Tag Archives: Family

Leaf Pile Party 2016

 

Maple Merriment

Maple Merriment

We have an annual tradition here at the Ark of Engleville, and that’s our yearly Leaf Pile Party!

Each year we gather as many kids, grandchildren and friends as we can, and invite them to help build the pile, shoot for a new height record, and “throw or be thrown” into the mass of dried maple leaves.

Five big sugar maples out front produce most of the leaves, and the wind brings us some from the neighbor’s across the road. This year was a great crop, and a late “fall”, the time the leaves actually fall from the tree. We had some huge winds, over twenty miles an hour, for several days the week of the party, and I worried much of our prized quarry would end up in the woods. As luck would have it, the leaves clung to the great lawn and eagerly anticipated our gathering as much as we did!

We combined the event with a gathering to honor Mam’s birthday, so we had a cake with candles, ice cream and some gifts to open.

Back outside, the work began in earnest to set a new record. The old one was fifty-six and-a-half inches. (Last year the wind blew 15 miles an hour, and we couldn’t build a pile over four feet high without the top getting blown away).

Of course, some people raked (or ran son-in-law Matt’s leaf blower), and some people just jumped in the pile. Some were buried, some did the burying, some ran and chased with armfuls of leaves, then BAM! Aren’t you glad it isn’t snow? Time to let the pictures tell the story.

Come join us in the mayhem!

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When I reviewed my photos of the day, I found a few sequences that brought back the moment, it was like re-living the day. Come along, you’ll virtually feel the leaves down your neck.

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Maddie and Lizzy did most of the running and throwing, then were ready to move on to tractor rides. Okay, so it’s a lawn tractor, but it’s still a tractor. The girls took turns driving maniacally around the trails, pulling the wagon. Well, as maniacal as one can get with a top speed of eight miles per hour. The rest of us raked, threw Evan in the pile, and otherwise enjoyed the crisp, clear air of November, the smell of the leaves, the squeals of laughter.

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A little cider, some free leaves, a few kids, and you have yourself a formula for a great afternoon of family fun! Looking forward to next year’s Leaf Pile Party, and another new record!

That is, unless the wind blows the top off.

See you next year!

See you next year!

Take care, and keep in touch,

 

Paz

 

Family Farm Day 2016

August 13th was Family Farm Day in Schoharie County, and we headed for daughter Kerry’s farm, about 3 miles from home. She and beau Kenyon operate the Parsons flower and vegetable farm, selling both at their farm stand and at local Farmers’ Markets.

Mom & Dad’s main job on Family Farm Day is to bring the Cooler Corn, for serving Corn-on-a-stick! It’s called Cooler Corn because of the easy prep, using your picnic cooler. Shuck the corn and toss it in the cooler, boil enough water to cover the corn, pour it in the cooler and close the lid. Twenty minutes later, you have perfectly-cooked hot corn on the cob!

Corn-on-a-stick

Corn-on-a-stick

Kerry & Kenyon are very fun people, and aside from promoting Healthy & Local, Family Farm Day is a bit of a circus atmosphere, with games, activities, prizes and food sampling. The most popular by far is the Corn Toss, where contestants throw whole ears of corn and try to land them in bushel baskets. Inside each basket is a label (actually a paper plate) that indicates the prize you’ve won (if any; last year Kenyon labeled one “Loser”. It was funny, and most folks got prizes anyway).

This is the day you’re encouraged to play with your food! For youngsters (and wanna be youngsters), there’s the Vegetable Art Table. Most popular this year was the construction of Zucchini Cars, closely followed by creation of Vegetable People.

Of course food is a big part of Family Farm Day. There were tastings and samplings, and even the Pampered Chef representative on hand. The peach salsa was a big hit, and everyone got corn on a stick.

Carrying contests were arranged, whereby the contestant needed to carry as much as possible. First there was the Pickle Carry (pre-pickled cucumbers to be exact). The winner managed to carry 64 pickles over the course. Not bad for six-year-old arms!

The Corn Carry was a different matter, and attracted older attendees (like teenagers). We didn’t count the number of ears carried, we were too busy laughing at the contestants!

Surrounded by beautiful flowers, fresh vegetables and lots of friends and family, what could be a better way to spend a day?

Check with your Farm Bureau or Cooperative Extension to see if your county has a Family Farm Day! We’re already looking forward to next year!

Take care, and keep in touch.

 

Paz

Berry-Picking Time

Black Caps

Black Caps

Half of my grandkids came over on a recent Sunday, and we hit the trail for some berry picking. Mostly the red raspberries were ripe, and the black caps were just getting ready. The blackberries, growing on their dinosaur-sized eight-foot canes, ripen later in August.

This year, the blackberry crop is off the charts. They go like that. A couple of average or lame years, then suddenly a boom!

These thorny cane berries are related to roses. Actually, roses are a member of the raspberry family, and berry canes sport flowers that look quite similar in many cases.

Cane fruits grow on biennial canes. The first year, only the cane grows. It then winters over, and the second year it flowers and bears fruit. You can tell what kind of year the next will be by assessing the number of bare, first-year canes in your berry patch.

Accompanied as always by Chuy The Wonderdog, we wandered the trails, going where the berries led us. Big sister Maddie was also very helpful, showing the little ones where to find berries low enough for them to pick. Repeatedly trying to show little Evan the ripe, red berries. Evan, in typical toddler fashion, ate one of everything.

When my kids were little, we’d head out to the berry patches with cups and mugs and containers of all kinds, intent on collecting enough berries to make a pie. I’ve finally learned that when you pick berries with kids, the cups are just extra things to carry around, and they always come back empty. A kid would get a dozen or so berries in a cup and the temptation was irresistible. Munch, munch, munch.

One year, with Max & Lizzy (two other grandkids), we actually brought enough blackberries home to make a skinny pie. Lizzy recalls that each year during berry season.

We didn’t bring home any berries this day. But we did harvest some precious moments together. Next day, Chuy and I headed out with a cup, bound to fill it. I stopped by our little blueberry bushes and picked all 20 ripe blueberries. While Chuy waited impatiently, we stopped by the black caps, then finally some red raspberries, for a delicious medley of color and flavor.

Nature's Candy

Nature’s Candy

As our pinnacle days of summer continue, we’ll have the neighbors come over to help eat all these blackberries. Granted, we’ll have a little help from some birds and deer.

Take care, and keep in touch,

 

Paz

 

 

Island Time

Fathers & Sons

Fathers & Sons

For the second week of June, we planned a Father & Son camping trip to one of my favorite places on the planet, pristine Forked Lake in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. My son Ryan was the catalyst, and he put together a trip with my brother-in-law Chris and Chris’s son Jon. Jon and Ryan are cousins about the same age, and though we sometimes lived a couple of states apart, they spent plenty of time together all of their lives.

We reserved site 51 on the island in the middle of the lake, and upon arrival we found that the folks that reserved site 52 , (the other half of the island) had cancelled! We had the whole island to ourselves! It was our good fortune as we would discover, as site 52 is on the leeward side, and we had rain storms blowing by throughout our stay.  Now and then I’d go to the west side, (site 51) and look up the lake and into the Adirondack High Peaks, and return to camp announcing “The island weather forecast for the next few hours”.

Rains came and went throughout our three night stay. We’d watch them as they blew up the lake, channeled by hills surrounding the water, the wind picking up speed, unencumbered, as it raced across the surface. Small whitecaps were seen to pick up, and rains would sweep gently in at an angle. Sometimes there’d be a brief but steady cloudburst, passing within minutes. At other times a dense mist would fill the air and float over the island, the boats, the tents and the campers. The rest of the campground was virtually empty, and when the mists would surround our little island it was as if we were all alone in the universe. Tranquility at its best.

Treated like a king, I was told I would need to do no cooking, as the young Epicureans had planned all the meals. There were eggs with hash browns for breakfast Tuesday, and pancakes on Wednesday. For dinner there was a fine stew, cooked all afternoon in the cast iron Dutch oven over the open fire, and complemented with fresh-baked biscuits! Wednesday night’s dinner consisted of tossed salad and fish tacos, made fresh from the day’s catch! Chris even remembered the S’mores!

Fishing was off a bit. Of course we were two weeks early for bass season (opens 3rd Saturday in June here), and the only other fish we saw were Crappies. (In case you don’t know, I’m not being crass, “Crappie” is actually the name of the species. In sophisticated company it’s pronounced “croppy”). Chris and Jon (from Florida and Massachusetts, respectively) ponied up for their out-of-state 3-day fishing licenses, but alas I don’t think they ever landed a fish. Not to worry, as father and son team Ryan and I landed about 2 pounds of fish. Plenty enough for fish tacos for four. Chef Ryan cut the fish into smaller pieces, and they were then batter-dipped and deep-fried in the cast iron over the fire. Somehow, I missed the photos of that, but I can still remember the incredible flavor!

Days were filled with motoring and paddling about, fishing, stoking the fire. By the third day of intermittent rains, we were making the hand gestures from The Karate Kid and saying “jacket on- jacket off”. Still, we fished through some rain and sat through some rain. Ryan says “It makes us bad-ass.” Nights were pretty cool, getting into the lower 40’s by Wednesday night.

We heard this weird sound during the day. Clearly a bird, but with an odd call. It sounded like an alarm clock going off, or someone imitating an alarm clock. Usually five short tones, the same flat note, like “ehn-ehn-ehn-ehn-ehn” if you can pronounce that. Sometimes this would be truncated to three notes, but almost always five. I started calling it “the alarm clock bird” and kept a keen eye out for it. (An avid birdwatcher and member of the Audubon Society, I have some bird-seeking chops, but could never lay eyes on this one.) I learned after the trip, reading an article in Adirondack Life Magazine that it was a Saw-whet Owl. So named because the sound resembled a whet stone applied to sharpening a saw. The article said in today’s nomenclature it might be called a backup-alarm bird!

Of course, much of camping, which is kinda work and kinda vacation, involves sitting around the fire. Sometimes it’s to dry out your socks. Other times it’s to stand in the acrid smoke in order to spite the mosquitoes.

Sometimes it’s because you’re here in this most beautiful and peaceful place, surrounded by nature and some of your closest people. Because the crackle of the fire between easy conversations is the soundtrack of relaxation. Because the sun falling below the horizon casts indescribable hues of gold and pink, contrasted against an aquamarine sky studded with diamond points of evening stars.

As in years past, I find it impossible to cram all of the activity and beauty into a single post. In fact, it’s difficult to properly describe the tranquility of life on an island. Like the theme to the TV show Gilligan’s Island, “No phone, no lights, no motorcars. Not a single luxury.”

Okay, so fresh coffee may be a luxury the castaways didn’t have.

And a down sleeping bag.

More next time. Take care, and keep in touch.

 

Paz

 

Squirrelly Sunday

Max On The Lookout

Max On The Lookout

Grandson Max, his father, Matt, and his cousin Pierce came over a couple of Sundays ago to do some squirrel hunting. We gathered up our “22’s” (.22 caliber rifles), and headed for the hardwood stands out back.

Max & I Head For The Woods

Max & I Head For The Woods

It was overcast and cool, around 30, and as we walked the top of Widowmaker field, a few downy flakes drifted by. In just a few minutes, the mini flurry stopped. This season of hunting is better with a snow cover. It’s much less noisy when walking, and tracks in the snow can lead us to the haunts of squirrels and bunnies. Today, we’d be crunching around on a six-inch deep carpet of autumn leaves. Even thinking about walking made crunching sounds.

Little Beaver Creek

Little Beaver Creek

Matt took up residence in a tree stand at the transition line, where the forest meets fields. Pierce took a stand north of there, while Max & I “drove” the hardwoods from the south. For those unfamiliar with the term, “driving” is to have some members of the hunting party transit the area, working toward those on stand (in a fixed location). The idea being to drive the game toward the awaiting hunter.

Seasons Past

Seasons Past

Max & I saw two squirrels on our foray, but didn’t get a shot off. Matt bagged just one, and Pierce went scoreless (we’re keeping score for the season.)

In days past I entertained some hunting interests. Over the last couple of decades, my preferences have changed. I don’t mind keeping a fish or two for a shore dinner at camp, but I am no longer interested in killing anything else.

For Max’s benefit and the camaraderie of men’s company, I tote my Savage .22 inherited from my father. It’s even loaded with bullets. I’ll let Max believe we’re hunting together, and I’ll congratulate him and other members of the party on their kills.

“Not sure what I’m going to do if I see a squirrel.” I confided to Matt out of Max’s earshot, “Maybe I’ll just shoot the branch below it.”

Luckily for me and the squirrels, not so much Matt, Max or Pierce, the little critters managed to elude us anyway.

After the marching about, the others headed to the rifle range as I walked around with Chuy the Wonderdog. He has always had a fear of loud noises. Thunder turned him psycho, and he’d climb up into the chair or onto the couch to hide behind me, trembling like a leaf. Thankfully, age has reduced his hearing, and he hardly seems to notice thunder anymore.

Likewise, in the past he was terrified at the site of guns, knowing they were loud. He’d run for the back door as soon as he saw someone carrying a long gun. During hunting season, with shotguns going off all around all day, he’d confine himself to the house.

His hearing may be diminished, but he watched from a distance as those guys milled about the place where guns were often fired. He watched for a few seconds. As soon as he heard the first discharge from the .22 magnum, he made a bee line to the house as fast as his 105-dog-year-old legs could carry him!

Is That What I Think It Is?

Is That What I Think It Is?

Happy Birthday to Chuy (originally named Scooby Doo by Ryan). January first is his observed birthday. As of the first, he’s officially fifteen!!

Birthday Boy

Birthday Boy

Take care, and keep in touch.

 

Paz

 

 

Merry Christmas Mr.Potter!

Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life is one of my favorite Christmas movies.

It’s all about connectedness, about one person’s effect on others in this life. To some folks it’s a nostalgic return to a time when much of America was dotted with small towns like Bedford Falls, the fictional setting of the movie.

For me, it’s a reminder that I live in a place like  Bedford Falls. A place like Andy Griffith’s Mayberry.

Our Courthouse

Our Courthouse

Like George Bailey in the movie, when I walked into our humble little post office on Saturday, Maria called out “Good Morning, Scott!”. As I left I bade her “Merry Christmas, Maria!”, and she returned the greeting.

Our Post Office

Our Post Office

In the Stewart’s Shop, the regional convenience store chain, I’m served by Stacey, whom I’ve watched grow and mature since before school age. To her, I’m “Mr. O’Connor”.

Also to the many children I coached at Youth Baseball. More kids than I remember, and I must admit I don’t always recognize them twenty years later. To them, sometimes I’m “Mr. McGuire”, (some of my kids have alternate last names), or even simply “Coach”.

Down at Sunnycrest, browsing the greenhouses for flowers or buying wood pellets, they even recognize Chuy the Wonderdog, welcome to walk around the place with the owner’s dog.

Taking the trash to the Transfer Station, I see Carl every week. A classmate of my son’s, he also took up flying radio-controlled planes with us for a while.

The Transfer Station

The Transfer Station

One of my favorite small town moments was when I met one of our neighbors, Tony, as I was exiting the Stewart’s shop. My daughter dated his son in high school. A chance you don’t get every day, I greeted him with “Good morning, Sheriff!”. It felt like I was in a Gunsmoke episode.

Our Firehouse

Our Firehouse

Sure, lots of people know the Sheriff or have coached youth sports. Folks far and wide are known by name in their local haunts, from Starbucks to Subway. You don’t need to live in a small town to be surrounded by friends and neighbors.

Big town or small town, it’s being with those we cherish that really matters.

Merry Christmas!

Paz

Big Saturday

 

Barn & Cottonwood At Sunrise

Barn & Cottonwood At Sunrise

I’m awakened by the whoosh of the bedroom door flying open, followed by some huffing and puffing sounds, followed by jingling of dog tags, and sometimes a wet nose nudge to my face.

It’s Big Saturday, and Chuy’s the first up, ready to make the most of it.

Any given  Saturday will find me thusly occupied: driving to the “transfer station” with the trash, reviewing the list in my head; chores and demands of the day. On one of these Saturdays I suddenly remembered Saturdays as a child.

Saturday was the best day when I was a schoolboy. No school, Saturday morning cartoons (back in the when, they were a Saturday thing), and all day to play!

Riding along in the Funbus, I declared to Chuy “It’s Saturday!“, as if I was ten years old and had just leapt from my bed. Since that day I remember that spirit and make the same announcement aloud each Saturday. It reminds me to greet the day with a sense of excitement and wonder, ready for adventure, and to remember we have all day to do as we please.

First Frost

First Frost

For quite a number of years now, the biggest thing after the dump run is Big Saturday Walk with Chuy the Wonderdog. On the Big Saturday Walk, Chuy leads the way. We go where he wants to and stay as long as he chooses. Sometimes we’ll make our way to the eastern extent of the trail, up to the hardwood forest. Sometimes we’re drawn down the side trails, or over the crest of Widowmaker field.

This is a constitutional walk for me, more so than one for exercise, though in snowshoes trodding through a foot of snow there will be a workout. We cover a regular circuit, much as a wolf pack would do on an occasional basis. Checking the perimeter, marking our territory. Chuy sets the pace, and I dutifully follow (often with Doone the Cat), usually remembering the camera.

This ritual is without a doubt the Biggest Big Saturday part of Big Saturday for me. This is a time when I can truly slow down and relax. We’re away from the homestead, so I can’t see all the chores and tasks that must be done. Aside from the camera, no other electronics are allowed.  No phone, no music player.

My companion is quite reticent. He’s also hard-of-hearing, so calling out is pointless. That’s fine with me, as I rarely utter a word aloud, except perhaps an exclamation of wonderment at some magical moment afield.

Between the walks, Big Saturday is filled with a wide variety of chores, labors of love, and adventures. In summer, we may spend most of the day mowing the lawns and nature trails. In winter, we might ride snowmobiles around the yard & trail, or perhaps do some ice fishing. In spring we’ll wade a couple of creeks stalking trout, in fall we’ll spend some time on the rifle range, siting in a new scope or just target-shooting for the fun of it.

When the time finally comes to take off our shoes and don some soft pajamas, I feel best when I can tell Chuy “We wrung the heck out of that day, didn’t we?”. Then it’s on to Big Saturday night TV-watching of Superman (the TV show), Star Trek (the original series), Lost In Space, and  Svengoolie, an old-time hosted horror movie show.

For this Big Saturday, we’ll have a Family Game Night with two daughters, their beaus and a couple of grandkids. We’ll loudly play some board games around the big kitchen table, warmed by the pellet stove, the homestead of 31 years, and the love of family (and probably some hot chocolate!).

Take care and keep in touch.

 

Paz