IN THE AIR AS SPRING ARRIVES – Marilyn Armstrong

Someone wrote that the weather is perfect for being outside. “Not too hot, not too cold, and the bugs aren’t in full attack mode.” Or something like that. People who don’t live here don’t “get” our 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.

Evil ones that carry disease and vicious ones that require 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 seems 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 watch the leaves unfurl. It isn’t summertime, so I think we are going to get a week or two of real spring, the typically missing season around New England. Not counting that it has been raining three out of every four days.

But otherwise, it’s spring.

SPIKY, POKY, POINTY, SQUARE PHOTOGRAPHS OF A CARDINAL IN THE WOODS – Marilyn Armstrong

Square, poky, pointy, spiky Cardinals in the woods

This time of year, the woods are definitely poky, pointy, and spiky. Before the leaves are out, everything has a sharp edge. It isn’t as lush as it will be later in the season, but it’s much easier to take pictures.

Later, the leaves will be soft and lovely… and it will be very hard to get a clear shot of anything except the leaves.

Summer. Good news and not so good news. Kind of like life.

Square, poky, pointy, spiky Cardinal in the woods

Not only spiky squares. Jagged, barbed, bristly, serrated, prickly, spiny, and pointy things and this is one.

A SUNNY FALL DAY IN NOVEMBER – Marilyn Armstrong

A Beautiful Autumn Day in November


An orange maple leaf

It has been a pretty sad sack of Autumn in Massachusetts. Last week, the leaves finally decided to change. Unfortunately, it was in the middle of our now daily rain. A particularly heavy rain with plenty of wind.

The best leaves

I pondered the situation and realized we were indeed going to get some lovely autumn foliage, but half the trees will be naked by then. Today, finally, it was (mostly) sunny for most of the day. But tomorrow, the rain is back. Wind too. Good thing I took my camera with me. I could tell Garry wished he brought his because he had to borrow mine and take a few shots.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Always have a camera. You just never know!

Photo: Garry Armstrong

It was a running around day. We had to catch up on errands. We get money on the first of the month, so we go shopping. By the first, we are out of everything except coffee, half-and-half, and dog food. And of course, treats for the dogs. Can’t run out of treats.

Curving rail tracks

The trees — wherever they still were trees and not naked limbs — were beautiful. Not much red, but deep orange and a glorious golden-yellow. The woods were lit up when the sun hit them.

ATTEAN WAY: MAINE, WILD AND WONDERFUL – Marilyn Armstrong

I live in New England and it is where I always wanted to live. I think I originally had a more northern destination in mind, but the requirements of work brought us originally to the Boston area and eventually, out to this valley.

When I dream of the glory of a New England autumn, I dream of Vermont, northern New Hampshire, and Maine. It is beautiful here, too, but up there … it’s breathtaking.

I’m sure the leaves are already changing there.

Up by Jackman, Maine, the weather is changing now and the leaves are turning. Someone asked me about the place and I dug up some information.

Attean View – Sunset – Jackman, Maine

This is one of the most undeveloped areas in New England. It is poor and while there are some “resorts” there, it never developed the other places have. Partly, it’s because it is so far from anything else. Jackman is a tiny town. Not much work. A bit down on its luck.

Any number of attempts have been made to make the place more desirable to tourists, but except for anglers, it’s just incredibly beautiful. And relatively inexpensive, if you don’t mind driving many hours up into the mountains. It doesn’t hurt to have a pretty sturdy little car with four-wheel drive, either.

And some good camera equipment. There are bear and moose are everywhere. There are a lot of signs along the road warning you to be very careful. Moose plus car in a collision will probably kill the moose AND all the people in the car. They are really huge animals and this is one of the places they like.

Moose like bitterly cold temperatures. Any time it gets much above freezing, as far as the moose are concerned, it is too warm. The colder it is, the happier they are.

October near Jackman, Maine

This is what the state of Maine says about the area:


ATTEAN POND
Attean Twp., Somerset Co.
U.S.O.S. AUean (Auburn?), Me.

Attean Pond is one of four large bodies of water in the Moose River drainage to the west of Jackman. More than 40 islands are found in the pond. With 1 exception of a set of commercial C:1mps on some of these islands, the area remains undeveloped. Sally Mountain to the north, Attean Mountain to the west, and rolling hills to the east and southeast complete a scenic background to the pond environment.

The shoreline of Attean Pond varies greatly in composition, providing a diversity of habitat types. Some areas consist of rock and ledge, others are gravelly, some weedy. Among these, several fine sandy beaches are available.

There are a number of good campsites around the pond, which are often utilized by people making the popular Moose River “Bow Trip.” Attean Pond is the beginning and end of this 30-mile canoe trip. A one-mile carry trail connects the western end of Attean with Boleb (?) Ponds, which then provides access to the Moose River and the opportunity to return to Attean.

Wild populations of brook trout and salmon are present in Attean Pond. However, large areas of shallow water are marginal habitat for these cold water game fish during the summer months. Of the total area, only about 600 acres have water deeper than 20 feet. In addition, large populations of yellow perch, suckers, and minnows compete for the available food supply. This further limits the potential for brook trout production.

The best spawning and nursery areas for the salmon and trout are found in tributaries to the Moose River several miles upstream from Attean Pond. The Moose River, both as a tributary and the outlet:

Maximum depth – 55 feet
Principal Fishery: Salmon, Brook trout
Physical Characteristics
Temperatures
Surface – 70°F.
50 feet – 48°F.
Surveyed – August. 1956 – Revised 1977  (** They could probably use a newer version!)
Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
Published under Appropriation No. 4550
A Contribution of Dingell-Johnson Federal Aid Project F-28-P,

Maine and other small brooks that flow directly into the pond offer few areas that are suitable for spawning. or that could recall large numbers of small salmon or trout.

Lake trout are occasionally caught in Attean Pond. These have moved upstream from Big Wood Pond, where they are stocked. and dwell in a small area of deep water al the western end of the pond. Because of the competition from non-game species, especially yellow perch, brook trout management through stocking is now impractical.

Under existing conditions, wild trout should continue to provide a small fishery. Lake trout can utilize the non-game fish as forage, but it is unlikely that a sizeable lake trout population could be maintained. Management for this species is precluded by the small amount of deep, cold, well-oxygenated water available in the western end of the pond.

Thus, at present, Attean Pond is best suited for salmon. A smelt population provides the forage necessary to sustain this species and salmon are perhaps more inclined than brook trout to travel long distances up the Moose River to the 10 spawning areas in its tributaries.

Small numbers of marked hatchery salmon will be stocked to supplement the wild population. Their growth and contribution to sport fishing will be followed via information from anglers.

Area – 2,745 acres

Yellow perch have become established in the drainage. They have adversely affected the Quality of fishing in Attean Pond in recent years. There should be no introductions of new fish species that could adversely affect the existing trout and salmon populations in Attean Pond, or the management of other waters in the drainage. Minnows, Lake chub, Fall fish (chub), Creek Chub, Common shiner, Cusk, Salmon, Brook trout (squaretail), Lake trout (togue), yellow perch, Smelt, White sucker, Longnose sucker

ATTEAN TWP., SOMERSET CO
AREA 2745 ACRES


This is a fabulous place for a photo vacation. Rough and undeveloped land — with plenty of wildlife and an autumn to die for.

I wish we were going, but it’s too much driving for us these days.

THE PATH #writephoto – Marilyn Armstrong

As long as I can remember, I’ve been enchanted by paths and in particular, by paths in the woods. There’s something about them, a kind of magic. You can’t see where the path ends and any time you choose to walk on one, you could wind up anywhere from the parking lot of the local mall to an ancient churchyard.

It’s the not-knowingness that makes it special.

So every time we are taking pictures in or near the woods, I look for paths. Even tiny, obscure, overgrown paths nonetheless hold the possibility of adventure.

Mystery. A hidden future. The unknown calls out and we are obliged to follow.

The long path home – Photo: Garry Armstrong

Perfect wooded path

In Vermont

THURSDAY PHOTO PROMPT – Sue Vincent

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.

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.

FIVE MINUTES AT TWILIGHT BY THE WOODS

Those golden moments at twilight are incredibly brief. The golden light hits … and less than 10 minutes later — usually more like five minutes — it’s dark. Maybe that’s just true at this latitude. I think sunset lasted longer in Arizona … and also in Israel. But I’m not sure.

Remembering light tends to be fleeting, both in photography and in memory.

For this challenge, Su Leslie suggests:

  • choose a subject or a scene
  • spend five minutes photographing it – no more!
  • try to see it from many angles, look through something at it, change the light that’s hitting it
  • tag your post #regularrandom and ping back to Desley’s post
  • have fun!

 

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.

SNOW SKY AT DUSK

I believe I have mentioned how the light the day after snow is different. The sky seems to glow in a variety of magical colors. Today, it was a pale tangerine — a cross between pink and light orange.

I didn’t get out to the deck until the latter part of the afternoon, so it’s a dusk sky with the glow of oncoming evening. I would have taken some even better sky shots, but I didn’t have boots and this year, I am not going to destroy my slippers.

THE CHANGING SEASONS: NOVEMBER 2017

The Changing Seasons: November 2017


November is one of the two non-photogenic months in the valley, the other being March. Last year, we got lucky. We had an exceptionally long autumn that lasted through most of November.

The perfect image for the month

Not this year, though. Autumn came late and ended early and now, we have mostly bare trees with some hanging brown leaves. And unlike in the bigger cities, we don’t have much hint of Christmas here. Not yet. Around the second week in December, everything will light up, but until then, it has been gray and rainy and cold.

And windy, I should add.

Please visit Max, Cardinal Guzman to see his wonderful pictures!

What’s this «Changing Seasons» blogging challenge?

«The Changing Seasons 2017» is a blogging challenge with two versions: the original (V1) which is purely photographic and the new version (V2) where you can allow yourself to be more artistic and post a painting, a recipe, a digital manipulation, or simply just one photo that you think represents the month.

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!

The Changing Seasons is a Monthly Photo Challenge started by CardinalGuzman.wordpress.com.

WHY DID I HAVE THAT PARTICULAR DREAM LAST NIGHT?

Dreams are as personal as anything gets. Normal dreams are some kind of weird, twisted personal experience, set in a hazy backdrop of ordinary things turned upside down or sideways. This particular dream was unique because it wasn’t personal. 


It was a real dream — I’m not making this up — which wasn’t about me and mine, except tangentially. It was the “all of us,” the giant “we” of the world. I didn’t like it. It made me angry. Sad. I don’t know which emotion was stronger or more painful, but probably the sadness which I am still feeling.

Last foliage – November 8

Last night I dreamed about the world. Not our personal, individual world. It was about the “real world” of politics and malaise. I dreamed about migrant workers who pick grapes and were starving because the pay they got was not enough to live on. I dreamed about a bunch of people I was supposed to be caring for.  For whom I had been preparing special food, but when I went to eat something, they snatched the food off the plate and ate it before I could. And laughed because they thought it was hilarious.

I thought: “I’ve been spending my days trying to make their lives better, yet when I want something, they take it and laugh.” Not a happy moment.

I woke up twice. Tried to shake the dream. It was not exactly a nightmare, but it certainly wasn’t pleasant.

I remember at one point, my guests in this big hazy house in which I was living were throwing food away … and the migrant workers were starving. When I suggested we give them the food, they laughed again.

November 18th — 10 days later

And I woke up thinking: “Why, in this country, is waste acceptable … but charity is scorned?”

Why are we so uncharitable? Why are we so uncaring, so unloving, so cruel? What is wrong with us? How did I stumble into this place I do not understand?

Why did I have that particular, strangely impersonal dream?  It is hours later. I’m still wondering.

What is wrong with us?

ANOTHER GREY DAY – ATMOSPHERIC MORNING

When I was a kid, I had a book. It was published by Disney and this was a long time before Disney became the big name it is today. It was called “Seasons” — or something like that. What was impressive were the drawings.

Each chapter (a couple of pages, large print) was a drawing with a short description of the month. Clearly, the drawings were from somewhere in this area — obviously New England or someplace similar.

I always remember November. It showed an almost empty field. Trees, standing naked except for clinging brown leaves … and wind. A couple of “people” (Disney anti-humans) holding their coats closed and heading into the wind.

No picture I’ve ever seen of November has so well captured that grey, chilly mood of this month. It is that kind of day.

THE LAST AUTUMN FOLIAGE

The day before all the leaves fell from the trees was beautiful. Garry wasn’t up to going out — his shoulder has a nerve issue and he’s getting a cortisone shot for it next week. But the sun was out and filtering through the leaves in our woods in mid-afternoon. I just grabbed my little camera and went out. Shot half a dozen pictures of the sun filtering through the oak trees. 

I did not know that these would be the last pictures of the leaves this year. Autumn was so short … just three weeks from when the leaves changed to disappearing. Now, it’s very cold outside. It will warm up a bit, but fall ended abruptly. Overnight. These are my last two pictures from Autumn 2017, taken November 8th. Our oak woods.

THE BROWN MONTHS, THE BROWN LEAVES

When the bright leaves of autumn have fallen, been collected and carted off or tossed into the woods to add to the humus in which everything grows, that’s when the green leaves of the oaks suddenly change — in just one or two days — to brown.

In sunlight, they have a hint of golden bronze, but in the gray light of most November days, they are a dull brown. Soon they will fall and the cleanup of last week will need to be done again.

The oaks are huge and there are so many leaves up there. Millions, really. Just a couple of days ago, there was still some yellow and red with the oncoming brown wave. Today, the trees are more bare and only a little bit of yellow remains along the very tops of the woods.

Winter is coming.