LINES IN THE WOODSHED – Garry Armstrong

The Lines in the Old Woodshed

It’s coming down before the winter comes. Its roof is about ready to cave in. One big snow, and it will bring itself down. That would make a terrible mess, so it makes more sense to take it down before it collapses.

Yet today, I got two pictures of it surrounded by Autumn. I think we will miss it. It has been here for 15 or 16 years. It’s part of our landscape.

The front of the shed

The shed from the side

FOREST LIFE WHEN SPRING HAS COME – Marilyn Armstrong

OH FOREST PRIMEVAL


I laughed when Ellin wrote that the weather is perfect for outside. “Not too hot, not too cold, and the bugs aren’t in full attack mode.” Or something to that effect. People who don’t live here don’t “get” the bugs.

We don’t just have insects. We have hordes of insects with jaws and stingers. Tiny ones that get into your eyes and ears and clothing.

The trees will darken as summer progresses

Evil ones that carry disease and vicious ones that requires trips to the doctor and antibiotics. And of course, the slithery ones that eat your trees for breakfast, lunch, and dinner until they are naked. The trees are naked. The bugs are furry and itchy.

This year, so far, the bugs are “normal.” I see no evidence of returning gypsy moth caterpillars and I just hope that we are back to normal again. Nothing more vicious than mosquitoes and flies seem to be out there, discounting the ever-present ants, of course.

So this is our forest. It has come into bloom. Yesterday, actually. You could pretty  much watch the leaves unfurl. It’s not quite summer, so I think we are going to get a week or two of actual spring! Amazing! We deserve it after our last, endless winter.

APPROACHING EARTH DAY WITH THE SWANS – Marilyn Armstrong

Usually, when I publish pictures of swans, I clean up the water, but these are the originals … the way the photographs looked before clearing out the rubbish.


As we again approach America’s “Earth Day,” I find myself ready to go on the “lecture tour.” I grew up in a country setting. Technically, it was part of New York, but really, it was a strange little farming community that got surrounded by a city, but never became a part of it.

I grew up with people who raised plants. Wheat and corn. Who raised horses and burros and geese. Who nursed sick birds. Who cared for the trees.

Along the shore – where all the garbage lives

We were surrounded by woods and trees. We learned how to find rare plants and we played in the woods … and apparently children don’t notice mosquitoes as do their elders because we must have been chewed to pieces. But we never seemed to care.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

That didn’t make me “ecology” conscious, of course. What made me conscious of the ecology was — you guessed it — my mother. She grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. That was where most new immigrants grew up, especially Jewish and Italian immigrants.

As a result, my mother believed all trees were sacred — and her personal crusade.  She could not bear the idea of anyone cutting down a tree and that’s why we had so much land. When our neighbors decided to sell the woods next to our house, my mother told my father that he was going to borrow however much money it would cost him to get that parcel because someone else might build factory or an apartment house.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Those were her trees. Really, they were all her trees. From tiny little sprigs to the giant white oaks that towered over the house, they were hers.

Every year, she called the city’s tree specialists to check out the condition of the white oaks on our property. They were the last remaining white oaks in the five Burroughs, all the rest having been cut down to use as masts on sailing ships. How they missed that little corner of New York? Just luck.

I still hate the idea of cutting down trees, even when its obvious the tree needs cutting. We had to take down some trees that were too close to the chimney and we had a cutter come and cut down about two dozen more oaks because they were growing so close together, it was unhealthy. Also, we had no light in the house at all. But it hurt me to see the trees being felled, even though it was necessary, safe, and would in the end, improve the forest.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I grew up hating trash. I grew up believing littering was a crime. That hurting any living creature was cruel and even though I never made it to vegetarian, I feel guilty eating meat. I don’t believe that vegan is a healthier way to eat, but I dislike knowing something died so I could eat. I don’t think it will ever stop bothering me.

I learned early that breakwaters damaged the sea-shore. That sandy beaches can disappear during a hurricane. Several local beaches did exactly that while I was growing up on Long Island. That dune buggies destroy the dunes, the nests, the birds, the baby birds.

Dirty water swan

And my loathing of people who throw trash into the woods or the river grows with every passing year. Every time we go down to the river to take pictures of the swans, I see them swimming through trash and wonder how they can eat whatever is growing in the grungy water that’s full of filth.

It wasn’t hard to make me ecologically conscious and six years working at the University of Jerusalem’s Environmental Health Laboratory taught me much more than I wanted to know. I saw the plumes of pollution pouring out of the rivers into the Mediterranean. I saw the reports of what was in those plumes.

I understood also that just because a microbe is in the water does not mean you will necessarily catch it because not all microbes are absorbed the same way … but after seeing those pictures, I could never bring myself to swim in the Mediterranean again.

At this point, I don’t even like swimming pools. All I see are tubs of microbes.

THE CHANGING SEASONS – MARCH 2018 – GARRY & MARILYN ARMSTRONG

February ended and we all thought — especially me! — that spring was just around the corner. We’d had a lot of snow in January — with warm weeks in between. We had considerable snow in February — with even warmer weeks in between. This being March, I was waiting for the song of the Carolina sparrow.

THE FIRST STORM – March 2

It was mainly high wind and rain. We got a dusting of snow, but we also got the kind of heavy, drenching rain I usually associate with tropical storms and hurricanes. The first storm, on March 2, lasted almost three days — longer on some places along the shore.

For this “Changing Seasons,” I am here to show you the rest of the winter. Apparently winter was not wintry enough, so anything remaindered landed in March. We had three major nor’easters in less than two weeks.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

There is another possibly on the way, but none of the local meteorologists have quite figured out whether or not it is going to hit us or wander off into the Atlantic.

THE SECOND STORM – March 9

This was another heavy wind event with terribly high tides, massive shore erosion … and about 5 inches of snow, inland. The trees were moving in the wind which is more than a little frightening considering the size of these giant oak trees. The less I looked at them, the happier I was.

We didn’t lose power, but we were lucky. Across New England and New York, more than a million people lost power and some still have not yet been connected.

For all the dull months when we took very few pictures, we made up for it big time in March. Tons of snow, rapid melting. More snow. We don’t live on the coast or I could show you 50 foot high waves pounding the sea walls in Scituate (pron: Si-choo-ate) and everywhere along the cape, but especially in Bourne and Barnstable.

THE BIG ONE – THE THIRD STORM – March 13

The predictions for this one were a little different. A heavy blow of more wind along the shore, but massive quantities of snow for our area. in fact, Worcester won the cup — the most snow in the region.

Just under 28 inches.

Worcester beat out Uxbridge by less than half an inch getting a full 28 inches. We got 27.7 inches. It was a lot of heavy, wet snow. We didn’t get any of the wind and the trees groaned under the weight of the snow hanging in its branches.

Digging out

We both took pictures but even so, no one went very far. It was cold, the snow came down for a long, long time — almost 24 hours in total.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

March is by far the most erratic weather month in this region. March came in like a brace of hungry lions. I’m hoping he leaves us gently, trailing flowers. Right now, that seems unlikely.

All the early flowers were killed off by the brutal snow that followed the warming period. I think we will go from winter to almost summer during April. That isn’t unusual, either. In fact, it is more typical not otherwise.

Gibbs enjoying the snow

February is usually the worst month for blizzards and really heavy snow, but March takes the cup for 2018. Just because the month is more than half over, it’s too early to stow your winter gear.

The better news is there’s a lot of melting going on when the sun is out. It’s still cold, but not like it was earlier in the winter. We aren’t getting prolonged bouts of below zero (Farenheit) temperatures.

And, then, there was getting around after the snow. The towns are all good at cleaning up. We may not be good at a lot of other things, but we know how to clear the roads.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Rules — not etched in stone:


Do you want to participate in «The Changing Seasons»?
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!

Hosted this year by: Zimmerbitch – Age is just a number

THE CHANGING SEASONS – FEBRUARY 2018

As February is ending, it is time for another “Changing Seasons” post. I haven’t gotten the alert, but I’ve been doing this for two years, so I don’t have a problem doing it again.

It has been a truly dull month for photography. A little bit of snow, a lot of rain. Some very warm, shirtsleeve weather, then a little more snow. February and March are the two most erratic months for weather in this region.

February is often the worst month for blizzards and really heavy snow and just because the month is almost over, it’s much too early to stow your winter gear.

This is one of those weird months where it feels like any number of seasons. Today was springtime. I was outside taking pictures in my dress. Not even a sweatshirt. Garry went out in a hoodie and felt he was overdressed.

But tomorrow, we’re expecting a few inches (more? less?) of snow.

A chilly gray day

I have not taken many pictures this month. Everything has been boringly grey or mud brown, with a little snow occasionally to brighten it up. Not very exciting for a photographer.

But — some months are not terribly interesting. I’m just grateful we didn’t get three feet of snow!

Rules — not etched in stone:


Do you want to participate in «The Changing Seasons»?
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!

Hosted this year by: Zimmerbitch – Age is just a number

WHY OH WHY?

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Letter Y – Needs to start or end with the letter Y or in the caption “Why” needs to be present

Why oh why do I have so much trouble with “Y”? Is it because I don’t eat yams? Sold the yellow car? I do not yodel?

Yellow kayak on the Blackstone

Front yard foliage

The Holly bush

Froggy eyes

Rusty pickup truck

Sunny morning through the dining room windows

Foggy morning in January

Yellow Daisies

Yellow winter squash

UNDULATING IN THE UNDERBRUSH IN THE DANGEROUS WOODS

Doesn’t that sound like some bizarre parallel of life? There you are in your L.L. Bean boots, sprayed head-to-foot with anti-bug glop. You don’t know what’s worse — the big heavy boots with your jeans tucked into the tops, or the slime all over your body.

That anti-bug spray is icky.

But you aren’t going into the woods without it, that for sure. The last time you decided to take a little walk in your own back yard — and much as this seems like a jungle from an old Universal Studios moved (circa early 1950s maybe?), it’s yours. You bought the land. And today, you are going to explore it.

You should have done this early in the spring, before all the clawing blackberry trees were up. Before those wolf spiders were eyeing you from their woodsy nests. Those things are so damned big and while in theory, the worst they can do is bite you — and they aren’t poisonous — you are pretty sure you’re going to have a heart attack if one gets anywhere near you.

Do you need gloves too? Maybe a hat?

It’s 80 degrees and the bug spray is forming rivulets with your own sweat. Grab the camera. Maybe you’ll see something beautiful. Probably not, but who knows? You’ve already met the bobcat and the fisher and the coyotes and the deer. Bunnies and raccoons. Snakes. Lizards. Millions of mice and rude chipmunks.

This was farmland. You know because between the trees, there are stone fences which once defined fields. The farms are 100 years gone. Today, it’s your own backyard. Which you’ve never explored because there’s no path, plenty of thorns, and trillions of mosquitoes.

Finally, you look around: “Who is coming with me?” That’s when you notice that your exploration group are lying on lawn chairs. Drinking coke, beer, and lemonade.

“Too hot,” says Michelle.

“I’m all sweaty in my shorts and tee,” points out your granddaughter. “No way am I wearing all that stuff. Give it up Granny.”

Are they laughing at you? No reason why not because you are laughing at you.

And so another year of non-exploration passes. Whatever lives exist out there shall remain undisturbed by human traffic. If snakes undulate in the undergrowth besides the giant rocks? Go in peace, scaly friends. It’s your world.

Pass the lemonade.