Tag Archives: kids

The Game

Where my niece Michele went to high school, she was in a class of 1,300.

Family had reservations, appointments for commencement. An hour’s window during which our progeny were scheduled to cross the stage in a mass-production graduation machine. I believe the entire commencement took something like eight hours.

In my little school (yes I know I’m old and we’re talking about the last century, but it was 1977, not 1877) we had a graduating class of about 65 students. We all knew each other quite well.

When we were shopping for The Ark, one of my criteria was that the school needed to be fairly small, like mine was. My wife’s class was bout 300 kids, if I recall. I liked the idea that a kid, especially if a kid had a little trouble, could not be lost in anonymity.

In Sharon Springs, the graduating classes had an average of slightly less than 30, until Ryan’s class came along. All of a sudden there was a mini baby boom, and there were 45 students starting that year! The school had to scramble to get another teacher, and establish a second classroom for the grade.

Fast forward about 20 years, and now daughter Miranda and her family live just north of us, in the big town of Canajoharie. Canjo is a bigger school, by my standards, and I think the classes are a bit larger than a hundred students.

Grandson Max plays for Canjo’s basketball team, which meets each Saturday for intramural games with neighboring schools of similar size. I had a good time on a recent Saturday, taking some photos at the game, trying for a Sports Illustrated shot. Number 32 is Max.

The game was against Mayfield, the school across the lake from my own alma mater. The gym where the game was held has the kind of bleachers that fold flat against the wall. Attendance is good at basketball, and there were probably more than a hundred spectators from the two schools. Still on the small side, you’ll notice the benches of Mayfield and Canjo hold barely enough students to make a second string.

Max drew a few fouls, and made some baskets. I don’t have the stats. It was a great thrill to watch them play. I played a little hoop in school and loved it, and all three sons played for Sharon Springs. (Daughters preferred soccer and softball). There’s something a bit timeless in school sports. At least basketball. How much can change, really? The game looks the same now as when I played, though I’m sure our uniforms were better looking.

 

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The Crowd Rises

Alas, after an all-out effort and a lobbed shot at the buzzer, The Cougars could not rally against Mayfield, and the game was lost. The teams lined up and passed one another, shaking hands and declaring “good game”.

So close.

So close.

Until they meet again.

Take care and keep in touch.

Paz

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

 

Two Ponds Saturday

South Bank View

South Bank View

My grandson, Maximus James, made a visit to the Engleville Tick Ranch last weekend. He can last only so long without a pilgrimage to the grandparents’ old homestead, the place where he spent his days as a preschooler. Where the school bus picked him up and dropped him off during kindergarten and first grade. Mam & Pop’s place served as daycare for him, and sister Elizabeth for a couple of years. Mam their governess, the Ark their second home.

Nowadays they live far away to the north. Well, okay, they live in the next town over, about fifteen minutes away, but still, a trip to Mam & Pop’s is like a mini-vacation.

So, after Saturday chores; going to the dump, bike-joring with the Chusky dog, mowing the lawns, we headed for Engleville Pond to do some Bullhead fishing. Max has caught a wide variety of fish, but not a bullhead, and that was his intended quarry today. He made up a mess he called dough-balls or stink-balls, wads of bread or dough with smelly attractants. Usually these are made with raw dough and the stuff chum is made of. In this case, Max grabbed a slice of deli turkey and some mayonnaise and made something of a club sandwich ball with English muffins for the bread.

Upon our arrival, we were greeted with the honking of geese as they drifted slowly away from us toward the far bank. The air was still, and the water like glass. The colors of fall leaped at us from all sides including below as the oranges and yellows reflected off the mirror surface.

Max had a tough time getting the soggy English muffin to stay on a hook. We grabbed a big hunk of muffin and dipped it into his turkey-club-jumble, and that stayed on long enough for a few casts. I fished for about five minutes before I was overcome with the need to grab the camera and get some snapshots of the beautiful Saturday afternoon. As luck would have it, while I was shooting across the pond a flock of geese flew in from the east. They cackled raucously as the 150-bird formation slowed, with fixed wings, descending towards the smooth surface of the pond. I took advantage of the opportunity to shoot some geese on the wing, so to speak.

We plied the waters of Engleville Pond a while with no luck, and decided to relocate to Bowmaker’s Pond. Back in the when, we called it Bowmaker Swamp. Because it was a swamp. The Department of Environmental Conservation dug out much of the swamp to open the water up a little, I guess, and maybe help with flood control or drainage. Now there’s quite a patch of open water, and the cattails have begun their slow march, spreading year by year. The milfoil and other aquafauna are also vigorously trying to reclaim the territory. Here, too, we found Canada Geese gathered. Resting and feeding as they pass through on their long migration to the Gulf of Mexico.

We had some fair fish action at Bowmaker’s, curiously catching five fish of five different species. First Max caught a Crappie, then a Bass. After a few more casts he caught the ubiquitous Sunfish (Bluegill). Finally I landed one, a nice pickerel about nineteen inches long. The only fish I didn’t get a snapshot of. Lastly, Max caught a little yellow perch.

It was a bit of a last hurrah for shirt-sleeve weather. By the time it neared sundown, a chill was in the air. The geese at Bowmaker’s lined up on the pond for some nice photos. At one point, you could hear their conversation starting. At first just a few honks, then bit-by-bit the rest of the flock joining in until there was a unanimous chatter. This meant they were readying for takeoff, and I got a few pictures of them running across the water, big wings flapping, honking the whole way. Finally they would take to the air, and with another minute of avid honking the birds ascended, circled, and faded off over the eastern horizon along with their noise.

Wherever we went today, the bright sun and golden colors of fall surrounded us. The sky held but a few ribbons of clouds, and the air was mild. Back at the Ranch we’d have a nice dinner, walk the dog around, and settle in for Saturday Night at Pop Pop’s. This means watching Ghost Hunters or Finding Bigfoot, or perhaps a Godzilla movie as we await ten o’clock and the ritual viewing of Svengoolie, and his own mix of monster movies.

There would be recliners and blankets, pretzels and green tea. Falling asleep in the chairs and moving to the bed (or couch) at 2 a.m. Sunday would leave us little time, though we managed another run with the mushing dog and at some point we made a walk around hunting squirrels. Max bagged one Pine Squirrel, which interested Sassy June the Chusky Dog greatly. Max kept the trophy tail, and we gave the carcass to Sassy, who quickly lost interest when she saw the thing wouldn’t run.

Mushing, Fishing, Hunting, Movie-watching, two ponds, trail hikes and chores, it was an action-packed weekend. I savored every moment with my grandson, my little dog, the honking geese and the colorful trees.

Sometimes I ask myself out loud:

“Am I dead? Is this Heaven?”

October Sunrise

October Sunrise

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

 

 

March Journal

Sugaring Season

Sugaring Season

March is all about sugaring, the collection of sap from sugar maples, and the boiling down of the same, to produce that sweet prize of nature, pure maple syrup.

Over the hill, past Leesville, the Everett family augments their dairy operations with maple product production at Stone House Farm. They built a sap house, sometimes called a sugar shack, across the road from the house, and filled it not only with a huge evaporator for making syrup, but also a kitchen and dining area for serving pancakes during sugaring season.

Daughter Kerry and her beau Kenyon joined me, my wife, and grandkids Madison, Elizabeth and Max for a great pancake & waffle breakfast in the sap house. A classmate of son Ryan, (Madison’s dad), Amy Everett, served our table. All you can eat!

We left the sap house full and inspired.

“Can we try tapping your trees?” asked ever-industrious Max. It’s not hard to guess what my answer was! Back at the Engleville homestead, Max and I set forth with a bit & brace, a few pieces of copper pipe, and a mish-mash of whatever containers we could find.

We bored some holes in the big Sugar Maples that line the road frontage, five trees total, studded with seven taps. We proceeded to hang a couple plastic pails, an iced tea jug, and a soda bottle, among others, below the copper pipes, and eagerly awaited the outcome.

 

We impatiently awaited the sap. Max checked the taps every couple of hours. We dipped our fingers into the sap in the pail. You could taste the sugar and the mild maple flavor. (Maple sap contains about 2% maple sugar, the balance is clear water.)

By 3 o’clock there was a half-gallon of maple sap collected, and Max was eager to move forward through the process. We put the kettle on the stove and boiled the sap down, and in fact didn’t finish before Max had to go home. He took the sap and finished it off at home, made enough for him and his dad Matt to have a yummy breakfast treat!

Well, the taps were in and the sap was flowing, so for the next week I walked the sap line each day and collected the sap. Put a kettle on the stove a couple of times to boil down a batch. (And fall asleep in the chair completely burning one batch!!)

Fast-flowing Sap

Fast-flowing Sap

Over Capacity!

Over Capacity!

Stovetop method

Stovetop method

The following weekend, Max returned for sugaring operations, and we borrowed Ryan’s giant outdoor gas burner (which he bought for his own sugaring last year). We had about sixty gallons of sap to boil, and it took all day, and well into the night!

We put up some tarps for a wind break, and set up the burner in the Cabana at the Engleville Tick Ranch. (Some folks call it the wood shed. I like the sound of cabana.) We boiled off the sweet syrup until after 9:30, finishing barely in time to catch Svengoolie at 10 on MeTV.

We had a great time in the Sugar Shack, and the sap is still flowing. We bottled our wares in Mason jars as Max tried to figure out how to sell syrup on Ebay. We all caught maple fever, and in just a week we had purchased real sap buckets and started making plans for next year.

Max’s dad Matt wants to get an evaporator, and we’re keen on asking Mr. Nishan if we can tap the maples in his woods. Plans abound for next year. All told, we’ve made about a gallon and a half of mostly-pure maple syrup (it has some sediment in the bottom). It was an interesting and informative venture, seeing how much sap is produced by a tree, the length of time it takes to reduce it to syrup, and the curious way the syrup gets darker and stronger as the season wears on.

Late Night, Sugar Shack

Late Night, Sugar Shack

Yummy Production!

Yummy Production!

Max plans to become a maple syrup tycoon, and has built his own web site for Max’s Sugar Shack. Ah, the sweet smell of success!

It sure smells like maple.

Max's Sugar Shack

Max’s Sugar Shack

Take care, and keep in touch.

 

Paz

January Journal

Whitetail Deer, Rosenburg

Whitetail Deer, Rosenburg

Winter has brought its gamesmanship this year, and is keeping us guessing every day. November and December were unusually warm, and we had a “Green Christmas”, with no snow cover. On the 27th of December, I found dandelions blooming on the lawn, and it was 53 degrees F.

December?

December?

We kicked off January with Pop Pop’s New Year’s Eve Sleepover for Grandkids.  We filled the otherwise-empty nest with a few kids and stayed up to watch the famous ball drop in Times Square. We had enough snacks for a party of twenty, and enough confetti for a hotel ballroom.

 

As of today, we barely have a snow cover. We had about eight or ten inches of snowfall, most of which has melted or blown away.

Nowadays I look forward to the snow, even the cold. It really doesn’t last that long, just eight or twelve weeks when you think about it. Even then, there are many days during the toughest winters that are mild. The January thaw, those rare and gorgeous days when there’s snow on the ground, ice on the pond and it’s sunny and 36 degrees F. Beautiful.

It’s funny how people think of the weather calendar. Last fall it was barely September first and folks started saying things like “Before you know it, there will be snow.” with a twinge of agony. These same folks are looking so far ahead and thinking of misery. We had all of September and October to enjoy with hardly any likelihood of snow. Once in a while we’ll see a flurry before Halloween, on Halloween once! This year we had no snow right through the end of the year. A new record in the books for latest first snowfall.

Oddly these folks aren’t talking about seeing their first Colt’s Foot, an event that’s barely eight weeks from now.

January skies are second only to February skies. The air is clearer, the colors deeper. Sunsets and sunrises are my favorites. Walking the trail with Chuy The Wonderdog, we often “put the sun to bed” as we walk the last hour of daylight.

Haven’t been ice fishing yet this season. The first half of the winter was too mild to form enough ice. My fishing buddy Joe, a real die-hard ice fisherman, has only been out a couple of times. Not looking good for this weekend either, as temps in the low teens will combine with 20 mile-per-hour winds to make it bone-chilling miserable on the open ice.

And so, January 2016 is history. A twelfth of the year gone already. Time sure flies when you’re waiting and wishing for snow and that perfect winter day on the pond.

Meanwhile, time to plan our Zhivago day, where we put the 3-hour movie on, sip hot coffee, wrap up under blankets, and be thankful we’re not in Siberia during the Russian Revolution.

Bet they had some great ice fishing, though, once they cut through the four feet of ice.

 

Take care and keep in touch,

 

Paz