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.

SHARING MY VERY DAMP WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your World 9-3-19

From Melanie: Wow. September. Where did the summer go?  I’m not at all sure…anyway.  This week finds us with some more questions, but this week they’re all ‘deep’ ones requiring a little thought. Enjoy!”

I know where MY summer went and I hope I can forget it ASAP.

Spring was long, nasty, cold, and full of hard-driving rainstorms with lots of wind. We didn’t get a real winter. No real snow at all, so we got our first blizzard (the only blizzard, actually) around my birthday in early March.

Finally, it started to warm up, but mostly, it rained. And rained. The wind howled and sometimes it was raining so hard and for so long the house sounded like a loud faucet was running somewhere. Now that Garry can hear, he was amazed at how loud rain can be. It reminded me why I didn’t spend the extra money on a steel roof … and why I wish I had — at the same time.

Raiin on the window

A steel roof is forever, or at least as close to forever as any roof can get. It’s also noisy. Rain, sleet, hale … it’s like a million little beasties racing madly around your roof. Not to mention that they cost at least four times what a standard asphalt roof costs. But they never leak and they don’t grow lichens or other greenery, either. Win some, lose some. You take your best guess and hope it works out.

As soon as it warmed up, we grew a million daylilies and that was great, but we’d get one day of sun or at least gray skies followed by three days of howling winds and torrential rain. It was mud city. You couldn’t even mow your lawn because it was sodden.

That was followed — finally — in August, with lovely, cool dry weather. And Eastern Equine Encephalitis mosquitoes and all the nice autumn fairs got canceled because the killer mosquitoes were out.

Aw, c’mon! Really?

This was approximately when I realized something was wrong on the south-west side of the house. All that rain, you know? The climate change that hasn’t arrived seems to indeed have arrived. At least here it has.

Now, we need to strip off the vinyl, remove the mush that’s underneath it, and replace the wall, or at least most of the lower level with a new wall. Get rid of the rotting door and replace it with a window (we never use the door anyway) and get a carpenter to repair the wooden doors to the shop.

Rainy morning squirrel shaking rain off his coat

I’m wishing we’d had time to powerwash the house because it’s green with mold. Did you know vinyl can grow green mold? It’s not lethal or poisonous. It actually looks like green pollen that got stuck. It just isn’t attractive.

It made me realize for all the years we’ve been paying insurance on our houses — since 1965 — they have yet to actually pay for any damage to any house in any state. Talk about being taken over by corporations. You know all those advertisements about how insurance companies are protecting you? They aren’t.

It’s a lie. The only thing they are protecting is the value of the property owned by the mortgage company. I can’t even calculate how many years we’ve paid home insurance and it never crossed my mind that they don’t cover anything except a tree falling on the house (unless they decide you should have taken down the tree in which case it’s your fault anyway), and fire. They might cover home invasion, but I’m not sure.

I’m still thinking about the post I will write about this, how we are forced — absolutely required — to pay for home insurance or we can’t get a mortgage. Why don’t we read all the little tiny print on the policy? Because we have to have insurance, so no matter what it says, we will sign it.

It’s just like accepting the terms of your operating system for your PC or Mac. Sign or don’t use your computer. There is no option to argue about the terms, so you sign. Nobody reads them.

The most common lie everyone everywhere tells is that they read and understand the terms of that contract. NO ONE reads it and if we did understand it, what difference would it make? We can’t NOT sign it.

And now, on to the questions.

QUESTIONS:

When you’re 90 years old, what do you suppose will matter most to you?

Breathing.

What’s the best way to spend a rainy afternoon?

Brooding on how we used to sometimes have sunshine and playing bridge on the computer.

What is one thing you don’t understand about yourself?

How I lived long enough to see the world change into this bizarre, hate-filled mess.

When was the last time you tried something to look ‘cool’ (hip), but it ended in utter embarrassment?  Details?

About a year ago, my granddaughter dyed my hair to get the yellow out of it. It wasn’t utter embarrassment. It actually looked pretty good.

We have a lot of iron in our well water and it turns everything pink or yellow — Including my white hair. I bought some more of the same dye. I hope I don’t make a total mess of the project.

DORIEN SHOULD REALLY BE DARWIN – By TOM CURLEY

A quote from the weather bureau. A real quote. I am not making this up:


IDIOTS SHOULD BE WARNED NOT TO GO OUT INTO THE STORM.

I’m not sure why we name hurricanes. I have no idea how the names get picked. I could Google it and maybe find out, but I’m too lazy to bother right now.

Regardless, I think all hurricanes should be named Darwin. Why?

Because nothing weeds out the gene pool and brings out the stupid in people like a hurricane. The bigger they are, the dumber they get. As I’m writing this, Hurricane Dorian, or what I call it, Hurricane Darwin the 2nd (Irma was the 1st), having wreaked havoc on the Bahamas is approaching southern Florida.

The Weather Channel

The worst is yet to come.  I’m watching the coverage, which is the exactly the same on all the networks. An anchor, who makes millions of dollars a year, is sitting in a warm cozy network studio. (Except for Lester Holt who was out there in the wind and rain just like a real reporter.)

He’s talking to the poor schmuck who drew the short straw and is standing in the middle of the hurricane telling everybody how dangerous the hurricane is and how nobody should be out in it. Except of course for him and his crew.

Now, granted, I know that they aren’t in as much danger as it seems. I worked for CBS News for 40 years and I know they set up in safe spots outside the wind. They only need one shot where the wind is howling and it looks like they are hanging on for dear life. When the live shot is over they all go back inside, smoke cigarettes, have lunch, play Candy Crush on their phones and wait for the next live hit.

I know Garry is nodding and laughing right now. (Note from home: Garry is laughing because he isn’t the schmuck out there in the storm.)

The really stupidest are the people who think they can ride these things out. I watched a news report a few days ago where they interviewed two people who planned on riding out Dorian from a trailer park.

Excuse me? Did you just say A TRAILER PARK??? One guy said he already lost his mobile home two weeks ago in a run off the mill flood. They happen there all the time.  

His plan was to stay with a friend in another mobile home. They expected it to be destroyed too. What was their Plan B? To hang out in a temporary construction trailer! Mobile home lite!

I’m looking at the screen screaming “Are you nuts? Don’t you know hurricanes and tornadoes hate mobile homes?! A tornado will go around an entire town to get at just ONE TRAILER PARK!!”

To a hurricane, mobile homes are tasty little snacks! I know it’s much more complicated than this.  Some people can’t get out for valid reasons — lack of anywhere to go or no vehicle or destitution.

But, for the guy who goes surfing as the hurricane hits, and dies then dies, well …

And, the guy who is kite surfing as the hurricane hits  …

Oh Boy! I’m heading right toward the tornado! Cool!

And, the family on the beach with their kids taking videos of the guy kite surfing …

And, the poor schmuck interviewing them … who I should note has no choice because his idiot news director told him to do it or else …

I hope you all survive Hurricane Darwin the 2nd.

That wasn’t so bad.

I wish Mother Nature could come up with a less catastrophic method of weeding out the gene pool.

Seriously, folks — stay safe!

THE LONG DELAY ENDS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Delay

For the last six years … maybe a bit longer … Rich Paschall has been working with us on Serendipity. We never met but we lived in hope. This weekend, he is here.

It only took six years … and his flight out of Chicago was 131 minutes delayed. I know because that’s what it said on the Spirit Airlines arrivals information. A long delay and made even longer by airport delays. I have to assume it was weather-related. There are storms everywhere across North America and it was raining here, too.

Aren’t we glad that climate change is a Chinese piece of fake news? Who knows what it would be like were it true!

I don’t have any pictures because he is still sleeping … wearing off Chicago time. Garry has a luncheon and is doing his long prep time in the shower and I’m trying to drink this coffee and I think I’m going to go make a new pot. This stuff is not great. I think it got stale.

I can’t believe it’s another gray, damp day. Will the rain gods ever leave town? Maybe it will brighten up later? We can surely hope!

Rich has filled in for me when I was sick … which has been far too often. He has always been here, even though he has been there. A welcome guest and a good friend. Who says online friends aren’t the “real deal”?

So Rich is finally here and remarkably, he is exactly like the person I expected. Sometimes, things are indeed what you expect. In a good way.

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!

SPRING HAS SPRUNG – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I don’t love summer because I’m very sensitive to heat. I actually feel sick when I get hot because my sweat glands don’t work properly and I rarely sweat. Great savings on antiperspirant bills but it sucks when everyone else is happily sitting outside in the sun and I’m stuck inside with the air conditioning.

Apple Blossoms

So, summer is not my favorite time, even though I have a boat and summer is the prime boating season. I spend most of my boat days – you guessed it – sitting in the air-conditioned cabin, often by myself. Even my loyal dog, Lexi, who usually follows me everywhere, lays in the sun on the deck on a nice day and abandons me to the interior of the boat.

Daffodils

But spring is great. The obvious joy of spring is watching the grass and the flowers and the leaves bloom, turning the world from grey to a rainbow of colors.

Spring!

Spring is when my waterfall is fully flowing. I can open the windows to hear that wonderful sound throughout the house. In the summer, the stream usually dries up since we have less rain and more heat. So the view from my window is glorious – a picturesque waterfall in the middle of a continually greening wood.

The stream

Another, more pedestrian plus of spring is putting away my darker and heavier winter clothes and pulling out the bright-colored clothes of this bright-colored season.

I pay particular attention to my spring/summer wardrobe because when I hang out on the boat, I schmooze with people every day, as opposed to winter when I can go days without seeing anyone other than Tom. And when I make my rounds to the Post Office and the local stores and coffee shop, people can see what I’m wearing because I’m not wearing a coat that covers up what is underneath.

Brighter colors of spring

Not wearing socks is another wardrobe benefit of spring and summer.

My socks bunch up all the time and I have to take my shoes or boots off regularly to adjust them so I can walk comfortably.

There’s also the problem of navy versus black socks. I can’t seem to tell the difference in my bedroom, but as soon as I get downstairs, I can tell immediately that I’ve picked the wrong one and have to go back upstairs and change. (Yes, I care!)

Sock drawer, abandoned in the spring

Not wearing a coat or a sweater is also a spring thing. Outside, the temperature is perfect (same in the early fall) so no outerwear is necessary.

I don’t have to wear a sweater inside because the air conditioning everywhere isn’t at full blast as it is in the summer. I always carry a sweater with me throughout the summer in case I am subjected to frigid A/C’s.

Sweaters necessary indoors in A/C weather

Spring also means that the many local farms in my town reopen their markets and I can get beautiful, fresh produce and other gourmet treats, right in my backyard. The freshly baked bread is awesome!

In the offseason, I have to drive 20 minutes each way to a supermarket to even get an onion or a potato. Now these staples, as well as the seasonal fruits and vegetables, are just a few minutes away.

Tom is happy in the spring because he can start working on the boat, preparing it to go back in the water in May. So spring has a lot going for it in my world. I don’t hate winter, like most people, and I love snow, but spring really is a lot better.

Except for the hordes of tiny black ants that invade my kitchen every spring. Here they come! Get out the ant traps!

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!