MORE OF THE LAST AUTUMN TREE – Marilyn Armstrong

The Last Autumn Tree – FOTD – November 9, 2018


We had a second sunny day in a row. Unbelievable! But not to worry. It will rain tomorrow. Probably not until the evening. The rivers are full and they are expecting rivers to flood.

I am trying not to think about it, hoping the sump and the pump are up to the task. And our French drains are not clogged with leaves and the gutters are still viable. And the roof doesn’t leak.

The tree in all her glory

It has been raining  … major storms … several times each week and the rivers are cresting. And guess who lives in a river valley?

Amazing colors!

I went out and took more pictures of The Tree. Because after tomorrow’s storm, it won’t have any leaves left. Count on it.

I have save more pictures because I’m going to need them.

AT LEAST IT’S NOT SNOWING – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Photo Challenge: Jack Frost


Every conversation about the weather — which has been rainy and windy all the time since last March — ends with someone saying “Well, at least it’s not snowing.”

When we moved here, our very first winter, it snowed all the time. We were charmed by the beauty. Everyone shoveled and we bought a really huge snow blower.

Duke and Bonnie!

By the second year, we were less charmed, the snow blower was huge and heavy. The snow never stopped falling. Driving down our road was like driving through a tunnel. The height of the snow on both sides of the road was well over 6-feet.

We also discovered why no one cements their mailbox in place.

The deck

If you cement it in the ground when the snow plow knocks it down, you need a whole new mailbox. If it’s just stuck in the dirt, you stand it back up and push the earth back around the post, and voilà. Also, it pays to get a rubber mailbox. They survive longer and keep your mail dry.

Mailboxes across the snowy woods.  Photo: Garry Armstrong

So you talk lovingly of Jack Frost and I think “Who’s gonna plow us out THIS year?” It’s never the same guy twice and half the time it’s some kid who takes out a garden or half the backyard. We’ll get through it, but it’s always a hassle.

Photo: Garry Armstrong –Winter in New England

I have thousands — literally thousands and maybe tens of thousands of more than 100,000 photographs — of snow. Blizzards. We get a lot of snow. I mean really — a lot of snow. I get depressed thinking about it.

The Renegade – We are counting on you!

We are the kind of people who need a 4X4. For some people, it’s a style. For us, it’s how we get out of the driveway in the winter. Without one, you get stuck until spring.

WET AND DRY – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Dry


It’s raining. Dare I say it? It’s pouring. But this is no longer unusual. It used to be the rain came and left. Recently and including today, it’s sunshine that comes briefly then vanishes.

Yesterday was a day during which it didn’t rain. It wasn’t always sunny, but it didn’t actually rain.

Just as well I took pictures because yesterday’s trees with golden leaves are today’s bare, wet bark. At least it isn’t cold. Yet.

It has been raining as if this were Portland. Definitely not anything like Massachusetts in the summer or fall. We weren’t flooded yet, probably because we never got one of the massive hurricanes. We are far enough north that we usually don’t get the full power of hurricanes … but they occasionally show up.

If they don’t show up “in person,” they show up as a close cousin. Always, they bring rain, wind, and weeks or sodden, gray weather. In the winter, they bring the blizzards. In the warmer weather, a nor’easter means nonstop rain plus a full measure of gloom.

But we also have our own little hurricanes, the infamous nor’easters that pound in from the ocean and then sit right over Boston and just keep bringing in water from the ocean in a powerful circular drive.

Two years ago — the worst ear of the 10-year drought — there was no rain, not even a drizzle through May and almost none in June.

This year, the ground is sodden and feels like a sponge. The trees are dark because the bark is wet and has stayed wet for months. There is green mold growing on our vinyl siding. Even the rocks are green.

Dry? When was that?

AS THE WORLD TURNS, SO THE CLIMATE CHANGES – Marilyn Armstrong

End of October

I was just reading a post on “NewEnglandGardenAndThread” about how in several years, New England’s climate will change from 5 to a 7 or 8.

Here’s a quote and a map:


(The speaker said that) … in her ‘lifetime’ (she was 50), New Hampshire would go from growing zone 5 to a 7 or 8.

Think about that for just a minute.

If we go to a 7 or 8 growing zone, the ski industry will be a thing of the past, the sugar maples will die from heat and pollution, and the maple syrup industry will be over in this country. If New England increases two growing zones, what does that mean for Florida and all of its fruit growers, as well as the rest of the country? It really is mind-boggling.


I keep trying to explain this to people and they refuse to believe it. They say things like “not all scientists agree on this.”

Except, yes, really, scientists all agree on this. All of them. They may not be sure how long the change will take and where it will happen first, second, third, but that it will happen? 100% agreement that the climate is changing fast and people who are already well into middle age will live to see the results.

Many people apparently believe “climate change” is something that happens all of a sudden. Like in exactly 12 years, the world’s “life” switch turns off and that’s it. Game over.

But this isn’t sports and there are no innings or overtime. Folks don’t realize change is a varied process. Changes will happen incrementally at different rates in different places.

Many people really don’t want to know, so they refuse to hear it. It doesn’t matter if you are a saint or the worst sinner on Earth, there’s no “get out of jail free” card on this. And the stuff that the current administration is doing to the environment is absolutely going to make it happen faster and uglier. It is terrifying and frustrating to try to make the determined non-believers recognize that yes, really, this is scientific fact and anyone who believes in science agrees.

The disbelievers are not scientists. They are misinformed bloggers or people who have degrees in other areas, but not climate.

Climate change is not a lie. It isn’t fake. It will ruin your world even if you don’t believe it. What can you do? Vote people into office who will make the effort to protect us. Those currently in power believe they can treat the world however they want and there are no consequences. But there are already significant consequences if you choose to look.

All I hope for is a change in administration so whoever is in charge understands what needs to be done will be in charge and take us off this edge of the world in which we are standing. I’m not good with edges and ledges.

PREDICTABLE RESULTS – Marilyn Armstrong

Some nights, you can’t win.

We’ve been so tired, that finally, we decided to go to bed early. For us, which means before midnight. Maybe just a little after it. I think I was out cold by 12:30 which for me, is definitely early.

Sometime in the middle of the night, I woke up with a searing pain in my knee, both arms numb … and I was freezing.

It turned out, the temperature had dropped a lot — like 40 degrees — from where it was when we went to bed. I had wrapped both arms around my pillow under my head, so they were numb. AND I was sleeping with one leg half off the bed so the knee had twisted into a pretty strange position and wow, did it hurt!

I had to lift the leg back into bed, which was hard because both arms were asleep. I also needed to find a warmer nightgown, close the bathroom window, and take something. Like maybe the tranquilizer I usually take before going to sleep so I don’t just fall asleep, but actually stay asleep.

It took me an hour to get it sorted out.

Position the body to keep all limbs on the mattress with the rest of me. Do not put the arms doubled up under the pillow. Put on something warmer than a summer sleep tee and find a pair of socks. Close the window. Take a few Tylenol. Listen to a chapter of an audiobook.

Jacket weather – Photo Garry Armstrong

I proved that you don’t need to be sick to make yourself really miserable. All you have to do is dangle parts of you off the mattress while locking other under your body. And let yourself chill down to heart-slowing levels.

Who knew a dangling leg could hurt that much?

I’m working at keeping all of me in the bed. A couple of weeks ago, I fell out of bed. I have a habit of sleeping at the edge of the bed. I started doing it when I was really sick and it extremely difficult to get myself sitting up and moving.  If I slept along the edge of the mattress, it was easier to move. Now, though, I seem to be having trouble keeping track of all my limbs –and keeping them sensibly organized.

According to Harvey the weather guru, it’s going back into the 80s (about 27 for you Celsius folks) with extremely high humidity tomorrow. Not to worry because it will drop down to the 50s (10 Celsius) the next day, then back to the 80s by the weekend. Or maybe not. It’s New England. We have chaotic weather.

I’m not ready to turn the heat on. It’s too early in the year, especially with oil prices so much higher. It’s just September. Winter has been lasting through April and last year it was cold through the first half of May.

Getting chilly

I try not to turn the heat on until the end of October or early November. This means lots of sweaters and warm socks until finally, I’m sufficiently miserable to up the thermostat. We need an extra tank of oil at the end of April last year which cost us more than $300 and emptied out all the money we’d been saving for exactly that kind of event. It also meant that when we needed to get the boiler tuned and repaired in July, we had no money in the account — and that was another $300.

Snow – April 22, 2018

In the middle of May 2018, it was cold. Cold enough for snow to fall and stick to the ground. I didn’t mind the snow — it wasn’t heavy enough to be inconvenient — but I minded that extra tank of oil.

This year, I’ve got a plan. Instead of telling people we are too poor to pay the higher oil prices (thanks, Donzo Drumpf!), I’m telling everyone we aren’t turning on the heat until all the people in Lawrence and Andover who got blown up a couple of weeks ago get their heat turned on.

A political statement is less pathetic. Also, with a little luck, we’ll make it through winter without having to dig even deeper into our lack of money to pay for more oil. You never know. Winter might not be too bad.

AUTUMN COMES TO NEW ENGLAND – #WRITEPHOTO – Marilyn Armstrong

Autumn Comes to New England – #writephoto

It is the end of September. Normally, we would be wrapped in the bright leaf colors for which New England is justly famous. Not so far.

We were at Manchaug a few days ago and everything was green.  We always look for the first color of the year along the water, but aside from some berries and a few yellow leaves, it was still deep summer green.

The dam at Manchaug was full this year. Lots of rain this spring and summer.

It seems to make the colors bright and show up sooner than anywhere else.

But it was green along the river on Tuesday. Today is Friday and it has been pouring for the past couple of days. Good news? The temperature is down and you can see bits and pieces of the season on its way.

Bad news? If it doesn’t stop raining soon, the leaves will turn yellow, then brown, then fall off the trees. Rain is just not the best thing for autumn colors.

Today, though I began to see — through the rain — the start of colors and even the occasional scarlet maple tree shining through the green. And finally, I saw a tree. Just one tree, mostly yellow with some red. I took pictures.

Considering how grim much of life has been, one bright tree made all the difference.

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF STORMS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

The news has been inundated recently with reports of Hurricane Florence, which is bashing North and South Carolina. I’ve always wondered why so many people refuse to evacuate when the government tells them to. And why people don’t adequately prepare even when they’re told exactly what to expect.

Hurricane Florence

I read an interesting article on this subject by Robert J. Meyer in the Washington Post on September 12, 2018. He addressed the psychological issues at play when people face an impending natural disaster. The article is called “Why do people stay put during hurricanes? Here’s what psychology says.”

Despite endless warnings and specific information and suggestions about what to do to stay safe, lack of preparedness is responsible for most of the property damage and loss of life in major storms. “…lack of preparedness…is caused by cognitive biases that lead people to underplay warnings and make poor decisions, even when they have the information they need.”

people shopping to prepare for hurricane

Failure to evacuate resulted in 40 drowning deaths in Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Surveys showed that only 20% of residents had a preparedness plan. And that storm was hyped up the wazoo! It hit my area so I know! We even took our boat out of the water and planted it in the parking lot of the marina to minimize the likelihood of costly damage.

What goes wrong in these situations? Here are some of the cognitive biases that lead us astray in natural disasters.

Excessive optimism is the first cognitive bias that kicks in. People understand that many residents of their area will be affected. They just don’t believe that THEY will be negatively affected. Others rationalize that they survived other storms without preparation so why not this one?

Hurricane Florence in North Carolina

Herd thinking also comes into play. If neighbors aren’t preparing then there’s no social pressure to do more than the basics.

Myopia is another key psychological factor in lack of adequate preparedness. People are short-sighted when it comes to spending money or expending energy on preëmptive actions. They focus on the immediate cost and discomfort, not the more abstract future benefit. So they cheap out on preparedness measures and take the easy way out.

Amnesia also colors people’s anticipation of a natural disaster. People tend to remember the facts of a past storm, but forget how awful it felt to live through it. Memories of emotions fade faster than memories of facts. So reminding people how bad it was the last time seems to have limited effect.

Sound decision-making is impaired by inertia and simplification. People who are unsure what to do, often do nothing. That’s the principle of “inertia at work.” Simplification results in people doing just a few of the many things necessary to be adequately prepared. The thinking goes, “I’ve done three out of twelve things to be safe so I should be okay.” In Hurricane Sandy, 90% of residents bought supplies – but only enough for ONE DAY without power. Woefully inadequate and unrealistic! We were without power for six days, and we were lucky!

The article concludes that the key to better preparedness in the future is accepting the reality of these destructive cognitive biases. We can’t change them so we have to work around them. We have to design preparedness plans that accept them and anticipate them. For example, give people ORDERED lists that say “If you’re only going to do three things, these are the three things you should do.”

Science has increased our ability to predict hurricanes and other natural disasters. But science can’t reduce the human and property damage done by these weather events.

Psychology is the key to helping people make better decisions when they are faced with nature’s destructiveness.