THE CHANGING SEASONS: JULY 2016 – REBIRTH AND DROUGHT

The Changing Seasons: July 2016


This has been a strange year. The caterpillars stripped the oaks and the sassafras trees to bare branches. A month later, it looks like springtime in our woods. The trees all have leaves again, but not the deep green leaves of summertime, but the bright yellow-green of newborn leaves.

72-fuchsia-changing-seasons-072116_14

It’s good to have the trees looking like trees again.

72-summer-twilight-072416_020

It also has not rained in any measurable amount since May. It’s close to a decade since the spring rains stopped. Not that I enjoyed the annual flooding, but I didn’t have to wonder if the well would run dry.

The riverbeds are dry again, the dams locked up to hold as much water as possible. Water restrictions limit use of water of lawns and gardens. We have our own water restrictions in place. Short showers. You don’t let the water run while you brush your teeth … or anything else. I have no idea how the farms in the area handle the problem, but it must be difficult.

No matter how many wells exist in an area, all wells tap into the same aquifer. When it doesn’t rain for months at a time, the aquifer gets low and water pressure decreases. Everyone’s lawn turns brown and the gardens wither. The whole region is dry, this year. Not going to be a great year for apples.

72-summer-twilight-072416_021

Since this is perhaps the eighth or ninth consecutive year of mild to severe drought in New England, it leads me to repeat something I read elsewhere (and I’m sorry I don’t remember the source). She asked “How many years of drought do you need before you recognize it isn’t a drought … it’s climate change.”

This isn’t California and the drought is not quite as severe … but this has historically been an area that suffers more from flood than drought. In the sixteen years we have lived in this valley, we’ve seen it go from annual flooding to a steadily increasing water shortage.

Climate change is real and it’s coming to a town near you, if it hasn’t already.


What’s this «Changing Seasons» blogging challenge?

«The Changing Seasons 2016» is a blogging challenge with two versions: the original (V1) which is purely photographic and the new version (V2) where you can allow yourself to be more artistic and post a painting, a recipe, a digital manipulation, or simply just one photo that you think represents the month. Anyone with a blog can join this challenge and it’ll run throughout 2016. It doesn’t matter if you couldn’t join the first month(s), late-comers are welcomed. These are the rules, but they’re not written in stone – you can always improvise, mix & match to suit your own liking:

These are the rules for Version 1 (The Changing Seasons V1):

  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
  • Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery.
  • Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.

These are the rules for Version 2 (The Changing Seasons V2):

  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
  • Each month, post one photo (recipe, painting, drawing, whatever) that represents your interpretation of the month.
  • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!

thechangingseasons_6367 large

LAKE CHAUBUNAGUNGAMUG

This is Lake Chaubunagungamaug according to the U.S. Department of the Interior. Alternatively, it is also Lake Chargoggaggoggmancogmanhoggagogg.

72-Red-Autumn-Tree-Webster-Lake

For many of us, it’s Webster Lake. There are many versions of the lake’s Native name and spelling. There are even more versions of what the name means. I won’t attempt a meaning.

72-Webster-Lake_03

The lake gained importance locally (to the best of my admittedly limited knowledge) because it was conveniently located to several tribes in the region.

72-Webster-Lake_01

It was — and still is a popular place for swimming and relaxing in the summer. These days, it boasts a beach, marina, picnic tables, and other amenities. It is one of the largest bodies of water in the Blackstone Valley, it’s a favorite spot to spend a warm summer afternoon.

72-Webster-Lake-Autumn_02

WHEN NEWER ISN’T BETTER: PANASONIC LUMIX DMC-FZ200

I bought a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 12.1 MP Digital Camera with CMOS Sensor and 24x Optical Zoom from Adorama in September 2014. It cost me $457 two years ago and you can buy the same camera on Amazon today for $100 less. Since I bought this camera, it has been a constant companion. It isn’t my only camera, not by far, but it is my most versatile camera. If I’m unsure which camera or lens I may need — or I don’t want to haul a lot of equipment — this is the camera I choose.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200

I have a lot of equipment, both cameras and lenses — and I use them. But this particular camera remains a favorite. Simply put, it’s a keeper.

The Leica lens on this camera is spectacular. Not only does it go from moderately wide to amazingly long (in 35mm terms, 24mm to 600mm), but it delivers surprisingly good quality throughout its range.

It’s fast, too … f2.8 all the way, beginning to end. Amazing for a super-zoom. The camera focuses quickly, recycles fast. It has a good  built-in viewfinder and  flexible LCD screen. It has more controls and refinements than I will ever use. Some, I don’t even know what they do and probably will never bother to find out.

In the gallery of birds, most of these were taken from a considerable distance. The herons were on the other side of the river. The birds were a long way away and I was hanging out my bathroom window to take the pictures. Guess which camera I used? You betcha!

Does it give me the same quality as my best Olympus lenses? Not quite, but surprisingly close. In any case, I could never afford a telephoto lens of this quality for my Olympus rig. Not that Olympus makes a comparable lens.

If you need a super-zoom camera and you don’t have megabucks to spend, this is the camera to buy. There are newer models available — but none of the newer ones are better. Some have a longer zoom, but all the longer lenses are slower and not as sharp. This remains best-of-breed. I paid about $100 more for this camera in 2014 than it’s selling for now on Amazon. I have never felt I overpaid. I haven’t checked prices elsewhere, but it isn’t a the latest model, so you won’t find it everywhere.

If I have any criticism to make, it’s that the batteries don’t last as long as I would wish. If you use the zoom a lot, you need to have spare batteries. I have four and more wouldn’t be out of line.

It’s a great camera. If you are trying to decide between this and one of the newer Panasonic super-zoom models? Buy this one. It’s a better camera. It’s a bit big, a bit clunky, and wonderful.

I hope it lasts forever. So far, so good.

NOTE TO FRIENDS: We’re gone for the day. My cousins are in town, so we’ll be away until evening. Catch up with all of you tomorrow or late tonight! Have fun. We’re going to try, too.

FIGHTING MONSTERS

We all battle monsters. Real monsters. Monsters “from the id,” and those monsters that dwell in our subconscious. And of course, there are the monsters that are us.

72-Glowing-Gar-CATERPILLARS-060916_020

Ever since the weather went from winter to warm, I’ve felt as if my back is against the wall and the demons are closing in. This is not the way I usually feel. I’ve been through a lot of crap over the years. Physically, mentally, socially. I’ve gone through enough rough patches to feel like “rough” is perfectly normal to be dealt with by wearing sturdy sandals.

This year my defenses were breached. Being attacked by a zillion poisonous, ravening caterpillars … while all I could do in response was hide indoors was a uniquely horrible experience which I hope never to repeat. It has taken a toll. I am mentally exhausted and more than a little freaked out.

72-Deck-070516_02

The worst of the horror show is over, I know. The trees have been defoliated and are apparently recovering. There are a million or several million moths zooming about the humid air. If they were at least pretty, it would help.

72-Deck-070516_13

Gypsy Moths aren’t pretty. They are little. Dull brown, taupe, or gray. Except for the non-flying females who are white. None of the moths do anything at this stage. After morphing into moths, they no longer eat. They lay or fertilize eggs, fly aimlessly here and there … then die.,

I can hardly wait.

That this could conceivably recur again next year makes me want to cry. I’m sure that we’ll survive, but somehow, it isn’t much of a comfort.

72-Woods-070516_17

There’s much irony going around because on most other rational levels, life is going quite well. So why do I feel like a bad version of Macbeth is being staged in my head?

BUT WHAT IF THEY COME BACK?

We are at the annoying stage of the gypsy moth invasion. Sprayed and surviving, the air is full of moths. Thousands, maybe millions of them are swarming everywhere, no doubt laying clutches of eggs for next year’s even bigger event.

The oaks are trying to come back, some more successfully than others. I watch them every day, looking for signs of growth and health.

72-wires-sunset-070316_08

A second year would be a real tragedy. No longer just a nightmarish inconvenience but devastation. It would be the end of thousands … acres … of hardwood trees and could involve not only oak and ornamental trees, but also spruce, maple, fruit orchards and more. It would leave ghost woods filled with the skeletons of the trees we loved. So far, no state or town agency has been willing to do anything to prevent this disaster.

We’ve done what we can. We’ve sprayed. That’s it. No one homeowner, nor any group of private individuals, can do this alone. Without help … well … kaput.

From WCVB news, Boston:


Gypsy moth caterpillars return to dine on New England trees

Last year’s dry spring to blame

Published  7:03 PM EDT Jul 03, 2016


We really need rain. And a little more help from nature.

A SECOND SPRING

After a complete defoliation by voracious gypsy caterpillars, there are signs of recovery in the woods.

 72-woods-recovering-062616_006

It’s hard to find an up-side to a gypsy moth infestation, but if any exists, it’s that you not only get more light without the trees blocking the sun, but you can actually see the birds. I hear them, but usually they are hidden high in the trees.

72-birds-062616_012

Right now, there’s no place to hide. You can see the beginnings of a new crop of leaves. A second spring is coming. In another few weeks, most of the trees will have leaves again.

72-junco-bird-062616_018

Some places seem to be rebounding a lot faster than others. I don’t yet know what that means … if it means anything.

72-woods-fuchsia-062616_035

And so our forest, stripped of most of its leaves, deprived of the means to manufacture nourishment, endures. Hints of a second spring give us hope that our beautiful woods will make it through the siege. Most of the oaks and maples will survive. I hope losses will be few.

DEPRIVE | THE DAILY POST