APRIL IS ALMOST SPRING – Marilyn Armstrong

FLOWERS IN APRIL – FOTD – 04/22/2019

Speaking of changing, what a month! For that matter, what a couple of months this has been. Crazy weather.

The Sunny Gallery

It has been raining relentlessly forever, it seems. We get a couple of nice days … then a week of gray weather and pouring rain. No worries about dry rivers this year!

Red-bellied woodpecker and his friend, the Tufted Titmouse
Bright Goldfinch

Not that crazy isn’t an inherent part of our New England weather. Our weather is unpredictable, especially as winter tries to turn into spring — and usually fails, until May when suddenly, it’s summer.

An Easter bouquet

It was lovely here Monday and Tuesday. Blue skies, warm weather and the song of the Carolina Wren can be heard all around the property. Today the gray weather showed up again, but it’s not supposed actually rain again until Friday and Saturday. But no sunshine, either.

Tomorrow, there will be rain and wind — but after that, I’m hoping to clean up the garden before the rest of the flowers open. It’s hard to rake when the daylilies are blooming. And half the rhododendrons are dead and need cutting back.

BEAUTY – A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Beauty

Most of my really beautiful pictures are landscapes. This is probably because we are a bit short in the magnificent building department in south-central Massachusetts.

These are favorite and I think they are naturally beautiful. And all from nature with perhaps a little touch up from humans.

Attean View – Jackman, Maine
Attean View – October – Jackman, Maine
And in the mid-October, we have autumn on the Canal

Happy holiday to all who celebrate and a great weekend to everyone!

ALONG THE ATLANTIC COAST – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Saturday: COAST

When you grow up in any of the coastal states in the U.S., “going to the beach” is at the top of your summertime list from as soon as you are old enough to tiptoe into the ocean, until you get serious about work and forget about having fun for the next couple of decades.

It’s not that you don’t go to visit the shore. We all do that, even in the middle of the winter, to see the gulls fly backward against the incoming winds, early enough to watch the haze burn off along the shoreline … and the best place to think quietly without any interruption.

I actually prefer the coast in the winter. It’s relatively empty, at least of people. The sky is a great blue bowl overhead … and when the wind comes in, the seagulls really do fly backward until they give up and sit in the water until the winds die off.

Atlantic shore in Ogunquit. Maine at dawn
Rockport, Massachusetts at sunrise
Gloucester, Massachusetts, home of the famed fishing fleet
Gloucester, Cape Ann – A famous place for shipwrecks!
Barnstable on Cape Cod

WEASELS ON TWO AND FOUR LEGS – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Thursday – WEASEL

It was probably about a decade ago that Owen first noticed a big weasel-like critter running across the road around twilight. We were pretty well acquainted with weasels since we owned a couple of ferrets, which are tame animals. Very small. These have been pets for thousands of years and although once upon a time they may have been wild, it has been a very long time since any of these adorable little guys lived “a wildlife” in the great outdoors.

There’s a particular way that weasels run, almost doubling up on themselves. No other animal runs like that. I suppose it’s because they are so much longer than they are tall. Our two ferrets were Bonnie, a tiny brown girl, and Clyde, a big fat white boy.

Bonnie
Clyde

Neutered, so their sexes weren’t important to them or us. Except that Clyde was much bigger than Bonnie — like maybe three times her size. She barely weighed a pound and Clyde was a solid three-pounder.

They were a lot of fun. Our cat, Big Guy, adopted them. You might say that they were the pets of our pet cat. He adored them. They don’t live very long … maybe five or six years … and after they were gone, I didn’t get any more of them. They had a knack for getting into absolutely everything, including the inside of the sofa, the walls, under the floor.

Retrieving them from wherever they’d decided to take a nap was getting difficult for me.  But we were familiar with weasels. There was no mistaking that gait.

Fisher “cat” (they really aren’t cats!)

Not long thereafter, I saw one too, so I call the Massachusetts Wildlife Division and asked if, by any chance, some rather big weasel-like creature had come to live in the Blackstone Valley.

Another fisher

The woman I spoke to was pleased. She had heard they had reappeared in the valley after having been missing since the late 1800s.

Closely related to mink, they have beautiful pelts and were heavily hunted for their fur. And land clearance pretty much finished them off. Unlike our ferrets, which are pets and have never lived wild, Fishers are wild animals and weight in at between 3 and 7-pounds. Their favorite food is (sorry kids) squirrels.

Usually, they are very dark brown — almost black — and maybe the size of a small raccoon. And yes, they do like eating cats if one happens to be roaming around. If you know you have fishers, do not let your cat roam. Given the plethora of predators — coyote, fox, raccoon, bobcat, and fisher — do your family a favor and do not let your cat roam outside. Between the toothy predators and the cars on the roads, they don’t have a chance.

From Massachusetts Wildlife.gov

We got to meet one up close and personal not long thereafter when one of them decided to take a nap in the one sunny place in our backyard. He was a gorgeous color of russet-brown. I could see him making a stunning coat.

When we tried to enter the yard, he hissed at us with just a hint of growling at the end. We retreated. Quickly. Between the bobcat who’d moved into my tepee and the fisher who’d taken over the yard, I developed a strong desire to stay on the deck.

Back of the Massachusetts State House where many weasels live!

But the wild weasels have every right to be here. They used to live here before being nearly hunted to extinction.

It’s the two-legged ones that work in the Statehouse and our Capitol that I resent. The wild weasels may take over the backyard while the sun is shining, but unlike the two-legged variety, they aren’t going to try to take away our medical care.

MAKING DO AND SOMETIMES, A SURPRISE – Marilyn Armstrong

Our mailbox got beat up. Was it whacked by a teenager and a baseball bat or hit by a plow? Since we didn’t see it happen, it’s a guess. What we know it that it got mashed. Not just ours, but our neighbors and other people on the same route. The ground is still pretty hard, making putting in a new post difficult, but the post office refused to deliver mail without a mailbox.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Buds in March

Yet somehow, the mailbox got repaired. Not replaced, but fixed. Along with our neighbor across the street. Owen didn’t do it. I asked and he said no, he hadn’t repaired it, so either the neighbor did a secret repair … or the plow driver took responsibility and did it … or the post office did it … or some stranger did it. We are still going to need to do a proper repair. It’s not an expensive repair, mind you. $20 for a post and another $22 for a post box.

Voila! Ready for mail for at least another decade or two, depending on snowfall, plow, teenagers and garbage trucks who also have been known to back into mailboxes.

Photo Garry Armstrong

I’m betting on the guy across the street and the next time we see him, we’ll have to ask. We aren’t exactly friends, but we aren’t exactly not friends. We are the kind of “over the hedge” friends you become in New England. He gives us extra tomatoes (he grows beautiful tomatoes) and we are always very happy to get them.

We have watched his children grow from little kids to college graduates. I remember when our children (our grandchild, actually) took the same school buses. Time has flown!

And now another summer is lurking a few months in the future. It’s only March so it’s still cold but it will get warmer. Eventually, it will be spring, then summer. Before we have time to blink, winter will be back.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – March down by the Mumford Dam

It seems to me the summer is when you race like mad to try and get everything done because there is very little time between the end of winter and winter’s return.

Weather is changing. Autumn is shorter. Summer is shorter and winter lasts longer. There is more rain, more ice, less snow. I don’t know what it means because New England is the kind of environment for erratic weather. Now it’s more erratic, but because it has always been strange. it is more strange, but what does it mean?

I’m sure it means something, but I’m not enough of a scientist to be able to tease the threads apart and make the right deductions. I simply know for the past two years, autumn has gone missing and we’ve had more rain and ice, less snow and more wind than I’ve ever seen. Which for New England IS unusual.

REMEMBERING WARM SUMMER DAYS – Marilyn Armstrong

It’s sleeting. It’s the followup to the snow that just ended. I’ve heard the freezing rain is next on the agenda and my feet are cold.

My feet are cold all winter. The rest of me is okay, but from the ankles down, permanent frostbite. It seemed like a good day to think about the river and the bridge and fishing along the Blackstone on a warm summer day.

Garry and I took a lot of pictures last summer. I went backward in time and processed a few new ones. It’s not that I don’t like winter. In a lot of ways I do, but it is difficult to do a lot of things. Like, walk up the driveway without falling down.

And although we are careful with our car in the winter, it’s surprising how many people don’t seem to realize how dangerous the ice flying off the top of their cars is to everyone else on the road. Today, on the way to the hospital we had to pass two big trucks while chunks of ice were flying off them. Several big SUVs were carrying a lot of ice and snow too.

Seriously folks. You live in the north and it is winter. Clean your car! If we can do, so can you.

Maybe time for a little dreaming.

The deep green of the trees. The quiet shine of the river. Reflections of the sky and trees. Kids with their fishing poles.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I’m sure I’ll complain about summer, too. I was born to live in the Caribbean. Meanwhile, I’ll relish my memories of warmer days.

SHARING MY WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

SHARE YOUR WORLD – 2/25/19

Photos: (Mostly) Garry Armstrong
And here are the questions:
A gathering of Finches
What, in your opinion, is the point to life?

Honestly? To live it as best you can. That’s the whole thing.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Do the best you can. Make the world as good as you are able. Make yourself the best version of you can. Within the limits of your physical, financial, and mental abilities, do the BEST you can.

No one can do more than that.

What was your most recent lie?  You don’t have to get really specific obviously.

I haven’t been doing much lying. I probably do the most — if you can call it that — at the doctor. I tend to say I’m fine when I’m not. But I see nothing to be gained by complaining. They know what’s going on. They know I hurt, they know the issues I’m dealing with and they are very sympathetic, so why make the visit harder?

Photo:: Garry Armstrong

Is this a real “lie” or is just avoiding making a problem worse? In some cases, it’s me trying to not waste everyone’s time explaining what everyone already knows. So I say “I’m fine” and everyone knows what I mean.

What do you think?

What country do you consider the most strange? 

I really think this is the most strange country in the world.

We aren’t one country. We are many countries glued together by a map. I don’t remember who said it — I think it was a comedian on Colbert the other night — who pointed out “where, other than the flag and possibly English, does New York have to do with Utah? Or Vermont have to do with Louisiana?

Photo: Garry Armstrong
Photo: Garry Armstrong

We are really a bunch of countries divided by huge rivers and giant mountains. We don’t share the same type of weather or speak English the same way. So of course — we don’t understand each other and that’s even when we are trying to understand.

We also have very different needs in various parts of the country. We live such different lives! Even the food we eat is different.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

We are supposed to be “one nation” but we aren’t. Various parts of the nations are shockingly different from one another.

Cities are more like each other than rural areas are. Wealthy areas are very different than poor ones.

We should be at least four, maybe five different countries. At least. Maybe more.

What’s your funniest story involving a car?

When I was learning to drive, my husband’s car was a “three on the column.” Not a four or five on the floor, but on a bar on the driver’s wheel. Since there was no fourth gear, first and third were in the same position. Up.

I had trouble remembering whether I had shifted from third to first. There were no markings on the shift, either. You couldn’t look and see where you were. You had to “feel” it.

I remember driving down the hill and thinking “Don’t forget to shift into first. Don’t forget to shift into first. Don’t forget.”

I forgot.

I stripped the gears and the transmission had to be rebuilt. Lucky it was cheaper to fix cars back then, isn’t it? Boy, did I feel STUPID!