WE WENT TO THE RIVER BECAUSE THE WORLD WAS GLOWING – Garry Armstrong

By the time we got through with the bank and the grocery and the pharmacy, I was ready for an ambulance.

The years really do catch up with you. I was so tired, I hadn’t even brought a camera with me.

Of course, Marilyn just happened to have a spare travel size Leica in her purse that she let me use.

This is the “end” of peak foliage. Beautiful, but it loooked like a golden snowstorm.

Colors by the Blackstone.

I really liked that little camera. Since I have a record of adopting Marilyn’s stuff and keeping it, she sat me down and said: “You can’t have the Leica. I love you and you can borrow it, but I am not going to give you my Leica.”

Marilyn taking her own pictures.

Time to watch the water ripple

Reflections

Now those are Autumn specials!

I couldn’t even argue the point, but what a nice little camera it is! it’s doesn’t have as long a lens as some travel cameras, but it doesn’t distort images, the colors stay true … and you can clip it in your pocket. Well, not yet. But I’ll talk her out of it. In the end, she’ll give me the camera.

That’s love.

The Boyz

LINES AND SQUARES – DAY SIXTEEN! – Marilyn Armstrong

LINES AND SQUARES ON THE SIXTEENTH DAY

Autumn is here — but likely will be gone by tomorrow. A major north Atlantic storm is due to hit us tomorrow by late afternoon. This will hopefully leave enough time for the contractor to finish the front door finishing. The door and wall are done already.

The contractor showed up on time and everything! He didn’t have his hand out before he took the tools out of the truck! There ARE miracles.

The sun wasn’t supposed to show up in that picture. I didn’t know it was there until I put the photos on the hard drive. I love the way the sun makes its own rays if you get the lens at the right angle.

Along our road

SUNFLOWERS BY FARM, ROAD, AND RIVER – Marilyn Armstrong

Sunflowers by the Farm-September 29, 2019

Apparently, the original owners of our favorite farm have sold to a new owner. He’s not a new owner in the sense of being young and looking to make a splash in the local farming world.

He is also Native American and I’m guessing the only Native in town. I wasn’t comfortable enough with him to ask him about tribe and affiliation … but he looked like a classic painting and he had long wavey white hair. Handsome man. Maybe a bit young for me and anyway, what would Garry say? Of course at our age, Garry is most likely to ask when the next corn cutting is coming. We are no longer hot to trot.

I think he is in his early sixties though he might be older, just in very good physical shape. Friendly, too. I was grateful. There’s no guarantee that new owners will be as friendly and glad to have visitors as previous owners.

I’m assuming the original owners retired. For one thing, their house is huge and now that I’m pretty sure the kids have left, that’s 18 rooms plust at least two full levels of stairs. Way too much to try and care for. And the house is more than 100 years old, so figure there’s a lot to be done.

Farming is hard, even if you aren’t trying to prove anything. I’m glad he sold to someone who wants to keep the farm as a farm and not turn it into condominiums along the Blackstone. Uxbridge is underpopulated and that’s the way I like it. I know it’s hard to find work and if we had more people, we might get something better resembling a “government.” But who needs a government anyway?

When all my other flowers die, this is what takes over.

As it is, we don’t have a mayor — or anyone who wants to be one. No one wants to be anything. It’s a “head’s down and you’ll keep out of trouble” sort of place.

The next farm down the road has a herd of dappled Tennessee Walkers. I think all Walkers are dappled and their colors change from year to year. Mostly, they are gray, ranging from nearly white, to medium gray. If I were still riding, what a discovery this would be!

Garry with chickens

Even though it has been more than 20 years since I rode, I still get excited at the smell of horse. Non-horse folks wrinkle their noses, but the smell of a well-worn set of leather chaps is like perfume to me. Maybe that’s why I don’t mind that my house smells like dogs who urgently need a bath.

A WALK IN THE PARK – Marilyn Armstrong and Garry Armstrong

September 23, 2019 – Autumn Leaf

On one of the prettiest days of the month, we took our cameras and went to River Bend. We had hoped there would be some autumn foliage. There was a little bit. A few changing maple trees and hints of gold in the dark green leaves of late summer. But mostly, it was lovely but not especially autumnal.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Today the leaves began to fall. They haven’t changed color. They just started falling like a storm of leaves. Maybe it was the wind or maybe it’s going to be another year when instead of autumn, the leaves just curl up and fall to the ground.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

At least the weather has been lovely. Bright and clear and cool and night, warm by day. It is the first really nice weather we’ve had all season. Just in time for putting up the bird feeders.

Amber light in early fall

Black-Eyed Susans

We do have birds. They are still very shy and mostly, very small. Lots of nuthatches and titmice. And a few others I have not yet identified. They are in different feathers than they were in breeding feathers over the summer. I’ll get them all right yet.

Garry at River Bend

PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE (MAYBE) – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #41

So what do you think of this quote? Aside from the reference to tenses, is it true?


“The past is always tense, the future perfect.”


I would be more inclined to say that our past was always perfect and the future is both tense and mysterious.  Especially now. Our future is frankly looking pretty damned grim. So grim that I spend an inordinate amount of time not thinking about it.

I would like to see one sign that all humans world over would get together and make a serious effort to fix our planet. But I don’t see it. I don’t see any signs of any kind of cooperation. Not between supposed allies or enemies. I don’t even see governments taking the future of life on earth (for people) as serious, not if it costs someone a few extra dollars.

Honestly, we the people care, but them the people who make the trash and poisons? They don’t care. They really don’t care. The government doesn’t care. Obviously.

Enjoy it while you can.

I’ve been hoping against hope that somewhere there would be a little glimmer of a better world to come, but I’m not seeing it. I’m seeing the opposite and not just here. Everywhere.

Oh, the joys of living in an oncoming disaster. What fun!

FEAR AND LOATHING BY THE RIVER – Marilyn Armstrong

Since we came to the Valley, trips to the river to take pictures has been part of our life, often the high point of our lives. Now, with the hidden lurking diseases brought by southern mosquitoes that are part of our ongoing climate change, everyone is just staying inside.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

It’s ironic. We’ve had horrible weather all through the spring and much of the summer. It has been much too hot and muggy to go anywhere … or it has been storming with falling trees and broken branches and periodic outages of cable and power.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Now, finally, the weather is lovely. Warm, bright, and comfortable. It’s the kind of weather that makes you feel like you don’t have weather. It just feels good. Or it would if we were afraid that one of our local poisonous mosquitoes might bite and infect us with Eastern Equine Encephalitis or West Nile Virus.

Blackstone River at the end of August

We didn’t have these diseases a decade ago but as the temperature has risen a little higher each year — this year being a record-breaker — the mosquitoes have moved up the coastline from the deep south to New England. We’ve had small batches of them before, but they never moved in the way they have this year. Usually, the winter is cold enough to kill off the larvae. Come spring, there are few living mosquitoes and they have to breed all over again.

That’s the way it’s supposed to be. But not this year. Winter wasn’t cold enough for long enough to kill off the larvae. And the summer, usually hot and dry, has been sodden and wet creating a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.

They are supposed to spray for mosquitoes tonight, depending on the weather. The Commonwealth will spray at least a couple of more nights.

That won’t really kill the mosquitoes completely. Only a long, killing frost will accomplish that. Will we have one? Or will it be, as it was last year, a stormy fall with almost no color? We never got the snap of cold that brings on color. The wind and rain blew the dying leaves off the trees before they had a chance to brighten.

It was a pathetic version of autumn. Winter was too warm with no snow until the middle of March. Just a couple of weeks followed by a long, sodden, chilly spring. An ugly spring.

All of this was insufficient to winterize our region. The river didn’t freeze. I’m sure there were hoards of depressed young hockey players who never got to hit a puck into a net.

So actually going out today made us both feel endangered. It was the kind of hidden danger I hate because you can really see the mosquitoes and being by the river is close to their favorite haunts. Garry was clearly nervous and while we shot some pictures, we didn’t shoot many and left early.

Climate change is going to eventually harm everyone, everywhere. It’s no myth and there’s no argument among scientists about its reality. The argument is among politicians and business people worried about how it will affect the short term economy. They aren’t thinking by ignoring it, they are setting us up for a permanently unlivable world.

They don’t care.

AUGUST’S END AT THE BLACKSTONE – Marilyn Armstrong

River with flowers as summer ends – FOTD – 8-27-19

At least we got some pictures. It has been a while since we went out and we aren’t going out again soon. It’s simply too dangerous. But we did get some pretty pictures.

Boat launch ramp to the river

Pink water flowers

Red and pink water flowers

Garry’s Blackstone

Impressionist flowers

Marilyn by the river

More flowers along the Blackstone

PARKS BY A RIVER – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Word Prompt: Parks

We live in the Blackstone Valley Historic Corridor, so basically, we live in a park. It’s one level below a national park, but without the funding (such as it is these days). The good news is that we have parks. Everywhere.

As the Blackstone winds its way down from the Worcester Hills, there are parks in every town and at every curve along the river.

The Dam on the Mumford

From Worcester, about 20 miles north of here, all the way through Rhode Island, the Blackstone has parks with areas designed for walking, fishing, swimming, and kayaking.

Marilyn on a bench by the river

The big Canal locks and a couple of bloggers with cameras!

Garry and me – Thank you, Rich Paschall!

There are picnic tables and barbecues. Best of all, there are places to safely walk and park the car. All of them are open all year round, though when the snow is heavy, it’s difficult to get into the park. The small parks don’t always plow, but the larger ones do plow. Then all you need to do is find a way to get through the drifts.

Take a walk along the banks of the Blackstone

The stone bridge in the rain

My favorite three parks are the one in the middle of town around the Mumford (one of the larger tributaries of the Blackstone), another behind the medical building in North Uxbridge. That one has two connected parts: the Canal and its locks — as well as its lovely stone bridge — and River Bend which has turned a farmhouse from the 1600s into a small museum.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Blackstone River

You can walk from one park to the other along the route that was once used by horses to haul the barges in the canal.

And in the water …

Together forever, swans mate for life

Finally, there’s a lovely park in Smithfield, Rhode Island which is literally on the same road on which we live. It’s set up for fishing and loaded with trout. People come there to kayak, fish, and swim. We come to take pictures, enjoy their smiles and their dogs and little kayaks. And of course, the fish!

Photo: Garry Armstrong

It’s nice living in a park. For at least three seasons every year, the parks welcome us and we are always glad to visit them.

PLENTY OF WATER IN THE WATERSHED – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Water

Our valley is full of rivers. Mostly, it is full of the Blackstone which winds its way down from the Worcester hills to its end in Newport, Rhode Island. Incidental to its biggest river, are several substantial tributaries including the Mumford in the heart of Uxbridge and a few others.

Hard to say if they are creeks or smaller rivers, but lots and lots of water from tiny little streams, to large lakes, to big shallow ponds beloved by swans and geese for nesting.

Red kayak by the Blackstone

Paddling up the river

Bridge over the Blackstone

The dock at River Bend

Great Blue Heron

Shiny canal in summer

Autumn at the lake in Webster

Blackstone Gorge – Photo: Garry Armstrong

Spillway on the dam

Manchaug – Photo: Garry Armstrong

Upward at Roaring Dam

A SUNNY SUNDAY BY THE RIVER – Marilyn Armstrong

On a sunny weekend along the Blackstone River in North Smithfield, Rhode Island, we took out our cameras and took pictures.

Garry posted some of his photographs a couple of days ago. I decided to see if I could make mine look a bit different. I’m playing with the impressionist filters, trying to get a painted feeling, yet still retain as much of the photograph’s details as I can. It’s an interesting balance and I don’t know if I’ve quite gotten what I’m looking for yet, but I’m working on it.

Red kayak by the Blackstone

Red kayak waiting by the boat slip …

Readying the kayak for a trip upriver

Putting the red kayak into the river

Off he goes

Have a lovely paddle

And a meadow full of buttercups

KAYAKING ON THE BLACKSTONE – Garry Armstrong

And so on a particularly warm and bright June day, we took ourselves down to the Blackstone in Rhode Island.

Not knowing what we would find, this time we met two kayakers. Each had his and her own kayak, one blue and one red.  There was a lot of discussion about whether to paddle up or downstream.

A general consensus existed that there wasn’t very far upstream one could paddle … that it was too rocky or possibly too narrow, but they decided to give it a try anyway. I don’t know how far they got, but it was a beautiful day, so why not?

Getting the kayaks ready

Paddling up the river

AMERICANS DON’T PICK COTTON – Marilyn Armstrong

Photography: Garry and Marilyn Armstrong

You really get a feel for rivers when you live in a regional watershed. The Blackstone and its tributaries flow down from the Worcester hills at the northern part of the state.

The Blackstone is not a wide river. Not like the Mississippi or even the Hudson. It’s a relatively narrow river that drops about 900 feet from its beginnings. It does a lot of twisting and turning, making it much more powerful than its size would suggest.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

It concludes its nearly 50-mile run as it flows into the sea down around Newport, Rhode Island. All the dams were built to power factories and mills, which is why every town in the valley is called “mill” something — or has the name of one of the mill owners.

Early greenery along the river in Rhode Island

Uxbridge is unique. We are named after Uxbridge in England. That’s our twin town, though it’s nothing like our Uxbridge. England’s Uxbridge is an affluent suburb of London. We’re not an affluent anything.

Spring by the Mumford Dam – Photo: Garry Armstrong

The problem with the dams is they block the river and make it hard for wildlife to move up and down the river and many people want to get rid of the dams.

Because this region was the “birthplace” of America’s industrial revolution (1788), most of the earth used to build the dams is hazardous. It’s amazing how much pollution we created in the good old days, before the chemical revolution. We made things every bit as poisonous as we do today.

Spring, downtown Uxbridge

So although they would like to release the dams, they can’t. That hazardous dirt would poison the river. The 45 years we’ve spent cleaning up one of the most polluted rivers in the world (as of the 1970s) would be undone. Instantly.

The train doesn’t stop here anymore – Photo: Garry Armstrong

We are — in 2019 — more or less the poor cousin to other towns in New England, but once upon a time, this was the most prosperous area in the country. Uxbridge had a population and stuff like trains, buses, and businesses.

In the early 1900s, mill owners decided they weren’t rich enough. So they moved down south to where cotton grew and where people worked cheap. By the 1920s, they had closed all the factories in New England.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

The south got the mills, the dams, and the pollution. Then, they realized they were rich, but not rich enough, so they said “Screw the USA” and moved the mills to the far east where people were willing to work for pennies, including children as young as four or five.

Suddenly, all the modestly priced cotton sheets we used to buy became expensive. Between moving the mills and fabric factories to another continent, they simultaneously realized it was also cheaper to buy the cotton there, too. Like, from India, Pakistan, Israel, and places in North Africa.

So it was and so it has remained.

Roaring Dam: Photo: Garry Armstrong

It’s why you can’t find decent percale sheets anymore. The cotton they grow overseas is different than the cotton we grew. It’s finer and silkier, but not as strong or crisp.

To finish us off, we then banned immigrants from picking crops. The idea was that Americans would pick cotton once those brown-colored foreigners were gone. Instead, it turned out that no American of any color, race, or creed will pick cotton. The professional pickers are gone and so are the farms where cotton grew.

Bridge over the Blackstone River

Americans will not pick cotton. Not only do we not do the job well, but we refuse to do it at all. Today’s Americans do not pick cotton. Not white, brown, black or any shade in between. We would rather starve.

John Grisham wrote a book about growing up in the south and picking cotton called “The Painted House.” It’s his little autobiography about before he became a lawyer, then an author. It’s enlightening.

Early autumn at Manchaug

David Baldacci has written something along the same lines about his native West Virginia and how it has been completely destroyed, its people uprooted and ruined. These lawyer-writers are interesting guys. They are more than lawyers, more than writers. They are thinkers.

These southern authors come in two varieties: racist and incredibly liberal.

Guess which ones I read?

ALMOST SPRING BY THE BLACKSTONE – Marilyn Armstrong

Photographs: Garry and Marilyn Armstrong

Almost spring does not mean the same thing everywhere. In New York, it meant that everything was budding. We were waiting for it to burst into bloom. Cherry trees and apple trees were often already flowering. So almost spring really was almost. It was warm, bright, and shortly it would be absolutely lovely.

Along the banks of the Blackstone

Little islands in the river

Up here, it means it’s raining. A few flowers are blooming (daffodils, azalea, tulips … and in very sunny places, apple trees), but there aren’t a lot of buds on the trees. The only leaves I can see are on the still living despite having at least three trees fall on it, lilac — and forsythia.

Me and the trout fisherman

Spring in New England is frustrating. It’s winter, winter, winter, chilly rainy and muddy … and you look around and it’s gray. Then, one day in the middle of May (depending on weather, of course), it bursts into summer in a matter of hours.

More trout fishing

Today I actually had to turn the heat on again. I really didn’t want to because I am trying hard to NOT need another tank of oil before fall. Winter this year was a bit weird. Not nearly as snowy as usual, but blowy and periodically, very cold.

Green growth by the river

This is normally just a tiny stream, but with so much rain, it has become quite a river in its own right

We didn’t get those long sieges of bitter weather we often get in January and February, but it was cold enough to need $300 in plowing and an extra tank of oil. And all we had was one snowy month.  If it had snowed the rest of the winter, we’d be bankrupt.

Reflections

Yesterday was sweatshirt warm and if you were in the right place, even warmer. It wasn’t raining, so we went and took pictures. A lot of pictures because who knows when we’ll have another chance to go out again?

Young fir trees and bare branches by the river

The constant rain begins to get to you after a while. Last night it poured with thunder and lightning Lucky us, no tornadoes.

Oh, for the people who recognize plants. The woodlands are full of that green stuff that looks like skunk cabbage. I couldn’t get close enough to get a tight picture. It was across the waterway, but I think that’s what it is. Doesn’t anyone know for sure? I’m not good with recognizing wild plants. I’m not even good at recognizing garden plants so assistance would be appreciated!