Tag Archives: winter

Pancake Season

Breakfast Time

Breakfast Time

I live in upstate New York, and we’re surrounded by sap houses. Those are the places where Maple sap is boiled down to that best-of-nature treat, Maple Syrup.

Maple syrup is made from the sap of the Sugar Maple, a tree which grows throughout the northeast United States and eastern Canada. Virtually all of the Maple syrup comes from this area.

So I don’t know if folks do this elsewhere, but around here spring means Pancake Breakfasts at the firehouse. Why? I’m not sure where the tradition started, but it’s a tasty one.

The Pancake Breakfast is an event, a meal, a community gathering and a great fundraiser for volunteer fire departments.

The Ames Firehouse

The Ames Firehouse

There are a lot of small communities around, and the Pancake Breakfast is the event that brings them up the hill from Canajoharie and down the hill from Sharon, west from Sprakers and east from Salt Springville.  It’s kind of like the spring cotillion for all the villages.

Everyone Turns Out

Everyone Turns Out

So we stand in line with all the other folks that braved the February weather to get to the firehouse at 8:30 and get tickets. The line snakes around stanchions strung with yellow plastic link chains. We wait patiently with our tickets in hand, as a volunteer looks for groups to fill tables.

“A three? Anyone with a party of three?” and the lucky winners are whisked away into the dining room (which is also the meeting room and the all-event room for the firehouse).

Volunteers, with their Fire Company shirts and STAFF emblazoned on their backs become line cooks, servers, bus boys,  and waitresses as what seems like the entire town cycles through the annual feeding frenzy.

Firehouse garage

Firehouse garage

Patiently Waiting

Patiently Waiting

The meal is served family style. We sit at a table for twelve, the three of us seated with total strangers. No wait, they’re strangers, but not total strangers. We may not know their names and homes but we know they are “of us”. They live in our towns and plant the corn that feeds the cows that produce the milk that feeds the children.

Volunteer Firefighters become Restauranteurs

Volunteer Firefighters become Restaurateurs

Family Style

Family Style

Here there is a teacher. There is our veterinarian. There are Sheriff’s Deputies and snow plow drivers, ladies of the Auxiliary, Rotarians, school kids, moms & dads.

Community

Community

The cars keep parking and the lines keep growing. By threes and fives we’re escorted to our seats, plied with orange juice and coffee and real maple syrup.

Stacks and stacks of flapjacks, an unending stream, plates filled automatically when they’re empty. Piles of sausages, sausage gravy, platters of bacon, buckets of butter, home fries, eggs.

We gleefully fill the makeshift dining room and we eat together the most important meal of the day. Nay, this is one of the most important meals of the year!

Sure, we could stay home and make pancakes. We could go to Denny’s. Service may be faster or prices may be lower.

But here, we’re doing something a little more. We’re not just raising money for the fire company, for hoses and boots and ladders and training.

We’re also showing, by our presence, our commitment to one another, to our communities. To the volunteers that respond to that dreaded sound, the fire siren. For the men and women that will be there, at my house or yours, at 3 a.m. in February in fifteen-degree air if need be.

They’re not paid. Receive no benefits, no pension, no health insurance. They risk their safety for the sake of others. For us.

Besides, where else can you eat breakfast with the mayor, the Sheriff and your retired teacher at the same table?

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

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

 

 

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

Welcome to Engleville

Well hello. Come on in, and welcome to Life In Engleville.  Founded as Engle’s Mills (by a mill owner named Engle), adjacent to Engleville Pond (which was Engle’s mill’s millpond), the modern name of the hamlet is Engleville. Not large enough to have a zip code, but it appears on maps about ten miles south of the Mohawk River valley, historically significant and made famous by Cooper’s tales.

Sometime around 2007 or so, the world’s population reached a tipping point, from whence more people lived in the city than in the country for the first time in history.

DSCF3395

Chuy The Wonderdog

I’ve lived in rural settings all of my life except for a couple of phases around the college-aged years, when I stayed for brief periods in a couple of urban environments. Cities have some fine things and many of their own merits. I chose the quiet country life, to live modestly and raise a family.

DSCF0082

Shadow Paintings

The goal of this blog is to share the life, activities and surroundings of our country home town. Hopefully this will amuse, inspire or entertain visitors.

DSCF0201

Wild Turkeys In The Cornfield

Living my Life In Engleville is key to pursuit of my own brand of zen enlightenment, Armchair Zen, and I hope the experiences and images related herein will afford others the opportunity to share the wonders and joys of a life lived simply and purposefully.

My goal is to treat each day as a gift. A one-of-a-kind adventure, a unique moment in time which will never be repeated. Within each day lies beauty and inspiration. Perhaps in people we spend time with, perhaps in the wonders of nature, perhaps in the activities and actions we choose as we wind our way through the days.

DSCF0005

Whitetail Deer In The Yard

May your days be filled with wonder, and if you need a wonder-boost, come on back to Engleville. I’ll be here.

Wonders on the trail.

 

 

Family Farm Day

Snow Country

Drop a line, keep in touch. Don’t be a stranger.

See ya,

 

Paz