and brings its precipitation up our way. We really need water.

72-Mumford-GA-082516_048

There is, I might add, nothing more futile and frustrating than worrying about the lack of rain. You can’t do anything about it. Nothing. We have zero control over weather. Fretting about that over which we have no control is mind-destroying and considering the rest of our  worries, adding one more doesn’t seem sensible … but it’s hard to not worry.

72-Reflection-Mumford-MA-082516_066

Nonetheless, I worry about the well. And the aquifer. I have nightmares about drought. Because if our well goes dry, we have no other water source. Neither do our neighbors.

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.