A TINY CHURCH – Marilyn Armstrong

It’s a tiny church hidden behind houses in Amherst. If you don’t know to look, you would never find it. About the size of my living room and dining room combined, the cross on top is a bit crooked. Such a small church, such a long history.

The Goodwin Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church is a historic church on Woodside Avenue in Amherst, Massachusetts.

The church, built in 1910, is located down a narrow lane in the otherwise residential neighborhood. It is about 25 feet by 50 feet, styled in the Craftsman style popular at the time of its construction. It remains essentially the same since being built.

The church is named for Moses Goodwin, a local resident and parishioner. It was the second building for the African-American congregation that occupies it. The first — built in 1869 on a nearby lot — was demolished in 1917. It continues to be a social and religious center for Amherst’s African-American community.

Zion Church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.

IN THE WHITE OF THE WORLD – Garry Armstrong

Marilyn gave me her small Leica as a Christmas gift, but not before her getting a small pocketbook camera for herself. Is it a bit early? Absolutely. She never waits for the holiday.

The Episcopal rectory on the Common.

She knew I wanted it and now, I have it. Thus armed with a camera in my bag, I went to the grocery store because after three days of being locked inside with snow blocking our driveway … and with a couple of hundred feet of downhill driveway (you could use it as the Bunny Slope), you cannot get out of here without a plow first clearing it.

Unitarian Church (empty) on the Common.

Meanwhile, not only were we running short of food (though we have enough dog food, birdseed, soup, and bread to keep us going for a while), we were almost out of half-and-half. What, no coffee? Oh NO!

1888 Library across the Common

Marilyn was also running out of some prescriptions and they do not deliver in this town. They don’t deliver anything. Contain your shock: they don’t even deliver pizza. Our salvation is frozen pizza which, coincidentally fits into our small counter oven.

1770 Quaker Meetinghouse

And, since I had that little Leica packed in my bag, I took pictures. It turns out she was right. If you have a camera, you just never know when a picture might turn up. There are more to come.

SQUIRREL ON A COLD, SNOWY DAY – Marilyn Armstrong

Just as I feel the birds need feeding — because when the weather is like this, they starve and freeze pretty fast — I know squirrels need to feed too. I’m doing a pretty good job at letting the squirrels eat all morning and the birds eat in the afternoon.

Maybe they’ll get used to the routine and start to cope without human intervention?

Up to the rail having jumped from the tree

A quick taste?

A few more seeds

Yummy!

Dinner is better eaten upside down!

THE THREE SEASON YEAR – Marilyn Armstrong

We don’t get four seasons. We get three. Summer — hot, sticky, and buggy, but at least it’s warm. Okay, a lot of humidity, but you have to take the good with the bad.

I had been hoping we’d more Autumn, and we did. It was short — just about a week — but glorious for that week. Which is good because it’s only the first week in November and they are predicting snow. I don’t think we’ll get any here, but it would not be a surprise. I can remember many years when it snowed before Thanksgiving and stayed snowy until Summer showed up.

Sometimes we get a second Autumn in November that lasts until after Christmas. Last year, it lasted until March, at which point we had three blizzards in a row. The snow hung around until the trees began to bloom after which we got two months of heavy rains and wind. No climate change here!

Last week it was pretty warm, but right now, it’s cold. Very cold.

House in summer

Summer by the Blackstone

Autumn by the river and canal

Now those are Autumn specials! – Photo: Garry Armstrong

Photo: Garry Armstrong –Winter at home

Junco atop the Toad

No pictures of spring because that’s a season we don’t really get. It’s winter, then summer. We always HOPE for spring, though. Even though we know it isn’t happening, we figure maybe one year it will.

You never know, right?

ALMOST THE END OF THE LINE – Marilyn Armstrong

ALMOST THE END OF THE LINE

Hard to imagine October is done. Finito. My favorite month. The only thing about it I don’t like is that winter is right behind it.

The cold is closing in quickly. I don’t have a good feeling about this winter. Last year, we had basically “late Autumn” until March. Then it snowed like mad for a few weeks. The rest of the season was not snowy. We had a lot of rain and mud and ice, but hardly any snow until my birthday.

Woods and fence blizzard

Welcome to my 72 birthday. It was a 15-inch blizzard. And there I was, thinking we were going to get through winter without snow. One year (during the past 20) we had a snow-free winter, but the following year we had so much snow we had to have our roof shoveled three times to keep it from caving in.

That’s the really bad part of really good attic insulation. The heat from the house never gets to your roof, so the tons of snow never melts. Each subsequent snow piles on top of earlier blizzards.

Farewell, October

The winters of 2015 and 2016 were both like living in Mongolia or maybe Antarctica. One of our cars (we had two back then) was literally buried. You literally could not see it. Driving down our narrow roads was like driving in a tunnel with the snow 10 feet high on both sides from the plowing. I remember when Kaity was very young and she asked if the giant piles of snow and ice were going to become glaciers which they were studying in school.

I explained that I didn’t think so, but who could tell anymore?

Nonetheless, this is still nominally October, so let’s think orange and pumpkin-flavored donuts.

ROMANTIC BLUE IN JULY – Marilyn Armstrong

The blue romance of July is an icy river from last winter

On this very hot day in July, thoughts tend to turn more to cold showers than romance … but it will get better.

By Monday, the heat will break and then it will be a normal hot summer. Or, so we hope. Because the weather has not been anything like normal in quite a while and I wonder if it will ever be “normal” again.

An icy blue river in February.

THE SNOW IS GONE – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Tuesday: SNOW

The snow is gone.

We didn’t get a lot of it this year. It didn’t show up at all until March and it only lasted a week and a bit, but it rained and stormed almost continuously from February through this month. So our water table is doing fine.

Now that the Gypsy moth caterpillars have been spotted locally, we really need the rain — so of course, we have lovely, dry spring weather. The rain brings forth a little caterpillar killer bug that drops those caterpillars dead from the trees. But we need rain and a lot of it.

It’s as if the weather is rebelling. Whatever it is we want, we can’t have it. It’s not a lack of weather. It’s a lot of weather — at all the wrong times.

It’s funny to think about snow now. All I have on my mind are the hospital tests and getting finished with them. I think I’m about to (in late May and June) finally complete … and how doth the garden grow.

March blizzard

And how many squirrels are hanging on the bird feeder. Perhaps, as Stuart Templeton said yesterday, “Isn’t it great  to see some birds on your squirrel feeders?”

Unsurprisingly, the feeders were filled last night and were nearly empty this morning. I was going to let the feeder run empty and try to convince the squirrels to do their own hunting, but if the caterpillars take over, there won’t BE any food to eat. Those nasty bugs strip the woods and everything goes hungry.

The Gypsy moths are an evil omen in an evil year. Last time, I survived by getting everything sprayed, but I don’t have the money this year — and I don’t even know what (if any) company is set up to to the work. No one was expecting them to come back so soon. They usually lay low for decades before making a return appearance.

If it gets ugly (and Garry is horribly allergic to these nasty critters), I’m going to hide inside and refuse to leave. Since our squirrels are always starving, can they be convinced to eat these guy? Except almost none of the birds will eat the big hairy caterpillars, but many will eat the egg masses they leave behind. We do have most of those birds here. On our deck.

Bring on the birdseed!

And, for what it’s worth, squirrels eat them too, even the caterpillars. So I guess we’re going to keep those feeders full!


More information from Mass Audubon Society and Pests.org:

Some native birds, such as cuckoos, downy woodpeckers, gray catbirds, and common grackles, will eat gypsy moth caterpillars but, unfortunately, not in large enough quantities to have an effect during an outbreak. White-footed mice, and occasionally gray squirrels, prey on gypsy moth larvae and pupae.

Pests.Org

These little-known buggers can lay waste to entire forests and crops as they munch their way through the leaves and plants. Up until last year, the Gypsy Moth Caterpillar was not considered a big deal. Granted, they are still a problem when they infest your farm, but they had taken a backseat to other common pests. That is until some states (the northeast and especially Massachusetts) saw the worst Gypsy Moth infestation in more than 30 years.


NOTE: In 2016 and 2017 — here in the Blackstone Valley — virtually every hardwood and fruit-bearing tree were defoliated by the caterpillars), farmers started paying attention. 


Some birds typically eat Gypsy Moths. Birds such as the Bluejay, catbird, blackbird (cowbirds ARE blackbirds), crows (we have them, though they don’t favor our woods) and such find these insects delicious.

These ARE blackbirds!

One of our many cowbirds.

Encourage these birds to visit your property to feed on these moths by not chasing them away when they come.


We definitely encourage them!