The entire Blackstone River Valley is a National Historic Corridor. A lot of people don’t realize that we are “one step removed” from a national park and have a good many of the same protections. Many of these opportunities are not enforced, though not from unwillingness. More like “not enough money.”

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

Photo: Garry Armstrong

One of the most lovely and historic parts of the valley is the Blackstone Canal.

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong  – The trail along the canal was originally the path used by horses while pulling barges

The Blackstone river was the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution. In the early 1800s, it was, mile-for-mile, the busiest, most hard-working river in America. Over its 46-mile course, it drops 438 feet — farther than the Colorado River falls through the entire Grand Canyon. By 1790 the Blackstone’s waters powered the pioneering cotton mill of Samuel Slater at Pawtucket, Rhode Island. It was America’s first mechanized cotton factory.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Waterfall to the river; straight ahead to the canal.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Capital accumulated. Technical specialists gathered. Villages were built. This rapid growth created a need for an improved way of moving materials — other than the rutted dirt roads which had served the area thus far. The Blackstone River has too many twists, turns, falls, shallows, and rapids to be navigable, so during the winter and spring of 1821-2, plans were made to create a canal which would carry goods from mills to the world.

About the Canal

Financed by Yankee entrepreneurs and dug by Irish laborers, it was inaugurated in 1828. The canal follows the course of the Blackstone River and bypasses rapids and shallows using locks.

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

Over the course of its short 20-year history, the canal spurred commerce and development through the Valley, eventually known as “The Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution.”

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

It attracted the attention of Boston and brought a rapid entry of trains to the area, making the canal attractive, but no longer workable. Much of new railroad was built along the tow-path of the canal.

The area was (fortunately) bypassed by most urban renewal. It has held onto much of its historic buildings. Its proximity to I-290 and Union Station made it an easy destination for out-of-towners — and more recently, an attractive place for housing and suburban re-investment.

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

The Canal is a locus of parks ranging from tiny to quite extensive. Now that the canal and river are so much cleaner, you can see many areas where fishing is encouraged as well as canoeing, kayaking and even — where the snapping turtles are in low supply — swimming. This time of year, it is quite simply, beautiful.

Additional historical information in THE HISTORY | THE CANAL and the Blackstone River and Canal National Heritage Park (Gov. Massachusetts)

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2017


Garry is not afraid of heights.  He might have liked mountain climbing, but work kept him otherwise occupied. He did try — and enjoy — jumping out of planes. With a parachute.

The years have marched on and although he no longer ventures up on the roof, it’s not his fear of heights. More like a fear of getting giddy at an inappropriate moment.

I haven’t met many people who can climb high places and not get freaked out.

I’ve gotten a little bit better over time, but I still don’t like being near the edge of anything higher than a small stepladder.

Thus, during the times when Garry decides he want to shoot the falls from right along the edge, I try to control my urge to whimper and cry out “DON’T DO IT BABY! I LOVE YOU! COME HOME!”


One of the side effects of a day at the spa was the discovery that Gibbs ears are not looking good. Bring on the blue stuff! If you don’t know what blue stuff is, allow me to introduce you to the world’s best cure for whatever is bothering the dogs’ ears (other than mites).


16 oz. Isopropyl Alcohol (or 16 oz. Witch Hazel if ears are very inflamed or sore)
4 Tablespoons Boric Acid Powder
16 Drops Gentian Violet Solution 1%
Mix together in plastic bottle and shake well.

You will need to shake the solution every time you use it. Purchase a “Clairol” type plastic bottle to dispense solution to affected ears. These bottles can be found at beauty supply shops.

I make half this amount, then I warm it to body temperature in the microwave.

NOTE: If you don’t own one, buy a dropper. The gentian violet does not come with its own.


If you aren’t absolutely sure what you are dealing with, a trip to the vet is your best start.

Warm the solution and shake the bottle each time before using. Flood the ear with solution (gently squirt bottle). Massage gently to the count of 60, wipe with a tissue. On first treatment, flood the ear twice, wipe with a tissue, and leave alone without massage.

The dog will shake out the excess, which can be wiped with a tissue.

NOTE: Gentian Violet STAINS fabric and FUR! Be careful. The stains are impossible to remove.

Many people ask why this miracle preparation isn’t commercially available. The answer is, it is available. You can buy it on Amazon for $20 per 8 ounce bottle. Or buy the ingredients from your pharmacy, which is a lot cheaper. You used to be able to buy gentian violet in the pharmacy any time. These days, you have to order it and it cost more than it used to. It’s still much less expensive than buying the solution in a bottle. I’m betting you can also get it from your veterinarian. Vets have come a long way in dealing with using non-antibiotic ingredients.


For a long time, it wasn’t available anywhere unless you made it yourself. That never made sense to me. I had hounds with long, floppy ears. Infected ears are extremely common in long-eared dogs. We were back and forth to the vet over and over until someone in my hound group introduced us to the blue stuff.

It worked.

It still works.

Gibbs is a most unhappy dog. It’s not that this stuff hurts. It doesn’t. It’s just the Gibbs has strong feelings about being treated. For anything. Ever. For a relatively small dog, he is surprisingly strong and it is a serious job to hold him still. As far as he is concerned, treating his ears is an insult. He isn’t even speaking to us until he is sure a treat is in the works. He softens in the face of treats — what a surprise.

Gibbs’ thinking about forgiving us. Until tomorrow.

How do you explain medical treatment to a dog? Or any animal? Or for that matter, a baby? I always tell them this is for their own good. Infected ears are definitely worse than any amount of blue stuff, but they don’t listen. Gibbs is seriously upset with us. The worst part of this is we are going to have to do it again tomorrow.

I hope he is still talking to us when his ears are cured.


Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge – May 12, 2017

It has been cold and rainy this entire month. I think we’ve had one completely sunny day. Otherwise, we get half an hour here and there. Between rains.

We took the dogs in for their quarterly grooming today. It was raining when we came out. We don’t even get one whole day without mud, but they were beyond dirty. They needed grooming.

Help wanted


Long hours

Garry inside

We stopped at the deli coming home. It has changed owners. The new people work insanely long hours. This is what is so great about our immigrant population. These folks work hard and they don’t spend a lot of time complaining about it. They make wonderful neighbors.


Mother’s Day – Sunday, May 14, 2017

FROM swo8 (Leslie Martel): Today is Mother’s Day. To commemorate this day, we have created a photographic montage of families together. It includes eight generations of my family and three of Marilyn and Garry Armstrong’s families.

The song is bittersweet because to be a mother, is indeed bittersweet. Our children bring us our greatest joys and our greatest sorrows. The first couple in the video are my great-grandparents. My great-grandmother died in childbirth leaving 3 babies and a husband.

When my great-grandfather remarried the children were sent off to their aunt to be raised. The aunt is the lady sitting by the fire-place. The first photo of children is of my grandmother and her twin sisters. My grandmother being the oldest would have missed her mother the most. In spite of her early losses she became an extraordinary person and had a huge influence on me and my thinking.

To be a mother has got to be one of the most difficult endeavours to under take in one’s life. We are given this helpless creature for a short period of time to nourish, educate and inspire before they disappear into the ether of adulthood.

As a tribute to mother’s everywhere we dedicate this song, “Mother’s Waltz” by swo8 Blues Jazz and Marilyn Armstrong. 

FROM Serendipity (Marilyn & Garry Armstrong): It has arrived. The melody of A Mother’s Waltz echoes in my mind. I feel as if it is something I remember hearing my mother sing a long time ago … but of course, it is brand new from swo8 Blues Jazz

The pictures of my family include my mother, me, much younger and my son as a toddler. Pictures of Garry’s family include his mother and father’s wedding, Garry’s dad back from WWII with little Garry on his knee. Garry’s mom as a young woman.

The pictures are family heirlooms that evoke strong and sometimes conflicted feelings.

Music by swo8 … with pictures from Leslie Martel (swo8) and Marilyn Armstrong. Memories in music for mothers everywhere.