MAKING DO AND SOMETIMES, A SURPRISE – Marilyn Armstrong

Our mailbox got beat up. Was it whacked by a teenager and a baseball bat or hit by a plow? Since we didn’t see it happen, it’s a guess. What we know it that it got mashed. Not just ours, but our neighbors and other people on the same route. The ground is still pretty hard, making putting in a new post difficult, but the post office refused to deliver mail without a mailbox.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Buds in March

Yet somehow, the mailbox got repaired. Not replaced, but fixed. Along with our neighbor across the street. Owen didn’t do it. I asked and he said no, he hadn’t repaired it, so either the neighbor did a secret repair … or the plow driver took responsibility and did it … or the post office did it … or some stranger did it. We are still going to need to do a proper repair. It’s not an expensive repair, mind you. $20 for a post and another $22 for a post box.

Voila! Ready for mail for at least another decade or two, depending on snowfall, plow, teenagers and garbage trucks who also have been known to back into mailboxes.

Photo Garry Armstrong

I’m betting on the guy across the street and the next time we see him, we’ll have to ask. We aren’t exactly friends, but we aren’t exactly not friends. We are the kind of “over the hedge” friends you become in New England. He gives us extra tomatoes (he grows beautiful tomatoes) and we are always very happy to get them.

We have watched his children grow from little kids to college graduates. I remember when our children (our grandchild, actually) took the same school buses. Time has flown!

And now another summer is lurking a few months in the future. It’s only March so it’s still cold but it will get warmer. Eventually, it will be spring, then summer. Before we have time to blink, winter will be back.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – March down by the Mumford Dam

It seems to me the summer is when you race like mad to try and get everything done because there is very little time between the end of winter and winter’s return.

Weather is changing. Autumn is shorter. Summer is shorter and winter lasts longer. There is more rain, more ice, less snow. I don’t know what it means because New England is the kind of environment for erratic weather. Now it’s more erratic, but because it has always been strange. it is more strange, but what does it mean?

I’m sure it means something, but I’m not enough of a scientist to be able to tease the threads apart and make the right deductions. I simply know for the past two years, autumn has gone missing and we’ve had more rain and ice, less snow and more wind than I’ve ever seen. Which for New England IS unusual.

TEMPERATURE AND WINTER IN NEW ENGLAND – Marilyn Armstrong, Photos -Garry Armstrong

RDP Thursday – TEMPERATURE

“Oh, the temperature outside is shocking …” and it really is. Really really cold, though it’s supposed to go up into the 40s over the weekend. I hope so. Because nothing is melting.

Photo Garry Armstrong

Photo Garry Armstrong
Photo Garry Armstrong
Holly, By Garry Armstrong

SNOWY WONDERLAND – BY ELLIN CURLEY

This morning, after a big snow, my back and front yards looked like a lacy, white wonderland.

So, from north central Connecticut, another piece of the same huge snowstorm!

The stream in my backyard
Another view of the stream
Front yard from family room window
Artsy view of the front yard
Backyard again

THE CHANGING SEASONS: FEBRUARY 2019 – Marilyn and Garry Armstrong

The Changing Seasons: February 2019

This has been a very strange winter. Instead of what we usually get — mountains of snow accompanied by very cold weather — we got a tiny bit of snow, a fair amount of sleet, and a lot of rain and wind.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – House and some snow
Aldrich Street – Photo: Garry Armstrong

In a lot of ways, this is a good summary of this winter. A little snow, a lot of sleet, and when this picture was taken, 60 mph winds were blowing.

And of course, there were the birds. Two bird feeders, about 100 pounds of birdseed … and one Panasonic 4/3 telephoto 100-300 mm lens later …

And of course, our Christmas cactus that has been in more or less continuous bloom since Thanksgiving ..

And more pictures from Garry.

Photo: Garry Armstrong
If you look beyond the fence, you’ll see Gibbs and the Duke by the front steps
Photo: Garry Armstrong

The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):

    • Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
    • Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
    • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them
Bonnie and living room

The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):

    • Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
    • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
    • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.
Three bright birds

If you do a ping-back to this post, Su-Leslie will update it with links to all the other photographers.

FEATHERY PHOTO BOMBING – Marilyn Armstrong

I always know there’s a bird on the other side of the feeder by the way it swings in the air. A lot of the ladderback woodpeckers like to stay where they can’t see me … and I can’t take pictures. I also know they are there because sometimes I see a feather sticking out of somewhere or suddenly a beak — or even the bird’s head appears, then vanishes.

Goldfinch

I sometimes stand for half an hour with the camera aimed and focused … and there’s nothing. I give up, put the camera down, turn around and there are half-a-dozen birds. Cardinals, woodpeckers, and a whole flock of goldfinches. And more.

Today, there were a lot of birds when I got to the kitchen and almost none after that. It was a warm but drippy day. It wasn’t exactly raining, but it wasn’t exactly not raining. We had to put the dogs out for more than three hours. It was just drizzling and 55-degrees. Yesterday it was closer to 10 — but sunny — so we’ve been having some rather sizable shifts in temperature.

Getting more yellow as the season progresses …

I gather it’s going to snow on Monday. A long, slow accumulating storm.

Not one of those blizzards where we get two inches an hour. No, this is going to be one of those slow, lazy snowstorms. I have to assume it’ll be colder than today but I don’t know how much colder. Since they are forecasting only snow (minus the usual sleet and freezing rain), I’m assuming it’ll be freezing or below.

Unless it stays warm or the storm blows out to sea. You never know.

I don’t know what bird is sticking his head in the picture, but he’s a lot bigger than the Goldfinch! I think it’s one of the Ladderback woodpeckers. The Goldfinch looks better.

I took some pictures of a very determined Goldfinch. Note the head poking out from behind the feeder in the last picture. Photo-bombed again!

AND THEN, IT WAS WARM AGAIN – by Marilyn Armstrong

It was bitterly cold and it snowed. Then, it sleeted. Eventually, it rained, but not so much around here. Mostly here, after the sleet blew through, that was pretty much it.

The Mourning Dove who waited for me to focus. He was very patient.

The ice and snow lay on the ground and the plow came and scraped us clean. Of course, if he hadn’t come, it would have been clear by lunchtime anyway, but what the hell. We’ve got plenty of money to blow, right?

Tufted Titmouse

I started to take some pictures, but on blue sky days, the birds are not nearly as interested in our food as they are in the forest because they are getting ready for spring.

A bright Yellow Warbler

The Warblers are back and the Goldfinches are changing to their brighter breeding colors. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Juncos decided to fly north, but with all the good food on the deck, they might just hang around.

Pair of Goldfinches

And moreover, it has been warm so often, there are live insects in the trees and the woodpeckers are pecking their hearts out. It’s going to be a bad year for the bugs, but I think I vastly increased bird flock will help keep it in check. My ant guy assured me that birds love ants and will eat a lot of them if they get the chance.

We use non-toxic insect killers around here for what I assume are obvious reasons. There are our dogs and all those birds. The Chickadees, Titmouses, the Goldfinches, and Warblers with their long, strong beaks.

And then, I decided to adjust my camera.

Bright yellow Warbler. Welcome back.

Lacking a “real” manual, there are lots of things in the menu — oh so many things in the menu — which say things like: “ADL – OPTION: YES/NO/OFF” without any explanation of what ADL does. I’m at a complete loss, so I leave it on “OFF.” Too many times I’ve changed one setting somewhere and the camera won’t work until I figure out what setting it was and under which sub-menu.

More Goldfinches

I wound up spending at least half the day setting my camera, then I had to go back and changed some of the things I fixed so the camera would work again. Like it used to, though I did change a few things and whether or not they will change anything, I do not yet know. By the time I finished adjusting the camera, it was too dark to shoot.

Downy or Hairy? So hard to tell!

I have a few pictures I took before the adjustment, though.

Oops.

AND THEN IT SNOWED AND WE CANCELLED THE DAY … Marilyn Armstrong

I’m not afraid of winter. I’ve lived most of my life in areas with serious winters, the most serious of all here where we live.

This year, we’ve had the least snow ever recorded for any winter. It isn’t that there wasn’t snow elsewhere. It’s just the storms blew out to sea south of here, or took a path past us and went straight into northern New England and Canada. So we’ve been surrounded by snow, but it missed us.

Snowy Goldfinch

Not this time, though this isn’t exactly a monumental snowfall. In fact, it’s just a nasty little snow and sleet combination. It’s the sort of storm that makes the roads dangerous without adding any of the beauty of the season. It lands on the ground and gets sodden then hard as a rock. Not a really fun kind of snow. You don’t build snow people from this kind of storm.

Woodpecker in snow

What you do is cancel non-critical appointments and wait until they clean up the roads … or the rain takes care of it for you. Regardless, we live on a pretty lethal road. People drive as if their four-wheel-drive cars make them impervious to road conditions. Maybe (only maybe) on snowy roads, but 4WD is no better for driving on ice than any other car.

Goldfinch in snow

No one seems to have conveyed this to the drivers. We have more fatal accidents on this road than on any other road in the state … which is saying something because Massachusetts drivers are not known for their cautious driving habits.

Junco on the railing

Once we decided to not test the roads, we settled down and I made chili, my favorite cold-weather dinner.

As soon as we get “weather,” the birds get crazy as if this is going to be their last seed, ever. The moment it started to snow, there were dozens of birds on the deck, knocking each other off the feeders.

This was one of those days when many beautiful birds appeared and the moment I raised my camera, vanished. Sometimes, I think it’s personal.

This Junco has an attitude!

I’m sure Duke’s excursions into the backyard don’t encourage the birds to get friendlier, though to be fair, he showed no sign of being interested in hunting the birds. He was just curious about them.

Junco atop the Frog

And for the day, my favorite show. There were not only a lot of birds on the deck. They were also very active. Lots of fluttering and flapping as they knocked each other off the feeder. Normally, we’d have filled the feeder today, but it was snowing a bit hard and there are still plenty of seeds left if they’d stop banging each other around!

It’s difficult to show the activity, though. This picture shows it as well as I think I can!

Some fluttering in the snow