JUST ONE DAM THING AFTER ANOTHER – Marilyn Armstrong

Someone asked me what was the busiest day I can remember over the last ten years. Last ten years? You’re kidding, right?

The asker was lacking enough decades. She didn’t realize this was an impossible question. When you are 20, your memories are crisp and sharp and you know you will never forget them.

Unless you die young, you will forget them. I can personally guarantee it.

HumbleBeaver

I can’t remember what I did yesterday, much less in the course of an entire 10-year period.

Hectic? What’s hectic? The decades have all been riddled with crises. Financial, medical, personal. I don’t remember the sequence of a particular day, not even yesterday. Or this morning. It’s nearly one in the afternoon. I’m still answering email and trying to get this silly little post written.

Maybe I should think about this in bigger pieces, like decades? Anyone who asks this question obviously hasn’t lived for many decades. I’m sure having fewer decades to remember might make the whole memory thing more … memorable. By the time you’ve survived seven or eight decades, you would never ask this question. You would know your friends feel lucky to get to the end of a sentence without having to pause to remember what word comes next.

I can tell you — I think — which period in my life was the most hectic. It started in 1963 and slowed down … when was that? Wait for it. I’m thinking. Okay, got it. It hasn’t slowed down. But it would be okay with me if it did.

Life, as the beaver said, is just one dam thing after another.

beaver mafia

 

WHAT IS THAT SOUND IN THE BASEMENT?

We were watching “Father Brown” on Netflix and in the back of my head, I was hearing a grinding sort of sound. I could not identify it, but it was coming from the basement. I could barely hear it … but it was there. It isn’t the sound our boiler makes and it didn’t sound like the dehumidifier.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Odd sounds in the house always get me investigating. I can’t ignore them. 

So I went downstairs to look around. Aside from realizing that we really are overrun by mice, the sound had stopped. I shrugged and went upstairs, pondering how the mice — which we used to have under control — went so crazy. I think it’s because no one lives downstairs now, so they’ve the run of the place. They are living here, but as far as food goes, they are “ordering out.”

Woods in winter – Photo: Garry Armstrong
Snow starting in early winter

Our Pest Control guy assured us they aren’t eating our food because you can follow the trail of acorns from the trees. Our oak trees could feed a world of squirrels. It turns out, they are already feeding a world of mice.

Living in the woods is wonderful and romantic. It’s also messy and invites many uninvited guests to drop by and stay awhile.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Today, we took Gibbs to the vet. It was his annual visit. He needed to be tested for heart worm, though I know he doesn’t have it. As we were driving home, I noticed all the little streams looked more like real rivers. Everything has overrun its banks.

The Mumford and Blackstone Rivers are full and the dams wide open. Even the usually shallow Whitins Pond is deep and wider than usual.

Manchaug Dam

That was when I realized what that sound was, the one I heard last night. It was a sound I had nearly forgotten because it has been years since I heard it.

It was the sump pump, pushing the water out of the sump under the house.

Flooding!

If we didn’t have a sump, a pump, and French drains, we would be up to our kneecaps in water downstairs. For the first time in more than a dozen years, we are facing the likelihood of flooding in the valley.

We are pretty well prepared for it because when we first moved here, we had some serious flooding issues. Before we even fixed the roof or put up siding, we were adding French drains across the entire front of the house, down the driveway and through the backyard into the woods. The sump and pump came about two years later and we haven’t had any flooding since.

Of course, if the water gets bad enough, nothing will stop it, but we don’t live on the edge of a river — though many people around here live very close to the river. We have a lot of rivers and tributaries and streams and ponds.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

We are a major water source for all of Massachusetts as well as parts of Connecticut and Rhode Island. It is the reason I get so worried when we go through long periods of drought or semi-drought. It isn’t just “our” well. We are all linked to the same underground waterways and rivers. The water belongs to everyone.

A PEEK AT FALL THAT HAS ALREADY LEFT US — GARRY & MARILYN ARMSTRONG

We didn’t get more than a peek at the full autumn colors this year.


Home again.

It was late October by the time the leaves fully changed … and within hours, the rain began to fall. It was heavier rain, lighter rain … and finally, it ended in a crashing storm with high winds (I think they gave it a name — Phillip? I think?).

Gibbs and the great out-of-doors

Almost a million people in New England lost power and some still don’t have it making me feel even worse for those poor souls in Puerto Rico who must be wondering if they will ever rejoin the modern world.

The Mumford River — full foliage!
Photo: Garry Armstrong

There is nothing like the loss of basic power to make you realize what the 19th century was all about.

Except, of course, we were set up to function in that world back then … and now, we most assuredly (at least around here) are not.

Be that as it may, this is what we got of the fall. The only really brilliant shots were taken at the very end of the month and in the rain at that. A few were taken with my least auspicious camera, the tiny one I tuck in my back when I don’t think I’ll be taking pictures at all … what I call my “just in case” camera. At least that.

Both Garry and I took one set of shots on our own property during the rain and let us all applaud for Olympus OM-D weather-resistant cameras! It is nice knowing that a few drops of rain are not likely to ruin my cameras for good and all. I tried to label the pictures as his (Garry’s) and mine, but sometimes the signature is a big small and hard to see.

Since today is the first of November, it is a very good day for a photo roundup of our Autumn shots. There will be some more, of course. November is the month of the bronze and golden oak trees.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

They always run a month behind in the glorious color sweepstakes of autumn. Sometime during this month, when the light is just right, the sun will drift through all the oak trees and turn the rivers to gold. Meanwhile, enjoy what we were able to get of this year’s colors.

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2017

A PEEK AT THE VALLEY AS SEPTEMBER ENDS

I looked out my window this afternoon and I saw one red leaf on the maple tree in front of our picture window. I couldn’t take a picture because the window isn’t clear enough to get a good pictures of that single leaf.

So I just looked at it. Thought about it for a while.

“Well,” I thought, “At least there’s one. Soon, more.”

Photo: Garry Armstrong

BEFORE THE FALL

WordPress WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: WAITING

Above and into the falls

We live in a region of rivers and dams. Back when this country was more a hope than a reality, this was the river where America’s transition to industrialization began.

According to the National Parks guide:


“The Blackstone River Valley of Massachusetts and Rhode Island is the “Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution,” the place where America made the transformation from Farm to Factory. America’s first textile mill could have been built along practically any river on the eastern seaboard, but in 1790 the forces of capital, ingenuity, mechanical know-how and skilled labor came together at Pawtucket, Rhode Island where the Blackstone River provided the power that kicked off America’s drive to industrialization.”


It’s easy to see our history when you live in the Blackstone Valley. There were 46 dams on the Blackstone River. There are some fewer now. They are trying to remove dams and let the river run freely. But wherever you see a dam, there was a mill, a factory, or both at that turning of the river.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Below the falls

The soil supporting these dams is terminally hazardous. Packed behind the dams, it can’t spread its poison downstream. Allowed to run into the rivers, it could easily poison the river that was saved from (and is still being saved from) some of the worst pollution anywhere in the world. In the mid 1974, the Blackstone was considered one of the three most polluted rivers in the U.S. Today, it’s a living river filled with birds and fish and even some humans enjoying its waters.

Waiting on the Mumford River in Uxbridge

Most of the remaining dams will stay where they are. The danger to the environment that would come with removing them is incalculable. Thus we enjoy the beauty of the dams. Swans, geese, ducks, divers and the occasional beavers enjoy the calm waters. While swimming is still forbidden both because of the still somewhat polluted water and the dangerous currents in the river, trout breed there and the river is open for kayaking, canoeing, and fishing along many banks.

Waiting and the rush

All the dams were built between 1789 and the early 1900s. Each dam is unique to its place on the river and built of natural local stone.

The pool that forms in the pond before the waterfall is always as still as a glass mirror. It’s remarkable how clear and shiny that water is. Barely a ripple to announce the imminent falling of water over a dam that may be just inches away.

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2017

ROARING DAM

I had seen all the dams I could find locally, so Kaity decided it was time we found something new. This is not as easy as you might think. Many of the most scenic parts of the valley are hidden in places that aren’t marked and are not on any map.

We tried one place and it was probably attractive, but clearly required some serious hiking to find places to shoot. She and I are not hikers, so we took a pass and eventually found Roaring Dam, a long, curved dam on a lovely piece of Blackstone River. I took pictures.

PRECIPICE – OR – DON’T FALL!

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!”