Author Archives: Pazlo

About Pazlo

Armchair Zen Master, poet, father, husband, fisherman, grandfather, brother, naturalist, son, birdwatcher, uncle, collector of old things, dog person, human.

Winter Diary

 

 

Wild Flamingos of Engleville

A little snow, then it warmed up. I wish the weather would decide what it wants to do. It’s really getting in the way of my activities. We get some snow, but it’s not deep enough for snowmobiling. Then the temperatures rise above freezing, and it’s too warm for my Hok skis. We get a good cold spell and I’m thinking we’re forming some good ice for fishing, then it warms up again for three days. We want cold, cold, cold for ten days or so, with no snow, and we’ll be off to a good start. If we can’t have ice without snow, then how about snow? Not an inch which melts in two days. How about a foot of snow and some temperatures in the 20’s. Then we can ski and toboggan and scoot around on the Ski-Doo. But this, these in-betweens. All this is good for is teaching patience.

Ready To Run

I did get the Ski-Doo out and fired up after a snow storm in November. Drove it around on the inch of snow with grass showing through. Well, she’s ready to run if we ever get any white stuff. The photo is from March of ’18.

Daughter Kerry and her husband joined me for the annual Christmas Bird Count for the National Audubon Society. Each year, we ride out a predetermined route and count species and quantity of all the avian friends we see in a day. It was very windy all day, and we noted that a few species were missing from the count. We saw only two Dark-Eyed Juncos, usually prevalent at feeders particularly. We saw no Horned Larks, which was quite a surprise. Horned Larks love winter roads, and hang out on the shoulders eating salt between scavenging flights to the fields of corn stubble. No bald Eagles either. Our count borders the mighty Mohawk River, a favorite hangout for eagles, so that was another surprise. On the plus side, we spotted (and photographed!) a Pileated Woodpecker. The Pileated is a giant, about as big as a crow, and sports a huge, gaudy red tuft atop his head. The bird is unmistakable in flight, and a thrill to see perched. (Click any image for a full-size carousel)

 

Last weekend, we all gathered at Stone House Farm’s sugar house for breakfast. Breakfast at Stone House is served boarding house style. A platter comes to the table overflowing with pancakes, waffles and sausages and is passed. Whenever it’s empty, one of the Everett girls will ask “Need another round?” It was good to have almost everyone together. The only missing elements of our core were son Terence and his son, grandson Kacey. The waffles are shaped like maple leaves, and of course the real, genuine, fresh maple syrup is unlimited in supply.

 

Grandson Max has become quite the star his first year in varsity basketball. He’s been high-scorer for more than one game, and has been distinguished in the local papers. The team has lost just one game this season, and they are now in the sectional playoffs. He had a bit of a dilemma moving up from JV, in that there was only room for one player. His dear friend Sasha was the only other candidate, and according to Max, plays as well as he does. (To be clear, Sasha is a boy, named in the European tradition). The coach was shocked when both boys declined the move to varsity. “If I don’t go, he’ll move Sasha up.” Max reasoned. Sasha and his family have had a challenging year of personal losses, and Max cried to think of how disappointed he would be. Sasha believed Max was more worthy of the move, and declined on that premise. The boys finally decided that one of them had to move up, for the sake of the varsity team. I’m not certain how they determined which it would be, but this noble and heartfelt gesture brought tears to the eyes of many grownups surrounding the debate. It was very touching to see them unabashedly root for the other.

Varsity Max, #23

The fields and forests of Engleville continue to call to me constantly. The trails beg for the company of me and my little yellow dog. And I am more than happy to indulge them. Our winter treks are among my favorites. Deciduous trees devoid of leaves do not impede our views. No pesky bugs will ask to share our blood. She is reticent, and often in the woods, I am as well. Sometimes I must speak aloud. Sometimes I call out to the trees and the snow and the pines and the sky.  We have been together many years, these trails and I, and we have grown close. We watch the seasons pass together.

Last week I caught the slightest whiff of spring, borne to me on the rainy wind. She is behind the proscenium, she is in the wings. “Pay no attention to the season behind the curtain!” Oz’s wizard calls to me. Let’s not hasten the passing of winter. Frozen sunrises and golden sunsets, boots and gloves, a hot fire and warm hearth.

Here’s to that wonderful white world of snow, the season of ice. Like all things in this life, we must appreciate and enjoy it in the here and now. Like all things in this life, it seems, gone before you know it.

 

Take care and keep in touch,

 

Paz

 

Cold Season

A Summer Place

Snow bears the most wonderful scent. Particularly after a long, hot summer, a warm and wet autumn, when composting grass and molds perfume the air. The tiniest, shortest season-within-a-season is the Foliage Peak, around the first and second week of October. It’s easy to miss this one if you are not out in it, raking leafpiles or sneaking in the last fishing trips to the pond before it is sealed beneath a foot of ice. There will be just a few days when the tons of dried leaves create some of my favorite, delicate aromatic nuances.

The Golden Autumn

Then one morning, arising in the darkness, I open the door to let Sassy June out, and the smell wafts to me through the open door. It smells exactly like that of which it is made, cold and water. It is snow on the way, and this is the harbinger of Cold Season. In my book, there are a hundred subtle changes throughout the year which I identify as seasons-within-seasons. The Standard Four are just too long and vague. Spring has snow, then crocuses, then mud, then tulips, then American Robins and before you know it, the dozen springs move on into the multiple summers.

Sparrow with Apple Blossoms

And after the dozen autumns, the many parts of Cold Season approach. First there is just coldness. No longer do we revel in the luxury of stepping out the door without consideration of our garments. Slowly we add sweatshirts. Then gloves, and maybe a hat. As the season commences, we’ll get out our barn coat and snow boots. By the time we are deep within the middle of this odyssey, we will don long-johns and “base layers”. Wrap our faces with scarves, pull on the big Berne snowsuit, and the felt-lined Ranger Boots.

 

Am I supposed to feel my fingers?

Cold Season sports some of the most beautiful sunrises of the year. Or perhaps it is more related to timing. In the long, easy days of summer, Sun is up way before Sassy and me. In the evenings, it still hangs in the sky after the end of Jeapordy. During winter, Sun seems to seek my companionship. The morning commute is greeted with frozen sunrises. Crystals hanging in red skies. Delicate flakes fluttering Earthward, backlighted by  gold and pink and bright cerulean blue.

Winter Sunrise

The challenges of the season come along at a steady pace. Finding the ice scrapers for the car, closing the storm windows. Firing the pellet stove and gas heaters, the smell of hot dust as the heat machines slowly wind up. Oh, surprise! Forgot to shut off the water to the outdoor faucet, the ice freezing in the spray head, cracking the plastic. “You know your hose is on out here?” son Ryan asks on a visit.

We’ll have a little snow by Thanksgiving most years. We almost always have white Christmases, though I have known a year or two when the day was devoid of snow. For me and my ilk, snow is a requirement for a fully-enjoyable holiday. This year threatened to be green, but we were granted reprieve as the snow fell gently on Christmas Eve. Just enough for a pretty dusting, everything painted new and white. Just when some old guy says something to the effect of “We just don’t have winters like the old days.”, along comes a blizzard to suggest he may be mistaken. Somehow, these are every bit as exciting as when I was a child, and the prospect of a “snow day” off from school was most welcome. A double bonus; no school, and three feet of snow to play in!

Buffeted Crest

On the trails of Engleville, I can venture forth under the most challenging circumstances. Twelve degrees below zero and a ten-mile-per-hour wind. I can imagine myself on a Coast Guard Cutter in the Bering Sea, Sergeant Preston of the Northwest Mounted Police in the days of the Yukon Gold Rush. I’ll stand again atop Nishan Hill for the thousandth time, and feel the wind pounding against me, making me sway like a sapling. It is here I feel closest to this Great Cosmos. This must be what it’s like in space, on the surface of Pluto, the asteroids of the Kuyper belt. Of course, I have the back-of-my-mind assurance that I am only a twenty-minute walk to a hot fire and a cup of steaming coffee.

Now I will count the tiny handful of weekends we’ll have to immerse ourselves in all that is Cold Season. Ice fishing and snowmobiling, ski-joring with Sassy June, snowshoe walks past snow-covered pines, the birds of winter, the long, moonlit nights, gray days veiled in flurries.

This is a quieter season for the most part. No neighbor lawn mowers grazing, no clamoring combines rolling up and down Engleville Road. (Though the Town of Sharon’s big Oshgosh V-plow will rumble past a couple of times a day in bad weather, son-in-law Kenyon waving from the window.) On a sunny, snowy day, if you’re lucky, you’ll hear the kids from the farm and the “Blue House Boys” next door, sledding down the hills, building snow forts, engaging in snowball fights, the laughter of children filling the frozen air.

On another bright winter day, the whining sounds of snowmobiles will be heard from all directions as they ride the abandoned rail bed north to the village, cross the carefully marked trail lanes over the hayfields, climbing to the Corporation Land, Engleville Pond, and the State Forest beyond. And here on the ranch, my grandchildren will tear up the neatly groomed trails, carefully conditioned for an old man and his old dog, riding the Ski-Doo, pulling siblings and cousins on a plastic sled, arguing over whose turn it is to drive.

There will be walks in the woods, down to the Little Beaver Creek. There will be rabbit- hunting in the hedgerows. There will be warm nights in the high school gym watching basketball games. There will be frigid days when we fish through the ice and debate our sanity for doing so. There will be frozen moments alone on a trail, with silent steady snowfall and an evasive sun. And I will be filled with reverence for this place, this time, this planet, this cosmos, this simple, beautiful life.

Then one day, the rest of the world will smell a smell, note the steadily fading snowdrifts, perhaps see a tiny purple flower shoving its way through the snow. A tiny giant, driven by tenacity, unphased by the cold. And they will begin to decry and declare “We’re nearing the end of winter! Look, signs of spring!”

I will feign joy for their benefit.

Though inside, I will shed a tiny frozen tear for the passing of the Cold Season.

 

Take care and keep in touch,

 

Pazlo

 

Autumn In Engleville

Yes, indeed, Autumn has arrived.

You can know by the colors of the trees, the honking Canada geese, the fog-laced mornings.

October Sunrise

Misty Morning

We can know it by the heavy dew that clings til afternoon. By the honey bees, hurriedly trying to build a hive in the siding of the old house. We can know it by the visits of neighbors from nearby states. What I call home every day of the year is a destination for them. Camp. The woods. Far from Boston or Springfield or Framingham.

Morning Trail

We can know it from the noisy School Bus so early in the morning, orange as a pumpkin and lit with Halloween lights. From the darkness that arrives in time for supper now, no longer the farmer, stretching the day to nine o’clock.

Bus Stop

We can know it by the murmurings of Starlings, Blackbirds, Cowbirds, as they fly over the house in columns a mile long. They stretch as far as the eye can see, from the horse farm at Hanson’s Crossing, over Engleville Pond and the Corporation land, up the face of Victory Mountain and on over the hill into Cherry Valley.

Starling Sunset

We can know by the ag trucks with their fat tires, hauling open loads of silage from the cornfields, the bits blowing all about, drifting and floating in the air and on the road, a premonition of that famous winter precipitation. (We can’t use the “S” word yet.) By the stripped and bare fields, devoid of green and crops, an occasional corn stalk standing silent, lonely vigil for the passing of comrades.

Last Corn Standing

Now the pickup trucks will line the back roads. Every man, woman and child embracing the fall fashions; boots, hunter orange, vests, fluorescent hats.  After bow season, these woods will once again roar and rumble to the sound of gunfire. Close your eyes and imagine the Revolutionary War battle of Cedar Swamp, fought just three miles from here.

Huntsmen

Everything that is leaving is on its way now. Everything that is staying is feverishly preparing for the next season. Birds will migrate south from here, a thousand miles, or two, or three, to their winter homes in Mexico, the Yucatan and Patagonia. Lemmings will make their way across the Canadian border unimpeded, seeking the “warmer” climate of the Maine Seacoast.

Saying Goodbye

Around the ranch, many annual chores, duties and traditions repeat themselves. Time for lawn mowers to slow down, the wheelbarrow to rest. Time to decorate for Harvest and Halloween and on into the “big holiday season”. Time for pointed shovels and iron rakes to trade places with leaf rakes and those big, plastic shovels to move you-know-what.

There are no defined stops and starts for me and my Earth. No delineation; here is summer, and- across this line- here is autumn. The days and seasons follow on one another and blend as they pass. Like the water feeding the creek, it is always arriving and yet simultaneously always leaving.

Ellie and the leaf pile

Like the grandchildren who will not stop growing up despite my pleading, the blue ball turns at her own pace. And I ride along it like a child on a roller coaster. My hands gripping, white-knuckled, wind sweeping through my hair. A mile-wide smile, and sometimes a whoop or squeal of delight. Up, up, up clatters the chain drive, propelling me on. And then…

Harbinger

Take care, and keep in touch.

 

Paz

 

Deadbeat’s Journal

Deadbeat. That’s what I’ve been for Life In Engleville.

I’ll tell you. Starting in January I took up sort of a new phase in my writing. I inadvertently started  a novel. Yes, inadvertently. I thought I’d write a sort of serial story in blog posts, but it quickly took on a life of its own, and has since occupied much of my precious and finite creative time. Look for “Blogroll” on the main page, and you’ll find Sasha of The Chukchi Sea. Now into its second “book”, Lodge. The story starts in Homestead (the first book) if you’re interested in reading and starting at the beginning.

Around the ranch, we’ve come quite a ways since the last post in March. We had a great blizzard going, and it did not disappoint us. About thirty inches of snow. It was too deep to snowmobile in, and the sled sank and bogged down. By the next weekend, riding was nice. Plenty of snow and the milder, sunny April days were welcome. Alas, by the following weekend, there was not enough snow on the trails to use the sled. Well, we’re set for this winter!

Sledding Thursday Trail

Elsewhere, we got the AquaMarie dry-docked in the cabana for some reworking from stem to stern. On the trailer, repairs were needed to the bunks (wooden glides covered with carpet) which were replaced, as well as the bow stop. Additionally, we upgraded the old steel cable winch to one that uses a web strap. No more wire stabs! Lastly, I finally replaced the lights. Went with submersible LED’s, and now she’s up to date (and I won’t go through 4 light bulbs a year). Took the motor down to Andersen Boats for a tune-up and once-over, bought a new gas tank, and a pair of new tires for the trailer. Additionally, we replaced the bow and stern lights, reworked the electrical a bit (new box, moved the light switch), replaced the single horn with a twin, and at long last added Old Glory, a U.S. flag. She made the trip to our beloved Forked Lake in the Adirondacks the first week in June for the father & son trip with Ryan. We brought our dear friend Carl with us this trip, and had a great time (and delicious fish). That trip, and the annual Camporee in July, will no doubt fill their own post!

AquaMarie at Forked lake

At the ranch, we’re doing a little work on the Ark. Replaced the south-facing side porch and posts, added new stairs and railings. Recarpeted the living room, and weekend before last I repapered the kitchen walls. Some painting projects were executed by grandson Kacey, turning 19 in October. How that time has flown!

In June, near-disaster struck. One beautiful, sunny Saturday I went out to my John Deere to mow the ranch. Turned the key and heard a “snap”. Knew it was all over. Partly a panic, you can’t skip a week of mowing or you might as well bring a baler. Also heartbreak. I’m not really certain why, but I love the JD almost as much as a dog. We’ve been together a number of years, shared nearly 700 hours together, gleefully mowing yards and trails. Well, a number of those hours are logged by grandkids who love the JD, too. They use it more as a go-kart. Max has actually driven it around in the snow. Typically, granddaughters Lizzy and Maddie will tie a snow sled to the tractor, and Max will drive around trying to dump them. (This they also did with the Ski-doo!) Or they’ll hook up the garden cart and go for wagon rides.

So this past week, my son-in-law, a certified mechanic, delivered my Deere to me, all fixed and running better than new! Simple pleasures, eh? It doesn’t take much to make my day! I spent yesterday grinning like a fool as I mowed the lawn with the Deere for the first time since June.

It’s been a strange summer in a few ways. Weather has been almost bizarre. Record high temperatures, rain every other day, oppressive humidity. Now we are in the waning of the pinnacle days of summer. I’ve been a deadbeat for the blogs, but not for the world, as I’ve filled every waking moment with some activity or another all summer. Glad I carved out enough time to drop an entry, though it’s really not much.

Things are settling down a little now, as things do about this time of year. I’ll be back in the blogosphere real soon, and tell you some stories about the places I’ve been.

Some without ever leaving home.

 

Take care and keep in touch,

 

Paz

Marching Into February (An Addendum)

Thought I’d drop an update on the snow. It’s over six inches now, and will continue to fall for maybe another 36 hours. We’ll have probably 20 inches or more when it’s done.

I meant to share more about the hok ski concept, specifically their origin and history. The concept originated in Northern China, where the Altai people (and no doubt other indigenous people) made skis then covered them with animal skins. The skins provided the same climbing/gliding action as the modern fabric skins. The fur would act as a grip when ascending, but would allow gliding when descending hills and trails. Here’s a photo gleaned from the web.

Altai man with hoks

I also forgot to include the photos of the hard-core football fan neighbors on Superbowl Sunday. Tom & Lynn always have a gathering for the game, and, like many Americans, they assemble a football game of their own to play before the big show. It’s quite a big event across the road, and the cars are crowded in their driveway and mine. The dogs (mine and Betsy’s) go nuts at all the traffic, and we get to witness the annual event, ready to call the ambulance when someone slips on the snow and breaks a wrist. Okay, so the worrisome patriarch takes over a bit. Of course snow, football, big guys and beer are a good combination for some potential injuries. Fortunately, there were no incidents (besides heated debates about where the line of scrimmage should be).

 

And I thought I was a winter die-hard!

Porch Pals

The American Robins are returning to their northwoods homes. They gather to roost in the pine stands by the hundreds, perhaps thousands at times. It’s quite a cacophony, and a sure sign that spring is right around the corner, however hard I may resist!

Lastly, I meant to mention that our winters, our snow cover, can actually linger long. I may have painted a softened picture of winter’s real potential. Of course, I wouldn’t be an old patriarch if I didn’t say “winter’s aren’t what they used to be.”, but I can back it up. With witnesses! One year I took son Ryan and daughter Kerry up to Cherry Valley to see the crevasses. These are large fissures in the top of the sedimentary ridge the Niagara River laid down, when it used to pass right through here a few hundred million years ago. A great upheaval caused a change to what would one day be New York State. That tectonic shift formed the Niagara Escarpment, and from thence forth the the great river turned northward, to its present-day track. Now “The Mighty Mohawk”, though dwarfed by the Great Niagara, follows the same 2-billion-year-old valley the Great One once did. Good thing, too, as Engleville was under a few hundred feet of water hitherto!

So, we had a “good” winter that year. Plenty of snow and late in the year, maybe a blizzard in March like the one I’m looking at right now outside my window. It was the first week of June when we went to Cherry Valley, and climbed around in the crevices that were perhaps ten feet deep on average. There, ten feet below the forest floor, in a north corner of this solid rock sanctuary, was a little remnant pile of the winter’s snow. We marveled at it. We handled it. We picked it up. And that was the year we will always remember.

The year we made snowballs in June!

 

Mind you, Ryan is now 36, and “the baby”, Kerry, is now 33.  A special bonus, a 25-year-old photo of Kerry throwing snow at me. A “good” old-fashioned winter!

Well, have to run. That snowmobile isn’t going to ride itself!

 

Take care, and keep in touch,

 

Paz

February Journal

Gosh, here it is the end of February already! Two twelfths of our year gone!

Gosh, here it is the beginning of March already! And I missed my deadline for the February Journal! Well, we’ll write about February in March. Here we go…

It’s been kind of a whacky winter this year, with temperatures oscillating wildly from fifteen below zero F to sixty degrees F in a two-week period. We set a record last Wednesday, with a high temperature of 73 degrees F. In February? What goes on?

Well, this is the first year that I’ve actually heard myself complain that it was not cold enough, and there was not enough snow!  I think it’s good (and fun) to embrace winter activities. Too many people live in this climate just hiding in winter, running from the cold and snow, and wishing for an early spring. Don’t get me wrong, I like spring as well as the next guy. Still, we live in a place that’s frozen and snowy at least 3 or 4 months out of the year. Sometimes it stretches out a little. A “good” long winter will set in around mid-November, and the landscape can be covered in snow until March or later. Most winters don’t quite string out that long.

When kids were little, I’d be out a lot building snowmen, snow sculptures and snow forts. There would be sledding down hills and generally playing in the snow many days. I’ve been an avid fisherman since I was a kid, but didn’t take up ice fishing until I was nearly fifty years old. Not sure why, though there was a time I was not so eager to expose myself to sub-freezing temperatures.

This year I took up yet another new winter activity, namely Ski-joring. Joring refers to being pulled by an animal, usually dogs. (There’s also Cani-Cross, motocross with canines!) Some ski-joring is done with horses, mostly in the midwest. In 1926, ski-joring was an Olympic event! Most folks have never heard of it. Anyway, this year I bought these things called Ski-shoes or Climbing skis, and they have a few other names. Invented and still used by the Altai people in Northern China, they’re called hoks (“hawks”) in the native language.

Altai Hoks

Hoks skin detail

So hoks, or climbing skis, have a “skin” on much of the bottom surface of the ski. A velour-like fabric, it’s like sharkskin; smooth in one direction and grippy in the other. So you can walk up hills like you’re wearing snowshoes, but on the backtrail or downhills, you can glide a bit. They’re not as fast as cross-country skis owing to the large fabric patch being a bit less slick than an all-ski underside.

Of course there’s more to it. I also picked up a trekking belt which goes around your waist, and attaches via a bungee lead to the dog. This way she pulls the belt, leaving hands free for ski poles. I did some water skiing as a youngster, but never skied on snow, so I’m learning the skiing part before strapping myself to a Husky that can run 25 miles an hour! The trail camera got a pretty good snapshot of the joring rig. You can see the Hoks yourself (or buy them) at Altai Ski. I think the whole address would be: http://www.us-store.altaiskis.com. The trekking belt and bungee lead come from Nooksack Racing in New Hampshire. (www.nooksackracing.com) Sasha’s custom-made dogsled harness comes from Alpine Outfitters of Bend, Oregon. (www.alpineoutfitters.net) (That’s grandson Kacey in the green hoodie).

Of course the temps were too warm (around or above freezing) for hok skiing, and even caused the snow to stick to the snowshoes. Then the snow melted and it rained. Boo hoo! In spite of all that we keep on hiking the trails and visiting our Wonder Woods. It’s always great to be out here, even if the weather doesn’t spoil us with perfect climes!

Snowmobiling, also, rose on the popularity list, became the buzz of the season, then was similarly hobbled by less-than-desirable weather for snowmachines. Max saved his money from working on the dairy farm all summer (and winter on Sundays only), and bought himself a shiny used Ski-Doo. His father, son-in-law Matt, went out after him and bought a sled, too. Not to be left behind (should snow ever fall) I also added a new Ski-Doo to my inventory. Well, not a new one, but a good used sled that will serve me for years. Of course we still have the Arctic Cat Jag my father handed down to me almost ten years ago, which is now painted orange with a “REVENGE” stencil in black on the sides of the cowl. Max had an idea we could take the Jag to the grass drags in Bouckville. Maybe we will, yet. Grass Drags are summer competitions for snowmobiles, where, as the name implies, they drag race on the grass. I guess someone is even more obsessed with winter sports than I am, and couldn’t let the whole summer go by without an excuse to ride his snowmobile!

Any excuse. My Ski-Doo on the two inches of snow we’ve had since I bought it.

We did manage to get a little ice fishing in before the temps warmed up and the rains came. Grandson Max and I plied Engleville Pond for half of a Sunday. It was quite cold, in the upper teens, and a bit of wind was blowing, so it was easy to keep moving out on the ice! All I had for bait was mealworms, which are okay, but not nearly as effective as shiners (or redheads). We drilled holes, we set tip-ups. We jigged with the short poles and made the rounds checking baits. Alas, our cold and wet quarry eluded us. It was cold and blowy, and in that visceral way it was a beautiful day to be out there. A steady snow fell all the while, and we had the whole pond and the little hollow all to ourselves.

Folks often think we’re out of winter when February ends. March sounds so spring-like. Many forget that the biggest blizzards we get are in March. (29 inches of snow last year!) So it’s no surprise, after all my lamenting, that another whopper of a storm is forecast for this weekend, with teens and twenties being quoted as snowfall predictions. Probably too late for the pond, and temperatures are forecast around both sides of freezing, so it’ll be too warm for snowshoes and hoks again.

I’m not getting my hopes up, but I hear there’s a new-ish Ski-Doo that wants to get itself buried in the snow on the trails of Engleville! Come on, winter. One last hurrah.

See you in that altogether in-between season, the season whose only claim to fame is Colt’s Foot and mud. Okay, so some folks actually look forward to Spring!

Take care and keep in touch,

 

Paz

January Journal

Closed For The Season

Well, we’ve flipped the calendar page and now it’s January. Now it’s 2018. From here, it looks a lot like 2017, only with different calendar pages.

Here we are at Perihelion, the point in our blue globe’s orbit when we are closest to the sun. It seems ironic, but only for the northern hemisphere. Right now it’s blazing hot in the deserts of Australia and Africa and maybe South America, too. We’re something like four million miles closer to the sun than we are at Aphelion, in July.

It’s been quite cold, plenty of below-zero days and nights with the wood stove cranked up and draft stoppers stuffed at the bottoms of doors. Last weekend, when Sassy June and I took our Wonder Walk on our trails, it was 13 degrees F, but it was sunny and without wind. The pristine beauty of the freshly iced world and the new snow was gleaming bright and filled with fascinating formations.

At work, I found a number of ice “stalagmites” on the ground beneath the drip edge of the roof. It appears splashing droplets of water froze to tiny sprigs of grass, and successive splashes added to the girth. I took some pictures with the low morning winter sun lighting them.

We also had a day of freezing rain, which glazed everything with a thin coat of ice. Bushes and berries, grapevines and winter berries, rose hips and skeletons of Queen Anne’s Lace were transformed into nature’s holiday decorations. A Celebration of The Solstice.

On December thirtieth, we loaded the FunBus with daughter Kerry and her beau Kenyon, and we set out to participate in the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count. This is an annual “census” of our avian friends. We drive out a specified parcel and note the number and species of birds we can find. We saw three bald eagles, certainly the highlight, and a wide variety of the usual characters.

There was a steady light snow falling throughout the day, which made photography difficult. Aside from adding a haze to anything at a distance, it also messed with the autofocus, so most of my shots from the day are washed out or not quite crisply focused.

Had a lot of fun with Christmas this year. Being the grandparents, with children that have their own homes and children, we did a big themed gift for all three described households. Each opened a small gift while these big ones (they’re about six feet tall, you can’t quite tell by the photo) waited, standing against a wall.

  The Theme Gifts

Each child opened a package containing gloves. Each man-of-the-household opened a package to find a box of paraffin canning wax. Each lady-of-the-house opened a package containing hot chocolate and popcorn. Finally, the big reveal, as the kids shredded the labor-intensive package decorations, the labels “Batteries Not Required” and “Snow Shipped Separately”, to reveal an old-fashioned six-foot wood toboggan that the whole family will fit on!

Unfortunately, we haven’t yet had a good weekend of sledding weather (much to the chagrin of grandson Max, who saved all of his working-at-the-farm earnings from summer and bought a snowmobile). When it wasn’t five below zero F, it rained.

Ice on the ponds has formed well, with colder-than-average temperatures in December and early January. We hope to drill some holes in the pond next weekend, and see what we can discover beneath.

And so January is half gone already. Our winter half over, really. Winter can be tough in some ways, but it’s also beautiful and exciting. I’m in no hurry to see spring arrive.

Toboggans are terrible on grass.

 

Take care and keep in touch,

 

Paz